Monday, August 25, 2008

Divisions, labels and boxes - root of wisdom & hatred

I received the following comment which apparently was taken from another blog. There are two basic approaches in dealing with this question 1) what exactly bothers you about differentiating, labeling and grouping? Do you reject all just activity? What would the world look like if there wasn't labeling and grouping? 2) Would you like to know the advantages and necessity for discriminating, grouping and differentiating? If this is a topic of interest to the readers I will cite sources relevant to the second approach. Of particular interest is the attitude of the Meshech Chochma and the Netziv dealing with the right and left in Yiddisheit.

Obviously there is a downside to this activity but before you issue a blanket condemnation it is worthwhile taking a more nuanced approach to the matter.
Anonymous wrote:

"I think you should address this since you seem such a strong advocate of it"

On divisions within Judaism

It is very funny and sad, that when people's opinion differ there is what I call random categorization that happens. For some reason people have a need of labeling other people? Your a left wing and I am a right or you are Haredi and I am not, Ultra Orthodox and modern.

All what these labels and categorization do is separate and distance people to the point that each has to go to his own shul, and live in a different community, and has his own shulchan aruch.

I often wonder when 600,000 Jews received the Torah did they all started labeling each other.

Did 600,000 Jews with 600,000 opinions started separating from each other due their hashkafas. Did say you are lefty (therefore wrong) and I am righty (therefore right).

Why is there a need to label different Jews? Why does disagreeing with another Jew we feel a need to separate ourselves. Do people honestly believe that calling somebody a liberal or a modern Jew makes you go to Heaven because you are more strict on Judaism while for whatever reason you give yourselves a Heter to say Loshan Hara about a group of Jews.


  1. For secure people, differences are a source of interest and a potential for learning other perspectives.

    For insecure people, differences are a threat to be eliminated lest one's personal point of view be shown to be incorrect.

    Many modern Orthodox groups are, unfortunately, extremely insecure.

  2. while garnel is correct, the assumption in the statement "Do people honestly believe that calling somebody a liberal or a modern Jew makes you go to Heaven because you are more strict on Judaism while for whatever reason you give yourselves a Heter to say Loshan Hara about a group of Jews." is not correct . A philosphically modern Jew would argue that he is at least as "strict on Judaism" as one who is not. (strict being defined differently)
    Joel Rich

  3. There are leniencies and then there are leniencies. Rav Shimon Eider, in his book on Hilchos Niddah, brings a great example in how people will be "machmir" when they're not sure about a situation and hold off on going to the mikvah. Well, sure they're being machmir in one way but they're being incredibly lenient in terms of onah.

    I don't stand during leining. Not because I'm too lazy to be machmir and stand but because I strictly hold that leining is like learning and I sit while I learn.

    A philosophically modern Jew who believes that proper Torah observance means introducing certain modern thoughts into his life and who does it with honest l'shem Shamayim is being as strict as the person who avoids all outside thoughts.

    The gemara often brings two authorities who have diametrically opposed opinions which they derive from the exact same verse. Is one being lenient and the other not? Both are being strict in their interpretation of the law. They've just reached different conclusions.

    Modesty and humility would go a long way towards helping us understand that.

  4. I think the key point of the focus should be the on the following "advantages and necessity for discriminating, grouping and differentiating?".

    Just my thoughts: I think everyone will agree that people are entitled to live and associate with like minded individuals and to perpetuate a society that as a priority focuses on their own iniatives.

    HOWEVER, the problem that people have is that there is a degree of outright hostility, discrimination, lake of civility and just down right meanness from certain quarters, more often than not from the more RW community.

    I think what the questioner is really asking, is why cant people just be “nicer” even if you disagree. Why cant there be a mutual respect of good intentions and a striving to focus on what we have in common as apposed to what divides us. As a simplistic comparison you wouldn’t have a scenario of a Republican protest the fact that Democrats are moving into their neighbour or demonizing Democrats as unworthy of having an opinion on the matter. Yet such a scenario exists in the Orthodox world on much more trivial issues.

  5. I think the reason one finds this in the Orthodox world is because of some fundamental Jewish principles that have become warped over time.
    To wit: Republicans don't protest that Democrats are moving into their neighbourhood because there's nothing about being a Republican that says one must see Democrats as illegimate and mocking American values by their beliefs and existence.
    On the other hand, the Jewish intolerance for idolatry and injustice has morphed into an ugly belief that unless you are a card-carrying (or more specifically hat/shtreiml wearing) member of the community, you are sinning, committing wickedness and mocking God Himself. Therefore just as it is a Jewish duty to oppose idol worship and general wickedness, it has also become a duty within these communities to oppose those Jews that don't "hold like us".
    Along with this is a trend, identified by Prof Marc Shapiro, at historical revisionism within certain Orthodox communities. To wit: the way we are is the way proper Torah-observant Jews have ALWAYS been, right back to Moshe Rabeinu, a"h who wore a shtreiml and capote while receiving the Torah from Hashem. This way the question: Well, if change is forbidden, why don't we dress like the Rambam did 1000 years ago? never has to be addressed. Jews who profess to live Torah observant lives but have different philosophies regarding Zionism, secular knowledge or even, chas v'shalom, clothes that aren't black and white are a threat to this imposed historical monotony.
    This has quickly become a defining characteristic of these communities and will be very hard to uproot.

  6. What you are in Essence saying is that Yiddishkiet is TRIVIAL?!?!?

  7. No, I'm saying that it's much easier to handle a monotonous Judaism where there's one standard and everyone has the same "hashkafah" than to deal with the incredible depth and complexity of Torah and halachah. Nowadays, too many people want the first option and see the second as a form of kefirah.

  8. On the Satmer Rebbe's Yahrtzeit I think it best to approach this whole topic with the approach of the Gedolim of yesteryear. Reb Aharon Kotler Zatzal And The Satmar Rebbe Zatzal. I will bring two Stories that show the true approach of these real Gedolim.
    STORY 1
    The Satmar Rebbe being an ardent adherent to Rabbenu Taam would be driven to Shul when it was plainly dark outside on Erev Shabbos( I heard these from Rabbi Riesman's at his Navi Shiurim he is A Litvak on all accounts) to daven Mincha. Reb Aharon was upset by this to say the least. A METTING was set up, where the issue was DISSCUSED. The Satmar Rebbe was asked to change. He saw no reason as he had Halacha on his side,at this point Reb Aharon explained his MISNAGDUS on the Issue. Here in America we live together the people see you driving when it is dark outside and they do the same, and they will see me ending Shabbos earlier and do the same. It comes out between the two of us, there won't be a Shabbos. They Made an AGREEMENT. The Satmar Rebbe no longer took the car after dark to MINCHA and Reb Aharon, from what I understand until today in BMG held Rabbenu Taam on Motzah Shabbos.
    Story 2
    Right after the War, when the Satmar Rebbe's Tisch was relatively small where he could still see all the people at his Tischen. There was a BMG bochur at the Tisch. The Fish of Shirayim was Passed around in true Chassidic form: from hand to hand. This was until it got to the bochur with his Litvish Sensibilities he when the fish touched his Hand he promptly dropped it on the floor. The Rebbe saw this and said "VEST KEIN AIN MOL NISHT ZEIN KAN CHOSSID" -"You will never bee a Chassidic". When he got back to Lakewood Reb Aharon asked the bochur "How was the experience of a Tisch? The Bochur told him Over the story Reb Aharon Exclaimed "A CHOISIVEH BRACHA FUN A CHOSIVER TZADDIK"- "A great blessing from a great person".
    In conclusion instead of saying here is where we disagree lets bring sources and I will disprove you and you will disprove me They Coexisted under The Mamar Chazal "Eilu Valiu divirie elokim Chaim" and I am sure even You REB Eidensohn will admit you are not a Baar Plugta on REB AHRON.


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