Klal Perspectives: New Issue on Connectedness
With pride, we announce the third issue of the online journal Klal Perspectives. Is there an epidemic of spiritual malaise, even among people fully observant? How widespread are feelings of lack of connection with the Ribbono Shel Olam? What has changed in recent times? Have solutions been found that are effective in whole or in part? These are some of the most pressing questions to a large part of the Orthodox world, and once again, Klal Perspectives brings together a diversity of analyses and suggestions across a spectrum of Orthodox thought.
We thank HKBH and some of the shakers and movers of this project that we have been able to keep to our timetable as a quarterly. A personal observation that brought home to me how just how well the animating spirit of this journal has been received. (Full disclosure: I am a member of its editorial board.) For the first issue, board members had to put in significant time urging, convincing, cajoling prospective writers, after we assembled a list of those we from whom we thought we would want to hear. By the second issue, by and large, targeted contributors were willing to contribute without any arm-twisting. This issue harvested more submissions than we has originally planned on. Some personalities who were, for one reason or another, not on our list of prospects contacted us and asked to write! We hope that the community senses that even when some of our problems seem intractable, we are blessed with gifted and dedicated thinkers. We hope, be-ezras Hashem, that if enough of them are allowed to continue to use their imaginations, we can make some progress in improving the rich bounty of Kerem Yisrael.
Rather than present my own overview, I present below the entire Foreward, which offers an abstract of each article:
Rabbi Moshe Weinberger: “Just One Thing is Missing: The Soul”
In every generation, the outside world stands as a tempting alternative
to Yiddishkeit, yet wielding the axe against it has never provided more
than a short-term, superficial respite. Only a deep, introspective,
passionate Yiddishkeit, bursting with a tangible consciousness of
Hashem’s presence, can expose the emptiness of any alternative.
Recent decades have shown that for rabbis and teachers, selfrevelation
– in which they share their own experiences and struggles in
Yiddishkeit – has become an absolute educational necessity.
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser: The Vital Role of Experiential Jewish
EducationMany of the factors that inhibit connectedness and spirituality within
our community can be overcome most effectively through informal
educational programming – especially for adolescents, for whom this
is essential. In such environments, promoting values such as religious
growth, individuality in religious identity, maturation of religious
ideals, mentorship, expelling cynicism and embracing questions as an
authentic search for religious meaning can all contribute to a more
spiritual and connected religious community.
Rav Ahron Lopiansky: Self-Inspiration – A Tool for LifeBoth Chassidus and the Mussar Movement emphasized the essential
need for deliberate efforts to stimulate an emotional dimension to
shmiras hamitzvos – both because ahava, yirah and simcha are core
Torah values, and because Torah observance without emotion
inevitably falls into decline. This vital lesson seems to have been lost
on us, as has the pivotal role of the Mashgiach Ruchani dedicated to
inspiring emotional engagement in his students. Parents must seek
such additions to their childrens’ educational experience, and demand
that yeshivos return to these ideals.
Rabbi Bentzion Twerski: Is Serving Hashem Still a “Jewish” Ideal? As has happened in the past, we are a generation who seem able to
relate to the intellectual pursuit of Torah study to the exclusion of
service of the heart. We must not deceive ourselves that Torah study
alone is adequate. Steps we can take to deepen our connection to Torah
and mitzvos include investing more in connecting to Hashem through
tefilah, learning to appreciate “hachana l’mitzvah” (preparation for the
mitzvah), joining or forming a chevra for mutual support and acquiring
a particular approach based on available sefarim.
Rabbi Yitzchok Feigenbaum: Been There, Done That: Why Being
Frum Is So BoringToday’s teenagers are increasingly disconnected, disenchanted and
suffering from a spiritual malaise more severe than any in our
memory. The primary goal of yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs today must
be, in the words of Sara Shneirer “to make frum girls [and boys] from
frum homes proud and excited about their Yiddishkeit.” To provide
students with the sense of accomplishment, uniqueness and self-worth
essential to their development, we must encourage individualism,
validate their struggles, embrace failure, encourage questions and give
up the pretenses that taint our chinuch.
Moishe Bane: Merely CopingThe small cadre of American Jews still loyal to halacha aspire to
connect to G-d but they are deeply scarred by centuries of bitter exile
and unspeakable suffering, during which G-d’s face remained hidden.
Nevertheless, Torah observance was maintained in America –
primarily through cultural ghettos that strengthened Orthodox
identification with community. For a variety of reasons, the walls of
the cultural ghettos are wearing thin, and the sense of insular, frum
identity is fading, undermining the connection to G-d and Torah, as
well. To survive this horrid golus, the connections among Torah Jews
must be reinvigorated and intensified and the community must become
a sense of pride that is not based on parochialism.
Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox: The Abandonment of the Soul: The Struggle
of Dispirited Observant JewsWhile some of those struggling with spiritual connection grew up
without any feeling spiritual ties to their observance, others struggle to
rediscover the faded passion that once directed their religious
behavior. Spiritual stagnation often results when adults have not
contemplated their “god concept” or their sense of the Sacred since
childhood. When spiritual development matures over time, with
reflective contemplation, with experience, with study, through candid
discussion with select others, and with clarification of what we
believe, religious practice among the Orthodox may be more fulfilling
Chaya Newman: A Time for InspirationThe alleged perception that there is an “increasing number of Jews
across the spectrum who feel no meaningful connection to Hashem,
His Torah or even His People” is unfortunately more than a perception
– it is reality. G-dliness is no longer felt in most homes; instead, there
is the “false god” of money, luxury and the accumulations of goods.
Perhaps it is time for schools and yeshivas to create a curriculum
whose main goal is inspiration and emotional connection. It is time for
a serious consideration of kiruv kerovim.
Jonathan Rosenblum: Creating an Environment for Developing
Closeness to HashemAlthough the desire for a deeper relationship with Hashem must come
from each individual, there are important environmental factors that
have an influence. Examples include one’s general level of satisfaction
with life as a frum Jew, opportunities for youthful idealism and for
making a difference, limitation of materialism and openness about Gd’s
love for us. It is also essential that young people are taught the
principles of emunah and that they have role models of great people
from whom to learn.
Rabbi Shalom Baum: Looking Inward to Move UpwardIn considering the spiritual needs of Torah-observant Jews today, it is
helpful to recognize two distinct groups: those who have consciously
and deliberately chosen their observant lifestyle even if raised
observant and those whose commitment is derived solely from
upbringing. Both groups suffer from oversimplified views of religious
experience that fail to appreciate the ongoing, inner struggle
characteristic of meaningful growth – whether from an imagined place
of strength or from one of weakness. The absence of substantial
introspection of the deeply committed also deprives them from being
better role models for the less committed.
Judith Cahn, EdD: Family, School and Community: The
Psychological Impact of ConnectednessNumerous, empirical broad-based studies have examined adolescent
connectedness to family, school, and community and its impact on
their health and adjustment. Since Jewish day schools and yeshivot
currently serve as the center of the Jewish community, these
institutions need to maintain environments that encourage student
feelings of connectedness and to guide parents about how best to
provide home environments that promote feelings of connectedness
within the family.
Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser: Defrosting JudaismThere is an urgent need to draw close not only those who are feeling
disconnected but also the many others who are feeling relatively
uninspired. Our challenge is heightened by the pervasive inroads
secular culture has made into our insular community with the advent of
the Internet and by the decreasing numbers of individuals who have a
rav to follow as their spiritual leader. Some ideas to bring the spirit
back into our observance include programs to enhance deeper
appreciation of mitzvos and increased expressiveness of our love for
Torah and mitzvos that nurture devotion and passion in our children.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein: An Observation and Some Modest
ProposalsConnectedness is experienced by different people in different ways –
some with outward passion and energetic expression, and others more
inwardly. As such, multiple approaches will be necessary. Some
suggestions: connection to Hashem can be revved up by shouldering
more responsibility for His mission and work; encourage young people
to engage in growth experiences outside academic curriculum;
providing meaningful challenges through which effort must be applied
to make Torah one’s own; setting goals in learning that can be
monitored by others and, in particular, learning the works of the
Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky: The First Connection is to Your Inner SelfThe root cause of people not feeling a connection with G-d (or with
society) is frequently the absence of a true connection with, and
appreciation of, their own “self” – a prerequisite for knowing another
with any depth. To nurture this connection with self, we must focus far
more teaching on midos and refinement of midos and we must
recognize and value different talents and abilities and offer
frameworks for advancing goals connected with life’s purpose. Key
obstacles are lack of time and rampant consumerism.
Shifra Rabenstein: The Good Old DaysToo many Orthodox Jews are simply less growth-oriented and
generally satisfied with a religious status quo. Contributing factors
include insufficient grounding in the basics of emunah, the intrusion of
secular culture and shortcomings in our educational systems. Possible
solutions include painting a picture of Judaism for students as the
wonderful, meaningful and exciting experience that it is, offering
students opportunities to spend time with teachers outside of a formal
classroom setting, better modeling our intended relationship with
Hashem and introducing hashkafah in a more robust manner.
Rabbi Gidon Rothstein: Searching for God Where God is FoundThe need for ‘religious fulfillment’ or ‘spiritual connection’ can too
often be a subjective need to feel good rather than a sign of meaningful
connection; the overriding goal must be avodat Hashem, service of
God, rather than just personal feeling. Moving ourselves in that
direction involves a gentle but consistent process of putting God in the
center of our decisions.
Rabbi Shmuel Silber: Struggling with Connection: Ancient
Challenge, Contemporary SuggestionsReligious apathy consistently has been one of our people’s greatest
challenges – albeit with varying causes. Some of today’s causes are:
we focus on rules but not on their meaning and relevance, we don’t
know God well enough and we tend to expect instant spirituality. To
address these, respectively, schools should emphasize understanding
principles more than acquiring knowledge and adults need a
revitalized program of ongoing substantive education, we must focus
on issues of faith and the discipline of emunah and we must promote
the virtue of perseverance as a key to spiritual growth.
Rabbi Dovid Goldman: Whose Torah is It?Ideally, learning Torah over the long term should bring about a deeper
connection to Torah, and thus to Hashem and His people, but this is
too often not succeeding. In recent times, mussar, chasidus, Torah
lishma and “Rav Chaim’s derech” played vital roles in forging this
personal connection to Torah but various factors have led to a critical
distortion in how the relationship between Yisrael and Torah is
viewed. To feel connected to Torah, we must know that Yisrael was
not created to keep the Torah – the Torah was created for the sake of