Rav Hirsch’s Birthday. Part III

 

We previously talked about the area where TO and TIDE would be competing for the same mind. 

We need to re-examine the idea that TIDE would be less adamant about telling the individual to sanctify his talents to the study of the Torah. This has been done before by Rav Schwab z”l  who wrote at length from four different vistas. (All can be found on the page of Prof. Yitzchok Levine. Here>

He writes his misgivings as a young Rov, his revised edition with TIDE’s response, and a third part that talks about the dangers of watered down judaism and ignoring the pitfalls of modern society. Finally, he closed with the idea that if one has a mesorah they have an easy decision…but one needs to know if he really subscribes to that mesorah or if he is just “riding a wave”. While this sounds like  it is aimed at one who chooses the olam haTorah-only it is written to apply to both sides. I believe Rav schwab leaves the “halacha lemaaseh” open to one’s conscience, self-knowledge and the need to discuss with a mentor. Earlier, Rav Schwab, in a parenthetical remark, asked that leaders in the TO word return the student to their mesorah as appropriate. (!) (This would be hard to imagine ever happening since the outlook of TO is that TIDE was a horo’as sho’oh. The question would be: Has it ever happened that a Rosh Yeshiva told a student : Your mesorah is TIDE, your parents want this for you, go back home and make a kiddush Hashem in everything you do.” ?)

How about the greater availability of learning and kollel opportunities that have flourished since Rav Schwab’s works of the early 90s? The statement of our rabbis (Chag 9b) comes to mind:ואמרו רבותינו ז”ל (חגיגה ט ב) וחסרון לא יוכל להמנות (קהלת א טו) זה שנמנו חבריו לדבר מצוה ולא נמנה עמהם

“Our rabbis have explained the verse (Kohelesl 1 15) ‘ and that which is wanting cannot be numbered’ This refers to one whose friends have enlisted for a matter of a mitzvah and he was not counted among them.”

If there is a movement-even if just a wave- of prolonged, intensive (when it is) Torah study- and it is readily available to all- and one chooses not to join “his friends”, it is an “immeasurable” loss. 

To counter this, (in the style of Rav Schwab’s Eilu v’Eilu), we need to account for some of the “cleaning-house” which must be addressed in the Yeshiva community. And, predictably, some of it calls for a dose of TIDE.

 

  1. Taking English Seriously

 

I heard from a yeshiva bochur of the 1960s that in his day the high school boys took pride in their grades and saw it as a way to show the world that they can excel at the regular curriculum. This was true among the serious learners who went on to become magidei shiur and such.This has changed today. It doesn’t matter that much to today’s bochur. This makes for rowdy and disrespectful classrooms and chilul Hashem situations. 

The Yeshivas need to hire English teachers from within the ranks of the Frum community when possible- to send a message that these are important as well.

The question asked by every student ever “Why do I need to know this?” needs to be answered for once and for all in or Yeshivas. Remarkably, I myself- and I just taught a whole schoolyear of English and science – don’t have the definitive answer.  But an answer needs to be solidified and it needs to become thematic. 

2. Respecting all Peoples and Things

Rav Hirsch is well known for showing an ethical and humanistic strain (besides the famous tenets of morality to date) within the storyline of the Torah. Was he perhaps pivoting through his milieu to show the relevance of the Torah. Perhaps. But that milieu is still current, and in no way is it a form of apologetica to reveal current ideas rom within the Torah.

 

The beauty of the Torah lies in the fact that its ideas preceded the still developing ethos of humanity. In every generation – as different forms of knowledge and research became known to mankind- the Torah was always there to display its own opinion on those matters. 

 

As Chareidi society ( and that includes both camps) moves towards the future it has a larger “market share” than it once occupied. This is due to dwindling affiliation and intermarriage in the non-Orthidox sector. This puts the responsibility to perform within the norms of the day  front-and-center, with a feel.for the culture around us as well. To meet this task some feel for the culture around us will be necessary. TIDE (although not officially endorsing the culture, but by implication allowing for.engagement with it) will prepare a generation of leaders ready to engage. Engaging with society requires a healthy respect for it.

( A side point: Respecting humanity is a double edged sword. If you teach your children that there is goodness in humanity, a Divine spark- then they will need to learn on their own just how screwed up people are. Teach them all people are bad, then they will find some really nice and Gdly people out there. They will then question everything else you have taught them.)

3. Remembering the Civic Role of the Jew in Galus

Rav Hirsch teaches that each step of human history has its own purpose and challenges. The current stage of galus per Rav Hirsch corresponds to something akin to the life of Yitzchak: Jewish success amid the envy or antagonism of the nations. 

The civic duty of the Jew was important to German Jews, who always seemed preoccupied with ” ma yomru hagoyim”. Was this an intrinsic belief of ours or was it only the last generation that endured a decade or more of propaganda in Weimark’s depression and the rise of the Nazi fascists? ( No doubt early assimilation was driven solely by this need to conform, I am only asking about the religious community here.) 

Whatever the answer, a disregard for public opinion will not be a positive step forward. 

For some of these issues TO has answers. The influx of baalei teshuva can compensate for some of the civic stuff. The world will always respect someone true to their principles even if they are not similar to society etc etc.

Finally, a story that Rav Schwab told when he spoke at the Lakewood yeshiva in the 1950s. I heard this from a family member of Rabbi Moshe Eisenman, a German born talmid of Reb Aharon Kotler, and later the Rosh Yeshivah in Vineland, N.J. 

The Chofetz Chaim was famously given access to a government official to.plead the case against government mandated education. He cried bitter tears before the official, and the decree was rescinded. 

That part of the story is known. But Rav Schwab recounted a conversation that followed. The Chofetz Chaim remarked to his talmidim that one need not know the Russian language and can still be an effective negotiator. A student objected that without knowing  the language they could never have set up the appointment! The Chofetz Chaum replied that l, indeed, we need people who can communicate. “Ober, Nicht far der Kluger!” ( Not the gifted ones!) We see that the TO -and perhaps Rav Schwab in recounting this ( we don’t know at which point in his Elu Velu saga he was at when speaking there- sees a need to reserve the talented for the perpetuation of the whole. Rav Schwab and Rabenu Roseheim also talked about the community’s responsibility to support its scholars and encourage them to study further. So there is perhaps overlap in this area.

And I suggest there is room to integrate TIDE into the Chareidi TO world through good example “infiltrators”, who believe in their mesirah and feel confident enough to keep it even within the world of TO.

Rav Hirsch’s Birthday. Part III

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