Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Charedim and Non-Charedim Perceive Each Others' Perception Of Them

How do non-charedim perceive how charedim perceive them? Pretty accurately, I think. Non-charedim perceive that charedim perceive non-charedim as being less religious than them - as having a flawed theological perspective and being less committed to religion. I think that this is an accurate perception of their perception, across the board.

How do charedim perceive how non-charedim perceive them? I've seen some charedim who are under the impression that non-charedim see charedim as being more religious to them and living closer to God's will. That's definitely true of some non-charedim, but it's definitely not true of all non-charedim. Many religious-Zionist and centrist Orthodox Jews perceive charedim as being much further from the ratzon Hashem - as having a flawed theological perspective, and concentrating their religious efforts in the wrong areas at the expense of important duties.

This came to my mind when I recently heard a newly-charedi person lament that his centrist Orthodox parents were not enamored of his new path in life. He couldn't understand it - surely they believed in Judaism, and wasn't he being a better Jew? It did not occur to him that, no, they did not think that raising your children to only learn in yeshivah, to avoid army service and to be incapable and unwilling to support their families, makes you into better Jews.

30 comments:

  1. I think there's a lot of stereotyping going on. I won't say I disagree with all of it, but I at least recognize that my opinions on the subject are not based on first-hand knowledge.

    As an aside, it's not clear at first that by non-Charedim, you are talking about Dati'im, but not Chilonim.

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  2. I spent years in a Charedi Kollel then as a maggid shiur in a Charedi yeshiva. For the past number of years I have been living a more DL lifestyle. Rabbi Slifkin is on the mark.

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  3. It is very important for parents to emphasize that aspects of their non-charedi lifestyle are not compromises, or done because it is easier (even if it is), but that this is what they believe the Torah demands of them. A lot of the pull of the charedi world is the feeling that they do everything according to the Torah, whereas others do not.

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    1. but it is rarely the case that "aspects of their non-charedi lifestyle are not compromises, or done because it is easier, but that this is what they believe the Torah demands of them" and pretending otherwise doesn't help as children generally see right through the charade.

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    2. "It is very important for parents to emphasize that aspects of their non-charedi lifestyle are not compromises, or done because it is easier (even if it is), but that this is what they believe the Torah demands of them"

      We need to understand that there are 2 types of MO Jews: (1) The ideologically modern and (2) the behaviorally/ social modern. The former are meticulously observant of Halacha but are, nevertheless, philosophically modern. The latter (who are the majority), on the other hand, are not deeply concerned with philosophical ideas, but enjoy a modern lifestyle and usually adopt a "freedom of choice" approach when it comes to Halacha

      The idea of passing on a "MO mesorah" to children can only work for people who are MO for the right reasons. Otherwise, you view yourself as being Bidieved, and who would want to pass that on?

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    3. > We need to understand that there are 2 types of MO Jews: (1) The ideologically modern and (2) the behaviorally/ social modern. The former are meticulously observant of Halacha but are, nevertheless, philosophically modern. The latter (who are the majority), on the other hand, are not deeply concerned with philosophical ideas,

      The same can be said for any segment of religious Judaism.

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    4. "The same can be said for any segment of religious Judaism."

      That's true, but the difference between a socially modern Jew and a socially Chareidi Jew is that the Chareidi still keeps Halacha well, albeit not for the best reasons. In the end of the day, though, Judaism values deed over creed.

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    5. dlz,

      I agree 100%. Super important.

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    6. > the difference between a socially modern Jew and a socially Chareidi Jew is that the Chareidi still keeps Halacha well,

      And a socially MO Jew doesn't keep halacha well? He doesn't keep it as a Chareidi would, but so what? Both communities pick and choose which halachos they give the greatest importance to, and which can be ignored.

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    7. > And a socially MO Jew doesn't keep halacha well? He doesn't keep it as a Chareidi would, but so what? Both communities pick and choose which halachos they give the greatest importance to, and which can be ignored.

      "Pick and choose"? I think everyone would agree that we are all trying to follow the Torah's law as set forth by Chazal. Yes, Chazal say to make a living and so the percentage of the Chareidi community that doesn't work are not in the right. However, Chazal also say to pray with a minyan 3 times, dress modestly, and to not violate shower negiah, and so the percentage of the MO community that doesn't do these things are also not in the right. And, once we start this game, MO ends up with the bigger list of laxities

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    8. Shmuel: I think very few people in the MO community are lax about "shower negiah"

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  4. The prolblem is that Chareidism takes its perception and understandings of how the outside world works not from actual experience but from traditional texts. You know all those stories in the Gemara where some apikorus or non-Jewish wicked figure quotes the Tanach or Talmud with ease? Or all the midrashim that talk about how the whole world knew about Shlomo HaMelech or heard of Yehoshua's conquest of Israel? Chareidism takes these literally and assumes that the whole world knows about them and their "higher" level of Judaism.
    Recall their attacks on Yair Lapid during the last government. You really got the impression that they believe that Lapid does nothing but sit around all day cursing them and plotting against them. They really believe that a woman walking near their neighbourhood in a tank top isn't wearing it because it's 35 degrees outside but because she wants to provoke them. The idea that life goes on without them being the focus is inconceivable.
    So of course this young man is flustered by his parents. Having drunk the Koolaid he thinks Chareidism is the only genuine form of Judaism and also thinks that his parents know this but are rebelling against that truth which is what he can't understand.

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    1. > The prolblem is that Chareidism takes its perception and understandings of how the outside world works not from actual experience but from traditional texts.

      Yes. So much yes.

      Though I would add that this applies not only to "traditional" texts, but to also to recent ones, and not only to their perception of others, but to many things, like tznius / how men and women behave around one another.

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  5. I think non-charedim are more likely to buy into "70 Panim" and that everyone needs to find their own way to serve God. Some Charedim claim to believe that to with the caveat that "in practice only Charedim do it properly".

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  6. While you may be right in actuality, you're basing yourself on our anecdotal evidence at best. I'd like for this issue to be further studies with more empirical evidence. Like I said, I suspect you're right but without something more concrete I'm not sure what I can do with this. Alternatively, with empirical proof we can then learn what our differences are and open a better dialogue if we understand where each other is coming from. (Perhaps.)

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  7. Probably part of the problem is that non-charedim don't assert this enough. (Even chilonim don't assert it about themselves that much, maybe because they don't think they have to bother.) I remember the first time I saw the argument in writing that it's Modern Orthodoxy that's more authentic- a column by Emanuel Rackman in the Jewish Week, and then others. I was so impressed I cut them out and saved them for a while.

    Later, one of my professors in college, Yaakov Elman, actually did a study that proved that virtually every Tanna and Amora (with I think only one real exception) was what we'd call "Modern Orthodox." You'd probably find something similar among Rishonim and Acharonim as well. I can't say what they'd be or become if they were transported to today, but by today's standards, they were that back then.

    One problem, of course, is the perception that the more modern, the more lax in mitzvah observance. Obviously this is a gross generalization and basically incorrect, and of course the more modern can point out that charedim are lax in other areas (or that a chumra can, in fact, be a kula), but there is at least a kernel of truth that in the more "big ticket" items like Shabbat or kashrut (again, who decides that those and not, say, defending the Land are a "big ticket" issue is another story), you will find more laxness, at least perhaps in absolute numbers if not percentage wise, on one end of the spectrum. Or you did until a couple of decades ago- things have really changed.

    The solution, of course, is to take your religion very seriously while being modern, while at the same time trying to educate your kids to be individuals and not be affected by what they see "most" people doing, for worse or (as a backlash or not) for "better."

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    1. While I agree with you to a certain extent, who decides what's a "big-ticket" item? If the goal of Judaism is (arguably) to bring Moshiach and if Moshiach entails setting up and developing a Jewish state, then who is fulfilling the biggest ticket-item of them all? Charedim or MO Jews? Indeed, even many secular Jews observe this big-ticket item to a far greater extent than charedi Jews. Who, then, is more "observant" in G-d's eyes? Who "gets it" more in His eyes? I'm honestly not sure.

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  8. But Charaidim aren't a single monolithic group. They are split into Yeshivish, Chassidish, Sefardi etc. And each has different hashkafot. So just as much as you think they look askance at MO Jews, each Charaidi sect probably feels the same about the other sects (although granted maybe they feel somewhat closer to each other).

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  9. In the same vein, charedim believe that they make chilonim uncomfortable because they are a rebuke to them. That seeing them makes the chiloni feel guilty of his own wayward life. That's another cherished myth in charedi circles, but in reality, the chiloni feels nothing of the sort. He doesn't like the charedi because he doesn't approve of him, period.

    This is related to the business of people only going off the derech because of tayvah. The common denominator in both is the inability to realize that people have fundamental disagreements with their core values and beliefs. And the root of this inability, of course, is sheer ignorance.

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    1. This myth is very very important. It underlies much of the Charedi attitude towards Chilonim. It allows Charedim to look at Chilonim as so fundamentally ilegitimate in their entire existence(for even they know it) that none of their arguments or concerns need be taken truly seriously.

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  10. Nachum wrote:
    "The solution, of course, is to take your religion very seriously while being modern, while at the same time trying to educate your kids to be individuals and not be affected by what they see "most" people doing, for worse or (as a backlash or not) for "better.""

    Easier said than done. It's much more difficult to "take your religion very seriously" when you're more open-minded, which almost by definition, means that you're more skeptical about certain elements of our tradition. The more fundamentalist you are, the more seriously you'll take elements of the religion. For many people, this will inevitably impact the level of observance.

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    1. I'm not sure I agree. I think it was R' Cardozo who pointed out that most charedim simply don't really think about their religion. Perhaps a more skeptical view causes one to be more religious. Or perhaps not, but then it's a wash.

      Look, there's no doubt charedim are more machmir on certain things. The question then becomes whether chumrot are always good or desirable, and what of the things they come at the expense of- or the things merely ignored.

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  11. R' Slifkin, you were going to post about why centrist/modern orthodox parents send their children to Charedi Yeshivas that espouse values antithetical to their own. It seems you haven't done this yet, and I am very interested in reading your thoughts on the matter as I have spent much time thinking about this due to my own experiences struggling with this. Is such a post forthcoming?

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  12. Bigotry, prejudice and misunderstanding are not the province of any particular group; unfortunately there is plenty to go around.

    However, I think (after almost 29 years in Israel, including 11 years of annual reserve duty in the IDF and seeing our eldest son very recently start his 32 months' service in IDF) alot of the disconnect between charedim & non-charedim does have to do with IDF service, more than any other single issue. People who haven't either served in the IDF, or seen their children serve in the IDF, really have no idea what it's like knowing that some kids/spouses come home home every night while others don't for a while and may never come home, chas v'chalila, that they are out risking life and limb while others are not. When you live with the existential dread that the next knock on the door might be two soldiers from the adjutant's office, nothing is more infuriating than the canard (deliberately chosen word) that our-yeshiva-learning = your-military-service. It goes back to Henry V's line, "He who is prepared to shed his blood with me this day is my brother." To the modern orthodox / dati leumi, it is an added issue that fellow frum yidden should use their Torah study to claim privilege for themselves.

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  13. Will the Moshiach be Charedi, Daati Leeumi, Chardal, Right Wing Zionist, have a parnassah? Can we do away with labels. What purpose is there to brand people as "charedi, "Mizrachi", etc. Drop it, please. Let's be good Jews. I don't believe that G-d will ask you which "group" you associated with. Nor will He ask you if your hat was black, or if you wore a hat. Learn, daven, and be a mentsch. Period.

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  14. It would be interesting if an actual poll exist but Extremist seems obvious.

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  15. Rabbi Slifkin, in the first paragraph you have asserted that charedim look down on non-charedim, and in the second, that some non-charedim also look down on charedim, but the members of the charedi community are oblivious to this. I don't know which type of orthodoxy mandates having ill feelings towards another. Every side of this irregular polygon will strongly defend their angle, but i'd like to think that none look down disparagingly to the other. In the same way someone who earns a wage looks at the one who chooses not to "nebech- he doesn't understand derech eretz", so the one who chooses to spend his whole time learning laments "nebech -he doesn't value Torah enough".

    But given both can legitimately keep shulchan aruch, (with a sufficient halachic backing ), neither would feel that looking down on their fellow Jew, is part of their religious practice, nor ahalachic obligation.

    Dave

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  16. Some thoughts on this all over here: http://dafaleph.com/home/2015/8/17/chareidi-or-more-modern-that-is-the-question-that-r-slifkin-overlooked

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  17. Maybe they are living equally close or equally far from Gd's will. If they are both doing what they wqere sent here to do it is the former. If really they should switch places it is the latter.

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  18. The problem is that vast amount of "hilonim" see non-charedim in the same way: they do not have any "added value", no any additional values, they are just less pedantic in the religion affairs.

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