Friday, December 20, 2013

Austritt in the 21st Century

George Frankel writes that some look at TIDE as an emergency measure and Austritt as permanent, while in reality the reverse is true. He wrote as follows:
        Horoas sho’oh means that the Torah has an ideal that is temporarily put aside because conditions are less than ideal.  Now Torah im Derech Eretz is based on an ideal, namely that Japhet should dwell in the tents of Shem.  HaShem wants there to be traffic between the world of Torah and the world of art, literature, music and science.  Indeed the Torah sees the two worlds ultimately conjoined, as the pinnacle of perfection.  Those who say that Torah im Derech Eretz is not applicable today because culture is debased, society is debased, etc., etc., are really only giving excuses why the Torah im Derech Eretz ideal should be deferred.
Austritt however is not based on an ideal.  There certainly is no ideal that there should be division and strife among Jews.  It is only because some Jews have supposedly fallen away from the ideal that we can even begin to countenance a state of Austritt between groups of Jews.
If Jewish man were in an ideal state, there would be no occasion for Austritt.  If universal man were in an ideal state, there would be no excuse to put off the pursuit of Torah im Derech Eretz any longer.
Therefore Torah im Derech Eretz is the ideal, Austritt the expedient.

This may be correct for the philosopher as he sits in his arm chair. However, we are not in a philosopher's study. We are in the deepest darkest of exiles, where the philosophical must reconcile with the practical.

Rav Breuer argued that TIDE and Austritt go together, two sides of the same coin. I explain R' Breuer as follows: Once you open yourself to the outside world, you become vulnerable to its negative influence. Problematic groups even within Orthodoxy presumably all ready have allowed that negative influence to shape its core. Therefore, you need to avoid the problematic groups even with Orthodoxy because they have led the way in institutionalizing the bad of the outside world. They have given it a Jewish look and make it harder to weed out. Accordingly, even though R' Hirsch's Austritt was focused on a radical and antagonistic reform, Austritt in our times may apply with regard to Orthodox groups with problematic aspects. We can talk to them, work with them in certain circumstances, certainly daven for them and love them but may have to distance ourselves in many respects. Certainly, we should respectfully criticize the parts we object to so that our view is known. R' Breuer's approach makes sense to me.

Take for example the Modern Orthodox world and feminism. It has infiltrated to the core over there and it pushes up against halahka at every turn. It's hard enough to fight feminism as it occurs in the world at large. But when one watches talmidei chachamim embrace it, then who is strong enough to continue to push it away?

TIDE and Austritt are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. If you are going to engage the secular world in these impossible times, then you have to maintain some kind of distance from the groups that have allowed it to damage the mesorah. Haredim can sooner mix with the problematic sects within Modern Orthodoxy than TIDE people can because Haredim in general divorce themselves from secular society. The TIDE person has to be even more stringent with them.

However, you can say the same with regard to the Haredi world. They have their own problems such as, in my view, a continuing exaggeration in some groups of the supremacy of Limud Torah and a de-emphasis on the importance of mitzvos and a failure to teach young men a trade. The whole Haredi world isn't like that but much of it is. So we have just knocked out a lot of people. This is why the Austritt has to be largely symbolic or just mental because a hard-core Austritt is a little difficult when you don't even have an IRG of 100 families and Hirsch or R' Breuer at the helm in a self-contained community.

Again, this blog has two main purposes. 1) To gather up a chevrah of TIDE people. 2) To share tricks for applying TIDE today. This is not an academic forum for pronouncing Hirsch's name or the word Gemeinde correctly. It's not the place where utmost in our minds is an analysis of his influence on contemporary Jewry. You are free to pose your analysis but mostly we leave that to the academics. Here we try to live TIDE in our times (and most Jewish Studies professors are not TIDE. They are Modern Orthodox Torah u'Maddah.) How do we practice Austritt in these end of days when most of the Orthodox world contradicts core parts of our philosophy? And yet we need all the groups. The truth is so splintered today that one needs to pick up pieces of it from each group.

One thing I do is order my books appropriately in my house. Hirsch is on top along with the classic sefarim. The photos of the German Orthodox are more prominent on my walls. I speak often about TIDE principles and even cite Eastern European scholars or Rishonim that echo them (the Nitziv on Or L'ogyim, Rabbeinu Yona on having compassion for all people, the Rambam on looking into the bria to gain ahavas Hashem). This is a kind of mini-Austritt. I always wear a blue jacket sometimes with a handkerchief in the pocket so that I'm a little different than MO and a little different than the Haredim. And with that base, I can interact with all the other groups. What are your tricks?

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