I posted this yesterday, but decided to try to tone it down a bit, though I don't know if I succeeded any better the second time around. While driving somewhere yesterday afternoon my wife and I noticed a flaming orange sportscar with a unusual shape ahead of us. It looked like this:
I am not a maven in these things, so when I caught up to it at the light I took at look at the wheels and saw the name of the manufacturer -- Lamborghini. And I also had a chance to notice the kid in the passenger seat was wearing a kipa, as was his dad, the driver. Imagine that -- a frum Yid driving a Lamborghini! A nice little "toy" car to have. Curious, when I got home later I took a look at what one of these things cost. Here's a link because I would not believe it if I didn't see the MSRP myself: $376,000.
I spent the rest of the day cynically wondering how a person wearing a kipa is mechanech his children in the mitzvah of kedoshim te'hiyu or the dinim of tzenius while driving down the street b'farhesya in a bright orange sportscar that costs way more than the price of my first home (and I'm not that old).
After some calmer (relatively speaking) reflection, I've realized that this gentleman has nothing to answer for. His behavior is symptomatic of what passes for normal -- he's in step with orthodox culture and I'm the sore thumb that sticks out. The luxurious Pesach vacations, the $3000 European human hair sheitels, the $8000+ summer camp for your kid, etc. have all become not excesses of the super rich, but the norm of what a "kosher" frum lifestyle is all about.
Your typical orthodox American family's shabbos dinner conversation:
"Iran is working on a nuclear bomb...."
"Gedolei yisrael are in the hospital suffering..."
"Can you please pass the brisket, and try to make the next slice a little thicker?"
Ho hum and lad dee da, as long as the roast beef is rare and the kugel is tasty and maybe there is some single malt scotch l'kavod shabbos for desert, what's there to worry about? Am I not a good Jew? I keep kosher, observe Shabbos (OK, so I sleep 14 of the 25 hours and slip into dockers and a polo shirt right after shul, but the shulchan aruch says you should enjoy shabbos, doesn't it?), and wrote a nice check at the last shul function. What more do you want from me? What does the Lamborghini have to do with religion?
I don't have in mind a gripe against anyone in particular when I write this (and I beg mechila of the Lamborghini driver who is probably a wonderful person, just his car caught my attention as a symbol) -- it's the whole culture of superficial adherence to ritual technicalities while missing the point of it all that turns me off. How can you feel in the mood to write posts about difficult Rambams or sugyos in the parsha when it just seems like fiddling as Rome burns around us?
Of course I know I should qualify what I am writing. There are wonderful people who use their money wisely for great things, who do chessed b'hatzneya leches and devote themselves to talmud torah. There are people who do "get it" and who are moseir nefesh for and who embody the best ideals. I just wish there were more people of this type who stood out at the forefront of defining orthodoxy instead of their being the miyut if not the miyuta sheb'miyuta. As I've said before, I don't read Jewish periodicals if I can avoid them -- I don't want to see ads for resorts, vacations, Pesach cruises or what-not, for glamorous summer programs, for sheitels that require a second mortgage, for restaurant after restaurant, etc. Yet, this is the face of orthodoxy today, in newspapers, magazines, radio ads, etc. I would rather keep my tunnel vision focused on the faces I see at night in the beis medrash.
This post is still pretty harsh even after repeated editing -- sorry, I just had to get it out of my system. It's not aimed at any target; I'm just venting my thoughts. Maybe I'll take it down later when my head clears.