If you’re frum, there’s a pretty good chance that you live in a constant fear of many things. I was consistently taught to be afraid of the goyim, because secretly they want to repeat what the Nazis did to us. Debates in shul over when it would happen were not uncommon. Fear of liberals and all of their socialist/communist and anti-religious agendas were also pretty constant. I also noticed that frum people were afraid to say the word sex, luckily there are like a dozen talmudic terms they can use instead. My yeshiva mates were afraid of dogs, they would literally sense one coming and run across the street. As an adult I noticed that frum folks were deathly terrified of gays and the gay agenda. Most of things frum people are afraid of, aren’t really things to be afraid of, but since we’re taught to be scared, many of us retain this fear throughout our lives. We can probably come up with hundreds of things, but the following list is things that are generally true across the board and they stick out in my mind.
1) Dogs: They say you can always spot the children of BT’s because they don’t run across the street when they see a dog. I also remember that shadchanim used to tell me that a girl was open minded because the family had a dog. I’ve heard that the dog fear comes from the shtetl, the Nazis used dogs during their import export days and many of the folks before them used dogs during the rape and pillage pogrom parties. I guess these fears of old have manifested themselves in modern society, because you can literally see fear in the eyes of frummies when they approach a dog. Children shrink behind the stroller and parents try to be strong by staying on the same side of the street.
2) College: Yes, many frum people go to college, Touro, Kingsborough, Queens, Brooklyn, occasionally a 4 year university and dozens of schools around the place boast frum students, but this doesn’t change the fact that frum people will go through far lengths to get out of college. The best example of this is the BTL (bachelors in Talmudic law) the best way to get into law school without stepping foot into college. There are mail order degrees, online degrees, credits for this and that, as long as they don’t have to be in that place of Tumah for that long.
3) Feminism: Frum folks are so afraid of feminism that they consider any woman who decides to be hiddur mitzvah or do a mitzvah that is not specifically required of them to be feminism. I”m not talking about extreme things like women of the wall and women rabbis. I’m talking about women who want to learn anything besides chumash and navi, women who want to work in professions not deemed ok by the Touro standard of learning. Anytime a woman does something that may not vibe with what’s been done since the shtetl, you hear the cries of “oh not the feminists are coming”.
4) Sex: Yes I hear all the time about how the Torah is so good to us with regards to sex and about how we view it as such a good thing, but this doesn’t change the fact that the frum community is deathly afraid of it. They never say the word sex, there are dozens of replacements, but chas v’shalom we ever say the word.
5) Shidduchim: It brings fear to everyone starting from the age of 16 straight through parents and grandparents. Shidduchim are the frum version of college, you start preparing from the time of early teenage years, what school, camp, seminary, shul, yichus, and dozens of other minor issues such as the brand name of your uncles shabbos hat can be a factor. The fear is extreme, so extreme that when the frum community finally caught up with the rest of society in terms of women waiting to finish college or get a career to get married, it was deemed a crisis.
6) Liberals: I always say that one of the rarest things is to meet someone who grew up frum and is still frum, and also a liberal. A true liberal, not one like me who’s fiscally moderate and socially liberal and right wing on Israel. Nope, a bleeding heart frum liberal is truly hard to find. Sure, there are frum people who vote for liberal candidates because of better social welfare programs, but I’ve met few actual frum liberals. Liberals are one of the true things that brings achdus to the frum community. They are hated with such a passion that shabbos table political arguments are just boisterous echo chambers in which everyone agree. I grew up hearing about the farshtunkana liberals about 20 times a day. When Clinton was impeached, there were mazel tovs and when Obama was elected, I’m sure people tore their clothes in mourning.
7) Off the Derech: Every parent has a right to the great fear that their child (the one they would have wasted years of salaries on in tuition) will leave the derech. I don’t think that parents have even begun to realize that the OTD community is not just a bunch of yeshiva kids who were labeled at risk hanging out in front of Our Place, waiting for free Carlos and Gabby’s, smoking and talking about Metallica. Regardless, it’s a palpable fear and has been since the middle 90’s, when it was discovered that frum kids may also be interested in listening to non-Jewish music, smoking pot, and having sex, just like everyone else in the world.
8) Zionism: If you talk to most frum people, they will equate zionism with left with Orthodox elements, because both of them are packaging something evil in something that looks like a mitzvah. Most frum folks do not believe in religious zionism, that’s for the “modern” people. Zionism means that Israel will become a secular place and it also is trying to force our fellow charedim out of the beis medrish and into the army and workplace.
9) The Government: I remember the first paycheck I ever got in which taxes were taken out, I was shocked, I demanded to know why half of it was gone. I really had no idea, I never really worked on the books until I was working for 10 years already and it was painful. The adults I knew during my youth, all used cash, all had cash businesses and many of them didn’t even have bank accounts. Of course, these people don’t realize that the internet ruined your off the grid attitude, but we’ll just let you pretend that not having Ez Pass makes you invisible.
10) The Internet: It’s one of those things that everyone’s afraid of, yet does anyway. It’s hard to find people without the internet, instead they have internet chavrusas so you’re never in yichud with your computer, or does it make it easier for you and your web chaver to swap porn sites and blogs making fun of Daas Torah? The internet is like the etz hadas of modern times. The information on it can lead to crisis of faith and sex addiction, so much fear surrounds the internet that an entire industry has popped up to service those who can’t control themselves. In this fear, it’s the men who are targeted, women do not sin in this regard.
11) Tznius: In recent years, the fear mongering about tznius has reached such extremes that I could never predict. Blotting out of women’s faces is so normal that most people consider it halacha. Separate seating on buses, separate times for men and women at grocery stores, and even protests about women eating certain foods that may cause men to sin. Frum folks seem to think that it’s perfectly normal to go beyond the regular knees and elbows thing to beating up women who refuse to conform to the increasing levels of tznius (we are getting holier after all). Just go on any of the frum forums and you can see parents lamenting about the lack of tznius with regards to women talking on the phone in the street or being happy in public.
12) Loshon Horah: Instead of merely trying to get people to understand the laws of loshon horsah through the Chofetz Chaim’s seforim, there is a concentrated effort to deem anything which makes frum people look less than perfect as loshon horah. This may include telling the police about your abusive husband or rebbe, it also includes questioning Daas Torah at all. If you speak anything less than praise for the gedolei yisroel, you have broken the laws of loshon horah and should be put in cherem. The internet has made this fear quite extreme.
13) Blogs: The Rav of my shul feels the need to mention the evil Jewish bloggers and online gossip mongers at every chance he has. Never tell regular frummies that you have a blog, they are stuck in the stone age and there is a visible fear that gets into their eyes when the word “blog” is mentioned. Blogs are for those who want to be moser anonymously, they are for those who are no better than the Kapo. They question Daas Torah, debate halacha, and they publish untznius things, all by supposedly good intentioned frum Jews. Apparently, it is the fault of Bloggers that Rubashkin got such a tough sentence.
14) Goyim: It is only time until the goyim will kick us out of America or do away with us through a second holocaust. Plenty of frum folks are taught this and believe this. Not trusting the goyim has gotten us this far and they are evil.
15) Missionaries: You would think that since Jews are so faithful they wouldn’t be afraid of missionaries touting their “falsehoods”, yet there isn’t something that really rallies the fear in frummies like missionaries. In yeshiva we always got the talk about not talking or arguing with missionaries, we were told they would convince us because they were trained. I always wondered about whether we should be well versed enough in bible so we wouldn’t be convinced. There was that story out of Lakewood a few years ago about a missionary family that infiltrated the community, oy the fear was insane.
16) Open Orthodoxy: Not only do they have low mechitzas, women singing and holding the Torahs, but they actually have the gall to try and make a woman into a Rabbi. In the frum community they call them Rabbits, frummies hate woman rabbis and they hate anyone who calls themselves Orthodox, yet is merely conservative with a mechitza. This hate is mixed with fear, because it is a wolf in sheeps clothing.
17) The Gays: It used to be that the Gays were merely this entity of disgusting sinners who would be killed by Aids and destroyed in gehenom, but then the Frum Gays started coming out of the closet and then it all changed. The battle against the gays came to the home court and proclamations, counter proclamations, and halacha about gays had to be brought up. As we have stated earlier, the frum world hates sex, so imagine sex in a form that isn’t agreeable to people in a community that hate regular sex in the first place. Frum Gays are feared, because it takes our biggest fear and puts it at front and center. So instead of confronting the issue we say things like “we don’t have a community of shabbos violators” and we don’t have a community of abominators. Yet, dishonesty in business (a clear abomination) is praised in many places.
18) Out of town: It’s talked about among those trying to find a better life, but you don’t see everyone rushing off to Out Of Town communities. Most of it has to with the fact that New Yorkers can’t handle life without sushi and pizza or a minyan factory. Many frum people are also scared of being labeled an OOT because it somehow means you’ve compromised on your childs yeshiva education and on your yiddishkeit. It also means that your children will be labeled as “geographically undesirable” when it comes to shidduchim.
19) Porn: The fear of porn is so great that many otherwise reasonable folks within the frum community consider looking at porn to be cheating. A Rav once told me in private that if they stopped with the fear of porn, much of the frum community would be more at peace with themselves. As long as your realize your penis will never look like a pornstar’s and that your wife will never scream like a pornstar, you will be ok.
20) Truth and fact: The truth is too hard for the frum world world sometimes, book bans are the norm, claiming something is loshon horah, a chillul hashem, or the work of satan – seem to be the ways that the frum world tries to maintain some sort of control over the truth. Truth seems to be bad for business, if kiruv industry specialists told the truth about what these college kids were getting themselves into, they may be better off. The truth about discrepancy in the Torah is possibly the biggest fear of all, because it means we have to acknowledge that some of the science in Torah may be outdated and this is bad for business.
Other more lighter fears:
Forgetting to say yaale vayavo
Posseling your lulav on the man in front of you during hoshanos
Not having enough candles for the eighth night of chanukah
Matzo falling out of your ziplock bag into the soup
Having to leave kollel to become an earner
Women coming to shul during the week (the women’s section is the best place to daven)
Women learning gemara
Building a raft on shabbos
Rav Moshe’s cholov stam heter getting over turned
The barber accidentally cutting off your peyos (it happened to me in dallas, I had to explain in shul to everyone who saw)
Government inspections at yeshiva (the fire inspection brought fear into the Rosh Yeshivas eyes)
Pets (fish are allowed)
Red on women
Open toed shoes
Becoming fleishig: not sure how this became such a fear, but everyone thinks a few times before becoming fleishig.
Women of the wall
The NY Times
Finding out their mezuzos are treife
Their child admitting to being molested
The Israeli draft
Sitting next to a priest on the plane
Untznius billboards in frum neighborhoods
milchig shabbos meals
girls and boys talking or looking at each other
Their child moving to the Upper west Side
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