Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Now, About Modern Orthodoxy II

[somewhat old, rather negative; hope to offer something positive soon, without too much 'trauma']
Many take it as inherently impressive that Torah lifeways (Shabbat, learning, etc), can have appeal to lots of doctors/lawyers, the usual 'symbols' of affluence and success. Aish for example even sells it's Chavruta program on just this presumed appeal. Yet we know that profession and education is no barrier to someone making decisions not based in critical thinking, or being any less prone to such choices based on emotion and psychological need. How many "professionals" have been wrapped up in New Age religions, religious cults and self-help pyramid schemes? But;

1) Modern Orthodoxy really makes an icon of the Yuppie Professional. I think it's proof that MO has dispensed with any pretense that its constituency should follow through with one of its stated principles - the engagement of the wide parameters of human knowledge and experience within a kosher framework; the principle is no longer Modern - no longer current, it would be proper to say. How many people are actually inclining their children towards profitable *trades* over 'traditional' professions (dr,esq,cpa/financial professional)? Or even less-profitable college pursuits valued by previous generations of MO "forebearers"(Assyriology or Philosophy anyone?...)? In a related vein, it's the fringes of MO where there are MO people in the arts, music, etc - and I mean in the arts as such - not as individual hobbyists.
It is lip service that MO is all about pursuits that are a 'full engagement' of everything meaningful, redeemable, rewardable or even profitable within a Torah framework. It's not about sanctifying HKBH's world - it's about Torah u'Parnasa, Beltway Yuppiedom or Upper West Side Metropraxy -but having made that stab at '-praxy'; to the degree ones does mitzvot as mitzvot - they count, do they not? On this no one can judge anyones 'praxy' (let alone me, as this is increasingly how I look at my own lifeways). I don't think intention exhausts the efficacy of mitzvot though - though I don't know that this is also a universally kosher view.

I think American Modern Orthodoxy, ideologically speaking, is incapable of sustaining itself;

2)It produces far too few teachers because it's institutions will not pay them enough, and it's culture will not glorify enough the value/place/importance of teachers - those who teach TORAH, or the place of lifestyle sacrifice...so it's left to charedim who teach charedi judaism by silence on MO matters - and are willing to sacrifice where MO's will not - to reach Jewish neshamot (with brave and praiseworthy exceptions - but too few in number). It cannot sustain itself outside of the Upper-Middle Class - and MO is all about maintaining Upper Middle class-'consciousness'.

3)MO don't have the necessary numbers of children or the retention rate to it's ideology; it needs the 'converts' from the non-orthodox movements or unaffiliated - in some ways not unlike the Shakers, who were also rather homogeneous and didn't 'reproduce' enough next-gens.

4) "Bio-diversity"; diversity is as rare in MO circles as among the Charedim (in the professions particularly, as noted above) - pointing out a few exceptions only proves it exactly. And I'm not 'celebrating' "diversity" l'shma - what is lacking is diversity necessary for a species to survive; biodiversity. There are ways 3 and 4 can apply to Charedim as well; to do kiruv to educated, worldly-in-knowledge, experienced people, they need formerly-worldy, experienced people because Charedi judaism cannot produce a sufficient diversity of perspectives on its own; it may tolerate them, encourage certain of them - but not it cannot emerge them. I'm no longer impressed by BT chassidic/charedi scientists (read "physicists"- a rant warranting its own post). I've heard them describe a real and thick loneliness in their adopted weltanschauung that they don't describe regarding scientific peers. In the arts, its the 'fringes', in the home as hobbyists where artists exist among the charedim and modern; again, examples prove the exceptional nature of their presence (and often, they are on the fringes of the given groups; BTs themselves, 'by affiliation' members, or on the fringes they should be on...I love these people).
Neither can produce enough "bio-diversity" in its intellectual gene pool; it is a handicap to the Charedim - but crippling to the MO who ideologically make claim to the modern conviction of diversity (Charedi homogeneity ensures more integrity regarding their ideological paremeters). This is across the spectrum of human endeavors.

4) MO cannot produce the biodiversity necessary for survival as both Modern and Orthodox - where it is 'strongest', it is on temporal life support, in a 'zoo' setting, a cloistered setting not so different from the way those in Charedi strongholds live their lives; but Charedim don't claim to engage the modern world! Can it honestly weather, as a movement, the "wild", real world, which is to say HKBH's world He Made...to live Torah in? Have we so rendered HKBH's Yahadut and HKBH's world in such relationships that they are irreconciliable without 'genetically engineering' each, such that they are non-vioable?
How many of MO's intellectuals and thinkers (not doctors or lawyers, not CPAs or Social Workers), could sustain themselves outside the cloisters of the Bar-Ilan's and [certain departments of] Hebrew U's and YUs?...and again, many of the same arguments could indict Charedi judaism as well. We're muffed, and the only things that sustain us are money and the profound Mercy of HKBH for this ship of fools adrift at sea, each of us drilling holes under our own seats.


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