web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘hashkafa’

The Charleston Hashkafa

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Over the past ten months that we’ve lived in Charleston, SC, I’ve written about a number of reasons why we love living here: the beautiful downtown, the warm and embracing Jewish community, the amazing people we have met, and, of course, the dolphins.

Those are all true. But I’ve avoided writing about one reason, the main reason that I feel I’ve found a haven in this beautiful city: I rarely hear the words “modern Orthodox.” Nor do I hear the word “yeshivish.” People here do not know about, nor participate in what I non-affectionately call “the hashkafa (religious worldview) wars.”

I used to work in a school where the question often arose as to whether I am yeshivish or modern Orthodox. My students would analyze my practices to decide which camp I fall into. No TV – must be yeshivish. But she teaches oral law to women and loves learning halacha – modern Orthodox. Wears a sheitel without leaving out a lot of hair – yeshivish. Does not accept the concept that rabbis are infallible – modern Orthodox. Back and forth they would go, trying to neatly stack me and my husband in one of the two boxes that they knew.

I loved those kids, I loved the school, and I loved the community. And I would excuse these questions as coming from kids who have limited experience with different hashkafot. But the truth is, these questions are not limited to high school students. I’ve been asked by adults—very knowledgeable adults at that—from New York and from smaller communities, and even by friends. “I just don’t get you,” they’ll say, “What are you?”

And at moments like these, I feel bad for God.

Modern Orthodoxy is not a religion, although, quite honestly, I sometimes believe that people lose sight of what it’s all about and prioritize their hashkafa over God Himself. The words “modern Orthodoxy” mean, and should mean, something different to each person. There is no one modern Orthodox model, nor is there is one yeshivish model, and a person shouldn’t have to belong inside boxes.

The Talmud mentions a number of questions that God will ask us after 120 years. Among them are: Did you deal ethically in business? and Did you set aside time for Torah study?

I don’t profess to know it all, and I’ve never been dead before, but I can promise you: God will not ask if you stood rigorously on the principles of modern Orthodoxy. Nor will He ask if you followed the community’s standards of what is considered to be “yeshivish enough.”

We just enjoyed a fantastic Shavuot retreat in Charleston. Our committee worked incredibly hard on the program, ensuring that every detail would go well. The food, the decorations, the accommodations, the welcome bags… But what we realized is that there are two details (probably more) that you have no control over. The weather (which was, baruch Hashem, amazing) and the kind of people who attend your program. If people are complainers, or unfriendly, and refuse to mingle—you have a disaster of a program, no matter how well you planned.

When I first saw our participants on Friday night, I admit I was a little nervous. It was a real mix: some women wore sheitels and had husbands with beards, other couples appeared more “modern.” Would they mingle, I wondered, or stick to their hashkafa groups? Would our Charleston Jews see an example of the religious divide that often exists “up North?”

I feel so blessed to report that throughout the entire program, our participants were warm and friendly to each other and to our local Charlestonians (and amazingly, did not complain at all! Not only that, several sent donations and letters of appreciation!!!).

Hashkafa was not an issue. People mingled, they made new friends and it did not seem to matter if you came from Teaneck, Monsey or Los Angeles. It was fascinating, because while they came to absorb Charleston culture, they actually got a glimpse of what Charleston is all about without realizing it: there is no hashkafic divide in Charleston. There are no separate communities of yeshivish and modern Orthodox and shomer Shabbat and not-Shomer Shabbat. We are all one people.

Religious Pluralism Within Orthodoxy

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Gil Student’s recent review of a book about Orthodox pluralism (R. Yisroel Miller’s In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi) got me thinking about my own view on this subject.

Pluralism begets unity or Achdus.

There are different kinds of Achdus. We can be bonded by a wide variety of commonalities. We can all be united as human beings. There is also a sense of unity that we should feel as a people regardless of our ideology.

It is also legitimate to speak of unity within a defined segment of Judaism. Indeed even within segments there is a sense of unity that is often eluded. There can for example be a right and left even within Religious Zionism.

I have always sought to unite all of Orthodoxy. This includes even Satmar Chasidim, and the right wing Yeshiva world on the right – all the way to Left Wing Modern Orthodox (LWMO) movements represented by people like Rabbi Avi Wiess and his Yeshiva, YCT. The common bond being belief in the Torah and adherence to Halacha.

One may wonder about this considering my recent very harsh criticism of Satmar. Or my occasional strong criticism of some of innovations of the left – like the attempt to ordain women. Or my strong criticism of price tag raids by settler movements (consisting of extremist Religious Zionists) in Israel. The fact is that my criticism remains but it does not contradict my belief in a pluralistic Orthodoxy.

I disagree with the ideology of those to my right and my left. But I respect them all in the sense of Elu V’Elu. For example, I understand the Satmar objection to the existence of the State of Israel. It is based on the how Satmar interprets passages in the Gemarah. I have no problem with those who have this Hashkafa.

Nor do I have a problem with the belief of those religious Zionists who believe that we must settle all the land of Israel; that it is Halachically forbidden to cede an inch of the holy land that is now in our hands; and that we must risk our very lives to retain it. That is based on interpretations of Halacha.

Even though I disagree with both of those positions, I respect them. My only problem is when they act on them in ways that impinge on the rights of others or create a Chilul HaShem. It is trying to impose one’s religious values upon others that upsets me. Not the ideologies themselves. Ideologies, yes. Bad behavior, no.

Achdus, unity, or pluralism is not about agreement. It is about tolerance and acceptance… and the humility to understand and accept that we might just be wrong and someone else might be right.

This does not mean that one has to be apologetic about one’s strongly held views. One can argue his views with those of different Hashkafos and try and convince them of the rectitude of their own. Perfectly legitimate. I would even go a step further that if one has strongly held beliefs one ought to be able to make the case for them to a friend with different ideologies. At the same time, one must respect he views of others even if you think they are wrong. They too have thought things through and have arrived at a different conclusion that you have. In other words it is all about respecting the wisdom of others even when disagreeing with them.

On this level I respect the Hashkafos of Haredi thinkers. And I respect the Hashkafos of LWMO thinkers even though I disagree with them and agree with Centrist thinkers. Elu V’Elu is what it’s all about for me. My harsh criticism is reserved for extremist behavior that is a result of those Hashkafos – even if it is from my own.

Many in the Satmar community’s behavior with respect to sex abuse or right wing Religious Zionist settler behavior that results in a Chilul HaShem will raise my hackles every single time. Not the beliefs that generate them. One can be a principled pluralist – to use Gil’s expression – without rejecting the Hashkafos of others. There is no need to try and reconcile such wildly disparate views.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/religious-pluralism-within-orthodoxy/2012/12/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: