Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kiruv - Useless Scholasticism to ask for Torah source?! II

A possible insight into the strange assertion that looking for sources for kiruv is useless scholasticism is provided by Tzurah's comment below. He says in essence that the search for sources might be misunderstood as implying that the obligations were the sole cause of the kiruv movement.
I did not deny the significance of the factors RaP cited as bringing about the kiruv movement. However that doesn't obviate the need of a Jew to understand the halachic and hashkofic aspects of the phenomenon in order to clarify the guidelines and goals needed to develop and enhance it. The criticisms expressed of kiruv programs have to analyzed as to whether they legitimately point out problems that need to be changed or whether they are the result of the rejection of the goal of increasing religious observance by fellow Jews.

Tzurah commented to "Kiruv - Useless Scholasticism to ask for Torah sou...":

I believe RaP has an interesting point to make. He has a question: what drove the creation of the Baal Teshuva movement and its institutions? RaP holds, not unreasonably, that the movement arose out of spontaneously, min hashamayin, out of the interplay of countless historical and social forces.

By quoting numerous rabbinic sources going back hundreds of years, an opposing impression can potentially be made, that the Rabbinic establishment engineered the "Teshuva Revolution" into being, and imposed it onto the Jewish masses to enable their repentance.

To counter this possible impression, RaP pointed out that except for a few, those in the Jewish religious establishment were playing catch-up to social forces beyond their control.

I think that the need perceived by R' Berkowitz for a list of sources actually supports RaP's view, rather than oppose it. R' Berkowitz and his Jerusalem Kollel are focused mainly on getting Yeshivish FFB' to be involved in kiruv (as opposed to the Aish model of getting their BT graduates back out to the field).

Since the current mode of ACTIVE kiruv, going "out there" and promoting Yiddishkeit, is rather unprecedented, there has been a natural hesitation among many FFBs, who 1) never felt a need for it themselves, 2) may have never seen it in action, 3)and have never heard of their tattes and zaydes doing it.

In fact, they were always taught not to proselytize, so kiruv looks like it might be a little assur (esp. if one might end up teaching Torah, even inadvertently, to actual non-Jews). Also, one has to go out into the non-frum world and expose oneself to myriad spiritual dangers. If it might be assur, and it might endanger your neshama, why take the chance? One could reasonably argue that loving G-d and loving other Jews is important, but those halachos do not expand, in the larger halachik calculus, into making kiruv rechokim in the current active style a requirement.

I believe that's why R' Berkowitz had to prepare a list like this, to reassure those who take the conservative approach and take Halachic precedent VERY seriously, that kiruv is, in fact, nicely supported by the sources.

In the end, though, isn't this how many chiddushim are created? A new social situation arises that raises halachik questions, and our Chachamim look into the writings of their predecessors to try to determine what should be done in this new situation. In addition, I agree with Chizki that going back to the sources can only help in guiding those who are involved in kiruv and bringing much needed insight into the manner in which one ought to pursue its fulfillment.

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