It always brings a smile to my face to behold the reaction of my non-Jewish customers when our conversation turns toward our kids. Upon hearing that my children have no access to any form of media (i.e. TV, movies, radio, video games, Ipods, Iphones, internet, computers etc.), you can almost hear a loud crack as their jaws drop to the floor. It usually takes me another twenty minutes to convince them that, no, my children do not feel deprived and yes, they are quite happy with their lives, thank you very much. After all that, they still leave shaking their heads in wonder and full of rachmanus (pity), pure rachmanus, for my poor, bored children.
Which brings us to one of Rabbi Eli Fink’s latest articles. In it he takes issue with Chaya, and with the exuberant joy and pleasure she find in her Chassidic lifestyle. He finds her story to be subjective and not necessarily representative of her community as a whole. As a rule, he is correct, one person’s experience cannot be extrapolated to reflect the society in which they live. Societal temperature can be taken with data alone, not through anecdotal and biased experiences. Had he stopped there, we would not object. But he continues and falls head first into the twin traps of moral arrogance and circular reasoning all neatly wrapped together with a nice bow of projection.
Rabbi Fink’s problem with Chasidism’s (really Orthodoxy’s) treatment of women? In a word, Feminism. To him, feminism, the idea of gender equality, that whatever one gender can do the other should be able to do as well, is sacrosanct. It is natural, undeniable and settled morality. Hence, he takes us for a ride. Come along.
Since Rabbi Fink believes that feminism rocks, therefore everyone believes that feminism rocks, that women should be able to do whatever men do. It follows that all women, including Haredi women, also believe that they should be able to what men do. Therefore, since Haredi women can’t do all that men can do, then ipso facto one can surmise that many of them are unhappy. You still with me?
See how easy that was? Never mind that feminism is rejected by as many women that accept it, if not more. Never mind that using Rabbi Fink’s logic, it is adherents to feminist ideology who should (and often are) miserable, considering that after 50+ years of feminist agitation, it is still a man’s world, by a mile. Disregarding the misery and suffering wrought by the social engineering of feminism, his article can be termed sheer fallacy for one simple reason: You cannot project your values on others and then use those values as a yardstick to divine their feelings.
Charedi girls are raised quite lovingly and competently with a totally different set of values. In their worldview, what they strive for and the goals they seek are as easy (or as difficult) to attain as it is for men. Were Rabbi Fink in charge it might be different, but as it stands Chassidic women, by and large, could care less about feminism. While there are surely some to whom the ways of feminism hold sway and may therefore feel chained in a Chasidic lifestyle, there are also many girls born to feminist families who feel their femininity undermined by the constant comparisons to men. Exceptions just prove the rule.
Were we to adopt the thought process of Rabbi Fink, then we Orthodox Jews would feel deep, heartfelt pity for our secular brethren, not to mention non-Jews. Surely they can’t be happy without the restful spirituality of Shabbos?? Rabbi Fink would be the first to condemn such holier-than-thou arrogance. An American boy without video games is a bored soul, therefore a pity on the millions of sub-Saharan teenagers with their Nintendo-deficient lifestyle.
The truth is, I hesitate to be too hard on Rabbi Fink, he is after all, not a happy man. How could he be, being that he doesn’t wear a Shtreimal on Shabbos!