Klal Perspectives: New Issue on Connectedness

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10 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    The above responses were all superb and illustrated IMO the malady-not having a profound sense of awareness of HaShem Yisborach in our lives, but rather viewing life as a serious of goals no different that the secular world views material success, etc. Perhaps, we all need to talk more about how HaShem Yisborach is both Avinu and Malkenu , HaShem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidshanu Bmitzvosav a lot more than we do via the study of Shabbos, Moadim,Chumash , Siddur and Mazhzor on an adult level. R C Karlenstein ZL in his beautiful discussions on Pesach aptly notes that in terms of preparing for Kabalas HaTorah there is no comparison between one’s observance of a YT ( and Shabbos as well) by preparing for the same by learning about it than if one merely opens the Siddur and Machzor without having done so. RYBS also noted that with respect to the Yamim Noraim that one needed Slichos as a means of preparing for the Kedushas HaYom of the Yamim Noraim.

  2. Neil Harris says:

    I have read this issue two time already. I’m so happy that leaders within our communities are not only bringing this issue to light, but offering solutions. A common idea is the start of groups/vaadim/chaburos based on growth-oriented seforim.

    Yashar Koach!

    Neil Harris
    Chicago

  3. Gershon Seif says:

    I am very excited about this issue. I’ve read about 1/3 of this so far and I know I will be reviewing this over and over.

    IMHO all of us need to spend time thinking about the solutions offered and consider which of them can be implemented in our homes, kehillos, schools, etc.

    Very refreshing to see this as a focal point!

  4. micha says:

    The AishDas Society was founded to address this issue. To quote our Mission Statement:
    The AishDas Society empowers Jews to utilize their observance in a process for building
    thoughtful and passionate relationships with their Creator, other people and themselves.
    To do so, we offer unique programs, educational events and a supportive community,
    and help other organizations develop programs and curricula.

    As it says, we are committed to being a resource for shuls and other groups that would like suggestions and assistance getting such programming going.

    -Micha Berger
    [email protected]

  5. cvmay says:

    WHEW!!! Where to begin and how to find the time to truly digest ideas and solutions.

    Please remind me again where can I get a hard copy of the Khal Perspectives?

    [YA – Until today, there was no way to get a hard copy, other than to print it out yourself. (There is an option to print out the entire issue as a pdf, optimized for space, or to print individual articles.) Just a few hours ago, we began offering hard copies for $8. They can be obtained at http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/kp-spring-2012/12824031 ]

  6. Pragmatician says:

    I have enjoyed the first and the courageous second edition immensely and am looking froward to read the spring articles.

    Thank you for informing us of it’s publication.

  7. micha says:

    The essence is, as Neil Harris put it in his Manifesto for a Culture of Growth, is to promote that “culture of growth”. If we view the task as “מִי יַעֲלֶה בְהַר ה׳ — Who will ascend Hashem’s mountain?” (Tehillim 24:3) then we can say that different people, starting their ascent from different point at the foot of that mountain will need to travel in different directions to find the peak. All are benei aliyah, people actively pursuing ascent, and thus have a common spirit despite difference in derekh.

    This is the meaning of Shelomo haMelekh’s dictum, “Chanokh lenaar al pi darko — teach the youth according to his ways.” Each of us have our own abilities and proclivities, and therefore each will find the different ways of viewing the Torah’s ideal more or less fitting. Do I see that ideal in terms of who I am to become? What kind of relationship I am to forge with G-d? With the world? And if I do see it as personal refinement — do I take the German Jewish approach of personal dignity or the Mussarist focus on various middot? What kind of relationship with the Almighty is ideal? What aspects of how He appears to us am I capable of relating to? And so on. All following the same goal. But with different ways of viewing that goal, we will end up with different paths and different prioritizations.

    So I will focus on the meta-issues, the culture of growth. How do we become benei aliyah?
    I think the first step is to invest more time studying aggadic texts. One needs to see how various mesoretic voices describe the ideal, have a developed notion of what that ideal is, before developing a program of working toward it. Not just what the ideal is, but how to frame that notion in a way that fits my personality and talents.

    But while finding a model of the Torah’s ideal that I am more able to pursue might be primarily an intellectual pursuit, following that ideal is more experiential. We all know the problem of akrasia, even if that word is Greek to you. It is the question of why people do things they know is wrong or against their best interests? Knowing what’s right is not enough. “Veyadata hayom vehasheivosa el levavekha — You know today, and you will answer your heart.” Our minds know things that still need to make their ways into the core of our beings to change who we are and how we act.

    AishDas has had success forming ve’adim (literally: committees) that follow those composed by R’ Shlomo Wolbe and found in Alei Shur vol II, sec. 2-3. The va’ad concept is a product of the Mussar Movement, and those ve’adim in section 2 are more middos oriented. However, reviewing the topics in section 3 shows that the same format can be applied to goals such as adding passion to Shema and Shemoneh Esrei. On the meta-level, it is a format that provides experience interacting and living up to a text, and a group of peers working together who you can turn to for support. Regardless of which approach up the mountain the group is taking.

    So what is a vaad, as I am using the term? It’s a small sized group that studies a text regularly (like a chaburah). But, they also explore how to apply the text to their own lives. Every session ends with some daily exercise they take upon themselves to grow incrementally in that area. E.g.: Not to express anger at dinner time. To spend time lingering on each word of one sentence of Shemoneh Esrei, feeling as many connotations and implications as they can before moving on. Etc…

    And so, a vaad meeting typically begins with a discussion of how things were going with the exercise, or with any other part of one’s avodas Hashem (service of G-d) that they want the group’s input in. Then the text study. Then thoughts about how the ideal in the text applies to the lives of the members. And finally a discussion of the exercise, which may be tailored based on prior progress.

    A sefer like Alei Shur has the advantage of already presenting sequences of texts and exercises. This creates the ability to have a group even without the commitment of someone ready to prepare material. Obviously, a synagogue rabbi could learn to produce material for a vaad, just as they do for lectures and shiurim.

    Anyway, I deeply feel the path up the mountain is setting the mind on a goal through learning, and making impressions in the heart through more experiential modalities.

    “Ben Zoma said:… Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot.” If Ben Zoma meant happy with where they are now, his would be a recipe for complacency and stagnation. Rather, I believe he is telling us to be happy with our entire lot from birth to grave, the path Hashem places us upon.

  8. SA says:

    I’ve gotten through a few of the essays and I notice that many of the writers I’ve read so far are calling for no less than a revamping of much of the frum community’s educational system.

    How exactly is that going to happen? And how, if educational institutions have (at least in theory), been following da’as Torah all along, did they get to the point that they are producing graduates who are sorely lacking in some basic foundations of Yiddishkeit? What’s been missing all along?

    [YA – Could be that we have different definitions and expectation of Daas Torah. Without launching another interminable thread about it, suffice it to say that there are still bnei Torah around who do not see Daas Torah as an oracle, but as an address you go to get the special insight vouchsafed to people whose minds have been molded by HKBH’s Torah. You get another dimension of depth – but not nevuah.

    Why couldn’t people see what was coming? There are many reasons, including the understandable tendency not to rock the boat that is still making good progress upstream. With all the problems of dissatisfaction and lack of connection, we are still producing people loyal in great part to Hashem and His Torah. The Torah community is slow to change – which is probably a much better approach than being too quick to change.

    A publication like KP, some of us think, can nudge the process along a bit faster, by stimulating enough discussion that our manhigim will take greater notice, buoyed by the knowledge that many people are clamoring for those changes.]

  9. micha says:

    SA:

    I think the focus on formal education is misplaced. It’s another aspect of what I wrote about as the need for experiential programming. We aren’t talking about imparting facts to the brain, but inculcating values to the heart. I therefore tend to agree with R’ Glasser’s article about the value of informal educational settings. That is where truths are experienced, rather than studied.

    I have a friend who has taught Pre-1A boys for decades. The end of the curriculum on reading is teaching sheva nach (silent) vs sheva na (pronounced schwa). In the early days, it didn’t come naturally; how many of us learned diqduq in yeshiva? But now it’s transparent to him, and how he davens as well. But his students do not fare as well. After his class, they enter first grade, where the focus is on siddur and chumash, not qeri’ah and vowel marks. And their subsequent rebbes, from 1st grade through beis medrash, are not likely to pay attention to grammatical niceties. So, it all falls out the window.

    Similarly, perhaps the strongest education we can give our children is for them to see parents who are grappling with these issues in their own lives, and thus they learn informally that Torah values, spirituality, connection to Hashem and the Jewish people, are important.

    There is also a way to bring that kind of education into the classroom. For example: Right now there are numerous middos programs for schools; various different curricula that all boil down to truisms like, “Modesty is Good”, “Honoring your elders is good”, “Anger is bad”, etc… It becomes trite at a pretty early grade, and then Middah education falls off. There is also little indication that such cerebral imparting of information does much to change actual behavior. People learn how to behave from peers and role models. (Again suggesting that adult programs may need to come before we focus attention on education.)

    However, teachers and administrators do talk to their students in the school setting in ways other than imparting information. Rather than teaching the value of various middos, they can use these interactions to foster awareness of middos. Decisions are made through a conflict of middos, desires, aspirations, etc… We can teach students that language when educators (and parents) have occasion to discuss those decisions. For example: “When Sarah threw that ball at you, what middah did it trigger? If you could have stopped to realize it was an accident, how would you have responded?” Getting the child to realize that in this incident, her Temper (middah of ka’as) outweighed her Awareness (zehirus) will do far more toward improving her future behavior than stopping after a poster and worksheet about how losing one’s temper is as bad as idolatry.

  10. Formerly Orthodox says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this latest issue of Klal Perspectives, and learned something from each article. There is one outlook, however, with which I do not agree.
    Some of the authors imply that since the intrusion of secular culture presents a challenge to alienated, “at-risk” observant Jews, we should isolate ourselves even more from the “outside” world. (At least none of them say explicitly that exposure to outside influences and the lure of materialistic pleasures by themselves cause the discontent). However, for those who find fulfillment in (kosher) secular pursuits that they aren’t able to achieve through Torah study or ritual observance, this approach would actually increase their dissatisfaction with the Orthodox lifestyle. I would even suggest that such an isolationist attitude itself can cause certain people to feel disconnected from the Orthodox community, namely, those Jews who believe that open-mindedness and tolerance (in moderation) are positive Torah values that contribute to the success of the mission of Klal Israel. In fact, Rabbi Adlerstein promotes the idea in his article that involving oneself in Hashem’s work is one way to inspire religious enthusiasm.

    On the topic of R. Adlerstein’s article, at the risk of sounding incredibly cynical, I think it is possible that the reason that so many children of Chabad families become shalichim is that they don’t have exposure to any other way of life, nor the education for any other profession.

    As an aside, it is curious that none of the authors mention doing chesed as a way to strengthen one’s connection to Hashem.

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