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MODERN ORTHODOXY-----yeshiva university


MODERATOR Posted - 19 April 2002 13:45


First, please understand that the battle against YU by the Yeshiva world is not, nor was it, a simple issue of Halachic or Hashkafic disagreement which can be dismissed as routine if accompanied with the obligatory respect for the opposing view, as per ailu v'alu etc.

Not so. Rather, YU was viewed as a deviant, dangerous, and anti-Torah entity that doesn’t deserve the respect of a legitimate Torah position, even a mistaken one.

Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL, and Rav Schneur ZTL after him, would under no circumstances even walk into YU. Rav Elchonon Wasserman ZTL also, when he came to America in the '30s, was invited to speak in YU, and he refused to even walk in to the place.

Of course, this is all very offensive to the students of YU, and I understand that. But if we're going to understand what the issues are, then, we need to be honest and put the positions on the table, whether we like them or not. And here are the issues:

The difference between the inadequacies at YU versus the inadequacies in Yeshivos is that YU made their inadequacies into philosophical positions thereby not merely doing wrong, but changing the definition of wrong. To do wrong is a violation of the Torah, and yes, many types of Jews do that.

But to make wrong into right is to change the Torah, either explicitly or implicitly. YU has done. That amounts to a new, deviant movement within Judaism, and that is the problem with YU. The good, the bad, the gray areas - are all considered part and parcel of the official YU position.

Please understand, YU is a business, not a Yeshiva, and it is run by the Board of Directors, not the Roshei Yeshiva (except to the extent that leaders - the board - can be pressured by its constituency - the Roshei Yeshiva and students).

That’s fine, except when business decisions are understood to be philosophical positions you have big problems. And although many Boards of many institutions wield influence, please note that YU has and never had any Rosh Yeshiva who was the official leader and policy maker for the institution. The Board has always been the official "Rosh". Even Rav Soloveichik was merely an employee, and, although he was called Rosh Yeshiva (and even went raising money like a Rosh Yeshiva), his power was still that of an employee, much less than a real Rosh Yeshiva should have.

Nowhere else will you find the "President" of a Bais HaMedrash constantly representing (and creating) the Torah positions of the institution without reviewing every single word of his speeches with the official Rosh Yeshiva. In YU, Dr. Lamm, though he was merely President, and not Rosh Yeshiva, had full right to get up and speak to the world about the official policies and positions of YU, even though the Roshei Yeshiva may not have agreed with him. Nowhere does a lay leader become a setter of policy for a Yeshiva.

Add to that the wrongheaded Hashkofos being taught even by some of the Roshei Yeshiva there, and you have a formula for disaster.

Example: Originally, RIETS did not even allow English studies. The Rabbonim in charge would not allow it. They were instituted when a group of students went on strike demanding the school toss its standards of right and wrong and teach secular studies. The rabbis were against, the Board was for.

And so were secular studies introduced into RIETS.

Now, as Dr. Lamm pointed out in his farewell speech, MO (and YU) consider secular studies in and unto themselves, intrinsically valuable, not merely as a utilitarian tool for Parnasa or Kiruv etc. But the fact that all knowledge "comes from G-d" gives all knowledge "value" that demands we spend time pursuing it, instead of spending that time on Torah and Mitzvos.

This goes beyond the idea that secular studies can - and should - be used as a tool to attain and support Torah and Mitzvos. And it underscores the difference between the secular studies taught in the Yeshiva high schools versus that of YU.

YU has made a value out of secular studies in itself. "Torah umadah" is a totally non-Jewish concept, assimilated into the official philosophy of YU, at least as espoused by their President. To teach secular studies as a concession or an unfortunate necessity, which in the Yeshivos it clearly is, is not changing the values of the Torah.

But to espouse that taking people out of the Bais HaMedrash for second Seder and to earn a degree in Law is a step up, is an unacceptable attack on Hashem and His Torah (and no, it is not nearly the same as Rav SR Hirsch, which has been discussed in several places on these boards)

The Netziv of Volozhen closed his entire Yeshiva rather than institute secular studies, and the reason he gave is, there needs to be a "Havdolah" - separation - between Kodesh and Chol. We sometimes need Chol, but we dare not blur the edge between it and Kodesh. YU has not only blurred the edge between them, but has actually claimed that Chol is in the category of Kodesh. That is its biggest problem.

Nothing has intrinsic value except Torah. Everything else is Hevel Hevolim.

But this is only part of the assimilation into non-Jewish culture and values that YU represents.

The unacceptable socializing that goes on between the YU boys and Stern girls, the partying, the inter-collegiate and spectator sports, the bales of Apikorsus to be found in their library, ideas espoused even in the Limudei Kodesh courses that are against the Torah, never mind secular courses where clear anti-Torah ideas and ideals are taught by teachers who have all but carte blanche to say whatever they want.

The teaching of Gemorah to girls, and worse yet, the excuse given for it, that "If we teach them medicine and law, they can learn Gemora too", the Zionism, the allowance of gay clubs (money is no excuse; if they were Neo-Nazi clubs, they would not be tolerated - the issue is the lack of understanding that gay clubs are just as repulsive to G-d).

YU's goal is to create a "synthesis" between secular learning and torah learning. That synthesis would be bad enough in and of itself - there must be a separation, not a synthesis between the two - but what has happened is not merely a synthesis between the Torah and secular studies, but a synthesis between a Torah and a secular lifestyle, between Torah values and secular ones. And it’s often hard to tell which is which.

The Board of Directors didn’t even want Rav Soloveichik to be the Rosh Yeshiva. When Rav Lazer Silver wrote a letter importuning them to accept him as Rosh, they responded with a scathing answer refusing to do so. Only when the students themselves got involved and protested on his behalf did the Board reluctantly give in.

Harris L. Selig, an administrator and fund raiser for YU, wrote ("Standardizing the Hebrew Schools of America"):

"Practically every great college and university was founded originally as a religious seminary. Harvard as a Congregationalist, and Brown as a Baptist seminary. Our Yeshiva College, too, springs from what was originally a Rabbinical seminary, and is it too much to expect that in time, it too, like other great American institutions, will be one of the foremost colleges in this country...."

That YU should become another totally secular college, like Yale or Harvard, that was his vision of success for YU.

Rav Soloveichik's position in all of this is less clear. What is clear is that he definitely believed that secular studies are not only OK, but an advantage for a Ben Torah. Rabbi Moshe Zvi Brodsky, son-in-law of Rav Nochum Pertrovich ZTL of Mir, once approached Rav Soloveichik with comments on a Yohrtzeit Shiur he just attended. Rav Soloveichik liked the comments. He asked Rabbi Brodsky, "Did you go to college"?

"No," Brodsky said.

"Tsk. That's a pity," answered Rav Soloveichik.

He espoused Zionism, stating that even if Jews have to die in order to have a Jewish (religious) State, their deaths are "worthwhile".

He declared that the reason the Gedolim do not agree with him about secular studies is because they "lack the courage" to admit their mistake, even though they know they are wrong (!). For anyone familiar with the courageousness of people like Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL and his peers, such statements merely cause the listener to raise an eyebrow, shrug his shoulders and wonder.

There are people in YU - and Stern - that have no idea what among their education and environment is Jewish, what is secular, what is Torah, what is not. And the answer will depend on who you ask. There is a girl on these boards, a Russian immigrant, who wrote how after she graduated from a BY school in Brooklyn she decided to go to college at Stern because "at least it’s Jewish". What she found, she says, is the same non-Jewishness as the secular colleges, but under the guise of a "Jewish place". It is so confusing to her, she says, because now she has no idea what in Stern in "Jewish" and what is "secular".

That is exactly the type of misrepresentation that YU and Stern cause, which is due to the Taaruvos - synthesis - of Kodesh and Chol, where there is supposed to be a Havdalah bain Kodesh L'chol.

Of course it is possible for a person to be in YU and be a Ben Torah. And of course it is possible for a Rebbi in YU to have proper Hashkofos (it’s only a job), but the risk is great. And what YU stands for, and what it has come to represent to the masses, is something that our Gedolim wanted to make sure nobody accepts as legitimate.

Charedimrock Posted - 19 April 2002 15:57


What I would like to understand about the ultra-Orthodox community is that such a small and hated community can hate others so much. Your close-mindedness and insularity IS NOT AN ASSET but a tremendous liability.

How long can you continue to live in a "cave?" (Call me a Sonei Hashem if you want but the truth is the truth-whether "R'"Elya Svei says so or not). That an organization like Pirchei Shoshanim can disseminate hatred is a shame on the entire Charedi community!

I hope you have the courage to post this but I doubt you will. Regardless, you cannot continue to bash the Modern Orthodox "MO" world and then take OUR MONEY to support YOUR lifestyle!

MODERATOR Posted - 19 April 2002 17:08


Sigh. Here we go again. Nobody is allowed to have any standards of right and wrong, are they? If they do, then those who do the wrong have a right to accuse those with the standards of hate?

What hate? Huh? I see disapproval and criticism, but hate? I don’t see any of that?

It's a game people play and a defense mechanism they use to protect themselves from and criticism, and to take license to do whatever they want, that as soon as someone says "Hello, I hold what you’re doing is wrong" they scream "HATE HATE HATE".

Sorry, but that doesn’t work here.

And please let me ask you: I am accusing people of violating the Torah, and so are you - yet you feel you have a right to do so, but if I do, I am guilty of "hate"? Can you please explain that? Please tell me the logic of criticizing other Jews under the grounds that they are not allowed to criticize another Jew?

And money? Lifestyle? Huh? I have no idea what money you’re talking about (I don’t take money from anyone for this site), but do you mean to tell me that taking money from someone automatically means you approve of their lifestyle?

Does YU not take money from non-Jews? Reform Jews? Conservative Jews? And if they do, does that mean they approve of their lifestyle? Their Hashkofos? Does that mean that the Rebbeim in YU are not allowed to say Christianity is wrong or Reform Jewry is wrong because Christians or Reform Jews give money to YU? What in the world are you talking about?

MODERATOR Posted - 05 May 2002 18:25


People have a feeling that "if YU is correct then why aren't the Gedolim teaching and learning there? Also, if it is correct, then I would be there. Therefore it is wrong and Apikorsus."

I don’t know anybody who says this. The reasons for opposition to YU is not because of this, but because of what our Gedolim explicitly told us and taught us about YU, namely, that it must be opposed.

Judaism has lasted for thousands of years based on the principle of "Eiloo ViEiloo Divrai Elokim Chaim".

Yes, and part of the "Divrei Elikom Chaim of the Torah leaders is that Eilu V'Eilu does not apply here, since YU is not a legitimate expression of Torah opinion at all. That is part and parcel of the Divrei Elokim Chaim of YU's opponents.

To say YU is bad b/c R'Aharon Kotler and R'Elchanon wouldn't enter YU is erroneous and unfair. We don't necessarily know that R'Aharon wouldn't enter YU because he disagreed and was against it. Also, R' MOSHE FEINSTEIN, considered the "Gadol of America" entered YU numerous times. In fact, he went there to visit his son in law, R'Tendler (a Rosh Yeshiva in YU)! If R'Moshe was against YU, then he wouldn’t have permitted his daughter to marry a Rosh Yeshiva of YU and he certainly wouldn't have entered YU's "Tamay" buildings!

Yes, we do. Rav Aharon said many times that he will not enter YU because it is bad. His son, Rav Schneur, followed suit. The fact that Rav Moshe went into YU does not show he was not opposed to it, but rather that even if he is opposed to it, that doesn’t mean he may not enter it. Different Gedolim had different ways of expressing themselves in these issues.

Even among those who actually taught in YU, there were those who were opposed to the whole place and would have been very happy if it would have never been in existence (I am referring to Rav Gorelick). Rav Aharon wanted to make a statement in that way - it does not mean anyone who does not make that type of statement disagrees with him (PS _I have been in YU myself numerous times, in the Bais Medrash, in the dorms, in the classrooms and mostly in the library, but obviously I am opposed) Rav Moshe in fact held Halachicly - and this is in writing - that it is assur to go to college, and that the "college Yeshivos" are doing terrible damage to Klall Yisroel.

As far as the issue, please let me explain again, I don’t think we communicated the first time.

It makes no difference whether there are some Rebbeim in YU who are not messed up. The fact that the President of a "Yeshiva" can get up and refer to Bnei Torah as "cavemen" because they do not go to college, and the fact that anti-Torah activities do take place there regardless of whether you "talmidim" go against your Rebbeim or not (I happen to own a copy of the "Guide to the Perplexed"), means that the institute as a whole must be opposed.

The fact that in Rabbi Aharon Kahn's classroom you will not hear any heresy of chutzpah against the Torah does not negate the corruption of the institution as a whole.

Because it is a business - as opposed to other Yeshivas who have a business element which does not set policy for the Yeshiva but merely the administrative offices - you can have ppl like Lamm, or Rackman, or even worse spouting all kinds of drivel in the name of Torah.

And you can have an Avi Weiss and others like him teaching under its auspices. It’s nice that you and your friends can (supposedly) decide on your own what is real Judaism and what is not, but not everybody is on your level.

Here is a post of a few days ago, by "Gerinimo":

"The issue of tsniut is also a question of social norms. At YU in the 50's through 60's or 70's, they had mixed dances as official events. If the roshei yeshiva believed that such were asur, they would have banned the dances."

Obviously, this is not so, but can you blame this person for thinking this way?

Or the Russian girl, on these boards, who graduated from a religious high school (she’s not religious) and wanted to remain in a "Jewish" environment so she went to Stern, and reports that she’s much worse than she ever was because now she can "do" basically anything and still feel like she’s still "being Jewish".

Secular studies are not considered Limudei Kodesh, but to many people in YU - including some "Roshei Yeshivas" - they are necessary not merely for Parnasa but for becoming a Ben Torah, and that is not acceptable.

Rav Soloveichik himself is a different issue, though related, which I will address if you want me to.

Whatever Torah there is in YU, it is mixed with values of non-Jewish society, behaviors and messages that are repulsive to Hashem and His Torah, and therefore, the institution as a whole is opposed by Torah leaders and Bnei Torah.

If someone can survive all the confusion and fusion and misguidance, fine, Hashem helps many. But the fact that those things are there puts YU in a category well below what we may accept in an institution that claims to be a Yeshiva.

her Posted - 28 May 2002 2:08


This is such hashgacha pratis! I was wondering about YU tonight and when I checked the site, here was the forum!

I'm a bit confused. I know that people aren't thrilled about YU, but I've never heard of such strong opposition like the Mod presented.

There are 2 points in particular that turned me off.

(1) The mod said that YU isn't eilu v'eilu because "YU is not a legitimate expression of Torah opinion at all". Well, what if the Ramban had decided when he opposed Rashi that Rashi wasn't a valid Torah expression? What's the diff?

(2)"J.B."?? Gedolei hador referred to someone as that??? Even if they opposed to his positions, I wouldn't have expected such disrespect for another Jew!

MODERATOR Posted - 28 May 2002 3:07


1) That’s exactly the point. These Gedolim are saying that the opponents here are not Rashi but rather people who are not in the category of Gedolim to begin with.

Certainly there are disputes of that nature - such as Moshe and Korach. And just as there is a Psak regarding how to rule in a Halachic dispute, there is also a psak that tell you that a certain dispute is not Hillel and Shamai but Moshe and Korach - or somewhere in between, whatever. The Psak here is that this is not an even Machlokes but rather an issue of Torah ideals versus those taken from secular places, which should be disregarded totally.

2) And that’s the point of this action, too. Their message by doing this was specifically a ruling that the person in question is not to be considered someone regarding who such a manner of reference is fitting, and no further kovod is appropriate. That too is a psak

MODERATOR Posted - 22 July 2004 18:43


As I mentioned, that does not negate the point. Plenty of great Rabbonim were Roshei Yeshiva in YU, but they made it clear that they did not hold from what was going on there. Some even told their good students to leave if they want to be Bnei Torah. it was a job - a Kiruv job partly, but something they reluctantly accepted because of their own reasons, but NONE of them ever said that they agree with YU's philosophy at all. Plenty of Chareidi Rebbeim teach nowadays in Hebrew Academies and even coed schools but that doesn’t mean they think its right.

The fact that someone taught there does not mean he agrees with what they do there.

But the fact that there were Rabbonim who disagreed SO MUCH that they even refused to walk in there, is telling.

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