Wednesday, May 16, 2007

rav simcha hakohen kook on yerushalayim and some thoughts on chinuch

Rav Simcha Kook was in our neighborhood for Shabbos and my son decided he wanted to hear him speak so we davened at a different minyan than our usual haunt. My son has been reading the bio of R’ Aryeh Levine, which touches in a few places on criticism R’ Aryeh received for being close with R’ Kook [the present R’ Kook’s grandfather's brother], so I think he may have been curious to see what someone with the last name Kook would look like and have to say. Rav Kook more than adequately lived up to his 13 year old’s impression of what a gadol b’yisrael must look like (peyos, beard, black frock). Rav Kook spoke about the name Yerushalaim – the name is a combination of yirah, taken from Avaham calling the mountain b’har Hashem yera’eh, and shalom, taken from Malki Tzedek, melech shaleim. Rather than choose one name over the other, Hashem combined the two to make peace, ir shechubra lah. Asked R’ Kook, but wouldn’t Malki Tzedek still have a ta’anah, as he came first, so it should be called shaleimyeru? He answered that yirah=mesirus nefesh, and even Malki Tzedek recognized that for a Jew, mesirus nefesh comes before shalom. With tears in his eyes, R’ Kook then told the story of the bravery of Roi Klein. After hearing Rav Kook speak about Yerushalayim, my son asked me what Yom Yerushalayim is, because in his school, which as he puts it “is non-zionistic”, they had learned nothing about it. Here in the US, the world of Torah is dominated by chareidi or pseudo-chareidi (or as my wife puts it, "limousine chareidim") bnei torah and one really has little opportunity to see a world of torah like the hesder/dati-leuimi/chardal world of Eretz Yisrael. At the risk of a false generalization, I don't think its unfair to say that aside from YU and literally a handful of other institutions, there is no parallel or substitute in the modern orthodox world for the environment of deep immersion in talmud torah and spirituality that has been created by hundreds of RW yeshivos. It leaves people like myself with a torn identity. Philosophically, I take my queue from the Rav, R’ Kook, and their talmidim. But practically, I spend my "keviyus ittim" time in a bais medrash where hallel is not recited today, and if I want my children to grow up in an environment without the influence of TV, where talmud torah is overemphasized so that it becomes ingrained in their thinking, where the base materialism and lower aspects of American culture are at least recognized as bad even if the bulwarks against their influence are not fully effective, then I have no choice but to send them to schools where sadly, today is just another day on the calendar, and Rav Kook is just a name in a history book or a figure viewed with at best pareve indifference.

20 comments:

  1. The issue you raise is important -- the question then is will you send your son to a hesder yeshiva and/or YU? Or will that be precluded because if you send to a more charedi high school, it is hard to get off that track? Either that, or you have to go the YU-type high school route for high school also and hope that your son will still find a love of learning there (and in morasha or NSCY kollel over the summers) and approach learning seriously from there -- that is the route that has worked for many (my brothers and myself among them, BH). Look no further than you - immersion in talmud Torah and the non-charedi yeshivos is NOT a tartei de-sasrei! I will give you that that route does have issues and risks but on the other side, I feel that if you send your son to a yeshivish place for HS, you have to do that with the comfort level that he will stay on that path for the long haul, with the full package that comes with -- inlcuding Rav Kook and the Rav being, as you say, at best pareve.

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  2. Bill Selliger12:58 PM

    I went to chareidi yeshivos my whole life. I have no idea what and when Yom Yerushalayim is. I'm guessing that YY is different from Yom Ha'atzmaut? Wasn't that in May also? I also don't know what "chardal" is.

    Oh, by the way, I lived in Jerusalem for 3 years while in yeshiva.

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  3. Anon1, all this is true. More to say on it in a future post. The HS question will be a difficult one - still have a few months to wrestle with it. But the key word in your comment is 'hope' - yes, you and I did the system (YU/KBY/morasha kollel) and perhaps gained a lot, but you can't compare the risk of not appreciating the Rav or Rav Kook to the risks commonly associated with the MO HS world.
    Anyway, you lumped together YU and hesder, and I think they are worlds apart, something I only appreciate now in retrospect. This needs another post.

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  4. If one were in Israel and wanted one's children to grow up in an environment without the influence of TV and which emphasizes talmud torah to the desirable extent, wouldn't one still have to turn to the Charedi/Chardal world, both of which reject secular studies?

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  5. So, are you saying, Josh M., that it is too quixotic to wish to not throw the baby out with the bathwater? But I think even here, we end up having to align ourselves with the RW educational system, and still, our children are somewhat exceptional in not having a TV in the home. But we do have loads of literature -- mostly 19th Century.

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  6. I am not in E.Y. so I can't answer fully, but I will just say puk chazei - in Israel one can find batei midrash filled with kipah serugah wearing men learning torah; the same phenomenon does not exist in my neighborhood. Again, this needs its own post, but when I was in YU the guys who were the 'shtarkest' learners were *least* committed to the ideology of YU and Torah u'Mada. In KBY the 'shatarkest' guys in yeshiva were the *most* committed to the ideology of hesder.

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  7. So, are you saying, Josh M., that it is too quixotic to wish to not throw the baby out with the bathwater?

    One can - and must - look at any situation from both the standpoints of idealism and realism. I'm only questioning if, leaving the land itself aside, Israel is a such a significant hashkafic improvement over that which can be found in chu"l (admittedly, I conflated this post with previous posts of Chaim).
    [On a side note, I'm sort of surprised that it seems like the two aspects of secular society that your local RW community has taken on are rampant materialism and open exposure to the worst of western culture through television - but coming from the boondocks, I tend to be a bit naive about this sort of thing.]

    I am not in E.Y. so I can't answer fully, but I will just say puk chazei - in Israel one can find batei midrash filled with kipah serugah wearing men learning torah; the same phenomenon does not exist in my neighborhood.

    Judging people based on their headcovering is misleading, as any real hashkafa is not directly connected to a choice of kisui rosh, but at the very most correlated to it, and headcoverings can mean different things in the US and in Israel.

    I'm not currently in EY, either, but is the hachshava of Torah truly superior amongst the rank and file of a non-charedi community like Nof Ayalon or Alon Sh'vut than in the non-charedi community in a place like Teaneck or Lawrence? (Perhaps the presence of local ideologically-aligned yeshivos in the former could actually foster this feeling, as well as encourage the gathering of a critical mass, but I don't know firsthand).

    At any rate, I look forward to your sequel posts.

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  8. Anonymous3:31 PM

    Hey, I invented 'limousine charedim' :-) (I still feel bad about it, cuz the fellow i called a limousine charedi is apparently a card carrying haredi while I thought he was straddling boundaries)

    Ariella - I can't get comments to go through on your blog (now they are not going through at all, not just not printing), and I don't have your email address.

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  9. On the choice of yarmulke: I was in Israel in Michalah the same year as my sister was in BJJ. A BJJ girl asserted -- based on the authority of her teacher -- that anyone in a srugy in Israel is aligned with Mizrachi. Now you have to understand that coming from there, it is strong censure indeed. This is a school where a paper proving the Mizrachi to be wrong is an acceptable (probably even laudable) academic project.

    "[On a side note, I'm sort of surprised that it seems like the two aspects of secular society that your local RW community has taken on are rampant materialism and open exposure to the worst of western culture through television - but coming from the boondocks, I tend to be a bit naive about this sort of thing.]"
    Of course the 5 Towns is (in)famous for materialism, but I found the mix of identification with RW ideology on the one hand together with indulgence in materialism and the culture (if you could call it that) of television on the hand in other places, as well. It's just that the other hand is a bit less in sight in some of those places.

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  10. Anonymous3:37 PM

    "Anyway, you lumped together YU and hesder, and I think they are worlds apart, something I only appreciate now in retrospect. This needs another post."

    I couldn't get over the difference when I was in Israel.

    Admittedly elements in MO in the US have moved right, but there still is no comparison.

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  11. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I still feel bad about it, cuz the fellow i called a limousine charedi is apparently a card carrying haredi while I thought he was straddling boundaries)

    That's interesting. What made you think he was straddling, and what made you change your perspective?

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  12. anon16:02 PM

    Chaim,

    As I mentioned before, I too went the morasha kollel/KBY/YU route and have the same appreciation that you do for the issues. I agree with you that YU and hesder are not the same -- but for purposes of your post, the tzad ha-shaveh is what they disagree with the charedi world -- for e.g., the YY issue. Even the shtarkest of the shtark in YU are machshiv YH and YY. They are also similar in that certain pitfalls/issues that I perceive to be in the charedi world are absent from both of YU and hesder. But you are right, that you trade that for a host of other issues. Enough said -- I'm sure we can all go on about this for a while. Anyway, my kids are only a few years younger than yours and I'll have to deal with this soon enough. Maybe I'll find out how it went for you.

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  13. Anonymous who tried to comment on my blog: Thank you for bringing the matter to my attention. For future reference you can email me as editor at my site: kallahmagazine.com. email contacts appear on the homepage. I made some changes because all comments were being blacklisted and so instantly zapped for some reason.
    Oh, and I never claimed to have coined the term "limousine chareidim"; I merely used it, as I do other terms people coin.

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  14. Anonymous10:53 AM

    thank you!

    i'd meant along the lines of limousine liberal - that some are not quite part of the community and dont have to live with the effects of policies they espouse (not that they are materialistic and therefore pseudo haredi)

    At the time, I was frustrated on blogs by noting that some who are, so to speak, more catholic than the pope, and writing in to defend every last UO mishegass, are not necessarily living with the results of policies they espouse/defend.

    Hope that was clearer anon3:56 -

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  15. tinara2:21 PM

    not important; but R simcha kook is not the grandson of R a y kook ,but the grandson of RAYK's brother

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  16. correction made. thanks

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  17. why would you entrust your children's education - the real important part of it, i mean - to any school?
    your kids know that you are a zionist, and probably know that you know more than their rabbeim. why would they trust them over you?

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  18. AddeRabbi - you hit the nail right on the head (as usual).

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  19. Because during your child's "education", they spend a few hours a day learning torah and being influenced by their Rebbe's Hashkafah...

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  20. Glad to see our BM present going to good use!

    There's a lot to be said on this topic, another time...

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