Since creating EndTheMadness more than six years ago I have received all manner of correspondence, and it should come as no surprise that for every gratifying email I receive there are plenty more that are disturbing in one way or another. But what if I asked you to guess which emails disturb me the most, even momentarily shake my optimism that there really is hope for our society? What would you guess?
Surely the first guess of most people would be the Da’as Torah emails. You know, the ones from self-righteous folk who innocently inquire “which Gedolim support you ” This inquiry is predicated on the presumption that one requires the approval of Gedolim to express an opinion or perform a meaningful action. This presumption is nonsense, and I don’t need other rabbis to endorse that statement any more than I need them to cosign my articles.
The presumption is also hypocritical, for which Gedolim did they consult before sending off that email to me or that angry letter to the editor? What makes them so confident that the rabbis they respect are any more authoritative than the rabbis I respect so that I should be shaken in any way if their rabbis oppose my beliefs? And who allowed them to use the Internet, anyway?
In my younger years I used to try to engage these people in intelligent discourse. I tried to explain how the fundamental concept of rabbinic guidance has been severely corrupted and that there is no contradiction between respecting rabbinic authority, recognizing the boundaries of that authority, and thinking for oneself. I quickly learned that such discourse never remains intelligent beyond one or two exchanges, and those who have been absorbed by the cult of Da’as Torah can never be persuaded out of it by rational or scholarly arguments -- they must realize its fallaciousness on their own. (I believe the spread of this cultish, inherently hypocritical, and patently un-Jewish ideology is the greatest threat to Torah-true Judaism in our time, albeit one that few dare speak about due to its widespread and insidious infiltration into our community -- but that is another topic for another time.)
The emails from Da’as Torahniks don’t disturb me anymore. They are a dime a dozen and speak with one voice that is not truly their own, anyway, so I simply brush them away and move on. I can’t help them.
One might think that the most disturbing emails come from people who volunteer to help in some way and then are never heard from again. This has happened dozens of times over the years. I used to wonder if these people entered the witness protection program, so startling was the turn from enthusiastic communication to absolute silence.
This used to frustrate me a lot, since EndTheMadness is 100% volunteer driven, and each new volunteer can make an exponential difference. But I have come to accept the fact that most people who express interest in actually doing something aren’t really serious, and this is a widespread defect that everyone involved in community service experiences constantly. Now I simply assume people aren’t serious about getting involved until they actually get involved, and I am no longer disappointed when it doesn’t work out.
No, the most disturbing emails are ones I receive now and then after sending out an email to my list, such as these two that I received just a few days ago:
“Please unsubscribe me from your list. I did my part by getting married this past Labor Day.”
“Please remove me from this list. I have been married since July of last year and will not be attending these shabbatons anymore.”
Mind you, these emails and many others like them come from people who are on my mailing list and therefore are supposedly among the greatest supporters of ETM. They come from people who believe in it enough to have attended ETM events, and have quite possibly benefited personally from these events. They have been blessed to find someone to marry and will hopefully enjoy an eternal and loving union with this person.
That’s where their interest in the cause ends. They no longer wish to even hear from me. The first writer honestly believes that he has “done his part” by getting married (!) and the second one believes that because he has no personal vested interested in attending events there is no conceivable reason why he should even continue to know about them.
Emails like these disturb me like no others.
I have often wondered aloud how married people could ever be insensitive to the plight of singles. After all, every married person in the world is a former single, and precious few were completely spared the anxiety, frustration, and pain that singles experience. It is human nature for people who experience something painful or traumatic -- be it illness, war, or any difficult personal experience -- to forever sympathize with those who undergo a similar experience. We are naturally drawn to people who can understand what we are going through or have been through.
Consequently, it is hard to rationalize how any married person could ever look down on singles, talk down to singles, trivialize the plight of singles, or otherwise be insensitive to singles. As a former single (and, if they are not careful, a future single) they should feel only genuine concern and empathy for singles and seek to support them with love and respect. As we all know, however, rare indeed is such a person.
This is what disturbs me most of all. To see this sudden metamorphosis from a single who gets it, who feels it, who lives it to an insensitive and disconnected married person who cannot even be bothered to forward an email to the singles they used to associate with â€“ this is truly sad. And if this is the sort of fleeting concern they have for others whose pain they should forever share that they bring with them into married life, I shudder to think of what that married life is destined to look like. More, what might a community of such people look like?
“Mazal tov,” I replied, “though I have to say that many people on the list are married and still see a benefit in being involved in some small way. I'm sorry you don't share this idea.”
I never heard back. But why should I? They’ve already done their part.