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The Road Forward for Modern Orthodoxy

 

I. Unpassionate Orthodoxy

Modern Orthodoxy has long struggled with generating a passion for its middle-of-the-road religious positions. Moderate stances, even when correct, are often accompanied by diminished excitement. Religiously passionate youth tend to drift to the extremes and many others turn their passions to non-religious subjects or simply drift away. How can Modern Orthodoxy create a vibrant self-identity that is positive and attractive?

Anger at extremists on the right or deviationists on the left creates passion, but of a nature that is poisonous to our characters. Additionally, it is unsustainable on a large scale and timeframe because people eventually tire of the fight. We need a positive identity that inspires us. Complex theological positions are too obscure to appeal to a mass audience and often uninspiring. We need a simple message that can be easily digested and transmitted.

A number of authors address this question in The Next Generation of Modern Orthodoxy (R. Shmuel Hain ed.), a recent collection of essays on related topics. In an impassioned article, R. Dr. Gil Perl writes that the Modern Orthodox community must ask: “What authentic Torah values, about which we are passionate, do we, the Modern Orthodox community, do better than anyone else?” (p. 276). Additionally, we “must identify authentic Torah values that are easily communicated across diverse populations and need not be tempered with moderation…” (ibid.). The danger of failing to do so could be fatal to the community. “[I]f Modern Orthodoxy is to perpetuate itself as a movement and an ideology, it must transform itself from the fox who does a little of everything and believes in a little of everything, into the hedgehog who has fewer but more focused objectives and does them remarkably well” (ibid.).

II. A Giving Community

What message can Modern Orthodoxy adopt that will inspire us–young and old, left and right–without dividing us? What will make us proud to be Modern Orthodox, give us confidence that we are truly frum and stand for something unique? I spoke with R. Steven Weil today, who gave me his simple answer that has already proven effective and needs to be brought to larger scale (no small task): chesed.

The people most involved in chesed, in volunteering to help others, are among the most proudly religious individuals in our community. Whether visiting those in the hospital, assisting the developmentally disabled, volunteering in ambulance corps or otherwise helping others, they give incredible amounts of themselves. And they receive even more.

The ba’alei chesed in our community have purpose in their lives–religious purpose. They enjoy a religion with a powerful, positive message that offers tangible results. The work is hard but incredibly rewarding. And the passion is real and easily explained.

For whatever reasons, the Modern Orthodox community has been much better at encouraging youth to engage in chesed than other Orthodox communities. I recognize the controversial nature of that statement and I do not want to imply that other communities lack ba’alei chesed. However, even if I am wrong and this is not currently the case, it can be in the future. And if I am right, we can do even better by broadening the effort as a primary communal focus.

III. Benefits

If Modern Orthodoxy would adopt chesed as its overriding theme, the defining but certainly not sole communal trait, it can transform into a passionate community that transcends divisive issues like feminism, homosexuality and theological boundaries. Yes, we stand for specific religious beliefs and practices. But when we are passionate about helping others, we can set minor differences aside, deemphasize them, and focus on the people in need.

This is fairly uncontroversial. We are promoting old-time religion that does not need new jargon or spiritual practices. The world, we are taught, rests on three things: Torah study, worship and chesed. The Yeshiva world excels at Torah study but at great expense. The many people who fail at learning Torah drift through the community, supporters but never true members. Just about everyone can succeed at chesed, although a few will fail to find the giving gene. If only one out of a thousand Torah students develops into a real scholar, 99 out of 100 will succeed at chesed.

There will no longer be a concern that Modern Orthodoxy seems to our youth like a less authentic form of Judaism. It will stand for one of the three pillars of Judaism! We can respect the other pillars while recognizing that ours is also entirely authentic. We will still learn Torah, just like other communities also perform chesed. But our communal emphasis, our area of excellence, will be on chesed.

It will not be a boring religion but one that rewards hard work with immediate results. If the giving is emphasized as a religious act, it will be seen as an incredibly spiritual form of Judaism that breeds passion and commitment. Modern Orthodoxy will be a center of excellence and excitement, a vibrant and devoted religious community.

Every individual should be encouraged to excel where his talents lie. We will still have bright Talmud scholars who focus on their studies but also perform chesed. And we will also have scientists and lawyers and artists. There is no contradiction betwen that and emphasizing communal chesed. But when a shul will want to generate excitement and attract new members, it will start a new chesed program rather than a new class, and likely will draw more people that way.

IV. How?

If Modern Orthodox leaders decide to follow this route, how do they accomplish it? Perhaps I am overly optimistic but it seems quite simple. The literature and curricula are pretty much already in place. Rabbis and schools are already teaching chesed. We just need to get serious about it. We need to make it our primary focus, our defining characteristic. We need to make it the theme of every dinner, the subject of every sermon, the project of every class. We need to get real about it, acting more than talking, and celebrating ba’alei chesed as the success stories of our communities. Yes, some are already doing it. We need to do it more.

When we truly become a community of chesed, we will see devoted youth proudly continuing in our footsteps and inspired adults peeling themselves away from work and entertainment to join our good works. We will radiate religious confidence and enthusiasm, inspiration and participation. That is the direction torward a passionate and united Modern Orthodoxy.

 

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About the author

Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

131 Responses

  1. IH says:

    At the Ramath Orah event with Rabbis Saul Berman, Ismar Schorsch and Eric Yoffie on May 1st, Rabbi Berman suggested that passionately promoting Chesed is something that can unify all 3 major denominations to help ensure the future of American Jewry.

    Listen to minutes 10:38 to 12:00 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAfaLafO8ao

  2. Shades of Gray says:

    “We need a positive identity that inspires us…What authentic Torah values, about which we are passionate, do we, the Modern Orthodox community, do better than anyone else?…”

    I am not sure about chesed; the charedi world does a tremendous amount of Chesed. Even youth activism is not a unique MO value(there was an article in the Jewish Observer noting that less yeshivah students were taking summer counselor jobs than years ago, and highlighting the positive value of such service).

    More broadly, there is a danger of defining one’s identity in terms of others. Additionally, many Charedim can be said to have “MO” values as mentioned in one of the articles(“how profound is the difference between the modern orthodoxy of a lawyer living in Passaic and one living in Teaneck Unlike in Israel?”). Unlike Israel where army service is a unique RZ value, perhaps there is no unique “authentic Torah value” that is MO.

    Perhaps MO uniqueness is the modernity part of the equation which emphasizes certain values that others may deemphasize, but that itself does not create passion; passion comes from the same Torah values that the Charedi world derives it from. Take the values mentioned by R. Yitzchak Blau, eg, MO sees gentiles as having “ parallel spiritual and moral striving”, as well as the values of individuality and autonomy. These values by themselves do not create passion just as RSRH’s positive view of non-Jews, in of itself, did not create passion, but it was something that is part of the uniqueness and identity, if emphasized more. More “breathing room” or intellectual openness in proper measure one can call “hechsher mitzvah”, and gives context for the same values that the Charedi world gets passion from.

  3. H G says:

    “The people most involved in chesed, in volunteering to help others, are among the most proudly religious individuals in our community.”

    I think you’re attempting to imply that involvement in chesed creates religiously proud individuals. Is there any indication that it is not the other way around – the religiously proud do chesed?

    (I’m inclined to agree with what I think your assumption is, by the way.)

  4. G Pickholz says:

    Sorry, but reading this from Israeli perspective strikes one as astoundingly hollow and tragic.

    That’s the best you’ve got for all the historic opportunity of the American religious and economic experience?

    The gulf between Dati Leumi and MO expands daily. No wonder those on shlichut or work Stateside shelter their children and social lives from the locals once shul concludes. OK, once the cholent kiddush concludes.

  5. ba says:

    How can you say MO is not extreme? I know what you mean, but as long as MO fulfills all the halachos of the Torah, they are as extreme as they need to be. They don’t need to compare themselves to others more extreme than they.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What is wrong with the old message, of seeing the value in the modern world and striving to be a part of it? Also MO can stress the importance of citizenship in all forms. MO celebrate Thanksgiving, they teach the importance of honesty in dealing with the government and non-Jews.

  7. HAGTBG says:

    I both agree with the aim of this post of providing a positive vitality to the religious experience while at the same time feeling somewhat that this is really a branding exercise and an advertising discussion … when you think Modern Orthodox, think chesed.

    Second, we do have a lot of chesed but I don’t think (a) people associate MO with great acts of chesed – if anything the charedi are better known for that (fairly or not) and (b) for most MO, chesed is a part, but not a large part, of their lives.

    Lets take the OU for instance. Relevant, given R’ Weil’s inclusion in this post. It has 14 separate departments listed on its website. With the possible exception of the job board, not one concerns chesed. If this is supposed to be a core focus, why is it not there?

    I conclude by noting that the MO was once known for integrity, honesty and respectful treatment for all. For “glatt yashur” even over glatt basar. Menchlichkeit / being a fundamentally decent person and understanding there is a morality and ethic. I still believe it has an edge there about others. An edge that comes from celebrating and incorporating all knowledge into devotion to G-d and not hiding from culture and society. What’s wrong with accentuating that as a source for inspiration?

  8. Moshe Shoshan says:

    I think it would be great to make a major push to increase chessed in the MO community, but this cannot in and of itself define a community. Chessed is a universal value and the community also needs particularistic values that will giveit group identity. Thats why the slogan of Tikkun Olam in the non-Orthodox world is ultimately hollow as a was of forging Jewish identity. How can we base our identity by doing the exact same things goyim do? along the same lines how can MO base its identity around some thing that is done in the chareidi and the non-Orthodox community just the same.
    I think rather we need to boil down MO into a few key distinguishing values:

    1)Active engagement with the general culture and society: We do not think that attempting to seal ourselves off from the outside world as much as possibile is either feasible or desirable. There are many positive things in general culture and the only way we can influence that culture is to be engaged init. Even with regard to the negative influences, we must be engaged to understand the threats. With in the community we may disagree on the extent or nature of this openness and engagement, but I think the principle holds true across the board.

    2)Working is a mitzva, full time, life time Torah learning is only for a very small elite at most.- This is only MO because the Chareidim have rejected the mainstream position on this one.

    3)Zionism- The State of Israel, for all its faults is a positive thing, we support and identify with it. Those in Israel have an obligation to take part in the common life of the State, especially army service.

    4)Women- I think all MO recognize that the radical changes in women’s place in society require a different approach to women’s issue then in the past. That may mean serious women’s education, with minimal Gemara like Steve B. advocates, it may mean Yoatzot and educating women in Torah in the same was as men, It may mean women’s tefillah groups or allowing women a greater role in communal affairs. There is a great range of opinion and much debate on this matter with in MO, but again I think that there is a certain common ground across the community.

  9. avi says:

    I was going to comment on how this article really didn’t speak to me as long time MO Jew. But then it made me realize that actually it did. I got to a point in my life where I said to myself that I’m either making aliyah, or I’m not going to keep halacha anymore. The MO life in America really didn’t make any sense, and since there was all these people in the world telling me to come back to Israel, as Gd promised he would do, the choice became obvious. I really don’t know what MO Jews in America who reject the idea of Aliyah are going to do with themselves.

  10. David says:

    Chesed is a strong hallmark of the Chasidim. Being a lonely MO in a random Chasidishe shteeble on Shabbos, you can get many strangers invite you over for a Shabbos meal. Not to mention all the Chesed organizations the Chasidim inaugurated. (Hatzalah, Bikur Cholims, Gemachs, Tzedakos, Shomrim, etc.)

  11. avi says:

    Chesed is a strong hallmark of all Jews everywhere. I don’t know a single community that doesn’t emphasise their own personal brand of chesed. (Though some communities are much worse at it than others in actual practice, but I think that’s just because they live in non-nice parts of America)

  12. joel rich says:

    IMHO the challenge is that MO (not mo lite) encourages foxes, not hedgehogs:
    “The Hedgehog and the Fox” is an essay by the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin.
    Summary

    Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato, Lucretius, Dante, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, and Proust) and foxes who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (examples given include Herodotus, Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce, Anderson).

    Our unifying factor is everyone trying to find the proper balance of multiple demands from hkb”h into their own avodat hashem.

    KT

  13. shachar haamim says:

    Moshe – I don’t think that Zionism is an essential element of Modern Orthodoxy. There are clearly people who are non-Zionist – or even anti-Zionist – and are Modern Orthodox.
    I think that as time progresses and the cognitive dissonace of being “Zionist” while CHOOSING to remain outside of the State of Israel sets in, especially as standards of living gap narrow, one can expect to see many more example of non-Zionism, anti-zionism and wishy-washy “Zionism” in the modern orthodox community (especially the USA). Dov Zakheim, Peter Beinart, Shmuly Yanklewitz and many other come to mind…

  14. ruvie says:

    shachar – “I don’t think that Zionism is an essential element of Modern Orthodoxy.”
    it is in america and in every mo day school as well as high school. i think your definition of what zionism is will be different than how it is viewed in america.

  15. IH says:

    SH — A year or so back, I asked Gil why he identified as MO given that he admitted he was socially/behaviorally more comfortable with (US) Charedim and he responded “I’ve answered this many times. I am a Zionist and believe in Torah U-Madda.”

    In any case, I don’t think Gil’s post is primarily raising a brand identity issue, rather a brand stickiness issue: intra-MO Kiruv.

    Also note the related Sunday NYT piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/dont-indulge-be-happy.html

  16. orthodox observer says:

    Has anyone considered the recent writings of Gidon Rothstein in “We’re Missing the Point” – why is it necessary to define MO so narrowly, what about re-focusing our shuls, schools and communities on the Ikkarim of Torah Judaism – it will take work, but the result will be a more G-d centered life for those who “opt in”

  17. IH says:

    OO — who could be against promoting chesed? Besides a program based on chesed is less threatening to RWMO’s desire to find common cause with moderate Charedim than other alternatives.

  18. Aaron Ross says:

    To echo Moshe Shoshan’s critique, how is Gil’s point any different from the non-Orthodox movement’s embrace of “tikkun olam” as the overriding identifying factor of their Judaism. For all intents and purposes, that construe that phrase to mean chessed, although perhaps Gil is focused primarily on chessed within the Jewish community, whereas the other branches of Judaism include in it helping anyone in need, anywhere in the world (we can argue about priorities some other time).

    Perhaps in order to create passion what we need is passion. In other words, it is not the message that is lacking, but rather the way in which we communicate it. Since the MO community is by definition somewhat pluralistic (i.e. we can appreciate individual differences, can value both Torah and Madda and Parnassa, etc.), we find it hard at times to become too passionate about what we believe in, lest we simultaneously delegitimate someone else’s belief. And see we see that people on the extremes tend to discount the views of others, we tend to shy away from getting too worked up about things that are core values.

    I say that we need to overcome that timidity. If a school or a community or a pulpit Rabbi is Zionistic, then they should present that view proudly, realizing that not everyone may share their exact view, but also realizing that part of their job is to inspire others to that message. The same goes for a belief in Torah U’Madda or whatever other sacred cows we have. Chessed should be part of that as well, as should general menschlichkeit, but I do not see how it can be our entire and unique message.

  19. Joseph Kaplan says:

    I agree with Moshe. In fact, about 10 years ago I wrote an article which appeared in the Edah Journal entitled “Modern with a capital M” which made some of the same points. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be on line any more so I can’t post a ling. Would be happy to send a copy o0f what I have in my files to anyone who’s interested.

    The other comment that resonated with me is that this sounds in some ways like the emphasis on tikkun olam by other movements which so many in MO decry. Not that they are against tikkun olam, but that is too universal. Can’t the same thing be said about chesed. Sure we should emphasize chesed (and on a local level we do in many ways), but there must be something more “Jewish” to define us.

  20. R. Araujo says:

    “To echo Moshe Shoshan’s critique, how is Gil’s point any different from the non-Orthodox movement’s embrace of “tikkun olam” as the overriding identifying factor of their Judaism.”

    Because tikkun olam basically means promoting government programs and intervention in society and the economy to promote repairing the world. Such programs as increased social assistance, socialized medicine, intervention in the inner-city, quotas, etc. Further, the heterodox have promoted it on a universalist basis, applying to Jew and Gentile alike. On a personal level, like inviting for a meal or for Shabbos, giving tzedakah daily, etc…not so much.

    The difference is in focus, model, and means of distribution of chessed.

  21. EK says:

    How many times have we attended the funeral of an older person and heard about the “ehrlichkeit” that separated them from people of younger generations? Perhaps that’s something that can set MO apart. A focus on honesty and integrity in everything we do, and being a walking product of Torah and Yiddishkeit (which, to be fair, encompasses Gil’ point re: chessed and Gidon Rothstein’s point) can perhaps set MO apart.

    Obviously, this isn’t something with the mass appeal of chessed. But I agree with the other commenters – thank G-d, there is a tremendous amount of chesed in the haredi and hasidic communities. I don’t see how that alone helps make MO different than the others.

  22. ruvie says:

    R’ gil – thank you for posting and providing food for thought.

    i wonder – especially to posters those that live in israel – if the same issue is in the fl/mo society in israel? is i at all similar – the lack of passion? if not, is there something to learn from the scene in israel? or does army service/hesder/sherut l’umi create the passion to the land and its people that we may lack?

  23. cyberdov says:

    news flash – chesed isn’t even confined to other streams of Judaism, there are plenty of non-Jews who practice plenty of chesed.

    Also, the idea that 99 out of 100 will succeed at chesed is flawed.

    MO can and do succeed at Torah and Avoda as well, perhaps in smaller numbers since there is a more broad focus, but to de-emphasize Torah would be disastrous for MO, where would the next generation of talmidei chachamim – leaders as well as baalei batim – come from??

  24. avi says:

    Ruvie, in Israel the passion exists even in the American DL comunities. The passion comes from reading the tanach and saying ‘oh, now I get it, that place is where I drove past last summer’. Its driving past a tomb and recognizing some amoral or tanna from the Talmud and being inspired to look us his sayings. For the less sentimental there is a real desire and need to mix modern knowledge and Judaism into laws passed at the kenneset or policies followed on the local city level. Judaism is as real as it gets and you aren’t just paying lipservice to ideas that you lack the power to put into practice.

  25. MO says:

    Kol kavod, Gil. As a community we should stress, honesty, integrity, hospitality, care for the poor, the sick, the weak, the needy etc.. This should be stressed not as the only Torah value, but as a primary Torah value. Education in our schools should highlight this.

    Acts of chesed would ideally start with our community but extend to non-frum Jews and non-Jews alike. Doing this would be the best kiddush hashem possible.

    What’s important is not for Orthodoxy to be unique, but to do things better. If we are going to be competitive over anything let it not be over the size of our houses or where we got our degrees from but over the extent of our chesed.

  26. MO says:

    “If we are going to be competitive over anything let it not be over the size of our houses or where we got our degrees *or over which hekshers we won’t eat* from but over the extent of our chesed.”

  27. aiwac says:

    “but to de-emphasize Torah would be disastrous for MO, where would the next generation of talmidei chachamim – leaders as well as baalei batim – come from??”

    Why are people so obsessed with finding the next Gadol hador to the exclusion of all else? And why does being a good leader/baal bayit require being a master of theoretical gemara sugyot study as opposed to other aspects of knowledge?

  28. Y says:

    I like Gil’s essay a lot — it’s a very good proposal.

    Here’s another idea for a unifying theme: dynamism and multi-dimensionality. Other Orthodox movements strive to a large degree toward a single, static ideal — as much Torah study as possible, and communities filled with chesed activities. Because of the engagement with the outside world and open-mindedness valued by the Modern Orthodox, there is more room for dynamism and individuality within a Torah framework. Perhaps this could lead to a set of relatively distinct sub-cultures within Modern Orthodoxy, each of which is characterized by the kind of passion Gil’s article strives for.

    For example, one sub-culture could focus on chesed. This could be dynamic in the sense of going beyond what is normally done. The Modern Orthodox involvement in AJWS is one example. Another could be those focused on character development (forming va’adei mussar as advocated by AishDas), and another could be focused on doing something similar though more influenced by chassidus.

    Besides the idea of several passionate sub-cultures, another aspect of dynamism could be the widespread adoption of practices that are seen as characterizing other Orthodox groups. Certainly the Modern Orthodox should take and learn from and adopt what is good about charedim while rejecting the bad. For example, among communities where daily learning is uncommon, people could try to get everyone (women too) to sign up with a chavrusa to study daily (or at least weekly). Alternatively, groups could promote the more widespread adoption of certain spiritual practices associated with chassidim and other groups, such as meditation or Breslov-style hisbodedus.

    Women could play important roles in all these trends, as well as men. The fostering of various passionate movements within Modern Orthodoxy, who are comfortable with the basic tenets of modern orthodoxy but want to have a particular emphasis, could lead to the kind of vitality and energy that Gil (and many others) would like to see.

  29. ruvie says:

    Some observations of the first paragraph’s language:

    “Modern Orthodoxy has long struggled with generating a passion for its middle-of-the-road religious positions.”
    why do you categorize mo’s religious positions in a negative light with “middle of the road”. the tone to a certain degree delegitimizes the positions as less religious or correct than none middle of the road positions. it also speaks to an inferiority complex common in american mo circles.

    “Moderate stances, even when correct, are often accompanied by diminished excitement.”

    this assumes many “moderate stances” are incorrect or at least suspect. this attitude may be tied to the lack of passion because we do not even believe in what we do – so why be passionate. is it the moderate stances because they are moderate that creates no excitement or is it the whole enterprise?

    “Religiously passionate youth tend to drift to the extremes and many others turn their passions to non-religious subjects or simply drift away.”
    can you have it both ways? do religious passionate youth go to extremes in america? if they are interested in non-jewish subjects should they be indifferent? – do they really become less religious because of their passion in non-jewish subjects (if that is true then all professionals/workers should have no religious passion )?
    this doesn’t mean that your question at the end isn’t appropriate or fair – it is nevertheless a good question that needs to be addressed.

  30. avi says:

    ““Modern Orthodoxy has long struggled with generating a passion for its middle-of-the-road religious positions.”
    why do you categorize mo’s religious positions in a negative light with “middle of the road”. the tone to a certain degree delegitimizes the positions as less religious or correct than none middle of the road positions. it also speaks to an inferiority complex common in american mo circles.”

    How peculiar. I saw that language as being a direct homage to Rambam, and thought it was rather positive yet lamenting of the reality of the human psyche behind responsible adult decisions.

  31. ruvie says:

    avi – i don’t think it was conveyed – or meant to be – as the rambam’s shivil hazahav – that would be THE correct path. just read the following sentence.
    btw, its modern orthodoxy ( now used by many as a perjorative) not moderate orthodoxy.

  32. avi says:

    ” – that would be THE correct path. just read the following sentence.”

    Few people take that path in practice or truly advocate it. It’s hard to get people to accept that the middle path is the correct halachic one.

  33. Hirhurim says:

    Avi is closer to what I meant than Ruvie. I was trying to channel R. Norman Lamm.

    This isn’t the first time Ruvie has seen unintended meaning in my words.

  34. ruvie says:

    r’ gil – sorry for the unintended meaning of your words but it comes from its context of the next sentence. “Moderate stances, even when correct, are often accompanied by diminished excitement.” and the assumptions in them(or am i imagining this?). i thought the second sentence may have implications to the first intended or not. its a fair misunderstanding but maybe i am overly sensitive to this issue over the years.

  35. Hirhurim says:

    Yes, you are imagining it.

  36. Anon says:

    IH, have you ever considered that your habit of posting a link with every single comment is quite obnoxious? For every 3 line comment that you read, you expect me to read a 4 page article in order to continue the discussion. Is everyone else’s time and effort so much less valuable than yours?

  37. IH says:

    Anon — I generally include a summary when I provide a link. In this case the link is a video and I did not have time to transcribe R. Berman’s relevant remark, but I was very specific about its location in the video. But, I now see I failed to so for the NYT article.

    Many others thank me for the relevant links I provide; my apologies if you find it burdensome. Personally, I find it more burdensome when people provide references without links. But, I’m a footnote kinda guy.

  38. Moshe Shoshan says:

    I think the fact that the Rambam’s shvil hazahav runs counter to the worldview of much of the orthodox community may be one of the central issues in Orthodoxy today. Of course “He could say it, we can’t”

  39. Haim says:

    I’m not sure why “generating excitement” is such an important thing.Judaism is not about creating fleeting emotional frenzy. This is not about good marketing. Most of us are MO because we simply believe that it strikes the right balance of what we believe Hashem wants from us. Let our overall good integrity to what we believe sell our way to others. Or not.

  40. Arnie Lustiger says:

    A very interesting proposal, but I perceive one hurdle to its implementation. Let’s take Lakewood or Brooklyn as an example. Both offer innumerable gemachs in addition to Tomche Shabbos and Chaverim: a chesed infrastructure the MO community can’t yet touch. Much of the reason is because it is much easier to be motivated to do chesed when the chesed recipients are the very friends and neighbors of the chesed purveyors. The more affluently segregated MO community will not have the same motivation to get involved. The playing field is more level, however, when it comes to Misaskim or Bikur Cholim.

  41. MO says:

    “I’m not sure why “generating excitement” is such an important thing.Judaism is not about creating fleeting emotional frenzy.”

    Amen. Quiet, steadfast conviction is much more powerful, and ultimately valuable, than fleeting, passionate excitement.

  42. MO says:

    “I’m not sure why “generating excitement” is such an important thing.Judaism is not about creating fleeting emotional frenzy.”

    Amen. Quiet, steadfast conviction is much more powerful, and ultimately valuable, than fleeting, passionate excitement. Its also a more mature form of religion.

  43. ruvie says:

    mo – i think lack of passion is meant as lack of conviction/commitment for oneself or the perception of next generation. not that i am a good interpreter of what r’ gil means. it is also a complaint one has heard for many years in the mo community.

  44. MO says:

    Why doesn’t committing oneself to chesed as a way of serving Hashem and being mekadesh shem shamayim count as conviction/commitment? Perhaps its not the most exciting thing in the world for some. But I don’t see the lack of conviction/commitment.

    In the end the tortoise wins the race.

  45. IH says:

    For the benefit of Anon and others, my manual transcript of R. Berman’s words at Ramath Orah (modulo one parenthetical comment and a few oratory phrase repeats) is:

    But this renewal of Jewish common normative covenant could build out of three general goals. Three general duties, that we need to persuade every accessible Jew in America to adopt. First of all, to study a Torah text for at least one hour each week together with a spouse, a child, some other relative, a friend. Secondly, to engage in communal prayer at least once each week – either at a regular synagogue service, or a healing service, or any other Jewish prayer gathering. Thirdly, to perform some act of G’milat Chassadim at least once each week, to a person outside of the immediate family. Any act of kindness or helping done with one’s person, one’s body, not with one’s money can qualify. In other words, the issue is not T’zdakkah, the issue is G’milat Chassadim — the use of one’s body, the use of one’s person to achieve goodness in the life of others.

    The point of the NYT article was that in addition to all the reasons we should engage in Chesed there is increasing research evidence that it makes us happier as individuals as well.

    —–

    Finally to MO’s point, my reading is the unstated problem to which this post responds is the lack of passion for institutional Modern Orthodoxy: e.g. one’s shul. Modern Orthodox institutions are losing ground just like all religious institutions and those with the passion for a given issue are increasingly acting on it independent of the established institutions: e.g. Uri L’Tzedek.

  46. aiwac says:

    “Modern Orthodox institutions are losing ground just like all religious institutions”

    Not in Israel. The variety of shuls and shul experiences means there’s a great competitive and vibrant market for religious services.

  47. IH says:

    Arnie Lustinger — there are no lack of projects that could use helping hands, particularly the united hands of a shul’s worth of people. One that comes to mind is http://cajac.us/

    “There are hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and cemetery associations in the Greater New York area. Some are in a run-down physical and administrative condition, with uncertain caretaking arrangements and limited endowments for basic upkeep. Many other cemeteries are at risk of falling to ruin as their resources gradually diminish. CAJAC’s mission is to advance the dignified maintenance of community burial grounds, in keeping with the Jewish tradition of honoring the deceased (“kavod ha-met”).”

  48. Joseph Kaplan says:

    R. Emanuel Rackman once wrote (I paraphrase) that he was against changing the term Modern Orthodox into Centrist Orthodox (when that was in vogue) because there are issues that we are not “center” at all but are extreme; e.g., trying to free agunot (he had other examples as well that I don’t recall).

  49. SC says:

    We recite every morning a list of chessed activities to which every Jew should be committed, but ultimately conclude with: “Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam!” (Gemara, Shabbos 127a). Why is it sooooo hard for every poster here to understand this simple truth? Or is it that far too many MO adherents skip these words…or worse yet, recite them without an iota of belief?

    That’s why Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, years ago (on the occasion of his first return to the Wednesday night debate at LSS after having made Aliyah), stunned his audience by proclaiming that Modern Orthodoxy in America was doomed to disappear. Without being ensconced in the JEWISH CULTURE of Eretz Yisrael (his return to the Upper West Side being an opportunity to fervently pitch Aliyah to his former neighbors), Modern Orthodoxy’s immersion in American culture, insisted Rabbi Riskin, would slowly erode its core Jewish values, causing it to follow the same path that Conservativism has trod on, to oblivion. Only the Yeshivish and Chassidic movements would survive in America, said Rabbi Riskin, because they live the maxim: “Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam.”

    Currently, the Conservative leadership is desperately trying to re-brand their movement into relevancy. (Ain’t goin’ t’happen). This whole article and thread sound like an echo of Modern Orthodoxy’s facing the same dilemma. But until adherents to MO understand that the Right has got it right: “Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam,” the prognosis for MO’s survival in America is grim.

    (Psst…Chazal knew what they were talking about after all, by declaring the primacy of Torah learning over even g’milas chessed. So the suggestion that chessed become the core value of MO is, sadly, well…sad).

  50. aiwac says:

    SC,

    The yeshiva world doesn’t survive solely or even primarily due to Talmud Torah but also a series of very high barriers to the outside world and a very close-knit social structure that raises the costs of going OTD to almost unbearable (for the person’s family, for instance). Lehavdil, plenty of people went OTD despite learning in Volozhin. TT is not a panacea.

  51. MO says:

    SC:

    Chesed and Tzedakah are also keneged Kulam.

    See Yerushalmi Peah (perek aleph halakhah aleph):

    Tzedakah uGemilut Hasadim Shokelet Keneged Kol Mitzvoteiha Shel Torah.

    Other commandment that Chazal say are keneged kulam include:

    Milah (Nedarim 32a)
    Tzizit (Menahot 43b)
    Tzedakah (Baba Batra 9a)
    Shabbat (Yerushalmi Nedarim end of perek gimmel)

  52. SC says:

    To aiwac (@ 5:17)

    I really find your entire comment rather disturbing. For example: “high barriers to the outside world” are a necessity for surviving in golus, and Rabbi Riskin’s point — which I ratify — is that without those barriers assimilation will, without fail, take its terrible toll. Unfortunately, life has become so overwhelmingly comfortable in the American golus that too many (so-called) bnei Torah (even among the Yeshivish) have forgotten the concept of what golus is all about…having become so thoroughly immersed in American culture that they no longer recite “L’shana Haba’a Virushalayim” with ANY CONVICTION OR DESIRE AT ALL!

    But more disturbing still, are you suggesting that the children in Yeshivish families stay on the Torah Derech driven mainly by fear of family ostracization should they stray? (rather than commitment to a Torah way of life through immersion in its study and exposure to the norms of family and community life in Yeshivsh communities?) If so, I find such a suggestion to be without any merit and somewhat insulting…albeit I speak only from my 35-year experience as a ba’al teshuva who has lived in both MO and Yeshivish communities. (I cannot speak to the worlds of Williamsburgh or New Square). Rachmana litzlan, there are families here in Far Rockaway with OTD children and NONE of these families has ever experienced anything other than continued friendship and high esteem from their neighbors. Incidentally, of my six children, three live their lives firmly ensconced in MO mode and three in Yeshivish mode. None, B”H, are (at least presently) OTD. But if, G-d forbid, it should happen, I don’t think that anybody in my Agudah shul would suddenly shun me, causing me to suffer the “unbearable cost” (your term) of being the parent of an OTD child.

  53. SC says:

    To MO (@5:49)

    But pointedly, none of the other “k’negged kulams” were chosen by Chazal for daily affirmation as part of our tefilah. Could someone enlighten me as to why this may be?

  54. Steve Brizel says:

    I would like to respectfully disagree with R Weil. One can find many instances of Chesed that we take for granted in our communities ( Hatzalah, etc) that had their origins in the Charedi world. More critically, as the Netziv points out in many places, the shevatim whose expertise was chesed were the first to go into exile because their orientation and communal goals were chesed as opposed to Talmud Torah. Like it or not, chesed is not a goal which is uniqely that MO or even a Mitzvah that generates a Birkas HaMitzvah.

  55. IH says:

    SC — Could you cite a source for your repeated paraphrase of R. Riskin?

  56. SC says:

    IH:

    Only that I was in attendance at this seminal event…albeit, in the overflow crowd that had to hear Rabbi Riskin on a monitor in the social hall. And by the way…I attended the entire lecture series that year and on only two nights (with hundreds of fellow Jews in attendance) were we able to get a minyan for Ma’ariv. It was tragic, but apparently post-lecture events at local pizza shops, coffee houses or wine-and-cheese parties in neighborhood UWS apartments were a more pressing need than staying back for 10 minutes to make a Ma’ariv minyan. Shall I say that this reality didn’t speak very well of the MO mindset?

  57. hB says:

    SC, how many years ago did Rabbi Riskin make his prediction? Maybe time has proven him wrong.

  58. MO says:

    SC:

    The reason that we say that piska is because it in the context of birchat hatorah.

    The concept of kenged kulam also doesn’t mean what you think. If it meant that one mitzvah was equal in value to all the others then the idea that different mitzvoth are keneged kulam is nonsensical.

    What the statement means is that there are certain mitzvoth which serve as a foundation for all the others.

    Shabbat does this since it is a testament to the brit between am israel and hashem
    Milah does this since it is a testament to the brit between Avraham and Hashem
    Tztzit because it reminds one of all mitzvoth
    Tzedakah and Chesed because veahavata lereiacha kamocha is a foundation of the entire torah

    And Talmud torah because one learns how to practice all of the mitzvoth through limmud hatorah.

  59. IH says:

    But pointedly, none of the other “k’negged kulams” were chosen by Chazal for daily affirmation as part of our tefilah. Could someone enlighten me as to why this may be?

    SC — Is your reading that כְּנֶגֶד כֻּלָּם there (and in Peah 1:1) is a categorical, or only in respect of דְבָרִים שֶׁאָדָם אוֹכֵל פֵּרוֹתֵיהֶם בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְהַקֶּרֶן קַיֶּמֶת לוֹ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא?

    Incidentally, Elbogen (pp. 78-79) indicates these sections are found first in Natronai Gaon and in the works of other Geonim, so “chosen by Chazal for daily affirmation” may be an overstatement.

  60. SC says:

    To hB:

    I believe that it was 1984…and I will add that a gasp when up from the audience when this “spokesman” for Modern Orthodoxy voiced such a dire prediction for the movement with which he so closely identified. And by the way, Rabbi Riskin pointedly made reference to this fact and expressed how much it hurt him to have come to this conclusion. Whether he still holds this belief 28 years later I cannot say (maybe he has since become more optimistic).

    > “Maybe time has proven him wrong.”
    >> Based on the tenor of Reb Gil’s article — with a hint of desperation, maybe, regarding MO’s future (or at least serious concern) — the “road forward” appears to me to be headed in the direction that Rabbi Riskin predicted it would. Maybe this is why we need the final geula so badly.

  61. SC says:

    IH:

    Thank you for your response which I do need to give some thought to. By the way, how do you manage to post with Hebrew type? Transliterating into English is a real pain…and I’ve actually had people complain to me about my “incorrect” transliterations (if there can be such a thing). I have a number of Hebrew fonts in my MS Word but if a cut and paste to this comment box is just doesn’t work. [If it's too hard to explain than don't bother :-(].

  62. Moshe says:

    Chessed is important,but why take Torah study out of the mix.Our focus in limud Hatorah should be on Practical Torah study understanding the values of Hashem and chazal,understanding how halacha operates and applying to the real world (not lomdus and raid which is a hallmark of the yeshiva world and may not contribute to one’s religious development )

  63. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that the Satmar Kehillah, regardless of one’s views of their “shitah” on Israel, has a patent on Chesed. Anyone who has been hospitalized in a metropolitan NY hospital is well aware of the committment of the Satmar Kehillah to Bikur cholim.

    I would add that the MO community can excell in Kiddush HaShem in the public domain without acting as if the public domain is a private domain, which unfortunately one finds way too often when one visits the Charedi world in its summer venue and my old neck of the woods. I would also add-just because one is not in a Kollel, does not exempt a person from Talmud Torah. The Charedi world views Yissachar and Zvulun improperly as merely requiring laymen to donate $. In fact, the Rambam in Hilcos Talmud Torah sets forth Rabbeinu HaKadosh and Hillel HaZaken as models and possibly economic extremes of people who learned Torah. The messaage that I received and which I am still vehemently proud to stand up for is that one can be a successful professional, businessman and parent and be Kovea Itim LaTorah. MO should be pushing this as optimal conduct, as opposed to a bdieved model for its next generation.

  64. Steve Brizel says:

    I also heard R Riskin’s address back in 1984, and the summary of his comments was quite accurate.

  65. Anonymous says:

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky gets to the crux of the issue here:
    http://rabbipruzansky.com/2011/11/18/modern-orthodoxy-under-the-microscope/

  66. Steve Brizel says:

    SC wrote in part:

    “That’s why Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, years ago (on the occasion of his first return to the Wednesday night debate at LSS after having made Aliyah), stunned his audience by proclaiming that Modern Orthodoxy in America was doomed to disappear. Without being ensconced in the JEWISH CULTURE of Eretz Yisrael (his return to the Upper West Side being an opportunity to fervently pitch Aliyah to his former neighbors), Modern Orthodoxy’s immersion in American culture, insisted Rabbi Riskin, would slowly erode its core Jewish values, causing it to follow the same path that Conservativism has trod on, to oblivion. Only the Yeshivish and Chassidic movements would survive in America, said Rabbi Riskin, because they live the maxim: “Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam.”

    My notes from that night are pretty verbatim-that is a very accurate summary of R Riskin’s notes. One must recall that Riskin, towards the latter portion of his years on the UWS, had strongl criticized “tefilin dates”. On a solely parenthetical note, I would add that Joseph Kaplan and myself as well as others in LSS and R Riskin’s shiur in JSS experienced a great rav and rebbe who was able to appeal to the talmidim in JSS as well as his Baale Batim on the UWS.

  67. IH says:

    In the back of my mind, all day I have been thinking that there is something RWMO is exccedingly passionate about, but the passion is negative and destructive energy. I kept dismissing this thought as too cynical for comfort; yet, how else is one to react to the idea that this piece by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky “gets to the crux of the issue here”.

    Incidentally, Steve, we have regular contributor who is an IP lawyer. He can correct me, but I am fairly certain that Satmar couldn’t have a patent on Chesed (e.g. prior art). Nor do I think there is an excess of Chesed such that MO couldn’t add value, without diminishing what others are doing be they Satmar or Reform or secular Jews for that matter.

  68. IH says:

    Given how memorable this talk by R. Riskin was, I am surprised I can’t find any record online. Is it documented anywhere?

  69. Jo says:

    “[I]f Modern Orthodoxy is to perpetuate itself as a movement and an ideology”
    If you consider madda as part of your Ideology.
    MO being an indipendent movement is not the right way to go. Yes engage the world, but not at by allienating the rest of the orthodox world. There are many people to the left of the “yeshivish” world who are unhappy with “Modern-Orthodoxy.”

  70. G Pickholz says:

    First, kiddos to Avi for very succinctly stating the thought process many of us experienced in MO America that led to our one way tickets on El Al years ago — MO was not flawed relative to DL, it was pointless — פשוט לא רלבנטי.

    Second, and I feel this is a major criticism of R Gil’s premise (and a point ignored by nearly 100 prior comments), the proposed initiative is still stuck in Big Business Rabbinate seeking to funnel excess income into religious coffers. Only 1 of Steven Weil’s 18 focus points on the OU website relate to chesed, but all 18 focus on donations and raising capital.

    Chesed as defined is simply a buzzword for excess discretionary income being allocated to Rabbinic causes and coffers rather than country club fees, except the religious institutions themselves have become the country clubs of the affluent MO. Weil used to openly refer to Beth Jacob as “his country club”, a point many found most disconcerting in its accuracy. None would argue that Ramaz, Frisch, and many of the Shuls on the easy coast would also qualify as little more than country clubs in sociological structure as well.
    Ignoring the obvious morality issues of this dilemma, it has very suddenly grown dreadfully out of date with both the present times and the foreseeable future. We have moved into a new era of rapidly diminishing real income, an era likely to last well past one generation. Come to Europe and see how dreadfully out of date money magnets like Weil’s religious organization structure have become overnight. What have you got that does not involve checkbook Judaism, which is simply not going to be a viable possibility for a rapidly growing percentage of the American population for at least two generations.

    MO was developed and defined as a response to the most miraculous experience of freedom and wealth ever experienced by a Jewish community, coming only a few years after the nadir of the Holocaust, often involving the very same persons in both experiences. It was designed, to quote Moishe Tendler on the development of (then MO) Monsey, to test the envelope of how far we can achieve as religious Jews in all corners of politics, profession and pulpit, in a manner not witnessed since the Rambam and the Golden Age of Spain. But that era has now ended, and few are as ill prepared as the MO and its present leadership to address a community facing rapid and prolonged economic descent rather than ascent.

  71. avi says:

    “SC on July 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm
    To MO (@5:49)

    But pointedly, none of the other “k’negged kulams” were chosen by Chazal for daily affirmation as part of our tefilah. Could someone enlighten me as to why this may be?”

    Atleast in the Artscroll Siddur, you should do yourself a favor and compare what is said daily, with what is cited in the Talmud Shabbat. You might find the differences striking (you might not). But the decision to say these statements every morning did NOT come from chazal at all.

  72. avi says:

    “First, kiddos to Avi for very succinctly stating the thought process many of us experienced in MO America that led to our one way tickets on El Al years ago — MO was not flawed relative to DL, it was pointless — פשוט לא רלבנטי.”

    Thanks. Glad to know I’m not the only one. I was feeling lonely for a moment.

  73. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “Given how memorable this talk by R. Riskin was, I am surprised I can’t find any record online. Is it documented anywhere?”

    I had just moved to Teaneck so I missed that lecture. Damn.

    AIR, his Wed night lectures were all taped. You might want to check with LSS, or better with Ohr Torah, to see if they have any archives.

  74. MO says:

    I think that as a community we have forgotten Rav Hirsch’s perspective of the value of living in chul.

    For Rav Hirsch we are commanded to serve as a models of ethical excellence while being materially prosperous, which as we all know can be a great challenge.

    As Jews living in chul we have opportunities to mekadesh shem shamayim that are simply unavailable to Jews living in Eretz Yisrael.

  75. Nachum says:

    MO: First, not in today’s world. Second, that’s a classic case of justification, or something. Say what you want on any issue, but you can’t seriously believe that the ultimate place of a Jew is outside Israel.

  76. joel rich says:

    R’Nachum,
    I don’t think what MO said contradicts where the ultimate place to be is.
    KT

  77. avi says:

    “As Jews living in chul we have opportunities to mekadesh shem shamayim that are simply unavailable to Jews living in Eretz Yisrael.”

    Not true in the digital age :)

  78. ruvie says:

    jews also unfortunately have shown how easy it is to be a chilul hashem – for religious jews- in both chutz and in israel.

    you would think that since you would be mikayam more mitzvot – of the 613- in israel than you could possibly do in chutz that every rabbi would do a riskin and move to israel and tell their followers to follow. yet, its not to be especially from yeshivish/charedei circles.

  79. MO says:

    Nachum:

    As Joel Rich said I was not speaking about the ultimate place of a Jew. But I believe that until Mashiach there is great value to Jews living in chul.

    I don’t know what you mean by a “classic case of justification.” The notion of Or Lagoyim is a real concept. Were Gil’s suggestion taken to heart and Orthodox Jews be known for their honesty, ethics and responsibility to Jews and non-Jews alike, I think you would see a massive kiddush hashem that just might bring Mashiach a little closer. Its up to us.

  80. Scott says:

    Why does MO need a direction? Why can’t we continue to muddle through, like everyone else does?

  81. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote ,in what I will leave to others to read and decide for themselves, whether the same was patronizing and overly pedantic:

    “He can correct me, but I am fairly certain that Satmar couldn’t have a patent on Chesed (e.g. prior art). Nor do I think there is an excess of Chesed such that MO couldn’t add value, without diminishing what others are doing be they Satmar or Reform or secular Jews for that matter”

    Obviously, I used the term patent in the lay sense that Satmar’s Chesed works are a model for other communities that wish to involve their communities chesed involvements on a greater and more intensive scale.

  82. Hirhurim says:

    What Steve meant is that Satmar bikur cholim is great. I am not aware of any other area of chesed in which they have a unique reputation.

  83. MO says:

    Do Satmar do Bikkur Cholim only for Jews or do they visit non-Jews as well?

  84. Steve Brizel says:

    G Pickholz wrote:

    “Chesed as defined is simply a buzzword for excess discretionary income being allocated to Rabbinic causes and coffers rather than country club fees, except the religious institutions themselves have become the country clubs of the affluent MO. Weil used to openly refer to Beth Jacob as “his country club”, a point many found most disconcerting in its accuracy. None would argue that Ramaz, Frisch, and many of the Shuls on the easy coast would also qualify as little more than country clubs in sociological structure as well.
    Ignoring the obvious morality issues of this dilemma, it has very suddenly grown dreadfully out of date with both the present times and the foreseeable future. We have moved into a new era of rapidly diminishing real income, an era likely to last well past one generation. Come to Europe and see how dreadfully out of date money magnets like Weil’s religious organization structure have become overnight. What have you got that does not involve checkbook Judaism, which is simply not going to be a viable possibility for a rapidly growing percentage of the American population for at least two generations”

    I think that it is a coarse comparison to compare Chesed, and being a Gomel Chesed or Baal Chesed, to a country club obligation. Granted that we live in a tougher economy-but the notion that belonging to the Jewish community was and is some sort of “free lunch”, strikes me as a rather immature POV. Like it or not, any BT who has made the mistake of moving into either a homogeneous Charedi or MO world will realize he or she is an outsider in a network of people who have been together in the same social cookie cutter milieu from k-college or the Charedi equivalent.

  85. IH says:

    Gil — Satmar also deserves hakarat ha’tov for Misaskim.

  86. Steve Brizel says:

    MO-I can’t answer your query directly-but ask yourself the following-who has more special religious needs if he or she is stuck in the hospital as a patient or visitor on Shabbos or YT, and who would deserve greater attention with respect to Bikur Cholim as performed by Satmar?I should note that when I was in the hospital last winter, I was visited both by a dear friend who is a RIETS musmach and chaplain, as well as by a RC priest as well.

  87. Steve Brizel says:

    Those of us who read the NY Post for its conservative editorials and op ed as well as a superior sports coverage than the NY Times but view the content of Page 6 and the celebrity gossip and focus as inappropriate for one’s home will note that one article profiled teen aged girls from a variety of schools including a “conservative all girls school on Long Island” ( Page 36) who had read one of more of three books whose titles will not be mentioned , but that lead the NYT Book Review for fiction. Without even guessing the school or whether the young woman was MO or Charedi, one wonders why more than a few of her contemporaries are doing so, and their parents’ view of the same. I leave it to others to post as to the halachic issues raised by engaging in or thinking about engaging in such conduct as fantasy.

  88. MO says:

    Steve:

    How did being visited by an RC priest make you feel about Catholicism? What if the priest were the only visitor you had?

    I’m not denying that visiting Jews takes priority, but I do believe that there is a special kiddush hashem when a religious Jew visits an non-Jew.

  89. Y. Aharon says:

    While the thesis of this post appears to be accurate, i.e., a relative lack of enthusiasm among many self-identified MO types, the proposed solution is too limiting, nor does it deal with associated issues such as the “eilu v’eilu” syndrome. I agree, of course, that gemilat chesed is a key attribute of a proper person, i.e, a mentch, it can be too narrowly defined. How about chesed in the form of defending and encouraging an increasing role for women in religious life? That’s not so much chesed as fairness and justice, you say. Well, you’re right! Let’s broaden our goal to seek out and fight for fairness and justice, as well as doing acts of kindness. This has to be an serious, impassioned quest if it is to succeed and win converts. We, in the MO camp, are supposedly committed to treating people or whatever gender and ethnicity with honor and respect, then let’s be passionate about it. None of this “eilu v’eilu” blather. As if we really believe that self-centeredness and disdain of outsiders is a valid religious approach instead of being destructive to any possible positive influence in the larger world. While recognizing the need to be respectful of others, we should not fall into the trap of validating the views that we find obnoxious. It’s not that those who hold such views have a point. It’s that they have a right to be mistaken. It’s our obligation to attempt to convince them of their error.

    We must also take overt pride in our knowledge of things outside the traditional subjects of religious study – including Tanach. Nor should our study of talmud be confined to single approaches such as those promoted in many of todays yeshivot. If methodologies such as those advocated in academic circles is helpful in providing insights into particular sugyot, they should be used without apology. Again, enthusiasm in teaching these subjects and approaches is a key to infecting youth with similar feelings.

    Above all, we need to inculcate the awareness of a divine presence in our lives. While such awareness is more associated with Hareidim, the false lessons and destructive methods that zealots of that camp promote, belies the general reality of that idea. It is often just self-delusion and an excuse for bad behavior. We, who believe that our notion of proper behavior and mentchlichkeit is well grounded need to work on the spiritual side of our lives and communicate that striving to those around us – particularly those in our care.

  90. Steve Brizel says:

    MO asked:

    “How did being visited by an RC priest make you feel about Catholicism? What if the priest were the only visitor you had?

    I’m not denying that visiting Jews takes priority, but I do believe that there is a special kiddush hashem when a religious Jew visits an non-Jew.”

    It was nice that he visited me, but it did not change any halachic or hashkafic viewpoint of mine re RC. Asking “what if” questions assumes what is called a Miut Sheino Matzui-something that is beyond the realm of probability.

    I would add that you used the term Kiddush HaShem-I question whether the same is appropriate think that the term which has definite halachic and hashkafic connotations how to live one’s life is conflated well beyond its meaning when we define it downwards into simple mentschlichkeit, which the Mishnah in Avos tells us is a prerequisite for growth in Torah.

  91. Steve Brizel says:

    Y Aharon wrote in part:

    “While the thesis of this post appears to be accurate, i.e., a relative lack of enthusiasm among many self-identified MO types, the proposed solution is too limiting, nor does it deal with associated issues such as the “eilu v’eilu” syndrome. I agree, of course, that gemilat chesed is a key attribute of a proper person, i.e, a mentch, it can be too narrowly defined. How about chesed in the form of defending and encouraging an increasing role for women in religious life? That’s not so much chesed as fairness and justice, you say. Well, you’re right! Let’s broaden our goal to seek out and fight for fairness and justice, as well as doing acts of kindness. This has to be an serious, impassioned quest if it is to succeed and win converts. We, in the MO camp, are supposedly committed to treating people or whatever gender and ethnicity with honor and respect, then let’s be passionate about it. None of this “eilu v’eilu” blather. As if we really believe that self-centeredness and disdain of outsiders is a valid religious approach instead of being destructive to any possible positive influence in the larger world. While recognizing the need to be respectful of others, we should not fall into the trap of validating the views that we find obnoxious. It’s not that those who hold such views have a point. It’s that they have a right to be mistaken. It’s our obligation to attempt to convince them of their error.

    We must also take overt pride in our knowledge of things outside the traditional subjects of religious study – including Tanach. Nor should our study of talmud be confined to single approaches such as those promoted in many of todays yeshivot. If methodologies such as those advocated in academic circles is helpful in providing insights into particular sugyot, they should be used without apology. Again, enthusiasm in teaching these subjects and approaches is a key to infecting youth with similar feelings?

    I think that if you define Chesed in the above manner, you are conflating Chesed well beyond its original meanings into what can be basically and fairly denied as apologetics for feminism, homosexual behavior, and what you view as “fairness and justice”, without even considering and discussing, as opposed to validating, the arguments professed by others. Like it or not, Elu vElu is not just blather, but a basic modus operandi underscoring TSBP and Halacha.

    In reverse order, please provide proof that the MO person will be more excited about learning Talmud in the above provided derech than in learning Bchavrusa , or attending a shiur and recognizing Torah growth in terms of The amount of Torah learned and enhancement of one’s Avodas HaShem.

  92. Steve Brizel says:

    MO-just curious-if you were in the hospital, who would you prefer to be visited by-the Satmar bikur Cholim or a RCC chaplain?

  93. IH says:

    Steve — Getting back to the point of the post, what word or phrase would you recommend in place of Chesed in Gil’s concluding paragraph:

    When we truly become a community of chesed, we will see devoted youth proudly continuing in our footsteps and inspired adults peeling themselves away from work and entertainment to join our good works. We will radiate religious confidence and enthusiasm, inspiration and participation. That is the direction torward a passionate and united Modern Orthodoxy.

  94. IH says:

    For me, I’d vote for “Ahavat Yisrael”. The (Chabad) definition gets at the essence for me: http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/180,67/What-is-Ahavat-Yisrael.html

  95. G Pickholz says:

    A modest proposal during the 3 weeks and Parshat Meraglim (+1, but close enough) and prior to Parshat 2.5 shevatim, as a core point to include in an MO living constitution:

    We recognize the aveira of the 2.5 shevatim, as well as the meraglim, and the danger of our communities falling into near mirror image aveirot — why we even have discussants here verbalizing the “mitzvot that can only be fulfilled in chutz la’aretz”. Therefore, we commit to sending our children to the IDF and sheet Leumi. Not sequestered anglo only yeshivot and michlalot. We undertake to at least match the 2.5 shevatim who in their wealth abroad still volunteered their children to full service in the army, for we realize that today we are even worse than they were,

    That will rejuvenate MO overnight, establish real values, and end a significant part of the cancer of Affluenza and Entitlement that threatens to kill MO entirely.

    I remind readers that after making Aliya, I was publicly chastised by the Rebbetzin of our shul in Beverly Hills twice –not once– upon return as an irresponsible father for intentionally putting my sons into the IDF and danger via Aliya. Steve Savitsky of the OU, of course, publicly concluded we were all לא יצלחים because no one else would ever leave Woodmere etc but those who could not cut it.Do not deceive yourselves about just how deep your cancers lie.

    A simple solution. Do teshuva.

  96. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “I remind readers that after making Aliya, I was publicly chastised by the Rebbetzin of our shul in Beverly Hills twice –not once– upon return as an irresponsible father for intentionally putting my sons into the IDF and danger via Aliya.”

    Anyone who would say such a thing even privately, much less publicly, is a fool and certainly doesn’t represent MO thought. In my MO family and community, people going on aliyah is a cause for sincere mazel tovs, wishes of hatzlacha, going away parties. pride, even jealousy for some and the like. I have never heard anyone say such a thing and do not believe it is part of the thinking of serious MO. And unless it can be shown that such an attitude is not a da’at yachid (or even of a few), I would use the true Scotsman’s argument in this situation. (Yes, I know it’s a logical fallacy.)

  97. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-How about this slight emendation-” a community rooted in and devoted to Torah observance and study, Avodah, and Gmilus Chasadim”

  98. IH says:

    Steve — I leave it to the marketing experts at the OU, but I was taught that such messaging is always most effective when focused on a single idea — all the wood behind one arrow.

    That said, B’nei Akiva’s motto was: Torah va’Avodah.

  99. mycroft says:

    “That said, B’nei Akiva’s motto was: Torah va’Avodah”
    Maybe following Shimon Hazaddik it should have said Torah avodah gmillut chasadim. Of course Avodah for SHimon Hazaddik is not BA avodah.

  100. mycroft says:

    “Steve Brizel on July 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm
    IH-How about this slight emendation-” a community rooted in and devoted to Torah observance and study, Avodah, and Gmilus Chasadim””

    Steve I had not seen your 242 comment when I commented on IH. Naturally I agree with your comment.

  101. G Pickholz says:

    IH, your error is 100% correct, and the appropriate rebuttal to Steve Brizel: Torah v’Avodah is one unified concept. There need be explicit integration of service for the nation within Torah, or the Torah studies and mitzvot are hollow. Steve is still fighting to avoid any and all responsibilities for his children or his own generation: truly an American cancer not unique to Jews, hence the modern equivalent of a paid Hessian Army in the US doing dirty work of the elite.
    Steve, you need much more. Much much more. What you offered is both lo relevanti and arguably counter to basic fundamental beliefs of Judaism. You at following the 2.5 tribes trying to use your affluence to buy out of basic responsibilities, and in manners even they went out of their way publicly to avoid. Why is my son in sayeret while yours is at Princeton, or even worse, sequestered in an Anglo only program not 100 yards away from my son’s hesder

  102. Nachum says:

    “But I believe that until Mashiach there is great value to Jews living in chul.”

    I have a real fear that after “Mashiach comes” (whatever that means, which is a very important detail here in and of itself), the justifications will simply continue. Tell me I’m wrong.

  103. G Pickholz says:

    Sorry,I wear a white kippa sruga and live in Israel: these are Yemot hamashiach already. Reshit smichat geulatenu, but this is it folks. That’s all you’re getting for official notice. A few blindingly obvious miracles from historic perspective, an in gathering of 75% of the diaspora of 1945, a few obvious etzba Elohim military victories for those who ever read Nach….that’s al the notice you’re gonna get, which is more than Ezra and Nechemia had. We even got the Etheopian return on wings of eagles and quite possibly the American as well in honor of needy bonefish celebrating it’s 10th tho is week. Stay me’ever ha’yarden with your rich flocks and opportunities. But even the 2.5 tribes sent their boys to battle standing next to mine. Do teshuva.

  104. G Pickholz says:

    Humorous autocorrect of Apple. Nefesh b’nefesh auto types as needy bonefish. No comment :-)
    A gloriously merry 10th anniversary for their efforts.

  105. mycroft says:

    “I have a real fear that after “Mashiach comes” (whatever that means, which is a very important detail here in and of itself), the justifications will simply continue. Tell me I’m wrong”
    tend to agree-what percent came back from Bavel? I live in the US and thus I am as guilty as any in this matter-but it is certainly possible that on a cosmic level Jews not returning after 48 or 67 was a disaster similar to the non return for Bayis Sheini.

  106. G Pickholz says:

    I can look the other way re 48 and 67, much as in Bavel and the 2.5 tribes people voted with their wallets. But today, for the first time ever, and I mean ever in history, the standard of living here is clearly and significantly superior to Europe and even the east coast. Americans can’t comprehend the change in what Snerica looks like to expats when we visit today, and see a lesser standard of living than at home. That has never been the case in history, Ezra & Nechemia included. Stanley Fischer is the first true Navi in 2000 years, perhaps, but this truly is a miraculous moment, yet American Aliya remains literally zero. 0.3% per annum.

  107. avi says:

    G Pickholz,

    Agreed. What we see now in Israel has never been seen before since the 1st Beit Hamikdash stood. It’s a new thing that only existed after 2002 (maybe later?)

    I truly believe that most Jews just aren’t aware and havn’t taken a good look. I keep telling people to look for Jobs in Israel, but they just tell me they don’t understand how linked in works.

  108. mycroft says:

    ” But today, for the first time ever, and I mean ever in history, the standard of living here is clearly and significantly superior to Europe and even the east coast. Americans can’t comprehend the change in what Snerica looks like to expats when we visit today, and see a lesser standard of living than at home”

    ISRAEL IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE GDP per capita of the US
    see
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

    “Stanley Fischer is the first true Navi in 2000 years,”
    That a person takes an Israeli public job wo the desire to rip off the system makes him a Navi?

  109. Tal Benschar says:

    “Stanley Fischer is the first true Navi in 2000 years,”
    That a person takes an Israeli public job wo the desire to rip off the system makes him a Navi?

    Well, there is a Biblical precedent. See 1 Shmuel 12:3-5.

  110. G Pickholz says:

    My croft, you quote false statistics for the Jewish population, particularly when adjusted for a $100k+ per annum effective cost of familial religious observance. The American Jewish standard of living has fallen significantly behind us. It is jaw dropping getting off the plane at JFK now.

  111. mycroft says:

    “Tal Benschar on July 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm
    “Stanley Fischer is the first true Navi in 2000 years,”
    That a person takes an Israeli public job wo the desire to rip off the system makes him a Navi?

    Well, there is a Biblical precedent. See 1 Shmuel 12:3-5″
    This blog is not the appropriate place to discuss Heads of Central Banks- even the thesis adviser of Ben Bernanke. I hope we have higher standards for a Navi rather than one not lining his pockets at public expense.

  112. mycroft says:

    “G Pickholz on July 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm
    My croft, you quote false statistics for the Jewish population, particularly when adjusted for a $100k+ per annum effective cost of familial religious observance. The American Jewish standard of living has fallen significantly behind us. It is jaw dropping getting off the plane at JFK now.”

    See

    http://religions.pewforum.org/portraits
    and click on Jews

    or
    http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/table-income-by-tradition.pdf
    compare Jewish American income with Israeli income-it is much higher.

    For a person with school age children the calculus might be different- and certainly Israel has a much better health care system than the US -but in usual cases one does not make Aliyah for material reasons.

    Assuming ” $100k+ per annum effective cost of familial religious observance. ” is correct that is a scandal- because looking at the income figures the majority of Jews can ‘t be religious for economic reasons even if they wanted to.
    It can be nice and good to raise the bar on Jewish affiliation by eliminating Talmud Torahs as an Orthodox option, increasing cost of Kashrut by making standard certain communities chumras like Glatt Kosher-but one should not send michutz lemachane our weakest.

  113. Tal Benschar says:

    Mycroft: you do understand the concept of a joke, right?

    (Although it is striking that Shmuel had to say that. Chazal say he was the greatest Novi since Moshe, but at his retirement he had to make everyone testify that he did not even take a donkey from his office!_

  114. G Pickholz says:

    Tal
    And like Stanley Fischer, the greatness of Shmuel HaNavi seems to be, among many other very significant attributes, the simple fact that he did not plunder his position for profit. Sad commentary on our reality vs our ideal, but plus ça change plus c’est la même chose. But we are off on tangent.

    Mycroft, the present American reality demands at least $100,000 per annum for the most basic familial practice of MO. That gross income figure is quite low for a family with four children. That is simply not a viable religious movement by any definition, and arguably an abhorantly elite one by Judaic standards. But when adjusted into standard of living calculations vs. life in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or the Sharon, it is a jaw droppingly poor life style of keeping up with the Schwartzes where vast components of the familial budget have been hijacked by religious duty. Supreme Court Justice Neil Hendel, a YU graduate, gave a superb luckier on this topic recently. Of course, he was wise enough to settle his family in palatial splendor in Beer Sheva, whose costs of livings an American MO on NY or LA could never begin to comprehend. His comparison of percentage allocation of family budget simply for the fulfillment of Judaic obligation should be nominated for Aliya Speech of the Decade.

  115. G Pickholz says:

    Israel Railway completed and commenced the new 125 kmh train service yesterday extending from Beer Sheva to Acre. Commuter time from Kiryat Gat Route 6 moshavim to Azrieli Center is now 30 minutes, from Beer Sheva no train is longer than 55 minutes. Monsey, Lawrence, New Rochelle, Stamford, Teaneck, Edison, North Hollywood, Callabasas, Palo Alto, Oakland, Skokie, Hollywood/Ft Lauderdale, Boca Raton are all substantially worse daily commutes and effectively more distant than Beer Sheva and Acre.

    Americans have a very difficult time coming to terms with the new reality of a lesser standard of living than many younger nations such as Israel, Singapore, etc. When adjusted for MO true familial budgets, the gaps have become astounding in both costs and tircha. It will take a generation or two to rewrite the hard wired assumptions held as truths that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, simply ain’t so anymore.

    Next time you visit Jerusalem/Jewish Epcot Center, come on over and visit Israel for a day or two as well. We are the adjacent country to Judea, even after 3000 years.

  116. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “That said, B’nei Akiva’s motto was: Torah va’Avodah”

    One can make the point, and the proof is none better than many of those who live in Israel and view Yishuv EY as not just the mitzvah of our time and a Mitzvah for which can ask a Gentile to write a document of sale because it is a Mitzvah DRabim, but also and mistakenly IMO more important than the rest of Taryag Mitzvos-a huge example of hashkafic overreach. Far too many advocates of aliyah promote Aliyah in a way that they see no absolutely no reason for anyone to live in the US-a huge case of being unable to understand why many of their fellow Jews don’t make Aliyah. I would love to move to Israel, but not while we have family here. As long as there are Jews who view army service and where you send your kid to gan as polarizing and determinative issues,as opposed to merely differing hashkafos, despite the fact that one can argue that neither everyone should serve or sit and learn, and to do renders such a view as that only worthy of an American, we have a long way to go before Reishis Tzmichas Geulaseinu is realized in its full potential. Until then, BA can easily viewed as promoting a one Mitzvah agenda. Of course, such a critique would have to take into consideration the all but comlete political isolation of RZ from the Israeli secular world, which one cannot deny was the fallout from POVs taken without allies and which tend to focus on every blade of soil of Erertz Yisrael, at the expense of Am Yisrael.

  117. Steve Brizel says:

    G Pickholz wrote:

    “Steve, you need much more. Much much more. What you offered is both lo relevanti and arguably counter to basic fundamental beliefs of Judaism. You at following the 2.5 tribes trying to use your affluence to buy out of basic responsibilities, and in manners even they went out of their way publicly to avoid. Why is my son in sayeret while yours is at Princeton, or even worse, sequestered in an Anglo only program not 100 yards away from my son’s hesder”

    I think that this post is an example of BA/RZ hubris at its worst, with a cherry picked example from Chumash. Aliyah and service in the army cannot be viewed as superior to Torah Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. I see absolutely nothing wrong with young men and women learning in yeshivos and seminaries in Israel either in prograns designed to enhance their spiritual development or on a long range basis in such Mkomos HaTorah as Mir, etc.

    As RYBS stressed-we follow Melech Elyon whenever there is a choice between Melech Elyon and Melech Evyon. Viewing the state as some sort of RZ fueled Divinely ordained institution may seem nice when compared to the Risorgimento of Italy and Bismarck, but viewing Mamlachtiut uber alles as a supreme value strikes me as an American who cherishes the First Amendment as a highly problematic view of the State-especially in light of the horrific events perpretated in the name of national statehood in the past century.

  118. Steve Brizel says:

    G Pickholz ( IIRC, we were together in YU, and took a very popular course on the Holocaust together) wrote:

    “There need be explicit integration of service for the nation within Torah, or the Torah studies and mitzvot are hollow”

    Many of us are familiar with the teachings of RAYHK ZL.

    That being the case-were the past development of Talmud Torah and Shmiras HaMitzvos hollow?!Where did the Rov Binyan UMinyan of TSBP develope since Churban Bayis Sheni and revolt of Bar Kochba?

  119. Steve Brizel says:

    G Pickholz wrote in part:

    “What you offered is both lo relevanti and arguably counter to basic fundamental beliefs of Judaism.”

    Perhaps, you should look at any standard commentary to Avos 1:2. Shimon HaTzadik hardly lived a life that was “arguably counter to basic fundamental beliefs of Judaism.”

  120. G Pickholz says:

    Steve, Shimon HaTzadik lived that life residing in Jerusalem, not representing those attributes as sin qua non.
    Steven Bayme was instructor; now of the AJC. He was finishing his PhD and moonlighting at YC, and was brilliant even back then. My only semester at YC as an effective senior in HS.
    Dare I note that we are weeks away from the 30th anniversary of that class?

    In any event, we have well crystallized the increasingly divergent beliefs of MO and RZ, and for most of us over here that divide has reached sufficient expanse as to preclude suggestion that we share more than we differ. I always make a point of visiting the main Conservative and Reform congregations when I visit the States, but harbor no suggestion of common religious theology. We have clearly reached that impass with MO as well.

  121. G Pickholz says:

    Ooooooooh, apologies Steve. My very bad error.
    It will be the 40th anniversary of our course with young Steven Bayme, not the 30th. 1973.
    :-)

  122. avi says:

    ” As long as there are Jews who view army service and where you send your kid to gan as polarizing and determinative issues,as opposed to merely differing hashkafos, despite the fact that one can argue that neither everyone should serve or sit and learn, and to do renders such a view as that only worthy of an American, ”

    This is the problem with making excuses. You make decisions based on incomplete information.

    What you describe exists only amongst the Charedi and the Chardal. And only in some cities, not all of them. They may get the majority of the press but they are by far the minority of the people.

    The only question the people in my town ask regarding gan is which teacher will be best for their children, and if the teacher switches gans, should their child as well.

  123. Steve Brizel says:

    G Pickholz-thanks for your kind response. With respect to the referenced Mishnah from Shimon HaTzadik,my understanding was that Mishnayos in Avos reflect a constant theme emphasized by the Tana in question. I think that one can argue that the theme of Shimon HaTzadik was universally applicable, regardless of the political state of the Jewish People.

  124. Steve Brizel says:

    Avi-Hashkafic polarization in Israel is far worse in Israel than in the US. One cannot deny that parents send their kids to certain gans in certain neighborhoods with the knowledge that the same has has hashkafic ramifications.

  125. mycroft says:

    “Next time you visit Jerusalem/Jewish Epcot Center, come on over and visit Israel for a day or two as well. We are the adjacent country to Judea, even after 3000 years.”
    I have my own Rav Kav and have been in many cities in Israel over the years. Israel is far from merely Ranana Rechavia etc even a mile away from your Jewish Epcot Center one sees that storm sewers are essentially non existent-try walking hours after a moderate rainfall.

    Israel has a much lower per-capita nominal GDP than the U.S. The cost of living is higher in Israel than in the U.S., primarily because Israel is much more oligopolistic. Jews in the U.S. have higher incomes than the typical American.

    Naturally, for a family with an average Jewish income in the U.S. and many children going to day school, and that has the opportunity of getting an average Israeli income in Israel, such a family will be financially better off in Israel.

    Of course there are many factors that a families consider besides income after-tax after-tuition. A major factor is one’s attitude towards serving in the army — many Israeli RZ regard it as having a positive value, most American MO regard it as a dangerous uncomfortable place.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/763102/
    is worth listening to as Rabbi Gelman discusses 2 and 1/2 tribes -same ideas are relevant to those of us in the Diaspora

  126. Nachum says:

    Steve, I’ve also heard that there are really big giants in Israel and that it’s an eretz ochelet yoshveha.

  127. avi says:

    “Avi-Hashkafic polarization in Israel is far worse in Israel than in the US. One cannot deny that parents send their kids to certain gans in certain neighborhoods with the knowledge that the same has has hashkafic ramifications.”

    I dissagree. It all depends on where you live.

    In Los Angeles, if you don’t send your kids to the correct school, the children can’t date or hang out or socially interact at all.

    Most places in Israel that aren’t Charedi run neighborhoods, do not have this issue of which gan you send your kids to. (except for the quality of the teachers of course)

  128. G Pickholz says:

    On the Haftarah…
    The Return to Zion Purifies
    [Ashekenazim: Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4
    Sefardim/Yemenite Jews: Yirmiyahu 2:4-3:28, 4:1-2]
     
    During different periods, especially during the time of the Aliyah of North African Jews, the question has arisen: Is it preferable for religious Jews to remain religious in Exile, or to come to Israel with the risk that they might be influenced by the secular and abandon traditional observance?
     
    “I brought you into the Land of Carmel to eat its fruit and goodness, but you came and defiled My Land and made my inheritance an abomination” (Yirmiyahu 2:7).  This Land was supposed to be a place of material and spiritual happiness for us, but it turned into a den of transgressors.  Hashem certainly did not take us out of Egypt for this purpose: “Where is Hashem, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the desert, in a land of plain and rifts, a land of waste and darkness, a land where no one has passed and no one lives?” (ibid. v. 6).  After we left the horrible desert and arrived in the Land of milk and honey, we wasted the Divine opportunity.  We acted without gratitude to Hashem, and defiled the Land.
     
    To our great distress, this process has been reenacted in our time.  Hashem rescued us from the Exile, miraculously brought us to our Land in His kindness…and we turned our backs on Him, desecrated every ideal, every purity and every holiness.
     
    This reality has led some Rabbis to question the value of the Zionist movement.  Jews return to the Land in order to desecrate the Halachah?!  Perhaps it would have been better to remain in Exile.  This Land is holy, and our Sages taught that a sin in the Land of Israel is much worse than a sin performed outside of Israel: One who shames the king in the street cannot be compared to one who does so in the royal palace!  The Torah itself warns: “Let not the Land vomit you out when you defile it” (Vayikra 18:28).  If this is so, then what is the point of coming and defiling the Land – to be exiled again?
     
    But the Zionist movement is legitimate and follows the Divine will.  The midrash explains our verse from Yirmiyahu (2:7) “You came and defiled My Land” as meaning “If only My children would come and defile My Land” (Yalkut Shimoni Eichah #1038).
     
    Furthermore, there are those who claim that there is no mitzvah to make Aliyah because there is a danger that one will become corrupt by being distanced from the Torah.  But the Gemara and halachic authorities themselves explain that one should live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshipers (Ketubot 110b.  Shulchan Aruch Even Ha-Ezer 75:3), despite the potential negative influence.  Although some authorities have written that in this regard heretics are worse than non-Jews, and there is a greater chance that they will have a negative influence, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Eliyahu Klatzkin explained in a small book of Halachah called “Dvar Halachah” (#38 p. 27a) that the same law applies in a city in Eretz Yisrael where the majority of residents are heretics.  His proof is from the Gemara in Eruvin (61b-62a.  Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim #385) where the law appears that it is impossible to make an “Eruv Chatzerot” (lit. mixed [ownership of] courtyards, which allows one to carry within the courtyard on Shabbat) with a Tzeduki (Saducee, i.e. a heretic), and various options are given if one lives in the same house as a Tzeduki.  But there is no mention of any prohibition of living in such a place, or any obligation to live in a place solely populated by observant Jews.  He adds that a person’s failure to observe the mitzvot of Hashem because he is concerned that spiritual damage will result, is discussed by the Gemara in Berachot (10a) regarding King Chizkiyahu, who did not engage in the mitzvah of procreation since he saw through Divine intuition that wicked children would issue from him.  The prophet Yeshayahu said to him: “What you are commanded to do, you must do!”  And Ha-Rav Klatzkin added (ibid.): As if there is permission to act wiser that Hashem’s mitzvot (see Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Bereshit p. 276)! 
     
    There is a story that after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews from North Africa and Yemen made Aliyah and were abandoning traditional observance.  The person who headed the Department of Aliyah at the Jewish Agency was a Torah scholar named Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Shragai, and he was being eaten up inside by this fact.  He did not know whether it was proper to continue to bring Jews to Israel under such circumstances.  Although he was encouraged by Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, the author of Shut Seridei Aish, and Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yosef Soloveitchik, he was still greatly troubled.  He went to the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Tzvi Pesach Frank, and asked him what to do.  Rav Frank said to him: Can you do me a favor and hand me the Yalkut Shimoni?  He opened it and showed Rav Shragai the words of the Yalkut Shimoni on Megillat Eichah: “Hashem says: If only my children, my Nation, would be in the Land of Israel, even though they make it impure.”  And he continued: What do you want from me – to transgress the words of our Sages?!  You are not responsible for what is occurring.  You must bring Jews to Israel and make every effort to connect them to Torah.  Rav Shragai continued to bring Jews to Israel and mentioned this story at various times.  In the book “Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael” (p. 57, 221-222), there is a letter of Rav Shragai describing exactly what happened, which he sent to me.  It is even more severe in this case since we are not discussing unobservant Jews outside of Israel, but observant Jews who made Aliyah and then were no longer observant.  If this is so, what was Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank’s calculation?  Rav Shragai once visited France in a place settled by many North Africa Jews who did not make Aliyah, and he saw their situation.  They did not only abandon traditional observance, but abandoned Judaism altogether – complete assimilation.  He then understood that Ha-Rav Frank was correct that we should bring the Nation of Israel to the Land of Israel and we should know that everything will work out in the end.
     
    We can also recall that a certain Rav once explained the line in the Haggadah, “If we received the Torah, but did not enter the Land of Israel – it would have been enough,” that it would have been better for the non-religious pioneers to have remained outside of Israel rather than to commit sins in the Land of Israel.  These words caused much consternation, and when the students came to class, they told our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, what they had heard.  They thought he would discuss this issue at length, but his response was brief: “See Yalkut Shimoni #1038″ and taught the class as usual (Iturei Cohanim #181).
     
    When the Belzer Rebbe (Ha-Rav Aharon Rokeach) made Aliyah, he came to Reb Noson (Ha-Rav Shalom Natan Ra’anan Kook, Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s son-in-law) and said: we differed with you regarding the way to bring Jews on Aliyah.  We said that they should first be strengthened in Judaism outside of the Land and only then make Aliyah, in order to build in holiness. You said that every one of them should quickly come on Aliyah without calculation.  Since the Holocaust, it has become clear to us that we erred, and we are greatly distressed over this fact.
     
    Maran Ha-Rav Kook taught us that the process of the return to Zion would be similar to the return of Ezra in the Second Temple Period.  Many wealthy and important Jews remained in the Exile, and a small and not so righteous group accompanied Ezra to Eretz Yisrael.  These Jews slowly returned to Torah, thus paving the way for the building of the Second Temple and the development of the Oral Torah (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah, igeret #311).  Maran Ha-Rav Kook also taught us not to overly check the “Kashrut” of those who make Aliyah, since the Land of Israel naturally allows those worthy to reside within her, and she vomits out the inappropriate people (ibid., Igeret 82).
     
    Through the meeting of the hidden holiness of the Nation of Israel and the hidden holiness of the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel will repent.  It is only a matter of time and patience.      
     

  129. G Pickholz says:

    Sorry, the caption did not print above: Rav Aviner today on this week’s haftarah. Don’t o to kiddish club, stay in and listen.

  130. Steve Brizel says:

    G Pickholz-R MM Kasher ZL’s HaTekufah HaGedolah spells out much of what R Aviner is discusssing, especially based on a comment of the Or HaChaim on Parshas Balak on the nature of the Geulah.

  131. EK says:

    Coming to tne end of 2012, I’d like to get back to the main topic of this post, especially in light of recent events, I think the road forward for Modern Orthodoxy should be a focus on children, chinuch and thinking about ways to help the next generation be as successful as possible in matters of both ruchniyus and gashmiyus.

    To me, a few points immediately come to mind:

    1) The MO community should make every effort to completely eradicate any child abuse/molestation from their community. And yes, publicize our efforts. We need a stark contrast between the Weberman debacle, the intimidation of victims and Agudah’s comments on this issue.

    2) Tuition affordability – definitely a part of getting the next generation in the best shape they possibly can be. This isn’t just about making sure kids don’t end up in public school, but also making sure parents don’t each need to be spend 60-70 hours in the office (perhaps I’m exaggerating but in some cases I’m afraid not) just to pay tuition and end up totally neglecting their kids.

    3) Preparing kids to be self-sufficient and for life in general – this means moving away from the “cookie-cutter” approach that exists in many schools and actually preparing kids for life. Part of it includes a focus on higher education, but also encouraging the next generation to find a parnassah that suits their desires and abilities. There are other communities within Orthodoxy that fail in this regard – there are so many people who get married, have a few kids and have no skills and end up struggling and depressed. Again, an opportunity for MO to differentiate itself here in a very positive way.

    4) Developing a sensible approach to technology – let’s face it; inevitably, almost every working person in the frum community will need to access the internet at some point in their lives. We can either make them feel like they’re eating from the eitz ha’daas or develop a practical approach with reasonable guidelines and restrictions. There has to be a middle ground between Asifas and texting on Shabbos. Let’s do our best to get the next generation to that point.

 
 

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