Thursday, August 31, 2006

Modern Orthodoxy V

Differences between Chareidim and Mizrachi in Israel are many, including Zionsim, secular studies, and mingling of the sexes, although technically, Rav Kook was very upset with Mizrachi for that.

In fact, the accepted prohibition against even ballplaying in Chareidi communities is a self-imposed line of demarcation, almost a protest, against the mizarchi valuing of sporting events and general attribution of holiness to the secular advancement of Israel.


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 out brothers in Mitzvos, who have been straying in certain ways, but nevertheless are our brothers. Although Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL 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 form 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, withotu 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 gay and lesbian 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on you to join us, the true Modern Orthodoxy [Rav Schwab is referring to previous statements of his that MO is today outdated and "anything but modern"], which is a generation of sincere mevakshei Hashem".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.


What does “fully engaged” mean? If I am a chassidishe computer programmer and surf the web, drive a new car and vote in all elections, am I not fully engaged in society? If not, please tell me what I need to do, to be fully engaged.

Do you “fully” engage society or just the “positive” things it offers? Everyone agrees – it is a Halachah in Shulchan Aruch – that we may accept the positive behaviors of the Goyim. I am sitting here on the Internet. Am I not “engaging to positive things” that secular society has to offer?


The idea that only when something conflicts with Halachah do we reject it is wrong and against the Torah. Please see the "Hashkafa vs. Halachah" boards -- even without violating Halachah, we reject any idea that collides with the Torah's hashkofos.


Between our body and soul, our soul is more important. Someone who would make us non-religious is worse than someone who would kill us physically. Jews have died all throughout history rather than give up Torah. The Halachah is clear: Godol Hamachtio yoser min hahorgo: Worse is he who causes someone to sin, than who causes someone to die.

The Halachah is that just like to prevent someone from dying you may violate Shabbos, so too, you may violate Shabbos to prevent someone form becoming non-religious.

To a Torah-thinking Jew, it is unthinkable to look at a reform rabbi preaching his religion as anything else than a spiritual mass murderer. And joining with him is as repulsive, even more so, than joining with a physical murderer. So if you believe your cause if important enough to join with a spiritual mass murderer, you surely would have no qualms with joining with a physical murderer.

But the Hashkafically assimilated would mistakenly look at a Reform rabbi as a "peer", albeit a wrongheaded one, as opposed to an enemy. Therein lies the Hashkafic tragedy. The masses of reform Jewry who have been mislead may be innocent victims of the spiritual atrocities of their leaders; but the rabbis themselves are guilty of mass murder - worse! - and are no less dangerous to us than any mass murderers of our physical beings.


Norman Lamm didn't start the gay clubs, he defended their right to exist and refused to abolish them. No big difference. Here, too, the Hashkafically assimilated, Western-thought-meets-halachick-Judaism mindset shows itself. To the Ben Torah, gay clubs are just as repulsive as Nazi clubs. Had YU been supporting Nazi clubs, the response would have been different. It is a sense of values, such as valuing the spiritual over the physical, understanding that what damages the soul is as bad - worse! - than that which damages the body, that killers of religion do us greater harm than killers of our body, that separate the "integrated but halachicly loyal" Jew from the ben Torah.


The issue here is not Yissachar/Zevulun. Zevulun went to work in order to support Yissachar, not in order to "fully engage" or integrate into modern society. He further did not accept any Hashkofos of secular society. And he did not consider his activities outside of the Bais Medrash valuable in and of themselves, but merely a means to enable Yissachar to learn Torah.


Chasidism follows the Torah and Modern Orthodoxy violates it. MO does not really have a philosophy, and whatever policies it follows are not based on the Torah but social factors. So how can Chasidus have any effect on that?

Chasidim had a very defined philosophy from the outset. It was, in fact, much more defined than it is now. And no, unless you were a great Gaon and Tzadik like every one of the Talmidei HaBaal Shem Tov without exception, you would not have been able to be anything close to a Rebbe.


College? Why? Why spend years that could be used for accumulating holiness through Shas and Poskim and instead spending them in a college environment learning liberal arts? What kind of sense is that? Here's the answer:

MO has never officially been defined, but based on the teachings of its foremost spokesman, Rabbi Joseph B Soloveichik (quoted and discussed above extensively), it is more, and less, based on the idea that; in America, due to great technological advances and sophisticated culture, Torah will only be able to survive if we integrate into the country's higher educational AND cultural environments. It was much less of a philosophy than it was a concessionary survival or Kiruv tactic. The "shine" (that's a quote) of scientific discovery will tear Klall Yisroel away from Torah, which will no longer survive, unless we produce "a new type of Talmid Chacham" etc. etc. etc.

Clearly the whole idea was mistaken, to say the least.

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 Hirsch 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.

The differences between MO and TIDE are explained at length by Rav Shimon Schwab, the Rav of the TIDE community in Frankfurt, and later in Washington Heights, in his "Selected Essays".

In addition, assuming there is a communal need for secular knowledge, that still does not quantify how much time and effort should be spent pursuing it. TIDE appreciates the value of secular studies to the extent that it supports Torah goals, such as described above. The amount of time and effort put into such studies would therefore vary from time to time and place to place depending on the specific need.

Nowadays, almost all Yeshiva students have a high school education, know how to read and write English as good as their non-Jewish counterparts, and are more involved in American culture than we would always like. They do just fine in Kiruv, and there is no looking down on even the most Chareidi Yeshiva students in our society by the non-Jews because of their lack of higher education.

In other words, the goals of TIDE are fulfilled very well today even without college. Remember, in the sayd of Rav Hirsch, the average Torah student didn't even know how to speak German.

Re the Halachah:

The Rama (YD 246:4) rules that a person may only learn secular subjects "incidentally" but not as an educational pursuit.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman (Koevetz Shiruim 2:47) and Rav Boruch Ber Lebowitz (Birkas Shmuel Kiddushin) both have responsa on this topic (both responsa were, incidentally, written for Rav Schwab!). They both conclude that for non-Parnasa or similar reasons, it is prohibited to pursue a secular education, as per the Rama above. The reason may be because of Bitul Torah, or perhaps Kovod HaTorah. Rav Moshe Feinstein ZTL also prohibits college in a famous speech delivered to his students translated and titles "Counsel of the Wicked", as well as in writing.


If the issue is simply whether college is permitted, that would not qualify as description of your Orthodoxy but rather as a simple Halachic opinion within the normal, traditional Orthodoxy. Those who hold that wearing a plastic covering on top of their hat on Shabbos outside an Eruv don’t rename themselves "Plastic Hat Orthodoxy".

There is more to Mo than merely a Halachic dispute. Here's a quote from the boards:

"Since I am MO, I send my daughters to college and I am a big believer in a college education for both boys and girls, not simply for career purposes, but in order that they enjoy a broader, more meaningful, more intellectual and more worldly lives. A person who goes to college is more interesting to talk to and with whom one can have a stimulating conversation. I am sorry to say that most young women who I meet, who did not go to college, are pretty dumb."

This is the problem. To say "I am very tolerant of college because people need a parnasa and also not everyone is cut out to learn all day" is one thing. But to apply a value to college, to say that it provides a superiority over those who learn all day - and women who are busy with avodas Hashem all day - is kefirah.

Even if your perception would be correct (they are not), that most young women who don’t go to college are dumb, that college broadens your, and makes you more interesting, they will only be smarter and more interesting in this temporary, transient, illusory worlds. In the next world, none of this counts. They will be exposed as abandoning Eternal Life in favor of "worldliness" and "being interesting" for a few moments on Olam Hazeh. When the maggots will be eating our bodies, there will not be not much difference between the PhD's and the HS dropouts. They will all be equally interesting and worldly.

But their souls will be very different.

The idea of choosing Olam hazeh over Olam Habah would be bad advice in itself - and it is prohibited Min HaTorah to give someone bad advice - but to institutionalize this indiscretion and make it your official mode of Orthodoxy takes the problem into a totally different realm. When a person does a sin, they are violating the Torah, but you are disagreeing with it. If someone violates the Torah, he is a sinner, but if someone disagrees with the Torah he is revolting against it. And making your revolt against the Torah into an official mode of Orthodoxy seeks to twist the Torah itself ("Orthodoxy") into something it never was meant to be.


Kefirah, apikursus, meenus - the words are interchangeable - is anything you believe that is against the Daas Torah.

Every moment of learning Torah is infinitely valuable. Chazal say one word of Torah learning imbues the learner with more holiness than a lifetime of doing Mitzvos. So if someone learns, but the other guy learns more, the other guy is superior. Even if there is no halachic obligation to learn 20 hours a day, someone who does is superior to someon who only learns 19 hours a day, spiritually, all else being equal. And even if all else is not so equal, since an hour a day of learning constitutes a massive amount of holiness.

Of course we all "batel". Nobody is perfect. But when we batel, we know we are following our Yetzer Horah, we know it is due to our human weakness and our bechirah that we choose to chill on the internet rather than attain holiness. Nobody's perfect.

But we know what perfection is.

Modern Orthodoxy changed that. Everyone is imperfect, everyone, nebach, runs away from holiness. Everyone except Tzadikim. But Modern Orthodoxy runs away from holiness as a matter of principle. While those who batel on the internet violate the Torah, they still agree with it, that it would be a lot better if they would be learning. Modern Orthodoxy disagreed with the Torah's values, or, more properly, twisted the Torah's values, to make batalah and running away from holiness part of Orthodoxy as opposed to a violation of it.

To sin is to be imperfect. but to institutionalize imperfection and make it into the first choice is kefirah, since you are disagreeing with the Torah's values.

To say that since college provides you with certain personality enhancements, therefore you SHOULD go to college, as opposed to going for the personality enhancements provided by Torah - that is, infinite holiness - is not merely choosing Olam Hazeh over Olam Habah but saying that one SHOULD choose Olam Hazeh over Olam Habah.

Which is what separates Modern Orthodoxy from the Torah.

Yes, you can get Olam Habah even if you go to college, but not nearly as much as if you spent those years learning, all else being equal. Therefore by going to college you are forgoing all that Olam Habah for Olam Hazeh.

But if you go and say that it is the RIGHT thing to do, to forgo Olam Habah for the Olam Hazeh of college, it is plain kefirah against the Torah.


1) All Chazals, such as Im ain kemach ain Torah, just means that if you have no food, you cannot learn. Other Chazals say that if you have no food and you try to learn anyway, you will end up having to steal to eat, and what good is that. None of this has anything to do with Kollel, and surely not with college. If you are supported by your parents, in laws, Yeshiva, or wife, you are not in a situation where you have to steal, and you have fulfilled the Chazal.

And none of this has to do with college. Plenty of people get jobs without college, many communities live like that, and they do just fine. It does not say "im ain 'Lexus' ain Torah". The idea that if you don’t go to college you will not have Kemach is obviously a lie.

2) All Chazals that encourage people to work are also fulfilled by our Kollel people, and only exclude someone who has no means of support. If I become a baseball player and I have people pay to watch me play ball, that’s OK, but if I become a scholar and have people pay me to learn - that's not???

If I got a job in a think-tank thinking of stuff all day, that's wonderful - but if I get a job in Kollel thinking of Chidushei Torah that’s not????

BH today we have people who specifically want to support Kollelim, similar to Yissachar-Zevulun. If I were hired by these people to dance for them, I would be considered having a job. So why is it worse if they hire more to learn and provide them with Olam Habah instead of entertainment?

The exhortations in Chazal against being unemployed refer to those who have nobody who wants to pay them for anything, and are forced to take money form what was designated for the poor, which they do not have to be if they would get a job. But Kollel is not Tzedakah for Aniyim. there is a big difference. Kollel support is support in return for learning. Tzedakah is support in return for nothing. As long as I am earning your support - regardless of whether it is through defending you in court or learning Choshen Mishpat - I am employed.

3) There is an obligation on every Jew to become as great in Torah as he is able. There is also an obligation to not steal, or not to put yourself in a situation where you will have to steal. Or to make sure the Torah scholars live respectfully and not as beggars. The ideal sitch is to have both.

But the standard of livelihood required is bare minimum. "Kach hi darkah shel torah - pas b'melach tochal etc." -- Bread salt and water - if you have that, you have parnasah. The Rambam writes that a typical Baal Habayis works 3 hours a day and learns 8.

This is what a "working person" is. Three hours a day. 8 hours learning.

What in the world does that have to do with today's working man's lifestyle where he works 8 hours a day and almost never even learns 3? It proves nothing that Chazal endorsed working, since working in those days meant learning 8 hours a day.

4) The Rambam praises those who learn all day and don’t have jobs, as the elite "Shevet Levi" of our days. Clearly, even if working is endorsed, it is inferior to those who learn. To reconcile the Rambam with your Chazals, you can choose any of the commentaries available, some of which explain it similar to above.

5) If learning in Kollel is against the Chazals about Melachah and Derech Eretz, then so is being a Rebbi or a Rav. See the Rama YD 246:6. He brings your Chazals and says that therefore nobody can be a paid Rebbi or a Rav either, since he relies on the congregation. But then he brings dissenting opinions, and rules that the custom is that Torah scholars do benefit from their learning, by support from the community.

Then he brings other opinions that the community should support its Torah scholars even to the point of affluence.

The Rama then says it is a Midas Chasidus - praiseworthy - for someone who can become a Gadol B'Torah and make an independent living, but continues that not everyone is capable of this. It is clear that he is saying that if you have a choice between becoming a Godol B'Torah or making a living, becoming a Godol B'Torah comes first.

The Shach on the spot points out that the Halacha always follows the Minhag and the Minhag is like those opinions that one may depend on the community to support him in order to learn. He says that this is because of the Halachah of Ais La'Asos, meaning, even if it is theoretically prohibited to rely on the community, but because nowadays we cannot do both, become great in Torah and make independent livings, the right thing to do is to learn Torah and be supported.

He continues by saying that if someone spreads Torah and spends all his time learning and teaching, even if he has a skill with which to make a living, it would be wrong of him not to allow the community to support him, since this way he would be able to spend his time learning and teaching, rather than working.

See, it's very nice to make an independent living, but it is more important to become a Godol B'Torah. If you cant have both, then Torah is the right choice. Whatever advantages there is in making money, they do not come close to those of becoming a great Torah scholar.


The difference between Modern Orthodoxy and normal inadequacies is that 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.

No such thing happens in what you call the Yeshiva world. Midos are valued, taught, even if not always adhered to (although they are adhered to in the Yeshiva world no less than in the MO world). No rabbi would rule that someone wearing a knitted Yarlmuka cannot be counted for a Minyan, it is pure lunacy, and not a single rabbi anywhere form right to left would disagree.

Re platonic relationships: Study after study shows that the presence of a woman in the cashier's position causes men to smile more and to forgo their few cents change much more often. This applies to Goyim, who, I hope, are not less involved in opposite sex relationships than the Modern Orthodox. Your lack of sensitivity to the biological-psychological processes happening inside you is not proof that they do not exist. A woman sitting on a car in an ad is guaranteed to enhance the response to that ad, even though the readers still believe it is the car they are attracted to, not the girl.

Rav Moshe's teshuva is clear. He did not make anything up, but rather quoted form Chazal and Rishonim that boys and girls simply may not be friends. Period. The fact that all Teshuvos are not taken as a "final Psak" does not mean they should be ignored - it means that they apply to the circumstances that they were written in, and that if those circumstances change in a way that would change the Halachah the Teshuva was never meant differently. You are not showing why Rav Moshe's Teshuva does not apply to you, you are only claiming it does not. There is no Halahcic logic to say such a thing, and therefore the Teshuva applies.


We do not use ais laasos nowadays on our own. The Seridei Aish in his famous Teshuva about the Yeshurun Kiruv organization makes this clear. Nobody disagrees (the Chofetz Chim's permitting women to learn Torah - not Gemora - was not permitting any prohibition. Any use of Ais Laasos in that context is meant figuratively). And incidently, A"L cannot permit secularization or culture or mingling with Goyim or boys and girls - it narrowly only effects laws of Torah learning.

MO rabbis - including Rabbi Soloveichik - have explained their positions, and it has nothing to do with ais laasos, although they do say that MO is necessary for the survival of Klall Yisroel, it is simply a compromise for what they saw as survival.

And Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL asks what is the difference between MO and Conservativism in this sense. He says that MO and Conservative do indeed share the same core point: Compromise for the sake of what they perceive to be survival.

And puh-lease. If girls don't learn Gemora they will all intermarry? Gimme a break. No such thing has happened.

The MO 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.

I once asked Rabbi Yeruchem Gorelick ZTL what induced him to go work in YU. He said (in Yiddish), "JB 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?"

Many people thought that. They were wrong.




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