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S/O - Modern vs Modern Orthodox, let's break it down (again)
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yamaha




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 9:37 am
L'toeles harabim, I thought it would be helpful to talk about what Modern Orthodoxy is, and how it is different from 'modern' as it's typically used.

I've spent time in both the yeshiva and MO worlds, so I'll start with my brief observations. I'm sure there are women here who are far more knowledgeable in both, feel free to jump in with your thoughts.

Modern Orthodoxy is an approach to Judaism, a hashkafah.
It is not a watered down version of Orthodoxy, it starts from a different point, and demands from its adherents in Torah learning and shemiras hamitzvos, while maintaining a strong foothold in the outside world.

Modern-day MO centers around a few key tenets -
- 'Torah U'Maddah', (lit. Torah and science), a person should strive to excel in both Torah and secular pursuits. The secular is just as much a part of the world that Hashem created. This is different from R' Hirsch's Torah im Derech Eretz.
- Strong emphasis on 'Am Yisrael keeping Torat Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael' (forget the exact Hebrew) - which for many translates to Zionism.
- Strong emphasis on understanding Tanach thoroughly.
- Strong emphasis on keeping Halacha correctly, and on the individual understanding psak.
- Primary teachings from the 20th century come from R' Kook, R' Soloveitchik (known as 'the Rav'), zt"l, among others. Despite strong ideological differences, the rabbanim above commanded great respect for their Torah knowledge from other gedolim in their generation.


In general, there is a strong academic approach to Torah and Halacha, focused on really understanding the letter of the law. There is less emphasis on adding practices/chumras, and while Kabbalalistic ideas are explored, that's not the main emphasis, so generally there's an assumption that we can understand (to some extent) why we're doing what we're doing.

Due to the foothold in the secular world, there is more of a left-ward end of the spectrum than other Orthodox groups, as an individual may struggle in balancing their priorities, or may end up letting other ideologies take root under the guise of Judaism. If an individual doesn't start with a strongest understanding of Torah/halacha, they may slip (this isn't unique to MO, but it may look more pronounced).

Now for some stereotypes - right-wing modern orthodoxy doesn't look very different from the yeshiva world - some learn in kollel, most do some combination of learning/working. They keep Halacha. Women cover their hair and dress tzniusdikly. Men wear whichever yarmulka and dress is their practice from yeshiva/family. They may quote different poskim but they learn the same Torah.
As one trends more center/left, some follow different modern-day poskim, so practical Halacha may look different (ex: in terms of tznius or head covering).


What MO is not -
- A person who is more worldly or not keeping Halacha, but living in the yeshivish world
- A person who is more worldly or not keeping Halacha, but living in the Chassidish world
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zaq




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 9:52 am
BTW, Torah Im Derech Eretz is also Modern Orthodox. In fact, the late Rabbi S.R. Hirsch is considered the father of Modern Orthodoxy, though the kehilla dedicated to his philosophy will deny this most vehemently.
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BatyaEsther




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 9:54 am
Thank you. That was excellently put.
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yamaha




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:03 am
zaq wrote:
BTW, Torah Im Derech Eretz is also Modern Orthodox. In fact, the late Rabbi S.R. Hirsch is considered the father of Modern Orthodoxy, though the kehilla dedicated to his philosophy will deny this most vehemently.


I didn't know that! Thanks for sharing
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Ema of 4




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:05 am
I love your sentiment, and I really think you explained things well, but I have a feeling this thread is going to go the way of all the other threads….
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Ema of 4




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:07 am
Actually I take that back. Maybe it WILL be better, because there is no anonymous posting here. Maybe that will give people pause before hitting submit
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BrisketBoss




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:07 am
Despite the title, you seem to have defined MO but not Modern. Is the meaning of modern supposed to be obvious? Is it the last two lines of the post?
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yamaha




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:37 am
BrisketBoss wrote:
Despite the title, you seem to have defined MO but not Modern. Is the meaning of modern supposed to be obvious? Is it the last two lines of the post?


Yes, I implied based on what the common misconception of MO is. I'm not sure I have an exact definition for it.
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sequoia




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:40 am
It’s useless.

For 17 years MO posters have been trying to convince chareidi posters that MO is an actual derech, with a history, hashkafa, and rabbis who pasken halacha and write books.

They don’t believe it.
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ccwife




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:44 am
yamaha wrote:
Yes, I implied based on what the common misconception of MO is. I'm not sure I have an exact definition for it.


There's a lot of people who don't live the yeshivish/chassidish world that are just modern. If anything they live in more MO communities and send to MO schools. Often these people did grow up more RW homes and slowly have veered more to the left. I find them more interesting as unlike the real MO world, this type doesn't have a hashkafa (unless they do?).

Also I have a question about MO. Do the rw mo believe that the left wing mo are doing the right thing? It seems hashkafically they are very different. I'm trying to ask this as politically correct as possible not sure my question is clear Smile.
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sequoia




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:47 am
No, MO Machmir are not judging other MO people.

Why do you ask? Do *you* not believe they’re doing the right thing?
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elmommy




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:47 am
I'm going to just play a bit devils advocate here, but first I'll give my background so I get attacked a little less. I grew up in a MO community but not as MO. Always viewed myself as frum but never defined. I now live in a yeshivaish community with minimal MO presence. I appear to be yeshivaish but I have a very hard time really "fitting in" and I still view myself as not really part of the community. So I've basically seen both communities as an outsider.

I'm wondering how old you are and if you feel like things have changed for the younger generation? I see a lot of passion in the older generation about being MO and really understanding the hashkafa but I have not seen that much of it in the younger generation and more a complacency (not generalizing everyone I'm just asking about my observations). I happen to see that also in the younger generation yeshivaish so might be a generational thing.
Where I live now, the MO school is filled with ppl not MO so in this community really I dont blame ppl for thinking MO is modern.
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ccwife




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:53 am
sequoia wrote:
No, MO Machmir are not judging other MO people.

Why do you ask? Do *you* not believe they’re doing the right thing?


I'm not asking if they are judgemental. It's not judgemental to disagree with an approach. I'm asking if the Rabbanim in the MO world hold of the left-wing psakim. The OP mentioned that the rw mo world looks very similar to the yeshivish world. I'm wondering if the whole MO world follows the same hashkafa or not. And how is the left viewed to the right? I think it's a legitimate question that I've never been to able to ask. My personal views on other hashkafos (Chassidish, Yeshivish, MO, whatever else) are irrelevant.


Last edited by ccwife on Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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yamaha




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 10:53 am
ccwife wrote:


Also I have a question about MO. Do the rw mo believe that the left wing mo are doing the right thing? It seems hashkafically they are very different. I'm trying to ask this as politically correct as possible not sure my question is clear Smile.


From what I've seen, people understand that others follow different rabbanim or psak. If a person is sincere, while they might not follow the same opinions, they respect the other person's approach. And even if they don't understand why someone might do something, there's more of a live-and-let-live approach, especially when the other person isn't just acting because they don't know better.
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ccwife




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 11:01 am
yamaha wrote:
From what I've seen, people understand that others follow different rabbanim or psak. If a person is sincere, while they might not follow the same opinions, they respect the other person's approach. And even if they don't understand why someone might do something, there's more of a live-and-let-live approach, especially when the other person isn't just acting because they don't know better.


Ok that makes sense. But I don't even mean the laymen. I mean the actual hashkafa and the Rabbanim that lead them.

For example, in my world (yeshiva world not so much yeshivish), our Poskim vehemently disagree on psak halacha sometimes. We have one Rav who holds it's a completely assur to use baby wipes and another who, based on his understanding of halacha, does not. Obviously there is no judgement if one follows their Rav. But each Rav gave his psak based on his mesorah and way that he understands the halacha.

Is the same true for MO. Are all of the Rabbanim following their Mesorah? I think I'm finding it hard to understand because if there was mostly one leader how is there such a discrepancy between the Rabbanim that are carrying on their mesorah?
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chick567




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 11:15 am
Modern yeshivish is a lighter less strict version of yeshivish. Modern chassidish is a lighter less strict form of chassidish.
We need to start saying Modern MO to describe the lighter version of MO. Tongue Out
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AlwaysGrateful




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 11:22 am
sequoia wrote:
No, MO Machmir are not judging other MO people.

Why do you ask? Do *you* not believe they’re doing the right thing?


If something is against halacha, then yes, an MO machmir person would believe that it is wrong. That's not "judging." If I go to someone's house and see that they're doing borer on Shabbos, I can think that what they're doing is wrong without thinking that the person is evil or bad.

If it's something that is not against halacha, but just not what they do, that's different. I find that right-wing MO are extremely focused on being knowledgeable in halacha, possibly more than any other sect of Judaism.

There are social pressures in both places. The social pressures in the yeshivish world are more focused on looking/acting outwardly like a yeshivish person. The social pressures in the MO world are more focused on looking/acting like a normal person to the outside world. That's why, although there are plenty of "not as shtark" people in the yeshivish world, it's not as outwardly noticeable. In the MO world, it's much easier to stop keeping certain halachos because there's a stronger emphasis on accepting others, not judging, etc.

Each of these can have pros and cons, depending on your perspective. It could be argued that many in the yeshvish world who go through a phase may be more likely to come back because many of them never really leave -- they've been acting the part the whole time. That's assuming that as they mature, they find aspects of Judaism that really speak to them and inspire them. Whereas people with those same issues who are MO typically go to college where there are even fewer social pressures. (In one college that I'm very familiar with, it was not uncommon for boys who went there to dispose of their yarmulkes by the end of the first week.)

At the same time, it could be argued that many in the MO world are more likely to return after a period where they struggle religiously, since they do not feel as judged by those around them, and they can more easily find a "happy medium" that enables them to keep halacha while not giving up parts of society that they enjoy. They are also exposed to secular culture from childhood, so there may not be as much of a "forbidden fruit" aspect that would draw them to it.

I've thought a lot about this, and have close friends in both camps. We're all thinking, sincere people who are trying our best to keep the Torah, just in different ways.
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kollel_wife




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 11:26 am
I grew up what we called modern orthodox and am now yeshivish. But I personally would describe modern orthodox very differently. But maybe this type of person doesn't exist anymore. My parents had some yeshiva/some Talmud Torah education (back in the 1930s and early 40s) and kept Shabbos and kosher. But they had very little knowledge of the details of Halacha or understanding or why it was necessary and/or important. They davened by reading silently with their eyes, carried on Shabbos when it was needed - like the keys to the house when there was no Eruv, didn't say brachos on food etc. When eating bread would only wash/bentch on Shabbos. They didn't have any concept of tznius from a Jewish point of view, only from a societal/moral point of view. They consider themselves Jewish and orthodox. They might ask a Rov questions if they made a pot treif or when sitting shiva, but otherwise were very unaware of halacha.
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meiravit




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 11:27 am
yamaha wrote:
Modern-day MO centers around a few key tenets -
- 'Torah U'Maddah', (lit. Torah and science), a person should strive to excel in both Torah and secular pursuits. The secular is just as much a part of the world that Hashem created. This is different from R' Hirsch's Torah im Derech Eretz.


Thanks, this post was very enlightening.

But I'm not sure I understand the difference between Torah U'Maddah and Torah Im Derech Eretz.

Can you or someone else who is MO explain?
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AlwaysGrateful




 
 
 
 

Post Wed, Oct 13 2021, 11:29 am
ccwife wrote:
Ok that makes sense. But I don't even mean the laymen. I mean the actual hashkafa and the Rabbanim that lead them.

For example, in my world (yeshiva world not so much yeshivish), our Poskim vehemently disagree on psak halacha sometimes. We have one Rav who holds it's a completely assur to use baby wipes and another who, based on his understanding of halacha, does not. Obviously there is no judgement if one follows their Rav. But each Rav gave his psak based on his mesorah and way that he understands the halacha.

Is the same true for MO. Are all of the Rabbanim following their Mesorah? I think I'm finding it hard to understand because if there was mostly one leader how is there such a discrepancy between the Rabbanim that are carrying on their mesorah?


The answer is that it depends. If people are following a specific derech and are focused on following halacha (which, as a previous poster said, seems to be less common in the younger crowd nowadays), then I think that they accept them.

(The one exception would be if they feel that the leaders of a specific derech are teaching apikorsus, in which case yes, they would disregard everything that the derech believes in. That would only happen with an extreme version of MO, though.)

I do think that many, many people, though, are not following a specific derech. The leaders of the stricter derech would probably view them as tinokos she'nishbiu. Not judged as "wrong" or "bad," but more as people who just don't know. Similar to the way that yeshivish teacher sin an OOT community school might view their students whose families don't have much Jewish background.
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