Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Potential Split in Orthodoxy?

Originally published 5/13/08, 12:52 PM. Link to The Jewish Week no longer works.
Dr. Marc Shapiro's recent comments in the Jewish Week -- See

http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c55_a9351/Editorial__Opinion/Opinion.html# have initiated much discussion and debate. There is no doubt a growing friction between the Charedi and Modern Orthodox world, yet Dr. Shapiro's suggestion that MO should, so to speak, break away from the Charedi world has an essential problem for MO. It will demand the MO not maintain one of its fundamental principles.

The essence of Modern Orthodoxy can be viewed from two perspectives. One is the specific behaviour of MO that distinguishes it from the behaviour of, let us say, the Charedi world. For example, MO is more favourable to the State of Israel. Of course this distinction is not absolute. There are Charedi individuals with positive feelings for the State and MO individuals who are more distant from the State but this distinction in behaviour generally stands. In a variety of behaviour there is a distinction between the Charedi world and the MO world and how one personally behaves will define which world he or she is in or he or she is put in.

There is though another major distinction between the MO world and the Charedi world and that is the distinction based on wisdom and authority. The Charedi world advocates for the value of authority -- thus its fostering of commitment to the Gedolim simply in their person of Gadol. The MO world values wisdom, thus even as they also have Gedolim, it fosters allegiance to these Gedolim because of the arguments that these Gedolim present to support their positions. Of course this dividing line is not absolute and, as there is value in both authority and wisdom, one may find the advocacy of each value, at some time, in both communities, yet there is a greater stress on authority in the Charedi world, and in wisdom in the MO world. (For more on the issue of authority and wisdom, see my article Authority and Wisdom: the Slifkin Affair.

The result is the following. The Charedi world has an easier time discounting the opinion of one scholar, even a great Torah scholar, outside of its orbit. What it ultimately values is allegiance to the position of its Gedolim, simply as authority and discounts the value of wisdom, per se, especially wisdom that points to an opposing position. Yet in the MO world, the opinion of even a singular scholar cannot so easily be dismissed, for the wisdom that may be found in this viewpoint is valued and desired. MO scholars study the Satmar Rav, the Chazon Ish and other similar Charedi gedolim because MO wishes to embrace the entire spectrum of opinions and gain an appreciation of the entire realm of Torah thought. As such, the Charedim can more easily set up parameters that push their viewpoint for the wisdom in an opposing viewpoint falls in the face of the authrity the the Charedi position and the person of the Charedi Gedolim. That is not so for MO. It will always see value in knowing and studying the position of all Torah scholars even those out of the Charedi world and, as such, give respect to all Torah scholars.

So to call for what Dr. Shapiro is asking really presents a problem for, in a way, it is a call for MO not act as MO.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I humbly disagree with you Rabbi. There comes a point in time (like now!) where if disrespect is afforded to you (and the MO), that the MO no longer needs to or should show restraint. Enough is enough.

Garnel Ironheart said...

As eloquently posted on my blog (shameless plug: http://garnelironheart.blogspot.com/2008/05/consequences-of-coming-split.html)
Dr. Shapiro's solution will cause more problems than it solves.
This post discussed the "hashkafic" difference between MO and Chareidi. The "real world" difference is something else indeed. In reality, Chareidim believe in central authority and that the more frills one throws into one's service of God, the better a Jew one is.
On the other hand, MO believes in... well there's no real centralized belief that's common to every facet of MO. On one side you have tremendous scholars like Ravs Schechter and Willig whose approaches and practice border on Chareidi. On the other side, you have YCT which, other than the mechitzah, is essentially a right-wing version of Conservatism.
Is it any wonder that Chareidism wishes to write off MO and remove from it any authority over itself? At least with the Chareidi model there is a central authority, a consistent decision making process and a clear definition of what is inside and outside the pale of acceptance. None of those things exist in the MO world.
Thus unless Dr. Shapiro is prepared to advocate for some rigid and authoritative structure in the MO world which would wind up excluding all those who call themselves MO but don't hold by those standards, he is simply calling for MO to dissolve itself into serveral little groups that will have no impact on the Jewish world at large.

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

Generally speaking I am a Centrist.
I think MO should never move so far left that it cuts itself off from [so-called] "G'dolim."

My paradigm is the relationship between R. Azreil Hildesheimr and R. Samson Raphael Hirsch. R. Hilde. was to Hirsch's left but still cordial and respectful to him

The fact that Hareidim are not "cordial" to MO's is - on a higher plane - really THEIR problem. The fact that some of them promote a kind of benighted Torah bli Derech Eretz is something they need to work on. We Need to do keiruv [kiruv is a misnoner it is not proper dikduk] and elnighten our fellow Jews even if they are on the Right Wing.

Just as we do Keiruv from those that are less than observant ON THE LEFT sop too we need to enlighten those on the Rightto follow the Torah as handed Down By G-d, Hillel and Rabbi Akiva who teach us that not only is v'ahavta le'reei'acha kamocha a mitzva, it is of paramount importance.

While Jews doing outreach to Gentiles is quite controversial, it is not the case with Jews doing outreach TO OTHER JEWS. hareidim are fellow Jews, no matter how much they have been misled by thier fears, xenopohiba or rigid adherence to mistkane notions about Tzelem elokim, they still need education, not reationary boycotting

I guess if you read between the lines - my ultimate revenge towards Hareidim is not to hate them rather to be condescending to them -smile-!

KT,
RRW

Garnel Ironheart said...

>The fact that Hareidim are not "cordial" to MO's is - on a higher plane - really THEIR problem.

Given the RCA's capitulation in conversion standards and Mizrachi's forfeiture of the Rabbanut, the lack of Chareidi cordiality, coupled with their control over conversion and "who is a Jew" in Israel does make it MO's problem.

The question then becomes the line between religion and politics. Why is Rav Feinstein held as an authority in both the Chareidi and MO world? Because his authority devolved from his religious knowledge. Why is Rav Eliashiv's latest psak on something nearly irrelevant to those outside the Chareidi community? Because his position is political.
If there are to be two many political groups, them and us, then us has got to get organized around some common ground.

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

"
Given the RCA's capitulation in conversion standards and Mizrachi's forfeiture of the Rabbanut, the lack of Chareidi cordiality, coupled with their control over conversion and "who is a Jew" in Israel does make it MO's problem."

Actually this proves my point. IT is an MO problem when MOs react or become reactionary. The path is to cordially disagree, When you argue with an idiot, it is hard for the outside observer to tell who is absurder!

MO's must keep the line of communication open. Sin'at HInam and fractious polarization is exactly what led to the Hurban. the Tempting thing to do is to give in to temptation and exact nekamah [revenge] that is akin to eating from the forbidden fruit and will get us kicked out of paradise instantly.

WWI started from knee-jerk escalations and ultimatums.

That does NOT mean caving in to hareidism either. But if MO's want to stand up and be counted, then they will HAVE to actually stand up and be counted. At least 50% of MO's are not idealistic but just taking a path of least resistance and do not challenge themselves. When MO's develop a sense of passion and intensity about themselves there will be no need to stand up to hareidi's they will shudder bfrom the MO's because the power of Troah combined with societal influence will trump the insular fanatics in the hareidi camp. The less insular hareidim will probably respect MOS' when they take being MO more seriously.

Losers usually capitulate to bullies, winners stand up for themselves first and the bullies usually find an easier target.

Most true Nishma Types include MO's Centrists, etc who deeply care about Torah just as much any hareidi does. most Hareidim respect that.

MO's unite! Yu have nothing to lose but your black hats!

KT
RRW

Garnel Ironheart said...

> WWI started from knee-jerk escalations and ultimatums.


Yeah? Well, WWII started from "keeping the lines open" and avoiding ultimatums. And which was worse?

> Losers usually capitulate to bullies, winners stand up for themselves first and the bullies usually find an easier target.

MO can therefore be divided into two groups. Most are "losers" in the sense that they have no patriotic sense of what being MO means. It's just what they are.
The second group are not winners but smart and observant enough to know what's going on and see future trends - either you're Chareidi or you're just not Orthodox.

> Most true Nishma Types include MO's Centrists, etc who deeply care about Torah just as much any hareidi does.

Yeah, all 6 of you. I've been to the meetings. You have to call around if you want a minyan to say kaddish after you're done learning!

Izgad said...

Why can't we as Modern Orthodox Jews take a stand on behalf of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith. The Haredi stance in regards to Gedolim clearly skirts the edge of idolatry. This means that the entire Haredi leadership must be viewed as tainted and therefore irrelevant. I do a lot of work on Christian Hebraists. Many of them were great "Torah Scholars." That being said, since their beliefs were outside the pale of Judaism, they are irrelevant to Judaism.
What is the difference between a Torah scholar who believes that it is ok to ask rebbes for brachas, an act of prayer, and a Torah scholar like Abner of Burgos who believed in praying to Jesus.