Friday, February 27, 2015

Film Footage of Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Kohn

This film is something of a treasure trove for German Orthodoxy. This time we have a non-TIDE figure according to the Wikipedia - even though he had a PhD of his own and great respect for R' Hirsch. See 2:55 in the film.

"He was a student and an admirer of Hildesheimer and S.R. Hirsch, nevertheless he remained throughout his life an "old" German Jew. He judged neo-orthodoxy critically, with all due respect for Hirsch. His primary contention was that whereas Hirsch based Judaism on an ideology, old German Jewry was based simply on living life as a Jew. Dr Kohn felt that the traditional Jewish world outlook is formed by the inner experience of observing the Torah and through the external world experiences that are encountered as Jews." Wikipedia

Film Footage of R' Yaakov Rosenheim

And now, with the same film, back to the subject of German Orthodoxy and some excellent footage of R' Yaakov Rosenheim in Vienna.

Moreinu Yaakov Rosenheim at 3:25.

It occurs to me that this is the first time that most of us have ever seen a real Yekke in action in a German country in the era before the War when the IRG was in existence before there was any dilution of GO with Eastern Europe or America.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Film Footage of the Chofetz Chaim.

And now for a break from the topic of Torah Im Derech Eretz, an incredible find courtesy of the On the Main Line blog.

Film Footage of the Chofetz Chaim.

Some similarly incredible footage has surface in recent years of Reb Moshe, the Chazon Ish, Reb Yaakov, and Rav Kook. But this is really unexpected. It feels almost like a techias hameisim.

Does anyone out there have any footage of R' Breuer?

For what seems a decent attempt to identify all subjects in the film, see

We All Matter

"...however scattered we may be and however differing in abilities, resources, position and calling, we are yet all equally required to co-operate in a holy work of God." Judaism Eternal, Vol. I, "Adar."

I find that Rav Hirsch seems to bring the antidote for so many of the poisons from which we suffer today. One of them is a feeling of inadequacy, even worthlessness in a society that is focused on the celebrity. I recall R' Hershel Schachter speaking about this, how many people feel a sadness about their lives and their perceived lack of success. Even in the frum world, there seems an excessive focus on the gadolim, ie not on their Torah but on their celebrity, as if they are the only people worth talking about.

Comes R' Hirsch to remind us that we all are important to this national mission, however different our abilities.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Decline and Fall of Classical Music

As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, classical music started in monasteries with devotional song. They were religious songs, no mistaking that. As they became increasingly instrumental, the religious themes were not as obvious, but still in the Baroque composers like Bach they felt plenty religious with their order and discipline. As R' Avigdor Miller reminded us often, Torah life is a life of self-discipline. Thus, disciplined music can help a religious life. With Hayden, Mozart, and Beethoven, if they were not religious, the religious base was still there and the effect could be the same if you took them that way.

I'm not saying that everything we do has to be overtly religious. Science is not religious, but it becomes a religious experience when we recognize, as textbooks rarely do, that the ultimate author is Hashem.

With Classical period music one can do that as the material is still decent even if the themes are just about life and not specifically religious life.

By the Romantic period it was all over. This is the music when song constituted love song. Consider those of Robert and Clare Schumann for example. Or Berlioz who was arguably was sacrilegious. You couldn't make that music religious if you tried. There was nature song, but to me that is not religious. Nature on its own is frogs and frostbite. We must connect it God.

And the impressionists were similar. The music of Debussy of France is original and relaxing. But if you ask me it borders on the decadent as it takes the mind to strange places with all its exoticism.

Now the musical periods overlap and that of Tchaikovsky could still inspire the mind. He did write in the German style with its themes, counterpoint, strong melody and beat, and conclusons.

And then you have Aaron Copland and George Gershwin (yidden) who gave us some terrific modern period music. It might be significant that they were American and perhaps influenced by the Germanic culture of America.

I don't want to get overly rigid here on a topic I don't know that well anyway. But I think it's fair in general to track the rise and fall of classical music as one that begin with religion and then fell away from it. Today, it has nothing to do with religion and even the players when playing the old masters appear in a way that contradicts the musical themes.

So with classical music as with literature, one might consider sticking with the 19th century and earlier, with earlier being preferable.

A key point to consider is that the composers turned away from religion far earlier than the public did. So once upon a time, a composer like Bach could uplift the people. But came a time when composers, like many philosophers and writers, tore the public down and led the way to sin. We see why many rabbanim came to oppose secular anything because by the 19th century the intelligentsia, as tied into the decadent affluent class, were one of the primary causes of the turn from God.

Seems to me the Germans are the safest bet. They were more wholesome than the Italians or French. I think you see this in the German influence on America and its religious orientation - once upon a time. And yes I realize that the Germans became the lowest of the low. It is possible that the good in that culture give the bad materials to be very bad.

Still, the best of classical music was inspired by Xianity. And the worst is traife. So we must proceed with caution.

All of this is material for thought for the TIDE person. How do we navigate culture to find its best elements? We do have to proceed in an educated fashion.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Only one single fraction of that truth

"Hellenic culture contains only one single fraction of that truth which some day will bring salvation to mankind. It is only a small preparation for that happiness which will some day flourish on earth through Shem's " tents wherein God dwells" ; and as long as it is not wedded to that Hebraic spirit, as long as it prides itself on being sublime and exclusive, it falls into error and illusion, degeneration and servitude."

R. Hirsch, Judaism Eternal, Vol. II

Look what has happened to the West since the decline of religious faith. It's exactly as R' Hirsch predicted. We have now degeneration and servitude and illusion.

Audio Lectures: Five Minutes a Day on Rav Hirsch

Audio Lectures: Five Minutes a Day from Yechezkel Freundlich

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Guest Post: Symbolism of Kashrus and Sociology

Guest post form Mendy Meyer:

"There is a perush I have heard from a Shul Rov that shines a great light on the role of the Jewish people. The Torah forbids us from eating any animal that does not chew its cud or have split hooves. Split hooves according to this Pshat (Rav Hirsch learns a bit differently) signifies the animal's ability to sprint forward. Chewing the cud signifies the animal's propensity to dwell in the past. There are among the nations of the world, those who are constantly "sprinting forward- leaping towards change with a disdain for the generations past. This would be the western world. And there are those that have had their heyday in math and science many centuries ago- but cannot move forward to the norms of modern civilization. The Torah is commanding us to embrace every new situation bravely and wisely- yet never breaking from our life source, the connection to Sinai.

"TIDE has also given us this dual system of embracing that which can serve us in the service of Our Creator and facing every situation while in the cloak of Yisroel. It has asked us to master the world in which we live. And it has given us a charge, with the unbending stamp of an Austritt-Kehilla, to monitor, to filter, and temper our connection to this world and all it has in store for us.
This system of checks and balances has produced many views, approaches, and nuances to TIDE itself, and us as a Yeshiva are sometimes at the cutting edge- and sometimes we won't budge. And this has been our legacy and our charge. It is up to us to continue the "conversation".

Monday, February 16, 2015

Annual Dinner of YSRH

Last night I attended the annual dinner of the Yeshiva Samson Raphael Hirsch. I'm somewhat used to it by now but still not completely immune to the novelty of the experience of sitting in a room full of black hat clad men and modestly dressed women and hearing approving comments about secular studies, college, and careers. One feels confused the first time he hears this, and it's always refreshing.

I certainly heard it last night, as I did ubiquitous references to the term "Torah Im Derech Eretz"  - even as nobody really elaborated on the term in its full Hirschian definition which exceeds secular studies and parnassah.

The quantity of people in attendance - a huge room in a hotel, full to capacity - gave assurance of the viability of the yeshiva.

But walking around the room and meeting the generally affable German crowd  I did wonder about the dearth of baalei teshuvah. Now, one can't always spot a BT - I wonder how many spot me even though I don't hide it at all - but good command of English is a good place to start. And the idioms are different with BTs, even the cliches we use. One referenced the Japanese movie monster Godzilla - what FFB is going to do that? Well I ran into only three (including incredibly the MC who promptly pointed it out to us), even though as I argue that Torah Im Derech Eretz is the natural destination for American Jews.

It could be also a big source of new blood for the German community. America is a Germanic country. I say this often. And German Orthodoxy and Torah Im Derech Eretz seem almost custom made for many American Jews. The formality is new but if a man or woman is becoming Charedi anyway, German Orthodoxy overall is less of a stretch, given all the points of stretching.

But as friendly as the Germans are - and their friendliness will shock you - they don't run to my knowledge any kiruv programs designed around Torah Im Derech Eretz. Yes, German Jews are in kiruv, but it's Eastern European Yeshivish kiruv.

That's fine, but we need alternatives and TIDE would be a great one. So I ask again, where were the BTs?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

200th Post: Judaism Builds on Culture It Does Not Destroy It

This is the blog's 200th post. Granted the posts here are not lengthy ones, but still, that's a lot of clicking. 

"Culture starts the work of educating the generations of mankind and the Torah completes it; for the Torah is the most finished education of Man. The fig-leaf and apron, those first gifts which Man possessed on his way to education, were the first appurtenances of culture, and culture in the service of morality is the first stage of Man’s return to God. For us Jews, derech eretz and Torah are one. The most perfect gentleman the most perfect Jew, to the Jewish teaching, are identical. But in the general education of mankind culture comes earlier….Therefore Jews, too, are to attach themselves to, and love all good and true culture and by the ways and manner of their behavior and demeanour appear as educated people and show that being Jew is only a higher state of being a man. (Rav Hirsch on Bereishis 3:24)" 

So how does one reconcile this with an approach found in many quarters of hostility towards everything gentile and secular. This Shabbos, I sat with some men over kiddush and found myself in a 'discussion' about world history where I had to endure essentially a view that everything and anything, every icon and achievement of the gentile world was a fraud. They ripped them to shreds. Not really ripped to shreds in an substantive or factual way, just disparaged with generalities and ignorance, the same way people assault Torah Jews. Of course you can't reconcile Hirsch's approach with that one. They're opposites. 

Nevertheless, the hostility approach is so prevalent. The kiddish I referenced was in a Modern Orthodox synagogue and one of my table companions was a Maggid Shiur at a far-left institution. What happens to the minds of people, most commonly baalei teshuvah, who have been edified by secular studies, by high culture, science, et. al when faced with such an outlook. I know of one person who became frum through the secular studies, specifically British poetry and conservative political thought, rather than through kiruv people whose ideas he found somewhat boorish. What happens is that they can become very confused, trying to eradicate good that they have accumulated and may even rely on. Thank the Lord for Rav Hirsch who comes to the rescue and relieves us of the requirement to tear down civilization like Visigoths.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Removed Classical Music Course Post for the Sake of TIDE

A few posts ago I talked all about an online course on classical music. The first quarter of sessions were pretty technical in nature and aside from a few moments of immodesty during the film of some musicians, one statement of gender politics, and one glimpse of iconography, it seemed pretty safe for frum eyes.

I mentioned Rabbi Miller's thought that secular studies have some benefit but one takes chances when dealing with them.

And sure enough, as the class progressed it got deeper into the Xtian origins of classical music to the point where I can't recommend the course anymore.

This website is TIDE not TuM (Torah u'Maddah). In TIDE, filters are essential, and when material crosses the line you have to nix it. It's hard at times but you just have to do it.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Some Good Hirsch References in the Latest Hakirah

Hakirah, Volume 18
 Modern Orthodoxy and the Role of Science
Yitzchok Adlerstein, Bernard Fryshman, Baruch Brody, Nathan Aviezer and Asher Benzion Buchman

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Judaism as the Source of Classical Music

I'm no classical music historian but here's what I am concluding from the online class I told you about: classical music got its start from the Church. I would imagine that people always sang, even peasants in the field. But that was solitary. What you get with Classical music is a group of singers or musicians with each person playing a different role in the total harmony. At first the groups were small and the instruments crude as mostly the music was vocal. The music was spiritually inspired and the musicians were monks and the like.

Over time, a method of scoring the music, or encoding it, developed. This allowed for larger groups of musicians and for more complex arrangements. At first the score only addressed pitch, that is notes, but didn't account for duration. Eventually, it included both as well as accent and the like.

As technology developed the instruments got better and better and eventually replaced the voices in most cases. This made the music more universal, but also, in my opinion, it departed from religious themes as the words kept the content on point.

So I draw a few conclusions. Classical music started with Xianity, which of course, is not possible without Judaism. So no Judaism, no Beethoven. The true source of classical music is Judaism.

Technology aided the music but also took it away from religion, its source.

If you go to a classical music concert today, it's a very iffy situation. Half the musicians are immodestly dressed - you know which half. Most live non-Torah and non-Xitan lifestyles. The audience is the same. They love classical music but don't honor it's source. As Shakespeare wrote,  "Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man's ingratitude."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TIDE Society Get-together Next Motzei Shabbos in Monsey

Our third TIDE Society get-together will take place at the KAJ Monsey annual Malave Malke next Motzei Shabbos, Feb. 21, at 8:15 PM at 2 Dover Terrace in Monsey, NY, USA.

I usually sit in the back table next to the Hirsch Sefarim, closer to the stairs. Let me know if you can attend so I'll know to look for you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

YSRH Dinner

The annual dinner of Yeshiva Samson Raphael Hirsch is taking place this coming Sunday in Teaneck.

If you'll be there, let me know and I'll look for you. We can have a mini TIDE Society get-together.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz


"Even more difficult to assess, as far as spreading the word of Hirsch is concerned, is Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz. Despite vocal opposition from his Eastern European colleagues, Mendelovitz taught Hirsch’s writings to his students at Torah Vodaath and hired likeminded educators to teach at his school.74 And, like Bernard Drachman, Mendelovitz, according to his biographer, encouraged his students to learn German in order to study Hirsch’s original writings.75 Mention should also be made of the support and encouragement lent by Mendelovitz to Philipp Feldheim, when the latter established his first bookstore on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1939. Feldheim was most instrumental in disseminating English translations of Hirsch’s writings in America, but not until a sizable German Orthodox community emerged in America.76 Nonetheless, Mendelovitz’s lasting influence on Torah Vodaath was mitigated by Eastern European elements that took control of the school and steered the institution away from Western thinkers like Hirsch.77"

74 William B. Helmreich, The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox
Jewry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 356, n.22.
75 Yonoson Rosenblum, Reb Shraga Feivel: The Life and Time of Rabbi Shraga
Feivel Mendlowitz the Architect of Torah in America (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications,
2001), 198.
76 Shnayer Z. Leiman, “Montague Lawrence Marks: In a Jewish Bookstore,”
Tradition 25 (Fall 1989): 60.
77 Helmreich, The World of the Yeshiva, 302-4.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

TIDE from TuM

"…the religious person is given not only a duty to follow the halakha but also a value and vision. The person performing the duty seeks to realize this ideal or vision. Kant felt that the duty of consciousness expresses only a "must" without a value. He demanded a routine form of compliance, an "ought" without aiming at a value. As a soldier carries out his duty to the commanding officer, one may appreciate his service or just obey through discipline and orders. Kant's ethics are a "formal ethics", the goal is not important.   For us it would be impossible to behave this way. An intelligent person must find comfort, warmth, and a sense of fulfillment in the law. We deal with ethical values, not ethical formalisms. A sense of pleasure must be gained by fulfilling a norm. The ethical act must have an end and purpose. We must become holy."  Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Mesorat HaRav Siddur, p. 112-3

We see here also perhaps the limitation of German thought, ie gentile German, and how a German Jew is not a German.

Nevertheless, I know a number of Jews who approach religion like Kant. They talk of duties, derived technically, but fail to give the religion a flavor. They resort to threats of hell because it's all they have. It's like a corporate boss who says he doesn't care if you enjoy your work. You will obey because you need a job.

Rav Hirsch's approach is so different from this. He works tirelessly to show the flavor of mitzvos and Jewish life. For those who say he was influenced by Kant or German culture - read Hirsch in light of this wonderful comment from R' Soloveitchik.