Friday, April 24, 2015

The Other Side of the Story

As a Torah Im Derech Eretz site, we talk often here about the benefits of the best of the outside world. But since that world is so fraught with danger, we need to talk also about the dangers.

The world is packed with illusion, perhaps in this era of mass media more than ever. A farmer in 1910 might have seen a lying product ad or two, but most of his mind was on the crops. Today we swim in lies from the ads, from the media, from the government. The TIDE person has to know how bad it is if he is to continue to look for the good out there. We can't be naïve. And Americans are the most naïve people in history.

So let me talk about one specific lie/illusion/con. It's called short-term disability and comes to you from the ever lying insurance industry.

I'll cut right to the ending of the story. Here's how short-term disability works. The company denies your claim in nearly every case regardless of the evidence but tells you of your right to appeal. However, the appeal can take up to 90 days, which is the maximum length of short-term disability anyway. Unless you are rich, you can't live without a paycheck for three months, which is the best case scenario because they will likely deny your appeal anyway, in which case you lose the income forever. But if you go back to work, even if pain, even at the expense of your health, they deny your appeal outright.

So the bottom line is this: STD is useless to all but the rich who don't need the money anyway or to people who are so sick that they can't work no matter what, like people with ALS. These are a small fraction of the total cases.

But that's not how they sell the policies. They give you the impression, and your HR department will do this as well, that you are buying into some kind of humane, medically progressive insurance plan that will be there for your medical needs. You are picturing Sweden. But what you get is aggravation, run-around, lies, and loss of income. They give you the impression that everybody needs a STD plan and that everybody will benefit from one. In truth, the plans benefit the insurance companies who get rich taking in premiums from millions of people and paying out money to only a few.

It can take months to even figure out how badly they are messing with you because the companies are so polished. Everybody is polite and the website so pretty. They sound as nice as can be, understanding. They express their sympathy with your health issues. They tell you about their fair review process and their medical staff.  Then you get the claim denial letter and you can't reconcile all the nice corporate speak with the reality that you have just been ripped off by the rock or the good hands people.

We could talk about any secular industry this way: academia, government, medicine, law enforcement, military, communications. They all are packed with lies and liars so the TIDE person must always proceed with enormous care and skepticism.


  1. I don't know if I'd say that this is "the other side of the story". Rav Hirsch, Rav Dr. Breuer, and Rav Schwab all give caveats about proceeding with care into the waters of TIDE. However, the dangers are part of the point. We aren't supposed to shield ourselves from a world of lies and opposition to Torah. We are meant to transform that world--the corporations, academia, finance, marketing. That it is so "dangerous" is just a sign of how much Yidden have allowed Eisav to conquer by shying away from (or running away from) TIDE.

  2. It's a bit unrealistic to expect TIDE Jews to transform all the secular institutions out there. Actually, it's setting people up for failure to set such lofty goals, as noble as they may be. Keeping Mitzvos properly is challenge enough! I believe Yisrael is trying to say that when we are forced to deal with secular institutions, we must see past their civilized veneer and realize they are (usually) not trying to help us but are trying to make a profit.

  3. I didn't expect a few people to transform every existent institution in the broader society, nor was I attempting to assert that TIDE people should be expected to influence their surroundings by doing anything significant other than the keeping of mitzvos. But I wouldn't presume that the impact of that keeping of mitzvos wouldn't be felt by those that come into contact with us. Indeed, I'd say that it should. I was simply noting that the lack of morals within those institutions showed the need for Torah to pervade them. In a community like the one in which I live, the vast majority of the people have relegated themselves to living physically and mentally inside a ghetto, not caring about the state of the "outside" world and even using that state as support for the ghetto lifestyle. Such people do nothing to create a better world. Rav Hirsch himself writes about the betterment of society and social institutions that would come about with more engagement by Torah Jews.

  4. Interesting. Can you recall where he says that?

  5. The specific instance that I was thinking of comes from "Religion Allied with Progress", where Rav Hirsch is encouraging a holistic understanding of "being Jewish", and one that engages with the world.

    "The more we understand that Judaism reckons with all of man's endeavors, and the more its declared mission includes the salvation of all mankind, the less can its views be confined to the four cubits of one room or one dwelling...The more the Jew is a Jew, the more joyously will he hail everything that will shape human life so as to promote truth, right, peace, and refinement among mankind, the more happily will he himself embrace every opportunity to prove his mission as a Jew on new, still untrodden grounds."

    A bit later, he writes, "And, indeed, if most of our brethren would live as true Jews, then most of the conditions that now bar the Jew from so many careers could be eliminated. If only all Jews who travel or who are active in business life were to insist on observing their duties as Jews, this insistence would bring about the possibility of fulfilling all religious requirements...Why, even in official institutions of civic and political life, enlightened governments and nations would gladly accommodate a loyalty of conscience which would represent a significant contribution made by a Jewish citizen to the overall society of fellow citizens among whom he dwells."

    While at the time, it may have been mostly about Shabbos and kashrus, I would say that today we could easily include moral business practices and the like in the realm of improvements that frum Jews could bring to the secular professional world. Again, I am not saying so much that it should be the primary goal of the TIDE person to engage with the outside world because of this, but achievements could certainly be hoped for if only passively, by injecting an air of mitzvos and Torah through how we conduct ourselves in that environment.

  6. Further, the notion of it being a Jewish duty (and possibility) to influence the broader world and not purposely push oneself and Judaism into the ghetto is addressed in the following places, though certainly in more as well:

    "Judaism must enter the rich mainstream of European cultural life with its own theoretical and practical contents intact and undiminished, without losing its own identity. The more completely and sincerely Judaism enters the present era with its own heritage intact, the greater will be the moral and spiritual contribution it can make to the future now being built by a society that has welcomed Jews as brothers and equals." - "The Relevance of Secular Studies"

    "When Abraham, the first Jew, was sent out into the world, he was commanded: 'Heyai bracha.' 'Be a blessing.' Unlike those self-centered others who seek blessings only for themselves, you are to devote yourself completely to your calling, namely, to become a blessing, to help increase the happiness and prosperity of those among whom you dwell, and to advance the work of God in your environment with every breath of your life and every ounce of your strength." - "The Educational Value of Judaism"

    "In a joyful mood the Jew wanders through the lands and through the ages, happy wherever he sees the fruit of the seeds he had planted within the nations, the seeds of pure godliness, of human dignity, the awareness and worship of God, and the Divine destiny of man." - "The Jew and His Time"

    To me, these examples show the Jewish duty of being involved in the world to at least passively plant seeds of Torah and godliness by conducting oneself "Jewishly" in the course of regular business, education, and the like. Certainly, there are other reasons cited by Rav Hirsch as well. But there is definitely a notion of some transformative potential in Torah-true Jewish engagement with the broader world.

  7. wonderful quotes
    can I post your commetns as a post?