Thursday, August 23, 2012

O-Jewish Values

In tomorrow's Jewish Press, Meir Weingarten asks "Is Gotcha a Jewish Value?" (see it in full after the jump.) Citing Ronald Reagen , I mean, Hillel, he argues that exploiting El-Al's now-famous pricing error is a sin but, in my opinion, goes a bit too far when he attacks sites like DansDeals. Mistakes like the one El-Al made are extremely rare. In fact, I can't remember anything like it. When you see a too-good-to-be-true opportunity, there's nothing wrong with pouncing on it. If it turns out to have been a pricing error, you can always retreat from the deal later on.

I agree with the rest of what he says, but after years of blogging and following the Jewish world, found myself sighing when I got to the part at the end about how leaders and rabbis need to do a better job of educating people to care about each other. Can we stop pretending?  Its just not going to happen. There is no money or glory in reminding people to be decent to each other. Our leaders win points, nowadays, by being superficial, superstitious, and stupid. You attract students to your schools by dumbing down the curriculum. If you're a pulpit Rabbi you get the loudest "Shkoyachs" when your speech denounces other types of Jews or women who show too much calf.  We don't want to be criticized and corrected. We want to be told how awesome we are and this usually requires a few words about how lousy everyone else is.

The suspicious side of me is certain that this state of affairs results from the fact that communal Judaism has become an oligarchy. In most cases, the  Rabbis are put (or kept) in power by people who have no interest in respecting their workers, or abandoning the shrewd, tight-fisted behavior that first earned them their wealth.  The fat man who writes out the nice pidyon check doesn't want to be told how to run his businesses. (And the beneficiary of that check doesn't want his patron to stop making money.) Having assured his place on earth, through his bushiness dealings, our oligarch now wants to feather his nest in heaven and the Rabbi obliges with magic tricks and spells and potion-recipes.

Touched as I am by Weingerten's lofty hopes (see them after the jump), the El-Al ticketing debacle won't change any of this.

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