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The Systems of the Jewish Year

"Off The Derech?" - Comments

1 Sydney Pilcer on 2008 07 12

Reb Yaakov,
I agree with you that it can be the sweet & gentle who go off the derech and maybe it’s because we as parents, have spent their formative years stressing the lo-taásehs/negatives & minutiae of Yiddishkeit at the expense of showing & sharing with them the the uplifting & glorious aspects of Jewish life and learning.
Sadly the general thrust of institutional Judaism, such as shul drashas & shiurim are obsessed with details rather than helping us all to understand how and why Hashem is a part of the life of a teenager.
We need to come out of our ivory towers in order to pass on the sheer wonderment of Judaism to our lost children - and, G-d forbid,to prevent their siblings from following in their steps.

2 Rabbi Yaacov Haber on 2008 07 14


3 Ben Altman on 2009 06 19

Regarding #1 - Emphasizing love over law sounds very Christian to me. Sounds like the reform path - i.e. get more touchy feely. You also imply that where ever there is a problem it is because of the parents being too strict. That is not true and I even know an example of the exact opposite case.

4 צדוק on 2009 06 19

I have also seen these kids.  As a convert, it is a strange thing to see the children of Rabbanim not keep Shabbat.  I agree with Sydney’s comments.
שבת שלום

5 Sarah Leah Stark on 2009 06 19

So, so true!!

6 Robert Haralick on 2009 06 19

It is clear to me why what is happening is
happening. Each morning I see those
davening around me. I know a bit about them and how they live their lives. I ask do they have God consciousness. How does the consciousness they developed through Jewish observance changed the way they live and experience the world. How has it made their experience the experience of the holy and sacred of God’s glory which is all around them? My assessment is that most of them are like most of other people, observant or non-observant, Jewish or non-Jewish. They have not enhanced their consciousness. Their observance is by rote.
The blessings they say are outer with no
inner change. The halacha is for them an
intellectual ballgame. Their conversation reminds me of the conversation I hear when people talk about sports.

The young sensitive and gentle people see this. Perhaps they do not articulate it. They know that it makes no sense to them. They leave.

Connection to God in Judaism is through the observance of the mitzvot. But these mitzvot have an inner and outer part. The emphasis is on the outer part. The outer part is like a body without a soul. The moment by moment inner change,
change and not just kavanah, which must accompany the mitzvot are not taught,
and they are not part of halacha and for the most part, they are not discussed. So they
ask what is the point? They leave.

Good Shabbas! Good Shabbas! One Good Shabbas for the outer one Good Shabbas for the inner.

7 Ben on 2009 06 21

#6 if halacha for them is an intellectual ballgame, then what aspect of something intellectual doesn’t make sense to the “young and sensitive”?

If anything, it is what they see in those they are supposed to look up to that they cannot make sense of and that is the pity. Consistency from the top down is what is needed.

8 Bobby Minkoff on 2009 06 21

Research on the children of seriously dysfunctional families found that most followed in the patterns of dysfunction of the family,however, a significant number were able to transcend and lead meaningful lives. The thing they had in common was that some adult, teacher, coach, relative, etc. took a special interest in them, honored who they were, so to speak.
To paraphrase Reb Shlomo, z"l, when people misbehave its because no one told the they were Holy. This can be true no matter what the family background. Perhaps this was what Moshe was telling Joshua when he changed his name.

9 Gershon Weissman on 2014 06 13

Step back and see that an adolescent going off the derech is not necessarily their final destination.  I’ve seen many return to the fold when they mature after having tried the chaos of too much freedom.

10 micha on 2014 06 13

1: To further what Gershon Weissman wrote, R’ Wallerstein spoke on the topic at an AJOP Conference (the “inreach” track, 2011) and cited survey results of 82% return rate for teens OTD by age 25 (?) or 95% by marriage. (Kids who stay OTD are less likely to be married by 25, so the results could be consistent.)

2: In my experience, the adolescent going OTD is likely a very nice kid. Counter-cultural, often an accomplish-nothing pot-head, but very likely the kind of teen who would give you the shirt off their backs.

3: The boys tend to be dyslexic and/or ADD, guys for whom the message of “Torah study and 612 other mitzvos” sounds like “in our system, you’re second rate. (Girls are a wider variety of issues, and I have less experience in the area, so I won’t voice my less-founded opinions.)

4: Rote is only part of the issue. Rote that works, that is fair payment for membership in the community wouldn’t push those kids OTD. The idealists who are turned off by perceived hypocrisy, yes, but that is a small subset of teens. Teens, like adults, are capable of separating judging Jews from judging Judaism—when and if they have motive to. I believe they wouldn’t be focusing on that subset of our community, rather than the role models they could find—if the message attracted.

5: There is also the related issue of our rite-focused Judaism. Because of the rise of first Reform then Conservative Judaism, communal identity focus on those mitzvos we uniquely embrace rather than those which are objectively more important. Thinking about the details of what to look for in an esrog keeps one Orthodox. Thinking about doing “the right and the good in the ‘Eyes’ of Hashem” does not—even though “derekh eretz, proper behavior in this world, is prior to Torah”. This one really wakes up the hypocrite detectors. It also presents a Judaism that holds little attraction for people with humanist inclinations, so they will focus on the ritually observant morally undeveloped people around them, and use their presence as validation for the decision to leave.

6: There is a way of viewing the Torah such that it all boils down to bringing G-d’s good to other people, and (to return to my second point) the kids that would appeal to are more likely to go OTD rather than follow our community’s current message than others.

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