A while ago, Steg, a Beyond BT commentor defined the following principles of Left Wing Modern Orthodoxy in a comment. He wrote
Please stop confusing LWMO with MO-Lite. LWMO is:
1. a generally positive view of general society (i.e. “what’s out there that can make me a better person/jew” as opposed to “what’s out there that i should avoid in order to be a better person/jew”)
2. a preference for lenient opinions over more stricter ones, especially for the sake of preserving community
3. a differentiation between halakha and sociology; i.e., just because something “isn’t done” doesn’t mean it’s forbidden, and if it’s not forbidden, and there are good reasons for it, do it (commonly found in issues of gender and women’s roles)
4. a valuing of integration over isolationism, both in cooperating with other Jewish groups and in views on interacting with Non-Jews
5. an acceptance of academic methodology as part of learning Torah (such as Critical Talmud study, and Literary Analysis of Tanakh)
We thought it might be useful to define some principles of the other wings of Orthodoxy. This is a work in progress and your comments and corrections are appreciated. (Originally published in June 2008)
|Left Wing MO||Right Wing MO||Left Wing UO||Right Wing UO|
|Believe In G-d||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Believe in Torah From Sinai||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Believe in Reward & Punishment||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Believe Mitzvah Observance is Obligatory||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Halachic Adherence||Lenient||Normative Halacha||Normative Halacha||Strict|
|Scholarly Approach to Torah||Full Acceptance||Partial Acceptance||Little Acceptance||Rare Acceptance|
|Women’s Learning||Gemora Taught||Gemora Usually Not Taught||Gemora Not Taught||Gemora Not Taught|
|Normative Occupation||Business, Profession||Business, Profession||Business, Profession, Chinuch||Learning, Chinuch|
|Attitude Towards General Society||Positive||Potentially Positive||Cautious||Dismissive|
|Interaction with Non Jews||Frequent||Cautious||Occasional||Rare|
|Integration with Non Orthodox Groups||Frequent||Cautious||Occasional||Rare|
|Non Traditional Women’s Roles||Very Accommodating||Accommodating||Occasionally Accommodating||Not Accommodating|
|Left Wing MO||Right Wing MO||Left Wing UO||Right Wing UO|
|Mixed Teenage Socializing||Accepted||Not Encouraged||Not Accepted||Not Accepted|
|Mixed Fund Raising Dinners||Accepted||Accepted||Partially Accepted||Not Accepted|
|Mixed Shmorg at Weddings||Vast Majority||Significant Majority||Separate With Crossover||No|
|Mixed Seating Weddings||Accepted||Sometimes||Never||Never|
|Men’s Dress||Cultural Norms||Suits, Business Casual||Suits, Colored Shirts||Dark Suits, White Shirts|
|Women’s Dress||Cultural Norms, Hair Not Covered||No Pants, Hair Covered||No Pants, Hair Covered||No Pants, Hair Covered, Legs Covered|
|Secular Studies||Encouraged||Encouraged||Accepted||Necessary for Occupation|
|Secular Fiction||Accepted||Accepted With Limits||Sometimes Accepted||Rarely Accepted|
|Secular Non Fiction||Accepted||Accepted||Sometimes Accepted||Rarely Accepted|
|Television & Movies||Vast Majority||Majority||Minority||Insignificant Minority|
|Internet||Vast Majority||Significant Majority||Sometimes||Sometimes|
|Video Games||Vast Majority||Significant Majority||Sometimes||Sometimes|
We are active members in a schul (Congregation Ohr Hatorah in Dallas, Texas USA) which, by all accounts, would be described as chareidi, yekkie, very closely associated with a kollel and the Torah Umesora educational system. Our studies tend to consistently involve Chazal, RaMCHaL, RaMBaM, RamBan, Kli Yakar, the Gra, etc. We posken according to R. Moshe Feinstein zt’l on USA matters, and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on Eretz Yisrael matters.
My comments focus on the category described as Right Wing UO; and you see that we be they! Here are some corrections I suggest:
Scholarly Approach ~ the term might be reworded, because there is very much scholastic rigor in the study of Torah, medical ethics, business ethics, and science typical throughout the community. There is always strong argumentation with deep hashkafic roots on all matters Torah or otherwise, which is to say the typical approach is quite scholarly, far beyond that found in the general non-Jewish culture, equivalent to postdoctoral levels.
Normative Occupation ~ roughly 3/4 of the community are involved in business and professions; and, as an adjunct to that …
Attitude Toward General Society ~ potentially positive, not dismissive; furthermore …
Interaction with Non-Jews ~ extensive, continuous
Nontraditional Women’s Roles ~ there are many mothers who work in office settings; some head-up major regional law or financial firms
Mixed Fundraising Dinners ~ accepted, typical
Video Games ~ nearly nonexistent.
There certainly are observant groups who are as you describe in your current version of the chart, but I would aver they are a small minority within Right Wing UO.
The problem is in defining “within Judaism”, or even “Judaism”. Some hold that whatever any Jews practice or believe as religion, whether it falls within our Mesora and Halacha or not, is Judaism. That’s far too broad a definition for Orthodox Jews to accept. Any Orthodox group would consider some religious practices to be illegitimate. Clearly, there are disagreements about where to draw the line, but there always is a line.
Hi. thanks for your thoughtful answer. However, I might equally ask you whether delegitmizing various and varying groups, communities, approaches, within Judaism would help our cause either way.
Consider Korach’s claim in this week’s parsha:
EVERYone’s holy, so how dare one Jew by the name of Moshe decide who should be Cohen Gadol?!
Really now, this issue has been around for awhile. Imagine if Moshe didn’t have the power to get G-d to intervene. There would have been those who followed Moshe and those making a new party with Korach. Perhaps they’d call themselves the Holy One’s, while M’s group would be the trditionalists. And of course time would divide those groups even more… until one day some blog make a list of where they differ…
Do you think this would help the cause of Klal Yisroel? Apparently Moshe didn’t.
YY, I appreciate your thoughtful and articulate reply. However, I don’t feel that a discussion of valid differences among thoughtful, reasonable people is necessarily divisive. The things which divide various grouops of jews are not divisive or negative; they are simply individual choices which we can respect, and discuss openly. i agree with you, that we should be aware of the udnerlying spirtuallity. however, perhaps we can also assume that many of the people who made these choices, regardless of their actual specific choice, all hopefully had similarly positive motives. thanks.
Rabbi H – let’s get clear that Ikkarei Emuna is an entirely different creature than most of that list. In general, whenever one speaks of devoting to ikkarim, based on subatantial historical tradition, we are travelling within a dimension far beyond personal preference. True, in today’s world, a typical Yid, and certainly a BT, may find himself “choosing” which ikkarim with which he wants to identify, but by definition theirs an inherent selflessness driving the decisions.
As I rescan the list, I see that the first 6 relate to the timeless ikkar kind of issues, while the rest get into much more emotionally explosive, non-objective issues that tend to divide our holy nation. It was a shame these were lumped together…
Still, I acknowledge there’s a lot to learn from the list and the respective commentors. I just hope, to rephrase my above concern, that while the sincerely curious debate the points they don’t subtly imbibe the idea that Judaism revolves primarily around personal choices. THOSE CHOICES ARE VERY IMPORTANT, but they are peripheral to the essential focus of divine vessel building.
How does the Mishna in Avos put it this week? Make your will His Will…
My initial reaction was to agree with you and question the benefit of the chart. But the benefit is perhaps to put at the top ikkarei emunah; at a time when there have been certain things written, perhaps it’s important to put at the top the principles of belief which unite Orthodox Jews, despite differences in other, secondary, areas, as important as those may be.
As far as discussing differences, it can lead to negativity, but it need not. Focusing on human motivation(“choices” and “decisions”), or thinking through what I see as a strength or a weakness of a group’s principles, can also be done l’shem shomayim(see R. Schwab’s “These and Those”),and is a sign of a thinking, mature, Jew.
The concept of motivation for actions and decisions is also discussed in mussar seforim; it needn’t imply that a valid derech is negative, or, at the other end, that any improper decision, or practice should be condoned. The “wondrously different spin on performing the Creator’s Will” may to an extent, reflect on people and their natures (in cases when choices are actually made,eg, to learn in Kollel or to work); whether the decisions are correct (” elu v’elu”) or in instances when a choice is not correct/valid at all, there can be something to be gained by being curious as why people decide things, and how their lives are different-at least that’s my take.
But in the spirit of “choices”, I recognize your point :)
I understand your concerns. however, i feel that clear, open discussion among respectful, informed people, is beneficial as well. However, I also understand the validity of your points.
Nothing is wrong with with “notifying”, Steve… but broadcasting, in such a wide-open, public format is another thing altogether. If we understand Torah life to be a matter of seeking to become an increasingly pure vessel for the Creator’s Will, then speaking of different Torah communities in such external terms counteracts the very essence of that. Judaism is now a matter of asserting MY will; of accomodating MY needs.
Even worse, the door is now wide open to viewing the “other” Orthodox Yid in scrutinous terms. Conciously or subconsciously we begin to view his “choices” in contrast to our own and respectively size him up as a different creature, as opposed to expressing a legitimate and wondrously different spin on performing the Creator’s Will.
I’m still rereading your post. ok, some people perhaps shouldn’t base their choice on external factors. but many do. So what’s wrong with notifying others of that fact? thanks.
Sorry for the terrible typing and worse proofreading.
Steve, that’s a very good point, since basically you’re defining the difference between a community (geographical) and a kehilla. However, those differences and and do exist even among families, such as parents who are from YI backgrounds whose kids come back from Israel far more RW then when they got on the flight.
That said, let me try to answer Mark’s question. Would I recommend Lakewood for a very new BT? No. Would I recommend it for the typical BBT audience? Likely. But I’m more partial to the more eclectic communities of KGH and Passaic, where there’s a lot of “variety”, good support for BT’s, an assortment of types of education, et al.
I’ll be less confused (perhaps) after Thursday night.
Shuidduchim is a good example. Sure, you wouldn’t want to base your choice on subjective matters like that. But if you’re a BT about to join a community where people do base their choices on things like that, and nobody tells you, it would sure be nice to have a thread at beyondbt.org, to let you know in advance of factors like that.
Looking back at the original post, I now see that the term “principles” was used. It seems much more appropriate than “opinions.” Indeed this is the big danger / challenge of such discussions: how much are we encouraging a reevaluation of principles, vs a proliferation of “choices”?
Of course there are different op’s, Mark. But are these opinions consciously sought out and mulled over, like when going to buy fish at the shuk? Or is it more about retrospective implications?
Perhaps a good analogy is shidduchim. Obviously we can look at the spouses that are “chosen” by different communities as expressing different views on, let’s say, the most appropriate way for a woman to cover her hair, or for a man to spend his spare time (learning, chessed, business, familying). Yet, if this is how a genuine Orthodox Yid goes about seeking his / her spouse, that’s a far cry from genuine religiosity! Rather, as much as I recognize the reality that “opinions” do play a large role in every group in our generation,I would think that the sincerely Orthodox (of all stripes) would not base their religiosity on opinions whatsoever.
If you’ve learned that Halacha, as an expression of the Creator’s Will,is for women to not flash their beauty around, you wouldn’t want a kallah intending to wear a long, impressive wig. That’s it. Not that *I* prefer…
No, this is not a “dress up” religiosity, B-D. Just a genuine strife to submit the individual’s Will to its Creator’s Will.
The chart can be useful only to those who will investigate further, knowing that a concise chart can’t capture all the relevant nuances.
In clarification of my previous post, I do not consider all decisions listed on the chart as equal, and I also think, in general, that a person should have a competent Rav to discuss decisions bearing on Yiddishkeit.
As an example of what I meant, suppose there are two people, one in an Orthodox community which views service in the Israeli army as a virtue(DL), and one which does not encourage it for the majority of its members, at least at a young age(Charedi). Each person could think that his decision, his path, and his group, has purely positive, with no drawbacks (there are definitely people who express themselves in this manner); in reality, it is possible to gain from reflecting on why someone else made a different decision, or chose to belong to a community which serves/does not serve. The same goes for certain other differences involved in different groups. Such reflection can lead to a deeper awareness of why one does things, and also to appreciate why someone else chooses differently.
For a realated idea, regarding the necessity of the conscious exercise of free-will in various degrees/levels, see the following Mishpacha article(“The Necessity of Choice”):
YY, Aren’t there different opinions among Orthodox people as to what are the preferred paths to serve Hashem?
When I look at the chart is seems to me that the overriding issue is how different groups chose to integrate the Kodesh (Torah) and the Chol (Secular). With secular having many offshoots such as wisdom, culture, entertainment, dress, social norms, etc.
“Community” does not always mean “Geographical location.” I understand that often the two are synonymous. however, sometimes there can be several communities within a single town or neighborhood, sometimes on the same block. what defines a community is the degree of cohesiveness and common practices, not geographical location. so perhaps it’s good to define what we mean by the terms which we use to indicate a specific community.
So B-D (75)is back and hammering away:
“subverts the ‘dress-up’ haredism that BTs and FFBs fall victim to.”
Is this really necessary? So soon after the v’yeechan of Shavuous??
I do agree, btw, that this chart gives the impression that “opinion” is a major characteristic of Orthodox Judaism. Was this the intention of the Poster? Does BBT want to braodcast that possibilitiy??
Charnie, I’m confused by your answer. Are you saying that you would tell any BT, that any community is appropriate for them?
Wow, things are still going on strong here since I last was on the site.
JT, you asked “Are you suggesting that individuals that subscribe to different spiritual doctrines but live in the same town actually pray in the same house of worship and study in the same schools ? And get together most weekends for community potluck we love èvery spiritual stripe suppers ?”
While I’m not exactly the “kumbiya” type, I would have to answer “yes, basically”. Somehow I see this effort to categorize equally an effort to forstall the arrival of Moshiach. Maybe secular Jews are on to something by just lumping us all together as Orthodox?
As to communities, there are more then just a handful of exceptions in all of the aforementioned. While the overall character of Lakewood is certainly defined by the presence of the Yeshiva Gedolah, for someone looking for a nice suburban community, yes, it could be in the ballpark even for people with internet and TV’s. Within 10 years we’ll be likely to see yeshivas and or day schools open there that certainly won’t Bais Faiga or whatever the Yeshiva Ketana is called. That’s because for many years very nice homes in Lakewood were priced very reasonably, and more (yikes) LWUO – RWMO type families moved in.
hi Ron. I very much appreciate your answer. I also accept your response about our two posts. Youre’ right, perhaps my post did sound a bit excessive in tone. I appreciate your input on that. I’m sorry if it was at all over-stated on insensitive. thanks for your feedback.
re the things you mention which Jews have died for, I think everyone here would agree that there is much which admirable about more “right-wing” or more machmir Jews. Any open discussion of this should take notice of the fact that, even if we do seek to discuss both groups equally, we can still acknowledge that one group accepts for itself a stricter form of observance which involves greater effort and detail, even if not all of us necessarily choose to join that community personally. It sounds like that is, to some extent, what you were trying to indicate. I aprpeciate your input on this. thanks.
Steve, I think you need to read the part of the post I quoted, which suggested rather directly that my motivation in arguing here was in the blackest of bad faith, and consider whether my response was out of line or improperly measured. Maybe ask someone else who is not personally involved for an offline “fair reading” of the issue. By the way, the moderators here are rather good at this and far more cool-headed than I am, and better-looking too, so they may be a good place to start. Let me know.
As to your other question, there is a whole range of answers. Jews who consider Zionism and the State of Israel of fundamental importance to what it means to be Jewish, for example, have died, risked their lives and taken the lives of others in support of that interest — an interest that other Jews not only fail to believe is compelling at that level, but actually believe is completely at odds with Jewish religious sensibility.
Also, throughout history Jews have risked their lives, lost them and even taken the the lives of others rather than be exposed to the kinds of spiritual risks they considered to be inherent to compromises in tzenius and taharas hamispacha, which are subsumed under a handful of the boxes in the chart above and which are accepted at least tacitly as part and parcel of Jewish life among certain sectors of orthodox-identifying Jews.
These are just a couple of examples off the top of my head.
you just said something which might be considered a personal denigration of sorts to another person’s post. I think it’s reasonable to ask to please not make comments of a personal nature about other people’s statements or attitudes here.
I do recognize that you probably did not actually mean to be hurtful or personal in nature, as perhaps your post was meant as a gentle nudge to address my tone, not the content of my post. I am happy to give you the benefit of the doubt as much as possible; for one thing, I know you have a blog where you state your views openly, and invite free discussion, so i respect that, and I believe you are not trying to suppress the views of anyone here, or to question their value in any way.
i think my post was fairly reasonable. i do not think it sounds small at all.
I would like to respectfully ask a question, if i may. Which practices were you referring to when you cited practices which Jews have made sacrifices for, and was it your intention in your post to cite one group specifically? I appreciate your response. thanks.
Do you realize how small you sound?
That is my point exactly.
Bob Miller —
you’re correct. some of this stuff is agenda-driven. thanks for the neutral tone of your post. which side’s agenda are you claiming is agenda-driven? and which side’s agenda are you claiming is not agenda-driven? let me know so that i can then applaud wildly–or vigorously refute you, of course, depending on which agenda you are claiming is not improperly agenda-driven. oh, and thanks for your agenda-free post. :-)
very good point. some Jews have made huge sacrifices for some of the things in the original post. my impression was that this would describe ideas common to ALL Jews, but perhaps I’m just naive. which side are you trying to discretely uphold at the expense of the other? Let me know so that I can applaud your side; or, alternately of course, denigrate it, depending on which side you’re on.
gosh, so let me get this straight; the people who obliquely refer to one side without being specific about it are the antidote to factionalism; while those of us here who are trying to foster a free, open, and fair discussion are the ones who are creating a faction-based problem. Not sure that I understand this. could it be slightly possible that the ones opposing this post are not opposing factionalism itself, but rather feel somewhat uncomfortable with placing several groups on an open and equal plane?
If there is any benefit to reflection on the chart, it needs to lead to an increase in one’s own Avodas Hashem, as well as to Ahavas Yisrael.
As far as one’s own Avodas Hashem, it could bring to reflection and self-awareness as to why anyone choose a particular path within Torah Judaism. Was it just because I was born into it, or because I see its benefits? Does my own path have only positives, and no negatives compared to another choice within Torah Judaism, or is the opposite true as well, with my path having negatives(or perceived negatives), but I still feel that the positives of my path outweigh the negatives, on the “bottom line” comparison basis, so to speak? If, on the other hand, I feel that my own path has only positives and no negatives, why would someone see it differently? Such reflection can lead to Avodas Hashem at a greater level of consciousness.
As far as Ahavas Yisrael, one can also understand why someone else made a different choice, because of a different evaluation of the components involved, irregardless of whether, one thinks such is correct objectively.
Similarly, for example, if someone felt that their leaders, and by extension their group, did not receive enough recognition at certain events,or in publications, etc., I can understand where they are coming from, irregardless of whether I think they are correct objectively(or subjectively) in that complaint. Obviously, such intellectual and emotional empathy needs to work in both directions.
The new way to assert your moral superiority: judging the other guy’s “judgmentalism”!
Some people mainly know what they’re against.
B-D confirmed my suspicions that some interest in this stuff is agenda-driven.
I am actually warming to this post as I read the comments.
I have seen too many BT friends/family who were so eager to have a solid, inviolate Truth in their lives – or so eager to “get things right” and “fit in” – that they knowingly or unknowingly gave up some of their intellectual independence.
The chart’s implication that much of what Orthodox people take comfort in, or craft their identities from, are in fact optional matters of opinion – or even style – is quite refreshing, and subverts the “dress-up” haredism that BTs and FFBs fall victim to.
Very good to see some commenters insisting that their own opinions bridge several categories – and interesting, though troubling, to see others immediately defending their “standard” way of life.
OK, what about Tzitzit in or out? Types of Kippahs?
I don’t see what’s to get upset with about this post. So we’re different from each other and someone noticed?
Michoel-The Medrash Rabah on Parshas Naso is the longest section of Medrash Rabah. It profiles the very discrete and different responsibilities of each of the Shevatim and how they either lived up to them or did not throughout Tanach. WADR, there is nothing in that Medrash that focuses on Machmir or Meikil.
JZ I see where you’re going with your list and all I can is, be careful. That’s a real slippery slope, as for every item you listed one can be listed that is not quite so self-flattering.
I didn’t follow your last comment.
Differences are real and understanding them is much more valuable than acting oblivious to them or pretending they don’t exist.
Knowing when those differences make a difference takes a little more Binah and it’s clearly easier to say that differences are irrelevant.
Some/many of the issues or choices in this table are so important that Jews have died for them, killed for them, and made other life and death decisions because of them. They did so believing it was the Jewish thing to do.
Some things matter a lot even if they are not inherently unifying. Or especially so.
Ron Coleman said,
“I’m astonished at the ferocity of the reactions to this post!”
This is born of a certain frustration that has nothing to do with our esteemed Beyond BT administrators. The issue is more that we Jews have managed to break our people down into teenier and weenier categories. I have no doubt that the categories do exist, whether or not they’ve been accurately depicted here. Perhaps, for those who are oblivious of these distinctions, this post was a useful heads-up. For me, though, it was a reminder of the factionalism and in-group-ism I’d rather avoid.
Alternatively, if we had 600,000 different categories, all those Jewish individuals would be forced to learn to deal with each other like mentshes! Can’t have a minyan or a community of 1, after all…
Michoel-May I suggest that you go thru the Midrash Rabbah in its entirety on the Parshas HaNisiim in Parshas Naso? WADR, your views on Machmirim and Meikilim cannot be read into that text which provide for different functions and paths for Avodas HaKodesh, which is hardly a function of politics or a dress code.
Ok, let’s just have 600,000 categories, then, and we can drive a wedge between each and every Jew on the planet.
What’s even more astonishing is the rampant innate narcissism.Its not always about YOU, everyone.
As I’m sure everyone knows there are different schools of thought within Judaism.Categorizing and defining is a fine thing to do when trying to figure out where to stand, which flag to wave and why some wave yarlmukas and irrelevant torah passages and bruised egos instead of sincerity understanding truth and humility. I still don’t get why individuals find this offensive ?
Tzvi, my parents wouldn’t have chosen the column I’m in!
We’re not entering into tennaim here. We’re trying to define terms that have been used on this blog for years.
Ron, astonished? Which of the columns would you let your son / daughter marry?
Let’s assume for the purposes of this thread that this chart has some toeles, of which I am still in doubt. Let me pose a question-if you presumed to be part of one of any of the subgroups herein, would you invite or accept even a one time Shabbos meal invitation from someone whose POV and adherence was not totally or even for the most part in consance with your POV? IIRC, both the CI and RSZA held that someone who did not subscribe to the Heter Mecirah for Shmeittah could both ourchase goods from a storekeeper who sold such goods and eat a Shabbos meal at such a person’s house simply because the heter was a halachically acceptable heter, as opposed to be completely unreliable. I think that we could all learn from Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu, who according to Chazal, had an open door policy so that they could demonstrate their committment to Malchus HaShen. While their success rate may seem minimal because neither the Torah, Chazal nor Rishonim tell us that they had talmidim, we do know that their view of Hachnasos Orhcim was not limited.
More fundamentally, I would also argue that it is not so important as to where a person views himself or herself in view of these groupings, but rather their point of origin and how they arrived at the same. IMo, that would make for a real sociological study and fascinating reading. I remain convinced that even the classifications in this chart have much that they can learn and appreciate from each other, as opposed to reveling in a triumohalistic manner that their group has the only “answer” for all of Klal Yisrael.
Here are a some more categories you may wish to add to the list:
– Has track record of creating viable social programs (such as Bikur Cholim, Binyan Olam, Shmiras Halashon, Misaskim, Shomrim, Hatzalal, ECHO, etc)
– Excels in developing outreach projects, often on a shoestring budget
– Contains large segments of laity who possess advanced level Torah scholarship
– Spends evenings and weekends in the Beit Midrash studying Torah
– Is committed to thrice daily minyan
– Contains large subgroups who, when praying, clearly concentrate on what they are saying
– Abstains from events or activities which involve prohibited gazing
– Frequently give beyond their means, to charity
I’m astonished at the ferocity of the reactions to this post!
One of the shuls we belong to would probably be called “left wing” by most. The majority of married women there wear some sort of headcovering; among women under 30, the fraction is close to 100%. My wife is 47 and always has her hair completely covered with a hat or scarf. What *is* rare in the “left wing” shul is the use of a wig — the wife of the senior rabbi is the only women regularly seen in one.
There are two other shuls in my neighborhood that are not “left wing” that have women as regular attendees in gemara shiurim. (Interestingly, today in Daf Yomi we learned the mishnah that includes the machkoket between Ben Azzai and Rabbi Eliezer that used to be interpreted to exclude women from learning Torah.)
Disgusting is a curious choice for an adjective. Are you allowed to mock that which you disagree with ? And what does evil slander have to do with anything ? Are you reading a grid from another blog ?
I don’t understand your points. Are you suggesting no one understand the definitions for the different sects and the different philosophies and reasons for them ? How on earth do you expect anyone to pick that Rav you speak so assuredly about if the parameters of the different sections are not clearly defined ? By the fake warmth he exhibits when giving drashas?
This chart is absolutely disgusting in concept and execution. There is no basis in Torah for categorizing and labeling Jews on an individual or communal basis. Even more astounding to see this now that we are leining the summer parshios of loshon hara. Where is the rabbinic oversight here? Ones thoughts, words, and actions must be held up to one’s personal understanding of the Torah and what Hashem wants, and one’s personal haschgofa, under the guidance of one’s rav, if one has the luxury of having one. Identification with and conformity to generalized labels is the hallmark of other religions.
Hi folks. it seems to me that there are some clearer distinctions between **communities** here than anyone here is saying, or perhaps willing to admit. Of course some **individual people** may be exceptions to those distinctions, but that doesn’t change the fact that those distinctions do exist for **communities**.
Does a community feel it’s ok if a person surfs the internet, watches tv, reads paperback novels? Fine, then that community is modern, even if some of its members do not choose to do all of those things.
Does a community forbid its members to surf the internet, read novels, go to movies? and further, does that community feel empowered to forbid certain specific things in the first place? If so, then that community is yeshivish/right-wing, even if some of its members may occasionally dabble or interact with the secular world more than others.
Mark, Thanx for comment #43, profound points.
Everyone in a tizzy ,
Why the self righteous pansy like reactions ? The first step towards building well functioning communities is getting the definitions down straight.Realigning actual halacha ,the truth and your mission statement. And then making sure pride honor control and ego don’t get in the way.
Its always good to clean up and proofread the sub doctrine you’re basing your community and personal spiritual selves ón and second guess and strip apart all inconsistencies and frivolous political behavior.
I’m not sure what your point is.
Are you suggesting that individuals that subscribe to different spiritual doctrines but live in the same town actually pray in the same house of worship and study in the same schools ? And get together most weekends for community potluck we love èvery spiritual stripe suppers ?
I have been out of the office for the last two days and I’ve been hanging Mark out to dry here. While I can hear some of the gripes with this post as I think that people don’t like to be put in a box. Additionally, I think there is also a kick back from those who don’t mind being categorized but feel that certain aspects of the chart don’t apply to them. I hear it. Perhaps, more so as a BT, we, rightfully, wish to express our individuality.
A person is a whole world and no one is saying that they can be defined by some nebulous matrix.
That being said, I think that the chart does have a potential upside. First, BTs are often the last ones to know what’s going on around them. This makes sense as they’ve come a “little late to the game”. Having an understanding of what others mean when they speak of themselves or larger groups does serve a purpose. Also, if someone is looking for a shul, for example, and they want to know whether they will be comfortable in a specific shul or a social group, this type of information might be helpful. Finally, and I know that I will get some comments on this, I think this type of information could be helpful for broad parameters in shidduchim.
Ok, now you can start slinging mud my way! :)
Charnie, You might have missed this line,
“It’s true that there are exceptions in every community”.
If those 2 college students are looking for a more modern community, would you tell them to consider Lakewood, because you feel you can’t really categorize communities.
I know people in each of the four communities Mark mentioned who don’t fit any one category any better then I do. Not everyone in Lakewood is a yeshiva bochur, it’s also a suburban community complete with all it’s variations. And communities have been evolving also, while it may have been a safe bet to call Teaneck a combo of LW & RWMO, it’s newer members are more “right wing” then the more established community.
There are very few individuals, and even fewer communities, that could be neatly placed in any one particular category. B”H!
Yeah R’ Chaim, you are right. Being that I tend toward right-wing ultra ultra orthodoxy, I wanted to phrase things as fairly as possible, to not slight the left. But I agree. We see the questions (more or less) and we have confidence in our mesora. So vieter ge’gengen. Let’s stop talking about yiddishkeit and start living yiddishkeit, so to speak.
However, in my view, there is a tendency to stress context OVER p’shat and not merely as a chelek of p’shat. I’m sure you have a rejoinder. I doubt I have the time and energy to see this through.
that’s the question of “learning it” vs “learning about it”; what i never really liked about much of ‘Academic’ style learning is the tendency sometimes to care more about the peripheral context than the material itself; understanding the context for Torah purposes is meant to illuminate the material, not overshadow it. I’d say that’s the difference between a ‘stam’ Academic style and a Religious Academic style.
Thanks, Mark Frankel, for your kindly and helpful reply.
Who wants to feel uncomfortable, we’re BTs, we’ve made it. But it is often discomfort which causes us to introspect and examine where we are really holding and where we are really heading.
Spot on. Absent the irritations caused by the grain of sand oysters would never grow pearls.
openess is a great strenght of the more left flavors but clarity of definition is a great strength as you move toward the right.
I would revise this as the way it comes across is that there is a certain thoughtlessness that informs the right. I’d say that the ability to live with troubling questions, and the humility and patience to leave some questions open (though thye may take a lifetime to answer)is the great strength of the right.
As Menachem pointed out, these are the classifications that are out there. To some extent they do represent a certain reality. The neighborhoods of Teaneck, Lawrence, Passaic and Lakewood are different and have different practices and beliefs.
It’s true that there are exceptions in every community, but in general people in one community may embrace TV, Movies and Secular Fiction while people in other communities don’t. And in some communities girls talking to boys is ok and in others it is totally forbidden. Is anybody really questioning whether these distinctions exist?
Perhaps what is bothering people is either:
1)They don’t want to be put in any category or
2)They don’t fit straight down the line in the category they thought they belonged
Who wants to feel uncomfortable, we’re BTs, we’ve made it. But it is often discomfort which causes us to introspect and examine where we are really holding and where we are really heading. I also think this exercise forces us to deal with the ambiguity and inconsistencies in our Avodas Hashem. Few of us are perfect, so most of us are inconsistent. Hashem allows for this and loves us nonetheless.
There are several angles here. Mostly, I’d concur with Steve that sociological studies, although I often personally find them interesting (which explains my frequent links to statistical charts about intermarriage, etc), when presented in the format as “where do you fit, now that you’re frum” can be construed very negatively.
This past Shabbos and Yom Tov we had 2 young men who are in college as guests. They are both exploring Torah Judaisim, and one asked me “wouldn’t you want to live in Boro Park because there are so many Orthodox Jews there?” It’s very difficult explaining to someone who isn’t yet frum how totally different two communities can be. Haskafa is something that most BT’s feel around in the dark for, like trying on shoes, until something fits. And what fits is more often then not, a combination of many of the elements listed here, and they may change over time as well.
Which is why I again stress that this chart should be looked upon as if it originated on bangitout.com, a site that loves to poke fun at all sides.
I see R’ Menachem, R’ Neil and others comparing this classification system to the 12 shevatim. B’mechilas k’vodan, the comparison is very weak indeed. WITHIN each of the twelve shvatim there were machmirim and meikilim. There were those that dressed on way and those that dressed another. These things don’t (necessarily) pertain to “etzemdig” distinctions in darchei avodah. Yakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbenu, our great neviim, were able to see deeply into each shevet and understand their characters. Waht we are discussing here has mostly to do with politics. It is more a result of our weakness of character and need to characterize everything; an inability to deal with amibguity. Levi and Shimon had middas hac’as. But it was c’as of kedusha that could be used for good or bad. B’zman hazeh, we have plenty of angry folks in ALL camps, but it is not necessisarily a c’as of k’dusha. It is a c’as of “Why did you take my parking spot? And “why do you dare to hold different from me?”
You are saying something fair and intelligent. However, in my view, there is a tendency to stress context OVER p’shat and not merely as a chelek of p’shat. I’m sure you have a rejoinder. I doubt I have the time and energy to see this through. Good Shabbos.
Mark-I won’t belabor the issue but RCS once commented that not everything that one thinks should either be said or published. I firmly believe that we should leave sociology to the sociologists and looking to see how we can get away from urban mythology and stereotypes, which IMO , are very prevalent both within the Charedi, MO, FFB and BT worlds.
” or listen to wrap and be super machmir in hilchos borer. It need not be a stirah.”
only if you wrap in something that is not mosif hevel ma’ailav:)
Comment #30 seems to sum it up:
In the desert, the B’nai Yisrael had twelve camps, with 12 flags, with 12 unique approaches to Judaism. It would be a shame if we can’t handle four.
an acedemic view of Judaism that stresses “understanding the context” over actual p’shat in the text
that view says:
peshat = context; you can’t understand what someone’s saying unless you understand where they’re coming from
Steve, obviously we came to a different conclusion. Please try to respect the fact that others might come to different conclusions than you – surely your learning has taught you that.
Mark-WADR,we just finished counting Sefiras HaOmer,which includes an element of aveilus for the Talmidim of R Akiva who lacked a sense of mutual respect for each other and wherein we are supposed to engage in Tikun HaMidos on a practical level for this tragedy, as opposed to merely reading Sifrei Mussar and hearing drashos on the subject. I fail to see how this ostensibly well meaning chart which strikes me as another useless example of Jewish sociology that I would associate with sociologists as opposed to those seeking to grow in Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim leads to any positive sense of mutual appreciation and respect, let alone tolerance. The chart assumes a rigidity between the members of each group that any student of the same would easily tell you is non-existent as memeber drift or move from one level of observance, etc. I neither see any spiritual or practical purpose in compiling such data but rather in seeing how one generation comports itself as opposed to its parents and children.
OK, If we already going to discuss this…
I think a really key distinction, maybe the clincher of this whole categoriztion thing is as follows. The 4 “Believe in”s are marked yes, yes, yes across the board. But the truth is that more openess toward acedemic study of Judaism, the weaker the commitment toward those beliefs, (SPEAKING IN GENERAL). The chart seems to be assembled to stress the commom aspects of all Orthodoxy. But there are acedemic blogs, and professors at the more modern institutions that spend lots of time stressing “problems” in our mesora. “How can we hold from the 13 ikkarim when we see this Rishon said something contradictory?”, and similar such questions. Also, openess to changing women’s roles is directly predicated on an acedemic view of Judaism that stresses “understanding the context” over actual p’shat in the text. If you ask some on the extreme left if they believe in reward and punishment, they may ask, “Depends what you mean.” Whaere if you ask someone on the right the will answer “Of course”.
So, for those looking for their path in Yiddishkeit, they should know that openess is a great strenght of the more left flavors but clarity of definition is a great strength as you move toward the right.
I don’t know enough to help with the chart, but in the first sentence of this post you might want to change from “Left Week Orthodoxy” to “Left Wing Orthodoxy” (if that is what was meant… if not then I’m totally confused and need to study the chart more) The chart does help in that I can never remember if “left” is more stringent or lenient than right.
I agree with Menachem. The terms are used all the time; why not try to define them? It’s okay if we have a (civil) debate about the terminology and the terminology of the terminology. It’s educational.
This statement is hard to understand. It seems to assume things about cause and effect that have not been shown. There’s nothing sad about the fact that the vast majority of observant Jews are indeed correctly placed into one of these still fairly broad categories based on narrow criteria. That is not a derogation of anyone’s individuality.
I think we need to cut the administrators a little slack here. These categories are part and parcel of the current orthodox landscape, whether we like it or not. As Chaim pointed out, some of the issues are very significant.
Here in Israel, for example, with the latest conversion issue (just an example, not looking to get into it) the philosophical differences of the two camps involved can literally determine who is and isn’t Jewish. Though not all BT’s are converts all converts are BT’s, so this has very direct relevance to BBT.
Also, one of the complaints often heard among BT’s on these boards is the lack of “disclosure” that some BT’s felt they experienced during their “intake”. While some of the details may need fine tuning, I think the chart gives a very good overview of the state of modern orthodoxy (note the lower case “m”).
The existence of these categories is not forcing anyone into a box. I think it’s quite likely that many if not most orthodox Jews do not fit every box in their “column”. I also think it’s very unlikely that upon seeing this chart a casually dressed LWUO Jew is going toss out his chinos.
In the desert, the B’nai Yisrael had twelve camps, with 12 flags, with 12 unique approaches to Judaism. It would be a shame if we can’t handle four.
Would you agree that in the majority of the groups this belief is shared or do you you think Orthopraxy is prevalent in the Yeshivish (in which I would include RWMO) communities also?
among LWMO it is my understanding that there is quite a bit of Orthopraxy.
Among RWUO I suspect there is probably a silent minority (1%??? 25%???)of those who’ve dampened or lost their faith (probably due, in no small part, to reading skeptical and/or gossippy J-Blogs) but “go along to get along” because the personal, social and financial reprecussions of discontinuing observance is too steep a price to pay.
It’s funny, this is a blog called Beyond BT, which implies that we mostly fit into a certain category with some common characteristics. Now we all know that there is no such thing as the prototypical BT, yet we do share many things in common.
Perhaps we should take the negative attitudes towards categorization a step further and call this site Beyond Orthodoxy. But that’s a categorization that excludes the majortity of Jews, so we’ll call it Beyond Judaism. But that excludes most of the world’s population, so perhaps Beyond Humanity is most appropriate.
You people are right, categorization is troublesome.
Not to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for neat categorization, but…
…why yet another exercise in taxonomy (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy ) at a time when seeking Jews should be focused on something with positive value?
Every group categorized will now want to brighten up its own definition or possibly darken that of another group.
Another time-waster. This work in progress will not enhance anyone’s Jewish progress.
Chaim, Are you alluding to the discussions on some of the blogs about how prevalent Orthopraxy (observing without necessarily believing in Rambam’s 13 principals) might be in some communities.
Would you agree that in the majority of the groups this belief is shared or do you you think Orthopraxy is prevalent in the Yeshivish (in which I would include RWMO) communities also?
Something really bothers me about this post. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it categorizes people, which I really abhore. I don’t see the purpose of including this in BBT, where we have more sensitivity towards our fellow Jew. I don’t need to stick labels on people, they are a Jew and that’s all I need to know. Okay, let’s go vitar.
When I talk to people involved in Kiruv, one of the biggest turnoffs is when you describe yourself as Orthodox. In fact I know quite a few people who avoid using that term. The chart reflects the fact that there are varied practices and attitudes within Orthodoxy and that it is far from monolithic.
I personally think it’s important to recognize, appreciated and understand the differences in what people do and try to understand why they do it. It’s hard not to become judgmental or feel judged, but if we recognize that everyone of us has a long way to grow, it sometimes is a little easier.
I also think that the first three-four categories are way too simplistic and present a Pollyannish picture of a unified front on these “core-issues”. They allow for no nuance and gradations of theory and belief.
While this is well intentioned (Why can’t we all just get along? After all we agree on SO many of the truly IMPORTANT things)it is IMO innaccurate.
Furthermore as there seems to be complete unanimity on the core issues it makes all the disagreements in the later categories seem inscrutible and trite at best and bald irrational “reasons” for sinas chinam=baseless hatred at worst.
In truth, many of the disagreements in the latter categories derive from profound philosophical disagreements about the nature and extent of TMS, reward and punishment and what or Who, precisely, makes Mitzvah observance obligatiry.
As Einstien said: Things should be made as simple as possible…but never simpler.
As one who has fought the concept of being “categorized” virtually my entire adult life, I believe this column should be taken very tongue-in-cheek. It would be awful if someone (who, for example, might be a new BT) read this and decided they just don’t fit anywhere. The link I pointed to above is clarly meant to be humorous.
I think AJ’s chinese menu solution, therefore, is the ideal. And it also provides a bit of ironic humor for those of us who were raised on chinese food.
OTOH Chasidim would avoid secular studies as in University higher education, even for parnassa.
I don’t think that TOURO and SYRIT count.
“Normative Occupation” column again descibes RWUO as learning or chinuch.
This is way to narrow. It basically factors Chasidic Jews out of the equation. For them business especially real-estate, jewelry, health-care, transportation, food service, sifrei qodesh publishing are certainly normative occupations.
Along with a host of blue-collar jobs that most non-Chasidic RWUO would not touch with a ten foot pole.
“Attitude Towards General Society” RWUO is described as dismissive.
This is only partially true. It’s accurate to say dismissive towards culture, entertainment, sports and the arts, it is not dismissive towards Medicine, Hi-Tech, Business, Politics and a host of others.
It may not encourage it’s youth to pursue careers in many of these but it’s wrong to descibe the attitudes as didsmissive in so broad a way.
“Womens Learning” column is unfair in that it makes Gemora the be all and end all. Why not insert what is taught instead of just saying gemora not taught?
BTW if one includes all the Chaza”l’s cited in Meforshai HaMiqra and Sifrei Mussar that are, in fact, aggadeta Gemoras, is it really fair to summarily say “not taught”?
Chana Leah, thanks for the nice words. We try to let everybody express their views, but we are sensitive to the fact that some forms of expression negatively effect the entire group.
Usually the negative expressions come when a person is angry, which should not be a surprise. We sometimes try to email the person and at other times we have to delete comments. It’s sometimes a tough task and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank the BBT readership and community for making it easier.
uninformed – UO stands for Ultra Orthodox to contrast it with MO or Modern Orthodox.
Except for the good points above, I think the chart is largely accurate (we bounced it off a few knowledgeable people) and useful. The comments have been largely respectful and helpful.
I see the chart reflecting that you can believe in G-d, Torah Mi Sinai and Reward and Punishment (ie the 13 principals) and still have a variety of practices. Not all paths are equal and each individual is responsible to find their own way.
I also think the chart highlights that Orthodoxy is a continuum and the differences between Right Wing Modern and Left Wing Ultra, which includes many/most Beyond BT readers, is small.
Grouping can be claustrophobic, but if you use it to understand others and pick areas where you might want to improve, it can be beneficial.
If your a growing Jew, then the group you might fall into is largely irrelevant. And if you don’t consider yourself in any of the above groups, Kol HaKavod. In reality, the only category that counts is being a person who wants to get closer to Hashem and other people.
I think this is quite conductive to stereotypes. Not sure what one can gain from such a chart.
Plus, I actually feel that if anyone actually fits in any “box” its a bit sad because it shows he doesn’t have any of his own personality but just follows whats accepted or not in his community. I think our goal shouldn’t be to define different boxes of what different people are, but rather to find what the emet is that we should ALL try to follow, while respecting other’s honest view of what the emet is.
This may be a bit off-topic, but does speak to a glaring difference I’ve noticed in Jewish blogging (admittedly mainly from only 3 blogs that I am very familiar with).
As Michoel mentioned earlier, BBT has maintained a consistently high standard, since inception, and this is actually a source of bewilderment for me, in the following sense: There is a certain popular Jewish blog, known to be frequented by members of the right-hand column above, those who, as a group, we may consider machmir. Yet, I have been frequently dismayed by the tone of many of the commenters toward one another; unfortunately it can only be described as vicious, and more unfortunately, this mudslinging often erupts following a very neutral, parve posting which suggests the existence of a simmering pot ready to boil over with the slightest, or no, provocation. How can this be explained? And how should a BT understand this? And how have we managed to keep things so civil here? Is it strictly due to the outstanding integrity of the administrators and Daas Torah they seek—are there numerous posts that we never see because they fall into the “unacceptable” category? Are we really just like the commenters on this other blog? Or is there something else going on here?
Again, sorry for the digression, and if any of this needs to be changed in order not to violate lashon hara, feel free.
Which is why i liked Albany Jew’s first comment about “5 from column B, 3 from column A, etc.”
What does “UO” stand for?
Like Michoel (comment 5) noted, I was surprised to see such blatant stereotyping being flaunted here.
And where do *we* all go? Those of us BTs who would not be defined as MO by any standard other than our accommodation of non-frum family at our weddings (small section of mixed ‘family’ tables)? My married friend who would call herself LWMO but covers her hair with her jeans? The list goes on . . .
I don’t know the exact lashon, but I once heard a vort which quoted the Alter of Kelm as follows: The entire bases of avodas Hashem is independence of thought. It is important that beginners reading this thread remember that they do not need to put themselves into a box and actually SHOULD NOT put themselves into a box. A person should (if his intellect and nature lead him) despise the internet and wear blue jeans, or listen to wrap and be super machmir in hilchos borer. It need not be a stirah.
or alternatively, someone who at the moment is only approaching secular studies for parnassa reasons, but is striving to learn to appreciate them lishmah as illuminating the workings of God’s world.
Having made that not so witty remark, I would like to point out those who might be living column A but strive toward the aspects of another column. (e.g, I would like to get rid of my TV someday) I guess the difference is defining oneself by the column as opposed to looking for the possibilities of (what one might see as positive) growth.
Wow, this is like a Chinese food menu, I’ll have 5 from column B, 3 from column A, etc………………
At the risk of adding more fuel, you left out “Zionism” as a category. I think this is one of the few real points of distinction between RWMO and LWUO.
I can see where this thread could easily sink below this blogs usual high standards. No slight to Steg or anyone else intended, but the honored administrators may want to reconsider the wisdom of posting this.
That’s Lamed Zayin’s old test… it’s obviously calibrated wrong, since it said i’m “[Middle of the Road] Modern Orthodox”… both when i took it years ago, and when i took it a month or two ago. ;-)
Believe it or not, this chart actually looks like it’s based on the results from this fun self-test. How about everyone here take this test and then report back if it categorizes them the way they perceived themselves:
I know I was surprised & amused by the results.
This chart is not very accurate except as a cheat sheet for stereotypes – and in the case of internet usage and secular fiction/films, largely confuses wishful thinking/official pronouncements with actual practice.
To cite two examples:
– black-hat, yeshiva-gedolah graduates who have gone into business and the professions have much more than “occasional” contact with non-Jews. It seems that LWO are pegged as having “frequent” contact with non-Jews simply to fill out the expected spread on the chart, even though I’ve never heard of any real socializing outside of work, which basically parallels the behavior of the RWO businessman.
– as more and more haredi women work in an ever-broader range of professions to support their families – wouldn’t one say that the RWO camp is actually quite “accommodating” of “non-traditional women’s roles”?
… and we could easiily launch world war III by trying to clarify exactly what “lenient”, “normative”, and “strict” mean in Halachic terms.
As the seeming unofficial spokesblogger for LWMO, i’d like to give some feedback on your chart:
1. The question of what is ‘Normative’ Halakha is a value judgment distinct from degrees of strictness or leniency. For instance, what is the Normative Halakha on Kashrut? Is it what the major Kashrut organizations (OU, etc.) institute, or is it what the Shulhhan ‘Arukh et al actually say?
2. It’s important to define what you mean by “Scholarly Approach to Torah” — if it means Biblical Criticism, that’s not a defining feature of LWMO, although there is more of a willingness to engage with it instead of just dismissing it. Academic Talmud (Revadim), on the other hand, is generally accepted as a worthwhile methodology.
3. Non-Traditional Women’s roles and Women’s Gemara learning… if your model of *R*WMO is the R’ Herschel Schachter side of YU, i think you need to add more learning of Gemara and less accomodation.
4. Back to the word ‘normative’ in Normative Occupation — i think the word you’re looking for is “normal” or “usual”; ‘normative’ means ‘following rules’. As an MO person in hhinukh (well, techincally taking a few years off to Learn for semikha before going back to hhinukh) instead of law, medicine or accounting [bleah], i’m not breaking any rules; i’m just taking a less usual path.
5. I’d put the LWMO attitude towards General Society as “Generally Positive”; while i may be one of the few people justifying Rap music as part of Torah ‘im Derekh Eretz, even I agree that there *are* negative influences out there, and engagement with General Society has to be self-aware. There are actually LWMO people who are suspicious of College in the same way many people on BeyondBT are, surprisingly enough!
6. Women’s Dress… the Hair-Covering issue. The vast majority of the LWMO married women i know cover their hair. Maybe this is a distinction between the LWMO Elite vs the so-called “MO-Lite” masses?
7. And when it comes to Men’s Dress… either you’re missing a whole category of “Middle Wing Modern Orthodox”, or many of the RWMO people i know are actually LWMO according to this chart based on their clothing.
8. RWUO Secular Studies — does this chart not include those communities in Israel who say that secular studies, even for purposes of occupation, are asur?