Monday, March 22, 2010

Why has the Yeshivishe velt forgotten that it takes Saykhl to be Maykl?

A guest post by NAMELESS

I struggle daily with the fact that I have liked 98 to 99% of the right-wing Frum people that I've met (and I've met many in the course of my T'schuva), yet I disapprove of so much of the culture of the Yeshivishe Velt? I love the dedication to learning, but the mindless Chumras just drive me out of my mind and make my life more difficult than it needs to be. Last week, a bocher asked me if I held by Yoshon! Having goyishe kids, there are many times when Lichatchila is just not an option for me.

That said, there's a limit to the usefulness of bitching. Just like when I tell my Lakewood cousins about the beautiful picture of my little Jewish niece under her Kratzmach tree, saying oy nebbech is a worse than useless response. Either admit that you don't care (which is OK) or at least attempt to fix the problem. I do care, so here goes:

Why is the Yeshivishe velt becoming so rigid?
I think that the problem starts with teenagers. Teenagers need to rebel against their parents, even in the Frum world. The difference is that Frum teenagers often rebel by becoming more Chumradik, more rigid than their parents. Frum parents have a hard time fighting that off, even though, in the end, it is not helpful to anyone. Recognizing that teenagers brains don't stop developing until they are around 21 or so, parents need to be on guard against enabling this behavior. On the surface, it seems praiseworthy, but it really isn't.

Chumras need to be evaluated on a case by case basis:
a) Chumras can hurt other people. Before adopting and holding shtark on a chumra, ask yourself: who does it hurt? Are my desires valid reasons to hurt someone else?
b) The gain can often be outweighed by the pain. I'm guessing that many chumras wouldn't hold up on a net/net comparison. Very rarely in this world do we see clear, unambiguous choices laid out before us. Lay out the pluses and minuses.
c) Adoption of chumras can be used to cover up transgressions in other areas. Before going above and beyond on something relatively easy, ask yourself, where am I outright failing in other areas?

The bottom line is this: even though you're Frum, you still need to think for yourself.

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