Sunday, June 12, 2005

Baruch Hashem!

I took Gil's advice and listened to the two lectures that he links to here about the issue of Morality Among Orthodox Teens.

Overall I thought they both were really lacking in substance, and avoiding any real issues, but one remark was so incredulous that I can't resist highlighting it. At the 30:45 mark R' Mayer Twerski discusses how it's important that people make Hashem a more authentic and active part of their lives. I don't have any problem with that necessarily. But what's his suggestions to achieve this? To have people use "Im yirtzeh Hashem" (God willing) and "Baruch Hashem" (Thank God) more frequently in their conversation!

Is this guy serious?!

I know that everyone in that world is so afraid to look beneath the thin veneer of their frumkeit lifestyle and see how lacking they are in any qualitative meaningful spirituality, but to actually encourage further shallowness as a solution to the problem just boggles the mind!

The problems of kids not taking the religious side of their lives seriously is directly related to the fact that all around them they see so much superficial religiosity in so many aspects of their lives. There's probably very few places in the world that have as much frum "culture" as the locales where these lectures where being given. I have no doubt that these families don't just say "im yirtzeh Hashem" all the time (and of course where it makes absolutely no sense to say it) but that they also do every other conceivable external frumkeit indicator that their society has thought up. They and their neighboring environs have frum markets, frum entertainment, frum radio stations, frum newspapers, frum politicians, frum social scenes, frum fashion outlets, frum everything!* They've taken something that's supposed to be deep and meaningful and turned into a easily packaged consumer commodity. For one to be respected in the frummest circles today, it's a simple matter. Just make sure to put on the right clothes (and head coverings), speak the right lingo, purchase items with the proper hechsherim, send your kids to the "right" schools, go to a daf yomi shiur, and install a water filter in your kitchen. It's a lifestyle choice more than anything else. And kids can see right through it. Hell, anyone who hasn't bought into it can see right through it!

Of course no one wants to face the cold facts of how hollow their religious lives are. It's much easier to go through all the well-known and popular motions that everyone can see you doing and pat you on the back for. But to actually encourage the very activities that are symptoms of the root problem is really impressive! I wonder if he thinks that wearing your hat more frequently throughout the day will also help you come closer to God.

I recall an incident from a few years ago when I was at a friends house on Shavuos. His mother was telling the family how proud she was of their 9-year-old daughter. "She got to shul in time for leining and heard the aseres hadibros!" The mother beamed proudly at her daughter. My friend turned to his family and said, "Yes, that is really nice. Now, can anyone actually tell me what the aseres hadibros are?" All he got in return were funny looks. No one found it strange that they were so proud of going through the motions of a barely understood exercise rather than actually understanding the real idea behind the activity.

Baruch Hashem we have such insightful figures instructing frum society on how to fix it's problems. Im yirtzeh Hashem everything will be fine if we can just keep our eyes closed a bit longer and answer Amen with a bit more kavana.

(I can feel the growth happening already... Baruch Hashem!)

* I don't think any of these things are bad in and of themselves. It's when their presence is mistaken for actual genuine spiritual content that there's a problem.


GregoryT said...

well said. As I was getting more and more into Judaism, I was wondering what does the Mirtz Hashem stand for. Myself being anal for correct spelling and grammar in any language, I see that people use expressions without really seeing the meaning of them - thus, when someone says to me "mirtz hashem" - I answer, "o im lo yirtze..."

Tamara said...

As a parent, I think it's important to walk your talk. Kids are so hungry for a meaningful spirtuality, one that will help them understand the world better, and help them to realize their full potential.

The emphasis on the superficial at the expense of the essential is robbing our youth of their birthright.

Lubavitcher said...

Check out this article.
Sometimes who we really are is expressed precisely in the "superficial".

Ben Sorer Moreh said...

There's something spiritual about writing "I'm getting help from above" when starting a document. The trouble is, IMHO, when it feels obligatory and forced. I find "baruch Hashem" hollow, as there's no "acceptable" diametric opposite for expressing dissatisfaction with God, save "baruch dayyan emet."

dietgarage said...

true. as i observe people 'finding God' i sometimes wonder who has authentically made a spiritual connection for that very reason.

tamara was right - "The emphasis on the superficial at the expense of the essential is robbing our youth of their birthright."

Anonymous said...

I listened to the speech a while back and am too lazy to go find it again and locate this remark. But the way I remember it, he said that people lack *sincerity* in the way they relate to religion, that it's superficial, and that they don't show their children a genuine *relationship* to God. He pointed to the way people *in previous generations* spoke of god, and said iy"h, spoke of the eybishter, etc and said that people are embarassed to speak directly about God, as they used to in teh past.
So I think he was not encouraging mindless "boruch hashem"s and "iy'h"s; he was speaking of saying "thank god for X" in a genuine way, that speaks of turning to God on a daily basis.
Of incorporating trust and faith in God into one's conversation in a real way. To tell your kids that you are not worried, and relying on God. Things like that.
Basically the opposite of what you are accusing him of!

Anonymous said...

I mean to say, he didn't say "Say boruch hashem." He said that people really used to talk about God, in conversation, and are reluctant to or embarrassed to today...or don't think about God in the way their grandparents did.
He was NOT talking about mindless boruch hashems at all. Or exterior markers of frumkeit, as many of the "old timers" who spoke this way were quite "modern" otherwise.

I think it is a fair observation. I know my grandmother (late 90s) and grandmotherinlaw (late 80s) speak about gratitude to god in a way that younger folk just don't (though the younger ones "boruch hashem" their way thru conversations all the time). He is right.

RuchniGashmi said...

Some of you guys out there know me by other blogs that I maintain, and some of you may be somewhat shocked to see the letter I posted on my new blog. I was curious though to know what some of you think about what I just posted on my blog. I too have my emotional scarring from my yeshiva days but I have a somewhat different approach than many other people. What do you think?