by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
This past week there was big and somewhat sad news in the Jewish religious social world. A major new generation Jewish religious pop singer cut off his beard and payos (Jewish side locks), declaring he’s “no longer a (Jewish religious style) singer, he’s just a singer”.
And there was big social news in Israel, in Beit Shemesh, as a wacked group of crazed zealots who dresses as ultra-orthodox Jews (and represents themselves as such) returned to their battle against a neighborhood Jewish religious-but-not ultra-orthodox school by attacking 7 year old school girls right in front of TV reporters.
We Jews have a problem, or rather a responsibility. We’re told by G-d to be a nation of priests, a holy nation. We are literally the representatives of G-d and His Torah in this world. That is not, G-d forbid, to brag in some way, exactly the opposite! We carry an awesome responsibility.
We are the agents of G-d who brought a model of civilization and morals to the world. “Human rights” is originally a Jewish concept, one that DID NOT EXIST prior to the Jewish people (though the latest generation has taken it too far, out of balance – but that’s another discussion).
We are the chosen people, chosen to be held up as the example of how to be. If we’re not being our best, then we’re not only disgracing G-d and His Torah publically, we’re literally turning back civilization, good morals and G-d’s plan.
Every parent with young children knows when (G-d help us) he’s lost his temper or done something inappropriate in front of one of the children he’ll get the surprise of his life as the child repeats it back minutes or hours later. A curse word or kicking of a chair, where’d that come from? Oh, me.
The Jewish singer who cut his beard and payos insists he’s still religious. I can’t judge what’s in his heart, that’s between him and Hashem. But he represented himself as an ultra-orthodox man who could reach across boundaries and touch Jews less religious, marginally religious or not religious. He gave them pride in being Jewish as he mixed ultra-orthodox Jewish concepts and appearance with a form of music they could relate to.
He put himself out there in the role, a shining example reaching a new generation. And now he’s effectively said “whoops, sorry, doesn’t work”. While he may be as Torah observant as he was the day before (and there is no requirement to have a long uncut beard or long payos, both are extra-stringencies, so he’s not violating any Torah law by removing them), that’s not the way it will be interpreted. He’s violated the role he placed himself into, which was a contemporary modern model of the holy role of a representative of G-d and His Torah in a very very public way.
He’s been a wandering soul who hasn’t stuck too long in any path he’s been in. But now he has young children (with long payos) so hopefully he’ll learn that such swings affect others when you’re a parent….and when you’ve leveraged your image into a “star”.
Similarly our local zealots don’t realize that to the outside world they are the representatives of G-d and His Torah. When they are chasing little girls because they disagree with the length or color of their clothing which are fully within religious boundaries but not within the zealots personal restrictions – actions which absolutely are not permitted under any definition of Judaism, Torah, chassidism, charedism that I understand or recognize – they are representing their actions as Torah! There is no excuse for what they are doing, it’s criminal and should be dealt with as such.
And worse, they’ve represented G-d and His Torah via their personal problems. Hashem Yishmor.