David Brooks of the New York Times goes on a guided tour of haredi Brooklyn featuring the Pomegranate grocery store with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, and manages to gush about all the positives of haredi life without mentioning even one negative – even the negatives his own paper helped to publicize.
In the world of David Brooks, there is no E-rate fraud, no school lunch fraud, no welfare fraud, no Section 8 fraud, no child sexual abuse coverups, no haredi schools that fail to teach any secular subjects, no widespread poverty, no agunot, no child neglect. In the mind of David Brooks and his moral midget tour guide, there is only beauty, wonderful families, and plentiful varieties of bagged snacks and gourmet treats:
…Pomegranate looks like any island of upscale consumerism, but deep down it is based on a countercultural understanding of how life should work.
Those of us in secular America live in a culture that takes the supremacy of individual autonomy as a given. Life is a journey. You choose your own path. You can live in the city or the suburbs, be a Wiccan or a biker.
For the people who shop at Pomegranate, the collective covenant with God is the primary reality and obedience to the laws is the primary obligation. They go shopping like the rest of us, but their shopping is minutely governed by an external moral order.
The laws, in this view, make for a decent society. They give structure to everyday life. They infuse everyday acts with spiritual significance. They build community. They regulate desires. They moderate religious zeal, making religion an everyday practical reality.
The laws are gradually internalized through a system of lifelong study, argument and practice. The external laws may seem, at first, like an imposition, but then they become welcome and finally seem like a person’s natural way of being.…
Much of the delight in life comes from arguing about the law and different interpretations of God’s command. Soloveichik laughingly describes his debates over which blessing to say over Crispix cereal, which is part corn, but also part rice. Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth who is on a tour through New York, notes that Jews are constitutional lawyers: “The Torah is an anthology of argument with a shared vocabulary of common restraint.”…
Not a word about the multitude of crimes against children or the frauds or the poverty or the agunot. Not one word.
[Hat Tips: state of disgust, Yochanan Lavie.]