Modern Orthodox Judaism
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October 8, 2009 7:47 pm at 7:47 pm #590547
(I post the following, as a follow-up to an off-tangent discussion on another thread:)
Modern Orthodoxy was created as a response to a problem. The problem: The new world. America. Things will be different there. America is not the place for traditional Torah Orthodoxy. In the words of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik: “we would be enveloped by a new economic order. The lion’s share of Jewry would be centered in the Western world, and society would be based on science, where “the sun and the moon and the eleven stars” will radiate scientific learning and technology; where every scientific discovery will be publicized in the newspapers as the greatest sensation’ where all professions will be linked to higher education . . .it was [therefore] forbidden to rely on a continuation of the status-quo . . . great changes were about to occur in Jewish life for which we would have to be prepared.” (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik, Five Addresses, p.31) “There is secular culture, great and powerful technology creating wonders and changing the foundations of our life . . . This secular culture entails destructive elements, many negative and perverse aspects; it may be a blessing and a curse simultaneously, and thus AS LONG AS ONE CAN LIVE WITHOUT IT SO MUCH THE BETTER FOR THE SPIRIT – [but] finally we will have to relate to it. The confrontation will . . . take place . . . in a new and alien land where the tempo of life is greatly accelerated and fundamental changes occur daily. G-d’s decree: “your seed will be strangers in a land not their own” will be fulfilled sooner or later. In a “land not their own”, I fear, we will not be able to maintain a separation between us and the surroundings. If we will not be prepared for new conditions, the environment will swallow us! Our intellectual forces will completely assimilate. On the other hand, if we think for the future, we can plan for . . . a new economic and social order.” (ibid p.28) “Providence demands of us now, perhaps for the first time in Jewish history, to meet the outside world . . . “ (ibid p.154).
This was not Rav Hirsh’s philosophy, and this was not anything suggested before. This was, “for the first time in Jewish history”, a reluctant, kicking and screaming integration into the secular social order because it was the only way its proponents knew how to counter the terrible power of that social order. In the words of Dr. Norman Lamm, President of Yeshiva University: “The Modern Orthodox Jew in America represents the product resulting from the confrontation between authentic halakhic Judaism (sic) and Western thought. He is a novel kind of Jew, a historical experiment in the reaction to the great dialogue. His survival and success may very well have the most fatal consequences for Jewry and Judaism throughout the world.” (Dr. Norman Lamm, Faith and Doubt, p.70).
“Jewry and Judaism throughout the world” depended on the survival of this movement. Rav Soloveichik did not believe that he was merely helping a segment of Orthodox Jewry — he held that “the future of Torah in America” depends on following his approach. He held that the “separatist” Orthodox will die out and only YU and MO will survive. He held America was too strong for the real, pure Orthodoxy. Those who insisted on continuing the “old style” Orthodoxy would, he said, be come nothing but tourist attractions and die out eventually. What cannot be understated are the words of Rav Soloveichik, “secular culture . . . . AS LONG AS ONE CAN LIVE WITHOUT IT SO MUCH THE BETTER FOR THE SPIRIT”. The traditional Ultra-Orthodoxy (Rav Soloveichik refers to them as “isolationist” (sic) Orthodox, or “extreme” (sic) Orthodox) would theoretically be the best choice. But in America, it can’t survive. Forced by a new “economic and social order” and high-speed advances in technology to abandon our traditional Torah Orthodoxy, which will get “swallowed” and “completely assimilated”, we must “prepare”. “Preparations” included, among other things, creating a “new type of Talmid Chacham”, who “you will find . . . in the free professions such as medicine, science, law, and also in business” (ibid, p.155), and joining Mizrachi in the building and supporting of the State of Israel, since “we cannot pin much hope on the Diaspora. Assimilation grows daily . . .True, there is a bit of Torah in the Diaspora; however the number of Torah students in proportionately very low, and it is impossible to forecast what will happen in future generations. . . whereas in that very non-observant Israel the future of Torah and traditional Judaism is far more secure.” (ibid p.33) “We reject the theory of isolation as dangerous for the continued existence of the people. The force of circumstances in recent years that lead to the majority of Jewish people being moved to the west and becoming connected, language-wise, economically, and politically with society in general, has rendered the approach of the isolationists suicidal. In such an approach lurks the danger that we shall dwindle to a small sect with little life expectancy” (ibid p.176)
Rav Soloveichik in his Five Addresses clearly states that “separatist Orthodoxy” would disappear and only MO will survive. Quotes are cited above. “Tourist attractions” he says we would end up. Clearly he was 100% mistaken. And it was that which he said justified “Modern Orthodoxy” – survival, nothing else. If these words seem a bit difficult to understand today, you must appreciate them within the context of the prevailing secular social attitude during the time they were said, the early 1960’s. Many people were dazzled by the “new social and economic order” and even frightened about the future of Torah in America. The typical alter litvishe water carrier didn’t seem to fit in to the picture of what they imagined to be the technologically fueled, fast-paced, high-educated America. Once a Rebbi in Yeshiva University, a super chareidi of the Brisker school, who did not even speak English fluently, who was vehemently opposed to Modern Orthodoxy, was asked why he left MTJ (Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L’s Yeshiva) to accept a job in YU. “[Rabbi Soloveichik] convinced me that the future of Torah in America depends on YU”, he said in Yiddish, shaking his head in disbelief at his own decision. This was in the mid 1980’s.
Indeed, Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary itself was evidence of the irresistibly of the “new American social-economic order”. When REITS was founded, it was not a secular studies Yeshiva. In 1896, Rabbi Moses Malin founded the Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary on the East Side of Manhattan, named after his beloved Rebbe, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor of Kovno, who passed away that year. Modeled after the Eastern European Yeshivos, the seminary’s official purpose was to educate and prepare students to become rabbis. There were no secular studies. The school was designed to pick up where the existing East Side Yeshiva Eitz Chaim, which was founded 10 years earlier, left off. Graduates of Eitz Chaim were able to attend RIETS.
The Agudas Harabbonim, an American rabbinical organization, then endorsed RIETS. The Agudas Harabbonim saw in RIETS a counter-force against the Conservative JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary). In 1906, when RIETS moved into its new building on 156 Henry Street (next door to Eitz Chaim), the Agudas Harabbonim helped create a smicha board in RIETS, publicly denouncing the rabbis who graduated from JTS. But the new “American social-economic order” struck, as the students demanded secular studies in RIETS. The board of directors was undecided about whether to concede. But pressure mounted, and in 1908 the board expelled 15 students for going to secular schools during time allotted for religious studies. This spurred a student strike. Many students left the school. Resulting financial pressure and bad publicity caused RIETS to compromise their principles and after three weeks, they caved in. They re-accepted the 15 expelled students and instituted a secular curriculum. Apparently, RIETS was unable to withstand the pressures of the “new economic and social order”. Many believed that the fate of RIETS awaited all who stepped foot into the “Golden Medinah”. As time passed, the secularization of RIETS accelerated, due to various influences. Harry Fischel, a philanthropist, became vice president of RIETS in 1908. He was bent on step up the secularization of the institution. In 1915, with the completion of the new RIETS building, Fischel made a speech stating that his goal is to “unite Orthodox Judaism and Americanism”. The Agudas HaRabbonim were not happy.
Along with the new building in 1915, there came a new president, Dr. Bernard Revel. Revel expanded the secular curriculum at RIETS. Then, together with his Hebrew Philology teacher, Dr. Solomon Hurwitz (editor of The Jewish Forum), he decided to open a Jewish high school – the Talmudic Academy (T.A.). TA was opened in 1916, under the leadership of Hurwitz. Hurwitz’s desire was to “bridge the gap that exists in the life of the immigrant child between ultra-oriental Judaism and an ultra-occidental Americanism” (Between Tradition and Modernity, Seth Taylor, p.11). Revel claimed he wanted to create a Torah school with American ideals. Ironically, even the non-Jewish faculty members would preach “Judaism and Americanism” in TA. After Hurwitz’s death, Dr. Shelly Safire, biology teacher in Stuyvesant HS, became principal. Safire further expanded the secular dimension in the school. In 1921, because of the WWI immigration, the school had over 200 students.
That year, the school joined the Mizrachi Teachers Institute. Revel had hoped to attract more orthodox people with this move, since at this point many Orthodox shied away from RIETS, unable to recognize much difference between it and JTS. In 1923, Revel unveiled a plan to create a four-year yeshiva college (sic). The board approved, and Harry Fischel donated the first $10,000 of the five million dollars needed for the project. Plans were made for a building. It would be modeled after the architecture during the time of King Solomon. There would be 8 buildings, with twelve pillars representing the 12 tribes. However, other than a small Shul on campus, there was nothing there to make it look distinctly Jewish. Revel died of a burst blood vessel in 1940, partly attributed to the strain of supporting his institution during the impossibly difficult financial period of the Depression and post-Depression eras.
The Agudas HaRabbonim, who originally approved Revel’s appointment, now wanted someone with different ideas. They had opposed Revel’s “Americanization” of the yeshiva. The Board of Directors, however, ignored the directive of the Rabbonim and appointed Dr. Samuel Belkin, who strongly believed in revel’s ideas of Americanization. Revel’s goal was accomplished through Belkin, and Yeshiva University was established. Rav Soloveichik succeeded his father as Rosh yeshiva in 1942.
Nevertheless, Rav Soloveichik admits that his movement did not impress everybody. He explains why: “This is the reason why certain American personalities . . . claim and even swear that they are in love with the true orthodoxy that arranges melave malke parties and sings Bnei Heichalah soulfully [a Chasidic seudah shelishis custom] , but they cannot tolerate modern orthodoxy, as it were (they write “modern” but they mean Yeshivat R. Yitzchak Elchanan, the Rabbinic Federation and the Mizrachi!) . . . For this reason a famous representative of secular Jewry in Israel said in a talk with Dr. Belkin and myself that he respects extreme orthodoxy but not the mizrachi and hapoel mizrachi. THEY ARE ALL AFRAID OF US because we employ a method of conquest, but they have no fear of those who shut themselves behind walls.” (ibid p.155)
And the Torah leaders? He admits that they, too, did not accept the Mizrachi. He compares the rejection of the Mizrachi by Torah leaders to the rejection of Joseph by his brothers. And why don’t his “brothers” see things his way? Simple. “However, to our great sorrow, while the tribes of G-d thousands of years ago finally admitted Joseph’s righteousness, and begged his forgiveness, ‘please forbear the wrong of your brothers and their sin, for they caused you evil (Gen. 50:17), today a segment among our brethren still LACK THE CAPACITY TO SEE REALITY AS IT IS AND THE COURAGE TO ADMIT THEIR ERROR. Even today, after Treblinka and Auschwitz – as assimilation putrefies a great portion of Diaspora Jewry . . . they hold fast stubbornly against their brother “Joseph” (religious Zionists)”. (ibid p.33)
This was the Modern Orthodox mind-set in the early 1960’s. Ultra-Orthodoxy will be swallowed up by the all-too-powerful American culture, and the “new type of Talmid Chacham”, the secularly educated, religious Zionist will “conquer” the new world. (“Conquest” is a word often used in Rav Soloveichik’s lectures). That was then. Before long, the tune began to change. Yeshivos, chareidi-style yeshivos flourished and grew. Kolleim, yes, Kolleleim, where married men with families would “shut themselves behind walls” and spend their entire day immersed in Torah, began to spring up all over the country. Ultra-Orthodox Kiruv organizations were succeeding in attracting even the most Americanized youths. People laughed at Rav Aharon Kotler when he said that American students would be willing to go to Yeshiva full time with no college. Now look at who’s laughing at whom. Where we used to see articles announcing the pending death of “ultra orthodoxy”, we saw, in the 1980’s, articles by such Modern Orthodox spokesmen as Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman, of Fifth Avenue Synagogue on Manhattan and later Bar Ilan University in Israel, decrying the spirit of “Ultra Orthodox Triumphalism”. When the ArtScroll series of English Torah classics came out, we saw an article, I believe it was in Tradition magazine, complaining about how ArtScroll, by using good English and high quality production, gives the false impression that they are really “Modern”, when in reality they are “ultra orthodox” in disguise.
Today, Rabbi Dr. Walter Wertzberger, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Emeritus of congregation Shaaray Tefila, Lawrence N.Y. former president of the Rabbinical Council of America and of the Synagogue Council of America, correctly points out: “Of late, there seems to be no end to articles in learned journals and the daily press lamenting the impending demise of Modern Orthodoxy. Although I am fully aware that in Jewish religious circles the pendulum has swung to the right, I dismiss the prophets of doom and gloom” (Is Modern Orthodoxy an Endangered Species? By Walter S. Wurzburger, Orthodox Caucus). Forty years after Rav Soloveichik made those addresses, things were not supposed to end up like this. Ultra-orthodox yeshivas are bursting at the seams, and their neighborhoods are expanding, multiplying, multiplying, and spreading to the most unlikely places. Something changed. Something went wrong. In this atmosphere of “Ultra orthodox Triumphalism” (sic) we find more articles on the identity crisis taking place within Modern Orthodoxy. Dr. Mendel Ganchrow, President of the orthodox Union, begins a June 4, 1999 article in the Jewish Week called, “Defining Modern Orthodoxy” by saying, “The question of who or what is a modern Orthodox Jew is a new one”. He is right. But the question is being asked. And not in the Chareidi circles of Bnei Brak, but within the Modern Orthodox camp itself. Continues Dr. Ganchrow: “These days, the modern Orthodoxy of my peers and myself is under suspicion. In screaming headlines and news articles, we are told that a new modern Orthodoxy is setting out to provide “closer ties between Orthodoxy and the outside world” and to encourage its adherents to have “the courage to be modern and Orthodox”. When I wore a kippah to my medical office or made rounds with a five o’clock shadow while wearing sneakers on Tisha B’Av, wasn’t I exhibiting that courage? . . . I have always been proud of being a “centrist” Jew; but of late, I find myself being stripped of my identity. “ Dr. Ganchrow is referring to “Edah”. A February 26, 1999 JTA article by Debra Nussbaum is titled: “1,500 modern Orthodox converge to define identity”. “1,500 modern Orthodox Jews who gathered here over the Presidents Day weekend for a conference whose goal was to re-articulate just what it means to be a modern Orthodox Jew today. “The conference, which was organized by the nascent group Edah and drew twice as many people as expected, came at a time when many of modern Orthodoxy’s adherents are struggling to define their movement’s philosophy. . . . “To be a modern Orthodox Jew today is often to feel lonely, to be without a community in which to ask ideological questions,” said Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, who was ordained at Yeshiva University and is now headmaster of the pluralistic New Jewish High School, in Waltham, Mass. . . . “Dassi Rutman, one of about 200 university students who attended the conference, said she came from Ontario, Canada, hoping that she would “feel more secure with my identity.” “I’m modern Orthodox, but I feel the pressures from people around me, friends who are moving to the right,” said Rutman, who studies biology at York University . . . In his keynote address kicking off the conference, Berman, Edah’s director, said that modern Orthodoxy is a religious path defined by “maximum integration with society,” with adherents who “simultaneously affirm a passionate total commitment to halachah,” Jewish law. “
Who would have though that in 20th and 21st century America, which was going to “swallow up” Ultra Orthodoxy, that a Modern Orthodox biology student in NYU would feel “pressures” to become more Ultra orthodox? Truly, something extraordinary happened.
Rav Aharon Kotler ZTV’L, in Mishnas Rabi Aharon (Vol. 3, Hesped on the Brisker Rav) states that the essence of Modern Orthodoxy is the same as the Reform and Conservative. That is, change Judaism into something that more people will be willing to accept.
“Sometimes the Modern Orthodox halachic foolishness which is flirting with the anti-Torah establishment, may border on heresy. This is all part and parcel of the spiritual confusion of the dark ages in which we happen to live” (Rav Shimon Schwab, Mitteilungen, Bulletin of Khal Adas Yeshurun April/May 1989).
“However, in addition to the legitimate shitos we have discussed, there is yet another, more modern version in vogue called “Torah Umaada”. Apparently this is identical with Torah Im Derech Eretz, especially since both claim a belief in the priority of Torah over maada. Both seems exactly alike, but like two left gloves which cannot be worn together, they don’t fit! . . .
“Rav Hirsch ZT’L has inscribed two emblems on his banner. One is Torah Im Derech Eretz and the other is the so-called “Austritt”, which means severance, or total and non-recognition of any type of institutionalized heresy, “minus” or apikursus. This is also a resolution not to contribute, participate in, or support any cause which accords validity to the disbelief in Hashem or to the denial of the authenticity of Torah shebiksav or Torah shebaal peh. In other words, “Austritt” states that the Torah is our sovereign ruler, and it makes us independent of all those who deny its Divine origin…
“To summarize, Torah im derech eretz without Austritt is considered treif l’chol hadeios! Even if you call it Torah Umaada.”
(Selected Essays pp.160-162)
“Let me single out two examples where silence is not permitted . . . “The first item is Modern Orthodoxy . . . most of it has become stale, stagnant, and fossilized, and we could not call it modern anymore. “In the meantime, the contemporary generation has advanced and risen to higher standards, Boruch Hashem. We are witnessing the rise of a new type of American Orthodoxy. This is the Yeshiva and Bais Yaakov generation . . . This is the new generation of Bnei Torah and baalei batim who do not intend to stand still and remain satisfied with a tiny yarlmuka or a teaspoonful of Jewish knowledge…They are marching on! And so we are zocheh, Baruch Hashem, to prestigious yeshivos gedolos in America and American-born Roshei Yeshiva , rabbanim, and poskim. “Today, our youth in America is the real Modern Orthodox, if you must use this expression, and they are marching forward. Whether they belong to chassidishe, yeshivishe, or Torah im derech eretz variety, they are marching forward, step by step, to a more wakeful form of avodas hashem. . . Their greatest pride and joy and nachas consists of children who are talmidei chachamim, bnei torah and bnos Torah.”
“Shameful are the ways of the glorified am haaretz who . . . condones the aberrations which Hirsch condemned, such as religious nationalism, Orthodox-Reform collaboration and neutral Judaism. Foolish are those who sympathize with the “Department Store Academy”, where Brisk and Slobodka are offered on the first floor and Graetz and Dubnow on the second. When such a person takes Rav Hirsch’s name in vain, wielding Torah im derech eretz like a weapon against recognized Torah schools, he becomes somewhat ridiculous! “What a travesty! Rav Hirsch, who was the warrior without compromise against those who hated the Torah, has to let his memory be invoked today against those who love the Torah. . .
(ibid p. 151)
This, from the Rav of the Torah Im Derech Eretz kehilla. TIDE is not an integration into any foreign culture nor an entry in any sort of way, into the outside community. The idea there is for Jews to be literate and learned enough to present a positive impression and an effective message to the “outside world”, plus, the ability to withstand the powerful anti-Torah impressions and messages of the outside world. TIDE does not espouse sending Jewish children to outside Universities. Rav Hirsh made his own schools – he did not send his students outside of the community. TIDE also includes what Rav Hirsch called “austritt”, meaning that secular knowledge is only acceptable after it is separated from and discards secular culture, values, and environment. Modern Orthodoxy has omitted this fundamental condition.
Nobody is questioning the fact that there are people who would be willing to be MO or not religious at all. The issue is, What is MO and is it the preferable mode of Judaism? The fact that it is, to some, the only version, or the maximum, that they are willing to accept does not address the issue at hand. If Modern Orthodoxy would be a Kiruv stage for people who aren’t yet ready for real Torah life, that would be fine. The problem is that they consider themselves not a b’dieved, but a l’chatchilah – a full fledged legitimate lifestyle. They often even make claims of being superior to Torah Judaism. That is the problem – compromises sometimes have to be made for individuals who are on their way up. But to take those compromises and make believe they are not compromises at all, thereby fooling people who WOULD be able to go higher that they need not, or worse, that they are already the highest, is a terrible crime. While it is true that on an individual, private, level, we are allowed to even proactively cause someone to sin if by doing so we will have prevented him form committing a greater sin, nevertheless, we may never, ever institutionalize those sins, making a b’dieved into a l’chatchilah, making the exception into the rule.
(The problem with the mixed swimming issue is not the sin itself, but rather the institutionalizing of it, using it to represent your mode of Orthodoxy, as in “Modern Orthodox Type Bungalow Colony”, which they explain to mean that that have mixed swimming. It matters not what the Rabbonim permit, it matters that those people are creating for themselves a group of official Revolutionaries against G-d. It would be comparable to a Shul called “Cong. Anshei Embezzlers”. That’s the difference.)
The reason why it would be a mistake to view MO as merely responding to the times as opposed to making compromises, is because when a response involves lowering standards it becomes, by definition, a compromise. MO has incorporated their inadequacies into Orthodoxy – they officially allow, encourage, and even support things that are wrong. They changed the definition of wrong and right. The difference between traditional Orthodoxy and MO in regard to meeting the times is NOT a difference of quantity. It is the difference between keeping exceptional cases as exceptions versus making them into the rule.
The problem with Modern Orthodoxy is not what their Jews do, but what their Judaism says. Jews are imperfect – we know that and accept it – but Judaism is perfect, and unchangeable. We do not make over G-d in our own image.
The reason the opposition to modern orthodoxy today is muted, is because modern orthodoxy poses no danger to anyone nowadays – it is completely irrelevant and not taken seriously by Bnei Torah. It’s just some deviant group of confused groups of Jews, and everyone knows that. In the days of Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L, when modern orthodoxy posed a danger because there were those who said that the traditional style Torah life is not livable in America and that things need to change – and in those days, after the war many ppl believed that – Rav Ahron did in fact strongly oppose it in all forms and manner. But nowadays? No need. They’re harmless – except to themselves. That having been said, even something as baseless as what they call modern orthodoxy can fool some of the people some of the time – and if you see that happening to someone you know, you should of course oppose it in that context, as strongly as necessary. But on a general global scale, there’s no need.
Across the board, traditional Orthodoxy has requested, importuned, begged, and pleaded with Modern Orthodoxy to change and join us. And to a great extent, MO has moved to the right, Boruch Hashem. And our hand is still outstretched. Any assistance that can be offered, is available. No Modern Orthodox Jew need think that if he wants to become traditionally Orthodox he shall not be accepted. We recognize MO as our brothers in Mitzvos, who have been straying in certain ways, but nevertheless are our brothers. Although Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L compared them to Reform, he did not mean that they are considered Mechalelei Shabbos or eaters of Nevelah. He meant only that the justification for the modernizations that MO instituted and those that Reform instituted were based on the same mistaken pretense — that Judaism needs the changes. He did not say that the level of changes are anything comparable.
Here is an example of a plea to Modern Orthodoxy from Rav Shimon Schwab ZT”L, Rav of the Torah Im Derech Eretz Congregation Adas Jeshurun in Washington Heights:
“And now we address ourselves to our chaveirim bedeah, our achim bemitzvos of the Orthodox Rabbinate of America. Ad masai? How long do you want to remain a branch, without becoming part of the tree? . . . We say to our achim b’mitzvos, “have Rachmonus with yourselves, and lemaan Hashem, part company with those who have given obscene semichah to to’evah clergymen” . . . Have rachmonus with yourselves, and break off your professional relationship with those who, for instance, consider Yishu HaNotzri merely a failed moshiach . . .We implore you . . . to part company with those gravediggers of Torah. I know it is a painful subject but it is unavoidable . . . We call on you to join us, the true Modern Orthodoxy [Rav Schwab is referring to previous statements of his that MO is today outdated and “anything but modern”], which is a generation of sincere mevakshei Hashem”.
(Selected Essays, pp. 90-91)
This does not sound like rejection, but a plea for MO to join us, hand in hand. The mistakes of MO are not the issue. That is for Hashem to judge and deal with, however He sees fit. Punishment for misdeeds is not our business. Unity is. And MO has been – and still is! – implored, “lmaan hashem” to join us in the traditional Orthodoxy ways. The issue is not the past. It is the present and the future.
The Modern Orthodox predicted the demise of everyone except themselves. This is clear in the Five Addresses of Rabbi Soloveichik. Others espoused that too. It was common MO rhetoric in the 60’s. In the 80’s however, we had the same MO rabbis denouncing what they referred to as “Ultra Orthodox Triumphalism”. Something didn’t work out the way they thought it would. Rabbi Yeruchem Gorelick ZT’L was asked what induced him to go work in YU. He said (in Yiddish), “Rabbi Soloveichik convinced me that the future of Torah in America depends on YU.” Then he slapped his head, as if to say “What was I thinking?”
The questions will remain, after you determine “the range of beliefs held by people who describe themselves MO”, aren’t these beliefs shared by those who do not describe themselves as MO? And isn’t it true that what one group considers MO, another group who also consider themselves MO will call “beyond the pale” (such as Edah)? And why is it that these beliefs generate a new substrata of orthodoxy? If I hold that one may daven Minchah after Shkiyah, for instance, does it make sense for me to call myself a “different type of Orthodoxy”? Modern Orthodoxy is nothing but a label. It is used by different people at will to describe so large a range of beliefs and actions that there are MO who consider beyond the pale the beliefs and actions of others who are called MO.
The reason for this confusion is because, unlike Chasidim, Conservatives, Maskilim, Briskers, and other “movements” stemming from Judaism (some legitimate and some not), MO was never officially created. Rather, it began as simply people violating accepted standards of Orthodoxy, and then, when these low standards became the norm within certain communities, they decided to self-proclaim themselves MO, giving the illusion that their indiscretions are instead some kind of set of beliefs. There were no rabbis that decided “OK, we are creating Modern Orthodoxy. These are our teachings…” the way all the other movements were created. Just the opposite. After certain behaviors became excepted in certain communities, those communities said “Well, I guess we’re just Modern Orthodox!”. And anyone can do that to justify any type of behavior, we have so many diff groups and definitions and people claiming the title for themselves.
The only coherent explanation of Modern Orthodoxy comes form Rav Soloveitchik in his Five Addresses, which is, in a nutshell, we must compromise our standards in America because traditional Torah standards will not survive here. Only Yeshiva University type Judaism will survive and all else will die out. Which means the integration into secularity must be done to the extent that we must in order to survive. Obviously, the whole idea was a mistake.
The battle against YU by the Yeshiva world is not, nor was it, a simple issue of Halachic or Hashkafic disagreement which can be dismissed as routine if accompanied with the obligatory respect for the opposing view, as per ailu v’ailu etc. Not so. Rather, YU was viewed as a deviant, dangerous, and anti-Torah entity that doesn’t deserve the respect of a legitimate Torah position, even a mistaken one. Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L, and Rav Schneur ZT’L after him, would under no circumstances even walk into YU. Rav Elchonon Wasserman ZT’L also, when he came to America in the ’30s, was invited to speak in YU, and he refused to even walk in to the place. Of course, this is all very offensive to the students of YU, and I understand that. But if we’re going to understand what the issues are, then, we need to be honest and put the positions on the table, whether we like them or not. And here are the issues:
The difference between the inadequacies at YU versus the inadequacies in Yeshivos, is that YU made their inadequacies into philosophical positions thereby not merely doing wrong, but changing the definition of wrong. To do wrong is a violation of the Torah, and yes, many types of Jews do that. But to make wrong into right is to change the Torah, either explicitly or implicitly. YU has done. That amounts to a new, deviant movement within Judaism, and that is the problem with YU. The good, the bad, the gray areas – are all considered part and parcel of the official YU position.
Please understand, YU is a business, not a Yeshiva, and it is run by the Board of Directors, not the Roshei Yeshiva (except to the extent that leaders – the board – can be pressured by its constituency – the Roshei Yeshiva and students). That’s fine, except when business decisions are understood to be philosophical positions you you have big problems. And although many Boards of many institutions wield influence, please note that YU has and never had any Rosh Yeshiva who was the official leader and policy maker for the institution. The Board has always been the official “Rosh”. Even Rav Soloveichik was merely an employee, and, although he was called Rosh Yeshiva (and even went raising money like a Rosh Yeshiva), his power was still that of an employee, much less than a real Rosh Yeshiva should have.
Nowhere else will you find the “President” of a Bais HaMedrash constantly representing (and creating) the Torah positions of the institution without reviewing every single word of his speeches with the official Rosh Yeshiva. In YU, Dr. Lamm, though he was merely President, and not Rosh Yeshiva, had full right to get up and speak to the world about the official policies and positions of YU, even though the Roshei Yeshiva may not have agreed with him. Nowhere does a lay leader become a setter of policy for a Yeshiva.
Add to that the wrongheaded Hashkofos being taught even by some of the Roshei Yeshiva there, and you have a formula for disaster. Example: Originally, RIETS did not even allow English studies. The Rabbonim in charge would not allow it. They were instituted when a group of students went on strike demanding the school toss its standards of right and wrong and teach secular studies. The rabbis were against, the Board was for. And so were secular studies introduced into RIETS. Now, as Dr. Lamm pointed out in his farewell speech, MO (and YU) consider secular studies in and unto themselves, intrinsically valuable, not merely as a utilitarian tool for Parnasa or Kiruv etc. But the fact that all knowledge “comes from G-d” gives all knowledge “value” that demands we spend time pursuing it, instead of spending that time on Torah and Mitzvos.
This goes beyond the idea that secular studies can – and should – be used as a tool to attain and support Torah and Mitzvos. And it underscores the difference between the secular studies taught in the Yeshiva high schools versus that of YU. YU has made a value out of secular studies in itself. “Torah Umadah” is a totally non-Jewish concept, assimilated into the official philosophy of YU, at least as espoused by their President. To teach secular studies as a concession or an unfortunate necessity, which in the Yeshivos it clearly is, is not changing the values of the Torah. But to espouse that taking people out of the Bais HaMedrash for second Seder and to earn a degree in Law is a step up, is an unacceptable attack on Hashem and His Torah (and no, it is not nearly the same as Rav S.R. Hirsch, which has been discussed several times).
The Netziv of Volozhen closed his entire Yehsiva rather than institute secular studies, and the reason he gave is, there needs to be a “Havdolah” – separation – between Kodesh and Chol. We sometimes need Chol, but we dare not blur the edge between it and Kodesh. YU has not only blurred the edge between them, but has actually claimed that Chol is in the category of Kodesh. That is its biggest problem. Nothing has intrinsic value except Torah. Everything else is Hevel Hevolim.
But this is only part of the assimilation into non-Jewish culture and values that YU represents. The unacceptable socializing that goes on between the YU boys and Stern girls, the partying, the inter-collegiate and spectator sports, the bales of Apikorsus to be found in their library, ideas espoused even in the Limudei Kodesh courses that are against the Torah, never mind secular courses where clear anti-Torah ideas and ideals are taught by teachers who have all but carte blanche to say whatever they want, the teaching of Gemorah to girls, and worse yet, the excuse given for it, that “If we teach them medicine and law, they can learn Gemora too”, the Zionism, the allowance of toeiva clubs (money is no excuse; if they were Neo-Nazi clubs, they would not be tolerated – the issue is the lack of understanding that toeiva clubs are just as repulsive to G-d).
YU’s goal is to create a “synthesis” between secular learning and Torah learning. That synthesis would be bad enough in and of itself – there must be a separation, not a synthesis between the two – but what has happened is not merely a synthesis between the Torah and secular studies, but a synthesis between a Torah and a secular lifestyle, between Torah values and secular ones. And its often hard to tell which is which. The Board of Directors didn’t even want Rav Soloveichik to be the Rosh Yeshiva. When Rav Lazer Silver wrote a letter importuning them to accept him as Rosh, they responded with a scathing answer refusing to do so. Only when the students themselves got involved and protested on his behalf did the Board reluctantly give in.
Harris L. Selig, an administrator and fund raiser for YU, wrote (“Standardizing the Hebrew Schools of America”): “Practically every great college and university was founded originally as a religious seminary. Harvard as a Congregationalist, and Brown as a Baptist seminary. Our Yeshiva College, too, springs from what was originally a Rabbinical seminary, and is it too much to expect that in time, it too, like other great American institutions, will be one of the foremost colleges in this country….” That YU should become another totally secular college, like Yale or Harvard, that was his vision of success for YU. Rav Soloveichik’s position in all of this is less clear. What is clear is that he definitely believed that secular studies are not only OK, but an advantage for a Ben Torah. Rabbi Moshe Zvi Brodsky, son-in-law of Rav Nochum Pertrovich ZT’L of Mir, once approached Rav Soloveichik with comments on a Yohrtzeit Shiur he just attended. Rav Soloveichik liked the comments. He asked Rabbi Brodsky, “Did you go to college”? “No,” Brodsky said. “That’s a pity,” answered Rav Soloveichik.
He espoused Zionism, stating that even if Jews have to die in order to have a Jewish (religious) State, their deaths are “worthwhile”. He declared that the reason the gedolim do not agree with him about secular studies is because they “lack the courage” to admit their mistake, even though they know they are wrong (!). For anyone familiar with the courageousness of people like Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L and his peers, such statements merely cause the listener to raise an eyebrow, shrug his shoulders and wonder.
There are people in YU – and Stern – that have no idea what among their education and environment is Jewish, what is secular, what is Torah, what is not. And the answer will depend on who you ask. There is a girl, a Russian immigrant, who wrote how after she graduated from a Beis Yaakov school in Brooklyn she decided to go to college at Stern because “at least its Jewish”. What she found, she says, is the same non-Jewishness as the secular colleges, but under the guise of a “Jewish place”. It is so confusing to her, she says, because now she has no idea what in Stern in “Jewish” and what is “secular”. That is exactly the type of misrepresentation that YU and Stern cause, which is due to the Taaruvos – synthesis – of Kodesh and Chol, where there is supposed to be a Havdalah bain Kodesh L’chol. Of course it is possible for a person to be in YU and be a Ben Torah. And of course it is possible for a Rebbi in YU to have proper Hashkofos (its only a job), but the risk is great. And what YU stands for, and what it has come to represent to the masses, is something that our Gedolim wanted to make sure nobody accepts as legitimate.
Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L said many times that he will not enter YU because it is bad. His son, Rav Schneur ZT’L, followed suit. (The fact that Rav Moshe went into YU does not show he was not opposed to it, but rather that even if he is opposed to it, that doesn’t mean he may not enter it. Different Gedolim had different ways of expressing themselves in these issues.) Even among those who actually taught in YU, there were those who were opposed to the whole place and would have been very happy if it would have never been in existence (I am referring to Rav Gorelick). Rav Aharon wanted to make a statement in that way – it does not mean anyone who does not make that type of statement disagrees with him Rav Moshe in fact held Halachicly – and this is in writing – that it is assur to go to college, and that the “college Yeshivos” are doing terrible damage to Klal Yisroel.
The fact that the President of a “Yeshiva” can get up and refer to Bnei Torah as “cavemen” because they do not go to college, and the fact that anti-Torah activities do take place there regardless of whether the “talmidim” go against the Rebbeim or not, means that the institute as a whole must be opposed. The fact that in some classrooms you will not hear and heresy of chutzpah against the Torah does not negate the corruption of the institution as a whole. Because it is a business – as opposed to other Yeshivas who have a business element which does not set policy for the Yeshiva but merely the administrative offices – you can have people like Lamm, or Rackman, or even worse spouting all kinds of drivel in the name of Torah. And you can have an Avi Weiss and others like him teaching under its auspices.
Regarding the issue of labeling, it is the Modern Orthodox who label themselves. They consider themselves a movement:
Defining Modern Orthodoxy
By Mandell I. Ganchrow, M.D.
President of the Orthodox Union
June 4, 1999, Jewish Week
The question of who or what is a modern Orthodox Jew is a new one. All of my life I believed that I was a typical “modern Orthodox Jew.” As a Yeshiva College graduate, physician, combat surgeon in Vietnam, chief of surgery in a Catholic hospital, I am fiercely committed to integrating my Torah values with my secular pursuits. When I met President Reagan and each subsequent president at the White House, I proudly wore a knitted kippah. My children and their spouses, who are all college graduates, have careers that plant them firmly in the secular worlds of medicine, law, speech pathology, accounting and social work.
As President of the Orthodox Union, the largest mainstream Orthodox synagogue body, I am proud to represent an organization whose lay leadership is comprised of physicians, lawyers, accountants and business people all of whom are committed and deeply passionate Jews. The Union’s leaders are productive and outstanding members of the secular world who love the theater, movies and sporting events, but who have an even higher love for prayer and the study of Torah, and who believe firmly in the centrality of Medinat Yisrael to their lives. But these days, the modern Orthodoxy of my peers and myself is under suspicion. In screaming headlines and news articles, we are told that a new modern Orthodoxy is setting out to provide “closer ties between Orthodoxy and the outside world” and to encourage its adherents to have “the courage to be modern and Orthodox”. When I wore a kippah to my medical office or made rounds with a five o’clock shadow while wearing sneakers on Tisha B’Av, wasn’t I exhibiting that courage? Isn’t that courage already exhibited by the thousands of religiously committed professionals who align themselves with the Orthodox Union? I have always been proud of being a “centrist” Jew; but of late, I find myself being stripped of my identity.
What I fail to understand is the need for yet another break away group within Orthodoxy. This new group claims that modern Orthodox institutions such as the Orthodox Union, the RCA and Yeshiva University have shifted too far to the right and lack the will to develop a modern Orthodox agenda for the next generation. But precisely how are the established modern Orthodox organizations not meeting their obligations? Dedicated to addressing the needs of our broad-based constituency, the Union spearheaded a veritable revolution in outreach with our remarkably successful NCSY movement with 40,000 teenagers throughout the United States and Canada as well our ongoing educational programs such as the Pardes Project, which boasts nearly 15,000 participants worldwide. The Union is represented at the table of every possible organization that deals with Jewish life, including the Memorial Foundation, Soviet Jewry, AIPAC, NJRAC, Presidents Conference, World Jewish Conference and the Jewish Agency. We frequently work together with non-Jewish groups and individuals to forge coalitions on behalf of civil rights, religious tolerance, democracy, school vouchers, support for the rule of law. The resolutions that are passed at out bi-annual convention do not omit a single social or political issue from gas mileage standards to Alaskan oil drillings. We have invested heavily in modern telecommunications to help meet the needs of all Jews via the internet, CD ROM, a video department and Torah tapes.
I believe all Orthodox Jews understand that certain laws can never be changed. Those who refuse to acknowledge halachic realities and boundaries have the option to join another stream. However, women’s concerns are at the forefront of the Union’s agenda and, to that end, we are responding by providing women with unprecedented opportunities for high-level learning and ongoing seminars. At our recent convention, and in our critically acclaimed publication, Jewish Action, we continue to highlight issues facing contemporary Jewish women and we are prepared to confront these issues honestly, but always within a framework of halacha. We provide comprehensive programming and try to address the needs of all our constituents. Moreover, the Union is a democratically run organization. Our leadership openly discusses and analyzes issues pertaining to Jewish life.
The implications of starting a new movement are far greater than shades of differences on a few specific issues. To become successful, any new movement would have to create a youth division, solicit synagogue membership and maintain ongoing programs and activities. It has taken the Union 100 years to build an organization that reaches 40,000 young boys and girls through NCSY, close to 1,000 developmentally disabled in Yachad and deaf in Our Way, a political internship program in Washington, D.C., numerous publications and other programs and initiatives in addition to being the pre-eminent kashrut certification agency. Those who seek to start their own movement must realize that even if it is not their intention, they will weaken the Orthodox community by splintering us even more through internecine fighting, thereby diminishing many of the gains we have achieved in the past century. That is a great burden to bear. A few cliches, a bi-annual conference and full-page ads in newspapers do not a movement make. There are legitimate issues within our camp that require our attention and discussion and we are thankful when individuals force us, when necessary, to face them squarely and intellectually. But starting a new organization is not the answer. We cannot survive such fragmentation. The forum in which to discuss the issues is the mainstream one. I hold out my hand to those who wish to strengthen our movement.
(reposted from elsewhere)October 8, 2009 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm #663485mepalMember
Is anyone gonna read through this whole shpiel?October 8, 2009 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm #663486YW Moderator-80Member
Can you perhaps post a FEW relevant quotes from those articles, that capture the essence?
I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t have the time to read your post.October 8, 2009 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm #663488
mepal, if you’re wise you won’tOctober 8, 2009 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm #663490
Just read the first sentence and started to scroll down to see where it ended!
Ummm, that’s as far as I got!October 9, 2009 12:56 am at 12:56 am #663491
Per popular request… The Summary:
A) The Modern Orthodox consider themselves a separate movement from traditional Orthodoxy.
B) Modern Orthodoxy was created for the purpose of integrating into secular/Western society. It reluctantly believed that it had no choice but to do so, in order to maintain any semblance of Orthodox Judaism. They believed traditional Orthodoxy would disappear from the American scene, and they had no choice but to compromise traditional Torah values. It is obvious today not only were they wrong, but Ultra Orthodoxy has flourished by previously unimaginable proportions.
C) One time this wayward movement posed a danger to Torah Orthodoxy, and Rabbonim condemned it in no uncertain terms. That threat has mostly subsided, with Bnei Torah today not taking the MO seriously anymore. Gedolei Yisroel have and continue to plead with them to return to the fold, and await their return with open arms. Baruch Hashem they have notably moved to the right in recent decades.
(All these points are expanded upon in detail, with quotations, in the OP.)October 9, 2009 1:11 am at 1:11 am #663492gourmetMember
I couldn’t read all of that either. Just in general, before we make any judgments on it, we would be wise to remember that “modern orthodoxy” encompasses a HUGE spectrum. Yes, you have the “pick-and-choose” modern orthodox, the ones who will eat dairy and salads in a non-kosher restaurant, don’t keep tznius, negiah etc; this is where such radical and dangerous ideas, such as “maharats” are coming from; this is where most of the problems that cause so many to have a knee-jerk ‘bash them’ reaction is coming from.
Then you have those who are serious about keeping halacha, but are modern more in the hashkafic sense; they may, for example, watch tv, but they are careful about what they allow themselves (and their kids)to watch; there are other finer points to it; they may or may not take Torah learning seriously. Torah and secular knowledge are often equated.
Then, you have those who represent what modern orthodoxy was intended to be, and what it probably ought to be: fully observant halacha-wise, serious about Torah study, but also engaged with the modern world- they go to college and beyond and study secular knowledge, but Torah is always primary. They don’t indiscriminately learn secular knowledge, but rather think “how will this impact my avodas Hashem”. Other than that, they are practically indistinguishable from yeshivish. These peopleare true yirei shamayim and do not deserve to be maligned (actually nobody deserves to be maligned, but when something is wrong, it needs to be pointed out; the problems that many like to point out regarding modern orthodoxy don’t really hold true for this group, though that is not to say that they don’t have other problems).October 9, 2009 2:59 am at 2:59 am #663493feivelParticipant
what does “modern” mean?
think about it
what do they mean when they say “modern”
it is a blend of orthodoxy with…….what?October 9, 2009 3:39 am at 3:39 am #663494modernorthodoxMember
It means we can do whatever the rest of the world does today (as long as it doesn’t conflict with the Torah). We can go to their sports and opera and movies, see their art, listen to their music. We don’t have to be different. We can wear clothes like them and fit right in. We do wear kippahs though and tzitzis. This is our own unique identifying signs, like the Muslims have turbans and burkas and the Christians wear their symbols.
We are all human beings, all the same, and the more we fit in and don’t separate ourselves, the more we will all get along together. Hashem doesn’t want us to standout like sore thumbs, to speak and dress differently, to use different names and do different things. That wouldn’t be right. That would be acting holier than thou.October 9, 2009 3:44 am at 3:44 am #663495pookieMember
joseph what are you getting at?October 9, 2009 3:48 am at 3:48 am #663496
I rest my case.October 9, 2009 4:22 am at 4:22 am #663497
Joseph, about your point
“C) One time this wayward movement posed a danger to Torah Orthodoxy, and Rabbonim condemned it in no uncertain terms. That threat has mostly subsided, with Bnei Torah today not taking the MO seriously anymore. Gedolei Yisroel have and continue to plead with them to return to the fold, and await their return with open arms. Baruch Hashem they have notably moved to the right in recent decades.”
“Return to the fold” means they are no longer considered frum yidden. Historically, the standard for being considered Orthodox has been eating kosher and being Shomer Shabbos, whether or not someone is midakdek in other mitzvos and whether or not they hyphenate their Orthodoxy. As long as you kept Shabbos, you were entitled to an aliyah in shul, no matter how your hyphenated your Orthodoxy, no matter how much you elevated your am haaratzus into a mitzvah, etc. While a movement dedicated to lionizing hisrashlus bemitzvos is not an ideal Torah movement, “out of the fold” is a tad exaggerated, wouldn’t you say?
Furthermore, in the previous thread you were maskim that Rav YB Soloveitchik ZT”L was NOT really Modern Orthodox, and that he upheld Orthodox views (eg women dancing with Torahs, women’s krias Hatorah, etc). Are you changing that now?October 9, 2009 5:20 am at 5:20 am #663498
Modernorthodox, thanks for your excellent description of moderate hisyavnus (Hellenism) which borders on Epicureanism and I will let you figure out how to translate that into laha”k.
Somehow it clashes with the simple Rashi on “hitztaynu shom”, and more importantly with the pshat of “hein am levadoi tishkoin” (unless, since you listen to their music, you just think that is the refrain of a Jewish song that you may consider mediocre and beneath you). Oh, and never mind am segula.October 9, 2009 5:21 am at 5:21 am #663499cherrybimParticipant
It’s interesting to note that many children of modern Orthodox families are rebelling against the values they have been taught and are learning in Kollel, here and in Israel, to the great disappointed of their parents.October 9, 2009 6:02 am at 6:02 am #663500
Three for three–all wrong.
“Per popular request… The Summary:
A) The Modern Orthodox consider themselves a separate movement from traditional Orthodoxy.”
You have no idea of what we “consider ourselves”. You are not the “bodek clayot v’lev” and you have no insight as to what someone else is thinking. Especially someone else whose thought processes are foreign to you.
“B) Modern Orthodoxy was created for the purpose of integrating into secular/Western society. It reluctantly believed that it had no choice but to do so, in order to maintain any semblance of Orthodox Judaism. They believed traditional Orthodoxy would disappear from the American scene, and they had no choice but to compromise traditional Torah values. It is obvious today not only were they wrong, but Ultra Orthodoxy has flourished by previously unimaginable proportions.”
Please tell us how people like Rav Schacter, Rav Tendler, and countless others and others like him “compromise traditional Torah values”.
As far as ultra-Orthodoxy flourishing–sure. They do so by the support of their MO brethren, who receive an endless line of collectors for the ultra-Orthodox institutions. There is not a MO congregation in the US that does not receive visits form the ultra-Orthodox representatives, and the amount of solicitations received by mail is staggering. Notably, the reverse is not true, as MO institutions know perfectly well that they will not receive donations form the ultra-Orthodox community–who are famous for only supporting their own institutions.
The ultra-Orthodox institutions encourage talmidim not to work, so that their parents and in-laws (who in many cases did receive secular education, and are MO) can support them. Of course, this is unsustainable, as those talmidim will not be able to support the next generation without education. And, as Jospeh has pointed out, this is what many of the ultra-Orthodox institutions teach–no English studies in high school, etc.
“C) One time this wayward movement posed a danger to Torah Orthodoxy, and Rabbonim condemned it in no uncertain terms. That threat has mostly subsided, with Bnei Torah today not taking the MO seriously anymore. Gedolei Yisroel have and continue to plead with them to return to the fold, and await their return with open arms. Baruch Hashem they have notably moved to the right in recent decades.”
Allow me to requote: “Bnei Torah today not taking the MO seriously”. In other words, Bnei Torah cannot be MO, and MO cannot be Bnei Torah. Some seem to think that the two terms are mutually exclusive. This contributes to a rift in the Torah world, which is hardly a good outcome. It is also an insult to all of the Rabbanim, Talmidie Yeshiva, and Torah Jews who choose to live by the Modern Orthodox shita.
EDITED…Let’s discuss the issues not the posters.October 9, 2009 6:16 am at 6:16 am #663501
One thing that can be said in praise of the MO of old (Young Israel and YU) is that it did keep people frum during the times of conformity and assimilation. Some of the descendants of these stalwart frum families are living in Williamsburgh and Yerushalayim today.
But what was good enough for times when you could not wear a yarmulke on the street and kashrus in the US was a joke is not good enough for now when freedom all over the world, which Hashem granted to the world for the benefit of His Am Segula, allows us the ability to keep mitzvos behiddur, and to be ourselves while we can even succeed in the secular world as Satmar chassidim if we so choose.October 9, 2009 6:37 am at 6:37 am #663502
Jothar, Point well taken. Like quoted by Rav Shimon Schwab ZT”L in asking them to join us, they are our “chaveirim bedeah, our achim bemitzvos.” Strike “return to the fold” and replace it with “join us.”October 9, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am #663503rebetzinParticipant
Gourmet, very well said.
ModernOrthodox, doesn’t it say that the Jews were taken out of mitzraim because they didn’t change their dress, language etc? It sounds to me like we are supposed to stick out…October 9, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm #663504Feif UnParticipant
This thread was only created with the purpose of bashing MO people.
Can I start one on chareidim next?
EDITED…no personal attacks pleaseOctober 9, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm #663505
As far as ultra-Orthodoxy flourishing–sure. They do so by the support of their MO brethren, who receive an endless line of collectors for the ultra-Orthodox institutions.
And those contributions are a drop in the bucket compared to how our own communities support Torah. On the other hand you may be referring to charedi institutions like Chai Lifeline in the US and Ezra laMarpeh, Ezer miTzion, Yad Sarah in EY and some Chabad and Aish organizations which actually help everyone no matter their affiliation and therefore are supported by all though most support comes from the more charedi sectors or from those whose physical communities directly benefit.
Indeed, unlike the more modern institutions, the charedi moisdos benefit all of klal Yisroel. When have you last seen a YU rabbi taking a meager paying pulpit in yenem velt and saving a few remaining Jews from assimilation? No, they know they’d fall apart out there and either wither because of lack of parnosso or even fry out because they can’t withstand the temptations of being in a small town where only a yarmulke that can easily be removed separates them from their secular Jewish neighbors.
You mention Rav Tendler. Don’t go there. No one is more known for compromising and even attack of certain charedi positions than he is. The failure of his derech is most astounding when it comes to certain people very close to him, vehamayvin yavin.
And most importantly, real MO is moving toward the right, with secular education being pursued for the right reasons only – parnosso. The Torah world will move toward this as well, leaving the MO of yesterday in the lurch – where they will either get with the program and remove the modern, or join kefira institute Chovevei (more like Chovlei) Torah and basically become the new CONservative.October 9, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm #663506
And most importantly, the roots of the old MO are very simple:
2) Sofek – doubts that real Torah Judaism can continue in the US, which have long been disproven.
Oh, and as for self supporting Torah institutions, with the exception perhaps of Bikur Cholim NO modern donors support Satmar for many reasons. Yet, the Satmar community is one of the most self sufficient and successful communities out there (and no, they’re not all on welfare, that is ridiculous).October 9, 2009 1:14 pm at 1:14 pm #663507
TIDE also includes what Rav Hirsch called “austritt”, meaning that secular knowledge is only acceptable after it is separated from and discards secular culture, values, and environment.
Joseph, I’m 20 minutes from leaving for shul and don’t have time to check this but are you sure that R’ Hirsch ZTL meant this and not physical separation (not participating in any kehilla with Reform and setting up separate kehillas called austrittsgemeinde) by austritt? Could be both I am really pressed for time and in yom tov mode therefore relying on memory.October 9, 2009 1:44 pm at 1:44 pm #663508
In a strictly technical sense Austritt was breaking off all communal ties with the Reform. But by looking at the broader picture as to why Rav Hirsch ZT’L insisted on Austritt, it surely included the secular culture, values, and environment that the Reform synthesized with.October 9, 2009 1:48 pm at 1:48 pm #663509
I am really surprised and disturbed by this whole thread.
What is the purpose of it? I think Feif Un is correct when he said that it is only to bash the MO.
But why? If you believe that your derech is correct then follow your beliefs. But is it necessary to attack others? Is it necessary to cause bad feelings between different groups in the frum oilam? Do you think that you are going to be changing anyone’s mindset with your comments? Well you’re not. By attacking people it is only making people feel angry toward you and the “Ultra-orthodox” – whatever that means! (It’s actually a goyishe term to label frum people and try to marginalize us.)
One of the messages of Sukkos is achdus! That is one of the reasons why we take the lulav, esrog, hadassim, and aravos together. One explanation is that they represent all types of Jews and they we should be b’achdus.
The gedolei hador R’ Moshe Feinstein and R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky respected ALL Jews, no matter their religious affiliations. We need to emulate our gedolim in this respect.
You want a chumra? Be machmir in onaas devarim!October 9, 2009 1:55 pm at 1:55 pm #663510
FWIW, I once heard a tape from Rabbi Rakefet (Nachum Segal show 9 days fare) where he said that Torah Umadda was supposed to be as opposed to Torah im derech eretz; TIDE believed that you could only be a complete Jew with secular knowledge, and the Rav held that they were separate.
Jews always dealt with the outside world. The gemara is full of references to Greek words, without being viewed as “modern”. The Slabodka bochurim dressed in the “conservative but elegant” clothing of their day, and did not view themselves as “modern”. Joseph here uses the internet and is a fan of HAM radio, and doesn’t view himself as “modern”. Unless you live completely in a shtetl, you deal with the outside world. Jews always did so throughout the Diaspora, without having to be labelled as modern.
So I propose we drop all labels except for “Shomer Shabbos” and “not Shomer Shabbos”.October 9, 2009 1:55 pm at 1:55 pm #663511
A600KiloBear–I was not referring to organizations like Ezra Mitzion, Yad Sarah, and such. I was referring to major Hareidi Yeshivot and day schools. And please, don’t tell me that they send people to “Yenem Velt”. I have seen many more YU Rabbis take posts in far-flung US towns than I have Chareidim–with the notable exception of Chabad.
You say that MO contributions to Hareidi institutions are a “drop in the bucket compared to how your own communities support Torah.” Fine. Then don’t come to us. However, until these institutions open their books and let us know how much comes from whom–we will never know. Meanwhile, I believe that those institutions believe that quite a bit comes form the MO community–which is why they send shlichim to every Young Israel and other shul in Yenem Velt– including the ones with the YU Rabbanim.
How do your communities support Torah for those of us outside of them? And please, do not cite Yad Sarah, Yad Eliezer, etc. The nonhareidi communities support those to a tremendous extent.
The fact that you do not like Rav Tendler nor his shita is neither here nor there. I can quote any number of things that I do not like about certtain Hareidi Rabbanim or those close to them–still, I do not deny their legitimacy.
Indeed, this seems to be one of the major differences between Modern Orthodoxy and the Hareidi viewpoint. The MO world–thught it may disagree with an halachic opinion or approach of a given Rav, still shows the Rav respect, does not refer to them as “Rav”, etc.October 9, 2009 3:47 pm at 3:47 pm #663512truthsharerMember
I have truth to share, being that Joseph shared some on MO, I wonder if the mods will let me share on Yeshivish people. (I doubt it.)
I find it terribly sad that Joseph’s post was allowed through.
EVERYONE picks and chooses. A yeshivish person should be the LAST person to criticize other movements.October 9, 2009 3:52 pm at 3:52 pm #663513WolfishMusingsParticipant
What is the purpose of it? I think Feif Un is correct when he said that it is only to bash the MO.
Ya think? 🙂
The WolfOctober 9, 2009 4:29 pm at 4:29 pm #663514cantoresqMember
For a long time I concerned myself with “proving” that my derech was “THE” correct one, that G-d preferred my way of doing things over those of others. I expended great time, energy and intellectual effort in defining that derech, in distinguishing it from others. I engaged in fervid debates on the subject, driving myself and others to distraction. I also never found any spiritual succor in my smug attitude. “Being correct” turns out to be far less important than being at peace with G-d. I don’t know which camp claims more right to Torah true legitimacy. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Anyone who thinks that the spectrum of Modern Orthodoxy has fully resolved the challenges presented by modernity and the freedoms afforded us in this day, age and place, is a fool. They never end Likewise anyone who believes that spectrum of chareidiut, even in its most extreme, isolationist and fundamentalist precincts, really adheres to the “derech Yisrael sabbah” is mistaken. Nothing, not even Halacha and orthopraxy or even hashkapha remain static over time. Problems and challenges, both intelletual and sociological abound in all camps. I’ve come to find that concentrating on proving my thesis right and all others wrong simply provides a distraction from the problems in my point of view, and prevents me from improving myself; from becoming a better Jew and person. I’m part of the Modern Orthodox world for many reasons. Mainly accident of birth, education, economics, family traditions and a fair amount of entropy. But I’m done justifying my religious choices to the world. They are between me and G-d. I’m also done judging others as their religious choices are also only between them and G-d. As to whether I’ve earned His approval, time will tell. But for now, I’m bowing out of the internicine battles of hashkafa and weltanschaung, and working on what really matters; teaching my children Torah, taking care of my family, remainging a good husband and hopefully making Him smile upon me. A gutt’n kvitel and a gutt’n Vinter to all.October 9, 2009 4:49 pm at 4:49 pm #663515
Jothar: Rav Schwab was perhaps the first to say the we are the true “modern” Yidden, and MO is anything but modern. As far as labels, I agree with you, but as pointed out in the OP it is the MO themselves that “proudly” label themselves and consider themselves a “movement.” Bnei Torah never assumed any labels, even though some (i.e. “ultra”, “chareidi”, even “Orthodox”) were promulgated upon us by outsiders.October 9, 2009 4:54 pm at 4:54 pm #663516anonymouslysecretParticipant
Joseph: I want to thank you for posting the compilation of essays. It clarified many things for me.
For all those who posted reactions: I don’t think Joseph’s post was bashing Modern Orthodoxy. I found it a very intelligent and respectful opening for a debate. It seems that any time somebody offers an opinion alternative to yours, some consider it bashing and disrespectful. All it is is an intellectual argument/discussion.
Coming from somebody who has lived on both sides of the orthodox world, I understand the tension and feeling between the right and the left… especially from family members (like cherrybim mentioned) and I feel that discussing the issues openly with both sides is a very helpful thing to do.
emphasis above added by moderatorOctober 9, 2009 4:57 pm at 4:57 pm #663517Just-a-guyMember
Joseph- what is it that you hope to accomplish in starting this thread?October 9, 2009 5:04 pm at 5:04 pm #663518
Joseph: I respect much of what you post in the CR, but I am disappointed that you continue to try to defend your position rather than just apologizing for starting this divisive thread in the first place.
EDITEDOctober 9, 2009 5:10 pm at 5:10 pm #663520
The Coffee Room is supposed to be a place for intellectual debate, not just a social gathering. What’s wrong with intellectual debate, as long as one realizes that nothing said here is sharir vekayam uuntil one speaks to a LOR?October 9, 2009 5:10 pm at 5:10 pm #663521
anonymouslysecret – Thank You.October 9, 2009 5:22 pm at 5:22 pm #663524modernorthodoxMember
I found Joseph’s post reflecting a certain viewpoint, although not my own. I don’t understand why others call it “bashing”
Perhaps they are ashamed to be Modern Orthodox and are overly sensitive when disagreed with.
I haven’t seen any “bashing” here.October 9, 2009 5:25 pm at 5:25 pm #663525
Joseph, if you are going to quote R’ Hirsch, you should be careful to quote what they actually said. Austritt is as 600KiloBear described. You explained that you were giving an “interpretation” of the “why” behind Austritt, and not the definition itself, but that is your version as the definition of the term.
I don’t mean to completely undermine everything that you say here. You mentioned a well-known term “Austritt” and then proceeded to go somewhere with it. What exactly is the source of your information about WHY R’ Hirsch called for Austritt?
IMHO, It is most ironic that you should use the words of R’ Hirsch as such in this thread, since misuse of his words is generally thought of as the source of Modern Orthodoxy.
EDITEDOctober 9, 2009 5:30 pm at 5:30 pm #663526Just-a-guyMember
“The Coffee Room is supposed to be a place for intellectual debate, not just a social gathering. What’s wrong with intellectual debate, as long as one realizes that nothing said here is sharir vekayam uuntil one speaks to a LOR?
There are two problems with the “intellectual debate” posited here.
1) It is not actually a debate, as both sides tend to wholly ignore the points made by the other.
2) An essay on something like, the fundamental flaws in the contemporary Haredi lifestyle, would not be tolerated, which is another variation on point 1- that this is not a debate.October 9, 2009 5:36 pm at 5:36 pm #663527
anonymouslysecret: “It seems that any time somebody offers an opinion alternative to yours, you consider it bashing and disrespectful.”
Just to let you know, I am not MO nor do I espouse a MO derech, however, IMHO, this does not seem like a respectful debate. And I have experience with both ends of the spectrum, as well.October 9, 2009 5:53 pm at 5:53 pm #663529
squeak, we’ll have to agree to disagree about your point on a small part of this discussion. But you haven’t explained why you disagree – other than to state you do. Perhaps you can in a further comment, otherwise there isn’t much else to respond to. (There is also no reason for you to be surprised I would quote any Gadol – including Rav Hirsch ZT’L.)October 9, 2009 6:18 pm at 6:18 pm #663530
Joseph – there is no disagreement here. I merely pointed out you passed it off as a definition instead of an interpretation.
Unless you can cite some writing of R’ Hirsch or a talmid who explained “why Austritt” as you did, there is nothing to add.October 9, 2009 6:42 pm at 6:42 pm #663531
You disagreed with the why given of Austritt. You didn’t explain why you differ.October 9, 2009 7:47 pm at 7:47 pm #663532
I have seen TIDe explained in the Hirsch chumash as that one needs secular knowledge to be a complete Jew. This is NOT like joseph There was no stress on secular culture, just secular knowledge. Are there any yekkes who can explain it to us?
Just as a reference point, here’s what the non-authoritative Wikipedia says, apologies for the copying and pasting, ayen sham for sources:
Knowledge of culture and society
“The more, indeed, Judaism comprises the whole of man and extends its declared mission to the salvation of the whole of mankind, the less it is possible to confine its outlook to the synagogue. [Thus] the more the Jew is a Jew, the more universalist will be his views and aspirations [and] the less aloof will he be from … art or science, culture or education … [and] the more joyfully will he applaud whenever he sees truth and justice and peace and the ennoblement of man.” (ibid)
Importantly, Hirsch was very clear that Derech Eretz in no sense allows for halakhic compromise. In his view, Judaism is “an untouchable sanctuary which must not be subjected to human judgment nor subordinated to human considerations” and “progress is valid only to the extent that it does not interfere with religion”. He states that “the Jew will not want to accomplish anything that he cannot accomplish as a Jew. Any step which takes him away from Judaism is not for him a step forward, is not progress. He exercises this self-control without a pang, for he does not wish to accomplish his own will on earth but labours in the service of God.” In The Nineteen Letters of Ben Uziel Hirsch remarked that it would have been better for the Jews not to have been emancipated if the price they had to pay was assimilation. (See also, reforms within Jewish practice in Modern Orthodoxy.)
Torah im Derech Eretz is a major source of ideology for Modern Orthodoxy, particularly regarding the synthesis of Judaism and secular culture. Organizations on the left of Modern Orthodoxy have embraced the “broad interpretation”, although critics say that, philosophical issues aside, their “relatively relaxed stance” in halakha in fact positions them outside the realm of Torah im Derech Eretz.
[w]e prefer to look upon science and religion as separate domains…” (Samuel Belkin, inaugural address, 1943), whereas Torah im Derech Eretz, aims at the domination of Torah over secular knowledge and the application of Torah thought to secular knowledge. See further under Torah Umadda.
I don’t fully get it, but neither one is my derech so it’s irrelevant. The key difference as best as I can understand it is that Rav Hirsch has secular culture within the framework of a Torah viewpoint, and any contradiction is to be ignored, and no compromises may be be accepted. MO is more likely to accept the secular Torah over the Torah. As Saul Berman wrote in Edah, the goal is to be Modern Orthodox with a capital “M”, where Immanuel Kant has as much say in one’s outlook as an Acharon. NOT Hirschian. In his own words,
________________________________________October 9, 2009 8:24 pm at 8:24 pm #663533EJMember
As Jothar correctly pointed out, there is a split within the Modern orthodox community. MODERN orthodox Jews allow modernity to compromise halacha. This group is most similar to what the conservative movement was supposed to be. Modern ORTHODOX Jews, on the other hand, enhance their yahadus by being knowledgeable in secular areas.October 11, 2009 5:54 pm at 5:54 pm #663534
A600KiloBear–I was not referring to organizations like Ezra Mitzion, Yad Sarah, and such. I was referring to major Hareidi Yeshivot and day schools. And please, don’t tell me that they send people to “Yenem Velt”. I have seen many more YU Rabbis take posts in far-flung US towns than I have Chareidim–with the notable exception of Chabad.
The occasional one or two who try then end up leaving, which means either Chabad takes over or the shul dies out. There are far more Chabad rabbis in YI shuls than you can imagine. And what of AISH and SEED? Ner le’Elef?
MO was a necessary part of the Jewish world of old. Today’s MO is either moving to the right and will converge with the yeshiva world and some less isolationist Chassidim, or it has lost the O part and is going the Chovlei Torah path which will lead to a New Age form of CONservative and will die out in a generation anyway as Edah (NOT the Edah haCharedis LOL) did. Only a few older individuals represent the MO of old, and that is how it should be. Their children have moved on, usually to the right.October 12, 2009 12:02 am at 12:02 am #663535
NY Mom – I urge you to reread anonymouslysecret wrote as well as modernorthodox’s second post (his first post is living proof of the OP.) Nothing in the OP is bashing; it is merely a recitation of the facts – in fact a good majority of the OP is merely quotations of MO personalities and Gedolim!
Even if anonymouslysecret is the only one who gained a meaningful insight into the this issue from the OP, then it was more than worth the several hours over a couple days it took me to compile, organize, and (very slightly) edit the OP. None of it are my own words.October 12, 2009 2:39 am at 2:39 am #663536Pashuteh YidMember
Kilobear, unfortunately, the pinnacle of generations of Chareidi thought seems to have reached its culmination this summer with the burning of garbage cans and traffic lights in Meah Shearim, and rallies against the most advanced medical facility in Israel. Very nice philosophy, indeed. Quite impressive.
If you don’t see the complete emptiness of this derech of sinas chinam against fellow Jews who worked so hard to establish and maintain a beautiful society in Israel which is flowering in every sense of the word, then you are deliberately turning a blind eye to reality.
If you think that the emesdig Torah derech is to have kids not learn any secular studies past 7th grade, and then to have the Rabbonim who support this system which is wrecking shalom bayis and self-esteem due to the crippling poverty it has left in its wake, attempt to solve the problem not by changing the system, but by writing letters so that the victims can go collecting overseas, then we are on different planets. They ignore the very Shulchan Oruch and Mishnah Berurah which they claim to uphold which states that one can arrange to hire a teacher to teach a trade EVEN ON SHABBOS since the alternative is thievery, if there is no parnasa. How can they sleep at night if this ban on secular studies causes even one family to go hungry?
Furthermore, Rav Hutner said that my students are illiterate in 3 languages: English, Hebrew and Yiddish. Because Chareidi yeshivas make a joke out of secular studies, the students come across to the outside world as primitive and incompetent, which is not conducive to kiddush hashem or kiruv. I doubt Yosef Hatzaddik who ran Mitzrayim sounded like a bumbling, ignorant, fool. Chazal say one needs to know 70 languages to be on the Sanhedrin. The Vilna Gaon said without the 7 chochmos, one can’t properly understand Torah (one of those is music). The Abarbanel was the finance minister in 3 different regimes. I am sure he came across as supremely sophisticated. R. Zundel Salant refused to be supported by Torah, and instead ran a small store, and when he came to Israel, opened a vinegar factory.
Finally, Rav Zevin thunders that Yeshiva boys should go to the army, since Haacheichem yeilchu lamilchama vatem teshvu po? But even if they don’t serve, this system of teaching hatred of their own country and secular brethren is leading to a huge mass of people with no skills other than garbage can burning who constantly foment strife and dissent in klal yisroel. Even within their own groups they are constantly fighting and splitting since they have no real portion in yishuv haolam, and the boredom and emptiness leads to chaos (shiamum in mishnaic terms).
You yourself went to an Ivy League school. Don’t straddle the fence and play both sides of the game at once. Having picked up the tools to write decent sentences and paragraphs, and having been exposed to a broad knowledge base (I don’t know what your major was) you now become a spokesman for the other side and claim that one can function well without a secular education. Sorry, that is dishonest. You are partially a product of the secular education you received. You would not be able to articulate your anti-secular views without this education, so that is a self-contradiction and rather unethical.
As I have written, the main problem with the modern is their possible indulging in improper entertainment. However, they will not listen to any chareidi who tells them otherwise, since they will respond: But you also want me to hate the state of Israel and to give my child a 7th grade education maximum, so you are from some other planet.
Sooner or later the Chareidi world will wake up to the fact that there are very few job ads geared towards 7th graders. They will also hopefully see what their horrendous garbage can burning behavior looks like to the outside world, and cut out the anti-zionism nonsense once and for all. At that point, maybe we will have one standard for Orthodoxy and clear rulings on what is proper and improper entertainment that can be accepted and respected by all Jews. The modern and chareidi camps will merge in achdus using the best of the strengths of each.October 12, 2009 3:28 am at 3:28 am #663537
I think that thinking about a “split” in MO is a simplification. I think that MO is a continuum, just as is the Hareidi philosophy of Judaism.
Just as one sees all sorts of behavior form people who define themselves as MO–from Hardal to conservative–one sees the same thing among Hareidim. It is dangerous to define people by their outward appearance, and definitions are not static.October 12, 2009 4:33 am at 4:33 am #663538
Kilobear, unfortunately, the pinnacle of generations of Chareidi thought seems to have reached its culmination this summer with the burning of garbage cans and traffic lights in Meah Shearim,
Sorry, but the Charedi world is not represented by a bunch of hooligans stirred up by outside agitators. That Yoilish Krauss is as authentic a kanoi as I am an authentic bear, not that kanoius represents much of the Charedi world in any event.
MO is dead. It was a horaas shooh with no real official backing, based on a misperceived need to assimilate and an underlying lack of emunah which led its founders to believe that real Torah Yiddishkeit could not be transplanted to the US – contrast that to the Rebbe Rayatz of Lubavitch ZYA who said “America iz nisht anderish,” let alone Reb Yoilish Satmarer ZYA, Rav SF Mendelowitz ZTL and others. Zionism is also dead, replaced by a vapid post-Zionism that has no connection to Judaism. If you want to see the failure of “religious” Zionism, walk on King George St in Y-m and check the name of the cross street from which taxis and sherut depart on Shabbos R”L L”A….October 12, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am #663539.chParticipant
I think this is depened on a case by case basis, Am I looking for A shidduch, a Chavrusa or a place to eat?
For me the most important point is that I know where I stand I know I have certain goals and targets that I set for myself. I might not always reach them, but it is where I feel I belong.
I would expect this from all Yidden, and therefore neither judge nor label them.
I will have to make a judgement call on various issues from time to time as they come up. But I try not too let these interfere with how I think about them.
Lastly the question of who is “right” and who is “wrong” is one that I cannot answer. I can just accept people for what they are.
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