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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Daas Torah’

The Price of Enforced Uniformity

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

I found Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein’s somewhat lengthy response to Dr. Yoel Finkelman to be eye opening. It validates my own perception of what it’s like to live in the Charedi world. He does it honestly and openly. The following is what I consider a key part of his response:

The greater harm is not in enforced silence, but in enforced uniformity. The latter has some benefits that should not be dismissed. Too many of us are in the thrall of a belief that individual autonomy is the summa bonum of society. This is simply not part of the vision of Chazal, who did provide for censorship, for enforcement of not only Torah law but communal takanos, and instructed us to find spouses, rabbeim and friends who would be there always to reprimand us when wrong, and apply healthy community pressure to do better than we would otherwise do. Community membership has its benefits.

Nonetheless, the pressure will work for some, and be disastrous for others, especially, as you point out, those with more creativity and individuality. There is a superabundance of one-size-fits-all thinking in our world, and it is terribly harmful.

Indeed there is. It is unfortunately true that there is an enforced uniformity of the masses of Charedim. And that prevents an open expression of honest opinion by their public. Rabbi Adlerstein calls it the price of membership. I call it a mentally unhealthy way to live. Even though he says it needn’t be – the problem is that it all too often is. I think that is changing. More on that later.

Although the concept of Daas Torah is taught a bit differently among various Charedi Yeshivos – as Rabbi Adlerstein points out – the “One size fits all” thinking is the Daas Torah for far too many Charedim. And their Gedolim are by definition the ones most qualified tell us what it is on any and every subject. In this interpretation – to defy Daas Torah is to defy the Torah itself. One must adhere to it or they cannot claim to be a member in good standing of authentic Judaism. To the extent that other streams of Orthodoxy do not see it their way is to the extent that they are outside the pale.

Why do they pay that price?

They feel this way because they are Chareid L’Dvar HaShem. They tremble before the word of God. The truly sincere Charedi genuinely wants to serve God in the best possible way he can in every aspect of his life. He dare not make important decisions in his life based on his own limited Torah knowledge when those greater than himself can make better decisions. To the extent that any Charedi does not seek Daas Torah is to the extent he rebels at the word of God, instead of trembling before it. The deference due our elders adds to their aura.

And yet often their instincts tell them otherwise. And often they will follow those instincts.

A great example of that is the internet. Charedi Gedolim tell them that the internet is so evil that it should be avoided at all cost. Many safeguards are built into their world to eliminate it from their lives. They include bans; expulsion of their children from their schools if they have it in their homes; threats of losing your Chelek in Olam Haba… all in the the pursuit of ridding their world of it. It is a forbidden fruit except when necessary for for livelihood purposes. The common man can have no say in the matter because their own Torah knowledge does not match that of the Gedolim.

So even when these views are honored in the breach by a great many Charedim, they still retain the status of Daas Torah. The fact that so many use the internet in non-approved ways is either rationalized – or considered a weakness. The word of God has been expressed. There is no other way to look at it. Daas Torah has spoken.

But this is the kind of thing that has lead to the quiet skepticism that is settling in their world about the value of their Daas Torah. Too much of it is at odds with their natural instinct and their own experiences. Instinct and experiences that have been influenced not only by what they have learned in the classroom, but influenced by what they have learned outside of it.

When there are so many people who go against the strong admonitions of Daas Torah on something like the internet – there arises a critical mass who realize that the dire consequences of ignoring the warnings – will never happen. Instead they see that it actually enhances their lives. How long they will feel forced to promote the party line publicly while privately ignoring it remains to be seen.The image of Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel apologetically using his smartphone during his address at last year’s convention right after smartphones were condemned by a previous speaker – illustrates this point.

By now a critical mass of Charedim has learned and internalized that the evils –which are real – are not the only thing the internet has to offer.

In the meantime Daas Torah has taken on a life of its own that supersedes even the Charedi Gedolim who are charged with expressing it.

When a Torah personality feels that his own Daas Torah might go against conventional Charedi wisdom he will not express it. Instead he will ask a surrogate to make his views known.

In the end all of this weakens Daas Torah. It can only erode the devotion that Charedim have to their current leaders. It may very well be that the Charedi world will eventually refuse to pay the price of membership. What about their desire to serve God in the best possible way? Who is going to tell them how to do it?

In matters of Halacha I think they will still look to their leadership. But in many other matters I think they will also begin to think for themselves. Especially if it involves one’s children. As Rabbi Adlerstein himself concedes:

I have no easy solution other than to remind parents in particular that their responsibility is to their child, while the responsibility of the principal or manhig at times is to the majority of the public. When the two do not coincide, the parent must do what is best for his or her child, not for the tzibbur.

They will look to them occasionally for meta-Halachic advice too. But only when they ask – much the same way we in the Centrist camp do. When they don’t ask and advice is offered on public policy, they will treat it with respect and factor it in to their decisions. But no longer will it be seen as a “One size fits all” mentality. Again, much the same way we Centrists do. Charedi uniformity will not be as sociologically enforceable as it is now. That is where the quiet undertone of dissent will eventually lead. In fact this is where the moderate Charedi – like Rabbi Adlerstein – already lives. And that’s a good thing.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Tibbi’s Roundup: If You Knew What’s Going On in my Head You’d Blush

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Not related to the image above which is just my treat to you, the same-sex story reminds me of the joke about a guy sitting in the park, starting a light chat with a young woman. After a while, the conversation kind of dies down and the two drift into silence.

So the young woman says to the young man, What are you thinking about?

So he answers, Probably the same thing you’re thinking about…

So she gets up, says, Never seen such a rude person in my life, and walks away in a huff.

You know what I’m talking about!

GOOD NEWS FIRST

Thank you, Aussie Dave, for this lovely copy and paste, part of which I shall now copy and paste.

First, AD brings a You Tube clip, which is a Boycott Israel package, with the accompanying text: “SodaStream promotes itself as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to buying soda. But SodaStream is produced in an illegal settlement on stolen Palestinian land with exploited Palestinian labor. Moreover, Israeli settlement industries regularly dump toxic waste into the land and water of nearby villages.”

Now, enjoy this. If you like, go to Dave’s blog for the BDS clip. It’s fun, I promise.

BDS Fail Of The Day SodaStream International Ltd. surged the most on record in New York after the Israeli maker of soda machines said it will roll out its products at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the U.S. by the end of May.

SodaStream’s first-quarter profit rose to 55 cents per share in the first quarter from 35 cents a year ago, beating the 44-cent median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Aussie Dave, Israellycool

LET’S ROUND UP THE GAY MARRIAGE THING, BECAUSE IT’S THERE

For openers, the Jewish Dems were ecstatic:

Jewish Dems Laud Obama’s Support for Marriage Equality “On behalf of NJDC’s board, staff, and membership, I am pleased that the President has made a decisive statement in support of marriage equality,” said NJDC Chair Marc R. Stanley. “From working to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to ending the Federal Government’s defense of the unjust Defense of Marriage Act, this President has demonstrated an unmatched record of progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans. I am truly proud of President Obama and know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.” NJDC Blog

Agudath Israel not so much:

Agudath Israel Statement on Same-Sex Marriage A political group is entitled to its opinion, no less than a president is to his. But to imply that a religious value like “tikkun olam” – and by association, Judaism – is somehow implicated in a position like the one the president articulated, is outrageous, offensive and wrong.

We hereby state, clearly and without qualification, that the Torah forbids homosexual acts, and sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony. Avi Shafran, Cross-Currents

Who would have thunk, savvy political analysis from a blog named Daas Torah…

Obama’s “Evolving” Gay Marriage Position Officially, Obama’s position on marriage equality is “evolving”–a stock phrase intended to buy time until a hypothetical second term. By backing gay marriage, Obama would risk alienating a range of potential supporters — including older, rural populists and conservative black Christians — as well as motivating Evangelicals who remain unenthusiastic about Mitt Romney. As it stands, Obama has the support of same-sex marriage advocates even as his fuzziness frustrates them. Planting himself in the muddled middle may be an optimal political tactic. Daas Torah

Harmony among the world’s major religions over stopping gay marriages:

Vatican Rep Wants Alliance with Jews, Muslims, to Combat Gay Marriage European Catholic leaders are reaching out to other spiritual leaders, including those of the Muslim and Jewish faiths, to possibly form an alliance against the proliferation of marriage equality.

In an address to U.K. Catholic bishops, Archbishop Antonio Mennini echoed the words of Pope Benedict, urging the church to take a leadership position in fighting against marriage rights for same-sex couples, the Telegraph reports. His address comes shortly after several clerics of multiple faiths have spoken out against U.K. Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, who kicked off an investigation on marriage equality. Malkah Fleisher, The Jewish Press

Dov Bear using Mad Men metaphor to describe his feelings about gay marriages:

An Inner Harmony Like No Other

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

Although I am only 40 years old, I feel as if I have discovered the ultimate emotional healing remedy. More than a great relationship, soothing music, superb entertainment or any otherworldly pleasure, I have come to the realization, after having tried so many ways to cope with melancholy and hopelessness, that our holy eternal Torah is the key to the comprehensive development of one’s psyche. This is especially so when dealing with a wounded soul. Despite being taught in yeshivos and in our girls’ high schools “Toras Hashem temimah, meshivas nefesh – studying our Torah revitalizes and rejuvenates our souls,” we often move on in life and place the pursuit of Torah study on our proverbial backburner.

Here’s my question: Do you or any other Orthodox therapist utilize this priceless advice when counseling your patients who are suffering or recovering from mental illness or who are just plain depressed? While here in the United States we have the greatest surplus of blessing that mankind has ever experienced, we are still witness to a staggering number of individuals who are suffering from depression – and even some who have resorted to suicide. In the Torah-observant community, however, we are, thank G-d, not as heavily affected by these and other social ills. The strong promotion by our families of a purposeful life that espouses giving, learning and teaching no doubt plays a pivotal role in keeping us emotionally healthier than the general population.

Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense, especially for male clients, to be encouraged by their therapists or psychiatrists to attend Torah lectures or to have regularly scheduled study partners as a means of repairing an emotionally damaged or wounded mind?

Having benefited from both psychotherapy and psychiatric medications, and as one who has seen many others heal as well, I have come to recognize that the healing procedures based on these scientific methods alone are somewhat incomplete and superficial, as they do not heal the soul but rather the physical body and spirit.

Jews are highly complex individuals who are never really happy unless our holy neshamos are fed the proper spiritual nutrients. Many complain of feeling empty inside or of having a certain longing and hunger that seems so unquenchable that it hurts terribly. If only more of our parents, friends and educators would illustrate to those of us who battle perpetual emotional pain that Hashem’s eternal gift to us is not only a tool in achieving the greatest mitzvah but that it also contains the healing properties that no other physical, medical or psychological medicine can deliver. I write this based on 20 years of experience battling clinical depression. If only I had adhered to my Torah instructors’ admonitions about the celestial powers of Torah study decades ago, I probably would have experienced fewer dark days and scary nights of severe melancholy.

Even Torah scholars are at times smitten with inexplicable sadness, but their ability to recover certainly includes having recaptured the joy that Torah learning afforded them. Yet they might have stopped experiencing it due to their chronic illness. Therapy and medication can help them learn Torah once again, ultimately providing them with the inner peace and sense of self- esteem that is deep in their souls.

Is Torah learning, or doing chesed and other mitzvos, part of the wise advice that you give your clients? Is that the usual practice for frum therapists? Torah learning’s healing effect on me is quite apparent and long lasting.

I’d appreciate your feedback, based on your experience, on this matter.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

I was very inspired to receive your letter. Frum therapists walk a fine line on this issue. For instance, I receive mixed reviews when I suggest that people ask Daas Torah. Although I agree with you, not all people are on your madregah. Some clients may feel resentful when a therapist “directs” them instead of listening to their feelings. As a therapist I see my job as one of listening to the client’s pain and trying to guide them properly. If a person is happy with himself or herself, the individual has an easier time learning and doing chesed. It is also true that being productive can help people emerge from depression. Thus being productive emanates from learning and doing chesed.

For most people chesed should begin at home. Those who immerse themselves with outside chesed sometimes forget their own loved ones. I am often forced to remind people who become overly involved with outside chesed projects that the welfare of their families should be their priority. Someone who feels an inner sense of simchas hachaim has the yishuv ha’daas (clear mind) to learn with more enthusiasm. I believe that most frum therapists do not see their role as urging clients to learn and daven. I find that when my clients are happier in their shalom bayis, it helps them to learn and daven with more serenity.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/05/08

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Dear Rachel,

You are doing a disservice to all those involved by your incessant encouragement to our young men to sit and learn and not work. Ditto, for encouraging our young women to marry them.

In case you haven’t heard, we are going into a recession. People are losing their homes, people are losing their jobs. This includes the parents of learners.

Your plan spells disaster

Dear Plan,

Huh? I must be missing something, or perhaps you meant to send your letter to another paper/columnist.

The last time I checked, this column allowed readers to air their varied opinions on this subject and gave equal billing to both the ayes and the naysayers. (See Chronicles 6/13, 7/4, 8/29 of 2008 and 2-3, 4-14, 4-28, 5-26, 6-2, 7-28 of 2006).

Moreover, the last I checked, this column concurred that there was indeed a problem with the way some individuals abuse the kollel system and merely submitted that those with the wherewithal, intellectually and economically and with the moral support and encouragement of wife and family have the right to choose their particular lifestyle.

And, by the way, the last I checked, learning Torah was still a high priority in ensuring our survival both in this world and the next.

Allow me to reiterate for those who failed to get the message: The competent, sincere learner who is passionate in his pursuit of the lofty ambition of Torah study deserves our respect, admiration and support.

Read on for yet another take on this topic.

Dear Rachel,

Regarding Disgusted onlooker and this “full time learning frenzy” – I take a more idealistic approach. I am a ba’alas teshuvah since age 25 and went to a strong seminary for ba’alos teshuvah girls.

I was determined to make full time learning a part of my home for as long as physically possible. That meant NO parents helping out; it meant my husband being dedicated to be mesiras nefesh for Torah, and, if necessary, one day when we couldn’t do it anymore he would work.

Meanwhile I worked full time, and after I had my first baby I would take her to a babysitter nearby and would go feed her on my lunch break. She did not touch formula for nine months. By the time our third child was born we were in an out-of-town kollel. My husband could learn and still get extra parnassah to make ends meet. He also gave back to the community by teaching, which inevitably involved much learning preparation.

I started home businesses so I could be a mummy, and he continued learning for 10 years. No regrets, no pressures, and my kids grew up with a positive feeling for our ideals. Yes I am idealistic, but in all this uproar of the “kollel crisis” we seem to be forgetting one thing: Torah is the ikar, and so few people are learning full time. The world is in such a dismal state that it is a positive, not a negative that so many people are learning.

I am not touching upon the issue of shidduchim, which today is a pressure-filled parshah in itself. Neither am I addressing what happens to the children of kollel families and how they will survive financially. Does the learning man present a problem for future generations? I leave that to Daas Torah. Seems to me, though, that Hashem has a treasure chest full of money and will distribute it as He sees fit. (Isn’t that decided on Rosh Hashanah of each year?)

And yes, a man should try as much as he possibly can to be serious while in kollel, but one should bear in mind that men are human and that people at work also take breaks and have a shmooze. My main point is that Torah learning where possible is the most beautiful thing on earth that a man can do.

Allow me to add that I would be 100 percent supportive if my girls preferred a working boy or if my son wanted a profession. People are entitled to make up their own minds.

No point in being disgusted

Dear No,

You have summed it up so beautifully and have expressed your heartfelt conviction sensibly, making it abundantly clear that you are guided by Torah principles. Not only have you allowed nothing to deter you from your goal, but you pursued it with dignity.

Your children are lucky to have you and your husband as role models and whichever the path they will choose to follow, it is certain to be an honorable one − undertaken in as dignified a manner as you have embarked upon yours.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-117/2008/09/03/

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