Anyone who works on themselves in any way knows how difficult it is to fix even the tiniest, smallest thing. So for example, when I stick a post up about how bad i-Phones are, and how much damage they’re doing to us and our families, I’m doing that in full knowledge that getting rid of an i-Phone takes an enormous effort of will, a huge amount of prayer, and tons of siyatta dishmeya.
It can also take a really long time for the change to manifest, as knowing something is bad and harmful for us is a very different beast from being able to do something about it, and finally overcoming the problem. Improvement, especially spiritual improvements, are always incremental and can happen very, very slowly indeed.
The key point to know here is that ANYONE who works on themselves in any real way already knows how difficult the process of change is, and will give other people encouragement, chizzuk, and support when they hit their inevitable tough patch, slide-back or massive obstacle to change.
But people who lack empathy and compassion for others, and people who don’t work on their own flaws and weaknesses (for the simple reason that according to them, they just don’t have any…) don’t know how hard change is - and consequently are very quick to criticize others for their failings.
I find this happens in my circles particularly with things like tznius (dressing modestly), where the people shouting the loudest and most abusively about ‘disgusting’ women are usually mentally-ill crackpots. Real Tzaddikim - like Rav Arush, Rav Berland, Rav Ofer Erez - always put the emphasis far, far more on MEN guarding their eyes, than on heaping abuse, scorn and derision on immodestly dressed women.
But it’s not just men shouting about ‘disgusting’ women. To my great sadness, many of my daughters’ past female teachers have had the same problem, holding their students to the most exacting standards of tznius, and hyper-criticizing them - often in public - for minor infractions of Yiddishkeit in a very abusive way.
To these religious hypocrites, untznius teenagers are fair game. They don’t see the huge self-doubts, the struggles these girls are having to be good, the amazing job they’re doing standing up to a ‘street’ that becomes more and more toxic with each passing month. OF COURSE we want our kids to dress more tzniusly, and to act responsibly. But emotionally and verbally abusing them, and trying to break them down and pulling anger-fuelled power-trips on them to make them feel bad about themselves is so not the way to do that.
In a nutshell, religious hypocrites (and all hypocrites, more generally) are so critical and scornful of other people, and so quick to point out their flaws and shortcomings, because they don’t acknowledge, even to themselves, all the things that they themselves are doing ‘wrong’.
Here’s a few more common examples, to show you what I’m talking about:
- Child-raising ‘specialists’ whose own children have gone off the derech, and / or whose own children are severely emotionally disturbed, and / or whose own children are now taking heaping doses of psychiatric medicine just to get through the school day.
- Shalom bayit ‘specialists’ who give classes and shiurim about how to stay happily married etc - while they themselves got divorced, and are already on their second or even third marriage (if they’re men…) or (more commonly if they’re women…) gulping down the anti-anxiety medicine just to cope with how ‘perfect’ their own marriages aren’t.
- Rabbis who preach about how bad Facebook, i-Phones and texting is, while engaging in all of these things themselves (and NOT ADMITTING THAT to anyone, while smashing into other people for doing those things.)
I could go on and on, but here’s the general rule that religious hypocrites hold by: whatever they’re doing - even if it’s blatantly anti-Torah, against halacha and contravening innumerable Torah laws - is always OK, and completely justifiable. Whatever other people are doing - even if it’s just a little slip-up, an understandable error, and accident, or plain just someone overwhelmed by their yetzer and not coping very well - is always the worst thing in the world.
Religious hypocrites (and all hypocrites, more generally) also LOVE to comment (usually publicly) about other people’s shortcomings in the most arrogant, derisive way, which we already know usually involves breaking at least 31 laws of speaking evilly (lashon hara).
Their world is full of ‘fools’, ‘idiots’, ‘retards’, ‘erev rav’ and other really pretty nasty epithets that make a global statement about a PERSON being ‘bad’ or evil, as opposed to a specific action being bad or evil.
(As always when I write this stuff, I’m now having an uhoh moment, and started worrying that I do this myself sometimes…)
Change is hard - so very excruciatingly, eye-crossingly, amazingly hard. When we own up to our flaws and weaknesses and issues, two things happen:
1) We start to realize that whatever bad behavior we see around us, it’s only for the grace of God that we don’t have that same problem
2) We realize that more often than not, we actually do have the same problem - which makes us far less critical, and far more understanding of the challenges involved in doing the right thing.
So readers, beware: if all you’re getting from someone is a steady stream of criticism, holier-than-thou comments, one-upmanship and endless stories of how ‘good’ and ‘learned’ and ‘wise’ and ‘holy’ they are and how ‘bad’ everyone else is - run away quickly, and don’t look back. Odds are good you just came face to face with a bona fide religious (or otherwise...) hypocrite.