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March 07, 2010



'To affirm the self, a convert’s is often tempted to resort to syncretism – to merge the past and the future, to import beliefs that have no place in Judaism and to blindly affirm that he or she brings something to this community that is valuable and unique, something that only he has and can offer'
While Avakesh clearly highlights a common trend in the newly observant's Hashkafa, he seems to be throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Often times the newly observant is able to perceive the community from a vantage point that allows vision into striking gaps between doctrine and practice. When 'foreign beliefs' are imported to the converts new community they are often viewed as askance because they are not within current accepted values in communities. However, sometimes values of communities are not authentic and would beneift from a revisiting of a true understanding of mesorah. The Mitzvah of Baal Tashchit provides a worthy case study. While nobody can deny the financial strain of large families in the observant world (Bli Ayin HaRa) an increasing amount of waste due to the increased use of plastics and styrofoam based on convience is a troubling trend. The one time use of materials and the tremendous waste of food that is commonly seen at simchas seems to be viewed as mere dust in the wind to most.
"The purpose of this mitzvah [bal tashchit] is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes a part of us and we will avoid all that is evil and destructive. This is the way of the righteous and those who improve society, who love peace and rejoice in the good in people and bring them close to Torah: that nothing, not even a grain of mustard, should be lost to the world, that they should regret any loss or destruction that they see, and if possible they will prevent any destruction that they can. Not so are the wicked, who are like demons, who rejoice in destruction of the world, and they are destroying themselves. (Sefer Ha-Hinukh #529,) The Hinukh has a slightly different take.
Today environmentalism usually falls under the category of 'foolish liberalism' to most in the Charedi world, however the principle of Baal Taschit is a mitzvah D'oraita that it seems many Torah Jews do not pay attention to. TOday pop culture and the corporate world have picked up the consciousness of "going green." While there are many ulterior motives in such endeavors and many environmentalists who are more concerned with saving dogs rather than saving humans, it appears that the in-vouge green concioussness in the modern world has merit when viewed through a Torah perspective. It might just be that we can learn something from the events transpiring in our world! I have diverged on such a tagent in order to testify to the point that the mitzvah of Baal Taschit or lack in the observence of Baal Taschit seems to only trouble those who are newly observant and have held environmental values before entering their new communities. Often such perspectives are abandoned by individuals who are tired of trying to maintian their beliefs from the 'goyisha velt', in order to make sure their children will be accepted in the communities they live in.
While I do agree with your sharp and insightful social analysis of the newly observant, it troubles me what many of the newly observant throw away in the name of a new Borsalino and trail-trodden walking shoes. How should the newly observant manage to maintain certain truths, that were revealed to him before becoming observant, and his new lifestyle? Are there any truths that a person can maintain or are all perceived 'truths' merely attempts at self affirmation? Do you see it as problematic that many who are weary of the dangers of syncretism basically believe it is too difficult to live in both worlds and perform self-inflicted lobotomies?
p.s. Are you familiar with a R. Tzadok that says the purpose of galut is to regain middot that Jews have lost? He goes on to say that by living in the nations we have throughout galut specific midot inherent to our host nations are absored into the Jews living in those countires (i guess through osmosis) thus creating a tikkun that will eventually help take us out of galut and bring Moshiach. I have heard about it, but do not know where to find it.


I don't disagree that from sociological perspective infusing "new blood" leads to a host of consequences, and that some of them are positive. From the devotional individual perspective, humility is the greatest asset of a newcomer, and so it should be!


About R. Tsadok, I do not know where it is. I do remeber reading in Yom Tov Shiurim by R. Mordechi Miller that there are 70 nations, each with a particular national character, and that each Jewish group is exiled to a particular nation to redeem it's national character, for example, German Jews bring exactness and precision into the Holy.

I did a search to try to find it and found the summary of this thought here, except that, if what I remeber reading twenty eyars ago is correct, it totally misinterprets what R. Miller said: http://chofetzchaim.shemayisrael.com/chosen/pdf/64.pdf

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