Sunday, July 17, 2011


I try to avoid editorializing about the blatant stupidity that surrounds us in the world because (and you may think this is overly cynical) I could write 24 x 6 and still not exhaust all that could be said and, besides, no one is paying attention to my 2 cents anyway. However, every now and then there comes along the item that stands out as taking things down to yet a lower level than you even thought possible.

Not just the Boro Park community, but the Jewish community as a whole has been moved by the tragic killing of a child abducted on his way from home from camp. Someone forwarded to my wife an e-mail from an organization sent this week, while the family is still in shiva, while we are all trying to digest this event, claiming that this tragedy (and others) was caused by a laxity in certain areas of halacha which this organization therefore has pledged its efforts to remedy. Of course, this effort is only possible with your financial support. With a big picture of the murdered child attached to elicit sympathy, the e-mail makes it pitch for your pledge.

I don't even want to discuss whether anyone can claim understanding of why Hashem would allow a child's life to be taken. To advertise in this way is not a philosophical or theological affront -- it is simply vulgar and crass. It's not a matter of a warped sense of Torah values, but a matter of a complete lack of derech eretz and common decency.

Just when you thought things had hit bottom, along comes an e-mail like this and takes things down yet another level. What's next?


  1. The old עוד לא ייבשו רגבי האדמה מעל קברו mailing has always been popular. Same for Mumbai, same for Thailand.

  2. Anonymous6:45 PM

    the shayla: should you be commended as one among those "who
    must fight against their nature"
    (self-admittedly cynical)["second nature", July 14], as one who has
    reduced "24 X 6" to 23 lines, or
    challenged as one who can eliminate venom altogether?

  3. Here it is the combination of factors that stands out: 1) The use of tragedy as a fundraising tool; 2) The use of the image of a child; 3) Attributing blame for senseless violence on the sins of others.

  4. great unknown8:39 PM

    The last factor seems to have significant support. Rav Neventzhal has written then when a yeshiva mann reads a headline R"L "Terrorist attack in..." he should understand it to mean, "I didn't doven with enough kavana on Rosh Hashana." [I remember this as being in his sichos for Elul].

    There is no such thing as random senseless violence. A maniacal murder is as significant as a volcanoic eruption or a tsunami. Even "accidents" are the result of inadequate spirituality in the environment. Why else is the Kohen Gadol responsible [in part] for retzicha b'shogeg?

    That being said, I agree absolutely with the use of the word "crass."

    Following the mussar of "Second Nature" I have [at least until now] supressed my powerful desire to chase down this e-mail via a web search.

  5. chaim b.9:47 PM

    >>>he should understand it to mean, "I didn't doven with enough kavana on Rosh Hashana."

    I think the key word in what you wrote I think is "HE" - there is an obligation to make a din v'cheshbon, but my achrayus is to discover my own sins, not my neighbor's.
    Whether there is such a think as senseless violence is another discussion. "Kach ala b'machshava lifanay" is sometimes the only answer.

  6. great unknown9:54 PM

    I generally agree, except that if I remember the thrust of the concept, Rav Nevenzahl was speaking to his talmidim.

    On the other hand, I willingly agree to the stipulation that only gedolim can make judgements on the community.

    One that comes to mind immediately is the Tosafot Yom Tov's attribution of specific gezairos against the tzibbur to speaking in shul.

    That having been said, I have enough messages in my life as to necessary personal corrections not to have time to worry about correcting the other guy.

  7. great unknown9:56 PM

    And as far as your last sentence, where is the distinction between that and "halachtem Imi b'keri" R"L?

  8. I'm not adding anything, but I want to second two things: that criticism should be inward; and that a gadol, a manhig, has the obligation to exploit tragedies in order to spiritually elevate his community. I'm too much of a cynic, or a boor, to believe these people have any clue at all as to the real reasons for tragedies, but, as I always quote from "Second Hand Lions," "Sometimes, the things that may or may not be true, are the things that a man needs to believe in the most."

  9. I realized that you asked "What's next." In case you were actually wondering,.... an ad campaign that with the unambiguous threat that if (or current occupant) doesn't give tzedaka right now, it'll happen again to someone close to him.

    I hope the fund raisers don't read this.

  10. > no one is paying attention to my 2 cents anyway

    Looks like lots of folks are anyway.

    First off, I agree with you but let me play devil's advocate.
    There is a belief amongst some, based on the Tosafos Yom Tov's statements to that effect, that the reason for the Chielmnitski massacres was because people were talking during davening.
    Now there is a prayer in my siddur right after the Mi SheBerach for the congregation that is another MiSheberach for those that don't talk in shul and the little type above it says that it was put it after the massacres. Yes, it's not shilling for funds but it still is "Hey, don't talk in shul. Look what happened when people did back then!" Is that right?

  11. great unknown11:53 AM

    I always appreciated the irony of collectors circulating with their hands out at Israeli levayas declaring "tzdoko tazil mi'moves." Thus, they were declaring that the person being buried obviously was not a ba'al tzdoko.

  12. great unknown12:59 PM

    I have given the issue great thought and based on the timing, have decided that the ultimate factor was the SSM act passed by New York, and pushed by all of the Democrats [including Sheldon Silver] and Bloomberg. Since the vast majority of frum Jews voted for these perversion supporters, and the act itself is an ultimate corruption of piryah v'rivyah, and rishus at the level of to'eivah, the onesh is profoundly midah k'neged midah.

    I therefore call on all frum yidden to donate generously to conservative politicians as a tikun of this terrible chait and tum'ah which permeates our community.

    N.B. When I started writing this, it was as a bitter parody, and I had no intention of actually submitting it. On reflection, I sense a germ of truth here. I respectfully leave it to the ba'al hablog to decide as to whether is should be deleted or not. In any case, I am not hiding behind anonymity.

  13. Now I'm hoping that not many people read this blog, because that would certainly be a valuable campaign fund raising tool. Unlike the pet peeves others attribute things to, this one actually does make sense, theologically and politically. Yikes!

  14. Crass and vulgar, lacking in common decency and derech eretz.

    Worse yet, it seems that the family has basic, immediate, pressing needs and to detract from that campaign to promote an agenda is simply tasteless.

    I hope I never find out what is next.

  15. chaim b.6:58 PM

    >>>I therefore call on all frum yidden to donate generously to conservative politicians


    >>>Yes, it's not shilling for funds but it still is "Hey, don't talk in shul.

    You already made a good chiluk -- in that case it's not a self-serving statement.

    This is probably not fair to ask, but I'll ask it anyway: I just don't understand how people can think G-d caused or allowed the murder of an innocent 9 year old boy because of communal sins that boy had not part in -- does that make sense?

  16. great unknown7:31 PM

    And G-d allows the death of innocent children because of something their parents did? Or during all of the various pogroms and crusades and churbanos? Do you really want to get into a discussion of Theodicy?
    How have you dealt with Midrash Eicha and Hanizakin on Tisha B'av?
    Here's hoping that the last question remains in the past tense.

  17. Daas Yochid11:37 PM

    "I just don't understand how people can think G-d caused or allowed the murder of an innocent 9 year old boy because of communal sins that boy had not part in -- does that make sense?"

    I think the answer is not to look at it as a cause an effect scenario. The limud we need to take is from the juxtaposition, without positing cause an effect. In other words, A happened, and then B happened. Hmmm, maybe I can learn something from that.

  18. I don't want to mention names here, but I was once at a nichum aveilim with a certain person of German Jewish derivation. It was a very hard case, the untimely death of a teen aged girl. Someone mentioned that perhaps the idea of gilgulim could give some glimmer of rationale for what happened, and that person remarked that Rav Saadia Gaon held that the idea of Gilgulim is not part of our mesora, and that it became popular because it seems to explain the inexplicable.

  19. I've heard the gigulim idea too. I was at the funeral of a 2 year old who simply stopped breathing for no discernible reason in her mother's arms. The father spoke about how tzadikim sometimes die a few years before their time so God sends their neshamos back for the remaining years and the joy they bring their parents as an infant completes their duties in this world.

    > I just don't understand how people can think G-d caused or allowed the murder of an innocent 9 year old boy because of communal sins that boy had not part in -- does that make sense?

    It's the old line about the Holocaust when people ask "Where was God?" The line is: "Where was man?" We have free choice and things happen for good or bad as a result.

  20. I responded to this post as part of a general phenomenon of bloggers dissatisfied with how our community responded over on Aspaqlaria. The post is titled, "He Should Inspect His Deeds".


  21. >>>Do you really want to get into a discussion of Theodicy?

    These are difficult Chazals to grapple with, but they were Chazal. Whether you invoke free will or gilgulim, you need to say some hesber.
    My point was that for others who are not Chazal to glibly assume that same mantle of authority and attribute the murder of a child to a specific sin of others in the community is something I cannot understand.

  22. I believe R' Soloveitchik would understand chazal's statements in terms he lays out in Qol Dodi Dofeiq.

    He writes that the Jewish question of tragedy is not "why?" but "how am I supposed to respond?" This, RYBS explains, is what motivates our focus on halakhah.

    I recall his student, R' Shlomo Riskin, explaining to us in HS [the year must have been 1979+/-1] that the difference between religion and Yahadus is that religion is humans' theology, whereas Yahadus is Divine anthropology. This position is consistent with that: we don't ask why G-d did something, we ask what He expects us to do about it.

    Anyway, I would think RYBS would say that chazal are telling us what lessons we could take from tragedy, not their actual reasons or causes.

  23. Al mah avdah ha'aretz? is a question of why, otherwise what's the mystery. The question the Malachaim ask about R' Akiva's tragic death which gets the answer "kach alah b'machshava" is a question of why - otherwise, hayitachein that there is no lesson that even the malachim could infer? Seems a strange assumption. RYBS' approach works in some cases; in others, it doesn't seem to fit.

  24. Admittedly the "al mah" in "al mah avdah ha'aretz" appears to be a "why" question. One would have to assume they spoke an imprecise shorthand.

    But as for your other example, I am at a loss. I would have understood the story at Rabbi Aqiva's death as supporting RYBS's position.

    The mal'akhim tried to ask "why?" and were rebuffed. Doesn't that imply it's the wrong question to be asking?

    In any case, RYBS simply asserts that this is what is implied by statements like "kesheim shemevarekhim al hatov, kakh mevarekhim al hara", and doesn't discuss the presence of maamarei Chazal that do actually ask "why?" It is my own 2 cents added here to suggest that he must learn them as really asking "what are we to learn from?"

  25. Micha, I like that approach. We're not looking for root causes, we're asking "what should my reaction be," or "how should my BAl'Ch/BAl'M behavior change because of this." Much better than my quote from Second Hand Lions.

  26. My 2 cents here: Last year a 4 year-old girl and her babysitter were found drowned in a backyard swimming pool. This was in my area, so we were very much aware of it, but it didn't spread as much as news because there was no disappearance followed by a horrific murder.
    So this case got a lot more publicity and really captured the attention of the general public, as well as the frum community.

    Though the same question of why bad things happen to innocent children could have come up, I don't recall the same capitalization on the episode for organizations that suggest a lack of tznius caused the tragedy. Granted, the horror of murder can make it seem worse, but the loss of a child -- through whatever means -- is still unfathomable. It seems to me that the huge amount of publicity here appeared to some as a great opportunity here to spread their agenda. It is not based on facts or new insight, just that there is a large audience that would pay attention to anything that mentions the event.
    As for individuals: everyone can think about what possible areas one can improve in any time something striking happens -- whether clearly acts of G-d, like natural disasters -- or evil acts of man.

  27. >>>Doesn't that imply it's the wrong question to be asking?

    Incomprehensible is not the same as a wrong question to ask. There are no wrong questions. You will never comprehend the chok of parah adumah, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't investigate and take away what you can.

    >>>It is not based on facts or new insight, just that there is a large audience that would pay attention to anything that mentions the event.

    Exactly -- it is marketing, not Torah. Kardom lachpor bo.

  28. 1- Hashem sounds angry, as I read the medrash. We also don't know what RYBS means in QDD -- does he mean that "why?" an inappropriate question, or that it is a secondary question?

    2- Qardom lachfor bo is pretty harsh. In my experience, most tzedaqah workers do put their pet cause ahead of their parnasah. To the digging is for the sake of tzedaqah, not quite the same as what R' Tzadoq warns against.