Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Torah Im Derech Eretz in the Land of Israel

Since I moved to Israel I have been asked a number of times for my impressions of Torah Im Derech Eretz in Israel. Israel being such a different culture than the USA I wanted to give it some time before I spoke. It's been a few years now and here are my thoughts.

There is no Torah Im Derech Eretz in the Land of Israel today. I'd be shocked if there's even one person who is pulling it off substantively.

The main problem is the draft. The army is no place for a Torah observant Jewish boy or girl, regardless of the fraudulent claims otherwise. The army life is a crude life, full of shouting and bluster of every kind. One becomes aggressive, even violent. Anti-religious and certainly anti-charedi programming is rampant. The problems with mixed gender environments and not-so-kosher food are just part of the problem with the army, even though they may be the most referenced part.

In order to qualify for what remains of the draft exemption a person cannot have worked even one day in his life. So for all this complaining about the charedim not having jobs, the complainers have to consider that the draft laws are maybe the primary reason for it. Since the draft applies to all men under the age of 40, the draft is killing the idea of charedim earning a parnassah.

Also because secular zionists have dominated secular education here for a century, the charedim have become totally opposed to secular education  -- and for good reason in that the founders of the state and its early intellectuals were atheists and the current leaders and intellectuals are pretty much the same.

So you have a situation where charedi life is anti-parnassah and anti-secular studies  - not exactly Torah Im Derech Eretz.

So what about the dati leumi who do go on to earn a parnassah and get some kind of eduction -- after their serving the military, of course.

There you have the problem of racism, really intense racism. I thought southern racists in 1930s America were bad. Hirsch's whole concept of the Jews helping and caring about humanity does not exist in the state of Israel. People here, particularly chilonim and dati leumi are constantly worked up not just about the Arabs but about Moslems everywhere and the Europeans and the South Americans and the Asians and the Africans and the Antarticans. Even the Americans who give them so much money and political cover are constant fodder for condemnation and ridicule. To Israelis, the human race is the enemy.

And speaking of ridicule, well there's the derech eretz situation in Israel. I'm sure I don't need to explain. Perhaps you know the joke that ends with "and the Israeli said, what's excuse me?" Maybe you haven't heard it. Goes like this. A survey taker asks several people, Excuse me what's your opinion of the meat shortage? The American says, what's a shortage? The Pole (this is a joke from the Soviet era) says what's meat? The North Korean says, what's an opinion? And what does the Israeli say, he says, what's excuse me?

There are some minhag Ashkenaz communities here. They do not practice Torah Im Derech Eretz. They are mostly Israeli Charedim who say birchos ha-Torah before korbonos or who only allow one person to say kaddish. Ashkenaz yes, Hirsch no. As I said, nobody here practices Torah Im Derech Eretz. That includes me!

They all admire Rav Hirsch. In fact I see the Hirsch Chumash in Hebrew not only in Yekke shuls but all over the country. It's quite popular here. But Torah Im Derech Eretz in all its parts is not.

Some aspects of the life in Eretz Yisroel today are very positive. My account here is not intended to say otherwise. In particular, the charedi communities can be very impressive. And certainly one finds some likeable and decent people. But it is not Torah Im Derech Eretz in any significant way, certainly not a Germanic TIDE.

Now TIDE is supposed to be relative to an era. It is the application of Torah to life. It doesn't have to a Germanic flavour.

Still, I'd say that because of the oppressive forces here, because it is not what you'd call a free country but rather a militaristic state, TIDE of any kind can't really develop.

If Torah Im Derech Eretz is your derech, do not come to Israel unless you are prepared to find a new derech and you might be surprised how difficult that can be while maintaining sanity and faith.


  1. Is there any interest in TIDE in the Minhag Ashkenaz communities, even if they don't see any way to practice it?

    1. every now and again somebody mentions it
      look even breuer's in wh doesn't talk about the topic; although people more naturally just do it there

    2. I got the impression that most of the Minhag Ashkenaz communities in Eretz Yisroel are revived communities. So I guess I had hoped some people there might be interested in reviving TIDE as well...

    3. I know one guy that like. He's an American originally from Wash Heights. I know a Swiss guy that's the perfect Swiss gentleman and he's like that. The Israelis are not and this is Israel. You pretty much have to be from somewhere else to be interested in TIDE, it seems. Israelis are a different breed.

  2. We need to convince the yekkish communitis around the world to come to Eretz Yirael and make their own Yishuvim

    God is closing shop on chutz la'aretz anyway

    1. We need to convince Yekkish communities to stay put. The State of Israel is a bigger golus than golus. It's a double golus. Especially with the draft looming, I tell faithful Jews to stay away from this place.

  3. Yisroel, surely one of your more unsettling posts. I do think some historical perspective is necessary. The original zionists did not wake up atheists. They wanted a way out of the oppressive Russian regimes and to preserve their strong Jewish connection, whether to Hebrew language, culture, or a Jewish nation-state. They ran into intense opposition from the traditional establishment. In a similar way the Jewish communities in Germany struggled with haskalah and integration with society for 60 years, and ran into nothing but opposition, until Hirsch understood that there were positive features of haskala that could be integrated into a fully traditional observance.
    The difficult truth is that those who had the foresight to leave Europe for Palestine, founded a state that is the center of Jewish life today, while Europe is left with nothing but matzeivot.

    1. The purpose of life is to serve Hashem. Anything that takes you away from faith and devotion is a scam, a lie, and an emptiness. Jewish life means Torah. It doesn't mean Israeli dance, F-16 Jets, and chutzpah. Israel, aside from the Charedi communities which are similar to those outside the land, is the center of nothing but a fantasy.