When I was a kid in school I was taught that it is always very important to give others the benefit of the doubt. In fact, to further this point, a teacher once told me that when your number is up and your judgement day is upon you you will be shown your life and and deeds (without the knowledge that it is your own life your are witnessing) and be asked to render judgement on the person. If you are in the habit of judging others favorably you will do yourself the same kindness and so it behooves a person to be in that habit.
While I have no idea if that is true or not I do know that judging people favorably comes easy to me. I like to keep an open mind, I can see the good in most people and try to understand what motivates people to do bad things or treat others poorly.
All that said, I learned of something this Saturday which quite disturbed me and I can't seem to explain it away.
I had the pleasure of escorting my daughter Chavi Kaufman (not her real name) way way WAAAAY across town to a play-date she had made with a friend from school. On our way back we saw a group of filthy looking jewish teenaged boys walking the opposite direction.
They were all sweaty, wearing shorts and undershirts (no tzizis) which were streaked with sweat and covered in dirt and dust. Most of them were wearing kippot and one had his little sister in tow. We exchanged greetings with them and kept walking.
As we kept walking my daughter and I pondered how they could have gotten so dirty. Were they wrestling in the dirt? Did one of them lose something in the creek and they all jumped in to fish it out?
Then we passed some adults (grown men my own age and some older) in virtually the same condition - filthy, sweaty, and dressed for the gym (or worse!) and several with kids along (who looked hot, but otherwise clean) What the heck was going on?!
It turns out that there was a football game scheduled for shabbos afternoon at the local park- just a bunch of Jewish guys getting together to throw the ol' pigskin around... ON SHABBOS.
These filthy fellows, at 6PM on a Saturday afternoon with 3+ hours left to Shabbos, were headed home.
So in my mind I tried to think positively... at least there is an eruv!
But you know what? It was not easy. I was really disapointed. I consider myself to be Modern Orthodox these days, but things like this really make me understand the anti MO bias - I felt pretty naive and disgusted to tell you the truth. Even if the the football game itself was not such a big deal what happens next? I'm sure these guys aren't headed straight for Daf Yomi after the game or MINCHA for that matter.
So what is going on here?
Has Shabbos lost all it's meaning in the MO world or are these people so far away from traditional Orthodoxy that it's not even fair to use the "O" word to describe them anymore.
I'm sure that most of them consider themselves Orthodox but isn't the sanctity of Shabbos one
of the biggies in Orthodoxy.
I feel so judgemental and I hate that but I'm really just appalled.
Follow up: It is very interesting to me to see who feels they agree or disagree with me since I am am very much of two minds on this matter myself. My gut tells me it's not right but my head tells me there must be a way for this to be OK.
Truth be told I was very much on the fence about whether to post this at all (fence.... post... hehe) especially after reading Trep's recent postings which serve as sort of cautionary tales on the matter of not being judgemental. What made me go for it in the end was the knowledge that I would recieve comments shedding light on both sides of this issue and I'm glad to report I have not been let down.