We live in such an olam hasheker, a world of serious falsehood. Falsehood has become so prevalent that most people don’t even realize that they are engaged in self-censorship because of falsehood forced upon them by self-serving thought police. This certainly applies to the secular world and has unfortunately infiltrated the frum world as well.
Here is a textbook example from recent news. America is facing a terrible problem, with a scourge of mass shootings being perpetrated primarily by young white males. Just two weeks ago, in the span of a week, America sustained three mass shootings, the first in Iowa and a week later in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
During the aftermath, both Democrats and Republicans sought “solutions” for this terrible problem, but those so-called solutions were an exercise in sheker, in such strong self-delusion, that I believe many of the proponents of the solutions themselves had no idea that they were engaging in self-delusion.
Mass Shootings and Self-Delusional “Solutions”
The Democrat solution to the problem was just being opportunistic. For decades, they have tried to chip away at the Second Amendment of the Constitution that gives every citizen the right to bear arms. They have been trying various attempts at gun control, with an ultimate goal of overturning the Second Amendment. Thus, every time there is a horrible incident of this sort, they see it as an opportunity to try to achieve that political objective. Their knee-jerk reaction is to blame the guns, as if it is guns that kill, not the twisted people who use the guns.
The Republicans are no better. They are against gun control, so they have a different talking point, mental health. “We must invest more money into providing mental health services for these obviously mentally deranged individuals” is a talking point being put forth repeatedly by so many politicians, including President Donald Trump.
Certainly, anyone who goes into a crowded Walmart or festival and murders tens of innocent people in cold blood has a mental health issue, but the question that must be answered is: Does every mentally unstable person feel compelled to resort to mass, coldblooded murder? Is there a profile, or somewhat of a profile? The answer is an emphatic yes.
To the best of my knowledge, virtually every one of the mass shooters who we have seen over the past couple of years was a male. Not only a male, but an unmarried male. Not only an unmarried male, but one who didn’t attend a church or a synagogue with any degree of frequency.
The Obvious Message…Ignored
So, in addition to the babble about gun control and mental health, why isn’t anyone stating the obvious? The answer is simple. People who are married and/or are strongly connected to a religious way of life are far less liable to perpetrate mass shootings. (Radical Muslims are the exception, because the religion itself, in many instances, condones and even advocates violence.)
Why doesn’t anyone make this obvious point? The answer is that you are not allowed to advocate for marriage today in America. That might hurt the feelings of an entire population that doesn’t believe in marriage or doesn’t like marriage as an institution. No commentator in the mainstream media and virtually no politician will state the obvious. Men who are married are less likely to resort to mass violence? Why don’t they say that, in general, marriage is a good thing for society, and the hallmark and cornerstone of a healthy society? If anyone would state that obvious fact, they will be tarred and feathered in the media. One of the sacred cows of leftism and progressivism is their disdain for the “patriarchal” institution of marriage.
If to the leftist and progressive mind marriage is bad, religion is even worse. Even our very cautious former president Barack Obama slipped up when he equated religion with violence while talking about voters in Middle America and their lack of economic opportunity. He said, “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion…”
Thus, no one who wants to retain some semblance of legitimacy today in America is permitted to point out the obvious fact that the vast majority of mass shooters do not engage regularly in any kind of organized religion.
What Happens in the Non-Jewish World Infiltrates
There is a Yiddish aphorism that says that just like it is by the non-Jew, so does it infiltrate by the Jews. In our frum world, too, there is much self-censorship. Some of it is so pervasive that I can’t even point it out in the pages of the Yated. (Yes, as I am writing this, I am censoring myself and asking myself what I can point out that will make the point but not get me and this paper into trouble…)
Let’s talk about support for kollel couples. We all know that it is virtually impossible for a couple to learn in kollel without a least some degree of financial support. Even if the kollel wife works and works hard, her salary will usually not be enough to fully support the couple. Indeed, most in-laws who have children in kollel – this writer included – deem it a tremendous zechus to be able to support a young Torah family and tap into the merits of limud and hachzokas haTorah. The question is: How much support? There are some young men, often at the behest of their own rabbeim, who put a hefty price tag on the degree of support that they think they are deserving of or will need to sustain a kollel lifestyle.
One would therefore think that those with the highest level of support would certainly be the ones who stay in kollel for the longest time and later in learning-based environments. I don’t know if there is empirical data on this, but from my own admittedly non-scientific survey, it is pretty clear that the amount of support that a couple receives has very little to do with the number of years that the husband will remain in kollel.
Indeed, one of my rabbeim told me something that made a profound impression. A girl who grows up in a house where they know how to stretch a dollar and has not been coddled with unnecessary luxuries is worth at least a thousand dollars a month. Why? She needs far less, is far more industrious, and has learned early on about the importance of good worth ethic, pitching in at home, and knowing how to stretch a dollar.
Nevertheless, those people – both parents and rabbeim – who encourage the placing of price tags on their ostensibly good bochurim may be doing a disservice to the bochurim themselves, at least to the idealistic ones who really want to learn. They are certainly engaged in an exercise of hurting the majority of wonderful girls and their equally wonderful parents, who want nothing more than a real ben Torah and talmid chochom for a son-in-law, but whom, with multiple children to marry off and support, simply cannot afford the price tag. In the end, the bochur might suffer because the girl who can afford the price tag may not be the one he needs, and the girls who would do anything to marry bnei Torah and their families suffer as well. All because we feel handcuffed about telling the truth.
There you go. I wrote it and pressed send. I feel better already. I think that is enough for one week.
A Second Thought
On second thought, just one more piece of self-censorship that has to do with kavod haTorah. Why do we only stand up for kovod haTorah at some times but not at others?
For example, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the Sar HaTorah, a living Sefer Torah in our times, is such a tzaddik that he agrees to help so many who come to him seeking that he advocate for their cause. We know that the power of tzedakah saves from death and brings all kinds of brocha. The Gemara teaches that. Does it add any kovod to Rav Chaim when every other day there is a screaming headline that Rav Chaim promised a shidduch, good children or myriad other things if you swipe your card for this or that cause?
Is the Gemara not enough? Is the power of Chazal not enough? Why is this holy gaon and tzaddik of our generation used this way?
P.S. I am writing this article on the slowest week of the year, when everyone is on vacation, so that hopefully most people won’t read it and I won’t get myself into too much trouble…