Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Reinstating the Old Fashioned Torah Part 2 The Old Fashioned Torah by Joe Orlow

Guest post by Joe Orlow

What is the Old Fashioned Torah?

The key element of the Old Fashioned Torah is that it requires a Jew to think. Books such as "Obligations of the Heart" and "Path of the Upright" make this point. A Mitzvah requires the alignment of a Jew's inner and outer states. Thought and action have to coincide. For example, for someone to "pray" without understanding that they are addressing G-d, even if they say the words in a language they understand, they have accomplished nothing.

Thinking leads to the realization that the Torah requires a man to work, not for a man to mooch. The sources in the Torah that teach that everyone must work have been taught by Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn, and will only be treated briefly here. The Rambam says that a man must marry at age eighteen, and have a job and a paid up house. The Zohar says that not to have a job and paid up house and to marry puts the man into the category of a Shoteh, a strong term meaning someone who is untrustworthy due to his careless behavior. Rava, in the Talmud, encouraged his students to have business investments that would give them the income and the time to study Torah.

To be sure, it is proper at this point in history for some men to devote themselves full time to learning. But the decision that a given individual should learn full time should be made by the community in consultation with a Rav who has nothing to gain by deciding that the man should not work. The decision not to work should not be left up to the man himself, even if his wife is willing to be the sole source of income for the family; nor should the decision be made by his Rosh Yeshiva who stands to benefit from the increase in size and prestige of the Yeshiva.

The Torah World was a natural outgrowth from the great Yeshivas that taught the Old Fashioned Torah. What happened?

The Torah World got to the point of falling apart because it began demanding unthinking unquestioning obedience to Gadolim, some of whom turned out to be unworthy of their followers (please refer to the article Pseudo Gadolim appended below). The way to counter the break up of the Torah World is to teach people to think.

It is helpful to examine how unthinking became entrenched in the Torah World. Reb Chaim of Volozhin started his Yeshiva in reaction to "Enlightened" Jews disputing with Torah-true Jews as to the legitimacy of Torah observance. The Volozhiner Yeshiva emphasized pure Torah study isolated from the give-and-take of conversations with "Maskilim". Later, Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch articulated arguments to counter the Reform and others. Rav Yisrael Salanter introduced the Musar Movement to Yeshivas. Still, there remained a standoffish attitude within Yeshivas, which is now becoming their downfall.

Specifically because all outside criticism is eschewed, Yeshivas lack a correction mechanism when their leaders veer away away from the Torah. They are closed to rebuke, immune to pressure. What was once a strength has become their undoing.

How can we teach people to think, the pre-requisite of an Old Fashioned Torah Yeshiva? That is the subject of Part 3.


  1. "The Zohar says that not to have a job and paid up house and to marry puts the man into the category of a Shoteh" I recall you saying that you weren't married.
    "nor should the decision be made by his Rosh Yeshiva who stands to benefit from the increase in size and prestige of the Yeshiva". 99% precent of yeshivas don't have kollels, so that would mean most rosh yeshivas are totally unbiased. I doubt anyone consults with rosh kollels about staying learning past marriage.
    Lastly, Judaism doesn't exist without mesorah, so unfortunately for you, we are very much dependent on our gedolim.

  2. I'm having difficulty following the logic of your comment.

    Is your last point that we receive the Mesorah from our teachers?

    Let me ask you, if I may. If my whole life all my teachers taught me that the Mesorah is that adultery is wrong, and then a "Gadol" performs a marriage between a married woman and a man different than her current husband, am I allowed to question what is going on?

    Or should I just accept that the unchanging Mesorah just "unchanged" into something else which it always was even though it wasn't.

    In other words, is there a place for thinking when it comes to keeping the Torah? Or should unquestioning acceptance rule the day?

  3. To say say that the community decides if any particular man can sit in kollel is totally ridiculous. First of all look at the last Rambam at the end o hilchos shemita u yovel. Its clear fromn there that anyone may chose to set aside the ol of parnassa.

  4. The Mishnah Berurah, Rav Moshe Feinstein and others discussed the Rambam decades ago and do not concur with you. The Chazon Ish held people should learn. Were they the "wrong" gedolim?

  5. Could you please post a link to the article about Pseudo Gadolim that you reference, Thanks!

  6. The problem with Modern Chareidism (trademark pending) is that it is based on a contradiction, to wit: it opposes innovation but it itself is an innovation, something never seen before in Jewish religious history. To deal with this it has had to develop a certain Orwellianism. It constantly revises the past through suppression or alteration of history, old photos, etc. with the purpose of creating an illusion that, in fact, Modern Chareidism is what default Torah Judaism has always been and that all these other groups in the Torah world are aberrations. This creates an ongoing tension because it means the leadership is involved in perpetuating falsehood about the past in order to maintain a synthetic "purity" in the present without any thoughts as to what will happen in the future. How does such a situation strike anyone as functional?

  7. If that's your rationale then you're not a student of Jewish history, at least in the terms of famous gittin throughout Jewish history so let me educate you. This isn't the first time that major gedolim have hotly disputed the veracity of a get. Open the tshuvus maharam m'lublin or a tshuvus Rema. The kiliver get is one such example, where one side was matir and the other side screamed foul. The Rema married someone Friday night and the world went nuts.(and in case you didn't know, kiddushei taaos is a Gemara)

  8. I think that it is clear that this is no longer a Charedi blog in any meaningful sense.

  9. I may not be much of a student of Jewish history at this point, but I'm a student of this blog, and I try my best to be a student of Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn. I stand by everything I've written.

  10. Please do elaborate on what alterations modern chareidim have done. Last I checked charedim still keep kosher, shabbos, 613 ect. ect. Unlike the rest of the Jewish population. Charedim still keep Judaism like it was 300 years ago and further, not like it was when haskala was rampant in more recent history.

  11. Modern Chareidism may have deviated somewhat from previous default Torah Judaism, but "Modern Orthodoxy" has deviated much more so.

    The MO leadership is thus forced to perpetuate falsehoods and maintain an illusion that their numerous feminist innovations somehow represent what normative halachic Judaism has always been.

    When did normative Ashkenazi Torah Judaism ever allow: so-called "yoatzot", so-called "maharats", women's tefilla groups, public persecution (i.e. ORA) of decent men in divorce conflicts, allowing women to use non-Jewish courts, pressuring men to sign feminist prenup agreements that strip them of any halachic rights?

  12. It is dishonest to mention that Rambam without mentioning the one in Mishneh Torah, Talmud Torah, 3:10:
    "Anyone who comes to the conclusion that
    he should involve himself in Torah study without doing work and derive
    his livelihood from charity, desecrates [God’s] name, dishonors the
    Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, brings evil upon himself, and
    forfeits the life of the world to come, for it is forbidden to derive
    benefit from the words of Torah in this world.

    Our Sages declared: “Whoever benefits
    from the words of Torah forfeits his life in the world.” Also, they
    commanded and declared: “Do not make them a crown to magnify oneself,
    nor an axe to chop with.” Also, they commanded and declared: “Love work
    and despise Rabbinic positions.” All Torah that is not accompanied by
    work will eventually be negated and lead to sin. Ultimately, such a
    person will steal from others."

  13. R' Aharon Feldman told me that that Rambam means that he will find a job that is able to support him without making such an effort to find it, but certainly he will work.

  14. Mandatory black hats and suit jackets. Automatic rejection of all secular culture. Torah-only curriculum. Learn-don't-earn as default profession. Gadol worship. Daas Torah in its current mythological form. Shall I go on?

  15. Those who can't reply instead try to deflect blame.
    Did I at any point state that MO is perfect while MC has failings? What Open Orthodoxy has done is certainly outside the pale but has nothing to do with MC's problems.

  16. Mandatory black hats and suit jackets. Automatic rejection of all secular culture.

    Do you have the ability to be honest with yourself and understand what it actually is that bothers you about these supposed things. Why do you care? What is wrong with it? This isn't as if they have permitted mixed swimming, kalus rosh with the opposite gender (both which are clearly ossur l'halacha). The list goes on. Just notice that used a very specific, true example. Not some concocted "black jacket" ambiguous claim.

  17. I know what bothers me about them: they have created an ignorant class of Jew. One that views חיצוניות as all important. One that views education as a waste of time. One that parks their G-d given brains and abilities and instead confers near infallibility on human beings. One that subtly accepts fraud in various forms, creating massive חילול השם in countless venues.

    You worry about קלות ראש (which isn't even readily defined) while the edifice crumbles.

    Not for nothing did the wisest of all men tell us: החכם עיניו בראשו

  18. Again, when did this become a "But they're worse" argument? Did I defend Open Orthodoxy? Did I even mention them? Why do you feel that the mandatory response to criticism of Modern Chareidism is "Well the Modern Orthodox are worse!"? Is that all you have?

  19. Regarding the yoatzot, a countless number of women prefer to pask on themselves than consult with a rav out of embarassment. I'm not talking about secular women, I'm talking about religious ones.
    In the ideal world, all women would see ravs as "doctors"... but... it's in the ideal world, not the practical one.
    I welcome the work of the yoatzot.

  20. Don't feel discouraged, there are others who think like you (well.. sort of):

    "Jewish education today is for the most part producing a generation of religious Jews who know more and more about Jewish observance but think less and less about what it means. This is even truer of their teachers. Many of them are great Talmudic scholars who don’t realize that they have drowned in their vast knowledge and are now trapped.
    Consequently, they rewrite halachic Judaism in ways that are foreign to the very ideas it truly stands for. Everything is done to crush questioning. The quest for certainty paralyses the search for meaning and blocks proper understanding. By ignoring this fact, these rabbis are embalming Halacha while claiming it is alive because it continues to maintain its external shape." R. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

  21. All your issues with MC are not fundamental issues. They are rather minuscule. It is good to see that you love MC so much that you want to perfect them completely.

  22. Who is this "them" that you refer to?

  23. The people who are referred to as Chareidim, are the people who were simply practicing Jews from the time of Har Sinai through today. They never broke off or seperated themselves from any generation of practicing Jews. When the Tzeddukim broke off, the normative branch of practicing Jews that simply continued practicing as always from before the newfangled Tzedukim were called Perushim. Same when the Karaites broke off, those remaining practicing the normative Judaism were called Rabbinic Jews. And again when the Reform broke off, those who kept on going on as always were called Orthodox Jews.

    And generally it was outsiders who gave the remaining Jews a name. i.e. it was the non-Orthodox who coined the name Orthodox to apply to what is now known as the Orthodox Jews.

    I generally do not use the adjective "chareidi" because it is misleading. It originated in Eretz Yisroel as a way to describe those who followed the Eidah HaChareidis as opposed to the Rabanut. But it has evolved, and has come to mean basically anyone who is not Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist. But then it is simply the generic, default, traditional manner of being frum. And by using a brand name for the generic you are giving the impression that it is not the generic. Chareidim do not follow any specific teachings of any specific Rebbi, nor do they believe in any specific values not already in the Torah. Chasidim follow the specific teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples; Telzers follow the teachings and Minhagim of the Telzer Yeshiva; the Mussar movement was started by Rav Yisroel Salanter - but "Chareidi"? There was no beginning to "Chareidism" except on Har Sinai; no particular person whose teachings they follow except Moshe Rabbeinu, and no particular Minhagim they perform.

    So there really is no such thing as a "Chareidi." Those who people refer to as "Chareidim" have mostly never referred to themselves as such - in America you can go to Yeshiva from Kindergarten through Kollel and you will most probably never hear "we are Chareidi," and you may even never hear the term used at all. And because words matter - it's a strange thing but people often tend to form impressions of reality based on words and phrases rather than creating words and phrases that reflect reality - I do not use the term "Chareidi" because by giving generic, default Judaism a label it conceals the fact that this Judaism is in fact the generic and default.

  24. At the time of the recent controversy of Mr. Rechnitz's speech in Lakewood I submitted the following comment to the Yeshiva World News article about it. They censored it completely and did not even post it. The truth hurts, doesn't it?

    "Even if Mr. Rechnitz did criticize the rosh yeshivas and rabbanim, so what? The “Doctrine of Infallibility” is Catholicism, not Judaism. The only issue is
    whether or not he first rebuked them in private, and only after they rejected his rebuke would he be justified in going public.
    Furthermore, the Lakewood Yeshiva (BMG) itself is the epitome of the conformism, narrow-mindedness and suppression of individuality that has been raised in this article and comments thereto. I myself once applied for admission and was rejected, not because of any lack of Torah knowledge or midos tovos; several people in the yeshiva who knew me in the past attested for me to the hanhala on those scores, but because the same people also told them that I am, in their words “an eigine mench, mit an eiginederech”. The hanhala member who dealt with me said, and I quote verbatim, “If we knew someone was of the non-conforming type, b'shum ofen we would NEVER accept him.” In other words, I must conform from 7 in the morning
    till 10 at night to sidrei limmud, imposed on me by them, that I don't believe in, don't want, am not happy with, and cannot grow with. I subsequently went on to find another place, received “Yadin Yadin” semicha from the
    Rabbanut in Eretz Yisrael, and have been deeply involved in Mussar since my early teens, much more so than the Lakewood people.
    BMG is not even a yeshiva. It is a factory with an assembly line made to produce people, all in the same basic mold, with no provisions whatsoever for anyone who seeks to find fulfillment in his own way.
    The hashkafot that BMG teaches are directly responsible for the perverse notion held by many these days, but unheard of and not even thought of in earlier generations, that ideally, all males should be learning in kollel full time, and that those who don't are second class Jews.
    I'd also like to know if they would even consider for admission someone with
    unimpeachable credentials, both in Torah and Yirah, and who IS willing to conform to their sedorim from 7 the morning to 10 at night, if the only problem was that he wears a blue shirt and doesn't wear a black hat.

  25. I responded to Honesty's question:

    Do you have the ability to be honest...and understand...what bothers you about these things"

  26. Too bad for you that most of what you consider education is assur to learn according to halacha (that would be the shulchan aruch)

  27. Sort of like the "mandatory dress code" you find in court or if you go in front of the president. So sorry that you don't feel that you have to live up to the reputation of a respectable Jew always in the presence of hashem, and feel it necessary to walk around undignified. The good old days that you want had everyone walking outside with a jacket and hat

  28. Maybe you should broaden your horizons. Your can't plead ignorance, and then go on a tirade on a subject you know nothing about. I doubt RDE started this blog so people would start denigrating gedolim and chareidim as a whole.

  29. I know what bothers me about them:

    You simply made my question stronger. Please reread it. Why do you care? Why does it bother you? Why aren't you happy with yourself that you need to concoct reasons to dislike others for how they live their own lives.

    You worry about קלות ראש (which isn't even readily defined)

    Very simple. Platonic relationships with a member of the other gender is impermissible. Period. It may even be yeherog v'al yaavor.

  30. Open Orthodoxy

    Did I mention Open Orthodoxy? Kindly cut out your straw man argument.

    Now, please answer my questions: Why do you care? What is wrong with it?

    On the other hand, in your little glass house of "modern" orthodoxy, you have a list of clear violations of halacha. Prior to seeking to concoct supposed self-righteous to dislike others, kindly fix yourself first.
    Again:Why do you care? What is wrong with it?

    Good day, sir.

  31. Wait, you lost me. I said education is viewed as unnecessary. You're saying it is אסור מצד הלכה? Are you referring to basic English, math, science, etc.? Please elaborate...I don't know what you're referring to.

  32. Unfortunately, many would feel that your looking down on your fellow Jew (for not being respectable and walking around 'undignified') is a much bigger problem in השקפה than you're incredible concern for proper appearance before the רבש׳ע.

    If I recall correctly, Avraham Avinu politely had the רבש׳ע waiting while he tended to his guests. And that was well before מתן תורה.

  33. Is your response some kind of a joke? You seriously believe that we Jews live in bubbles, unaffected by our coreligionists' behavior? This is the first time I actually met the guy who's drilling a hole in the boat and telling the rest of us to mind our own business!

    Now, since you've defined קלות ראש, just tell me how you see working relationships operate (I.e., 8 to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week). Remember, some of us have to work for a living....and there are a lot more women out in the working world today (especially since many of them have to support husbands).

  34. Who looks down on people that don't wear black hats and white shirts??? Just because you're insecure of the fact that you don't dress respectfully, doesn't mean we look down on you.
    I'm pretty sure Avraham didn't have contempt for people that sat and learned all day.

  35. I love how once upon a time there were only three things that were yehareg v'al yaavor (your spelling mistake contains dramatic implications) but now there's enough to fill a phone book sized tome.

  36. Honesty keeps missing the point. I was writing about MC. I didn't bring OO, or MO or even the NYY into my piece. Yet in order to attack me he had to set me up as a defender of those groups and then point out how bad they are. Because that makes all of MC's failings go away.

  37. Look in hilchos shabbos, the shulchan aruch brings that's it's Assur to learn anything except Torah on shabbos.
    As to your other points, please do elaborate where you get your silly information. It's clearly not from your experience inside an actual yeshiva, as no such things are taught. I'm assuming it's not from the few sensational stories posted on this blog, because who would accuse the many for the actions of the few?
    Do you even know any frum yeshivish Jews that learn the whole day?

  38. Read this Igros Moshe:

  39. Out of curiosity, do some of these same women who pasken for themselves on "nidah" matters, also pasken for themselves during their divorce proceedings? Then when their husbands are stripped of any halachic rights, and the women are unable to receive a GET, do these same women call ORA and blame "misogynist rabbis"?

  40. No one is deflecting blame here. I'm simply pointing out the double standard of accusing Chareidim of innovation, while not addressing how MO/OO (no practical difference between them) implements far more innovation.

  41. I guess that was sometime before the Chachmei Hatalmud came up with the concept of abizrayhu dearayos. But I guess we all hearken back to the days of the Neviim.

  42. Oh, OK. I mention education, and you make a sweeping statement that upon closer inspection is only referring to Shabbos. Nice!

    And you're making more vague statements. Let me ask you: do you know any yeshivish families that are on food stamps and assorted government programs? Are you sure you want to go to the 'sins of the few' argument?

  43. My friend, you brought up dress, not me. You called not adhering to some type of manufactured code 'not respectable'. Please don't project some type of insecurity on me.

    I have no problem with people who have the means to sit and learn all day. Everyone else needs to support themselves.

    Today's wholesale abandonment of a work ethic in yeshivish communities has created countless problems for those communities, and has spread related problems to other Jewish communities as well.

  44. I love how once upon a time there were only three things that were yehareg v'al yaavor

    אביזרייהו דעריות

    I do realize that all your arguments are as ignorant this one.

    your spelling mistake contains dramatic implications

    Sweetheart, which spelling mistake?

  45. Honesty keeps missing the point. I was writing about MC.

    There is one problem. There is no such thing as MC. Who identifies themselves as such?
    Ahh, but some MO in their preservation quest (and those influenced by the preservation "movement") did seek to make up things like "MC" and the descriptions you wrote.

    When you begin setting up straw men to attack people for no reason, then it obviously stems from your own personal flaws. When we realize that the base of your argument is really just you projecting your shortcomings on others, it may be hurtful, but it is enlightening.

  46. Is your response some kind of a joke? You seriously believe that we Jews live in bubbles, unaffected by our coreligionists' behavior?

    Ahh, so you do seek to end all violations of halacha within MO shuls. I'm sure that you speak out against the chicken market many of these shuls look like - right? I am sure you speak out against

    Now, since you've defined קלות ראש, just tell me how you see working relationships operate

    Let's stay on topic, shall we? Is there any defense for the mingling of boys and girls of certain college yeshivos?

    As to professional relationships, are you suggesting that the halacha is just too difficult to keep nowadays? Is that the real purpose of you're attacking "MC" for being "ignorant?" Good one!

  47. n other words, I must conform from 7 in the morning till 10 at night to sidrei limmud, imposed on me by them, that I don't believe in, don't want, am not happy with, and cannot grow with.

    You have the option of not going to their yeshiva. The Chazon Ish did not attend Yeshivos (other than for a brief intervals), and still turn out to be extremely great. There are a few small institutions that accommodate non-conformists. Large Yeshivos do need to have certain rules.

    The hashkafot that BMG teaches

    What Hashkofot do they teach? Who teaches it?

    I'd also like to know if they would even consider for admission someone with unimpeachable credentials..

    Would Dunken Doughnuts consider hiring an employee with unimpeachable credential who refuses to wear thier uniform (white shirt! - oy - tan pants and black! - oy, oy - shoes)? A yeshiva has a right to implement a dress code. If you disagree, you are more than welcome not to join them.

  48. You didn't address anything I said. Instead, you just shifted the conversation to a different topic.

    I'm not saying the Halacha is too hard to keep. I asked you what the Halacha is.

  49. Menachem, you have no idea of what you're talking about. Women who unfortunately pasken on themselves on Taharat Hamishpacha matters, from haredi to MO, do it out of embarrassment, not as a act of defiance.

  50. Talk about revisionist history. Maybe you should look back at the original comment and see who really brought up dress (hint, his name has ironheart in it)
    So you don't believe in the yisachar zevulin relationship? Also look up pirkei avos 4-11. Pretty clear that your ideas about who should learn full time are counter to what God wants.

  51. If you don't believe in food stamps and govt programs don't vote Democrat. What's wrong with taking advantage in order to be able to stay learning. Ever thought that maybe that's Hashem's way of enabling them to learn full time?

  52. This is a standard refrain.

    If yeshivaleit read all the details, they would realize that they are receiving gifts, monetary support, and assets that they are required to report.

    Not doing so is borderline fraud, and is certainly Geneivas Daas and unethical.

    Is that the price you're willing to pay by 'taking advantage' and staying in learning?

    And since we are going to posit esoterical concepts like what Hashem is thinking, maybe the govt programs is the Yetzer Hara's way of undermining legitimate Torah learning.

  53. Could be you know tax law better than me, but to my knowledge that's not true.
    Plus where do you come from that all yungerleit don't pay or report income. I reported all my years in Kollel and so did my friends. Stop believing all the negative propaganda you hear from anti Torah people.
    And lastly it is or it isn't fraud. No such thing as borderline. If it's legal why do you care?

  54. But MenachemB, MO/OO wasn't founded with the stirring declaration that innovation was forbidden. There is no double standard here.


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