Friday, July 8, 2011

BALAK 5771

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Balak

6 Tamuz 5771/July 8, 2011 ----Pirkei Avos – Chapter 5

This Musing is dedicated in honor of A. M. who was an inspiration for these thoughts.

I’m not sure who coined the term, but it has definitely become a cliché. Some people view the term as a pejorative others see it just as a label. People talk about young adolescent boys and girls from our circles going off to yeshiva/seminary (usually in Eretz Yisroel) and “Flipping Out”, becoming “like totally religious and stuff”. In fact, “Flipping Out” is the title of a book, as well as the topic of a song, which subtly mocks the whole concept.

My point is not to discuss why it happens, who it happens to, whether it’s a good thing, whether it’s ‘brainwashing’, or whatever other debates have been raised about it. I wanted to mention a different idea.

Recently, I was talking to a teenage friend who – although is a great guy and has many wonderful qualities - is lacking in his maturity and religiosity. While we were conversing he quipped that there was no doubt that he was going to go to Israel when he finished high school and would ‘flip out’. But it was his next comment that bothered me, “then I’ll become all shtark and I won’t play ball or make jokes or hang around with anyone.”

I said to him that I didn’t understand why that was true. Who said that ‘Flipping Out’ (as the terminology has become for one who begins to take his Avodas Hashem more seriously and dedicatedly) entails losing your personality and never playing ball? Why can’t a young man who has a lively personality and wonderful sense of humor begin to daven with more intensity, learn with more gusto, wear his tzitzis out, alter his mode of dress, and still maintain his sense of humor and great personality, albeit within the realm of halacha?”

Actually, I don’t see any reason why becoming more serious about one’s Avodas Hashem has to be synonymous with losing one’s personality.

I have had the opportunity to meet some of the greatest Torah leaders on occasion such as Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz zt’l, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky and Rabbi Reuven Feinstein shlita. All three of these great Torah luminaries (had) have a keen and pleasant sense of humor that helps all those who seek their counsel feel comfortable and welcomed. People are often overwhelmed that these great men are so ‘grounded’ and so familiar with the contemporary world and its challenges. That familiarity and understanding does not belie their greatness, but is an important component of their ability to be of the foremost leaders in the Torah world.

Being a servant of G-d surely entails a certain seriousness and maturity. But it does not preclude having a sense of humor and an embracing personality. In fact, it is a wonderful thing to help other people laugh in a healthy manner.

To sum it up, I guess we can say that a person can ‘flip out’ and still be tuned in!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum