Orthodoxy’s Smashing Success and Lurking Challenges
In Does Orthodox Explosion Signal Doom for Conservative and Reform?, Dr. Steven M. Cohen and other researchers present the bold reality of robust Orthodox growth and dramatic non-Orthodox atrophy and population decline, based upon these researchers’ brand new study:
(T)he truly startling situation is among Conservative and Reform Jews. (We combine them to simplify somewhat, recognizing the greater severity in numeric decline among the Reform segment). Here see that the number of 30-39 year olds amounts to just about half the number of the 60-69 year olds. If current trends continue, then, in 30 years, we’ll see about half as many Conservative and Reform Jews age 60-69 as we have today…
And the number of Conservative and Reform children do not reverse the decline. For Jews in Conservative and and Reform homes, we have 570,000 people in their 60s, but just 320,000 kids. Metaphorically, every 100 Conservative and Reform Boomers have only 56 photos of Jewish grandchildren in their wallets (or smart phones).
Turning to the Orthodox, we find wildly different trends. While just 40,000 are in their 60s, we have triple their number – 120,000 – in their 30s. And, perhaps even more astounding are the number of kids aged 0-9. They amount to 230,000 – over five times the number of people in their 60s. If 100 Orthodox grandparents gathered in shul, they could show their friends photos of 575 grandchildren on their smart phones (but not on Shabbat, of course).
Only the Orthodox are having enough children to fuel population growth. Conservative and Reform Jews are falling well short of population replacement. We may compare Reform/Conservative Jews with the Orthodox at different ages. Among 60-69 year olds, the ratio of Conservative/Reform to Orthodox is 14:1. Among 30-somethings, it falls to just over 2:1. And among the children, it’s less than 3:2, as Orthodox numbers have almost caught up to the combined Conservative and Reform numbers.
The data clearly show how non-marriage, intermarriage, and low birthrates have taken their toll on Conservative and Reform population numbers. If the Conservative and Reform movements are to arrest their declines, it means helping younger Conservative and Reform Jews find partners to marry and supporting their decisions to have children. It means encouraging more non-Jewish spouses and partners to convert to Judaism. All of these worthy goals can be furthered by more participation in Jewish day schools, summer camps, youth groups, trips to Israel, Hillel, Chabad on campus and other ways of connecting adolescent and young adult Jews to one another have. And, let‘s not forget that parents, grandparents, and rabbis all shape the Jewish lives of children, teenagers and young adults.
The demographic trends we described are already in motion and cannot be changed overnight. The American Jewish community is entering a transitional period, and in particular the Conservative and Reform movements are facing a rocky few decades that will have implications for many of the major Jewish communal institutions. We hope that a dose of hardnosed realism will motivate committed action so that we get through this period with our feet on the right path.
There is a tendency among many – including the authors of the above words – to advise “bandage” solutions to reverse the precipitous decline of non-Orthodox Jewry: get non-Jewish spouses to convert, encourage non-Orthodox students to become involved with Jewish campus groups and congregational youth groups, and so forth. Many of these “doing Jewish” solutions are certainly better than doing nothing about the problem, but they fail to address the real cause of the predicament.
In a wonderful article that addresses this point head-on, Ms. Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt insightfully argues that it is the very unique values and commitment of Orthodox/Torah Judaism rather than its “doing Jewish” which have enabled the Orthodox community to blossom:
But it’s a fool’s errand. Our methodology for continuity is rooted in the very values that, sadly, many liberal Jews reject — our insularity, our commitment to the collective over the individual, our obligation to a divine value system. Having a few more kids, sending them to sing Shabbat songs once a week for two months out of the year, and then on a Birthright trip a few years later isn’t going to change anything. To me, that’s a band-aid on a bullet wound.
If the Orthodox experience has taught us anything, it is that complete immersion succeeds. Like the immersion in the mikveh, in which every centimeter of the body must touch water, so, too, our commitment requires totality. It is an immersion in our books; immersion in prayer services as punctuation marks for time; immersion in a 25-hour Shabbat experience without smart phones and the internet; immersion in round-the-clock Jewish education, at all costs.
Our commitment to religious values, as much as it is all-consuming, as much as it may jar with secularism, is what keeps us thriving. As the secular Zionist Ahad Ha-Am wrote, “More than the Jewish People have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” Perhaps it is not just the Sabbath, but all of our laws and social commitments which keep us from fading into a larger human tapestry, by maintaining a strong sense of identity that always comes first.
One can’t have the numbers of the Orthodox without the values — the two go hand in hand.
The strength of the Orthodox community is not rooted in a mere birth rate unsupported by certain principles. Our very demography is rooted in values that run deeply, and which source and sustain our numbers, in the culture of Jewish literacy and in the very texts we construct our lives around, in the way we constantly engage with centuries of Jewish conversation in our study halls and synagogues. It is even in our absolute refusal to touch a light switch on Shabbat, the way we let Judaism define every molecule of our very being — this is where the key to continuity may lie.
Until one values that all-consuming lifestyle — a lifestyle not defined by only tikkun olam and interfaith dialogue — one shouldn’t expect a demographic shift any time soon.
Of course, the sustainability and success of Orthodoxy come from Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu, but the above is the system that He gave us for spiritual and popular prosperity.
We should not be triumphal; we should instead be immensely appreciative and ever-awed. Adherence to a Torah life has resulted in incredible communal success, while the prognostications of Marshall Sklare and others about the doom of Orthodoxy and the success of the Conservative movement (and the other heterodox movements), based on the need to adapt religion to societal values and needs, have been overwhelmingly disproved.
Despite the clear and current trends and the favorable forecast for the Orthodox community, there is room for concern, based on other trends within Orthodoxy that are not yet properly documented but are anecdotally known to all.
I do not speak about the challenges to Orthodoxy that the Open Orthodox movement presents. This movement, which is now its own separate denomination, has followed the trajectory of the early Conservative movement and has continued to move away from normative Orthodox practices and attitudes, including recently several prominent Orthodox clergy members expressing an openness to intermarriage and the cornerstone Open Orthodox congregation two weeks ago extending mazel tov wishes in its recent bulletin to two men who got “married” (and to a woman for “her aufruf”). Open Orthodoxy jolted out of the Orthodox door long ago and is not germane to this discussion.
Rather, I am concerned about trends in Modern and Charedi Orthodoxy. In Israeli society, there is a very steep attrition rate among Religious Zionist youth, and the situation in America does not appear to be so posivite either. Although the numbers are not as severe among Charedi youth, there is an increasing preponderance of stories of such youth “going OTD”, including children and grandchildren from prestigious rabbinical families. All in all, there is powerful growth, but the substantive cracks cannot be overlooked.
In Modern Orthodoxy, the factors for attrition are: 1) positive immersion in/embrace of secular culture, including its values and practices, which are frequently antithetical to Torah practice and values; 2) an often sterile, uninspiring religious atmosphere. Some of the solutions presented fail to address the underlying issues (factors 1) and 2)) and instead resort to novel pedagogical tactics, or the introduction of Neo-Chassidus, Carlebach-style minyanim and other such endeavors, while ignoring the roots of the problem. (But please see here for a candid assessment and a refreshingly traditional solution.)
Part of the problem in Modern Orthodoxy is an expanding disconnect from the rest of Orthodoxy, and especially from the latter’s Torah leadership. Modern Orthodoxy was previously not a denomination or stream of Orthodoxy per se; it was, rather, an informal way to describe those who were more involved with the outside world and adopted several of its features, in many cases resulting in a diluted religious observance. But it was not a formal movement; rebbeim in Modern Orthodox educational institutions were more often than not of a traditional/”yeshivish” orientation, Modern Orthodoxy did not have its own formulated hashkafa, and there was no religious mandate to be Modern (with a capital M). It was just a pragmatic, situational thing.
(The above issues of Torah leadership and rebbeim are very important for another reason. When institutions insist on hiring and seeking guidance only from those of their own immediate orbit, intellectual cross-fertilization and peer review/checks and balances are sorely compromised. Veering off course, decreased quality and departure from established norms are more prone to result, and one can observe this happening in Modern Orthodoxy – sometimes on an alarming scale.)
I fear that somewhat recent trends of Modern Orthodoxy identifying itself as a distinct religious system and modus operandi will encourage, even unintentionally, factors 1) and 2) above to be more prevalent, thereby triggering even more attrition. (Irrespective of the actual arguments, this approach seems to engender the attitude and mindset of the “Jewish Father” blogger; Rabbi Harry Maryles’ critique is excellent and demonstrates where this is likely to lead.)
Although important higher education/parnassa initiatives have been embarked upon in the Charedi world, the fact that much of the educational system avoids any parnassa training until the point of sha’s ha-dechak or close to it has created some serious problems – which inevitably impact the religiosity of a portion of those caught up in the problems. (Not to mention that this strategy is bound to force people to rely on public assistance and perhaps cut the corners of honesty due to major financial pressures.) The image of new arrivals from Eastern Europe at these shores a century ago abandoning their Torah lifestyle, due to a belief that being frum meant unemployment and poverty, arises in one’s mind as tens or hundreds of thousands of young men receive not even minimal parnassa training until extremely late into the game, if at all. Not to mention lack of instruction in decent and professional communication skills.
Baruch Hashem that the Orthodox community is growing. Hashem’s pledge to perpetuate the generations of those who follow His Torah is being fulfilled before our eyes. Let us do our best to address hashkafic and educational matters in a manner that is conducive to continued sustainability, growth, and adherence to the Torah’s vision and goals.
“When institutions insist on hiring and seeking guidance only from those of their own immediate orbit, intellectual cross-fertilization and peer review/checks and balances are sorely compromised. Veering off course, decreased quality and departure from established norms are more prone to result, and one can observe this happening in Modern Orthodoxy – sometimes on an alarming scale.”
I am a committed member of the so-called charedi tzibur but even I see the double standard inherent in this paragraph. What “Yeshivish” or “Chassidish” institution hires or seeks guidance from anyone outside their immediate orbit? Intellectual cross-fertilization? Give me a break! Similar to the MO, we think our way is best and no one can tell us otherwise. Personally, I think it’s to our detriment.
i have a copy of the real announcement of three chareidi RY invited to speak in Teaneck. One was really impressive, telling us the world is 5777 years old. there was also a fake announcement of RAL ztl and yi’badeal le’chaim RHS and a third RY invited to Lakewood.
as Moshe points out, no one could be a rebbie in a haredi school if his semicha was from an MO [ ie RIETS or a DL yeshiva ]. for modern institutions to limit their hiring, the haredi ribitzia would clamor , because their presence in an MO institution is an opportunity to do kiruv away from an OTD derech , from their perspective….
I have many friends from RIETS who are employed at yeshivish schools, shuls and organizations.
But that wasn’t my point. It was that yeshivos in the Charedi world hire graduates from dozens of various Charedi yeshivos, which creates an intellectual cross-fertilization. When MO institutions fail to likewise hire from a variety of many different yeshivos, the learning will suffer and the parameters will greatly contract.
It is not the institution the person received smicha from which is the issue, it is the hashkafa of the musmach/Mechanech. It is known that MO institutions have hired Chareidi musmachim,I am unaware of Chareidi institutions hiring MO musmachim. Certainly there are many RIETS musmachim who are not MO.
The Talmud tells us that parents bring a child into Olam Hazeh and a rebbe of a talmid prepares a child for Olam HaBah. Hashkafa really is the icing on the cake unless the rebbe is inappropriate via his own personal behavior or because he cannot transmit the content of Malchiyos Zicronos and Shofaros to the talmid-Hashkafa beyond those non-negotiable boundaries is really the icing on the cake, especially in the elementary grades.
When MO champions careers in chinuch as much as any other career, it will then not have to rely on Charedi musmachim and mchanchim. As long that POV is present, which shows no signs of abating, you will see Charedi musmachim/mchanchim in MO schools.
As often observed, first they attacked the OO, next they went after the MO. Fear not, your statistics about modernity in Israel are not well-founded. Tzohar and Beit Hillel and Maale Gilboa and Har Etzion and the most creative BM in Jerusalem where the current President of YU / Riets was a student, Pardes, etc. etc. will create a future where we will continue to grow. Our Torah will sustain us and humanity in general. Ki me’tzion taytze Torah u’dvar haShem mi’yerushalayim.
regardless of whether bible criticism and talmud criticism as studied in a number of the above mentioned institutions even qualifies as “torah” , the fact is that observance among the alumni of these institutions is not that high, and it is even worse among their children. in many areas of israel the OTD rate among the “left” wing of the dati leumi community is around 50%. that is the concern that the author of this piece was referring to. you should not think of it as ” next they went after the MO”, rather in the spirit in which it was intended, to point out areas where we (not others that are on the outside) need to improve.
your competence is showing; it is called academic talmud not talmud criticism. anyone who cannot recognize the layers in the talmud, is ill equipped to study talmud. most talmidei chachamim, even rather frum ones, can recognize layers.
changes in talmudic methodology often reflect outside developments. those who do not understand where Brisk and the methodology of RSS ztl originated are in la la land. modern methodologies are likewise rooted in advances in secular disciplines. Kach hi darka shel torah. it occurred numerous times throughout our history.
your 50% otd statistic is shall we say questionable.
in terms of where we have to improve, i could think of advice for all communities. but self-criticism is what is most useful. it may be more fun for me to point out the sins of charedi communities, but i doubt they care what i say, nor should they.
Based upon your comment, would you assert that RCS’s initial well known talmidim knew less than someone today who describes himself as committed to Academic Talmud?
i have not the slightest clue what you are talking about or asking. who is RCS? Reb Chaim of Brisk? his best two talmidim are clearly not the ones most know about. what i said that implied i was judging greatness, escapes me.
but if you need to know my opinion, the greatest talmudist of the 20th century was a hybrid, at home in both the derech of his wife’s grandfather as well as the methods then current in the academy.
I think that you are not so artfully attempting to avoid the implications of your prior post . My reference point was that of R Chaim Brisker and I think that my question deserved a response and identification by you as to who you think were his greatest talmidim.
i still cannot fathom where i implied i know the identity of rav chaim’s greatest talmidim, but i would include the R. S Polachek, R. BB lebowitz, R YL Forer. how academic scholars compare to traditional talmudists is like comparing heart surgeons to brain surgeons. both are valued; you go to one or the other based on your need. most Traditional Jews, need a RY much, much more often than an academic scholar.
My question stands-who has a greater connection to Sinai-the talmidim muvhakim of RCS that you mentioned or an academic Talmudist?
clearly RCS’s talmidim have a closer connection to Sinai, for whatever reason that is critical. who has a closer connection to halakha, again RCS’s students. but who has a closer connection to understanding the talmudic texts as originally intended? i think that is also very clear.
Israel is very interesting. One finds in Israel entirely different hashkafot depending on geography. SouthbJerusalem is very strong MO, Geulah, MeahbSheaarim on will not find too many MO.
When I go to shul, it is Orthodox Jewish shuls that I invariably attend, because that is the only form of Judaism that I regard as being the authentic expression of Torah-true Judaism. Having said that, however, I am not all that sure that I would want non-Orthodox forms of Judaism to completely disappear, as I think that they perform some valuable functions. I will try to explain what I mean by this.
In my perception, at least, the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is extremely demanding, requiring an almost supernatural degree of self-discipline and self-control. Frankly, unless one is born into it, I find it incredible that anybody can manage to live such a lifestyle, and yet people do. However, it may be no accident that less than 10% of Jews live such a life. Certainly, part of the reason for that is assimilation, but I also think it has to do with the lifestyle itself being a bit too challenging for most of us ordinary mortals. And yet to put all non-Orthodox Jews into one category as if they are all the same, or worse, even worthless, is both factually wrong, and serves no constructive purpose. Instead of seeing all Jews as being either Orthodox or non-Orthodox, I think a far more useful approach, would be to see all Jews as belonging on a continuum, from least to most observant, and then let G-d decide which of us are the truly holy ones among us.
There may be, for example, some Jews who may not be formally religious, yet their moral character is one to be admired. And here is where the phenomenon of the Secular Leftist Jew can fit positively into all this. As a political conservative myself, I usually have disdain for secular Leftist Jews, and yet even I acknowledge that their hearts are often in the right place. It is no accident that Jews are at the forefront of almost all humanitarian causes out there, even when the particular cause they are espousing may make us raise an eyebrow. And while I am no expert in modern secular classical Jewish fiction, I have heard it said that such literature is marked by a disproportionate obsession with moral behavior. Or perhaps I can cite a couple of examples of the kind of Jew I am talking about. Think, for example, of Albert Einstein, whose view of G-d was ironically smaller than that of Orthodox Jews (Einstein’s G-d was the G-d of Spinoza), and yet I think it is safe to say that he has long been a source of tremendous pride for every one of us Jews. Another example that comes to my mind is Viktor Frankl, whose bone-chilling writings are so infused with deep Jewish values, that I was shocked to learn only relatively recently that he was not formally religious. And yet who can deny what a truly great Jew that man was? I have admired that man from the moment I learned about him back when I was just in high school. For those of you who have lived on a remote island so that you may have not heard of it before, I cannot recommend his landmark book, Man’s Search for Meaning, strongly enough.
Maybe what I am trying to say here is that while adhering to the Code of Jewish law may be the ideal way of expressing one’s Jewishness, that perhaps many Jews have found other ways to actualize their potential as Jews, and thus Orthodox Judaism may not be big enough to encompass us all. And for that, we either need to leave space for non-Orthodox Judaism, or better yet, vastly increase our financial support for Chabad.
” Viktor Frankl, whose bone-chilling writings are so infused with deep Jewish values, that I was shocked to learn only relatively recently that he was not formally religious”
and yet Viktor Frankl’s second wife was not jewish and he left no jewish progeny behind when he died. so what good was all his “jewish values” if he couldn’t perpetuate it?
more to the point, your entire thesis is mistaken. the most fundamental underpinning of judaism (really any religion) is a sense of obligation towards the divine. lacking that sense, “moral” feelings of one sort or another may make for a good neighbor, they may even be admirable, but they are not religious.
Leaving behind Jewish progeny is not the test of Jewishness. There have been gedolim wo progeny.
to the best of my knowledge there have not been gedolim who failed to leave behind jewish progeny because their wife was not jewish, that was my point. i’m sure that you realized that.
No I did not realize that. Description of progeny or lack of such is inappropriate . It is fair to state that no gadol had a non Jewish life. Something in a persons control one can comment on. Much of life and certainly future generations one does not control. One can try ones best. State what you believe people should do. But don’t blame people for results.
How Gdolim arise is completely unrelated to the positive obligation of a male parent to transmit the heritage of Torah Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim to his own children, regardless of gender..
The duty of a school is also to transmit those ideals to all children. It is not to only be concerned with the one in a thousand.
The talmidim of any rebbe or Gadol are considered as his children because the rebbe poured his heart mind and soulinto creating a Ben Torah who developed into a talmid chachm
Such Gdolim leave behind their talmidim.
Homily tics, the widow would still require chalitza
I suspect there is much baggage left in the expression “Modern Orthodox” from the days when many of that self-identity attended Orthodox shuls but outside, they ate dairy at trief restaurants, let the children TV on shabbos, men ignored kol isah, and women did not commonly keep kisui rosh. I have myself sensed a growing left-leaning “Modern Orthodox” zeitgeist in which normative halachot, mitzvot, and minhagim (mikveh, kippot, washing before bread, bishul akum) is optional or ignored outside of shul. Even in shul, some rabbis are cheek-kissing and hugging unrelated women. The current generation of adults might not take on more, but the concern is for their children who get inconsistent messages about what orthodox practice is.
among the women who did not “keep kisui rosh” were almost half of frum pre-war Lita and the wife of the RY of a famous yeshivah (not RIETS). hopefully ignoring aspects of what you call “kol isah” will continue among those who observe halakha not misogynist frumkeit.
i grew up in a MO home. i would review almost a complete book of Nach every shabbos night/afternoon; not enough time left for TV.
Characterizing halachos such as Kol Isha ( and presumably Negiah , which is at least a Machlokes Rishonim as to its being an Issur Min HaTorah and many aspects of Hilcos Nidah as well?) andmany halachos and minhaging that have gender based differences as “misogynist frumkeit” reveals how you view such halachos-the feminist POV dictates your perspective. What was practice pre war for half of pre war Lita is of historical relevance today.
You disagree with the Ravs approach, which is certainly legitimate. The Rav respected prior authorities. Thus, the reason why he would not assur married women going out without their being covered is that Gdolei Lita permitted it. Respect for precedent is what drives us. It is not merely of historical relevance today. If we started with a blank slate many practices that we both disapprove of would be OK.
You want to not follow such heter, perfectly admire able. But what was practice and accepted by our ancestors and their Halachik authorities is crucial.
AFAIK, RYBS certainly did not encourage married women to do so lchatchilah and viewed such as a bdieved position at best. The notion that we fulfill or should fulfil mitzvos today in the same manner as in the shtetl or even in an immigrant American community where many practices were permitted because of dire poverty and lack of knowlege can and should be easily challenged on many grounds, especially that of a far more educated Orthodox community that knows the difference between a hidur, lchatachilah, bdieved and shas hadchak.
RYBS never described any of the halachos that I mentioned as “misogynist frumkeit.”
When you say prior authorities-do you mean the Aruch HaShulchan? Please state specifically who was such an authority with such a POV other than the AS.
steve brizel, it might serve you well to read more charitably, especially before requesting the same from God. determine what aspects of what is colloquially called kol isha do not fall under the halakha of kol isha. then decide if women, who were also created in the image of God, deserve to be subject to misogynist frumkeit. if you cannot find examples of such, try harder.
if you do not know why practice in a traditional community is important, ask one of your rabbeim for instruction. yes it may be halakhically questionable, but its existence remains significant.
Asserting that Lo Sikrav Lgalos ervah is a Machlokes Rishonim between Rambam and Ramban as to whether the same is Min HaTorah or not has nothing to do with the Halacha of Kol SheIsha Ervah. When you use the term “misogynist frumkeit” you are indicating the influence of feminism on your POV.
The Baalei Tosfos have a very important comment as to what the letters that spell Minhag spell when they are inverted. “Practice in a traditional community” or Minhag in certain areas of Halacha may trump Halacha in some areas of halacha such as CM but never displace it in others.
How do you view the mimetic tradition and its relevance to a BT or Ger Tzedek who lacks auch a tradition?why shouldnt a BT Or Ger tzrdek follow the teachings of a reebe or rav who they have learned the most Torah from?
i would worry that you may be hallucinating. i said NOTHING about a machloket rishonim. my use of misogynist frumkeit is the result of the very positive influences of feminism. only a misogynist would deny there were none.
our mimetic traditions are relevant to all jews, FFB, BT, ger, giyoret, etc. maasei avot and mimetic traditions are NOT meant biologically.
How many of your contemporaries did so? How many MO parents today spend some time with their sons in some sort of a Avos UBanim type program on Shabbos nights/afternoons? How many spend time with their daughters in any study of any source ?
Obviously the Rav did not spend his time encouraging women to not wear head covering, he did not spend his time encouraging people to attend NY Yankee games. He didn’t care about either- .
On what basis do you say he viewed it as a bidieved position at best. He had respect for pre dent and what Klal Israel did is not bidieved. I point out not only did the Ravs wife not keep her hair covered, but one of his sisters and one of his daughters. In fact they represent the houses where the Rav spent Shabbosim in Boston, first obviously his wife’s and his house, then in the beginning after his wife passed away at his sisters house, his sister lived much further rom Maimonides than his daughter and then later switched to his daughters house,
What is objectionable not in Steve because I am sure he is repeating .what someone must have told him, is what it says about the relationship between the Rav and his family. The people I am referring to were loyal to the Rav and followed him to pretend that those who he clearly got along with well would not do what he wanted is plain wrong and the type of falsehoods on everyone except one of the people mentioned is in Olam haemet.
I am waiting for a distinction, maybe you’ll claim that all the people mentioned were born in Europe, so America would have different rules. Ludicrous, but. Am waiting for that in revisionists statements about the Rav.
No-RYBS-told anyone who considered him a Talmid not to ask him about this halacha based on what his own family did . RHS said so in a hesped years ago .
Look at the often misquoted and misunderstood words of the Aruch HaShulchan. They read like a justification of a bdieved like practice.
What you call precedent has nothing at all to do with lchatchilah and bdeieved but rather in justifying or rationalizing what is the common practice even if it cannot t be halachically justified.
It is one thing not to look at Halacha from what the Rav or his family did when it came to minhagim. Thus the Rav told someone who came from a family that did not put on tfillin at all that he should put on tfillin chol hamoed. When the student asked Rebbe but you don’t he answered what does that have to do with you what I do. Thus, I maintain it is interesting for example what the Rav davened in Yomim noraim but would be totally irrelevant to the extent that he was just following family minhagim.
How do you know “RYBS told anyone who considered him a Talmid” He might have told that to one talmid, doesn’t mean all talmidim
RYBS himself commented in one of the shiuri transcribed in Noraos HaRav that Yidden in Europe ( Germany, Poland and lithuania) each had a sense of of the Kedushas HaYom of YK, whereas American Jews in Boston utterly lacked the same and sold seats after Kol Nidrei .
The Ravs wife, sister and daughter, did not cover their hair because of dire poverty or lack of knowledge. They were all very knowledgeable.
What basis do you have for your statements. Certainly, a statement by one talmid at a hesped is not dispositive. I doubt most people would say the Rav was not a baki in Shabbos. I heard that in a shloshim drasha for the Rav
RE Yom Kippur. Rabbi Dr Hayym Soloveitchik both in his article in the Fundamentalism volume from about 1992 and a very similar article in Tradition refers to his Yom Kippur in Bnei Brak Yeshiva compared to non religious in general schul growing up in Boston. He states the Bnei Brak Yeshiva student knew all the words , observ ed mitzvot but did not have a fear of Yom Kippur and facing God. The Boston non religious person acted as if his life was at stake being judged mi lec hayyim mi lemavet. He did not find that feeling in Bnei Brak Yeshiva
“why shouldnt a BT Or Ger tzrdek follow the teachings of a reebe or rav who they have learned the most Torah from”
I was repeating what the Rav told someone who was a talmid of him. Obviously, he felt that one should accept the general minhag, in this case Ashkenazic in Metro NY, rather than the Ravs family minhag of following GRA on tfillin chol hamoed.
FWIW, I received the same Psak as well.
How many of your contemporaries had such hasmada?
It is Erev Slichos and teo keybelements of teshuva are regret over our past mistakes and rsolutions for the future combined with looking overselves over and thinking about room for improvement. Yes tbere is much we can rejoice about in pur communities MO and Charedi but we have issues that can and must be addressed imas we look forward. The bottom line IMO is that while there are major hashkafic areas of disagreement beteeen MO and the Charedi worlds i for one remain convinced and will always remain convinced that there is much that each can and should learn from each other .
Modern Orthodox is too big an umbrella…it covers Shabbat/kashrut only types plus serious non black hat YU Kollel couples…
Modern orthodoxy is not modern at all – it has been around for many centuries in different forms. The Rambam and the rationalists of mediaeval ages were “modern”, they studied philosophy and sciences, engaged in high level professions and scientific pursuits. Rambam wrote on astronomy, medicine, logic etc.
Aldo his halacha was philosophically informed. I believe the author of this post is mistaken in his claim that MO was not a distinct denomination. Rambam made halachic and theological claims , e.g. the 13 principles of faith which classified other Orthodox denominations as heretical. Likewise, his mystical opponents considered him a heretic for holding that G-d has no body or physical form. See Nachmanides letter to the French Rabbis which points out this bitter denominational feud.
Agreed, the Rambams mystical opponents might treat him as a heretic, and the reverse is likely true the Rambam would have. Believed much of mystical Judaism is heretical.
True but largely irrellevant based on influence of Ari , Kabalah ,Zohar and Chasidus all of which can be traced to expulsion from Spain where views of rationalists such as Rambam could not provide answers to the changed facts on the ground.
Here again for homiletical purposes you distort reality. A Rebbe should pour his hear and mind into teaching Torah to his talmidim whether or not the Ben Torah developed would develop into a talmid chacham. I am not aware of any view that states a Rebbe RL would do kriyah if a talmid passes away. The reverse I am aware of.
You miss my point. The rebbe pours his heart mind and soul into every talmid.a Talmidd RL tears kriyah for a rebbe because the rebbe is the spiritual parent of the talmid.
There were different time periods where the mystical approach was dominant, other times when the Ratinalist approach dominated. Many times there wee advocates on both sides.
Rabbi Yehudah Halevi was before the Rambam. Saadiahs Gaon before Yehudah Halvi, Saadiahs wrote a Pirchei on Sefer Yirzira, written before Sadia. Please explain to me how the answers of the Zohar from before the Expulsion, Ari after expulsion, Chassids 250 years after Expulsion provided answer s to facts on the ground. Who determines answers to issues. I hook you don’t think it is numbers of Jes following a viewpoint.
Look at when the Ari and Luranic Kabbalah developed=as a hashkfaic response to the expulsion from Spain which was where the rationalist approach of Rambam and RSG flourished but failed to provide an answer to why such a culture could not protect the average Spanish Jew from the Inquisition. R Yehudah HaLevi was a great Ohev EY. What you don’t seem to understand was that the expulsion from Spain was a major religious earthquake which caused many Spanish Jews to become Marranos or worse and repudiated the rationalistic views of Rambam etc. The Ari in his ideas rooted in Sheviras HaKelim and Tzimtzum as well as Chasidus offered an attractive alternative to the rationalist and elistist appearing views posited by Rambam. Denying the positive effect of the Ari and Chasidus on Halacha and Minhagim is revisionism writ large.
“RSG flourished but failed to provide an answer to why such a culture could not protect the average Spanish Jew from the Inquisition. ”
Read The Origins of the Inquisition by Ben Zion Netanyahu. BTW his biography of the Abarbanel from about 65 years ago is worth reading. It is complex.
I simply don’t understand what expulsion of Jews from Spain has to do with the Rambam 300 years earlier or the Zohar which became known 200 years earlier.
“Denying the positive effect of the Ari and Chasidus on Halacha and Minhagim is revisionism writ large.”
I don’t believe CC is the place for historical analysis of Orthodox religious movements. One can argue why movements developed, why certain ones are accepted and others not. Why one movement can be accepted despite rejection of Talmudic law and others not accepted despite only challenging minhagim. Attacking viewpoints which I haven’t even discussed is interesting.
It is a huge mistake to view Classical Judaism.as exclusively rational or mystical in nature or to claim that numbers or any partivular hashkafa within the Mesorah represents or defines classical Judaism.
please keep your day job; leave intellectual history to professionals. had you not included kabbalah/zohar, then at least items would be in historical order; Ramban and Rabbeinu Yonah to quote some spanish rishonim from 200+ years earlier identified with a variety of kabbalistic notions. and rambam’s rationalism was already challenged when spanish jewry was enjoying great prosperity. more fundamentally, chassidut arose for a host other reasons. i wonder what you are reading?
Look at the historical facts on the ground. Maimonedean rationalism had no answer to the cataclysmic events known as the expulsion from Spain and offfered rationalist apologetics . Lurianic Kabbalah which is one of the bases of Chasidus offered such an explanation. Denial of the impact of the Zohar in many aspects of Psak Halacha on is revisionism.
not so at all. anyone familiar with Rambam’s position on why bad things happen to even good people, can give you his answer.
again, you fail to understand that the world, as opposed to some folk’s garb, is not black and white. Ramban’s peruish on chumash reflect various influences, mystical being only one and probably not the most prominent.
Look.at it this way. Ramban in his commentary on Chumash clearly disagrred withe Rambams views on karbanos being solemy given to wean Klal Yisrael from AZ from.numerous sources throughout Chumash. That was hardly a mystical approach
“Denial of the impact of the Zohar in many aspects of Psak Halacha on is revisionism”
Sperber has written on the impact of Zohar on practice. An obvious practice, is Leviim washing hands of Cohanim before duchaning.
Of course, note not universally followed see eg the Rav as a Levi did not.
a very detailed history on the halakhic impacts of kabbalah occupies a few long chapters in the late Jacob Katz’s “divine law in human hands.” in his meticulous way, he traces the early history from its beginning to the start of the modern era. i often wonder how he and the Rav ztl interacted personally and intellectually, given that the Rav’s son became his talmid muvhak. there are a few common intellectual threads that i have noticed, but i wonder whether they are real or just my private hallucination.
How rich does one or one’s family have to be to live up to typical Orthodox community expectations? If that’s generally impractical, somebody needs to tone down the nonessential expectations while making the essential ones more affordable.
There is certainly an argument that much of OTD by teenagers who know by HS they will not be entering the glamor professions generally neede to afford an Orthodox life in North America. They know it and is much easer psychologically to leave something voluntarily rather than wait to be told in no uncertain terms you’re not welcome.
Perhaps both the MO and Charedi worlds need to reevaluate what is necessary financially and vocationally.
Agreed-they BOTH must be open wo regard to financial ability.
I guess that you believe that chesed means a free lunch in all aspects of Jewish life?
If no free lunch, you have made Judaism have an income test. O ne can dispute how much contribution should be expected, but yes for some there must be a free lunch. Free lunch should not be limited to mechanchim, certainly anyone earning the same or less should b e entitled to same free lunch
FWIW there was a fascinating article in last week’s WSJ about the superiority of Chinese schools to American schools. Worth looking at with respect to what Chinese children are expected to master ( Mandarin alphabet) and respect for teachers-very similar to what yeshivos try to inculcate as well.
Chinese educatin tends to be repeat memorization wo thinking. I hope Yeshvas are not trying to inculcate Chines value, they air among leas charitable in the world. Among most charitable, US, Australia, U.K. . I do not see them worth emulating.
Respect for elders and teachers would seem to be common values. There is nothing negative in being a Baki or someone who knows vast amounts of Torah literally Baal Peh.
Having a basic working knowledge of Alef Beis and Hebrew numbers and many words in Tanach and Mishnaic Hebrew begins with a child learning and repeating the same until it is second nature. That is calledKriah fo rwhich there are excellent tools available.
There is nothing wrong with knowing things by heart.f course vI am reminded of the famous quip by RAL that dibarnu dofi refers to one who quotes dapim all the time. Note not quoting Torah. Since Dapim were made by original Christian printers there is no intrinsic kedusha to the Daf . What is in the daf has kedusha not the layout.
I would not trade a society that together with India is the least charitable in the world for ours either American or Jewish even if they do store lots of data in their heads.
Knowing the ins and outs of any Sugya, regardless of where and how it is paginated, as well as the views of Rishonim Acharonim and Poskim should never be confused with or labeled Dibarnu Dfi. That is what is called being a Talmid Chacham.
“Knowing the ins and outs of any Sugya, regardless of where and how it is paginated”
Agreed, thus no reason to add extra unnecessary words in a shiur by adding daf. Certainly, wasteful in a Shabbos shiur where excuse for showing off knowledge of page that listeners can write down daf and look up source themselves does not exist.
Giving a Mareh Makom either in print or Baal Peh is an invitation to any audience to look further into the issue.
Certainly not on Shabbos where one cant write down mareh mekomos. In print I have no objection to mareh makomot. Worthwhile for your reason.
Dr Bill and Mycroft-Let me paraphrase what one yeshiva educated correspondent observed in an email-today’s yeshiva educated Baalei Batim are far more learned than their ancestors who lived in the shtetls of Eastern . Today’s yeshiva educated Jew knows the difference between a Rishon and an Acharon and who are considered the unique giants of every generation and can hold their own in a shiur. Perhaps, the gap has narrowed between rav RY and Baalei Batim. The time has to remove fantasy and nostalgia and realize that we have produced the most learned generation in our history as a people. I would add that using fantasy, fan fiction and nostalgia as the basis for spiritual mediocrity simply cannot be justified when we live in a world where we demand expertise as opposed to nostalgia or fantasy. We live in a world where unless you are totally dependent on Tonchei Shabbos or the like, you can live a lchatchilah life, as opposed to viewing a bdieved or beinoni as a desired standard as the CI noted in his letters. That is why we all buy Arbah Minim and rely on bigger shiurim-we have more knowledge as to what is right and we have moved out of the ghetto and immigrant neighborhoods into communities that contain the superstructure of Torah observant life- more than one shul, and yeshiva, mikvaos, eruvin and shopping. Yearning for the days of the equivalent of mixed dancing or swimming eating fish out and or Kraft cheese in the house, rarely opening a sefer other than a Siddur or Chumash or claiming that Kisui Rosh is a Hungarian chumra should have never been viewed as the definition of MO.
i steadfastly rely on smaller shiurim as is now well established; the assumptions about changing dimensions of eggs would also make humans almost look like knuckle dragging apes. we have human/animal/pit remains from talmudic times and the coins that Rambam referred to in MT. not unlike the shittah of RT, science can upend halakhic theories that were never our mimetic tradition before 70 years ago. even a “reform jew” 🙂 like the CS applied chadash asur min hatorah to an attempt to pasel very small etrogim.
“Yearning for the days of the equivalent of mixed dancing or swimming eating fish out and or Kraft cheese in the house, rarely opening a sefer other than a Siddur or Chumash or claiming that Kisui Rosh is a Hungarian chumra should have never been viewed as the definition of MO”
When did I ever advocate those things. FYI SRH made R Hildesheimer take off his hat when visiting him. Accusing MO of rarely opening a sefer is ludicrous.
MO must follow halacha. Like all Jews they should have aRabbi to follow and ask sheilas to.
I stand by the contents of my post which are based on the facts on the grounnd-not wonderful expositions in theory as to the aims and goals of MO.
I wasnt aware of the rigorous studies showing what you state. ZPlease give me mareh makom, website.
“Perhaps, the gap has narrowed between rav RY and Baalei Batim. The time has to remove fantasy and nostalgia and realize that we have produced the most learned generation in our history as a people.”
Even if arguendo true, can’t forget the Ravs comment about “rak ein yirat elokim bamakom hazeh”
Yiras Elkim is sadly a missing element in many communities both MO and Charedi.
“We live in a world where unless you are totally dependent on Tonchei Shabbos or the like, you can live a lchatchilah life, as opposed to viewing a bdieved or beinoni as a desired standard as the CI noted in his letters. That is why we all buy Arbah Minim and rely on bigger shiurim-we have more knowledge as to what is right and we have moved out of the ghetto and immigrant neighborhoods into communities that contain the superstructure of Torah observant life- more than one shul, and yeshiva, mikvaos, eruvin and shopping. ”
Maybe it is precisely what you praise that is the cause of much of our losses. We lose more than we gain. High fertility has masked much of our losses. See what incomes Americans earn and explain how the vast majority fit into the demographic that you are describing.
The recent Pew Study shows defections from the Torah observant world primarily from those who lack a strong yeshiva based education.
The Talmud in BK states that everyone, assuming that he is not destitute, must spend in addition to any sum necessary to avoid transgressing a negative commandment, at least a certain amount of money to fulfill a positive commandment, aside from that which could be considered Hiddur Mitzvah. I don’t remember the percentages or the maskanas haGemara there but IIRCC the discussion centers on 1/5 or 1/3 of one’s income. I read the articles that were linked with respect to the cost of Orthodoxy today,, and I am sure that anyone could have written an article about he or she survived the recent economic downfalls and the like and , kept his or her children in yeshivos and walked them to their chupahs and enjoyed nachas from grandchildren as well. I think that the author in question was overly dismissive of Mesiras Nefesh which has its origins in the Akedah,
Dr BIll- thank you for your response re BTS Gerim and the Mimetic tradition and your more telling comment on the positive influences of feminism. you wrote:
” i said NOTHING about a machloket rishonim. my use of misogynist frumkeit is the result of the very positive influences of feminism. only a misogynist would deny there were none.
our mimetic traditions are relevant to all jews, FFB, BT, ger, giyoret, etc. maasei avot and mimetic traditions are NOT meant biologicallyour mimetic traditions are relevant to all jews, FFB, BT, ger, giyoret, etc. maasei avot and mimetic traditions are NOT meant biologically.
It is tragic that you see feminism as having any positive value, and claim that the mimetic tradition can be asssumed to be relevant without a rebbe serving as a guide to the same as to wha is proper or improper. WADR, lchatchilah , bdieved, hidur mitzvah and shas hadchak are terms that are very relevant in determining what is proper and improper for any qualifed Posek for his community.
the posek i remember speaks of avicha and zekainechah.
Dr Bill-would you consider it horrible misogynist frumkeit or an adjective of your own choice if a single Kohen and a single Jewish woman had a non marital relationship that resulted either in a marriage or a child born out of wedlock?
let your fertile imagination answer on my behalf; my answering does not seem to have any impact.
You want to content yourself with how MO is supposed to be -thats your prerogative. Thats what happens when hou live in a self created ivory tower and ignore the facts on the ground.
Mycroft take a look at Devarim 6:5 and how Rashi and Ramban understand Meodecha.
Thanks, I reread Rashi and Ramban. Of course, one must obey Gods word not only with ones life but with Bes money. Of course, read Rambam about getting paid for teaching Torah. It is the salaries of mechanchim which for better or worse are not peanuts which leads to the financial difficulties of non wealthy staying Orthodox. It is day school tuition which is the main cost of being Orthodox. Food avoid meat not that expensive. Buying machine shmua for mitzvah
Rest of expenses pale compared to day schools. There is n Assad which requires more than a chomesh . Educating a child in day schools for many would be more than a chomesh I am not even conceding the Halachik requirement to have a child in day schil. It is the Cadillac for those who can afford and for children who will benefit frm it. But that leaves out a lot.
Please reread Rashi and Ramban that I referred you to. I didagree with your characterization of the same as not rooted in the simple pshat of their words but rather an attempt to minimize the same and importance in how we should approach such issues.
It is worthwhile rereading any Rashi and Ramban -will do that.
Chomesh is what you are obligated as a maximum meikar hadin for any mitzvos aseh. OTOH hidurim and chumros many of which wete not invented in recent years and which show Ahavas HAShem because you want to go beyond meikar hafin can be undertaken without breaking your budget. No one ever filed for bankruptcy because they bought their own Arbah minim or hand shmurah matzah
Certainly one should not pay for hid durin if it will result in taking charity, see eg tuition scholarships. The attitude expressed that everyone can afford hiddurim is faulty. I remember staying in Yeshiva for first days Succot, a couple of Arabia minim were passed around during naanunim, did. And passed to neighbor, similarly when I went to minyan in grad school, a couple Arab minim sufficed for minyan.
I of course, refuse to say that hand shmua is preferable to machine shmua.i am following what I learned at YU.
I dont think that tuition is beyond the means of anyone who lives in a suburban community who enjoys a typical Amercan life with a house at least one car and a yearly vacation. What we pay any rebbe or morah is what we call scar limud nut as R Besdin ZL srressed we have realized that paying a rebbe peanuts produces monkeys.
while i disagree with your first sentence, something that widespread scholarships demonstrate, your last sentence is demonstrably true given the proliferation of the specie in numerous enclaves where jewish education costs are much lower. thank God, the aseret yemai teshuvah allowed you to produce a sentence i agree with wholeheartedly.
FYI-the reason why people commute from suburbs is that homes are less expensive than those in the city.
I agree that a priority before luxuries is tuition. Please, show me how a household grossing $80000 which is above median US household income can afford two children in a day school.
Rebbeim are not earning peanuts. Maybe peanuts compared to those who own a big apartment in the UWS or own a big house in Israel, but not at all peanuts compared to median income. In US there are tax advantages that ministers can take. It is also no secret that Rebbeim are usually given tuition brakes more than they would with the same income.
For starters let the day schools not charge parents who are not mechanchim more than mechanchim with the same income.