I have come to believe that a new schism is coming to the Jewish world, a vast new reorganization that will supplant the current denominational divides. One of the new fault lines will split the Orthodox movement and pit Hareidim against Modern Orthodox Jews. Ahead is a guest post by my good friend and long-time reader MJFire surveying this split. The post comes in response to a post on Emes Ve-Emunah about R. Nachum Eisenstein’s pronouncement in R. Elyashiv’s name at the Eternal Jewish Family conference that it is heresy to believe that the world is older than 5768 years.
Without further ado, the guest post:
I think the MO have a dependency on the Charedim that is entirely one-sided, and this is at the root of the problem between the two camps. On the one hand, the MO are in awe of the emunah, lack of materialism, and rigorous observance of halakah of the Charedim. Moreover — and more importantly — they depend on Charedi religious leaders ( e.g., R’ M. Feinstein, R’ A. Kaminetzky, and R’ S.Z. Auerbach, et al.) for piskei halakha on many practical issues, with the prominent exception of educational standards and tzniut/negiah. This dependency puts them in the difficult position of kowtowing to the Charedi world’s norms and standards on a semi-regular basis. On the other hand, I do think that the MO value their contact with the modern world, and recognize that for all the problems that such an interaction creates for a religious person, this contact is worthwhile. In other words, they are unwilling to give up the “modern” aspect of their lives, and have therefore made the choice to accept, with some level of disappointment, the disdain in which they are held by the Charedi world, while at the same, secretly admiring many aspects of the Charedi world.
But the attitidue of the Charedim (which has never returned the MO’s secret admiration) has moved from disdain to condemnation — and as the Charedim grow more powerful in Israel and take better advantage of emerging tecnologies to broadcast this message, this attitude starts to define the relationship. At core, the MO need to realize something that they have been loathe to recognize in the past: the Charedim just don’t need and don’t care about the MO. The Charedi world views itself as Shevet Levi at the moment Moshe comes down from Sinai after having shattered the luchot. They are perfectly willing to execute the family members who have strayed from the path, and they will burn down the village to save it. This attitude is anathema to the MO world, even in its interactions with the Conservative and Reform movements.
The response of the MO should not only be in denominational reorganization (which I think has as much if not more to do with the drift of the Conservative movement), but to break with the Charedim by actively cultivating poskim from within the MO community who are willing to publish an MO Mishna Berurah and an MO Igrot Moshe that is not only modern in a “scientific” outlook (there is really no great controversy over evolution among the MO), but that takes a modern approach to issues on which the MO world has been totally beholden to the Charedi community for halakhic guidance in the past, but where there is now a sense growing alienation from the Charedi camp, ( e.g., womens’ issues such agunah, kol isha, and kavod hatzibur, and even chumras related to shmirat shabbat and kashrut). Only then can they say to the Charedim — we don’t need you anymore.