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?