I’m proud to be an ostrich. Really. Despite my flightlessness and awkward appearance, I’m proud to be ostrich.
Let me explain how I came to be an ostrich.
Some people look at the Orthodox Jews (aka, the frum velt) and they see problems. The rabbis mettle too much, or, ironically, the rabbis aren’t involved enough. People don’t take davening seriously enough. Too many people stay in kollel for too long. Too much gashmiyus. Etc. Etc. People find problems with everything, even when their gripes make little sense.
The list is long.
We’ll call those people realists. That’s what they call themselves. “I’m just calling it as I see it,” they say.
Others see the frum velt as an island of sanity in a stormy sea of decadence. There are certainly many individuals outside of the frum world who are value-centered people, but there is no other group, whether national, religious or civic, that compares to Klal Yisroel.
After 2,000 years of harsh and wicked treatment, look at this nation! So much Torah learning in every community. The kollelim, chadarim, high schools, seminaries, yeshivos, shiurim, and yarchai kallahs. Wow! After so much torture, look at how this nation loves its Torah! What of the mesirus nefesh of the rabbeim and moros in all of our schools who love our children so much, who are underpaid and overworked, and who deal with so much more than teaching our children?
In a world where people can hardly concentrate for more than 30 seconds, look at how many hundreds of thousands of Jews take 30-60 minutes out of every morning to daven. See how many minyanim there are to accommodate every nusach and nuance of custom. Look at the minyanim that have adopted strict rules of not talking to show the great respect for our houses of worship. Look at the minyanim that have such an incredible sea of excitement and warmth to sing the praises of Hashem. Look at the minyanim in Meah Shearim that daven Nishmas for 20 minutes and say “Amein yehei shemei rabbah” with a burning fire of love.
Mi ke’amcha Yisroel!
Is there a frum community in Eretz Yisroel with less than 20 different types of gemachs? There are some with more than 100.
What happens in every community when a family has a baby? The meals, the help with cleaning, and the rides are unbelievable. How many meals are distributed on a daily basis to families struggling to put bread on the table? People turn their lives upside down when, Rachmana litzlan, tragedy visits a friend or neighbor.
And what of the chessed and Torah of all of our kiruv organizations? Precious teachers of tinokos shenishbu focus day and night on reaching farther and deeper to help our lost clansmen.
The first group of onlookers calls themselves realists. The velt has a lot of problems. We have to open up our eyes to see the problems or we’re being . . . ostriches.
Like I said, I’m proud to be an ostrich.
I’d like to have ended the essay right here, hopeful that the rest is obvious. But I’ll state the obvious. There are some very serious problems in our generation and we can’t expect them to go away by pretending that they don’t exist. Are there people who do that? Sure. But so many of the “realists” whine and complain and speak badly about the Jewish people as if their eyes are open only to the problems. These realists speak as if anyone who doesn’t complain as loudly as they do clearly doesn’t have their eyes open. These realists often speak in the harshest terms about our holy leaders. Hashem yeracheim!
What this ostrich is saying is that perhaps one of the best ways to deal with our problems is to realize our starting point. The place from where the problems are solved is not a place of complaining and using our complaints to speak lashon hara about our holy nation. The starting place is: “Mi ke’amcha Yisroel.” We are such an amazing people. Let’s look together at how we can improve.
Rabbi O. Stricher
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