To the Editor,
A good friend brought to my attention the letter you posted regarding my recent appearance on the Zev Brenner show. It’s a little sad that the writer chose not to even listen at all, because he would have seen that I wasn’t criticizing the frum community, I was pointing out areas of avodas Hashem that many of our communities have lost sight of, have forgotten are the core and essential elements of yiras shamayim and ahavas Hashem. Had he listened, he might have been spurred to think about where he is and isn’t succeeding as a frum Jew.
The discussion was based on my recent book, We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It (published by OU Press/KTAV). The book is not a series of criticisms: it builds a picture of what is core and essential to Yiddishkeit, as Hazal, the rishonim and theacharonim read it, and points out that many of us have lost sight of some of those core principles. In a second part, the book reviews areas of halachah and hashkafah that show that we are required to make many personalized and individual choices within our construction of a life of avodas Hashem. The book closes with practical recommendations for how we– as individuals, as shuls and yeshivos, and as communities– can build a life more closely in tune with what Kudsha Brich Hu wants of us. The point is never to be negative, only to show where we can more positively work on ourselves, as individuals and as communities.
This “Proud Yid,” by the way, demonstrates in his letter that he has some work to do on his middos (leaving aside the question of being so proud as to know, without question, that there’s no room for criticism). He knows that Zev Brenner called me “Dr. Rothstein,” but insistently ignores the fact that Zev consistently referred to me as Rabbi Dr. This “Proud Yid” has no knowledge of where I received my smicha such that it’s his place to refuse to dignify me with that title. Since proper middos are a core aspect of trying to become more like haKadosh Baruch Hu, trying le-hidamos bi-drachav, I’d say our Proud Yid might want to be more open to the possibility that mikol melamdei hiskalti, that he doesn’t yet know everything.
I encourage him, and other Matzav readers, to listen to the podcast (available at talklinecommunicatons.com) or, better, to read the book, and then contact me with their reactions at firstname.lastname@example.org— I am not afraid to sign my name to what I write, nor am I afraid of a healthy, respectful interaction over my ideas. I am confident that Matsav readers will find the book enjoyable, interesting, and (I hope) enlightening. They certainly won’t find it another example of someone simply criticizing the frum community, tearing down what is so obviously positive and pride-inducing. Thank you.