Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Shul Debate: Follow-Up

Before I begin discussing the topic itself, I want to thank and applaud both Velvel and MO-C for the way they responded to my post. The tone of it had been angry and a bit abrasive, but they looked past that to read what I was trying to say. Instead of getting defensive, they both examined their own words, and took my post to heart. Velvel and I had a mature conversation about the issue outside of the blogosphere, making sure that our friendship was not damaged by our differences of opinion and/or blogging styles. It just goes to show that even the blogosphere can be menschlich.

As for the issue real cause for concern was not, and is not, the subject of break-away minyanim. Mo-C is tackling that debate in a couple of separate posts. Nor is my concern really about the difficulties of finding a comfortable place to daven in our "hip" neighborhood. Velvel is covering that well enough.

My concern is with the distinction between venting and lashon hara. My friends here in Chicago, who I respect and adore and for whose friendship I am grateful to Hashem, have been growing increasingly negative and critical over the past six months. Hardly a shabbos goes by now where something or someone does not come under attack because it is different from what we, as a group, tend to prefer. Sometimes the criticism is justified. Yet sometimes I feel it really isn't, and it's just complaining for the sake of complaining. That sounds harsh, and someone will undoubtedly disagree with me on this.

So here's an example: the rabbi recently wrote a small piece for the weekly shabbos bulletin. One of my friends saw the rabbi's name at the bottom of the essay, and immediately snorted and dismissed it out of hand. I called my friend on this, asking why the essay should be dismissed before it is even read. My friend later read it and acknowledged it to be interesting.

Was the snort really necessary? I don't think so. Yet the snort, and all it symbolizes, has become commonplace at our shabbos meals. Divrei Torah, on the other hand, are growing increasingly rare. I'm worried about this trend that I'm seeing in the people I care about. None of us are such chachamim or tzaddikim to be at a level where we have the right to judge what others are doing. I strongly believe that when you search for a reason to be unhappy, you'll soon find what you're looking for. I also believe the opposite, and that we have so many positive sources of inspiration around us, and in each other, that we have no cause to spend so much time dwelling on the negative.

I know that some of my shabbos crew are in the habit of reading my blog every so often. And so I'm going to use the power of the blogosphere for good instead of evil (the quest for world domination will just have to wait), and issue a challenge:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to spend an entire shabbos without unnecessarily voicing a criticism or negative comment about anyone or anything associated with the shul (this includes the rabbi, the Board, the davening, the time we finish Adon Olam, and the length of the announcements). Every time you feel the urge to speak negatively, speak a word of Torah instead. Try it for one whole shabbos. Somehow I have the feeling that our shabbos ambiance (and our neshamos) will benefit from it.

No comments: