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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

100% Garbage

I recently had a guy contact me via Frumster. After reading his profile, I was concerned that we weren't quite on the same page religiously, so I questioned him a bit about his outlook about how the religious and secular aspects of the world fit together. He responded that he likes to dedicate his life to only Jewish studies, though he is open to television and movies, though well-monitored and screened. And then he wrote this statement:

"But - no reading of secular philosophy, no secular music or newspapers. Those are 100% garbage."

Well, obviously, he was writing to the WRONG person. I wrote back to him, and explained my point of view, which is diametrically opposite to his.

I explained to him, first of all, that many of our great Jewish thinkers throughout history were extremely well-read and versed in secular philosophy. That Rambam, one of the greatest Jewish philosophers ever, and one of the people who I personally think is amazing, had intimate and extensive knowledge of Greek thinkers, specifically Aristotle, and based much of his philosophy from Aristotle's writings. Throughout history, many of the people who have come to lead Judaism felt it their responsbility to have knowledge and understanding of all philosophy, secular or otherwise. To stick one's head in the sand and say anything outside of what you believe is distinctly garbage is to be ignorant, and I have trouble believing that anyone would say that being ignorant is a Jewish virtue.

I went on to further explain that I think there is a lot out there in non-Jewish music. I (pretty obviously) LOVE secular music and am not a big fan of Jewish music, which to me is just plain boring. I'm sure there is a place for it, but I don't like it. And when I listen to songs on my Ipod from my favorite (non-Jewish) music, there is so much that illustrates life in those songs that I just don't find any reason to separate myself from it.

Lastly, secular newspapers. Again, the issue of ignorance comes up. First of all, the Jewish newspapers are, for a large part, horribly written. They aren't journalism, they only report on a tiny sliver of what's going on in the world, and to read them just doesn't give a person knowledge about real life, and often offers a narrow-minded, prejudiced perspective on the world at large. I think they are more detrimental than good to most Jews. I must admit that I don't pick up and read newspapers on a daily basis (embarassingly because I don't like the way the ink rubs off on my fingers) but I make an effort to educate myself on current events via the Inernet, and I read the Newsweek my dad subscribes me to whenever I have the time.

To say that secular newspapers are 100% garbage is akin to saying that a person does not want to admit that they live in America. Whether they like it or not, they ARE affected by what goes on around them. To just let the world happen to a person, without any knowledge or forewarning, is ignorant and dangerous. I think it's extremely important to be well-informed, and most of the Jewish leaders throughout history kept themselves up to date on what was going on so that they could intelligently lead their students and followers.

So, as I'm sure you have already surmised, this guy isn't going to be the one for me. I like living in this world a little too much. Oh well.


  • How bizarre to lump those three things together and claim they're garbage, while television and movies are all right.

    By Anonymous debbie, at 11/15/06, 11:14 AM  

  • Heh :)

    (Plus, what Debbie said.)

    By Blogger Ezzie, at 11/15/06, 11:18 AM  

  • We do get a secular paper and have for most of our marriage.

    But now we have children who can read. Yes our 7 year old brings in the paper every day so he can read the sports section. But there's a lot more to the newspaper than news.

    So for weekends we get Hamodia, which carries a lot of news services and mainstream opinion. And yes it also has the religious community stuff. But the Washington Post or NY Times has stuff outside of the news also. So outside of the regular news what would I prefer my teenagers to read? About the latest Torah dedication or some celebration of peritzus?

    And I also love secular music, especially oldies. But do I want my children listening to silly love songs? (Well actually they wouldn't want to anyway.) Though I wish I'd got them into appreciating classical music a bit, I'm not unhappy that they listen exclusively to Jewish music.

    And yes we all watch movies.

    We all have our inconsistencies. But some things may change when you are blessed with a husband and children.

    And, no I don't understand the guy who contacted you.

    By Blogger Soccer Dad, at 11/15/06, 12:52 PM  

  • Saying that television and movies are okay while secular news and philosophy isn't smacks a bit of hedonism to me. I may be way off base here, but it sounds like he likes the "feel good" parts (within what is halachically acceptable, of course) and not the parts that would make him think. Any Jewish man who isn't interested in thinking is... well it feels like an oxymoron to me!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/15/06, 3:23 PM  

  • Everyone picks and chooses, but I agree with you, his attitude is not for you.

    By Blogger SaraK, at 11/15/06, 4:50 PM  

  • Debbie -
    I agree, however my point was more about the fact that he can just dismiss such things, that I and many others feel are a very important part of life, as total garbage.

    SD -
    I just don't find that the Jewish newspapers give enough content for someone to really know what's going on in the world.

    Ahuva -
    That's a good point.

    SaraK -
    I agree that we all pick and choose, his choices are just definitely not the same as mine!

    By Blogger Shoshana, at 11/15/06, 4:58 PM  

  • odd. very odd. i'm with you on this issue completely!

    (and how can you separate television and movies from secular music these days anyway? most tv/movies would have music in it. and i'm also not a fan of (most) jewish music.)

    By Blogger ~ Sarah ~, at 11/15/06, 8:40 PM  

  • great post, as always.

    one, i agree with debbie. how can "carefully screened" movies/tv be ok but the rest garbage? you can carefully screen your music and news magazines, too. the lubavitcher rebbe used to walk around with a secular newspaper rolled up in his pocket.

    re: the rambam, many people thought he was a nutjob during his lifetime, his affinity for philosophy being a big reason. but he used that stuff to reach unaffiliated jews, who only knew philosophy. anyway, most people now regard him as a gadol.

    as for music, one has to be careful. the alter rebbe described music as "the quill of the soul." music, in particular, has a real power to penetrate to our essence. whereas i listen to secular music too (on occasion), i'm still careful.

    lastly, i'm still waiting to hear what a threading place is!

    By Blogger Maven, at 11/16/06, 9:35 AM  

  • Never mind, sheifela, there's more fish in the sea!

    By Blogger kasamba, at 11/16/06, 2:58 PM  

  • I heard many times from my Rosh Yeshivah...
    These days..no one reads newspapers...we're a generation of ignoramousus. It used to be...true you read the Sports first but eventually you got to the news..to day yeshiva bochurim have no worldly knowledge.

    By Blogger David_on_the_Lake, at 11/17/06, 3:06 PM  

  • Dang! Just missed out on that one, if you change you're outlook, interests,opinions,reading material,world view and...
    then he'd almost be a perfect match.

    By Blogger Bagel Blogger, at 11/18/06, 9:11 PM  

  • There's a Frumster? I thought J-Date was pretty specific.

    It's a shame someone can be so pigheaded to make "100% garbage" comments about art forms they've made every effort to avoid.

    Still, live and learn. I am.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/19/06, 4:44 PM  

  • Nothing in life is "100%" good or bad! This guy- or any guy or gal for that matter- who sees everything in black and white, will have a hard time being happily married to anyone!

    By Blogger Lakewood Venter, at 11/19/06, 5:28 PM  

  • his hashkafa is very typical of ppl today, unfortunately. my advice is if u want to find someone with this hashkafa u must look for a yu graduate. im also very impressed that a b. t. as urself has been able to realize the narowness preached in todays yeshivos. the world is not black and white there is a lot of grey

    By Anonymous frumdoc, at 11/20/06, 9:43 AM  

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