LOOKING FOR OLOM HAZEH

Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l


There is a weakness in this country: people do not want to forfeit their olom ha-zeh; people want olom ha-zeh also. In previous times it was understood that olom ha-zeh belongs to Eisov. Jews knew they were different – that olom ha-zeh doesn’t belong to them.

But in America this is not so. The American atmosphere is one in which people do not want to give up their olom ha-zeh. Ways are found for koshering the olom ha-zeh so that no issurim should be involved, but in all ways the kosher olom ha-zeh is identical to the regular olom ha-zeh, except that the issurim are circumvented.

This is a grave error. We nust realize that the whole concept of olom ha-zeh is treif. That a person should be involved in olom ha-zeh (even if no issurim are involved) is treif. The Torah requires of a Jew to have different desires, a desire to raise himself above the shallow existence of the vast majority and not to just live a lowly life of ephemeral desires with issurim removed.

As of late, a wave of concerts has spread itself across the Jewish community. Some concerts are given as private enterprises, some even for the benefit of Torah institutions, but the result is not that of people going l’sheim Shomayim. Rather the reason for going is the one stated, that people want olom ha-zeh in a kosher form. Going to the theatre and similar revolting places as a form of entertainment is understood by all to be forbidden. But as to the kosher olom ha-zeh of going to a concert – “Why not?” is the question asked.

Since people look upon this as being kosher, it is considered by some as being an obligation to go. People do not want to give up their olom ha-zeh. But it has gone too far. It is not a once-in-a-while happening that people attend to enjoy themselves, rather it has become a steady part of Jewish communal life. Much bitul-Torah is a result of these concerts. Besides this, the performers and entertainers take on a dimension of being leaders of Jewry. All these things have a very bad influence on the Jewish community.

But the order of things must be – bettering ourselves before we go to work on others. We cannot expect to uproot our entire olom ha-zeh at once. Perhaps we are not even allowed to uproot our olom ha-zeh entirely, for there are good things that must be done using olom ha-zeh. That is why HaShem created olom ha-zeh – for the good things to be done through it. But what we must realize is that olom ha-zeh is not the goal, it is solely the means. The goal of the ben-Torah must be to become great in Torah. The ben-Torah must also have a desire – the desire of “My soul thirsts for You!” A desire to become great in Torah! This is a kosher desire.

In addition there is also a kosher type of jealousy – kin’ass sofrim. If a friend of mine becomes great in Torah, I am permitted to be jealous of him. [Not a jealousy which brings to hatred. If one is jealous of another’s wealth, that can lead to hatred]. But this jealousy leads to wisdom. Other than this desire and this type of jealousy, looking for kosher olom ha-zeh is not good.

– Condensed by E.I.K. from an address held Adar I, 5733. Printed in Light Magazine, 12 Elul, 5737.

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