The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


A friend sent me this email in response to my recent posts about perfectly normal, well-adjusted MO kids going off the derech:

The key word I see in your second post is “parve”. For a kid to grow up and hold on to the traditions of his ancestors, somewhere he’s got to run into some PASSION. He/She doesn’t have to run into it everywhere, just somewhere.

I have discussed with my Rav and others the failure of the MO world. The philosophy of the MO world in its purest form is unbelievably inspiring. Deep down, I still believe in all my heart that it is a wonderful, true, and ultimately fulfilling path to living in this beautiful world and using everything it has to offer to live a life of service of, and devotion to, Hashem. At the inspiration of my daughter, I am once again rereading the writings of The Rav, and being inspired by the greatest example of a true MO, Religious Zionist, American Jew.

If the philosophy is so great why doesn’t the MO world work in a practical sense? Let’s talk about the home, and then about our mosdos.

Home: Show me a home where the parents are passionate about their Yiddishkeit, and I’ll show you a home where the kids have a chance. And it doesn’t have to be about every aspect of Yiddishkeit. In some homes it’s Gemarah, in some it’s Chesed, in some its Israel and Zionism, etc. Just find Something to be passionate about, and your kids will be inspired to investigate and find some aspect of Yiddishkeit that appeals to them. How much do you think your father’s passion for music made you what you are, and in turn how much will (has?) your passion for music affected your children? In my case, my parents were not that knowledgeable or passionate about their Yiddishkeit, but I was lucky enough to have a mentor, a Rav down the block who turned me on to learning. Thankfully for me, my kids have told me that I have enough passion to keep them on the Derech.

Mosdos: Here’s where you have a very difficult problem. Face it everyone: We live in the USA (or in its cultural suburbs i.e. Israel and the rest of the world). No matter how insulated you are (even Chareidi or Chassidish) you will be assaulted with a culture that wants to dilute your passion for G-dliness in favor of a passion for Mammon. Look at me. I may have some passion for Yiddishkeit, but I am also ridiculously passionate about sports, still in love with my Rock and Roll roots, and extremely distracted by the full frontal Tumah of the ever-present media machine. In fact, that Rav who made me passionate (as well as a few boosters along the way) is the only reason I have been able to hold on. Many of our friends and family have lost this war,

Let’s say you lost the war, but for old time sake or to keep your parents happy you remain “orthodox”. What branch of orthodoxy will you affiliate with? MO. You wouldn’t want to be near anything “Right Wing”. So you join your local MO Shul and send your kids to the local MO yeshiva. The percentage of the uninspired at these mosdos is huge (and I include ALL of our MO schools, up to and including YU). How can you expect the leaders of these mosdos to bring passion to the table when the majority of members/parents don’t want passion? More to the point of your post, how can those of us who do care, inject passion into the lives of those who don’t care?

At the end of the day, the kids need (and want) passion. For the individual family, they can try to provide passion for their kids. On a communal level it’s hard to provide. Clal Yisrael has been fighting this battle since the beginning; only 20% made it out of Mitzrayim.

Side point: I don't know if the Yeshivish side is much better at the passion deal. The whole Chareidi world expends its energies trying to insulate from the outside. I wish they would spend as much energy trying to inspire as they do condemning and criticizing. That media machine gets in their heads too, and there are a lot of Chareidim who may look the part but are empty inside. (see: the Davening in Brooklyn Shteiblech)



  • At 12:31 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    You're mistaken about the yeshivishe world. I'm of that world, and while I'm often critical of it, the mosdos do ignite passion in their talmidim for Torah and mitzvos. Not every talmid of course, but it's happening, and on a big scale.


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