What is the Forest and what are the Trees?
I think that we're not only getting to the crux of the difference between the charedi and religious-Zionist worldview, but also to an understanding as to why the two approaches are so worlds apart. Two comments on the previous post, Who Is Going Against The Mesorah?, from two different people championing the charedi worldview, are as follows:
"Those that continue with this lifestyle today are the Charedim. Yes, not going to work is an innovation, but not a substantive one. The basic idea behind Charedim's lives is that we judge ourselves only by the Torah and its ideals and morals."
"It doesn't matter what criticisms or complaints you lodge or observations you note... They may even be technically accurate in some manner. But they still miss the forest for the trees."
It occurred to me that herein lies the difference - the diametrically opposed views regarding what is the forest and what are the trees.
From the charedi perspective, the forest is passion for learning Torah and zeal regarding the details of halacha. Problems such as people not working are small and not substantive.
From the religious Zionist perspective, on the other hand, the forest is the overall spiritual and material wellbeing of the entire nation, for which certain religious obligations, even if not formally rated as mitzvos, are of crucial importance. In comparison to this, zeal regarding details of halachos bein adam l'Makom is of much lesser significance, and the charedi approach of Torah study replacing work is a serious problem.
To elaborate: There are certain things which are fundamental and basic. For example, the concept of a man having a job which simultaneously supports his family and contributes to the economy. This is basic to the role of a man being a man, a husband, a father, and a contributing member of society. And it is all the more important as a religious obligation when religious Jews are not some tiny minority in a large non-Jewish welfare state, but a rapidly growing large group in a state where there is Jewish sovereignty. (Cf. Chasam Sofer's powerful words about how Jews living in Israel have a responsibility to ensure that all trades and industries are well-developed.)
Charedi yeshivah students will spend endless hours learning all about the intricacies of the laws of the kesubah, much more so than non-charedim. But the very basic concept of the kesubah is completely meaningless to them and is not fulfilled by them. (I know this because I used to be part of that world.) Charedim see the forest as learning about the intricacies of the laws of the kesubah - non-charedim see the forest as the fulfillment of the actual kesubah itself.
Chazal made numerous statements about the tremendous importance of work and self-sufficiency. Even so, Chazal were generally only speaking from the perspective of its importance in terms of the personal effects on someone's character, along with his obligations to his family. Nowadays, when Jews actually have their own country and well over a third of the next generation are religious, it becomes of immeasurably greater importance that it will be a society of people who contribute to the economy rather than drain it.
A similar point applies to the army. For two thousand years it just hasn't been relevant, which is why you won't find much discussion about it in the Gemara. But nowadays it is most certainly of tremendous relevance. And so we are in a situation more like that of Biblical times - when you can see very clearly how important it was. When Moshe Rabbeinu firmly told the tribes of Reuven and Gad that it would be unacceptable for them not to share the national burden of military action, this was a fundamental and religious obligation. (And it wasn't one that they could avoid with some fanciful drush about learning Torah being an equally helpful alternative.)
Likewise, from the charedi perspective, the leaders of the nation are those who exemplify its passion for learning Torah and zeal regarding the details of halacha. But from a religious-Zionist perspective, most of these people aren't even on the playing field. To quote Rav Melamed:
"Gadlut beTorah (Torah greatness, eminence) necessitates an all-embracing, fully accountable handling of serious issues facing the generation, including: the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious; the attitude towards mitzvoth of yishuv haaretz (settling the Land) and the on-going war which has surrounded it for over a century; the attitude towards science and work, and the contemporary social and economic questions."
Charedi "gedolim" don't even think in such terms. At best, they think in terms of the religious and material needs of individuals in charedi society (and how to obtain those resources at the cost of others), not in terms of issues facing the nation as a whole. (And in fact, they often don't even think in terms of the larger long-term situation facing charedi society itself.)
These two perspectives are worlds apart. They reflect fundamentally different conceptions of the purpose of Judaism and Torah. And there is no bridging the gap. The only thing that will make charedi society reassess its worldview is when the price of their narrow perspective has its inevitable catastrophic results. As Jonathan Rosenblum (who has woken up to this) pointed out, this could fatally impact the entire country. Unfortunately, as Ernest Hemingway famously wrote regarding bankruptcy, such disasters happen in two ways - gradually and then suddenly. That is why we can't afford to wait for that point.
If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.