Some more thoughts on some of the issues raised in the past post on rav kook and comments. I cannot write much on the hesder/dat-leumi world because I live here in the US, but I think mixing it with the YU world is comparing apples and oranges. At the risk of oversimplification: the dati-leumi/hesder world springs from the ideology of Rav Kook, developed by his son and talmidim for three generations. There are many yeshivos which are part of the hesder network, many talmidim of Rav Kook who claim allegiance to some form of his ideology and who actively try to inculcate it in their talmidim. Dress does not define a person, but practically speaking, show me a kipah seruah wearing yeshiva bachur who can cite Orot, and I am willing to bet he is not learning in the Mir. As the number of yeshivot under the banner of this hashkafa has increased, their effect has spread to communities built around its ideological framework which in turn feed back to the yeshivot.
One would think I could just as quickly summarize the YU ideology considering that I attended the institution from HS through college, one of its grad schools, and got smicha there. But when I think of YU I think of ideological muddle. The philosophy has never spread to a yeshiva gavoha outside the original institution, with the exception perhaps of Chovivei Torah, which YU disassociates itself from. Rav Soloveitchik never formulated Torah U’Mada, arguably the defining philosophy of YU; that was left to Rav Lamm, someone who is certainly an intellectual and talmid chacham, but, without meaning any disrespect, not a gadol of the caliber of Rav Kook or even the Rav (a fact I think he would admit). The Roshei Yeshiva (at least while I was there) make no attempt to communicate any ideological framework – there is no positive spin to Torah u’Mada, never a discussion of the positives of liberal arts or Modern Orthodoxy, only derech shlili, a passive acceptance that certain allowances exist under the banner of MO. Very few, if any, of the Roshei Yeshiva will speak of the value of literature or liberal arts, issues like women taking a positive role in orthodoxy are increasingly downplayed (compare R’ Twersky or R’ Shachter’s approach to the issue with R’ Henkin’s), and there is little to distinguish the Yeshiva portion of YU from its chareidi counterparts. If there is an ideological mission to the institution, the “better” bachurim, aside from a small %, generally eschew fully identifying with it. As far as community impact, I have seen with my own eyes a 2/3 empty shule in my neighborhood when R’ Hershel Shachter and R’ Rozensweig came to speak, this in a community that is not usually identified with the far right. It is not that the message is disagreed with – it’s that modern orthodoxy embraces a passive nonchalance that undermines its own message. When they came to speak, R’ Rozensweig chose as his topic “Da’as Torah”. Why do I need YU for a da’as torah ideology – the RW offers the same thing in stronger doses without apologizing for it? Where is the YU equivalent of communities with kipa-seruga Orot quoting talmidim - i.e. talmidim with a distinctive derech of avodas Hashem that is the result of having been reared in YU's system? The community hosted R’ Alon a few years ago, and R’ Goldvicht earlier this year, and I heard unabashed enthusiasm for Eretz Yisrael beyond what the RW world offers. It was not RW-lite, but a completely different spin. One is not moved to embrace MO from any ideological fervor, but simply it offers a convenient set of heterim for things like college, and on a communal level, identifying onself as MO provides convenient cover for a host of halachic practices the movements leaders would condemn.
A commentator asked, if I send my son to a chareidi yeshiva, how will he learn of the Rav or Rav Kook? But I went to YU, and had it not been for my personal reading and growth since, I would have never been exposed to Rav Kook either, nor would I have any sense of the Rav’s distinctive ideology from what I heard from the Roshei Yeshiva. The ideology of Rav Kook animates the sichot and hashkafa writings of the Roshei Yeshiva of hesder; can anyone point to a single work of machshava from a YU Rosh Yeshiva that develops the hashkafa of the Rav? This is all by way of personal reflection, and there undoubtedly are communities where the YU world has made a greater impact in the ruchniyus and hashkafa (I never lived in Teaneck, but from what I understand it is such a community), and I hope I have not been too critical. However, it seems to me that while hesder has created passion and ideological fervor and communicated a distinctive ideological vision, YU has failed in the same task. At the same time, in the US, the RW world has grown and continues to grow, and sprout institutions which do communicate a fervor for learning, an clear ideology of Torah, and a committment to avodas Hashem, for which they deserve tremendous credit.