Bein Adam Lchavero

Bein Adam Lchavairo is a blog dealing with interpersonal relations within the Jewish community and the interactions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. We're new. Be gentle.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Can vs Should.

Okay, here's an odd idea: Just because something is okay legally doesn't mean it's always okay ethically. It works vice versa as well. Can does not equal should.

What's a good example, you ask?

Corporal Punishment.

It's perfectly acceptable, Min hatorah, for a parent to spank or otherwise strike their child. That is not, however, a license to do it. It does not mean children are their parent's own personal punching bags. It just means that sometimes, you may need to patch some tush. If you have to, don't guilt that you broke halacha.

Now, if you want to guilt because it was utterly unwarranted for what your kid did or because you're worried that you did it out of anger instead of punishment (big dif) go to town. If you don't worry about those things, then frankly, you might be a bit of a poor parent. I'm just stating my own opinion, of course.

What brings this up? Nothing much. Just seeking a mother in the Port Authority smacking her toddler upside the head for not moving fast enough. I wanted to say "How would you like it if I hit you like that?". It was only by thinking the above that I was able to restrain myself. I still wonder if I should have.

I'm not anti patching. Really. I was patched once by my father and boy did I ever deserve it. I had one Rebbe lay a hand on me and aside from the fact that I hit him back (long story) the school almost killed him for it. Even though he was technically within his halachik rights.

Just because he could didn't mean he should have.

And so we come full circle.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dinai Da'malcotai Diai: Not Just Minhag, but Halachah.

One of the blogs I've taken to reading lately is one where the comment section is quite possibly more entertaining than the blog itself. The writer takes the time to post about what she sees as issues within the Jewish community in her area and basically, people come and comment (generally anonymously, which I think says something) calling her yidishkite, parenting skills, and overall humanity into question.

(Basically, the counterargument to my post yesterday, now that I think of it. I mean the commentators, not the blog. The blog is very well done. I don't always agree with it, but it is very well done.)

Recently she posted about a tragedy where the building of a Mikveh within a private house resulted in an explosion/fire that cost the life of one of the workmen. She was struck by the notation in the article (which I am not linking to, as it contains names) that there was no building permit. She makes what I feel is a slight logical leap, which is that the owner of the home was at fault for this. I think it's very possible that the contractors could be the ones who failed to get a permit. That said, it's still tragic either way and I am sure the responsible party or parties feel terrible, whoever they are.

The reason I bring all this up?

Because in the comment section the topic of DiNai D'Malcotai Dinai. This is, quite obviously, a complex and difficult concept that little ol' layman me should probably stay away from.

However, I've never been accused of having too much common sense.

I'd like to pass on a lesson from my own father. It was an early weekday morning and we were walking to shul. There was no traffic at all. I began to cross, despite the light being red. My father stopped me. Why?

Because, he said, it was assur to cross against the light. Even though we would be late for shul.

I remember being dumfounded. He told me that his rebbe, Rav Aaron Solovetchik Z'l, had told him (essentially) that even if a law is not enforced, it is still the law. Since we are supposed to keep the law when it is not in conflict with the Torah, then we cannot cross against the light. To do so would be a violation of DiNai D'Malcotai Dinai.

(I'd like to pause for a moment to point out that this was a psak given to my father, and may not apply to all cases and all people. However, that is how my father holds and I personally hold. Your mileage may vary)

It's really a fascinating psak. Especially when you think about the laws we might casually break all the time. Who hasn't jaywalked in Manhattan? Do you know anyone who has never never double-parked? Let's not even talk about old laws still on the books (like not smoking near a doorway, an old NY law). Are we over issurim for doing so? Remember, the Torah forbids acts, not getting caught. Should not DiNai D'Malcotai Dinai work the same way?

Let me expand on this with a statement:

I'm not perfect. I sometimes cross against the light. People around me do too, which makes it easier.

Let's change a few words�

I'm not perfect. I sometimes do averot. People around me do too, which makes it easier.

I humbly put to my readers (both of you), that even if simple, everyday laws do not fall under the purview of DiNai D'Malcotai Dinai, if we only obey secular laws out of fear of getting caught, it will open the door to only not doing Aveyrot for fear of not getting caught.

Just a thought. I could be wrong.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why I'm Still on the Internet.

So lately there's been a Machloket about the amount of good the internet does. Does the potential for Mitzvot outweigh the potential Motzie Shem Ra, Loshon H'Rah, Sinat Chinam and plain old Chilul HaShem? Or should we banish it from our homes, removing the stumbling block from our blind selves?

it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. You see, I post on a forum. I've posted there for almost a decade now. It's a great place. I've made good friends. lately, however, I've started feeling like I don't belong. There'd just been such a shift in mood. One of my best friends (on or off) left and there've been other problems.

Well today, out of the blue, someone posted this in response to my commenting that I'd been posting less because I was contemplating things:

Well, get the hell out of your belly button and post more!

You know, almost every time we head down to our favorite tavern in Little 5 Points, and I see the Broadway Cafe and the Synagogue (sp?), I think of you, and smile. Sometimes I wonder if the people in either place would have horrors with you being friends with me (*gasp! Pagan*), or if they'd smile too. But I always think of how much you've taught me about your life and your faith, and what a good person you are---and it just makes me smile.

Someday you and [wife] and [child] will make it down to Atlanta, and [her hubby] and [her child] and I are going to take you out to that cafe to eat while you're here. Aside from the fact that it's kosher, according to [her hubby] it's very *good* kosher.

I was touched enough I responded:

This morning I saw the following post

It made me smile. Not just because it kind of stroked my ego (I freely admit that), but because it reminded me of the fun conversations I’ve had here. About how thanks to [forum's name], I have friends who are Christian, Pagan, Bhudist, Muslim, Athiest and Agnostic. That I have made friends with people of a dozen races and several countries. That I’ve learned more about other lifestyles than I thought possible.

Thank you [poster], for helping me remember that. I think I’ll stick around

So at this point I'm feeling a warm glow and realizing that I'm still on the internet because there are nice people, right? Nothing deeper than that.

Then came her response:

I am REALLY glad you decided to stay (didn't even know you were debating going, or I would've said a lot MORE in that post!). Whenever I see your name on a post, I eagerly look into it, because I always love reading what you have to say: funny, serious, cranky, happy, sad, thoughtful, informative---I never know what's gonna be in it, but I ALWAYS know it's worth reading. To me, you are one of the people who make [forum's name] what it is, and gives it that special flavor---the one that reaches beyond the forums to affect people in their "real" lives, and in their hearts and minds.

I grew up in an area with almost no Jews. The ones I did know, or have met since, never talked much about their lives and faith, and it just happened that none of us were ever in circumstances to become close friends---interests didn't match up or whatever. Likely, many of them I never even *knew* that they were Jewish, because I've not met a lot of Jews who speak much about their faith---usually how I'd find out would be either someone else would tell me, or they'd mention something like a holy day or "temple". I can understand why, on many levels, many Jewish people don't say much about their religion (years of persecution can do that, but also, Judaism doesn't seem to be a "proseltyzing" religion---and those that are tend to talk about religion a lot more than those who don't. Kinda refreshing, in that sense. ).

YOU, with your simple talk of your daily life (which is very bound up in your faith), and being so willing and happy to answer questions about your faith---and just plain being a good, kind man---have given me an opportunity I likely would not otherwise have had in my life, to learn so much, and in such a sweet way. As you've said before, there certainly are Jews out there who can be just as exclusive, snobbish, and/or self-righteous in their faith as anyone in any other faith---so while you certainly aren't *every* Jew to me, you are a FINE representative of your faith, to me (and of any faith, in terms of "follow with a sense of humility and compassion"). You LIVE your faith, as best you are able, and stand up and take responsibility and seek forgiveness when you feel you have failed that faith in some way, in how you act or think or live. Your biggest flaw is that you tend to have a harder time *granting* that forgiveness to YOURSELF---I'll bet your rabbi would say the same. You don't give yourself enough credit for the good you do and are, and won't let go quick enough after true contrition for fault and flaw recognition and resolve to try to do better. It's something you don't do to other Jews or other people---just yourself.

Many of us fear becoming "cocky", or appearing that way, in taking credit for the good we do... and sometimes that leads to *undervaluing* it. Yet to be as fair to yourself as you are to others, that's something you need to work on.

In all, I can't tell you just how much warmth, knowledge, understanding, and "fellow-feeling" with your faith, that you've given me. I'm not Jewish, I don't want to be Jewish (because I'm happy in my own faith), but I never knew till you came along just how many ways I feel a concordance with many of the Jewish philosophies. A sense of "philosophical kinship," if you will.

I know I've spoken about your faith a lot in this, but it's because you and your religion are inseparable. It's a template over your entire life and self, which you harmonize with while still being completely yourself---basically, it's a part of you, and you of it.

Bottom line is, I am VERY glad you aren't leaving. I don't want to lose touch with my very dear friend, nor do I want to feel the absense of your posting here.

(And do me a favor: print this out, and show it to your Dad. There are several things you've mentioned, over time, that make me respect your Dad (and Granddad) very much---but it's not just things you've said about them; it's also that they (along with the ladies in question) did such a fine job of raising YOU.)

Emphasis mine, by the way.

Basically, without trying, I've managed to do a Kiddush HaShem and honor my father and mother. That's without consciously trying, mind you.

Imagine the other Mitzvot the internet can be used for, if we actually try.

My name is Typo Lad, and I'm a Jewish Internet user. And proud of it.