Rime of the Modern Kiruv Mariner

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Ein mayim elah Torah. The water that slakes the ultimate inner thirst is Torah. The annual convention of the Association of Outreach Programs (AJOP) a week ago was awash with Torah. Hundreds of motivated and capable baristas of our life-giving elixir were on hand, serving up chizuk to each other. There was plenty of Torah to drink

A year ago, AJOP’s indomitable leader, Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun, thought of opening the doors of this kiruv gathering to the FFB world. He reasoned that kiruv workers had done much of the heavy lifting in thinking through the issues, and formulating responses that made Torah life attractive to the uninitiated. Those same responses should be valuable in making Torah attractive to “lifers” who for various reasons found themselves in need of some passion and enthusiasm in their avodah. The inreach program last year was a sellout, and he expanded it this year to include a Shabbos before the program for kiruv workers began. He also invited in a wonderful national program of inreach to Orthodox students on campus, called Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus. Some people believe that outreach and inreach are two opposing choices vying for attention and funding, Rabbi Lowenbraun’s turning them all into bunkmates suggests a powerful alternative to competition: seeing both outreach and inreach personnel as a Torah community brain trust. The hundreds of klei kodesh who attended should be our community’s vanguard of helping the many maximize their connection to Hashem and His Torah.

My own experience was deeply colored by my position on the editorial board of Klal Perspectives. Our current issue stirred up enormous interest. The vast majority was positive; some pushback came from some people in the kiruv community who thought that we (including myself, for a few critical paragraphs of my review article) had undermined their work by placing demands upon them that they could not fulfill, or painted too pessimistic a picture of the attractiveness of the mainstream Orthodox community. The latter meant Rabbi Ilan Feldman’s piece, which has gone viral because it rang true with everyone else. The issues we raised were on people’s minds; two of the three sessions I participated in addressed these concerns. (A third was a solo presentation on how kiruv professionals can become more tolerant and less judgmental.)

If I came to the convention with hesitations about whether people heavily invested in the offering of Torah to the masses would be willing to rethink their priorities, they quickly dissipated. Participants in the Klal Perspectives debate (especially Rabbis Feldman and Buchwald) did not back down at all. They were convincing about their own track record in kiruv, and commitment to its goals. They nonetheless shared their apprehensions about changes in the Orthodox community (Rabbi Feldman) and changes in the cohort of the Jewish world that might be open to listening to a Torah message. A key face-off between Rabbis Buchwald, Mordechai Becher, and Avrohom Edelstein produced lots of spirit and drama, but fewer fireworks than anticipated. The way I scored it, there was at least a majority view that techniques of kiruv required a midcourse reevaluation, with greater reliance on social media – something that some groups like Chabad, Aish, and NJOP are already using.

The problem facing the modern mariner, then, is not a dearth of water. The somewhat unresolved question is the identity of potential drinkers. Do the numbers remain the same as they were in the past? Does that matter at all? If every neshamah brought back to Torah practice – or even making mild progress in that direction, a goal that continues to be debated between different camps – is of infinite value, is it pointless to ask questions about the bottom line? Or, at a time of excruciatingly difficult prioritization of community resources in a crippled economy, would failure to ask those questions be irresponsible? My greatest frustration in leaving an exhilarating two days was in not seeing any answers coming from any body of authority. The modern mariner should not expect to see a captain or captains taking the wheel firmly in hand.

Adrenalin-junkies were not disappointed either. If the jaw-dropping moments did not come at all the sessions, they were there during one of the most powerful and courageous presentations I have ever heard. A keynote panel brought (in this order) Rabbis Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Ilan Felman, Dr Abraham Twerski, and Moreinu HoRav Shmuel Kamenetsky together to consider the Castle on Fire – and ways to put out the fire.

Rabbi Weinreb led off, and did half the job. He was scathing and unsparing in describing the various fires. The session (and all others) will soon be available for download at the AJOP site. I will deliberately write more than less, in the hope that people will listen to the remarkable presentation.

He spoke about every form of abuse that we have come to recognize: domestic, child, sexual. The incidence of incest. By name. No hold barred. He spoke of community inaction regarding teen drinking (including rabbeim who still ply their talmidim with drink on Purim, only to see them rolling in the gutter later in the day), gambling, porn addictions. He spoke about how callous people had become to financial immorality and major fraud. He mourned the children who are already lost by second grade because of the rigidity of our curriculum. He decried ineffective school intervention against bullying. He argued that bullying is a problem when aimed at adults, and went on for some time about the practice of intimidation of people who speak their minds and voice unpopular views. He spoke about the retreat to positions hostile to the science of our day, and how counterproductive this was, as well as the airbrushing of women out of the picture of communual involvement.

He spoke of forgotten parts of the community, like widows and singles. He mentioned the scope of the shidduch crisis. He described how to’anim had destroyed the integrity of our beis din system, and how the use of unlicensed therapists destroyed our effectiveness in behavioral intervention, as well as our kedushah. Too many of us have become sanctimonious, hypocritical and prone to performance of mitzvos anashim milimudah.

He opined that there may very well be more people exiting the Orthodox world each year than those brought in by all the kiruv programs together.

Readers of Cross-Currents who followed the dialogue between Dr. Finkelman and myself about our muzzling of our own leaders will stand in awe of Rabbi Weinreb’s courage.

His illustrations of intimidation – especially one threat aimed at him – were mind-boggling. He mentioned, inter alia, that there have been organized mass protests (including rock throwing) outside the home of Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman, shlit”a, because of positions of his that others do not like. Rabbi Weinreb asked people to imagine what would happen if the Dati Le’umi community would mass kipot serugot outside Rav Shteinman’s home to chant and throw stones. There would be bloodshed! Why are people more tolerant of unacceptable bizayon haTorah when it comes from people garbed in black?

(I’ve wondered about that for a long time. When we all pondered the clashes in Beit Shemesh a year ago, many argued that the problem was a handful of crazies, and attributed no blame to the leadership of that community. Can that really be true? When you read the pronouncements of that community (and there will be more today, on the eve of the election), can you fail to see what effect a chinuch of contorted logic and absolute bitul of everyone else has on people? Why are we so undiscriminating about our tzedaka that we continue to support institutions (and I am only speaking about institutions, not individuals) that spew venom? Why do we grovel to get a Badatz hechsher on products, when the same people produce the kind of drivel they routinely do. Look on and weep at the words from the Edah publication about the current brouhaha concerning Anat Hoffman and her sister agitators. “Under the burden of the Zionist occupation [ the Kotel has turned into] an entertainment center, Heaven forbid, which attracts gentiles and hookers who arrive to corrupt this place of Divine presence, Heaven forbid….[It became a place for] every gentile head of state…[to visit the site and holding] “different shows [like] the swearing in of soldiers of the impious army.” Why are we so tolerant of these aberrations of what we believe, and so quick to accuse so many different “outsiders” of their perfidy. Some of our readers undoubtedly are still sympathetic to the message, but what about the rest of us who stopped believing in this stuff decades ago?)

None of those who followed Rabbi Weinreb tried to put a dent in the substance of what he said. They offered hope that HKBH would not abandon the burning castle, and the certainty that it would survive the conflagration. What emerged, therefore, was a challenge to mull things over and regroup after more thought and soul-searching.

Why did Rabbi Weinreb choose this forum to make all the challenges we face explicit? I believe that he believes what Rabbi Lowenbraun believes – that you will find no group of people under the Orthodox umbrella more willing to listen to problems and find solutions than the kiruv community. Perhaps one of the first steps towards developing solutions is to regard them as a brain-trust of the Torah world.

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36 comments to Rime of the Modern Kiruv Mariner

  • Bob Miller

    Dress matters, and the proper dignity and tznius must be maintained, but there is much more to life than dress code. If we persist in grading the true piety of Jewish groups, and their leaders or members, by how authentic their dress and spoken language seem on the surface, to the exclusion of more pertinent, inward, factors, we fool ourselves.

  • joel rich

    please post when the mp3’s become available.

    In a recent navi shiur (review soon to be posted on hirhurim – audioroundup) rabbi reisman said (my summary):
    J-48 – Making Room for Geirus
    R’Reisman posits an interesting theory – most geirim decide on geirut due to intellectual reasons (emunah chakira) while most FFB’s are connected by emunah pshuta (defined by mesorah/tradition) so there is a natural divide. [I wonder if data supports this theory] In any event, FFB’s should better appreciate the challenges faced by geirim and “feel the love” [my summary – cue Rudimental]

    I’m not sure if this holds true for kiruv, but IMHO it has even greater implications for inreach, at least to people who already know what a shabbat chulent is. using discredited intellectual approaches will not IMHO work in the long term (see earlier posts on houses built on sheker)

    [YA - I wish I knew what he meant. From where I see it - and as a member of a beis din for giyur - most geirim decide to make the move because they like the lifestyle and the sense of community. And many FFBs at risk are unfortunately increasingly connected by inertia, rather than anything deeper.]

  • Pini Schmeltzer

    It’s heartening to hear people beginning to address the real matters. For too long we have been too gaavadik and obsessed with hitzoniyus. We need the anivus to realize that a person with a kippa sruga (or no kippa at all– gasp!) may be closer to tzidkus than someone with a bekkeshe and long beard.

  • cvmay

    “A third was a solo presentation on how kiruv professionals can become more tolerant and less judgmental”
    Was this a standing room only crowd? Are kiruv/chinuch/mechanchim interested in becoming more tolerant and less judgmental? If so, WHY? for kiruv purposes or L’maan Hashem.

    In what other venue, could Rabbi H. Weinrib be frank, open and forthright if not in a AJOP convention? He has nothing to lose and all to gain. Kudos to the Weinrib, Horowitz, Adlerstein, Twerskis of the world. May truth ring forth!!!!

  • Y. Schwartz

    Having been present at the convention myself, I would add that the audience stoop up and applauded R’ Weinreb at the conclusion of his masterful invective.

  • Toby Katz

    The policy of excluding pictures of women from frum magazines and trying to make women invisible in general cannot be good for kiruv. Actually I don’t believe it’s good for FFB girls and women either. In fact, I don’t think it’s good for FFB men. It creates an incredibly distorted image of our community, or maybe I should say, our communities — because there are many overlapping frum communities, all degrees of yeshivish, chassidish, Modern Orthodox, Israeli, American. Are our women really invisible? In a world where it is standard and normal for the boy to demand that the girl have a higher education and a lucrative profession before agreeing to a shidduch?!

    I know you wouldn’t hand out copies of Mishpacha or Ami or Binah magazine at a baal teshuva Shabbaton, but is there any Orthodox literature you COULD safely hand out, that wouldn’t make us look like the Taliban?

    [YA - Sure. Jewish Action. A great many Artscroll works (certainly Shaar Press). And, of course, Klal Perspectives and Cross-Currents :-) ]

  • Shades of Gray

    I hope to download something from the current year AJOP sessions.

    (I’ve also been curious what the “Top Ten Reasons Why Frum People Are Unhappy with Their Yiddishkeit” are, which I couldn’t find in the AJOP MP3 catalogue. Can R. Adlerstein list them in a comment, if he has no plans for a separate post, as mentioned in the beginning of last year’s post “Rabbi Twerski’s Bombshell at AJOP” ? )

    [YA - When the mp3s are released, I will try BEH to get them to dig up last year's Top Ten presentation and post it as well.]

  • Y. Schwartz

    R’ Ephraim Buchwald did bring up the “radicalizing of kiruv,” specifically referring to the exclusion of pictures of women in some kiruv material and advertising and R’ Mordechai Becher supported R’ Buchwald’s position as well.

    [YA - And the crowd applauded R Buchwald's comment as well.]

  • Dovid Teitelbaum

    I can’t wait to see the video and hopefully it will spread viral. If I could just disagree with one point where he says “the practice of intimidation of people who speak their minds and voice unpopular views.” The word unpopular seems to imply a view that is of the minority, but I’m convinced it’s the silent majority. I would say a big part of the fight is political correctness and just like in the general world saying something thats not politically correct has dire consequences the same is in our culture. How true Torah values and quoting Rav Hirsch became non PC is beyond me, but somehow it happened. Thanks for all your work.

  • Areyeh Lieb

    Thanks for exposing some of the content of this meeting, Rabbi. It’s nice to hear (read). Was there any discussion about the ongoing Torah vs. Science debate? Is it safe to back in the water and suggest that carbon dating is accurate and that the entire earth was not under water 3,500 years ago?

    [YA - I did not hear it come up much. There were some who referenced R Weinreb's words on setting up Torah as an opponent of science, but only to agree with him.]

  • newman

    scary implications of rabbi weinreb’s presentation—- he could only dare this because he is not a haredi, and therefore can [and probably will] be written off as a goy in any case ….

    but isn’t there an implication at a Kiruv conference — how could you be selling goods that seem to be either broken , or damage many of the current users? should we say to the mekurav ‘Caveat emptor’ , or do we lead them blindly into the burning castle?

    i know the professionals will answer it’s not a defective product , it’s the users’ fault….

    [YA - No, that is not what they will say. They will say exactly what FFBs wrestling with the same problems tell themselves. Torah is emes. That is why I am in for the long haul, no matter what disappointments may await me from parts of the community, or even its leaders. My relationship with HKBH is all that really counts.

    P.S. R Weinreb is haredi by many measures. As haredi as many thousands of us who live between two worlds.]

  • Bob Miller

    I have a copy of an old family portrait showing my great-grandfather in full Chassidic garb, together with my great-grandmother. Evidently, at least some chassidim from southern Poland (Galicia) were not keen to make tzniusdik women invisible. These days, we seem to have a whole industry creating untraditional traditions. This category includes “magical” segulos hardly anyone used to know or care about. It’s as if every kiruv initiative has to have an equal and opposite anti-kiruv initiative.

  • SL Zacharowicz

    This speech should serve as a wake-up call to our whole community. Will it? Don’t hold your breath.

  • Kevin in Chicago

    The kiruv community as the “brain-trust of the Torah world”? Three half-baked thoughts from an outsider:
    1. They have to be because they are the ones who engage with and confront the non-Torah world.
    2. They can’t be because they are the ones who engage with and confront the non-Torah world.
    3. An organization that puts its “brain trust” in marketing at the expense of product development, quality control and customer support will do well in the short run and find itself in trouble in the long run.

  • Raymond

    I am probably not following most of the thread of thought being expressed here, but if the subject is what is the best way for the Orthodox Jewish community to live, I would say that Rav Hirsch already came up with the answer more than a century ago: take full advantage of the best of what secular, even gentile culture has to offer, while compromising as little as possible one’s commitment to traditional Jewish law.

  • Pini Schmeltzer

    RYA said that in the 70s and 80s Kiruv professionals would speak of Jews in two categories BT and NYBT (as well as FFB). I think today’s Kiruv professionals would be wiser to speak of Jews again in two categories but these are OTD and NYOTD. WHile the numbers of people coming in is tiny there is a threat of massive defection from our community. Kiruv should be primarily inner directed. I fear that if we don’t get our house in order we could be facing a phenomenon that will make the Haskola look like childplay.

    [YA - A little harsh, don't you think? But the essential point was on the minds of many people, and will likely be one of the issues to watch in the next five years of outreach. Are the arenas of outreach and inreach competing for resources and personnel? Or are they two sides of a single coin of revitalizing a committed engagement with the Dvar Hashem?]

  • Daniel

    Wait, do you not agree with the Edah’s statements about the kosel? I certainly do agree with them.

    Perhaps you’d like to write a separate article explaining why you think it is appropriate that the makom hamikdash has become a tourist trap where non-jews come to gape at us or to pray to their avodah zara. Or where feminist groups come to challenge the torah and chazal.

    Perhaps we can reasonably disagree about the second part–that it has become a nationalist site for a state which disavows the torah and seeks to destroy it (we might also disagree about that characterization, but I don’t think we should). I don’t think that by picking it they are reafirming any connection besides a historic connection to the land and to the “ancient superstitions” still practiced by the crazy religious people.

  • mb

    ” Daniel
    January 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Wait, do you not agree with the Edah’s statements about the kosel? I certainly do agree with them.”

    In a revolting statement, there were many disgusting comments.
    Here’s a beauty!”“Under the burden of the Zionist occupation”

  • Louis

    Shalom all – The substance of this posting deserves much attention, thought and discussion. Unfortunately, Daniel’s comments highlight the desperate state of events where the fact that non-Jews coming to the Makom HaMikdash as an acknowledgement of the reverence and sanctity afforded the Kotel HaMaaravi (and My House shall be a House of Prayer unto all the nations) is viewed with derision. More offensive is the fact that the angels of our generation who risk their lives to protect their people (no matter what their denomination) coming for inspiration to the Makom Hamikdash is treated in such a vile manner (perhaps that is why he used lower-case). Disavows the Torah? Seeks to destroy it? Can one really be that much of a kofer tov? Interestingly, this wonderful State of Israel closes its stock market on Tisha B’Av – think about that and what it means. This Blessing of a State you may not think perfect closes all television on Yom HaKippurim. This Miracle for which the Agudah newspaper proclaimed Shecheyanu on its rebirth bringing rejuvenation to a devastated Nation whose Jewish inhabitants inherently proclaim We are Jews and this is our Land bringing Hashem’s Plans into open revelation. Where has Torah ever been supported in a greater fashion? Remeber whose soldiers liberated and died liberating the Kotel and Makom HaMikdash.

  • Daniel

    In a revolting statement, there were many disgusting comments.
    Here’s a beauty!”“Under the burden of the Zionist occupation”

    I don’t think I would have said that myself–but is it really “revolting”? The Israeli government is not run by the values of the torah, and is not what we would consider the legitimate government of our land. I don’t think I need to go so far as to think we’d be better under the arabs to have objections to these people who have hijacked our yerusha.

    (Rabbi Menken: Observe my comment, and why I need to be anonymous. Imagine that I am graduating yeshiva and will be applying to rabbonus positions, or think I may one day run for public office, or apply for a job with a boss who will google me, or want to send my kids to a school, etc. I think we can easily say I would not post this under my real name for good reason.)

  • Dr. E

    Unlike Rabbi Anonymous, we B”H have a Talmid Chacham who is a free-agent, not beholden to any particular “Daas Torah” luminary, Yeshiva, political party, or organization. As such, he is able to tell it like it is. Rabbi Weinreb has been a professional and a Rav, having seen it all, in every ideological camp. One would hope that this might be a wake-up call that would go beyond those in the room. But, I doubt it inasmuch as it flies in the face of the triumphalist posture that we hear at many other conventions and gatherings (save for the convenient external scapegoats like Tzniyus, the Internet, Zionism or YU). One comes out of those gatherings with the conclusion that there is nothing at all rotten in Denmark.

  • Shira

    Part of the problem in our community is that our media voices both in print and online – Yated, Ami, vosizneias and matzav – have editorial boards that are fringe. We run to these websites and newspapers to find out the news but they are manipulating the news to promote their monolithic view of what Orthodox society should be. As an example, the Yated actively promotes the notion that it is Lakewood or nothing. Ami runs front page articles supporting molesters. The online news sites are sensationalist with no oversight or accountability.

    Many of these outfits claim they are not allowing things to be swept under the rug. Problem is – you can’t clean things up when your broom is filthy.

    How do we convince the majority of Orthodox Jews to demand a higher standard of journalism than is available now? It is not enough to have a free press. We also need press that are refined individuals who are held accountable and have some of standards dor what they print.

  • mb

    ” Daniel
    January 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    In a revolting statement, there were many disgusting comments.
    Here’s a beauty!”“Under the burden of the Zionist occupation”

    I don’t think I would have said that myself–but is it really “revolting”? The Israeli government is not run by the values of the torah, and is not what we would consider the legitimate government of our land. I don’t think I need to go so far as to think we’d be better under the arabs to have objections to these people who have hijacked our yerusha.”

    Well, yes, revolting.
    You seem like at fine young man.
    May I suggest you make a list of all the terrible things that the Zionists have done and then make another list and see how much religious Judaism has benefited, if at all, in the Zionist State.
    Then please contact me to discuss. Rabbi Adlerstein will give you my e-mail.

  • moshe shoshan

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for finaily raising the issue of a certain level collective responsibility that is spread in varying degrees through out the chareidi world for the chilllulei hashem that happpen regularly in BEit Shemesh and eslsewhere.
    No chareidi leader to my knowledge other than the Belzer REbbe has publicly condemned these people and certainly not the Edah which stands behind these actions.
    As a Dati leumi resident of beit shemesh I ask my self, what would the kanaim here have to do get the Chareidi leadership world wide to side with the non-Chareidm against these kanaim her in beit shemesh.

  • joel rich

    (Rabbi Menken: Observe my comment, and why I need to be anonymous. Imagine that I am graduating yeshiva and will be applying to rabbonus positions, or think I may one day run for public office, or apply for a job with a boss who will google me, or want to send my kids to a school, etc. I think we can easily say I would not post this under my real name for good reason.)

    =========================================
    and would being hired under those circumstances be gneivat daat(false pretense)? IMHO if one is not proud of what they have to say, then don’t say it under the cloak of anonymity.
    KT

  • Yehudit Spero

    Let’s all agree that Rabbi Adlerstein is a brave and courageous man who tells it like it is and does not sugar coat. He is not afraid to point out our foibles and say “let’s change things, things do not have to be this way forever, let’d re-examine and recalculate ( to quote our GPS) To review, recalculate and re-examine is not an avera but a maaseh that will lead us to more mitzvah observance and bring along others as well.
    As an aside:
    I would like to remind us all that Eretz Yisroel is now the Torah Capital of the world. That means more Torah institutions, more learning, more deseminazation of Torah than anywhere else in the world. You want MORE observance from the government? Then come here and be a part of it and make it happen.I will pick you up at the airport. We need to hear from Rabbi Adlerstein more often. The brave voice of sanity in a world that is forgetting what the basis Torah is all about.
    Yehudit Spero

  • Daniel

    You want MORE observance from the government? Then come here and be a part of it and make it happen.

    lol. I should come there and be drafted into the army (which will also force me to listen to kol isha), when I can learn here in Lakewood just fine being supported by the fine liberals of New Jersey. (Who I dutifully vote against, because I don’t think they should be supporting me–but if it’s offered, I’ll take it.)

    Thanks. Why don’t you come join me here; I’ll pick you up from the airport.

  • David F.

    Shira,

    “How do we convince the majority of Orthodox Jews to demand a higher standard of journalism than is available now? It is not enough to have a free press. We also need press that are refined individuals who are held accountable and have some of standards dor what they print.”

    If you think it’s a high priority, why not open your own media outlet that prints whatever needs to be printed? Thanks to the internet, start up costs are minimal and you can do as you please. Then you can be as open and transparent as you wish.

  • Yehoshua Friedman

    Daniel,
    What is your problem with all the things that go on at the Kotel? It is not the makom hamikdash, Har Habayit is. Why is it all right that hatred of Jews and stones thrown down on the Jewish worshippers at the Kotel comes from the Arabs on Har Habayit and you are worried about behavior at what was, in temple times, a commercial thoroughfare?

  • YS

    “When you read the pronouncements of that community (and there will be more today, on the eve of the election), can you fail to see what effect a chinuch of contorted logic and absolute bitul of everyone else has on people?”

    Tears practically came to my eyes when I read these powerful words. From the first grade, the yeshiva system does the best it can to be ‘mevatel everyone else’, making fun of their views and practices. The problem is that who’s to honestly say that this isn’t exactly how Chazal and the Torah Sh’Bichtav see ‘everyone else’ too? Sadly, an honest appraisal of their attitudes towards ‘everyone’ else, especially non-Jews, can only really lead to the conclusion that ‘bitul’ is ingrained in our tradition. I wish it weren’t so, but it is.

    [YA - It isn't ingrained when understood in the context of other sources. If you want to escape the oppression of the bitul, learn seforim that will help you understand the value of the other. My favorites, of course, are everything by R Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Rav Kook.]

  • Bob Miller

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Regarding your comment above— “[YA - It isn't ingrained when understood in the context of other sources. If you want to escape the oppression of the bitul, learn seforim that will help you understand the value of the other. My favorites, of course, are everything by R Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Rav Kook.]”

    Are Rav Hirsch’s and Rav Kook’s ideas on the “value of the other” traceable back to Chazal? If so, that would demonstrate that today’s common bitul approach has less of a pedigree than some think. Then we have the rest of the story.

    [YA - They are traceable to Chazal. But find one maamar Chazal that can be explained or has been explained in a single, unambiguous and uncontested manner. While some people have a hard time with this, many of us believe that there are real differences of opinion in the way our gedolei Torah have related to different maamarei Chazal. It is possible for bnei Torah to live with different hashkafic approaches that coexist, much as they do with conflicting halachic positions.]

  • Bob Miller

    If A’s hashkafic position is to shun B, that prevents constructive interaction between A and B even if B’s hashkafic position is the opposite.

  • Chizki

    YS,

    “Sadly, an honest appraisal of their attitudes towards ‘everyone’ else, especially non-Jews, can only really lead to the conclusion that ‘bitul’ is ingrained in our tradition. I wish it weren’t so, but it is.”

    I see why people can arrive at this conclusion, but it simply isn’t true that it’s the only valid outlook within Judaism. R’ Hirsch’s works are amazing (I finally got around to purchasing my own copy of Feldheim’s recent re-release of R’ Hirsch’s commentary on the Chumash, and I absolutely love it), but it can be difficult to discern whether his universalist ideas are rooted in the mesorah (which I believe they are) or whether they are “merely” his own chiddushim. If you want a ready list of marei mekomos on the topic going back to Chaza”l and Rishonim, the book you need to get is “Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition” by Rabbi David (Dovid) Sears (published in 1998 by Jason Aronson, Inc.). Anyone who’s read this book, or have come across the textual sources compiled in it through other avenues in their own learning, would find it impossible to deny that concern and love for humanity as a whole is an integral aspect of Yiddishkeit that is built into it from the ground floor up.

  • Steve Brizel

    Is there a link to R Weinreb’s comments?

    [YA - There will be. AJOP still hasn't posted all the presentations]

  • YS

    Rav Alderstein and Chizki,

    Thank you for your responses.

    When I aid the attitude was ‘ingrained’ in Chazal, I didn’t mean to the absolute exception of other ideas.

    Unfortunately, I think the sources you cited are the exceptions that prove the rule. RSR Hirsch and Rav Kook are hardly in the mainstream. I know that there are many sources in Chazal that stress the importance of compassion to all ,but I think they’re lost in a sea of general negativity, to the point where there are all kinds of Halachos (Chillul Shabbos for a non-Jew, even marrying non-Jews etc.) that it’s very difficult to know whether they represent Divine will or are the result of an interpretation of the Torah that’s based on societal attitudes towards non-Jews. That people like Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook been able to rise above all of this and have stressed the compassionate side is a tribute to their unique personalities. Unfortunately, the existence and preponderence of the negative side are undeniable, in my opinion.

    The Chofetz Chaim did not live all that long ago, yet he very candidly and seriously discusses not being Mechallel Shabbos to save the life of a non-Jew. You can try to explain that away until the cows come home, with every philosophical rationalization you can think of, but it is discussions like that one that cause most (but not all) people who are engrossed in Torah to acquire the attitudes of ‘bitul’ and worse that they do.

    [YA - I am not quite sure anymore where to find the "mainstream." Also not sure that it matters. Wherever it is, people participating in blogs are probably less part of that mainstream than they would like to believe. Maybe our first step is for those of us who are concerned to look into these sources, all well based, and make sure that we, our children and talmidim all have a chance to see them as well.]

  • YS

    I meant when I ‘said’, not ‘aid’