Monday, December 08, 2008

Rethinking Our Tactics

יב וְיֹתֵר מֵהֵמָּה, בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר: עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ, וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר. 12

And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


I do not understand our priorities.

We have taught our youth that one ought to be ashamed of reading Artscroll, and we mockingly deride and laugh at it, so that the youth immediately thinks himself above these books, as they are only for the simple-minded. At the same time, we do not instruct our youth, but allow him to fend for himself, trying to figure out which books to read, which people to follow, whom to accredit, and whom not to listen to (of his own initiative.) This, of course, ends up confusing him (and how couldn't it? His instructors themselves don't know what they are teaching!)

We have simultaneously created a culture where it is what one produces that is valued, and a prolific producer is suddenly thought more intelligent. Our culture is such that we even demand our professors at our universities to produce, else they may fall under our censure. And while it is true that in certain areas there are clear areas of study to go forward in and improve upon, there are others where this simply lends itself to foolishness and the creation of more foolishness.

We have many religious journals and publications so that our youth can write- and what are their credentials, that enable them to write for all these publications? The youth who has bypassed Artscroll and is struggling to figure out his way in the thorny world of Judaism, he is the one who ought to write? And why the need for so many publications? We create publication upon publication, journal after journal, and there are people who know nothing of their Judaism, but we are busy with our lofty discussions (and honestly, while there are some people who are truly advancing something radical, novel and new in their pieces, most others are only attempting to do so. Although there is a place for those who take complicated concepts and lay them out in a clear way in these essays.)

At one point in time there was an idea: Say something when you have something to say, and otherwise, keep quiet! One did not simply publish for the sake of publishing.

It occurs to me we would do well to implement that practice today.


Shimon said...

but where and if does blogging fit in with this line of thought?

Anonymous said...

welcome to capitalist Judaism. But this is an old problem; after the war they would pull somone off the boats, ask him if they knew aleph bet and if so would he teach in gan. There are no standards (what does it take to be called a 'Rav') and more journals means more money for someone.

Until there is a more enticing incentive this will continue.

Ezzie said...

Heh. :)

Good post, with great applicability.

G said...

a.Who exactly is this 'we' and 'our' that you keep referring to?

b.while there are some people who are truly advancing something radical, novel and new in their pieces, most others are only attempting to do so.

So unless you're providing something 'radica' or 'novel' to the world of Torah (let's put aside for the oment whether or not those concepts are even correct to begin with) one should basically just keep quiet?

c.I second Shimon - where exactly does one place blogging in this?

Anonymous said...

nice :)

(and expected after our discussion 2day, lol)

Izgad said...

So to follow your logic. What gives a nineteen year female college student the authority to publish a blog of her own thoughts? Do you believe that you are saying things that other wiser people have not said better. Of course for that matter what gives a twenty five year old history student the authority.

Chana said...

A blog is a very different medium than an academic publication meant to showcase Judaic thought. Blogs are a cheap form of communication; anyone can open one. Judaic journals take time, money, effort and skill to produce.

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G said...

Judaic journals take time, money, effort and skill to produce.

Correct, and still they continue to be produced. Which would lead one to believe that either a.the quality of what is being produced continues to meet whatever standard has been set or b.they are successful in raising whatever funds are neccessary for their continued production (which would imply that there is an audience which appreciates it/them).

Either way they justify their existance.

--still wondering...Who exactly is this 'we' and 'our' that you keep referring to?

SemGirl said...

I think the 'we' Chana is referring to is the frum community in general that is responsible, for the greatest abundance of published Jewish thought since creation, and yet the greatest amount of ignorance among the masses.

We have fallen prey to the 'PUBLISH OR PERISH' credo, prevalent in academia..

G said...


So the 'frum community' is responsible for the publication of a great abundance of jewish thought yet the 'masses' are for the most part ignorant?
How does that work exactly?

G said...

We have fallen prey to the 'PUBLISH OR PERISH' credo, prevalent in academia.

again with the 'we'...for the sake of argument, so does this mean that when it comes to those learning in kollel we will be dropping any further use of the "they just sit there and learn, they don't produce anything" complaint? or that for the more Modern sect we will allow for legitimization of an individual even if they do not "produce" anything? are we saying that publication is overrated and that there needs to be more of an emphasis on learning for the sake of learning or that in fact there DOES need to be publication in order to be legitimate...just that it needs to be publication of a certain type?

Anonymous said...

"Too many journals" - that's why we have blogs. No trees are killed (not that I have any problem with that). When I was in HS I helped compile a journal with articles by students and ramim. At tat level it was a learning experience for all of the students. Plus higher authorities limited it to wonderful original thoughts, and not everyone was forced to write something. (I once saw a journal from a HS in E"Y where one boy wrote over a Pnei Yeshoshua and Aruch Leneir on a Rashi in Makos. Anyone can find that themselves.) On the pasuk "Az yirannenu atzei haya'ar"there is a famous explanation that we won't have sefarim in yemos hamashiach. Rav Mendy Blachman of KBY when quoting this at a tish said "No more Nosson Sherman overviews!"

Anonymous said...

I heard the following attributed to the Bais Halevi:
Not everything thought should be said, not everything said should be written down, and not everything written down should be published.

SemGirl said...

G, as per your first query. Actually very lil if anything as changed since Shlomo HaMelech said in Mishli, (15:6). The Chochom is always eager to teach Torah, but the Casilim arent interested. With all the thousands of live shiurim, on CDs,tapes, MP3, websites, very few seriously avail themselves oif it.

As per your 2nd comment, yes we need a lot more serious learning lishmoh. Every week, there are more and more newsletters, parsha sheets, and likut-seforim, but not enough sparkling gems and hiddushim..

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