Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Blame Game

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Have a look at the "pinned" article on Vosizneias.com. (link)

Mishpacha Magazine has an article about frum youth who are "fleeing the fold" (somehow VIN manages to created new idioms by mixing metaphors all the time. I think they meant "leaving the fold". FYI - leaving the fold generates 7.6 Million google results, "fleeing the fold" generates 350k).

Two noteworthy things jumped out at me.

1) The article claims that more youth appear to frum on the outside but on the inside are not. They will break Shabbos in private or be lax with kashrus if no one is looking. The article seems to think this is a new phenomenon. It isn't. But more importantly, there is an obvious reason that this would happen. There is so much focus on external / social Judaism in the frum community. The message has been sent and received. How we are perceived by others is so important in frum circles teens are just mirroring the priorities of their parents and role models.

2) As the VIN post indicates, the article basically blames the "secular world". For example: "Every inappropriate billboard and secular entertainment show shouts to our children: ‘Leis din v’leis dayan’— live life as you please!". (And no this is not even remotely true - the point is that the frum world believes this!). The article makes the point that today's culture and technology are the reason so many frum Jews are "fleeing the fold".

This bothers me. First of all, there have always been "temptations". The modern era just makes them more accessible. But they have always been there. That is exactly why God gave us the Torah. To help us avoid temptation. Second, the article makes the case that we need to be more insulated to prevent youth from "fleeing the fold". If that were the solution then God would have simply commanded us to live in caves and not interact with the rest of the world. Obviously, this is not the case. The Torah was given to assist us in living in this world and yet resist temptation. The solution is not to avoid contact with the world, the solution is to use the Torah as a basis for making good choices within that world.

Of course, it is easy to blame the "morally bankrupt secular world" and not think critically about our own observance. People have always left Judaism. For some it is too hard, for others an all knowing God is too fanciful to believe in, for others temptation for prohibited things trumps all. There are many reasons people leave.

The point is, that the solution is not to avoid the competition, it is to BEAT the competition. If a frum lifestyle is so great (and I think it is) then no matter how enticing other lifestyles may be, one won't want to leave because they are happy. And there is the rub. If one is happy with their life, they won't make drastic changes and leave that life. But does today's frum Judaism value happiness? Are teens happy within the yeshiva system? If they are not, then preventing them from seeing the outside world is not a solution. It is just torture.

I believe that a healthy frum lifestyle can and should be satisfying enough that the beck and call of secular society does not trump the pleasure of a frum lifestyle. I think presenting them as completely incompatible will only serve to exacerbate the problem and might be causing the uptick in disenfranchisement.

Search for more information about fleeing the fold at 4torah.com.

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