Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Real Reasons For Charedi Practice

When people from the charedi community give reasons and explanations for various aspects of charedi society, these are very often not the real reasons. It's not that these people are necessarily lying. Rather, it's that there are two "levels" of explanations. There are the explanations that are given for kiruv or PR or even internal purposes, and that are believed by many Anglo charedi wannabees, and sometimes even by some real McCoy Israeli charedim. And then there are the real explanations, which are well understood by astute observers of the charedi world, as well as many people within the charedi world.

For example, why do charedim wear black fedoras, white shirts, and dark suits? The explanation often given, such as by Nosson Slifkin (my cousin's cousin) in a book called Second Focus, is that it is because a Ben Torah should dress respectably. However, that's not the real reason. The real reason is for social identification. Thus, in charedi circles it is not acceptable to dress very respectably in a light suit and colored shirt and tie, but it is acceptable to dress with an ill-fitting jacket and battered hat and no tie.

Another example is with the mass avoidance of army service. Often, spokesmen for the charedi community will claim that the reason is that the Torah study of all the yeshivah students provides a vital part of Israel's protection. But as I have written about on numerous occasions, aside from this having no basis in classical Judaism, nobody in the charedi world seriously believes it anyway. The real reason why charedim don't go to the army, as Rav Aharon Feldman once stated, is that army service is extremely threatening to the charedi way of life.

A third example is with charedim not participating in Yom HaShoah. Explanations such as "the siren is chukas hagoy," or "we don't mourn during Nissan," or "we don't see the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as being the correct event to base it around," have a lesser or greater degree of merit, but none of them are the real, underlying reason why charedim do not participate in Yom HaShoah. Even if Yom HaShoah was in Teves, and was commemorated by everyone simultaneously saying Yizkor, charedim still wouldn't participate. The real reason is that Yom HaShoah is an event created by and for the nation of the State of Israel as a whole, and charedim do not want to identify as part of that wider community. It's as simple as that.

62 comments:

  1. Nosson Slifkin is your cousin's cousin? I thought that he was a good friend of your wife (at least I hope he is :)

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  2. Aren't they, at least in the first and third examples, oiver on loi sisgoidedu (in the best case)?

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    1. This is the key point. From our perspective, yes. But from their perspective, the community is defined as the charedi community.

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    2. תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף כו עמוד א

      הוה קא מסתפי חזקיה, אמר: דילמא חס ושלום נטיה דעתיה דקודשא בריך הוא בתר רובא, כיון דרובא מימסרי - אינהו נמי מימסרי. בא נביא ואמר לו: לא תאמרון קשר לכל אשר יאמר העם הזה קשר. כלומר: קשר רשעים הוא, וקשר רשעים אינו מן המנין.

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  3. Pretty unsophisticated post. Not surprising, but still....I guess you never were really part of Chareidi society if this is all you got. Plenty of Chareidim are quite bright, give them an ounce of credit for more nuanced thinking. Guessing if you're not capable of complex thought, you can't imagine that they are. Understandably, that would be difficult for you. My sympathies.

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    1. We are told this a lot, but do you have any actual evidence? Absent that, isn't just as possible if not more so that charedim are, on the whole, *less* intelligent than others?

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    2. Rabbi Slifkin,
      I am curious if you would allow such racist drivel about any other group on your site. Would you allow someone to claim a certain ethnic group likelier is less intelligent than other ethnic groups without providing any evidence?

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    3. Honestly, I think it's so obviously nonsense. All people are equally intelligent. And intelligence has nothing to do with the topic of this post anyway.

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    4. I certainly agree with the last sentence of Natan's.

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    5. I don't want to get to far afield, but hey, I get offended when people accuse me of things. So:

      1. I certainly hope you don't mean all *persons* are equally intelligent. That is obviously not true.

      2. I suppose you mean all *groups* of people are equally intelligent. While this is the "correct" thing to say, it is also simply not true. All studies ever indicate that there are group differences in intelligence. As a friend once pointed out to me, if you're an Ashkenazi Jew (a member of the single most intelligent group on Earth) and associate mostly with Ashkenazi Jews, you naturally won't notice that, as you're dealing with people whose mean IQ is 110 while general mean IQ is, by definition, 100, and half the population- but not half of Jews- is by definition below average.

      Yes, we all know dumb Jews. That's not how statistics work, though.

      3. Now, I haven't said a word about the *causes* of these differences and will not, except that scientific thought (see, for example, the current discussion of David Reich's work) is increasingly moving toward a consensus on this subject as well. Said consensus will make many people "uncomfortable" and can be waved off with trendy words like "racist drivel" or "obvious nonsense," but rational scientific thought does not care if it makes people uncomfortable and can't be waved away. As I thought was the point of this blog, but I suppose we all have our taboos.

      4. In any event, genetics (there it is!) makes no difference here, as there is little to know genetic difference (certainly none more than a few decades old) between charedim and other Ashkenazim. And I have no idea if there is any average intelligence difference between charedim and other Ashkenazim. But if there *was*- as charedim themselves like to say- then we can posit a few possibilities:

      a. Charedim are either smarter or not as smart as everyone else, and this is a result of who they are. That is, being charedi makes you smart (learning more Gemara?) or it makes you less smart (for whatever reason).

      b. This is putting the cart before the horse and in fact the community membership is a *result* of intelligence and not the other way around. That is, all the smart people became charedi, or all the smart people stopped being charedi.

      I imagine no studies have actually been made, so I'm just suggesting possibilities. Personally I think there are dumb charedim and smart charedim and dumb non-charedim and smart non-charedim and no real rule. But others may disagree.

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    6. In any event, genetics (there it is!) makes no difference here, as there is little to know genetic difference ...I have no idea if there is any average intelligence difference between charedim and other Ashkenazim

      Oh the irony...

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    7. A lot of words, but you're avoiding the primary issue with your original post: "isn't just as possible IF NOT MORE SO that charedim are, on the whole, *less* intelligent than others (caps mine)". That was a racist comment and that what was I objected to.

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    8. Nachum - agreed with all your points and subpoints except #3. Scientific thought most certainly does care about being accused of racism (not the least because of funding and litigation.) The overwhelming consensus of science took it for granted until the end of the 19th century that the black races were inferior mentally to the white races. It wasn't even something thought necessary to prove by study. You can see such sentiments expressed matter of factly in countless books up until WWII or so. Yet go show me any book published in the last sixty years that dares make such a statement. The repression of thought in modern religious circles is nothing compared to the suppression of thought outside of it.

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    9. Eureka. The creature in the other post was Dovid's shed skin. Now he came out of hibernation to honor us with two names in one thread.

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    10. @ Nachum How well do ashkanazi Chassidum perform on IQ tests and other 'measures' of intelligence ? What about ashkanzi very yeshivish students and adults who have had less exposure to goyish studies ? What about females in those categories ?

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    11. Milton - I enjoy your comments, on this blog and elsewhere. I would ask you this: Do you generally find logical the claims of people who habitually accuse others of "racism"? Or, do you seize the claim now, regardless of its flawed logic, simply because you find it a convenient weapon with which to attack commenter Nachum (since you perceive him to have insulted a group (Charedim) with which you sympathize?

      To boil it down further, why not respond to Nachum's points, rather than simply double down on the "racist!" thing? Indeed, would you not agree that its possible some groups are smarter than others? And would you not further agree that Charedim engage in certain group habits that could affect their intelligence?

      Curious to read your reply.


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    12. Thanks, DF.

      No, I do not enjoy when people throw around the term racism whenever they encounter an uncomfortable viewpoint that they are unable to refute.

      That doesn’t mean, however, that nothing is racist. When someone posts a comment saying the a certain group of people are probably less intelligent than others WITHOUT PROVIDING ANY SEMBLANCE OF EVIDENCE, the only logical explanation of that person’s viewpoint is that he has a bigoted view of that particular group.

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    13. Knowing Nachum's cerebral style (the three of us are all lawyers, I think), I think he was speaking in theoretical terms. That is, since the first commenter seemed to imply that charedim are especially bright, he pointed out that it could be (because of practices, not genetics) that they are actually less than particularly bright.

      In all events, I agree with host RNS that intelligence is not really at issue in this post.

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  4. I've always loved the uniform aspect of how Chareidim dress. I actually spoke to a "bochur" once about it - back home in our small community from his Lakewood yeshiva, he'd come to shul in a casual shirt and jeans, but when davening started he put on a black hat and suit jacket. So I asked him: why do you do that? He answered: because you're supposed to dress nicely to pray to HaShem. Okay, I said. Look at yourself. Would you show up for an important meeting with that shirt and jeans and assume that a nice black suit jacket would make people not notice?
    To his credit, he started dressing in a suit for davening after that. Second best outcome, I guess.

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    1. One kippah is very different from a whole outfit, though.

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    2. Im not sure you're right. The reason we wear a nice Jacket is actually to cover our 'work clothing'. It would thus seem that he was right.

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    3. See my post http://jewishworker.blogspot.com/2005/05/what-should-you-wear-for-davening.html

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  5. I recommend reading Everybody Lies -https://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Lies-Internet-About-Really/dp/0062390856
    bottom line is it occurs all the time - the public reasons we give are often at odds with our private actions/thinking (if we are even aware of them)

    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. "Everybody Lies", thanks will get the book

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  6. Just because the "inside" reasons are deemed to be unappealing to the "outside", you don't need to discount their basic value.

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  7. Rav Nosson I am not sure what you are trying to advance in this post. All I hear is that any practice or position can be answered in a truthful or a non-truthful Way. This applies to hariedi and non hariedi alike.

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    1. I'm sure that's true. I think that it's always beneficial to know the real reasons for things.

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    2. I agree. And your insight is usually keen. However if you reread the 1st Paragraph of your post You are not just clarifying a number of practices rather leveling an attack at the honesty of the hariedi community.

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  8. Chassidum think Moshe Rabenu wore a streimal. Harediam think he wore a black fedora. It is a big dispute among the gedolim. The wider the fedora and more expensive it is then the bigger mitzvah. :>)

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    1. I thought it was well established that Moshe Rabeinu was a Satmar and wore a flat hat
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwbWv2oiuAs

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    2. if you understood the significance of the streimal to chasidim, and of the black fedora to yeshivishe folks, you would realize that they are actually the same thing. hence, there is no disagreement. and yes, the symbolic meaning of the streimal/black fedora certainly does apply to moshe rabenu, as it is central to why/how judaism has survived all these years.

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    3. Others think Moshe sprouted horns and then he could only wear holy hats. This leads to the origin of yamakah which fits between horns. From this we learn the proper size of the yamakah should not be too large.

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    4. Chassidim would be very bothered by what you say, Anonymous. They hold the streimel has actual symbolic meaning as well as kabbalistic meaning. Litvaks don't claim that there's kabbalistic meaning to black hats, and most don't attempt to claim that there's symbolic meaning either.

      To illustrate my point: hassidics who are barely frum won't dare be seen on shabbos without a streimel (and a nice one too.) It's like the beard and the peyos. Meanwhile, any Litvish boy who has a tough zman or two loses the hat.

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    5. Color me confused, but in what way is a seventeenth (eighteenth?) century headpiece central to the survival of Judaism? Sure, kisui harosh in general is a pretty basic tenet we have, but putting Moshe and the Avos in robes or Arabian head coverings is sufficient for most of us to work with the idea that these people had this value.

      You (accidentally?) almost undermine your own argument by saying "the significance of the streimal (sp) to chasidim" - sure we understand that it is the way they choose to stand out, stand apart, and look like wealthy Polish landowners (or like ostracized Polish citizens with dead animals on their heads who made lemonade from their lemons, but I like the first explanation better; admittedly I have no primary sources...).

      Besides, Moshe probably wore the first srugie with his name crocheted on the rim, as Tzipporah and Moshe seem to have been the first Biblical girlfriend-boyfriend pairing as the Avos didn't date. Midianites were well known for their ornate weaving skills, as in the Dreamworks documentary "Prince of Egypt."

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    6. Israel Coleman/yosef r:
      this is actually sort of the ABCs of being charedi. i'm surprised that you would comment if you don't know such basic things. the streimal took on religious meaning to chasidim only after the czar banned it in order to encourage polish jews to assimilate. likewise the fedora took on religious meaning in the yeshiva world only once men in the western world stopped wearing hats as a general statement of loosening public morals. the resistance to being influenced by the general environment is what both of these pieces of headgear symbolize. it is obviously very relevant to moshe rabenu, and is what they mean when they depict moshe as wearing a streimal. the relevance to jewish survival needs no elaboration.
      IC, your comment on the differences between chasidish and litvish sociology is accurate but not relevant to the symbolic meaning of the headgear in question.

      as far as the streimal having kabalistic significance, i've never heard that, but i may have missed it, as i only know a few hundred streimal wearers.

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    7. This....I have met Chassidim/Haredim who believe this. I have also been told that the Ost Ashkenazi form of pronunciation is the actual 'real' intended pronunciation of the original biblical Hebrew.

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    8. Anonymous: there is a vast gulf between "important to chareidim" (or chasidim) - whether in identity or in defiant rebellion or pride - and "central to the survival of Judaism."

      But OK, let's take your theory:
      Connecting the streimel to resistance against outside culture is an interesting idea, certainly - and in some measure probably true in and of itself. The STRUGGLE, the feeling of uniqueness, the desire to be different from the outside world and the often paradoxical PRESSURE to be different (such as yellow stars becoming required in an age of assimilation) - all these were essential to the survival of Judaism. But do all those who wear such things feel this way when they wear them? Is that as strong a reason to wear one as much as not looking different in shul?

      And no, I do not see how it applies to Moshe, except by a bit of a stretch (he grew up outside of the Jewish community and so may have needed something to anchor him). But regardless, when children's coloring books have pictures of chasidim leaving Egypt being chased by jackbooted Naziesque Egyptians, it is not the symbolism that is on display, and it is the literal depiction the children remember!

      Anyway, everyone knows, at least that Yaakov Avinu wore a yarmulke, as it says "Vayetze Yaakov" - do you think Yaakov would go out without a yarmulke?

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    9. To Meir Moses:
      It actually may be the case that while we can suggest that in terms of some aspects the Teimani pronunciation is more authentic (gutterals, the "thav" etc), it may be possible that in some measure that in terms of vowels indeed the Ashkenazi pronunciation is more authentic. Ashkenazis has preserved the distinction between a kamatz and a patach, a tzereh and a segol.

      (There are books that discuss the "oy" vs. "oh" pronunciation and offer reasons for either - there is a complicated reason to pick "oh" that I cannot really explain well. There is also a cute argument from Shabbos Shacharis Shemoneh Esrei to pick "oy.")

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    10. Anonymous:
      How can you reconcile your claim that the fedora has symbolic significance to Litvaks, while simultaneously acknowledging that sociologically, they will forget about it (I'm sorry) at the drop of a hat? That doesn't sound very significant to me. Anyone can say pshatim, but the practical application is what tells is how "significant" things are.
      There certainly is no one (not yet at least) who claims that black fedoras have Kabbalistic significance.

      The point you make about protesting the decline of morals in the Western world is an oft-repeated trope in the Haredi world. It would be more believable if people who show up to shul in grey or blue hats, or for that matter black ones which don't carry a brand name, weren't snickered at consistently.

      In relation to your snippy comment wondering why I would "comment if I don't know such things": I live in Lakewood and learn in kollel full time. I have a beard and a black hat. I think I may have some clue as to how and what haredim think.

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    11. IC,
      i see that my snippy comment offended you, and i can see why. that having been said, how is it that a lakewood living, kollel learning, beard growing fellow came to believe that entire frum communities, led by major gedolim, adopted certain modes of dress for no particular reason? sure, your average joe wears his community's uniform primarily to fit in socially, but why did the community adopt that uniform in the first place? why would the jewish community, having adopted a particular mode of dress simply because it was what was worn in that area at that time, suddenly endow it with religious significance and stubbornly refuse to change it when the larger society changed?
      as for why chasidim adhere more stubbornly to symbols of their community than do litvaks, that is indicative of the greater success that chasidishe culture has had in inculcating a sense of community than litvishe culture has had.
      your point about people snickering at those who don't quite fit in as well (ie grey hats etc.), may speak to the narrow mindedness or poor midos of the snickerers, but has nothing to do with why the great thinkers of the jewish people adopted the uniforms that they did, at the historical junctures that they did.
      your average jew doesn't "remember all of hashem's mitzvos" when he sees his tzitzis, but that is still the reason why jews wear tzitzis in the first place. the analogy should be obvious.

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    12. Anonymous: two points.
      1) Never in the history of Lakewood did one of the great gedolim involved in its development stand up and announce: "Folks, from now on we only wear black hats with broad brims from one particular factory in Italy." The uniform has nothing to do with the gedolim. I'm not knocking the idea of a uniform, but let's not pretend that any of our leaders here ever made it an issue.

      The uniform is what it is "ach verak" because of what average, small-minded people have made it. "Great thinkers" rarely wasted their time figuring out what other people should wear. If you want proof, look at a picture of the Chafetz Chaim or the Chazon Ish.

      2) I'm not sure if you were attempting to apologize for your rudeness in your first line or just acknowledging its existence. That being said, I suspect that you profoundly underestimate how many people who look like me are beginning to push back---hard--against the nonsensical thinking that has come to dominate the Haredi world over the last, say, 35 years. It is very difficult to hold thousands of people in the darkness in the age of the Internet. Kol Tuv. Keep reading this blog.

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    13. IC,
      nothing wrong with "pushing back" as long as it meets 2 criteria, it's done leshem shamayim, and it's done out of knowledge and well thought out. the problem is when it's done out of ignorance or poorly thought out.

      you and i apparently live very different lifestyles, i live in a much more heterogeneous city than lakewood, i am clean shaven, and i do not merit to learn in kollel. rather i have a university education and work among non jews in a professional capacity (i also generally don't wear a black hat). perhaps that distance allows me to see more of the forest and get less caught up in the trees.
      one of the main problems with the blogosphere in general, is that people that have very little knowledge about a particular issue consider themselves qualified to form opinions. how can someone who never sat down to discuss the meaning of the streimel with a chasidishe rebbee imagine himself to be an expert on why the striemel is such a big deal to certain chasidim? likewise, how can someone disdain the yeshivish community for it's particular uniform, if he never asked one of the great charedi thinkers of the past generation why the yeshiva world continued wearing hats after they went out of style in society at large?
      most people don't put that much effort in to these issues because it's not that important to them. they are happy doing what their society does, and they don't really care about the "why". but if someone does care enough to want to "push back" it behooves them to realize that some very wise people have thought about these issues, and they ought to inform themselves of what those wise people thought before they start "pushing back".
      to quickly sum up the issue; AKJA, who's comment initiated this thread, made a remark that made fun of the fact that people depict moshe rabenu in ways that reflect their values (that's not how he expressed it, but without meaning to, that's essentially what he was saying). the particular value that is expressed by the streimel and to a lesser extent by the fedora (as a result of historical circumstances, not because of anything intrinsic to fur or felt hats) goes to the very core of charedi ideology, and what distinguishes them from other orthodox streams. it's a big topic, and most people don't care enough to study it, which is fine, but someone who hasn't dealt with it seriously should refrain from having opinions.
      having said that, since you found my point offensive, i do apologize, not for the point itself, but for being so snippy.

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    14. Anonymous: I think I understand what you mean. However, can you point to a great Haredi thinker who has explained the significance of black hats? Not ex post facto, but ab initio: meaning, in reaction to and contemporaneous with the vanishing of the hat from secular society. I don't think there is such a quote out there. Thus, my argument is that although, like in the Dubno Maggid's parable, it's easy enough to paint bull's-eyes around our arrows, the real genesis of the custom or costume is most probably a sociological coincidence as opposed to a statement of core values or policy.

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  9. ''but it is acceptable to dress with an ill-fitting jacket and battered hat and no tie''

    Acceptable, yes. Is it respectable? No. Many who have chosen this lifestyle cannot afford a nicer wardrobe. Lets call a spade a spade, everyone wants to look nice and presentable (it's a halacha a as well).


    ''with the mass avoidance of army service. Often, spokesmen for the charedi community will claim that the reason is that the Torah study of all the yeshivah students provides a vital part of Israel's protection. But as I have written about on numerous occasions, aside from this having no basis in classical Judaism, nobody in the charedi world seriously believes it anyway''

    Nobody believes it?? Olam Omeid...hevel pehem shel TASHBAR.



    ''The real reason is that Yom HaShoah is an event created by and for the nation of the State of Israel as a whole, and charedim do not want to identify as part of that wider community. It's as simple as that''

    Why should they want to identify with those who would destroy them?!

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    1. if their budget is so limited, they can stop buying hats and buy the same clothes as everyone else.

      Yeah, Israel wants to "destroy" charedim. That explains why the entire charedi world and lifestyle exists only because it's propped up by the State.

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    2. Nachum

      1. They do stop buying hats, that's why they're old and out of shape.


      2.how many times have we seen when the anti chateidi are in power-cuts cuts and more cuts.

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    3. The cuts are to the already billions of shekel the israel government gives to Chareidim in order to learn and support their large families. Why can't you have hakaras hatov to all the tax payer money going to learning instead of complaining about the cuts. Most Israelis are not against giving money to help support torah and children but when the Chareidi community has no hakaras hatov and thinks it is owed to them and actually calls the same people giving them the money Reshaim, it is a massive Chillul hashem and puts me outside the Chareidi camp.

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    4. Zaidy G, I know it's hard to understand with a haredi education in math and economics, but if Israel does not cut the free money streaming into all socialized programs (not only haredi ones), the situation will become untenable at some point in the near future. Especially taking into account the rising percentage of Israeli citizens who take little part in the economic development and production, and mostly benefit from it via state charity.

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    5. wouldn't they rather aid the economic development by going to work then to spend their time raising funds oversees. Why doesn't the benevolent Israeli government allow them to work? (They aren't going to the army in any case.)

      I went to a israeli yeshiva where they wouldn't accept money from the government for that reason.

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  10. I perceive that the Chareidim do indeed give the true reasons for not participating in army and Yom Hashoah. They proudly state that the army is a negative influence and that Yom Hashoah is a secular date.

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  11. I don’t see this post as leveling an attack. The chareidi world, like all close-knitt societies, engages in information management. Some of the tactics may include censorship or the use of irrational or baseless explanations (these are the minority but called out here since the subject of this post is where such is not the case). Neither of which may be denied, unjustified or even relevant if the objective of such is to hep preserve a broader set of principles or standards paramount to group success or survival. Rav Slifkin is calling out the irrationality or inconsistency of explanations provided, not whether there are moral, ethical or religious problems underlying or espousing such. The premise of the blog is to strive to providing a rational basis for what we do or calling out instances where the basis for what is being done is not predicated on rational bases.

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    1. 'I don’t see this post as leveling an attack.'

      Neither is sending a carrier group to Syria I suppose. Totally harmless.

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    2. #1. Please view your answer as having enough substance to put your name behind it. I cannot respect a comment who’s own writer disrespects it. #2 I might be of low intelligence but I do now follow what you say

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  12. How disappointing. At first glance I assumed your photo was taken from the Shababnikim series. Now I realise it's just 'normal' Bochurim.

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  13. א"ר יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב (תהלים קכב, ב) עומדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלם מי גרם לרגלינו שיעמדו במלחמה שערי ירושלם שהיו עוסקים בתורה

    Maakos 10a

    Is the Talmud not considered part of “classical Judaism”?

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    1. Sure it is. But it does not mean that the Torah study of all the yeshivah students provides a vital part of Israel's protection. See the post at http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2015/11/practically-speaking-torah-does-not.html and all the links at the bottom of that post.

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    2. I read that post. You addeess the gemara before that, but not the comment of RYBL. You also bring many instances of where Torah did not protect, which is wholly irrelevant to the question of what the classical sources say. If you want to say the Talmud is wrong, then say so, but you cannot say the Talmud doesn’t say it. The fact remains that RYBL explicitly mentions that Torah serves as some kind of protection in wartime and there’s no way around that.

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    3. Yes but there is a HUGE difference between saying that "Torah serves as some kind of protection in wartime" and saying that "the Torah study of all the yeshivah students provides a vital part of Israel's protection"!

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  14. Remarkable
    that Orwell's two minutes of hate was an adoption/inverted imitation of the moment of silence

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  15. >> Ben Torah should dress respectably

    It's been divorced fromwhat anyone else considers respectable.

    And in any case the reference group is not the contemporary world. It's an approximation to, or has several aspects of, what was considered respectable in 1890.

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  16. >> likewise the fedora took on religious meaning in the yeshiva world only once men in the western world stopped wearing hats as a general statement of loosening public morals.

    That would mesn it took on significance only after the Kennedy Administration.

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    1. Sammy Finkelman,
      "That would mesn it took on significance only after the Kennedy Administration"
      that is correct, as anyone familiar with the history of the yeshiva movement during the last century knows. prior to the holocaust, there wasn't a yeshiva movement to speak of in the US, but in europe the slabodka types wore fedoras because they considered themselves gentlemen scholars, and that's what gentlemen wore. in the rest of the yeshiva world and among balie batim, people wore a wide assortment of headgear, largely dependent upon wealth and social status. there was no special religious significance to the fedora.
      it was when men in the western world stopped wearing hats in public as an expression of declining public morals (Kennedy going to his inauguration without a hat was symbolic of this) that the fedora became a "davka" thing. in this way it served the same sociological purpose in the yeshiva world that the streimal served in the chasidishe world after the czar banned it.
      the source of this jewish particularism was of course matan torah, which gave rise to the popular saying "moshe rabenu went up to har sinia wearing a shtriemel".

      it quite amazes me that people would feel qualified to post on charedi culture, while being seemingly ignorant of the most basic history and sociology of that movement.

      Delete

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