Monday, November 20, 2006

Before Torah

There is an interesting, albeit cynical (or, as some would say, realistic), post at Beyond BT about the dissonance between the interpersonal morals taught in the Orthodox community and how they are observed. As an "out-of-towner" (from New Jersey -- not Lakewood) who has lived in Brooklyn for over 12 years, this really came home to me a number of years ago regarding a man who sat near me in shul. He was usually learning Gemara, an admirable trait, but he did so even during the rabbi's speech despite sitting directly in front of the rabbi so that his disrespect was quite blatant. He also sat with his chair sticking out so that he blocked the narrow aisle between rows, and when anyone wanted to pass through (usually, his sons), he wouldn't budge. You'd have to squeeze and push, usually displacing a table or someone else's chair. And he also generally bumped into people (i.e. me) without ever apologizing, something his sons learned well from their father. He always seemed to me to be a great example of someone who learned Torah but never internalized its values. You can imagine my shock when I learned that he was my brother-in-law's rebbe in yeshiva! If men like that are teaching our youth, what hope does our community have to improve in this respect?

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