Looking Good

Remember “Fernando,” Billy Crystal’s Saturday Night Live character whose mantra was, “I don’t feel mahvelous, but I look mahvelous, which is okey dokey with me ‘cause you know my credo, it is better to look good than to feel good?” Satirical? Sure. But a true word is often said in jest and in this case, it highlights secular society’s obsession with looking good. Of course, since most people recognize that much of what we see is merely a facade, who cares if the popular culture indulges?

Putting aside the propriety of engaging in behavior merely to portray a certain image, permit me to pose the following question: is it better to act your way into a new way of thinking or think your way into a new way of acting? In other words, if a person dresses and behaves as a frum yid, that person may eventually be constrained to live as such. Indeed, we see this in the performance of mitzvos. Chazal tell us that it is better to perform a mitzvah without the proper intention since it will hopefully lead to its performance with the proper intention.

I guess what I’m really asking is that since we grow and develop al ha derech (on the path) of Torah in our own manner and at our own pace, when it is the appropriate time to wear tzitzis and a kippah, give away the jeans and shorts, limit the wardrobe to white shirts or long skirts (whichever the case may be) and put the television in the closet? Is there some rite of passage we must achieve before “playing the part” or are we being disingenuous or intellectually dishonest for creating an image which makes us appear to be something we’re not?

I hope this is not the case and I don’t believe it is. If it were, I’d be in trouble. Having become observant while attending law school, I had no time to attend shiurim and certainly didn’t possess even basic skills to learn on my own. Aside from reading a few books on yiddishkeit in the spare time that I didn’t have, any learning I accomplished was done through accretion. Growing up, I attended public school and after nearly twenty years of observance, have not yet attended a yeshiva. My lovely wife used to continually remind since Rebbe Akiva didn’t start until he was forty, I had a head start. Of course, since turning forty a few years ago, she doesn’t tell me that anymore. Now, we talk about a time when I will be able to sit and learn. It may not be until we retire or win lotto, but we certainly hope it will come.

So, after having been observant for about two years, I began wearing a hat on Shabbos. During the week, I wore jeans. When I was dating, I wore a kippah srugah (knitted) and my big, ostentatious college ring. For about a year after getting married, I wore a wedding band and my tzitzis out. Actually, that’s how I ended up getting my first chavrusa (learning partner) – he was curious about that combination and after striking up a conversation, we began a seder (regular learning time). Please don’t misunderstand me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing a knitted kippah, a school ring or a wedding band. Plenty of my friends do – and most are far more learned and have better middos (character) than I. The point is, I recognized that I was a work in progress (my wife tells me that I still am, but she isn’t referring to my yiddishkeit). I also recognized that wearing a black velvet kippah, a black hat or my tzitzis in or out (I actually wear them out but wrap them around my belt) would inevitably “label” me. I was certainly no yeshiva bochur, but often looked like one. Indeed, dressing that way was, and is, a statement. I looked like an affiliated Jew. I may not have felt as such, but nevertheless, I knew that I was. I may not have felt mahvelous about my lack of Torah knowledge and ignorance of halacha, but it didn’t really matter because I looked mahvelous.

Make no mistake. My desire to “look” frum was in no way out of arrogance or contempt for others. Clearly, learning Torah and developing middos tovos (good character) are indispensable to life’s Torah marathon. And although I generally wouldn’t advocate that it is better to look frum than to be frum, it certainly beats waiting for the right time. Who knows whether that time will ever come? Hmm, perhaps Fernando was really onto something. Or maybe now his name is Feivel.

This blast from the past was first posted on August 14, 2006.

137 comments on “Looking Good

  1. Oh, whoops, just realized, the date is August 14, 2006. Oh well, glad to post something anyway. see you.

  2. Wow, How’d i miss THIS thread? That’s what happens when a big thread is posted right around Nachamu. :-) Wow. oh well.

    Just post one thought or two, in refernce to a few I’ve read here, I don’t feel it’s helpful to xdecry the fact theat Jews treat each other differently based on their groupings. Sure, it’d be nice if we didn’t but that goal is a bit abstract.

    Better to look at the specific dynamics which go on between particular groups, and think up specific ways to improve certain specific issue. That can get us a bit further, i feel.

  3. Labels and other such nonsense contributes heavily to Tzinat Chinam, probably the single biggest (and unfortunately continuing) mistake in the history of the Jews.

    Looks/clothing, etc… are only incredibly deceiving because people attach meaning to such things. When I think about it, the notion of attaching some sort of importance to the way one dresses seems barbaric.

    It is a shame that Jews cannot treat eachother with respect regardless of what religious ‘level’ they follow. Even the word ‘level’ is problematic, because it suggests (incorrectly I believe) that one is higher or lower than another, or ‘more’ or ‘less’ than another.

    My Father taught me a saying that also unfortunately applies more often than not; “Believe half of what you see, and nothing that you hear”.

  4. LC,

    In regards to your comment in #129, it was nice of you to concede that kiruv is doninated by charedim in the places you mentioned.

    However, in the off-chance your explanation was to assert that Chabad was really the same experience for people as the Modern Orthodox if they wanted it to be, please note that most of us will not accept Chabad as Modern Orthodox, no matter what they don’t talk about. Steg’s comment in #130 is dead on.

    This is not to say Chabad doesn’t do good work in many ways. But it is absolutely not the same as Modern Orthodox. Ever. Or it ceases to be Chabad.

    And while there are certainly different approaches and nuances within Chabad, Chabad never ceases to be Chabad.

    No matter what they don’t say.

  5. LC:

    It was the generic “you”.

    Every Chabadnik is different, no two Chabadniks (or people in general) are the same, but i’m one of those people who had very negative interactions with Chabad. And i eventually stopped going because i could feel their agenda in everything they said and did, and i got sick of it (since my agenda and ideology is very different than theirs), and it was ungrateful of me to go partake of their open-armed hospitality and free food and Jewish resources when the whole time i couldn’t get nasty angry thoughts about them out of my head.

    So i eventually solved the problem by simply not going.

  6. LC:

    Your philsophy is expressed in everything you do and every dvar torah you give.
    Huh? I’m not sure what your intention is. Mine? Or are you referring to my comment about Chabad?

    If it’s about Chabad, expressing your (generic “you”) philosophy within the message of a d’var Torah is a far different thing from pushing your specific minhagim and approach to Judaism on others. My coment was in response to DK’s comment # 105 which seemed in line with the implication expressed elsewhere that Chabad actively “pushes” its views and customs on BTs.

  7. DK wrote:
    I actually think the MO kiruvniks are missing out in a big way by not setting up shop on college campuses, unless you think chabad is sufficient. I admit I don’t think chabad is right for everyone. I don’t mean to hurt anyones feelings, but that is my personal belief.

    For what it’s worth, there are places (SUNY Binghamton, for one, pre-Hillel) where Chabad happily “adopts” the group of day school kids who come, loves and takes care of them for the 4 (or so) years they are there, and stays away from hashkafa issues unless asked.

    I knew plenty of fellow students who had no interest in Chabad philosophy, Tanya, etc. yet went “religiously” to the Chabad House every Shabbos night & day b/c that was ‘where it was at’ if you were shomer Shabbat and on campus. And those who became BT while there did NOT necessarily become Chabadniks/Lubavitchers, and I can think of a number of individuals in this category, from “yeshivish”, to MO, to Chassidishe (but not Chabad).

  8. Jaded Topaz-I have commented elsewhere re Marc Shapiro’s analysis of contemporary Orthodox life. Take a look at R Gil’s dissection of his latest comment, especially with respect to the many different views that “Charedi” poskim have on medicines on Pesach.

  9. Well, getting back to the subject of the man who was off the derech, Ora (#123) makes a very valid point about the validity of the conservative movement. Don’t even get me started on that one! Therefore, while the guy isn’t totally non-observant anymore, and therefore, not off the derech – he’s also definitely not fully observant, or whatever you want to call us. It’s a point that hit my husband very hard – as this is a guy whose learning was a source of inspiration, and it’s very hard for my hubby to now see his friend as a very different, somewhat embittered man.

  10. Ora, sorry bout lack of miss congeniality traits, my point was, the fact that you have chareidim with jobs/degrees as neighbors and townsfolk , this doesnt really fix or disprove/override the fact that sometimes the UO can be stifling /narrowminded/winded with regards to perspectives/dress/rulings/teachings/alot of stuff and 2006 .i’ve just seen soo many UO to NO transitions that could have been MO or other strains of perfectly ok but less stringent options . The heavily concerted emphasis on the wrong issues is definitely detrimental to certain individuals for real and just clouds the reasoning abilities on any given end of the religious spectrum from FFB to BT to never again F whether its elementary / high school or a kiruv org. And when you use “All” as your loophole on the fact that you think some not “all” chareidim are your neighbors and friends ……. that doesnt really work so well cuz groups within chareidim are not tagged/ ticketed /classified and rated on stuff like extremism and fanaticisim and myopic methods. Or maybe here in New York (your favorite comparison state) I just keep bumping into the wrong kinds of chareidim….which is a definite possibility as i do have a bad habit of bumping into the wrong crowds and i’m a literal magnet for anything remotely related to exceptions to the rule .I must have been a grammar book in my previous life which would explain why i’m around again .

    Regarding your wish for an easier time comprehending my comments, I believe Bob Miller had alluded to the need for the “right elixir” for understanding my comments – Bob – any luck on finding the Elixir -Comment Cure all for understanding my comments yet ? There seem to be quite a few potential elixir – Comment Cure all potential clients around here .Chaim G this may be your antidote for that “rode off in all directions” lateral side effect my comments seem to have on linear thinkers .Steve Brizel- an Elixir -Comment Cure all would definitely put my “simplistic analysis” in a way more complicated light it may even help with your torah/elixir analogy . M – this elixir would probally assist with “unverified venom” concerns and possible “libel” side effects . Administrator – it would definitely help with refraining from speaking bad about others whether its true or false or anything in between. Bob – do i get commission on all new comment clients . Thank g-d for Elixir -Comment Cure all and thank god for Marc Shapiro’s comparing/contrasting the different sects that do or dont allow medicine on passover.If you belong to the correct orthodox section ,you can understand my comments with the help of Elixir-Comment Cure all on Passover too!!!Anyone have any connections with Rabbi Blumenkrantz.

  11. Ora-

    There’s “off the derech” and then there’s OFF THE DERECH. The latter implies the eschewing of observance, leaving Judaism, etc. I would hardly call Conservative Judaism OFF THE DERECH. Maybe outside the accepted norms. Maybe off the Orthodox derech. Maybe outside of what the Torah permits. But not in a horribly detrimental way that would preclude the fulfilling of other mitzvot.

    And there’s also a difference between the ideology of a movement and the ideology of someone within the movement. Especially with the Conservative movement (which is just so darn confused!)

    And there’s a difference between believing that part of the Torah isn’t Divine and acting in a way that is against halacha. Halacha definitely differentiates between actions and beliefs.

    Suppose someone lived in a way that was completely halachic, but didn’t believe in moshiach (but didn’t go around preaching that the moshiach isn’t coming, just thought it to himself). Would you call that person “off the derech”?

  12. Rachel–how would you define “derech” then? I always took it to mean someone who accepts and does their best to follow the Torah, both written and oral. Of course there will be different hashkafot, and different ideas about philosophy and which particular mitzvot are most important–but there’s a big difference between that and denying the divinity of the Torah (any part of the Torah), which the conservative movement does. All major Rabeim I know of, from MO to haredi, have ruled that conservative is not an acceptable alternative to traditional Torah observance. I don’t think that’s “judging people” any more than it’s judging people to point out that it’s forbidden to eat pork. Nobody’s saying that this guy is a bad person, only that his religious practices unfortunately fall outside of what the Torah permits.

  13. Rachel (#120) you rightfully pointed out a failure in my post to outright state that this gentleman is at least most of the way “back”. I truly don’t know about their level of kashrus, Shabbos observance and Taharas H’Mishpacha (assuming those being the Big Three in determining whether or not someone is “Orthodox”). My hunch is that kashrus is fairly good (at least at home), Shabbos is not quite what we’d consider truly Shomer Shabbos, and the latter – who knows, it’s not the kind of thing people discuss over dinner anyway. I guess in my attempt at brevity, I didn’t quite clarify things.

    And I also wouldn’t have any problem with someone studying those Roman & Greek classics. But he was trying (unsuccessfully, hooray) to paint the Yeshiva world as one that has no interest in anything secular. This is rarely true.

    And BTW, welcome back from your dig, Rachel! We certainly missed you here in the blogosphere, and definitely at the Shabbaton.

  14. Bob Miller,

    You wrote,

    “The lack of a liberal arts core, meaning liberal arts as taught in today’s secular colleges, is not exactly a fatal flaw, if the main goal is to produce someone with a Jewish outlook who can earn an honest living.”

    Beyond the issue of whether or not secular education is worthy in and of itself, pragmatically, because of the demand of many corporations and graduate schools for a liberal arts education, a lack of a liberal arts certification means limited options in terms of vocational options.

    Not everyone is happy with these options. It is a problem for many.

    When we also consider the lack of internships helpful to bolster ones resume while in school, the competitive disadvantage and options available grows further.

    There is a serious vocational discrepancy between many who follow the MO or charedi approach to education.

  15. Charnie-

    Does this friend of yours still keep kosher and shabbat? (My guess is that if he’s teaching Gemara in a Conservative Rabbinical school and sending his kids to a Conservative day school, then he probably is.) If so, I wouldn’t be so quick to label him “off the derech.” Maybe off your particular derech, but on a derech of his own. If we’re going to judge people (not that I would reccommend judging people, but we’re all guilty of it, myself included) perhaps we should judge them based on their mitzvot and not their hashkafa.

    (Then again, I also don’t see anything wrong with studying Greek and Roman Classics…)

    Ok. End of rant.

  16. This discussion reminds me of when we visited a friend of my husband’s in LA a few years ago. Originally, this fellow became frum through Rav Shlomo’s “House of Love and Prayer” in SF, and went on to learn in a particular yeshiva in NY, where he rapidly rose to the top. My husband became close with him in Israel.

    Sadly, this fellow eventually went off the derech. He’s frequently mentioned that he took on too much. too fast. Today, he’s teaching Gemora in a Conservative Rabbinical school, and is, for lack of a better definition, somewhere between Conservative and almost left-wing Modern, though his sons are attending a Solomon Schector type school. But the saddest part, when we got together, was how bitter he is towards his charedi-type yeshiva for whatever difficulties he encountered afterwards, and he took much of this out on my son – trying to convince him how much he’s “missing” by not studying Roman & Greek classics. (BTW, my kid definitely held his own!) We all really felt that he was trying to blame his RY for his own problems, as we knew plenty of young men who came through the same yeshiva, at the same time, and turned out just fine, hashkafa and career wise.

    I bring this up mainly because some of the men posting here seem to have similar feelings.

    Also, I’d like to note that many men who’ve studied in RSA have gone directly (following their Bagel & Tomato & Lettuce degree) into Master’s degrees, including one I know of now at Harvard Law. Like everything else in life, it’s up to us. Hashem gives us the tools; it’s up to us to utilize them.

  17. Steve-

    No, it definitely was a school of technology.

    DK- I guess I misjudged your definition of “college.”

    Of course they’re not going to learn liberal arts. They learn what they need to in order to earn a living. And liberal arts is anything but practical. What do you do with a BA in English?

    (This coming from Archaeology girl. I never claimed to be taking a practical route, though.)

  18. The lack of a liberal arts core, meaning liberal arts as taught in today’s secular colleges, is not exactly a fatal flaw, if the main goal is to produce someone with a Jewish outlook who can earn an honest living.

    Now, if liberal arts could be taught from a truly Jewish perspective, that could have some value.

  19. Steve–No, she probably passed by the Haredi Institute for the study of Technology. There is such a place, two such places in fact, one for men and one for women.

    DK–There are also haredi colleges here for the study of communications technology, writing, special ed, culinary arts, etc. Pretty much anything you want to learn (aside from medicine, advanced physics, or anything else requiring extensive lab resources) can be learned in a haredi college. Maybe you have no such thing where you live, but they definitely exist.

    JT–I wish your posts would be a bit easier to comprehend, and a bit nicer as well. In order to understand why I was saying what I was to DK, it would be useful to look back at the preceding comments. From my perspective, the conversation has been somewhat like this:
    DK: Someone should warn BTs about haredi kiruv groups, they are against education and modernity.
    Me: Not all haredi groups are like that, in fact, many of the teachers I had in haredi kiruv places were well educated people. Haredi and modern are two concepts that can go together.
    DK: Why are you saying “modern” when not talking about MO?
    Me: Because not only MO is modern, haredi life can also be modern (examples).
    JT: What that is not relevant, clearly you have no point, let me give you snide debating advice.

    Clearly, if you follow the whole argument, whether or not haredim are often (not just my neighbors, but a large percentage of haredim) secularly educated and participants in modern life actually has a lot to do with whether or not BTs need to watch out for crazy haredi extremism in ALL haredi kiruv groups. If DK had referred to “some haredim” or “certain groups,” my response would have been different. But he didn’t, and so I think that my response was relevant.

    DK and JT–I know that New York has a very large Jewish community, but it’s still not the only Jewish place on earth. The Israeli Jewish community is in fact much bigger. So I don’t appreciate having my comments refuted based on “it’s not like that here.” So what? That doesn’t make what I’m saying untrue.

  20. Rachel,

    Trust me — what you saw was not a “college.” Charedim may go to college, and they may have vocational training centers such as C.O.P.E., but they do not have their own “colleges,” replete with a liberal arts core. They don’t have them. They will never have them. Not even one. Ever.

  21. Rachel-could it be that you passed by “The Charedi Institute for the Study of the Mitzvos Hatelyuos Baaretz”? IIIRC, it is a high level kollel for the study of the halachos of shemitah, etc.

  22. Ora, i’m not sure what the connection is between your lovely chareidi neighbors that function as druggists/bankers and mayors and the myopic methods /viewpoints and general presentation of religion by the UO that has consistently been an ever present catalyst between many an individual and the new and improved NO(no orthodoxy). Also, just as an fya – when trying to disprove a point, loudly pointing out irrelevant side points and obvious truths other than clouding and distracting from the main point , will not actually disprove it .When comparing/contrasting the pros and cons of MO red delicious apples to UO granny smith apples no need to bring in the working status of your UO neighborhood apple orchards , with tagline affirmations confirming they have arrived in modern society, right in your own backyard ,functioning as druggists ,furniture fixers ,pharmacists ,mortgage brokers and bankers .Clearly these facts and or flukes have nothing to do with fixing initial price wars/comparisons/happy/bruised/straying -state of beings and the general marketing techniques /advertising practices employed on the MO & UO apples and or the mass exodus from UO to NO in New York/Israel/China or New Orleans.

    I’m happy to hear your neighbors have found the the right mix of furniture fixing/banking/mayoring and chareidi loving .This heartwarming chicken soup for the UO working apple’s soul story does not in any way ,shape or form , fix the issue of UO problematic myopic viewpoints and teachings in general.Myopic musings/presenting and strict rulings are not only issues in kiruv orgs, check out your local UO school have a little chat with the principal and some of the less than inspiring teachers and the rotten apples that are quickly thrown out before damaging the rest of the apples.I wonder if some UO perspectives (that are not properly presented ), can actually be the cause of the rotten apple syndrome, rampant among certain apples that are not disease resistant.

    Here in New York, the kids dont actually have a say in which schools they are placed in.
    nor do the UO schools have a second MO track option for the students that cannot handle the UO approach.Kiruv Orgs are not the only organized learning institutions in which the choice between UO and MO is clearly undefined and UO is presented as an only option.
    Maybe if the UO teachers got a little friendly with the MO teachers for some myopic detox and fresh persectives on stuff and tweaked their material a bit , there wouldnt be a mass exodus to NO (no orthodox) .Or maybe its the UO rabbi’s that need to get some myopic detox and a fresh perspective from the MO rabbi’s. Otherwise its just the cycle of religious dyfunctionalism goin round and round like a never ending ferris wheel at the county fair . The disillusioned UO kids enchanted NO kids and inspired Kiruv org kids that may or many not stay inspired …….Sharing is caring and a little unity among the sects is good for the overall well being of any orchard.

  23. DK- Whenever I took the bus/drove into Jerusalem from my dig, I would see a building that was called something like “The Hareidi institute for the study of technology” or something like that (If I were still there, and had a digital camera I’d take a picture, but right now neither of those conditions are true). Hareidi colleges do exist, even if they are rare.

  24. Ora,

    Again, sometimes the difference is subtle, you are correct.

    And sometimes the difference is not subtle at all. Plenty of charedi places (I am not saying all) do not, in fact, “promote” their students to seek secular education. That is simply the reality.

    And there is no haredi “college.” I don’t know what you are talking about.

  25. DK–I’m not trying to “act as if there is no difference.” I’m giving reasons why I disagree with your post (#66), in which you said that potential BTs need to be warned about the haredi lifestyle. Throughout that post, your referred to “haredi institutions” and “the charedim,” making no distinctions whatsoever between different haredi groups.

    If you do recognize that it is possible to be haredi and still be educated and participate in modern life–and that many haredi kiruv organizations accept and even promote this–then fine, I still don’t 100% agree with your post, but that’s to be expected.

    But if you were referring to “the haredim” because you really see ALL haredi approaches as overly right-wing/ cut off from society/ etc, then I think you’re very much misrepresenting haredi life. And I don’t understand in what ways a MO life would be different from the life in many haredi groups. Learning at YU instead of a haredi college, or covering your hair with a colorful cloth instead of a tichel–what’s the big difference? Obviously, there are differences in philosophy that lead to the split, but the life itself is pretty similar when you come down to it. There is no black/white MO/haredi split, it’s more of a continuum.

  26. DK-Take a look at the OU’s website and the link to a program that AFAIK is called the Campus Life Inititative. It places married couples ( husbands with smicha from RIETS and Gush primarily) on college campuses as religious role models for students who have spent some time learning and who need or want help in negotiating the college scene and maintaining their frumkeit.They need chizuk, regardless of the view that one may have about their choice of such a setting for their education.

    OTOH, I think that your point is well taken as to BTs who gravitated to Torah while in college.I would never knock any BT who went to a secular college and then became a BT.IMO, that sends a terrible message, especially when that experience can be transformed into something positive as a frum Jew.

  27. Ora,

    When and where education and participation are embraced by charedim, then there is no conflict.

    The debate is where education and participation in society are not embraced.

    So too with those areas where the Modern Orthodox are in-line with charedim.

    To act as if there is no difference or debate because of overlap or nuance within each camp is not helpful to discussing differences, but is being employed to act as if there are no differences.

  28. DK–again, why would you assume that only Modern Orthodox can ever be described as modern? How are you defining the word? I was davka using “modern” to describe many charedi groups, in order to point out that education and participation in society are not uniquely MO qualities.

  29. I submit that the decision is complicated by what poses for campus life which includes many factors that militate against a strong religious committment – Steve Brizel

    mah rabu ma-asecha Hashem – Steve, FWIW when I left YU I transfered to SUNY Stony Brook. The first night I was in the dorm I was invited to a co-ed party. I was wearing a kippah and a tzahal shirt – a girl strikes up a conversation with me and tells me she puts on tfilin every day (I kid you not!) In a classic Berditchever moment I recall thinking “Baruch Hashem – at YU the guys didn’t even wear tfilin – here even the women wear tfilin!

    The foregoing notwithstanding, you’re essentially right! (and your contribution to the commentator discussion about “am I my brother’s kippa?” was right on the money)

  30. Ora,

    I simply don’t understand why you employed the word “modern” when we were debating Modern Orthodox vs. Charedi to mean anything except Modern Orthodox. This remains beyond me, despite your explanation.

    You said,

    “I’ve actually attended classes in these organizations. I was never told anything about MO being bad or evil or whatever. I’ve never heard my friends who have learned there say that. Maybe you’re speaking from a bad personal experience, but it’s certainly not universal.”

    While that was your personal experience, I reject your suggestion that this doesn’t, in fact, happen all the time. That is not the real situation generally. MO is trashed all the time at these insitutions. Absolutely no question. The disdain for MO was officially declared in the U.S. when the Jewish Observer declared it so in 1969, when the threat of the Conservative Movement had receded sufficiently. Look at past issues from that year (I don’t remember which month), you will find it. It has intensified since then, not diminished. Students at haredi insitutions are absolutely discouraged from attending MO ones, and from leading a MO lifestyle.

    Charnie, this comparison was earlier, not #100, and I accept resonsiblility and apologized in #93.


    I actually think the MO kiruvniks are missing out in a big way by not setting up shop on college campuses, unless you think chabad is sufficient. I admit I don’t think chabad is right for everyone. I don’t mean to hurt anyones feelings, but that is my personal belief.

    Additionally, the hostility to regular colleges pragmatically can have unfortunate results.

    I have known BT’s who are attacked for attending regular colleges, and their reaction is often one of shock and hurt. To slam a BT to his/her face for attending a regular college happens more frequently than you might like to believe.

    This happens because of the belief that a regular college is not acceptable for anybody. When it is accepted as categorically unacceptable, it opens up the possiblility to attack, as it is considered justified, since the student is perceived to be doing something wrong.

    This does not lead to BT’s not going to regular colleges, but rather, to BT’s who do feeling alienated by those who express hostility and outright suspicion of their personal religious observance and commitment if they are attending regular colleges.

  31. DK (#100)–
    Clearly, what is culturally acceptable in one time and place is acceptable everywhere, throughout history. Long hair in modern America is exactly the same as long hair in ancient Israel. Kind of like how it’s fine to wear white to a funeral in America, because that’s what they do in Japan.

    Seriously, I think that hairstyles are truly unimportant, and unless they very much stick out, pose no problems of tzniut. However, your argument is not logical.

  32. DK (#100), in no way can you compare Charedi and MO with Yishmael vs us. In fact, if you can then I’m wondering how you can accept that Hashem gave us one Torah, not one for this group, one for that, etc. Perhaps I’m a very simplistic, idealistic person. That’s OK. I’ll go further to say that there is absolutely no label that completely fits me – and those here who know me are nodding in agreement. Isn’t that part of the beauty of being a BT…. that we find our own appropriate (v’halacha, of course) hashkafa. Perhaps that’s why right now, even as I type this, my 19 year old is working diligently at a kiruv camp, and frequently calling me for assistance.

  33. Two clarifications on clothing:
    In my first post, I referred to the custom of wearing tzitzit out. I wasn’t trying to say that it’s an explicit mitzvah, although now I realize that it sounded that way. What I mean is, for someone whose mesoret is that tzitzit should be worn out, then they should do so even early on in their tshuva process if they are able.

    About hats–I was basing myself on what I hear from haredi friends. Apparently there are those who disagree. Still, my main point about hats stands–it’s just clothing, and for me, definitely not convincing proof of extremism.

    DK–not only MO is modern. My doctor is charedi, my grocer is charedi, the guys who make and fix our furniture are charedi, both of my last two employers were charedi. The mayor is haredi. I see many, many charedim around me getting degrees or starting a business, making good money, voting, and making huge and positive differences in this city. In other words, participating in and contributing to modern life. Aish and similar programs (which, as I’ve said before, I do have my problems with–but they do a lot of good work) encourage this trend. What definition of “modern” are you using that can’t be applied to anyone but the MO?

    I’ve actually attended classes in these organizations. I was never told anything about MO being bad or evil or whatever. I’ve never heard my friends who have learned there say that. Maybe you’re speaking from a bad personal experience, but it’s certainly not universal.

    As for hair covering–the custom (of not wearing one) that you’re referring to is American. Women in Ethiopia, Morocco, Yemen, etc, covered their hair at that time. Which isn’t why I cover my hair, I learned that it’s a matter of halacha. But just for accuracy’s sake–there’s a big difference between a worldwide Jewish custom and an American Jewish custom.

    Finally, you didn’t address my other points–what would give you the right to say anything to a potential BT’s parents, let alone something that could upset shalom bayit? And why would you want to risk turning a BT off to a haredi lifestyle if that’s what’s right for them?

  34. DK-Look at the Talmudic passage that outlines the dispute between R Yishmael andR Shimon Bar Yochai. Many followed R Shimon Bar Yochai and were not successful.As the authors of the pamphlet in question stressed, even a school with a KDH and an O rabbi is also no guarantee of how a student will behave elsewhere. It offers a solely voluntary environment which is insufficient for many. Of course, YU, SCW , Touro and Lander can’t take everyone. However, the inquiry as to the choice between these schools and a school even with a KDH and a O rabbi does not end at this point. I submit that the decision is complicated by what poses for campus life which includes many factors that militate against a strong religious committment.

  35. Bob Miller,

    You wrote,

    “Sooner or later, the guf belonging to that neshama needs some sort of proper haircut and some sort of proper attire. The question is “when in the cycle does this have to start?”

    Yes. Clearly the long-hair preferred by Jews of anceint times was a failing on their part. We all need a proper Roman haircut and an Italian mobster hat. The question is what time in our development are such critical trappings the right time, not if.


    Many universities with a KDH have other infrastructure as well, including classes and minyanim. I know plenty of people who did quite well. Now, I am not saying that is right for everyone. I am saying it is right for many people.

    Let me ask you this — do you recognize a difference between a school with a KDH and an Orthodox rabbi and a school without a KDH and an Orthodox Rabbi? Or would you say they are both the same?

  36. Sooner or later, the guf belonging to that neshama needs some sort of proper haircut and some sort of proper attire. The question is “when in the cycle does this have to start?”

    And here, Bob Miller, we come to the basis of the disagreement.

    I disagree with what you wrote above. Simple as that. Maybe we could have a poll, see where everyone stands, and stop arguing already ;-) .

  37. Although the advantage of the internet is that all Jews can talk at the same time, and it’s still quiet.

  38. DK- thanks for your response. I see how things can be so easily misinterpreted. It’s challenging to get our views across via such an impersonal medium (although beyondbt is the best of the net!)- strong words over a cup of coffee (or a heineken) would be a lot better :).

  39. DK- Let me be very clear-I view chinuch and education both in the family and school realms as a means of inculcating a Mesorah of Torah, Mitzvos,Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim in my childen. I do not view college as a time for intellectual, social, moral or cultural exploration and fall-out from observance.( RAL himself has commented that college education today is a pre professional environment, as opposed to a real educational experience)As a parent, it is my job to provide my children with an environment both at home and their formal education that fulfills those goals( Indeed , many Acharonim state that parents who raise children who go “off the derech” have not fulfilled the mitzvah of raising children which changed at Maamad Har Sinai from simply giving birth to children to one in which the accent is on raising childen who will continue the Mesorah. IMO, these considerations are not viewed with sufficient importance by many MO parents, educators and students until their students are applying for Israel and college.

    That being the case-FWIW- and many may differ and or agree in full and part-I consider a college with a kosher dining hall wholly inadequate for the average frum student.It is no substitute for either YU, SCW, Lander or a local school and maintaining some sort of night seder.More importantly,the contemporary college environment is a spiritual,cultural and intellectual threat to the average O student-even those that have spent some time in Israel in a yeshiva or seminary.IMO, the average college environment is a dangerous venue which many MO have wound up losing their committment to Torah and Mitzvos. Many Charedi kiruv groups and the OU have recognized that the average college environment is by no means a healthy or even benign venue for the average MO student or a place where MO values can survive intact for the most part. The pamphlet by two MO high school graduates who did their graduate work at Harvard and MIT is graphic, accurate and has yet to be challenged by anyone except for those who believe that Hillel is a wonderful place for frum Jews on every campus-a highly dubious proposition. Halevai that more MO high schools, parents and students would reach the same conclusions as the authors of the pamphlet. IMO, those schools and parents that “shep nachas” about admissions to universities that don’t have more than a Chabad house and don’t have regular shiurim, minyanim, etc are making a huge mistake.

  40. Sooner or later, the guf belonging to that neshama needs some sort of proper haircut and some sort of proper attire. The question is “when in the cycle does this have to start?”

  41. Belle,

    Regarding kippahs at YU, Steve pretty much summed it up (#82), especially as he was one of the contributors to the original discussion in the Commentator’s op-ed pages: follow the link below and click on “Kippot on Campus: Our Readers Respond”

    I suggest you read some of the op-ed pieces there for a more thorough exposition of the various issues. I would just add that whether or not Yeshiva University “is the flagship institution of MO,” it can still be open to Jews of other backgrounds and hashkafahs. Klal yisrael would be a lot better off if our shuls and schools were more welcoming to Jews who didn’t follow the dress code. I remember that when I had long hair people would stare at me whenever I walked into the kollel to learn. Who knows where I would be today if not for a few individuals who were able to see me as a Jewish neshama regardless of external appearances!

  42. M,

    I apologize and concede that this interpretation could be inferred if one wanted to do so. That isn’t what I intended.

    Additionally, in no way did I intend to suggest that my position is that of most MO’s.

    On the contrary – there is much more acceptance in the MO camp, particularly in the kiruv world, and this is a source of frustration.

  43. You are right- the vast majority of commentors are such a warm and welcoming group, in addition to being knowledgeable, clear on their derech, and simultaneously respectful of paths. Moderation is key, though, even for individual bloggers. You are correct- hate fest is too strong. Some of the phrases are quite antagonistic, though, and seem out of place for such a wonderful, joint effort in learning and sharing with each other as this site is.

  44. M,

    I agree with your position on that particular point. It is unproductive and labels charedim as enemies which is just plain wrong.

    However, I think and hope that most visitors can see that as the position of the commentor and not the blog as a whole.

  45. Comments such as:
    “It’s the same logic as telling Israel to stop war with her enemies, since we should all get along. In fact, you are asking to let the charedim gain further and further ground”,

    that openly define charedim as the enemy, is detrimental on many levels. Expressing opinions is certainly to be encouraged; permitting the type of terminology and phraseology seen occassionally here is puzzling and disturbing. Beyondbt indicates that it is for “learning, growing, and giving”- and in so many ways, it is. It is unfortunate when we lose sight of this.

  46. M,

    Could you please point me to where you think the blog sounds like a “hate fest” against charedim.

    Many of our contributors and commentors would consider themselves charedim and the critique we often get here is that we are “too charedi”, whatever that means.

    I think anybody who reads or blogs here on any consistent basis would agree that one of the things that we strive for here is ahavas yisrael, achdus and the acceptance of other hashkafos. Ask anybody who attended the shabbaton about the virtual shmorgasbord of hashkafos, baruch hashem, of the attendees and the atmosphere of achdus achieved.

    Of course, in any open forum, there will be those that aren’t looking to foster these goals. We will not censor those individuals so long as they are not clearly attempting to subvert our goals and are willing to make their points in a civil manner.

    If you are finding the blog not to be reading that way, could you please point me to specific instances so that we can address your concerns, thanks.

  47. M,

    Hate fest is such strong language. And bashing is also pretty loaded.

    I agree with you that it would be a much better world if we all (can we include ourselves in that?) focused much more on the positive of both the different groups and even of this blog. But we do want to allow others to express their opinions and have their voices heard.

    Thanks in advance for your understanding.

  48. I’m sorry, but it’s a shame that this blog sounds like a hate fest sometimes agains charedim. The majority of us on this site don’t bash other groups- not charedim, not MO, not chabad. The few who do give a poor showing to visitors to this blog. It doesn’t represent MO well at all, and I hope the many viewers don’t get a wrong and misleading impression of MO from those who see chareid bashing as a personal mission- perhaps even more important than Judaism itself.

    Will other MO bloggers please join me in setting the record straight on how the majority of MO really view and tolerate other groups?

  49. yes, kdh = kosher dining hall.

    Steve, I was put in YP. By this time, JSS was not anymore a specific place for BT’s.

    I am glad to hear there is more empahsis again on JSS.

    And Steve, I did read your post, and liked it a lot, and referred others to it, even if I would go a lot further.

  50. David – you beat me too it
    my money was on “Kollel during holidays” but you’re probably right

  51. Hold on a minute, did Steve just ask someone else to define an acronym?!!! This day will go down in the annals of blogging history.

    Just from the context, I’m guessing kdh = kosher dining hall.

  52. DK-What is a KDH? FWIW, I would suggest that you read my posts on various types of kiruv. Indeed, you appear to be someone who was profoundly upset with some of your experiences in the Charedi kiruv world. Just curious-when you were in YU-were you in JSS? FWIW, I wrote a letter to the Commentator which someone else linked to which decried the decline of JSS and its student body-the other half of the story that I obviously did not include in my recollections of JSS that were published both in the Commentator and a book that profiled 75 years of Yeshiva College. Again-It is a shame that we did not shmooze more at the Book Launch for R Slifkin and that you missed the BT Shabbaton.

    Belle-I thinbk that your comments re YU are overly simplistic, RIETS is a world class yeshiva with Gdolim as its RY and Talmidim who could learn anywhere but prefer to learn in RIETS. Whatever urban myths and stereotypes that you may have heard re RIETS simply have no basis in fact.

    FYI-JSS was and is YU’s BT yeshiva, of which I am a proud and loyal alumnus and critic. Many of my classmates entered grossly ignorant of Torah and emerged as RIETS musmachim, lay leaders, etc -all well versed in Torah and with a desire to learm and raise families of Shomire Torah Umitzvos. After a period of some neglect and decline, JSS has been revived.

  53. Charnie:
    Good point! The children (from small to big) are watching what we do more than what they hear or even what we say. And our attitude about it. Attitude is contagious. Good point also about affecting a community’s standard, didn’t think of that. Improving the look of a community’s members does affect the overall look and feel of a community, and our responsibility in that regard as well.

  54. Ora,

    MO is absolutely deligitimized at the charedi insitutions you mentioned. It is absolutely scorned, and presented as treif.

    You said,

    “It’s no hotter than wearing a baseball cap instead of a kippah.”

    That’s not true. Look at the material. And most MO’s don’t walk around in a baseball cap. Not even on shabbos.

    You said,

    “Finally, I don’t think that haredi kiruv is as extreme as you seem to think it is. I don’t know how things are in NYC, but I know that here in Jerusalem, the main haredi kiruv organizations are relatively open and modern.”

    They are “open” to bring people in.

    And “Modern?!?” What are you talking about!?! Are you really suggesting these insitutions are in any way related to Modern Orthodoxy?!?.

    NO WAY!


    Yes, you are correct about a sheitl being warmer. I once argued with a young woman who wanted to cover her hair when married. I told her I preferred the more standard MO minhag of ancient Israelites, for a woman to cover her hair when she goes to shul.

    When I say “ancient Israelites,” I mean before 1975 C.E.

    Charnie, you wrote,

    “If one person will thrive in the Charedi world, and another in the MO, then why can’t we just accept that everyone is different, even if we all have the same ultimate goal?”

    Because the charedi BT institutions frequently do not present it as that, but attack MO in order to preempt it as an option.

    It’s the same logic as telling Israel to stop war with her enemies, since we should all get along. In fact, you are asking to let the charedim gain further and further ground.

    If the charedi kiruv organizations wer, in fact, saying this is one way, the MO is another, we would have no problem.

    But we would have more MO BT’s.


    I mean beyond halacha,and I also mean maximum compliance, which ends up being a real problem for those BT’s who cannot rely on minhag instead.

  55. Not to mention long(er) sleeves. Although, as I was explaining to a (shall I call her a slightly left of MO friend), I guess I’ve just gotten used them, because they really don’t seem to “bother” me in the heat. That’s one area I’ve grown in since moving from the olde neighborhood – my sleeves have grown from just hitting the elbow to more appropriate tznius lengths. After all, as Sarah noted, how am I going to get the message through to my daughter, if I’m not doing the right thing myself? It definitely helps one in all areas, if the community’s standard is higher overall.

  56. Ora (68)

    I’ve never worn a shaitel (or Shtreimel…Boruch sheloh osanee Chosid!) and presume that you’ve never worn a black hat. I have (along with straw hats and baseball caps). Trust me on this one. Black felt hats attract heat and do not breath and are markedly heavier than a straw hat or cotton light colored baseball cap. They are extremely uncomfortable to wear during the summer months especially for people who tolerate the heat poorly to begin with.

  57. DK,
    Thanks for the well thought out reply. I now see where you’re coming from (besides living in KHG. We also lived there for 1 1/2 years when we got married).

    Although Ora pretty much summed up what I was going to say…
    You wrote:
    “Shouldn’t people understand what they and their family members are getting into?”
    I agree, in my experience working within NCSY and in adult outreach the only adgenda was promoting “Toarh Judaism”. What type of hat, if any, one wears or the way it’s worn are really not the “check list”.

    I lived in KGH right before the groundbreaking for Lander and Chofetz Chaim, it was always a rather mixed neibhbor hood and everyone seemed to get along (except at Supersol on a Thurday night).

    I agree that anyone involved in kiruv needs to give the full picture, but not the bias picture based on one particular sub-culture.
    I have plenty of friends who where hats (myself include, but only on Shabbos) and don’t fall into the sterotypes that you listed. My views on sterotypes and feuding were just posted yesterday ironically.

    One more thought, yes it’s really hot in July if you wear a hat. Ever tried wearing a womans’ hat or sheitel for half an hour…now that’s hot!!

  58. Sarah:

    I really liked your comment and appreciated what you shared. Sometimes non-controversial, personal sharing gets lost in all the hollering!

  59. Steg, There is only ONE True Judge, HaKodesh Baruchu Hu. And we could say, as closer to this topic, that He knows who best grows under what mantle. If one person will thrive in the Charedi world, and another in the MO, then why can’t we just accept that everyone is different, even if we all have the same ultimate goal?

  60. Charnie:

    I also grew up thinking that there’s Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Then i discovered the Reconstructionists, and the Renewalists, and like you did, various forms of Hhasidism…

    And then people started telling me that i’m not actually Orthodox, since i’m MO.

  61. Good morning everyone, I see that this discussion is still going on full-steam. All of the aforementioned references to Charedim, MO, etc. reminds me of my initial confusion upon entering the frum world (as an adult).

    When I was growing up, I’d always learned that there were “3 branches to Judaism”, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. There are early childhood memories that I have of sitting in a Conservative synagogue with my father (who was nifter when I was 4), and of my mother pointing out “those are the very religious people”, referring to people walking, to what I now realize, was Tashlich.

    Great, I get introduced to Shabbos in BP, and all of a sudden, I feel like I’m lost in a maze. There were umpteen various groups of Hasidim, all with their unique spin. There was Lubavitch, which is a whole other entity. There were the “Black Hat” yeshiva people, and so many people standing under the umbrella of MO that you needed a score card. Most of the time, unfortunately, I found people who were lax in daily practice using the handle MO as a catchall, and it took many years till I understand that MO wasn’t something a few degrees to the right of Conservative. Or that “Shabbos Jews”, i.e., those who are Shomer Shabbos, but slack off the rest of the week, really don’t represent MO. But I’ll tell you this much – I bet I wasn’t the first BT, nor the last, who just can’t seem to figure it all out politically.

  62. One more thing:
    If the charedim “were simply content to live their lives their way,” then they would be ignoring their obligation to teach Torah to the unaffiliated–an obligation which you seem to understand and accept. Saying that they are “seeking recruits to charedi Judaism” makes it sound somewhat sinister. A nicer (and honest) way of putting would be, they are hoping to bring Jews closer to Judaism as they see it. Which is exactly what you, or any other MO kiruv person, would be trying to do.

  63. One of DK’s informational points was that the “black hat outlook” included
    “3) A preference for maximum halachic compliance.”

    Let’s think this through.

    Is it not HaShem Yisborach who not only prefers, but demands maximum halachic compliance? Not every Jew ramps up to this instantly or at the same pace, but the demand is still there.

    Is this a distinctively black hat outlook? I’d say this is the general Orthodox position.

    Turning to another DK point, the black hat outlook is said to have
    “1) A very different approach to science than a secular Jew might expect.”

    What secular Jew would be surprised that the religious and secular outlooks are not the same? Jews considering turning their lives around are basically smart people, not babes in the woods. Do we want or need a hazard label on every group’s flyers?

  64. DK-a few things.

    First off, even though it’s small: “a stringency as severe as wearing a black hat in on a humid July summer day”–come on. It’s a hat. It’s no hotter than wearing a baseball cap instead of a kippah. Your other examples made more sense, but this one is just silly.

    Second, unless the organizations that you’re talking about target kids, as in actual school-age children, there’s no need to “tattle” to the parents about the school’s philosophy. Anyone over a certain age has the right to make decisions for themselves, and I would also say, the right to not have nosy people making their family situation worse by telling their parents “did you know that your son/daughter is being taught to hate science??” or whatever else. As BTs, we should understand that family is hard enough to deal with without outside interference. Unless their children are in danger of doing something mamash dangerous, we need to stay out of private affairs.

    Also, just as the haredi approach is not right for all, so too the MO approach is not right for all. If your true intention is only to help teach Torah to secular Jews, then you should be happy no matter who’s doing it. If your only way to do MO kiruv is to bash haredim, then you risk damaging the haredi structure without helping your own, and in the end you’ll have fewer BTs.

    Again, if we’re not talking about small children or dealing with an actual cult, then you need to trust the BTs to make their own choices. If they end up haredi, fine, that works for them. If it doesn’t work for them, then they’ll do what many people I know have done (myself included): go somewhere else. I don’t know why you seem to think that someone who doesn’t like the haredi approach will be turned off of Torah completely; in my experience that’s just not true (at least not for post-hs age BTs).

    Finally, I don’t think that haredi kiruv is as extreme as you seem to think it is. I don’t know how things are in NYC, but I know that here in Jerusalem, the main haredi kiruv organizations are relatively open and modern. Most of the teachers and students have higher degrees, they encourage participation in the workforce, and many of the teachers even have kids in the army (as an example, I’m talking about places like Aish, Neve, Ohr Sameach,etc).

    Really finally, if you accept that it’s best to keep Torah, on any hashkafic path, then you shouldn’t risk turning people away from observance by scaring them off of all thing haredi. If you think that it’s worse to be haredi than to be secular, then that’s just messed up.

  65. Rebgili:

    I see a big difference between a kiruv org’s policy of not demanding kipa wearing or other dress requirements, and YU not enforcing a kipa policy. A kiruv org seeks to attract adherents at the place where they are and to the extent they are willing to go. Jewish wisdom is the domain of every Jew, whether or not they wear any kipa.

    In contrast, IMHO, YU is the flagship institution of MO and presumably caters to those kids raised in the MO tradition. Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought it was not created to do kiruv but to educate Jewish orthodox kids. If the kids of MO families do not want to wear kippot, it says something about the movement’s failure to transmit basic Jewish values. It’s not just a dress code issue.

    However, if YU has indeed has become a magnet for non-Orthodox kids to study in an environment more religious than what they would find at NYU, for example, then indeed, perhaps it is correct to not demand any particular garb, because it has become a de-facto kiruv institution. But I would submit that those coming to YU for those reasons might in fact welcome a rule that promotes Jewish standards.

    So please tell me, in your experience, what are the background of those not willing to wear kippot? (as just one example)

  66. Although YU does not have a dress code, this actually raised some controversy a few years back with some students’ not wearing kippot. You may be interested in reading some of the opinions published in the student newspaper at the time – check the archives for November, 2002: http://www.yucommentator.com/home/archives/

    On a similar note, one of the elementary schools in Manhattan where I taught (with kids from diverse Jewish backgrounds) actually had uniforms for the kids. The only way they could get the boys to wear kippot was by making it part of the school uniform!

    One of the kiruv organizations that I worked for had a policy of NOT asking men to put on a kipah. While at first it made me uncomfortable to teach Torah to men with their heads uncovered, I came to see the wisdom of this approach. If a guy wears a kipah because I ask him to, then it usually comes off as soon as he’s out the door. But when he’s ready, he’ll put it on by himself without being asked.

    As we see in a lot of the discussion on this post, it’s often difficult to determine when the benefits of dressing the part outweigh the dangers of focusing excessively on the external. As JT and others point out it’s a fine line between conformity and hypocrisy. Unfourtunately, one of the casualties of defining frumkeit by attire is the state of disunity among Jewish people today. See this great poem that tells it like it is – Moshiach’s Hat: http://www.jewishblogging.com/blog.php?bid=36923

  67. Neil,

    The challenges of charedi life are not properly understood by secular Jewry, and many don’t understand the differences between modern and ultra-Orthodoxy.

    Now they wouldn’t really need to know these challenges if the charedim were simply content to live their lives their way. But when charedim are seeking recruits to charedi Judaism, then they have a right to know what their youth are being targeted for. And that UO goes beyond keeping shabbat, eating kosher, marrying Jewish, and adhering to long universally held Jewish traditions.

    It can also mean a stringency as severe as wearing a black hat in on a humid July summer day compared to a regular yarmulke.

    I think secular Jews should understand that a black hat outlook can include:

    1) A very different approach to science than a secular Jew might expect.

    2) A hostility to secular education generally unheard of in the Modern Orthodox world.

    3) A preference for maximum halachic compliance.

    4) An expanded role of the Rabbi influenced by chassidim (even in definititively non-chassidic circles) where a young person is encouraged to counsel and obey his/her Rabbi even in situations where the Rabbi has no training or expertise, including personal and vocational matters.

    Now — if the charedim are being upfront with what they are advocating, and what they want for BT’s, then what I am suggesting is redundant, and won’t change a thing.

    However, in the off chance that this is not being explained by the haredim nor understood by the secular Jews, both BT’s and parents, this could change the relationship between charedi insitutions/kiruv and secular Jewry, particularly once they understand that their kids are not being encouraged to be Orthodox like the lawyer or doctor they know or know of, but rather, are being encouraged to be something much more radical.

    Additionally, they need to know it isn’t just their kid, and isn’t just this one yeshiva or seminary.

    Isn’t that fair? Shouldn’t people understand what they and their family members are getting into? And shouldn’t they also understand why and how MO people reject such approaches?

    Isn’t that really offering everyone a choice?

    Steve, you said,

    “It is judgment free in that an NCSYer can go to any yeshiva or seminary and that its advisors and rabbinical staff run the gamet from YU points right. The absence of a policy encouraging only YU or only points right has always been one of NCSY’s stringest points.”

    I never said just YU. To me, a regular college with a KDH is just fine, probably better.

    But more importantly, parents should understand what far-right viewpoints are part of the guidance and offerings their children may be (probably) receiving, and what they are facing if they choose one of the haredi institutions, shouldn’t they?

  68. DK,
    On a more serious note, you wrote:
    “This will not happen sufficiently within the Orthodox world itself, but needs to take place in the secular space.”
    “The conversation needs to be changed, and moved to the secular space, for a more critical consideration. ”
    What exactly does “secular space” mean?

  69. DK-I am not sure what you mean by “charedi approaches to kiruv” but I tend to suspect that we are not talking about the same issues, if I understand your past posts and concerns. In any event, please read my posts re NCSY. It is judgment free in that an NCSYer can go to any yeshiva or seminary and that its advisors and rabbinical staff run the gamet from YU points right. The absence of a policy encouraging only YU or only points right has always been one of NCSY’s stringest points.

  70. “To strengthen MO kiruv, the true problems of the Charedi approach must be elucidated publicly to the secular Jewish world.”

    DK- I don’t agree with that. MO has a lot to offer, and doesn’t need to put down others, or “expose” and “challenge” the charedi world in order to do kiruv. Your position makes it sound like MO has a self-esteem issue, and needs to point out the faults in others in order to promote their own derech in kiruv. MO is a proud and vibrant movement, and doesn’t have to do anything of the sort to increase involvement in kiruv.

    If people have the talent, and the passion to spread Judaism, they should go ahead and do it! Holding back because of the need to disprove another group’s method first doesn’t sound like the plan of talented, confident, and driven folk with authentic goods to offer. MO needs encouragement to go out there and do it- and to be confident that with H-Shm’s help they will succeed.

  71. Steve,
    In the spirit of being completely off topic:
    Before I was married I was best friends with the dry cleaner on Metropolitan Ave in Kew Gardens. Once I was married and we were blessed with kinderlach, it became rather relaxing to iron shirts, with heavy starch (my wife is much better with pleats in dresses than I am). Usually l’kavod Yom Tov I’ll get my shirts dry cleaned. I’ve taken on the attitude that just like lighting the wicks of my wife’s candles before Shabbos is my way of preparing them for her, ironing b/f Shabbos is something I do for myself.
    Although when we visit the 5Towns I take my son with me to the Shomer Shabbos dry cleaner on Central so we can give him business.

  72. Steg,

    YU does not enforce a strict dress code. Many of us on the Left (by YU standards) wore jeans when I was there in the 90’s. The MO Left is small at YU, but it is tolerated by the administration.

    Jacob Haller,

    My view on how to promote MO kiruv is much darker than the important voices of support for such an approach included on this blog. I think for a real shift to take place, charedi approaches need to be exposed and challenged.

    This will not happen sufficiently within the Orthodox world itself, but needs to take place in the secular space.

    Only then will the MO be able, if they are willing, to move in on a significant scale.

    Then that might include (just for instance) calling NCSY to the carpet in terms of demanding to know if they are explaining the differences between Modern Orthodoxy and ultra-Orthodoxy, if their counselors are themselves from the former camp, and what their response is to teens considering attending a charedi institution after high school.

    If they have no set policy, why not?

    The Slifkin ban was quite helpful. It is much easier to make the case that a religious approach is unnecessarily stringent and extreme when your opponent has already volunteered that they reject, or at least fear, scientific method.

    The fact that the MO did seize on that with the R. Slifkin situation is an encouraging sign that the MO world is beginning to understand their responsibility both to Jews generally and the Orthodox world specifically in terms of defending their Judaism from the charedim.

    To strengthen MO kiruv, the true problems of the Charedi approach must be elucidated publicly to the secular Jewish world.

    It won’t be enough for these conversations to be restricted to the Orthodox world itself, as the whole “at least they make people frum” thing will have too much gravitas in accepting socio-economic destruction, and the “it’s a numbers game” mentality employed to justify casualties.

    The conversation needs to be changed, and moved to the secular space, for a more critical consideration.

  73. STeg-AFAIK, there is no official enforcement of a dress code vis a vis “penguin suit” or similar attire or even an official dress code in YU. In fact, although R Besdin ZTL had his own own ingenious means of a Tzitzis check, I am aware of no RY in RIETS who conducts the same. I recall that one of our RY would gently kid a talmid about his attire ( “farmer jeans”) or hair length as unbefitting a Ben Torah. There was no official policy re minyan attendance which started off strong and tailed off during the zman. AFAIK, , shiur, seder and minyan attendance are way up-which many observers attribute to the influence of the experience of learning in yeshivos in EY. There is just no comparison of the YU/RIETS atmosphere of the 1950s, 1970s and today. It would be fair to say that many YU/RIETS talmidim who are attending YU today wear yeshivish attire and are scheduling their college classes around their shiur and sedarim , as opposed to the contrary.

    SCW, depending on the Judaic studies class, may have a dress code which is subject to enforcement.

    Neil-Do you really iron your own shirts? IMO, one luxury that any man who has to wear a dress shirt for work as well as Shabbos is a hefty dry cleaning bill.

  74. FYI: The Modern Uberdox Male either wears wrinkle-free shirts or does the ironing. I’ve even found wrinkle-free french cuffs (not that french cuffs implies any level of religious observance. lol

  75. Unless it’s really costly to follow, what’s the harm in a dress code?

    I’d classify a “dry clean only” dress code for men and a “designer” dress code for women and young children, that is usually “dry clean only” to be quite costly. :)

    My husband may not wear jeans, but I’m sure glad that he wears clothing I can wash in the laundry machine.

  76. Steve Brizel:

    It wasn’t a bachur in Yeshiva of Spring Valley; it was a bachur in one of the other yeshivas in the Spring Valley area (you may know it as the Monsey area).

    When you said before I once heard RHS say that Kedoshim Tihiu includes many aspects of life that are halachos and hanhagos that we should know and which are so obvious that they didn’t need to be included in the MB. Concepts as how to dress, spend one’s spare time, vacation, etc , if codified would have resulted in the MB being significantly longer than its present six volumes. IOW, a Ben Torah should know that jeans and a tee shirt are inappropriate attire because of Kedoshim Tihiyu, my question was did RHS specificly mention the last line, explaining the previous “how to dress” as forbidding jeans and tshirts, or was that your own understanding of what he meant?

  77. DK-too bad that you weren’t add the BT Shabbaton. I would have enjoyed talking and shmoozing with you on this and other subjects.

  78. DK’s comment

    “So I guess my question is — just as wearing a black hat might not be right for all Jews and in fact, might be detrimental to their growth (which many here conceded is a possiblitly sometimes), wouldn’t it also follow that a charedi brand of Judaism generally might be detrimental to many secular Jews as well?”

    Not sure how to understand the underlying theme of several points you made.

    Sounds as if your pleading a case for MO kiruv amongst an audience issuing a blanket condemnation of such endeavors.

    If my take is on target, then I’m not sure how or why you see things that way on this blog at least. I get the idea that if opinions and mindset can be categorized, then at least the plurality of regular contributors to this blog view MO & Charedi kiruv as a duality of “Eilu v’Eilu”.

    Of course there are those with a more singular and myopic approaches but the myopia is not the sole property of just one stream.

    If MO kiruv is a passion of yours, and as a known entity in the J-blogsphere, what’s your plan to push this forward?

    Can one assume that the hanhala plus the plurality of participants in Beyondbt would applaud such an endeavor. I think yes.

    According to your calculations, the predominance of Charedi mosdos in the kiruv world has been a stultifying factor in the pursuit of gathering more recruits into Orthodoxy.

    If there’s any substance to your argument, it sounds like the stakes are fairly too high not to pursue such a project.

  79. “M – Before you graffiti comment and spray (is that where the rest of your name went) my points with interesting word combinations and choices like “libel” and “unverified venom”,I suggest you understand my points before you offer your less than gracious accusations. As for “ahavas yisroel” I believe mine tripped down the same path yours is apparently having trouble navigating. Must be those gray stumbling rocks of “unverified venom” falsehoods.”

    JT- I felt your words were Lashon Harah, and suggested they were libelous and unverified. However, I am sorry that my comment was taken as a personal attack. I am sure your words are a reflection of unpleasant experiences, and not a general attitude. You have written very thoughtfully on many comments, and I have often gained from reading your perspective on issues.

  80. Steg quoted: In the Talmud, Rabbi Abbun said: “In the next world, a person will be judged for all the fine fruit that he saw but did not eat.”

    That I’ll be twitted for my dull, regulation wardrobe is the least of my worries.

  81. David Kirschner’s post was so beautifully said and well-written, not to mention well-rounded, it amazes me how off track the following discussions can go. Re-read the post. In my understanding, it is a completely non-judgemental sharing of an experience, prompting us all to think not necessarily about tznius per se, but about external image affecting internal growth. He has certainly accomplished the goal of getting people to think about that. Why does it have to lead to judging, groups, right and wrong, halacha?

    I can only share my own experiences, but I will stress that this is MY/OUR experience and does not mean anything more than that. We respect everybody, their opinions, and all folks are warmly welcomed in our home.

    When women are thinking through the dress issue, tznius comes up more so than with men, just practically speaking. When I first became frum, 20 years ago, in the Holy Land, I first went to a seminary that didn’t have much tolerance for the flexibility I needed at that point in my life. I wasn’t ready to conform to certain standards of image or tznius, though to this day I very much respect that institution and its requirements. I went to another seminary where I had more space to grow, so to speak and find my own way. Tznius was something I took to rather quickly, refined or regal image not so quickly. I had no problems with even stricter standards of tznius, it made sense to me, I was comfortable with it, and it must have been a subject dear to my heart, as it is continually a subject I try to improve in, and fine tune until today.

    I was raised in a non-znius environment. Very casual and comfortable were the clothing of the day. Flaunting ones assets were looked up at, though I was never honestly comfortable with that and wondered if my peers were. I remember well when I made the switch from sneakers to shoes (again, no judging, no halacha, just a personal growth). It was actually painful. I had to get used to it, but was determined for my own sake to work on image refinement, even at the cost of what I perceived as comfort. I knew I did it when necessary for work, job interviews, weddings, and so I did. This led to other things. I can honestly say at this point that I am not the least bit uncomfortable from any of the clothing, headwear, footwear, jewelry, light make-up, etc. and my inner self has grown alot along with these changes. I have come to realize the importance of external image, how it affects how we present ourselves, my understanding of Jewish women as “royalty” and also how we can improve upon our appearance for our husbands in our homes.

    I have seen firsthand from my children and my friends children, that they are picking up carefully all these messages regarding image. They develop sensitivity from a very young age. I had to develop it myself much later. I see when I go to the bus stop the young girls taking notice of how the mothers appear. It’s tough to compete with the blatant outside world of graphic images of females, and I’m not necessarily saying that we should compete with that, but we should look our best, and we all know what our best it, though it may require some effort. Yiddishkeit is beautiful and just as we enhance our home, or buy beautiful things for Shabbos, we should understand that externals can affect internal, hopefully both growing and leading to greater service of H”.

  82. Once upon a time, we were looking into a particular yeshiva ketana for our eldest son. The Rebbe (with whom we were very impressed), showed us the Parsha sheets he used. We both found it quite amusing that the Avos were pictured in shtreimels. “Rright…” (drawn out, as only Bill Cosby could pronounce it).

    Ultimately, gentlemen, calm down on the subject! We shouldn’t be thinking that there is a “uniform” involved in order to be an observant Jew either for an FFB or BT. Hashem provides us with guidelines, particularly for women in the halachos pertaining to tznius, but no where does it say we need to wear such and hat, shirt color, etc. You get the gist. Many years ago our Rav was having a general question and answer session with a group of women, and the question came up pertaining to dressing little girls. He basically felt that a young girl (pre-BM) should use the guidelines suggested by their school to determine, for example, whether or not they need to wear 3/4 sleeves. When they become BM, they should adhere to all the halachos pertaining to tznius. I still chuckle when I recall how one of our neices, whenever she came to the “outer boro” to visit us as a teenager, would immediately push her knee socks down to bobby sock length, and roll her skirt up from ankle length to just below the knee. Both of these areas were a constant source of stress between her and her parents. And she’s turned out just fine, thank you, with lovely children of her own, despite her mini-teenage rebellion. It’s just that she knew her aunt and uncle wouldn’t pressure her about the length of her socks.

  83. Steg-That was RHS’s comment made years ago at a Kinus Teshuvah circa 1987. I think that you have overly circumscribed and defined Kedoshim Tihiyu. While I would never make the statement that the Yeshiva of Spring Valley yeshiva bachur made, unfortunatelu in the yeshiva world, externals and conformity are valued-sometimes to an extreme-without working out either the halachic and hashkafic issues involved.FYI, if you look in ShuT IM, RMF always makes a difference between Bnei Torah ( i.e full time yeshiva bachurim, regardless of yeshiva) and Shomrei Torah Umitzvos ( i.e Baale Batim).

    JT-I stand by my post. The behavior that you described is not limited by hashkafic boundaries.

    DK &M-see my postand comments re different types of kiruv.

  84. Unless it’s really costly to follow, what’s the harm in a dress code? If we are sure enough in ourselves that our identities don’t revolve around clothes anyway, what makes the official garb any worse than any other?

    The harm is that it’s unnecessary, and only serves to separate people (by unifying each individual subgroup, of course). And when it becomes obligatory (or practically so), you’re adding to the burden of responsibilities. I wish i could remember the exact reference, but i think it was one of Hhazal who said that God will hold you accountable for every permitted pleasure you could have taken in the world, but refrained from. Ahah, here’s a quote from Aish.com but they don’t reference the exact source: In the Talmud, Rabbi Abbun said: “In the next world, a person will be judged for all the fine fruit that he saw but did not eat.”

  85. “And if so, shouldn’t there be more Modern Orthodox kiruv institutions to accomodate them?”

    DK- I agree. I’m a supporter of NCSY, and they do an extraordinary job. There other vibrant MO institutions as well. There should be more. Such institutions have potential to benefit many, many of our brethren.

  86. Unless it’s really costly to follow, what’s the harm in a dress code? If we are sure enough in ourselves that our identities don’t revolve around clothes anyway, what makes the official garb any worse than any other?

  87. As I’m sitting here having my morning coffee and reviewing the current posts, a thought crossed my mind. If a particular yeshiva which we are affiliated with almost flaunts the fact that they don’t require their talmidim (particularly in Mesivta) to wear white shirts to classes, perhaps that’s why they’ve overall produced men who have been extraordinarily successful in both chinuch and kiruv, including in smaller communities, where there often is only one shul and therefore, fewer people to be judgemental about kippahs and head coverings.

    Whenever the discussions go this route, I again feel the need to reiterate my husband’s experiences in this area. When he returned (in the ’70’s) from 3 years learning in Yerushalayim, he’d often go into a Beis Medrash looking for someone to learn with. But, because he chose to wear jeans, because that’s what he was comfortable in, the bochers would look at him as if he was a “shagetz”. However, when someone could get behind their prejudice and sit and learn with him, they’d discover that they really had to be on their toes to keep us! Ultimately, he’s grateful that I insisted on not living in one of those communities, and we planted our roots in a community where there is a lot less emphasis on externals. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t many to whom a white shirt and black hat is part of their daily uniform, but we don’t feel as if they’re thinking they’re “holier then thou” just because the contents of their closets might look different than ours. Because my husband is respected for his enormous dedication and accomplishments to learning. And even if he weren’t by the kehillah (and our Rav), it wouldn’t make that much difference at this stage of life, because as parents, it means much more to us that our children have grown to love Torah to a large degree because they see the sincerity with which their Abba conducts himself. Inotherwords, they see the internal self. Just as Hashem sees our internal selves.

    Not responsible for typos and incoherence before first cup of Starbucks kicks in.

  88. It is important to keep in mind that a discussion of color and style is not the same discussion as sheitels and pants.

    One, more often than not involves Hashkafah and personal preference and the other involves halachic determination.

  89. A friend of mine, quite religious in his own way (granted, by my standards), recently asserted that he would have dropped his religiousity if Judaism actually mandated he wear a black hat. He claimed it’s just too heavy, too overt, too hot, and too annoying. And this guy is FFB.

    My point (I’m getting there) is that indeed, for BT institutions to enourage–either implicitly or explicitly–their recruits to wear extremely austere and severe dress is a probable sign that they are advocating austere and severe breaks from other aspects of their lives that are not only permitted, but that they (the BT’s) would be better off not breaking from.

    So I guess my question is — just as wearing a black hat might not be right for all Jews and in fact, might be detrimental to their growth (which many here conceded is a possiblitly sometimes), wouldn’t it also follow that a charedi brand of Judaism generally might be detrimental to many secular Jews as well?

    And if so, shouldn’t there be more Modern Orthodox kiruv institutions to accomodate them?

    Is the lack of a Modern Orthodox kiruv apparatus not, in fact, preempting kiruv for many Jews, or even just possibly–by usually only offering a black hat lifestyle as an acceptable form of Jewish living– guaranteeing a large degree of failure even by the small minority of Jews who do attempt this inappropriate-for-so-many stringent approach?

    And if so, where are they? And why aren’t the ones that exist accepted by the BT world generally?

    And if they (kiruv approaches with an MO outlook) aren’t here today on the same scale as the charedi ones, and if they aren’t coming tomorrow or ever, does anyone have a right to wonder why most Jews don’t return to Judiasm?

    Shouldn’t we accept that even if many Modern Orthodox Jews are only willing to attempt to keep the Taryag mitzvot, but not the stringencies, then kal v’chomer many secular Jews will not be willing to do more than that as well?

  90. I hate the notion that there’s one ideal type of Orthodox that we should all be striving for. That wearing a kippah srugah and jeans is inherently less frum than wearing only black and white with a velvet kippah. Some may say it’s the “uniform worn by the army of G-d” but who has the right to say that one path is better than another?

    I wear pants. I also wear skirts. I know many posekim have problems with pants being beged ish, but I haskafically have no problem wearing them. They’re more tzenua than skirts when you’re digging and when you’re biking. I do not think that wearing only skirts would make me “more frum,” whatever that means. I don’t think the goal is for me to stop wearing pants. It isn’t.

    (And we could use this as an opportunity to takl about the nose ring, but you can all just go back to my original post. You know how I feel on that one.)

    Assuming we’re all equally tzenua, why should we compare our religiousity to that of others based on our outer garb?

    And seriously- what’s wrong with a kippah srugah? What’s wrong with a colored kippah srugah? Why is color bad? Why do we all have to look the same? Isn’t there room for individuality in this religion provided it’s within the boundaries of halacha?

  91. M – Before you graffiti comment and spray (is that where the rest of your name went) my points with interesting word combinations and choices like “libel” and “unverified venom”,I suggest you understand my points before you offer your less than gracious accusations. As for “ahavas yisroel” I believe mine tripped down the same path yours is apparently having trouble navigating. Must be those gray stumbling rocks of “unverified venom” falsehoods.

    Administrator- thanks for the lashon harah 101 lessons, understand your call for positive only. But wadr my intention was not to malign any one group. I was just trying to elucidate on the fickle and misunderstood concept of focusing only on externals which in some cases, can lead to not focusing and thus DECREASING the levels of real orthodox spirituality which is way more important ,that have already been existing which would be the case of the FFB who has always been religious , which is why I brought them as examples among other concepts like paying to pray and the hperfocusing on stuff that dont really matter like wigs and black hats this stuff is so superficial yet it seems to be using up alot of emotional energies that could be used for real stuff .no blanket generalizing or maligning intended.

    Steve Brizel -your assumption of my presuming that chareidi = no midos is not correct. Not sure how you came to that blanket conclusion. As for my “simplistic analysis” my analysis or series of points for dot connecting was not intended to come across as a complicated six dimensional fraud detection system. I’m not a spiritual systems analyst, just using a simple linear equation with examples of trying not to let the fur obscure the fraud sequential thought processing imagery. Certain individuals of FFB descent individually speaking , would be examples of persons with an already existing real orthodox spiritual know how, that have used externals dress or otherwise to sweep the screwiness of their real intentions right under the rugs of I care about you but terms are prepay in full only, among other selfish intentions well wrapped in the dress of frumkeit with neat tidy bows and ribbons of care and concern. No lame blanket generalizations of any groups or subgroups intended, just a point that sometimes focusing on the externals is just a distraction or crutch for stuff and could be facilitating in the decrease and no focus on internal real stuff.

    Bob Miller – you might want to exercise caution with your creative, swatting comments away with velvet gloves and iron hands analogy advice for out of line comments, as out of line may or may not include but not be limited to comments that ridicule the comments of others in the name of “having the right to understand what you read” etc …..

  92. The Administrator wrote, “Our rabbinic advisors give us some leeway in allowing negative statements about a group (because of toeles), but we *strongly* prefer that people keep things positive.”

    In assessing toeles, please take the effects on all types of readers into account. This forum has developed credibility, which is too easy to lose.

    I once belonged to an ecology action group in Cambridge, MA, whose leader half-seriously announced as his leadership style “an iron hand in a velvet glove”. Sometimes, we commenters misbehave enough to see the iron hand swat away our out-of-line comments.

  93. If you are defining your new, improved Jewish self and have personal questions about appropriate dress for you, talk to a Posek who knows you and your current environment well already, or at least seems likely to understand your dilemma.

    If you’re a work in progress, prior assumptions about what “feels right” for you might not be relevant. Thinking you already know it all may be the best indicator that you don’t.

  94. The argument of tzizit out is “more frum” or whatever is a false one. There are minhagim to wear them out and strong minhagim to wear them in. In general, Sephardim wear tzizit in, even our very machmir Rabbi. I’m not as familiar with the geographical lines amongst Ashkenazim, but I know many chashuvah Ashkenazi Rabbis that tuck them in.

  95. IOW, a Ben Torah should know that jeans and a tee shirt are inappropriate attire because of Kedoshim Tihiyu.


    Is that your nafqa mina, or RHS’s?
    I always thought that qedoshim tihyu was about being a mentsh, not being naval birshut hatorah, acting lesheim shamayim, things like that. I fail to see how casual clothing negatively affects qedusha.

    A student at a yeshiva in Greater Jewish Spring Valley once said that “if you wear jeans, you’re making a statement that you admire Britney Spears; if you wear a black suit and hat, you’re making a statement that you admire Rav Elyashiv”. This is a completely false ‘strawman’ argument (not to mention hotza’at sheim ra‘), and i really can’t understand how someone would come to that conclusion (unless someone else just made it up and fed it to them).

    When i wear jeans, i am making no statement other than “i am a Jew wherever i am, and no matter what i’m wearing. i am no less dedicated to Yahadut when i am wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and sandals [and of course tzitzis & a head-covering] hanging out with my friends, then when i am wearing a jacket and tie davening in shul.”

    Of course, if by “Ben Torah” you mean someone who’s profession, as it were, is full-time Torah learning, it might make sense that the standard of dress they adhere to for davening would seep into their general standard, especially if they daven and learn in the same location. But if by “Ben Torah” you mean any religious & observant (or in the colloquial, “frum”) Jew, i disagree with the meaning with which you imbue individuals’ clothing choices.

  96. JT-I think that you are presuming that midos are not to be found in the Charedi world. I would posit that noone is exempt from a need to work on Mitzos Bein Adam Lchavero that many of the phenomenona that you describe are not limited to the Charedi or MO worlds. I think that your analysis is overly simplistic.

  97. Steg-I once heard RHS say that Kedoshim Tihiu includes many aspects of life that are halachos and hanhagos that we should know and which are so obvious that they didn’t need to be included in the MB. Concepts as how to dress, spend one’s spare time, vacation, etc , if codified would have resulted in the MB being significantly longer than its present six volumes. IOW, a Ben Torah should know that jeans and a tee shirt are inappropriate attire because of Kedoshim Tihiyu.

  98. Saying negative things about a group, even if it is true, is Loshon Hora. If it is false it is Hotza’at Sheim Ra‘.

    The laws of toeles (for a purpose) and the 7 rules that must be followed before saying a statement that would be considered Loshon Hora, if not for toeles, is more complex for a group than for an individual.

    Our rabbinic advisors give us some leeway in allowing negative statements about a group (because of toeles), but we *strongly* prefer that people keep things positive.

  99. M – regarding your “unverified” accusation -i’ve personally experienced or verified with others who have – everything i’ve said.I’m not sure what part you think is not true.It’s not lashon hara – no specifics and no groups just individuals from within a certain group i mentioned FFB cuz its easier to shed the internals if you learn that stuff by rote /default and not out of personal interest .I was just trying to channel the proper focus and in the process point out some examples (for elucidation purposes only )of individuals who when focusing on the external forget about the external . This week alone i’ve come across way too many examples of external piousness in the form of dress clothing internal souls with less than pious more commonly know as screwy cores .

  100. JT-Sounds like a libel to me. I guess Ahavas Yisroel is only for people in the center. Wow. That’s a lot of unverified venom packed into a Lashon Harah bomb.

  101. On the flip side though you have the widespread issue of certain individuals of FFB descent (no, obviously, its not an all inclusive generalization) that rely exclusively on external surfacey concepts like material dress with the erroneous belief that excessive focus on external appearance will eventually raise the spiritual levels by osmosis/diffusion or some other spiritual integration process – a myopic myth of magnitude proportions. But nevertheless, a heavily concerted effort is placed on the noble task of perpetuating this myth to future generations especially in girls schools (Lest we be the one’s causing the men to SIN insert audible gasp here). Ironically it’s the same religious schools that dispenses temporary admission cards/ boast tip top tuition committees with perfectly pointed hats and rims of haughtiness, that also preach – lovingkindness/don’t embarrass /help the poor/keep your chin up and covered and stop asking obnoxious question – you might ruin the rest of the polished apples in the class. (All done with the very same stale breath – pregnant with contradiction).

    And as the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, bright and astute students will eventually pick up on the contradictions and assume that if you dress like a frummy – you don’t really have to act like one as long as you focus on the money. It’s really all about the money or lack thereof. Good luck with the High Holiday seating arrangements this, I hear there’s a great deal on balcony seating. There may be some front row right by the lead rabbi singer seats still available on eBay, but then u got the 6.10 markup but shipping is free.

    Also, a girl that wears pants and a tank top but genuinely cares about everyone and is the epitome of altruism is a way better person than the self centered/ supercilious girl with six head coverings / heavy winter suits and modesty panels up to her chin and a pearl necklace to keep things in perspective proudly pushing (read: shoving) her way through lines and people with twin carriages and six kids under the age of two with no apology in sight.

    Not only is dress an unadulterated impediment & distraction, but it has everything to do with lowering the emphasis on character refinement. If you get caught up in stuff like headgear – have you ever had any dealings with wig stuffers and fixers? From the stories I’ve heard they definitely sound like some of the finest examples of obnoxious/ underhanded /screwy individuals, especially in small towns with little competition. Let’s not forget about actual costs, just a small example of ridiculous focus on a practice (head covering for females) that should be questioned to begin with.

    Basically my point is the frum from birth folks that rely exclusively on their appearance and dress to make up for their lack of or at the expense of focusing on decent morals and ethics need to stop focusing on the width of their fur and start fixing the depths of their fraud, literally and figuratively. It’s amazing what a little honesty/decency/respect/ altruism and a decrease in questionable business practices can do for the soul. Its all about the proper focus.

  102. FWIW, I think that the politics , sociology and/or ethnic anthropology of sruggie, Bors, shtreimel are somewhat overrated. That being the case, there are halachic requirements of how one should dress for Shabbos, Yom Tov, Tefillah and a Simcha in addition to special requirements of dress for Talmidie Chachamim befitting their status. One can raise a strong argument that the notion of “casual Shabbos” is a halachic misnomer.Whether or not a religious neophyte should adopt clothing that is more identifiable with a Talmid Chacham or Chassidishe Rebbe.

    There is also a hashkafic consideration quoted by the Chinuch that one’s internal feeelings are motivated by one’s external actions-such as dress-that the Chinuch quotes with respect to the Karban Pesach, Levushim Kohen Gadol and many other mitzvos.One could argue that the halachic and hashkafic factors either are separate or overlap. OTOH, one can argue that “proper dress” in a Litvish Yeshiva or Chasidishe Shtiebel differs from that of Hesder Yeshiva and that women’s dress, as long as it meets the halachic requirements, might be different in Gateshead than in a settlement in EY and that different communities in ChuL have different understandings of what “minhag hamakom” is-depending on a Mesorah or other factors. another factor that might also have some role is that perhaps “Kedoshim Tihiyu” implies a dress code of some sort that means you dress soemwhat more formally. Perhaps, this theory has even more applicability with respect to Tznius where communal customs vary widely as well.

  103. Wow, thanks for all the comments. I should mention that in no way did I intend to offer any halachic opinions or even suggestions as to what is or isn’t required. Nor did I intend to place emphasis on one type of dress versus another or equate one with another. Nothing I said should in any way be interpreted as such. The examples I selected were meant merely for illustrative purposes. And speaking of points, I certainly did not intend to infer that dressing a certain way is necessary to one’s development in yiddishkeit. And I am definitely not, chas v’shalom, concluding that there is only one acceptable way to dress. Those who know me know that “my way or the highway” is an anathema to me (that is except for neatness and organizational issues – hehehe!).

  104. David L. I recall reading an ispiring and cautionary tale by R S Riskin (who I had the pleasure of teaching how to ride a horse on kibbutz Ein Tsurim some (many) years ago. He told of a Jew who went to shamayim and they asked him “Yid, where is your beard?” Next a chosid with a “langer bord un langer payos” came up and they asked him “beard, where is your Jew?”
    similarly a allegedly true story about a popular jewish singer who went by his rebbe one shabbos clad in his finest bekishe and streimel. The rebbe greeted everyone on the rapidly moving line “good shabbos, good shabbos” when he passed by the rebbe, without missing a beat exclaimed “good purim” oh well, some food for thought!

  105. Excelllent post. I think that each of the steps that David mentioned represents a certain level of growth in observance that is reached by each individual at his or her own pace. Once upon a time, I wore a sruggie and jeans. When I started wearing a suit on a professional basis, I noticed that a black velvelt kipa went a lot better.I haven’t worn jeans in years but I will change into black khackis and a striped shirt during an ordinary weekday. When I learned that a hat could mean a special garment for Shabbos,Yom Tov, Simchas and Tefillah, I then became very much at ease with a hat.Once I learned the halachos of Tzitiz, I felt far more at ease with Tzitis with black and white “racing stripes”-especially of the Avodas Yad Lishmah category-than the less expensive variety..

  106. Charnie wrote

    “Absolutely nothing. Here in the USA we’ve gotten way to caught up in the “political” meaning of this type of kippah, or that type of hat.”

    Actually, compared to the political ramifications in Eretz Yisroel, I’ve found the associations of yarmulke style in America to be more on the tepid side.

    “Kipah Sruga” and “Kipah Shkhora” carry HUGE ramifications in identifying with political movements, army service, and yes, for right or for wrong, religious observance.

    One example. For a sociology report about Olim Chadashim (new immigrants to Israel) I once attended an employment-search seminar geared towards Olim from Russia.

    In one lecture, the lecturer advised the female job searchers not to extend their hand for shaking if the interviewer wears a “Kipah Shkhora” as if to say that those who don a “Kipah Sruga” are less likely to be so strict with issues of negiah.

    On one hand I wanted to point out that the subject wasn’t so simple, but that would have been out of place and unfortunately there wasn’t a Q&A session afterwards.

    The point of that anecdote is to demonstrate an example of how yarmulke styles reverberate strongly in Israeli society (and MUCH more than in Chutz L’Aretz) whether the foundations are credible or not.

  107. There is a curious statement in the Tanya, by R. Schneur-Zalman, the Alter Rebbe, that one must have imagination to improve one’s spiritual level. In a shiur with Rav Mendel Feldman (many, many years ago), he explained that one must imagine that one is better than one actually is.

    This helps to explain the famous statement that before birth the soul is told to “be a tzaddik.” How can one be “commanded” to be a tzaddik. In reality, one cannot, but, one can imagine/pretend that one is a tzaddik.

    This does two things, first, when one is presented with a choice to do something improper, one might say to oneself, “Would a tzaddik do this?” And, then not do the improper thing.

    Second, by creating the mental image of oneself as a tzaddik, and knowing what still needs to be worked to reach that goal, one will be prevented from ga’avah and will know what to improve.

  108. Hi Newcomer: Here’s another solution if the hair is too short for clips and you prefer non-velvet: there are small rectangular tabs of velcro, adhesive on one side, that attach to the inside of the kippa and then cling to the (short) hair. They are usually sold in Judaica and/or Jewish bookstores. My sons have worn them at various times. They have also worn every type of kippa including colorful knit modern ones; large, hat-like, ornate Israeli ones; bowl like, stiff black velvet; softer, smaller black velvet; flattish, black suede, etc… I guess each represented a different stage of our BT journey. Now they just cover their heads, period.
    I hear your confusion about which clothes/accessories, etc. label you as part of which group. I’m not aware of any one place where anyone actually documents it, but if you keep your eyes and ears open you will absorb it bit by bit. You didn’t say if you live in or near a religious community? Is there a Rabbi or “mentor” who can help with your questions? So much of this issue is geography.
    My advice is to take the appearance part slowly — I am frum over a decade and I am still learning things about appearance and what things mean. And the mistakes I made along the way didn’t really count for much in the end. Go at your own pace and don’t get too sidetracked by looking for exactly the right articles of clothing! (Who knows which of our clothing pleases Hashem most?)
    Hatzlacha in your pursuit of yiddishkeit!!

  109. Neil, I think Rabbi Yudin’s point is consistent with Steve Brizel’s recent question https://beyondbt.com/?p=450 about whether or not there is “one size fits all kiruv”. There isn’t in kiruv, and there isn’t in Judaism. There was a girl I knew from a class I was taking who was from a very distinguised frum family. She said her parents always taught her to be tolerant of others, even if you couldn’t tolerate their views on a personal basis. It’s a very valuable lesson for anyone.

  110. And between putting on a kippah, which is an ancient custom, and wearing tzitzit out, which fulfills the Torah command “and you shall see them.”

    Covering your head is an ancient custom; a baseball cap, a panama straw hat, a black borsalino, a knit yarmulka and a turban all fulfill/express it equally well.

    The idea that wearing tzitzis out fulfills the Torah commandment is a fairly recent innovation; the Talmudic drash on that particular pasuq don’t mention it. On an anecdotal level, a friend of mine (who just got married, mazal tov!)’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, has always gotten angry when she sees us wear our tzitzis out; she says that “in Europe, where everyone was 100 times more observant than people are today in America, no one ever wore their tzitzis out.” To her, doing so is complete and utter yuhara.
    Not that that’s stopped me from wearing my tzitzis out, which i only do when everything is untucked for temperature/breeze reasons.

  111. Dov and David (Linn), I belive that there were 13 entrances to the Bais Hamkidash. I remember learing from Rabbi Yudin (YU) that this shows us there are various different derechs that ultimately lead one to Hashem and Torah Judaism. Sadly,people adopt the “my way or the highway” attitude.

  112. Dov,

    I think that is not an uncommon path. It seems that oftentimes, people spiritually mature to the point that they realize that a great deal of their personal externals are, well, just that, external.Once the internal growth is sprouting, such a person might feel that their external appearance, as frum as it may be, is a hindrance to real growth.

    At the same time, there are others who feel that they never would have reached their personal growth without certain externals.

  113. Great posting. Both Bob (#6) and David (#7) make great points. It is rather easy to outwardly blend into a frum lifestyle, but as a barber told after my pre-Pesach haircut, “Now you look like a mensch. Of course, it’s not hard to look like a mensch, is it?”
    It’s being a mensch that takes work.

  114. The general consensus in these comments seems to be that adopting frum clothing, if I can call it that, is good if you are comfortable with it and it is not a substitute for real growth. I am coming from the other direction – after years being frum and, I hope, growing, I now wear my tzitzis in, avoid the penguin suit, etc. In the Slabodka mussar yeshiva, tzitzis were worn in, peyos kept short, cleanshaven, uniforms avoided – because they lead to gaava (haughtiness), and the mistaken belief that they constitute real growth. To me, they are a distraction. Our challenge in this age to avoid externality.

  115. I think it’s important to make a distinction between certain ways of dress which are mitzvot/ integral to a Torah lifestyle, and those which are customs but not 100% necessary. So, for example, there’s a big difference between when a guy should start dressing “yeshivishe” and when he should do something like put on a kippah–a basic sign of Jewish identification, and a fulfillment of the idea that we Jews dress in a distinct manner. And between putting on a kippah, which is an ancient custom, and wearing tzitzit out, which fulfills the Torah command “and you shall see them.”

    For girls as well–IMO, any woman who is ready to take on modest dress should, even if she is unready for many basic mitzvot. It will keep her from causing sin in others, and hopefully add to a healthy body image and an increased sense of internal value. Yes, someone might see a girl in a long skirt and assume that she keeps Shabbat when in fact she doesn’t. Likewise, someone might see a girl who keeps Shabbat and assume that she keeps Kashrut when she doesn’t–we still wouldn’t tell her to stop keeping Shabbat until she’s ready for everything in order to discourage false perceptions. Torah isn’t “all or nothing,” we should encourage whatever mitzvot people are ready to take on, and b’ezrat Hashem the rest will follow.

    So basically, I would say that modest dress for men and women, and tzitzit for men, should start as soon as someone feels ready for it, regardless of the rest of their observance. A kippah should also be worn by any guy who’s ready, but on the condition that he takes it off if/when doing something inappropriate (ex. eating at a treif restaurant). OTOH, any other forms of dress, such as black pants/white shirt for guys, or any “look” which is identified with a particular group/ hashkafa, should wait until the individual really is identified with that group, in terms of learning and observance.

  116. To our “Newcomer” (post #2), first of all, welcome. Second of all, re the kippot available, my sons both hated clips and found that larger velvet kippahs stayed on their heads more comfortably. What’s the “frum” significance of that? Absolutely nothing. Here in the USA we’ve gotten way to caught up in the “political” meaning of this type of kippah, or that type of hat. IMO, once we all stop this foolishness, maybe Moshiach will come. There are many halachas pertaining to tznius, what type of kippah a man wears isn’t one of them.

  117. David – love your post – it really hits home (as have several others you’ve posted here). For me, wearing a shietel is sort of like how I presume tzitzis are for a man, a constant “reminder” of who we are. However, at times, for sure, I’ve felt that I’m misleading others by this imagary. However, it it helps to pull me up, rather then let me slack off, I’ll stay with it. In fact, contrary to what people who know us often think, covering my hair was totally my own decision, not my husband’s. Perhaps it was those years spent in BP that influenced me, or many other aspects, but it certainly wasn’t the community norm where I was living prior to coming to our present community. I was truly in the minority amongst some of my closest friends, but over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that “status”.

    OTHO, there are certain yeshivas that while 100% “black hat” philosphically, refrain from being a white shirt place. My son once gave a Rosh Chodesh Adar drusha on just that subject – why the guys in his mesivta didn’t wear white shirts during the week. And D. Linn, one of my husband’s dearest friends who was a talmud of Rav Friefeld, unfortunately did do the whole overnight transformation – I guess he wasn’t the guy you referred to here. Eventually, nebich, he went off the derech, and to a large degree blames the fact that he went too far too fast.

    And then there’s one of my funniest shidduch stories, but I’ll save that one for another time, another place. Except to tell you that a Rav told me what he most regretted was telling this fellow where in NYC (this was out-of-town) he could purchase a hat & kapote, because they guy’s Yiddishkeit basically began and ended with this costume. Which sums up the whole point, without the right intent, that’s all it is. With proper intent, it’s an anchor.

  118. There is such a fine line between dressing a certain way so as to serve as an impetus for growth and dressing a certain sway in order to fit in. Often, I think the two reasons are combined.

    Clearly, there are times when externals substitute for and impede internal growth. I once heard a story about Rav Friefeld. There was a boy, a real hippie, tie-dyed shirt, shredded and patched jeans and very long hair. He became interrested in yiddishkeit and within a week or so of beginning classes at Shar Yashuv he had cut his hair and donned a black suit and hat and was wearing his new tzizis out. Rav Friefeld saw him and told him to remove the suit and hat telling him: yiddishkeit isn’t about what you wear, its about what’s here (and the Rav touched his head) and here (and the Rav touched his heart).

    Now Rav Friefeld dressed pretty yeshivish and I don’t think that he was telling the young man that dress plays no part in yiddishkeit. The lesson, it seems,is that simply donning certain clothes doesn’t make you frum or a growing Jew.

    At the same time, there are people who can and do benefit from “growing into” certain ways of dressing. By that I mean that they exhibit certain internal growth that is spurred on by the way they dress.

  119. If looking the part helps us start to act the part, great. If it helps us merge into a Torah-directed community, also great. However, if it is meant to cover up for our negative behavior or speech, its meaning has been lost, which is not so great. People can know their own motivations and improve them.

  120. When I lived in Jerusalem, I once had the disturbing experience of walking by a group of 20-somethings in the Old City, dressed like bnei Torah and talking like the worst of frat boys. I would assume (from where I was walking) that they attend a certain kiruv yeshiva.

    I probabably did stuff like that, too–put on the skirts before I cleaned up my internal act. The drive to fit in is very strong.

    I think external changes should be motivated by internal ones. But the question remains as to how we know we are ready.

    One morning, after I had been observant of modesty laws for several years, I looked in the mirror and felt embarrased to go out in a particular shirt–the sleeves were somewhat see-through. The shirt had been fine the week before. What had changed? I had.

  121. If you feel comfortable wearing what you are wearing, and if it’s meaningful to you, then wear it. If you are doing what you are doing just to give people a certain impression, then think twice before you do it.

    And by the way – why view things in such a black and white manner? For example, there are many frum men with white shirts, hat, black suit – who have “monitors” in their homes (or computers), on which they and their wives can watch all sorts of tawdry videos (“Oh, but it’s not a TV, it’s a monitor/computer”). Watching Jerry Seinfeld reruns on good ol’ TV is child’s play compared to what they’re watching. My point is, really, worry less about them, and more about you. Things sometimes develop in a progression, not an all-at-once deal.

  122. I don’t know if this is getting off topic or not, but is there someplace where I can find out more about which pieces of clothing are supposed specify certain things? For example, you mentioned knitted vs. velvet kippot. I keep my hair pretty short (more comfortable in my helmet). I had a problem with my kippa constantly falling off, and my hair isn’t long enough to clip it onto. So when I went to a local Jewish shop, I asked about kippot that will stay on better. The clerk just showed me knitted ones. (I was wearing a knitted one at the time). I said “what about those” pointing to the velvet ones. She hemmed and hawed and finally helped me to find one that fits (and it stays on well). Now I’m wondering if I broke some kind of code?

  123. Beautiful post. When my dad went to law school, he was told he had to wear a suiut and tie every day. They said “If you’re going to be professionals, look like professionals” There’s a lot to be siad about that way of looking at it. When I work on the farm, I wear work clothes, in court I wear a suit, on shabbos I wear a kapote or bekische – each of those outfits impact on who I am at that time and facilitate me being my best in those situations.
    Dress also has another function – to some extent it governs our conduct. At YU we asked the rebbe if we went to a bad movie should we take off our kippa? He replied if you need to ask whether or not you have to take off your kippa, perhaps you shouldn’t be seeing that movie. When a Jew dresses with outward signs of Jewishness, kippah, tzitzis, etc. – there’s a certain expectation of conduct that comes with it.
    Yet Jews are a curious lot and I’m often asked by eagle eyed observers why I’m wearing a kapote and why my talis has an atara (or some other mix and match combo which I too frequent)
    That being said, when a boy is 13 he gets tfilin, when married he gets a talis – there is no set time for the giving (or getting) of the Borsolino – if the hat fits – wear it – kol tuv and hatzlacha raba

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