Mad at Mo
MoChassid's most recent post makes me angry. And that's rare. Usually his posts, make me smile, the way you smile at a genial neighborhood crank, who often makes some good sense as he harangues you about the latest crisis.
Also, I like Mo. He's been a friend to this blog in many ways, and his commentary on Jewish society is often essential reading. But today, for reasons known only to himself, he's chosen to mischaracterize the Ivrit b'Ivrit education, and to attack the schools that embrace it with the most spurious of allegations. "Rebuke through love," as the Ramban characterized his frequent disagreements with the Ibn Ezra, must follow
A sampling of Mo's remarks are in red, with my commentary interpolated:
IBI is more an offshoot of MO/Zionist ideology than it is a workable teaching methodology.
Wrong. I went through it, and I am much better off than my counterparts who went to chunyuki schools. I know Navi. I know actual chumash mephorshim and not just midrashim. And I can understand a Hebrew lecture, and carry out a Hebrew conversation. The methodology works.
Even though the overwhelming majority of MO families have no intention of moving to Israel (and would in some cases be horrified if their kids moved), for ideological reasons they want their kids to speak fluent Hebrew and are willing to sacrifice real learning to accomplish this.
MO parents don't want their kids to learn Hebrew for ideological reasons, but for pragmatic reasons, including the most important reason of all: "real learning" is impossible without Hebrew fluency. Also, Hebrew comes in handy when you're trying to figure out what davening means, or or if you happen to find yourself in Israel, on a bike tour, for instance. It's a useful skill for an ordinary Jew, but essential for a Jewish scholar. It's absurd, and perhaps a little clueless to suggest that Hebrew is only for aliyah.
(These people are what I refer to as the Shabbat Shalom Brigades; even though their parents said 'good Shabbos' and they grew up saying 'good Shabbos', they would rather say Merry X-mas than say good Shabbos. It's Shabbat Shalom or nothing!).
Mo says this all the time, and it never sounds any smarter. Let's do a word substitution and you'll see what I mean: "Even though the parents of the original Hasidim davened ashkenaz, and even though the original Hasidim themselves grew up davening ashkenaz, they would rather say Merry X-mas than daven sefard." Jews and Judaism change, MOc. The practice of our parents is not, and has never been, the highest Jewish value. Change is part of life. Be reasonable, old man.
IBI can work in some of the more modern MO yeshivas (where boys and girls are not separated) and the kids (even some of the boys) will actually come out knowing Hebrew. On the other hand, the children will generally leave school without knowing much Torah or having much Yiras Shamayim.
So dumb it drools. Where do the best boys in Yeshiva University and the best American Hesder programs come from if not MO yeshivas? Is Mo suggesting that none of them know Torah or have much Yiras Shamayim?
While at the same time they want their kids to learn Hebrew (for the aliyah they are not contemplating), they also want their kids to be exposed to geshmak teachers (so that they can at least have a taste of geshmak Yiddishkeit that is lacking in most of their homes).
I don't know exactly what Mo means by geshmak but from the context, I imagine he's romanticizing the near past again; and, for good measure, he insults people who aren't as sentimental about the shtetel as he is. What does geshmak mean? Hats? Bible stories? Herring? Kugel? Yiddish? Or is it simply code, as I suspect, for "You are not authentically Jewish if you don't look like I do, and treasure the same accoutrements that I treasure?"
The cultural externalities Mo thinks are so important are incidental to Judaism and not essential. They need not be mantained, or passed on to our children. Fluent Hebrew, however, is necessary to proper learning, and to complete Judaism. It enrages me everything I encounter someone who puts the culture of the shtetle ahead of the language of our people.
I, like many Jews, think HEBREW is geshmak