I was in high school as a junior and senior back in the late 1960s. Here we are in 2020, over 50 years later, yet I see a connection – a line that connects the generations.
During 1968 and 1969, the country was in a state of upheaval. Ostensibly as a protest of the Vietnam War, the “peace” movement took hold in universities across the country, upending the establishment. It culminated with the famous Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York, in the summer of 1969. For five days, young men and women lived in peace as they frolicked in open promiscuity and drugs while they wallowed in mud. Rock and folk musicians from across the country provided entertainment. In essence, that was the beginning of the country’s social revolution.
All the taboos regarding sexual behavior, illegal drug usage, and respect for the establishment were now trashed forever. Here we are, 51 years later. What was considered revolutionary then is at best evolutionary now. Actually, the radical ideas then are the norm now. But worse.
As time marched on, the unthinkable became the practiced. Every deviant behavior is now enshrined into law. The word “pride” has lost all its innocence, and so has the sight of the ever-comforting rainbow. Same-gender marriage, opposed by Democrats and Republicans just a few short years ago, is now considered as normal as heterosexual marriage. The entertainment world has left nothing to the imagination. All restrictions of generations of human behavior came crashing down with rapid force.
But this “anything goes” notion goes a lot deeper than that. Would we ever have dreamed that the killing of a newborn baby would be celebrated in the legislative halls of our largest states, and by its governors, including our own? Would we ever have entertained the notion that criminals should be let free with no bail? Would we have imagined that there is no “she” and there is no “he”?
The New York Times founder, Adolph Ochs, created the paper’s sacrosanct motto, which appeared in the very first editorial under his management: “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of any party, sect, or interests involved” (See The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times by Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones, page xix). Well, we all know that paper has become the model of yellow journalism, with its unbridled hatred toward President Trump and anything not liberal woven right into their news coverage. No shame.
In fact, The Times just last week fired its op-ed page editor for allowing it to print an editorial from Republican Senator Tom Cotton, which did not conform to The Times’ narrative of the current social crisis. Poor Adolph Ochs must be rolling in his grave. We live in a very bizarre world.
I maintain we have a connecting line between the social upheaval at the end of the ’60s and the beginning of these ’20s.
As the country is beginning to come out of its shell from the devastating COVID-19 virus, it faces an unprecedented eruption in the political and social scenes. Reacting to the police killing of a black man in Minneapolis – ironically one of the most liberal cities in the country – rioters are given free range to destroy property and lives across the country while mayors and governors give their tacit approval. A retired African American police captain is brutally killed by a mob as he defends a pawn shop, and nary a word is said in protest by all the pundits in media and politics. It’s not in the liberal playbook for the moment.
Absurd ideas are taken seriously, like “defunding the police.” Cops are now equated with racism, and the most respected police shows on TV are being taken off the air. A Bolshevik-like takeover of parts of the city of Seattle ensues, consisting of mostly white anarchists, as the mayor of that city calls it “a block party.”
The anti-Semitic aspects of some of the rioters, which included defacing of synagogues, are glossed over, even by some Orthodox organizations. The one brave spokesman who denounced the vandals as guilty of Jew-hatred, Mort Klein of the ZOA, is now being brought up on charges of racism himself and faces expulsion from the Conference of Presidents. Insane! It’s another reason why all Orthodox organizations must leave that useless body ASAP.
We went from a worldwide crippling pandemic to total anarchy in a matter of days.
How do we connect the dots from ’69 to ’20? Rashi, in describing the devastation facing the generation of the Flood (B’reishis 6:13), explains that where there is wanton promiscuity, androlomusia comes to the world. Androlomusia is a term rarely used by the Midrash or any of the classic commentaries. According to the Marcus Jastrow dictionary, it means when man (andro) is consumed, and both good and evil suffer together – total turmoil.
What began in 1968 brewed until it has reached a climax now. Remember, Hashem was patient with the world for 120 years before he brought the destructive flood. Things develop gradually.
As religious Jews, what are we to do, besides political action? How can we address our own faults? Where do we need to improve? What is our t’shuvah process?
I am not a navi, and I do not pretend to be a prophet. But I heard a profound thought from Rabbi Baruch Goldstein of Brooklyn, in the name of Rav Shach zt”l. The Gemara in N’darim (81a) (see Rashi there), states that the chachamim, the sages, of the time were asked why the Temple and the Land of Israel were destroyed. They did not have an answer. So they turned to the prophets. They did not know. So the prophets turned to the angels, and the angels did not know either. Finally, the angels turned to G-d, who said it was because the Jews were not faithful to the Torah.
Rav Shach wondered, if nobody on Earth knew what the reason for the destruction was, then what was Hashem’s point in bringing about such calamity? How could we learn from it?
Rav Shach explained that every person knows in his own heart what he has to address. He knows his faults that need attention. Each person must sense his own message.
We have lots of things that we know need to be addressed. One of them clearly is our respect for davening and shul. We must begin to take seriously the scourge of talking during davening. We cannot view shul as a place to socialize. It is a place where we come to communicate with Hashem. It’s serious business. We have been deprived of that privilege for months now. Let’s show Hashem, as we gradually make our way back into His sanctuary, that we missed the opportunity to communicate with Him in a communal manner.
We live in unprecedented times of lunacy. Let’s put some sanity back in our own midst. Let’s be a source of stability in these times of androlomusia!
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.