Sunday, October 06, 2013

TIDE in un-TIDE-y Times

The following remarks are from an individual who pereceive himself as an adherent of TIDE, explaining why his blog, geared to Ba'alei Teshuva, leans heavily to LW MO resources (he permitted me to post his remarks and comment on them):

Today there are two choices basically, Haredi and MO. I can't expect a BT to become purist TIDE when there's no pure TIDE community to go with it. I do TIDE in my house, as best I can concoct it on my own. It's lonely but I can go a long way with books. Most people want more than that. I have to offer them what's out there. All groups are flawed today.  But that's what we have. To me they are equally flawed, no one group more than any other. Each magnifies the flaws of the others and minimizes its own of course. That's part of the flaw. The Litvacks are gone. TIDE is gone. Straight up Sephardic is gone. I'm talking about the communities. The philosophies are still there of course along with a handful of purist practitioners. But the philosophies have morphed into new flawed ones as far as communities go. Litvish into Haredi, TIDE into Modern. Old Chabad into new Chabad.  Sephardic into all of the above. Actually it's a bit more complicated since Washington Heights went Haredi - or so I'm told - but TIDE influenced the yeshiva education program. Whatever the exact history of it, there's no pure TIDE community that I know of. People need community, particularly in this era where they are told sadly that conformity is a religious duty. If I got into that polemical condemnation game that many rabbis are so fond of, if I expected flawlessness from any group before presenting it as an option for newcomers, I'd have nothing to offer people.

We could use a TIDE updated for the 21st century. But who is going to do that? That's what I try to offer my family. I do it like Avraham. Alone. That's why I think we need a virtual TIDE community. A place to discuss and apply the derech. And kids can say, I'm TIDE and there'd be some kind of identity and community, with occasional get-togethers, and maybe even a Rav, to go with it.

My response:

As RAEK stated in admiration of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum, he - and, by association, many of the individuals currently inaccurately labeled "Ba'alei Teshuva" - are in reality Avraham Avinus. They perforce have come as thinking, courageous individuals to a recognition of the truth of authentic Judaism. And, like Dr. Birnbaum, they are inevitably dismayed to find that Orthodox Jewry does not reflect the pure and lofty truth and aunthenticity of Orthodox Judaism.

The response to them - and to the like-minded seekers in the FFB camp - should not be to admit defeat and urge them to do so as well, to shunt them and to urge them to allow themselves to be shunted to philosophies and systems we believe flawed - not to mention unsatisfying - but to present the alternative of authenticity, as difficult and impractical as it may be - because, ultimately, Am Yisroel's entire essence is the preservation and manifestation of authenticity, as difficuly and impractical as it may be.

RSRH and his successors were far more concerned with truth than with popularity or practucality.

We who have been born in the latter part of the 20th century and beyond have been cursed to have been born into un-even anti-heroic times. It is hard to be a hero in a world that is, at best, dismissive of heroes and heroism. A world in which even idealists and idealism are rare commodities, indeed. But all the more reason that we should cultivate whatever sense of mission and quest we do possess, and represent  and present TIDE without compromises that undermine its truth and its authenticity. Accordingly, to uncritically suggest resources that lack - or, worse - work against TIDE is expedient, short-term practicality, but in the long term a devastating dimunition.


  1. TIDE was never taught in YRSRH aka Breuer's, at least not to the boys, when I was there from the mid 60s to mid 70s. Perhaps Rabbi Elias taught TIDE with a yeshivish spin to the girls.

  2. See the book Rav Weinberg talks about chinuch, pp. 109-100. He gives a whole speech about how children should be taught the plain meaning of Chumash and not fancy peshot because they'll be able to build on the plain throughout their lives, but if you give them too many explanations that will actually limit them because they'll get stuck on what they heard in 8th grade. He adds however that this does not apply to kiruv. There you are not teaching Torah but are trying to win them to a place where they'll be interested in Torah. "And for that you can do whatever will most effectively make them interested and respond to you." I believe he (and others) offered similar comments about resolutions to matters such as Darwinism and Cosmogony. It's one matter what you teach to frum kids and another to tinuk sh'nishba.

    Obviously you are not a BT and may not understand the stakes here, how delicately one must work with a mind steeped in secularity, how close many come but don't make it, how huge the transformation is from fry to frum, and how lonely the journey is even with help. Let us not confuse public policy for the frum community and kiruv. The MO world may not be your cup of tea, but they have had many great people among them. Rav Hirsch's austritt was directed at reform Judaism. Was Washington Heights punching ghosts when it directed it at YU?

  3. Isn't it sad and counterproductive that Breuer's would target YU of all places, arguably the closest in thought to TIDE?

    At any rate, I agree with author that kiruv is difficult, and with RYGB that one must be a pioneer.

    Too tired to write more now, but the main selling point for yiddishkeit has always and must always be simple kindness and warmth. The fact that you go to a shabbaton and hear nice singing, eat a nice meal, get to hear a dvar torah about something which whether you agree or not, makes you think about some lesson, and is not about what the latest pop star wore, and that you get to sit with people who respect you and don't make fun of you, or get under your skin, but try to be friendly, is the essence of Judaism. The intellectual stimulation of learning and developing a particular viewpoint or hashkafa is actually a side benefit of Torah, but not the purpose. The purpose always was menschlachkeit, nothing more.

    So there is still plenty to offer a BT. Later he can always learn to fight like the rest of us do about which hashkafa is right. But as much as we fight, it is usually done with some modicum of civility, which is still a refreshing change from the cold world, outside.

  4. I can totally understand the poster. I often feel that aside from my Rebbe (thank the good Lord for him), I have no community to really attach to, almost no machshava shiurim I can mekabul, and no support for a TIDE outlook. I have encountered selected individuals who are "rebels" and independent, who come in and move on, but overall it is a real problem. Fortunately I feel just strong enough not to need the full backing of a community. but a virtual TIDE community, some kind of org, webportal, second-life building, minecraft server, periodical, magazine, SOMETHING would be awesome.

  5. I'm not sure my own leanings are TIDE. I think my relationship to the modern is of a sort that would exclude Austritt; TIDE isn't that. And I don't think the whole topic of how one relates to DE or secular knowledge or .... is as central to my worldview as taking TIDE as my banner would imply. But I'm not even sure TIDE has a clear meaning anymore. On the meta-issue about going with what one believes even if it has no supporting community, I agree.

    There is a case in the microcosm among Anglo olim. Lakewood isn't Mei'ah She'arim or Benei Beraq. Even the MO of Teaneck isn't the DL of Efrat. But Anglos make aliyah trying their hardest to fit into existing camps. Stereotype chareidi oleh: "I thought of myself as chareidi, I obviously agree with the chareidim here. Until this past election, when people cried 'shmad' over just the kind of upbringing I got in Monsey..."

    I think that refusing to fully affiliate with any camp places ones children at MAJOR risk for going OTD. The parents themselves may have enough idealism to be tied to shemiras hamitzvos ideologically, but the second or third generation is likely to include people who require social ties.

    The problem is, it's not always a choice. What is one supposed to do if they feel turned off by each of the party lines, while still in love with Torah itself?

    And R' Reuven, I fully agree. I still connect primarily to the past via my rebbe. But my rebbe was niftar 20 years and almost 3 months ago. My oldest children met him (albeit while rebbe was not in the best of health and didn't always recognize me), but they couldn't remember even that. So this is a solution for me, but not them.

    (On a different note: I just became an "opa". And now that you got me reminiscing about Rav Dovid Lifshitz, I now have another "grandfather" about whom I feel the loss of the chance of being able to show the baby to.)

  6. The truth is, thousands of people are already practicing TIDE along a spectrum. Baalei battim who are kovei'a ittim leTorah may call themselves "Torah only", but are actually practicing TIDE. Rabbonim who use scientific research to inform/support their psak halocho (without being led by it) are quite probably practicing TIDE. Children who learn secular studies in their Jewish day school are in effect practicing TIDE.

    What is missing is the Schwab coefficient, namely that all the abovementioned scenarios are not bedi'eved but lechatchila. We should encourage the baalei battim to ensure to their children that working as a professional is okay. We should applaud a dayan who ensures that his diyun is not just halachically sound but is also congruent with modern scientific understanding of the issues. We should be thrilled that children are learning secular studies, and take every opportunity to emphasise the links between what they learn in secular studies and their limmudei kodesh (and vice versa), because this strengthens rather than weakens their Torah by bringing it out of the silo and into daily reality.

  7. Pardon my ignorance, but what is TIDE?

  8. Pretty hard for a TIDE person to find a rav. The rabbinate today is overrun with Eastern Europeans. On one side are Haredim on the other Modern Orthodox. The Haredim can't understand how you might want to contribute to your society, care about goyim, be inspired by Beethoven, or want to teach your son a trade. The Modern won't stop talking about the "imperative" of aliyah and agunos. I don't think I have ever met a Hirschian in my life.