Monday, May 27, 2024

The Decline of MO and Ascendancy of the Right

Beis HaMedrash of Kerem B'Yavneh - a Hesder Yeshiva
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin recently posted the following tweet on X: 

Genuinely think the only way Modern Orthodoxy (MO) will survive in America is if it more whole heartedly embraces Kabbalah and chassidus. 

I am a fan of Rabbi Bashevkin. He is one of the clearest thinkers in all of Orthodox Judaism. Sadly, what he is really saying here is that Modern Orthodoxy is on a downward trajectory if they don’t do something drastic about it.

I have have expressed similar misgivings about this segment of Judaism. Not going into details. But suffice it to say that when most people think of Modern Orthodox Jews, they usually mean Jews that are more modern than Orthodox. 

While they are definitely observant, they are simply not as committed to following the minutia of Halacha as is the Charedi community. They are also far more concerned with their children’s academics for purposes of getting into the right college than they are with their children’s Jewish studies. This is not the best way to perpetuate one’s Judaism into the future.

Let me hasten to add that those of us that are Centrists (which can be defined as the right wing of MO) are as committed to observance and perpetuating Judaism into the future as are Charedim. If there is a future for MO, it is in Centrism. But our numbers are minuscule compared to the Charedi world. Which is growing exponentially with every passing gemeration. 

Which is why I have been saying for the longest time that the future of Judaism is with Charedim. (Needless to say it is not with any of the heterodox movements either.) This is why I so often focus on the problems that beset the Charedi world..

The latest of which is in a letter (available online) from the Rav Aharon Feldman, Therein he suggested that based on the words of the Torah - God might have said something like the following to explain why the state of Israel was so brutally attacked on October 7th:  

For over seventy-five years you have created a state on My land with an educational system, institutes for scientific research, industry, commerce, agriculture and general prosperity. But you omitted one element from your state: you deliberately left Me out of the picture. I chose the Jews at Mount Sinai to be “a nation of servants and a holy people.” This meant that they were to be a nation devoted to Me in every aspect of their lives. For this I gave them a Torah where I commanded them to have tzitzis on their clothing, tefillin on their heads, mezuzos on their doorposts. I wanted them to testify to My existence on Shabbos and the Holidays, to refrain from eating foods that dampen their yearning for sanctity, to refrain from slander and evil tongue, to support the poor and to devote themselves to the study of Torah—all of this to overcome their selfish drives for lust and power

How in Heaven’s name can Rav Feldman ignore what has actually happened?  Israel now has an unprecedented number of students studying Torah full time. A community enabled by the state to be as observant as they wish in every detail of Halacha and beyond. A situation enabled by taxpayers the majority of whom are not Charedi.  

What about the religious fervor of the Hesder soldiers who learn Torah every minute they aren’t  risking their lives fighting an enemy determined to annihilate all of us, not just secular Jews? How can he ignore the explosion of religious Olim (immigrants) now populating the state? How can he ignore taxpayer money being given to his community in the from of stipends and subsidies? Does this sound like a nation strictly concerned with selfish drives for lust and power? Sure there are individuals like that. But they exist in the Charedi world too. 

It’s true that I am not in Rav Feldman’s league when it comes to Torah knowledge. But this is not the first time that Rav Feldman has ignored the positive and focused solely on the negative. It has happned many times before. One of which was responded to by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein - someone who is in his league. Rav Feldman was taken to task. 

They were actually childhood friends from Baltimore and had a respectful ‘back and forth’ on this issue. I do not recall Rav Feldman having the upper hand then and I do not see him having it here either. What he does succeed in doing is doubling down on the hardline views of people he considers Gedolim. (Like Rav Dov Landau for example). Much the same way he did when he removed his endorsement of Rabbi Slifkin’s books - and instead agreed to the ban later issued on them by Rav Elyashiv.

I am often asked why I care what goes on in the Charedi world? I care because they are the wave of future. Whether anyone likes it or not. Not MO for the reasons explained above. And not even Centrists since we are so tiny in comparison to them.

I want to see them go back to a state of normalcy where rational thinking is not discarded, and where they can care enough about the entirety of the Jewish people to do something about it rather than just ignore them. Or worse - curse them! 

Rav Feldman might consider an alternative theory of why God might be angry at us. Maybe... just maybe the Torah world he so justly values should stop isolating itself from the rest of our people. Maybe they should focus more on the Torah Dictum of Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh BaZeh. And try to reach out to the secular world rather then put down. 

Like Rav Feldman, I am not a Navi. But maybe... just maybe that is the problem after all.