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.