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Rabbi Silver’s Articles in the 5 Towns Jewish Times

July 2, 2021

PREVAILING
PERSPECTIVE
‘Tis the season to focus
on the scourge of sinas
chinam, unwarranted hatred
of others. Indeed, many of the
Tisha B’Av programs do just
that. During this time we are
particular cognizant of our
interpersonal relationships
and strive to ensure that our
peers view us favorably. Many
of us expend substantial emotional
energy with respect to
the way we are perceived by
others. As the saying goes,
perception is reality—and we
yearn for a reality that elevates
us in the eyes of others.
This attitude is reflected in
many of our life choices: the
way we dress, our chosen pastimes,
our interpersonal interactions,
etc. We just want
to fit in to the community and
not stand out. To be mainstream,
if you will.
Like in many areas of life,
we justify, and even conclude,
that this effort is Torah-mandated.
Citing a hodgepodge of
verses and other sacred texts,
we convince ourselves of the
importance of uniformity and
of shalom, peace. For example,
the famous Gemara, “lo
sa’asu agudos agudos—do not
create multiple subgroups,”
appears to embrace this ideal.
In addition to textual support,
the words of our high-school
rebbe droning on about achdus
continue to echo in the
back of our minds. Surely,
constant concern with everyone
else’s perception of “me”
is of the utmost importance.
Alternate Outlook
The ultimate liberty is to live
an internally focused life that
is not influenced by the perception
of others. I refer to this
mode of living as “uber-shtoltz.”
This philosophy has been developed
over time in consult
with many leading uber-shtoltz
theorists, including my good
friend and uber-shtoltz aficionado
Mr. Shmuel Winiarz, Esq.
To properly understand this
groundbreaking philosophy, an
introduction is in order.
“Shtoltz” is a concept popularized
by the postwar Talmudic
academies and in the
yeshiva world is treated as a
term of art. It is an all-encompassing
idea that implies a degree
of healthy arrogance coupled
with a dose of grandiose
dramatics and finished with
an injection of confidence. It
pertains to the overall way in
which a person is perceived by
his peers and can be used as a
noun, an adjective, or a verb.
For example, one may comment
that Tom has shtoltz, Tom
is shtoltzy, or Tom shtoltzed out
Sam. While primarily used as
an accolade, it may be used pejoratively
as well, as in, “Tom’s
shtoltz is excessive.” (Parenthetically,
I understand that
shtoltz is a desirable quality
in a prospective shidduch, although
it ranks below yichus
and earning potential.)
Uber-shtoltz, as its name implies,
is an enhanced and upgraded
form of shtoltz. It pertains
to an individual who has
integrated classic shtoltz into
his or her persona to the extent
that he is no longer sensitive to,
concerned with, or seeks the
approval of others. His innate
confidence has been developed
and fortified to allow for complete
independent, unfettered
action free of social inhibition
or fear of consequence.
Although I am hesitant to
blame all great ideas on the
Maharal, I believe the Maharal
actually suggests this idea in
his work on Pirkei Avos. On
the famous Mishnah describing
true strength as conquering
one’s own desires, “Eizehu
gibbor ha’koveish es yitzro,”
the Maharal comments that
the point the Mishnah is making
is that genuine strength is
measured internally, against
one’s own personal struggles,
and not vis-a-vis someone else.
Thus, only one who is capable
of conquering his own desires
genuinely possesses the character
trait of strength. Strength
measured against someone
else is relative strength and not
inherent strength.
Similarly, an uber-shtoltz
perspective requires one to
look internally and not be influenced
by the fear of perception
or misperception of others. In
the hands of an individual with
a properly calibrated moral
compass, it is a powerful tool
for success. So, yes, achdus and
shalom are wonderful communal
ideals, but we should
be careful not to confuse unity
with conformity. 􀂄

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 25, 2021

CELEBRATION
OF FATHER’S DAY

Prevailing Perspective—What
a wonderful day! Fathers countrywide
finally receive the appreciation
they deserve! In our community,
fathers shoulder the substantial
stress of providing for their family’s
ever-costly needs and wants, attempt
to instill good values to their children,
and try to be a Romeo to their Juliet,
all while trying to continue some form
of learning and spiritual connection of
their own. True heroes. Finally, a day to
recognize their efforts! How could anyone
disagree with a day about hakaras
ha’tov, an important and critical character
trait we preach about regularly?
Additionally, as opposed to other “secular”
holidays, there is no hint of any
religious undertone; even the biggest
machmirim should not have an issue
with this day! And finally, any day that
effectively mandates a barbecue ought
to be wholly embraced by all.
Alternate Outlook—Once something
is institutionalized, it loses its
value. In theory, a day of hakaras ha’tov
to dads countrywide is benign and perhaps
even wonderful. Considering its
origins, or lack thereof, however, it appears
cheap, forced, and fake.
A genuine display of gratitude must
be self-initiated and arise out of a spontaneous
sense of gratefulness. While
any forced emotional display feels contrived,
it is particularly true of gratitude.
Reb Moshe Shapiro, zt’l, used to
say (heard from Rabbi Yehoshua Hartman,
shlita) that the word “modim,” to
thank (as in, “modim anachnu lach”)
and the Hebrew word for admit, “modeh”
(as in, “modeh b’miktzas”) derive
from the same root word. This is because
the essence of a genuine thankyou
is an admission that the other
person was critical and that you would
not have been able to accomplish without
him or her. Thus, just as an admission
under duress is not valid, a forced
thank-you is not meaningful. The key
ingredient of a thank-you—the embedded
recognition of someone else—is absent.
It is comparable to a car without
an engine. From the outside it appears
like a car, but if you try to drive it, it
will not go anywhere. The substance is
missing.
Recently, my toddler has taken a liking
to pouring out the contents of any
cup he can get his hands on. He has adopted
a nondiscriminatory policy with
respect to the contents of the cup and
the surface upon which he chooses to
empty the contents. For example, he
does not differentiate between pouring
Macallan 18 onto our white rug and
emptying a cup of water onto the kitchen
floor. While his equal treatment of
all beverages and surfaces is admirable,
it is exceedingly frustrating. So, we have
undertaken the time-tested (and, frankly,
ingrained from our own upbringing)
approach of demanding that he apologize
and say the magic word “sorry.” As
you can imagine, his apology appears to
be lacking in sincerity, particularly considering
the limited time between his
apology and the next spilling incident.
Each time he mutters the magic word,
I can’t help but think of Father’s Day—a
day on which the substantive efforts of
dads countrywide are recognized by a
forced and commercialized thank-you
card written by someone else. Happy
[belated] Father’s Day!