The Zionist Conspiracy

A clandestine undertaking on behalf of Israel, the Jets and the Jews.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006
Orthodoxy and Labels: Hashkafah Or Culture

UPDATE: Chananya Weissman writes extensively on the topic of labeling observant Jews in this week's Jewish Press.

What does it mean to be modern Orthodox?

Laxness in observance? While some modern Orthodox Jews are lax when it comes to halacha, surely this is not a raison d'etre of modern Orthodoxy.

How about support for the State of Israel? Can't someone be MO even if they don't think about Israel and prefer visiting Europe or Alaska?

Rejection of book bans by charedi rabbis? That can't be it. Surely modern Orthodoxy is not defined by rejection of something else.

Holding a view that college education is important? Does that mean that those who (G-d forbid) go from high school into a vocational trade are excluded?

Torah U'Maddah? Maybe, but let's first figure out what that is.

How about the charedim - what does it mean to be charedi?

Belief that secular knowledge is shtus? Then what's with all these charedi doctors and lawyers?

Support for daas Torah? Once you get past Lakewood (and to some extent even within Lakewood), the concept of "daas Torah" is about as amorphous as "Torah U'Maddah."

Rejection of modernity? In theory, perhaps, but we all know that many in the charedi community are very much engaged in both the best and worst that modernity has to offer.

While I don't necessarily agree that Orthodox labeling is completely meaningless, I think many exaggerate or misconstrue the meaning of these labels.

Many who would be placed on the MO side of the divide are serious about Jewish observance and Torah study. Many on the charedi side have a positive view toward Israel and to secular knowledge and a negative view toward out-of-control daas Torah that leads to book bans and edicts regarding the Internet.

To a much larger extent that most recognize, whether one is seen to be charedi or MO has little if anything to do with hashkafah, and a lot to do with the schools and shuls they went and go to, the communities they live in, and, perhaps most of all, their manner of dress.