Re-calibrating Rabbinic Priorities

One need only spend a few minutes on most any social media before being met with dozens of “shares” of the latest rabbinic proclamation or letter or article about the latest communal crisis. One week it is the issue of women praying in Tefillin. Another week, it is the assault on the time-honored custom of Ashkenazi Jews to refrain from Kitnyot on Pesach. And at other times, the cause-of-the-week is women singing in front of male soldiers in the IDF.

While each one of these items may deserve some discussion, I ponder about what impact the rabbinic world could have if that very same passion and that very same level of conversation were to be about TRULY significant and life-altering subjects. Wait, you say–how is women’s wearing of Tefillin NOT a significant issue? How can I say that maintaining a long-standing tradition of Kitnyot is not an impacting discussion!?

So, let’s put it into perspective. Let’s assume for a moment that you are in a position to make a difference. Assume that when you publish an “Open Letter,” or a post on Facebook or Times of Israel or any other social media that it MAY affect its readers and MAY lead to some action. Now, let’s assume you can make a difference in a choice of two areas on which to write: Do you speak about the “evils” of women wearing Tefillin or the TRUE evils of child molestation? Or what if you are faced with opening up to your public about Kitnyot vs. composing your thoughts on the subject of men who refuse to give their wives a GET and instead sentence them to a life of misery?

Let’s be honest: it is “easier” to deal with subjects that are hot topics and “safer, as well, rather than get mired in discussions regarding more “difficult” subjects. Perhaps you are concerned that you will get less “Likes” on your post if it deals with something truly “controversial.”

You want to pour out your passion? Do you want to make a difference? Then do it where it can affect, change and SAVE lives: Write about the horrors of child sexual abuse and advocate AGAINST protecting child molesters. Write about helping victims and preventing others from becoming victims. Write about the tragedy of recalcitrant husbands. Write about the sad situation of those who need to go through conversion here in Israel. (And, certainly there are other numerous other subjects that deserve this form of attention)

THESE subjects ARE life changing and life altering and if you take “pen in hand” and begin to address THESE kinds of situations, then perhaps those of you in the rabbinic community who do write can re-set their compass and concentrate on making a REAL difference.

The truth is that NOT writing about these subjects or avoiding dealing with them enables those who are involved in the nefarious activity to continue their actions. By not calling them out and by not encouraging more action against them serves as prima facie evidence that they can continue without impunity. In some cases, that silence is turned around and used as proof that the Torah supports their actions (as in the case of Agunot)

As a “member” of that community, I clearly can say that I would rather a thousand women wore Tefillin rather than one child be molested. I would rather every Jew eat Kitnyot on Pesach than one woman have a GET withheld from her.

Looking forward to reading posts on topics that REALLY matter…


About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.