I read the article by Jonathan Rosenblum in the Just Between Us column, “A Little Humility, Please” (Jewish Action, Spring 1999), with a great deal of curiosity; for whom was he writing?
If he intended to write to the Orthodox community, what precisely did the article add? Our tradition is replete with examples, role models and lessons about humility, no doubt. From Moses to Moses, examples abound of the virtue of living a humble life, filled with awe and a sense of piety.
And if the article was intended for a non-traditional or non-Orthodox crowd, did he believe that with a brow-beating message he would change a mind?
The example of a wedding is a good one. The recitation of the posuk which marries chatan to kallah is very powerful. It has been recited by Jewish grooms for over 1,000 years, in dozens of countries, millions of times in millions of circumstances. When one recites, “Harei at…” it connects one to all other brides and grooms in the history of our people. This cannot be tampered with, as he suggests, for its value is far and wide. But why not suggest something positive for the many who may not share Rosenblum’s background? Simply criticizing someone who may not appreciate the historical value of a mitzvah as arrogant serves little purpose, as you’re either “preaching to the choir,” or further repelling those already disengaged.
Positive suggestions for making mitzvot meaningful abound. For instance, when my wife and I got married, we had a challenge, for some of our closest friends and family were female, and there aren’t too many roles for women in a strictly Orthodox wedding. Or aren’t there? For starters, we asked only women to sign the civil marriage license, and, more meaningfully, to hold the four chupah poles during the ceremony. We found a way to include some of the people dearest to us while maintaining tradition.
It’s about balance. Meaning can be obtained if we think and act creatively within the boundaries of halachah. It’s not just humility nor self-centeredness; life is rarely black or white…
Highland Park, New Jersey
The Challenge of Creative Teens
If I had read “The Challenge of Creative Teens” [Summer, 1999] a few years ago, I am almost sure I would have wondered if the need you have stressed for a Jewish art school isn’t a bit overstated. Having read the article now, as a full time educator in a Modern Orthodox high school, I can fully identify with your suggestion. Art has indeed become the outlet of expression for so many of today’s Jewish teenagers, and many of them are also quite talented. Whether it be drawing, painting or sculpting, these students have found a hobby that they treat as importantly as any other academic subject. Not long ago I had a student who left high school in the eleventh grade to attend an art school, in order to get an early start on her career. The need for a religious art-oriented high school is very much a reality. I strongly applaud your suggestions, and I encourage any further efforts.
Kew Garden Hills, New York