Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution
In this week’s Yated, Rabbi Birnbaum writes a pretty offensive article aimed at the modern orthodox community. In private and public correspondence the article is being heavily criticized for its many flaws.
I don’t wish to discuss its salient points, errors, or fallacies here or anywhere else for that matter. I am not interested in debating or fighting with Yated people about the two different communities. It’s pointless and I am sick of it.
Instead I want to propose a solution.
Much of the heated exchange between the yeshivish and modern orthodox communities is based on a lot of misinformation and hearsay. There is very little communication between the two groups. Rarely do the two groups work together to solve social or political issues. There are no formal forums where both communities interact in writing. Facebook is the closest thing we have to a common area for discussion and I have been blessed to host many conversations on my Facebook page where people from across the spectrum interact. But it’s not enough.
In the old days we lived among one another. We shared resources. We worked together on common issues. There was a rapport. Today our respective communities are so vibrant and are thriving. We don’t need each other. We stand apart, separated by the tiniest of margins. It’s a blessing that we have become so strong as individual groups but in my mind it has caused this divide.
True, we disagree on a lot. We disagree about the value and power of Daas Torah. We disagree about Chazal and science. We disagree on the value of full time learning and how long it is appropriate. We disagree on the importance of fathers providing for their family. We disagree on the level of insularity. We disagree on the harms of media consumption. We disagree on Zionism. We disagree on the flexibility of some areas of halacha. We disagree on the emphasis on chumros. Yes, we disagree. But in the end, this is a minuscule fraction of what we agree upon. We agree on Torah M’Sinai. We agree on Rambam. We agree on Shulchan Aruch. We agree on R’ Moshe Feinstein. We basically agree on Israel. We agree on America. We basically agree on education for children. We agree on so much.
Yet, as we have noted many times, when we are similar to one another we seek ways to distinguish ourselves from one another. That’s what has happened here. We’ve divided ourselves over petty matters and it’s starting to affect our midos toward each other.
The solution here is quite simple. People from all walks of life need to get together and talk. We need to have Shabbatons for all kinds of people to enjoy the company of one another. We need to tackle issues of common concern together. We need a formal place to talk to each other instead of about each other. I doubt Rabbi Birnbaum would have dropped his article as a comment on Ha’emtza or even on my Facebook page (although I have gotten worse). But he’s writing for Yated readers and somehow (read: the Internet) the modern orthodox community gets ahold of the article, reads it, and to them he sounds off the wall. It would be so much more productive to talk to each other rather than writing screeds on blogs or “olde tyme” blogs (newspapers) like the Yated.
The modern orthodox community must be able to articulate its positions from a place of strength and confidence. The yeshivish community must be able to express its positions with less bombast. Both communities must try to hear the other side. But most of all, this conversation should not be between strangers, it should be between friends.
We’ve got to figure out a way to have friends from across the spectrum of orthodox Judaism. The issues have to be personalized by the humanity of relationships.
If this doesn’t work and we still can’t find a way to communicate civilly and productively, I’ll try to think of something else. But in the meantime, l’maan Hashem, let’s try to do this right.
This is a formal invitation to engage in a round table or panel discussion on the issues that are plaguing our communities. Let’s talk to each other, not about each other.
I am happy to host or attend such a conversation. If you are interested, please contact me. Send this to people from both sides of this issue and let’s make it happen.