Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Dysfunctional Marriage

We've all met a married couple in one dysfunctional state or another.  One of the typical models is where one partner has given up on the marriage but remains because of the benefits it provides.  The partner takes from the other, whether it's shelter, money or other such comfort, while giving nothing back.  The other partner, worried that dissolving the marriage will cause more harm than good, plays the reciprocal role.  He constantly gives in the hope that things will improve while quietly despairing that they won't.  Such a situation can carry on for years or decades.
Sometimes I wonder if the Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist (non-Chareidim) communities and the Chareidim are involved in such a relationship.  It occurred to me that I should explore this for a couple of reasons.  One is an oft-heard complaint out of Modern Orthodox circles about the lack of reciprocity when it comes to respecting the Torah scholarship of the leadership of the two sides.  Modern Orthodox communities have no problem inviting Chareidi rabbonim to speak in their shuls while it is unheard of for the opposite to happen.  People still mention from time to time how Rav Hershel Schachter and other prominent Modern Orthodox rabbonim were shunted to the side at the last big Daf Yomi celebrations over seven years ago put on by the Agudah.
They note that the only Modern Orthodox rav quoted in the Artscroll Stone Chumash is the Rav and that this only happened by special request of the sponsors of the book.  The non-Chareidim use religious appurtenances produced by the Chareidi world while quietly accepting that any that they produce will not be accepted by those same Chareidim.
Every year the Chofetz Chayim foundation sends around videos about Tisha B'Av full of dynamic speakers.  When was the last time one of those speakers was not Chareidi?
Mishpachah magazine by many of its subscribers was criticized over the last couple of years for including quotes from rabbonim such as Ravs Michael Broyde and Shlomo Aviner as well as producing a piece portraying Rav Hershel Schachter as a bona fide Talmid Chacham.  Could one imagine a Modern Orthodox community condemning one of their publications for mentioning a Chasidic Rebbe or Litvish Rosh Yeshivah in a positive way?  Such a mention would be taken for granted!
On the other side we frequently hear calls for "achdus" bu one has to wonder: what's the definition of achdus?  Is it a vague "We're all in this together" or a demand that all Orthodox Jews become Chareidi in order to reduce diversity?  Frankly, is achdus even desirable if such is the undertone that comes with it?  Would it not be better to create an environment that fosters the attitude that non-Chareidi Orthodoxy is legitimate and that accepting this does not threaten the authenticity of Chareidism?
Don't forget as well that achdus is not something normative in Jewish history.  Other than a brief 40 years of wandering in the desert and during the parts of the reigns of David HaMelech and Shlomo HaMelech, we as a nation have made it an informal policy to be disunited.  Even at the end of the Megilla we just read we are told that after saving the Jewish nation Mordechai was acceptable only to most of his fellows and Chazal comment that even after those events there was disunity amongst some.
Taking a step back it is easy to see that the relationship between the Chareidim and non-Chareidim is very much like the marriage described at the start of this post.  The Chareidi community, whether we wish to acknowledge this or not, maintains its ties to the non-Chareidim based simply on need.  They need non-Chareidi money to keep their institutions afloat.  They need non-Chareidi customers to buy their appurtenances and mitzvah items.  They need non-Chareidi boys to induct into Chareidism to help replace their hemorrhaging OTD problem.  And in return?
On the other side the non-Chareidim have dug into the attitude that says that a split in Orthodoxy would be catastrophic and produce far more harm than benefit.  To a great extent they are correct.  After all, if the non-Chareidim were to say tomorrow "Enough!" and formally begin treating as treif the Chareidim who already do the same to them it would cause a great deal of trouble within their communities.  Almost all non-Chareidim in North America would have to become vegetarians unless a large number of shochtim suddenly got turned out by YU (is there a course there in that?).  Are there enough Modern Orthodox mohels to handle the demand? What about sifrei Torahtefillin and mezuzos?  Where would they come from in sufficient numbers?  What about teachers in schools?  And who would replace all those handy Lubavitch shlichim who perform important services on university campuses and small communities across North America?
So the marriage goes on but with the non-Chareidi side either quietly gritting its teeth in silent frustration at the unfairness of it all or dropping its self-esteem in order to accept its inferior position as the giver who gets little in return. Is there a marital counsellor out there capable of sorting this out?


ahg said...

The non-chareidi world's failure to produce teachers for its children is ultimately our downfall. For all the non-chareidi world "gives" the chareidi world in money and recognition, it has come about as a result of three generations that have been taught to look to them for leadership in Torah.

The Mohel's interaction with the child ends where it begins, at eight days old. I can buy a sofer's tefillin without learning the details of his hashkafa.

However, the chareidi teacher, even in a non-chareidi school, will strive to impart what he considers to be "The Truth" of Torah to our youngest and most impressionable.

I think the only answer, if non-chareidi Orthodoxy is to survive, is divorce. It doesn't mean we have to stop buying their tefillin or their shechita. We can hold their worldview is treif without denying that they follow valid methods and take appropriate precautions in the slaughter house. But, we do need to find more suitable educators, and stop standing in fear of being labeled an "apikores" for not accepting the scholarship of their so-called "Gedolim". Non-chareidi rabbis who will publicly state opinions contrary to the so-called "Gedolim" are few. It's time to empower our own leaders to turn to the chareidim and and say your leaders may be a Talmidei chachimim but they don't have what takes to be a true leader and manhig of klal yisrael. We require a bit more worldly knowledge, as was required for a position in the Sanhedrin, in our leaders.

Adam Zur said...

you must know by now that i am no friend to the chaderi world but even I have to admit the the level of Talmudic scholarship in the Litvak Charedi world is vastly superior to all rivals. (Art Scroll is a exception and Agudah is an exception. Both are highly intellectually challenged.) But look some of the magazines of Talmudic scholarship put out by charedi kollels in Israel like the one in ramot -gimel (kollel HaRan) or the books of Steinman. you know I don't think that they are great-- but they are a million light years beyond anything else coming out in the frum or non frum world.

Y. Ben-David said...

"Ahdut" means to love all Jews, regardless of political affiliation. I do not blame the rank-and-file Haredim for things their leadership do. While I do give tzedaka to individual Haredim, I do not give money to Haredi institutions that I don't agree with.
So what if the Aguda Daf Yomi siyum doesn't invite Rabbanim you like to sit on the dais? Is the world going to come to an end because of it? Too many non-Haredim have a love-hate relationship with the Haredi world. Too many non-Haredi Jews seem to crave Haredi approval even while they are very critical of them Why? . So what if we don't get their approval?
Here in Israel there are plenty of avenues for non-Haredim to learn Torah without compromising their beliefs. The National Religious world has many yeshivot, Rabbanim, poskim and sofrei st'am. Also Tzedaka organizations to donate to.
It is time to stop having an inferiority complex and a chip on one's shoulder. Live your Torah as you feel you should and don't worry about what other people are thinking.

Friar Yid said...

YBD- You are correct that one should not live with a permanent inferiority complex or spend all one's time worrying about what others are thinking. However one is also not under an obligation to continually hold oneself out for abuse. It seems reasonable to me for concerned MOs like Garnel to start asking how dependent the MO community has become on their Haredi counterparts, and to what degree this is to their benefit-- communally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Re-asserting ownership over community norms and practices, carving out space for intellectual rigor and discipline (theoretical and practical), and asserting their point of view proudly and clearly to people who want to hear it, need not be specifically antagonistic to the Haredi world. Rather, it would seem to be the best way for the MO community to revitalize itself, remind itself what it stands for, and truly, as you say, live its Torah. It is hard to be proud of yourself when you live in someone else's shadow.

Anonymous said...

adam zur, there are plenty of mo rabbis of the first order. r shechter and his top students in the us can match anyone.

Chana said...

"...You can check out any time you like/But you can never leave..."

Ari E-B said...

Bravo for having the guts to say this. I've been saying this (or pieces of this) for years in far less eloquent fashion. While I don't think that outright boycott is ever a good idea, we need to make our voices heard. When a local restaurant declares that they're going to go gebruchsts free for pesach, or uphold whatever the newest and silliest chumrah of the month is, we need to tell them we disapprove, and that we liked their produce better the other way. When we buy siddurim for shuls, maybe Artscroll should not be the default choice.

Adam Zur said...

Anonymous said...

adam zur, there are plenty of mo rabbis of the first order. r shechter and his top students in the us can match anyone.

I can be wrong. If r shechter is a talmid chacham then i am happy to concur