"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Don't take someone else's prescription!

It is self-evident to one and all that newcomers to Judaism should not be taught pilpulim (lengthy intricate and technical explanations) in Shaagas Aryeh, or Hemshech Ayin Beis. Of course, such advanced material would only confuse them, and thus in fact be detrimental. Likewise, it would not be appropriate to encourage them to make a point to follow a particularly stringent halachic opinion that is not widely followed, for this will give them the impression that Judaism overly restrictive.

However, for some reason people don’t naturally sense that the reverse is also inappropriate. A Jew who has committed himself to a
frum lifestyle, and certainly one who was born into it, never mind one who is committed to a chassidishe lifestyle, and certainly one who was born into it, should in general stay away from literature meant specifically for beginners.

This literature is tailored to suit the unique needs of its target audience. For example,
  • It addresses basic questions of faith that its authors can reasonably assume would be on the mind of newcomers, considering the secular environment from which they come.

  • It may contain expressions, concepts, or characters from popular books, movies, or music. It may drop references to the latest scandals and controversies.

  • It may leave out salient information for which a beginner is deemed not yet ready.
All these things are relevant only for those who have been raised with secular culture and immersed in it.

However, I believe that one who had the good fortune to be raised with Torah and Mitzvos—and all the more so, one who was raised with Torah and Mitzvos permeated with the warmth and light of
Chassidus—should not be imbibing this potion:
  • It will only sow unnecessary confusion in their innocent minds, weakening their belief in proper views. Along these lines, see Igros Kodesh, Vol. 19, p. 144: “ ... They confuse the youth with questions and doubts that are not relevant to their experience at all, and then they strive to answer the question, when in fact no one is interested in these technical debates; rather, they seek the absolute truth, without any trace of compromise.”
  • It will introduce knowledge of the depravity of contemporary secular culture that they are much better off without.

  • It will unnecessarily “dilute” them with “worldly attitudes” (for more explanation, see here and related posts).
This is comparable to healing the body. A very sick person needs carefully prescribed medicine in order to nurse him to health. And yet if a healthy person is administered that same medicine, he may well become very sick.

This is not to suggest that there are not problems, and even serious ones, in the world of
frum Jewry and of chassidim that require correction. There certainly are. However, these problems are generally of a different nature, or come in a different manifestation, and so the cure to these problems is thus often very different, just as the medicine that will cure one sick person will not cure another.

(For a similar lesson, see Hisva’aduyos 5744, Vol. 4, pp. 2522-2523.)

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