So a friend of mine recently reported a story that sent me into something of a moral outrage. The story is thusly: said friend's mother was walking to shul with a group of friends from shul. On their way, the group passed a house which had a statue of the Virgin Mary out front. People in the group started making fun of the statue and the person who lived in that house for having the statue, and my friend's mother said "I think it's nice that they're proud and commited enough to their religion to be able to display it so openly." (Or something more or less to that effect.)
Someone in the group took my friend's mother aside and said "You should know, you're really not supposed to say good things about avodah zorah. It's probably because you say things like that that your child married a non-Jew."
My friend's mother took it as mussar and tried to accept it gracefully. Because she's an incredibly sweet, gentle, and overall good person, who tries to take instances like this and better herself with them. I however, am not that good a person, so I am completely horrified and intensely angry.
First of all - why is it ok to be making fun of another person's religion? The fact that we don't believe in something does not give us the right to disrespect another person's beliefs. I think it's downright embarassing that a group of religous adults would be caught saying such things out loud, in public, and proudly. That in and of itself disgusts me. The fact that this woman was trying to defend this person is, to me, evidence of her sweet, tolerant, and respectful nature, which is not something I think should be drummed out of a person. Looking for the good in all other people always struck me as the kind of thing we should be pro.
Second, WHAT THE FUCKING HELLL????????? Where does anyone get the nerve to be judging anyone's sins or anyone's family? The fact that there is any person in a community even vaguely connected to my own who has the arrogance and the idiocy to feel they have a right to say such things is painfully embarrassing. A grown person! One adult to another! Where in the world do they get off? By this one story alone I can say that the person who received the "mussar" is a vastly superior person and Jew to the one who gave it.
The fact that the person giving the 'mussar' was convinced that they were doing a sweet, helpful thing- enlightening this ba'alat teshuva in the ways of halacha and opening her eyes to something she should be repenting for- sort of makes the whole thing ten times more repulsive. Even if in their mind, there was a shadow of a justification for warning her away from future sins- how dare
they take advantage of this woman's guilt and pain by pinning her children's choices on her past 'sins'? Do they think that she doesn't feel horrible and guilty already about her child? Do you think that's not a spot of personal agony for her already? What do they want her to do, exactly? Take it all back? Tear her clothes? Commit ritual suicide over the agony of her own failures? The thought that they went home that night patting themselves on the back makes me want to scream.
This is not the only example I have of the Jewish community drumming out the things in people I know and care about that are GOOD things, things that are important pieces of who they are, bc of some fake, ridiculous idea of what our religion wants from us. You know what our religion doesn't want from us? It doesn't want us picking at the most vulnerable part of a person's soul and making them feel worse about it. It doesn't want us to drum out every spark of individuality or intellectual creativity in everyone we know. I'd like to say this to all American Jews: Anyone who condones this kind of behavior is the reason why people hate religous Jews. My patience with all of you is wearing extremely thin. It's almost enough to drive a person to secularism. Who would want to belong to a community where such things happen? Where such people think they are right? Where do they get off thinking this sort of thing is ok? Who do they think they are? What gives them the moral authority to be able to pass this sort of judgement? My friend's mother, although she tried to make something good out of it, was extremely hurt that anyone would say something like that to her. My friend was hurt much more on her behalf than she allowed herself to be, and I too am extremely offended by the story. What makes anyone think that they're qualified to give another person mussar? Especially someone who would never say anything to hurt anyone? I cannot understand it. This sense of false moral superiority makes me sick. I'm not that great a person, but at least I know enough to say so. These people who act like they're holier than G-d are destroying our communities and they're destroying Orthodoxy.