Uri and Ari were visiting New Jersey to inspect a tomato paste processing factory for an organization that certifies food as kosher. When they missed a bus transfer in Camden, they had to walk several blocks to get to the regional train that goes into Philadelphia. They were anxious to reach the Philadelphia International Airport in time for their flight back to Israel, but they took the time to reach out to some blue shirt Haredi who were sitting on the front steps of a building.
“We just could not turn away from them when we saw them wasting their time,” Uri explained. “We could tell from the way they dressed that they were blue shirt Haredi, but they behaved as if they had lost all traditional values.”
“Well, not all traditional values,” Ari interrupted. “They did still care about female modesty. When a woman dressed all in red walked by us, they spit on the ground.”
“That’s the thing I could not understand,” Uri said. “They were so passionate about enforcing that law, but so indifferent towards the prohibition against wasting one’s time. The entire point of being blue shirt is to allow a man to enter the workforce and support his family. These men obviously had families. Their wives greeted them and kissed them with babies in their arms. How could these men stay unemployed and sitting on the front steps all day when they should be unemployed and sitting in a yeshiva?”
Ari gave more details about the encounter. “We mentioned many yeshivas in Israel that they could attend for free, but they just gave us blank stares. This made me suspect that they had lost their Yiddish skills. I tried speaking a few basic phrases to them in Yiddish, but they did not understand a word. It is so sad to see Yids lost to secular life, that that is what happens when you start straying from the path. I hope that this article serves a warning to other Jews who want to stop studying and leave the world of learning.”