Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chazon Ish: True moderation can only be achieved as failure to achieve perfection

Chazon Ish(Letters 3:61): Just as the unvarnished facts and truth are synonymous so are uncompromising perfectionism and greatness. Perfectionism means to develop something to the ultimate degree. One who advocates moderation and despises perfectionism, his lot is with the frauds or with those lacking understanding. Without perfectionism, there can be no completion and if there is no perfection, there is no beginning. The beginning is with constant questions and replies. The perfecter is the brilliant respondent who orders everything in its rightful place. We regularly hear announcements from well‑known groups that they have nothing to do with uncompromising perfectionists. They nevertheless describe themselves as being the true Jews with appropriate faith to Torah. We simply note, however, that just as there is no such thing amongst lovers of wisdom as love for minimum knowledge and hate for the very wise there is similarly no such thing as loving Torah and mitzvos moderately and hating the uncompromising perfectionists. All the foundations of emuna, the 13 principles and their derivatives, are inherently incompatible with the lightweight wisdom and superficial life that exists in this world. In contrast clear recognition, energetic involvement; high precision in emuna is the hallmark of the perfectionist. Those who proudly testify on themselves that they have not tasted the sweetness of uncompromising perfection are simultaneously testifying that they are missing emuna in the foundation of religion both intellectually and emotionally. Their attachment is only lukewarm. The perfectionists, who despite their genuine wish to have pity on these doctrinaire moderates, do not honor and respect their opponents. The yawning abyss that separates them is naturally only widened as the result of the disputes that occur when they interact with each other. The only true moderation that can exist is that which results naturally to those who love the perfection and strive towards it and educate their children to strive for the peak. In contrast how unfortunate are those “moderates” who cast aspersions on the perfectionists. The obligation of our education is to perfection. The only genuine protection of the educational system is to be contemptuous and to ridicule those who denigrate perfection. However given the burning spirit of youth it is not appropriate to strongly condemn specific individuals amongst the unfortunates. Instead, the youth should be developed to have true love of Torah that requires personal effort and heavenly pleasantness and they should not have obstacles placed on this road. Those schools that are labeled as moderate schools, they are not successful because of the fraud that is inherent in moderation…

14 comments :

  1. When is one a "moderate" and when is one following the Middle Measure (Hil' Dei'os ch. 1)?

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  2. 2) However, the Rambam was talking about midos that measure your personality. He was not talking about midos that measure your religion. He was not talking about yiras shamayim, ahavas hashem, emunah, bitachon etc -- those things are not personality traits but rather the result of religious awareness - the awareness that hashem is our Creator; that His decision and only His decision determines what happens to us, etc. In this area, the more the better.

    3) Those Middos - such as Yiras Shamayim - have no ceiling that we can reach. Because they are the result of a cognizance of spiritual realities, humans can only attain them to a limited measure. There is a maximum that can be expected of us, and a maximum that we can attain, but thats not because of the limit of the middah - its because of the limit of ourselves.

    http://classic.frumteens.com/topic.php?topic_id=38055&forum_id=27&Topic_Title=PLEASE+ANSWER%3A+100%25&forum_title=Different+Types+of+%22Orthodoxy%22

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  3. Greetings,

    I would like to know what words the Chazon Ish ZTz"L used that are translated here as "perfectionism" and "moderation". I would like to be sure nothing has been lost in translation.

    Maybe I only speak for myself here, but I'm guessing the average reader's knee-jerk interpretation would be that "perfectionists" = Charedim, while "moderates" = Religious Zionists and everybody else. If so, that's a great excuse for Charedim to disdain and hate everyone else, and feel righteously justified about doing so.

    That would be an intellectually lazy and, to borrow the author's term, "fraudulent" representation. If "perfectionism" means being a model Jew, cleaving to Hashem and His Torah, then you cannot categorize groups of people, only individuals. Torah observance is not only about spending all day in kollel. There's also much overlooked stuff like "v'halachta bidrachav". A scrupulously observant Merkaz-HaRav-nik who goes to the army, does chessed, relates to his fellow Yidden with love and respect, and devotes every spare moment to learning Torah is, by this definition, a "perfectionist" - while a Sikriki thug who spends most of his time bench-warming in kollel, and in his ample spare time spits on little girls and beats up store owners who don't put up "tzniyus" signs, is a "moderate" who compromises on halacha and, as the Chazon Ish says, deserves contempt and scorn, not honor and respect.

    By applying a more holistic and wholesome view of what Yiddishkeit is, and what dveykus to Hashem requires, you could turn this whole knee-jerk interpretation on its head. Who are the "perfectionists" and who are the "moderates"? Who does general Israeli society and the outside world look at and say, "Wow, if this is a Ben Torah, then I want my son to be a Ben Torah!" - and who do they look at and say, "Ugh - if this is how a Ben Torah behaves, then I want nothing to do with the Torah!"

    Just something to think about...

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  4. חזון איש (קובץ אגרות ג:סא עמוד פ"ה) כשם שהפשטות והאמת הם שמות נרדפות, כן הקיצוניות והגדלות שמות נרדפות. הקיצוניות היא ההשתלמות של הנושא. הדוגל בהבינוניות ומואס בקיצוניות, חלקו עם הזיפנים או עם חדלי תבונה. אם אין קיצוניות אין שלמות, ואם אין שלמות אין התחלה. ההתחלה היא בקושיות ופרכות מתמידות, והתמימות היא התרצן החריף המכונן דבר דבור על אפנו ואל אמתתו.
    רגילים אנחנו לשמוע בחוגים ידועים, כמכריזים על עצמם שאין חלקם בין הקיצונים, ומשאירים בכל זה לעצמם זכות ישראלי נאמן באמונה מספקת לתורה וד"ת. ומרשים אנחנו לעצמנו להגיד מנקודת משפט, כמו שאין באוהבי חכמה אהבה למיועטה ושנאה לרב חכמתה, כן אין באוהבי תורה ומצה אהבה לאמצעיות ושנאה לקיצוניות. כל יסודי האמונה, י"ג העיקרים, והמסתעפים, המה תמיד בסתירה נמרצה עם המושכלות הקלות ושטף החיים המפותחות תחת השמש. והכרתם הבהירה, והמתורצת, והמושיטה דוקנות יתירה באמנותם. היא נועם הקיצוניות. ואלה שמעידים על עצמם שלא טעמו מתק קיצוניות, מעידים יחד עם זה שהם חדלי אמונה בעיקרי הדת לפי כח עיוני ורגש נפשי, רק בחבלי יחוס מה הם מתיחסים אליה. והקיצונים, לעמק נפשם, בכל רצון היותר כביר לחמלה על חדלי הקצה, לא ירחשו כבוד ויקר לאלה מתנגדיהם. והתהום המפסיק ביניהם, כאשר נפגש במעשים ממשיים המחוללות בהכרח טבען מריבות וקטטות, יוסיף את הקרע לאין מרפא.
    הבייניות שיש לה זכות הקיום, היא מדת הבינינים האוהבים את הקיצוניות ושואפים אליה בכל משאת נפשם, ומחנכים את צאצאיהם לפסגת הקיצוניות. אבל מה עלובה הבינינית הסואנת בוז לקיצונות. חובה חינוכנו לקיצונות! הזיון של החינוך הוא, לטעת בוז וגיעול נפש להמתעוללים בקיצונית. אמנם, לרוח הרותך בלב הנוער, לא יבצר להוציא משפט מרותח על האישים הפרטיים של המתעוללים, ובמדת ההפרזה, אך התפתחות הנוער לאהבת תורה באמת, הדרושה להתפעלות נפשי ונעימות שמימי, לא יתן לתת מעצורים על דרך החחים המוליכים ליושבים בעטרות ונהנים מזיו. אלא המכוננים בתי חינוך ממוצעים, לא הצליחו, בשביל הזיוף שיש באמצעיות, ולב משכיל הולך ומזניח את הזיוף. החינוך שלהם, נותם את הצדק להחניך לפנות עורף להחוקים המושלכים עליו שלא לרצונו, ולהאמונות המעיקות לבו נגד זרם החחים, ואת סוד הקיצונות גזלו ממנו, בהתעולל בה גם הוריו ומוריו.

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  5. Wow. That's even more radical than I imagined. Maybe the connotation of קיצוניות nowadays is different from what it meant in the Chazon Ish's time - but taking it by today's meaning, the Chazon Ish is extolling EXTREMISM and dissing בינוניות/אמצעיות = the "MIDDLE" path!

    I think the resolution is, as halilinafshi says, that the Chazon Ish is describing middos that measure your yir'as shamayim, etc. - which happen to be things that are only known to HKBH, are not in the slightest bit visible to the casual observer, and certainly not by one's choice of clothing fashions. And the Rambam's dictum of "the middle path" still holds as far as all personality middos are concerned.

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  6. I suppose it depends on how you view perfection - I agree that we should be pursuin perfection in trying to do the ratzon hashem, I guess we have different definitions of that ratzon
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  7. Simply put, the CI's words are applicable to Mizrachi and 'dati-lonim' but not in the least to Merkaz Harav type chardalim. They are as passionate about limmud hatorah, kirvas elokim etc. as anyone on the planet. (Of course, there are some who would argue that they're stam apikorsom, but that's a whole 'nother topic.)

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  8. shaul shapira said...

    Simply put, the CI's words are applicable to Mizrachi and 'dati-lonim' but not in the least to Merkaz Harav type chardalim.
    ===============
    Or to cite Rabbi Norman Lamm's lament about Modern Orthodox,
    "Instead of being passionate about moderation they are moderate in their passion."

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  9. This quote from RNL addresses the theoretical aspect my question in the first comment: When is one a "moderate" and when is one following the Middle Measure (Hil' Dei'os ch. 1)?

    But pragmatically, can't someone who is moderate in their passion very easily fool themselves into thinking that they are passionate about their moderation?

    I once blogged about why "Halakhic Man" was a poor formula for a community. In short, it gives solutions for the intelligensia that would leave the masses worse off than if they didn't try. This is in distinction to other derakhim. Someone who only partly follows Chassidus is better off than someone with no Ism. But someone who only partly follows RYBS's vision will be living compromised Judaism and convincing himself it's using Judaism to navigate the dialectic.

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  10. Daniel Eidensohn said...
    "Or to cite Rabbi Norman Lamm's lament about Modern Orthodox,"

    1) You deserve to be put in cherem for putting 'Rabbi' before that man's name. Where I come from, he's the 'seh' :)

    2) I love the quote. He's his usual eloquent self . Where's it from?

    3) I just noticed you switched from being 'daas torah' to 'Daniel Eidensohn' in the comments section. Mah kara? Did you get fed up with me mispelling your last name?

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  11. shaul shapira said...


    3) I just noticed you switched from being 'daas torah' to 'Daniel Eidensohn' in the comments section. Mah kara? Did you get fed up with me mispelling your last name?
    ==============
    Was trying out the google+ profile instead of blogger - Just switched back

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  12. shaul shapira said...

    Daniel Eidensohn said...
    "Or to cite Rabbi Norman Lamm's lament about Modern Orthodox,"

    1) You deserve to be put in cherem for putting 'Rabbi' before that man's name. Where I come from, he's the 'seh' :)
    ==============
    My wife's brother married Rabbi Maurice Lamm's daughter.

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  13. shaul shapira said...

    Daniel Eidensohn said...
    "Or to cite Rabbi Norman Lamm's lament about Modern Orthodox,"


    2) I love the quote. He's his usual eloquent self . Where's it from?
    ==============
    Good question - I think I saw it in his book on Torah U' Maddah. But he apparently has said on many occasions

    http://www.jta.org/news/article/1997/06/05/2049/BFOCUSONISSUES

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  14. Daas Torah said...
    My wife's brother married Rabbi Maurice Lamm's daughter


    Well, once you've dragged your family into this sordid blog of yours, I may as let you know that I was your nephew's (TAY) dira-mate for, like, a year ansd a half in Mir Yerushalayim and he never once mentioned this bit of yichus. I can't possibly imagine why...

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