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Apr 14, 2008

The Biggest Threat to Judaism today...

(this post was originally posted as a guest post on DovBear)

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote an interesting piece in this past week's Mishpacha magazine. I read the article in Hebrew, but the English version can be found on the Jewish Media Resources website.

In the article, Rosenblum went on to describe a conversation he had with an unnamed Rav in Los Angeles. The Rav told him what he considered the biggest threat to Judaism today. This item surprised Rosenblum, surprised me, and I am sure will surprise you.

The biggest threat to Judaism today, according to this unnamed Rav in LA, is Pesach in hotels. Not the trend of looking for every chumroh in the book and many not in the book, not Rabbis who molest, not parents who abuse and molest, not intermarriage, not Reform Judaism, not poor education, not high tuitions that make jewish education prohibitive to many. Pesach in hotels is the biggest threat to Judaism.

Granted, I agree that the whole "Pesach in hotel" situation is fairly ridiculous and not conducive to a spiritual and uplifting holiday (for most people). How can you run a seder with your kids when everybody is going at their own pace, singing their own tunes, having their own conversations, kids running all over the place, all by the tables right next to yours? It is impossible. I have gone to hotels once or twice for Shabbos and find the atmosphere very disturbing and not conducive to a family shabbos tabel. How much worse the Pesach seder must be!

People, in general, do not go to a hotel for Pesach so they can grow spiritually and have a meaningful, traditional experience with their family. They go for a vacation. They go to relax. They go to get away. Some, for whatever reason, cannot make Pesach in their own home (for valid reasons even). They go for the luxury. Whatever reason they go for, it is generally not for the spiritual aspect.

I do not begrudge anybody their hard earned money. People can spend their money in whatever way they want. They can live their whole lives in hotels and flying all over the world and taking vacations every other week, it does not bother me,. They earned it, they can spend it how they like.

But as far as Pesach is concerned, they are missing out on the whole point of the Pesach experience.

That is a shame, and the kids will have missed out, and the parents will have missed out, the various opportunities provided in a home setting.

But is that really the biggest threat to Judaism today?


  1. You have to consider the depth to which he is speaking. I think i hear what he is saying.
    Unfortunately there is abuse, crazy people, chumras and all those "threats" but none of them are the majority and great impact that the Pesach hotels have, especially in LA.
    You have to understand the lasting effect. Lack of family togetherness, lack of a meaningful quiet seder, lack of meaning and understanding of the holiday as a whole. And when you think about how important pesach is to the religion as a whole, taking away that aspect makes me think of isreali kids growing up secular today. I work with chilonim where a surprisingly amount tell me their grandfathers go to shul regularly, and these people dont wear kipas. Where did they go wrong? Im willing to bet there was a general lack of meaning and importance to family time, and holidays and sedarim. Sound familiar?

  2. i thought it was concerts?

  3. or shoping at shefa shuk (R"L)

  4. TZNIYUS!!!!

    Thinking about it, that's probably the problem with Pesach in hotels too.

    Not any of that stuff you were talking about. It all comes down to tzniyus.

  5. I read the article, and I think that the "problems" which he claims arise at hotels on Pesach are indeed troublesome. But they do not exists because people are making Pesach in hotels.

    If someone acts in a certain way while in a hotel on Pesach, it is a reflection of who that person is; for some reason, being in a "hotel atmosphere" brings it out. If this type of behavior is indeed "the biggest threat to Judaism", then the root cause (I'm inclined to blame the educational system, but I can't really say) should be identified and fixed.

    Just my 7.1 agurot.

  6. the root cause, I think, is that people are spending a lot of money to spend the holiday in a hotel. They want to get their moneys worth. ever go to an "all you can eat" buffet? ever notice how much food is taken and not eaten? just left on the plates?
    People pay good money and they want to get their moneys worth. So they take and take and take and have to take more and more and tea and cake 24 hours a day (ech - who wants so much pesach cake anyway!) etc...

  7. "Not the trend of looking for every chumroh in the book and many not in the book, not Rabbis who molest, not parents who abuse and molest, not intermarriage, not Reform Judaism, not poor education, not high tuitions that make jewish education prohibitive to many"

    A bit extreme to couple chumras with abuse, molestation, reform judaism and the lack and prohobitive cost of jewish education. You can be against it, but being that many great poskim such as the CI, RYSE, RNK RavVosner and others all have chumra'dik positions on many issues, its hard to say that is in the same league as the other problems you mention. Actually, it kind of defeats your whole post where you mock the unnamed rabbi in LA for naming a "minor" issue as the biggest threat, and there you go naming something you personally have an issue with as the biggest threat. Ironic I think

  8. I think the biggest threat to judaism today are is the charedi form of judaism.

    My wife and children are in Israel right now. This past shabbat they went for a family visit to the jerusalem zoo.

    (The way most jews celebrate shabbat, as a family day with no work, not the charedi way of shabbat but hey, to each their own)

    They got a bit lost in Jerusalem and made a wrong turn. They came to a gated street and started to make a u-turn to get out of there. A group of charedi young men started running to the car screaming and yelling at them. They felt scared. my wife, her younger sister, and two little kids were physically scared of religious "terrorist" jews because they happened to take a wrong turn.
    I think the charedi viewpoint of their being the only version of judaism, when in fact they are a minor sect of a minor sect of judiasm is damaging Jews and Judaism. But they are a vocal and organized minority and wield great power. And most of their followers have no appreciation of other forms of judaism and believe that if you are not charedi its because you are either dumb, uneducated, lazy, evil or all of the above. In fact, non-charedi jews are the vast majority of jews.

  9. I thought he made a good point at the end of the article. About it being easier to be frum nowadays.
    I don't think I would have been as comfortable then and it's that feeling which makes me uncomfortable when I feel that other groups are forcing it on me now.


  10. I'm pretty sure I know who the rabbi is because I've heard him say this before. I think the real reason he hates the Pesach in a hotel thing is because he can't afford it...

  11. If you think about it,going to a hotel for pesach for reasons other than because there is an illness in the family or such , is a very great detriment to the religious society as a whole. The children are introduced to things that they would not normally see or hear.
    Having visited a friend who was staying at a hotel for pesach, just seeing all the boys and girls who were not family sitting and shmoozing, seeing all the "good yeshiva boys " dressed in shorts and t-shirts (on chol hamoed)the goyishe music dressed up with chassidishe clothing, you wonder what is going on with our world as a whole. Maybe, and as I do not know who this Rov is, but I know a number of Rabbonim both in LA and NY who are very against going to hotels for yom tovim, the reason he said it is the biggest threat, it because this is something we are introducing and advertising amongst ourselves and things that happen at these hotels bring yidden down as a whole spiritually and leads to people who look to assur all fun and enjoyment, and creates 16 year old babysitters who have to marry the father of the kids she was babysitting cause he got her pregnant (happened in RBS a few years ago, no?)
    The hotel issue is one we as a whole have made and brought this monster into our machane which then in turn creates the molesters, abusive parents ect.. (no not the people who go but rather when we weaken our hashkafos, we weaken our society)
    Rafi keep up the good work, still have pics from our tiyul to the Banyas in '92)

  12. Dan - did she get pics or video of the lynch mob? I would like to see that... (shifra just spoke to her and she is fine...)

    am - that could be, but that would be a very cynical approach...

    Josh - I understand your point, but I would still not say the hotel issue is the source of the problem. Just a manifestation. Is that where these yeshiva guys first meet and hang out with the sem girls and sit around in shorts listening to jewish music that is really non-jewish? It is likely to be more open (after all we are on vacation!) there, but these are also probably the yeshiva guys hanging with girls on ben-yehuda n Israel or whatever pizza shop they hang out in in the US...
    and sorry but I do not remember you... (feel free to email me - israeli.jew at gmail dot com)

  13. anonymous from 5:12pm - I was not equating any of those examples with each other or with any other. they were just items that popped into my head as I was writing it.
    But I do think the chumroh mentality is destructive. I am not referring to your taking certain chumrohs that you feel enhance your yiddishket, or my taking certain chumrohs or yanky taking certain chumrohs.
    I am talking about the herd mentality of chumrohs becoming part of society and people having no idea what the halacha is but thinking these crazy chumrohs someone suddenly made up are the halacha and have to be kept and anyone who does not play along is meikil at best and a posheia at worst. I do nt need to list examples. I have blogged about many such examples in the past.

    But I was not equating any one example with any other example.

  14. Dan G,
    The arabs will do the same.. the difference is, chareidim just want peace and quiet on shabbat.. these anti religious punks purposely provoke them by speeding down the steets, enginges reving and music blasting.. blame the seculars for the troubles.

    Are you guys nuts ? of course hotels on peasach are the biggest problem. How the heck will these kids cook when they grow up? things like preparing for peasach, the seder etc.. will all be foreign to them.

    Hagalas kelim, bedikat chametz, biur chametz, grinding marur, checking lettuce, making charoses.. what about kol dichfin yeisay v'yachol? they invite guests to the hotel?

    They will not have known what a quiet family seder is about, about what opening the front door for eliyahu hanavi, about a seder where everyone isnt shmoozing like a wedding..

  15. "that could be, but that would be a very cynical approach..."

    He is an EXTREMELY cynical person, especially when it comes to "hashkafas" not his own and people not giving HIM money. Trust me. I knew this person VERY well...

  16. Rafi: I don't think so, they were busy getting away. Thanks for the link, here is what I posted in response to that blog post:


    My response:

    You left off the rest of my comment which was...

    "But they are a vocal and organized minority and wield great power. And most of their followers have no appreciation of other forms of judaism and believe that if you are not charedi its because you are either dumb, uneducated, lazy, evil or all of the above. In fact, non-charedi jews are the vast majority of jews."

    which speaks to your response..."In that sense - maybe its true that Charedim are the biggest threat to Jews today - seeing their way of life reminds secular Jews of all that they are missing."

    You see, its not that we are missing charedi judaism, its that we (i) have a different understanding of what it means to be a jew and what the rules are and why.

    You say "...Jews who keep Shabbos, who keep kosher, who keep as many of the 613 mitzvos as possible are living Judaism as it is supposed to be lived - everyone else is just being Jewish."

    I say that your version of keeping mitzvot and shabbat and living judaism is no better or worse than the way I choose to keep Judaism, we have different understandings of what each item is....

    so you base your judaism on your mesorah and I base my judaism on my mesorah, but because mine is not based on god giving the torah in a polish shtetel in the seventeenth century I am "missing" something?
    In fact, the large reason why I feel that the minor sect of charedi
    judaism is bad for jews is because it is stuck in the ghetto. Charedi Jews have this romantic vision of what the ghetto was, a vision totally divorced from what was the reality. And they struggle today to live like they were forced to back then.

    Be that as it may, I find it a bit optomistic to imagine that these punks were being arevim zeh la'zeh. Of course we have to be dan lacaf zchut so I will ask this instead, do you think that this common charedi expression over arevim zeh la'zeh outweighs the tremendous chillul hashem?

    But I will leave you with this, I am not missing the charedi version of judaism, I reject it outright as a form of judiasm which evolved from tremendous pain and deep christian/tribal/islamic influences. I reject the charedi mesorah in favor of a mesorah which I believe is a more accurate understanding and representation of who our ancestors were and what kind of judaism they practiced. But I would never threaten charedi jews uner the assumption that it is not just my right but my obligation to save you. I am humble enough to accept that if you choose your path than it is right for you and well chosen; I am not just dan lcaf zechut because I don't judge, I am accepting with an eye of zechut, that is my mesorah.

  17. elchonon: maybe that has happened, but I've spent many a shabbat in charedi sections and never saw it. Further, my wife and kids do not resemble arab or secular holligans.

  18. elchonon,

    while dan, rafi, and I do not always agree, your response to Danny was so off mark and ridiculous in and of itself, that I feel compelled to write.

    1. Dan wrote about his wife and kid, not teenagers blasting music.

    2. i witnessed chareidim go to the main road, out of their way to throw stones and yell shabbos. Do not presume to lie and blame it all on the secular.

    3. even if it were true, your response then is that nekama is mutar? and if it were, only to those who originally wronged. Not to random others!

    4. and let me just say "OY" in general to your entire comment. as a shomer shabbos jew myself, I am embarrased by your insensitive response and your naivetae in general to assert such a ludicrous idea that "it's all the seculars fault".

    OY, Oy, OY!

  19. OTOH Danny - Those guys obviously missed and so you should make sure to not pay them!........ :)

  20. Dan G - Am i missing something? Which mesorah can claim that one is allowed to drive in a car on shabbos? Does your "mesorah" allow one to make up any halachos you want? Is there any rule that is not based on personal understanding?

    Maybe I missed the point of your post, but it sounded to me like you are advocating a non-orthodox stream of Judaism. Is this correct? If it is, ALL of orthodox judaism rejects that as an acceptable form of Judaism, and they reject it as any form of Judaism.

    It doesnt matter if there are more or less orthodox or nonorthodox. We reject that 100%. Every orthodox Jew knows that if he was the only shomer shabbos jew left in the world, he would keep shabbos and he would be the only sane person in the world!

    As REW says, only sober peoples opinion count. People "drunk" on false understandings do not enter into the count. And in that regard, orthodox judaism IS the majority.

    What am I missing?

  21. Anon,

    you are correct. I am advocating and practice non-orthodox form of judaism. Or as I would say, you practice a minor extreme right-wing form of judaism.

    Your mesorah is based on changing the laws according to personal interpertation as is mine.
    For example, hillel made pruzabel as a kulah and you must use two sets of dishes as a chumrah. So we see clearly that in your form of judaism you accept that people can change rules, you just argue over who can change those rules. So too in mainstream judaism. We see rules and concepts that need adjustment and adjust accordingly.

    Just because we disagree does not make either of us right or wrong, we are merely right for ourselves and wrong for each other. I could easily say that your "drunk" opinions dont count. But I accept your choices to follow your form of judaism which has evolved tremendously differently than what it was.

    Therapy doc: I hope that wasn't directed at me. I am staunchly oppossed to sinat chinam and am shocked if that was directed at me. Hopefully it was directed at the charedim who scared my wife and kids.

  22. Dan and Shaya,
    I have seen this myself by shneller army base in meah shearim.. while not defending hareidi rock throwing, theres still a bigger story than just outright hate for anyone driving on shabbat..

  23. Rafi, hope you don't mind, but I am posting a response and my response from the blog that took part of this and started the topic on ther blog. Their comment is followed by my response.

    Chumi Friedman said...

    I can't speak for all of Chareidi Judaism. I can only speak for myself. I have grown up in an Orthodox home - Orthodox going back generation after generation. I don't think that anyone who chooses to live a life that is not Chareidi is "uneducated, lazy, evil or all of the above."

    I think that some Jews don't know any different. They have been brought up in totally secular environments and have never been exposed to the beauty that is a Torah way of life. Others know that there is another way to live - a way that follows the dictates of the Torah, given to us at Sinai - they just choose not to live that way.

    I can't say live and let live - and least not in my heart. I wouldn't yell at someone who doesn't keep the Shabbat the way I know it should be kept, but it will cause me pain. And in my heart I will hope that one day they will understand and recognize the beauty and peace that comes from truly keeping Shabbat.

    Our mesorah (both yours and mine) does not come from the ghetto. It began at Siani and was codified into what we know as Rabbinic Judaism over 2000 years old. What comes from the 17th and 18th centuries is a certain way of dressing and many customs.

    It's a shame that those young charedei boys know of no other way to get their message out. It is terrible that your family was physically afraid of other Jews.

    But their message should not be lost. Let's not ignore the message because the messenger was a fool.

    April 14, 2008 6:53 PM
    Dan G said...
    "I think that some Jews don't know any different. They have been brought up in totally secular environments and have never been exposed to the beauty that is a Torah way of life."

    And the opposite is true as well. The vast majoraty of charedi (and orthodox) jews are not raised with any insight, understanding or connection to the various other streams of Judaism. They think that 'secular' jews just 'don't know' when in fact many non-orthodox jews are raised with a beutiful and fufilling form of judaism to which they are dedicated.

    It is interesting to note that it is the charedi society that cuts themselves off from the rest of the world. It is the charedi society that cannot handle any influence from the outside world. How dedicated and powerful can their form of judaism be if the only way to keep it is to hide from everyone else?

    "I wouldn't yell at someone who doesn't keep the Shabbat the way I know it should be kept, but it will cause me pain."

    We disagree on what it means to "keep shabbat". Again, it is not a case of not knowing, it is a case of having a completely oppossing view on what and why and how is shabbat. From my perspective orthodox jews are not keeping shabbat the best way.

    "Our mesorah (both yours and mine) does not come from the ghetto. It began at Siani and was codified into what we know as Rabbinic Judaism over 2000 years old. What comes from the 17th and 18th centuries is a certain way of dressing and many customs. "

    Well like they say, mihag k'din. So when orthodox judaism today base their current customs and modes of dress and numerous chumrhas on the ashkenazi ghetto life from poland and russia they have dramatically evolved the hashkofa of orthodox judaism which creates a new form of judaism and new rules of judaism.

    As for our mesorah, we have slightly different takes. We might both agree that the jews became a people at har sinai or thereabouts, but we disagree about what exactly happened and what it means. Your mesorah is based on one interpertation of what happened and which rabbis explained and codified laws and my mesorah is based on a different understanding.
    My argument is not that your mesorah is wrong as an absolute, just that it is wrong for me. Your argument is not that my mesorah is wrong for you, but that it is wrong as an absolute. Unfortunately, while I have taken the time and effort to study your mesorah, you have not studied mine. Is that fair?


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