Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Ultra

Posted on | February 22, 2008 | By Guest Contributor | 88 Comments

By “Reuven”

About a month ago I posted The Parental Shidduch Crisis. It was a candid sharing of the crisis I was going through as we searched for our eldest son’s soul mate. The commenters, by and large, were very sympathetic and encouraging. Many also appreciated my insights into this monstrous obstacle for those not raised Orthodox. Suddenly, in the midst of the growing discussion, my sob story radically changed. It looked like we had a shidduch! The joy and suspense of our son’s first “date” was shared with the forum and by the time we announced the Vort there were calls for a sequel. The following article is it.

Now the interesting thing is that just as I was putting the final touches on this post, including the title, I spotted the following comment on Can Beyond BT Be More Inclusive?:

UO = Ultra-Orthodox

This can mean a group that:

1. takes traditional Judaism seriously enough to believe and do it without compromise,

Or:

2. one wants to stigmatize as fanatical or quaint.

On the whole, the UO term is frowned upon by UO people. It’s also frowned upon by others who think the term is not pejorative enough!

Two days later came a full fledged post on this topic, entitled: Ultra Orthodoxy: Not So Inclusive Just Yet. Well, talk about Providence! Apparently there’s much more here than just my personal story.

***********

In The Beginning we were spry and pure hearted, drawing unbelievable inspiration from finding our Creator within some of the most unorthodox of places. Then we discovered Torah. And Orthodox Judaism. The latter were obviously means towards the former. Authentic, time-honored, holy means – but still means. My wife and I respectively made our ways to the Holy land, determined to live an unadulterated life of fulfilling our Creator’s Will.

That’s when we met. Love at first sight.

Our first post marital aim was to find a place where I could learn without towing a party line; where there would be models of genuine Torah wisdom accessible to us both; where it would be understood that we were in search of truth and not Orthodoxy, per se. Certainly not ULTRA Orthodoxy, for G-d’s sake!

With tremendous, humbling guidance from above, we found an exceptional Orthodox Rav who was at ease across the traditional Jewish spectrum. I had the subsequent privilege of learning tons from him, his community, Kollel and home over the next six years. But there were blips. A few very painful ones. We emerged bruised in our view of the integrity of Orthodoxy.

So I returned to university and studied education and psychology. I went on to become an educator among the secular and marginally Orthodox while plugging away at instilling core Torah values within my family. Thank G-d I succeeded in both, but especially the latter. Far more than I could have dreamed of! Especially with our first child, who proved to be quite gifted, (not to tempt the evil eye!), including matters of emuna {faith}. He taught me so much. Thus began a fabulous journey of learning together “what the Torah r-e-a-l-l-y means” as I meditated awestruck on that famous messianic verse:

And he (Eliahu) will return the hearts
of the fathers (back to G-d)
by way of the sons

Slowly but surely my enthusiasm for Orthodoxy returned. And then some. As I was getting progressively familiar with the more esoteric literature and seeing how well my son gained by my filtering it his way, I began to identify with those, um, er, hate to say it, but yes… Ultras. By the time our little tsaddik reached 7th grade we shipped him off to a special chassidic cheider in the next town, donned the garb, I dropped my non-Orthodox teaching career and returned to intensive Torah learning.

Yep. We had become bona fide Ultras.

A few years later, with the encouragement of our new Rebbe, shlit”a, the entire family moved to the community. As much as there were many awkward aspects of trying to integrate into such an insular communal life in midlife, including my utter befuddlement about how to earn a living without compromising on all the newfound spiritual ideals, the nachas we gained from the kids’ progress made it worthwhile. Every day brought new heights of excitement in helping them grow in chochma, kdusha and emuna.

And then came Shiduchim {the time for matchmaking}.

I honestly can tell you that “crisis” barely describes the experience. My heart sunk into places no man has ever gone before. All this talk about people as schora tova {good merchandise}, about sleuthing information from shadchanim, teachers and friends, about nosing into each other’s yichus {lineage}. What can I say? It just didn’t fit my picture of what a life dedicated to G-d was all about. In fact, it felt more like placing my son into a sub-cultural coffin and inviting the community to rejoice over the pounding in of each nail!

And that’s not to mention my dreams of his finding his soul mate as clearly and vibrantly as I had found mine.

*

In Elul the phone calls started. He had just turned 19. We sat our beloved firstborn down for a few long talks. Was he sure he’s ready? Well, he accepts with complete faith that he should try, if this is the norm of such a holy community. Did he know who she should be? Yes… mostly. Are you clear on the life you want to lead? Yes… mostly.

So we swallowed hard and started answering those calls… mostly. At first we played the hush-hush game. Not even the potential groom was to know who was calling. But soon the kids were hopping and giggling with each new ring and we were finding that our heads were spinning with all the non and dis and simply inappropriate information. There were grand offers, creepy offers and a lot of blur in between. How to know? No one was asking about his character nor telling us about her dreams. It was more like why not this or how about that. Like when you’re putting a puzzle together during a cheery vacation laze. Let’s see now, does this one fit? Maybe that one. Well, if not, let’s force it a bit…

My kishkes turned.

Then, one girl from a very reputable family was suggested. Everything about her values and intelligence fit our son. But when we saw her picture and my wife interacted with her in Shul… we just couldn’t connect. The look. Ugh! But is that a reason? Aye-aye-aye. So I asked the Rebbe. He said, before I could barely get the words out: “Trust her. Your wife’s intuition is reliable.”

Pshhh. So much for the proverbial fanaticism of those Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis!

About a week later, the rumors spread like wildfire. They were engaged!! Mazal To…. Oh, really? They’re NOT? Oops. Some friends explained: This can be a tactic to get parents to reconsider.

Double kishke turn. Apparently not all the Ultras are as pure as the Rebbe…

Finally, a couple of months later, just as he was rounding 19 1/3 (the supposed ideal time) we started involving our son in the process. He had always taught us so much, maybe he’d pull through here as well. It was uncomfortable for him, to be sure. It certainly disturbed his learning. But nebach – what could he do. His poor parents needed help!

And so our spirits re-lifted as we observed how deftly he deciphered the wording behind this suggestion and questioned the tones behind that one. He filled us in on the character of this family and the scholarship of that one. It was starting to feel a little fun! Like putting a puzzle together…

Then we heard the spectacular suggestion that led me to write “Shidduch Crisis.” She was perfect. A genuinely modest girl with a noble personality and, most importantly, an aim in life that fit his like a glove. And she didn’t have that weird look. She actually appeared quite charming. So what were we waiting for? Well, hmm, the Shadchan stammered. Her mother, you see, has this thing for yichus {noble lineage}.

Nu-nu. We’ll get around that one, we told ourselves with “perfect” faith. The Rebbe himself, after all, so often emphasizes what an exceptional bachor he is. And her father is gung-ho. And, and, and.

But no. The Ultra-mother wouldn’t budge. She refused to even speak with us.

Ugh, ugh, UGH! Horrendous waves of sadness began to flow. Then came the outrage. Towards G-d! How c-o-u-l-d He? Why bring us all this way and drop us like a sack of potatoes? Why, why, WHY! No. COULDN’T be. It must be “them.” All those twisted, devious Ultras…

*
Our Kallah was suggested a couple of weeks later. I knew something was up by the way the Shadchan sheepishly approached me. He had been actively involved in trying to make that yichus case go. He knew I was broken. So walking over on egg shells, he gently asked if he could suggest something… perhaps… as a friend………. and son?

Son?

Yes. You see, his father, who had hosted us for a number of Shabbos meals during our transition into the community, had mentioned a few times that he’d love to see a match for our son with one of his granddaughters. So if we happen to be “available,” would we consider helping him do this kibud Av {honoring of his father} and hear an offer about the daughter of his brother?

Pshhhhh. THIS was pure. STRAIGHT from Above. For the first time in four months, I could feel my whole system calm down. Soon it would break out in prayer:

ki lo khalu rakhamekha;
ki lo tamu khasadekha

for Your compassion is unending;
for Your kindness has never ceased

The Vort {declaration of intent to engage} was three weeks later. The Tnoiim {official engagement} is scheduled for Sunday, iy”H’. As much as I’d love to share with all of you how exactly the meetings went, I don’t have permission to do so. But I can share a crucial lesson that I humbly admit took me way too long to learn: ULTRA-ORTHOS ARE NOT ALL FANATICS!

Rather, they are ordinary folk who strive to live according to the highest Torah principles. Some succeed, many don’t. What can we do? Serving G-d is h-a-r-d. The hardest thing in the world. But it beckons everyone.

The term ultra, in itself, is actually quite beautiful. According to Webster it means “beyond the range of; on the farther side of.” Don’t you see? That’s what we ALL should be striving for. It’s not the ultra that is the problem but the orthodoxy. The complacency with any one way of thinking. Once we realize how “orthodox” we all are in resistance to our Creator, then we can begin to climb down from our high horses and follow His lead. As the Proverb chides (19:21):
Abundant are the thoughts of man
but the advice of G-d
will prevail

The Holy Zohar explains: What is Divine advice? The 613 Mitzvos. Advice for what? Dveikus, cleaving to your Creator.

Paradoxically, then, Ultra-Orthodoxy is really the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations. For people who subscribe to this are devoting their lives to the blessed eternal One. What can be more liberating than that? To be sure, just mouthing or dressing this belief doesn’t do it. In fact, many who merely play the part are greatly suffering and causing others to suffer due to their tremendous pangs of conscience for leading a life of the worst hypocrisy. But this shouldn’t detract from the truth of the aim: “to get beyond the range of, on the farther side of” Orthodoxy.

The side of G-d.

I know this transition is possible if at the least because of what the Rebbe, shlit”a, told me at the end of this whole ordeal. I had asked him about all the Ultra-talk of tying the knot with her family “like everyone does.” He said, in his inimitably sobering way:

“G-o-o-d and s-p-e-c-i-a-l people often DON’T do what everyone does!”

Quote unquote.

He went on to encourage me to stand up for some unusual requests. Like not rushing the Vort immediately upon the couple’s readiness to marry. It’s important for everyone’s yishuv Ha’daas, presence of mind, he stressed, that one comes to such a point after all the issues are settled. Similarly, he supported my interest in writing into the legal agreement that in contrast to all other holydays, her parents should have no expectations of the couple spending Pessach Seder with them. As per the verse (Ex 13): “You should tell it to your son on that day, saying: because of this that G-d did for me in my exodus from Egypt.”

Whoa. Isn’t that extreme? Fanatic? Unfairly imposing on a family to forgo being with their daughter at such a special time? No. It’s a matter of truth. Deep, soul truth. Father-son truth. Truth like I knew way back then, when I was spry and pure hearted; when I was seeking something like the light that’s now dancing within the eyes of my wonderfully Ultra-Orthodox son and new daughter-in-law.

Mazal Tov !

* * *

Comments

88 Responses to “Ultra”

  1. Fern R
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 2:56 am

    Reuven — MAZAL TOV! All the best wishes for your son and his kallah-to-be. May your heart be overflowing with nachas from the two of them.

  2. Bob Miller
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 7:48 am

    Mazal Tov!

  3. Michoel
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 10:02 am

    “Reuven”,
    You are an exceptional writer.

  4. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 10:05 am

    Mazal tov, i hope it works out.

    Although i feel a need to point out that the tone of this post reinforces the sense of unwantedness and “not-good-enough”ness that many people who do not identify as UO feel here on BeyondBT.

  5. Bob Miller
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

    Steg, if you’re secure in your own approach, the tone of other people shouldn’t faze you.

    At various times, we have been involved with both MO and UO organizations. People in the MO world, for some reason, have tended to voice much more concern about, or irritation with, the views and actions of UO people than vice-versa.

  6. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

    if you’re secure in your own approach, the tone of other people shouldn’t faze you

    that’s just as untrue as “sticks and stones / may break my bones / but words will never / hurt me”

    My point about the tone was that people have been talking recently about what population range BeyondBT considers legitimate, and who feels comfortable or not and why. This is another example to add to the analysis.

  7. Charlie Hall
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

    “It’s important for everyone’s yishuv Ha’daas, presence of mind, he stressed, that one comes to such a point after all the issues are settled.”

    Why is this important? There is no halachic requirement for this!

  8. Bob Miller
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

    “that’s just as untrue as ‘sticks and stones’…”

    Or just as true.

  9. Len Kofman
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

    Bob:

    Steg, if you’re secure in your own approach, the tone of other people shouldn’t faze you.

    I agree to some extent but I do think that there is a responsibility to be careful in your tone to not offend others. In the post it said:

    “Ultra-Orthodoxy is really the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations. For people who subscribe to this are devoting their lives to the blessed eternal One. ”

    There is the implication, whether intentional or not, that people who don’t subscribe to it are not devoting their lives to the eternal one which can definately make one feel less than welcome.

  10. Bob Miller
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

    If Reuven (for example) wants to tout his lifestyle, that’s OK and if Steg (for example) wants to tout his, that’s OK, too.

  11. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

    I don’t go around saying that only my side of the Orthodox spectrum is “the side of G-d”. Maybe i should start?

  12. Bob Miller
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

    Hey, if that’s your message, shouldn’t we hear it? Hopefully with something to back it up.

  13. Len Kofman
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

    >Hey, if that’s your message, shouldn’t we hear it? Hopefully with something to back it up.

    What happened to Elu v’Elu…?

  14. Dovid
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

    My Ultra Congratulations to you Reuven!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences
    with us.

    Bob Miller…on the ball as usual..thanks.

    After reading all of the postings about MO and LWMO and RWMO and UO (and…are there any more
    that I missed?), it should leave us all with a headache, and a yearning that Hashem should send us our spritual GPS so we can all find our way without yelling at each other in the car on the way. A guten Shabbos to one and all
    (that’s Shabbat Sholom to those who prefer it)!

  15. Ron Coleman
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    Mazal tov, Reuven. Ultra simchadik!

  16. David Linn
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

    Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t see any triumphalism here. In fact, I think Reuven presented quite a “warts and all” picture from the inside.

    A Groise Mazel Tov.

  17. Charlie Hall
    February 24th, 2008 @ 1:55 am

    “writing into the legal agreement that in contrast to all other holydays, her parents should have no expectations of the couple spending Pessach Seder with them”

    I don’t see why this is a good thing. Could someone explain?

  18. Ora
    February 24th, 2008 @ 2:43 am

    Use of the term “Ultra-Orthodox” to refer to “Hareidi” is also offensive to those of use who do our best to be “ultra” about Hashem and Torah even though we could never be mistaken for Hareidi. (Honestly I’m almost jealous, why does nobody call me ultra-something? I’m plenty extreme, just ask my family… :) )

    Nice post Reuven, thanks for telling a bit more of your story.

    Steg, for the most part I agree with Bob Miller. A confident modern orthodox/dati leumi/ just Jewish Jew won’t be fazed by any putdowns, real or imagined, from the hareidi community. Of course that doesn’t give any hareidim (or anyone else, obviously) the right to insult us, but if they do, we’ll shrug it off and keep going.

  19. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 24th, 2008 @ 8:41 am

    I don’t get how people here don’t seem to understand that words can actually hurt people. Haven’t you ever heard of verbal abuse?

  20. David Schallheim
    February 24th, 2008 @ 10:24 am

    >I don’t get how people here don’t seem to understand that words can actually hurt people. Haven’t you ever heard of verbal abuse?

    Not to mention lashon Hara, rechilus, motei shem ra, etc. Indeed, very hurtful, and totally asur.

    But where do you see anything remotely resembling verbal abuse in this post?

    “Reuven”:
    Mazel Tov! Is today the day of the vort?

  21. Menachem Lipkin
    February 24th, 2008 @ 10:28 am

    Mazal Tov Reuven! May you have much Nachas.

    Ora and Bob, it’s not a question of being secure or not. The issue is comfort. I may be very secure and happy with my decision to purchase my Lexus (that’ll be the day:) and I may believe it’s the best car out there or least the best car for me. However, no matter how secure I am with my purchase and my decision, I’m not going to enjoy hanging around with someone who constantly tells me that his Cadillac is better and that he’s so happy he finally decided to move “up” from his Lexus.

  22. Bob Miller
    February 24th, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

    Our Buick is full of pockmarks from a Midwest hailstorm two Pesachs ago. Our younger son joked that the hail made it more aerodynamic, like a golf ball. If someone were to tell me now that his car was better in every way, I couldn’t care less.

    Anyway, if people are so caught up in their own comfort that they will never willingly encounter the other (that is, the other types of Orthodox Jew) in a frank but fair discussion, is that good?

  23. Mark Frankel
    February 24th, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

    I think that we can have fair and frank discussions while still be cognizant of the effects that words can have on people.

    I strongly suggest a reading and re-reading of the Power of Words by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin which goes into great detail on Onoas Devorim.

    It is clearly pointed out that just because something doesn’t bother me, does not mean that I can say it to someone else if it will bother them.

    It’s very upsetting to me when good people are expressing a pain and other good people try to de-legitimize that pain. We’re all good Jews here, let’s become better Jews.

  24. Bob Miller
    February 24th, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    I don’t see anyone delegitimizing the other’s pain categorically. You must admit that there are degrees and levels here as in everything else. How far must we go to insure that absolutely no one will feel discomfort for any reason at all?

  25. David Linn
    February 24th, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

    I’ve re-read “Reuven”‘s piece and, though I absolutely understand and agree with Mark’s point that “just because something doesn’t bother me, does not mean that I can say it to someone else if it will bother them”, it seems that the heat here is being generated more in the comments than from the post.

    What’s most interesting to me and perhaps something most important to learn is that “Reuven” wrote his piece, at least partially, in response to others who he felt disparaged or misunderstood Ultra-Orthodoxy or Hareidism. A lesson to be learned is that ALL of us need to be cognizant of and sensitive to others’ feelings regarding our use of words especially when speaking of something near and dear to that person.

  26. Mark Frankel
    February 24th, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

    “Paradoxically, then, Ultra-Orthodoxy is really the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations.”

    Emphasis mine. These are potentially explosive words. I certainly don’t think Reuven wrote them to offend or delegitimize anyone, but I do think people were put off by sentiments like this expressed in the post.

    We don’t have to delegitimize somemone’s pain or their path categorically for it to be incorrect. Any delegitimizing is negative and damaging.

    How far must we go. That’s a strawman. We’re not defining the outer limits, we’re saying that we must certainly go further if wonderful observant Jews like Steg and Menachem are not comfortable here. Because their discomfort should make us all the uncomfortable.

    Let’s stop insisting for a moment that we’re right and listen to those who feel they’ve been wronged. If we can’t hear them, accept them, machshav them and love them, then I think we’re missing a key point of what Torah is about.

  27. Bob Miller
    February 24th, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

    What I’m pointing to is a tendency to take any criticism whatsoever as a form of delegitimaztion.

  28. Mark Frankel
    February 24th, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

    Again, you’re overstating the case. It’s not any form of criticism. It’s specific forms aimed at specific paths which have been expressed explicitly in this past week’s post.

    And for the record, we’ve allowed everything to be posted. I’m just criticizing this specific form of criticism and trying to point out the real harm it is causing.

  29. Bob Miller
    February 24th, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

    “And for the record, we’ve allowed everything to be posted.”

    Doesn’t your logic point to editing out the parts that you consider to be violations of halachos of Onoas Devorim? If you truly believed that there were such parts, what considerations made you leave these in?

    Earlier discussion threads contained comments with parts that were out-and-out blasts at Torah Judaism itself. These must have offended a much wider cross-section of your readers (including me!), but you left them in, too.

    What gives?

  30. Menachem Lipkin
    February 24th, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

    From Bob:

    “Anyway, if people are so caught up in their own comfort that they will never willingly encounter the other (that is, the other types of Orthodox Jew) in a frank but fair discussion, is that good?”

    Nobody said “Never”. That’s a straw man. The Lexus owner will go a few rounds with the Cadillac owner, but after a while it just gets tiresome having to explain why he bought it and why it’s better for him. This discomfort is not necessarily one of sensitivity (although there may be be some brand new Lexus owners who are quite sensitive) it’s a discomfort of sitting in a room with the same Cadillac owners harping about the advantages of their car day in and day out.

  31. Bob Miller
    February 24th, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

    Menachem, your straw man is the idea that this forum is dominated by that type of Cadillac talk.

  32. Menachem Lipkin
    February 24th, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

    You got me there Bob, I made the whole thing up. Actually, all the people raising concerns about this issue are me with different screen names. Good catch!

  33. Mark Frankel
    February 24th, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

    Doesn’t your logic point to editing out the parts that you consider to be violations of halachos of Onoas Devorim?

    Actually not.

    The reason this site exists at all is because there is a toeles (constructive purpose) for it and that is to help Baalei Teshuva’s (and other Jews) in their paths towards Hashem.

    That purpose necessitates people expressing themselves. Usually that expression is allowed, sometimes the comments are deleted (Our policy is not to edit comments).

    We’ve gone through this before and I’m sorry that I have not made it black and white clear. That’s probably because we’re in a gray area here and we’ve received enough Rabbinic guidance to know how to navigate the gray here. When we’re unsure, we ask a shailoh.

    Our call for inclusion, acceptance and understanding is consistent. We want as many Jews as possible to feel comfortable here in making their way closer to Hashem. Like most roads in life, there are many bumps on the way and we hope that we can work together to pave the path.

  34. Bob Miller
    February 24th, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

    Menachem, why not just make your own case for your own values?

  35. Ron Coleman
    February 24th, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

    Frankly it is this blog, out of many orthodox blogs that “serve” the frum world (at least until the coming coming kol koreh that will eventually purport to prohibit frum blogging… mark my words), that has a special obligation to be the least ideologically, or religious-politically, intimidating. It’s not a matter of self-aggrandizement to consider this, because we each have an obligation toward each single Jew we affect. Each of us, towards each other of us. On the Internet, this could be a phenomenal responsibility, because even a modest amount of traffic can have significant spiritual leverage. And not only in this generation. Every Yid that is turned off, marginally, by a cold or superior “attitude” displayed by me could affect countless future Jewish souls, or potential souls, and so on.

    That is a big challenge for us, because so many BT’s choose a RW path, and unfortunately get habituated to generating the chizuk we all need (and that many of us will never get from extended frum families and other benefits of growing up from) by constantly contrasting our approach to practice with others. Not only BT’s do this; but BT’s should be the most sensitive to its effects when it is done publicly.

    What a huge kiddush Hashem we could make if we, “the baal teshuva blog,” by virtue of our self-policing and an articulated sense of heightened sensitivity — and I absolutely include a not-so-long-ago version myself in this; chatasi, ovisi! — could be that kindler, gentler place we’re talking about for sincerely searching Yidden of all stripes.

    Someone used the term “tokenism” when I mentioned this before, but I’m sorry: I have shared experiences recently with non-frum family members and friends that have demonstrated more profound d’veikus and unadulterated emunah than I can imagine mustering up for my own part, and that I wish I could buy with money, and for which I would gladly trade in my Borsalino. All the more so should I feel this regarding fellow bona fide orthodox Jews. That doesn’t require any compromise in my personal approach to serving Hashem, and I’m not suggesting one. But I believe we can demonstrate here that when BT’s mature, they move past the comparing and condemning that is perhaps a necessary part of the growth process while undergoing a radical change from an irreligious or even anti-religious way of life, and actually become fuller, more empathetic beings, not the opposite. That should be our calling card as BT’s. Yes, even we “successfully assimilated” ones. Especially us.

    I sometimes thing machlokes is a lot of work; sometimes, however, it’s really the path of least resistance. That is precisely the way the yetzer hora would set it up, no?

    Let’s do the extra quantum of work each time, before we hit the SUBMIT button, to ask ourselves if we can make the same l’sheim Shomayim point, but softer, or warmer, or a little bit more modest. Let us remember the soft, still Voice that spoke to Eliahu.

    That is my “growth project” for this year.

  36. David Linn
    February 24th, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

    Amen, Ron, Amen. Brilliant.

  37. Paul
    February 24th, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

    I am delighted that ‘Reuven’, his son and his family have found a true simchah.

    But is this post really so encouraging? The ‘match’ represented the exception to the rule(s) – as was made clear. Kol hakavod to the Kallah’s family. But the rest of the story is horrific. As has been pointed out before, and repeated already on this thread, the Haredi community practises exactly the opposite of what they preach — ie an obsession with sex and the female form, and elevation of materialism above all else.

  38. Ron Coleman
    February 24th, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

    Paul, was the “offending” family in Reuven’s post “the Haredi community”?

    From reading the post, I thought it was just one family, and probably in reality one decision-maker.

    We also, with all due respect to Reuven, who I am sure is being entirely sincere, do not really know both sides of the story. There are always two.

  39. M
    February 24th, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

    “an obsession with sex and the female form, and elevation of materialism”

    I thought Reuven’s post was about Yichus, not sex, or even materialism. Am I misreading the post?

  40. "Reuven"
    February 25th, 2008 @ 6:23 am

    Hi there, friends. This is one exhausted Abba. The Tnoiim was in the next town, everything got started late, speakers went on for too long, we finished way passed the time of normal transportation so it took a long time and paying an arm and a leg to get back, I forced myself up 2 hours after getting to bed in order to make good on my vow (bli neder) to return to my early morning chavrusa …. and it was absolutely WONDERFUL!

    Mazal Tov, mazal tov, mazal tov. Soon by all of you (not the process, just the simcha!). Please forgive for my needing a little more time before responding to some of your very thoughtful and challenging comments. In the meantime I must at least give a big thanx to Michoel (#3), for I also happen to think H’ really put in extra time in helping me get this one onto paper. That said, I must confess I didn’t have enough time to fully edit it. And one change I now realize I must make is re. that “most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations” line. Perhaps not according to all of Mark’s “Orthodox” shmiras Halashon rules ;-},
    but close.

    Lila tov

  41. "Reuven"
    February 25th, 2008 @ 6:23 am

    … or was the boker?!

  42. "Reuven"
    February 25th, 2008 @ 6:24 am

    snorrr

  43. Ora
    February 25th, 2008 @ 7:49 am

    Steg–
    Of course I realize that there is such a thing as verbal abuse. However, I haven’t seen anything that I would call “abuse” on this site.

    I would agree that everyone should work to be sensitive and express themselves in a way that will avoid offending any particular group. However, I don’t like the assumption here that it’s the “right wing ultras” making problems for the rest. Look at the posts following “Understanding the Internet ban,” or “a case for Modern Orthodox Kiruv,” or the way that some people who wrote posts about their own spiritual growth as it related to decisions to give up personal internet connections/ avoid secular music were basically told “That’s not necessary, you shouldn’t do that.” Yes, some hareidi posters have said things that denigrate MO observance, but plenty has been said in the other direction as well, and our hareidi posters have, IMO, been very tolerant about it.

    I’m not saying that one insult justifies another, just that we all need to take responsibility and not make accusations as if there’s a clear insulter and insultee here. Also, while those writing or responding to blogs have a responsibility to watch their words, I think the rest of us also have a responsibility to avoid over-sensitivity and to realize that any seemingly offensive statement was probably a sign of poor wording and not ill will. To use Menachem’s analogy, we should be careful to respect that the Lexus and the Cadillac are both excellent cars, but if our Cadillac-owning friends write something about “Why I chose a Cadillac over a Lexus,” we should understand that it’s not meant as a personal insult, or a declaration that the Lexus is a worthless car. And the more we realize that the Lexus is, in fact, superior to the Cadillac (at least for us), the more we’ll be able to ignore anyone who says otherwise and skip to the next blog.

  44. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 25th, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

    Of course I realize that there is such a thing as verbal abuse. However, I haven’t seen anything that I would call “abuse” on this site.

    I didn’t mean that anything here is necessarily abusive; i was just pointing out that words can hurt people. Abuse is the prototypical example of such.

  45. David Linn
    February 25th, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

    Menachem, when you say:

    “Actually, one of the most divisive issues separating the Chareidim and DL is the very thing you think should unite them.”

    I assume DL stands for Daati Leumi and not David Linn. :)

  46. Menachem Lipkin
    February 25th, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

    Hmmm, maybe we’ve been focusing on the wrong problem! :)

  47. David Linn
    February 25th, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    It’s ALWAYS my fault.

  48. "Reuven"
    February 25th, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

    Alright. Ready or not…

    There’s so much to resond to! Please forgive me for not yet getting to each of you. In the meantime I’d like to tackle an overarching issue that no one seemed to have caught:

    The administrators first categorized this post under something like parents, shidduchim, chinuch and a few others. It’s now changed to “hashkafa!” This means to me that the raw pathos I made pains to include in this piece have kind of gotten swallowed up.

    My conclusion undoubtedly had something to do with that. But I don’t think that justifies taking it off the more human lists! I have no problem being seen as a thinker, but I must object to any attempt to overlook the purely human story here.

    Objectively speaking, it’s more of an anthropological study than any philosophical stance. So for those who may want to sieze it as an excuse for making wedges between camps, all I can say is you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m really with ALL of you who are looking to humanize the Baal Tshuva scene and make it as inclusive as possible.

    I find there are a lot of “hashkafos” out there which do more damage than the most fumbling diplomat. Even if we smile wide and sing about how everyone’s cool, if we’re defining ourselves by any one mindset, we’re becoming “Orthodox” in the worst sense of the word. On one level or another, all Orthodox are bound to see those who differ as the enemy.

    Ultra, people. ULTRA. That’s the call. How to be Ultra-JEWS? Yes, Ora, I believe it can be done by non-Hareidim as well. But not anti-Hareidim! But that’s a different discussion.

    I’m growing very fond of this blog precisely because I believe the crucial dynamic behind it is the desire to grow. THAT’s what the piece was about.The hashkafa emerged merely as a final retrospect.

    Even that line about “most liberating.” It wasn’t a decree; just an honest sharing of how things appeared after the dust settled after this awesome nisayon…

    To all you mazal tovers — Fern, Bob, steg,Dovid, Ron David L,David S, Menachem — and everyone else who extended themselves to share my joy, a most hearty “baruch thiyeh” and “soon by you” in return.

    This is the real bridge builder

  49. Ben-David
    February 26th, 2008 @ 8:02 am

    One groundrule for keeping this blog inclusive is to couch observations in the language of the writer’s PERSONAL experience or opinion, rather than as objective fact.

    Yes this is a somewhat PC dodge. But it works.

    Nobody would have felt insulted if the poster had written something like:

    Paradoxically, then, I HAVE COME TO VIEW Ultra-Orthodoxy as the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations FOR ME. BY subscribing to this I FEEL I AM devoting MY life to the blessed eternal One. What can be more liberating than that?
    - – - – - – - – -
    See?
    I had no problem with this post while it traced the writer’s actual path in Judaism. I had no problem with this post while it reported the ups and downs of Shidduchville from a BT’s perspective.

    I had a lot of problems when we hit the generalized assertions.

    The “in my experience” approach also eliminates the dubious device of the BT newcomer presuming omniscience – knowing the motivations of ALL chareidim for living as they do (especially as evidence from some other blogs indicates that many feel trapped by expectations and social pressure, and are not all that focused on taking their service of G-d to the ultimate level).

    Blogs are generally personal records. I was originally drawn to this blog because it presented real stories told by personally, by various individual voices.

    I am not interested in “pashkvilim” (broadsides) about various camps in the Jewish world. I can get that elsewhere.

  50. "Reuven"
    February 26th, 2008 @ 11:37 am

    B-D, you’ve made a good case. I certainly appreciate the value of such “owning-it” diplomacy within such a context where everyone and anyone can peek in. At the same time I believe there’s a very valid “BT need,” as it were, to draw conclusions about whether and how our original truth-seeking has proven itself.

    That’s why I allowed myself to end this otherwise very candid, non-judgmental, warts and all story (thanx for that line, David L) as I did. I.e. it is not just one man’s whew-we-survived tale. It’s also a powerful case for what all those Ultra-Rabbis have been teaching us all along: That we can trust the system if we faithfully are willing to sweat it out.

    For it is THE system. If we approach it properly…

  51. Kinneret
    February 26th, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

    I just want to send a belated Mazal Tov to Reuven!!

  52. Elizabeth
    February 26th, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

    Mazel tov to chattan, kallah, and families!

    But am I the only one who read “writing into the legal agreement that in contrast to all other holydays, her parents should have no expectations of the couple spending Pessach Seder with them” with astonishment?

    Is it common for parents to negotiate in writing where their GROWN children should spend holidays? Is this the choice of the parents rather than the GROWN children?

  53. Fern R
    February 26th, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

    Is it common for parents to negotiate in writing where their GROWN children should spend holidays? Is this the choice of the parents rather than the GROWN children?

    Actually, I thought that was a brilliant bit of advice from Reuven’s Rebbe. Holidays can be really stressful for newly marrieds because both families are pressuring the couple to spend the holiday with them. Setting up clear rules about how the couple is going to spend their time would probably eliminate a lot of stress. I didn’t realize that there was halacha that implied that a son should spend Pesach with his father, but if there is, then that makes things even easier…right?

    More people should talk about the practicalities of being married before getting married. It would save them a lot of heartache later.

    –Fern

    p.s. Let’s not kid ourselves either. I didn’t feel like a full fledged adult until I was 24ish, and I had been living on my own for six years by then, and married for two. An 18 year old is an adult in name only.

  54. Jaded Topaz
    February 27th, 2008 @ 1:05 am

    Reuven,
    Firstly, every time I read the title “Ultra”, I think of those Ultra pampers in cardboard boxes that I grew up with in the 80′s. The one with the smiling baby on the box.
    Now that would be a fun runaway metaphor to compare and contrast with the different sects of religious judaism and the different sizes in the cardboard boxes.Each corresponding to an age group, not a better way of packaging boxing diapers in.

    Anyway, my main point concerns your reference to a contract. The figurtive “contract” exhibit does not speak for itself as i’ve never come across this contract anywhere among my personal life documents and exhibits.

    Its not clear what purpose this contract serves. Having spent a good chunk of cubicle time over the past few years arguing/working/second-guessing and depending on contracts from so many different sides, I’m just curious what your hoping to avoid/set in stone/lock in/control/create/determine and or self reassure ?
    So how does this contract work ? Does it automatically renew itself every year. Is the discount structure locked in for the year/any minimum or maximum quotas/obligations/requirements/negotiations/promises locked in for the year ? What if steel goes up really high ? What about obligations and or promises not kept due to the weather ? Is pricing flexible or fixed ? What if someone changes their mind about something they signed for ? Any room for breaching and still staying friends ?
    What parts of an individuals life is the contract legally binding for emotional safekeeping ?

    Does every individual involved in the actual wedding come with their own contract.
    How many signatures does each contract require.
    What if one contract overrides and or negates the other contract.
    What if a third party of pious urban hipsters not involved with the initial contract engage in some friendly spiritual, my path to g-d is so much more correct and user friendly competition and in the process manage to woo the engaged/married couple all the way to New York City for a mystical passover seder in a scenic downtown financial district loft balcony, with a group of born again affluent urban hipsters.

    Would you consider this happenstance enough to establish a claim of tortious interference ? You can swing both ways with that probally . Tortious interference with contract or tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

    Just keep in mind you will have to prove interference/interference inflicted intentionally by an individual not part of the contract /without justification and that damage was caused when establishing a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations.

    I’m not sure if reasons need to be initially provided for out of the ordinary contracts.
    But if one is using this contract as positive on a public post titled “Ultr”, its clear that they welcome inquiries on the reasonings and or initial objectives they might have, from jaded and or jubilant commenters.
    I type these sentences will all the respect they are due.

    What if no one signed any contracts ?
    What if non-ugh daughter in law comes along with her own contract clearly calling for freedom of will when determining where she will be spend holidays and or vacations ? Would you sign her contract and have her sign your contract stating son comes home for the holidays , along with the verbal reference to a Exodus and a commandment to recite the story to your son. (what happened to the daughters, they don’t need to hear stories, just as long as they are modest and not impure by the time they marry themselves off ).
    This whole contract thing is not so simple and I would love to hear your insights on the matter.

  55. Charlie Hall
    February 27th, 2008 @ 2:33 am

    ‘But am I the only one who read “writing into the legal agreement that in contrast to all other holydays, her parents should have no expectations of the couple spending Pessach Seder with them” with astonishment?’

    I had asked about this way back at #17.

    And can someone explain how such an agreement can bind the married couple? (I’m not familiar with this as we did not have tenaim at our wedding.)

  56. SephardiLady
    February 27th, 2008 @ 3:20 am

    full fledged adult until I was 24ish

    I have read that brain doesn’t completely develop until 24.

  57. Ben-David
    February 27th, 2008 @ 4:50 am

    Reuven wrote:
    I certainly appreciate the value of such “owning-it” diplomacy within such a context where everyone and anyone can peek in. At the same time I believe there’s a very valid “BT need,” as it were, to draw conclusions about whether and how our original truth-seeking has proven itself.
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
    This valid need is still better served by a tone of personal humility.

    1. It’s pretty clear from the comments that your truth seeking has only “proven itself” for you – many others – equally observant and equally focused on G-d’s service – find the world you defend to be oppressive, as evidenced by their comments.

    2. There is definitely an impulse among BTs to confirm/justify their choices – perhaps moreso than others, although all people have this need.

    But one of the critiques of both the haredi world and the BT phenomenon is the adoption of an insular certainty – and the misuse of that sense of certainty in ways NOT directed towards service of G-d, for overweening ego-reinforcement.

    The resulting narrowing of Torah Judaism produces an artificial sense of confirmation.

    When it’s a BT doing this – often one who is still self-consciously learning how to go through the motions – that raises questions about the health, truth, and motivation of the self-justifying rhetoric.

    So when you write:

    …it is not just one man’s whew-we-survived tale. It’s also a powerful case for what all those Ultra-Rabbis have been teaching us all along: That we can trust the system if we faithfully are willing to sweat it out.

    For it is THE system. If we approach it properly…
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
    Well, that’s the problem right there – it’s not THE system. Not nearly the only way to live a life of Torah before G-d.

    It’s not even the way most Torah-true Jews have lived throughout history – despite the Artscroll-style rewriting of the Jewish past.

    Again – it is the “system” – the community – in which YOU found truth.

    The story remains a personal one – why do you not think it powerful enough on that plane?

    It’s clear from the comments that others are insulted by the “my way or the highway” assertion that your community is somehow the ne-plus-ULTRA of Judaism. We see this as one more artifact in a barrage of haredi messages and actions that defensively project superiority.

    And from where we sit, we see that these projections, and the culture of chumra-based competition, often have little to do with sincere Divine service. They often spring from less-than-noble, less-than-healthy psychological and political motivations – which hold particular (and dangerous) appeal for some types of BT.

    In particular, BTs are more susceptible to haredi (mis)representations of their authenticity and projections of superiority because of their ignorance, their desire to find “The Ultimate Truth” – and also due to less mature needs: to belong, to heal emotional wounds, to feel “special”.

    The relationship between the haredi world – nervously, self-defensively asserting its superiority – and the BT takes on aspects of unhealthy, narcissistic manipulation.

    The cliche of the newly-minted BT using frumkeit as an emotional crowbar against parents and others has a grain of truth to it. It’s a story of a “seeker” – often emotionally wounded – who has adopted the worst aspects of the haredi world: its use of one-upmanship and other manipulations to create a false, narcissistic sense of power (“we posses the Truth”) and superiority.

    I see this up-close in relatives and friends who started out MOR Orthodox – yeshivish even – and have fallen into a spiraling web of inexplicable humrot and external styling to “keep up” with the haredization of their communities.

    BTs are especially susceptible to this “system” – as you call it: its peer pressure, its blandishments, and its projected aura of certainty and inevitability.

  58. Menachem Lipkin
    February 27th, 2008 @ 10:19 am

    From Fern: “Actually, I thought that was a brilliant bit of advice from Reuven’s Rebbe.”

    If this Rabbi was “brilliant”, and I’m not convinced of that, it would be in having the wisdom to realize that it may not be the couple here who are not quite ready for this marriage.

    One would hope that he gave a wink and a nod to the machetanim effectively saying “Go with it for now. I think this young couple has real potential so let’s not mess it up over this one condition. Once the couple get to know and love each other the boy will certainly realize that the needs of his wife far outweigh those of the other parties. In time this too shall pass and kids will do what’s fair and right.”

    If he did that, then he’s truly wise and brilliant.

  59. Menachem Lipkin
    February 27th, 2008 @ 10:42 am

    Reuven,

    The pasuk you quoted, “V’higadeta l’vincha…” I believe refers to the “Tam” the simple son. From what you’ve told us about your son, this certainly cannot apply to him. Sounds like you’ve done a great job being mechanech him.

    If anything you should focus on a posuk in B’reishit (2:24) “Al ken ya’azov ish et aviv v’et imo v’davak b’ishto…” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife…”

  60. "Reuven"
    February 27th, 2008 @ 10:43 am

    Ben-David: Kol HaKavod! You’ve articulated quite keenly the simmering resentment between non, not-yet and partial Orthodoxy towards their super Orthodox brethren. I don’t visit this blog as much as others, but from what I see, this is indeed a major undercurrent that has yet to find clear expression. So I commend you for leading the pack.

    I will need more time for collecting my thoughts to answer you properly. Not just in terms of thoughts, but also because I’m now so very busy… with finding a hall and preparing to travel to chu”l. So I ask you (and a few others I hope to get back to) to give me another day or so, please.

    In the meantime, please note that I too have been deeply distressed for most of my “Mitzvah career” (almost 30 years now) over the issues you raise. As I tried to express in my posts, I sought and FOUND H’ in many unorthodox settings, including nature, corporeal pleasres, yoga, philosphy,Rav Kookism, university degree in Machsheves Yisrael and good, ol, fun-loving parenting. And I’ve been burnt and have many friends who’ve been burnt by supposed ultra-orthodoxy.

    Yet, what I’ve found is that there’s no better frame for CONFRONTING our Yeitzer than ultra-orthodoxy. And I don’t just mean the black hatted and cloaked and unkempt beard kind. I mean the intense, trans-worldy, using-the-Mitzvos-to-get- beyond them kind…. which can come in many shades.

    Looking forward to discussing it more. ~ R

  61. Ben-David
    February 27th, 2008 @ 11:02 am

    Reuven wrote:
    Kol HaKavod! You’ve articulated quite keenly the simmering resentment between non, not-yet and partial Orthodoxy towards their super Orthodox brethren.
    - – - – - – - – - – -
    …so which am I – and the others who happen not to be haredim? Non, not-yet, or partially Orthodox?

    sigh…………………..

    I am the son of BTs who were solidly Orthodox by my Bar Mitzvah (becoming “frum” came later and – as I saw up close – largely revolved around external style and hubris, not mitzvah observance or spiritual growth).

    I was educated in Breuer’s – the yeshiva of the transplanted German kehilla of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh. The home of TIDE.

    I studied in “knitted kippah” Israeli yeshivot for 2 years, then went to YU for college.

    So: what am I?

    And do you really think a person like me should not be insulted by the choice of labels you offer observant Jews who may not agree with you?

    The only thing that comes near to this unwitting condescension is the smug, smarmy assertion by Christians that Jews are “incomplete” until they “move forward” to accept Jesus.

    … Quod Erat Demonstratum.

  62. Ben-David
    February 27th, 2008 @ 11:11 am

    A bit more recent data for your Frumkeit computer:

    I now live in Israel, support myself (oops, that’s a strike already…) by working in high tech (where I occassionally shake a woman’s hand extended to me in error).

    I learn and teach daf yomi, wear my tzitzis out – but eat plain Rabbanut hechsher and, in this Shmittah year, I’m supporting Jewish farmers by holding with the Heter Mechira.

    My political involvement is more concerned with introducing representative democracy to Israel and less with imposing a theocracy based on “da’as torah”.

    I own and read the works of Slifkin and Schroeder.

    So…. has your “mashpi’ah” come up with an answer yet?

    Exactly how “not yet Orthodox” am I?

  63. Bob Miller
    February 27th, 2008 @ 11:45 am

    Surprise! Nearly everyone sees their own chosen life path as some kind of template or paradigm for others. We can go back and forth about this forever.

  64. Jacob Haller
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    Ben-David wrote

    “The cliche of the newly-minted BT using frumkeit as an emotional crowbar against parents and others has a grain of truth to it”

    If there is actual truth to the stereotype (AFAIC the jury’s still out) then it’s not limited to “Charedi” BT’s. I’m a BT and my first experience in full-time Beis Medrash learning was by no means “Charedi” I saw cases from there and also cases of YU JSS BT’s
    who experienced as you labeled it…

    “one-upmanship and other manipulations to create a false, narcissistic sense of power (”we posses the Truth”) and superiority”

    To assert that these misguided ways are unique to Charedi circumstances is also hubris and gives creedence to Bob Miller’s remark.

    “Nearly everyone sees their own chosen life path as some kind of template or paradigm for others”

  65. Menachem Lipkin
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

    No Bob, you missed it. No cycle here. As opposed to Reuven’s constant condescending assertions such as “there’s no better frame for CONFRONTING our Yeitzer than ultra-orthodoxy.”, nothing in what Ben-David said indicated that he believes that his “chosen life path as some kind of template or paradigm for others.”

    Your comment has brought us back to square one in this discussion and shows a total lack of comprehension as to what is bothering some of us here.

    I can’t speak for Ben-David but I can pretty much self-describe myself as he did (in fact for a moment I thought he was me :), yet I harbor no thought that this is the path for everyone. All I believe is that I can be just as “ultra” on this path as Reuven can be on his and conversely both us would probably suffer on the other’s path. This is what I, and I think some others, believe is davks not coming across bi-directionally here.

  66. Bob Miller
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    Menachem!

    I’m not talking about any kind of cycle or even about Judaism as such. Just about human nature. As a way of explaining what Reuven wrote. Jacob made his own point, not really mine.

  67. Bob Miller
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    Also, I don’t have a total lack of comprehension. As usual, I have a partial lack of comprehension.

  68. Ben-David
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

    Bob Miller wrote:
    Nearly everyone sees their own chosen life path as some kind of template or paradigm for others. We can go back and forth about this forever.
    - – - – - – - – - – -
    … but it only ever seems to go one way.

    Can you please indicate where in my posts I imply that Charedim are “not yet there” or incomplete as Torah-observant Jews?

  69. Bob Miller
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

    B-D Your comment did not imply that. However, in my experience, I have run into frequent examples of “be like me” thinking from all directions. Don’t take it personally.

  70. Ben-David
    February 27th, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

    I don’t take this personally – because the phenomenon of haredi condescension is so widespread that it can’t possibly be about me.

    I don’t run into this way of thinking from all directions – not in equal amounts, anyway.

  71. "Reuven"
    February 27th, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

    chevreh – tho time is tight, allow me to try and cool things down. First of all, did anyone notice I never used the word “Chareidi?” Nor have I given a clue of what if any politics I identify with! Nor which chumras I take upon myself… except for that Pessach matter, which btw was seen by the in-law and many of my friends who call themselves “Chareidi” as being extreme. (it’s based on a rare yerushalmi minhag… and a totally non-calculating feeling in my nefesh. But more abt that later).

    As I wrote earlier to one of the administers,if there’s a “hashkafa” agenda driving my posts, it’s ONLY to shed light on the concept of “ultra” as precisely the opposite of what most people associate with chareidim. I AM NOT CHAREIDI! I do strive for being ultra-Jewish. And some of my best ultra-friends don’t dress like me nor pronounce like me nor eat by the same hechsherim. What we do share is belief in the importance of giving our very, very best to living the Torah as an expression of the living G-d.

    Ck it out again, guys. I’ve never said anyone’s particular practices are less than mine. Perhaps I should be faulted for not taking enough time to speak in terms that don’t poke raw nerves, but honestly – if you think I meant by the non / not-yet / partial thing that this includes any particaulr one of you, you’re mistaken. Nor did I mean that I was the “super-orthodox!!” Rather I was trying to speak in obviously exagerrated terms to bring out the tension so we could understand it better.

    sigh. This really is a classic example of reverse judgmentalism. Did you ever think of asking me, B-D or Menachem, what exactly I meant? And don’t you think its curious that you both happen to identify with very well defined brands of orthodoxy?

    Ck it out again. I wrote about deep, heartfelt, admittedly confused and frustrated experiences that have brought me to a striking awareness of the importance of getting beyond ALL types of orthodoxy.

    lila tov

  72. Menachem Lipkin
    February 27th, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

    Reuven, with all due respect, you’re playing semantic games. In this forum and in general Jewish discourse, for better or worse, the term Ultra-Orthodox has become synonymous with Chareidi. There is no reason anyone should have to seek clarification when you state that “Paradoxically, then, Ultra-Orthodoxy is really the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations.”

    Not to mention this tidbit, “By the time our little tsaddik reached 7th grade we shipped him off to a special chassidic cheider in the next town, donned the garb, I dropped my non-Orthodox teaching career and returned to intensive Torah learning.”

    You left no reason to think we should have to clarify anything. If you were trying to be vague and obtuse about your hashkafa you didn’t quite succeed (whether or not your are actually chareidi).

    And why is it “curious” that I identify with a well-defined hashkafa?

  73. Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz
    February 27th, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

    “Every Yid that is turned off, marginally, by a cold or superior “attitude” displayed by me could affect countless future Jewish souls, or potential souls, and so on.”

    sniffle, sniffle – does that mean no more accusing me of fomenting avoda zara (now we just dump on the studio 54 rebbe?

    and Reuven – mucho mazal tov and much nachas! as we say in yiddish “illegitimi non carborundum” (v’hamayvin yavin)

  74. Ben-David
    February 28th, 2008 @ 4:25 am

    Reuven –

    1. I specifically used the word “charedi” because you inserted extra – and unctuous – meaning into the English term “Ultra” Orthodox.

    2. If as you say, this world is characterized by more sincere striving to be holy – then “charedi” is the more correct term, no?

    3. Although the cultural phenomena we are discussing are definitely undercurrents in the Israeli political scene, my posts have not been at all political.

  75. "Reuven"
    February 28th, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

    Menachem, I confess: I am no expert in meta rules governing the lexicon of this forum and the world of “general Jewish discourse,” as you put it. I say this with a tinge of sarcasm but also with total seriousness.

    Sarcasm – because I find it a cheap excuse to speak in sweeping terms about how words are used instead of humbly assessing their context relative to the author who is using them. Especially when we’re speaking about such a philosiphically laden topic.

    During my years as an educator in secular high schools and colleges, I taught English among other things. I was often appalled by how easy supposed scholars made cases for grammar rules based on such reasoning. We’d teach about stative verbs, for instance, that one doesn’t say “I am seeing what you mean” while neverthless saying “I am seeing the doctor today.” Some would explain this is just how it’s used while others strove to enlighten about the intrinsically different intent between usages of the word “to see” (as understanding or meeting).

    So too here. No, my friend, if anything’s clear about what I wrote, it’s that I’m NOT the kind of person to play “games” with others, wouldn’t you agree? Rather I was writing as a kind of journal (hence the painful candidness), recording how I learned to get beyond precisely the kind of external judmentalism which you and some others are tossing my way!

    Now I don’t fault you for bristling at the quirks and smirks within the typical chareidi community. As I’ve stressed, I share most of those reactions… until I follow them through. To the core. In fact, that’s what this post was about: IN THE BEGINNING pure-hearted search vs a very long and painful, but ultimately sober awakening.

    There’s so much more to share about how I’ve learned to distinguish between the barnables that attach to the UO ships and their captains. But its a tough one to find the time and Yishuv HaDaas. In the meantime what I’ve attempted to contribute to the arsenal of BBT wisdom is that the CONCEPT of Ultra-Orthodoxy is paradoxically misunderstood with many, very profound implications.

    Chareidikeit, with all it’s political implications, is indeed a different beast.

  76. Bob Miller
    February 28th, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

    Our new slogan: “Beyond BT—Get Ready to Rumble!”

    Or maybe ramble?

  77. "Reuven"
    February 28th, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

    or was that bramble?

  78. Bob Miller
    February 28th, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

    But wait—there may be a trademark issue here (Ron?):

    Let’s get ready to rumble!
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    “Let’s get ready to rumble!” is the trademarked catchphrase used to introduce the featured bout on televised boxing events presented by promoter Bob Arum and his Top Rank, Inc. organization. This catchphrase is notably used by American boxing & Professional Wrestling announcer Michael Buffer.

  79. Menachem Lipkin
    February 28th, 2008 @ 6:27 pm

    “No, my friend, if anything’s clear about what I wrote, it’s that I’m NOT the kind of person to play “games” with others, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Clearly, it was not clear and frankly it still isn’t.

    Your flowery use of language allows to, maybe unintentionally, obscure what you’re really trying to say.

    My take on what your saying is that, after a somewhat arduous journey, you’ve become Chareidi. You know there are issues with this path yet you think it’s the best way to go, and really, while people can be “ultra” in the other paths, one can only truly be “ultra” in the chareidi path.

  80. Menachem Lipkin
    February 28th, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

    “Now I don’t fault you for bristling at the quirks and smirks within the typical chareidi community. As I’ve stressed, I share most of those reactions… until I follow them through. To the core. In fact, that’s what this post was about: IN THE BEGINNING pure-hearted search vs a very long and painful, but ultimately sober awakening.”

    Maybe it’s possible that you’re not the only one who has experienced this. Maybe some of us have had similar journeys and have decided that , even at the “core”, this is not the derech that will bring us to our “ultra” Judaism.

    “There’s so much more to share about how I’ve learned to distinguish between the barnables that attach to the UO ships and their captains.”

    Maybe some of us need to be on a different ship with a different captain. And maybe we believe that ship will get us to the same destination.

  81. David Linn
    February 28th, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

    Reuven,

    As I previously mentioned, I didn’t have the take on your post that many of the commenters here apparently had.

    Having re-read the post a whole bunch of times, I think these are some of the reasons, people are having issues with your post.

    When you say “Rather, they are ordinary folk who strive to live according to the highest Torah principles” it seems implied that other, non-Ultra Orthodox Jews are not.

    When you say “Ultra-Orthodoxy is really the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations” it means, by definition, that other hashkafos are not.

    When you say “For people who subscribe to this are devoting their lives to the blessed eternal One” it sounds as if others are not doing so.

  82. "Reuven"
    February 29th, 2008 @ 5:18 am

    Moving from last, upwards, let me begin with David L: Yes, I did mean that ultra-orthodoxy is an orientation striving to live according to the highest Torah principles,” tho in NO way did I mean that others don’t. I hear why people who are very sesnitive to Ultra-condescension might think that, but once again, as I was not writing this as a polemic but as a personal reflection, it should now be clear that this was not the intent.

    DO I think other’s who see themselves as far from ultra-orthodoxy can be striving at least as much. Yes. Most of those, however, I believe will make their way to the kind of time honored ways of orthodoxy that I live, more or less. But I DO know of exceptions and highly respect the, One chavrusa of mine, in fact, is a Sephardi Rav who donns a knitted kippa and wears greyish unbuttoned jacket for davening. And we share a number of ultra-orthodox aspirations. Yet I must emphasize that he also admits that his “tsibur” in Efrat, as he calls it, falls woefully far from these aspirations and by and large finds the chassidic tsibur I’m a part of much more oriented to it (tho not every individual, of course).

    “the most liberating of all traditional Jewish orientations” was not well worded. Apologies, all you bees out there. I set you up! I meant something more like “of all religious orientations” and I should have qualified that it was a CONCEPTUAL but not social point.

    Does that help?

    Good Shabbos to everyone. I’ll try to continue on Sunday.

  83. Jacob Haller
    February 29th, 2008 @ 10:31 am

    Y’yasher Koch’cha to David Linn who once again demonstrates how contentious issues can be identified and with the requisite cool-headedness to keep things in perspective and proportion.

  84. Menachem Lipkin
    February 29th, 2008 @ 10:43 am

    Reuven,

    It’s clear you mean well, but this does not “help” at all. This statement of yours exactly sums up the issue:

    “Most of those, however, I believe will make their way to the kind of time honored ways of orthodoxy that I live, more or less.”

    It’s important that one believe that what he has chosen is the best. You might even think it’s the best for everyone, but the issue we’ve been discussing is that those of us who have chosen differently and actually may believe that ours is the “best” don’t constantly want to hear (read) the condecsending types of statements as the one you made above.

    The fact that you state that you know “exceptions” only makes it worse. Like the racist saying, “Some of best friends are black.” (No, I’m not calling you a racist.) And the fact that you see them as “exceptions” means you clearly believe that it’s not a valid path.

    Look Reuven, I’m very happy for you. You seem to have gotten to a great place for yourself. Kol Hakavod. Hopefully you’ll never see in your derech what I have and have been exposed to on a regular basis. I think there are severe problems at the “core”, but this is not the time or place to go into it.

    Also, there are many of us who believe that, while today’s ultra-Orthodoxy is a valid, safe path, it doesn’t necessarily represent the “time honored ways of orthodoxy”.

    I also know that modern Orthodoxy has its issues. Yet, if one can get past those, one could find at the “core” of modern orthodoxy something quite authentic and able to bring one to the heights of Jewish observance. One could realize that that’s the rule and not the exception.

    So, Reuven, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’m truly happy that you feel you’ve found religious nirvana in your path. I’m quite secure and happy with my path and as such your condescension does not shake my faith, it’s just that it lessens the Beyond BT experience to be badgered by it on a regular basis.

    Mazal Tov again. May you have much hatzlacha and nachas from your children.

    Have a great Shabbos!

  85. David Linn
    February 29th, 2008 @ 11:18 am

    Thanks,Jacob (though I think Menachem may have really hit the nail on the head).

  86. "Reuven"
    March 1st, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

    Which nail, David? There are plenty and they don’t seem so conctructively aimed.

    What I hear is claims about some sort of BBT conspiracy to condescend, badger,invalidate, and even lessen the experience of fellow blog readers!!

    G-d Alm-ghty. How many times must we stress that this was a purely introspective piece? You say “it seems implied.” I now tell you IT WAS NOT! Maybe people should ask what drives them to take it that way? Are there are some sort of “orthodox” rules to this blog that I don’t know about!

    As far as I can discern, the sole criterion is to be sincerely striving to grow with Torah as your primary guide. Was there anything in what I wrote that actually said differently? I can hear that there’s an issue of which types of views should be represented when. But that’s a letter to send to the administrators, not the authors!

    Now as to substance, I’d be glad to discuss with anyone the nature of the Ultra-core. However, if the basic line is “I’m OK and you’re OK and don’t you dare suggest otherwise,” there’s nothing more to discuss. For that boils down, in essence, to Reformism.

  87. Ben-David
    March 2nd, 2008 @ 7:15 am

    Reuven wrote:
    How many times must we stress that this was a purely introspective piece? You say “it seems implied.” I now tell you IT WAS NOT! Maybe people should ask what drives them to take it that way?
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - –
    … because I (and others) have repeatedly experienced similar condescending messages.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of your path, or the candor of your introspection.

    But your candor does not in any way undo the fact the your statements confirm and duplicate oft-repeated tropes that project and bolster haredi superiority.

    I for one am even more troubled that this is what a haredi BT’s unrehearsed introspection sounds like – just as I’ve been troubled when BT friends and relatives “frum out”, forget much of the good they experienced at various stations of their journey, and parrot haredi statements that denigrate other groups of Torah-true Jews – including people from whom they learned (and could still learn) a lot.

    You write:
    As far as I can discern, the sole criterion is to be sincerely striving to grow with Torah as your primary guide. Was there anything in what I wrote that actually said differently?
    - – - – - – - – - – — – - –
    No.
    But you quite strongly stated your belief that ONLY your brand of Torah Judaism has this focus – and your subsequent remarks about places like Efrat (where, last time I checked, chassanim or kallos do not demand jewellery or financial support as their right) confirm that what we heard is, in fact, what you think.

    So when you write:
    Now as to substance, I’d be glad to discuss with anyone the nature of the Ultra-core. However, if the basic line is “I’m OK and you’re OK and don’t you dare suggest otherwise,” there’s nothing more to discuss. For that boils down, in essence, to Reformism.
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
    Well, no – the people debating with you are all solidly adhering to the Torah and Shulchan Oruch.

    The difference between this mainstream group and the charedi world is larely one of style, minhag, and increasingly rarefied chumra.

    Not meat-and-potatoes halacha. And you seem to be knowledgeable enough in Torah to know that Halacha is not quite that monolithic.

    So – do you see how outrageously out-of-place your comparison to the Reform are? How it confirms that, despite your protestations, this discusssion doesn’t boil down to “Holy Haredim vs. Goyishe Reformer” – a typical set-piece of haredi self-justification?

    Do you see that it’s more about “my way or the highway” intolerance of other VALID PATHS IN TORAH-TRUE JUDAISM?

    Can you see that – that the people you are trying to dismiss as “Reformers” are just as Torah True – and just as focused on Divine service – as your community?

    Can you see how out of place that is – to my taste, ESPECIALLY out of place coming from the mouth of a BT, on a BT-oriented blog?

  88. David Linn
    March 2nd, 2008 @ 9:13 am

    Reuven,

    When I said “nailed it” I was speaking about explicating “some of the reasons, people are having issues with your post”, as I had previously attempted to point out. Whether you agree with them or not,IMHO, it is always constructive to clarify why people feel slighted or denigrated. That is even true, no, especially true, when there was no intention to slight or denigrate.

    Many people have pointed out that Reuven is a sincere, growth-oriented Jew. Many people have taken issue with what THEY see as Reuven’s belief that charedism is the only true path to Hashem. Reuven has told us that he had written this post, in part, in response to some of the negativism he saw aimed at charedi Jews and I have seen some of that myself. It has been pointed out that Reuven’s choice of words or writing style may be hampering his ability to clarify his points (he’s more of a poet than a polemicist).

    We all can learn something here. We can learn of the power of words and the importance of choosing them wisely. We can learn that there is still a lot of work to be done in “expanding the tent” and that work needs to be embarked upon from all points of the hashkafic spectrum.

    I believe that this comment thread has now moved beyond a constructive stage and that, by leaving comments open, we will be inviting non-constructive criticism.

    Mazel Tov to Reuven and his family on his son’s engagement. Let’s hope that we can all take something from this thread that will help us to better understand and accept our fellow Jew and bring us closer to Hashem. After, all isn’t that what it’s all about?

    This comment thread will now be closed.

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