Friday, August 02, 2013

Look In The Mirror Rabbi Birnbaum.

In the Yated, Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum finds himself in search of “Ahavat Chinam.”  He laments the fact that the American Modern Orthodox community expresses “unprecedented enmity” towards the Chareidi community.  According to him, we have Ahavat Chinam (baseless love) for those to the left of us, but for those to the right, only contempt.

It’s ironic, of course, that in the course of the article, instead of searching to find common ground between his community and the left upon which to build a foundation of love, he instead engages in bombastic “we’re better than you” chest thumping.  Instead of finding something good to say about the left, he instead chooses to accuse them of baseless hatred.

What Rabbi Birnbaum fails to realize is that one of the key issue at hand is legitimization.  Very simply, we recognize Chareidim as legitimate in terms of their observance of Judaism.  Yes, we may not choose to lead such a lifestyle ourselves, but that doesn't mean that we don’t think that learning Torah, restricted modes of dress or following the strictest possible interpretations of halacha are bad things – they’re just not what we do.

It’s too bad, however, that you don’t see the same tolerance from Rabbi Birnbaum’s community.  How ironic is it that he asks “Is there no baseless love left for Torah observant Jews who have a different view than you?” when it is this very same baseless love that is completely absent on a communal level from his side of the aisle.

While we on the left may have complaints on the way the Chareidi community does things, we don't seek to delegitimize the movement.  We view it as a fully valid form of Judaism, albeit one we do not observe ourselves.

Imagine the following scenario:  a nineteen year old Modern Orthodox youth, about to move out and embark on his own, goes to his parents and says in a serious voice “We need to talk.”  He then sits them down on the couch and says “I’ve decided to become more frum.  I’m going to learn more, I’m not going to have a television or cable in my home.  I’m going to keep Cholov Yisroel and dress only in standard yeshivish clothing.”

What would the parents’ reaction be?  Would they weep and cry and ask themselves the soul-searching question of “where did we go wrong?”  The answer, of course, is no.  They may have concerns about the welfare of their child (which parent doesn't?), but, on the whole, there isn’t going to be any real anguish over the situation, because the parents see yeshivish as a valid, frum lifestyle.

On the other hand, many Chareidi parents practically insider their kids "off the Derech" if they wore a kippah s'ruga (you know, the article of clothing that makes you partof Amalek according to Rabbi Shalom Cohen?) or didn't keep the strictest standard of halacha or even believed that there was value in secular learning for its own sake.   The Chareidi parents whose children become Modern Orthodox would likely spend the rest of their lives wondering what went wrong with their kid.

It’s ironic that Rabbi Birnbaum talks about intolerance of the left for the right when, in fact, the reverse is far more common.  You don't have those on the left screaming at little girls because they keep their particular brand of tznius in dress.  You don't see those on the left yelling at women who chose to sit in the back of the bus.  You don’t the Modern Orthodox community protesting against or threatening to shut down stores where there are separate shopping hours for men and women.  You don’t see the left causing a chillul HaShem at the Kotel by protesting Charedi women who don’t wear a tallis and choose to daven by themselves.

The real issue at hand is the very fact that, in the eyes of many Chareidim, we may as well not even be frum Jews.  I've heard of instances where people who aren't dressed as Chareidi or yeshivish weren't even counted as part of a minyan.

A friend of mine told me of a time when he was in an airport and a group of Chareidim/yeshivish people went looking for a minyan.  When they finally had one, one of the men asked if anyone was a chiyuv.  My friend said that he was.  The person asked again if anyone was a chiyuv, hoping to find someone more acceptable to him.  Again my friend said he was a chiyuv and was ignored.  The man then went ahead and began to daven for the amud himself.  Yes, this was only one incident and only one person, but it is this type of attitude toward those on the left and in the Modern Orthodox community that is pervasive in the Chareidi world.

Rabbi Birnbaum spends a great deal of time talking about the institutions that the Chareidi world has built – and, yes, they are great institutions.  No one argues that organizations such as Hatzalah, Misasksim and Tomche Shabbos are wonderful things, and no one seeks to take the credit away from the Chareidim and Chassidim who built and run those institutions.  Kudos to them and may they continue to do great things.  But that’s not really the issue here.  The issue isn't who does more chessed.  The issue is “do you really love us enough to consider us as Torah-observant Jews?”

We've all heard the expression that there are shivim panim laTorah.  However, the Chareidi community tends to take the Henry Ford approach to that maxim.  Ford was famous for saying “You can have the Model T in any color you want, so long as it’s black.”  Well, the Chariedi community is a bit more open than that.  They’ll recognize a different form of frum Judaism, as long as it’s black, onyx, obsidian, jet or ebony.

Until the Chareidi community learns to accept those on the left as legitimate, I can’t see how Rabbi Birnbaum can preach about Ahavas Chinam.  It is those on his side who do not love the left as a whole.  Yes, they may love us as individuals, but as a community, Rabbi Birnbaum’s claim of Ahavas Chinam for us falls flat.

I agree with Rabbi Birnbaum on one point - it is better to Look for Ahavas Chinam than to look for Sinas Chinam.  But perhaps, he should first tend to his own house before projecting his feelings towards others onto those saw others.  So, how about it Rabbi Birnbaum?  Can you bring yourself to say that Modern Orthodox Jews are fully Torah-observant Jews and that the movement is a perfectly valid form of Judaism? Can you bring yourself to publicly state that there is nothing wrong with living a Modern Orthodox lifestyle?  I'm not asking you to state that the movement is perfect -- heck, just as you acknowledge that the Chareidi movement has it's problems, I'll be more than happy to acknowledge that the Modern Orthodox community has it's own issues.  But will you recognize us as we recognize you?  If not, then perhaps you had better look at yourself before asking where the Ahavas Chinam is.

The Wolf

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very well put.
-LFD

For Real said...

Look, I'm going to tell you something you might not like. I'm from a big Jewish community. The only people who'd be considered "classically modern orthodox" (the huge cable tv, uncovered hair, very tzionistic) are all over the age of 55. Their children either went more chareidi. or totally went into something that looks like my grandparents Conservative practices but without driving on shabbos. The super-chareidi people who are over 55 here also had kids that didn't do what they did. Their kids went to college and listened to non-jewish music and threw out their potato-sack dresses. So the group of people I'd say are about 30 and are either less-chareidi-than-their-parents or more-chareidi-than-classic-mo have merged and formed the most dominant group of people here. They are a bunch of people without a name, who believe in keeping the mitzvos and paying their own bills, people who don't like politics and just focus on what they're doing. This whole debate is frankly irrelevant to where I live

Anonymous said...

Excellent response, Wolf!

[ The saddest thing, is all the suffering happening in many Charedi communities, due to the increasing poverty and extremism. I was in Bnei Brak, and the huge efforts made to raise tzedakah for the poor, I also saw the tremendous need for tzedakah.]

azigra said...

"What would the parents’ reaction be? Would they weep and cry and ask themselves the soul-searching question of “where did we go wrong?” The answer, of course, is no."

when my uncle asked his parents to send him to a yeshiva instead of his PS, my grandparents took him to a therapist.

tesyaa said...

well, maybe your uncle was being brainwashed by NCSY or a similar influence. What non-orthodox kid wakes up and asks to go to yeshiva?

For Real said...

Tesyaa- do you have a blog? I enjoy your comments, and I'd like to read more of your stuff

popa said...

I read the article. I didn't find it the way you say.

I think the article rightly criticizes the tone that is prevalent in the MO community now. And rightly points out why such criticism is inappropriate.

And I don't think such a tone is at all prevalent in the yeshivish media.

Fine, so you have some issues with the chareidi community. Ok, go for it, have your issues, right a blog about it. But there is nothing wrong with Birnbaum's piece, and very much wrong with the tenor from the center we have been seeing for the past several months.

Zachary Millunchick said...

I'm going to take issue with just one point you made--you said that a stereotypical situation of a kid saying to his parents that he's leaving their background:
"“I’ve decided to become more frum. I’m going to learn more, I’m not going to have a television or cable in my home. I’m going to keep Cholov Yisroel and dress only in standard yeshivish clothing.”
That's really sad that you described the difference between Hareidi and MO/dati leumi as "learning more torah, not watching TV and cable, and eating cholov yisroel" -- I am in Yeshiva in Israel and plan to stay there for a few more years before entering whatever profession it is i will enter. I will not have TV or cable in my house, and probably will use internet Rimon or some equivalent when I have kids using the internet.
The differences are not in levels of observance. Chareidim are not "more" religious, they have decided to be differently religious on whatever grounds they have. The differences are much deeper and include God's place in the world, man's actions in general, the relationship of Man/God commandments to Man/Man commandments, and more. I'm sorry that those external things have become central to the difference between the communities.
And just BTW if my kids decided to become Chareidi i would ask myself "where did I go wrong" because I do not believe in anything they believe in, and (maybe this will be different when i have kids) I cannot live with the Chilul Hashem of not going to the army and not working (Rambam was completely proved correct in all of his derogations of the non-working lifestyle) because I feel as if it's a complete rejection of the entire Torah.
I think in general as a society we need to be welcoming though and ready to let people to live according to what they believe. It saddens me that Chareidim are Chareidim just as it saddens me that Chilonim are Chilonim, but I respect their right as human beings to think and come to their own conclusions even if I reject them fully. That's where we need to find our Ahavat Chinam.

G*3 said...

popa said...
> I don't think such a tone is at all prevalent in the yeshivish media.

I picked up one of the frum newspapers in my parents’ house shabbos afternoon and was treated to a chassidishe maaseh about someone who was told that, because of the way he had treated someone, heaven had decreed that his rational mind would be compromised and he would begin to question the torah and his community.

The attitude prevalent in the yeshivish world and its media is that there is something wrong with people who don’t think like they do.

While I think that the yeshivish world is wrong about many things, they think that there is something wrong with those on their left.

How’s that for tone?

yoni the yogi said...

Are you sure we read the same piece?

Moe Ginsburg said...

"Very simply, we recognize Chareidim as legitimate in terms of their observance of Judaism. Yes, we may not choose to lead such a lifestyle ourselves, but that doesn't mean that we don’t think that learning Torah, restricted modes of dress or following the strictest possible interpretations of halacha are bad things – they’re just not what we do."

The Reform could say the exact same about the Orthodox.

"It’s too bad, however, that you don’t see the same tolerance from Rabbi Birnbaum’s community."

Nor do you see it from the MO community.

"While we on the left may have complaints on the way the Chareidi community does things, we don't seek to delegitimize the movement. "

Chariei isn't a movement. There really is no such thing as a "Chareidi." There was never any beginning to Chareidism (other than Har Sinai) or any minhagim for "Chareidim". MO otoh is a movement with a beginning.

"magine the following scenario: a nineteen year old Modern Orthodox youth, about to move out and embark on his own, goes to his parents and says in a serious voice “We need to talk.” He then sits them down on the couch and says “I’ve decided to become more frum... What would the parents’ reaction be? Would they weep and cry and ask themselves the soul-searching question of “where did we go wrong?” The answer, of course, is no... On the other hand, many Chareidi parents practically insider their kids "off the Derech" if they wore a kippah s'ruga or didn't keep the strictest standard of halacha or even believed that there was value in secular learning for its own sake..."

Bad comparison. As you admitted one direction is becoming more frum (MO-->Chareidi) while the other isn't.

"It’s ironic that Rabbi Birnbaum talks about intolerance of the left for the right when, in fact, the reverse is far more common."

That is not factually correct. Nor do your one-sided anecdotes (which for the most part are media exaggerations) prove anything.

Your other one-sided anecdotes (further down from the above quote such as not counting MO for a minyan) are rare examples and very very far from prevalent. You are dead wrong about it being "pervasive in the Chareidi world".

"We've all heard the expression that there are shivim panim laTorah."

Not every "movement" is one of the shivim panim laTorah. The Conservative movement also claims to be one of the shivim panim laTorah. (This point is a general point and not directed at any particular movement [other than Conservative].)

"Until the Chareidi community learns to accept those on the left as legitimate"

They do consider them legitimate. Yet misguided on various religious issues.

Do you wish to deny us the right to consider certain religious practices as being misguided?

"Can you bring yourself to say that Modern Orthodox Jews are fully Torah-observant Jews and that the movement is a perfectly valid form of Judaism? Can you bring yourself to publicly state that there is nothing wrong with living a Modern Orthodox lifestyle? "

You are insisting that we recognize MO as not doing things that are incorrect al pi Torah. But we believe there are things MO espouses that are wrong al pi Torah. And you cannot demand that we change our views and no longer take that principled stand. It is a principled stand; it is our right to take that principled stand; and you ought to recognize the legitimacy of us taking the principled stand that the MO espouses things that are incorrect.

Moe Ginsburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.