Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tie a pair of teffilin (round the old oak tree)

I am not much of a shiur (lesson) listener. I do not enjoy sitting and listening to someone expounding on a theme that sometimes has one minute of inspiration and has been padded out with another thirty or so minutes of brag. It seems a shame that if there was one thing we had to learn from our Lithuanian brethren it had to be the showbiz aspect of Torah.

What I hate even more is when some spark or other from one of the Baal Tshuva organisations comes and starts talking Hashkafa. I have spent excruciating hours sitting there listening to some or other pseudo-intellectual expounding on The Meaning of life According to Karpenkop (fish-head). Next to me some of my friends who consider themselves aufgeklärt will be nodding their heads in agreement with every laboured point; turning to me beaming their hope that I am impressed with the point made, but more importantly still their appreciation of it. Meanwhile my mind and soul silently scream out for Monty Python.

In fact some of the ‘proofs’ I have heard would not be out of place in Life of Brian. One famous ex-snooker player Maggid tries to convince us that there is a God because if not how comes the world works so perfectly? Art and culture can be conveniently belittled by referring the media as smellivision and all art as infantile scribblings. An ex underwear model assures us he has seen the world and we can take it from him that ours is the true path. If the world he saw is in any way similar to the way the world saw him I have no illusions as to why he should think so, but I am not convinced that is in any way relevant to most of us.

If I were a non-believer the last thing that would convince me is arguments as feeble as the ones I have heard so far. My worry is that if these are the guys that are bringing the lost sons home the wrong sons are being attracted. Are we really in need of trainloads of society’s misfits and dropouts, to swell the ranks of the depressed and hopeless we already have? After all, how long does it take before a new returnee discovers that his life is still all bent out of shape and all that’s really changed is the society he’s misfitting in?

In all honesty I sometimes look at the before and after pictures that these organisations like to print, and truly wonder whether it was a good idea to take some of those regular-looking guys and turn them into the bewildered, bearded and belittled individuals depicted being patronisingly ‘learned with’ by some fat ‘Rebbe’ who has proved his preparedness to accommodate the modern world by removing his jacket and exposing his enormous tzitzis.

As I have said before there are plenty of people, born into this gefilte-fish-cradle, who need help adjusting to it but who can be counted on to settle in and settle down. Let us spend our efforts on dealing with them instead of devising pathetic arguments to counter questions most have not even understood.

No comments: