Friday, March 14, 2008

Who is John Gelt?

I don't think writing a blog can do much more for my cause than this one has. I had joy and some fun and my season in the sun, and with close to half a million hits, an achievement of sorts for the voice of the lone Chassid. I have managed to avoid being lynched and that is a victory of thoughts too.

I have come to the stage where what I have already written more or less covers what I have to say and challenging myself to find a new angle is not satisfying. I could put the points of what could have been the next four blogs in four paragraphs. It makes a far less enjoyable read but what difference does that make?

1) Growing consumerism is changing the face of Chassidus. When a young man can announce in shul that he left Kollel to afford a new kitchen to nary the bat of an eyelid, it is plain that our friend Lucre will eventually convert the bulk of Chassidim into (slim) curly locked MOs. It is the ascetics in kippot srugot, who forgo worldly pleasures for a gemara and stop under sniper fire to daven mincha that will be the Chassidim of tomorrow, even above the brave young Lubavitchers who do such fantastic work, practicing true chassidus with blind faith. Indeed the visit of the Belzer Rebbe to the victims in hospital of the heinous butchery in Merkaz Harav and the heartfelt bemoaning of it by the Satmar Rebbe seem to nod in that direction.

2) If we chassidim, the outsiders, wish to survive and prosper in a world that will polarise into them and us, we should make ourselves useful to society. An interesting idea that should be considered is to broaden the scope of the Hatzola into a Charedi civil emergency reserve for times of disaster. Zaka and Ezra L’marpeh have very successfully promoted the image of caring Chassidim as neutral emergency staff.

3) We are tired and sinking as we wait for moral or practical guidance from the tzaddikate. The Rabbinate is like an oracle. It can answer all your questions except the real one; What should I ask you? If we are to function as a society we must have government. Leaders who know how to lead and Rabbis -clearly briefed on the situation, the options and possible repercussions - they can turn to for guidance. These leaders need to be representative of the actual kehilla and not only those who pay a membership fee!
In the battle of civilisations, despite being ideologically closer to true religious Islam than Christianity, our laxity in promoting our own image to the outside world has allowed the secular and armchair yids to drag us with them into the Christian or humanist camps. We must not allow the non-religious establishment to represent us or to imply that their policy of grovelling and obsequious cameraderie with the establishment is the way of the Book to these people of It.

4) We must learn to admit our shame. Sex molestation is still going on in the community and we all know it. The names of people who prey on little boys must be handed over to the authorities to be dealt with. It is a disease that can sometimes be controlled but often not and it destroys lives! Oh, and Rabbi, please memorise this catchy little truism; Playing with a little yingele’s thingele, if you are not that yingele, is always sexual abuse!

However, this blog is not just my about my thoughts being read by other people. The Shaigetz living inside me has become part of who I am. The authority I gain by knowing how many people will read what I say colours not only the way I write but also the way I think and speak. I have become more assertive at work and have gained much in stature; such is the power of a blog.

I have become much prouder of being a Chassid, especially among goyim, since getting to know the Shaigetz, and much quicker to interact with them. The more I do the more I notice how many others are prepared to be as nice to you as you are to them, despite our inculcated notion that most goyim really don’t like us. (Funny to think they think we don’t like them.)

Lastly, I think to generate change might be easier than most would suppose. People welcome self-assured authority and true leadership. I am sure eventually someone with the necessary stature will emerge and effect some real and necessary change. But he will be flesh and blood not an ethereal presence. Maybe then someone will ask, “Do you think he was the Shaigetz?” and a (slim) Chassid will reply, “Who is John Gelt?”