Friday, April 26, 2013

The Purpose of Criticizing Charedi Society

Recently, I received two letters of criticism. Both were written by very fine people, who are somewhat in the charedi world, but not at all typical of mainstream charedim. The first wrote as follows:
What is the value of arousing animosity against chareidim? This is a serious, not a rhetorical question. Your emails are obviously not going to be read by Israeli chareidim, so influencing them for the better is obviously not the goal. What is your goal? ...Your books were written with a goal of bringing yidden close to Torah. If you now feel somewhat bitter towards your former community, I would not blame you. But ask yourself, for what purpose are you in the world? Why did Hashem give you the tremendous abilities that He gave you? ...Your column about the lion hunter who helped the Jews of Palestine -- one of the true tzaddikei umos ha'olam -- was fascinating and inspiring. I am asking you, please write more of those articles, and please don't write articles that will only arouse animosity against bnai Torah. You have enormous influence, maybe more than you know, and if you really want to bring all Jews together, you have the ability to influence secular and modern Orthodox people in that direction.
And the second person wrote:
I have been an avid reader of your blogs and articles and many of them are most enlightening... But I must say I have found your caustic tone towards Charedim in recent weeks most unsettling and uncomfortable. You seem to paint all charedim in the same light, or at least all leaders... However despite even some of the theological flaws and sometimes the bully tactics that go on in the upper echelons of the charedi establishments, I cannot help but admire the vitality they have for their Judaism. I am wondering what is the goal of all these anti-charedi articles or exposes?
Where to begin? I have so much to say, but I'll limit it to a few points.

First of all, it is probably significant that these two people live in out-of-town communities in the Diaspora. I, on the other hand, live in Israel, and moreover in a city that is at the forefront of tensions between charedim and non-charedim. This inevitably gives us a different perspective.

Second, I fully agree that it's not healthy for me (or anyone) to obsess over the shortcomings of others, and I need to work harder to make this blog more positive. On a personal level, as is well known, I have been through some hardship as a result of charedi society's flaws. This has inevitably created some bitterness in me, that I strive to overcome.

But that's as far as my own personal character growth is concerned. In terms of what other people need - I think that it is very important to point out the serious flaws in chareidi society, from a Torah/ scholarly perspective. This is especially since chareidi society is almost never open to addressing or even admitting its own problems.

I used to think, as my two correspondents still apparently do, that charedi society is basically correct, albeit possessing certain problems that need fixing. But over the last decade, I have changed my perspective. I now think that charedi society is deeply flawed at a fundamental level (for some reasons that I explained in my post "Not For The Reason You Might Suspect", as well as other reasons.) This is not to say that it has no praiseworthy aspects - of course it does. Chareidi society has a degree of passion and sacrifice for Judaism that is not found as much elsewhere. But fundamentally, it is the wrong path in Judaism - and it is especially at odds with the approach of the rationalist Rishonim.

Why do people such as Jonathan Rosenblum and Avi Shafran write critiques of groups such as Women Of The Wall? Because they believe that these groups are perverting authentic Judaism. I don't quite understand why they publish these articles in forums such as Mishpachah, which has no readers that might be tempted to join these groups. But, supposing they were to be addressing a forum in which they could have an impact, it would certainly be understandable that they would try to do so!

Well, I have such a forum. These postings are read by several thousand people. Some of these people are deeply embedded in the charedi world - and benefit from learning about what needs changing, and from understanding why non-charedim might not be sympathetic to the charedi lifestyle. Others are at a life juncture where they are making choices, to a lesser or greater degree, regarding which community to affiliate with, or which schools to send their kids to, and they benefit from being better informed regarding their decisions.

It's not enough just to praise the positive in non-charedi approaches to Judaism. The charedi approach is dominant and infiltrates non-charedi communities, through print and people. And it's often difficult for people to understand, or to explain, why and how the charedi approach is incorrect and inconsistent with classical Judaism. That takes detailed knowledge of the charedi world as well as an understanding of intellectual Jewish history.

I am not a great person or a leader. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, studies and experiences that I have acquired over the years. These enable me to make some penetrating analyses that result in this website being a nightmare for promoters and enforcers of the charedi approach - which is why my writings were singled out for condemnation at the Agudah convention. The criticisms show that Charedim are not the sole bearers of Torah-True Tradition TM and embodiments of Torah-True Values TM that they claim to be.

The greatest irony here is that I am a former charedi apologist myself. Many years ago I wrote an essay, "The Nine Questions People Ask About Charedim," which aimed to justify and promote the charedi lifestyle. I also published a book in which I (attempted to) justify "Daas Torah" and avoiding army service, amongst other charedi values. Jonathan Rosenblum once said that I would someday be his successor. I used to loathe certain people for criticizing charedim. But it gradually dawned on me that the criticisms were correct. I also realized that these criticisms are especially painful for sincere people that, for idealistic reasons, want to identify with the charedi world (which has a well-earned image of passion and a less well-earned image of authenticity), but who, deep down, are troubled by many aspects of it.

I try hard to avoid mudslinging, or obsessively reporting wrongdoings. And I know that it would be better for me personally to adopt a more positive approach, and it would perhaps even make my writings more effective. But the basic purpose is to show that many aspects of charedi ideology and communal policies do not represent traditional and correct Torah values, and to thereby enable people, and society, to improve.

It's a form of kiruv.

48 comments:

  1. Excellent piece.

    Every time a chareidi person tells that my criticisms about chareidi society are falling on deaf ears, and I should just stop already since they're clearly not accomplishing anything anyway, I can't help laughing out loud.

    "You're living proof that they aren't!" I tell him. "The fact that you're bothered enough by them to tell me to shut my mouth means that my criticism are having the desired effect! The whole point is to prod you enough that you can no longer be complacent about your flaws. Clearly, they're working!"

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  2. It's a fundamental problem with any forum aimed at discussing real shortcomings within a specific sector or group. Because such forums typically cannot address all groups and their failings, they naturally tend to give the impression that the one or two groups they do focus on are particularly flawed.

    The fact is that there is a genuine need for dialogue on the shortcomings of Haredi-ism and Haredi society. That's not to say that the rest of Israeli society is simply wonderful. The problems in mainstream (read secular) Israel are legion. The Dati Leumi community, which I left for the Haredi community (though I have subsequently drifted back towards it) also has a plethora of serious issues, some of them fundamental flaws. But that doesn't change the fact that there is also a need for debate within the Haredi world over its own issues.

    I can identify with R' Slifkin's metamorphosis vis-a-vis the Haredi community. Having left the national religious sector for the Haredi one after growing disgusted with the former, I was definitely an apologist for Haredi society. Yet there is something of a "the grass is always greener on the other side" element to Israeli sectors; some people (such as myself) tend to see the flaws in whatever sector they live in much more strongly than those in other sectors.

    As I drifted away from the Haredi community and began to criticize it - initially quite harshly - I came to realize that my perspective tended to be biased, exaggerating the relative problems of the Haredi sector as compared to other societies. Also, by focusing criticism solely on the population I was a party of - and thus, most bothered by - I think I gave people around me (non-Haredim, of course) an exaggerated image of the problems in the Haredi world. Since then I have tried, and am still struggling, to put my criticisms in perspective, both for myself and for others. This is not meant at all as a criticism of R' Slifkin's posts; I actually think he tends to moderate himself pretty well in terms of tone, despite claims to the contrary. I think that there is, however, an intrinsic drawback of any such forum, that it has this kind of magnifying glass effect mentioned above. What's the solution? I don't know if there is one. I think that people who participate in such a forum have to be conscious of the effects it can have and remind themselves of this fact constantly.

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  3. I believe that your response to the two letters is even easier to defend than you made it out to be. The reason to critique the Charedi approach on this blog, where few Charedim will get to read it is that you are not writing to Charedim. You are writing to other people who might be tempted to believe that Charedism = Judaism (after all, if one repeats something enough times and it becomes "truth" and if nothing else, Charedim claim to be the only true heirs). You are in fact pointing out to your readers, that Charedism is not the only approach, nor even the most closely related to tradition. It is vital that other people know that even if no Charedi ever receives the Kiruv.

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  4. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Keep up your good work. There is always a problem when a community loses the ability to fix its problems because it can't even honestly admit them. Those inside the Haredi world who want to change things need all the help they can get in articulating and analyzing their problems. I suspect that some day you will get credit for contributing to that change. In the meantime you will get unfair criticism. Please don't let them deter you.

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  5. I don't quite understand why they publish these articles in forums such as Mishpachah, which has no readers that might be tempted to join these groups. But, supposing they were to be addressing a forum in which they could have an impact, it would certainly be understandable that they would try to do so!

    Demonization of The Other is an important mechanism in promoting group cohesion and conformity, especially when physical means of coercion lurk in the background, be that a hostile environment, external enemies, official organs of the group, or unofficial means such as shadowy nascent mobs. Urban legends of Bad Examples help, too.

    That's just the kind of creature we are; Rationalists have this nasty habit of fact checking the urban legends, and debunking false claims by the leadership. True, one needs to live in times of relative security and peace for this to be tolerated. A state of perpetual war/crisis/revolution helps create the rationale for not tolerating it. History shows us that some leaders create the perception or even the reality of perpetual crisis to maintain their leadership.

    If I wish to live fully as a Jew, I understand that regardless of my external circumstances, I must strive to be perpetually aware of and engaged in the inner war with my yetzer hara; I appreciate it when the society I live in doesn't actively get in my way. I sometimes even wish that that society and culture were more help, but have concluded that for me, while Chareidi society might provide such help, it is at too high a price.

    I once thought that to get society's active assistance it would be worth it if I had to forgo the full exercise and use of reason. Bitter experience has taught me that, at least for me, it was not healthy to do so.

    But there's perpetual war and perpetual war. Israel is in a war for existential physical survival and so far B"H has been successful. Because of that success, the Hareidi world has the freedom to do what it does in historically speaking, incredible comfort and security. Unfortunately, for its own internal reasons, the Hareidi world tends to treat non-Hareidi Israel like an existential enemy.

    I once heard an interesting distinction made. The mashal was of a warrior alone in the desert, with most of the people he might encounter belonging to tribes of blood enemies.

    It would be a reasonable, accurate perception of reality – and beneficial for his life and health for – him to be suspicious of everyone he meets and treat them as an enemy.

    Once he is out of the desert and in friendly territory, if he continues to see everyone as an enemy, it would be a delusion. A person who never was in such hostile circumstances but views everyone as an enemy would likewise be laboring under a delusion.

    Some of us have seen that we were laboring under delusions and tried to free ourselves. We may even have been led to believe that to do so is to leave the Mesorah, and may have been caused great pain in thinking that.

    Then along comes Rabbi Slifkin. He loves animals, he takes delight in Hashem's creation and in studying it. He could not believe that our Mesorah would say that there was something intrinsically wrong with that. Out of self preservation, he did some some heavy lifting which showed him -- and his publications show us, for which I for one am grateful -- that there are solid foundations in our Mesorah for thinking that there isn't anything wrong with it.

    Apropos of nothing, one interesting characteristic of these times is that it is comparatively easy to change "tribes."

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  6. Let me add my voice to those expressing their appreciation of the efforts of R' Natan in attempting to bring more sanity to the Orthodox world. I keep being impressed with his basic character as well as his clear thinking - not to mention his knowledge of the animal world and many topics in Jewish studies. Keep up your good work, R' Natan.

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  7. I used to loathe certain people for criticizing charedim. But it gradually dawned on me that the criticisms were correct.

    And right there we have it. You have the intellectual honesty to change your mind about important matters when you believe you were in error. This is why your material is worth reading. And it is why you will be rejected by people whose version of epistemic closure rejects any evidence that denies their pre-determined conclusions.

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  8. A Rav in our shul once said the following (the shul is Chabad, if you haven't guessed): "It's not because there are misnagdim, that we are chassidim--we would be chassidim whether or not there were misnagdim!"

    In the same vein: Rationalist Judaism doesn't need to demonstrate what is wrong with non-rationalist approaches to define itself.

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  9. When you report on the cost of the Chareidim to the taxpayers, would you consider reporting simultaneously on the cost of left wing institutions to the taxpayers?

    For example: university classes and publications that are left wing propaganda, or even legitimate humanities; opera houses; art; theater; welfare for secular people who are able but refuse to work; i.e. government funding for anything not to do with necessities: defense, police, garbage pickup, etc.

    If the issue is the burden on the taxpayer, why not advocate cutting ALL burdens on the taxpayer together? I know if you did this, I'd be more comfortable with your posts.

    Avi

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  10. The truth is, owing to your background, that you are overly respectful of the charedi world, and dont hit hard enough or often enough. Charedim only feel "targeted" because they are so used to being immune from criticism. Consequently, anything negative seems magnified ten-fold.

    The argument of "you are only preaching to the choir so why bother" is comforting, and at times may even be true, but more often it is false. As the first comment notes, the mere fact alone that two people complained shows it has an effect.

    Like you, I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with charedi society at its core. The problem is that while recently the first flowering of criticism of the society per se has emerged, no one yet criticizes the leaders who brought them there, save only in the most watered down of asides. Non-chassidc charedi society is basically the creation of Rabbi Aharon Kotler and the Chazon Ish. Yet I've never seen a single writer come right and say how terrribly wrong they were in everything they taught. That they were as wrong as wrong can be. That, in fact, they were not Gedolim at all, but rather misguided men themselves who led naive youth down a path others at the time correctly saw would lead to disaster. Does anyone ever say such things? No. We dance around the problem by saying blatant lies, such as: their philosophy of kollel for everyone was only a "horass shah" that has become obsolete; or, they were right, but unforseen events have arisen to change things. All of this to avoid the unpleasantness of saying they and their followers were horribly mistaken from the get-go.

    I am as conscious of respect and derech eretz as anyone else. I know how hard it is merely to type such things, let alone say it, despite many people thinking precisely that in their hearts. And, of course, - we must always give the disclaimer - there was much to admire in the men I mentioned, as well as in their followers, and I was only mentioning two names out of many. But until we get over our inhibitions against critique, we've not really done our jobs.

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  11. "But what I do have are a very particular set of skills,"

    I can't be the first person to immediately think of this Liam Neeson quote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seRhXyoNrGI

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  12. To quote Captain Spock from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: "What you want is irrelevant, what you have chosen is at hand".
    Like it or not, want it or not, you in a position of leadership. People look to you for halachic and haskafic viewpoints. You serve an important purpose for many. Thus your posts, positive and negative, will create influence.
    But here is more. When you write negative posts about Chareidi foibles, spot on as they may be, they diminish your blog. A fine handbag is, price aside, a handbag and there's lot of those in the story. Do you want people thinking of checking out your blog if they're in a mood to be enlightened or if they looking for a erudite anti-Chareidi screen?
    But here's where you can do the most good. There is a fallacy in Chareidi thinking that hurt the Torah community tremendously. When a Chareidi becomes disillusioned with the Torah True(tm) lifestyle he goes OTD but, true to the black and white thinking process he was taught in school, he usually goes totally OTD: atheist, anti-religion, etc. If you suggest to him that another form of Orthodoxy might be for him you get laughed at. He might not be Chareidi but the idea that non-Chareidi Orthodoxy is illegitimate and foolish remains.
    You can present a functional, meaningful but non-Chareidi Judaism to many Chareidim who are looking for serious practice of their Judaism but away from their community. You could influence many who are thinking of leaving to instead stay on new but just as frum terms.
    But you would do this by presenting a positive philosophy. It's one thing to refute incorrect positions of others but far more productive to promulgate positive ones of your own.

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  13. Could you at least tell us 1) What is fundamentally flawed with Charedi society and 2) How you plan on fixing it by blogging?

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  14. I must agree with your critics. I sometimes find your method of criticism too extreme. It has put me off numerous times. I think a more positive tone would be more helpful.

    I also think you have quite a bit of a head-strong attitude that blinds you to some very good points other people make. This surely comes from the unjust demonization you have been subjected to, and so is quite understandable. (It’s probably helped you to survive.) But it, nevertheless, is there. And I think it harms your cause.

    I like to think of myself as centrist charedi - not milchig, not fleishig, just pareve. I like to hear both sides of an issue without pre-judging. Unfortunately, both sides usually have good points, and I find it difficult to decide. (That's why I'm not a posek!)

    I sometimes find myself battling some extreme charedi view in my mind, imagining how they will answer my criticisms and I will answer their answers, and they will answer my answers, ad infinitum. I then realize that they will have an answer for everything and that it is useless to argue. Maybe they are wrong, maybe I am wrong, and maybe it is a matter of "elu v'elu".

    One needs deep faith in "elu v'elu" and ones convictions. Once one has that faith, then the best path to take is to just do what is best for oneself. If I feel that my shita is also correct and that I have sources to back it up, then all I need to do is determine what is in my own best self-interest. If a given path is what I need in order to be content and secure with my Yiddishkeit, then that is all I need. I don't need to battle the world. (Read your own introduction to The Challenge of Creation.)

    I think you need to do more of that - merely state the charedi shita, your alternate shita (with sources), and tell your readers "OK, you choose". And be secure in your choice.

    You should view your web site as an educational tool, not a battleground. You have a better chance of winning via “light” than via “might”.

    It's much more positive that way.

    And a lot less stressful on your heart.

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  15. This somewhat hostile libertarian wrote the following piece on "preaching to the choir" which he said has value in itself. So even if not a single charedi read this blog, your blog would still be very valuable:

    http://www.tomwoods.com/blog/why-it-can-be-good-to-preach-to-the-choir/

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  16. I pray that all the readers here act like the housewife, and not the cat, in the following story, told by R' Paysach Krohn:

    Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Spektor (1817-1896), the Rav of Kovno, once summoned a man who had been very critical of a group in the community which had transgressed certain Torah laws. “What right do you have to criticize them so sharply?” Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan asked. “What gives you the authority to humiliate them publicly?”

    The man was startled by the question. “Rebbe,” he replied, “you yourself have admonished them. Why are you upset with me for what I said about them?”

    “You are right,” said Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan. “We do share a similarity. Both of us are upset that those people have sinned. However, there is a great difference between you and me—the difference between a housewife and a cat.”

    “A housewife and a cat?” the startled man asked.

    “Yes,” answered the great sage. “I am like the housewife who chases mice from her home because she wishes them out. You are like the cat that chases mice because she wants to eat them. The housewife would be happier if the mice never showed up in the first place. The cat would rather that the mice appear, so that he can torment, hound, and devour them.

    “I would have preferred that those people had never sinned. You, on the other hand, revel in the fact that they have sinned so that you have the opportunity to chastise, humiliate, and reproach them.”

    (From Further along the Maggid’s Path, Rabbi P. Krohn, p. 108)ive

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  17. Who is a Chareidi?April 28, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    The problem I have with all this Charedi bashing is that you have not defined exactly what you mean by Charedi. As somebody who prides themselves on a scientific approach, I find it difficult that you criticise an entire group, without scientifically defining that group.

    So, who are these Charedim? Most chasidic groups believe strongly in working for a living, so you are clearly not referring to them. The Charedim of London, Manchester and New York are completely unchareidi in EY terms. No more than say 10,000 Jewish families, worldwide? Hardly a threat to your version of 'authentic Judaism', as defined by the Rishonim (in your opinion).

    What seems to be happening is some sort of reverse 'no true Scotsman'. Anybody American who attends the Agudah conference is, in your opinion, following the 'gedolim', chareidi and therefore 'following a deeply flawed societal model'. Even though he may have children working for a living and giving his children a decent education. And what about those people in EY, whilst putting their kids through the Charedi education system, have no problem if they chose to work later on. Are they Chareidim or not, in your system? And what counts as work. Is anything other than a professional real working. What about a school Rebbe? Is he working in your system. Or is your definition of Charedi anybody who claims exemption from the army, even if he is an American Olah educating his kids with a broad education. You can see the problem.

    Come on, let's have some numbers. I believe the number of 'Charedim' with this 'deeply flawed societal model' numbers no more than 10,000 including kids, who don't really count. And only exist in EY. Again, hardly worth worrying yourself over, IMHO.





    One seems to be

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  18. "Many years ago I wrote an essay, "The Nine Questions People Ask About Charedim," which aimed to justify and promote the charedi lifestyle. I also published a book in which I (attempted to) justify "Daas Torah" and avoiding army service, amongst other charedi values"

    Now if you were to publish a series of posts using that material with updated commentary based on your worldview now, that would be an interesting read.

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  19. @Who is a Chareidi?

    I think R. Slifkin is fairly consistent (though not perfectly so) in defining Charedim as those who believe that Limud Torah, to the exclusion of every single other activity, is the ideal way to live today. Attaching the label "Charedi", is I believe, nothing less than what these people would do themselves. Obviously there are other nuances, but as R. Slifkin's criticisms are generally on the actions and beliefs, rather than the people, I don't think it really matters much.

    No sociological group can be definitively defined, so to insist on such is really just trying to deflect the issue. There are no membership requirements for "Charedi". There's no membership committee or a list.

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  20. Dear Andrew M L,

    In your post about the housewife and the cat you raise very important question.
    Let's take the content seriously. There is no any hint that the commoner (accused for being a "cat") committed some sins, otherwise it can not be understandable why he respected Rabbi Spektor did not reprove him for them first. Also, there is no any evidence that he was happy to have someone to rebuke. (And, where it could be from? Did the respected Rabbi know to read others mind?)

    Therefore my conclusion is the following. As we see, the Rabbi did not deny the commandment of tohecha (reprove). "You yourself have admonished them!", the man says. However he strongly believed that it is restricted for "lords" (professional rabbies) and is disabled for "commoners" (rest of Jewish people).

    The is yet another major problem on Jewish prople in last generations in general, and the Charedi community in particular. According to the authenic Tora, there should not be disjunction between "lords" and "commoners" in Jewish people. There should be respected sages and law experts, but no lords and "pastors" sublime from their "flock". And now they are. That is, I believe, the key problem for many issues raised in the blog.

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  21. DF,

    As a follow up to your comment about R' Aharon Kotler being misguided, see my post What did R' Aharon Kotler advise talmidim to do before WWII? where I quote a letter that R' Aharon wrote to R' Gedalia Schorr (who was leaving Poland to go back to the US because of fears of war) in the summer of 1939 in which he said as follows:

    ...he could calmly remain in Kletzk and that he did not have to worry about a war in the near future

    WWII broke out less then 2 months later and if R' Schorr had followed R' Aharon's advice he most probably would not have survived.

    What we see from this is that no one is infallible. Yes, RAK was a great talmid chacham but he (and almost all of the Gedolim in pre-war Europe) completely misread the situation before WWII. As DF points out it possible that he misread the situation after WWII as well.

    It is amazing to me that RYBS is one of the few Gedolim (R' Teichtel who wrote the Eim Habanim Semeicha is another) who changed his worldview based on the events of WWII and the Holocaust. He went from being an Agudist and the greatest expositor of Daas Torah (his hesped fro R' Chaim Ozer)to becoming the head of the Mizrachi and moving away from Daas Torah.

    It seems that the other Gedolim instead of trying to understand the events of WWII and learn from them simply tried to rebuild the Eastern European yeshiva world that was destroyed in the Holocaust in America.

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  22. I feel not portraying Charedim in a positive light is not the crux of the issue. The main problem is sometimes you write lies which will results in defaming the charedim
    Take for example the previous post end of last week, you wrote to me regarding my original query on March 18th 2013 why being machmir in yourself paying the full fare to el-al is different than being machmir in a large kezayis. You replied in last weeks post that i was given answers but i just didnt like them.
    This is a lie.
    Your readers can look for themselves but nowhere on the post of 18 March did you answer me why it is ok to be machmir in monetary matters but not in shiurim.
    So how can one trust you on all your views on charedim with all your monographs if you clearly have no qualms in writing untruths?

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  23. Another important reason to criticize (vociferously, but respectfully) the actions of the chareidi world is to let the rest of the world know that this does NOT represent Torah.

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  24. 1. Moish, let's suppose that your claim regarding there not having been a response to your question was true. How on earth would that be an example of lies that defame charedim? Are you claiming that charedim do not eat a large shiur for a kezayis?

    2. Let's suppose that I incorrectly thought that you had been given an answer, but I was mistaken and my memory failed me. Why would this disqualify everything that I have written?

    3. If you believe that if someone writes something incorrect, then one cannot accept anything that they have written, then surely this means that you cannot accept anything said by Rav Elyashiv. After all, he signed a letter saying that the haskamos to my books had been revoked, which was not true.

    4. In any case, your fundamental claim is wrong. Your question was responded to, by myself and others, and readers can check the original post for themselves to see.

    If you have further comments on this topic, please post them on the original thread - http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/04/seder-historical-realities-vs-seder.html

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  25. I am a regular frum jew from America who was also thrown into the Ramat Beit Shemesh Anglo Chareidi world after making Aliyah. I saw the flaws and slowly moved out of the Anglo chareidi society. I totally understand where you are coming from in trying to make people aware of what is really going on, but I think that each family has to go through their own religious route to get to their òwn truth.
    It is almost impossible to try and convince people how backward
    the anglo chareidi lifestyle is. If they are in it they are not interested in hearing what is wrong. A family that is on a search for the real truth will find what they are looking for. Even though I completely disagree with the anglo chareidi lifestyle, I also have tried to understand why some very intelligent Anglo chareidi families are leading this lifestyle. There are people who grew up without Torah in their lives and materialism was the most important thing in their childhood, I think that some people go to the opposite extreme and raise their own families in a completely idealistic lifestyle. They think that their Torah is the only Torah,and everything else is wrong, so let them think that.
    Rabbi Slifkin, I think your work is amazing in all areas. It is sad that the chareidi world was not big enough to accept your work. It is their loss. You have so much to offer those of us who have moved beyond the Chareidi lifestyle and I hope there will be a time when you can move on and let the Chareidim be. We need someone like you to strengthen those of us that want to grow and understand our creator on a deeper level. May Hashem continue
    to give you the strength to spread Emes in this very confusing world.

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  26. To Brodsky, about the housewife/cat analogy:
    I didn't understand it as a difference between lords and commoners, but a difference between does a person feel distressed when he hears of someone else's wrongdoing, or does he revel in the fact that he has the opportunity to give admonishment.

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  27. Avi,

    I believe that that Limud Torah, to the exclusion of every single other activity, is the ideal way to live today.

    Yet I work hard for a living, give my kids a broad education and worldview, teach them that there is nothing wrong with working for a living and teach them that there are "two sides to every story" and they cannot condemn MO or Mizrachi just like that.

    So am I Charedi?

    "R. Slifkin's criticisms are generally on the actions and beliefs, rather than the people".

    Not correct. Several years ago perhaps, but the criticisms are now regularly on the people.

    "No sociological group can be definitively defined"

    Correct, but we haven't received any definition at all! The entire fuss seems to be targeted at a very small number of people!

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  28. Here's a great explanation of an alternative to harediism:

    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/component/content/article/34-featured/348-harav-david-bar-hayim-a-his-torah

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  29. Perhaps you should adopt of policy of never posting two critical posts in a row. That way, at least half of your posts will be more positive, giving the blog a much more positive feel while still allowing you to say what needs to be said. And of course, it means you'll have to write more non-critical posts every time you want to be critical, thus giving us readers more classic Slifkin posts to read :).

    -Adam

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  30. To be clear, when I say "positive", I don't mean that you should instead devote your posts to positive statements about Chareidi society (I suppose you can if you want to, but that's not what I meant); rather I mean that you could discuss other topics, like Torah and biblical zoology and medieval rationalism.

    -Adam

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  31. Chazal say that Penina acted toward Chana L'Shem Shomayim, and yet because of the Tzar she caused Chana, she suffered a terrible punishment.

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  32. It seems to me that indeed quite a few people are listening in the Charedi (and non-Charedi!) world. Certainly your blog has significant distribution through social media.

    Please keep it up. A common ground on many key halachic matters and attitudes is being forged owing to this kind of transparent debate and communication.

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  33. It seems that the other Gedolim instead of trying to understand the events of WWII and learn from them simply tried to rebuild the Eastern European yeshiva world that was destroyed in the Holocaust in America.

    Or perhaps build it the way they thought it should have but mostly hadn't been

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  34. From my persepctive, RNS feels the exact same way about charedim as people like R. CD Keller and others feel/used to feel about "modern orthodoxy" (or as they called it, "modneh orthodoxy.":) That is constitutes zifuf hatorah, a misrepresentation of Torah. Consequently, one not only *should*, but is actually *obligated*, to call them out. Again, no different than what the Jewish Observer magazine did regularly for decades, and what the Yated Neman does regularly today.

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  35. Rabbi Slifkin does the world a tremendous service through these critical posts.

    The crux of the problems plaguing chareidi society is - not the inability to be self critical. For anyone who knows how things work, it is the bastardization of Emunas Chachomim, that they have morphed it into the new alien term - 'Daas Torah'

    When one can just shout daas torah and use it as a trump card - they need not understand what they are doing, what is going on, there is no need to apologize, or be self critical at all. After all, if you believe in 'daas torah' any concept, practice that doesnt make sense, can easiliy be explained away. Its all in the hands of the gedolim and who are we to even ask? Most who invoke this term are abusing the good name of gedolim as a weapon, an intimidation tool (as was done to Rabbi Slifkin) to bring the 'hamon am' to heel.

    R' Slifkin is essentially hammering away at this very alien concept to varying degrees deending on the post. That is the common denominator.

    This idea that a bunch of Rabbonim know better about any topic all the time - to the exclusion of actual experts in the field, (the need to ask rabbonim EVERYTHING) and the fact that it is so abused -MUST be defeated, so that RATIONALIST JUDAISM can take its place.

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  36. YOu'd do much better to change by critisizing specifics, and not using specifics as a medium for a general attack.

    Z ZIG

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  37. The crux of the problems plaguing chareidi society is - not the inability to be self critical.

    Ploni - I assume you mean that the problem "IS the inability to be self-critical." If that's the case, I wholeheartedly agree! In fact, I'd say it's one of the similarities this group shares with our Arab/Muslim cousins. In the Arab world, it's all about "honor and shame", which can often come at the expense of truth, and where self-critique is seen as a sign of weakness.

    In the charedi world, it's nearly the same - just that we use terms like "kavod" and "kefira". Any nod to non-charedim for doing something better, or kal v'chomer any acknowledgement of error on the part of the rabbis/society, is seen as an admission of imperfection and thus a show of kefira. Quite sad! And so contrary to the noble trait of "anavah"! In truth it exposes the system as being extremely fragile.

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  38. Interesting post and well balanced.
    To be fair the Haredi leaders can be critical of their own communities and point out their flaws, we just need to look at last years worldwide internet gatherings.
    My point being what you deem as wrong and therefore in need of critisism (learning not working) is considered in the haredi world as the pinnacle of holiness,(and to be fair they have shown me many sources to support that way of life as you can bring against)so is it not futile to be critical on a community in an area that they feel legit?
    Are you aware that they feel towards your attacks the same way you would feel if a Bet Shemesh ben torah would start preaching you how you have the internet at home. You would think he is bizarre.
    It is after all 2 sets of values, and if you cannot be broad minded to accept theirs, how can we expect them to listen to ours?

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  39. Rav Slifkin: It might be helpful if you were to present an analysis of what the fundamental flaws of charedi society is, as opposed to other aspects of charedi Judaism that are not necessarily problematic. For example, if charedim A) ceased insisting that Chazal never erred in science, B) published the rulings of gedolim after hearing both sides of an issue rather than relying on the oral reports of askanim and hastily-signed bans, C) withdrew their objections to work and national service and began entering a variety of professions while reserving lifetime Torah study for a select few, but A) kept having large numbers of children, B) dressing in the same way, C) maintaining increasingly strict halachic interpretations and D) keeping their distance from secular popular culture, would you still consider charedi Judaism to be fundamentally flawed?

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  40. Did you see the post that I linked to in this post? The only fundamental problem is C).

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  41. Who is a charediMay 1, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    So now we have it.

    The definition of Charedi is "mantaining stricter and stricter halachic opinions". Hashkofoh has nothing to do with it.

    Well let me spell out what we all know. Whereas the Charedi Rabbonim may preach stricter and stricter halachic opinions, in practice your average Charedi does not practice stricter and stricter halachic opinion.

    Some keep what their fathers keep, nothing more, and when not in the public eye many keep less.

    Other than tzniyus, which by definition is in the public eye, and maybe kashrus, relatively few Charedim practice stricter and stricter halachic opinion. They are no better or worse, in the privacy of their own homes, than your average non Charedi orthodox Jew. They have a yetzer horoh like all of us.

    So now I can reduce my estimate even further. This blog appears to be targeted at no more than maybe 3,000 charedi b'nei aliyah.

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  42. >>>> and to be fair they have shown me many sources to support that way of life as you can bring against

    first off, i doubt it. would you kindly share some? ... but even if a bat kol came out to support their way of life, a rational person must reject it, as it goes against all the laws of economics and sociology.

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  43. "This is not to say that it has no praiseworthy aspects - of course it does. Chareidi society has a degree of passion and sacrifice for Judaism that is not found as much elsewhere. But fundamentally, it is the wrong path in Judaism - and it is especially at odds with the approach of the rationalist Rishonim."

    1 How can being at odds w rationalist Rishonim unauthenticate Charidim when rationalist Rishonim were at odds with many amoraim in Bavli?

    2 In the nonhareidi world problems are Shomer Negia (which acc. tom any poskim is Yeharog Ve'al Yaavor) and similar breaches in Halacha, real (no, not banned) kefira is much more tolerated among fellow members..., So what makes you think it's better to actively influence people to leave Chareidi fold? Is it even Halachically permissible?

    3 Your stated main problem with Chareidim is socio-economic, however many gedolim do not condone much of the extreme cases, Reb Yaakov was open to colege for some, (many could name more Gedolim).

    4 No public is perfect. However it seems Hareidim are a continuation of the Rabinic establishment from before the war, hard to call that artificial.

    Z ZIG

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  44. 1. You're right, there's nothing necessarily wrong with being at odds with the Rishonim. However, a) charedim don't usually like to be at odds with tradition, b) in this particular aspect, the Rishonim were continuing Chazal's approach and were correct!

    2. Frankly, I think that those are lesser problems than enforced perpetual poverty and the problems that it brings in its wake.

    3. R. Yaakov is long gone. If the current disaster is either the direct fault of the Gedolim for encouraging it, or they are to blame for not doing anything about it.

    4. They are not a continuation. See my paper "The Making of Haredim." There was no mass kollel system before the war!

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  45. "1. You're right, there's nothing necessarily wrong with being at odds with the Rishonim. However, a) charedim don't usually like to be at odds with tradition"

    Not all Rishonim were Rationalist, and many -- such as the RMBM --admitted they weren't following ALL of ChaZaL.

    "2. Frankly, I think that those are lesser problems than enforced perpetual poverty and the problems that it brings in its wake"

    According to the Poskim they are Yeharog V'al Yaavor [Negiah and real Kefira], I don't understand I thought you do hold of Halacha.

    ZZ

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  46. First of all, based upon the comments it does seem as though you too are preaching to those who already agree with your criticisms of the Charedi world. Although I acknowledge that this may not be a totally accurate portrayal of your readers, but it is somewhat indicative.

    Secondly, you often quote Rishonim and Achronim to support your points, yet today's and the previous generations Geodolim you tend to disregard. Could you pinpoint exactly when the Mesorah broke down? It does seem as the Charedi Gedolim of today are the Talmidim of the previous generations and so on. If as you say, the current Charedim are not following the same path as Chazal and Rishonim, why exactly would that be the case?

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  47. See my monographs on The Novelty of Orthodoxy and The Making of Haredim.

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  48. Sorry. It looks like just another modern orthodox, struggling to be taken seriously, without actually being serious.
    One thing, is yes, I believe the Haredi Rabbanim have made one mistake. They should not use Torah study as an excuse for not serving in the idf, and should be up front and extrememly out there as to why, a jew has no obligation to be in the idf, and a straight up critic, of said institution, the idf. Take the army to task, for failing to war, and for wasting jewish lives, and for not doing their jobs!
    A person who can share the "haredim need to work" malarky, are also, in no sense up on reality or blessed with wisdom or insight at all. Thousands upon thousands of hilunim leave each year, to find work. The arabs have much lower cost of living, so can outbid the most sincere jews, thus shutting them out of LOTS of work. Share with us what a place in Efrat costs, and what a place in the next arab town or village costs. You might then get a picture of the economy of this country. Even if those horrible horrible Kollel Avreichim left Kollel tommorow, where would they work? Aha! They wouldnt! 10% would be lucky to get any work within a year!!!!!! Jobs would have to be created, something the State itself is unable to tackle for the hilunim that need work.
    I must conclude, you are not answering the more important comments, and are avoiding confronting your issue.
    You are avoiding your stupid ascertion, that regarding shomer negia!!!! Answer it please, as those Rishonim like all poskim have shomer nogia down as a direct violation of TOrah law! And the Sages OBM write quite clearly against it! I think, you are the problem!

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