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Hanging On By A Fringe: The Responses

Five weeks ago, Mishpacha brought the communal focus onto a demographic that hadn’t received much attention in the frum community: the growing numbers of "dispassionate Jews" – youngsters who go through the motions and wear the uniform of mainstream Yiddishkeit, but who have no internal connection to religion. The response to the article – in the form of letters, calls, and comments posted in several venues – was overwhelming. We present some samples of the most compelling responses.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

 “Our Sifrei Kodesh make a distinction between the service of the mind, namely the study of Torah, and the service of the heart, Avodas HaTefillah and passion in performing Mitzvos. While there is no question that both of these arenas must be fulfilled with the utmost care and attention, they are essentially different. The pursuit of Torah study involves the intellect and the mind, Avodah involves the emotions and the heart.

It is important for us to recognize the distinction of the two arenas because our yetzer hara certainly does and confronts us in both. In order to succeed in our confrontation with evil, we need to know our enemy. Historically speaking, when the intellectual enticements of the many “isms” were attacking the Torah world, our Torah leaders responded by fortifying us through Torah knowledge. They knew the enemy and responded in kind. An intellectual confrontation required an intellectual response.  We, too, need to meet the evil of our time head on. But using the same war techniques with a different enemy will only guarantee our defeat. Imagine if we were attacked with chemical warfare – would we stand a chance if we fought back with cannons from the civil war?” – Rabbi Benzion Twerski


 “To some extent, I always knew I was missing something. When I was thirteen, I spent the summer in a yeshivah camp in Tzfas. I remember talking to a staff member there and asking him about this lack of feeling. Why wasn’t I being affected by all these holy sites we were visiting? I don’t remember his answer. But I do remember feeling bad about the emptiness inside of me.

Somehow, despite the difficulties, I survived grade school. Then it was time to go away, to leave my parents’ home and start somewhere new. I ended up in New Haven, CT.

If there was a single mistake that led me to where I am today, it was skipping my first year of high school. Even though I had the skills to learn at a higher level than most ninth-graders, skipping a grade meant that I missed something very basic. Something I am learning now. It is a specific chassidic discourse that most boys from my circles learn, and it is fundamental in understanding how the yetzer hara works.

That was how I was able to get lost.” – Mottel 


 “When you look at my son, you see the perfect chassidishe boy. Maybe you’re even envious. What nachas. Neat, curled peyos, buttoned frock (he would never go outside with an open jacket), cropped haircut, glasses that don’t make a fashion statement.

But what’s going on underneath all of that? How many directions is he being pulled in, and where is he really headed?

Does anyone know that he didn’t go to shul all Shabbos, that he rolled out of bed a few minutes before the Shabbos meal with a two-minute Shemoneh Esrei so he could have Kiddush? That he hasn’t davened Shacharis with a minyan in months, putting on his tefillin quickly before leaving for yeshivah? Did he even put on tefillin today? I don’t ask anymore. Mikveh? Not since his bar mitzvah. Did something happen there once, when he was a child? We’ll never know. Does he feel he can’t get pure? My child, are you suffering?” – A Mother


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