Sunday, May 07, 2006

Modern Orthodoxy's Dependence

Why MO is dependent on the UO:

How many Modern Orthodox Jews know how to make tefilin? And I don't mean intellectually, I mean knowing the ins and outs of their actual manufacture.

How many Modern Orthodox Jews are skilled enough sofrim to write a whole kosher Torah (or any other ritual scrolls for that matter)?

And besides for just knowledge, how many MO would be willing to invest a large portion of their lives towards becoming skilled in all those ritual items that they get UO rabbis in Israel to make for them?

What percentage of mohels or shochets are Modern Orthodox?

Now, maybe it could be that if there were no Haredim around, the MO would fill the vacancies in those necessary positions on their own. But as things stand today it is the Haredim who hold almost all the knowledge and all the experience in how to produce these things that MO Jews take for granted. I, for one, hardly even know how to braid my own tzitzit.

Worldly, cosmopolitian and successful Modern Orthodox Jews may look down their noses at the Ultra-Orthodox for their backward ways of thinking, voluntary ghettoization, and their weird, sometimes scary, religious zeal, but without the UO from where would your average MO parent getting ready for their son's bar mitzvah pick up a pair of tefillin?


DAG said...

Kind of like the UO dependence on MO jews for DRs lawyers, etc. I know those are aviliable outside of the Frum community, but I do believe most UO do use MO professionals

Anonymous said...

The UO's have a limited range of occupations that they can get into without university studies and the like, among which are those in the religious field, so they tend to dominate them. Also, those occupations tend to be less lucrative financially, another reason why MO's are not as common in them. I don't think it's an MO genetic deficiency that they can't make tefillin or do shechita. It's just that they would rather not engage in cut-throat competition for paltry sums in those fields with their UO brethren, so they largely cede those areas to them. This trend is not new. Once such trends start, they tend to be somewhat self-perpetuating, as having a shochet or sofer for a father makes it easier for UO children to get into those fields, as having a doctor or lawyer father make those fields easier for MO kids.

Anonymous said...

This may be true in the US but I don't think it's so true in Israel. There's a huge tefillin / mezuzot place there called Tefillin Bet El which is Dati Leumi (MO equivalent kinda).

Orthoprax said...


"Kind of like the UO dependence on MO jews for DRs lawyers, etc."

Sure, that's true to some extent. But even more than that, UOs go to MOs for monetary support for everything too.


Sure, I agree with you completely.


Hmm, that's new information for me, but I think even with that one organization UOs still command the far majority of that kind of business worldwide. And I'd say that generally MOs are just not interested in doing it themselves. It's a symbiotic relationship.

The Jewish Freak said...

I guess if you put it that way, then the UO are the Mexicans of the Jewish world.

Orthoprax said...


LOL! I wouldn't put it that way, but I see what you mean.

B. Spinoza said...

kind of like a yisachar z'vulin relationship

Orthoprax said...


Sure, I was thinking that too. But who's Yisachar and who's Zevulun?

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

There are more MO people with those skills than you think.

But as others have pointed out, haredim also depend on the MO for other essentials. Also, the vaccum would be filled in any case. People like Isaac Leeser could do all of the above in the United States before there were haredim in America. If there was a void, you can bet more MO would fill it, rather than mass neglect of tefillin.

And in a way, this symbiotic relationship is good, because it keeps the groups attached to one another. Take a look at Habad, which is almost totally self-sufficient, but to its detriment--it is largely divorced from the rest of Orthodoxy, even aside from the rebbe issue.

Orthoprax said...

Mississippi Fred,

"And in a way, this symbiotic relationship is good, because it keeps the groups attached to one another."

That's true, but it's still a weird relationship because you may not like the way those other guys practice their Judaism, but you may hold your tongue because they do good work.

That's the primary reason why the rest of Orthodoxy tolerates so much of the weirdness coming from Chabad. They do good work. They make it possible to find kosher food in the most distant corners of Earth and they are bringing more unaffiliated Jews back into the fold than any other group.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

You're right, its a weird relationship, and its being tested as we speak.

retired rabbi said...

I know this comment is coming well after everyone has left this particular post. But there is a point I'd like to make.

Part of the reason the MO aren't in these fields is that the UO keep them out. How many UO practitioners would take an MO apprentice, especially when it probably means taking one less UO apprentice? Esepcially given the previous comments that these are some of the few areas where UO people can make a living.

So it isn't only that MO people stay away; they;re kept away.

Orthoprax said...


A valid point. I guess it goes both ways.