Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Pride vs. Guilt, pt. 3

The first argument for the side of "guilt" is weak, so I'll attack that one first.

To recap, the argument stated was that even if FF parents don't have that Jewish pride, the kids' rabbeim will instill that pride and make up for the parents' shortcomings.

I'll begin my response by quoting a controversial piece I saw yesterday in Andy Rooney's new book, "Years of Minutes," (as implied by the title, it's a collection of his best 60 Minutes clips of the last 20 years). Rooney claimed that the failing educational system was not due to dumb teachers, but rather due to dumb kids. He calimed that the kids' parents were responsible for not motivating the kids and teaching them the basic skills and smarts necessary to succeed in school. I believe that Rooney's point rings true with regard to this argument as well. First of all, I believe that many of the rabbeim aren't that great, so whether they'll even have the ability to help generate that pride is very questionable. But even if they do have that ability, a kid whose cynical parents laugh at him every time he gets excited about Judaism will make it extremely difficult for the kid to still capture that pride. In most cases, the kid will come to school with such a strongly cynical and lackadaisical attitude that even the most inspiring rebbi will have little effect. As Rooney said, it's the parents that are stunting the kids' progress.

In terms of the second argument, the problem is that we don't know for certain, in fact we can never know or even ponder when that guilt will kick in. Will it take 10, 20, or 30 years for the guy to wake up and finally give a damn? Nobody knows. But the development of pride via a RR mehalech is undoubtedly more certain and a greater possibility than the chance of the carefree black-hatter feeling guilt.

In terms of the third argument, this is where the age-old YU-yeshivish debate rears its ugly head. Within the yeshivish community, there a wide spectrum of opinions on the RR mehalech. Many rabbeim will say it's tolerable, it's respectable, but it happens not to be our mehalech, and there are many others who say the whole thing is kfirah and don't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

As mentioned previously, we are not discussing the merits and faults of the RR mehalech. My point is, depending upon how good or bad the RR mehalech is considered will factor on to whether pride or guilt should rule. According to the extremists who say RR is kfirah and equate it with going off the derech, they'll certainly agree that guilt should prevail.

In my humble opinion, the RR mehalech is a pretty solid mehalech. I believe that because of the all-important pride factor, the group under discussion should be encouraged to follow this mehalech. With society as bad as ever and the temptations of the Western world as strong as ever, pride may be the greatest factor in keeping our descendants religious. And like I've said, I'm not implying that my Hasidic cousin Barry should take up this mehalech. In fact, I find that the Hasidim in particular have a mehalech that is full of this healthy pride. However, the Hasidic mehlech is not for everyone, particularly the people under discussion.

For the FF crowd, it's clear that the mehalech that is most practical and most conducive in developing pride yet still fully adherent to the way of Torah is the solution. What constitutes "fully adherent to the way of Torah" is certainly up for debate. Even so, the importance of pride in Judaism cannot be underestimated.


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