Fresh off the three day Shabbos & Yom Tov break, many thoughts swirl around in my mind. What rises to the top is the amazing vibrancy, the chiyus, I was privileged to witness and be a part of this Shavous.
In the blogosphere, Haredim are portrayed as a uniform mass of repressed individuals clinging to outdated values and depressing lifestyles, while hemorrhaging followers and adherents. Haredi leaders are depicted as ham-handed tyrants leading the unwashed masses in their straightjackets deeper and deeper into misery land. This Shavous I was once again reminded how far from the truth this is.
What I saw was a diverse community i.e. old and young, rich and poor, right and left, smart and plain, intellectual and simple, all finding their place in the rich, multi-faceted tapestry of Haredi life.
There were the learners exulting in the holiday of the giving of the Torah; the worshipers immersing themselves in intense experiences of prayer, song and dance. Those of a more philosophical nature examining the deep meaning and intense spirituality found in classic sefarim. Then there were those who were there for the camraderie and the cheesecake. All were welcome and expected. I saw a community living it’s Jewishness, cut off from the outside world and with nothing else to do but to connect to G-d, their families and their fellow Jews.
I saw a Judaism that is alive, vibrant and meaningful. A Judaism that fires up the young with their idealism and black and white view of the world, speaks to the middle-aged with their world-weariness and endless responsibilities, and comforts the old, enjoying their golden years.
In my tiny slice of the Haredi scene, I saw people I know, people with shvere pecklech (major difficulties) and much on their minds, nonetheless come together and dip their hearts and souls into the refreshing waters of Torah and Chasidus. This is not the Judaism of nine-to-five, these are not the shuls set up like churches and quieter than libraries. This is the Judaism that is Parah Verabah, growing by leaps and bounds, despite the difficulties and deficiencies it faces.
It is the real Haredi Judiam, not the media-created “bogey-men” caricature. It is this Judaism that continues to prosper, that continues to offer all those who are interested the most authentic, heartfelt Jewish experience available.