In Response To R’ Harry Maryles #2

Harry has another post, from an anonymous contributor, reacting to a comment of mine. Here is my response:

First I would like to commend the OP for both the substance and tone of his comment. I welcome any debate when it is free of animosity and rancor.

As to your post, I am an amateur student of history, who also had, and knew well, multiple relatives from Der Alter Heim. I was friendly with many survivors, including a talmid muvak of the Mir and Kaminentz. To the best of my knowledge, your understanding of Litivsh history is inaccurate and furthermore, fails to place it in the correct context.

In a nutshell, up until the days of the enlightenment (starting approx. late 18th century) Litvish Jewry was what we call today Charedi in every way (except Kollel, which I will discuss later). They looked, spoke, acted and lived as we do. Then,  Haskala came along and caused tremendous damage among Frum Jews throughout the globe. The country hardest hit was Germany leading to great Tzadik RSR”H and his community.

In the Lita, the damage was almost as severe. Most Litvish Jews at the turn of the 20th century were not religious. The “gass” (street) was frei, the communal organization were controlled by maskilim and the overall ruach was tilted strongly to the ways of enlightenment over those of the Torah. As told to me by an old Litivishe Yid, the decision was made to accommodate the prevailing winds in matters that were not of supreme importance i.e. modes of dress. That was the only way the shrinking community of shlomei emunei yisroel could survive. As it were, yeshiva bochurim has tremendous difficulty finding a shidduch, nobody wanted the “bench-kvetchers”. Had they kept the out-dated livush and similar stuff, the result would have been catastrophic. So a CHANGE was made, biles breiera, reluctantly. To claim this bidieved as a new mesora is inaccurate and was specifically denied to me by a number of Litvishe Jews from Der Heim.

The proof of this is that EVERY litvishe rov and rosh yeshiva in Der Heim had a beard and a long coat, levush we would call today “Chasidic”. For the MO to claim they are following the litvishe derech is simply untrue (unless their Rabbis intend on wearing a kolpik, as the Netziv did).

Now, on to your post:

Are you really suggesting that the absence of Chardei blogs criticizing MO is a sign of respect for that approach? In the schools, camps, and communities that I have been a part of it is common practice to put down MO as a matter of course. The followers of that hashkafa are considered inferior and “less frum” whether they are condescendingly called Young Israel members, YU students or Mizrachiniks.

I never denied that we consider MO hashkafa to be less frum, we do. I apologize if that is hurtful and it does not reflect on MO INDIVIDUALS, but as an hashkafa they are too far to the left. In this we are not unique. I would imagine that Harry considers some hashkafas beyond the pale, actually I don’t have to imagine, he has specifically said so about Satmar. So what is good for the goose etc.

However we do NOT spend any time bringing this up, not in private and surely not in public for all the world to see. Hence the lack of anti-MO blogs. Hamodia, Yated and most other charedi media do not hock MO. What is said at a shmuz is no different than the anti-charedi shmuzin given by the MO and are confined to their listeners. They are also quite rare. In my 15 years in yeshiva, I never heard a shmuz about MO, we tend to focus on what we need to do to improve on ourselves.

My request was not for the MO to love us, just refrain from attacking us, non-stop, in public. That comments reveal Charedi “disdain” toward MO is not the point, what I said was that we don’t initiate public attacks, and we don’t. Why is it so hard for MO media to reciprocate? The asifa was not directed against MO in any way, any perceived hurt was clearly inadvertent, but the long knives are out, nonetheless.

In those days yeshiva bachurim were encouraged to develop “breidkait” (to have a real breadth of both intellect and personality). They were supposed to be as sophisticated as the world around them but steeped in torah and mitzvos. That is why in all the great yehsivos – including those run by Rav Aharon Kotler – the talmidim were clean shaven and wore gray hats.

As I’ve previously noted, this is gross revisionism of history. Any “breidtkeit” that was encouraged (which I highly doubt it was, on a general scale, based on the information I’ve seen and heard) was to keep the curious mind from drifting into the Haskala camp. It was a war (and we were losing) so certain battles were lost to win the war. R Aron Kotler himself forbade secular studies which is practiced (albeit half-heartedly) in Lakewood until today.

Are you not aware why Volozhin closed down? It was to prevent the introduction of secular subjects by the Russian Government. Take a look at the Bais Halevy’s tearful drasha at that time.( I imagine you’ll counter with the story about his son, which was not the reason, see my uncle the Netziv for details).

R’ Asher Arieli gives over that R’ Baruch Ber once said that his success in Torah was due to the fact that he NEVER looked in a secular newspaper. Rav Hutner did have more liberal views regarding college and the like. However he and his talmidim are/were charedi and are as far removed from the MO way of life as any other charedi. Pachad Yitzchak came to be as a result of R”H SECULAR education? Wait till the Chaim Berliners hear about this. BTW, R Aaron Schecter is one of the leading figures behind the Asifa in Flatbush.

As to learning full time, you are right it was clearly an Horaas Shah of R’ Aaron Kotler’s and was not done so at all in Europe. However you are wrong to consider this a matter of basic hashkafa rather than one of a more practical nature. Did R’ Aaron attempt to introduce a greater chashivus for Torah then in Der Heim? Not at all! His hope was to recapture some of the chashivus and scholarship that was lost and for that he felt, kollelim were needed. Whether it should still be that way is another story.

When the Netziv – the great Rosh Yeshiva of Volohzin – wanted to bring in his son as his successor the bachurim revolted and he withdraw his candidacy. Did those talmidim not recognize the gadlus of the Netziv; of course they did but he respected their opinions as well and appointed someone else. Can one even begin to imagine a modern day scenario – where yeshivas are simply passed over b’yeruhsa – playing out in a similar fashion?

One of the problems I have with bloggers and commentators is the license they take to comment and criticize on matters on which they have incomplete knowledge.

Yes it does happen today and often. have you followed at all what has just concluded in Telshe? Rav Gifter installed his son and he was replaced. In Satmar the Beirach Moshe wanted R’ Zalman to succeed him and said so, but today we have two Satmar Rebbe’s.

In addition the Netziv himself got his postition b’yerusha as an einekel of R’ Chaim Voloziner. He brought in his son-in-law R’ Refoel Shapiro and his grandson R’ Chaim Brisker as well. RJB”S ZT”L inherited his position from his father along with many MO R”Y (R TY Kook, R’ Ahron Lichtenstein), so it’s hardly a charedi phenomenon.

Finally whether it is noting the fact that we are all makpid on Cholov Yosrael and have total separation of men and women at weddings , while Rav Aharon allowed regular milk to be served in Lakewood (as described by Rabbi Yosef Tendler) and Rav Moshe’s own children’s wedding had mixed seating,

Again, it was a matter of priorities. By the chasunos of Rav Moshe’s einiklach was the seating mixed as well? Did R”M become Frum in his old age? Gedolei Yisroel have always known which battles to fight and which to put off for another time. The fact that we have been able to move the frontlines further and further toward the ways of the Torah is something that Gedolei Yosroel encouraged and would make them all proud. Do we occasionally go overboard? Sure, but in the eyes of Gedolim, MO has left the pool area entirely.

I also love how MO is suddenly embracing RM”F. Should we remind them of all the pesakim of his they ignored. Does the Synagogue Council of America ring a bell? You’ve also touched only a small bit of what MO has changed. See Shmiras Einayim, Tznius, Supremacy of Torah, Avodas Hashem and much more.

Bottom line, regardless what you may think of it, MO is a new hashkafa. Why they feel the need rewrite history instead of embracing the modernity they so treasure is beyond me.


13 thoughts on “In Response To R’ Harry Maryles #2

  1. Your historical knowledge is incomplete and inaccurate. To wit:
    > In a nutshell, up until the days of the enlightenment (starting approx. late 18th century) Litvish Jewry was what we call today Charedi in every way (except Kollel, which I will discuss later).
    No they weren’t. Chareidism started with the Chasam Sofer and his colleagues. Before him Torah Judaism was varies, lacked a uniform (except in those places where gentiles forced it on them) and slowly progressed over time in response to cultural changes around it.
    > Hence the lack of anti-MO blogs. Hamodia, Yated and most other charedi media do not hock MO
    MO is mostly ignored but when these papers mention it the tone is always disaparaging.
    > As I’ve previously noted, this is gross revisionism of history.
    Untrue. Go look up the picture of the founding meeting of the Agudah. One black hat. The rest are grey. No black suits either. Sorry, too much photo evidence against you here.
    > Are you not aware why Volozhin closed down?
    Yes and it was after secular studies had already been introduced. Another blog recently showed a reproduction of the curriculum in the final years and it included math, Russian and German language classes (someone asked why not Yiddish) and basic science.
    > Pachad Yitzchak came to be as a result of R”H SECULAR education?
    Most of the “Gedolim” of that time had a secular education. Sorry but they did. They may not have pursued it after finishing a basic level but they did. In turn they denied their followers the same privilege and the followers often didn’t know about it.
    > Do we occasionally go overboard? Sure, but in the eyes of Gedolim, MO has left the pool area entirely.
    Ah, and there’s the disparaging you were denying happens.
    > also love how MO is suddenly embracing RM”F.
    Have been for decades. Mostly because RMF was not a “Gadol” in the personality cult sense of the word that it has become now, therefore he was accessible to the entire Torah community. Now he’s been retrofitted by some to make him a “Gadol” but he wasn’t like that.

    • The chasam sofer had very little influence on Poland and Galacia. Neither did he institute a uniform. As a matter of fact, there is a tshuva where he writes that a beard is not important. Strict uniforms according to “groups” began after the war. Before the war, you wore what the minhag hamakom was, regardless of your affiliation. All of religious Jewry wore clothes that distinguished them from the gentiles, starting in mitzrayim (with a few exceptions along the way). The people you see in the pictures were mostly what we call “sheine yidden” meaning upper class/educated, the masses wore the levush of the makom. You also exaggerate, I can show you hundreds of pictures where 90% wear the levush.

      That charedism started with the C”S is ludicrous.

      Let MO ignore us as well, we’re fine with that. But no, they need to hock.

      If what you say is correct then why did the Netziv close Volozhin over this?

      Most of the “Gedolim” of that time had a secular education.

      Nonsense. Besides for the L”R, R”H and The Sereidi Aish, who else had? Not RA”K, Not RM”F, not RY”K, none of the chasidishe gedolim. Want to go back before the war? Not the C”C not R’ C”O not the Chazon Ish. On the contrary it is well known that it was the Rav M’tam, the Crown Rabbi who had a secular education, not gedolei Yisroel.

      And as you say, they’re the ones who told us not to pursue it. Shouldn’t we take their word for it. Don’t they know the mesora better than us? In addition, what is good for great minds can be poison for lesser ones (see acher, rebbe of R’ Meir)

      MO Ignored RM”F pesakim whenever they choose to. Suddenly he’s their guiding light? I wonder what he would say about the gay symposium. Bigger chilul hashem than anything that has ever happened in the charedi world. Rav Gifter even demanded they drop the term “Yeshiva” from their name.

      Besides our beef with MO is hardly secular education. It is much more fundamental than that. I don’t disparage MO, I point out the hypocrisy of those who attack charedim when their house is far from in order. Follow the genesis of this post and see for yourself.

      • In addition, what is good for great minds can be poison for lesser ones (see acher, rebbe of R’ Meir)

        Huh? Your analysis of Acher going OTD is that he lacked a “great mind” ? He was a card-carrying Tanna. He was, as you mentioned, R’ Meirs Rebee. As such, and as one of only 4 who were nikhnis l’Parde”s ,an argument could be made that his mind was even greater than other rank-and-file Tannoim.

        You make it sound as though Acher was less of a Lamdan than R’ Boruch Ber or Reb Elchonon ZY”A HY”D. Am I reading you wrong or is this your position? I’m not holding in Khagiga and never really was meahyen in the Meforshim there but somehow it stretches credulity to think that Acher went OTD because of a lesser mind. The only argument that you can reasonably make is that his was lesser than R’ Akivas. Even this is debateable as TTBOMK we have no sources that R’ Akiva studied חכמות חיצוניות. If he did who knows if he would have fared better or worse than Acher,

        Full disclosure. i have read “As a Driven Leaf”

        • The Gemara is clear that he was affected the worst. What R’ Akiva survived was poison for him.

          As for Reb Elchonon, it’s all a matter of levels. Of course his mine was greater the R’E he was a tanna, however the risks he took were much greater as well.

          • I get the contrast between him and R’ Akiva. But how do you know it was the latters superior mind that saved him? Maybe it was his different shoresh neshoma? Maybe it was the z’khus of creating so many talmidim ? Maybe it was his greater readiness for Mesiras Nefesh as evidneced by what he siad prior to his death? IOW superior love and courage. maybe it was supeior Yiras Shomayim? More refined midos? Less exposure to secular wisdom BEFORE entering the Parde”s??? It’s also worthwhile to probe why Acher was affected differently than Ben Azai and Ben Zoma and why neither of them were affected in precisely the same way.

            You’ve done nothing to convince me that of the two Acher did NOT have the superior mind (Not that I have any raya that he did). There are so many other factors that may have gone into his apostasy.

  2. How can i believe anything you say when you are blatantly Poresh min Hatzibbur? Blogging on the internet is an issur with consequences of losing ones Olam Habah. How can you post day after day and violate this machaa from the gedolim?

    • Rav Shimon Schwab ZT”L sought the Torah opinions of two great authorities, Rav Boruch Ber Liebowitz ZTL and Rav Elchonon Wasserman ZTL, regarding college education. Their responded as follows:

      Conclusion of Birkas Shmuel (Kiddushin #27 p.42):

      “What emerges is (a) that according to the Torah the obligation of Banim Ubeni Banim means you must make your children into Geonei and Chachmei Torah – and not merely to prepare them for life as a Jew. But rather, you must teach them and get them to learn the entire Torah, and if chas v’sholom you do not, you violate the entire Mitzvah of learning Torah as per Banim Ubnei Banim.

      (b) Universities and gymnaseums (i.e. secondary schools – MOD) are prohibited because of Apikursus [that they teach]. My Rebbi (i.e. R. Chaim Soloveichik ZTL) prohibited them even in war time, and even to save a life, for to avoid violating this, even a Jewish life is to be spent.

      (c) To learn secular studies on a regular basis is prohibited, as per the Rama 246:4 …

      Borthers, please do Teshuva while there is still time, for the enlightenment (Haskalah) has blinded our eyes and weakened us. For we have no benefit in this world at all – both spiritually and physically – except from Torah. All the strength of Klall Yisroel is from the Torah … we should do Tehsuva and repair the Batei Medrashos that have been broken by the Enlightenment.”

      Kovetz Shiurim II:47:

      Question: Under what circumstances is it permitted to learn secular studies?


      (a) If you must learn books that contain apikursus, it is prohibited … needless to say even to make money or to prevent a loss thereof.

      (b) If you must sit in school with Goyim, and it causes someone to befirend the Goyim and their ways, it is prohibited as per the Lo Saseh of Hishomer Lecha etc. for the Torah commanded us to distance ourselves from the Goyim in every way…

      (c) If the studies do not cause you to learn Apikursus or to befirend Goyim, and you learn secular stuides in order to know a skill to make a living, it is permitted, and it is a Mitzvah. However, this is only in general. But if a person sees that his son wants to learn Torah and he is prepared to be a Gadol B’Torah, in such a case R. Nehuray said: “I will forgo all skills in the world and teach my son only Torah.”…

      (d) If you don’t need the studies for Parnasa, and you just want to be invovled in them, there is reason to prohibit becuse of Bitul Torah, as per the Rama in YD 246, who writes that it is forbidden to learn secular studies on a regular basis….perhaps it is not due to Bitul Torah but rather it ia an affront to the honor of the Torah … someone who set out to learn secular subljects indicates that he believs that they have apurpose in and of themselves [besides for parnasa], and that is against the Torah’s opinion. [see above]…”

      Reb Elchonon conitnues, saying that the confusion in Germany happened when people thought, mistakenly, that by Jews possessing secular knowledge the Goyim will hate them less. This caused a “negiyos” – a vested interest – that caused the German Jews to desire that their rabbis be secularly educated as well.

      Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L also denounced college in a Teshuva, and in a famous speech delivered to his students, published under the title “The Counsel of the Wicked.”

      There he reiterates that everyone has an obligation to become great in Torah, we should not care so much about Cadillacs (yes, this was said in the “olden days”), and that learning Torah is what we should be pursuing, not secular stuff.

      He says in America you do not need college to make a Parnassa, and we should be willing to live on little, not a lot, for the sake of Torah, and that R. Nehuray’s staement of abandoning all skills in favor of Torah applies all that more today that we live in a country where you can make a parnassa without college, with no miracles needed.

      There is a tape available in many Seforim stores called “The prohibition to learn in Colleges” (Yiddish), which contains addresses by Rav Moshe Feinstein ZTL and Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL condemning college.

      Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L also denounced college in a Teshuva, and in a famous speech delivered to his students, published under the title “The Counsel of the Wicked.”

      Rabbi Chaim Segal ZTL, the Menahel of the HS of Chaim Berlin was once told by Rav Shach ZTL that if possible, he should not be teaching english studies. In Eretz Yisroel, almost all Chareidi Yeshivos do not have english at that age.

      Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL made some kind of committment not to allow English studies on the HS level in Lakewood. The exact details, and if this was actually a Takanah or merely a preference, is not clear and depends who you ask. In any case, Rabbi Elya Svei, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelhia and a student of Rav Aharon’s, was asked why he allows english in Philly if Rav Aharon was against it. What difference can there be between the town of Lakewood NJ and Philadelphia PA?

      Reb Elya asnwered that he has no choice, and that currently, the Baalei Batim would nto send their kids to the Yeshiva except under these circumstances.

  3. Does MTJ allow the bochrim / Yingeleit to attend college on the side?

    As for R’ Elya was he in a fight with R’ Shmuel YBLCT”A over this? I ask because times have changed and today most Yeshivisha parents demand less and less secular studies and many non-Khasidisha Yeshivas pride themselves on what a khukha u’tlulah their secular studies departments have become while TTBOMK, Philly continues to maintain a decent one.

  4. I think your arguments, proof texts, etc are within the parameters of discursive rationality, and I have difficulty understanding why so many object to your methods of arguing. I can’t say I much agree with the substantive positions, but I do think your voice is needed if the internet is not to degenerate into constant charedi bashing. I think all Jews groups deserve respect and their ideas should be assessed fairly even those who are very religious and observant. As for what exactly happened in Volohzin, a detailed discussion can be found here:
    Also important is Shaul Stampfer’s book found on Amazon, Lithuanian Yeshivas of the 19th century..

  5. If “MO has left the pool area entirely,” then why are you blogging about them? Do you complain about how Reform writers and bloggers portray Chareidi Jews? No, you ignore them because you don’t care what they say. So why do you care about MO? Oh, and I find it ironic that you criticize MO for not being tolerant of chareidim while remaining completely intolerant of MO. Why should MO listen to you or respect your views when you only put them and their views down?

    • Dude, get with the conversation. I am RESPONDING to an attack on charedim by pointing out MO hypocrisy.

      I respond to all unfair attacks on charedim, regardless of the source.

      I never asked MO to respect us in their hearts, just to stop with the baseless public slander. They also attack us as people, as well as our leaders. I attack their hashkafas.

      If they leave us alone, I promise I will never say another word about them.

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