Friday, May 05, 2006

A rant on the problem of MO values and chinuch

My kids learned nothing this week about Yom haAtzmaut, yet their schools are blameless. No, I have not changed my hashkafos overnight, but I respect that there is a view (and some would argue it is the dominant view) among gedolei yisrael who would say that this day should not be given prominence. Yet, it raises the question of why I would send my kids to a school which teaches a hashkafa I disagree with. I am going to risk engaging in broad brushstrokes to make a point here, but in doing so I do not mean to suggest every person or community is the same, nor to offend anyone, only to share my experiences. My kids have been in two different schools, one that could be labelled RW/C, one LW/C. My daughters used to be in an environment where they were the only ones who never wore pants on Sunday, we were the only family with no TV, where not going “mixed swimming” was a sign of zehirus. Now, they are in an environment where their external behavior (skirts only, no TV, etc.) is far closed to the median. To me, the hashkafa of the Rav and Rav Kook means having serious limud haTorah and zehirus in halacha PLUS a love of medinat yisrael, belief in the value of secular wisdom, etc. (I do not mean to provide a comprehensive definition of centrist/dati orthodoxy). It is not orthodoxy MINUS anything, certainly not in halacha or limud haTorah. Yet, in my experience,in certain segments of the community, modern orthodoxy somehow became "minus" orthodoxy. Somehow the heter to study Shakespeare or for a girl to learn gemara turned into a heter for mixed swimming or women wearing pants (I mean to use those as sociological standards, not get into the halachic parameters). Yes, of course, even in the “RW” community there are those who are not careful in halacha or kovea ittim, but the question is whether that guy views himself and is viewed by society as bucking the trend, a yotzei min haklal, or just another average Joe. When you say you went away on vacation and enjoyed the time on the beach, there are some shules where those around you will have their jaws drop, and others where the discussion will start over which resort has the better beach. You can unually figure out who sends to which schools by the reaction. This past week, a local shule hosted a guest lecture by R’ Shachter and R’ Rozensweig. The place was ½ empty. I took my son along just to show that there is such a thing as a clean shaven talmid chacham with a PhD (R’ Rozensweig) –this is the model of “MO” orthodoxy I want him to see, not the e-mails from members of the same community that provide weekly updates on how a certain guy on some reality TV show is doing. My kids chinuch is narrow and the poorer because they miss out on Shakespeare and Yom haAtzmaut, yet, those values cannot come at the expense of halacha or limud haTorah. I can only hope that some day they will find a balance for themselves. (Apologies if this offended anyone).