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December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Mishpacha Magazine’

Hashkafa Differences and Jewish Survival

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

I am impressed by Rabbi Yehoshua Weber. I never met the man, but I did read a column by him in Mishpacha Magazine (Yes, I know I’ve referenced Mishpacha a lot lately – but each mention was worthy.)

That column was written as a sort of epiphany about the concept of uniting all of observant Jewry – realizing that what unites us all is far greater than what divides us. This is a theme I have written about many times. I call it Achdus.

Now before I get accused of not including non observant Jewry under the tent of Achdus, I want to clearly state that I do indeed include them. We are all Jews and are treated equally in the eyes of God. The God of mercy judges us all in the context of our circumstances. So that given a similar set of circumstances God may view the behavior of a non observant Jew or even a non Jew more favorably than the behavior of an observant Jew. But I do believe that observant Jews have observance of Halacha as a uniting factor that binds us as a group.

And yet there is an attitude superiority among some of our observant subgroups. It is an attitude of ‘We are more religious than you… and therefore we are better than you’. I see it all the time here on this blog – almost every day in fact – where both right wing and left wing Jews express not only sense of superiority but a sense of triumphalism. A triumphalism that would prefer just cutting off anyone that does not agree with them. They will even vilify observant Jews for not measuring up to the standards of their community. They would rather just draw a sharp dividing line between ‘us and them’ and just let the other side fall off the cliff they are chasing.

Where do they get this attitude? I can only surmise that this is the kind of Chinuch they get. They are indeed told from the earliest ages that their approach to the Torah is the best approach… and that the approach of others is at best B’Dieved and at worst completely illegitimate. Just to cite one tragic example of this, the Hirschean philosophy of Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE) that Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch felt was the ideal way to observe Judaism is seen by the right as B’Dieved at best and a philosophy that should not be followed.

No one has a monopoly on the truth. All we can do is try and seek it. The best way to find that truth is to listen to what others have to say… and not close our minds to it. This is why for example I respect both Rav Kook’s views about the legitimacy of Zionism and the Satmar Rebbe’s views about the illegitimacy of it. Both have legitimate sources in the Torah upon which to base their views. And both views should be respected. It’s called Elu V’Elu.

(My issues with the Satmar Rebbe are not based on his views on that subject, but on the way he expresses them and on the vilification of Rav Kook – which is the inspiration for the disgusting anti Israel rhetoric on the part of his philosophical heirs, and the extremism one finds in the streets of Jerusalem – and elsewhere – in opposition to the government. But I digress.)

Getting back to Rabbi Weber… I think he did in fact see the light at a reception he hosted at his home in Toronto for Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. It included rabbis from all segments of Orthodoxy. Rabbi Weber marveled at Rabbi Lau’s ability to speak with one voice which resonated with all the assembled. The rabbis there spanned the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy in that city, from Left Wing Modern Orthodox to Charedi.

Of ‘Torah Haters’ and Noah Feldman

Monday, October 14th, 2013

There are two independent opinion pieces in Mishpacha Magazine that I feel compelled to comment upon. One is by Editor in Chief Moshe Grylak and the other is by Mishpacha’s resident pit-bull, Eytan Kobre.

Moshe Grylak’s editorial is actually a description of a wonderful experience he had spending time with Chilonim (secular Jews) in Israel. He noticed something that many of us already know which has been reported in the Jewish media many times. He noticed that Chilonim actually are not anti Torah. In fact it’s really incorrect to define Chilonim as irreligious. Many of them are fact religious albeit not fully observant. He noticed that when he went to the Kotel on fast day of Tzom Gedalia. What he saw surprised him. From the editorial:

At two a.m.on motzaei Tzom Gedaliah, I was at the Kosel. It was an amazing sight — the Kosel plaza was packed with people as if it were midday. So many had come to recite Selichos, you could hardly move. And the lion’s share of them weren’t even frum, according to our accepted definitions of the term — which brings the accepted definitions into question.

Indeed. This was quite an admission from someone who proudly represents the Charedi perspective. I give Rabbi Grylak credit for his intellectual honesty. This is not the first time I have seen it. I recall an earlier editorial where he praised the fact that the Kenesset now has more traditionally observant Jews than at any time in its history. Even secular parties, he noted, seek religious Jews as members of their party.

However there is one part of his editorial I found to be an unnecessary slam at fellow Jews- many of whom might be found among those he saw at the Kotel that day. And even more outrageously at fellow observant Jews. Here are the offending words in the opening paragraph:

While a gang of Torah-haters who are wielding power in the government (for the time being) have caused much pain and anxiety recently with their relentless persecution of chareidi Jewry…

Torah haters? Why does anyone who challenges the status quo of Charedi life have to be labeled a Torah hater?! Especially when some of those who are making this challenge are not only observant, but in one case a self described Charedi and in another a former Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbis Dov Lipman and Shai Piron are surely not Torah haters. How in good conscience can Rabbi Grylak imply that they are?

Perhaps he did not mean them but their mentor, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. I realize that they blame him for all the pain the Charedi community in Israel is feeling. He is the one who designed the severe budget cuts that impacts on them more than any other segment of Israeli society – and he advocates the future conscription of Charedim into the military.

Even if Rabbi Grylak feels that Lapid is wrong, why assume that he is a Torah hater? Has he not repeatedly said that his goal is not to destroy them but to better their lives? That the Charedi world thinks that his ideas will destroy them doesn’t mean this is his goal. True – Lapid has made some outrageous comments about them. But can you blame him they constantly vilify him – as has Rabbi Grylak right here in his editorial?

Lapid should not be judged by a few offhand comments spoken in angry response to being constantly attacked as a Torah hater. He should be judged by what his stated goals are. Goals that I support… and that Charedim may themselves privately support – that their poverty should be alleviated by being able to go into the workforce better prepared to support their families.

Rabbi Grylak has every right to disagree with them. But he is so terribly wrong for vilifying them. Doesn’t he realize that the very people he praises in his op-ed are those who very likely voted for Yesh Atid… or at least support their goals with respect to Charedim? I think it would be prudent for him to re-think his vilification of themas Torah haters. For the most part they are not. (Although I suppose there may be a few exceptions.) He ought to instead consider their real motives and agree to disagree respectfully. You can certainly win more Chiloni friends and influence more Chiloni people by doing that than by vilifying the people they voted for.

A Rational but Insufficient Haredi Response

Monday, June 17th, 2013
Rav Aharon Lopiansky is one of the reasons I insist that there ought to be Achdus between Charedim and Modern Orthodox Jews. I am a fan. Not because we agree on everything. I’m sure we don’t. But because he exudes respect for opposing points of view within Orthodoxy.
Rav Lopianky is the son in law of famed Mir Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Beinish Finkel. And the brother in law of R’  Beinish’s other more famous son in law, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel. He is also the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Maryland.
My first encounter with him is when I heard the beautiful eulogy (Hespid Sheloshim) he gave for his brother in law, R’ Nosson Tzvi, in Skokie Yeshiva,  R’ Nosson Tzvi’s alma mater.  I later met him at a wedding in Chicago where he was the officiating rabbi. My impression of him then was that he was a wise and a humble human being, a Rosh Yeshiva with strong convictions and yet respectful of the beliefs of others. This was again evident in an article he wrote in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine.
Rav Lopiansky  tries to actually answer some of the questions I have publicly asked about the current Charedi opposition to drafting Charedim into the army – and their opposition to requiring a core curriculum for the continuation of government funding to their schools. Instead of the harsh rhetoric and cynicism that is so typical from Charedi politicians, some Charedi rabbinic leaders, and the Charedi media – he actually deals respectfully with the issues raised. Here is how Rav Lopiansky puts it:

The questions hurled at us from the Israel arena are powerful and cogent: How long can the chareidi public shirk their responsibility to serve in the army?  Is their blood more precious than the non-chareidi’s blood?  And why can’t they add a little math and English to their curriculum? How much can it impact their Torah study? Don’t many yeshivos in America offer a richer secular curriculum without affecting the caliber of ben Torah products?

These questions need to be addressed head-on; not only for the sake of a response to “them” but for ourselves. We would be dishonest and insensitive if we did not ponder these questions with the gravity they deserve.

How wonderful it is to see a Charedi rabbinic leader speak in terms like this! Not to mention the fact that as a student of R’ Chaim Shmulevitz he shows tremendous gratitude in this article toward the brave soldiers of the IDF. Something he points out R’ Chaim constantly did.
In the process of answering these questions he describes eloquently what the ideals of a Charedi Jew are in contra-distinction to those of the Dati or Modern Orthodox Jew. He does so not by putting down the latter two, but by describing the sublime nature of the Charedi.  He paints a beautiful picture.  One we should all respect and admire
It is from that context that he tries to explain Charedi opposition to the draft. The army, he says, is the great equalizer. The conformity and obedience to the chain of command which he concedes the army requires in order to be effective is counter to the ideals the Charedi tries to live by. The culture of the army is designed to remove all previous loyalties and replace it with loyalty to the army and the State.  Add to that the coarseness and values that are part of the army culture – and the army becomes anathema to the Charedi.
They are in essence fighting what they see as a forced assimilation away from the Torah. Rav Lopiansky cites evidence that people who go into the army are negatively affected  religiously… especially if they go in at the critically impressionable ages of between 18  to 23. And shows that it has little if anything to do with the effectiveness of Charedi Chinuch and much more to do with a not fully matured and set Hashkafa being impacted with an onslaught of ideas foreign to everything he has been taught to that point.
I completely understand this. But what Rav Lopiansky does not do is answer the very question he began his article with. Even with all of this, how can a Charedi justify to a grieving mother who lost a son in battle why all Charedim should be spared from that possibility?  I have yet to hear an answer to that. All the talk about the army not needing Charedim – that they already have enough people fighting still does not answer that question. If one is going to be fair about it – the possibility of being put in harm’s way in defense of one’s country should indeed be shared equally by all segments.
I would also suggest that the assimilation fears that Rav Lopiansky expresses do not justify opposition to a draft. What they justify is being drafted into the regular army. If Charedim were truly only afraid of assimilation, they would not oppose the draft, but instead insist that Nachal Charedi (or some modified version of it) be expanded to accommodate Charedi recruits so that their values would not be compromised. That would be something I would support. The logistics of how this would work can be worked out.

The other problem Rav Lopiansky addresses is the core curriculum issue. He says that it isn’t so much secular studies themselves that Charedim  object to. It is the idea that a secular government will be dictating what to teach. Even if the current government would be respectful of Charedi sensitivities about what can and can’t be taught, there may arise another government with a different anti Torah agenda.

I understand this fear. But I do not believe that this alone is the problem. The problem is that Charedi rabbinic leaders have no interest in educating their male students in anything other than pure Torah (mostly Gemarah). If they had any interest in secular studies they would have offered them by now.

That they are not opposed to a core curriculum on a religious basis is evidenced by how Charedi girls are educated. They actually have a core curriculum much better than the minimal one proposed by the government. The same thing is true for Maarva, the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva that bucked the Charedi system and offers a curriculum that requires taking the Bagrut – the national test required for an official high school diploma.
If Charedim were truly only afraid of what the government would mandate – let them look to the girl’s schools or Maarava and implement that. If they had anything like that until now, is there any question that this would not be an issue? Instead of fighting a core curriculum they should be saying OK, we’ll have one but we will decide which subjects they will teach. I don’t think the government would object if the boys would have the same secular studies program as their girls do.

So even the I admire and respect what Rav Lopiansky has tried to do here – and the way in which he tried to do it, I do not think he succeeded in answering the very real “powerful and cogent” challenges he concedes are being asked by the secular and Dati/MO side.

That said, if all Charedim were of the caliber of a man like Rav Lopiansky, I truly believe we could work things out.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Stop the Vilification

Monday, June 10th, 2013

I must give credit to Mishpacha Magazine Editor and Chief, Rabbi Moshe Grylak. He was honest in an editorial describing an experience that in my view ought to be had by every Charedi in Israel . While it is unfortunately highly unlikely that this would ever happen to all Charedim – It did happen to Rabbi Grylak and he tried to convey its message to his readers.

He was ‘reminded’ that secular Israelis do not hate Chardim at all. And that some of the finest and most highly motivated secular youth are in uniform.  He said that he had always thought this but had to be reminded of it because of the current ‘anti- Charedi’ climate in Israel.

Rabbi Grylak spared no words of praise for the young IDF cadets he hosted in his Har Nof neighborhood last Shabbos. These young men will upon graduation serve as officers in combat units. The questions they asked about Charedi values were sincere and were not meant as challenges.  He actually thanks them in the very title of his editorial, ‘Thanks for Restoring My Sense of Proportion’.

It’s nice to see an article that praises these secular youth accompanied by the realization that secular Jews do not really hate Charedim.

I have been saying this for years.  But I do not live in Rabbi Grylak’s world. One that sees evil lurking in the hearts of virtually every secular Jew.  I live in a world where I know that is not true. Rabbi Grylak’s world is guided by rabbinic leaders and Charedi politicians that rarely if ever see any good in the secular Israeli. The rhetoric one hears from those corners reinforces that negative stereotype.In my view the reason those leaders promote this negative stereotypes is that they rarely if ever have any real connection to the outside world. They know of it only by what their Askanim (community activists) tell them. Or by what the Charedi politicians tell them. Or the way the Charedi newspapers report about them.

Charedi rabbinic leaders discourage – if not outright forbid – reading any secular newspaper that might give them a different perspective. The argument there is that they are all a bunch of anti religious publications with an agenda to hurt the Charedi world. I can’t count the number of times I have heard a Charedi journalist say about almost any secular news source that they are anti-Frum.

Fortunately every once in awhile something like this happens that gives lie to all the negative spin about secular Israelis.

I wish I could say that an article like this signals a change in the way Charedim perceive the motives behind the current move by the Kenesset to equalize the draft and the push to require Yeshivos to have a core curriculum. But alas, that is not the case.

Rabbi Grylak continues to insist that those who are pushing these things in the Knesset are anti Charedi… out to ultimately destroy them. In other words he separates these wonderful ‘cream of the crop’ young IDF cadets from the secular media and the secular politicians.  He still ascribes completely nefarious motives and agendas to them.

The strident rhetoric about the government and media being anti Charedi will therefore continue. They characterize Yair Lapid as a hater of Charedim out to destroy them. And their words for the 2 Orthodox rabbis in his Yesh Atid party are hardly any less condemning.

No matter how many times Lapid says he does not want to destroy Charedi Judaism, this is how they see him. They see him as disingenuous with an ulterior motive to destroy the Charedi way of life.

One of the things they point to is the fact the Lapid has recommended that draft dodging Charedim be put in jail. This – they say – is proof of his anti Charedi agenda.

They completely ignore what I consider a seminal moment in Israel when during a speech at Kiryat Ono, Yair Lapid repudiated his father’s atheist views and conceded that Charedim have ‘won’. He said that the founding fathers were wrong to completely secularize Israel and marginalize the Charedi world. He then challenged them to participate in the great Israeli enterprise as full partners with the secular wolrd. His candidacy was based on that… and included those two Charedi rabbis. His platform was about Charedim ‘sharing the burden’. And his party won big – far beyond anyone’s predictions gaining 19 Kenesset seats.

Rabbi Grylak and other Charedim see the term ‘sharing the burden’ differently. They see it as ‘code’ for destroying the Charedi world as we know it – using Laipd’s suggestion that Charedim be jailed as proof of that.

On the very next page in Mishpacha Magazine Jonathan Rosenblum  minces no words attacking Lapid in an op-ed describing him in the most unflattering of terms. The title of his op-ed asks whether Lapid is Schizo! And he goes on to accuse him faking concern by telling Charedi youth to ignore their rabbinic leaders and avoid jail by registering for the draft.

Why does he consider a plea to Charedi to avoid the consequences of dodging the draft to be disingenuous and anti Charedi?  Because Charedim live by what their Gedolim say. Asking them to ignore them is to undermine their very essence. He goes on to say some other unflattering things about Lapid.

I don’t understand why Jonathan took this turn. He originally had some nice things to say about Lapid because of his Kiryat Ono speech.  Now Lapid is all of a sudden a lying Rasha? Maybe it’s the jail thing. Maybe he sees threatening jail time for Charedi draft dodgers as the ultimate anti Charedi move.

I do not see it that way. I am willing to bet that jail time would apply to anyone who dodges the draft. If it happens to be the case that Charedim will have the largest numbers of draft dodgers – it will be because of some of their leadership’s directive to not register. Proposing legislation that draft dodgers be jailed is not anti Charedi. It is anti draft dodger!

If on the other hand this law would apply only to Charedim, I would have to then concede that it is anti Charedi – and I would oppose it with the same vigor as Charedim do now. But I cannot believe that is the case.

Charedi journalists and columnists would do well to step back and see whether their suspicions and accusations about an anti Charedi agenda have any real merit.  I don’t think it does. No matter what kind of criticsm one might have against him – I do not see Yesh Atid Kenesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman serving on any party that is anti Charedi. I think this former student of Merkaz HaTorah and Ner Israel Musmach probably knows better than anyone that Lapid is not anti Charedi. At worst Lapid may not understand the fealty Charedim have to their rabbinic leaders. But that does not make him anti Charedi.

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter’s editorial in Ami Magazine suggests that Charedim should try and better convey the reason why they consider Torah study so valuable. I have no problem with that and think that is a good idea. But that still does not justify a 100% exemption from army service.
Charedi journalists must realize that the war they fight does not exist. It is one sided. Secular politicians like Yair Lapid do not see Charedim as the enemy.  They see them as a constituency that under-serves the country; and as being unprepared for good jobs. They do not want to destroy them. They want to help them. Charedim may very well disagree and not want this kind of ‘help’. But it would benefit everyone if Charedim would stop vilifying them. That might just lead to compromises that everyone could live with.

More Religious? Or Going Off the Deep End?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

They want to have total isolation from the rest of the world? I think perhaps we should finally give it to them. It pains me to say so but based on what I am reading in their very own media, going off the deep end is not an exaggeration. It may even be an understatement! It is a wonder that they do not have a bigger OTD problem than they already do. I guess that their system works very well for them that way.

First the good news. In the extremist enclaves of both Chasidic world and non-Chasidic Yeshiva world, there are very positive things that we can all look up to. Their community is very warm and loving. It is almost like having one very big extended family. They learn and promote the values of the Torah as they understand them.

Although it is true for both worlds, the Chasidic communities emphasize things like Chesed programs while in the Yeshiva world there is a stronger emphasis on Torah study. Their community is saturated with a system of family values unlike any other. They get married young and have lots of children. And have a rather effective educational system for their purposes. Chasidim even encourage working for a living albeit without the benefits of a higher education in most cases. (There are exceptions.)

They celebrate life-cycle events with great joy as they do Shabbos and Yom Tov. They live their daily lives with fervent religious devotion. But there is a negative side. A very negative side.

Theirs is a formula that combines all of the above with isolation. There is a complete break from the rest of the world by living their lives in ways that make it difficult if not impossible to participate in anything outside of their own Daled Amos.

Among Chasidim this formula is greatly enhanced by their manner of dress, their pejorative attitude towards non Jews, and their extremely negative attitude about secular education – treating the native tongue (English) as if it were spiritually unclean – as opposed to the ‘spiritually clean’ language of Yiddish. They learn English only as a second language for purposes of survival in a non Jewish culture. I can’t imagine anyone trying to escape it without major difficulty. Although the Yeshiva world does not go that far, there is no shortage of those who desire to catch up with them.

Sliding to the right doesn’t even begin to explain how far off the deep end some of these ridiculous extremes go.

How far? An article has been published by a bold and courageous women who lives in one of these enclaves. Mrs. Tzipi Caton wrote the cover story in last week’s Family First. This is the weekly woman’s supplement that accompanies Mishpacha Magazine. (Yes, I do sometimes read women’s magazines.)

Mrs. Caton is a decidedly Charedi woman. Her Shtreimal wearing Chasidic husband learns full time in a Kollel. They live in a very large Charedi neighborhood that has many exclusive Charedi schools to choose from.

She wanted her nursery school aged daughter, Dassa, to have the finest Charedi education she could provide. So Mrs. Caton applied to some of the more exclusive schools in her neighborhood. Long story short, after applying to six schools, she was rejected by them all. She is apparently not Frum enough for them. What were some of the issues? Let’s start with the contact Mrs. Caton had with the principal of one school. From the article:

She made no effort to hide the way she looked me over from sheitel to shoes. She asked exactly one question about my maiden name, and then sent me on my merry way.

Among the reasons that school rejected her daughter was the following:

(They) didn’t like that I went to an all inclusive Bais Yaakov high school. It didn’t look good for Bais Bina, a chassidish pre-school, to accept children whose mothers didn’t grow up wearing beige stockings.

Here are some of the questions on an application form of another school:

* What (bungalow) colony do you attend?
* Where is it located?
* Who owns the colony?
* List two references from said colony.
* How many times a year do you go up for Shabbos?
* (Is your daughter’s) maternal grandfather, preferred to be referred to as “Rabbi” or “Mister.”

A friend of Mrs. Caton who was granted an interview by one of those schools for her own daughter – something Mrs. Caton did not get. Here is what happened:

(T)he principal called me aside (and) said, “Mrs. Rosenberg, you are 98% of what we are looking for in a prospective parent. The 2% holding me back from full acceptance is a certain something about the way you look. If you would agree for me to take you shopping so that I can reevaluate your wardrobe and help you dress more to the manner that we find appropriate, I would be happy to allow your daughter into our nursery class.”

Another school Mrs. Caton applied to does not allow their parent mothers to chew gum. Or to use cell-phones.

Another school rejected them without any explanation simply saying that her family did not share the values of the school. What values? Keep reading:

This particular school did not allow their teachers to quote any litvish sources in their curriculum, including R’ Moshe Feinstein…

The last school she applied to ended up rejecting her because she had been rejected by so many other schools. How’s that for irony.

I have discussed this with a reliable source who lives in a community like this. Here is what I was told:

[T]he minute a school opens with the intention of being small and select, no matter what denomination they are, this is what happens.

Another thing- when one school in the neighborhood enforces a rule, all the other schools rush to copy it at the risk of seeming “less frum” than the others. So when one school told their parent body that their women were not allowed to wear “pony sheitels” the rest all sent out adjusted handbooks within the week. The same went for banning shoes that were any color but Navy or Black, and yeshivas requiring their boys wear velvet yarmulkas that are composed of “six” slices vs the more “modern” “four slice.” And now that the Chassidish schools in Monsey banned mothers from driving, the driving chassidim have to choose between a chinuch with their mesorah or being a mother who can independently shop for groceries…

Normally I might say live and let live. People have a right to choose any lifestyle they wish, no matter how ridiculous. But when it becomes the ideal of a community that considers itself to be the most religious among us, someone has to call them on it… and expose just exactly what they consider to be more religious.

To make matters even worse, it all comes with a price tag paid for in part by the government. Here is what my source told me:

All of these schools receive government funding because they “offer a service to the community.” Exactly what community are they offering services to? The non-driving community? The non-gum-chewing community? The community where they only wear white stockings on Shabbos and don’t wear earrings that hang below the earlobe? (I kid you not, these are all real examples of the rules) If the politicians knew where their community funding was going – would the schools continue to get those grants? I wonder.

Government funding?! These schools should not even be supported communally, let alone be supported by the government.

I think at this point, we ought to at least give them what they want. Complete isolation from the rest of the world. Including all normal Charedim!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Outreach, Regrets and the Wrong Man for the Job

Friday, September 28th, 2012

In a recent issue of Mishpacha Magazine the important issue of Baal Teshuva (BT) regret was tackled. The Baal Teshuva phenomenon is a subject that is dear to my heart. Organizations like Aish HaTorah (pictured) have been successfully reaching out to young unaffiliated Jews for decades now.

Although I haven’t discussed it in quite some time, those who know my views – know that that my feelings toward the Baal Teshuva (and equally to the sincere convert) is one of immeasurable respect.

To put my views in a nutshell, the idea of coming to observant Judaism on one’s own initiative is something those of us who were born into it (FFBs), cannot possibly achieve. We did not search for the truth to then find it in Judaism. Judaism was handed to us on a platter. Most of us have known nothing else.

Even though we can all achieve great depths of understanding – it is an order of magnitude greater when one does this from scratch. So I stand in awe of such people and echo what the Talmud says in Brachos (34b):

B’Makom She’Baalei Teshuvah Omdim, Ein tzaddik Gamur Yachol Laamod – In the place where the Baal Teshuva stands, even the most righteous among us cannot stand.

I realize that not every Baal Teshuva starts out from the vantage point of simply seeking truth. Some simply find comfort in observant communities. Or appreciate the structure an observant lifestyle gives them. Or the like the values Judaism represents. Sometimes it is about rebelling against a secular past or a dysfunctional family.

In these cases there may be no real dwelling on the great truths of the Torah. But ultimately belief in these truths does play a significant part.

The problem discussed in the Mishpacha article sometimes Baalei Teshuva get “buyer’s remorse.” There could be several reasons for this. For example if the motivation to become observant is too shallow then becoming observant may be only temporary. Sometimes it is because of disillusionment with the negative behavior they see among some of our FFB Orthodox brethren. There are probably a lot of reasons.

However, there does seem to a consensus among those involved in outreach people that the blame in many of these cases may lie in the fact that Baalei Teshuva are often not accepted into the larger Orthodox communities. Rejection can be a big turn off!

I don’t believe this is a Charedi versus Modern Orthodox dichotomy. I think the problem exists in both worlds. No matter how hard they try, some communities just don’t do a good job of welcoming the BT into their lives. That leaves them out in the cold and on their own.

Why is that the case? I’m not entirely sure but I have heard it said for example that a Baal Teshuva or a convert brings a lot of secular baggage with them. Baggage that an FFB community does not want to deal with. For me that is a nonsense and a non issue. Most BTs are sincere and are willing to give up the Issurim they were involved with. Like going to McDonald’s for a cheeseburger. What they may not be willing to give up is everything from their past lives. Nor should they.

For example for those who reject secular culture in their lives in any form – it might be a problem for them if the Baal Teshuva likes listening to popular music. But for me, that is a plus. It shows a normal and healthy approach to life.

A Baal Teshuva need not reject everything from their past. As long as there are no Halachic objections popular culture should not be any more of a problem for the Baal Teshuva than it is for me. I recall a Limudei Kodesh principal of a Chasidic day school – with a long beard and who wore a Kapote daily mentioning that when he took long trips by car he listened to Beatles tapes!

Many of the families whose children were in his school would have been shocked by that had they known. The point is that this Mechanech knew there was no problem with secular culture per se. Only that part of which is not permissible by Halacha. But he never communicated that to his students.

Charedi Intolerance of Modern Orthodox

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/charedi-intolerance-of-modern-orthodox.html

A few years ago, Rabbi Michael Broyde wrote an analysis of the Halacha requiring married women to cover their hair. Although he in no way said that a married woman may uncover her hair he suggested that it is possible to say that there were Halachic sources that may have permitted it in certain social circumstances.

I am not going to go into the details about his arguments. His article on the subject may be read in its entirety in Tradition Magazine.  His point then was not to permit married women to uncover their hair. He clearly does not. His point was to provide a Limud Zechus for them. These are married women who are religious in all other respects and dress in Halachicly modest ways. They should therefore not be looked down upon.

One can debate the merits of his arguments. That was indeed done respectfully by Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman in a rebuttal article in a subsequent edition of that magazine, to which Rabbi Broyde responded. The debate is unsettled.

What was troubling for me was not that there were legitimate attempts to refute his argument, but that in some cases there was accompanying condescension towards him – as was the case with an article in Dialogue Magazine (unavailable online). That too was rebutted on Gil Student’s blog, Hirhurim.

In one case a highly respected Charedi Posek and Rosh Kollel compared Rabbi Broyde’s words to those of Aharon “Choriner”, the “Posek” for the Reform Movement. (If I understand correctly Rabbi Chorin wrote a “Teshuva” permitting organ music in a Reform Temple on Shabbos.)

What all of this demonstrates is an attitude of disrespect for a Talmid Chacham – not because he did anything wrong. But because he dared to try and defend religious married women who do not cover their hair.

This attitude of intolerance is one that permeates much of the right wing. They do not only seek to raise the standard of observance among their own. They seek to delegitimize anyone else that doesn’t. This is manifested in many ways. There are for example day schools who will not accept children if their mothers do not cover their hair. Despite the fact that they are totally observant in every other way – if a child is brought up in a home is completely Shomer Shabbos; Shomer Kashrus; and observes Taharas HaMishpacha scrupulously… that’s not good enough! They do not want the taint of a Modern Orthodox woman in their parent body. And will not allow the child of such a woman into their school.

When my own children were in elementary school, our parent body consisted of many different types of religious Jews. Some of the women covered their hair and some didn’t. Some wore pants and some didn’t. Other schools were particular about these things and denied admission to children of such parents.

I clearly recall the reaction of the principal of my children’s school to that.  “If only all religious women would have the integrity and level of devotion to Yiddishkeit that the mothers  in his school did, Judaism would be in far better shape.” He said that he would measure their level of commitment against the parent body of any other school. For the record, many of those mothers have long since covered their hair. Some of their children are now right wing Roshei Yeshiva!

Which brings me to an article by Jonathan Rosenblum in Mishpacha Magazine about the very subject: Intolerance by the right for Modern Orthodox Jews.

Jonathan actually gets it. He is by any definition a Charedi Jew. But he clearly appreciates the value of Jews who do not live by Charedi standards. And he has a very clear label for those who don’t. It’s called Sinas Chinam – baseless hatred!  The wonderful story Jonathan tells about a true Aishes Chayil who unfortunately succumbed to cancer a few years ago – yet again illustrates why there should not only be tolerance but complete Achdus in the world of observant Jewry. His words follow.

Outside of Chicago, I doubt many Mishpacha readers ever heard of Miriam. But she probably had a greater influence on my younger brother Mordechai’s path to becoming a Torah observant Jew than anyone else, and through him on the entire Rosenblum family.

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