Ben Adam Lichaveiro: The Forgotten Category Jewish Press 2018
Last week, my friend’s daughter was invited to an engagement party. At 22, she was excited to reconnect with some old friends, some of whom she hadn’t seen in several years. Upon sitting down Friday night, she was immediately barraged by attacks ranging from “ Hey Rivka remember when Sara made fun of you in elementary school?” to “Avigayil, remember when Sarah said she never wanted to be friends with you ....”
My daughter’s friend sat there incredulously, with only one thought on her mind: How could “frum” girls with skirts to their ankles, behave in such an unsightly way, so much so that one of the girls called after the weekend to seek forgiveness. She said all she could think about was how frum girls could miss the point of why they were wearing long skirts in the first place.
I recently published an article discussing the responsibility that we as keepah wearing, sheitel wearing Jews have. I discussed the power that we have in creating the greatest possible endorsement of Hashem and his Torah when we act accordingly. And it is through these acts of Kiddush Hashem that enables our second president, John Adams, to proclaim that the Jew has contributed like no other to society, bringing monotheism into the world . Yet with that power comes great responsibility, as we run in danger of of creating God forbid, a Chillul Hashem.
But what does “ desecrating his name “ really mean ? Clearly if a Kidush Hashem is defined as a religious act that causes others to revere and come close to God, clearly a desecration of Gods name would be the opposite: alienating and pushing people further away from God. And by that very definition, if I was a fly on the wall and I observed girls “frum looking” embarrassing another repeatedly, well I’d run for the hills and never look back. Think about it for a moment. One girl, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt who was kind, caring, sensitive and would never embarrass or hurt another person, and another girl with a long skirt who was snobby, rude, insulting and hurt others with poor midos, well I think you know where I’m going with this.
The Torah has but one solitary purpose: to help man grow spiritually and become one with God. And that, according to the Ramchal, is not only the purpose of our existence, but the way in which man attains the highest level of happiness. But what does that really mean ? How does man grow spiritually ? How do we become one with Hashem?
Just as the human body builds its muscle through exercise and resistance, so too the soul needs a spiritual workout. Yet if I’m constantly working out my arm muscles, that will do nothing to strengthen my stomach or leg muscles. Because each exercise targets a specific area of the body and when done in unison, create the perfect body, ( genes permitting.)
The same is true of the soul. Each mitsvah is geared towards something specific, fixing and targeting a character deficit in our personalities. Therefore God created three types of Mitsvot: Ben Adam Lamakom (between man and God like prayer) Ben Adam Lachaveiro ( laws between man and man) and Ben Adam Laatzmo (laws between man and himself such as learning. )
May of us gravitate towards the long skirts, the long prayers ( Bein Adam Lamakom) which is very admirable and important. But when we simultaneously violate laws between man and man ( stealing, not repaying a loan when you can, embarrassing another person, or making someone feel small ), it’s like working out half the body and leaving the other to atrophy. What’s worse, rather than growing closer to God through our actions, we do the opposite, pushing others away. And what’s worse is that Hashem hates to see us fight. Have we forgotten that the second temple has still not been rebuilt because of sinas chinam, needless hatred? Don’t we realize that we are beautiful diamonds and the polisher which is God created each mitzvah to make each facet of our souls shine? How many frum girls do we know who can quote Perakim all day long yet act disrespectfully towards their parents. And what about adults with long beards, who are morally bankrupt? Or Rabbi‘s who are way smarter than I’ll ever be, but don’t really care about their congregants (unless they give big money) as much as they do about their contracts. Or people who attack and embarrass others who are talking in shul, rather than use tact. Did these "frum" people miss the memo? When we wear a yarmulke, we are essentially marked men because our Keepot and Sheitels say “ I’m frum and I represent Hashem!”
Yet when we double park in stopped traffic or cut a line and create a scene on an airplane, you’re not only defeating the purpose of your frumkeit but you’re actually defaming it.
So does this mean I can lose the yamulka or skirt as long as I'm real nice? Of course not. The ideal is to combine both because Hashem wants each person to shine like the brightest diamonds we can be. He wants us to synthesize all three classifications of mitsvot in order for us to become a perfect stone, and shine his holy light to the world . If we can accomplish this then the nations will undoubtedly declare, as Moshe Rabbeinu , tells us in Parshas Vaeschanan, " You shall safeguard and perform them... and the people shall say surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation.”