Tuesday, June 26, 2018

No, Charedim Aren't The "Original" Jews

A recent column in Tablet magazine asks the following question: What does one call "really religious Jews"? "Ultra-orthodox," or something else?

Tablet decides to Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public relations for Agudath Israel of America, for his answer. He begins by saying that "ultra-" is an offensive prefix, because of its implications of being something far beyond the norm, whereas the lifestyle of his community, he claims, is the traditional norm. We shall return to this claim soon.

Shafran then complains that only so-called "ultra-Orthodox" Jews are denied the right to choose their own name for their group, unlike Native Americans and Blacks. He has something of a point here, which is why it would be appropriate to let "ultra-Orthodox" Jews choose their own name. However, they should choose one which will not be protested by others as inaccurate; Rabbi Shafran himself has protested that Open Orthodoxy should not define itself as a form of Orthodoxy.

Furthermore, ultra-Orthodox Jews already have chosen a name for themselves: charedim. The charedi community itself adopted that term in the early twentieth century and still proudly uses it today, and so Rabbi Shafran is not being a very good spokesman for his community when he says that he doesn't like it. And his alleged reasons for disliking it are rather odd. "Firstly," he says, "it implies that non-haredim are less observant, which isn’t necessarily true." Yet this is precisely why charedim chose it and like it as a definition - because they believe themselves to be more "trembling at the word of God" than others. Others, of course, would disagree, and would claim that while charedim excel at certain aspects of Judaism, they are no better than other groups in various other aspects, and they are decidedly inferior in yet others.

Which brings us to Rabbi Shafran's second reason for disliking the term: "And secondly, while we may shuckle when we daven, we don’t generally tremble (unless the IRS is auditing us)." Precisely. Charedim live in a "fear society," and they do indeed tremble more than others - but it's not always at the word of God, as often the fear of man is more potent. And it's not only in fear of the IRS and other consequences of being incapable of earning an honest living. Charedim greatly tremble in fear of what others in their community might say, which leads to transgressions in all kinds of areas.

In any case, the term "charedi" is liked by charedim for what they believe it to mean, and by others for what they see it to mean. Still, if Rabbi Shafran doesn't approve of "ultra-Orthodox" or "charedi," what does he say that his community should be called?
“Personally,” said Shafran, “I prefer ‘Orthodox.’ Let prefixes be used by others: centrist, modern, ultra-modern. We’re the original, in no need of a prefix.”
Now, Rabbi Shafran has written some things in the past that have caused a lot of head-scratching. There was his claim that Bernie Madoff is more worthy of admiration than Captain Sully. He believes that unyielding reverence for currently regnant dogmas is more of a problem in the scientific community than in the charedi community. He even claimed that charedi society is big on women's liberation and female empowerment! And so while his claim that ultra-Orthodoxy is the Original McCoy might not be the most outlandish thing that he's ever said, it's certainly equally incorrect.

Charedi Jews are not "the original" form of Judaism or rabbinic Judaism or even of Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Judaism is itself a unique product of the mid-nineteenth century, developing as a response to the threats of modernity and emancipation. It differed from the Judaism that preceded it in several ways. One was its traditionalism - the opposition to anything which appeared to be a change, despite the fact that historically, many great rabbis had emended Talmudic texts, changed the siddur, changed communal practice, and so on. Another was its segregation - creating halachic rulings based on the needs of the immediate community, not the larger Jewish community. A third was its conscious tendency towards halachic stringency, as a principled reaction to the general spiritual laxity that had developed, along with the elevation of customs to law, and Rabbinic laws to Biblical laws.

Thus, Orthodoxy was itself a novel approach to Judaism. And Orthodoxy in turn branched into several forms, of which ultra-Orthodoxy is certainly very far from the original, in a variety of ways.

One of these is with regard to communal authority. Traditionally, leading Torah scholars were consulted on numerous issues. But, for most of history, political and communal leadership was in the hands of positions such as kings, exilarchs, and parnassim, rather than the leading rabbinic authorities. Furthermore, it was generally the case that, even for rabbis, wisdom in non-Torah-specific areas was understood to be commensurate with knowledge and experience in those areas. Daas Torah, however, presented the opposite notion: that the ultimate guidance on all areas of life—even social and political decisions with no obvious connection to Torah—is provided precisely by those who are the most cloistered from the world and who have only been immersed in Torah. (A further significant characteristic is that in contrast to the time-honored approach of rabbinic responsa, Daas Torah presents its conclusions without any explanations, halachic or otherwise.)

Another way in which ultra-Orthodoxy differs dramatically from traditional Judaism is in the role of the yeshivah vis-a-vis the community. In earlier generations, the yeshivah was merely another component of the community, servicing its spiritual needs and preparing its students for their role in the community as rabbinic leaders. But the new yeshivah was a distinct framework in which students were not preparing for their role in the community, but rather were deliberately isolating themselves from the community for the pursuit of studying Torah as its own ideal. Concurrent with this came the rise in authority of Roshei Yeshivah, with no experience in communal leadership or practical halacha, over community rabbis.

One of the charedi reformations with the most far-reaching ramifications is long-term kollel for the masses. Historically, while there is some precedent for supporting Torah scholars or those preparing for such a role, both the norm and the societal ideal was for most men to work and support their families. The charedi system, in which it is the women who train and work to support the family, has overturned the traditional roles of husbands and wives, enshrined in the kesubah and in millennia of halachah and Jewish history.

Another novel aspect of charedi society is in its opposition to secular studies. It is not only among the Rishonim that we find great engagement with secular studies and culture; none other than Chasam Sofer, while making some statements of general opposition to secular studies, nevertheless himself extensively studied many of the sciences, including mathematics, astronomy, and geography, as well as history and philosophy. And he even utilized the tools of academic, scientific study in order to evaluate halachic practice; at the Pesach seder, he used celery for karpas, based on looking at cognate Semitic tongues. Such a thing would be regarded as bizarre and inappropriate in charedi society today.

Judaism constantly evolves, sometimes for internal reasons and sometimes as a reaction to external situations. The massive challenges of modernity, the upheaval of the Holocaust and the test of Zionism has resulted in the development of a number of forms of Orthodoxy, including Modern Orthodoxy, Religious Zionism, Centrist Orthodoxy, and others. Ultra-Orthodoxy, otherwise known as Charedi Judaism, is one of the most radical and innovative evolutionary developments. The reason why many charedim believe otherwise is due to the lack of study of history, the carefully selected curriculum, and the rampant historical revisionism in their community.

It is disappointing that Tablet did not ask any historians, or non-charedi scholars, for their view. Because they would have dismissed Rabbi Shafran's claim to be the "Original Orthodoxy" as being ahistorical nonsense.


For more extensive discussion, see my monographs on The Novelty of Orthodoxy and The Making of Haredim.

Reminder: I am available for scholar-in-residence engagements on the West Coast in August, and in NY/NJ during October. Please email me at director@biblicalnaturalhistory.org for details.

123 comments:

  1. > his alleged reasons for disliking it are rather odd. "Firstly," he says, "it implies that non-haredim are less observant, which isn’t necessarily true."

    He's a PR guy. He's trying to walk the line between declaring his particular group as normative and alienating people who aren't members of that group by implying they're less-than.

    > Concurrent with this came the rise in authority of Roshei Yeshivah

    I think that a large part of that was also the influence of Chassidus. The Rosh Yeshiva became identified with the Chassdic tzaddik and Rebbe.

    It would be interesting if R' Shafran's community really did practice the Judaism of their ancestors. Worshipping God and His Asherah at hilltop shrines.

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  2. My favourite is the piece where he recounts that a revered teacher of his claimed that Avraham Avinu taught Hammurabi how to write his famous code of law.
    The essential contradiction that Modern Chareidism(tm) has always had to deal with is:
    1) It opposes all innovation
    2) It, itself, is an innovation.
    Now, some people can handle open hypocrisy. The last time the province of Quebec in Canada held a referendum on independence they were challenged by Native groups that said that if the sovereigntists won they would hold their own referendum to secede from Quebec. The response from the French was "No, only we can hold referendums and once we win, no more". Hypocrites, but honest ones.
    The Chareidi approach, on the other hand, is dishonest. Unable to say "Yes, we're an innovation but we're the last innovation allowed" they simply rewrite history and, al pi someone who should not be named, they repeat the lie over and over until it becomes perceived as the truth. That's Shafran's job and he's quite good at it.

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  3. Actually, Chareidim didn't pick that as a name for themselves in the early 20th century. "Chareidi" was considered the Hebrew term for "Orthodox" until as late as the late 1960s or early 1970s. The older OU logo used to translate their name as "האיגוד הקילות החרדיות דאמריקה" or the like (we're talking about 35+ yr old memories).

    This text appeared on NSCY materials well into my YU years. But by then, the early 1980s, I associated the word "chareidi" with its current usage, realized there must have been a shift in translation, and that's why the old OU logo stuck in my memory.

    More importantly, I don't think there was a firm chareidi - Mod-O split yet at the turn of the 20th century. In the US, neither group was big enough or stable enough to have that luxury. A number of institutions overlapped. And as for Zionism -- the Netziv and R' Chaim Brisker worked together. R' Kook was invited to the first attempt by Agudah to hold an inaugural Kenesiah Gedolah. But when WWI scuttled those plans, he was not invited to the actual 1st Kenesiah in 1923. So we have a pretty narrow window, about 8 years, in which that issue became a communal split.

    So, which is the original? Neither! The original Orthodoxy was one in which accepted diversity on issues of how to relate to modernity or to Zionism. Insisting one take sides as a defining feature of your movement is an innovation.

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    1. I remember the OU using the word much later than that, although already alternating (maybe they had old stationary to use up) with "Ortodoxim," which is obviously meant for an Israeli audience. (In Israel, "Ortodoxi" is used *only* to distinguish Orthodox from Reform and Conservative.)

      I think R' Revel was invited as well. Certainly many German Orthodox, who were (apart from the Zionism, for some) Modern Orthodox, were invited and attended and even led the organization.

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  4. As you mention, Orthodox in general is different than what came before. Take halachic observance, for example. In prior times, observance was much more flexible and relaxed. People did what they were taught by their parents, not what they learned at Yeshiva. Not everyone got it "right", and there was far more variety in practice in different communities than the insistence of one-size-fits-all halachic Judaism of today.

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    1. I have some news for you. Nowadays also, people keep what they know and understand. Some people make more mistakes and others make less.
      One thing that has not changed is that people always say and have said that the olden days was better than today. "Ach, dey don't make nostalgia like dey used to'

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    2. What is the historical source to your assertion that it was the norm and ideal for men to work to support their families? I have multiple sources for the ideal of women working to support their husbands' learning, similar to the Chazon Ish or the Chofetz Chaim, who helped out a little, but the lion's share of the burden was their wives'. Just as it is today amongst the tiny percentage of Jews who live the Kollel lifestyle.
      From multiple memoirs and historical fiction books, written by people who actually saw society of the 'olden days', we see that this was not an anomaly at all.
      Remember society was much more fragmented at the time, and official records are much less trustworthy. Matters were more disorganized and the government did not know, nor were they supposed to know, about all of the yeshivos that existed.

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    3. Erm.. zich.. wring again. See these history books:

      https://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/collections/contact-63120/the-littman-library-of-jewish-civilization

      Zich, you like to make claims, but what you claim is often not backed up. So you are losing credibility.

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    4. Glickel of Hameln's autobiography makes it clear that the norm was for men to be the primary breadwinners.

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    5. The Chazon Ish and the Chafetz Chaim (who worked, by the way) were hardly representative of the masses.

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    6. The "norm" and "ideal" are two separate things. It's not even controversial that the historical "norm" was certainly for men to work rather than learn. Are you arguing otherwise?

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    7. You are absolutely correct David Staum and if people read Jewish history, a wide range of Rabbinic thought pre-state of Israel and biographies of old Rabbi's they would realize how different things were. Zichron Dvorim not only did men work to support their families, but Rabbi's worked to support their Torah learning. From the day's of the Golden Age of Spain right until Rabbi Uziel as the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, it was the norm for Sephardi Rabbi's to combine their Rabbinic Studies with a mainstream education. Rambam was a doctor, Shmuel HaNagid led an army of 15,000 Muslims. Grace Aguilar wrote fiction novels depicting Sephardi life in London. Rabbi's studied science and philosophy and were versed in many languages and cultures. Hakam Elijah Benamozegh cited non-Jewish sources in his works and it was a Christian student who he refused to convert who published his works. Kol Isha did not exist in the Sephardi world and the Yeshiba of Rhodes had a mixed choir. In the biography of Rabbi Abraham Levy he mentioned how West Hampstead (Ashkenazi Orthrodox) Synagogue in London was the 'last' to have a mixed choir, something that it seems was once normal and also the case in mainland Europe. Rabbi Kopel Rosen required his students to ask for written permission to wear a Kippah outside of Torah Study, Tefillah and eating. It seems that this was the norm in the Sephardi world and non-Hassidic Ashkenazi world. With various tragedies and shifts in the Jewish population, a lot of local Yeshiba's and Beit Midrash's have closed, leaving young boys to be indoctrinated into the Eastern European system, as if this is the only normal way. Since Rabbi Uziel, most Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews in Israel have opted the Ashkenazi way of interpreting Talmud, adopted a number of Chumrot and many even learn in Lithuanian style Yeshivot, whilst refusing a mainstream education. I know Rabbi's who are afraid for their career if they teach the old Sephardi way. Rabbi's in Morocco used to make Halachah to cover the widest number of people. Using electricity on Yom Tob is within halachah and was done, but like so many other things, is now not done for 'other reasons'. What Haredim do have over everyone else is their ability to establish infrastructure, their ability to grow through reproduction and recruitment and a strong force to practice their way and nothing else. If we all had the same conviction then things would be different.

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    8. Most Sephardim? Hardly. Most rabbis, maybe.

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  5. Original--meaning new or innovative, as in an original artwork, or an original theory. In that sense, yes, they are original, and they have created an original version of Judaism. Shafran, OTOH, is a huckster and a carny, and that is truly as old as civilization.

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  6. You and Rabbi Shafran do not appear to be referring to the same group.

    "Furthermore, ultra-Orthodox Jews already have chosen a name for themselves: charedim" -- In the US, that term is rarely used in ordinary conversation by the, um, charedim to refer to themselves.

    "One of the charedi reformations with the most far-reaching ramifications is long-term kollel for the masses" -- the masses aren't in long-term kollel in the US.

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    1. You misunderstood that comment. "long term kollel for the masses" doesn't mean that the majority of people are in kollel, rather it means that for the first time, long term kollel is being encouraged and is available to everyone rather than a small elite cadre of learners.

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    2. American ultra-Orthodox like to *think* of themselves as being like Israeli Charedim without really realizing that, even after aliyah, they're not.

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  7. When the OU had a hechsher in Israel about ten years ago (which fell apart when it was revealed it didn't match american standards, or minimal Israeli standards for that matter) it also used the ichud charedi term micha berger mentions.

    Ultra Orthodox was coined by the NY times as a descriptive of West Bank "settlers" as an ostensibly derogatory term, trying to ascribe extremism to them. From there, it somehow transfered to what we call charedim.

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    1. The OU is alive and well in Israel.

      I don't think the term has ever been applied to settlers. "Settlers" is bad enough for these types.

      But lots of American Jews think that Israeli right-wingers and charedim are the same thing.

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    2. I'm talking about the OU hechsher, which I understand they've been reinstituting.

      Settlers ultra O. It was a NY Times innovation.

      American Jews have little concept of O sociology in US and Israel. And Europe and Russia.

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    3. Of course, if you ask an Arab, he'll tell you a resident of Tel Aviv is a settler, too.

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    4. This is completely incorrect. "Ultra-Orthodox" is a term which goes back to the mid-19th century, and it was borrowed from a term used for certain Christian sects. It has nothing to do with the New York Times or West Bank settlers.

      For example, here what is perceived as the *extreme* opponents of liturgical reform, are called ultra orthodox - 1845.

      https://imgur.com/a/bGoD6XN

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  8. Regarding one of your comments, a periodical given out in my Shul had a long paragraph warning parents not to be down on any new things learned in Yeshiva, and welcome change. Eh.

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  9. Ben (and others), there was a time that R. Shafran was Yeshivish Rav and would not have considered himself Charedi. The Agudah changed his views, sadly. I knew him way back when he was a leader in a small out-of-town community and all the observant jews were cohesive because they needed each other. I wish that side of him really shown through today. But, like all religions today, the right is moving to the far right. Left unchecked by US law, I shudder to think how far the envelope would be pushed by religious leaders.

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  10. What's not traditional about having someone else pick your groups name?
    (Coughs: perushim)

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  11. Here is another Perush of the word Charedim. The orthodox as a whole have banned the study of Bikoret Hamikra. The reason is fear, for what it will reveal. Therefore, they are justifiably called Charedim, as they fear. They fear the truth, in essence. The term Charedim, in this view, applies to all who have joined the ban.

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    1. Here on planet Earth the vast majority of Charedim never even heard of Bikoret HaMikra. They have zero fear of it.

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  12. I wrote something similar a few years back sans the Shafran quotes. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/redefining-reform/

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  13. Oops, I'd like to redact my comment about the verb "to play" because I'd forgotten that the "with" prefix isn't present in the infinitive.

    Sorry just learning Hebrew!

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  14. As the spokesman of the Agudath Israel OF AMERICA, I assume Rabbi Shafran is referring to American charedim. Why is it that you feel that you cannot have an opinion on American politics while living in Israel yet you're comfortable opining on American charedim?

    The fact that you think the majority of American charedim have their wives support their family while the husbands sit and learn supports your view in your prior post that you would do better sitting out discussions on American cultural issues.

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    1. Why? He’s not wrong about that.

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    2. Shafran will never make that distinction.

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    3. The fact that you think the majority of American charedim have their wives support their family while the husbands sit and learn

      The fact that you think Rabbi Slifkin thinks that is interesting.

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  15. I think another important factor that has been overlooked is that until recent times Jewish communities were largely separate from each other. Sure there was communication and even some overlap from community to community, but we had to rely on the Rav of the community for specific communal guidance, and his decisions may have often been a bit different than those of other communities. As globalization began to take hold, we were finally in a situation where we were, for the most part, all back together again for the first time in many centuries. Perhaps there was a conscious attempt to create a single, cohesive Judaism.

    Very interesting article. I always appreciate your perspectives R Slifkin.

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  16. ...One was its traditionalism - the opposition to anything which appeared to be a change... Thus, Orthodoxy was itself a novel approach to Judaism...
    You can't have it both ways. How can something be at the same time a novel and opposing any change? While Halacha evolves, it evolves slowly without breaking from the traditions of Chazal. So, in reality of course, Orthodox (plain vanilla orthodox without a prefix) are the ones who remain in the 3K+ year unbroken chain of generations.

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    1. The opposition to all change is what was novel.

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    2. How can something be at the same time a novel and opposing any change?

      Why is this difficult to understand? Let's take a technological example: compile an album of songs and burn it to CD. The compilation is novel, in the sense that no one had arranged the same selection in the same order before. Now that it's burned to CD, it can't change.

      Charedism is the same concept applied to modes of thought.

      (And of course Charedism does change. The point is that they are ostensibly opposed to it. Some might call it blindness, and some might call it duplicitousness.)

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    3. Although it's a well established phenomenon it always irritates me that chareidim, despise spending all their day learning are still so fundamentally ignorant of the development of the subject of their study. I mean, I know their learning is deliberately superficial and questioning is actively discouraged but you'd think / hope that at some point that would change

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    4. *despite, not despise...

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    5. Can you back ypur assertion that 'questioning is discouraged' with any facts?
      That was certainly not my experience.

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    6. Cripes, you can't even use a steinsaltz Talmud in a chareidi yeshiva because it brings up questions of variant texts and others too.

      But the best fact I can bring is the way that you and other chareidim continue to insist that that version of Judaism is the authenticity traditional one. That shows that many of you had an education that didn't involve critical thinking, or else you'd all know better.

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    7. You could have just written 'I have no source. I pulled it out of my sleeve'

      We don't use Steinzaltz for the same reason we don't use Artscroll. Because we don't want a crutch.

      But keep your bigotry and intellectual dishonesty showing

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    8. @Zichron:

      How many Haredi yeshivot teach Mikra in a meaningful way? Why do you think that is? Could it be because they can't answer the questions that will arise when students read peshuto shel mikra?

      How many Haredi roshei yeshiva are well-versed in the early sources of Jewish thought (Moreh, Kuzari, Emunot veDeot, take your pick) What does this tell you about who tends to make it to the top in that world? Do you think any of them are ready or willing to answer questions about the topics discussed in those books?

      How many people (not even rabbis) will stop taking you seriously as a fellow Jew if you admit that you are secretly fascinated by Natan Slifkin's blog? Do you think that comes from an attitude that encourages questioning?

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    9. "Because we don't want a crutch'??? Wow. You really do drink the kool-aid don't you?
      Nothing to do with the fact that the vilna edition has alleged kedusha?
      It do we not have to keep track of the silly lies we tell to prop up our fantasy-judaism?

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    10. Fozzie, you seem to be confusing things. Some chassidim believe the Slavita shas has kedusha. Nobody ever suggested that about Vilna.

      I have heard other hisnagdus to Artscroll that applies equally to Steinsaltz, but never on the level of kedusha. They were all practical points.
      There were personal issues against Steinsaltz, but to do with his Lubavitch affiliations.

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    11. The chareidi yeshiva I studied in was quite clear on the kedusha of the villa shas.
      But then they believed in a lot of bollocks.

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    12. Have you heard of the concept of 'hazing'? Because I think you were a long term victim. Did they convince you that you were invisible and you could walk around like Adam Harishon before (or after) his sin?

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  17. AI has never recovered from the loss of R' Moshe Sherer.

    RM

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    1. Quite the modernist he...not.

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    2. That's actually not true at all. AIA is doing quite fine and quite well without him.

      Of course, the world around AIA has changed. AIA was built on the backs of starry-eyed naïve Americans, many of whom went to public school, few of whom had any real learning, and all of whom looked at older European rabbis as exotic supermen from a different planet. (Because, in effect, they were.)

      Life is very different now, in part because of the Agudah's own success. There is no longer a gulf between rabbis and many/most balle-battim, at least yeshivah trained ones. Plus in general, the idealism and activism of the 1960s is long gone. Not just in the Agudah, but everywhere. People have seen that every action begets a reaction, and many of the changes and revolutions of that period resulted in some pretty bad unintended consequences. Both in the Jewish world and in the secular world.

      In short, AIA is the same, it is still funded, it still has members, and it still functions. If it is not as venerated as it once was, it is because nothing is holy anymore, to anyone. Kind of sad, but not all generations have the same challenges. Our task is to be Yitzchaks, not Avrahams.

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    3. Sorry, how exactly do you know what "our task" is?

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    4. By looking around us. And how would you know if I was wrong?

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  18. I always chuckle a little inside when someone charedei bashes the open orthodox from “straying from the mesorah”. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

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    1. Gershon, not only are you correct, but you are underestimating this! We can name a long list of observances that are not part of any mesora that the "ultra Orthodox" and even Modern Orthodox claim to follow. But leniency in this regard is inconsistent and hypocritical.

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  19. 1. Prof. Littman may have done a comprehensive job with the constraints placed on him by the academic methodology. However, that is hardly an acccurate method of reflecting reality. He views the Yeshiva world through the lens of his own experiences in academia, not understanding the fundamental differences between Yeshivos and the institutions that he attended. Essentially, he is following the strictly textual tradition, ignoring the mimetic one. Yeshivos, and attitudes towards yeshivos, are not measureable with the same formulae as other institutions. Additionally, until about World War 1, almost no Yeshivos had any need for accurate records. There is no way of knowing precisely how many people attended Yeshivos, because we have no record of Yeshivos of those days. His research is, for all practical purposes, worthless.

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    1. Professor Littman?!?!?!? Hahahaha.
      You didn't even click on the link before replying did you?
      The books I linked to were by Stampfer, not Littman (that the name of the publishing entity).

      Try again, and this time read the books (which might take a while), then write a reply....

      And you might also learn a thing or two about how history is studied. There are plenty of ways of knowing about the well documented not so recent past. And via those methods we can tell you are talking out of your rear end

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    2. Your assumption that yeshivos did not keep records until WWI is completely inaccurate. Shaul Stampfer has written entire books based on the records of yeshivos in the 19th century, as well as the ample memoir literature from the period.

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    3. You are making a claim based on one fact. You know that Yeshivos don't teach Mikra, and you claim the reason is because they can't answer questions. Have you considered there may be another reason? Have you researched it?
      I have not surveyed Haredi Roshei Yeshiva. But I am not secretly fascinated by this blog. If anything, it is a chizuk for me as a charedi. If I ever wonder about my life and beliefs, I can come here and see how unseriously these matters are debated. How little source material is actually used to prove the MO POV. I see the target painted after the arrow is thrown. I do not see people learning Rishonim and trying to understand them and live according to their beliefs and proscribations. I see ex facto justification of ordinary lives, based on 'can you prove me wrong?'.
      I have not found any questions off limits in my upbringing. I learnt in the same Yeshiva as the owner of this blog and I harrassed one of the Magidei Shiur there with all kinds of questions and I was not thrown out. At least not for questioning. Now smoking cigarettes, that's a different story.

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    4. I actually asked R Dr Gil Perl about records, and he said the lithuanian yeshivot weren't allowed to keep records, I the sense that many of them were illegal, and those that were legal were limited in umber of students.
      Also, students came and left, even in middle of zman semester term. Sometimes to other yeshivot, sometimes to go to work, sometimes OTD. Sometimes to get married. Despite the legends, some were not qualified.

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    5. I will reproduce here the comment you are responding to.

      "How many Haredi yeshivot teach Mikra in a meaningful way? Why do you think that is? Could it be because they can't answer the questions that will arise when students read peshuto shel mikra?

      How many Haredi roshei yeshiva are well-versed in the early sources of Jewish thought (Moreh, Kuzari, Emunot veDeot, take your pick) What does this tell you about who tends to make it to the top in that world? Do you think any of them are ready or willing to answer questions about the topics discussed in those books?


      How many people (not even rabbis) will stop taking you seriously as a fellow Jew if you admit that you are secretly fascinated by Natan Slifkin's blog? Do you think that comes from an attitude that encourages questioning?"

      I will start by clarifying: I attended elite Haredi yeshivot all my life, and I still learn in Lakewood today. I understand their worth, and I understand their weaknesses. I have explored the question of Mikra at great length. Are you suggesting that there is another, secret reason why yeshivot don't learn mikra, perhaps part of the mystic secret tradition you so creatively imagine in your other comments?

      I HAVE surveyed Haredi Roshei Yeshiva. Few if any of them disprove my claim.

      You have yet to answer my question about whether you would be comfortable revealing your frequent participation in discussions on this blog to Haredi friends and mentors.

      The irony of a defender of the haredi worldview making the argument that his opponents paint the target around the arrow is not lost on me.

      And surely you know that the yeshivos you and Rabbi Slifkin attended are not analagous to the great haredi yeshivot, nor would any of their graduates be taken seriously in a major haredi leadership position. (That doesn't mean they don't deserve to be, it's just the way it is.)

      Delete
    6. I am not sure which are your words and which words you are placing in my mouth.

      Shaarei Torah is a bona fide yeshiva and its alumni are a cross section of Charedi society.

      If I don't reveal my participation on this blog to friends, it is because participating in any blog is embarrassing, even about our own issues. A blogger is a pejorative. But I can discuss the views of the 'outlying' rishonim without repercussions and I have heard evolution discussed positively by the sone stars of the yeshiva world of today. Perhaps chassidim are different but the non chassidic yeshiva world of bney beraq and Lakewood, has a place for people who are interested in other things.

      We don't learn mikra as part of the curriculum, because TSBP is considered the most important

      Delete
    7. I bid you good luck in emerging from your delusions, and I can only respect your tenacity.

      Delete
  20. 2. The question was never ‘are we the same Jews as the Rambam?’, rather ‘are we continuing the tradition until the Rishonim?’. The individual actions of the Rambam or Reb Shmuel HaNagid are not too relevant here. There are 1000 years in between. How did Torah authorities and experts understand the actions and decisions of the Rishonim? How did they apply them to their own livers? The issue is about the underlying beliefs and belief systems.

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  21. 3. We have no real clue how the Rambam lived. We have some hints, and we apply conjecture to the rest. For anyone to claim he is living the life of the Rambam, he has to be quite ignorant. On the other hand, we have a direct connection to our predecessors of 100 years ago, slightly less to those of 200 years ago and so on. We have a mimetic tradition that took into account all that was taught previously and applied it to their lives. When Charedim claim to be the flag bearers of ‘original Orthodoxy’, it is as champions of the belief system of the Talmidei Chachomim and prevailing Torah opinions of the mid 1800s and the mid 1700s.

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  22. 4. In studying these matters, it is easy to get taken up with externalities. The issue here is not the dress or the language, rather the conceptual underpinnings of their belief system. The Modern Orthodox world lives between two conflicting morality yardsticks and belief systems; that of the Torah and contemporary Western mores. The former due to our accepting Torah on Har Sinai, the latter because of a coincidence of our living in the Western world. Let us take a date of 200 years ago, was the prevailing Torah geist that of the surrounding culture? Did the Talmidei Chachomim of Russia champion Russian mores and beliefs, like the MO of today champion American mores? I think the answer is obvious to anyone who learns the Seforim and reads the literature of those days.

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  23. 5. The commenters here fail to bring any proof that it was always the norm and ideal that men worked and women kept house. They ardently believe so, and they place the burden of proof on me. A rather anachronistic way of thinking. Yes, Gluckel of Hamelin claims she was an anomaly as a working woman. But that is not the entire picture. Again, taking the history of the last 200 years, we have much literature available about this. Starting with Yechezkel Kotik, the first memoir written in Yiddish since Gluckel of Hamelin, and continuing on to Sholem Asch and others, there is constant reference to the Lomdim in town, those that spent most of their days in the Beis Hamedrash. The Chofetz Chaim and the Chazon Ish had stores, but the lion’s share of the work was done by their wives. This was an expression of the ideal of Torah learning, that was always (until Chassidus and their encroachment) the focal point of the service of Hashem.

    And I ask you commenters, how did the Vilna Gaon, whom you claim championed your cause, support himself? Did he work? Did he occupy any communal position? And how about Reb Nosson Adler?

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    Replies
    1. You can't seriously be pointing at the Gaon and Rav N Adler as examples of the norm. That's just silly.

      Delete
    2. Actually, you just brought proof yourself. The people who learned with the "lomdim". If the norm or majority learned, there would be no title for the lomdim; if anything, there would be a derogatory term for those who didn't!

      Also, citing gedolim doesn't touch the issue, since they do not represent the norm. Although I notice that you dropped the Chafeitz Chaim from the discussion once you learned he did have a job. (The period in which his wife supported him was short-lived. But again, he's not of the masses.)

      No one is arguing that there weren't rabbanim and teachers and even others who learned full time. Much like in the days of the gemara, where a whole city would sustain 10 batlanim. But this idea that it's what the masses should be doing is simply a post-war innovation.

      The community that is called today "Litvish" (although admittedly this term is more an Israeli label) is not recreating the norms of Lithuanian Jewry, but those of the elite of Litta, the few who were able to go to yeshiva as youth and learn full-time.

      Volozhin, the flagship yeshiva, was so big that the Soviets turned the beis medrash into an automat. In its heyday, Volozhin was 400 students. Telzhe in Shanghai, with rabbeim, numbered 415. The whole Litvishe Yeshiva Movement at its largest was comparable in size RIETS, and dwarfed by either one of the yeshivos of Lakewood or Mir.

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    3. He was supported by the fund that his great-grandfather had established.

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    4. The Vilna Gaon, that is.

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    5. Who pointed to the Gaon or R Nosson Adler as the paragons of traditional lifestyles?

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    6. Mr. Berger, I did not drop the CC. Read again. It was his wife's store, in which he helped out occasionally

      Again, yeshivos are not documented, even though pseudo scholars who go by the name historians seem to believe themselves the source and repository of all wisdom, they have no clue as to what went on. The tradition is mimetic, not textual

      Delete
    7. When did Telz move to Shanghai?

      (Next week is Tamuz 20. Do you know what happened on that day in Telz?)

      Delete
    8. Total non-sequitur, but I know when in 1941 all the men in Telzh, including the Rashei Yeshiva, were murdered.

      And someone actually trying to have a conversation would have acknowledged I obviously meant "Mir" and simply misspoke. And Mir being smaller than the Mir in Y-m by an order of magnitude equally makes my point But you seem more interested in making points and therefore wouldn't bother looking to address the actual issue.

      The yeshivos and the CC were not typical Litvishers, but you seem to be ignoring the statement about the store being how the Kagans supported themselves for only a short period of their lives.

      But since you do not seem to actually want to reach truth, but to make debating society points, I'm done.

      Delete
    9. The historic tradition is not mimetic. Where did you ever get such a preposterous notion? Did you perhaps once skim Rupture and Reconstruction? That's not what he meant, read it again.

      Delete
    10. Why is it not mimetic?
      I read R and R, but it is not the topic of discussion here. I was hinting to his point to show that in halacha, people are willing to bow to a mimetic tradition, against the rigorous study of halacha. Yet when it comes to history, which is almost never written down, except in tiny amounts, the written record is canonized.

      The yeshiva world has a tradition going back a couple of hundred years at least. That tradition is not written down, except in hints. The idea that scholarly research can 'prove' anything on this topic is preposterous

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    11. I suspect that you may not know the definition of the word "mimetic."

      I would suggest that you return to the people who told you the information you've stated here about the yeshiva world and ask them where they heard it from. Continue tracing things back and see if they are coming from the most reliable sources (hint: that's not the same as the most frum sources) What you discover may surprise you.

      When I look back at what you wrote about scholarly research, I realize that I may be wasting my time with you. But I respect your conviction.

      Delete
    12. Mir and Lakewood only became big in the sense you mention cause they created a society that a single person is a piece of garbage of he never went there, not deserving of getting married. (Yeah, there are other yeshivot, but do they count in the grand scheme of things?)

      The CC grocery story is clouded by its source, the NY times obituary. Which it turns out was pushed by, and then included the grocery story by heavy lobbying by R eliezer silver.

      Delete
    13. When it comes to history, people want to know the truth. When it comes to halakhah, people want to know what's the binding din. Which pesaq is nispasheit and becomes common practice is part of determining what the theoretical halakhah would be.

      Not that on-topic, but an important distinction. We can have eilu va'eilu in halakhah, but not in history.

      Second, the Lithuanian Yeshivos were never a community. The masses didn't live like that; not even the alumni. No one ever expected everyone to live like the Chafeitz Chaim, even if you had bothered to look up the years he didn't have a grocery. The CC ran the herring business before it, he ran the grocery initially, when the grocery was threatening others' income, he lived off selling his sefarim himself, and the ink business in his final years was his. But again, that doesn't matter -- no one is talking about the yechidei segulah.

      Like I said, the existence of "lomdim" or "asarah batlanim" means they're the exception and most people worked. When you live in NY, you don't refer to your neighbor as "that New Yorker" -- titles describe how that person is different, not typical. Similarly, Lithuania wasn't a world of Vilna Gaons or Alter of Slabodkas.

      The notion that you prefer anecdotes to someone who collects them and shows which patterns really emerge is what is preposterous.

      Bottom line: If the yeshiva world really had continuity with the Lithuania they're trying to emulate, they wouldn't have to edit facts out of their history books.

      The yeshiva world has so little continuity with the Lithuanian Yeshivos they are trying to emulate, the even the Hebrew accent they teach students isn't Lithuanian.

      Delete
    14. The Yeshiva world doesn't have history books. You are projecting your world onto them. Artscroll never claimed that their biographies were serious historical research. That wasn't their objective.

      I see a constant need to qualify and classify all stories and facts into a neat package that can be written about, defended and believed in. I call it Heilman style history, collect some stories that create a narrative, ignore any stories or sources that look different and when people inevitably call you out on your mistakes, accuse them of bias. Heilman is a professor and his attachment to truth is only incidental

      Delete
  24. 6. Even if the majority of men worked, that is hardly a reflection of anything more than necessity. It may have been by choice, but there is no proof of that.

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    1. All your points are weak at best. But the last two are absurd.
      5. Are you seriously doubting that the norm was that men worked and women stayed home?! Your "evidence" to the contrary is based on a few anecdotes.
      6. Of course it was the ideal for men to work, and not just learn! Do I really need to quote Pirkei Avos 2:2? The Rema permitted taking money for learning only as an emergency measure.

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    2. The Rema does not say that, you added that to his words. But even if he did, the same emergency exists today as did then.

      The norm was that both worked. Very hard. But the ideal was that the men could spend as much time as possible learning. Those that could and were great enough Yarei Shomayim, did so. All sources point to this point. Those that couldn't, hoped that their children would at least be able to.
      Then haskala came along and told amei haaretz that they could stay valuable as amei haaretz.

      Delete
  25. 7. Acording to what I have read, the story of Eastern Europe pre-Haskala was such. Towns were small, say with a couple of hundred people. That consisted of Talmidei Chachomim and Amcha Yidden. Each town had a Rabbi who was supported by society, and perhaps a few men who dedicated their lives to Torah. Let us leave that number at a 3% full time learning class. How many were amcha Yidden, whose grasp of Torah was tenuous and were full fledged am haaratzim who kept what everybody else kept? Pick a number, guess. I would say 30%. Now when we look at Jews nowadays, how many are in Kollel? What is the percentage? The vast majority of Jews keep absolutely nothing at all. That 30% has grown to about 85%. It is not Kollel for all, it is Kollel for all of a tiny percentage. I would wager that there are still much less full-time learners in Klal Yisroel than 150 or 200 years ago. It is just because they are so visible and organized that we think they are a higher percentage.

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    1. The problem with your logic is that secular Jews are not part of haredi society. They are not contributing as baalei batim to our communities, financially or otherwise. Hence, it is irrelevant that the percentage of people learning in kollel is dwarfed by them.

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    2. Why is that relevant? The hashkafa was that there should be a part of the Jewish nation that is full time absorbed in learning. That has not changed. The bottom 85% changed.

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    3. There cannot be the same percentage of people learning as there were when there was a greater percentage of people working to support those individuals. This is simple math.

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    4. That is a practical problem, not a hashkafic one. And circumstances allow people to act differently. Government benefits and tax deductions are just two of them

      Delete
  26. 8. When we actually evaluate the facts, the Orthodoxy of Torah society of 200 years ago is just like today. As many sources as people would like to quote about secular studies, the fact remains that Yeshivos did not study secular subjects. The few that did, did not claim to be following a tradition by doing it, they were self declared innovators. In the Europe of our immediate ancestors, secular studies were first ignored, then actively shunned. This was not an innovation of Israel or the USA.

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    1. I think that your opinion is important. That said, can you provide a source? Or are you repeating things you've heard

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    2. 'Things that I heard' is no less of a source. This is my whole point. There is an oral tradition that is not available to researchers, but the truth is not subservient to the academic method

      Delete
    3. Well, that doesn't really need a retort.

      Delete
    4. Zich's last comment ironically rebuts his own point. How do you know chareidim aren't taught to think critically? Because they ARE taught to accept as Absolute Truth whatever their rebbe tells them.

      And it's also why there's no point talking to him. He knows you are wrong regardless of how right you might be.

      Delete
  27. In summary, the reason Charedim claim to be the original Orthodox is because our basic beliefs haven’t changed. Only externalities. Most claims to the contrary are based on an erroneous anachronistic view of the past.

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    1. You'd really like to believe that, wouldn't you. Well, I'm sorry but you are totally wrong.

      Delete
    2. If your basic beliefs haven't changed, why does ArtScoll et all omit those beliefs of historical figures that don't fit the current party platform.

      You know the Netziv was a Zionist? And read haskalishe newspapers Friday night? The Or Sameiach was also a Zionist.

      Volozhin had limudei chol before it closed. It closed for a number of reasons. According to gov't records, the main reason why it closed was that the anarchy of students fighting over who would succceed the Netziv -- R Chaim Berlin (his son) or R Chaim Brisker (his segan), the gov't shut it down out of fears of outright Anarchism. (Dr Stampfer had to rewrite this part of his book when the records were unsealed after the fall of the USSR.) The nearest factor to the yeshivish rewrite of history is that before closing, the gov't limited the hours of teaching -- both shiurim and limudei chol, and the number of hours of limudei chol was raised. To the point that in the short days of the Lithuanian winter, there would be no yeshiva left.

      But that is what the gov't forced on Volozhin. In terms of voluntary limudei chol, Volozhin so encouraged learning limudei chol on the side, R SR Hirsch's perception of the school from over in Germany was that they were "fellow travelers on the path of Torah im Derekh Eretz".

      Slabodka also expected most talmidim to learn limudei chol on the side. The Alter, though, advised each talmid differently, according to what he felt each one needed. So I could only speak about "most talmidim".

      Kelm ran a HS with limudei chol, although R' Yisrael Salanter didn't think any of the Alter's potential successors could run it right, so he shut it down after the Alter passed. (Speaking of Kelm, R' EE Dessler recalls his father having him read Uncle Tom's Cabi.) Telzhe ran a Mechinah with limudei chol.

      And of course, all of this only speaks of a tiny percentage of Eastern Europe. Most boys apprenticed. Only a minority of the elite got to learn in the yeshiva. Making learning a societal norm is a post-War invention. (See my other comment on this point.)

      So to ammend what you wrote:
      The reason why Chareidim claim to be the original O is because they blind themselves to the ways their beliefs have changed. And not just externalities. Most claims to the contrary are based on erroneous anachronistic presentations of the past.

      The real history is that in their world, the issues that most deeply divide yeshivish and Mod-O weren't issues. The Netziv and R Chaim Brisker ran a yeshiva together even though one was a Zionist and the other vehemently anti-Zionist.

      So all our camps today are more recent inventions.

      For that matter, the whole notion of movements, of articulating an Ism and following it, really only takes off in response to the Enlightenment and Reform. Before then, you were shomer Shabbos simply because that's what Jews do. Sholom Aleikhem's "Tevya the Milkman" still holds onto that view even in the turn of the 20th cent. "Tradition! Tradition!" as the Broadway show adapts it. (And recall, Sholom Aleikhem's target audience were still living the world he was portraying.)

      But then the culture breaks down when we're exposed to alternatives, and we need to make some guiding ideal the centerpiece to follow: Chassidus, the founding of Volozhin / *Lithuanian* yeshivish, Neo-Orthodoxy -- both R Hirsch's and R' Hildesheimer's), Mussar... Israeli Chareidism and American Yesivish, Mod-O, Dati Leumi, Chardalim... They are all inventions. They may well be consistent with Torah, but none of them predate the 18th cent, and of today's Isms, none resemble the pre-Shoah movements they are trying to reconstruct.

      As the Satmar Rav said to the Brisker Rav: I am the last chassid, and you are the last Litvak.

      (Although I would have said my own rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, was the last old-world Litvak.)

      Delete
    3. You have a collection of assertions, based on a small amount of data.
      The Jewish community, at the time of the closing of Volozhin, believed the reasons to be limudei chol. That is what the children on the Netziv said, and that is what Reb Chaim Brisker said. That was the acceptable hashkafa at the time.
      Kelm, as I wrote above, was revolutionary. It is no proof to some kind of 'original hashkafa' that was rewritten.
      Reb Dovid Karliner even complains about the fact that the leaders of Jewish Russia refused to teach people a trade. You can spin that as you want, but the prevailing opinion did not allow limudei chol in yeshivos.

      AFAIK, Telz came later and in the inter war period was cut off from other yeshivos.

      Nowadays, bochurim also read books. It is not part of the curricula. Bochurim in pre WW1 Lithuania also read all kinds of books, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina, yet they were never part of the accepted curriculum. That is because they all held like the Chazon Ish quoted from them in his Igros. During the formative years, it is a definite loss to include secular topics. Or something like that, I don't have the text in front of me

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    4. Though a tziyoni, the netziv did not want it in the yeshiva. Whether for political reasons, or irrelevance reasons, is not known.

      Uncle Toms Cabin was very popular in Lithuanian yeshivot, for some reasons. MOAG.
      RAKotler was caught with a Russian newspaper in slabodka. Also MOAG

      Telz ran a whole network of secular studies called Yavneh, rivaling if not exceeding, but definitely preceding the Bais Yaakov network. (Of course, BY would never have existed in America if not for legal requirements

      Delete
    5. Actually, at the time of the closing, the people saw the documents that closed the school. The gov't ordered it, there were gov't orders posted on the door. You're repeating myths you can't let go of. And the powers that be hide My Uncle the Netziv from you, because better not to share the words of the Torah Temimah than disillusion you from that false sense of fealty to the past.

      They also knew that there were limudei chol being taught there for the prior decade in an attempt to minimally satisfy gov't demands. They were there, they knew it.

      Bachurim in pre-WWI Lithuania learned Geometry, Freud and Marx. Not merely "all kinds of books" but to know limudei chol. R Hirsch thought there was enough encouragement of such studies that he told his gevirim that Volozhin were fellow travelers, and you think they held like the Chazon Ish?

      More to the point, you think there wss a unified "they"? Even within Volozhin, there was a Zionist and an anti-Zionist running the yeshiva together. Apparently the things you think are community defining and products of consensus were not.

      Delete
    6. r micha when you say 'zionist' , it can't be in the sense of a Ben Gurion or a Peres , nor in the sense of a RW settler rabbi.. i am not sure in what sense a haredi rabbi's 19th century zionism would look....

      Delete
    7. First, as I've said a few times, the line between chareidim and other Orthodox wasn't etched in stone yet.

      R Shmuel Moliver, a Volozhin alumnus, founded Chovecei Zion. And /his/ student, R' Yitzchaq Yaaqov Reines, founded Mizrachi. And then there is the Netziv's famous talmid, R' Avraham Yitzchaq haKohein Kook. All Chareidi Zionists of the Netziv's circle.

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    8. Wow! Did the government orders include the rationale too? Or do you just hope that is true?

      The Chazon Ish lived at the time that Volozhin was open. Are you claiming he falsified history because Rabbi Hirsch from a different country thought differently? Does that make sense to you?

      Bochurim may have read all kinds of things and so do they nowadays. They follow professional sports nowadays too, some of them. That does not make it a part of the curriculum or an accepted pastime. The Roshei Yeshiva strongly frowned on the secular books that were read, but it still happened

      If you want to claim that yeshiva bochurim in pre WW1 learnt geometry etc, the burden of proof is on you. Chaim Shoskes claimed that bochurim in Oshmina sneaked out to learn from his friends. That was certainly not an accepted part of the Torah belief at the time.

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    9. Saul, no, of course not. The Netziv would never have committed the grave sin of wearing a knitted kippah.

      Delete
    10. Why is anyone engaging with Zichy? See above for his reference to "Professor Littman's book." He's a poser, plain and simple.

      Delete
    11. A good number of Ben Gurion types in volozhin.

      When shimon (Peres) Persky was young (three years old), his father took him on a trip. When the train passed Radin, his father said let's get off here. They went to the Chofetz Chaim, and he gave shimon a bracha 'you'll be saved from danger'. Years later, No one understood it, since he barely served in combat in tzahal, running special business projects (dimona, mostly). When the events of Kikar Malchei Yisrael happened, everyone understood.

      Delete
  28. Matters evolve. To claim that Orthodoxy is a new "invention" or that ultra-Orthodoxy is a new "invention" is, you'll excuse me (but to borrow your language), academic nonsense. I've read the various academic arguments on the topic. They're silly. They're all based on blowing details out of all proportion.

    Does an Orthodox Jew today think exactly like a traditional Jew in 1700? No, but that doesn't mean Orthodoxy is something new. You yourself should know this better than anyone else. As you've pointed out many times, the mystical and rationalist views and approaches can be found throughout our history.

    Rejection of the new or of alien wisdom or customs is as old as Judaism itself. There were always rabbis who were more open to the world and rabbis who were less open and, depending on the time period, one or the other group was the wiser one. Often they both had something to offer (like today).

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  29. Hello , this is te first time I comment in this blog, I agree on many points you write.
    At the end you said “ its disappointing that they didn’t ask.....etc “
    It think the answer is clear why they didn’t ask non charedi Schoolars , there are many errors in charedi community but as a whole no other community take so seriously and are so committed to Judaism as the charedi community.
    This is something I think the rest of the of Ortodoxy will be worth to aspire.
    You don’t see the kind of inspiration to become a schoolar as in charedi ortodoxy .
    What do you tnhink ?
    Sorry for my English , I speak Spanish.

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  30. Unfortunately Rabbi Shafran in this instance is very confused. He knows perfectly well that what constitutes "Orthodox" Judaism today is adherence to as many stringencies and non-binding customs as possible to show Hashem how "pious" people are, even more "pious" than Rabbi Akiva and the Tannaim. Decisions about halachic matters always are referred to the "gedolim of Klal Yisroel" which is a new concept, and involves identifying certain particular individuals who support the Agudist movement or at least who are connected to them, like some of the rabbis of the Satmar/Eyda orientation. This is more like a church, where one does not have to do any thinking at all based on studying, but relies on announcements and statements of bishops and cardinals. As time goes on, what is called Orthodoxy is moving further and further away from Talmudic Judaism. Unfortunately many in the so-called Modern Orthodox movement are always looking over their shoulders and trying to get their movement into synch with stringency and custom as well.

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  31. What is happening to comments? Why aren't they getting posted?

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    1. R Slifkin moderates the comments and he is not paid to do so. So you have to wait. You can post comments on his facebook page instead of you want instant gratification.

      Delete
  32. This is trying to hard. The reasons why people see Haredi Judaism as the original Judaism are twofold:

    1) Any reasonable person who goes through the SA and nosei keilim and compares it with the observed practice would conclude that Haredim are the group that is closest to what they read. Since all the other groups accept the normative status of the SA and nosei keilim and refuse to countenance the idea that halacha can be determined in any other way, and since, as a matter of historical reality, other traditional approaches to halacha have not survived except in small, shrinking communities, Haredim are therefore the obvious candidates for the default title of original orthodox Jews.

    2) All other major Jewish groups are just Harediism + something else. Mainstream Modern Orthodoxy is just Harediism + liberalism, mainstream Religious Zionism is just Harediism + Zionism. This can be easily seen by what happens when someone within these movements tries to cut out, or even pare down, the Haredi aspects and within 5 years turn into out and out kofrim.

    The truth is that creating a non-Haredi version of Judaism would require an act of creative reconstruction, involving going back to sources that were kicked out of the famous 'halachic process'. At a bare minimum, it would involve purging the teachings of the Ari, which is where normative Judaism completely went off the rails as demonstrated by the mass apostacy of the vast majority of Jews over the next 200 years. Not many people have any interest in doing anything like this, which means it probably won't happen, which means that Haredim get, for what its worth, to keep their title as the real, original Jews. Now, it's possible, perhaps even likely, that they might lose their status by going all-in for the emergency post-war kollel system on the grounds that Mashiach will sort it out and becoming an insane millenarian sect, but that would just the world without any original Jews. Probably, without this anchor MO and Religious Zionism would just fall apart.

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    1. “At a bare minimum, it would involve purging the teachings of the Ari, which is where normative Judaism completely went off the rails as demonstrated by the mass apostacy of the vast majority of Jews over the next 200 years.“

      You’ve elevated post hoc reasoning to an art form. Bravo.

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    2. That sentence is just a brief synopsis of Gershom Scholem's account of modern Jewish history. Lurianic kabbalah took over global Judaism --> Shabbatai Tzi ---> Underground Sabbateanism --> Reform Judaism, Zionism, mass apostacy.

      You're free to disagree, but it's not post hoc reasoning. I assume a basic degree of familiarity with relevant background material in my comments, which might look like post hoc reasoning to you, I guess.

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    3. "Lurianic kabbalah took over global Judaism --> Shabbatai Tzi ---> Underground Sabbateanism --> Reform Judaism, Zionism, mass apostasy."

      This is post hoc reasoning writ large. Because each supposed step *followed* the other in time, you assert each *caused* the next. That is the post hoc fallacy right there in neon.

      Here is another possible path: Enlightenment,Haskalah-->Jewish Emancipation-->A variety of outflows from Traditional Judaism.

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    4. Did you even read my response? Like a number of historians, I have concluded that the spread of Lurianic teachings was the chief factor in the unprecedented Sabbatean explosion, which in turn led to the development of Jewish heterodoxy. Some historians disagree; maybe you do, but an abbreviated comment on a blog is not a post hoc fallacy.

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    5. The hypothesis is rather outlandish. I'm skeptical that serious historians actually say anything like it. Did the ARI cause mass outflows from Christian belief as well? It sounds like post hoc reasoning mixed in with your personal objections to Kabbalah. I'm not a Kabbalah fan, but attributing the perceived evils of the world to things that you don't like is childish.

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    6. Many historians, since you ask, attribute the decline of Christian belief to an internal process starting with Luther's questioning of church authority and snowballing thereafter. Others ascribe it to outside shocks like scientific discoveries or the disruptive effects of capitalism. But why do I have to hold your hand all the time? Maybe you should read a book or two instead of practicing how to be maximally condescending in your boring statements of conventional wisdom.

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    7. You answered my rhetorical question! :). I know that the ARI didn't cause Christians to go OTD. That is one of many reasons why your so-called theory doesn't pass the laugh test.

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