So my wife and I took this picture yesterday of this Spongebob outside a matress store, but which you frequently find at places like a car wash.
It gets some attention when your driving by.
This cartoon fellow reminded me of something I heard in a movie trailer recently.
It was about people of faith, but rather than relying on being genuinely thoughtful about their beliefs, instead they adhere to a form of brainwashing, where the people in the community are kept in the fold by closing out any and all outside influences.
When one of the ladies in the community was asked about this, she replied "You know what someone told me about brainwashing? What's wrong with a clean brain!"
While I am a huge proponent of devotion and service to G-d, I think that relying on intentionally keeping people sheltered is not the path to G-d.
Especially for the Jewish people, who are known as the "People of the Book" for their intense learning of the Torah, intellectual pursuit and challenge is a source of true faith.
Of course, there are bad influences in society--addictive drugs, alcohol dependence, indiscriminate sex, violent and deviant people, and more--and we want to keep our families away from these things and safe.
Interestingly, when someone is free from drugs and alcohol, they often say that they have been "clean" for so many months or years.
If that is what a "clean brain" is--then that is a positive thing.
But if a clean brain is truly cutting people off from education and legitimate worldly pursuits just to force them to follow and keep them in state of brainwashing, then that level of a geder (i.e. gate or limitation) is destructive to the person and community.
Recently, a 30-year woman, Faigy Meyer, "who broke free from the iron-tight grip of her ultra-conservative Hassidic community" and had been shunned by her family, leapt from a rooftop to her death.
The term iron-grip used in the article sounds like a medieval torture device used to force or keep people at bay, and if that is what the "religious" community is doing so-to-say to limit free choice of their members, then that is not honest belief and practice.
For myself personally, I lived for some years in a highly religious community that despite having many wonderful people and families was for the most part not very accepting of anyone who believed or practiced not exactly like them--there was no room for that.
One time, the legacy Rabbi on the pulpit (not the current one who is an extremely fine person that I greatly respect) even warned the members to beware of people in their midst who were not true worshippers (and could be a harmful influence).
In a closed community thinking, one can feel quite alienated and a huge void of spirituality.
Thank G-d, in our community with the Magen David Sephardic Synagogue, we have found not only a beautiful love of Hashem, but that mixed with acceptance for everyone to come and participate.
Now we actually love to go to synagogue and look forward to it. It has become a central part of our lives (similar in our own way to how it had been for my beloved father).
Take away the iron-tight grip, the forcing, the brainwashing and fear of the regular outside world, and you have people from many walks of life, intellectual pursuits and experiences come together to seek and worship G-d with a pure and open heart.
In a way, it is similar to technology: if you have a closed system (not connected to the Internet and the outside), you have a safe tool, but it is very limited as a standalone. Alternatively, hook the computer up to the Internet and while you take some risks browsing the limits of the virtual world, you come away with so much more you can do and richness in the experience. ;-)
(Source Photo: Dannielle and Andy Blumenthal)