Thursday, August 31, 2006

Modern Orthodoxy III

The rabbonim in Israel felt that in order to combat the Zionist / Secularist influence, a strong line of demarcation needs to be made between “us and them” and therefore no secular studies – or secular activities, such as soccer – be allowed. Call it a “hora’as shaah” if you like. Or better, "hora'a's makom." For instance, Rav Shach shlita permitted a school in Israel that has secular studies on the HS level for American immigrant families only. The resistance to secularism in Israel is a declaration that Eretz Yisroel’s social milieu demands unique and unorthodox methods to combat it; it is not a interpretation of Orthodox principle in general.

If no one claims it is a Mitzvah to get an advanced degree, then fine – HOW MUCH secular studies IS a Mitzvah (or: how much is “important”) according to MO? And when you say everyone does what is “best” for him, you are not answering the question, because what is “best” for me depends on what my goals are. The higher a goal I can reach the “better” it is for me. But the question is, what is the higher goal? How do we define our goals? If I can learn all day or become a professor, how am I supposed to know what’s best for me? Without MO, it’s obvious. Becoming a professor is not the first choice. We know the criteria there. What is the criteria according to MO?

And if obtaining an advanced degree is not a Mitzvah, why are the MO rabbis encouraging it instead of encouraging more learning, which is a Mitzvah? If people who only have HS education are “also 100% correct’ then why would rabbis recommend forgoing Torah learning for more advanced degrees if I am already 100% correct?


We don’t want labels. But the Modern Orthodox do label themselves, and we are just asking those who DO label themselves MO what exactly they mean by it. Please refer to the next post, a copy of an article by the President of the OU called “Defining MO”. It really means nothing. We don’t need labels. But there are those, many many of them, leaders as well, who look at MO as a movement, and a philosophy. We are asking them to define that philosophy. l’shitasam. It’s a valid question.


Defining Modern Orthodoxy
June 2, 1999
By Mandell I. Ganchrow, M.D., President of the Orthodox Union
Appeared in June 4, 1999 Edition of the 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.


We have received dozens of posts from various people on this topic. Since they all basically make the same points, I shall summarize them, for the sake of brevity:

1) The Rambam was Modern Orthodox because he was a physician

2) People go off the derech because they cannot learn 24 hours a day and therefore MO is saving these people

3) Many great sages had secular knowledge.

That’s about it.

So please, let’s clarify some things:

1) Secular knowledge is not the issue. Who is against it? The issue is not if secular knowledge has value – obviously some does (math for example) and some doesn’t (Hollywood scandal trivia, for example), and there is much in-between. Nobody questions this. With very few exceptions, every Yeshiva in America today incorporates secular studies, at least through the HS level. Clearly they are not all considered MO. The question therefore is, How much of my life need I devote to secular studies in order to be considered MO? Or, if I want to be MO, how do I do it? The point of the question is not to denigrate anyone – it is a valid, legitimate question – rather, it is to define what MO is.

That is why the Rambam is irrelevant. Please check out Hilchos Talmud Torah, where multiple opinions are quoted in the RAMA regarding the permissibility of spending time making a living vs. learning all day. See the SHACH ad loc, who discusses the Rambam, and you will see that the Rambam proves only that if you can become both a Torah scholar of the Rambam’s stature, AND a doctor, you can then spend time pursuing “other” studies. But this does not address the issue of ME, TODAY.

2) Nobody is questioning the fact that there are people who would be willing to be MO or not religious at all. So what? 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. Unless of course, you will say it doesn’t matter if MO is really the Will of G-d or not, because today, only a partial will of G-d is the best we can do.

3) Please see #1.


The point of my pointing out the Rabbonim that would not walk into YU was because someone had said that YU is accepted by those rabbis. My point was, it is not.

The issue is not secular knowledge. It is not the Rambam.

The fact that the rabbis who allow women to be taught Gemora are "aware" of the Shulchan Aruch does not answer the question: Why do they allow it if the Halachah prohibits it?

If the Halachah allows women to learn medicine but not Gemora then why is it ridiculous to allow them to go be doctors but not learn Gemora?

If on the other hand, the Halachah also prohibits learning medicine, then why is it indeed allowed?

You see, this logic does NOT change the Halachah. And neither does Rabbi Shachter's generality, which is of course true, but what does it have to do with what we are discussing?

I am very happy, that we are beginning to see the differences between MO and non-MO Judaism. The different attitudes towards HOW we approach Halachah are beginning to emerge. Your statement about why we allow girls to learn gemora is very enlightening. it underscores the differences between the "Orthodoxies".

Now we are getting somewhere.


Modern Orthodox follow the GRA and non-Modern Orthodox follow the Chassidic rebbe-Chasid tradition? Meaning, that non-Orthodox do not "think", but act like robots.

If non-MO just follow their Rebbeim and don't think, do their rebbeim think? If not, who are they following? Who is the ultimate leader? And if the Rebbeim do think, does that make them Modern Orthodox?

And can you tell me an area where you think that "thinking" would change the perspective of non-Modern orthodox Jewry, please. Do "thinking" and "not thinking" lead to the same conclusions? If so, there is no purpose in thinking. If not, please show me where you believe non-MO have adopted a policy that is due to their "not thinking", and please show how "thinking" would have led to a different policy.



The problem we are discussing with the mixed swimming 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 explained 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. And the institutionalization of sins is found only among the Modern Orthodox, not all, not the Rabbonim, but the misrepresentation of Torah itself is something that, where it does appear, should not be tolerated by anyone.


It was never for “the best” learners but rather for anyone who WANTED the honor of learning in Kollel, as the Rambam describes those who WANT to join Shevet Levi. He does not condition their membership in the Kollel community as having to be the best, but rather having the desire. The idea that only the “best’ should learn in Kollel is a baseless falsehood and it is against the Halachah as expressed by the Rambam which states that anyone who so chooses may learn in Kollel. See also YD Laws of Talmud Torah 246:21 and Shach ad loc.


If there is no universal goal for secular knowledge then there is no Modern Orthodox philosophy, movement, or policy, because then every Chassidishe kid who learns a bit of math or English can say MO philosophy because he is learning the amount of secular studies that is “right for him”. You have reduced MO from a movement and a philosophy to nothingness. According to you, is everyone who learns English Modern orthodox? Anyone who learn secular studies in elementary school? High school? If not, then there must be a required measure of secular studies. If so, then just about everyone in the world is Modern Orthodox.

The point is to demonstrate the confusion and lack of definition among those who would refer to themselves as Modern Orthodox. You are a member of a movement of a philosophy, believe in it, espouse it, and you have no idea what it is.


I have no idea where this idea came that there are no Chidushei Torah being generated in the Yeshivish world? Huh?

It is correct that there are no new religions being produced, and no new “versions” of religion being produced in the Torah world, which is as it should be.


The reason those solutions have been dismissed as invalid is because they are. The fact that women “flock” to them makes them popular and enticing, but it does not speak at all of their validity. But please note the position here. It is useful. It are saying that it is a positive thing when “solutions” are found that are popular, and it is a negative thing to dismiss popular solutions as invalid. Please think about what this is saying.


I didn’t label anyone Modern Orthodox – the Modern Orthodox did! Clearly they consider themselves a “category”. Look at the article posted by Dr. Ganchrow. But MO leaders, lay and rabbinic both, do understand MO to be in its own “category’ or Orthodoxy. On the contrary, I am questioning why that is so.

As far as judge, jury and executioner, first, I have not executed anyone. And why do you have more of a right to judge my words by saying I have no right to say them? So it’s fine to judge, as long as you are not the one being judged.

And would you agree that you cannot declare Conservative Judaism inauthentic? Reform? Jews for Jesus? Neo-Nazism? Please tell me how you decided where and who we have a right to judge and where and whom we cannot


The MO rabbi who said women were at Har Sinai and therefore we can teach them gemora is declaring against the opinion in the Gemora that says you may not teach them Torah (didn't the Gemora know, too, that women were at Har Sinai?) and against the Halachah in Rambam and Shulchan Aruch that rules you may not.

So this Rabbi in his reasoning is declaring that his reasoning is better than Chazal and the halachah, and that puts him in a category no different from the Conservative or reform that believe their reasoning can over ride Chazal and Halachah as well.

The idea that if women can study computer science they can study Gemora as well, also declares against the Halachah and the Chazal that says you may not teach women Gemora, even though there is no prohibition of teaching them computer science. The assumption that the prohibition is based on "mental acumen" is baseless, and the result of non-Jewish feminist perceptions projected on Chazal.

If MO is eating cholov Yisroel, then I guess Rav Soloveichik was not Modern Orthodox since he ate Cholov Yisroel only.

Regarding coed institutions and "talking" to someone of the opposite gender, if you mean friendships again you violate the Halachah of lo sikravu l'galos ervah. If the woman of the opposite gender is married, even plain friendly talk without a friendship-relationship violates Chazal's dictum "al tarbeh suchah im haishah".

If this is correct, what it means is that MO is the right to create your own religion against Chazal and Halachah and call it Orthodoxy.

As far as the Gemora about "teaching your daughter Torah", there is also an opinion (Which isn't followed and now that it was decided, is apikores to believe) in the Gemora that Moshiach no longer exists (Rabbi Hillel). Not every opinion recorded in the Gemora is Halachah. The Halachah, as recorded in Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and everywhere else, states that you may not teach your daughter Gemora.

It is enlightening, indeed, as to what Mo is.


Even for a Mitzvah we do not stop learning unless (a) there is no other person to do the Mitzvah and (b) the Mitzvah is obligatory, such as Krias Shema. For other pursuits, even those of value, we would not close our Seforim.

Even within the realm of Torah learning, we have priorities. Most of our day is spent learning Gemora over Tanach and Midrash. Halachah L'maaseh gets priority over all other topics. the Halachah is, is someone has only a few hours a day to learn, he must learn Halachah.

Why is being well-rounded more important than being more learned? You can't do everything, you know.

And who's to say that the Yeshiva guys who don't go to college are not well rounded enough? I know you can't quantify this but that means you have a problem, because yes, our lives do count, and if someone is considering going to college or learning he does need to know which is the better choice.

My point is that nobody, nowadays, is "behind walls", and that therefore the only difference between MO and ultra in the secular knowledge department is quantitative. But if you can't quantify a quantitative difference, you are left with nothing.


The problem is, the name Modern Orthodoxy was created by those who consider themselves Modern Orthodox, as a movement, with specific goals, philosophies, and mind-sets. If they can't define it, then what's its purpose?


There is a right and wrong way to view it according to the Torah. Depending on your particular wrong view, viewing secular society the wrong way can be kefirah.


The Seridei Aish never allowed mixed schools.

And certainly not "for the times."

You can find it in Seridei Aish, II:8.

He was talking about a certain youth organization, Yeshurun it was called, that had coed Shabbos groups and field trips and the like.

He said that first, normative halachah and practice frown upon such things, and therefore Klall Yisroel has never condoned such practices. And they generally should not.

An exception, however, may be made in France - and ONLY in France, he says - because of the great assimilation rate and defection rate there among the youth, where emergency methods are needed, as there is no other choice. He says that - again, ONLY in France, this is true - because otherwise the Torah would be forgotten. (He compares it to "ais la'asos", though only as an analogy, since, as he writes, only Chazal can actually invoke the heter of ais la'asos.)

However, he adds, he will only allow it, even in France, and even under these circumstances, if standards of Tznius are instituted and enforced, provided:

1) The boys and girls cannot sit together on the same benches,

2) The boys and girls may not sleep in the same building ever,

3) The boys and girls may not attend mixed classes

4) The Counselors are all Yarei Shamayim who will be personally responsible to enforce these standards, and make sure the boys and girls do not inappropriately mix.

He also emphasizes that this is certainly not the preferred way of doing things, and that many poskim would disapprove.

He certainly did not allow this among mainstream Orthodox youth, and he did not allow it anywhere except France, and even there, he said it is not what we should strive for. If we could change it, we certainly would.

Unfortunately, this Teshuva of the Seridei Aish is taught in many places as a justification for the idea that today, Orthodox co-ed schools are a "legitimate Orthodox alternative" for Orthodox youth". Ouch!

Of course, this is a complete forgery and lie. Hotza'as shem rah against the Seridei Aish.

That's surprise number one.

Now if you continue telling me more about other "Gedolim", you will have more surprises.

And remember, we are talking about their attitude toward the "secular world" here. I said there is a right way and a wrong way to view it.


Titles like Modern Orthodoxy can be used as a way to be not as frum as you can, but "alleviate your guilt", or, just a little variation, convince yourself that you are as frum as those who do try harder.

This is, more than anything else, the difference between the imperfections of someone who is simply not trying hard enough, versus the imperfection of someone who is not trying hard enough and creates a label, meaning a movement of Orthodoxy, that stands for not trying harder.

The Chazon Ish said it succinctly. He refused to grant audience to those of the Mizrachi movement. When asked why the Mizrachi are different than anyone else, since all are imperfect, some more, some less, he replied, "Yes, these are bainonim (imperfect, or: average people) and those are bainonim. But these (the Mizrachi) are bainonim b'shitah!" (as a policy).

Meaning, that if you are imperfect, that is altogether human, but if you make a policy out of being imperfect, that is altogether unacceptable.

We need to strive for the highest level we can. If we do not, perhaps we are lazy, or weak, or whatever.

But now, it is attributed not to laziness or weakness or whatever, but rather to your "version of Orthodoxy."

To be weak is one thing, but to make it your policy is another.

Call it "Institutionalized Imperfection". Once you do this, you have put your weakness into a whole different category.

The policy of imperfection is a much graver sin than the imperfection itself, since it changes the goals and views of the Torah as to what we need to strive for, and what we are expected to try to do.

So we should drop the labels, because that would lessen the sins greatly.

But don't forget, it is the Modern Orthodox who label themselves. They consider themselves a movement. "Ultra" Orthodoxy is not a movement, neither is "chareidi". They have no "origin", no policies (except to keep the Torah), and the entire name is only there to distinguish themselves from the members of various movements.

Modern Orthodoxy created its own label, and since it does make people "feel good about themselves" despite their weaknesses, I do not believe that they will ever relinquish their label.

At best, labels just serve to confuse those who belong to the label-groups as to what exactly it is they stand for (because they must stand for SOMETHING if they have a label, but when they can't define it ...), and at worst, it serves as a party-line for imperfections, which merely intensifies the severity of those imperfections, as per the Chazon Ish.

Therefore, this "awareness" needs to be learned by the label-groups themselves, because they are the ones who have created the labels, whether they stand for anything or not.

It is not so clear to everyone what is a Tzadik and Rasha. There are people who are considered tzadikim and gedolim by some, yet worse than Reshaim by others (i.e. apikorsim).

As far as the "levels", the issue is not the Jew, but Judaism itself. You are correct that these terms do not represent different levels of Jews; but they may represent different versions of Judaism. For instance, you can have a Conservative Jew who does wear Tzitzis, and an Orthodox Jew who does not (he is a sinner); but there is still a clear distinction in the levels of Orthodox Judaism versus Conservative Judaism.

So labels may represent ideologies. If so, it behooves us to know what those ideologies are, and ideologies are not all of the same legitimacy.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

taon - it looks really nice. are you also going to be editing the stuff for the moderator, or are you just leaving it as is? as of now, it's still written as though the moderator is replying to some posts.

yasher koach!

want some help?


9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks so much. I'm doing some editing, it depends on what Rav Moderator wants.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I'll repeat - do you want any help?

I am an English teacher, you know.


10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks so much. I'm not sure yet what else I should do, but if I need help, I'll ask.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Graphix, are you still here?

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks. two things

1 Being an english teacher, do you have any ideas on how to include questions and quotes into the answers, so that the information is in book format? do you understand what I mean?

2 If you have time, could you collect R' Moderator's posts on being a Baalei Teshuvah and everything involved with it? you can put it in a comment and I'll move it. thanks so much.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm worried that the e-mail address you used will get spam, etc. from being posted. unfortunately, I don't know how to erase it by itself. I can only delete the entire comment. Is that okay with you?

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer the last question first, no problem. I figured you would do that after reading the comment.

So, from what I gather, you're trying to NOT include questions, but rather have each topic written in essay format.

Personally, I think a question/answer format is a little more interesting, but not with the choppiness of interjected questions. Rather, a few of the questions on each topic should be combined into one long question. That's just my opinion

If you want to leave out the question part altogther, then every question can also be phrased as statement, so you can try that format. Or, you can insert the question an example or whatevr in middle of the answer.

As for your other request, sure! I 'll start gathering from around the site. I don't think there's much in any one specific place...

Kesivah vechasimah tovah!

May we only hear simchosfrom the entire klal yisroel.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your help. I agree with you on the question and answer thing, but I believe that's how Rav Moderator is going to use the information, so it's the Rabbi(s)' decision how that part will be written. I'm just trying to get the information up and orderly.

I don't think we need all the information on Baal Teshuva's (I realize that's very broad, sorry), just the main ideas. Don't force yourself to read through every post, it's really unnecessary. Just the major threads that discuss it, i guess. use your own judgement, and thanks so much again.

one thing I forgot, since this is for teens, I don't think we need information relating to marriage.

9:35 AM  

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