Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Time for Teshuvah

The following post is a response to an article authored by R’ Eli Teitelbaum, published in last week’s Yated Ne’eman, in reference to unacceptable behavior taking place in the Catskill Mountains recently.

Leitzona Achas Docha Meah Tochachos.

One dismissive comment can erase the effects of a hundred rebukes.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos tells us that when two people get together for a meal, and no Divrei Torah are exchanged between them, they are classified as a Moshav Leitzim, a get-together of scorners.

The Meforshim (commentators) question why the Mishnah refers to them as scorners, after all, who or what exactly, were they scorning? They were merely eating their meal without exchanging Torah thoughts.

They answer as follows; a Leitz (scorner) is not simply one who makes light of, or ridicules, something or someone important. Rather, a scorner is one who by his action, or even inaction, shows disrespect to a worthy cause. When two people get together for a meal, and no words of Torah are exchanged between them, they are in essence scorning the Torah; for if they truly valued its worth, they would never sit without exchanging any words of Torah between them.

A terrible calamity has befallen the Frum world. In R’ Teitelbaum’s own words “Many people are in total shock at some of the goings-on in the Catskills this summer. I will not go into the details. Suffice it to say that hundreds of our teenagers – boys and girls – were enticed to engage in activities that are far from what their parents and teachers consider acceptable, and far from what we have a right to expect from yeshiva and Bais Yaakov products.”

People informed of the situation are crestfallen. How could such events happen? What message is Hashem sending us? Boys’ camps, girls’ camps, and bungalow colonies, should be doing some very serious introspection and soul-searching.

The last thing needed right now is for someone to write a lengthy article extolling the virtues of our camp system.

Let the shock have its effect.

Let Hashem’s message sink in.

Let Camps and parents do their utmost to ensure that such events never take place again.

The backlash against Camps is both beneficial and healthy for the long-term spiritual health of our youngsters. Without it, the Mussar (reproach) would not be taken, and such a powerful wake-up call would go unheeded. Who knows what the Yetzer Harah is planning for us next? We must prepare!

Please don’t misunderstand my post as a call to ban acceptable and Kosher entertainment for our youth. However, when a tragedy befalls us, our reflexive and primary focus must be on how and why it occurred, and ways to prevent its recurrence. To immediately defend Kosher entertainment, however true, is flat-out wrong. It is tantamount to Leitzonus – scorning, making light of the powerful message we should be ingraining.

With all due respect to R’ Teitelbaum; now is not the time! In the Yimei Harachamim V’Haslichos let us all feel terrible over what happened and try our best to make sure that it never happens again.

Eventually, with the help of Hashem, Camps will institute appropriate safeguards ensuring that such events never recur.

Then, and only then, should an article be written extolling their virtues.

There is a time for Teshuvah and there is a time for defending.

Now is the time for Teshuvah.

P.S. Please keep the comments respectful and Lashon Hara-free. Thank you.