Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Term "Hashkafa"

"Hashkafa" is an interesting term many people fall back on, both from the right and from the left, when discussing their Jewish ideological outlook. In truth, however, this word is a bad word! It comes from the same root as the words Lehashkif, Vayashkifu, Vayashkaif - that root being Shin Kuf Peh - Shakaf.

We see this word and Rashi's first commentary on it in Parshas Vayeira, when the malachim finish their mission to inform Avraham that he will have a son from Sarah a year later. The Possuk says "Vayashkifu Al Pnei Sdom" - they gazed toward Sodom. Rashi, in discussing the word Vayashkifu - and they gazed, tells us any place it used this word, or any form of it - except for one place in Torah when we ask God to gaze down upon us from Shamayim and bless us - usually foresees something bad about to happen.

Unfortunately, we see the very nature of this word taking place within klal Yisrael today. We see people saying their Hashkafa doesn't allow such and such, it only allows for more and more chumras. We see people hiding behind their Hashkafa to give them an excuse to perpetuate inexcusable behavior, be it creating the concept of "mehadrin" busses in Israel, throwing bleach at people not dressed according to their standards (I deliberately left out the term "high standards" because I don't think this is what Tznius is about). The concept of Hashkafa allows the continued lifestyle of married men learning in Yeshiva/Kollel indefinitely, leaving the entire onus of parnassa upon their wives, parents, and in-laws. The concept of Hashkafa allows certain rabbanim and shuls to be exclusionary when a Jew not of the same "Hashkafa" as them tries to join, be it anything the person not wearing a black hat to a person not willing to send their children for indefinite yeshiva educations.

I find this behavior deplorable. I've known rabbis who hate, and I mean really HATE people not of their Hashkafa, and I've seen their talmidim swallow up these rabbis' diatribes as if they were Torah M'Sinai.

It's time to stop hiding behind this artificial, and as I see it, evil curtain called "Hashkafa" and start behaving toward other Jews with love and kindness, not with bitterness and hatred just because one person doesn't meet another's criteria for being "frum." Frum doesn't mean wearing the uniform. It really means how one acts toward a fellow Jew, and if one person steals from, tells Loshon Hara about, or in any way mistreats another Jew, be it physically or spiritually, then that person needs to reexamine their "Hashkafa" because the one they have is not working.

Perhaps the solution is to chuck out the word "Hashkafa" and look for another term that does not have such negative connotations to it. The way the Orthodox Jewish world is fractured today, I don't think anyone can take the one time the word hashkafa is used in the Torah and apply it to what people widely lilke to call their "Hashkafa" today.

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