Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Iyar 5762 - April 24, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment

by Eric Sholom Simon

I was davening in shul late one evening when a beeping sound came from the Chassidic-garbed gentleman next to me. Seconds later, a similar sound emanated from my own shirt pocket.

We both chuckled as we realized what was happening. Each of us has a Palm Pilot, and a program that reminds us to count the Omer.

As I chuckled at the simultaneous sounding of alarms, however, I was reminded of the stereotypes held by many Jews about chareidi Jews. "Stuck in the 16th century" is a refrain I often hear. This, despite the mastery in many chareidi circles of cutting-edge technology -- and its determined employment toward Jewish goals.

"No," critics will protest, "We mean that they are stuck in the 16th century regarding Jewish law." But they are wrong there too. It is true that halacha does not change simply because of society's whims or contemporary mores. But it does develop in order to meet the particular challenges of every age. The process of applying halacha to new circumstances continues today.

I find it particularly ironic that what seems to particularly rankle some about chareidi fealty to halacha is what the rankled see as traditional Judaism's "medieval" world-view with regard to women.

They have a point. Torah Judaism flouts modern society's take on that topic. It is well known how the contemporary world treats women, and it is not with respect.

What modern society does to women, halacha rejects, and forbids; it, moreover, commands husbands to respect their wives more than themselves.

Recently, I read a piece by a parent who, overwhelmed by the hectic pace of contemporary life, suggested that families set aside one night per week for a nice, quiet, uninterrupted and sacrosanct dinner together. She concluded that it could never happen. Their lives were simply part of modern society moving at light speed.

But a family dinner with no interruptions or competing activities does happen in my family and countless other traditional Jewish ones. And an elaborate lunch the very next day. Every single week, and it is a time not only of family togetherness but of holiness.

And so it occurs to me to suggest that it's not that I, my Palm-Pilot-toting Chassidic neighbor and other Orthodox Jews are trapped in the 16th century. It's that most everyone else is trapped in the 21st.

Eric Sholom Simon, a Research Analyst for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is a former Reform movement lay leader. He and his wife are currently Torah-observant, and active in Jewish outreach and educational activities in Northern Virginia, where he studies and teaches Talmud and Jewish thought.

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