Maybe It’s Connected?

We are almost at the end of the month of November – and according to the Hebrew date Chanukah is next week – but we haven’t had any rain here in Israel yet. The farmers are beginning to despair, and even people who do not depend on water for their livelihood feel the lack.

Orthodox Jews (and even the secular ones, here in Israel) know that rainfall is dependent on G-d’s will. All of the technical tricks don’t really work – and we can do very little except pray and look to the sky anxiously.

I can’t help but feel that G-d is angry at us.

Looking at some of the headlines – I don’t have to wonder why. Faking ID cards in order to cheat the government and sexual abuse by members of the police department are just two examples.

On the other hand I know of many truly righteous people – right in my own backyard. I guess we just need to pray a bit harder….

Rabbis Aren’t Rock Stars

Rabbis aren’t rock stars, and they certainly don’t need groupies.  I am always skeptical when people overly enthuse about a certain Rav, and begin to see too much in him. This sometimes leads to extremes in behavior that is dangerous, as Jameel posts about here (it seems that Rav Lichtenstein has received death threats because of his participation in Takana).

Yes, I enjoy a good speech or a well-written book, and I am grateful if it helps me in my avodat Hashem (serving G-d). But I always keep in mind that my relationship with G-d doesn’t need any intermediaries.

ADDRabbi has a good post where he explains why he is skeptical about charismatic Rabbis - and I agree 100%.

The Chumra Stops Here

The Jerusalem Post reports today that a hearing has been held at the High Court of Justice on the segregated busses in Haredi neighborhoods. The Ministry of Transportation has submitted its report on the issue (after a lot of footdragging). The report states that it found that

 “the segregation itself is not legal, but passengers may voluntarily segregate themselves if they so chose.”

This finding is an attempt to give Egged the right to continue having these separate busses. But it will only work if, as the petitioners demand

“that for every segregated bus on the special routes, there should be an integrated one as well. Furthermore, the segregated buses should be clearly marked as such.”

This last demand by the petitioners sums it up for me – and I wholeheartedly agree with them and I hope they win their case. Many people argue that in Haredi neighborhoods the busses should reflect the standards of most of the passengers, who think that men and women are required to sit separately.

I disagree. I think that public transportation is just that – public. One sector of the population cannot dictate their standards to everyone else, even if they represent the majority of passengers in these neighborhoods. Can Egged have lines to predominantly Muslim cities, and demand that every woman cover her face?  Can Egged have lines in predominantly secular neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and prohibit the passengers from saying Tehillim? Of course not.

If one argues that the passengers have the right to choose a bus line that they are comfortable with – then I agree. But, as the petitioners demand, there needs to be an alternative line for those passengers who do not want to ride on a segregated bus, and they need to be clearly marked. This is the only way that a segregated bus becomes a choice, and not coercion.

Are There Other “Normal” Frum People Out There?

Jameel points out that there are some Chardal (Charedi Dati Leumi – which refers to people who are on the border between Israeli modern Orthodox – men serve in the army – and Charedi – who follow most of the stringencies in Jewish law) Rabbis who are now coming out in favor of the separate buses.

This development scares me a lot.  I don’t consider myself to be “left-wing Orthodox” or very modern. We don’t own a television for religious reasons, I am not attracted to women’s minyanim and frankly don’t understand others who are, and I cover most of my hair (just about two inches showing in front). But when I hear about the buses where women must sit in the back, it makes my blood boil. If this happened where I lived, and I needed to take the bus, I would buy myself a can of pepper spray and would sit in the front, come what may!

There is no halachic reason why men and women must avoid each other at all costs.  Men and women interact on a daily basis at work, at stores, etc. Most religious men and women figure out how to do this in a modest way. Part of teaching your children the basics of derech eretz is showing them by example – and interacting with the opposite sex in a correct way is one way of modeling correct behavior. A bus is a means of public transportation – and not someone’s personal private space. If someone wants to impose upon themselves a very stringent code of behavior, then this is his perogative – but he has no right – and the community has no right – to impose this behavior on others.

I always thought that those of us who are Dati Leumi were immune from the craziness of the never-ending search for more chumras (stringincies) (ok, ok, on Pesach we all go nuts, I admit, and I follow chumras here too). This development worries me.

What do others think?

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