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Sep 4, 2006

Flipping out

This post has nothing to do with the recent discussions of the new Jewish music album by Ari Goldwag called Flippin In relative to some other song called Flippin Out. That was a raging debate a couple of weeks ago on various blogs. This has nothing to do with that debate.

I have noticed an unusual trend for which I do not have a satisfactory explanation or understanding. People come to Israel and they flip out. I am not referring to the Jerusalem Syndrome when I say "flip out". I am talking about their level of religious adherence.

Many people come to Israel and all of the sudden they do everything to the extreme.

For example, some people will eat only food items bearing the certification of the Badatz Eidah Chareidit kashrut authority. I have no problem with that. If somebody feels the Badatz is much more careful than other hechsherim and they are aware of the differences, more power to him! But let us look at what commonly happens. Somebody eats only Badatz. Yet when he goes back to America for a visit he is not careful to limit himself to the most stringent limiting hechsher and only eat food from some small satmar style hechsher.

Generally these people will eat every OU product on the shelf (I am not talking about the chalav yisrael issue here). There are dozens of hechsherim in Israel that are similar to the OU. I am not an expert in the differences between them, but all (or at least almost all) the mehadrin hechsherim in Israel have adhere to a superior level of stringencies and it is ignorance to reject the hechsher of Rabbi Landau or the Chatam Sofer organization (these are just 2 examples I picked out of a hat) when they will then be eating OU products in America (or imported from America) or other hechsherim.

We had some yeshiva boys over recently. They go to an extreme yeshiva. After having gone on a tiyul on a very hot day my wife brought them some artiks (ice-pops) to help them cool off. They saw the hechsher on the artiks was Chasam Sofer and they said no thank you. Is it ignorance? I do not think so. What can be wrong with an ice pop that has a mehadrin hechsher? We are not even talking about meat which is more complicated and would be more understandable (though I am not convinced about that either), we are talking about ice-pops that had a mehadrin hechsher, yet anything other than Badatz Eidah Charedit was unacceptable.

We have friends who only eat Badatz Eidah Chareidit. They are baalei teshuva from the US who moved to Israel and have hooked up with extreme elements in the neighborhood and now reject most things they considered normal until recently. The accept the rejection of Rabbanut Yerushalayim L'Mehadrin that Badatz supporters adhere to claiming the Jerusalem Rabbinate has been taken over by political elements. They reject the Badatz of Agudas Yisrael (Ger chassidim community) claiming they adhere to lower standards of kashrut (I cannot even imagine what those lower standards are and nobody has even been able to give me an example of a lower standard held by that hechsher, yet they reject it saying it is not as good), etc. They recently went to a restaurant in Jerusalem that had the hechshers of Jerusalem Rabbinate L'Mehadrin and Agudat Yisrael. They came back and commented how all these frum people were there and so many chassidim. They could not understand why all these people eat that hechsher (they were compromising on their own "standards" because of relatives in town they had to take somewhere and their own standards limit them to going practically nowhere). We asked them why they do not. They did not have an answer.

Another example I have in my head is schools, though this applies more to kollel families than to working families (it is much less common among working families). I know somebody who was living in Israel learning in Kollel. This person was very serious about his learning and was truly a talmid chacham. He was "a bit" extreme and the local Bais Yaakov was not good enough for his daughter. He had to send her to a different neighborhood to a school that only taught in yiddish and was considered pretty radical. That is fine, it is his (and his wife's) prerogative to choose such a school. Yet recently they left Israel to be involved in starting an "out of town" kollel in a place where there is no religious community. he will be sending hsi daughter to a school where her classmates are from families of shabbos transgressors and probably co-ed, at least until they have enough funding and ability to start their own school. So, in Israel the average frum family was not good enough to associate with but in yehupitzville you can let her associate with kids who might not even be Jewish, let alone shomer shabbos?

I know somebody else who lived in Israel for a couple of years and he learned in a very serious kollel here. This fellow was also a person very serious about learning. When in Israel they were a very extreme couple limiting who their kids could associate with and what hechsherim they would accept. A number of years ago they left Israel to be involved in an "out of town" kollel. He has been pretty successful there and has developed a nice small community, from what I hear.

What is their situation today? Their 11 year old daughter's best friend is a boy, because he is the only other frum kid in the class. In Israel he would never have considered letting her even speak to a boy, let alone go to a coed school, let alone go to a school with anyone less than the most observant in town. Yet in the USA he finds a place to live where he sends his daughter to a coed school with children who are mostly not religious. That is in addition to the fact that each of their kids have their own computer and are involved in all the latest cultural norms, when in Israel they would have been on the bandwagon looking down on anybody who did so.

I have no problem with somebody doing any of the things mentioned above. You want to send your kid to a co-educational school - go ahead. You want to eat a certain hechsher not acceptable to others - go ahead. I am a very accepting person. What disturbs me is the hypocritical aspect of the issue. In Israel all these things would be banned by such people and anybody doing those things would be looked down upon, yet they feel comfortable doing it themselves outside of Israel. That is what i do not understand.

I am not talking about people who have no choice and do the best they can. If they lived in a small community and became religious and that was the only school in town and the only kosher food in town and they could not move because he had a job he could not change or whatever, that would be understandable. But these are people who chose where they want to live. They chose to live in small communities with no or little religious infrastructure. They moved away from places where they kept (adopted) certain ideals. Why were they willing to give up on the ideals they were so strict about in Israel? Is it so easy to sacrifice your ideals on the altar of doing kiruv or making a decent kollel salary for a few years?

Those are a few examples of situations I am familiar with in which this hypocricy is clear. People who are normal and accepting in the US or wherever they come from come to Israel and reject everything but the most extreme. People come to Israel and flip out. I do not know why - maybe someone can explain it to me. Sometimes it can be written off as either ignorance, lack of thought, sheep mentality, politics or other inane reasons, but usually it is just fliiping out. Why?

13 comments:

  1. wow. Somehow i have the feeling you've opened the flood gates with this one, and not just because this is one of your longest ones yet. I have many comments about this one:
    First, i want to start off with the following. The shulchan orech says that during aseres yemai teshuvah one should strive to be makpid on pas yisrael. I never believed that that was written there until i saw it myself. It was always hard for me to believe. What we are "faking out G-d" the rest of the year, but now we are good little boys and girls? But then it was explained to me as follows: the idea is that during aseres yemei teshuva we are closer to G-d. therefore we aim to put ourselves on a higher madriega, SO THAT after yom kippur that madreiga will maintian somewhat and we will try to keep our "new years resolutions". torah sh'lo lishma, ba lishma. Perhaps the effect of pushing ourselves to a closer position will help use internally as well.
    So really people come here, feel closer to G-d and want to be frummer and more machmir. So in terms of those boys who wouldn't eat the icey, i understand (in some warped way) kind of what they are doing. they want to push themselves to the extreme while they are in Israel.
    However, I also don't agree with them. First of all, it was socially rude. Obviously there is nothing wrong with the kashrus in your home, and refusing it was a bad middos decision. However, let's say they were taught that BaDatz is the only "kosher" hechsher, then in their mind, how could they be more lenient in israel?
    However, i don't think thats really your gripe. What i think you have a problem with is people who push themselves here and them allow themselves to do so much less in America - in truth it disagrees with my theory. Clearly the madreiga had no effect on them. I have a few comments to that:
    1- when I first moved to israel a couple of years ago i wanted to be machpid on chalav yisrael and yoshon. Unfortunately the yoshon didn't work out for sholom bayis reasons, but the cholov yisrael my wife were makpid on for the first year and half of our marriage. Then we went back to america for a visit, and all those Dunken Donuts, hershey bars and American Gashmius came rushing back at us, so while we were in America we weren't makpid. Also because my mother wasn't, so we felt bad enforcing it on them also while we there. Then we came back to israel and didn't like the double standard. how could we hold one thing in America and come back here and do something else? Now i have friends who do it -- with reliable heterim! But we felt aweful eating cholov stam in America, and here being frum. So temporarily we dropped it, except for cooking in our house. Meaning we wont cook chalav stam in the house, but we gladly accept packages of Entenmann's if someone shoves it down our throats. :-) What im trying to say is that sometimes the double standard works and sometimes it doesn't. If you push yourself to be closer to G-d, and this is how, then great. But if it has no effect on you, then why push yourself? Stay low and work on the real "d'orysahs" like Learning and Midos.
    2- Chinuch has many heterim. We have lived in some pretty wacky places, with not many jews. And while we also kept our standards pretty high (kudos to my parenst for that) it was interesting to me to see other people around dropping standards. But my point here is actually that some people feel to do Kiruv and Chinuch, you have to make some sacrifices. My response - great! but do it right. Ie- if you want to go to yemesvelt to do kiruv, and no longer keep yoshon or cholov yisrael, don't lose out on the important things. Kiruv is not more impoirtant than your own kids. I know one family who moved to a certain city and once they school closed down, instead of sending the local chabad, they sent their kids to non-jewish private school. Is that really worth it???
    3- madreigas only stick when you want them to. like fast days. You can be hungry on a fast day, or you can think how to better yourself. You can only eat pas yisrael on eseres yimei teshuva, or you can eat different bread. If you accept a chumrah, like only BADATZ, you need to know that there is nothing wrong with other hashgachas. And those who frown upon people eating OU or Belz, makes me sick. (Now Rabanut meat, thats a whole different ball game, im not going there). But what does NOT work for me, are those who only eat BADATZ, or even mehadrin, and then "give mussar" to those who eat OU or Chasam Sofer. No way. you want to be machmir, fine. Dont lose your middos in the process.

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  2. whats - long comment!! you make lots of points, some of which are helpful and very enlightening (especially your experience as a chinuch brat).

    As I mentioned - nothing I spoke about had anything to do with chalav yisrael. I should have mentioned that I include in that caveat pas akum and chadash as well. Those are completely different issues and they depend where you come from and on many other things. I did not want to touch on that in this post (maybe a different time, maybe not).

    1. yes, there are times we are machmir even when otherwise we would not be, such as in aseres y'mei teshuva. Nobody, however, keeps pas yisrael (for example, as one of the chumrot explicitly stated) during those 10 days thinking that pas akum is assur. They are doing it because it is specifically mandated as an important chumra to keep during that period. That's it.
    I understand your point that maybe coming to Israel is being closer to God so taking on a more stringent set of rules. Good point. From my experience and observances though, I am not so sure that is the reason they do that. They really (usually) feel that Badatz (or she'eiris) is the only reliable hechsher and the others are not reliable.

    socially rude - good point. I agree with you on that, people need to know when their chumrot are causing a kula in bein adam l'chaveiro which might be costing more than what the chumro is gaining.

    chalav yisrael and those others are really a different issue and I hear your point regarding them and agree. there are times where you take a chumro and then times where you give it up. too hard to keep or too much desire so you give in or whatever reason. you tried a chumro, eventually you decided to give it up. Happens all the time with all sorts of chumros. you try one, sometimes it works out and sticks, sometimes it does not.

    2. chinuch - I am not talkign about the heterim. Usually people going into chinuch looking for the heterim are not people who were all the way at the extreme I was referring to. To take those heterim for chinuch when you were so strict before that is unusual. Maybe a regular person sending to regular frum schools would take a heter for chinuch to send to a school with some lesser standards for the overall gain of the chinuch/kiruv. But when you would not even trust the regular frum schools and had to send to the most exclusive, then to take the heterim is hypocricy.

    3. attitude of chumros - agree 100%. I once went to a work-related bris. Somebody not religious but traditional from work had a baby and was makign a bris. She invited a certain number of people from work who she worked with on a very regular basis and I was one of them. She, on her own initiative order x number of mehadrin meals for the people she knew that kept mahdrin. As we get our mehadrin meals, a couiple of the people made a big deal with the waiters and manager abotu getting chad peami (throw-away dishes and tableware) to eat off of. All the food at the event was kosher. It was all under a hechsher, just one we would nto accept. Does that mean the food served is treif that makes the dishes treif that makes the ovens treif? No, but some people did not think of it that way. They think anything less than what they do is treif.

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  3. I think it is phenominal that people won't eat your food. Just like I am ecstatic that certain people think Shaya is mchallell shabat for carrying with the eruv. Hopefully soon the entire system will collapse under the weight of this over-legislation of Judaism and you can all get back to being jewish.

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  4. Wow what long comments, and as far as the post yeah crazy stuff.

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  5. For some reason there is a silent acceptance, even enodrsement of fanatical and stringent practices.

    Make no mistake - fanaticism is *as bad* as non-observance. Dont be blinded. This post itself has revealed the hypocrisy and other much worse developments that come from these obnoxious practices and views.

    Again - fanaticism is as bad (or worse!) than non-observance.

    So the next time your friends wont eat Chasam Sofer freeze pops, find the guts and say it as it is: you're a dick head.

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  6. Here is an example of a dickhead:

    http://kosherbottledwater.com/certification.pdf

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  7. you mentioned that people need to realize when their chumras are creating kulos in bein adam l'chaveiro. That reminded me of a story i heard a long time ago in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach tz"l. (i have no proof of anything, just my memory). The story was something about a guy who was making a simcha, and his father was bringing chairs over to the simcha on shabbas using the erev, because he didn't use the erev. When Rav Shlomo Zalman heard about that he responded (and im paraphrasing here) "Fool! You are more concerned about not using a d'rabanun (the erev) rather than the D'eorisa of Kibud Av, and forcing your father to carry the chairs himself!" nuff said.

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  8. Dan - I am used to the fact that some people will nto eat in ym house and it does not bother me. They don't have to come if they do not want to. But it is ridiculous..

    anon - great example. good to know the water is pareve...

    whats - great story. I am familiar with other similar stories...

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  9. Swell, I have ton of friends who moved to Israel because they don't 'fit in' in America.
    Who would turn down an artik? Even if the hechshar is an issue, it's cold. :)

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  10. good stuff, but too entertaining - i gotta get back to the daf

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  11. Yasher koach. I think that these are symptoms of the the disease of galut. There were so many perils that we just built gader after gader to separate ourselves from the goyim and avoda zarah. But when many of us have come back to Eretz HaKodesh--and we're short of goyim--we start looking for others to take their place. I think that we need to take a seriously look at our Judaism and leave the baggage that we've collected in galut. IMHO, the Gra alluded to this in Kol HaTur (Ch 1:6): "thus the teachings of our righteous Mashiach will be revealed gradually, which means the teachings the Tora of Eretz Israel (which is the the Jerusalem Talmud). This is revealed in the words 'and the gold of the land is good'".

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  12. ariel - thanks. that was an interesting and plausible analysis..

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  13. Rafi - I think that you are ignoring the social aspect of the "chumra wars". Here, in some communities at least, you are looked down upon if you don't keep up with the latest trends in what is kosher/not kosher. In small places in America, there is either noone around who notices, or people in general are more accepting. The actual chumra is not really important. Every time I ask someone WHY one hechsher is not good, I never get a straight answer. It is always that they heard from some other person whose hat is blacker. I would respect it more if someone said to me "the mashgichim did a spot check and found this specific problem".

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