The Orthodox Gains and the Hyphenated Orthodox Declines
Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
The Orthodox Increase in population is powered by large families and by people who are not Orthodox deciding to become Orthodox. When the Posek HaDor Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l died, a secular newspaper revealed that he left over a thousand progeny of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. What did this fact mean to the secular Israeli? What it meant is that here is a person, one man, who produced over a thousand people who were either all or most basically Orthodox as he was. Compare this with the secular Israel who has a very small birth rate. The sad comment on the secular Israeli’s propagation is that a family produces a child and a dog. The child then goes to Japan to marry somebody who is not Jewish, and the dog doesn’t vote.
Years ago the secular Kibbuts, perhaps controlled by leftist or even Communists, produced the senior officers of the army. But today those Kibbutsim have declined or disappeared, and the new element powering up the Israel army is completely Orthodox soldiers who believe that defending the holy land is a great mitzvah. After a period of some years, these Orthodox soldiers have made a good name for themselves, and they are on their way to be the future generals. The recent battles in Gaza were led by an Israeli colonel who is completely Orthodox. He spent years in America learning from and teaching American soldiers. If he wasn’t Orthodox he would probably have become a general by now. But making future generals Orthodox is a great threat to the secularists who control the army. But rejecting Orthodox soldiers from the highest positions is futile, because nobody else in Israel is so motivated to be a top soldier.
Our remarks here are not about the secular Jew, but about those who call themselves Orthodox or those who call themselves Orthodox plus a hyphenated word such as Modern Orthodox or Open Orthodox. When we say that they decline, what do we base this on? Basically, somebody who is Orthodox plus Modern or Open reveals that his Orthodoxy is tampered with other beliefs, and these beliefs are contrary to Orthodoxy. Otherwise, who needs the hyphenation? Just say you are Orthodox.
Let us examine the Orthodoxy of Modern Orthodox Jews. Are they completely Orthodox? First of all, who are they? Many of them come from Yeshiva University. Now, Yeshiva University was the only game in town in the early years of the twentieth century. Great European Gedolim taught there and instilled a Jewish spirit in many people who were ready to go to a secular college and get completely lost. But after a class or two with the European Gedolim, these American college students then studied under the atheists who teach in the secular colleges. Here is hyphenation. And it produces confusion. But confusion is not the right word. It produces an understanding that Orthodoxy is a compartmentalized religion. Part Rav Soloveitchik and part the people who teach about Einstein and other things that are filled with anti-Torah ideas. But things are worse than that. Let us be specific about the problems with Modern Orthodox. Yes, they are Modern in one compartment and then Orthodox in a separate compartment. Is this somebody who believes in Sinai and the Torah or somebody who is two people part believer and part denier?
Let us talk about Modern Orthodox people who play the American game and want the highest degrees and the best jobs. How many years does it take to get a doctorate or training in some advanced specialty? We are talking about unmarried people, because until they graduate with all of their required degrees and begin making some good money, marriage is unlikely. The rabbis required marriage at the age of eighteen and no later than twenty. But for the Modern Orthodox person, that is impossible. Getting a master’s degree takes years, and getting a doctorate takes years. A doctor must spend years after he gets his degree doing actual medical work until he eventually is granted his full license to practice. He is not young. His biology has been boiling for years. And yes, he has not been without girls. And they, too, have biology. Since they are Modern Orthodox, the dating is also compartmentalized. Don’t ask for details.
A YU student told me that there are students in the Modern Orthodox YU world who cannot marry but do have intimate relationships that are proper only for married people. The Rebbes in YU spoke out about such people. The very fact that they practice keeping the Mikva and are alone like husband and wife on a regular basis, could possibly create a pesak that they are married. If so, if the woman leaves this man and marries with somebody else, without a GET from the first man, her children are mamzerim. Yes, the hyphen goes a long way. It is terrible.
Now let me tell you a story that happened with me recently, that is quite relevant to our discussion. I spoke to people who are hyphenated Orthodox and I had for them what I thought was a home-run idea. Kiddushin often destroys the wife when the husband won’t give her a GET. So let them marry with Pilegesh, and anyone can leave anytime. I sweetened the pot by saying that when a Kiddushin lady remarries without a GET, her children from the new marriage are mamzerim. In Pilegesh there is no such thing, no mamzerim. I was shocked to realize that my idea was completely rejected. I don’t mean they rejected Pilegesh. They did not. But they rejected the negative information that Kiddushin can produce mamzerim. And the tone of voice was that this was completely wrong to even discuss. I was confused.
But now I am beginning to understand. When a person is two opposites, Modern and Orthodox, he or she is compartmentalized, which is not my invention, but I heard it from others. The part of the hyphenated Orthodox is really Orthodox. But the part that is Modern is completely free to have sinful relations with people who should be married to do certain things. If you talk to that person’s Orthodox side, you see a full fledged keeper of Shabbos and kashruth. But when you talk about anti-Orthodox things that are the property of the Modern, you cannot talk at all about Orthodox sin, so just keep quiet.
I do not believe that everybody who joins a Modern Orthodox Shull or group is compartmentalized. I believe that many of them accept that they are one person and yet are simply too weak to obey the Orthodox teaching as they should. Such a person can readily discuss what he practices and what he does not practice, without hesitation, without inventions, without being two people but being one person. Such a person has a much easier time of considering dropping the hyphenation and becoming completely Orthodox. But the compartmentalized person doesn’t always believe in Orthodoxy, sometimes he is “Modern” and then, the Torah is not important.
When I say that hyphenated Orthodox is in decline, I mean that an Orthodoxy without Torah is a complete farce, and any intelligent person knows that. And although the many hyphenated people and compartmentalized people are firm believers in splitting the brain into two people, such a trick is not strong enough to appeal to people who think normally in terms of one brain and one person and one set of beliefs. Thus, the Modern Orthodox with its opposite brains is a state of impossible confusion, and can only produce more confusion. The hyphenated Orthodox are busy splitting into Modern and then Open. One who reads their material knows he is dealing with people who don’t think straight. This is a formula for division and decline.