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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Chareidi Pressure Cooker

I. Preface
Many years ago, when the internet (and yours truly) were relatively young, I felt that this useful development (the 'net) would help us chareidim more easily separate the wheat from the chaff of today's world.
For example, one could read articles (sometimes using print mode) without viewing the provocative advertisements.

One could even check out something relevant or urgent in a paper like the NY Post (which I do not recommend) without being forced to flip through the Page 6 entertainment section , which is never appropriate. One could watch the 5% (or 1%) of television that most intelligent people agree is worthwhile without being ground down by the lowering of standards in the secular universe.
I was therefore surprised and disappointed at the movement to prohibit the net in our community which started about 9 or 10 years ago, but gained momentum about 5 years ago, and I've been talking (or bloviating, depending on your perspective) about it ever since.
I am now taking 'pen' in hand, however, due an accelerating phenomenon which shows a serious defect in our educational system. Moreover, this phenomenon will injure us and our children in our ability to utilize the internet and still raise our families with the chinuch we prefer.
The phenomenon is the (largely chassidic) proliferation of blogs expressing attempting to discredit Torah and Halacha, and simultaneously detailing the blogger's flagrant violations of Jewish law.

II. History
By and large, our chinuch system in the chareidi world germinated from the shock and tragedy of the Second World War. Moreover, I think in our heart, we all realize that our chinuch has created a frum 'Fiddler on the Roof' version of European Ashkenazic Jewish history which is factually incorrect.
Judging by the photographs I have seen, my own family, farbrente chassidim who sacrificed to spend Yom Tovim bei der Rebbe (an elderly aunt once confessed to me that until my uncle became weak in his 90's, she had never spent a Shavuos with him and didn't know what menu to cook on Shavuos) nevertheless were mostly clean shaven. Statistically, Jewish election results in prewar Europe certainly do not show the predominance of religious parties that the 90%+ of shomrei shabbos would suggest. Everyone understood that progress is good for the Jews and for Judaism.

However, after the terrible destruction and tragedy of World War II, Daas Torah, from Litvishe right through Hungarian Jewry, compensated for the loss, each hewing to his own view of what was the most important principle, and then driving that principle ahead pedal to the metal to try and reconstitute what was lost.
Rav Aharon Kotler and the Chazon Ish stressed sacrificing all involvement in the world for Torah. The Satmar Ruv stressed the evil of Zionism, and not sacrificing the clothing and customs of der heim. The Lubavitcher Rebbe attempted to roll back 100 years of assimilation in the new home(s) of the Jews, and the Bais Yisroel looked into the future and preempted the temptations of today's world.

III. Results
In retrospect, it is clear that Hashem sent us very special individuals, most of whom had few or no children, to aid the Jewish People in recovering from the trauma of WWII.
However, in our generation, lacking perhaps the type of leadership, or the historical clean slate which enables leaders to set a new course, we are basically reinforcing, reinforcing, and re-reinvorcing what the last generation emphasized - sometimes without rhyme or reason. It stands to reason, and there are hints from that first generation of leaders as well, that the course on which they placed us was not to be followed either ad infinitum or
ad nauseam.
The result of this misplaced emphasis is that our generations become punching bags - being constantly instilled with mantras and ideologies which, unlike our Torah itself which is eternal, were ad hoc remedies for specific historical contexts.
This leads to an inner conviction that, rather than the educational milieu being misplaced, the Torah and yiddishkeit which the education claims to represent is untrue. A tragedy.
And the tragedy deepens. When people are taught ideologies which they don't believe but must obey, an inner pressure borne of frustration and cognitive dissonance seeks release.

The pressure eventually becomes unbearable, and blows up .

IV. Blogosphere
Now we have reached a point where every week there are one or two new blogs from Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel, Stamford Hill, and the like. These blogs are well written, the writers intelligent, but they are almost boring because the posts pretty much fall into two categories:

1. The superstitious nature of the Jewish people, and the lack of scientific validity for Chazol and Torah Sh'biksav, not to mention minhagim.
2. The exciting (and comical) adventures of eating bacon, going to nightclubs, and conversation with goyim and goytas.

First of all, both chazal and common sense dictate that there is a deep logic to the fact that the theological and experiential are pinned together. Logic would indicate that point 1 leads to point 2, but experience as well as Chazal would indicate that point 2 is the ignition for point 1.

But why now?

Why are all these free spirited shtreimel heretics deciding to vent all at once - especially since some excellent blogs espousing the same points have been around for years, and newbies can post on them whenever?

Leapa's take is that the boiling point has been reached, and the whistle is starting to blow.

The more philosphically minded might feel that spiritual development has peaked, in line with the historical paradigm of the Or Someach summarized here. There may be some truth to that.

But a repressive education plus a repressive community in a permissive society is a balloon in a vacuum.

What has changed in the last ten to twenty years?

1. The 'vacuum' has increased (society is more permissive in an 'in-your-face' way) leading to more feeling of deprivation

2. Our society has built much higher walls to try to shut out the outside world (just look at the rule list for your child's cheder), again leading to a feeling of repression and deprivation.

3. Our success and the nature of our leadership has obviated the postwar drive to rebuild and create.

V. Suggestions

1. Chinuch is more than information, and certainly more than prohibitions. Even though the last sixty years of success involved building higher and higher walls against the outside world, the at-risk youth phenomenon and what we see on the internet indicate that we have reached the point of diminishing returns with wall building.
Now the time has come to teach and delineate how to cope with, and if necessary battle with, the yetzer hora, and not just deny it or try to tiptoe around it. The fact is that most if not all young adults will encounter goyim and/or newspapers, and increasingly the internet. Not giving our children the tools to deal with it is a cop-out and a scam.
For those who pin the cause of the holocaust on declining levels of observance in pre-war Europe, this argument for saving America's (and Israel's) youth should hold even more water.
2. Melamdim can not just teach. In fact, they can not just take responsibility for what they consider the ruchnius of the talmid without dealing with the interface of the student and the outside world. Melamdim incapable of dealing with this should either bring themselves up to speed by familiarizing themselves with the future world of their students, or retreat back to kolel.
3. Melamdim should also be responsible for teaching the rudiments of science which seemingly contradict Judaism and our answer to science without poking fun at science. (Hat tip to R' Hershel Fried)

If we are as committed to continuity as the previous generation, this is the true route to preserving the legacy of our fathers and earlier Gedolim and following the trail they blazed to protecting and rebuilding yiddishkeit.

Note: Due to Yom Tov I am posting this as a first draft so that those who have internet access at work can view it, and I may still change it or add to it.

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Blogger Frummer????? said...


If only there were more people around singing the same tune as you.

I truly despair when even our "moderate" local paper in the UK trumpets the latest bans, issurim and warnings on it's front page, week after week.

Just this week, we were treated to yet another stunning headline "Dayan warns of threats to spiritual purity".

There are so many hard words and much wringing of hands, yet so little attempt is made to give our young bochrim and yungerlait the buzz for Yiddishkeit which in itself would keep them away from the shmutz which surrounds us today.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


what is your email address????

4:01 PM  
Anonymous alles shoin mitgemacht said...

I don't know the answer to chinuch in our times, the choice is always the same, stay with the shtetl mentality and close all the walls (and then chas vesholom watch the yiddishe techter run off with the first goy they see).
Or, allow children access to mobiles, computers and the outside world early in life while they are still not embarrassed to ask advice or hide it, (and then suffer the blame of introducing them to the goyishe velt if they go off the derech).
With some children the first way produces heimishe ehrliche intelligent talmidei chachomim and with others the second way can produce identical results.
Too many parents lay blame on the melamdim and do not take enough responsibility themselves, (no, I am not a melamed'es' or married to one!)
The question is when to use which system and I have not yet found the answer. Maybe there is a middle way?

12:17 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

frummer: Yes, you and I have a common perspective because from different and distant vantage points we see the exact same phenomena.
Is it only us? Why?
(and us BP'ers had our own set of scare mongering internet posters this past erev shabbos)
Good Yom Tov!
alles: Sholom Aleichem!
1. My own opinion is that at this stage in our history we will lose more people with choice #1 than choice #2, and we are witnessing it now.
2. Choice #1 will empasize erhlich. Choice 2 will emphasize intelligent. Which is better? (Have you read the Fried article at http://hakirah.org/Vol%204%20Fried.pdf ?Show it around on chol hamoed.)
3. Generally, the melamdim are taking a one sided approach on your two choice dilemma.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Shoin alles mitgemacht said...

Aleichom sholom, thanks, your answer and the article mentioned, have given me something to think about. I tend to pass round babies and chicken soup on Chol Hamoed though, not writngs by YU teachers.
Git Yom Tov

7:31 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

Alles Just to set things straight, years back Rabbi Fried was menahel in Munkatch.

But enjoy the babies and chicken soup! (Remember, you have nachas from one and consume the other.)

10:32 AM  
Blogger TheProf said...

Leapa Chag sameach. Your essay was so fantastic that all I can add is this is defintely the best you've written. I might add that you previously noted Rabbi Fried's article in Hakira. I'd like to again direct everybody to that article. Klal Yisroel is in deep trouble and our leaders are in "ostrich syndrome" and we will continue to flounder until they all wake up. Meanwhile they'll continue to issue all sorts of issurim. We are mandated by the Torah to listen to the shoftim asher yi'yu bayomim hoheim, afilu omer l'cho al yemin shhu s'mol. But our leaders aren't really telling us what is Yemin and what is S'mol. They are fudging and waffling, not really knowing what to do in a constructive way. They keep issuing "lO tov hadovor" without giving us the Atoh secheze.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Shpitzle Shtrimpkind said...


I read this in print (to avoid provacative images ;) and didn't get around to comment until now. This peice is thorough, well written and indisputable points. In a whole, excellent. Really, have got nothing to add but a deep sigh for what's not being heard.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Leapa said...

Prof and Shpitz:
Thanks loads for commenting.
Since no one else is saying what I am, at least I want to know that someone thinks I'm not ready to be committed.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written and well thought-out article. The issue is a tough one and it hurts.
Yes - the Gedolim/Manhigim/Mechanchim/Rabbonim are using the knee-jerk reaction - which is that everything is treif - and keep away from anyone using it.
But the issue (call it the internet by it's name)is a terrible and very damaging one, and we all know and agree that "rabbim challolim heepilu". So, it is defintely treif.
But OK - it's here to stay, so how do we deal with it?
No article will solve this. It should defintely be kept out of the house or under lock and key, and used onl for business or medical reasons.
For kids it is treif vee chazer - including the Palms, Treos, etc. Let's agree that the Rabbonim are right with that. Question is how to deal with minimizing the risk and potential damage. I don't know the right answer, and neither do you and the other bloggers.
But there is another issue that causes the "pressure cooker" syndrome that can be easily resolved, and that would help greatly to battle the evil, That is sports and excercise.
Kids and bochurim of all ages need some time to let loose (e.g. ball playing, supervised swimmimg, and more weekends away with their Rebbes and chaveirim).
It is criminal what the mosdos are doing to the kids, and that pent up energy explodes into no-good.
If we deal with this issue, and release some of the pressure in the pressure-cooker, we will alleviate and allow easier dealing with the internet issue.
Remember to say tons of Tehillim for your kids - they need it (and adds some tears for extra measure).

3:18 PM  

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