I generally do not respond to patronizing comments on my blog. The following comment by Ben Dov (…don’t know if that is his real name or an alias) was flagged for moderation – and I debated deleting it for that reason. However the questions he raises are common ones and deserve answers. Although I have dealt with these questions in the past in one fashion or another, I will deal with them here in a stand alone post. Here is his comment in its entirety:
You are reverting to the role of social critic of haredim. I think this is a waste of your time, for reasons I have pointed out before. You are proud to invoke Rav SZ Auerbach as someone who did not wear blurring glasses. Well, it is also true that Rav Shlomo Zalman did not spend hours picking at the flaws of those outside his own community i.e. dati leumi. People are flawed and one could fill a book- maybe an encyclopedia- of haredi flaws. But you seem proportionately less interested in problems close to you.
Here is a list for starters. Anyone who disagrees with the list could compose a different one:
1. Why do so many MO Jews not even know the words to bracha of Asher Yatzar?
2. Why was the MO siyum hashas a trickle compared to the Agudah siyum?
3. What is the MO alternative to the Asifa- why has MO Rabbinic leadership done so little about internet issues?
4. How many MO parents want their children to be Rabbis and Jewish educators?
5. Why do many MO Jews have only a hazy commitment to Torah practices and doctrines?
6. Why are many MO youth sent to college and/or co-ed dormitories without adequate guidance and supervision?
7. What is a bigger nachas to an MO parent- that their son finished Shas or attained economic/professional prestige?
8. Who are more often the heroes of MO youth- media celebrities or gedolai Torah (of any stripe).
9. While preparing for parnasa is totally respectable, how many MO Jews believe God and bitachon have anything to do with their success as opposed to university admissions offices and other secular factors?
Rabbi Harry, if you share my concerns, why not write about it? If you don’t, what are your concerns about MO? What do MO Rabbanim and principals think are the crucial battles facing their communities?
Are all these issues so uninteresting to you?
Here is my response.
Ben Dov, the problem with people like you is that when flaws are pointed out, instead of trying to deal with them you say the equivalent of, “Oh yeah? Well what about you guys?” “You guys are 10 times worse!”
I don’t “pick” on Charedim because I hate them, God forbid. I “pick” on them because they are the ones making news. A large part of my blog is about commenting on the sociological issues of our time. Like the “Black Hat” phenomenon. That said I do not go around with a microscope looking for issues to blast Charedim with. I simply follow the media reports (both secular and Jewish) that everyone else reads. This was the case with the “Black Hat” post.
When I think there is a problem with something reported in the media, I am going to say something about it. That is equally true when Charedim act badly or make decisions that reflect poorly on Judaism. When that becomes public knowledge via a media report, you better believe I am going to say something about it.
The reason I do that is twofold. One is to make sure that our own people (meaning Jews of all stripes) realize that this is nothing to be proud of or emulate. And the other reason is to make public the fact that there is at least one Orthodox Rabbi who sees such behavior as wrong to one degree or another – sometimes even a Chilul HaShem depending on what the particular issue is.
Now I will turn to your questions.
1) Why do Modern Orthodox (MO) Jews not know the words to Asher Yatzar? How do you know we don’t? Have you tested all of us? How about Charedim? Do all Charedim know the words to Asher Yatzar? That is a ridiculous question. Is that your measure of Judaism? To know the words of Asher Yatzar?
But even if it were true that many MO Jews do not know the words to that prayer by heart, it says nothing about our Hashkafos. That Bracha has equal value to both Charedim and MO and serious MO Jews do know those words.
2) Why did the MO Siyum have only a trickle of Jews compared to the Agudah Siyum? First of all that wasn’t a Modern Orthodox Siyum. It was mainly a Siyum by the Left Wing of MO. And it is a tribute to them that they are Machshiv Torah enough to encourage learning all of Shas Bavli and to have their own Siyum.
You also forget that they promoted the Agudah Siyum in their own ads! And you must have missed the Agudah statement that the vast majority of Daf Yomi learners (80%!) are MO. And the Agudah Siyum had its share of MO in attendance. Not every MO wants to attend more than one Siyum. 5 ½ hours is enough speeches for anyone. Even if many of them were inspiring.
3) MO doesn’t need an Asifa for the internet. We all know what to do. We all realize that there are dangers. This is true of not only MO but of the non-Jewish world as well. But we also realize its value. I’ve written extensively on this subject.
4) How many MO parents want their children to be Rabbis and Mechanchim? How would I know?
If you are asking whether MO parents value their religious educators, of course they do. I am MO and 2 of my 3 daughters are in Chinuch. My son is a Charedi Posek and gives a Chabura in the Mir. All of my sons in law are Klei Kodesh of one sort or another. That MOs value other fields for their children as well is something to praise, not denigrate.
A good parent of any Hashkafa will want his children to use their God given talents. The problem with you guys is that you think there is only one talent that counts… and therefore discourage them from doing anything else but learn full time. So if one child has a talent for science, he is discouraged from pursuing a field related to it and instead pressured to stay in “learning”. I’ve written about this at great length as well.
5) Why do MOs have a hazy commitment to Torah practices? Again you make assumptions. How many MOs do you know? Have you asked them? Have you taken a poll? Is this only your observation? Or is this merely what you have been fed by your Mechanchim?
Yes, there is laxity by those who I call MO-Lite. And there are a lot of them. But that does not define the MO Hashkafa. Both Right and Left Wing Modern Orthodoxy (RWMO and LWMO) are dedicated to full Mitzvah observance and are just as meticulous as Charedim are.
But let me borrow a page from your playbook: How many Charedim are Charedi-Lite. I have certainly seen my share of black hatters doing the same things as MO-Lites. Only they try and hide it more.
6) University education is important to MO Jews. While I support places like YU and generally discourage the “Ivies”, I understand that there are parents that want top universities for their children because of the opportunities they provide. I have written about this in the past.
That said, there are plenty of good kids in these schools who stay committed to the values of the Torah. In some cases these schools have entire groups of Frum students and live in a self made Orthodox culture of Minyanim and Sedarim.
7) What’s the bigger Nachas for a son – Shas or a professional or academic degree? The answer is Chanoch L’Naar Al Pi Darko. See my response to question 4.
8) Who is the greater hero to MOs – Gedolim or celebrities? Depends if you’re talking serious RWMO, LWMO, or “Lites”. I think you can answer the question yourself. Although even “Lites” would recognize that the Rav is a greater “Hero” than Lady Gaga .
9) While preparing for parnasa is totally respectable, how many MO Jews believe God and bitachon have anything to do with their success as opposed to university admissions offices and other secular factors? Same answer.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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