Wednesday, August 09, 2017

If we would economize more and not splurge on unnecessary material comforts we would not be compelled to seek government aid fraudulently and the resultant antagonism toward hasidim could be averted....

 Luxury as the Great Pitfall for Hasidim

In a telephonic lecture this past Tishoh beav, Saul Klein excoriated the haredi trend to pursue luksus (luxury) at the expense of basic necessities and a profanation of God’s name. The 40-minute lecture was given in a program called hotzi shiur (half measure) accessible on the Kol Mevaser telephone hotline. Klein belongs to the Old Guard, harboring memories of R. Joel Teitelbaum and the formative years of Satmar hasidus in America. He has distinguished himself as an expert in haredi education and he is also a columnist on the Aaronite newspaper Di Zeitung.

Klein cited several examples of the luksus he despises:
  • An advertisement in a hasidic paper showing a burger with the subtitle “decadent”.
  • An advertisement for a haredi group cruise on a yacht, with a concert, and with gourmet meals served by uniformed white-gloved servants.
He reminisced how in the old days people would wrangle over who would get to pay the least –a mere $50 for the summer– for a bungalow, whereas nowadays the contest is for the bigger, better-furnished and most expensive “bungalow”. He wistfully recalled the days when the mere purchase of a car was considered flaunting one’s wealth and dubious, whereas now two  “luxury Lexus” cars (alliterative pun intended) are acceptable.

Aside from the crass ungodly materialism such a lifestyle entails, Klein criticized it on the grounds that its adherents neglect to abide by more basic communal and familial financial commitments, e.g. the one who was behind four months in tuition but somehow had the funds to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashonoh.

People are naturally xenophobic, says Klein, e.g. the post 9-11 animosity toward Muslims. When we flaunt our wealth and employ legally questionable methods to maintain our profligate lifestyle, we trigger the ire of the gentiles and sometimes even that of modern Jews.

When the federal government hands down an indictment against a Hasid accused of defrauding a welfare program, “the media do not go to Saul Klein to get an expert explanation; they go to Samuel Heilman” and what Heilman tells them is that Hasidim lead a legally-defined poverty-laden life by choice, even as the community’s coffers are full and even as many recipients of welfare programs have plenty of money for other things. What Heilman does not acknowledge, bemoans Klein, is that the costs of maintaining a haredi lifestyle are so high that even with the underreporting of income haredim are still indigent and morally justified in seeking government aid.

Nevertheless, Klein exhorts, if we would economize more and not splurge on unnecessary material comforts we would not be compelled to seek government aid fraudulently and the resultant antagonism toward hasidim could be averted.

Samuel Heilman is the author of a dozen books on hasidism, including the recently published Who Will Lead Us whose ripples have been felt among hasidim, e.g. this KaveShtiebel forum thread
Kol Mevaser lectures are popular with Internet-barred young hasidic lads who resort to Kol Mevaser’s telephonic technology to access words of wisdom by haredi rabbis and experts, as well as a steady stream of news.



James Apple said...

It's one thing to go on government assistance if a family's low income qualifies , even if the parents purposefully don't work. That is bad enough. It's another thing for a family who is well off to intentionally commit fraud to live the high life. Who teaches these people ethics?

Dr. Bungalow Putz Neuhoff said...

Klein is going to have to deal with ME!

The nerve of this guy trying to mandate shabby bungalows!

Bungalow Yenta said...

Tuvya Chaim Neuhoff,

I bet that Klein is just jealous because he couldn't get into Luxor or some place like that.

moshe said...

What he's saying is simply untrue. Most people don't live the high life, and cannot necessary afford the basics.

Israel Ruzhin said...

Ruzhin, Israel (Friedmann; 1797–1850), ḥasidic leader. Israel was a great-grandson of Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezhirech. Ḥasidim claimed to recognize his outstanding qualities almost from birth. His uncle Mordecai of Chernobyl declared that the baby had the soul of the Ba'al Shem Tov.... He then moved to Ruzhin where he set up a splendid "court" and like his father, Shalom Shakhna, lived in great luxury and unusual splendor. His dwelling place was that of a noble with all its opulence. He rode in a splendid carriage with silver handles, harnessed to four galloping horses, and surrounded by many servants. The ideological explanation given by Israel himself for his mode of behavior was that Satan is already involved in all the behavior of the Ḥasidic Ẓaddikim, although he is unaware that within the external extravagance and wealth a precious stone is concealed....

The impressions of contemporaries who knew him are interesting. Dr. S. Rubin describes him as follows... "He sat upon his throne dressed in immaculate and expensive garments, like one of the Russian nobles, and on his head a hat embroidered in gold. From the tips of his toes to his head, there was an elegance about his expensive clothes." Dr. Mayer, who visited him in 1826, was filled with enthusiasm for Israel's personality: "When I visited him in his home, I found there Field-Marshal Witgenstein who honored him in every possible manner and wanted to present him with one of the most beautiful of his palaces, in a neighboring town, so that he should take up residence there… in truth he deserves all this honor. Although not particularly educated, he has a preeminently naturally keen mind. With his sharp eye and keen intellect he immediately penetrates to the heart of any difficulty brought to him, however obscure and complicated, and arrives at a decision. His imposing presence and his stature make a pleasing impression upon the onlooker. He is noble and refined: He has no beard, only a moustache. His eyes exercise a hypnotic charm so that even his greatest opponent is compelled to submit to him...."

Ok, the shaven Ḥasidic rebbe, "not particularly educated" and living like a Russian nobleman.
Today every other ḥasid lives like the holy man Israel Ruzhin!

Arielle Pardes said...

"Frum porn" features supposedly Orthodox women in ankle-length skirts and head scarves having sex...