Monday, October 08, 2018

Flipping Out? Or Becoming More Religious?

There is a fascinating article in Hamodia about the ‘Flipping out’ phenomenon entitled ‘Moving Right’. Hamodia sees this phenomenon in a positive light. Hence the use of their title instead of what it is commonly called. Hamodia sees a young person becoming Charedi as becoming more religious. Although it can - and often does mean that – it is not the sum and substance of it. More about that later.

 For those unfamiliar with it, the term ‘Flipping Out’ is used mostly by Modern Orthodox parents whose children come back from their post high school  year in Israel with a Charedi Hashkafa. The aptly named ‘Gap Year’ is supposed to be followed by going to college - preferably at a prestigious university. Many young people come back rejecting that ideal and preferring instead to continue their intensive Torah study. They have adopted the Hashkafa and many of the trappings of the Charedi world (such as trading in their  Kipa Seruga for a black hat) and are seen as flipping out.

There has been a vigorous defense of young people that do that – seeing it the way Hamodia does, as simply strengthening their religious values and observance. There is of course nothing wrong and everything right with that. But that is only part of what happens. The fact is that one does not need to become Charedi to become more committed to observance. It is the change in Hashkafa that bothers many parents. For them it usually is not a problem that a child comes back more committed. It is the baggage that bothers them.

Why does this happen? Why do so many children come back from their gap year Charedi instead of simply just becoming more committed and retaining the Hashkafa in which they were raised?

The quick answer is that many of  the Rebbeim (Torah teachers) they encounter in Israeli Yeshivos that cater to Modern Orthodox youth are Charedi. They see their mission as a form of Kiruv into Charedi Orthodxy and out of Modern Orthodoxy. Which they at best see as a tepid form of Judaism. They have an entire year to convince their young charges of their values. And they often succeed, unbeknownst to the parents until it is too late.

Not every Yeshiva that caters to Modern Orthodox high school graduates is like that. But enough of them are to make this phenomenon fairly common.

How parents react to this depends in large part on what kind of Modern Orthodoxy they follow. For purposes of this post I am leaving out Left Wing Modern Orthodoxy which probably requires a post of its own. 

I am limiting the discussion to 2 categories: Centrist and MO-Lite. The difference between them is huge. I would even go so far as to say that Centrists have more in common with Charedim (of the moderate persuasion) than they do with MO-lite.  In outward appearance Centrists may seem more like MO-Lite. (At least for men. Centrist women might look more like Charedi women.) But with respect to Halacha and tradition, there is little difference between the two. The differences are only Hashkafic.

MO-Lites are those that I have in the past described as basically observant of Shabbos and Kashrus. Their religious education was at best limited. They are otherwise socially observant meaning they tend to  follow the religious trends of their own communities. MO-Lites are often not concerned with Halachic details or Halachos they consider insignificant. 

There is sometimes confusion about what is Halacha and what is Minhag. I have more than once heard an MO-Lite individual defending their lifestyle choices (some of which border on Halachic violations if not outright violations) as a matter of picking and choosing what to observe and not to observe. They add that everyone does this including Charedim. 

What they do not realize is that some of their choices might actually violate Halacha. An MO-Lite might care more about maintaining a certain lifestyle than he will about Halacha. Which is why for example many married MO-Lite women do not cover their hair and dress fashionably at the expense of observing modesty laws.  Centrists don’t do that. Married Centrist women do for example cover their hair.

These distinct 2 categories of Modern Orthodox Jews will react in distinctly different ways to flipping out.

An MO-Lite parent might feel offended that their child has become so ‘religious’ to the point of departing totally from the way they were raised. A Centrist parent might be more accepting of it.

The Hamodia article interviewed several people that have experienced this phenomenon  and despite it’s obvious pro Charedi perspective it sheds some light on this phenomenon. It is surely worth reading in its entirety.

My advice would be to assure that the Yeshiva in Israel that you send you high school graduate to teaches your Hashkafos. Admittedly it is going to be hard to find a yeshiva with your exact Hashkafos. But it is worth doing due diligence to get it as close as possible. 

In the event that it happens anyway my best advice would be to accept them as they have returned. Certainly with respect to the trappings of being Charedi. As far as the Hashkafic changes are concerned, hopefully there can be some compromises worked out that will retain the closeness between parent and child that has always existed and yet allow for the family Hashkfos to be for the most part respected.

For example if a child comes back from his year in Israel wanting to learn full time in a Yeshiva, he might be able to compromise and settle for a Yeshiva like HTC, Ner Israel, or YU’s RIETS, where both intensive Torah study and college are taken seriously.

What about the black hat a child may come back with instead of the Kipa Seruga? My advice is don’t sweat the small stuff.  This way everyone will come out happy.