Isaac Kaplan

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

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A Trip to Fantasy-Land

After looking at a book entitled "Don't You Know It's a Perfect World?" I was inspired to write this satirical piece. And yes, I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I couldn't help it:

Welcome to Fantasy-land, where all is good and everyone is happy. All the boys and girls in fantasy-land are terrific students getting straight A's in all of their subjects, and they behave like angels. No discipline is necessary. "Kids at risk"? Never heard of 'em. It also helps that all the children have such loving, caring parents. The fathers make enough money to the point where the mothers can all stay home and care for their children. There's no such thing as divorce in fantasy-land, not even marriage counselors. In fact, everyone of marital age is happily married! Older singles simply don't exist in fantasy land. If you're a girl and over 19, you're hitched. Nobody feels the need to speak lashon hara in Fantasy-land; nobody ever insults anyone else, and everyone is friends with one another. In Fantasy-land, everyone is treated with respect, both rich and poor. Actually, there are no poor in Fantasy-land: just rich and richer. Even the kollel people are able to live quite nicely. The non-frum are coming to us in droves, and are drawn by the appeal of frumkeit. If you become frum, everything is easy, and you become a VIP member of Fantasy-land!

Okay, back to earth. From reading much of the Jewish media, I find that it's not difficult for one to get this impression about Yiddishkeit. Many magazines (including the likes of Mishpacha magazine) are filled with "happily ever after" stories. So, you'll say, what's the big deal? Besides, shouldn't we stick with positive thinking? Isn't that much healthier than the doom-and-gloom approach?

My response is, I totally agree that there's something to be said for positive thinking. After all, we say "ivdu ess Hashem B'Simcha." But nevertheless, we have to face reality. And when it comes to reality, we have to deal with many problems. The Fantasy-land approach seems to say, "pretend your problems don't exist!" But how does that help anyone? How does that help parents dealing with kids-at-risk? How does it help people with parnossoh issues? Does it put bread on the table? I don't think so.

And after reading this month's Jewish Action, I believe that some aspects of the Fantasy-land approach have done more harm than good. A great article in the JA describes the struggles many BT's face after committing to a life of torah and mitzvos. The JA describes that one of the problems is that many BT's are drawn to the marketing of Judaism. While some BT's are intellectuals and can clearly understand why Orthodox Judaism makes the most sense, others are drawn by promises that don't always come true. I was reading a BT book recently describing the five levels of pleasure, and it came out that learning Torah was #1 (ya think?). But try telling that to a BT breaking his teeth over Arameic. Or a burnt-out Yeshiva guy struggling to stay in the system. And, true, eventually people may find that Torah is their greatest pleasure. But between the fact that today we are in the "instant-coffee" generation combined with some used car salesman-esque sales pitches for Judaism, there's a strong possibility of people being turned off by Judaism when things don't happen as promised right away.

Certainly in the case of the BTs, the Fantasy-land approach has got to go. And even for frum people struggling with problems, books with a Fantasy-land approach are simply impractical. Some may even give a quick fix, like a jolt of espresso, but a few hours later people come crashing back down to earth. And no, it isn't pretty.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

THe frum world is perfect there are no problems except those who say there are. I suggest you read Orwell's 1984 and also the book "The Yeshiva" by Chaim Grade. The Yetzer Haroh does not exist. Why becuase the televisions were destroyed. Remember, even in Sodom and Gemorah they did not watch television. How low can the MO Go? They view televsion 25 hours per day. Rebbonoi Shel Olam save us from the MOs who are pollutted our pure velt. I read an article from Rav Chaim Keller of Telshe Yeshiva he said that his rebbe rav eli meir Blach said that the real threat to yiddishkeit isn't reform or conservative because everyone knows that is not emes. The threat is Modern Orthodox. Remember to throw away your TV and let black hat rabbiem run your life and you will be so happy. Unfortunatly there are bad kids who are at risk. Its not the community CHAS VSHLOM. The community is perfect like the abeshter. The kids NEBUCH are at risk because they are mentally ill from the television.

12:46 PM  

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