By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
As we take leave of the Sefirah period, and its stern message concerning kovod haTorah by recalling the horrific deaths of the 24,000 disciples of Rebbi Akiva who didn’t honor each other’s Torah prowess, we should take some time to ponder if we are okay ourselves in the critical area of kovod haTorah, being careful with the honor of Torah and those who are dedicated to it. This is especially important in these modern times which our Gedolim have labeled Ikvasa D’meshicah, the era before the coming of Moshiach. The Gemora teaches us that during this period chutzpa yasga, brazenness, will abound. As an example, I recently asked an optometrist if he found a difference in the behavior of his patients during the last ten years. He told me that, in general ,the young men are much more arrogant. My own observation is that this is endemic of society in general. We must know that this behavioral shift poses a great challenge to our responsibilities, vis-à-vis, kovod haTorah.
Let me give you an example. Recently, there has evolved a new shul phenomenon Congregants are requesting, and even demanding, that their Rabbi say the Shabbos drosha after davening, instead of between shacharis and musaf. Their argument is, “Why should we be a captive audience? It’s a free society and we are free men. Why should we be subjected to be forced to listen? Those who want to listen, will be happy to stay after davening, while those who want to go home to their families, who want to learn their own stuff, or who don’t particularly care for the Rav’s style or content, won’t have to suffer on the day of rest. After all,” they argue, “We work hard all week. Why should we suffer from such weekly coercion?”
What a terrible development! Firstly, we always must ask ourselves, “What’s fueling such a movement?” In this case, I suggest, it is certainly the sitra achra, the yeitzar hora, the evil inclination. Recently, I spoke in a shul that had this custom that the Rabbi speaks after davening. When I got up to speak, 15 young men got up, some with their children, and exited the room. How sad and alarming! What a wholesale display of lack of kovod haTorah – and I was a guest lecturer! Imagine how they behave with their own Rabbi with whom they are more familiar. What arrogance! What brazen behavior! Think also of the real korbonos, their children, who at a very young age are already being whisked away from hearing the experienced advice, values, lessons, morals, and ethics of their Rabbi. Even worse, at a young age they are being inculcated to think that it is acceptable behavior to walk out when a Rabbi gets up to talk. This doesn’t bode well for their future respect for authority. The parents are planting the seeds for their own ruination – for the ultimate authority in a child’s life is parental authority, and when parents erode authority, in general, the effect boomerangs against themselves in the future.
When one has to be admitted to the hospital, lo aleinu, he or she has to put on a hospital gown. This is usually a rather brief garment, which leaves the patient uncomfortable. Why aren’t people allowed to wear their own house coats and pajamas? One of the reasons is because subconsciously it gets the patient to accept the authority of the doctors and the nurses. In a similar vein, the drosha between shacharis and musaf is deliberately a captive situation: To convey the feeling of authority that a baal habayis should have towards his Rabbi. How sad that the youth of today want to throw off this centuries long tradition!
This new trend does not just stem from youthful insolence; rather it is also caused by the lack of patience and a universal restlessness due to the newly ingrained need for immediacy and terseness created by texting and other technologies. Our youth suffer from a lack of sitzfleish. They can’t sit in one place for too long. But, we need to battle this for if we don’t, they won’t have the patience to sit with their wives, play with their children, or even to sit for long over a gemora or chumash.
So don’t cave into this trend! We should all want our youth to hear the drosha, to hear about shalom bais, and kibud av v’eim, to be warned against gambling, and computer pornography, to be lectured about Kiddush Hashem and not bearing grudges, to be reminded about the death of lashon hara, the sin of lying and the scourge of cheating in business and not paying up loans. Do you want them to learn the importance of having a Rabbi and respecting him? That lesson is one that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. In the merit of kovod haTorah, may Hashem bless us with good health, long life and everything wonderful.
Yocheved Weiss transcribed this article and Sheldon Zeitlin is the editor for Rabbi Weiss’ articles.
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