Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thoughts on Judaism: A Better Kiruv by Rebel Jew

Thoughts on Judaism: 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 Do not quote kiruv sources or silly backwoods proofs.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.

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