Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fisking @yeshivaguy

What follows is a post by @yeshivaguy, with my comments and criticism. Let's discuss the issues it raises. I'm YG is in italics.
Seclusion
Isolated. Insular. Intolerant.

The chareidi and yeshivish community is often been described as such. It may very well be that we are those things. After all, the average bochur in a mainstream yeshiva doesn’t know what the most recent behala on the blogosphere is. The average Bais Yaakov girl doesn’t know what the latest in haute couture is. Certainly, the regular yingelech in cheder are blissfully unaware of the madness prevalent on the crisscrossing byways and highways that speed secular youth toward a life of, well, emptiness.

Your community is not described as isolated or intolerant because the residents are unaware of narishkeit like fashion and blog wars. You're described as isolated because you don't know anything about science, history, or current events. You're described as intolerant because you openly sneer at those of us who do.

PS: The average bochur reads VIN and.or YWN and the average BYg knows more about fashion than her tee-shirt and jeans wearing coeval: She needs to look nice on shabbos and dates, and looking nice means dressing stylishly. She may not know (or care) how women dress in Paris, but she's certainly aware of how people her age dress in Boro Park, and she strives to keep up. So your opening paragraph is both a straw man, and factually false.

We are insulated.

Beautifully so, I think. Have you ever taken a walk in peaceful Meah Shearim on a Friday night? Watched the boys and girls of eight or nine play in the streets? The poetic innocence on the faces of the Yerushalmi kids twinkles in the twilit alleyways. Freshly scrubbed and bathed, they play with joyful, carefree abandon. Abandoning the yokes of a society gone insane on them, they are, in a word, children. When was the last time you met up with a nine year old who was only nine years old? We say, “oh, what a smart child you are”, chap a knip, and move on, subconsciously silencing the screams of our own childhood… itself so much more innocent. 

You can find the same sort of kids in any small town, or so goes the prevailing Sarah Palin inspired myth.  You're romanticizing an entire community and culture based on the how the sight of small children at play make you feel. This is neither rigorous nor sensible.

Usage notes:
innocence can not correctly be described as poetic. You've misused one - or both - of the words
The children haven't abandoned the yokes of outside society; your whole argument is that from birth they never had anything to do with the outside society.

Children are meant to be children, not adults. In frightening irony, however, adults behave childishly and attempt to shortcut their children’s most vital experience- their youth. They nuke their progenies’ time growing up, and nuclear is nothing short of the result.

I have no idea what this passage means. Anyway, the childish adults I see are the ones who avoid the responsibilities of life, never prepare for a profession, expect their parents or in-laws to support them forever, and push to the front of the cholent line every Shabbos morning. Ironically (note the correct usage) these childish adults are the pillars of the community and culture your post praises.

So as secular society stumbles forward in its mad rush towards moral oblivion, know that the seclusion of our community is good, and true, to our roots.

Secular society is not rushing toward moral oblivion. Quite the opposite. In the last 200 years we've seen across the board improvements in every moral category. Prostitution is down, slavery and child labor are gone, its easier and cheaper to get most kinds of medical care, the state no longer allows you to beat your child, or rape your wife, etc. etc. etc. -- if morality is on the decline, why has society demanded and imposed these, and other, improvments? See this chart for more

It is Torah. Results, too, are on the side of the system. Just take a look at the thriving Torah communities built by men and women educated in the very same institutions that they now lead. Yes, the system is solid.

The math here is bad. Each school has a handful of leaders, yet they each educate hundreds, if not thousands of students. How can you claim "the system works" when you haven't told us what happens to the hundred, if not thousands, who are not currently leading institutions where they were educated? Also, how can you say the system is solid, when its based on an economic house of cards? Your parents and/or grandparents worked, either after attending college or acquiring some other vocational training. They are the ones paying the bills for your splendid isolation. Who is going to do it when they are gone and their money is spent? You haven't been trained to do anything but cash their checks.

There is, sadly, a school of thought that has attracted some misguided students in recent years and attained a disproportionate voice in various online venues. I do not believe that the prattle of these pedagogues characterizes the majority Orthodox Jewry. Only that any voice, maintained in a forum lacking any opposite vocalization, and pedantic enough, will by default earn the following of what few students remain in the room.

Your syntax here is the sort of thing that would have made George Orwell shoot himself in the head. Why do you use so many multi-syllable words to express a thought that could be conveyed much more succinctly? If you've lost the battle of ideas it isn't because the blogging bogeymen are louder than you are, but because they've been taught how to write, and are better at making their cases clearly and vigorously.  By the way, my comments are open, so do all the "opposite vocalization" you like.

These cynical Cassandras and doubting Thomases attempt to attack our insularness of the last thousand years or so with a few pithy lines of embarrassed, and embarrassing rhetoric.


I'm not aware of anyone who complains that you have cute kids who like to play on the street on Friday night.  The complaints are about how you are raising a generation of ignorami who think sitting in the bes medrash on someone else's dime is their mission in life. And also about this misguided, factually incorrect notion that its been going on like this for "the last thousand years or so"

Always, it has been thus. 


Not so.


Always, the naysayers have felt the need to fight organized Yiddishkeit. 


Felt the need? And no one is fighting "organized Yiddishkeit." We're fighting bad science, bad history, sloth, laziness, entitlement, and the sneering intolerance it breeds. Organized yYddishkeit is great. I'm a proud member of it. What I don't like is the lies, errors of fact, and superiority complexes demonstrated in posts such as this, by people such as you.

Dating back to Genesis itself, the scorner’s ban has been hurled by the cynics of every generation and geographic grade. Bans as old and foolish as when they were first sent on their way, to mock a righteous Avraham Avinu, the hurler’s never see fit to update their content or even originality.

Avraham Avinu didn't lock himself in a ghetto of his own making and insulate himself with bad history and bad science. He didn't expect his parents to support him. He didn't turn his back on anyone. He wasn't preoccupied with his personal purity and his personal development at the expense of everyone else. So the comparison between you and Avraham Avinu isn't exactly apt.

And it is wrong. Allow me to demonstrate.

According to the argument, enveloping oneself in a community like the chareidi or yeshiva world’s current island-like approach leads to one thing- ignorance of the outside world. Nothing could be worse, or more embarrassing, according to them, than the yeshiva students who cannot intelligently discuss the latest developments in whatever reality TV show currently holds sway on America’s upper middle class.

Straw man.  No one cares if you watch reality TV, (and point of fact: the upper middle class doesn't watch reality TV)

For shame, they cry! 

I assure you no one in human history has ever cried "for shame" over someone's refusal to discuss reality TV.

How dare we educate our children to avoid pop culture like the plague and focus on the most valuable of all pursuits?! Instead, they propose, expose them to the barrage of instantly available, vitally important news served up in real time on the news outlets. Have them assimilate constant reports of the violence and gore of the street.

Straw man #2., No one wants you to expose your children to violence or gore. Nor does anyone propose that you put your kid in front of age-inappropriate news broadcasts. Its possible you have a point, but with these absurdly chosen examples it is hard to tell.

But why? Why expose our innocent, protected youth to this? I can hear the sane voices questioning. But the voice answering from the darkness have an answer for this too. [All SIC. Not kidding]


Because one day they will be, must be, exposed to it themselves. What will happen when these children must grow up and face the world? They won’t know how to deal with it! They won’t be able to handle the ghastliness and gore of the outside world. So expose them to it early on. That’s the argument in a nutshell. And nuts it is. Here’s why.

No one sane has ever made such an argument. I agree with you its nuts, as any rational person would agree that its nuts. So straw man #3. (Seeing as how he's arguing against the wind, I'll skip his poorly constructed counter argument. I agree with the point he's making -- as does everyone else in the world.)

And finally, we are intolerant.


We are intolerant of any threats on our young. 

That's fine. All of us are "intolerant of any threats on our young." No one objects to that, or considers you intolerant because you wish to keep them away from blood, gore, and reality TV. We consider you intolerant because you wish to keep them away from other Jews. We consider you intolerant because you sneer at people who know something about science and respect its findings. We consider you intolerant because you use the word "kfirah" to describe the teachings of Rishonim who, not being aware of your more recently created party line, failed to tow it. So straw man #4.

Just as the herd gathers together to ensure the survival of its young by not exposing any of the kids, we too gather in on ourselves to protect our children. And we do not tolerate any charges of the unfaithful on our charges. We are intolerant of insurgents on our isolation.

A tip:  Your writing would be stronger if you took the time to find out what words mean before dropping them randomly into sentences. I say this based on your misuse of the word "insurgents," but this essay is littered with other examples.


So we must stay secluded. In our perfect little worlds. But you’re welcome to join us any time.

Yes, perfect. What's not to love about a world where Daddy or Grandpa pays all the bills, and none of the facts of history, science, human nature, etc have yet been discovered? Its called childhood, and most of us outgrew it, but sure it was fun while it lasted. And please don't condescend to us with the false claim that we're welcome to join at any time. We're not. And you know it. The cruelty of the yeshivish community to outsiders is well documented.

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