[Avodah] Modern Orthodox Jewish Education

Joshua Meisner jmeisner at gmail.com
Wed Jun 19 09:46:40 PDT 2019

On Tue, Jun 18, 2019 at 10:21 PM Rich, Joel via Avodah <
avodah at lists.aishdas.org> wrote:

> https://www.thelehrhaus.com/commentary/compartmentalization-and-synthesis-in-modern-orthodox-jewish-education/#em
> Compartmentalization and Synthesis in Modern Orthodox Jewish Education By
> David Stein
> A long piece focusing on proposed approach to education. The entire piece
> is interesting reading but this statement alone is worth our consideration
> “Modern Orthodoxy is a worldview that encompasses intellectual, social,
> spiritual, cultural, and professional dimensions, and which recognizes that
> there exist multiple – and competing – values in our world, all while
> upholding the primacy of Torah learning and observance. All too often,
> however, it gets reduced (at worst) to an ideology of compromise, or (at
> best) a superficial pairing of general and Judaic studies.”
> Can we quantify “All too often”

Quantify?  Are we looking for a precise number such as 50% (or 5% or 95%)
of the time MO is reduced from a worldview that upholds the primacy of
Torah to an ideology of compromise or a superficial pairing of general and
Judaic studies? (Granted, having such numbers would help us go a long way
towards developing the sorely needed actuarial tables that could once and
for all resolve the great debates of the history of Klal Yisroel).

I think that R' Stein would be best able to answer the question of what he
meant - the Shalhevet website does not provide his e-mail but rather only
has a link to contact, although I'm sure that some list member must know
how to cc him - but in an attempt to unpack his words, he seems to be
saying that MO is a worldview that upholds the primacy of the Torah while
recognizing that there exist other - and competing - values that, by
default, must be relegated to a secondary place.

All too often, though (continuing to unpack), this primary-secondary
hierarchy is instead reduced to an ideology
a) where the primary value of Torah is placed secondary to the secondary
other - and competing - values or
b) instead of the secondary values being acknowledged as being secondary
values, they are instead superficially paired with Torah values (which
could either mean providing them with equivalency that breaks the
primary-secondary hierarchy or keeping them as secondary but expending time
on the intellectual endeavor of trying to pair them off - although the
second explanation does not seem to fit the context).

I believe that RJR's question here is relevant to the discussion that he
began a few months ago (April 4)

Siman 231 in S”A O”C is one sif long (“buried” between hilchot brachot and
> tfilat mincha) which covers all human endeavor. Worth some very detailed
> discussion but I’ll just mention two points 1.) His “psak” (and I assume
> it’s psak since it’s included in S”A) seems to demand an ascetic lifestyle
> (ex. His comments on attitude towards onnah). I’m not sure all agree on
> this conclusion (and is this truly an area for psak or is there a range
> where each of us must figure out for ourselves?) 2.) The general rule of
> evaluating each action based on a goal of service to HKB”H seems right on
> to me but I also perceive that people who actually do this or articulate it
> as an aspiration, are thought of as somewhat odd, at least in the MO
> community. Thoughts?

Is v'chol ma'asecha yihyu l'shem Shamayim davka or lav davka, or is there
room for secondary - and competing - values?

I suggested in a response that the Shulchan Aruch in this siman (and a
handful of others) was dipping a toe across the line between halacha and
aggadah, the former being a set of hard lines that either tell us what we
can never do ("Electric fence Judaism") or tell us what we need to do
during finite periods of time in our lives ("Time-share Judaism") while the
latter is a fuzzy (although equally real) entity covering an infinite
portion of space (hyperspace?) that takes on the illusion of lines when
viewed piecemeal.

R' Micha, in a response to my invocation of R' Shkop, made the correct
observation that sometimes downtime can also be holy.  R' Gil Student put
up two posts on Torah Musings in the past week (one a reposting) titled "Is
Leisure Kosher?" and "Everyone Needs a Yisro" that touch on the real
tension between the two poles in Jewish thought and practice.  And the
Nazir of last week's parsha, far from being a Maimonidean caveman,
intentionally separates himself from a community of yere'im ushleimim who
spent the previous parsha and a half organizing themselves in a circle
around the Aron - and he, too, must contend with the tension between being
a kadosh and being a chotei.

(Upon rereading this post, I realize that I used RDS's article as an excuse
to take another shot at grappling with RJR's previously cited post, but I
suppose that it's all Torah.)

- Josh
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