Monday, November 9, 2015

Guest Post: Dear Dad, Mom and Chaim

Last week's post, Why Do Centrists Send Their Kids to Extreme Charedi Yeshivos?, garnered a lot of interest. One reader sent in the following letter that he had written to his in-law's family (identifying details have been altered):

Dear Dad, Mom and Chaim,

I am writing this to all of you to clarify why I think it is a mistake to choose a haredi yeshiva for next year. I hope you find time to discuss this together, and I am available if you wish to revisit the issue with me.

Until now, Chaim, you have been in an American center-right high school. The school prepares you for college, but the emphasis is on a yeshiva experience. Students are expected to wear black hats, and, explicitly or implicitly, your school places you within the yeshiva (or “yeshivish”) culture. Now, you are choosing a school for next year. This decision deserves serious consideration that includes an examination of what you, as a new adult, think about yourself and what you think about your relationship to Am Yisrael, Torah, and God.

Some people believe strongly that their entire purpose in this world is to learn Torah. Even if they have to work, they believe it is an unfortunate reality that they have to do so, one that, in an ideal world, would never materialize. They spend each and every moment of their time outside of work (or other necessary activities) learning Torah. They do not practically believe there is any good to be gained by interacting with secular culture, and purposely have nothing to do with secular music, art, literature or even science. These people do not read Blake, Tennyson, or Milton – nor do they find value in Hume, Kant or Schleiermacher. Museums and art galleries are of little value or interest. This is the type of philosophy your high-school projects. This is also the philosophy Merkaz, Mir, Toras Moshe and other schools in Israel espouse.

When a student from a different background attends these types of schools, one of two things can happen: 1) they can buy into the views of the school 100% (I have a number of friends who went to modern-orthodox high-school with me, who, when in Yeshiva in Israel "frummed out" and took on the worldview I described above). Alternatively, 2) the student can bifurcate his (or her) world - they can split their life into two pieces: when in Yeshiva, or around their teachers from school, they pay lip service to the school's philosophy, they wear black and white, they live in line with what their teachers expect. However, outside of school, they live within the guidelines of their more open, modern background: they watch television and movies, listen to secular music, find (forbidden?) pleasure in their required readings for English Lit., and generally, enjoy other activities of which their school would not approve.

I am not going to deal with the first possibility in this email, since it is internally consistent, and does not produce cognitive dissonance (a feeling of going against what you think you are meant to believe). The student simply takes on his school's philosophy as his own. However, the second alternative (2 above) is very important, and requires examination. The question is, does it lead to a healthy religious and social result for the student? Can a student really be sincere about his relationship with Hashem and Torah in his "school persona", while his "outside-of-school persona" acts (guiltily?) against the philosophy he learns in school?

This comes to a head when the student is outside of the yeshiva or school system, perhaps a few years later. Does he abandon the values of learning Torah to the secular enticements around him that he always enjoyed, or does he maintain a connection to Torah learning and Torah love? After all, the secular world which the student also loves is worthless and denigrated, without any holiness, according to the school's teachings. How long can a person maintain the tension between what he loves and what he is told is right? How long can a student live with loving things that his school teaches him are antithetical to a Torah-true lifestyle? At what point does he perhaps throw the baby out with the bathwater, rejecting not only the lesson of the school that there is no value in the secular things he finds so pleasant, but ditching the whole committed religious lifestyle, which, as he has always been taught, is available only through fidelity to the school’s religious philosophy?

When he goes to college, does he maintain his "school persona" or shed it? Is it really a genuine part of him or is it just a mask, a costume, he puts on to make his school happy, that he removes when he can?

Chaim, you are a wonderful, thoughtful and deep 12th grader - and you find fulfillment in many things that your school might consider worthless. I know, because I did (and do) as well! So do your mom and dad. Your parents see spiritual and religious value in things that are not simply "yeshivish". Your dad's antique car restorations, the music in your home, your mom's insistence on exposing you to the wonderful literature that makes up a well-balanced western mind, these are all things that your parents find to be full of value - not only value, but also fulfillment - and yes, religious and spiritual importance. Your father would not be the same religious man without his understanding of the subtleties of a carburetor, or his hard work in family court. These aspects of his personality imprint themselves indelibly upon his Talmud-learning, and make it unique. Your mother would not be the same person without her skills as a social worker - and you would not be the same adult you are today without all these things.

Precisely because of how important the secular world is to your family and you - and how much it influences your life (and mine and your parents!) - you should not agree to live with tension between your school or yeshiva, and your passions.

There is a whole world of Jewish people out there who share your family's passion for things that are outside of the beis midrash. In a different kind of yeshiva, your interests in literature, science and philosophy would not be seen as shameful things to hide but positive attributes that complete you as a Jew. Your love of surfing, of art and of music can be seen as a positive religious act. Your interest in furthering your education and looking forward to a meaningful career can be seen as more than an unfortunate necessity but instead as a foundational religious activity of supreme importance and value.

You owe it to yourself, Chaim, to experience that view of Torah - to see an unapologetic view of a Jew who is completely involved in the world, and finds in that involvement spiritual and religious fulfillment! These areas of life become hand-maidens to the rich intellectual Torah life you will continue to live, and you will know that to the extent your knowledge is lacking in secular areas, it is lacking in Torah as well. This view can transform the rest of your life from one of unfortunate necessity to blossoming meaning.

If you go to a haredi yeshiva, you will continue on the path of driving a wedge between Torah and the world in which you engage. On the other hand, if you go to a school that teaches the bedrock of the modern-orthodox hashkafa, you will have an opportunity to see how Torah and the world around you assist each other in making you a complete Jew: Talmud study and the classics of literature and philosophy, a career and sincere involvement in Torah learning, all come together to complete the rich tapestry of your soul. Most importantly, you will not have to choose between being loyal to the teachings of your teachers and following those passions you know have value - rather your passions and the teachings will fulfill each other in harmony. What a missed opportunity, and one whose loss you will suffer for years to come, if you opt out of learning the philosophical underpinnings of the life you have been raised in so far!

Chaim, you stand at the threshold of adulthood. I have the highest regard for the path in which your parents are raising you - Torah with secular knowledge. I encourage you to consider very carefully where you go next year, and I encourage you, if you do end up going to a haredi school, that you find someone (it can be me or someone else) with whom to learn hashkafa, so that at least you have a taste of the kind of Jewish thinking I describe above, and never, out of ignorance, throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Love to you all,

XXXX

53 comments:

  1. Rabbi Slifkin

    Do you believe that a man with enough money to keep him and his family healthy and well for life, and a reasonably good head who will be able to learn happily with hasmodoh (but without the ability to reach to others) for the rest of his life, should learn torah, or should he go to work?

    What is your 'psak'?

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  2. Rabbi Slifkin

    What has a letter promoting modern orthodoxy have to with the values you promote in your last post?

    You are not a fan of modern orthodoxy, you are fan of rationalist Judaism. None of your posts have promoted the fact that "Talmud study and the classics of literature and philosophy... all come together to complete the rich tapestry of your soul.".

    The rationalist rishonim do not promote that view. 'A career and sincere involvement in Torah learning' yes, but not the study of literature and philosophy for their own sake. The rationalist rishonim do not promote the modern orthodox view, not at least according to the post you have blogged to date.

    This letter reminds of the sort of letters reform Jews wrote to their still orthodox brothers and sisters. The letter is a complete hotch potch.

    It's time for a post on why the modern orthodox/centrist/rationalist/whatever cannot produce teachers or Rabbis to rival the chareidi output.

    The neshama knows the truth. Look at a picture of the Chofetz Chaim, look at a picture of Rav Elchonon/Simcha Wasserman, Look at a picture of Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, Rav Leib/Avrohom Gurwitz, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Rav Ovadyah Yosef or the Chazon Ish. Look at how they have a half smile and a half serious face, at how they contemplate and also reflect how they have the burden of Klal yisroel and Torah on their shoulders. How many Zionistic/Centrist/Modern Orthodox/whatever rabbonim have the same hadrus ponim. One, two, how many? How many sukkah decorations are there of Zionistic/Centrist/Modern Orthodox/whatever rabbonim? Why do you think that is? Maybe a jacketless, hatless, short beard (if any) picture just doesn't stir the neshomoh in the right way? Do you think the rationalist rishonim dressed liked the common man?

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    1. is this the fake photo of the chafetz chayim? Are you actually implying that the photos of rabbonim all show them half smiling half serious whilst deep in contemplation?
      For you the sight of a saintly face may stir the neshama, for others it is what the man behind the face does.
      You can dress any old man with a beard in appropriate clothes and you will 'see the saintliness'. Perhaps do a line up of saintly looking old men with black hats and try and guess which ones are tzaddikim and which ones are not.

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    2. Really, sb? Essential questions of belief and practice should ride on who looks better on a Sukkah decoration? This is high order idiocy.

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    3. Another point--if we're talking about spending a year or so of study in a yeshiva in Israel, before going off to college (as many of my friends did when I entered college)--wouldn't an environment that is 100% about delving into Gemara, Rishonim and Poskim be the desirable one? Wouldn't a haredi yeshiva fit that description?

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    4. > How many sukkah decorations are there of Zionistic/Centrist/Modern Orthodox/whatever rabbonim? Why do you think that is?

      Because the MO community doesn't believe that rabbonim are saints, and so have no need of icons?

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    5. G*3 and that is why they can't pass their values on to the next generation without much difficulty. Traditional judaism is based on having faith in leaders whether you like it or not.

      The point being religion is primarily an irrational thing so this whole debate will not go anywhere...

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    6. SB, thank you for your comments. You're absolutely right! How is it possible for people to be inspired by rabbis who don't have long beards, or wear hats?! A neshamah can only be inspired by a Real Rav. And a real rav has a long beard, a hat, and a half smile/ half serious expression on his face.

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    7. By definition, a zionist/mo Rabbi will never be excepted as a gadol on sukkah poster because Chareidim only respect the people and activities that originate from their philosophy. The MO/RZ society does not think that they have all the talent, all the answers so they revere people of all Jewish orthodox variations, be it Chareidi, lubavitch, MO or even non-Rabbis who can contribute spiritually to Jewish society. I find it ironic that the very people who point out that MO and RZ have no gedolim are the same people who denigrate or marginalize any Rabbi who is not Chareidi which does not allow them to become a gadol(i.e. Rav Cook, Rav Hershel Schechter, Rav Stav).

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    8. chabad wouldn't think of sending a bochur to learn in the hashkafic milieu of eg anti-meshichists; satmar wouldnt send their youth to zionist entities; but i can understand why hareidi institutions would chomp at the bit to get these OTD [by definition--ALL of MO is OTD in their viewpoint] kids. it's probably the only chance ever to give them the Truth: these institutions are akin to an Ohr Sameach for MO ....

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    9. ""Because the MO community doesn't believe that rabbonim are saints, and so have no need of icons?""

      Actually, MO do, largely, decorate their sukkahs with rabbi portraits. Just happens to be that those rabbis are typically the same rabbis that decorate yeshivish sukkahs... (SB's question is just why that is...) (My answer is that most MO Jews are not really aggravated by identity issues, and they don't see it as against their views to venerate the same rabbis as most other orthodox Jews do.)

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    10. > Traditional judaism is based on having faith in leaders whether you like it or not.

      Trust (not faith) in leaders is one thing. Mimicking Catholics is another. (And daas torah is something else again.)

      > The point being religion is primarily an irrational thing so this whole debate will not go anywhere...

      That is an entirely different discussion.

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    11. So much wrong in one small post:

      "What has a letter promoting modern orthodoxy have to with the values you promote in your last post? You are not a fan of modern orthodoxy, you are fan of rationalist Judaism."

      Maybe Modern Orthodoxy just is a lot more rationalist, especially today, when all of charedism has gone full over to the other side.

      The rationalist rishonim do not promote that view. 'A career and sincere involvement in Torah learning' yes, but not the study of literature and philosophy for their own sake."

      I guess that explains why so many of them knew Greek philosophy.

      "This letter reminds of the sort of letters reform Jews wrote to their still orthodox brothers and sisters."

      Maybe the writer is trying to keep his brother as a truly Orthodox Jew, as opposed to modern corruptions of that term.

      "The letter is a complete hotch potch."

      The word is hodge podge.

      "It's time for a post on why the modern orthodox/centrist/rationalist/whatever cannot produce teachers or Rabbis to rival the chareidi output."

      Says who? I see many, many great non-charedi rabbanim. Meanwhile, can you point me to a top charedi leader who was trained under the current "system"? The vast majority of YU's roshei yeshiva went to YU and are great talmidei chachamim and leaders. In the charedi world? Not so much.

      "How many Zionistic/Centrist/Modern Orthodox/whatever rabbonim have the same hadrus ponim."

      First, the word is "Zionist." Second, who cares? I hadn't realized the truth of Judaism is dependent on looks. What is this, a beauty pageant?

      "How many sukkah decorations are there of Zionistic/Centrist/Modern Orthodox/whatever rabbonim? Why do you think that is?"

      Maybe because we don't put up pictures of people, because we don't worship people? Our sukkah has no pictures of people, period.

      "Maybe a jacketless, hatless, short beard (if any) picture just doesn't stir the neshomoh in the right way?"

      Yeah, that Aharon Lichtenstein...he had no power to move anyone, and couldn't learn his way out of a paper bag. Probably because he didn't wear a hat or have a beard.

      My brother treasures a photo he once took of R' Moshe Feinstein, learning in his summer camp at a picnic table, in shirtsleeves and no hat. I've always found is more moving than a generic hatted picture would be.

      "Do you think the rationalist rishonim dressed liked the common man?"

      Yeah, probably. The Chafetz Chaim did. Ever wonder why that video made such a stir? I think at least one reason is that among all the people with fancy hats and coats and beards, you have one old Jew dressed in a simple cap who is clearly more chashuv than all of them (as they would admit).

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  3. A wonderful post describing exactly how I felt when I went to college after my haredi BY seminary. It took me a few years to clean up the mess caused by all of the cognitive dissonance and it definitely is a risk for throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    -Gabrielle W.

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  4. The post-high school conundrum is I think more fraught in every case because of the great impressionability of youth. As much as I regret in some ways not having showed up at yeshiva in Israel until my late twenties I think in another way it saved me. I had already developed aspects of my avodah that no one could have given me, not hareidim and not dati leumi yeshivot. I had a lot to "catch up on" as a bal tshuva, but I had a solidity to my identity and a history to my experiences that were incontrovertible. I enjoyed and derived much benefit from learning with hareidim, and I knew I had to seek out chasidus and secular reading, and exercise, and music, to balance myself. And what was also possible for me in Jerusalem, thank Gd, was to spend the evenings learning in different places, with different people, getting a different taam of Torah to supplement my days. I know it is harder for younger guys because of the pressure to conform in yeshivas (which of course also has its positive aspects). But even younger guys can make a hachlatah with their family, especially with such a supportive family as this (and especially if they can afford it) to take music lessons during evening seder, or go to shiurim in a different neighborhood, or to work consciously on some creative project. If they come armed with this hachlatah and their rabbis know it then it's harder to be manipulated into a monopolistic view. The idea that we have to know ourselves and our limitations is a trope used in a lot of frum svaras and chumras. And if you know with your family that you need one seder a day for alternative activities, so as not to be broken and lose the connection that all the learning depends on, then this should be forcefully represented to the rebbeim. The evacuation of individual will for the whole day invites rabbinic overstepping of authority, but when a sort of holy will is in place it is harder to dislodge.

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  5. Dear Mr or Mrs XXXX,

    There is a mixture of true and misunderstanding in your post.

    From one hand, we are obliged to spend each and every moment of their time outside of work (or other necessary activities) learning Torah.

    From other hand, the authentic Torah law (slightly distorted in Galut) forbids from us to turn Torah studies into profession and to plan to learn Torah and live from donations.
    An obvious outcome from that is necessity in learning a secular profession and hereby gaining some secular education.

    There are plenty of verses in Talmud about both these points, and if you wish I can sent you some citations. Or you may contact Rabbi Slifkin - apparently he is aware about all that either.

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    1. @Brodsky: From one hand, we are obliged to spend each and every moment of their time outside of work (or other necessary activities) learning Torah.

      From other hand, the authentic Torah law (slightly distorted in Galut) forbids from us to turn Torah studies into profession and to plan to learn Torah and live from donations.
      An obvious outcome from that is necessity in learning a secular profession and hereby gaining some secular education.


      This is either meaningless or untrue.

      Some examples of its falsity:

      1) You have obligations to your spouse and family. They include making their life enjoyable. This could be doing labor in the home or it could be playing games, taking walks, playing ball etc. It could be doing the dishes.

      2) You have obligations to the community. There are always things that need to be done and you have to look places where you can contribute. This could be money, volunteer activities, etc. In Israel, you have IDF or national service. This could also be your profession (teacher, therapist, physician, nurse, etc). And for many, this includes community in the wider sense including Gentiles (as in Mamleches Kohanim). And for many, if within Israel, then almost all professions become holy.

      3) You are a human being. Unless you are a robot, you need to have adequate leisure enjoyment of various types or you will cease to function properly.

      4) Within the intellectual sphere:

      A) Yes, there are views that other kinds of knowledge other that what is in the Talmud. Science and math especially, but even other cultural knowledge as long as it is a "Chachmah". Not only that, but according to Rambam and others, it could be even more important.

      B) Within Torah Study, you have teaching which would include all ages, not just the highest levels.

      Now there are the words there "(or other necessary activities)" which could be used to include all of the above, but then the statement is pretty much meaningless.

      Better to say this:

      1) We are blessed in modern times that almost all men and women can study Torah on some level and this is a wonderful thing that should be taken advantage of.

      2) Most people are lazy by nature, so repeat #1.

      3) For those how are at the top of the talent level in Torah study, they can achieve lots of the categories above through Torah study and teaching (including other subject when these are considered part of the highest level of learning). The rest of us cannot absent ourselves from the rest of the world's work.

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    2. Nothing untrue - I include obligations to a spouse, a family and a community (in a necessary level) in "other necessary activities". Sorry I thought this is obvious.

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  6. Do you really want to expose teenagers to secular music, which is almost always not in keeping with Jewish values of modesty, to say the least? Do you really want to expose them to philosophies that denied Gd? Is there no centrist way? Especially in Israel where the Dati Leumi yeshiva world will expose them to Jewish music, Jewish philosophy, etc. and places a value on work as building the Land and being a light unto the nations.

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    1. > Do you really want to expose teenagers to secular music, which is almost always not in keeping with Jewish values of modesty, to say the least?

      While there is plenty of pop music that is, "not in keeping with Jewish values of modesty," it's certainly not, " almost always." Even love songs aren't necessarily immodest, to say nothing of all the songs about other things.

      > Do you really want to expose them to philosophies that denied Gd?

      Why not? By the time they finish high school, they've been through fourteen years of Jewish education. Is that not enough to allow them to read about other viewpoints without their entire education coming crashing down? And if it's not, what does that say about Judaism?

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    2. Do you really want to expose teenagers to secular music, which is almost always not in keeping with Jewish values of modesty, to say the least?

      I've played Beethoven's piano sonatas to those of my kids willing to listen. It didn't seem to make them less modest :).

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    3. "Almost always?? Mozart wrote something like a thousand pieces of music. All treyf?

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  7. I send to agree with SB that I do not view "Rationalist Judaism" which can include openness to science and other "secular" sources of knowledge, which I am strongly drawn to, as being the same as "Modern Orthodoxy" as it exists today..
    As I understand it, MO stands for a "mixture" of Torah and an outside philosophy and value system which we can call "Modernism". I finally began to understand the consequence of reading Dr Marc Shapiro's biography of Rav Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg. Shapiro points out that the "Torah Im Derech Eretz"(TIDE) in Germany was NOT simply studying secular subjects...it meant adopting bourgeois German values which were viewed as also being important and good (!!) along with the Torah. It meant closing the sifrei kodesh at some point during the day and then opening up the writings of Goethe, Schiller and other German tzaddikim and darshaning them like professors of literature do, as if this was of equal value as the limudei kodesh, and then thinking this makes one a better Jew.
    Shapiro points out that the rise of antisemitism in the 1920's and then the seizure of power by the Nazis embittered many young Orthodox Jews with this form of TIDE and the bourgeois lifestyle lf their parentst and many turned to eastern European-style Harediism or, alternatively, many turned to socialism, Zionism and the Torah V'Avodah movement and were among the founders of the religious kibbutz movement. Even Dr Yitzhak Breuer, a decendent of R Shimon Rapahel Hirsch rebelled against this form of TIDE, turned to the Poalei Agudat Israel movement and attempted to change TIDE to "Torah Im Derech ERETZ ISRAEL".
    This is the current conflict with Open Orthdoxy which not only is "open-minded" regarding secular studies, but they are adopting the whole "liberal/progressive/social justice" package with is strongly anti-Torah and increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Zionist'
    Thus, I believe the ONLY value system is Torah, it can not be mixed with the prevalent external values system of the Western world which is clearly degenerate and leading, unfortunately to a 1930's existential crisis. Secular studies can be beneficial to those who are drawn to them but they should not be pushed down a young religious Jew's throat as being a parallel to Torah. We want open-minded people but we don't want their brains to fall out which is what seems to be happening in the Western world today.

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    1. Where do you see that in Shapiro's book. Certainly, the outlook of Rav Hirsch was that

      “…Other disciplines are to be regarded as auxiliary; they are to be studied only if they are capable of aiding Torah study and are subordinated to it as the tafel to the ikkur. The Torah’s truths must remain for us what is absolute and unconditional, the standard by which to measure all the results obtained in other branches of knowledge. Only that which accords with the truths of the Torah can be accepted by us as true. The Torah should be our sole focus: All that we absorb and create intellectually should be considered from the perspective of the Torah and should proceed along its paths. Accordingly, we will not adopt ideas that are not in consonance with this perspective; we will not accept conclusions derived from others’ premises and mix them with words of Torah." 19 Letters, R. Hirsch

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    2. Yes, Dr Shapiro points this out in his book. I also have the book by Prof Mordechai Breuer about German Orthodox during the Imperial German period (1870-1918) and he talks about how the Orthodox got swept up into German nationalism and culture, although they didn't get swept up into Prussian/German militarsim as much as the non-O Jews did. A famous example given regards the Yom Kippur Derasah given by an Orthodox Rav in Berlin before World War I in which he states that "we Orthodox are better GERMANS than the Reform because we obey all our laws!". The highest compliment.
      As I stated, Dr Yitzhak Breuer , a decendent of R. Shimshon Raphael Hirsch wrote about about the degeneration he saw in the TIDE community. As a young man in their yeshivot he refused to sing German patriotic songs, and this was in the "good old days" of the pre-First World War period.

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  8. Just for the record, the question of whether the "outside world" has something to offer us or not goes back to Yosef & Yehudah. It's that old.

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    1. Rav Soloveitchik talked about this. And pointed out that God pretty decisively "ruled" that Yosef was right.

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  9. A fine argument. If I have one bone to pick, it is with the writer's characterization of a Torah life in which engagement in the worlds of culture and commerce, etc., is a לכתחילה value and not an unfortunate burden to be avoided if possible as "modern", when in fact it is no such thing. With an actual historical consciousness (anathema in Haredi circles) one could as easily argue that the "חדש אסור מן התורה" theme that animates contemporary Haredism is the true innovation. Use of the "modern orthodox" label in this context only plays into the hands of the specious Haredi claim to timeless authenticity, so central to their sales p'itch to idealistic and impressionable MO youth.

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  10. The letter is sweet, and makes good points about the problems of going to a yeshiva that has radically different values than one's family. The writer misses option three, though. In addition to those who adopt the yeshiva's values and those who learn to tailor their behavior and beliefs to who they're with, there are also those who think the yeshiva's rules are ridiculous and draconian, keep them only so they don't get in trouble, break them whenever they can get away with it, and go back to their lives whenever they're not in yeshiva.

    A minor quibble. Cognitive dissonance is not, "a feeling of going against what you think you are meant to believe." It is the holding of two or more mutually exclusive beliefs, which inevitably ends when the person strongly adopts one of those beliefs and discards the others.

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    1. I don't think option 3 is necessarily a particularly healthy one, and furthermore, I think it is only available to the naturally rebellious personality. For someone like me who is by nature generally inclined to think that the authorities know what they're talking about, (not like that anymore, too much reality) those 2 are really the only options.

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    2. It's true that the description I gave seems to be that of a troublemaker, but I don't think the different options are so separated. I think there's a continuum. Speaking for myself, I was always a good kid in high school, and I absorbed some of the hashkafos of the yeshiva I was in, but those were mostly things that I had no previous opinion on. For those things I was used to, I pretty much ignored what I was being told. So, for instance, while I was a model well-behaved and respectful student, I also routinely broke the yeshiva's rule against reading non-Jewish books.

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  11. This 'letter' is a fake.

    It is so clearly a manifesto and not a real letter that someone sent to his in-laws that its hilarious.
    So his car restoring, lawyer, and learned father, and his secular music loving and literary mother who exposed him to wonderful literature that makes up a well-balanced western mind (whatever that is), sent him to a charedi school which denounces all these things. And to top it off are seriously considering sending him to a charedi yeshiva in Israel......

    But maybe im wrong. He may very well be your average 17/18 year old who loves Tennyson, studies Kant and Hume, frequents museums and art galleries, and in his spare time surfs....Yet might go to the Mir

    And if youre going to fake something like this, i.e. a personal letter, please lose the thesaurus and the editorial tone, its a dead giveaway.....bifurcate, fidelity to a philosophy, cognitive dissonance (which has to be defined for our renaissance man high school senior) and by the way "Guiltily" is not a word.

    Let us hope we can all understand the subtleties of a carburetor.

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  12. "Guiltily" is most certainly a word. And it really doesn't matter whether or not the letter was written to a real person. There are plenty of "Chaims" out there who could benefit from its thoughtful advice.

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  13. G3

    I've lost you.

    "Why not? By the time they finish high school, they've been through fourteen years of Jewish education. Is that not enough to allow them to read about other viewpoints without their entire education coming crashing down? And if it's not, what does that say about Judaism?"

    Yet send them to a 'extreme charedi yeshivah' for a year and you are worried that they will suddenly become brainwashed to the extent of sending their boys to a talmud torah.

    Either the extreme charedi yeshivah adds more than salt to their food, or there is something very unrationalist going on.....

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    1. SB do you not see a difference between allowing someone to read something, and putting them for a year in an entire environment dedicated towards influencing someone? You need to learn more Gemara!

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    2. When Lubavitch Yeshiva was founded, someone asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe at the time, the Rashab, "Why should the students be immersed entirely in Torah study during their time in yeshiva? Eventually they'll have to go out into the world, and the world is very different than the sheltered life in yeshiva." The Rebbe Rashab answered, "The time in yeshiva is like a fireplace heating a room. If the fire is very hot, then the room remains warm long after the fire burns out. But if there's only a small fire in the fireplace, the room will become cold very soon after the fire in the fireplace burns out."
      Why must a yeshiva student at age 18 already feel that he's somehow being deprived by not learning secular subjects--and things that have little bearing on earning a livelihood, but just for the sake of becoming more knowledgeable and worldly? What's wrong with being in a charedi yeshiva environment for, say, three years, and then being able to dabble in these secular subjects afterwards?

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    3. The difference is that their Jewish education should have prepared them to justify their beliefs in Judaism, while the Chareidi rebbes who often teach in MO schools have been influencing them for years to see Chareidi-stlye frumkeit as ideal.

      Both that reading atheistic philosophy might cause them to go OTD and that a year in a Charieidi yeshiva might cause them to leave their MO hashkafos are an indictment of the MO educational system, and the of yeshivos general lack of real theology classes.

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  14. People don't read Netziv anymoreNovember 10, 2015 at 11:10 PM

    מי שאינו תלמיד חכם אין לו להיות זריז לפרש כ"ד ספרים, ואם יפרש אזי יהא חשוד שסר מן הדרך, והוא אפיקורס, באשר הטעות מצוי לפרש בדרך לא טוב ונושא בדרך אמונה, ואיו לו רשות כי אם להיות בקי בכ"ד ספרים, אבל לא לפרש, אם לא שהוא תלמיד חכם בקי בתלמוד ובדברי אגדה... ומזה יש להבין דכ"ש אי אפשר לקוות להשיג מעלת התלמוד וחכמת הטבע יחד, אם לא שיקדים עמל התלמוד הרבה, ואחר שכבר עמל ומצא כדי מדתו, אז יוכל להפנות גם לשערי חכמות... אבל סדר הגידול העיקר הוא הגשם, ואח"כ טוב דברי אגדה שנמשל לטל, ואח"כ טוב להמתיק עוד כוחו ע"י חכמת חיצונית שהוא השמש, משא"כ בעוד לא גדל בלימודו, אין חכמת חיצונית מועיל למעלת כבוד הישראלי כלל, ולא עוד אלא אפילו לימוד המקרא והעיון בו שנמשל לטל, באים חכמת חיצוניות ומגביהים המוסר היוצא מהם, ומטים המקראות לעקלקלות.

    If you're pay attention, you'll notice that the Netziv - the very same Netziv who famously decries those who consider other hashkafos to be apikorsus - is saying that those who study of Tanach and Mada prior to being firmly grounded in toil in Halachah and proper study of Aggadeta - are to suspected of heresy. I'll let the readers decide if they want to check whether it is their hat/favourite institution/advocacy of Torah UMadda for 19 year-olds/Tanach methodology for the same that is on fire.

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    1. No one in America follows this Netziv and it is easy to understand why. Most people can't just pick up English, Math, and Science when the are older after studying only Limudei Kodesh until they are 18 or older. If you want to know any of these things at any point in your life, you have to start young. In the Chassidic places where they teach no secular studies, they never learn secular studies. They don't even learn to speak English.

      And WADR to the Netziv, it is unclear why one can't learn geometry before he becomes an expert in Torah.

      Btw, he doesn't say that you can't study Tanach before Talmud. He says that one should not write a commentary on Tanach before studying Talmud and Midrash, but it is OK to become an expert on Tanach before that. It appears from this small excerpt that he is saying that you can't ignore Torah ShBaal Peh when doing such a commentary.

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    2. David, while I basically agree with your thesis, the citation does end with a critique of intense study of mikra. In any case, I disagree entirely with the espoused position. I note that Rav Ya'akov Kaminetsky was thoroughly familiar with Tanach while a student at the Slobodka yeshiva - as stated by his son. However I question whether this selection was actually written by the Netziv. My impression is that he was a much better writer than is indicated by the awkwardly phrased and grammatically faulty paragraph that has been cited. Nor is there a specific reference given. Perhaps someone more familiar with the Netziv's literary output can chime in.

      Y. Aharon

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    3. In a comment on Hirhurim, this is quoted as "הרחב דבר דברים לב:ד". I don't have that to look it up.

      But even that ending part seems to be saying that Tanach study by itself combined with "outside studies" is what leads to problems, in his opinion.

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    4. People don't read Netziv anymoreNovember 12, 2015 at 10:39 AM

      Clearly, Netziv is not talking about utilitarian knowledge necessary for living (he wouldn't deny those not engaged in multi-year full-time study a parnassah), nor is he talking about hashkafah-neutral matters like geometry and math. That's not what Torah Umadda or new-fangled Tanach parshanut methods stand for. But I suspect you realize that without me having to spell it out, and this is just a disingenuous deflection of his salient (and well-borne-out) point.

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    5. The author of the letter makes no reference to learning math, and only a passing reference to learning science. He seems to concentrate on humanities--art, music, literature--as making a person well-rounded, and that the yeshiva curriculum is "depriving" their students by frowning on these studies (but on the other hand, engineering and science majors in university also will think of studying the humanities as pretty much a waste of their time).

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    6. @People: Address the argument and not the man. The excerpt says that

      ומזה יש להבין דכ"ש אי אפשר לקוות להשיג מעלת התלמוד וחכמת הטבע יחד, אם לא שיקדים עמל התלמוד הרבה, ואחר שכבר עמל ומצא כדי מדתו, אז יוכל להפנות גם לשערי חכמות

      This is something that no one does because it is not practical. In the US, we all start learning all subjects including math, science, history, literature etc at a young age for the reasons, I spelled out. (If you for some reason think that he only means literally science and not the other subjects, it still doesn't work). If you are right that the Netziv would give us a pass because this is needed for Parnassah, then fine, what we do is not a contradiction. Either way, we don't follow this advice.

      Torah Umadda is malleable, but at least it means that there is value in other knowledge that you don't get directly from Talmud study. This is certainly the view of the Rambam and his Son. In fact the Netziv doesn't seem to argue, although he wants an impractical delay.

      The "new-fangled Tanach parshanut methods" are definitely an attempt to reinterpret using sources other than Midrash. There are both heretics and talmidei chachamim involved. The Netziv is welcome to suspect them, but suspicion based on circumstantial evidence is usually based on circumstance and we don't have the same circumstance as in the time of the Netziv. Maybe he would say the same and maybe he wouldn't.

      @Yehuda P. The science part is right there and in fact the only specific outside knowledge that he refers to. And I don't know why חכמת חיצוניות only refers to humanities.

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    8. @R. David Ohsie: There was a misunderstanding--I wasn't referring to the Netziv's letter.[The way Rabbi Slifkin's blog is set up right now, it's hard to single out the comment to which I want to reply.]
      My comment was on the blogpost letter to "Mom, Dad, and Chaim"--The author of THAT letter mentions science only in passing. He principally bemoans the fact that a yeshiva student will be missing out on all sorts of cultural knowledge--art, music, literature and philosophy. He makes going to yeshiva sound like signing up to the Czar's army for 25 years, during which he can ONLY study Torah. In reality, yeshiva gedolah (depending on the student's haskafah, of course) is just for a few years. He can indulge in the humanities after that.

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  15. Chakira,

    I was in the extreme charedei yeshiva system for eight years (before a career as a lawyer). Let me tell you, 75% is learning (in your language reading) gemoro and shiurim on gemoro. Only 15% is fire and brimstone "stay in learning for the rest of your life" mussar shmooze stuff, which myself and my friend all took with a pinch of salt (which, incidentally is the way mussar is meant to be taken, its all deliberate hyberbole) And in the Mir, there isn't even that amount of mussar attended well.

    So yes, I fail to understand you how 1 year reading gemoro after 14 years of MO jewish education is more effective at brainwashing, albeit in a yeshiva (and hence a risk) than the risk of reading other viewpoints, which you believe is no risk. Unless there is some irrational at play, like the neshomo.

    Incidentally, do rationalists believe in the neshomo, or is it just Chazal echoing the notion of a soul which was prevalent in those times? Where do you draw the line? PS I believe Rabbi Meiselman is completely wrong, I agree with NS on those points.

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  16. SB, you appear to be a product of a very traditional yeshiva system, as opposed to the graduates of allegedly MO day-schools who have been influenced by their Hareidi rebbe'im to attend kiruv type Israeli yeshivot. The mussar shmuessen that you casually dismissed in your yeshiva did not compare to the more intense efforts at indoctrination in those Israeli institutions. Nor does a history of skepticism or even cynicism that you espouse (" mussar schmooze stuff that myself and my friend(s) all took with a pinch of salt - which, incidentally is the way mussar is meant to be taken..") compare with the more 'innocent' outlook of someone primed to fall under Hareidi influence. The use or misuse of the English language in your comments testifies, I believe, to the quality of the secular education that you received in yeshiva. Such an education may be useful in furthering a continuation of Talmud study in adulthood, but it does not augur well for success in a career that requires extensive interaction with educated members of society.

    Y. Aharon

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  17. Aharon

    I am not entirely sure of the point you are trying to make but have you ever tried to write a long email on a phone? Not once has it been said that we are talking about a kiruv institution. That's another question, why are there so few, if any, non charedi kiruv organisations.

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    1. If you are claiming that somehow Haredim attract more Hozrim B'teshuva (HT), I am not sure that is really correct. I come from a masorati but non-O background and became involved in the wake of the Yom Kippur War while I was in university in California. No one "mekareved" me, I did it all on my own, although I did attend lectures by certain kiruv organizations. I was always attracted to the ideas of Religious Zionism and was never really involved in the Haredi world. I know other people with similar backgrounds. In fact, I know several kids who were in by C congregation bar-mitzvah program who got turned on to Judaism by the Cantor of this C congregation who was not even shomer shabbat. Most of the ones I now became O but not Haredi. Of course, these are anectodal stories, but don't agree that most Hozrim B'teshuva are attracted to the Haredi world because they view it as "more authentic"...it's just that the HT's stand out more in the Haredi world.HT's who enter the DL world in Israel simply end up blending in with the crowd and aren't forced to stand out in order to prevent the danger of a good family accidently allowing them to marry into their family.
      It should also be pointed out that in Israel, there are kiruv organizations that have become more active in recent years.

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    2. Oops...I meant to say that there are several DL kiruv organizations that have become active in Israel in recent years.

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  18. There's another option: learn and pray among the Haredim while dressing acting and thinking the way you want. Not for the faint of heart. People will think you're weird. But I suspect it won't be as hard to find schools or shidduchim for your kids as the confirmed would have you believe.

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