Friday, September 29, 2006

What Went a-Fowl in Monsey?

A guest post from Chaim G.

Caveat, if you feel that the Monsey Chicken Scandal was not a communal tragedy and was only the fault of the proprietor of Shevach Meats and the mashgichim stop reading now. If not please read on.

This is the season for introspection and, as a redux of the kapparah of the khet Ha-Egel, atonement for the Sin of the Golden Calf, more about communal than personal T’shuva. No doubt many theories were forwarded both by Rabbanim and by rank and file Jews about why the calamity of ingesting traifa chickens by thousands of G-d fearing, Torah Observant Jews befell the Monsey community. In this post would like to submit my own theory.

What first got me thinking in was a comment I read from Rabbi Dovid Schwartz in a thread on the blog. I quote
“In Torah thought, names are indicative of the name-bearers essence. The Chidushei HoRi”m asks: Why is a bird with a name as lovely as Chasidah an Oif Tamey (non-kosher species of bird)? His answer is based on Chazal’s deconstruction of the name. They interpret it to mean that “She does Chesed (loving-kindness) with her peers in terms of sharing food”. He points out that the Chasidah is kind and giving to her “peers” i.e. birds-of-a feather exclusively. The kind of chesed that is limited to ones own kind, concludes the Ri”m, is still essentially “unkosher/tamey”. Chesed that is of the holy variety is extended to " the other”.
This got me thinking. We are always supposed to analyze what‘s happening to us through the prism of quid pro quo (AKA middah k’neged middah). Now I know that Perdue Chickens are not the Biblical Chasidah bird. Still, Chazal teach us that non-kosher species and kosher species that were improperly i.e. un-kosher-ly processed have something in common. “U’lhavdil bain HatOmay V’hatohor” and to discern and separate between the e impure and the pure” (Vayikra 10:10)

What is the meaning of this verse?

Do I require discernment to distinguish between a Cow and a Donkey???

Instead the verse means to distinguish between that which is pure and impure TO YOU, between an animal who’s trachea was only severed halfway and an animal whose trachea was severed more than halfway, a hairsbreadth of difference! [Safra ibid]

The frum communities are incomparable for their Chesed organizations. More than one current godol has remarked that in this department (G’milus Khasodim in contradistinction to Torah and Avodah) it is akhshir dorei/a superlative generation. Still we need to ask ourselves; how much of this is chesed and how much of it is merely Chasidah? When these same communities are afflicted with a pandemic of bitul/nullification, when our Jewish brothers and sisters who differ from us in the slightest way are demonized, nullified, kept (if not geographically then at least socially) at a distance and, worst of all, utterly ignored and placed completely outside the realm of our experiential framework are we not, as a community, behaving like a Chasidah?

Oh, ya, we’ll give you a ride on route 17 or answer a hatzalah call at your home or business but these occasional kindnesses never seem to build bridges, to make the recipient less of a stranger. Even the Kiruv organizations, which arguably bestow the greatest of chasodim on their students, seem obsessed with churning out birds-of-a-feather. Students who don’t “get with the program” in terms of their thinking, and even their style of dress, within a year or two are often “given up on” and considered “failures." Avrohom oveenu, the pillar and paradigm of chesed extended it to polytheistic idolaters not merely to his like-minded wives and children.

In the Maws of Fasting the Rambam writes that anyone who says that Tsuris are happenstance and coincidence is being an akhzar/cruel. Jewish thinkers and etymologists have pointed out that the root of the word (and hence the essence of the meaning) of akhzar is deconstructed as the two words akh/only zar/strange /distant. Creating “the other” is the essence of all cruelty (Check out the Nazis MO before the Holocaust) and assimilating (as in making similar not as in intermarriage) and finding commonality the father of all true kindness.

I did not fast for the Monsey tragedy but I did reflect. By allowing so many of us to stumble on nivlas HaOif maybe, just maybe, Hashem was sending us this message: You eat what you are, stop behaving like a Chasidah and begin feeling true tenderness for one another. Extend Chesed davka to those Jews least similar to you.

As a slightly mis-fitted member of the frum community I really don’t want to engage in turncoat community bashing. I really mean this as a self-criticism. If it speaks to you fine if not I’m not saying Kabla da’ati. (This is after all an anti-Chasidah blog isn’t it?)

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