Family Feud

Fighting is never fun. I remember being in a fight with my younger brother once. It went on for days. One trend I’ve noticed after reading blogs for over a year is the constant in-fighting between the (and I really don’t like labels) “Modern and Charedi” world. The truth is that it’s a feud that exists outside the confines of a computer monitor, as well. We see it with our FFB children who attend day schools. We see in when we meet someone in our own cities and they give us a “look” when we mention which shul we affiliate with.

Often people in the frum world are quick to condemn others who won’t hold by our views, yet at the same time, demand that people accept our minhagim and hashkafah.
My wife always says, “If you want respect, you’ve got to give respect.” The funny thing is, as BTs we should pave the way for Achuds and tolerance within our communities. If anyone knows what it takes to navigate through relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, is it not the Baal Teshuva?

A Baal Teshuva wants others to be tolerant of his lifestyle choices. It is only fair that we should set the example of tolerance within Orthodoxy. We have been described as “pillars of religious conviction” and as “people who are passionate about their Judaism”.

We also have, hopefully, learned how to co-exist with our parents, in-laws, and friends who do not share our views on religion. If I wear a black hat and the guy across the street wears a knitted kipah, then so what? It’s time we look for common ground among our fellow Jews. Tisha B’Av is behind us, but the reasons why we mourn are still present today. Rosh Hashanah is around the corner, and soon we will be judged. How we choose to act towards our fellow “Modern” or “Charedi” brothers and sisters could be one of the greatest contributions of the BT movement to orthodox society. The choice is ours.

23 comments on “Family Feud

  1. Great post Neil. I thought at first you were going to be talking about Family Feud the game show, which I was on a few years back. In fact, funnily enough, that show was how a lot of my friends found out I was a BT. When they watched the show they either discovered or inquired about my family’s lack of head coverings. I told them no, the show didn’t make my dad and brother’s remove their yarmalkes, they weren’t wearing them in the first place. They were like, ooooohhhh. Good times!

  2. I’m reminded of an episode that once happened when I was working in a QC (Quality Control) Department. Manufacturing made some out-of-specification material that I had to reject, so I stamped the paperwork Rejected and bounced it back to Manufacturing. The Manufacturing Manager stole my rubber stamp and stamped the paperwork again to reject my rejection!

  3. Agreed. Not a problem…THE problem and I absolutely negate, ignore and demonize anyone who disagrees with me about changing the “a” in your statement to a “THE”!

    As a matter of fact the Yiddiskeit of all members of the “a” camp is conterfeit and despised in the eyes of HaShem and has led many astray! I’m sure it was a typo since we agree!

  4. By the way, I wasn’t “voting” in my last comment. Before anyone get’s too offended let me say that it could just as easily read:

    But if I “know” that the Satmar Rebbe z”l “got it right” then followers of Rav Kook’s z”l approach are at best naive fools and at worst halakha-flouting, mesorah-rejecting sell-outs. These are things that no good person can tolerate. As I said before this approach is a real recipe for intolerance.

    THESE ARE NOT MY OWN FEELINGS. I MERELY WROTE THEM AS ILLUSTRATIONS OF (POSSIBLE) INTOLERANT ATTITUDES IN DIFFERENT TORAH-OBSERVANT CAMPS.

  5. “So those who are more tolerant are only so because they want acceptance by others?”

    Put succinctly this was my argument in factor A) not in factor B). IOW it is a sense that “since I am not without sin why cast any (intolerance) stones?”

    You also wrote: “hence BTs usually try to move their religious convictions out of the realm of educated-guesswork and into the realm of proven fact.”
    So to prove ones’ facts we may choose intolerance? I hope not”

    No that’s not what I meant. What I meant to say is that once someone has established an idea/hashkafa as FACTUAL to be tolerant is equivalent to tolerating sheker or folly. We all tolerate fools badly. It’s just that if I prefer mustard and you prefer ketchup you are not being foolish. The superiority of mustard is not an established, or even establish-able, fact but a matter of taste. But if I “know” that Rav Kook z”l “got it right” then followers of the Satmar Rebbe’s z”l approach are at best naive fools and at worst mean-spirited, cowardly or corrupt. These are things that no good person can tolerate. As I said before this approach is a real recipe for intolerance.

    As far as meeting: Who knows maybe if M & D arrange another Shabaton???

  6. Chaim,
    Wow! This is a quite a thought out comment. I appreciate the time you took in stating it. I’ll try to briefly reply:

    Factor A) “Whereas BT intolerance may derive from the growing familiarity with FFB society OF ALL STRIPES and the conviction that BTs as an entire subculture (or at least the individual BT), is not guilty of the shortcomings and superficiality typical (BTs feel) of Frum civilization in general.”

    Very true. The parallel between politics is way to close to home. I’m only suggesting tolerance within Torah Judaim. But I feel that each individual can exercise tolerance towards others. I’m not bashing FFBs, but we (BTs) have been more exposed to different sub-cultures and that experience can help bring achdus.

    Factor B) “The more tolerant among us have greater nuance and gray area in their own world-view; they have many self-doubts and increasingly find themselves questioning or at least not completely comfortable with many of the dogmas of their early education/indoctrination.”
    Could be. So those who are more tolerant are only so because they want acceptance by others?
    “hence BTs usually try to move their religious convictions out of the realm of educated-guesswork and into the realm of proven fact.”
    So to prove ones’ facts we may choose intolerance? I hope not!

    Rav Dessler’s concept of “bechira points” may be a factor. It could be that the average FFB might be, for lack of a better term, ‘programmed’, to be intolerant. Well, that explains the feud!! I doubt if this is the case. I think it’s more of an issue of “ethnocentrism” vs “cultural relativism”

    At what point does a BT feel or think like a FFB? Does bechira play a role in that?
    Just two questions to put on the table. Maybe they’ll become the basis for another posting? Anyone interested?

    Thanks again, Chaim, I’d love to meet you and chat sometime in person.

  7. “As BTs we should pave the way for Achuds and tolerance within our communities.”

    IMO in the world at large there are at least two major factors by which we can measure an individual or a societies tolerance/ intolerance quotient. If we were to apply these factors to the BTs within Torah -observant society I think that we might come to the opposite conclusion; that it is relatively more challenging for a BT to maintain a tolerant attitude.

    Factor A) How guilty is the individual/society of the same and /or similar foibles as the one he/it is tolerating?

    E.g. in secular western societies where indiscretions are rampant, scandals of this nature will no longer ruin the career of a politician if he/she is otherwise effective. Also, gay rights and even pride are legislated and celebrated. In Islamist societies where, presumably, there is far lass adultery and homosexuality, both adulterers and gays are severely punished (re; executed) and not tolerated at all.

    Most FFB intolerance is just old-fashioned prejudice and stems from relative ignorance of the ways and mores of the “group-de-jour” not being tolerated. The feel of this kind of sinas chinom more closely resembles political parties or even color-war teams competing than real religious intolerance. It’s not that my team is innocent of the crimes that your team is guilty of; it’s just that it happens to be MY team. Whereas BT intolerance may derive from the growing familiarity with FFB society OF ALL STRIPES and the conviction that BTs as an entire subculture (or at least the individual BT), is not guilty of the shortcomings and superficiality typical (BTs feel) of Frum civilization in general.

    Factor B) The depth and passion of the conviction of the truth and correctness of ones own path will often determine how tolerant they are about others.

    It’s easy for a person lacking thoughtful and “hard won” opinions and philosophies to tolerate a broad range of opinions and lifestyles. Having never really staked out a position or taken a stand, there is nothing about those other opinions and lifestyles that go against or reject their own. Reform Jews, for the most part, are a more tolerant bunch about religious matters than Orthodox Jews are but IMO that is merely indicative of their being less passionate and convinced about their Judaism than Orthodox Jews are.

    I know the following may be a sweeping generality yet I think it is mostly true. The more tolerant among us have greater nuance and gray area in their own world-view; they have many self-doubts and increasingly find themselves questioning or at least not completely comfortable with many of the dogmas of their early education/indoctrination. The less tolerant among us enjoy a greater moral/ethical certainty and clarity and, steering clear of Einstein’s advice, often make things simpler than possible. Whereas FFBs bechira points often require them to make incremental 1- 45 degree adjustments BTs have made sharp 90-180 degree turns in their lives. I don’t think that it is an overstatement to say that most BTs have partially or completely sacrificed their old lives for new ones. Discussing actual martyrdom Anatol France once said “To be willing to die for an idea is a to set a rather high price on conjecture” I would paraphrase this and say that “To be willing to give up a career, significant other, higher degree, family/old life for an idea is a to set a rather high price on playing a hunch!” hence BTs usually try to move their religious convictions out of the realm of educated-guesswork and into the realm of proven fact. Couple this with the zeitgeist of the current Kiruv movement that increasingly markets Judaism as being empirically “provable” and you’ve got a potent recipe for intolerance.

  8. Steve,
    Great suggestions. Although I would have never thought about #3, as an option. I’m into ‘quiet’ minyanim, but your idea makes sense in helping to further achdus.

  9. Chaya-One of the oldest expressions is that everyone has shuls that they belong to and daven in and shuls that they belong to but don’t daven in. There is an old vort that “the people that you like to talk to, you can’t daven with and the people that you daven with, you can’t talk too.”

    Sarah-These are among the easiest suggestions that I could think of. BTW-hope that you and your husband are matzlaich at selling a nice house on our block-we have a great mix of younger and middle aged couples from various backgrounds, etc who have a block kiddush, etc

  10. At the risk of sounding naieve, doesn’t everybody at some point do those things suggested by Steve Brizel?

  11. Steve, good ideas but this one:

    3) Try davening in a shul that you night deem either too noisy, quiet, etc.

    That’s just an invitation for me to kvetch to my husband about it!

  12. Here are some relatively easy suggestions to implement:

    1) Say Good Shabbos, etc to anyone-especially if they daven in a shul other than where you go to shul.

    2) Learn Sifrei Halacha and machshavah that you might consider out of your hashkafic orientation.

    3) Try davening in a shul that you night deem either too noisy, quiet, etc.

    4) Assuming that you ive in an area with a valid eruv -don’t look down at those who either use or refrain from doing so.

    5) Think about giving to a txedaka that you might not-even if it is in less quantity than to one that had more of an impact on you as a Torah observant Jew.,

  13. This is a topic that I so often get into and am very passionate about. I find it extremely difficult to watch an Am be so divided and to have so much hate and fighting within and then turn around and expect to succeed while fighting our enemies. I think it is about time that we put ALL our differences aside and show a bit more unity within our AM. Perhaps hashem will smile down on us a little harder. Hitler didn’t seem to care how religious, chardei, chassidic, secular or whatever other label a Jew was. To him a Jew was a Jew. Lets look at it the same way, except obviously in the positive. I have a feeling the results will be wonderful!

  14. Dov,
    So very true. I always think to myself, how would I want my own children to respond/ so tolerance toward the person I was before or while I was becoming frum. Tolerance/chinuch/midos starts in the home.

  15. As a BT myself, who went through quite an intolerant stage, I think we need to admit that BTs often display more intolerance than others. It may be the result of thinking that the derech we were taught in yeshiva is the only legitimate one, not appreciating the diversity of opinion within Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, the sort of people I am thinking of are unlikely to be reading this blog.

  16. And another amen from here! As discussed in the early days of this blog, as BT’s we’ve had an influence, as consumers, on the quality of kosher wines and restaurants. Neil, you’re showing how we can/are improving achdus by furthering our skills as “wise consumers”. Yasher koach!

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