Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do not pass go, do not collect anything

Sorry to be trading in frum-bashing the first day after Tisha B'Av (hope those fasting had an easy time of it), but I've got to say something:

The recent murder of Rav Elazar Abuhatzeira is many things. It is horrible. It is shocking. It is, perhaps, yet another wakeup call to the fact that frum communities are not immune from mental illness, emotional instability or violence. It may also highlight the dangers of groupthink, yes-men, and of people whose charisma overwhelm both their own common sense and the ability of their family and friends to help protect them from themselves and their own perhaps unhealthy tendencies.

However, there are some things the Baba Elazar's murder is most certainly not:

1- It is not "Divine punishment" for Jewish sins (Haredi singing, in Amnon Yitzhak's case).

2- It is not, not, a "sacrifice" to spare collective punishment for those aforementioned sins (the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, in Lazer Brody's case). The fact that "leading rabbis," including the Baba Elazar's own family members, are even engaging in this kind of thought experiment is quite disturbing and, frankly, sick. I wish the Abuchatzeira family support and strength as they work to move on from this tragedy, but suggesting that the rabbi's brutal death was a message from God as a wake-up call or a sacrifice to save world Jewry is nothing short of disgusting. If it's a wake-up call about anything, it should be that there are dangerous people in all sorts of communities, and that putting all of your faith and mental sense in the hands of a single leader, be they spiritual, political or whatever, is at best a bad idea and at worst can lead to terrible disillusionment.

Extra awful points to Lazer for stepping even further past the boundary of good taste and including another murder victim, 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, in the most obscene bit of theodicy he's come up with since Hurricane Katrina. (Lazer also includes the recently-deceased Spinka rebbe and Lithuanian Rav Michel Lefkowitz as a proof that tzaddikim from all segments of world Jewry are being "sacrificed." In this reading, there's no substantial difference between a 79 or 97-year-old dying in their bed surrounded by loved ones and a terrified rabbi or child being viciously murdered by a crazed knife-wielding maniac. Go figure.)

I don't have a grudge against frum people, I really don't. But reading things like this, it's very hard to see or feel very much of a connection between my Judaism and Lazer's. To be honest, it feels like we're on different planets. The one bright side is that I found at least one frum woman (who seems pretty Haredi to boot) who seems to not trust Lazer and his pals farther than she can throw them. I guess there's hope?

Hat-tip: Failed Messiah.

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