Modern Orthodoxy: Bastion of Coercion?

Amid all the sound and fury the recent Asifa engendered, what stuck out was the visceral hatred the 21st century “man on the street” has to conformity. The Asifa stuck in their craw for many nefarious reasons, but what really got their goat were the thousands of people “blindly following their Rabbis like sheep” (puns intended). To them, this was a very public elevation of behaviors long thought discarded and relegated to the moral trash bin. It appeared that conformity and authority were being reintroduced as legitimate ideals, a direct slap in the face to that most modern and Western of values: the supremacy of the individual. Me, Myself and I Uber Alles.

Never mind that people nowadays continue to follow the herd slavishly in almost every aspect of their lives; in mannerisms, culture and above all, making sure to always engage in “right thinking”. Few are “mavericks”, which is understandable considering that mavericks are mavericks, well, because no one else is doing what they’re doing. If everyone were to become a maverick, then by definition no one would be a maverick. Let’s leave that aside for a moment and allow our “rugged individualists” the pleasure of wallowing in their highly exaggerated sense of uniqueness. Let’s make believe that the way they see themselves is an accurate reflection of the truth. You can then imagine my utter surprise when I came across this:

Rabbinic Group Requiring Prenuptial Agreements

An Orthodox rabbinic group is requiring its members to use a prenuptial agreement in the weddings in which they participate.

According to a resolution passed by The International Rabbinic Fellowship, its member rabbis may not officiate at or participate ritually in a wedding ceremony in which the man and woman have not signed a halachic prenuptial stating that if the marriage dissolves, they will agree to a Jewish divorce.

Ignoring for the moment the potentially disastrous pre-nup itself, there is something that struck me about this article. Wait for it, wait for it…… Ah, there it is. “Rabbinic Group REQUIRES..”. Requires? As in, you must do this or else you’re out? Why, that sounds like coercion, something we know only Haredim do! Why can’t the RFA just bring this pre-nup option to the attention of their rabbis and leave it at that? What happened to the individual’s freedom of conscience, the ability of every person to choose wisely without outside pressure? If you ask me this sounds like….. a Takana!

Then there’s more from Rabbi Michael Broyde:

I vote for the latter solution as the best now available to us and I think we should mandate that no Orthodox rabbi perform weddings without a BDA prenuptial agreement.

If your rabbi belongs to an organization that does not mandate the use of any prenuptial agreement, ask him why that is the case. If your rabbi does weddings without using a prenuptial agreement, press him to stop doing such weddings and to mandate that no such weddings take place on the synagogue grounds.

Mandates, requirements, what’s happening to our live-and-let-live friends in the Modern Orthodox world? What’s next, a requirement that schools teach Shmiras Einayim? Mandatory tznius guidelines (gasp)? G-d forbid, a BAN on something??

If I were MO I would protest, raise a ruckus. This is against our tradition (oh the irony!)!! We are not “the requirers” and the “Takana makers”, that’s for sheep i.e. the Haredim. We’re all adults here, let’s allow every Rabbi to follow his conscience and he will surely do the right thing.

Could it be, that it is not Takanas per se that the MO dislike but the subjects they address? It seems that Takanos are fine as long as they address valid concerns of “Tikkun H’olam”. Anything not on the approved list of causes de jour, anything sounding suspiciously too”Jewish” is to be left alone. After all we don’t want to be lumped together with THOSE guys, do we?


9 thoughts on “Modern Orthodoxy: Bastion of Coercion?

  1. I gotta give you credit. As opposed to most of your ilk you write GCBSWBW.

  2. Ah but that’s always been MO’s weakness. While Chareidim encourage group-think and deferral to the community, MO encourages autonomy. Neither extreme is good. Chareidim are generally like sheep but MO’s are like cats. You can’t herd cats. At some point if you want to define your movement you have to set standards. Even if I think the IRF is a joke I think the idea that they’re at least setting standards is a positive step for MO. They’re finally copying one of the things the Chareidim do well.

    • Cats, autonomy? Meh. They’re the same sheep as we all are. Same clothes, same interests, same group think etc etc.

      When I walk into a MO shul and see some wearing shtriemels and women wearing burkas, then will talk about “cats”. As it stands, they’re sheep like everyone else, they just try to meow instead of bleat.

      • You clearly don’t understand MO. They do not all dress the same. In fact part of their culture is to have individual dressing styles. Some wear black hats, some knitted kippos, some suede, etc. Same thing with the women. Lots of different interests and a complete absence of group think.
        Here’s the big example – the subject of your post. So the IRF is demanding pre-nups at weddings it participates in. So what? What percentage of MO rabbonim are now going to make it de rigeur? And Rav Michael Broyde announces it should be mandatory. Do you really believe there’s a single MO rav out there who’s now saying “Well I have to do it because he’s the ‘Gadol’ and said I have to”?

        • Mo – different styles but same genre (suits, drss shirts and shoes, maximum and unusual black bend down).

          haredim have much more more variety, from the bend down to chulent tup, from the short jacket to the kapote etc.

          The RCA would make the same takana if not that they feared the 20% who would leave. All the others would follow – like sheep.

          • First of all, what does “from the bend down to the chulet tup” mean?
            And if by variety you mean “All MO’s wear modernisher clothing” but every Chareidi group has its own uniform then fine, your point is valid. But my point is that “modernisher clothing” is like “birds” – one species, lots of variety while every Chareidi will wear the uniform of his particular clan.
            As for people leaving the RCA, the problem is that the RCA simply doesn’t have that kind of power over its members so it can’t make those kinds of rules. Hence smaller more cohesive groups like the IRF do.

  3. I theory I agree with you,but in this case I do agree that something has to be done to save agunos. My daughter BH received her divorce, but it cost me good money. Extortion gelt.
    The boy had some medical conditions hidden from us that were not compatible with marriage. Yet, the boys father is a mashgiach in yeshiva but had no problem holding back a get until I paid what he wanted. Many others won’t even take extortion money, they want to be מצער ומעגן their wives. There seems to be no other עצה except this pre up unlike the net where there are different ways to cope. In the meantime I shudder what will happen if he gets married again without revealing his sickness.

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