Stop Calling Us ‘Ultra-Orthodox’

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115 Responses

  1. eLamdan says:

    We should start to refer to ourselves as Observant Jews. It has always seemed the most accurate to me.

  2. mb says:

    “Katz proceeds to point out that the Charedi community represents the traditional form of Jewish practice.”

    And that is where he and you are incorrect.
    It is ‘a’ form of Jewish practice, not’the’, and many of the chumras accepted into the Cheredi world, whether Chassidic or Litvak, are rather new, despite the effort to deny it in many quarters. I whimsically call them, modern orthodox.
    Ultra-Orthodox is an accurate description

  3. Max says:

    I highly recommend the article Rupture and Reconstruction, written by Rabbi Dr Haym Soloveitchik and published in Tradition, Vol. 28, No. 4. This would be a good starting point to help Rabbis Menken and Katz understand why many people feel that Chareidi Judaism does not “represent the traditional form of Orthodox practice.”

    I agree that the term “Ultra-Orthodox” should not be used, because it tacitly acquiesces to the Chareidi claim of being more orthodox, that is more “representative of traditional practice” than other Orthodox Jews.

  4. G says:

    Stop earning the title and you will stop receiving it.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    We can call ourselves any name we find appropriate. Outsiders are outside our control, and unsympathetic outsiders will continue using or inventing pejorative terms for us as they see fit.

    For reference, look at the attempt to popularize the term “Centrist” to describe another type of Orthodoxy. How often is “Centrist” used except among the group promoting it?

  6. Garnel Ironheart says:

    >Katz proceeds to point out that the Charedi community represents the traditional form of Jewish practice.

    Oh really? So the Rambam fully subscribed to the Chasam Sofer’s “Anything new is forbidden by the Torah”? The Rema was interested in his “type of people” being separate from the majority of Jews of the day? Perhaps our Sages of blessed memory wore shtreimls and bekishers?

    Please.

    The two reasons for the term “ultra” are:

    a) A direct translation of Chareidi – trembling – would sound foolish. Imagine the press headline: Trembling Jews riot over bus shelter advertisements, or some such.

    b) People without a harsh “ch” sound in their native language have trouble pronouncing it. I, for one, do not want to hear about Karedi Jews.

  7. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Max, “divrai haRav veDivrei haTalmid” applies to R. C. Soloveitchik and his remarkable essay you referenced, as well. Beyond his father ztl, his other rebbeim included Prof. Jacob Katz ztl. Readers of this blog would profit even more from Prof. Katz’s understanding of reactions to modernity in the latter half of the 19th century, that are early antecedents to current chareidi beliefs and approach. What can be labeled “traditional” requires knowledge of history not hagiography. Charedi appears both accurate and non-judgmental; what is labeled “traditional” or “ultra-orthodox” is significantly more debatable.

  8. Ben-David says:

    1) I guess it’s cheering to know that at least some Haredim are even bothered by such a label… this YU-graduate, T.I.D.E. Jew has been on the receiving end of much condescension from Haredim who definitely view themselves as the ne-plus-Ultra of Jewish practice. The “Ultra” label is consistent with their self-image, fostered by the culture of humra-based one-upmanship.

    2) The historical record indicates that in most times and places, Torah-true Jews were worldly rather than insular, dressing in the fashions of the day and engaging the intellectual inquiries of their time. Only in the Pale of Settlement was isolation from the outside world turned in on itself and made a virtue. So who says that the Haredi way is more authentic?

  9. Yisroel Moshe says:

    There is a big time historical precident that makes Ultra-Orthodox label sound like a fawning compliment.

    The followers of the Ba’al Shem Tov had the best PR department of his day.
    Somehow, they managed to usurp the title “Chasidim (Pious)” while we got stuck with the label “Misnagdim (Complainers)”!

    If we can’t shed the Misnagdim label 250 years later, then you had better get used to Ultra Orthodox label. Its going to be around until the great Ultra-Orthodox Misnaged (AKA: Moshiach) comes to redeem us all.

  10. LubabNoMore says:

    > even “Orthodox” implies something inaccurate, much less the “ultra” pejorative.

    Language isn’t static. The use of various words change over time and some words take on new (and often contradictory) meanings. So while “Orthodox” may not have been accurate before 1854, today it accurately describes “people who keep halacha”.

    I also disagree with you that the prefix “ultra” is always used pejoratively. Sometimes it may be used to denigrate but it is also used descriptively.

    The often pro-Israeli Fox News uses the term frequently:
    Fox News search for “Ultra-Orthodox”

    And in this Fox News story about snow in Israel uses the term “ultra-Orthodox” descriptively:
    “Ultra-Orthodox men covered their distinctive black hats with plastic bags to keep them dry.”

    The fact is some people are very strict about halachas, minhagim and chumras, and some people are not. On one side you have reform who are relatively far to the left and on the other side you have the charedi who are relatively far to the right. The term “Ultra” is not about who is correct, it’s about where people stand in relation to others.

  11. michoelhalberrstam says:

    What’s amazing to me is that many of your respondents fail to realize that the use of the term chareid to describe our community is very recent, and most of us still haven’t gotten over being offended by it. How dare anyone call himself a Hared L’dvar Hashem? Yehllelucha Zar!

  12. Ori says:

    Garnel Ironheart: A direct translation of Chareidi – trembling – would sound foolish.

    Ori: Not to mention that there’s another religious group called tremblers. Except that they are a few centuries old, so they use an older term: “quakers”. “Quaker Jews” would be very inaccurate.

    “Ultra” connotes extremism. Rabbi Yaakov Menken, if you don’t think Charedim are at one end of the spectrum, could you tell me who is further from extreme Reform than you are? Orthodox means straight way, as in not straying to the left or the right (I think that’s in Deuteronomy somewhere). Do you really not think yourself extremely loyal to the Torah, more so than other Jewish groups?

    BTW, “ultra” does not connote evil. Nobody called the KGB or Pol Pot ultra-Communists. Nobody calls Al Qaeda ultra-Muslim.

  13. Noam says:

    two points.

    1 “First and foremost, we are all simply Jews. Labels, “denominations,” personal beliefs and levels of observance do not change this basic fact” is a very ironic statement coming from someone who often lambasts the Reform and Conservative himself, who wont step foot in Reform or Conservative houses of prayer, and whose co-blogger, Rebbetzin Katz, has openly wondered if it is better to be a Reform Jew or a Christian.

    2. I would echo those who note that the Chareidi point of view is not at all the continuation of a long chain of tradition, and that the Modern Orthodox(yes, even the liberal wing) also has claim on tradition. The sages of the gemara, as far as I know, did not wear shtreimels, long coats, and knee socks, and also may not have approved of the chumra driven approach that has characterized the Chareidim since emancipation.

  14. Nachum Lamm says:

    Indeed, Dr. Yaakov Elman has demonstrated that a fair number (indeed, in his estimation, practically every one) of the Amoraim could fairly be called “Modern Orthodox.”

    I don’t know if I’d go that far (although I know an insignificant amount of Gemara compared to Prof. Elman), but it’s clear that no one has a claim on “authentic tradition.”

  15. joel rich says:

    FWIW see Yeshayahu 66:5 where the commentaries define hachareidim el dvaro as those who rush (not shake) btw doesn’t an orthodox person engaging with modernity by definition become modern orthodox?

    KT

  16. CR says:

    Garnel Ironheart: A direct translation of Chareidi – trembling – would sound foolish.

    Ori: Not to mention that there’s another religious group called tremblers. Except that they are a few centuries old, so they use an older term: “quakers”. “Quaker Jews” would be very inaccurate.

    Chareidim, Quakers, those who “tremble; All of this conjures up a decidedly non-jewish original source for the term. I think we should all be appalled and drop this line of reference once and for all.

  17. Moishe Potemkin says:

    “But Katz takes his case a step further, pointing out that the use of any modifier on the term Orthodox implies that we are in some way not the original or genuine article.”

    Does that mean that he similarly opposes the use of the word “chareidi” rather than “dati” or, more colloquially, “shomer shabbos”?

  18. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “We should start to refer to ourselves as Observant Jews.” (Comment by eLamdan — April 4, 2008 @ 7:16 pm).

    Personally, I prefer “Torah-true Jews”. It’s more descriptive and hashkafically inclusive than “Ultra-Orthodox”, and places the stress where it belongs. But it only works amongst ourselves; it’s not something the media would ever adopt.

    Ben-David, I think the historical record indicates that the distinction you refer to was actually between Spanish and French/German Jewry during the Middle Ages. But, hey, what do I know? I’m only a poor Yeshiva Guy with an amateur’s interest in Jewish history.

    Noam, it seems to me that you’re confusing style with substance. And did Rav Moshe Feinstein have a “chumra-driven approach” to Judaism? Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurebach? Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky? How would they have characterized themselves, as “Modern Orthodox” or as “Chareidi”?

    Nachum, how does Professor Elman define “Modern Orthodox”? And why wouldn’t you “go that far” — is there some type of flaw in his reasoning?

  19. YM says:

    If I want to know what represents authentic Judaism as practiced throughout the ages, I look into Chovos Ha’Levovos or Mesillas Yesharim. When I read these sources, it seems to me that it is the Charedi community that is striving for these ideals. Just avoiding transgressing negative commandments is not what authentic Judaism is about. It is about loving Hashem with all of your emotion, intellect and resources.

  20. Menachem Petrushka says:

    Just a thought.

    On a haaretz blog today, a South Korean,congratulating Charedim, referred to them as Quaker Jews.

    Quake and Tremble are synonyms.

    Why not Quaker Jews or Jewish Quakers or just plain Quakers?

  21. David says:

    Among my relatives, it is common to refer to non-Orthodox Jews who prefer to attend Orthodox synagogues as Orthodox, or to call the more right-wing/traditional Conservative Jews Orthodox. People who actually _ARE_ Orthodox are called Ultra-Orthodox.

  22. shnmuel says:

    How about calling ourselves Pharises? Chazal referred to themselves as such. I sincerely doubt that Christians Reform and “halachik” Conservatives etc would co-opt the name as they consider it a pejorative. In contrast, those who follow in the derech of Chazal (no matter what their position on the Modern – Charedi scale) should take pride in the association.

  23. joel rich says:

    Chaim,
    In the exchange ““We should start to refer to ourselves as Observant Jews.” (Comment by eLamdan — April 4, 2008 @ 7:16 pm).

    Personally, I prefer “Torah-true Jews”. It’s more descriptive and hashkafically inclusive than “Ultra-Orthodox”, and places the stress where it belongs. But it only works amongst ourselves; it’s not something the media would ever adopt.” could you clarify which current appellations would be subsumed under “Torah True”
    KT

  24. Nachum says:

    Chaim:

    “Nachum, how does Professor Elman define “Modern Orthodox”?”

    Openess to the outside culture.

    “And why wouldn’t you “go that far” — is there some type of flaw in his reasoning?”

    Because I have a hard time applying either label- Modern/Centrist or Ultra/Charedi- to anything before 1950 or so. I’m sure Prof. Elman himself is just trying to make a rhetorical point.

    YM:

    “It is about loving Hashem with all of your emotion, intellect and resources.”

    And Modern Orthodox Jews don’t? And all Charedim do? Excuse me???

  25. Gershon says:

    It’s bad enough that we need adjectives to define Judaism, why should we make it worse by throwing in adverbs as well?

  26. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >I look into Chovos Ha’Levovos or Mesillas Yesharim<

    This is very ironic because both authors of these magnificent works had an openness towards general culture that is much more common in the MO or DL world than in the chareidi one (with obvious exceptions).

    Rabeinu Bachyei uses in chovos haLevavos several passages that are obviously influences by muslim kalaam thought as well as neo-platonic thought. He often integrates these systems into his hashkafa.

    The Ramchal wrote plays and poems (which sometimes did not have a religious allegorical layer). He wrote, for example, one poem to honor one of his friends upon his completion of his university studies. The plays were entertainment at the weddings of friends and family.

    These are not the stories of people who would fit into contemporary chareidi society without some serious cognitive dissonance. Those people who I know who consider themselves chareidi and yet live up to the examples provided by R’ Bachyei and the Ramchal have at least part of one foot in the MO or RZ world.

  27. Moishe Potemkin says:

    YM: “If I want to know what represents authentic Judaism as practiced throughout the ages, I look into Chovos Ha’Levovos or Mesillas Yesharim.”

    I can’t see how either of these heilege seforim support your view of historical authenticity. The overwhelming majority of the yeshiva world ignores the first sha’ar of the former (so what was valid no longer is), and the latter is clearly an enormous departure from the thought of the early rishonim (what was not valid now is).

    I’m not, c”v, suggesting any deligitimization – but in no way do these seforim represent “authentic Judaism as practiced throughout the ages.” Authentic, yes. Practiced through the ages, no way.

  28. Rudy Wagner says:

    Nachum: “openess to the outside culture” can mean everything and nothing. The same line is used by the ones who abandon Judaism, intermarry and reformers. What makes modern orthodoxy different to them?

    I have seen few exceptions of “modern orthodox” that read and took Mesillas Yeshorim and Chovos Halevavos seriously, but in my own experience in London modern orthodoxy is a movement that promotes going to university rather than yeshiva, pursuing a career, social status and money for its own sake. It means going regularly to theatres, watching movies and football. I don’t think there are serious halachic grounds for these activities…

    It also mean accepting a compromise in basic halacha: no head covering, shaking hands with women, going to the mixed beach during holidays, eat a salad at a non kosher restaurant with clients etc etc are all accepted behaviors. It means davening shmone-esre in… 18 seconds and chat during chazaras-ha-shatz and laining.

    It means not knowing what learning be-yun is, being skeptical on every halacha unless it fits to “scientific” reasoning, not respecting Gedole Israel or putting them on the same level as university professors.

    Off course there is a lot of “inspiration”, “good deeds”, Shabos, Daf Ha-Yomi, Tzedaka etc. In other word calling this movement Orthodox is…. giving them a chance. And the only way to differentiate Charedim from them without building a “name mechiza” is to call ourselves “ultra” (till x-currents finds a better name).

    In Eretz Isroel it is a different story but I guess US is closer to the UK. Can you really claim that this is “loving Hashem with all your emotion, intellect and resources”? Come on! Try to be “open” to reality!

    I am sure there are plenty of Charedim that are less than perfect but at least the charedi movement is sanctioning these behaviors…

  29. YM says:

    There is a level of serving Hashem that is accomplished by avoiding transgressions and by fulfilling those requirements for which there is a penalty for a lack of fulfillment. This is a tremendous level that requires a great deal of knowledge in order to know what to do, and it reflects a real relationship between the One who commanded and the ones who fulfill these commands. However, there is a separate, second level that endeavors to go beyond the first level, to encompass 1) fulfillment of all requirements for which there is not a penalty for lack of fulfillment as much as possible, 2) setting up ones life so that the possibility of transgression is minimized, 3) endeavoring to fulfill all requirements, both those that have a penalty for lack of fulfillment and those that dont, in the ‘best’ possible way.

    When discussing the archetypes of “Ultra-Orthodox” and “Modern Orthodox”, I think it comes down to the extent to which one agrees or disagrees that #2 and #3 (above) are desirable goals. My own opinion is that these are part of the ideal service that we should be striving for, as described in the Mesillas Yesharim and Chovos HaLevavos, and thus are part and parcel of ‘Authentic Judaism’ throughout the ages.

  30. Bob Miller says:

    Here’s a challenge: How does one Orthodox group define itself in favorable terms without ticking the others off?

  31. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Bob Miller: “Here’s a challenge: How does one Orthodox group define itself in favorable terms without ticking the others off?”

    Good question. By recognizing that different groups have different strengths and weaknesses that make them ideal vehicles for different people. If you find path A to be the best approach in Avodas Hashem for you, then you should (or even must) pursue it, but recognize that different derachim are better for other people.

  32. Yaakov Menken says:

    I’m glad to see an ongoing and largely civil debate on this topic. I’m going to rise to a Point of Personal Privilege, however, with regards to Noam’s comment of April 6.

    I have given classes in both Reform and Conservative synagogues, met with leading figures in both, and have done so for decades. To my knowledge, I have never met Noam personally, and would expect more of a comment posted to Cross-Currents. I am critical of the philosophical positions of both; do Democrats believe Republicans aren’t US Citizens?

    As for Rebtz. Katz’s comment — I haven’t seen it and can’t verify that she made it, but anyone who did so was probably making a comparison to the Rambam’s 13 Principles. That, once again, says nothing about the status of anyone as a Jew.

    Noam and I have butted heads in the comments section before, but he has always given the appearance of being fairly well-informed before debating a topic. My own position on Jews of “other stripes” is well-documented, so this particular failure is doubly hard to excuse. We are, collectively and individually, greater than this, and I am sure that we can keep to a higher standard.

  33. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    Jacob Katz in his book, A House Divided, recounts the episode in the mid 19th century which best defines the emergence of an ultra-Orthodoxy. The setting is the Hungarian city, Miskolc, and the two main characters are a Rabbi Friedmann, the local rabbis of Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein, the rabbi later of neighboring Szikszo and later of Kolomea. R. Friedmann was the older of the two rabbis. Indeed R. Lichetnestein, in early correspondence reffered to his older colleague in the most respectful terms; respect for his age, his deep piety and vast Torah knowledge. Around 1865 there arose a movemnet in Miskolc for a progressive synagogue. Katz reports that R. Friedman, in his negotiations with this group of liberal minded Jews, came to an accord that while the new synagogue would depart from traditional synagogue norms (it would have a choir, there would be no auctioning off of aliyot, certain piyyutim would not be said, and the sermon would be delivered in the vernacular, Hungarian) there would be no institutional violations of the Shulchan Aruch. There would be no organ nor mixed choir. R. Lichtenstein was not satisfied with his arrangement and publicly challenged R. Friedman, who he had previousy referred to in the most luadatory terms, to either put a stop to this synagogue or to to declare it no part of the Jewish community. R. Friedman, who hailed from Moravia and was not a talmid of the Chatham Sofer, refused statting there was no basis to do either in light of the commitment that the new synagogue would adhere to the provisions of the Shulchan Aruch. R. Friedman not only refused to condemn the new synagogue, he spoke at its innauguration. R. Lichtenstein and his colleage, a R. Shimon Sofer(no relatnion to the Pressburg Sofers) issued a cherem on all Miskolc kashrut, and essentially relegated R. Friedman to the same status as Aron Chorin of Arad.

    When chumrot and minhag become din at the expense of the Shulchan Aruch, one has then left orthodoxy and entered ultra-Orthodoxy.

  34. Natan Slifkin says:

    Who could argue that an Orthodox synagogue with a 4-foot tall Mechitzah (divider) and an open parking lot on Shabbos is at one with Jewish tradition, while a traditional shteibl is a departure?

    “Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: There were never festivals for Yisrael like the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, on which the maidens of Yerushalayim would go out dressed in garments of white … They would go out and dance in circles in the vineyards, and what would they say? ‘Young men, lift your eyes, and consider who you will select [for a wife]; pay no attention to beauty, but rather to lineage….’ ” (Ta’anis 26b)

    Neither Modern Orthodox nor Charedi/ ultra-Orthodoxy are the way that Jews observed Judaism in earlier centuries. Each is attempting to remain loyal to the spirit of traditional Judaism in the face of a changing world. To claim that there is no substantive difference the Chasam Sofer and was considered normative Judaism in the preceding centuries reflects historical ignorance.

    As was pointed out above, the authors of Chovos HaLevavos and Mesilas Yesharim are very, very different from Charedi Jews today; in fact, were they around today, they would be ostracized from Charedi society. Rabbeinu Bachya approvingly quoted non-Jewish philosophers! He studied Greek and Arabic science! He said that the Dor HaMidbar were religiously naive and that the Torah had to be simplified for their level of understanding!

  35. joel rich says:

    Rudy,
    We can debate the behaviors of differing communities but I am surprised that the charedi community sanctions (at least philospophically) less than perfect behavior ; did you mean this in contrast to the MO community which you feel does not sanction less than perfect behavior?

    KT

  36. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Daniel, Important story; however, some may mistake your summary as implying that R. Lichtenstein and R. Shimeon Sofer were carrying on the tradition of the Chatam Sofer. That is debatable at best; they were more likely usurpers of his mantle as opposed to inheritors. This is a much studied and contested period; the likely origin to some of modern charedi rhetoric and outlook. I assume you agree.

  37. Charlie Hall says:

    “Who could argue that an Orthodox synagogue with a 4-foot tall Mechitzah (divider) and an open parking lot on Shabbos is at one with Jewish tradition, while a traditional shteibl is a departure?”

    I might. I’ve visited the two oldest Orthodox congregations in America and their mechitzahs are both less than four feet high. They don’t have parking lots, though, as they are in downtown New York and Philadelphia. Each is more than a hundred years older than the next oldest Orthodox congregation in America; indeed both were founded before Rabbi Eiger was born! Early American Rabbinic Judaism (a much better term than Orthodox) modeled itself on Western European practice, not that of Eastern Europe. It isn’t that one is better or worse; both are legitimate parts of our mesorah.

    FWIW, The Young Israel shul that I attend most Shabats was founded in the 1970s, and has an open parking lot because we have doctors and hatzalah volunteers who sometimes get paged on Shabat.

    All that said, I agree with the objection to the term “ultra-Orthodox”. I’ve been blessed to study with two wonderful charedi rabbis one on one — one Chasidic, one in the Lithuanian tradition — and I’ve never heard either use that term. I’ve also never heard either one ever say a bad thing about any “Modern Orthodox” rabbi; one told me to follow Yeshiva University minhagim and halachic rulings rather than his own derech and the other has expressed admiration for the hesder yeshiva programs that allow Jews to learn torah while supporting the defense of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

  38. tzippi says:

    Re Rabbi Slifkin: I’m sure you’re more familiar with Rabbeinu Bachya than I. But AFA the dor hamidbar being religiously naive – might he have meant that this generation, one that saw open miracles, heard the voice of Hashem directly, and was supported in the desert miraculously,
    didn’t have to develop the skills that we do, we being a generation that lives pretty much under the rules of nature, and hidden miracles?
    I am curious as to the exact lashon.

  39. Nachum says:

    Rudy, let me limit myself to one point: As is well known, outside of the US, there is a very large contingent of Jews who attend Orthodox synagogues but are not observant themselves. (In the US, there’s a much stronger Conservative and Reform movement that accomodates these Jews.) This is especially true in the UK, where the United Synagogue has filled this role over the years. It is true in Israel as well, of course, although these Jews- the largest single religious group in Israel- are not called “Orthodox” there but rather “Traditional.” (I once heard a suggestion that this Israeli distinction is at least partly political, as these Jews would be called [non-observant] “Orthodox” anywhere else.)

    Thus, I’d ask you to step out of the UK for a moment and see what goes on.

    That said, I must protest. I think that even within the UK, you are living in something of a bubble. I know plenty of Modern Orthodox British Jews who in no way fit the gross caricature you paint, whose Orthodoxy is defined by adherence to halakha, to learning, and to God. The same is certainly true of vast swaths of American Modern Orthodox Jews.

    Of course, no one’s perfect. There are people who use the label “Modern Orthodox” as an excuse to be lax in some areas of halakha. (There are people who use the label “Charedi” to be lax in other areas of halakha, too, although I’ll admit that by its very nature, the former will have larger numbers, although certainly not a majority.) But what you’ve done is be Motzei La’az on huge numbers of Jews who don’t deserve it. An apology would be nice.

  40. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Charlie Hall — April 9, 2008 @ 12:27 am :

    Typically, were the women’s sections in traditional Western European Orthodox (in our nomenclature) shuls at ground level or at mezzanine or balcony level? Either way, what were the typical mechitza heights in such shuls?

    It’s known that some of the lower mechitzos in American shuls did not reach the ideal height according to the poskim who approved them, but were at the highest marginally acceptable level that the congregation would accept at the time. In at least one case I was told of, the posek expressed a hope that the congregation’s Jewish consciousness level would be raised over time and so would their mechitza.

  41. YM says:

    KT, regarding your question to Rudy, I would say that the main distinction between the MO and Charedi viewpoints is that the Charedi world advocates:
    1) Setting up ones life so that the possibility of transgression is minimized,and the possibility of mitzvoth fulfillment is enhanced as much as possible.
    2) Endeavoring to fulfill all mitzvoths in the ‘best’ possible way.

    I think that the MO viewpoint would disagree with both of these points, saying that participation in society (in order to create a kiddush Hashem) overrides the isolation implied in #1, and that these is no ‘best’ way to fulfill a mitzvoth – one either fulfills a mitzvoth or doesn’t; one either transgresses or one doesn’t.

  42. YM says:

    To R. Slifkin and others above: I never made any assertion about the personal lives of the Ramchal and Rabbenu Bachya or whether they would be Charedi versus MO (or Reform for that matter); what I said is that what they portray in the Chovos HaLevavos and Mesillas Yesharim is the ideal that Jews have striven for througout the ages. In today’s Jewish world it is the Charedim who strive for this as a community ideal.

    Note also that I agree that no Jewish community today looks the same as a Jewish community 500, 1,000 or 1,500 years ago. The question for me is: which contemporary Jewish community strives for the ideals that the Jewish community strove for 500, 1,000 or 1,500 years ago? It is the Charedi community, in my opinion.

  43. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    I agree with Dr. Gewirtz’s comment. Indeed that period in Hungary, moreso than Germany (although Katz well domonstrates that R.S.R. Hirsch was very involved in the Hungarian struggle) is what gave rise to much of modern day chareidi rhetoric and ideology. The shabby treatment accorded R. Ezriel Hildesheimer by his more extremist colleagues, which precipitated his daprture from Eisenstadt for Berlin, translates through the generation for the contempt displayed by chareidim for non-chareidi rabbis. As opposed to the German Austritt, which simply opposed religious reform but still embraced progress in all other areas, the extreme wing of Hungarian seperatist Orthodoxy was almost luditesque (to coin a new term) in it’s weltanscaung. Reference The Liszker Rav’s famous states that a Hungarian need know only so much of the Latin alphabet to enable him to sign his name on official documents and nothing more.

  44. Rudy Wagner says:

    Natan Slifkin. If there would be someone around able to master Shas and Poskim like Rabbenu Bechaie or to become a mekubal like Ramchal, no modern day Godol would object if he wants to study some other chochma. Actually I guess this person would be the Gadol Hador himself! Unfortunately you must recognize that today there are no many people around being able to do so, hence the modern guidelines for common people like me to learn another Masechta rather than another language or ar obtaining another degree…

    To all the “historians”. What about factoring into your analysis an extremely basic jewish concept called “yeridas ha-doros” which would make it difficult to compare us to the generations of the Chasam Sofer, impossible to compare us to the Rishoinim and even embarassing to even try to compare us to Amoraim?

    KT / Yoel Rich. Not only the modern orthodox movement doesn’t sanction less than perfect behaviour, but it promotes the sub-halachic standards I described above (as a sign of “openess” as compared to the “closed” ultra-orthodox?), and in their “world -view” they consider way more important and admirable to became an observant doctor or an observant lawyer or an observant professor rather than a talmid chacham or just a ben-Torah.

    What about using “orthodox” for charedim and “quasi-orthodox” for modern orthodox?

  45. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Rudy Wagner: “What about using “orthodox” for charedim and “quasi-orthodox” for modern orthodox?”

    Sounds great!

    Next, Rudy, perhaps you’ll share your thoughts on the appropriate term for someone who publicly and repeatedly is motzi shem ra on an entire group of shomrei torah umitzvos?

  46. Nachum says:

    YM and Rudy, as such experts on Modern Orthodoxy, perhaps you can point me to one- just one- Modern Orthodox gadol, rosh yeshiva, rav, thinker, anyone- and there are plenty- who has stated that Modern Orthodoxy is in favor of lesser observance of mitzvot in favor of interaction with the world? For your information, they stress, over and over, that Modern Orthodoxy is not a bide’eved, but a l’chatchila, and nothing is lost, Torah and halacha wise, by being Modern Orthodox. Quite the contrary, much is gained. (Do all Modern Orthodox Jews follow these guidelines? Of course not. Do all Charedi Jews follow *their* guidelines? Of course not.)

    You really shouldn’t make such ugly and critical remarks about a movement about which you know little to nothing. “Quasi-Orthodox” indeed. What an awful thing to say about hundreds of thousands (millions?) of sincere Torah-observant Jews.

  47. joel rich says:

    A few points:
    1. KT is shorthand for kol tuv. While wishing others well in a sign off is not blogworld policy, it was standard policy in the home I was raised in.

    2. To sanction an action means “1. authoritative permission or approval, as for an action. ” IIUC the original commenter took it to mean the opposite (i.e. I am sure there are plenty of Charedim that are less than perfect but at least the charedi movement is sanctioning these behaviors… = they are against it)

    3.”Not only the modern orthodox movement doesn’t sanction less than perfect behaviour, but it promotes the sub-halachic standards I described above (as a sign of “openess” as compared to the “closed” ultra-orthodox?), and in their “world -view” they consider way more important and admirable to became an observant doctor or an observant lawyer or an observant professor rather than a talmid chacham or just a ben-Torah.”
    I’m sure there are some who feel this way just as I’m sure there are some in every group who miss the boat. Making this into a generalization is your leap with which I disagree.

    4.” I would say that the main distinction between the MO and Charedi viewpoints is that the Charedi world advocates:
    1) Setting up ones life so that the possibility of transgression is minimized,and the possibility of mitzvoth fulfillment is enhanced as much as possible.
    2) Endeavoring to fulfill all mitzvoths in the ‘best’ possible way.

    I think that the MO viewpoint would disagree with both of these points, saying that participation in society (in order to create a kiddush Hashem) overrides the isolation implied in #1, and that these is no ‘best’ way to fulfill a mitzvoth – one either fulfills a mitzvoth or doesn’t; one either transgresses or one doesn’t.”

    1)depends on how one weighs mitzot and views the likely impact of a closed society on shmirat hamitzvot, 2)is imho off- it is seeing the world in shades of grey that requires more thought as to the “best” way (e.g. what is the cost to society of a particular approach to a mitzvah)

    KT

  48. Aryeh says:

    It seems that the discussion here between opponents and proponents of “Modern Orthodoxy” refers to two different things. The proponents of it are referring to the ideal of “Modern Orthodoxy” exemplified by R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and R’ Aharon Lichtenstein on the talmid chacham level and your local doctor who learns three hours a day and observes all the mitsvos scrupulously on the layman level.
    The opponents are referring to Modern Orthodoxy as practiced, i.e. women who don’t cover their hair, men who know every obscure baseball statistics but don’t have the skills to learn a mishnah nor the desire to, come to shul in shorts (if they come at all during the week) and watch TV (no, not the Discovery channel). And even in Torah learning, an average boy coming out of 12 years of a Modern Orthodox school doesn’t come close to an average boy coming out of 12 years of a “charedi” yeshiva (I can testify to that as I went to a Modern Orthodox high school). Of course all these examples are very far from the ideal “Modern Orthodox Jew,” but they constitute the majority. It’s very hard to say that the community where such individuals comprise the majority is living up to the ideals of Ramchal, R’ Bachya or even of R’ Soloveitchik himself.
    Nachum says “that Modern Orthodoxy is not a bide’eved, but a l’chatchila, and nothing is lost, Torah and halacha wise, by being Modern Orthodox.” That remains to be seen on a communal level.

  49. Charlie Hall says:

    Bob Miller,

    I’m not an expert on the history of synagogue architecture, but every depiction of an 18th or 19th century, or early 20th century, beit knesset of Western Europe or America that I’ve ever seen, including every one I’ve actually visited here in America, has a balcony for women. And in every case where there is a ground level mechitzah they look like an afterthought. It is worth noting that these open balconies offer a clear view of the service along with typically excellent acoustics, and reports from America in the 18th and 19th centuries indicate that women attended Shabat services in large numbers in Orthodox congregations. This is clearly not typical of steebles today in America.

    Does anyone know why we stopped building such beautiful traditional prayer halls? I get inspired just walking into a building like Shearith Israel or Kehillat Jeshurun in Manhattan.

  50. Natan Slifkin says:

    Rabbi Menken: Thank you for your clarification. Still (and I am unclear if you are disagreeing with this), while I agree that the Charedi community stands out for its commitment to replicating (as best as possible) certain aspects of Rabbeinu Bachya, this does not mean that they are more authentically following the path of Rabbeinu Bachya, since there are certain things that Rabbeinu Bachya valued which the Charedi community does not value or even opposes.
    As a parable, suppose there were a great rabbi who was a passionate religious Zionist. He has two descendants, one of which replicates his ancestors devotion to Torah but has Satmar attitudes to Israel, and the other of which is a religious Zionist but is not so dedicated to Torah. It cannot be said that the former is more authentically following his ancestor’s path.

    Rudy Wagner: Your claim that “if there would be someone around able to master Shas and Poskim like Rabbenu Bechaie or to become a mekubal like Ramchal, no modern day Godol would object if he wants to study some other chochma” has several unsubstantiated assertions.
    How do you know that there is nobody today able to master Shas and Poskim like Rabbenu Bechaie?
    How do you know that Rabbeinu Bachya did not engage in chochmas chitzoniyos until he had reached that level of mastery of Shas and Poskim?
    How do you know that Rabbeinu Bachya did not recommend others to engage in chochmas chitzoniyos until he had reached his level of mastery of Shas and Poskim?
    On what basis do you say that the Charedi leadership is fine with engaging in chochmas chitzoniyos when a certain level of mastery in Shas and Poskim is reached, and what exactly is that level?

    Tzippi: Rabbeinu Bachya addresses the perplexing question that the Torah does not discuss reward and punishment in the World-to-Come, and explains that the generation which received the Torah were not spiritually mature, and that they needed to hear about reward and punishment in the here and now, not in the hereafter. He also says that it anthropomorphized God because that would make His existence more real to the generation that accepted the Torah, who would not be able to properly relate to an abstract God.

  51. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >Natan Slifkin. If there would be someone around able to master Shas and Poskim like Rabbenu Bechaieor to become a mekubal like Ramchal, no modern day Godol would object if he wants to study some other chochma.Actually I guess this person would be the Gadol Hador himself!

    If only! Unfortunatly, many many of the truly great gedolim (the greats of the greats) were ostrosized in their time and only were recognized generations later.

    >Unfortunately you must recognize that today there are no many people around being able to do so, hence the modern guidelines for common people like me to learn another Masechta rather than another language or ar obtaining another degree…To all the “historians”. What about factoring into your analysis an extremely basic jewish concept called “yeridas ha-doros” which would make it difficult to compare us to the generations of the Chasam Sofer, impossible to compare us to the Rishoinim and even embarassing to even try to compare us to Amoraim?<

    Well, since no one informed me that yeridas ha-dorot has become Jewish dogma, I guess I forgot to factor it in. However, I would just respond by using the greek aphorism that was used so often by Jewish thinkers throughout the ages. I think I saw it inside in one of the Gra’s writings: We are dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants. While we may not be as great, we are able to see farther.

  52. Rudy Wagner says:

    Moishe and Nachum, from my point of view this blog is a forum to discuss things openly, expecially controversial ones, with people coming from different backgrounds, to hopefully come a bit closer to the emes and not a place to “market” our own derech. Just cutting off the discussion by saying that I am “motzi shem ra” is defying the purpose of this blog and a nice way to avoid discussing the issues I’ve raised(I admit in bit colorful style to make my points, but still fair points). There are plenty of ugly items discussed regularly on this blog about the “ultra-orthodox” (in a very mature way to analyse our faults and try to improve) and I haven’t heard anybody complainign about “mozei shem ra” on the charedim. Why all this clamor from the “modern orthodox”? Being unable to discuss personal and community shortcomings may be an ulterior sign of weakness or insecurity from “your” part…

  53. joel rich says:

    Aryeh,
    Looking at any philosophy one could pick out subgroups whose practice is less than ideal. This usually leads to no good end in a debate.

    KT

  54. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Modern Orthodoxy, perhaps you can point me to one- just one- Modern Orthodox gadol, rosh yeshiva, rav, thinker, anyone- and there are plenty- who has stated that Modern Orthodoxy is in favor of lesser observance of mitzvot in favor of interaction with the world?

    Can you point to one -just one – Modern Orthodox educational institution that follows the guidelines of the Rabbanim in terms of curriculum? YU is in open defiance of its own Roshei Yeshiva in the areas of Art and Literature, to name a few.

    Can you point to one – just one- MO High School that does not teach evolution during the Limudei Chol part of the day as an atheistic random occurence – i.e. Kefirah? Of course it is then sometimes “tempered” by the Limudei Kodesh staff trying to explain why evolution is not necessarily kefirah – though in the afternoon it is taught by Kofrim as Kefirah. Can you cite an MO Rosh Yeshiva or Halachic decisor who has written a cogent responsum allowing this practice, or even explaining why it is not a literal Yehareg V’Al Yaavor?

    Since MO, institutionally, does not follow the guidelines of its Rabbanim, the claim that the MO Rabbanim don’t sanction departures from Halachah for the sake of greater interaction with the world is of no consequence, since MO, in practice, is not guided, and does not feel bound by, Halachic decisors.

  55. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Regarding who fits better with the Mesillas Yesharim, let’s use step one – Zehirus, as an initial litmus test. Who more meticulously stays away from the following three things which hamper Zehirus?

    1) Being busy with the matters of Olam Hazeh
    2) Fun-poking and mockery of Torah related issues
    3) Social interaction with fools and sinners

  56. cvmay says:

    The UK assesment of Modern Orthodoxy is way-off.
    So is the reality of UK Charedei life, which can be comparable to Chassidic Williamsburg rather than Flatbush/Cleveland/Far Rockaway. Gedolim of Yeshivish/Charedei lifestyle have found the sefer of Rav Falk (of UK) on the subject of tzinus, (citing personal chumros as normal halachah) as an indicator of the mindset of the UK kehillah.
    THEREFORE we can stop comparing apples to oranges, and grapefruits to mangoes.

  57. Moishe Potemkin says:

    I think Aryeh is being sincere, but, living in a Modern Orthodox community, I believe that his characterization (“Of course all these examples are very far from the ideal “Modern Orthodox Jew,” but they constitute the majority”) is significantly inaccurate.

    I know that many people believe that that stereotype is representative, but it simply is not.

  58. G says:

    Ah, but there is the rub.

    I would wager that the sincere in its judaism communnity which you see as being Modern Orthodox, by definition according to some cannot be considered a Modern Orthodox community. Those people will look at said community and see nothing of Modern Orthodoxy, perhaps a slightly more modern Yeshivish community…but not “Modern Orthodox”.

  59. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Rudy Wagner: “Just cutting off the discussion by saying that I am “motzi shem ra” is defying the purpose of this blog and a nice way to avoid discussing the issues I’ve raised(I admit in bit colorful style to make my points, but still fair points).”

    I’m not avoiding a discussion of the issues – I am informing you that the impressions that inform your opinions are inaccurate. Thus motzi shem ra, not leshon hara.

    I also must point out the irony in your accusing an entire community of promoting sub-halachic standards, immediately followed by the decision that your “colorful style” over-rides what is without question an issur deoraisa. This is not intended as a personal shtuch, it is simply an attempt to encourage you to grant the same kaf zechus underlying the justification of your own aveirah to people whose hashkafa differs from your own, who might also be less than perfect.

  60. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Moishe, Aryeh – I do not care if Aryeh is sincere or even if he correctly characterizes a majority of the MO community. Absent a MO alternative, one ought consider where some in our community would turn for religious direction. For many, MO is THE “much” preferred derech and for yet others it exposes them to more risk then they can tolerate. I recently heard that if you read our “un-romanticized” history, you would find that the MO batting average is perhaps comparable to that of the Slabodka Yeshiva and certainly better than Vilna before WWII. Of course living in a cloistered community avoids such issues; unfortunately it is, IMHO, neither a long – term practical solution and many MO would assert rarely mandated by halacha or even preferred.

    It is not arguable that a young adult who receives a minimal secular education, should have more time for acquiring a more substantial education in Limudei Kodesh. You assume that is preferable; I note again that it might not be halakhically mandated or preferred. How the oft-quoted sources are to be read, has been debated for generations and Aryeh, I have nothing to add that would have any hope of changing the mind of either you or your fellow-travelers. But if you do not at least recognize the centuries long-debate when and if you read it, perhaps your yeshiva education is to blame.

    IMHO, it would be best if we devote our energies to understanding and addressing the frailties of our respective communities; only when we are done with that perhaps we can lend a hand pointing out the frailties of other communities. we should all live so long, but I doubt we would ever get to it!

  61. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Binyamin Eckstein: “Of course it is then sometimes “tempered” by the Limudei Kodesh staff trying to explain why evolution is not necessarily kefirah – though in the afternoon it is taught by Kofrim as Kefirah.”

    I don’t know how it is possible to teach evolution “by Kofrim as Kefirah,” if, as Binyamin recognizes, it is not considered kefirah. (That debate has been pursued exhaustively elsewhere, but he’s assuming – accurately – that many, many rabbanim do not consider it to be kefirah.)

    I suppose that if Binyamin knows of a case where a yeshiva’s science instructors tell their students that there is no God, then his concern would be valid, but I don’t think that actually happens anywhere.

  62. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >Regarding who fits better with the Mesillas Yesharim, let’s use step one – Zehirus, as an initial litmus test. Who more meticulously stays away from the following three things which hamper Zehirus?

    1) Being busy with the matters of Olam Hazeh
    2) Fun-poking and mockery of Torah related issues
    3) Social interaction with fools and sinners<

    Wow!

    1) do the chareidi communities really deal less with the olam hazeh?? do they not go grocery shopping, errand running, carpool driving, work communting in more or less the same degree as the MO world?

    2) I have no idea what this even means, but I have not heard any more mocery comming form the MO world than the chareidi world. I have heard plenty of nasty nasty dismissals of shitos of the rishonim and achronim that don’t jive with chareidi communal sensibilites.

    3) Not sure what you mean here either. If you mean that the MO opens its shuls and schools to people who are not observant, then I think this is a madreiga and not a chisaron.

    If you would study the totality of the Ramchal’s torah instead of one chapter of one book, you would know that the ramchal recognized that there are competing values in the world, and its not always a pashut decision to decide which way to go. You simplistic forumulas do not do justice to his Torah.

  63. cvmay says:

    “one of which replicates his ancestors devotion to Torah but has Satmar attitudes to Israel, and the other of which is a religious Zionist but is not so dedicated to Torah”.
    There is another choice also, one who is devoted to Torah and has the Netziv attitude towards Israel and the other who is not dedicated to Torah and is anti-zionist (large segment of secular Israelis, liberal Jewish college graduates, American Jewish society, etc.)

  64. shmuel says:

    Binyomin Eckstein
    I suggest you speak w R Chaim Twersky at HTC in Skokie for a positive response to your questions regarding curriculum in a MO school. He himself is chasidishe in dress and minhogim but teaches the Torah and science course in HTC’s college program.

  65. Rudy Wagner says:

    Nathan Slifkin wrote: On what basis do you say that the Charedi leadership is fine with engaging in chochmas chitzoniyos when a certain level of mastery in Shas and Poskim is reached, and what exactly is that level?

    See Menachos 99b, Kidushim 30a, the Gaon comment on the Mishna in Peah (Elu Hadevarim). Once you know “kol ha-Torah kulla” you still have a mitzva of “igisa bo yomam va-laila”, the only heterim being studying for a trade or working. And I guess you are familiar with Avos setting the limitations about making the work “arai” and the learning “keva”. Thiese are the basis of the charedi “weltanshaung”. What about your sources for doing differently?

    I have reason to suspect that Rabbenu Bechaie (and the Rambam too) learned philosophy only to have a common language to mekarev people who went astray and not as an end to itself. Some people then and today get only impressed by a Rabbi quoting philosophers rather than ancient rabbis…

    Since you don’t apply the concept of yeridas ha-doros, it looks like you apply some sort of the theory of evolution, where all the smart people have joined the ranks of “modern orthodox” as your Gedolim and laypeople alike are able to master Shas and Poskim, as well as getting a Phd in Phisics, get a top job in Manhattan and read Shakespeare and Maupassant (in French) on the underground, while us poor charedim starting from Rav Kanievsky shlita downwards are just struggling day and night to find pshat in Gemoro and to know halacha.

  66. Yechiel Cohen says:

    Being called ultra-orthodox is extremely grating. The reason is because it conflicts with our core belief and confidence in who we are, that is, “Jews”.

  67. YM says:

    Lets say a person has a goal of not getting into car accidents. There are different ways one can try and accomplish this goal.
    1) If a person never leaves his or her house, he will almost certainly not get into a car accident, but will never experience life outside of the house, either.
    2) If a person never drives, he might still be hit by a car while walking, but again, there are a lot of activities that you need a car to access in a convenient manner.
    3) A person can drive, but avoid highways and drive very slowly and cautiously. An accident may happen, but it is less likely than for the normal driver. On the other hand, it will take longer to get to one’s destination and “time is life”.
    4) A person can drive “normally”, and will probably get into an accident one day or another.
    5) A person can drive really fast and with a lack of caution, and is very likely to get into an accident.

    I think the decision would be based on how much the person felt that a car accident was a bad thing.

    Now, substitute “aveyra” (sin) for “car accient” and a way of life for a way of driving.

  68. YM says:

    Nachum, in comment 46, you accused me of saying that “Modern Orthodoxy is in favor of lesser observance of mitzvot in favor of interaction with the world?”. I never said that. What I did say is that MO’s would argue that “these is no ‘best’ way to fulfill a mitzvoth”, implying that what an MO would call a ‘Chumra’ is what a Charedi would call “The ‘best’ way to do a mitzvoth”.

  69. Mark says:

    Natan Slifkin,

    “As a parable, suppose there were a great rabbi who was a passionate religious Zionist. He has two descendants, one of which replicates his ancestors devotion to Torah but has Satmar attitudes to Israel, and the other of which is a religious Zionist but is not so dedicated to Torah. It cannot be said that the former is more authentically following his ancestor’s path.”

    I’m not certain this is correct because although he may have been passionate about both items, that doesn’t mean he accords equal weight to both. Suppose we could ask him which he preferred if he only had a choice of his descendants following one attitude, do you think he would claim that it made no difference to him? In this example of Torah vs. Zionism, I would imagine that a person would choose Torah over Zionism if they couldn’t be reconciled. I belive that even the most ardent Religious Zionists would choose Torah in an instant faced with such a choice.

  70. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    I suppose that if Binyamin knows of a case where a yeshiva’s science instructors tell their students that there is no God…

    Just that G-d had nothing to do with the random process is sufficient for my criticism. This is standard fare in your average High School biology book – that it is all an “accident” of nature.

    HTC in Skokie

    What makes Skokie Modern Orthodox? We need to define our terms.

  71. G says:

    I belive that even the most ardent Religious Zionists would choose Torah in an instant faced with such a choice.
    ——-

    There it is in a nutshell.
    One or the other and everyone must make achoice as to which side they are on…nice.

  72. mb says:

    Does anyone know why we stopped building such beautiful traditional prayer halls? I get inspired just walking into a building like Shearith Israel or Kehillat Jeshurun in Manhattan.

    Comment by Charlie Hall — April 9, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

    Yes. One word. Chassidim.
    And I agree with your comments. How about the Great Synagogues in Jerusalem and TA? Or Bevis Marks in London and its bigger and older sister in Amsterdam? And many many others.

  73. Moishe Potemkin says:

    I believe that YM’s analogy points to one of the key philosophical differences out there. A consideration that he does not list is the amount of good that is left undone when one focuses solely on avoiding “car accidents.”

  74. Aryeh says:

    Moishe wrote “I think Aryeh is being sincere, but, living in a Modern Orthodox community, I believe that his characterization (”Of course all these examples are very far from the ideal “Modern Orthodox Jew,” but they constitute the majority”) is significantly inaccurate”
    As I myself have grown up and still live in a Modern Orthodox community, permit me to disagree.

  75. Aryeh says:

    Dr. Gewirtz, first of all you would have to blame my Modern Orthodox high school and completely secular college education. But aside from that I was responding to Nachum’s point that in Modern Orthodoxy, the Modern part comes comes at no cost to the Orthodox part. I disputed that assertion. And whatever derech one espouses as a lchatchilah (as opposed to bedieved, because otherwise people would be completely non-observant), it has to lead to halachah observance and and an interest in talmud torah on the part of the general populace. I would love nothing more that to be proven wrong by seeing my local Beis Medrash packed every night by proud Modern Orthodox Jews learning a night seder after a day of positively improving the outside world, while their TV’s at home are programmed to receive exclusively the Discovery and History channels.
    “IMHO, it would be best if we devote our energies to understanding and addressing the frailties of our respective communities.”

  76. Mark says:

    G,

    “There it is in a nutshell.
    One or the other and everyone must make achoice as to which side they are on…nice.”

    Is that really what I said?

    I wrote, “in an instant faced with such a choice” and I was responding to N. Slifkin’s hypothetical scenario.

    Please reread because not everything fits in a nutshell.

  77. Natan Slifkin says:

    Rudy Wagner: The sources that you cite, and your understanding of them, seem to strengthen my impression that you would not condone active engagement with philosophy at any stage, which further confirms my point that Rabbeinu Bachya was not Charedi!

    “I have reason to suspect that Rabbenu Bechaie (and the Rambam too) learned philosophy only to have a common language to mekarev people who went astray and not as an end to itself”
    Of all the perversions of Rambam that I have ever heard, this has got to take the cake. Rambam held that philosophy was one of the highest forms of knowledge, and further held that Aristotle had attained many truths that had been lost to many of his co-religionists!

    (I have no idea what the rest of your post is trying to say.)

  78. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >I have reason to suspect that Rabbenu Bechaie (and the Rambam too) learned philosophy only to have a common language to mekarev people who went astray and not as an end to itself. Some people then and today get only impressed by a Rabbi quoting philosophers rather than ancient rabbis…<

    You have absolutely NO reason to suspect such a thing. In fact if you would have just bothered to read the first shaar of chovos of levavos, it would have dispelled your theory. In fact just in the hakdama he writes:

    וכל חלקי החכמה לפי מחלוקת עניינה המה שערים פתחם הבורא ית’ למדברים, להשיג בהם התורה והעולם.
    אלא שמקצת החכמות הצורך אליהם יותר לעניין התורה, ומקצתם הצורך אליהם יותר לתועלת העולם.

    He is clear that external chochma is ESSENCIAL to understanding the torah properly. And he is not just talking in the narrow sense of the five books of Moses nor is he simply including anything we would consider the oral Torah, but rather he has a very expansive definition of Torah in this context:

    והחלק השלישי קורין לה בלשון ערבי אלע”לם אל”די, והיא חכמת האלוהות, והוא דעת האל יתברך ודעת תורתו, ושאר המושכלות כנפש וכשכל וכאישים הרוחניים.

    אך החכמה שהצורך אליה יותר אל התורה, היא החכמה העליונה, והיא החכמה האלוהית. ואנחנו חייבים ללמוד אותה כדי להבין ולהגיע אל תורתנו.

    You have to put serious effort into the study of these books of our messorah and then you begin to see how far off chareidi thought is regarding external wisdom from that which was traditional through most of Jewish history.

    You are also very wrong about the Rambam who had had the value of “recieve the truth from wherever it comes” as a core value. This type of thought has very little place in contemporary chareidi thought as you have demonstrated in your comments.

    Regarding your assertion that there is an issur to learn other wisdoms for purposes other than parnassa… well, let me just say that obviously, Rav Hirsh, Rav Hildesheimer, the Sridei Eish, Rav Chaim Heller and probably any other torah scholar that didn’t hail from eastern Europe (or did and moved west in body and spirit) would reject your formulation of the sources).

    In fact, your formulations are the kind of reactionary response to haskala that is the true innovation that is chareidi Judasim.

  79. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    1) do the chareidi communities really deal less with the olam hazeh?? do they not go grocery shopping, errand running, carpool driving, work communting in more or less the same degree as the MO world?

    No. Are you seriously telling us that there is an equal emphasis on amount of hours spent at work/in front of the TV vs. learning Torah in both camps? How many Avos UBanim/ Motzei Shabbos learning programs have been organized by MO vs. Charedim? Why is Siyum Daf Yomi an Agudah event? The MO have made some progress in this area, but they still unquestionably lag far behind the Charedim on this one.

    2) I have no idea what this even means, but I have not heard any more mocery comming form the MO world than the chareidi world.

    How many Charedi blogs are there which tolerate mockery of being “too Orthodox”, i.e. קיום כל המצוות בכל הדקדוקים עד מקום שיד האדם מגעת ) or והפרישות בדינים הוא להחמיר בהם תמיד לחוש אפילו לדברי יחיד במחלוקת אם טעמו נראה אפילו שאין הלכה כמותו? (Both quotes from other chapters of Mesillas Yesharim, BTW. Not your typical MO being described there.)

    I have heard plenty of nasty nasty dismissals of shitos of the rishonim and achronim that don’t jive with chareidi communal sensibilites.

    What is the worst mockery , as opposed to vehement disagreement, that you’ve heard.

    Not sure what you mean here either. If you mean that the MO opens its shuls and schools to people who are not observant, then I think this is a madreiga and not a chisaron.

    See J-blogs again. Avos D’Rabbi Nosson states
    אסור להתחבר לרשעים ואפילו לקרבן לתורה

    If you would study the totality of the Ramchal’s torah instead of one chapter of one book

    An implicit admission that this chapter gets hairy for the MO. They don’t do all that well, relatively, on the rest of the Sefer either.

    The MO are quite lacking in subtlety when it comes to using historical figures as models for emulation. There are tremendous differences between being engaged in:
    a) Chochmos Chitzoniyos after mastering all of Torah (as the Rema Paskens)
    b) Chochmos Chitzoniyos before mastering all of Torah in an auto-didactic setting, or being selective of courses of study.
    c) Chochmos Chitzoniyos in a heretical environment with minimal knowledge of Torah and unsolidifed Emunah.

    TTBOMK, no Torah authority (WADR to Drs. Kaplan and Shapiro) has yet written a cogent Halachic response, and it has been years, to Rabbi Parnes’ ‘Freedom of Inquiry’ Halachic challenge to the Torah UMadda model espoused by YU.

  80. Rudy Wagner says:

    Nachum (and some others),

    I insist that you are in complete denial. I’ve lived in London for 12 years and have been in a number of self defining “modern orthodox” shuls in central London, St. John’s Wood, N.W. London, affiliated to United Synagogue, Federation and Sefardi as well as unaffiliated and my picture is quite accurate. My “beguzma” (colorful) style is legitimate as it has a number of precedents in the Gemara and I thought people could “read through the lines”. And worst come worst (as I cannot claim to have been to every single MO shul in London and analyse the behaviour and hashkafa of every single individual) it is my “eidus” against your “eidus”.

    I suspect you have picked a “non representative sample” of an elite of shuls or individuals that fit your desired description of MO, which is not a very scientific approach. Even if it is impossible to draw an exact line I can guarantee that I have excluded from my analysis the clearly non-orthodox kehilos/individuals. If you exclude from “modern orthodoxy” all or 90% of United Synagogues/Sefardi Congregations and some Federation shuls I guess you would be “mozaei shem ra” on them…

    Gut Shabos

  81. YM says:

    Re #73, I think that Moshe is exactly correct. MO’s believe that the gain in Kiddush Hashem that is gained from engaging with the secular world and conforming to some of its mores outweighs the spiritual risks involved with that engagement. Charedim believe that the opposite is true.

  82. G says:

    I beleive it is due to the fact that you reshaped the given example into one where only one of two limited choices could be taken.

    The original example did not present such limited options.

  83. Moishe Potemkin says:

    YM –

    To nit-pick, but in the friendliest possible way: it’s not just a question of kiddush Hashem – I think in many cases Modern Orthodox folks and Charedim disagree on the cost/benefit analyses of various lifestyle choices. Diff’rent strokes and all.

    (Also, unlike the word team, there is an ‘I’ in Moishe. Make of that what you will.)

    Have a good Shabbos.

  84. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Rudy: “My “beguzma” (colorful) style is legitimate as it has a number of precedents in the Gemara…”

    Of course, you did begin this conversation by asserting that yeridas hadoros meant that we cannot automatically repeat the actions of our forebears. It’s always interesting when qualifications apply only to the actions of others.

    Nevertheless, I am certainly no posek, and if yours believes that making untrue blanket statements about large swathes of shomrei torah and mitzvos is somehow mutar, then, as unfortunate as that is, I probably cannot help you.

    Have a good Shabbos.

  85. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >No. Are you seriously telling us that there is an equal emphasis on amount of hours spent at work/in front of the TV vs. learning Torah in both camps? How many Avos UBanim/ Motzei Shabbos learning programs have been organized by MO vs. Charedim? Why is Siyum Daf Yomi an Agudah event? The MO have made some progress in this area, but they still unquestionably lag far behind the Charedim on this one.How many Charedi blogs are there which tolerate mockery of being “too Orthodox”, i.e. קיום כל המצוות בכל הדקדוקים עד מקום שיד האדם מגעת ) or והפרישות בדינים הוא להחמיר בהם תמיד לחוש אפילו לדברי יחיד במחלוקת אם טעמו נראה אפילו שאין הלכה כמותו? (Both quotes from other chapters of Mesillas Yesharim, BTW. Not your typical MO being described there.)What is the worst mockery , as opposed to vehement disagreement, that you’ve heard.See J-blogs again. Avos D’Rabbi Nosson states
    אסור להתחבר לרשעים ואפילו לקרבן לתורהAn implicit admission that this chapter gets hairy for the MO. They don’t do all that well, relatively, on the rest of the Sefer either.The MO are quite lacking in subtlety when it comes to using historical figures as models for emulation. There are tremendous differences between being engaged in:
    a) Chochmos Chitzoniyos after mastering all of Torah (as the Rema Paskens)
    b) Chochmos Chitzoniyos before mastering all of Torah in an auto-didactic setting, or being selective of courses of study.
    c) Chochmos Chitzoniyos in a heretical environment with minimal knowledge of Torah and unsolidifed Emunah.TTBOMK, no Torah authority (WADR to Drs. Kaplan and Shapiro) has yet written a cogent Halachic response, and it has been years, to Rabbi Parnes’ ‘Freedom of Inquiry’ Halachic challenge to the Torah UMadda model espoused by YU.<

    cogent halachic response to what? To learning in university? To learning chochmot chitzonios? I think that the burden of proof is on the chareidim and they have not met it yet. I just recently learned R’ Baruch Ber’s dismissal of TIDE and I was not impressed – it seemed that the conclusion was decided first and then the path to reach it was layed second. Its clear the the Ramchal, the Aruch LaNer, R’ Hirsh, R’ Hildesheimer, and many others did not feel that there was any real halachic problem with either university or external wisdom.

  86. Bob Miller says:

    Has anyone noticed by now that intramural blog arguments on the lines of “my group is better than yours” are never resolved and always useless?

  87. tzippi says:

    Re 85: There is a big difference between TIDE and MO. Has that ever been addressed here? I haven’t been around too long.

  88. joel rich says:

    tzippi,
    Please email R’ Toby Katz off-line. She will be happy to tell you the differences in her opinion. Then I suggest you check this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_That_Be_Your_Last_Battlefield and we will be spared having this debate again 🙂
    KT

  89. Ori says:

    Bob Miller: Has anyone noticed by now that intramural blog arguments on the lines of “my group is better than yours” are never resolved and always useless?

    Ori: True, but I don’t think Orthodox Jews are capable of stopping those arguments. They are caused by a basic part of the ideology.

    Orthodoxy, of whatever strand, is a difficult, demanding lifestyle. People select to become or stay Orthodox because they believe that is what G-d wants Jews to do. Not just what G-d wants them to do, but all Jews. Therefore, it makes sense that they’ll try to convince other Jews that their way is superior.

    When it’s targeted at us Heterodox Jews, this is called “kiruv” and is often more emotional than rational. This is because we do not share the same basic assumptions that would lead one to be Orthodox, so it is impossible to argue us into it. However, between Orthodox Jews the basic assumptions are shared. Therefore, from the perspective of Charedim the Modern Orthodox are simply not living up to their ideals and vice versa, if I understand things correctly.

    Of course, G-d may have intended there to be multiple Orthodox groups all along. Some people are happier being Modern Orthodox and some are happier being Charedim. G-d might want members of both groups to be able to be happy and be Orthodox at the same time.

  90. Charlie Hall says:

    University education for Jews has a long history; much longer than most realize. Rov Soloveitchik earned a PhD, as did his wive, son, both daughters, and both sons-in-law, but he was far from the first. Rav Hirsch attended the Rhenish Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Bonn in the 19th century, and Rabbi Hildesheimer attended the University of Berlin just a few years later. Gershom Mendes Sexias was one of the founding trustees of Columbia in the 1780s, and a Jew received a degree from the University of Glasgow the same decade. Going back a bit further, hundreds of Jews — including a number of rabbis — attended the University of Padua during renaissance and early modern times. (It seems to have been the place where Jewish physicians went for their education.) And if you want to go back even further, the University of Al-Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, claims Rambam as an alumnus.

    Given this history it is difficult to argue that university education is out and out asur. The reasons few Jews attended university may well have been lack of access (there were few universities in Eastern Europe, which had the largest Jewish population), and the sectarian nature of many (not until the 19th century did most European universities stop requiring professions of Christianity), rather than rabbinic opposition.

  91. mb says:

    The first Orthodox Rabbi to attain a PHD was none other than Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler.

  92. Naftali Zvi says:

    Incidentally, a new book has just been published that is tailored specifically to the issues of this thread and especially to setting a clear definition of “Chareidi”. I did not read all of the comments here but still, I am surprised that so far I have not seen the book referenced. The book is called: “One Above and Seven Below: A Consumer’s guide to Orthodox Judaism from the Perspective of the Chareidim”. It is written by Yechezkel Hirshman.

    He talks specifically on how the chareidim value Chovos Halevavos and Mesilas Yesharim specifically (and why).

    One interesting note – I am told that the author has a son who is studying in Skokie Yeshiva.

    Naftali Zvi

  93. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    cogent halachic response to what?

    I said, to the TUM model espoused by YU. The article is available online.

    To learning in university? To learning chochmot chitzonios?

    Like I said, this is a profound lack of subtle thinking, painting the debate as pro or anti-University, with the proofs ranging back to University in the time of the Rambam! If we all started calling pig “chicken”, would that make pig Muttar because we know that the Tannaim and the Rambam ate chicken?
    Did the Rambam take Art, with nude portraits?
    Did he study Chaucer or other heretical Literature as a Liberal Arts pre-Med requirement? (Before or after he wrote his Peirush HaMishnayos? Are those doing so today in conformity with the Rambam in Hilchos Avodah Zarah 2:3?)

    Did RSRH attend summer school with scantily clad girls asking him if he could help them at lab?

    Did anyone today ask the Rambam if sacrificing a tremendous chunk of one’s life, at the expense of mastery of Torah, is worth it? What percentage of MO parents insistent on their offspring attending University have mastered Torah on even a rudimentary level (which is an absolute obligation on every Jew as per R’ Moshe Feinstein’s understanding to the Rambam Talmud Torah 1:9-10)), let alone internalized the need to relinquish the goal of amassing money before truly acquiring the crown of Torah (ibid. 3:6-8).

    In terms of Chochmos Chitzoniyos, R’ Yisrael Salanter, surely a man with great understanding of the human spirit, and surely of that of one of his closest Talmidim, sent one of those Talmidim to University to be a Kiddush Hashem, to show that it is possible to be great doctor and Yarei Shamayim. That Talmid ended up a general in the Russian Army’s Medical Corps, and went off the Derech. From that point on he despaired of and abandoned a TIDE Mahalach. Not B’Shitah, but because of fear. So are we better students of the human condition than he, or are Universities less risky today?

    Even in TIDE as such, there is a tremendous distortion among the MO, and many TIDE adherents, in:
    a) the value placed on the prestige to be had in the academic world as worthwhile in and of itself.
    b) the notion that Chochmos are needed to enhance and inform our ethical and intellectual weltanschauung, (and, inter alia, that the Torah is insufficient as such), well beyond the simple practical utility of Parnassah or pubic and societal service. [This is NOT what the GRA said about Chochmos. He did NOT say that one who does not study these Chochmos lacks ethical or intellectual balance. He said that he lacks understanding of certain parts of Torah. And one who lacks certain parts of Torah a fortiori lacks understanding of certain parts of Torah].

    R’ Yisrael Salanter was completely and forcefully opposed to both of these illicit Haskafos, and this, especially the second point above, is why the Maskilim, who initially thought they had an ally in him, found out soon enough that they had nothing of the sort, and became bitter foes of his, as per the Seridei Aish.

  94. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Ori — April 13, 2008 @ 6:49 pm :

    Expressions of superiority here vis-a-vis other Orthodox groups or outlooks have no positive value and lead to arguments that go nowhere. We have to decide if we want to lead by example (this includes leading “heterodox” Jews back to Torah by example) or just blow off steam.

  95. Baruch Pelta says:

    19th century Hungarian Jewry’s reactions to modernity certainly marks a beginning of a substantive evolution from a traditional society to an (ultra?) Orthodox society, as has been shown by the tremendous scholarship of Jacob Katz and his students, including Dr. Haym Soloveitchik. The chareidim have made good use of the media and in some cases (i.e. Rebbetzins Esther Farbstein and Bruria Davids) scholarly literature, yet nobody has managed to convincingly attack the scholarship of either Dr. Katz or Dr. Soloveitchik directly, Jonathan Rosenblum notwithstanding. There’s a reason for that.

  96. Charles B. Hall says:

    “University in the time of the Rambam!”

    University in the time of the Rambam meant either a Christian or Islamic school, at least as far as Jews were concerned. (There was a university in China at that time, and the few Jews in China did indeed study the Confucian texts extensively, but the Jewish community in China was so isolated and so small that it really does not pertain to this discussion.) Islam is not idolatrous — at least according to Rambam after apparently studying its beliefs extensively. I am pretty sure that no Christian university in Rambam’s time permitted Jews to enroll without first renouncing their faith. (University of Padua was founded in 1222 after Rambam’s death; University of Glasgow in 1451. The latter sent an official representative to the Richard Joel’s installation as YU President.)

    “Did the Rambam take Art, with nude portraits?”

    Are you being silly? Islam is more stringent on depictions of human form than is Judaism! However, the Jewish students at Padua would certainly have studied nude depictions of the human form.

    “Did he study Chaucer or other heretical Literature as a Liberal Arts pre-Med requirement?”

    Be serious! Chaucer lived almost two centuries after Rambam. But it is certain that Rambam studied heretical literature, both Greek and Arabic, because he wrote about it. And in our times Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein quotes Erasmus, Milton, Blake, and Newman, using them to prove Torah points.

    “Did RSRH attend summer school with scantily clad girls asking him if he could help them at lab?”

    Probably not, as German universities were then all male. But European Universities have been well known for the, er, uh, rowdy and bawdy student conduct for centuries. Check out “Gaudeamus igitur” which is sung at Harvard commencement to this day.

    “show that it is possible to be great doctor and Yarei Shamayim”

    The rabbis who earned medical degrees in Padua centuries earlier had already proven that to be true. Today I teach many yerei shamayim who are training to be great doctors. I’m also married to one.

  97. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Baruch Pelta — April 14, 2008 @ 11:55 am:

    I’m intrigued by this argument or allusion to an argument. If the point is that the mores of the older “traditional society” were more authentic and valid than those of the more recent “Chareidi society”, that logic should lead those making the point to try to revive the traditional society to the greatest degree possible. What I often see instead is that they themselves follow an approach markedly more “modern” and synthetic than either of the above.

  98. Baruch Pelta says:

    Bob Miller:

    You have to understand that traditional society, as defined in the common terms — i.e. Jews were openly halachically observant with no plausible alternatives within the community– could only exist in pre-modern times. That society is in one sense dead and impossible to “revive.”

    So the question upon us now is how best to deal with modernity. Obviously, those of us who are Orthodox believe that the halachic lifestyle which we have always believed to be G-d given will best suit said times.

    But how do we now cope with the fact that Jewish people now think and feel differently? No matter what, some aspect of modern Western thought seems to permeate our minds!

    So the Litvish have instituted a “horaas shaa” of sending everybody to kollel to counter the spiritual tuma in the upper spheres and attempting to only integrate elements of modernity which are germane to this goal; the Chasidim (sometimes) attempt to engage the larger world in buisiness, but retreat to their enclaves for their domestic lives; the Hirschians are well educated in secular subjects, but maintain an anchor in the Jewish sources, the Modern Orthodox welcome certain aspects of modernity (Dr. Lawrence Kaplan’s differentiation between the MO from the chareidim in an essay: “…the different relative weights they assign to submission, authority, and self-overcoming, on the one hand, and autonomy, independence, and self-expression on the other.”), and the last parts of the traditional Sephardic culture guard become Orthodox. This is obviously an oversimplification and some of these groups don’t consider subcategories of the other ones to be considered legitimately frum, but this is what’s happening.

  99. Bob Miller says:

    Baruch Pelta wrote, “You have to understand that traditional society, as defined in the common terms — i.e. Jews were openly halachically observant with no plausible alternatives within the community– could only exist in pre-modern times. That society is in one sense dead and impossible to ‘revive.'”

    Why consider that “one sense” to be primary or defining? Why not put more emphasis on all the major points of correspondence between the traditional society and present-day Litvish or Chassidic communities?

  100. Baruch Pelta says:

    Bob:

    One could ask the same question about other groups: Ay, why not put more emphasis on all the major points of correspondence between the traditional society and MO society or traditional society and German Orthodox society? All are attempting to both be halachic and deal with modernity.

    I have a feeling I don’t truly understand your question. Please clarify.

  101. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Bob, to trivialize – if you ask a shailah about case X, receive a psak, follow it and then you apply the psak to case Y, despite doing what you did yesterday, you are not following tradition. Our tradition is that circumstance matters a great deal. I know the analogy is poor, but it explains why arguing “tradition” is not always obvious.

  102. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    My attention was drawn to this blog about a week before Pesach so now that the rush is past, this is my first opportunity to post. I noted that one poster referenced my book (One Above and Seven Below) and he is correct that it addresses many of the issues that are discussed in this thread.
    I would like to summarize the perspectives that I put forth and readers can judge how and if they are applicable to these posts:

    • I write in a footnote on page 48 that we all eschew the modifier “ultra” because its definition is “exceeding the norm” or “extreme”. Nobody considers their level of observance as extreme no matter what stream he flows with.

    • Arguing about the term chareidi is pointless as long as it is not adequately defined. I make it my first order of business to do this.

    • The gemara in Brachos (35b) presents 2 models for hashkafa. One is the rigid “Torah and nothing but” hashkafa of Rabi Shimon ben Yochai and the other is the more flexible TIDE hashkafa of Rabi Yishmael. Most people define “chareidi” as being strictly of the Rashb”Y mindset. That is why they make assertions that earlier pious thinkers such as Rambam, Rabbenu Bachya, and Ramchal would not be considered chareidi by today’s standards. I heartily disagree and maintain that Rashb”Y and R”Y are not truly at odds (Chapter 2 of the book) but rather Rashb”Y represents the chareidi ideal and R”Y takes a more practical approach. This is based on the reality that (1) so many Jews who lean toward R”Y consider themselves chareidi (2) attend and send their children to chareidi schools and Yeshivas (3) follow chareidi gedolim, (4) maintain mehadrin kashrus, etc. It is also based on the fact that 3 Amoraim in Brachos make peace between the 2 sides.

    • In my opinion the group that is called MO (also in need of a consensual definition) covers a wide spectrum which at one extreme is barely Orthodox and at the other is quasi-chareidi.

    • When we try analyze the personalities and to piece together the hashkafot of iluyim from generations past we are walking on thin ice and are being quite pretentious. We see in the individual a few anomalies from today’s chareidi doctrine (per Rashb”Y) and we blow it out of proportion to characterize the person as non-chareidi. I especially take exception to the comment by Natan Slifkin in #34 where he asserts that Rabenu Bachya and Ramchal – who I name in my book as the trailblazers of today’s chareidi ideology – would be “very different” from today’s chareidi and that “they quote approvingly from non-Jewish philosophers”. Hey, in my book I claim to be a paradigm chareidi yet I “quote approvingly” Thomas Edison in my foreword and on page 254 I approve of many CBT philosophers (okay, those I quote just happen to be Jewish, but I approve of Burns and Rogers, too). What does it tell us that Rabenu Bachya studied Greek and Arabic sciences? I also attended high school and studied Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, languages, and literature and my critics still call me Grade A chareidi! I mention Venn diagrams and molecular compositions in my book but I still preach amelus b’Torah. Obviously the limudei chol was superficial and it was decades ago but I still remember most of it. Who says Rabenu Bachya’s secular study was any more extensive? They may not have been chareidi at the Rashb”Y extreme but according to my thesis Rabbi Yishmael was no less chareidi. Moreover, all the aforementioned plus enigmatic scholars of today such as the Rav (JBS) and the Lubavicher Rebbe were all multifaceted geniuses so mere mortals such as we have no business relating ourselves to their levels of complexity or eccentricity.

    • As per Slifkin’s comment about the Chasam Sofer and historical ignorance – I hold with Noah Efron (Real Jews, page 21) that it is a Zenoic paradox to say that Chasam Sofer revolutionized Orthodoxy if his cause celebre was to keep it the same. My gripe with Efron is that he accepts the paradox (as apparently does Slifkin) and I reject it.

    • Incidentally, which word in Chovos Halevavos translates as “religiously naïve”? (BTW_ Rabenu Bachye ibn Pakuda in Chovos Halevavos is not Rabenu Bechaye ben Asher in Chumash)

    I know this was a long post but it relates to a large bloc of comments. For a fuller exposition, check out One Above and Seven Below (I understand the moderator doesn’t like web links but you can find my web site on Google).

    Chag Sameach,

    Yechezkel Hirshman, Author – One Above and Seven Below

  103. Natan Slifkin says:

    Yechezkel – I have not read your book but from what I hear, your definition of charedi is not that used by 99.99% of people, and it would include people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps. I personally don’t find it helpful to use terms in ways that are misleading.

    You are correct that even in the charedi world, it is acceptable to quote from non-Jewish philosophers – but only if it is in way that makes it clear that it was off-handedly picked up, or as you say, from things learned in high school. But for the Rishonim, on the other hand, philosophy and the natural sciences was something that they engaged in as adults, in an active way, and which they valued greatly – whereas in Charedi society, this is very much not the case.

    To say that they were “were all multifaceted geniuses so mere mortals such as we have no business relating ourselves to their levels of complexity or eccentricity” is simply to adopt the typical charedi approach of blinding yourself to the very real historical differences between their ideology and yours.

  104. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    Reb Natan –

    I would expect you to be the last person to make judgments about a book based merely on what you hear 😉 But, seriously, the only difference between my definition and that of 99.99% (I don’t think it’s that unbalanced because I have Rabbi Moshe Grylak and Dovid Rossoff giving definitions just as broad as mine) is that 99.99% (as you would put it) would define chareidi as exclusively the ideology of Rashb”Y in Brochos 35b and I include Rabi Yishmael (you may have missed that line in my post). To say that it “would include people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps” is not totally accurate. What is more accurate is that it does not necessarily EXCLUDE “people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps” or, better, it “would include SOME people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps” but it would be the people that you would anyway look at and say “That guy may as well just put on a black hat, he is so chareidiish”. (Incidentally, my definition does not exclude Natan Slifkin, either. Does that totally blow it out of the water?)

    About the Rishonim – Either you do not seem to accept my thesis of two levels of chareidi (of course, you did not read my book) or you simply didn’t read my post. I wrote that some Rishonim may not make the Rashb”Y model but engaging in these chochmos does not preclude one from meeting my basic definition of chareidi at least at the Rabi Yishmael level. Also, you make it sound as if all Rishonim were Torah-U’Mada-niks. I have not done in depth research on Rishonim but my instincts tell me that, like thinkers of today, there were Rishonim and there were Rishonim. I have no reason to assume that Rashi, Rabenu Tam, Rif, Rosh or Ritva were anything but bona fide Rashb”Y material. Rambam, Ramban, and Rabenu Bachye may have been different.

    For your last comment – if you read my book, you will discover that it is (according to me) technically impossible for “very real historical differences between their ideology and yours” because their core ideology and mine is actually identical. They had the same Tanach and Talmud that I have. Incidentally, I wrote both in my post and in my book that my ideology (and that of a typical chareidi) is BASED ON Rabenu Bachya and Ramchal. So, how different can we be? Quite obviously, what you consider “historical differences” are fringe issues that are environmentally and culturally driven. I don’t believe that you can prove your assertion that if Rabenu Bechaye and Ramchal lived in our culture that they would be renegades and ostracized. My position is that they would most likely conform to today’s “Historical differences”.

    By the way, did you notice that my comment on multi-faceted geniuses was bunched together with some names of contemporary (though recently deceased) scholarly figures? Are there great historical differences that go back a mere 15 years to which we are blinding ourselves? Actually, with my comment I was more or less seconding the opinion of post #79 that we must distinguish between those who learn chochmos chitzonios AFTER mastering kol HaTorah kulo (the multifaceted geniuses)to those who use their initiative as a hetter to learn chochmos chitzonios INSTEAD OF mastering kol haTorah kulo.

    I don’t think you thoroughly read my post and you certainly did not read my book.

    I have a distributor in RBS 🙂

    Kol Tuv,

    Yechezkel

  105. Natan Slifkin says:

    “I wrote that some Rishonim may not make the Rashb”Y model but engaging in these chochmos does not preclude one from meeting my basic definition of chareidi at least at the Rabi Yishmael level.”

    I’m sure it doesn’t preclude meeting YOUR basic definition of charedi – but it would preclude meeting the definition used by almost everyone else!

    “Incidentally, my definition does not exclude Natan Slifkin, either. Does that totally blow it out of the water?”

    Of course! Look, you are free to define it any way you want. You can define charedi as “being circumcised” and say that Avraham Avinu was charedi. But if virtually nobody else uses the term that way, it’s pointless and misleading.

    “Also, you make it sound as if all Rishonim were Torah-U’Mada-niks.”

    I certainly did not mean any such implication. There were enormous differences between Rishonim and Acharonim in different places. I was specifically referring to the figures that you mentioned.

    “Incidentally, I wrote both in my post and in my book that my ideology (and that of a typical chareidi) is BASED ON Rabenu Bachya and Ramchal. So, how different can we be?”

    You used this kind of reasoning previously, and I still don’t get it. Of course you PERCEIVE yourself as following in their footsteps, but that doesn’t mean that you are! Think about how many different types of people perceive themselves as following in the derech of Rambam!

    “By the way, did you notice that my comment on multi-faceted geniuses was bunched together with some names of contemporary (though recently deceased) scholarly figures? Are there great historical differences that go back a mere 15 years to which we are blinding ourselves?”

    You are blinding yourself if you think that Rav Soloveitchik was charedi! (again, I am talking about the definition used by 99.99% of the world)

    “Actually, with my comment I was more or less seconding the opinion of post #79 that we must distinguish between those who learn chochmos chitzonios AFTER mastering kol HaTorah kulo…”

    And what makes you say that Rabbeinu Bachya and Ramchal only engaged in chochmas chitzonios after mastering kol haTorah kulo? And what does it mean to master kol haTorah kulo? Is it not always possible to deepen one’s understanding?

  106. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    However, the Jewish students at Padua would certainly have studied nude depictions of the human form.

    1) When was the Art section of the University started?
    2) Was it a requirement in any way?
    3) Under whose Halachic sanction did this take place?
    4) How do you know?

    Probably not, as German universities were then all male. But European Universities have been well known for the, er, uh, rowdy and bawdy student conduct for centuries. Check out “Gaudeamus igitur” which is sung at Harvard commencement to this day.

    Does RSRH describe this happening where he went? Even if he had to go through it, does that mean that it is appropriate?

    The rabbis who earned medical degrees in Padua centuries earlier had already proven that to be true. Today I teach many yerei shamayim who are training to be great doctors. I’m also married to one.

    I don’t doubt that. What I am questioning is whether this is done in a way that is Halachically acceptable, as well as what safeguards do we have, that were unavailable to Rabbi Salanter, in screening out those who are at risk of succumbing to the breeding grounds of wrongheaded behavior and outlook, aka Universities.

  107. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    L’Chvod Reb Natan –

    “You used this kind of reasoning previously, and I still don’t get it. Of course you PERCEIVE yourself as following in their footsteps, but that doesn’t mean that you are! Think about how many different types of people perceive themselves as following in the derech of Rambam!”

    Of course you don’t get it. You didn’t read the book. I wrote a whole segment on “how many different types of people perceive themselves as following in the derech of the Rambam” (One Above Seven Below, pp. 111-117). Warning- even reading that segment won’t work unless you read the 110 pages that come before it.

    “You are blinding yourself if you think that Rav Soloveitchik was charedi!”

    I did not write that he was Chareidi (nor did I write that he was NOT Chareidi). I only wrote that he was an iluy. Iluy is not my definition of Chareidi.

    “(again, I am talking about the definition used by 99.99% of the world)”

    Okay, okay – I give up!! Exactly WHAT IS the definition used by 99.99% of the world?

    “And what makes you say that Rabbeinu Bachya and Ramchal only engaged in chochmas chitzonios after mastering kol haTorah kulo?’

    Forgive me for using the term “after”. I was “plagiarizing” the terminology of poster #79. My emphasis is not that it was chronilogically after mastering – it could be while mastering. My emphasis was that it was not at the expense of mastering as was the “seifa” of my “memra”.

    “And what does it mean to master kol haTorah kulo? Is it not always possible to deepen one’s understanding?”

    I would define it minimally as being baki in Tanach, shas, and Poskim. Of course it is possible to deepen one’s understanding. That is why Rabi Yishmael (presumably the same “non-Chareidi” Rabi Yishmael who “argues” with Rashb”Y)tells his nephew (Menachos 99b) NOT to learn chochmos chitzonius even though he learned Kol HaTorah Kulo (whatever that means!).

    I very much welcome debate on the issues of this thread and on my (00.01%) chelek in it (my book), but I truly do think my book represents a bit of a greater percentage of the Torah olam and one really cannot make cogent arguments about it as long as he hasn’t read it and caught its premise. I don’t mean to put you down, but your comments appear to me as one who is shooting at a target in the dark.

    I am very interested in a book swap. I will contact you offline about this.

    Kol Tuv and Good Shabbos,

    Yechezkel

  108. Charles B. Hall says:

    “1) When was the Art section of the University started?”

    They weren’t studying art, they were studying medicine.

    “2) Was it a requirement in any way?”

    Yes, doctors have to look at naked bodies on a regular basis.

    “3) Under whose Halachic sanction did this take place?”

    It isn’t a shilah. Chazal rule that it is a Torah mandate for a physician to heal. (I’m actually unaware of specific references in Chazal to physician *training*; it seems to be taken for granted that Jewish physicians exist. Interestingly the Torah philosophy is that it isn’t the physician but HaShem who is doing the real healing. Yet halachah requires us to consult physicians who attended real medical schools.)

    “4) How do you know?”

    Doctors have always had to do non-tzniut things.

    “Does RSRH describe this happening where he went? ”

    I have not read all of his writings and have not found anything he has written regarding the social environment of his university. I can’t believe that the Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn would have been much different from all the other secular universities of Europe, though.

    “Even if he had to go through it, does that mean that it is appropriate? ”

    No. When I was a professor at a major state university the level of drinking and partying by undergraduates was a constant frustration. My point was that contrary to popular opinion, college students have been acting up for a very long time and it did not deter observant Jews then.

    “What I am questioning is whether this is done in a way that is Halachically acceptable”

    It is clear that it is halachically acceptable to attend universities, as my many examples have shown.

    ” as well as what safeguards do we have, that were unavailable to Rabbi Salanter, in screening out those who are at risk of succumbing to the breeding grounds of wrongheaded behavior and outlook, aka Universities.”

    Now you are finally getting to something that we can discuss if you will accept my point that universities are mutar. Exactly who should attend university, and at what time in life, are very important questions! I’ve long thought that older students are more mature and better able to benefit from university education; to some extent my wife and I are examples of that since I earned by PhD at age 37 and my wife her MD at age 40. And there are some who should not attend university at any age. But all this is a case by case decision, hopefully made with ones rav, not a blanket isur for the entire Jewish world.

  109. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    They weren’t studying art, they were studying medicine.

    That’s a completely different ballgame, and totally irrelevant to my point! I asked: “Did the Rambam take Art, with nude portraits?”. For you to claim that by “nude depictions of the human form” you meant medicine is extremely disingenuous and quite misleading. So much for all the other points, such as about Halachic sanction.

    Regarding RSRH and permissibility of attending University based on his precedent, one would have to know exactly what the his immedaite surroundings were like on a consistent basis, what he could do to seclude himself from the environs, as well as his own thoughts on the matter, before concluding anything from the fact that he attended. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe also attended college and was no big fan of it subsequently, to say the least.

    Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in a responsum (Yoreh Deah Part 4 #34) that the reason why there is not such a hue and cry about American boys attending college is because, among other things, there is a limit to what they will listen to due to parental pressures, not due to its inherent permissibilty. During the summer, when there are females who are in inappropriate attire, there is no Heter under the sun. So even if what you say about RSRH is true, anecdotal evidence, along with dubious analogies to the present, does not have the ability to tip the scales versus this clear responsum, in favor of me being able to agree to the permissibility of University, although I do appreciate that you are wary of the pitfalls therein, and recognize the need for more care in this regard.

    All the best.

  110. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    I wonder if anybody is still following this thread, being 5 weeks old. Still, since commenting is still open and I feel very strongly about this issue, I feel compelled to add another post.

    I was taken aback by post #34 who had the temerity to state, not merely as conjecture but as an unequivocal undebatable given, that if Ramchal and Rabenu Bachya were here today, they would be ostracized by the chareidi establishment. The pretentiousness of this statement goes far beyond earlier opinions that their Hashkafos may overlap with MO or RZ hashkafos.

    The poster presented 3 arguments for his opinion: “(1) Rabbeinu Bachya approvingly quoted non-Jewish philosophers! (2) He studied Greek and Arabic science! (3) He said that the Dor HaMidbar were religiously naive and that the Torah had to be simplified for their level of understanding!”

    I previously rebutted the first two arguments, but I will rehash them (with some modification):

    (1) To my knowledge, he does not quote any non-Jewish philosophers by name in CHL. To reflect the ideas of non-Jewish philosophers when they corroborate the basic Torah-based ideas is perfectly acceptable. I have done so myself.

    (2) Wikipedia says he was familiar with Arabic, Greek, and Roman philosophy and scientific literature. This makes him about as secular as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, ZT”L.

    What disturbed me the most was his third argument where he characterizes a passage from CHL. The implication is that there is something heretical about this passage and that is a clear departure from normative chareidi ideology. (If not that, then what’s his point?). He asserted that Chovos HaLevavos maintains that “the Dor HaMidbar were religiously naive and that the Torah had to be simplified for their level of understanding!”

    Now, tell me if I am the only one, but I read this characterization as saying that CHL holds the Dor Hamidbar were a bunch of neanderthal airheads (not like us geniuses) and HKB”H had to make the whole Torah real simple so that they could understand it. Of course, such a thing is shocking and heretical and certainly all the chareidim would certainly toss him out of the Bais Midrash.

    I petitioned the poster both online and off for the location of this passage so that I can examine it in context and he readily obliged. Shaar Bitachon 4 (about 75% through).

    My assessment is that this characterization is a gross distirtion. Now, here is what CHL REALLY says:

    CHL in Shaar Bitachon is asking why the Torah does not explicitly discuss the concepts of reward and punishment in the Afterlife. To this he suggests 7 reasons. In reason #2, he says that it was not necessary to explicate it insomuch as it is a kaballah from the neviim just like the bulk of Torah sheBaal Peh (IOW, they were really a learned bunch). In reason #3 (somewhat contradictory), he suggests that the Dor Hamidbar was religiously unschooled and therefore the Torah omitted the esoteric concepts of reward and punishment.

    I see this as much different than saying that they were naïve and G-d had to simplify the Torah.

    There is nothing remotely controversial or radical about this sentiment which he qualifies with a pasuk in Hoshea 11:1 and Marpeh L”Nefesh and Tov Halevanon (and others) add Devarim 29:3. The meforshim likewise point to Erechin 15a where Rav Huna says that “Yisrael of that generation were among those of little belief.”

    There is no question that poster #34 believes that if the heretical Rav Huna was here today, he would be “ostracized from Chareidi society”.

    Incidentally, Feldheim published CHL in English – along with Ramchal’s sefarim and, to date, no Chareidim banned them! They are on the shelves of every Chareidi institution along with Rambam and – I daresay – even Michtav M’Eliyahu. And you say Chareidim are at odds with them? Why did Mishpacha magazine give the radical Chovos Halevavos a six page spread two years ago?

    I get it. Feldheim and Mishpacha are not really Chareidi!

    With so few people actually remaining in Chareidi society is it any wonder that 99.99% of the world won’t define “Chareidi” as the Chareidim would define themselves?* Of course not! There are only 00.01% of the world who haven’t been ostracized!

    Maybe I am the only one.

    Yechezkel Hirshman, Author – One Above and Seven Below

    *This is what I call in my book “Consumer Hazard #6”

  111. Steve Brizel says:

    We subscribe to Mishpacha which is Charedi in its editorial orientation but which always has interesting feature articles. Unfortunately, a recent issue that featured a round-table discussion with R Y Belsky, R M Heinneman and R S Miller showed that urban myths and stereotypes aare still abundant and prevalent about MO . One wonders how in this day and age such an interview made the presses during Sefirah and how that such eminent Talmidie Chachamim could have essentially used MO as a label without being able to understand and differentiate the vast differences between LWMO and its spokesmen and the RIETS RY , their talmidim and the many Chashuveh Baale Batim and Bnei Torah who view these world class Gdolei Talmidei Chachamim as their Baalei Mesorah. Although there were some comments to the effect that there are some “serious Bnei Torah” within MO, there was no comment that there were some eminent and world class Talmidie Chachamim therein.IOW, it was sort of a “nice but nisht unzerer” type of comment as if the only improvement in MO was the near eradication of mixed dancing at simchos. One can only imagine the uproar if a MO leader or a RIETS RY had been interviewed and offered a less than totally approving appraisal of a Charedi Mossad HaTorah or other aspects of Charedi life.

  112. Mark says:

    Steve,

    “We subscribe to Mishpacha which is Charedi in its editorial orientation”

    I beg to differ. It is not Charedi, it is provocative. As a Charedi I find many things in the Mishpachah objectionable and I know I’m not alone because I’ve heard similar sentiments from others in our camps and I doubt I’d be termed a fanatic [but you never know]. Mishpachah does its best to always stay on the fence and print things that will provoke emotion. It sells mags after all.

  113. Steve Brizel says:

    Mark-Mishpacha is edited by R M Grylack, who cut his journalistic teeth at the Yated. The journalists are all Charedi. I stand by my prior post about the article in question. WADR, for the most part, the Yated knows the difference between RYBS, RIETS and its RY as opposed to LW MO and its leaders. One can only imagine the reaction if one had seen comments in print that were openly and indiscriminately critical of the Charedi yeshivos both here and in EY.

  114. Baruch Pelta says:

    Steve & Mark,

    I agree with Steve that the Mishpacha is charedi and I agree with Mark that Mishpacha likes to “print things that will provoke emotion.” But I don’t think Mishpacha prints those things just to sell mags. Rather, it is because those “things” are amazingly positivistic attempts to rectify problems in chareidi society without delegitimizing other camps within the fold and printing letters to the editor which express the true views of readership (imagine that). Now there is the occasional delegitimization and/or barb, but generally it’s just a gevaldik magazine.

    I admire R’ Grylack and R’ Rosenblum enormously.

  115. Steve Brizel says:

    Baruch & Mark-Sometimes, the best response to an editorial, news article, etc that one disagrees with is a letter to the editor. Sometimes, cancellation of a subscription is the best response. However, neither recourse would be necessary if selling magazines were not the prime concern of the editor. I expect more from a magazine that bills itself as a family Torah magazine.

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