Thursday, August 31, 2006

Modern Orthodoxy VI

The fact that there were Rabbonim who went to University proves nothing, especially in a case such as Rav Hutner's, where despite his going to University, he discouraged it among his students, and he himself radically changed since those younger years of his.

If there is any narrow mindedness here, it is the totally baseless notion that runaways and teenagers leaving the Derech can be reduced by allowing modernity. The fact is, there is no correlation between the level of frumkeit and chances of going off the derech. In communities such as Meah Shearim, Williansburgh, and Bnei Brak, there are no more instances of problem kids than in Flatbush or Teaneck. On the contrary - the Modern Orthodox schools are much more plagued with drugs and promiscuity problems because of their allowances.


There is no "mesorah" that advises secular learning in the way MO does. A Mesorah cannot start 100 or 150 years ago in regard to an issue that is 500 years old. In Germany, the hotbed of Haskalah, and only when Germany became the hotbed of Haskalah, did the Rabbonim there endorse college. The reason was either a response to Haskalah or the result of being influenced by it - depends who you ask. But it is no coincidence that only during the time and place where Haskalah was decimating our ranks did this "Mesorah" appear.

There is no problem with such a response. If secular studies is permitted for parnasah, it is also permitted for spiritual survival as well. If people in Germany needed rabbis - wanted rabbis, at least, who were well versed in Shiller, then it is not surprising that it was encouraged in order to deal with the time and place they were living, then.

This does not mean "horaas shah". Many agree that a certian amount of secular knowledge is beneficial - even today Yeshiva students go to high school mostly, and basically all of them understand English and basic math etc., which was NOT the case in Germany - where many did not even know German.

The question is, how much secular knowledge is necessary and desirable for a Ben Torah? The answer is, it depends on the time and place and people. Whatever is necessary for the betterment of Torah is the answer. In Germany, much more was necessary to maintain Torah than is today in America. Rav SR Hirsch and the others in Germany did not universally encourage an unlimited amount of secular knowledge - if so, what's going be with Torah? The quantification of this depends on the need.

In short, secular knowledge is looked upon by all of them as a "tool" not an end in itself. Modern Orthodoxy looks at secular knowledge as part of an integration into secular society, part of a lifestyle more than a tool.

Example: Law. Law has zero value as a "science". It is merely the ground rules laid down by our government and states that allow you to win cases or to live without trouble from the government. It is not philosophy and is not an "objective science". Rather, it is the rules of the game - like baseball for instance. People make a living paying ball and others make a living being a lawyer. Neither are philosophical or scientific objectively, and neither are "sciences".

Yet someone who has a law degree is considered in MO world to have accomplished something in "secular knowledge" field. Rav Hirsch would not have considered that an accomplishment. It is not philosophy or science. It is merely a game. Yet to MO, it is still "secular knowledge".

MO looks at "all knowledge" as "coming from G-d", - a quote from Norman Lamm, which is true, but not relevant to whether we should pursue it. Ice cream also comes from G-d but someone who spends his life pursuing it is a fool. MO holds that knowledge - whatever knowledge is valued by secular society is also valued by us. Makes no sense, but that’s what it is. Ask a MO why law is more valuable than the knowledge of Britney Spears trivia - after all - doesn’t all knowledge come from G-d? And making a living is not the criteria, so what is?

Secular society's values are the criteria, which are valued by MO but NOT AT ALL by Rav Hirsch.


Rav Hutner was very much against college. His Yeshiva regularly discourages it, as did he. Always. Part of the job of a Rebbi in Chaim Berlin in the HS is to convince the students not to go to college.

However, 50 years ago, he wanted to make a college for those who anyway would have gone to college, to be mekarev them so they can be encouraged to learn more. Not to encourage college c"v for anyone. Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL told him it was a bad idea, for various reasons, and Rav Hutner acquiesced to Rav Aharon's superior authority. Rav Aharon did not foil Rav Hutner's plans, Rav Hutner himself foiled them after Rav Aharon explained to him why it was wrong.

Rav Hutner changed a lot in the last 40 years of his life. The 1939 Chaim Berlin yearbook features him almost beardless, with a nice 3 pierce suit, looking more like a professor than Rosh Yeshiva, with the title "Rabbi Isaac Hutner, Dean."

The 1976 yearbook has him in a Shtraimel (spudik), bekeshe (with velvel cuffs), long white beard, payos flowing behind his ears down almost to his shoulders. He changed a lot.

As far as his daughter, yeah, we know about her Maharitz Chiyus paper. I've seen it. But in context, today she runs a seminary for girls where college is not only discouraged, but a girl who went to college is not even likely to ever get admitted to begin with. A girl from there who married a college guy is considered second rate. In fact, it is probably the most anti-college of all the girls seminaries. Whatever her reasons were, her policy, today, is different. You will have to ask her why she went. Who knows - maybe she went for parnassa reasons, which is permitted.

But college the way MO looks at it was never endorsed by anyone.


Norman Lamm refused to abolish those gay clubs even though he could have. The only thing he had to lose by doing so was money. It would break no law, nor would it endanger the school’s accreditation. He misrepresented the nature of the clubs as well as the laws "protecting" (sic) them. Please see {Entire website gone -taon}.
where the issue is explained at length.

But none of this is the main point. The main point is that if these were anti-semitic Nazi clubs under YU auspices, believe me they would have been abolished. At the very least, the outcry from the supporters and the institution itself would have been deafening. Unfortunately, Dr. Lamm does not understand that homosexuality to Hashem is as offensive as an abomination the same way that Nazism is. They are both enemies of G-d and hated by Him. Nobody with proper Torah Hashkofos would allow such anti-Torah elements in their school - or anywhere they were able to prevent it. Even for money. Sorry.


Part of the problem with MO is that it was not created in the same way Torah movements such as Chasidus or TIDE were. There were no rabbis - great or otherwise - who articulated a philosophy that they referred to as MO. MO began as a behavior of people without any reasoning, and ex post facto became a philosophy. For example, secular studies in RIETS developed when some students went on strike because their friends were expelled from school for attending secular studies. The rabbonim in charge of RIETS then were against secular studies, but the board of directors and financial backers made a business decision to incorporate it into the curriculum. Later more influences came upon the scene, none of which were Torah perspectives but rather business or secular ones. Furthermore, even the ex post facto definition of MO is a hodgepodge of opinions of many different people, none of whom have more of a copyright on the term than others. I have no interest, nor is there a need, to deal with every individual opinion on the street in this matter. And almost none of the opinions address the pertinent issue anyway: What's the point of Modern Orthodoxy?
But some do. Those are the opinions that I am using here. Rav Soloveichik articulated a reasoning, namely, survival. Obviously, he was dead wrong.

His reasoning was based on his vision of the future, his own opinion of what will be, and what needs to be done. He was so confident in his perception that he accused the vast majority of Gedolei Yisroel of "lacking the courage" to admit he was right. He stated clearly that only his derech will be successful and the others will fail.

In the end of his life, I heard from someone close to him, that he was extremely distraught and depressed over the fact that he and his derech was not accepted in the Torah world, whereas those who were supposed to become "tourist attractions" were. In particular, he was complaining a about the fact that Rav Shlomo Heiman ZTL's seforim are learned in every Yeshiva in the country, while he is totally ignored by the bulk of Torah students.

Rav Hirsch did not encourage non-Jewish culture, in fact his policy of austritt was designed specifically to separate culture from education. He also did not send his students to outside colleges, he made his own. And why in the world would anyone consider it a positive thing to spend years learning secular law - and if so for law, why not for MTV trivia? If all knowledge comes from G-d (quote from Norman Lamm) and therefore is worth pursuing then all knowledge that comes from G-d is worth pursuing - why limit your knowledge to what the colleges teach?

Rav Hirsch was talking about Germany during Haskalah. He was right, then. He and his small Kehilla (about 300 members) saved German Jewry. Rav Soloveichik was talking about New York in the 60's. There was no comparison. Even the Minchas Elozor (in his Divrei Torah) concedes that for the Jews of Germany, who "have been so poisoned by secularism and haskalah", have also been immunized to any ill effects of the secular studies encouraged by Rav Hirsch's teachings. Rav Hirsch did not recommend secularizing a Torah world, but rather stabilizing an already lethally secularized Jewish community. He also never, ever attacked or personally denounced the Torah Only camp. Rav Soloveichik demanded secularizing the Yeshiva world - or else they will all disappear, as is "obvious" (sic) to anyone who can see the future - and denigrated those who did not agree with him.
Rav Soloveichik stated clearly, that "for the first time in history" we need his approach. He knew it was not the same as Rav Hirsch's. Or anybody else’s. He never, even mentions Rav Hirsch in this context, and is forever explaining how he is alone and original in this idea. An integration into Goyish culture was not endorsed by anyone in the past. And certainly nobody ever endorsed moving further into secularism than the community already was.
Here's the difference, in the bottom line: Rav Aharon Kotler said about Rav Soloveitchik, "He destroyed an entire generation." Whereas the Chasam Sofer's Talmidim, who was in their days the foremost "separatists" in the world, said about Rav Hirsch that "he saved an entire generation".

The difference is, Rav Soloveichik denigrated the "seperationists", and Rav Hirsch was denigrated by other Orthodox communities for being a seperationist! (Yes, that is the word they used to describe Rav Hirsch, the same word Rav Soloveichik uses to describe his opponents).

Yes, it is true that "A person's opinions do not automatically become correct because they were hired for a job in a certain neighborhood", but here we are talking about being hired by Rav Hirsch's congregation (nowadays) to be the foremost authority on Torah and Hashkafa for them, including TIDE.

Re the descendants of Rav Breuer etc: A person's job doesn't make him right, but neither does a person's yichus.

Rav Schwab was a world class Talmid Chacham, who knew Rav Hirsch's writing almost by heart (I can testify to that) and who also spent a large chunk of his life discussing Rav Hirsch's shitos with Gedolim from all other spectrums, such as Rav Elchonon, Rav Bloch, the Gerrer Rebbe and others (by the way, I heard from Rav Schwab that the Gerrer Rebbe suggested not printing Rav Elchonon's teshuva because of Kovod for Rav Hirsch! - even though he agreed with R. Elchonon l'halachah, the way some things were said he thought it better not made public).

He was also a very, very, big Ish Emes.

Another thing about him. He once told me of a story where he once mentioned something anti-Zionist one Chanukah in his congregation. He told me of the harassment that he got apparently from among his own congregation because if it - not a lot, I don't want to exaggerate - but more than a Rav should. Now it is clear that Rav Hirsch was staunchly anti-Zionist, yet today not everyone in Khal Adas Yeshurun is. Who knows how those members of his Kehilla would interpret Rav Hirsch? I see some disloyalty to Rav Hirsch in Washington Heights, but not from Rav Schwab.

I did not hear about Rav Soloveichik from Rav Gorelick. I never spoke to Rav Meiselman, but I did once speak to his father about Rav Soloveichik, many many years ago, in Buzzard's Bay, MA (long story).

Regarding who is "insular" - sigh - this is one of the problems of MO. They tend to frame these kind of issues in sociological terms, which have nothing to do with anything. The point is, none of the Baalei Tosfos, or any other Rishonim on record permit learning secular studies regularly for non-parnassa or utilitarian purposes.

"Insular" is not the issue. And the statement itself is subjective and open ended. Satmar encourages their students to go out into the world and work for a living after marriage, and Chaim Berlin encourages them to learn in Kollel. So does that mean that Chaim Berlin is insular and Satmar is not? The reality is, "insular" is not a value or a criterion, or a standard used in considering any course of action. Only the Torah is.


Rav Moshe is not more lenient in the last volume of Igros Moshe (even though the last volume is not 100% reliable). He says the reason people don’t object more to college is that it wont help, and also people go for parnassa reasons, and some people anyway wont do anything better with their time. The next paragraph where he discusses going to college where there are no girls is referring, as he says to someone who goes for the "right reasons", meaning, for Parnassa.


Secular knowledge is only worth pursuing if it has some kind of practical value. Lamm said that "all knowledge is from G-d" and therefore even without any utilitarian purpose, knowledge in and of itself, all knowledge, is worth pursuing.

I said this makes no sense, one of the reasons being, much knowledge that is taught in universities is artificial, man-made opinions about things rather than objective science, such as law. And MTV.

So you tell me that law is different than MTV since it has a practical value.

Fine. Bit the issue is, is secular knowledge worth pursuing NOT because of its practical value, but by virtue of the fact that it is "knowledge"? Which is a question that Lamm would answer "yes", an answer which your post, which says that law does have a practical utilitarian value, does not support.

If Norman Lamm has a definition for knowledge different than the dictionary, and different than "information", please let him tell it to us. What does he consider knowledge? Only what the secular universities teach? That’s precisely the point. If "all" knowledge is form G-d, then, well, they all equally come from G-d. If not "all", then what? The Torah says only secular knowledge with practical value, that can be used as a tool is worth pursuing. That’s not the MO view according to Lamm.

So again I ask, if knowledge is worth pursuing even with no practical value, does this mean "all" knowledge? If not, then what? Which knowledge does not "come from G-d"?

Incidentally, I disagree with the value aspect of law as well. Of course we need to know how to deal with our legal issues. That's why we hire lawyers - which can be non-Jews. We don't need to be lawyers.


What Rabbi Lamm meant was, any knowledge the secular world considers "valuable" they consider "valuable" too. That is the problem. Ancient Greek is a lot less useful than ghetto slang.

Doesn't all "information" come from G-d the same way as "knowledge" does? According to Dr. Lamm's logic, there should be no difference. And if he means to say that they only teach things with a practical value, that contradicts his whole thesis, which states that the difference between the MO and the traditional Orthodox is that MO believes in learning secular studies for no practical reason, except its intrinsic value (this was also one of the main points of his "goodbye" speech).

The problem is, WHAT intrinsic value? Where did it get this value? And how did he decide what is considered valuable and not? The whole thing is just a type of assimilation into non-Jewish culture and an acceptance of their lifestyle and values, and making them into c"v something Jewish. From a Jewish perspective - and a logical one - the whole thing is meaningless.


Just because Hashem made something does not make it a Mitzvah to pursue - G-d make poison too, right? Nor does it mean it is not a waste of time to pursue it.

So the whole idea is not logical to begin with. His cause does not lead to his conclusion.

Halachicly - learning Torah is a Mitzvah. Pursuing other studies is Bitul Torah and/or a Bizayon HaTorah, as the Halachah clearly states, quoted numerous places on the boards. Where necessary for utilitarian purposes, such pursuits are permitted. But only as necessary tools for living, the same as, say, a pot or pan, or bathroom. But they are not more intrinsically valuable than any other of G-d's creations, such as pots, or pans, or bathrooms.


Modern Orthodoxy has no definition. It’s just a term and a copyright on it has never been acquired. It's not a Torah term but a social one and anyone who wants to use it can.

The problem is, the Rabbonim who refer to themselves as MO have set themselves up for this. It is no insult to Rav Elyashev that Yitz Greenberg of CLAL, or Steven Greenberg, the openly gay "rabbi", call themselves "Orthodox". Rav Elyashev's status is not defined by self-defined labels, but by their greatness in Torah and MItzvos, which put them in a totally separate category than the Greenbergs and others like them, even though they both call themselves Orthodox. It’s like calling yourself homo sapien. I’m not insulted as a human being if Jeffrey Dahmer calls himself that. It’s just a label. My status is defined by my actions, which show that I have nothing in common with him.

If a Modern Orthodox rabbi is insulted by the fact that Edah for instance call themselves MO, then he has to rethink what defines his status. It’s not the label. It’s his actions.

That’s the problem with the whole concept of Modern Orthodoxy. It really doesn't mean anything, and can be used to define anything from going to college to being Zionist to mixed swimming to openly gay rabbis. There is no need for a new label "Modern Orthodox". Just as Chasidim, Misnagdim, Yekkes, and Sefardim do not consider themselves a different branch of Orthodoxy because of their different shitos or hashkofos, there was never any reason for the MO to do so either. The fact that they did separate themselves from traditional Orthodoxy is what causes this.

Nobody can define unanimously what Modern Orthodoxy is. All we know is what it isn't. It is not traditional Orthodoxy, otherwise you would not need a new name.

Therefore, since the only objective definition MO has is that is it not traditional Orthodoxy, anybody that does not practice traditional Orthodoxy can equally define themselves as MO without any objective opposition.


The problem with Modern Orthodoxy, is not that its people have problems - we all have problems and are struggling, as you say - but rather that it takes those problems and makes them "OK". They made those aveiros into part of Judaism, rather than something to fight against.

You are right that reaching our goals does not happen overnight. But Modern Orthodoxy, rather than saying "we are having trouble reaching the goals" simply changed the goals.

Nobody claims that speaking loshon horah is legitimate - MO claims that their coed schools are.

The aveirah of Modern Orthodoxy is that they do NOT look at themselves the way you describe - as people who are trying as hard as they can NOT to mix boys and girls; NOT to violate negiya; etc - rather, they look at themselves as an alternative form of Orthodoxy.

Modern Orthodoxy does not mean "people who cannot do better". It means people who believe their behavior is OK. It is that belief, that the violations of halachah and hashkafa that MO has is OK, that is the reason MO is opposed.

They are not violating the Torah like the speakers of Loshon Horah - they are changing it.

It's like if someone would open up a new branch of Orthodoxy - "Gossip Orthodoxy" - where people officially allow loshon horah, schools and shuls are set up where loshon horah is considered "cool" and nisyonos for loshon horah are inevitable. It becomes a culture where, if someone does NOT want to speak loshon horah, they cannot, and are even looked upon as strange by their peers.

They produce their own schools, their own rabbis, their own shuls - "Gossip Orthodoxy."

And when someone says they have a problem with this, they answer "Well, people try as hard as they can to do as much as they can. If that means that they are gossip orthodox, so be it."

"Hello," you would tell them. "But you're not trying!!! You're accepting your problems without resistance, institutionalizing them, glorifying them even!"

Now substitute "loshon horah" with "shomer negiyah", and "gossip" with "Modern" and see what I mean.

And also, we DO know for sure what Hashem wants. Such statements are found only in MO schools where they use it as an excuse, as if to say, "Nobody can say we are wrong because nobody knows what's wrong."

Uhuh. So just ask your MO rabbis about the Neturei Karta - Orthodox Jews - who burn Israeli flags and demonstrate with Palestinians, if they, too, are not wrong? And try writing a Letter to the Editor in response to the endless articles by MO rabbis about how evil these Orthodox Jews are, and say, "If someone keeps Shabbos and kosher, and davens with as much Kavanah as they can muster, but supports Palestinians and wants to abolish the State of Israel and burns Israeli flags (just an example) does that make them a "distasteful" Neturei Karta Jew?? Come one people, can we grow up here?"

And then say "We don't know for sure what Hashem wants".

What do you think the answer would be?

Some things, we know what Hashem wants. We know He does not want boys and girls to mix; we know He detests violations of Negiyah. We know lots of what Hashem wants. And we know it for sure.

Regarding your question of the keeping loshon horah etc - the answer is, if the person thinks that it's OK to speak loshon horah, or it’s not so bad to touch boys, then they are the worst. Violating the Torah is not as bad as changing it.

This loshon horah question, commonly asked, is not a defense for Modern Orthodoxy. With that logic, I can eat pork and say "well isn't it better to keep shabbos daven with kavanah not speak loshon horah and eat pork, better than someone who speaks loshon horah?"

You can end up permitting every Lo Ta'aseh in the Torah with that logic.

And it's not logical. The reason why MO is criticized is NOT because they are struggling humans who sin, but because they have set up a system where certain sins are no longer an issue, due to "Modern society". THAT is the one, big sin of Modern Orthodoxy, and that, yes, is much worse than loshon horah. Loshon Horah is a violation of the Torah - this, on the other hand, is a changing of the Torah. If a person wants to corrupt himself by speaking loshon horah or sinning, that’s one thing - but at least leave the Torah intact. One you change the Torah, your aveirah is no longer neguyah - it is now kefirah.

The word "chet" by the way, means to "miss". When you say you did a "chet" you mean you missed the goal. Rashi in chumash says this, when Yaakov tells lavan that not a single animal under his care was ever "missing" ("chet").


The fact that G-d is universal does not mean His "truth" can be found everywhere - in nature, and certain secular places, yes, and others, no.

But the problem with secular studies is, no matter what value they have, including the "Little Prince", they are not as valuable as Torah studies, and whatever your secular stories do in terms of helping your relationship with G-d, Torah sources do infinitely better, and without the invariable sediment of uselessness at best, and likely counter productive lessons you will find in the secular literature. That being the case, this is the question you have to present to your teacher:

If I have a choice between learning Torah literature and secular literature at any given moment, what is there in secular literature that would make me choose to learn it over the Torah literature?

To say that the secular literature helps you find G-d is now a slap in the face to the Torah literature, which helps you find G-d even better. If I offer you a job that pays $50 an hour and instead you take one that pays $1 an hour, there is obviously something very undesirable about the first job.

And so by choosing to "find G-d" in secular places when you could find Him much better ion Torah places, or whatever reason you are choosing to pursue chol instead of Kodesh, you are demonstrating that there is some superiority in that chol, and that is the Bizayon HaTorah that is the problem here.

Unless, of course, a person pursues secular studies as let's say a vacation or relaxation technique, or he needs to knows something secular for some specific purpose. That’s OK. And that’s why the Halachah is, that to read secular studies now and then is OK, but to pursue it as a course of study is prohibited.

As far as Aristotle, yes, the Rambam did say that much of what he said was correct, but first, as the Chosid Yaavetz points out, just because the Rambam was able to know what to accept and what to reject from Aristotle doe not mean that you know as well, and therefore were you to pursue Aristotles' works, you would inevitably be accepting heresy; and two, the Rambam considered Aristotle NOT typical of secular people - he said that he was on the level of understanding almost as high as a Navi! By saying that, he is making Aristotle the exception, and not the rule regarding secular studies. There are those who say that Aristotle even got his knowledge from Torah sources that got mixed into Greek knowledge.

And even the Rambam's pursuit of Aristotle was controversial. Others said he was wrong; the GRA wrote that even the great Rambam was influenced negatively in his Hashkofos by his pursuit of Aristotle.

But either way, (a) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is not Aristotle, and (b) you are not the Rambam. It’s no comparison.

For us, the Halachah is clearly stated in Shulchan Aruch: Secular studies (not for parnassa) are permitted only to glance at now and then, but not to learn as a course or regularly.




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