Something I've been thinking about recently is how ridiculous it is that Modern Orthodoxy implicitly grants hegemony to the Haredim. That is: if we assume that the Haredim authentically represent prewar Eastern European Ashkenazi Judaism (a doubtful assumption which Professor Menachem Friedman explicitly says is false, but let us for a moment assume the assumption is true), and if we establish Eastern European Ashkenazi Judaism as our baseline default model for Orthodoxy, then the transitive property of mathematics naturally results in Haredi Judaism being our standard for Orthodoxy.
Thus, if we formally grant hegemony to Brisk/Volozhin and the like, then of course the average Modern Orthodox youth will don a black hat. For what does he see? He sees foremost recognition being given to Eastern Europe, and yet he sees the Modern Orthodox adapt and modify this Eastern European Judaism to modernity (despite that Judaism's rejection of Mendelssohn and Torah im Derekh Eretz, even if that rejection is at times a polite and respectful and deferential oqimta - hora'at sha'ah). By contrast, he sees Haredim (claim to be) keep(ing) this Eastern European Judaism unadulterated and unmodified. Think about those Conservative youth who attend Camp Ramah, learn true Conservative theology, and so become Modern Orthodox; likewise, those Modern Orthodox youth who take Modern Orthodoxy's claims to their logical conclusions will of course become Haredi.
Obviously, some Modern Orthodox youth are more discerning, and are able to engage in historical contextualization, and can separate the wheat from the chaff. But most are not so capable, and so they must either be kept so profoundly and terrifically ignorant that they don't even realize Modern Orthodoxy's apparent internal contradictions, blithely going about their lives in astounding Jewish ignorance, or they become Haredi. That is to say, there are three options, depending on the learnedness of the given MO youth: the most profoundly and abysmally ignorant will remain MO (or become Reform) because he is so ignorant that he cannot even discern the superficial contradictions of MO; the most learned will remain MO because he can see past the superficial contradictions by engaging in historical contextualization and borer; the middle MO youth, the average, is learned enough to perceive the apparent superficial contradictions (unlike the ignorant MO), but not learned enough to overcome them (unlike the learned MO).
I see a two realistic solutions in sight: the first is to more rigorously educate MO youth in history, to teach them, for example, the works and thought of Professors Haym Soloveitchik and Menachem Friedman and Michael Silber, etc., to teach them on purely historical grounds why Haredism is inauthentic. That is, if the average MO youth cannot engage in historical contextualization, then we must catalyze this process and teach them explicitly and rigorously to so contextualize. And of course, there are other works that would be profitable as well. For example, Rabbi Hirsch's essay "Jewish Communal Life", compared to Haredi Daas Torah, reads like it was written by John Locke.
More importantly, I think we ought to shift the entire locus of Modern Orthodoxy. Why on earth are we granting hegemony to Eastern Europe in the first place? Let us instead learn of the thought (halakhic and philosophical), practice, and customs of those who have been engaged with modernity since time immemorial. I speak, of course, of the Judeo-Spanish Sephardim. The Ottoman Sephardim, while they lacked practical application for their weltanschauung, nevertheless retained the ethos of Spain, and thus we find that at soon as they reencountered modernity, they came right back into their own. Thus, Rabbi Haim David Halevi could rule that one is permitted to study for an exam on Shabbat, because the secular knowledge gained is intrinsically beneficial here and now, irrespective of any hakhana for the coming week. And whereas the centrist and hardline Hungarian rabbis (Rabbis Moshe Schick and Hillel Lichtenstein respectively) were vociferously opposed to Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer's proposal of a new rabbinical seminary, we find that the Jews of Rhodes and Sarajevo founded new seminaries - with secular university-type learning even! - without any controversy whatsoever! (See Rabbi Marc Angel's The Jews of Rhodes and Hakham Solomon Gaon's "Sarajevo as I Knew It" in Tradition.) And the Western Sephardim, being located in maritime locations (England, Holland, Italy, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Trieste, etc.), were favorably situated in places that either escaped the Dark Ages or quickly recovered as early as the 16th century, long before the German haskalah. Shadal could sit comfortably and not mind the controversy between Rav Hirsch and Frankel, nor need ask according to whom he might have been a heretic.
And of course, given Rav Hirsch's influences and mode of thought, he could be considered a Judeo-Spanish Sephardi for our purposes. Whether one stands or sits while donning tefillin or whether one eats qitniot is all utterly irrelevant; we are concerned with weltanschauung. By contrast, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would seem to have the minhagim of a Sephardi and the weltanschauung of a Haredi Ashkenazi. I'm not advocating adopting Sephardi minhagim - except for qitniot; after all, there is no such thing as "minhag avot", but there is only minhag ha-maqom; if a Sephardi in America may eat qitniot, then ipso facto, so may an Ashkenazi. Rather, I'm simply advocating that MO adopt the Sephardi ethos and learning, even if it retains Ashkenazi minhagim. This would, again, be rather like Rav Hirsch.
If we were to teach our children the history of Haredism, and even better, if we were to relocate our entire frame of reference, then whatever the Haredim would say to us would as relevant as whatever the Reformers say to us. It is high time we say "enough" and have the dignity to stand up for ourselves.
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