Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The need for WOW!! as an indication of the deterioriation of the system

At the last session of our discussion group, Rav Triebitz noted that there are various ways of dealing with a sick society  - a society that need to be revitalized. There are ideologies, there are dialectics of philosophies, there is the collective emotion of chassidim attached to their rebbe. The Mussar movement used emotion triggered by intellect for those Litvaks who couldn't relate to the emotion of the chassidim. Finally he noted the approach of Rav S. R. Hirsch - which is to use the aesthetic, the beautiful the inspiration. This approach is the basis of what we call kiruv today. It doesn't have to be innately emotional, there is no deep intellectual dialectic, there is no focus on the introspection of mussar. However it must feel good, be attractive and inspiring  and it must be inherently interesting even to the novice. It is interesting at the same week we had the meeting, Mishpacha magazine did a cover story on Rabbi Shmuel Brazil - a very successful educator whom I know from Shor Yoshuv. Rabbi Brazil described this kiruv approach as presenting the presenting the WOW! of Yiddishkeit. I have mixed feelings about this. He is using this on FFB's who have been through the yeshiva system. I am not sure how much of the community needs this approach but it sure indicates that the yeshiva has failed for them. I remember one distinguished Rav - a student of Rav Hutner - lamenting about his rebbe's insistence that learning must be fun and exciting. He told me, I didn't get where I am in learning by only studying things that are exciting. WOW! clearly has a place in education in our community - however  it needs to be used with discretion.

Rabbi Shmuel Brazil (Mishpacha Magazine 5/29/13 page 47). ... because of the pressure to keep up with other yeshivos and produce exceptional students, the rebbeim are un­fortunately concerned more with the high achievers. "Take a bochur who's 50th percentile or lower - it's over. He has no motivation. He finds it very difficult."

This lack of connection to learning, Rav Brazil says, leads to a cascade of consequences. "It automatically makes you feel like you’re not mainstream. Everyone else learns Gemara, everyone else learns well- but you don’t. And if you're not successful in learning, you don't have pleasure in doing it. Hana'ah, pleasure, is part of the learning process. It’s not a luxury - without hana'ah, the learning doesn’t go inside."

Feeling outside the mainstream, says the Rosh Yeshivah, leads many frustrated bo­churim to seek fulfillment in less wholesome pursuits. But whereas in a previous generation those pursuits took one to "the street," today they can be found close at hand.

"Now it's the handheld device," he explains, holding out his palm. "I just gave a shmuess on this the other day. 1 call it 'the wow.' The secu­lar world of entertainment and media gives you a wow. How do you compete with this? I gotta sit in shiur and wait until you finally get to the kasha? In contrast, here I just switch on the machine and right away cars and bodies are flying all over the place. Wow!

"In order to combat that, you have to give kids today the wow in Yiddishkeit. It's not about intellectualism alone, anymore. It's al1 about igniting emotion. You've got to grab their emotions so that they should say 'wow.' It could be with a niggun, or with a rikud ... so that they should be able to say, 'You know, it really feels different from the disco.'''

Once a person's perception has been ex­panded by this experience, he is more open to perceiving the radiance in traditional Jewish wisdom - the ziv ha'Torah.

"On Shavuos it says that Hashem gave all the Aseres HaDibros in one dibbur, and then, Rashi says, He enumerated them separately,” expounds the Rosh Yeshivah. "What was Hashem trying to do? Say, 'Look what I can do’? What's the purpose of that?

"I heard an answer from the Munkaczer Rebbe shlita, at the hesped of Rav Gifter. He explained that there are two parts of Torah: there's the yedi'os of Torah, and the 'wow' of Torah - it's called hispa'alus. It's not enough to teach Torah - you have to get the hispa'alus. So Hashem gave it to them in one shot. To show that Torah has to wow you. And then you begin the limud haTorah, where you learn all the details."[...]

"I say to my bochurim all the time, and it’s true, when we say a good vort, everyone smiles," he notes. "It's an incredible thing. Say a goy would walk in to a shiur and see every­ one grinning. He'd say, 'What happened? Did someone say a joke?' and we'd answer, 'No, we just said an interpretation on a Biblical verse.' Imagine his reaction! Photographers should use this technique instead of, Say cheese.' It’s a koach of Torah to be able to make a person say, 'Wow. What a pshat.'

"That's what the rebbi's got to do these days - figure out what's going to pull them in, get them off the street, get them away from drugs, from all the gadgets. There's no substance to that world. I call it the cotton candy. It looks so good, a person's gotta have it. And then he gets it and finishes the whole thing and says, ‘Three dollars and twenty cents for this? It’s not worth it!' It's the fantasy of Olam HaZeh, all fluffed lip. We need to put the wow of Torah up against that."


  1. And when I saw the title I thought it was about Women of the Wall!

  2. The students that come to Shor Yoshuv or Rabbi Brasil's new yeshiva, if they are from the yeshiva system, they are the ones that either went off the derech and came back, or they were not matzliach in learning for other reasons like learning disabilities or family problems. With these students, they need the WoW!

    As I learned it in Shor Yoshuv, from the sefer Tzidkis HaTzadik, there's a three part development in Yiddiskeit represented by the three Avos. Avraham represents the Midah of Ahavah. This is the wow, the initial stage of unbrideled enthusiasm. Next stage is Yirah, represented by Yitzchak Avinu. This is the stage that tempers the excitement of Ahavah, followed by the final balanced stage of Torah, represented by Yaakov Avinu which is the balance of Ahavah and Yira.

    This is futher reflected in the writings of Shlomo HaMelech, the first youthful stage of Ahavah is Shir HaShirim. The second mature stage of Yirah and discipline is Mishlei. Finally the third stage of balance of Ahavah and Yirah is Sefer Koheles.

    In other words, the WoW stage is the initial entry point into Yiddishkeit. It is needed to give a boost to fight the natural pull away from Yiddishkeit that exists if you do nothing. That doesn't mean we all have to party like maniacs all the time, we eventually want to have a balance, but Ahavah and excitement definitely have their place.

    1. You're making me do homework. I'll start you off with RB (Reish Beis) in Tzidkis HaTzadik. (Sorry, I don't know how to type in Hebrew.) I forgot to mention that this is also the seder of the the shalosh regalim. Check it out.

    2. Don't see any indication or discussion of WOW! of Torah study in rav tzadok. He is talking about the emotion of love. If you want to say you first have to get a person interested and excited to be a Jew, to be associated with a rebbe - then I can see it.

      ספר צדקת הצדיק - אות רב
      רב) בילדות החשק והאהבה גובר באדם ואז הזמן להשתמש במדת האהבה. וכן שלמה המלך ע"ה אמר בילדותו שיר השירים (שיר השירים רבה א' י' וזוהר ח"ב ל"ט.). וכן אברהם שהוא התחלת שם ישראל וכמו ששמעתי על מאמרם ז"ל בשבת (פ"ט ע"ב) לא בסבא טעמא ולא בדרדקי עצה דרדקי הוא אברהם אבינו שהיה ההתחלה והילדות וסבא יעקב. וכן מדה כנגד מדה השם יתברך אוהב האדם בילדות כמו שנאמר (הושע י"א א') כי נער ישראל ואוהבהו. ואחר כך האדם חושק לדברי תורה וחכמה ואז זמן היראה דאורייתא מסיטרא דגבורה (זוהר ח"ג פ' סוף ע"ב) וכן השם יתברך משפיע לו חכמה. ואחר כך זקני תלמידי חכמים דעתן מתישבת ובא לדעה שלימה ואמיתית הקיימת לעד אז הוא זמן שמחתו ותענוגו שמתענג על ה':
      וזהו סדר של שלושה אבות וכן שלוש רגלים כסדרן. וכן שלמה המלך ע"ה עשה אחר כך ספר משלי מלא חכמה. ושמעתי דהוא כמו פירוש על התורה שכל התרי"ג מצוות מעשיות שבתורה טעמן ורמיזתן בלב כללן שלמה המלך ע"ה בספר משלי. ובזקנותו קהלת ושמעתי דלכן קורין אותו בסוכות לא מפני שמהביל שמחת עולם הזה רק שממנו נקח תוקף ועיקר השמחה האמיתית על ידי ההבלת כל עניני עולם הזה רק זה חלקי וגו' ואין כאן מקומו:
      והסדר הזה הוא מצד השלימות הראוי אבל מצד החומר ושהאדם בעל חסרון וצריך להגדרה היראה קודמת כידוע בכל מקום הסדר דחילו ורחימו דסור מרע ואחר כך עשה טוב. ובילדות שהתאוה גוברת מצד החסרון צריך ליראה שהוא המגדרת בפני התאוה. ואחר כך כשעוסק בתורה צריך להגביר החשק והאהבה לדברי תורה שלא יזוז ממנו. ובאמת הם כלולים זה בזה ושניהם אינם שלימות האדם עדיין כי אהבה ויראה נקרא גדפין בזוהר כי יעקב גופא ואהבה ויראה דרועין. כי עיקר צורת האדם היא הדעה שלימה וקו האמצעי. והוא לעשות רצונו בלבב שלם האמור אחר אהבה ויראה. רק אלו הם כוחות השימוש לצורת האדם. ולכך צורת יעקב חקוקה בכסא הכבוד שהוא נגד שם הוי"ה

      ספר צדקת הצדיק - אות רב
      שהוא הכולל הכל כנודע. כי זה כל האדם להיות נמשך אחר אמיתות רצון השם יתברך בלי שום מסך ומונע. רק שהדרך להגיע לזה הוא על ידי אהבה ויראה הקודמין:


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.