Thoughts on Judaism

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Better Kiruv

In better kiruv, less is more. But two things are paramount.

The first is the recognition that Noam doesn't happen in a vacuum. A potential BT is a real human being with real life. You are about to tell him that everything that he holds true is false. You are telling him that his common sense is really just an evil inclination. In doing so, you are changing his priorities, estranging him from his family, and challenging every survival skill that he has. But as the sign says, you break it, you own it. Recognizing that we asking nothing less of Noam than to leave everything that he knows about how to make a living (no more Shabos work, no shaking hands with the opposite sex, no lunch and dinner on late or unexpected assignments etc.), how to find a shiduch, how to relate to others in his world, and how to just fit in and get along and adopt to a new lifestyle. The KP is responsible to replace that family with a new family, people who are actively pursuing Noam's full and proper integration into the frum world. If you are not willing to go that far, don't be a KP, period. I am not just suggesting a passive role of answering questions and making sure that he serves your purposes. You must serve his purposes, making sure that he is going about things, pursuing a living, pursuing a shiduch, making a life plan, in a realistic manner, making sure that he is truly integrating with frum society, not just some idealized kiruv version of reality. Knowing Noam as we do, we see how very important is this point.

The second is to avoid ANY AND ALL APOLOGETICS!!! If confronted with the inevitable questions in deifficult areas, respond truthfully and there is only one truthful answer. I DON'T KNOW, and no one else does either. We do not have the means to resolve apparent contradictions between our tradition and apparent fact. Perhaps we will sometime in the future, but we do not have enough knowledge to understand this now. Do not quote kiruv sources or silly backwoods proofs.

The biggest proponent of this type of approach was the Chabad Rebbe. Regarding our first point, the CR demanded that everyone make a mashpia for himself. In Noam's situation, the KP is the natural person to do this, and the requirements are far heavier when we are taking away his baseline of survival and replacing with something foreign to him. The KP must make sure that he enters frum life as a savvy adult, not as a starry eyed child. Regarding the second, in his first directives on kiruv, CR announced twelve separate "military campaigns" or mivtzoyim. Each was a particular mitzvah. Never did he suggest to bolster it with apologetics. He offered apologetics himself only after much prodding and they were of a very weak and noncommitted nature. They were stated very softly as "perhaps we could say". Ultimately, he answered that if we do not have an answer for a question, we cannot put a time limit on finding it. This was obviously very wise. For instance, the entire ideas of relativity and QM, so popular among apologists today, were not available to apologists 200 years earlier, a mere blip on the Jewish timeline. Apologetics that were proposed 1000 years ago are now useless, based on long outdated science. They can only do harm, as they only convince the convinced.

Next: The BT permission slip. What the BT must sign to be allowed to become frum.


  • very interesting.
    good stuff.

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 12:52 PM  

  • This is a little anticlimactic

    By Blogger Menuval, at 2:10 PM  

  • Rebel,
    saw your post on heshy from boro park website.
    You really should pay him no attention.
    He is literally a nut case. I know him. I went to college with him. He is out of his freakin mind.
    Im trying to get him to spill the looney things he did when he was younger (about 20 years ago).

    Please encourage your friends to simply ignore him. alll you do is encourage him.

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 10:51 PM  

  • Happy
    Are you sure he is a nut? I would have laid big odds that he was a provocateur. Anyway, the entertainment value of a Heshy is too great to resist. I am only human.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:18 PM  

  • I'm still waiting to find out if Heshy actually hosts tens of people each Shabbat meal and hands out $100 bills to dancing Breslovers.

    By Blogger Warren Burstein, at 8:10 AM  

  • if thats youre attitude, and its a healthy one, ive got no problems.
    i just dont want people to go OTD because of him.
    He is entertaining (in a car wreck sort of way)

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 1:08 PM  

  • Rebel, this is a great series. I'll have to print it out and read it.

    What do you think about Hirsch's 19 letters? I started a short series about it, since it seems like a template for kiruv rabbis to follow. First of all- Hirsch knows the questions, he doesn't use the deposition technique of "list all your questions". He lists them himself. That's step one.

    Step two is a torah materials based approach. I don't get convinced by the book itself, but others might. The interesting things is that since it's rather old, it doesn't delve into how the "latest science" proves the talmudists were waaaaay ahead, etc , etc- you know bible codes and schroeder.

    By Blogger BTA, at 3:37 AM  

  • BTA

    In general RSH's approach to explaining Torah in the light of science and magic is enlightened, but vague. He does conclude "I don't know" when he should.

    The whole "Chazal were way ahead" thing, if you learn Rambam and Ramban for instance, you find it hard to make that case, and learning is one thing RSH has going fo him.

    I will follow your series with interest and comment there on specifics.

    No one is going to go off OTD because of Heshy. Getting someone OTD takes professional kiruv skills. Heshy might provide fuel for the already to turned off to point and go "see, see". But, do you think some guy talking about gathering BTS and meditating at midnight in an undisclosed basement in a wooden coffin is really going to drive a serious person away?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 8:00 AM  

  • Heshy's House isn't in Boropark, it's in Flatbush. Just over the border, by the Abandoned Train Tracks.

    By Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg), at 12:30 PM  

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