Monday, October 27, 2008

Yiras Shamayim and Jewish Identity

The Torah Temima, zt”l, commented in his memoirs that the American obsession with the pursuit of money bred an odd sort of commitment to Judaism. People, unfortunately, just didn’t take the time to consider their priorities. As an example of this, he records that, in 1873, a fairly large American congregation was blessed with a G-d-fearing rabbi, but their very capable chazzan had far less yiras Shomayim. In this particular congregation, the custom was to recite all of the yotzros without exception. When the chazzan decided to lighten his load by skipping one of the yotzros during Shabbos Parshas Zachor, the rabbi was justifiably incensed. He delivered a fiery sermon about the importance of guarding every single custom of the Jewish people. The congregation was very moved by the derasha, and subsequently fired the chazzan for trifling with time-honored minhag.
A few years later, the congregation hired a different rabbi, one who identified himself as “progressive.” As soon as he assumed his new post, the rabbi delivered a fiery sermon about how unnecessary it is to continue saying, “v’sechezena eineinu.” This very same congregation that had fired its chazzan for disregarding tradition immediately obeyed the rabbi and changed the prayers! How can going to shul keep my Jewish identity pure if I don’t know what a pure Jewish identity is to begin with!

No comments: