Use it or Lose it
Sitting around the Yom Tov table with my wife’s family, a casual truce is struck between her hyper-religious Lakewood based cousins, and her hyper-secular Israeli Uncles, via the very same policy the military employs: Don’t ask, don’t tell.
And so there is little chance of anyone prying into the actual details of anyone’s life in an area which religious judgments could be rendered.
And what, pray tell, is an area where religion has not intruded upon, from which table conversation might sprout?
Alas, there are precious few islands of banality about which to chatter, and the silent stretches between requests to pass the brisket become quite maddening, making one feel they are participating in some dour Pre Victorian banquet, save the corsets and wigs.
I therefore found it surprising when one of the Lakewood hosts, led off with what must have been her interpretation of uncontroversial material!
The method, by which, she attained food stamps on a regular basis by never having “married” via US civil documents, but by religious means alone. Thus her status as a single mother of 8, provided for the food on the table.
These details were relayed with vivid instructional prose, as if hoisted from some hidden volume of, “Lakewood governmental fraud for dummies”, to a young maidel of nary eighteen who absorbed them from across the table with unblinking eyes as this miraculous fountain of “how to” opened up in front of her.
Now the concepts of fraud in ultra orthodox communities are tired, and old hat to this here veteran blogosphere we all live in. But it was the contrast that got to me.
That tiptoeing through the potential mousetraps of a family with such diverse and strongly held beliefs, that this girl found this to be the “safe” territory she could fall back on. I think this is revealing of her own mindset in more than one way. And that not only did she not find her actions reprehensible but she projected her tolerance upon every other person there, assuming the reflection of her inner psyche would essentially be identical to the others at the table.
It reminds me of atrophy. Look at a stroke victim, look at paraplegic. The unused limbs shrivel to thin caricatures of their former selves…stick figures, stick limbs.
Is it possible that a neglected moral compass withers, and at long last no longer points in any particular direction? Does relegation of all moral decisions to a cryptic code that must be digested for you by a Rabbi and then communicated via a statement of, “you need to do this”, condemn the minds moral musculature to fade away?
Is this the unbidden side effect of Orthodoxy?
Is this the central theme..the goal of Orthodoxy?