I still track Emes V’Emunah to see what kind of propaganda is being fed to the unsuspecting sheeple – the צאן קדושים . This is because my mission is to controvert this propaganda. Whenever I look at Emes V’Emunah, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Most often I do both.
Very recently (Jan. 01, 2016), he carried a post that he titled The ‘Gap Year’ in Israel - Evidence of Modern Orthodox Failure? in which he reviewed an op-ed post written by a 17 year old high school senior named Ezra Epstein. You can see the entire editorial HERE and Rabbi Maryles’ critique HERE.
Mr. Epstein contends that the traditional “gap” year – i.e., the year following high school graduation during which many MO high school graduates come to Eretz Yisroel to study, all of whom wear sweatshirts emblazoned with the word G. A. P. – is, by its existence, an indication of the failure of the Modern Orthodox educational system. Mr. Epstein intimates that if MO education were doing its job, such a tradition would not be necessary.
This much is clear. What is left unclear is where Mr. Epstein himself stands on the issue. He ends his editorial with the statement: So, I ask, why should I submit to this desperate “Plan B” ideology? Maybe I’ll just stay home.
What do you mean? Are you telling us that your own MO education was successful and you have no need for this tradition even though most everyone else does? Are you telling us that you agree that your education was unsuccessful but you have had enough and are not going to “submit” to “Plan B” out of protest? Is “just stay home” Plan A or Plan C?
If, as you contend, the system is a failure, what is your suggestion to fix it? - Are you calling for a GAP year boycott?? (Heaven forfend!) Do you realize how much this would hurt the business of all the fast food joints on Ben Yehuda Street?? After all that the EU has already done to us??!!
So I am a bit baffled as to what Mr. Epstein’s conclusion is but I could not agree more with his premise. The GAP year is an indication of failure. But it is not the “GAP year” that is the issue. It is simply the GAP. The Great GAP. The GAP between Modern Orthodoxy and true yiddishkeit.
To understand this we must first acknowledge that there are four levels of observance within the greater population that is known as Orthodox:
Level 1 - Torasam Umnasam
Torah learning is the only passenger in the buggy. This is the hashkafa of Rabi Shimon ben Yochai (RSBY) as he states in Brachos 35b. In gemara Shabbos 11a this is referred to as the perspective of “RSBY and his colleagues – Torasan Umnassan”. This is the highest form of ameilus B’Torah and is in full compliance with Im Bechukosai Teleichu. As such, it is a fully legitimate hashkafa.
Level 2 - Torasam Keva
Torah learning and secular endeavors are both in the buggy. However, Torah learning is in the front seat and the secular endeavors are in the back seat. The only purpose of the secular endeavors is to facilitate the Torah study. This is the hashkafa of Rabi Yishmael as he states in Brachos 35b. This is deemed the more practical hashkafa and is called: Torascha keva u’melachtecha arai (Torah is primary and labor is secondary). This is also considered ameilus B’Torah – albeit a milder form - and, as such, is likewise in full compliance with Im Bechukosai Teleichu. It is also a fully legitimate hashkafa.
Level 3 - Melachtam Keva (Torah Shelo L'Shma)
Torah learning and secular endeavors are both in the buggy. However, the secular endeavors are in the front seat and the Torah learning is in the back. The only purpose of the Torah learning is to give respectability to the rest of the lifestyle. This is the hashkafa in Brachos 35b that is called: Melachtam keva v’Torasam arai. This is also referred to as: Torah shelo l’shma. This may be a bit of a grey area but, in my opinion, as long as it remains Torasam arai and Shelo l’shma, it most likely cannot be considered ameilus B’Torah and, as such, it is not in compliance with Im Bechukosai Teleichu. Rashi in Vayikra 26:14 ascribes this hashkafa as “V’Im lo tishmiyu Li”. As such, this hashkafa is totally not legitimate since following it is considered “not listening to G-d.”
Level 4 - Lo Lamad (Mitzvas Anashim Melumada)
Secular endeavors are the only passengers in the buggy. These people may indeed keep Shabbos (somewhat) and eat only Kosher, burn their chametz and observe other mitzvos that they are aware of so therefore they are called “Orthodox”, but in terms of compliance with Im Bechukosai Teleichu, there is no connection.The navi Yeshaya (29:13) refers to this as Mitzvas Anashim Melumada. This is no grey area. This is the Lo Lamad stage and the inception of all of the tochachos in sefer Vayikra (R”L), as Rashi (Vayikra 26:15 L’Hafrichem) tells us.
So we see clearly that of these four levels of “Orthodox” observance, only the first two are legitimate and in compliance with HKBH’s decree in Vayikra. The second two are not legitimate. And between them there must be some kind of GAP.
My readers know that I refer to the first two levels as “One Above” in reference to the single edict of Im Bechukosai Teleichu and the other two levels are the “Seven Below” in reference to the aforementioned Rashi. I also called the first two – the One Above – the chareidi camp and the second two I called the non-chareidi camp. I have refrained from using the term "Modern Orthodox" in light of the “grey area” I mentioned in Level 3.
Now we return to our hero Mr. Ezra Epstein. When he refers to the “Modern Orthodox” and contends that their system failed, to which of the above levels of observance is he referring?
It is definitely not Levels 1 and 2. When he talks about a population that is bent on attending college – “be it a Jewish college or a secular one” – and those who are in need of some apparatus “to straighten out … before college arrives and the yarmulke comes off…” he is referring to those on Level 4 and to those on the underside of Level 3.
Well, now that we have seen that these hashkafos are those that are rejected in the Gemara Brachos and sefer Vayikra, this means that as far as true Yiddishkeit is concerned, any educational system that promotes these levels are failures from the get-go. We do not need any “GAP year” traditions to tell us this. Without the “GAP year” there is a tremendous GAP. This is the GAP between Levels 1-2 and Levels 3-4. This is the GAP between Im Bechukosai Teleichu and V’Im Bechukosai Timasu. This is the GAP between Har Gerizim and Har Eival, between Bracha and Kelala, between Chaim and Maves.
And there is only one way to cross this GAP. There must be some compliance with ameilus b’Torah. It’s the only bridge. And it’s a very, very narrow one.
And so, Mr. Epstein is very correct. The GAP year in Israel is not the answer. Because Israel is not the answer. Torah is the answer. One needs Torah, not Eretz Yisroel. And, in theory, one can get Torah anywhere. One does not have to go to Eretz Yisroel.
And this is where Modern Orthodoxy has failed it’s “successors”. Modern Orthodoxy does not provide any GAP years of Torah in the US. Ameilus b’Torah is not on its curriculum. But, fear not! We will export our students to Eretz Yisroel where they can spend another whole year on a buggy ride. Perhaps there will be Torah study in the buggy and perhaps it will take the front seat. If so, it may actually prevent some students from letting their yarmulkas come off.
All of the above is what Mr. Epstein must mean when he says that the system has failed. But where does Mr. Epstein go from here. He clearly told us what he “Maybe” won’t do, but what is he “Maybe” gonna do?
I am not sure. But, here comes Rabbi Maryles – who is very proud of him and is certain that this fellow’s real father and rebbi are, as well – and gives him words of caution: That doesn’t mean you abandon Modern Orthodoxy completely and become Charedi.
Well, how about if we reread his words and substitute “Levels 3-4” or “V’Im Bechukosai Timasu (Seven Below)” for the term “Modern Orthodox” which is how Mr. Epstein is using it and likewise substitute “Levels 1-2” or “Im Bechukosai Teleichu (One Above)” for the term “Chareidi”?
Now, Rabbi Maryles’ words look like this: That doesn’t mean you abandon V’Im Bechukosai Timasu completely and become Im Bechukosai Teleichu. Or: That doesn’t mean you abandon Level 3-4 completely and become Level 1-2.
Like: Sure the system is a failure and not a legitimate level of observance and is a harbinger of tochacha but no need to abandon it completely.
And he says: Sure you should send your kids to Israel for a year high after school. Just be aware that he could… come back from his gap year wearing a black hat – bringing with him all the Hashkafos associated with it.
In other words, he might advance to a level that is actually a legitimate form of observance, but…this is a “drawback”!! After all “You raise your child one way (i.e., in a failed system) and he comes back unrecognizable (i.e., improved) in some cases.”
Of course, he has no problems if they do this “honestly”, i.e., by thinking for themselves. But to be "indoctrinated" to the philosophies of the gemara in Brachos (and the rest of Shas, BTW) is just unacceptable.
So...Please make sure that they don’t learn any Shas just like they didn’t in high school. (And no Mesilas Yesharim under any circumstances!) They may get "indoctrinated" to Talmudic ideals and that wouldn't be honest.
Rabbi Maryles warns: Once they have your children without the distractions they had back home (and sometimes they consider the parents themselves distractions) - they disparage the Modern Orthodox (i.e., Seven Below - YH) lifestyle and many of its values.
Do they disparage mitzvah observance? Do they disparage good midos?
Oh, perhaps they do disparage “Melachtam keva” – just like the Gemara in Brachos that Torah true Jews revere does. Chas v’shalom, your kids should come home only wanting “Melachtam arai”. I know that chazal prescribe it, but we Modern Orthodox – or, I mean Centrists – know better!
Who knows? Perhaps, “Instead of going to YU (which is commonly denigrated in many of those Israeli Yeshivos) they will ask if they can instead attend Ner Israel.”
How awful! Or, worse, they may even hang around E"Y and land up in Ohr Sameach, R”L!
So if you send your kid to EY for the year, make sure it is only for an empty buggy ride.
Well, all right. If it really comes down to between this and abandoning Yiddishkeit altogether, I suppose that subscribing to Im Bechukosai teilechu is a far better alternative (whew-w-w!). “But it ought not be the only alternative. It should not be an either or: Either you become Charedi or you become secular.”
It ought not be just between Im Bechukosai Teleichu and V’Im Bechukosai Timasu. Between Bracha and Kelala and between Chaim and Maves. No! There should be some other choices too!
There should be a GAP!
Of course, there are a few empty buggies that will not indoctrinate your child to these invasive One Above hashkafas. Such as Kerem B’Yavneh and Michlala. Nobody flips out in those places. Oh no. Rabbi Maryles’ son – currently a rosh chabura in Mir – didn’t flip out in Kerem B’Yavneh! Rav Moshe Stav (of KBY) doesn’t live in Har Nof and daven by Rav Yitzchok Rubin. And Michlala is not the brainchild of the Coopermans (may the memory of Rav Yehuda Cooperman, ZT”L be blessed). There is nothing chareidi about the Coopermans!
So, our hero Mr. Epstein will have to come up with a plan. More accurately, he will have to make a choice.
העדתי בכם היום את-השמים ואת-הארץ החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך: