Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What did I sign up for--Hilchos Jail

Years ago, I remember Rebbetzin Jungreis saying over and over again, that Torah is like no other study.  Studying Torah will make one a better person, a more moral person.  A Torah person.  And the Torah has all those rules about how to behave.  Rules about not stealing.  Rules about honest business dealings.  Rules about how to treat people.  Rules about not hurting people.  The most famous Hillel story has him saying "That which is harmful to you, do not do to your neighbor.  That is the whole Torah--the rest is commentary.  Go and study!"  That, to me, is what Torah observance means.  However, I would guess not everyone agrees.
Last spring, Misaskim magazine had a whole article about how to conduct oneself if one should be unfortunate enough to get arrested.  Now I have read many service magazines in my time, and I find that most of their articles get a tad repetitive.  However, I have never seen a secular magazine carry an article about arrest.  Had they really become so commonplace in the Jewish world?  What about the Torah?  What about following all those rules on theft and honesty and moral behavior?  What about the Ten Commandments?  Sure, you can study the damages paid when your ox gores your neighbors' bull, but what about that strong moral code?  Shouldn't that be enough to keep pretty much any Torah-observant Jew out of legal trouble?
I didn't think it could get any worse.
It got worse.
Coming out of uber-frum Boro Park--an entire two-volume sefer devoted to the laws, prayers, and inspirational stories for the Orthodox Jew in jail.  I hate to imagine.  (Since the book was written entirely in Hebrew, I'm afraid that I CAN only imagine--can't read well enough for a sefer.)
The big issue is not that this book was written.  If someone can write a volume thicker than the Brooklyn Yellow Pages basically saying "cover up and avoid men," then anyone can write anything.  The issue is that publishers will only publish books when a market exists.  Is there really such a large number of Orthodox Jews in jail that this book needs to exist?  Is there enough of a market for a book geared to frum prison inmates?
What does that say about us?
Child molestation.  Tax evasion.  Insurance fraud.  Theft.  Domestic violence.  Being a slumlord.  Assault.  All of these are--or should be--off limits to anyone who calls himself frum.  And, hopefully, there will never be any more need for seforim like these.

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