Just like the shidduch crisis before, the OTD crisis is hitting the frum community pretty hard. There are seminars, chinuch round tables, asifas, and a lot of discussion behind the scenes amongst gedolim and rabonom as to how to fix the problem. Some call it an epidemic, rather than a crisis, and one Rabbi recently came up with a list of 10 things that make people go off the derech. Many Rabbis agree that going off the derech is usually a response to some terrible thing, emotional problem, or dysfunctional family, but until now – no one has really come up with any concrete issues that the community can focus on. Thanks to this Rabbi, someone very involved in kiruv and chinuch I’m told, we can now try to fix the problems that some people in the community may have.
1) Using plastic tablecloths on shabbos: Unfortunately, people these days have more on their minds than preparing for shabbos. The plastic tablecloth is such a shame really, because it sends messages to people that we don’t care about shabbos. Children see this, they see our busy lives, they see that we don’t take time out for shabbos preparations. They see the hypocrisy.
2) Oorah Chinese Auction: I’m in kiruv and I don’t mean to say that Oorah isn’t an amazing organization, but their Chinese Auction catalogs make people think that giving tzedaka isn’t about the act of giving, it’s about the act of getting a prize or the chance to win a prize. The catalog is full of gashmias and shouldn’t we be teaching our children about giving for the sake of helping. It’s hard to find an organization today that doesn’t offer some sort of raffle, prize, or sefer in exchange for tzedaka.
3) Telz Charoses: Children see chutzpah and the Telz Charoses that everyone gets around pesach shows that chutzpah. It’s inedible, actually looks like cement, and one of the only ways to get children to stay up through magid is to make homemade charoses, not by using inedible things sent to us in the mail. Once again it teaches laziness and ways to get around doing the mitzvah.
4) Acting Outraged: One of the unfortunate claims of people who go off the derech is that the frum community is full of hypocrites who refuse to be outraged by their issues. They are right, we get outraged over something happening that doesn’t effect us, yet how often do we get outraged by the untznius billboards in our own neighborhoods? How often do we actually act on our outrage? Or does it just stay as outrage, we need to start acting on our outrage, instead of just getting outraged in shul or at the shabbos table.
5) Modern Orthodoxy: One of the biggest issues that I’ve come across in my work is explaining to youngsters why Modern Orthodoxy is assur. It’s a hard thing to do because some of them wear yarmulkes, tzitzis, and even beards, just like us. I’ve wondered why the rabbonom have never called a conference to talk about how to deal with this wolf in the sheep pack. How are we supposed to teach our children about wrong and right, when there are people claiming they are right, when they are clearly wrong?
6) Why didn’t Hashem kill me: “I turned on the light on shabbos and lightning didn’t strike” How often do we hear out at risk youth saying things like that? We need to stop preaching to them like they are college students juststarting to light shabbos candles, they need to know that much of what they are doing wrong, will affect their olam habah and probably bump them up to the nose bleed seats in the beis medrish. Lightning is not going to strike, but unfortunately those uneducated folks becoming Rebbe’s teach this sort of thing.
7) Too much focus on tznius: There has to be a more friendly way of telling women that the Torah considers them second class citizens that want to snare men in a sex trap. We can’t go on with this rhetoric of “no” and “don’t”, we need to come up with better ways of teaching them the beauty of being relegated to baby making machines. Women are only second class citizens if you go by today’s standards, really the Torah is very favorable of them, no other ancients gave their women any rights at all.
8) Sex Education: I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but many of my colleagues and peers need to know something about sex. I don’t think sex abuse is the problem, I think the problem is that both Rabbis and talmidim don’t know anything about sex and so they go exploring their bodies without knowing it’s wrong. How we can we blame a rabbi for touching a student when they just thought of it as akin to tickling. We need to stop blaming these supposed “sex offenders” and start educating people as to the proper modes of touching.
9) Gourmet Food: The best way to get a kid off the mesorah mentality is to serve gourmet food, not only does it hint to the kid that the gedolim had no taste, but it shows them that life is better now than it was in the shtetl. We want to get away from such apikorsusdike thoughts. If a kid believes it’s better now than it was in the days of yore, than why would he ever want to bring moshiach and go back to such times.
10) Shidduch Crisis: How would you feel if you were a 23 year old girl who’s the last in her class, you’ve said perek shira, gave money to kupat ha’ir, and davened all around the world at various kevarim with no help, your emunah and bitachon are wavering….unfortunately there’s no answer to this conundrum. Single girls are the most at risk, because they have no family and are rejected by society. If you are already a second class citizen who’s only goal in life is to make children, what better choice is there than to go off the derech?
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