Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Don't be Frum

No, this is not pre-Adar humor; I mean the post's title seriously.

Readers must be thinking, it finally has happened: Mishmar has flipped. The decline began by discussing the Indiana Colts, then Tertullian, and finally this...Must have something to do with Bari's departure.

Well, actually not. I am referring to one connotation of the word "Frumkeit", which refers to a superficial, and instinctive religiosity, that doesn't stand up to reason and Torah principles. Rav Wolbe ztl(Alie Shur Vol II) discusses this issue, and actually has a section called "Frumkiet", in which he considers such behavior the antithesis of mussar. He defines it as an instinctive form of religiosity, which is subconsciously done to satisfy one's ego. This is a totally normal drive, but mussar's goal is to be aware of the subconscious motives in behavior, and to refine the lishmah(correct intention) content of action.

In the most recent Hakirah issue, there is an article by Dr. Aaron Hersh Fried titled, "Are Our Children Too Wordly". Dr. Fried tries to strike a balance between isolation and awareness of the world, which will work for the chareidi community. I found his approach refreshing. He also has a few fascinating anecdotes, including conversations with Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky and with the Klausenberger Rebbe, zichronom livracha.

The conversation with R. Yaakov relates to my previous point about frumkiet:

You know, when I was a boy growing up, I had a friend He was always a little more than I was, and did more than I did. He was a year older: I was 10 and he was 11. He wore long payos, I didn’t. He wore a gartel, and I didn’t.

Last summer when I was in Eretz Yisrael, I met him again. He was living in K’far Saba and I paid him a visit. While talking to him I found out that things had changed and that, unfortunately, he was now turning on the lights on Shabbos.

He turned to me and he asked, ‘Yankel, what’s happened to us? “Ich bin doch altz geven frummer” (Wasn’t I always frumer than you??!!), to which I replied [and here Reb Yaakov smiled and there was a glint in his eyes], “Ye, ye du bist takke allz geven frummer, ich bin obber alz geven kluger.” “Yes, yes you were always frummer but I was always kluger (wiser).”

Also notworthy is the advice of the Klausenberger Rebbe concerning how CHUSH(Jewish Center for Special Education) should educate its students:

“...You and your teachers spend most of your time thinking about how to teach a child to read one more letter, one more line in the siddur, prayer book. You want him to learn one more verse in Chumash, or one more segment of Gemara. All this is very good. But, unless you make a conscious effort, you may be missing the point. Your children may grow up and never learn what it means to be a Jew, what a Jew believes, or what he prays and hopes for. I think you should teach these children the 13 Ikrim—Principles of Faith—of the Rambam. I would furthermore put up a big sign in the school reading: Da es Elokei avicha v’avdeihu!”

I was puzzled. “But they don’t even teach that in the regular Yeshivos?!” “You’re perfectly right,” the Rebbe answered. “However, the regular yeshivah bachur, as he grows older, will learn in the bais hamidrash, study hall. One day he will go to the bookshelf to get a Rambam on Hilchos G’zelah V’aveidah so as to better understand a piece of Gemara he is learning.
The Ribbono shel Olam, the Master of the universe, will help him and by mistake he will pick up the wrong volume of the Rambam. Back at his seat he will discover that he has
the first volume in his hand, the Sefer Hamada.

Being a little lazy to immediately get up and return to the bookshelf to look for the volume he originally sought, he will stay in his seat and begin to browse through the volume in front of him. Turning the pages he will find it interesting, spend some time reading it and thus gain at least a passing acquaintance with the foundations of our faith (Yesodos HaEmunah). The regular yeshivos can rely on this error occurring. Your children may never be zocheh to make this error (they may never learn independently in a Bais Hamidrash); thus you must take responsibility for teaching them what it means to be a Jew.”

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