Friday, November 06, 2009

Is There Really a Reason to Be so Divisive?

One of the things that bother me about the divide between Charedim and Modern Orthodox Jews is the attitude that Charedim have about their own views versus those of others.

It is more than just a disagreement between right and left; stringencies versus leniencies. It is an attitude of complete and total rejection of others and their views. It's an attitude bolstered by an arrogance that is almost impervious to reasonable debate or discussion.

This came into focus recently during a discussion on an e-mail list about a lenient Halachic Psak about singing in a mixed choir (men and women). There is apparently a Posek in Israel who permits it.

I am not here to endorse or reject the Psak. But I am here to object to such a Psak being characterized as outside the pale of Orthodoxy. If a knowledge Rav writes a Teshuva and brings sources he is not to be looked at as outside the pale. He is entitled to his view.

But non Orthodox is how one individual on that list characterizes it. And that is plain wrong. It is divisive and contrary to Halacha to disparage a Daas Yachid.

Unfortunately the right wing has become very Taliban-like in their attitude about what is Halacha and what isn't. If they rule something is forbidden, then anyone who says it is permitted is not Orthodox - especially if they are Modern Orthodox rabbis.

The best example of that is belief in an ancient universe. The right wing considers such views heresy. This is how it was characterized in the Yated when explaining why they banned Rabbi Slifkin’s books. Another example of that is calling rabbis Misyavnim - people influenced by Hellenistic philosophies. If a rabbi advocates banning Metzitza BePeh (the 'drawing of blood' from a Bris Mila by mouth) but instead advocates using more sterile means for Pikuach Nefesh reasons - there is no room for debate. No room for Elu V’Elu. Anyone expressing such an opinion is outside the pale.

These two examples are opinions expressed by the most right wing of Charedim.

But it seems to be the case that those who side with them the most on this issue are Charedim who have themselves stepped out of the strict party line. It seems that they feel even stronger about expressing their views in this way then mainstream Charedim.

I find this often to be the case with those from Charedi backgrounds who say that they tend toward a more Torah Im Derech Eretz for themselves. They were educated in a completely Charedi style Yeshiva system from kindergarten on up. And yet many of these Charedim become professionals. But they do so apologetically and then feel the need to ram it down everyone’s throat just how Charedi their Hashkafos still are.

I see this as overcompensation for their perceived failure at not being true to their own Charedi principles. Principles like staying in learning as long as they can. Instead they might have feelings of inferiority - and that they have sold out by going to college and taking careers in the professions.

They then have to prove just how Charedi they really are by taking the most strident position on any issue.

This is my observation. Is any of it true? I don’t know - but it sure seems that way to me.