Thursday, October 18, 2007

Man of the Earth

During his speech last week, the Rabbi noted that there's a not-so-often-quoted midrash at the end of the parsha that compares Noah to Moshe. The Midrash points out that, at the beginning of the story, Noah is referred to as Ish Tzaddik - A righteous man. At the end, he's referred to as Ish Adama - a man of the earth. It then contrasts the Torah's descriptions of Moshe. At the beginning of the Moshe story, he's referred to as Ish Mitzri - a man of Egypt, but at the end of his life, he's referred to as Ish Elokim - a man of God.

So Noah went spiritually downwards, while Moshe went upwards. Why? The Rabbi explained that it was because of how they went about trying to perfect themselves. Noah went for isolation. The world was a bad place, and the best way for him to stay right with God was to keep to himself; to work on himself, and his family. Moshe, on the other hand, was always outwardly focused. He focused on helping everyone else, and by so doing, was raised up himself in the process.

Now I found that fascinating, and immediately related it to a conversation I had, about a year ago, with a young man from a very charedi family. He told me about an article he had read, in Israel, about a group of secular Jews trying to start a Rabbanut Chiloni - a secular rabbinate. He thought it was funny, in an ironic sort of way. What does it mean to have a rabbinate if you're secular?

I answered that I thought it was very sad. Here was a group of secular Jews looking for some religious experience in their lives. But not like those Charedim! Anything but that!

And why? I think it's because, by and large, the Charedi community isolates themselves from all external influences. Of course the do it for their own protection, but in the process, they have often become insensitive to the needs and concerns of those outside their own folds. They take very hard-line positions, and often refuse to budge a millimeter - they're on the metric system there. ;) - on those positions. They are too often terrified of anything "modern," and very quick to point the cherem-gun at those who choose to view things differently. (Just look at what they did to Natan Slifkin! Moreover, look at how they did it!)

The Charedi community, at large, has not done much to endear itself to the non-Charedim, much less the secular. And that's a shame, because there's much within their communities to praise: Their commitment to Torah and its values; their commitment to family, and much more.

But look at the ones who have put themselves out to the broader Jewish community! Look at Aish HaTorah and Ohr Someach - both having a clear Charedi bent. Look at Meir Schuster's Heritage House. Look at (my alma mater) Neveh Zion, which has been working with "At-Risk Teens" since before there was such a term! These, and many others, are the ones working from the bottom up - the ones growing toward kedusha.


Ezzie said...

btw, I REALLY liked the vort.

The Half-Heretic said...

Not so much the theo-political commentary though, eh? :)

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