Volume 14 Number 60
                       Produced: Sat Jul 30 23:28:23 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chasidische/Litvische Community
         [Ari Kurtz ]
         ["R. Shaya Karlinsky"]
Professional Jews
         [Justin M. Hornstein]


From: Ari Kurtz  <s2535021@...>
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 1994 14:13:12 -0400
Subject: Chasidische/Litvische Community

      Shalom Aliechem 

concerning the letter in vol. 14 : From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>

  While I wholely agree that the two communities would be better off if
they were open more to one another. I don't think the picture he brought
is totaly accurate. The main reason for the split between the two groups
is due to one group being zionistic and the other non-zionistic. And
until the whole Haredei community serves in the army the two groups will
remain taboo one to another.  Also I'd like to note that in the Mizrachi
community there are Yeshivot for those who want to distant themselves as
far as possible from secular subjects.

                                Ari Kurtz


From: "R. Shaya Karlinsky" <msbillk@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 1994 00:42:44 +0300 (WET)
Subject: Chumrot

     The discussion of chumrot has covered a lot of ground.  As one who is
involved in the education of Jews who have limited backgrounds in Torah
observance, I have found the issue of chumrot to be a particularly
problematic area in their development.  With no tradition to follow, they
are susceptible to much confusion and imbalance in this area. The fact
that the Orthodox community at large seems to have become confused over
this issue during the last decade of two (frequently breaking loose from
their own tradition) has only made the Ba'al Tshuva's situation more
     Rav Shlomo Volbe, shlita, in Alei Shur, V.2 has a chapter called
"Frumkeit" (page 152).  Some of the points he raises there can inform our
discussion about chumrot, as well as other issues that seem to trouble
this wonderful "thinking" group of mail.Jewish readers.  My understanding
of some of his thoughts follow.  (If you take issue with what I write,
please learn carefully that chapter and the following one to let me know
if you think I have misunderstood something, or if you disagree with Rav
     "Frumkeit" is an instinctive drive to relate to the Almighty Creator.
It is found even among animals (see Tehilim 104:21, 147:9) While this
instinct makes the very difficult job of _serving_ G-d somewhat easier for
us, this drive is rooted in egocentrisim, as are all instincts.  It
motivates us to act only in so far as we perceive personal benefit, and as
such cannot be a source for true "bein adam l'chaveiro" (interpesonal
mitzvot) nor for true "lishma," doing the Mitzvah for a purpose that
transcends ones own well being.
     (This may be the appropriate place for me to interject that doing a
Mitzvah to earn Olam HaBah can be very egocentric.  Our culture has
perfected the attitude of always looking for the payoff.  What's in it for
me.  Sometimes the payoff can be more money, sometimes it can be prestige,
maybe power or fame.  And we, as Torah Jews, recognize (hopefully) that
there might be an even bigger payoff.  Better than winning the lottery or
the Super Bowl - Olam HaBah, with all the images we have of the absolutely
most fantastic and pleasurable experiecne we could possibly imagine.  But
if we are doing what we do - our Mitzvot - for the payoff, it is rooted in
our egocentrism.  We are looking out for number 1.  We just have a more
inflated and more accurate picture of what serves as a payoff.  True
"lishma" means we are doing it to SERVE the Creator, in appreciation of
what He has given us, and/or in fulfillment of the mission for which we
were created.  We are doing it for HIM, and for the sake of fulfilling our
responsibility, the true defenition of Lishma.  The reward, Olam Habah,
happens to be a reality, and we always want to be aware of reality
(difficult in our media-saturated culture), but it is not supposed to be
the motivating factor.  When the payoff is the motivation, you may have a
more sophisticated sense than your non-religious/ non-Jewish neighbor of
what constitutes a valuable payoff.  But it is the payoff that you are
     Proper service of G-d has to be built on "Da'at" - accurate, deep
understanding of what G-d wants from us, as revealed in the Torah.  The
common denominator of the seven cases of "Chasid Shoteh" (stupid piety)
listed in Sotah 22b is a lack of Da'at. Any desire to become closer to G-d
must be based on a deep understanding of where man really stands in
relation to G-d, and HOW to get closer him.  We must have our feet firmly
on the ground, and our relationship with G-d is firmly rooted in our
ACTIONS in the real, physical world.  The drive and excessive focus on
"getting closer to G-d" (especially in our quick-fix, microwave society)
emanates from "Frumkeit," that instinctual desire to reach spiritual
     True closeness to G-d is attained by a deep sense of humility.  "The
humble are elevated by G-d to dwell with Him" (Sotah 5a).  True humility
goes hand in hand with a deep commitment to SERVICE.  We recognize our
role as one of faithfully implementing the responsibilities placed upon us
by G-d. (Not to earn more brownie points, and not to get a better seat in
the stadium.)
     Egocentric motivations based on the drive to be "Frum" can be
especially misleading.  Rav Volbe quotes the famous story of Rav Yisrael
Salanter who didn't show up one Yom Kippur night for Kol Nidrei.  On the
way home, the people found him in a house rocking a crying baby - whose
mother had gone to Kol Nidrei rather than staying home to take care of her
infant.  She was in search of her personal feeling (!) of spiritual
elevation, rather than doing what G-d wanted her to do at that moment and
under those circumstances.  Rav Yisrael couldn't pass by the crying baby,
even to go to Kol Nidrei; and he was sending a message to the mother that
our spiritual priorities are determined by responsibilities of service -
which is a Mitzvah - rather than by what makes us "feel frum" - which can
well be an aveirah.
     This is caused by "Frumkeit" without "Da'at".  "Grabbing Angels," in
Rav Volbe's terminology. True closeness to G-d is attained by honest
submission and deference to the will of G-d, coupled with clarity and deep
     This is the gist of the chapter in Alei Shur.  The words speak for
themselves, but I hope a few of my own insights of how this applies will
move the discussion to the practical (and ruffle a few feathers?).
     If my pursuit of Chumrot is viewed as a way to earn more reward, then
it has nothing to do with service. The idea expressed by a number of
writers in how they explain chumrot to their children as "G-d will like us
better if we do it this way" falls dangerously close to this attitude.
The alternative "G-d expects this level of observance/service from us" is
better.  But of course, why would he only expect that "premium" level of
service in our milk or meat or negel-vasser near our bed, and not also
expect it in our level of tzedaka giving, or true love and support of Jews
with views that differ from ours, or critical standards in determining
what are necessities and what are luxuries, or in the commitment to the
quantity and quality of our Torah study.  Why do we want to avoid relying
on (possibly lenient) opinions that served the Jewish community well for
decades?  Is it is because we want to be "frummer" than our grandparents?
Or is it because we realize that G-d has given us more resources with
which to serve him than he gave them, and as such our service
responsibilities have increased?  If it is truly the latter (as I would
like to hope) then how hard are working to identify, to clarify, to
understand, the scope of those responsibilities.  And how careful are we
about discharging all of them, not just the relatively easy or highly
visible ones.  Is there a consistency in our level of chumrot?  Rav Volbe
makes the point very sharply that chumrot are not a "risk free" endeavor.
A chumra in one area of our observance has the very strong potential to
enable us to rationlize laxity in another area.  THAT is not true service.
     Which leads me to the issue of humility.  The fact that chumrot cause
one-upmanship, strife, discomfort almost guarantees that they are being
performed with a feeling of superiority.  The opposite of the road to
truly getting closer to G-d.  Why does everyone have to broadcast their
own and investigate their neighbor's level of chumrot?   What I am about
to write is in no way a psak.  But it should raise the question which
needs careful consideration for each case on its merits by a VERY
competent LOR.  In Halacha we have a concept of "yesh al mi lismoch," one
has a basis for following a certain behaviour.  There is a concept of
"hefsed merubeh," great loss, which explicitly allows leniencies.  Why is
the embarrasment or discomfort of another Jew considered so dispensable, a
clear leniency in one area of Halacha, in order for one to follow a strict
opinion in another area?  I am not, chas v'chalila!, suggesting eating
something which is not Kosher to avoid embarrassing someone.  (Although
finding a way to avoid the embarrassment has to be as high on the agenda
as avoiding the food.)  But if there are accepted opinions on the lenient
side, then "DA'AT," proper and deep understaning of the Halacha and the
tradeoffs, may absolutely require relying on the more lenient opinion in
those circumstances.
     A number of people have written that increasing chumrot is an easy
way out of really having to know and understand the Halacha.  "When in
doubt, do without."  The combination of a community having many chumrot
along with much "am aratzut" (ignorance of Halacha and an understanding of
Torah) would lend credence to that observation, but not be very
encouraging in assessing the true spiritual level of the community.  Being
machmir in one area of Halacha while not following basic Halacha in
another area isn't a question of whether the glass is half full or half
empty.  It indicates a lack of understanding of the purpose of Torah.  Man
is an integrated whole.  His Spiritual growth has to reflect that.

Shaya Karlinsky                              POB 35209
Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell's               Jerusalem
Midreshet Rachel for Women                   Tel:972-2-511178
Israel                                       Fax:972-2-520801


From: Justin M. Hornstein <jmh@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 1994 12:41:59 -0400
Subject: Professional Jews

I need to say over some of my own perspectives on the Jewish-corporate
experience, vis a vis Esther Posen's posting on life in a big
corporation (the same one I work for).

In mj v14 #46 Esther writes:

>(For the purposes of this discussion anyone earning less than $250,000
>is a drone.)

I'd be more than happy earning 1K-2K less than this amount and called
a drone.

There is no doubt that corporate America has stood on an "old
Goy" network, where the right schools, connections and surname are an
asset in rung-climbing. And yes, one business school tends to teach the
same stuff any other does; name and cachet are an asset.

My experiences are colored by working for the R&D arm of our company,
where demonstrable ability and work will often prevail over
rung-climbing and connections.  Certainly other parts of the company
laden with marketing wizards who turn into lounge lizards can convince
anybody that corporate success is fluff, booze and connections; but is
it?  What is "Real" success? What echelon does one need to be on to
prove this?

The difficulty in deciding if observant Jews can achieve "REAL"
corporate success is in many ways parallel to trying to evaluate success
in the Torah sphere. Deciding that you are successful in a corporation
based on cash,titles, perks and parachutes is as worthless as deciding
you've succeeded in Torah when you've got accolades, kavod and people
standing when you enter the room.  The tenuous nature of the current
corporate world proves this.

I will invoke the concept "Poq Chazzi mayi Ama Divar (Berachot 45a)",
(Go out and see what the people are doing), said in the context of going
out and seeing how people were (successfully) practicing the Halacha.
We should go out and see who is doing what and where they're doing it.
I'm not going to give a list of people per se; I humbly contend that the
business/secular world is ultimately built on progress and achievement,
not corner offices.

There was a Bell Labs executive vice president named Sol Buchsbaum; he
passed away last year; the AT&T flag was put at half-staff when he died.
He was a short Jewish guy with a Polish accent. He was a brilliant
scientist; a holocaust survivor, who used the same pluck, grit and
genius to climb the R&D corporate ladder as survive the Shoah. He wasn't
frum; so what, he could've been. It wouldn't have made any difference if
he'd not been available on Friday nights or ate a different meal at a
corporate function. He had the stuff of greatness, he did the right
things and did things right.

I can mention Shomrei Mitzvot in my company and community who are
working in corporations and have responsible, high-level positions,
maybe even in marketing/sales. I'm sure they're earning ok dough.  Maybe
not a ton of money, but they're out there. Maybe the Shomrei Mitzvot are
third tier down, earning less than that 250K and not on the board of
directors. But there are Jews in general now at the top tier, and
undoubtedly the frum ones will follow.

You can say that R&D circumstances are special; I say they're not.  They
might represent the first wave of inroads into the corporation, but
certainly not the last. To switch gears slightly, Senator Liberman
discharged the office of Connecticut Attorney General so well that the
state Democratic party saw him as the obvious U.S. Senate candidate.  He
has received nominations by his party on Saturdays at their convention
without him being present. He has worked hard to provide aid to defense
industries to retool for civilian commerce, and is one of the few
Democrat senators whose re-election is not imperiled. Which is harder,
business or politics? Go know.

I know economic conditions are not what they once were, and that not
everyone is a genius. But corporate norms are no longer real norms; the
place that one occupies in the working world will have less to do, now
and in the future with who you know than what you are and what you can
do. It's the only approach that can keep the modern corporation working.
With all the cynicism about diversity and political-correctness, these
perspectives are an acknowledgement that new people approaches are
needed. The path to progress in corporations is a zigzag, like with
everything else.

> I just think real success in business is based on who you know and
> hang out with.

I don't. Like in Torah: diligence and hard work succeeds. You may have
to be a bit of a steeplejack to keep going, but it'll take you farther
than a belly full of beer will.

					Justin M. Hornstein


End of Volume 14 Issue 60