Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On Modern Orthodoxy and Daas Hedyot

My comments about Daas Hedyot appear to have struck a serious nerve, and were clearly misunderstood. I had written that had DH been exposed to Modern Orthodoxy, he would have been spared much of his present angst. He took sharp exception to my remarks, both in his comments here and on his own blog posting.

DH misses my point. For present purposes, Modern Orthodoxy, entails the expansion of one's religious, spiritual and intellectual vistas- primarily through thinking and through expanding one's Torah curriculum. IOW, there is a vast literature that provides the searcher with legitimately Orthodox ideas, but which are outside the very narrowly drawn borders that currently obtain in the Yeshiva World. I trust that DH would not consider such writings or ideas to be heretical. [The late Professor Yitzhaq Twersky used to say that studying the full-range of Jewish intellectual history is an excursion into 'penimiyus ha-Torah.]

In addition, Modern Orthodoxy does see a positive value in engaging and mastering 'General Culture,' though there are wide differences as to the degree and importance of that engagement. Nevertheless, as I did note, this path is both harder and gives one the tools to engage the challnges of a world that imposes itself upon us, whether we like it or not. At the same time, it requires an equal portion of intellectual humility to undertake. [See the Rav's remarks in his noted shiur Gerus and Masorah.]

Reading over DH's remarks, I can't help but feel that he's caught between worlds. He rejects the basics of Yeshiva culture, but rejects the authenticity of anything else. He reminds me of Chaikl Vilner's friend in The Yeshiva (aka Tzemach Atlas). The boy can't leave and he can't stay within the yeshiveshe velt.


The Hedyot said...

What about my comments made you think I misunderstood you?
As I read your post above I'm hearing the exact same thing that you said last time. I'd appreciate if you could please explain how you thought I understood your statements.

(For the record, I didn't take offense at all to what you wrote (despite the condescending tone). I just thought you were mistaken in your assesment of the situation.)

The Hedyot said...

To elaborate a bit more:

What I wrote about Modern Orthodoxy, I was referring to your suggestion that as a kid growing up, it would have helped me out of the unpleasant situation I found myself in. Like I said, I dont think it would have made any significant difference in my appreciation of, or interest in, Judaism.

However, this is not to say that I don't think MO has it's merits. Personally, the Judaism that I find more appropriate and wholesome is something along the lines of Modern Orthodoxy.

And yes, you are right that I find myself somewhat torn between two worlds. Despite the length of time that I have been out of the chareidi world, I still have difficulty accepting other alternatives as wholeheartedly as I should.

Melech Press said...

As I noted before, both Dr. Woolf and Daas Hedyot are trapped by turning a multidimensional taxonomy of social groups into a reified dichotomy which doesn't exist. There is not a neat division here but a continuum; whether one is Charedi, yeshivish or MO has much less to do with behavior or faith than with whom one davens and where one lives. There are those in the yeshivishe communities of Flatbush who wear black hats and white shirts but who have advanced degrees and read philosophy of science, and there are those in the MO communities who haven't read a book or had an idea in years. Hedyot is right that the primary pool of those who take the issurim seriously are younger people still in yeshiva, and that as they leave the views of many will change. They will not, however, become MO, since their behaviors will reflect the values of the community of yeshivishe baalebatim. At the same time there are many in the MO community who uncritically accept what pass for ideas in the broader

Melech Press said...

intellectual analysis that Dr. Woolf (and I and Daas Hedyot)value. Rather than turn this into a debate about us vs. them, perhaps we could all do better if we acknowledged the strengths (and weaknesses) of the segments of what is, after all, one painfully small community of ovdei hashem whose similarities should outweigh our differences.
It is painful to hear of Hedyot's disappointment as a youth, but he is right that he would not necessarily have found solace in the MO community, whose fallaway rate is almost certainly far larger than that of the yeshiva world. At the same time Dr. Woolf is right that Hedyot could have found many in the Charedi world who share Dr. Woolf's belief that denying the reality of western culture does not further yiddishkeit.

Jeffrey said...

I substantively agree with both Melech and DH. I would also prefer that the different modalities we are talking about transcended individual groupings (which they, to an extent, do). Certainly, the MO community needs more fire in its Torah and its spirituality. Too many MO's are too sophisticated (in their own eyes) to really daven, learn or surrender their own wills to a Higher Will. OTOH, the rigidity and knee-jerk rejectionism of anything but a very narrow vision of Torah, has negative effects upon the Haredi World. We need to fructify one another in order to survive.

Tzemach Atlas said...

Correction. I was Chaike Vilner's Rebbe, not his friend :-) And of course the real name of Chaike Vilner is Chaim Grade who was the author of the novel.