Isn't Anyone Shy Anymore?
There's a good discussion going on in Shifra's blog about chillul hashem, specifically in terms of observed behavior at various amusement parks during chol hamoed Sukkos this year. This is a topic that bothers me at an extremely gut level. As I mentioned in one of my comments to Shifra's post, when I see identifiably "frum" (scare quotes extremely intentional) Jews publicly acting in a pushy, rude, or inconsiderate manner, I literally feel ashamed to be Jewish, let alone observant.
Without reiterating all the excellent points made in Shifra's post and the comments, I want to raise a related question. There's an oft-quoted line about the typical - or perhaps the ideal - character of the Jewish people:
"Shlosha simanim yesh b'umah zo: Rachmanim, Bayshanim, Gomlei Chasadim." "Three qualities are integral to this People: they are compassionate, bashful, and engage in acts of lovingkindness." (Talmud Yevamos 79a)It seems to me that while we have managed to retain our focus on the first and the third of these character traits, we have - as a people - completely lost our value for the middle one, bayshanim, bashfulness. Tzedaka organizations abound, chessed is emphasized in countless sermons and divrei torah. But we've moved so far from being bayshanim that the very term "pushy Jews" has become a well-known slur.
OK, forget about anti-Semitism; that's a faulty example. And of course, I'm not talking about individuals; there are very many nice, mentchlach frum people out there. But ask yourself whether anyone - us included - has an image of the typical Jewish and/or frum person as being shy, quiet, unassuming, yielding, extra careful to avoid making a public scene at all costs? Have you ever heard a Rabbi's sermon or read a d'var torah praising these qualities, and giving practical examples on how to cultivate them? When did these traits stop being characteristic of our people, as they are meant to be?
There's a popular book from a couple of years back about modesty and intimacy in relationships, "Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore?" by Manis Friedman. I think we are long overdue for a followup, titled something like "Isn't Anyone Shy Anymore?". Though I'm skeptical that such a book will accomplish much. As a people, we need a fundamental change in our outlook and the image we project to the world - and I don't have a clue how to make that happen.
But I guess the first question would be, how on earth did we ever get the way we are now?