Thursday, December 23, 2004

Some people just have an irredeemably narrow view of the world. I usually regard that as none of my business. Except when it is my business.

Recently My Ninth Grader (MNG) complained that his Rebbi was forcing him to take notes in some subject called "emunah". MNG was savvy enough to notice that this was not the kind of topic that should be taught as if it were "material" that needed to be recorded. It would either touch his soul or it wouldn't. This seemed like a reasonable argument and I mentioned it to his Rebbi, whom I should add is a very young, very Kookniky-looking fellow. While I was at it, I mentioned that most frum people I know managed to stay that way without ever learning "emunah", which is an amalgam of dreary medieval philosophy and indoctrination into whichever little cultic corner of Yiddishkeit the teacher or school happens to identify with. (The part starting from "which is..", I did not actually say.) He chose the single response most suited to ticking me off which was "Well, that's how it was in galut, things are different here. " Ouch! The one most important thing a Rebbi can teach is the importance of respecting our ancestors. If the main idea rattling around his Kook-obsessed mind is galut-bad-Israel-good, he isn't going to be too good at instilling respect for all those very galuti ancestors, including those dreary medievals he's teaching.

But if he's a bit lacking in perspective, what about some of my neighbors who have taken to walking around sporting yellow star badges (yes, the Jude ones Nazis once made Jews wear) in protest of the withdrawal from Azza. If I get it right, and I'm afraid I do, the idea is that the uprooting of Jews from their homes in Azza is comparable to what Nazis did to Jews. Hello?! Has somebody gone completely nuts? Let me repeat that I'm not some namby-pamby liberal who sheds tears for every victim but the Jews. I am opposed to this withdrawal. But to compare it to the holocaust?! I am without speech.


Blogger anonymous said...

"Well, that's how it was in galut, things are different here. "

One would think it would be the opposite, surely. How is e"y more challenging for emunah than the gola?

Good for you, on all your points.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though you may disagree with the way it is being taught, and perhaps rightfully so, that does not take away from the validity of the sentiment. Learning the underpinnings of Judaism can be taught in many different ways and through many differenty vehicles, but it must be taught. Too many American high schoolers (in the MO world, at least, which is where my experience lies) come out of school knowing nach, chumash, and gemara, but without any overarching view of what Judaism is about. A few rare teachers will be able to connect things beautifully while teaching chumash or gemara, but they are few are far between. A lot of thought should be given as to how to instill high schoolers with the greater picture of Judaism, perhaps through classical Jewish Philosophy and perhaps in other ways. The "kooknik" is trying to do that, no matter how misguided his methods and view, in your opinion.

6:03 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

::clap, clap, clap::

6:17 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...


You can't 'teach' emunah like a subject. Just as kids forget calculus the minute they take their regents (sorry Ben, you probably remembered it), nothing will penetrate or make an impression if emunah is taught like any other subject. Emunah must be 'given over'.

I doubt that Ben is saying that seforim of machshava shouldn't be learned or woven into the curriculum.
He's saying that making kids take notes from an ideologue is a waste of time.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

What MoC said.

7:31 PM  
Blogger anonymous said...

anonymous, what is your position on people who come late to shul?

9:03 PM  
Blogger Cara said...

I find myself disagreeing with Anonymous, though this may be because I've never been an MO yeshiva bochur. As an MO woman, born and bred, it's always seemed to me that the more black-hat boys are the ones who miss out on learning what Yiddishkeit is all about.

Sure, they can quote any sefer or rav that you mention, but too many seem to have learned nothing about menschlichkeit and other intangibles of that ilk. Like emunah, this cannot be taught by an ideologue. I'm not even certain it can be taught in a classroom at all. These are things that should be taught by example. But that implies that parents should teach their children something about behaviour, and that's just crazy talk.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how did you learn what yiddishkeit is "all about"?

2:17 AM  
Blogger Ezra said...

Ben, I think the star episode has brought something incredibly fundamental to the fore. I would like to know what you think of my take on it:

6:42 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I read your piece and identify with much of what you write. The Arab war against us is genocidal. The response to the Holocaust of the American Jewish establishment (and most of the Israeli Zionist establishment) is an eternal stain on the Jewish people. The withdrawal from Azza is stupid and wicked. But still a sense of proportion is necessary. Not all stupid and wicked acts are equivalent. Not every battle is best fought with nuclear weapons. If our ultimate aspiration is to bark at those in power, this kind of hyperbole might be effective. If we aspire to replacing those in power, we will have to be a bit more nuanced.

BTW, I don't know Foxman, and he doesn't interest me, but you should know that, as far as I know, he is a Holocaust survivor.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I'm the 2nd comment above)

MoC and Ben: Point taken. I think we agree.
Cara: I wasn't saying that MO is any worse than the "yeshivish" crowd in this respect, I just didn't think I could comment on the yeshiva high school education, not having first hand experience with it. And though your comments are correct, we should not be satisfied with a judaism that consists ONLY of menschlichkeit and nothing else, which, unfortunately, may be the portion of too many people coming out of our high school system. And that was in no way meant to disparage menschlichkeit.
Ezra: hey, I didn't know you read this blog. Shabbat Shalom

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shavua Tov, I'm a new "anonymous" poster.

Regarding teaching "emunah" - I went through yeshiva HS absolutely choked by the emphasis on Gemara and Rishonim (primary commentators on the Talmud - don't know if these terms are to be translated at this blog)... I lived for the slivers of a larger, more philosophical view that was offered by (1) Chumash classes that brought in Midrash, (2) Tanach classes that placed Jews in actual history, and (3) Emunah classes that cracked open Mussar, philosophy, and other books that actually talked about the soul and the moral way to live, instead of the argument between Rashi and the Rosh about what happpens if Reuven steals Shimon's three pieces of treif suet, and then eats one after they are mixed with three pieces of kosher meat...

Maybe the guy is a stuffed shirt (as are a high proportion of Kookniks) but my bet is that some kids will benefit from reading these works - or at least knowing they exist.

Regarding the orange stars:
1) Desperate measures are necessary to wake up a largely dormant silent majority.
2) This kind of thing - and civil disobedience - is what you get when you dam up every normal venue for civil opposition, and every public outlet for critical speech. Sharon has run roughshod over democratic and legal structures to push this through, and the Israeli media have deligitimized any dissenting opinion.

Those who sow these oppressive actions should expect to reap a whirlwind.


8:11 PM  
Blogger Cara said...

Anonymous #2: Understood. Then we're on the same page. I wasn't trying to say that menschlichkeit alone should be taught (that borders on too much of the non-observant Jewish education which teaches Tikkun Olam and little else), but rather a quality Jewish education needs to include a little of Column A and a little of Column B.

Anonymous who posted right after me: If that question was directed at me, then I'll gladly answer. I learned what yiddishkeit is "all about" primarily from my wonderful grandmother, a"h, my excellent father and from my rabbis and teachers. It was a joint effort.

8:51 PM  

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