This book is about the ideology of authentic Torah Judaism, otherwise known as chareidi Judaism, ultra-Orthodox Judaism, or Talmudic Judaism, although we think of it as just plain Judaism. It is what we call
hashkafa. This book is unique in that it applies the principles of hashkafa to the cultural (what I call the socio-political) landscape of Orthodox Judaism and deals with many of the pertinent issues. As such, it is a blend of Torah hashkafa and socio-political debate.
This question is addressed in detail in the Introduction. Nevertheless, the short answer is to help people deal with questions that I have heard again and again for years; questions that start with:
"Why don't yeshiva guys...?"
"Why can't chareidim be...?"
"Where is it written that...?"
"What could be wrong with...?"
"Isn't it a chillul Hashem (sacrilege) to...?"
This book is meant to help people understand and come to terms with basic Torah hashkafa, based predominantly on Rashi's commentary of Chumash, and with those who endeavor to put it into practice.
The aims of this book are:
- To promote better understanding of the chareidi world in the eyes of Orthodox Jews who do not consider themselves to be chareidi. Hopefully, to build bridges.
- To help one who is searching for a clear religious ideology to see the benefits of being chareidi - I call this: Comparative shopping.
Important Note - The intention is to promote the conventions that the chareidim uphold. It is not meant to challenge the conventions of those who are not chareidi, although in some cases, it is an inevitable cause-and-effect. Although to some readers - who do not [yet] wish to identify themselves as chareidi - parts of this book may inadvertently seem patronizing or antagonistic, be assured that this is certainly not its purpose. I apologize in advance should this occur.
Anybody who can benefit from it.
Lots of folks, such as:
- Mainstream chareidi yeshiva students who are fully knowledgeable in Torah hashkafa but need help in articulating the hashkafa and in presenting it to others.
- Seminary girls who need a concise guide (in plain English) to understand the hashkafot that they are being taught to embrace.
- Chareidim who are struggling with their sense of identity and/or may have been "turned off."
- Baalei teshuva (newly religious) and converts who are newly entering the Orthodox world and are confused and disparaged by the apparent discord within the various factions of Orthodoxy.
- Non-chareidi parents who have difficulty dealing with their offspring who have turned "black."
- My wife's cousins in Great Neck.
- Non-chareidi Orthodox Jews (NCOJs) who are sincerely interested in getting a clearer and more accurate understanding of the people who are closest to them, yet from whom they feel so distant.
This book is definitely not for everyone!
I wrote earlier that this book is for anyone who may benefit from it. If you don't believe that you can benefit from it, do not read it.
- This book is for religious Jews who are chareidi and seek chizuk (encouragement) or who are non-chareidi and seek hadracha (guidance). While this book aims to help a chareidi who may be having "second thoughts" or a non-chareidi who is "undecided," it is not out to convert anyone who is "not interested." It is not targeted for "anti-chareidim." If you are one, don't read this book. It is not for you.
- This book is meant to reframe common perceptions of what constitutes a chareidi and will present a definition that may differ from your preconceived notions. If you are already certain about what con-
stitutes a chareidi and are not open to new definitions, this book will not work for you.
- This book draws its premise from the writings of Rashi and the sages of the Talmud. This book will be of no benefit to one who does not consider Rashi and his sources to be authoritative and who, likewise,
holds little regard for the perspectives of those who may actually consider these sources to be authoritative. If you meet this description, please read something else.
- As this particular volume places an emphasis on Torah ideology, it deals heavily with Jewish ethics, what is commonly called mussar. In some places, it emulates the techniques of some of the classical works of Jewish ethics. You might say that this volume is in part a "neo-mussar" book, albeit with a light touch. Readers who are not receptive to concepts of mussar will, very likely, not appreciate these parts of the book.
- This book must be read thoroughly, it cannot be skimmed through. If you are not a thorough reader, this book is not for you.
- This book presents ideas on intellectual, ideological, and academic (scriptural and textual) grounds. It makes no attempt to deal with issues on emotional grounds. If you are an overly sensitive or passionate person, do not read this book.
This book is not meant to "convert" non-observant Jews and does not target the irreligious. Despite this, I purposely wrote the book in my best Queen's English (partly because my wife is from Queens) and used
King James names for the books of Torah (Genesis, Exodus, etc.) and used the standard Modern Hebrew pronunciation for my transliterations so that the book should be accessible to those who are not so well versed in chareidi expressions and terminology. Many parts of the book will be of interest to irreligious people who are genuinely interested in the subject. Nevertheless, there are numerous intricate theological segments that can only be fully appreciated by those with a strong Talmudic background.
Absolutely not - too religious.
Absolutely not - too sacrilegious.
It is all clearly explained in the Introduction, but I will summarize it.
This project follows the logical sequence of (1) state the theory and (2) apply the theory to real-time situations. In our case the theory is chareidi ideology (hashkafa) and its application is the basket of social issues. This volume covers the ideology segment and is sub-titled Consumer Benefits.
It may certainly be preferable to put out the book in one complete publication but, as you probably suspect, the second segment is far from ready. In light of that, owing that this volume is in and of itself an independent unit and that it is ready for publication, I strongly felt that it is worthwhile to publish this volume by itself. I sincerely feel that this book can benefit many Jews and I would like to enable those who can benefit to do so. Besides, the expenses are half the price.
All the usual suspects - economy, national service, zealotry (those flying stones), stringencies and kashrut, technology (internet and cell phones), social interaction (chillul Hashem), Beit Din and agunah issues, deviancy, fallout (Children at Risk / Off the Derech), and more.
With G-d's help and if we don't yet merit the true redemption (which will render such books obsolete), some time in 5769 (2009).
Also, not yet.
Nobody in particular, so you are free to reject everything that I have written. Notwithstanding, I did write the Author's Foreword, which includes a concise autobiographical narrative, to establish my credentials
as to what qualifies me to write such a book.
Having said this, I need to be very clear that I do not officially represent the chareidi community or any recognized body or organization that calls itself chareidi. Doubtless, there will be many of my co-religionists who may disagree with some of my views and certainly with my cavalier, candid, and oft-times cynical approach. I take full and sole responsibility for the contents of this book.
I am happy you asked. Yes, there are a few more things that I would like you to know:
- This book contains many discourses with exegeses (drush) of Scriptures and Talmudic passages. Most of the material is based on discourses that I have heard and read from renowned Jewish sages and thinkers, yet I have not shied away from embellishing these discourses with thoughts of my own. Since I do not rank among these renowned Jewish thinkers, the reader may evaluate these discourses at his or her own discretion.
- I am not qualified or ordained to issue Halachic rulings. Anything presented as a Halachic precept is a reflection of my (or my mentor's) personal understanding and interpretation of the Halacha and is subject to dissenting opinions, interpretations and errors. The reader is encouraged to verify all Halachic issues with their personal Halachic mentor.
- Many anecdotes that are presented for the purpose of characterizing a situation or delivering a message are word-of-mouth stories and folk legends. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of any such anecdotes nor, in many cases, can I be certain if they ever happened at all.
- This book may contain some scattered references to marital issues and is not recommended for readers below the age of 16.
- Two copyrighted articles are reproduced in full with permission: Return of the Rambam by Elliot Jager, © 2004 by the Jerusalem Post and Handwriting on the Wall by Naomi Ragen, © 1998 by Naomi Ragen, first printed in Jerusalem Report Sept. 14, 1998. The author is grateful to the Jerusalem Post and to Ms. Ragen for their permission.
All other copyrighted materials are excerpts of larger works and are printed for the exclusive purpose of criticism, comment, or review as allowed under the fair use law - Title 17 Chapter 1 Section 107 of the 1976 US Copyright Code.
From Arm[y] Surplus.
Certainly. Plus some additional copies for your sister-in-law in Long Island and for that young guy who is working for your accountant.
I can be reached through my publisher or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.