By S. Friedman
I think it is a fair summary to say that an important goal of a frum Jew is to live one’s life in the way of the Torah. How do we as Jews know how to live our lives according to the Torah? Well, for standardized halacha, we have a Shulchan Aruch and contemporary poskim who have applied halacha to more modern circumstances. If we really want to follow the correct halachic path of Judaism, all we have to do is look something up (or ask a local rov). Navigating the Torah path becomes thorny when certain things are not clear cut in halacha.
Societal nuances seem to be one of the challenges of today’s generation. For instance, a few decades ago, when it was more widely accepted for Orthodox women to not cover their hair, that was a clear violation of what was already recorded in our halacha.
Another example of a major shift is secular entertainment. Go back not too long ago and many (perhaps most?) families had a TV. Now, in an Orthodox enclave, it would be taboo to have a TV, or at the very least to openly admit that you do. Yet, there still remains grey area as to what is an acceptable form of entertainment. A Jewish kid’s video? Drama productions with a Yiddishe lesson? TV shows watched on a laptop? Sports games?
While there never will be an unanimous arbitrator as to what is considered in line with Torah values, sometimes you can perceive that while something may not be halachically wrong, it isn’t what the Torah had in mind either.
In other words, people sometimes do things that are not defined as wrong, but they know it is not right either. These are things we tend not to bring attention to. Many people would go to a baseball game (something considered mostly benign when I grew up), yet they would be embarrassed to tell their rov that they went. That is usually a good barometer of when something may or may not be wrong, but it certainly isn’t right.
I think that it is virtuous of our society that most people keep their “grey area” indulgences tightly under wraps. They “shter-zich” when they proverbially let their hair down, and while we all either partake in questionable outlets or know of people who do, most of this goes unspoken. I may know that someone is going to a “not so Jewish place” for a vacation, but he wouldn’t openly talk about it. It is the Jewish attribute of busha. People may rent movies that they know it’s better not to, but they won’t show up to shul with a bag from the store so all can see. The hope is that people will grow up and grow out of whatever it is they are doing.
With the above in mind, here are some rhetorical questions: Would any self identified right wing/ultra-Orthodox/chareidi/yeshivishe publication advertise a business that sells tickets to NY Knicks games? Would any yeshiva offer a signed Derek Jeter ball as a prize to their Chinese auction? We know people in our community are sports fans, but we try not to draw attention to this. Wrong or not, it isn’t something we advertise.
Or is it? As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, it seems that [almost] every frum local paper has advertisements from eateries for “Super” specials for party platters, hero sandwiches, etc., including the deadline for getting orders in before Super Sunday. While ads won’t even reference football, the intent could not be clearer.
What happened to our busha? Bad enough we have vices (and one can debate whether the Super Bowl is a kosher sports outlet or a nefarious media extravaganza with a non-tzniusdik half time show), but why do we accept participation to be trumpeted in such an overt manner?
The same weeklies, as well as local retailers, always complain about an overly sensitive (read: “yeshivish“) readership that dreams up of new cockamamie ways to complain about the Torah standard of what is and isn’t acceptable. People call business establishments irately because they feature a four year old girl in an ad. And so on. Now they’ve asked for it.
Here is my complaint against these publications, as well as the food establishments. Call me too yeshivishe, call me narrow-minded, call me crazy. I don’t care. I’m calling you out.
[P.S. Kudos to those, including the two largest national frum newspapers in the U.S., who do not feature such ads.]