Isaac Kaplan

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

Monday, July 19, 2004

Fantasy-land and Chilul Hashem (revised)

So far,  the main argument I can think of for the fantasy-land approach is that telling the truth may result in a chillul Hashem. It certainly is a poor reflection of the Jews when the public sees our faults and problems. Therefore, in order not to tarnish the reputation of the frum community, it's best to stick to only publishing things that give a positive perspective on Judaism.
Say, for example, I would write a book called "Treif! Exposing Corrupt Practices of Kashrus Organizations." If I had a good reputation and didn't slander anyone, such a book would be of great benefit to the frum community. The corrupt organizations would go bust, restaurant and take-out store owners previously deprived of income due to the organizations' corrupt practices would be doing much better, and perhaps the average consumer would pocket some savings, too. Yet the main problem in publishing such a book would be the possible chillul Hashem. And even if it were sold only in Jewish bookstores, word could get out to the likes of the Jewish Weak and the New York Times. And it would be quite ugly, to say the least.
Okay, a more pareve example. Let's say I write a book called "A Frum Woman's Guide for Coping With Divorce." A guide obviously meant to help people, but also can be a poor reflection of our society. Divorce being a big enough problem in our community, to the point where there's a book about it? Doesn't look too good.
Yet, we find Jewish Observer has had issues about Kids-at-Risk and shalom bayis problems! And if a goy sees these problems that the frum community has, what is he to think? So apparently, the JO is either doing something horribly wrong or there's no real Chilul Hashem issue.
I agree with the latter view for a few reasons:
a) Firstly, these days such problems are almost inevitable. And we have a choice: a) just sweep them under the rug and hope no one finds out, or b) bring them out to the open and deal with the issues. And I believe that the fact that have the guts to choose b) is a Kiddush Hashem. Others try to hide such problems until they get exposed. And to say, "hey, I'm doing something wrong," is quite impressive. Waiting until the problem gets so bad that it gets publicized through other means is a bigger chilul Hashem- it shows how naive we were pretending that such problems didn't exist!
b) If one holds of the Chilul Hashem argument, then where does he draw the line? Perhaps a mussar sefer or mussar schmooze is a Chilul Hashem. Imagine a goy hearing a Rav Gifter shmuz. He'd come out thinking, these yeshiva boys are lazy? They're having bull sessions? What kind of fakers are these guys!? So apparently, the chilul Hashem argument should ban all mussar shmuzin and any sefer that makes us look bad. But what are we supposed to do, not have mussar except on a one-on-one basis? That's not practical.
c) And perhaps the fact that such talks have a very small chance of leaking out to the average goy take away the Chilul Hashem factor. If one would tell a reporter about the lazy guys, that would be a massive Chilul Hashem. But if chances are that such things would stay in Yeshiva, then it really isn't a big deal. And if R' Dovid Goldwasser's book about frum anorexics isn't about to hit the New York Times bestseller lists, then that's okay too.


Blogger Gary Student said...

Perhaps dealing with these issues is a KIDDUSH HASHEM because it shows that we are on top of things and not oblivious to the problems within our community. Living in fantasyland where everything is perfect shows that we are out of touch. Do we want goyim to perceive us as spaced out?

11:10 PM  

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