The First Modern Orthodox Jew: Two Models

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26 Responses

  1. Chava Rubin says:

    The hard part is to determine how to behave in a given situation. There are so many questions which will come up for an Orthodox student on a college campus, and who should he or she turn to who can help to answer all the questions and navigate the situation based upon all the factors and details of the given situation on campus. The most important thing is for every college student to have a rav who he can consult to answer his questions and help him stay on the right path.

    • If the student comes from a family that respects their rav, he/she has at least a chance of having enough of a relationship with a rav that might make a difference. If, however, the student comes from an environment in which the rav is just another hired hand, acting primarily as a social worker, then it is unreasonable to think that he/she is going to look for guidance from any rabbinic mentor. I’ll leave it to readers to attach percentages of the MO community to the two possibilities

      • mycroft says:

        If the Rav of a congregation believes that his job is to put the interests of his congregants paramount and not merely treat the job as a source of parnassah in which will enable him to learn wo doing too much for the congregants the Rav will much more likely to cause a difference in his congregants.
        People respect the Rav if he is a man of integrity and does his job and treats people with respect while simultaneously standing up for halachik principle. To quote RYBS a compliment about a Rabbi “he knows when to fight and when NOT to fight”

  2. D K says:

    Rabbi Pruzansky.
    I enjoyed your article and it’s bringing current issues that we as Jews live with into the Chumash. Still, a few parts bothered me and i would appreciate if you would be able to address the issues i had.
    You write about Lot: “Lot could not bear the piety of that home, its insistence on the rigid worship of one God and its constant pursuit of virtuous deeds.” Where is the source for this? The Pesukim only seem to say that he wanted the Gashmius of Sodom and not that he was guilty of the crimes you say of him. I agree with your defining him as a Modern Orthodox Jew but not because of his wanting to distance himself from the Mesorah, but because of his infactuation with money, pleasures, and a too-high focus on the body.
    Another thing that bothered me was the comparing him to an almost off-the-derech teenager who’s parents, ignorant of what goes on in college and university, decide to send their hormone filled son off to study. Lot sees to be anything but. He didn’t become a Hollywood director in Sodom, but a Judge. His daughters stayed virgin even in the depths of Sodom and Lot himself risked his life for Hachnassas Orchim. Hardly a 19 year old party animal which pervades your description.
    Lastly, the statement of Avraham: “There is a second model of Modern Orthodoxy, one that might be better characterized as Orthodoxy plain and simple and the ideal for which we should strive, and that is the life of Avraham.” is just simply confusing. Was Avraham Modern Orthodox or plain Orthodox? The proofs that you bring are also not clear, being that Avraham was a world leader, both in sheer power and fame, and Kiruv.
    Please explain. Thank you.

  3. Raymond says:

    I don’t really see how we Jews can live in non-Jewish society without making some compromises and accommodations to that same society. Nor do I see how it can be possible to not live in non-Jewish society, since our lives may depend on non-Jews, at least those of us who have not inherited a fortune or whose health sometimes necessitates medical care. And even if it were somehow possible to live in total isolation among only our fellow, traditional Jews, I am not sure that we would be fulfilling the Divine role assigned to us to be a Light Unto the Nations. And so all that any of us can do is to live as Jewishly as we can, but to not expect perfection. We must never forget that we live in a broken world.

  4. joel rich says:

    1.Nuance is always harder to communicate
    2.Is a movement defined by the philosophy(and who gets to articulate it- R’ A Lichtenstein or R’ Y Greenberg as an historical example) or by the demographics of those who call themselves by that name (think Conservative Judaism in the 1950’s)?
    3.The give and take in the Jewish Link leading to this piece seems to support the latter theory, at least when considering the pulpit Rabbi’s view
    Joel Rich

    • Steve Brizel says:

      One could argue for the same essay of RAL ZL that was quoted in the essays that RAL ZL was disappointed with the level of Avodas HAShen and committment to Talmud Torah that RAL ZL found in the MO world

    • dr. bill says:

      anytime when discussing human behavior, and binary choices replace a continuum, it is likely that nuance was left at the door. communities of traditional Jews exhibit many forms and some of us even defy categorization
      🙂 .

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Would you tolerate or glorify mediocrity in your line of work ? If not why settle for being an Omed as opposed to being an upwardly striving Ben or Bas Aliyah in Avodas HaShem?

  5. Steven Brizel says:

    R Pruzansky as always raises issues that others in the MO world prefer to ignore rather than face and discuss the facts on the ground

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    The real issue IMO that all of the participants in the discussion have missed is that MO ( as well as the Charedi world at least in the US) should be championing is the serious learner earner as a lchatchilah role model. As a corollary every MO community needs either a community Kollel for which funds can be raised on a communal level or a serious cadre of men who re recognize the importance of Kevias Itim laTorah. One can question whether MO can survive if being an Am HaAretz and a Beinoni in Avodas HaShem after 12 years of yeshiva education is considered a desirable role model

  7. For D K:
    Thank you for writing. It is clear from the psukim that Lot chafed under the pieties of Avraham’s home, made clear by his shepherds’ propensity for theft. So, too, his commitment to hospitality was superficial, as I elaborated. The broader point is that Lot assimilated into Sodomite society without relinquishing some of the rituals of Avraham’s home. Indeed, offering his daughters to the angels’ potential assailants displayed a misguided sense of kindness.
    By contrast, Avraham engaged with the world without losing his moral compass and consciousness of G-d. That is why he is our patriarch.

    • tzippi says:

      Rabbi Pruzansky, I think there’s a lot everyone can take to heart.
      Serious life-long learning, the 5-9 sort, is not just for the yeshivish. As one rebbi in an MO yeshiva told his boys, learning continues after shana bet.
      And similarly, even self-identified yeshivish types “[engage] with the world without losing [their] moral compass and consciousness of G-d.”

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft- superb comment BH we have lived in such a community with wonderful rabbanim of the caliber you described as the ideal

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    I would add that all of the rabbanim that I alluded to certainly not only had what Mycroft mentioned they have also inspired their communities to grow in Torah Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    Take a look at symposiums at Lerhaus and other forums where MO students and mchanchim suggest watering down or deemphasizing the importance of learning or at least acquiring the building blocks of learning Gemara in MO high schools That IMO is no different than what we see in public schools that view learning science math and great literature as the products of dead white males and will ensure that another generation will emerge grossly ignorant in TSBP but with great secular skills

  11. DF says:

    Very interesting. R. David Katz, the historian from Baltimore, gave a lecture last week (on the Parsha) that made essentially the same points as R. Pruzansky, comparing and contrasting Lot and Avraham in more or less the same ways. What contemporary educators or speakers see in the weekly reading is usually the best way to divine the current state of the public. It seems the old question of integration vs isolation is once again on center stage.

    • dr. bill says:

      DF, Last week’s parsha is enhanced by the Rav ztl’s famous explanation of Ger ve’Toshav, which succinctly describes the view of many tannaim, amoraim, rishonim, and achronim.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Not a basis for Am Haartzus or worse masquerading as rooted in Shas Rishonim or Acharonim

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Chazal also had some rather strongly critical views on Amei HAaratzim and their antipathy to Talmudei Chachamim as well.How one relates to the surrounding world today in terms of Ger VToshav in terms of what passes for culture academia and politics may be quite different than in the mid 20th Century

  12. Bob Miller says:

    Many very religious Jews live in enclaves within what we could call today’s Sodoms. Whatever walls we put up offend the ruling class and opinion-makers. This situation looks very unstable and threatening. What should be our plan?

  13. Shades of Gray says:

    “Modern Orthodoxy…is struggling and in some arenas floundering because it has failed that test and lost that balance—either rejecting any good about the world at large and cloistering itself within the proverbial four ells”

    Which part of “Modern Orthodoxy” is being referring to as being too cloistered? Some institutions and organizations to the left of YU, to make the case for their organization’s need, have spoken about YU’s “shift towards the right” and accompanying insularity. However, I haven’t heard anyone from R. Pruzansky’s vantage point saying that some of their own sector in MO was too insular.

    Perhaps the reference is to either the phenomenon of young adults “flipping out” and leaving for a more right-wing community or for the need for Modern Orthodoxy to engage in more kiruv rechokim. It’s interesting that Prof. Adam Ferziger has flipped the usual paradigm of insularity in his 2015 “Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism” :

    “If the evolution in Haredi Orthodoxy reflects a distancing from strict sectarianism, the core Modern Orthodox versions exemplify a retreat of this sector into survivalist mode. While the Haredi yeshivas have redirected their students away from their historic introspection and toward promoting unity among Jews of all orientations, graduates of banner Modern Orthodox institutions have been drafted primarily to buttress their own educational and communal institutions.”

  14. Shades of Gray says:

    It’s also worth mentioning the positive. I was struck by this aspect when listening to a recent Tradition podcast discussing community challenges, where R. Chaim Strauchler says in the middle, “baruch Hashem we have a beautiful Jewish community”(17:00 in podcast).

    The above-referenced podcast is titled “Social Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, and Mimesis”, and is a discussion between Rabbis Daniel Korobkin and Chaim Strauchler about each others contribution in the recent Tradition 25th anniversary symposium of “Rupture and Reconstruction”, about the methods by which faith can be taught , and how they as community rabbis face the challenge of “disillusioned” orthopraxis.

  15. Moshe K says:

    Hi Rabbi I’m a big fan of your work (especially your centurion series on YU Torah). I’m a MO believer myself, located somewhere in the YU fold but I’m bothered by your suggestion that life in Abraham and Lot’s time (between 1600-1800 BCE lminyanam) and our time is exactly the same. Technology has changed, society has changed, the world has now gone global. Is it really appropriate to suggest that history is so cyclical? Perhaps human society is progressing somewhere.

    • Raymond says:

      The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or to put it another way, there is nothing new under the sun. Also, remember that the Torah is the blueprint of creation. All that has happened since its giving over on Mount Sinai, is somehow contained within it.

  16. SteveBrizel says:

    There is a very strong response to R Pruzansky in the Jersey Jewish Links by a student at Princeton which is worth reading for its description of Torah observance at Princeton As R Velvel Zl once commented to Dr Wallach ZL Halevai there should be more like you We have a good friend who worked for many years at an Ivy League school and who noted that the same students who arrived so shtark in their level of observance had lost that level of observance by the time of their graduation . It is wrong for parents and their college age students to not expect their peers to worry about the level of observance of a a student in such an environment after at least 11 years in a yeshiva summer programs and a gap program that is what called Kol Yisrael Arecim Zeh LaZeh

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