Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Sad Ya Grama!

One of my kind readers brought to my attention a disturbing article describing a new book by a certain Rabbi Sadya Grama called Romemut Yisrael Uparashtat Hagalut.

I have not read the book, whose author would no doubt prefer I called it a sefer but I won’t. It is reported to be about the superiority of the Jewish race or the inferiority of all the others. I believe it was Joshua in Mordechai Richler’s Joshua Then And Now, who says The Germans are my second favourite people - my favourite is everybody else.

There are two points that the Forward article brought to my attention. The first was in a comment by Rav Kotler the Rosh Yeshiva. “..Kotler rejected Grama's philosophy and said that he had not carefully reviewed the text prior to endorsing it”. Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? He endorsed the book without properly reading it? Can we accept that all his endorsements are equally well researched?

I have noticed this disturbing phenomenon in many of the sefarim that are on sale today. Every sefer I buy has a whole list of haskumes (endorsements) from practically everybody in Jerusalem and the frum diaspora with a beard. Many of them have patently not read the thing. I have even seen some that say “I know the author and he’s a fine chap” (read “I have not read it, even though I got it for free, but you should buy it”). When you consider that these sefarim are targeting a group who consider themselves the cream of the intellectuals it sometimes amazes me how patronising the haskume givers can be.

I have never yet found a goyishe (non-jewish) book that has a blurb on the back saying “A fantastic offering by a man who is really nice and understanding. Buy it!” Which brings me to the other bit that disturbed me in the Forward piece. Chassidim do not suffer from delusions of grandeur with regards to the goyim. Anybody who has ever spent some time among Chassidim must know that far from looking down on the ‘goyim’ most of us practically revere them in a most unseemly manner. A Chassid who wants to win an argument hands down only has to add ‘a Goy told me’ or ‘even the Goyim say’ and he is home dry! The best compliment you can give your hostess after a shabbes meal is to tell her that her ice cream is ‘just like the goyishe’.

The whole issue of chilul hashem (desecration of God’s name) has been distorted away from being an exortation to do what is right, proudly, and become an exercise in PR to get the goyim to like us. We desperately try and get them to see how ‘normal’ we are really, which is why many won’t daven minche (pray) in public for instance. As if that were a chilul hashem. No, it just is not normal enough. The goyim might laugh to themselves about that funny Jew.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Difference is not funny, except to idiots and bigots. The goyim are not really bothered by what we do as long as it does not hurt anybody else. The real chilul hashem is when a book like Romemut Yisrael Uparashtat Hagalut comes out with a haskume from a Rosh yeshiva who later lamely claims he never read it.

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