Response: Modern Orthodoxy from a Teenager’s Perspective

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Editor’s Note: The following is in response to this article by Eitan Gross.

Dear Eitan Gross,

I am writing to you in respect to your recent article on Modern Orthodoxy in the Times of Israel. I must congratulate you on a job well done. Your piece is very interesting. I hope you have not had so many responses that you won’t find time to read mine.

What is more, I probably don’t disagree with a single thing therein, pro tanto. I would just like to address what I consider the fundamentals of it all.

How is your argumentation positioned? Is it in context or in isolation? I mean to ask: are your criticizing this and that aspect of Modern Orthodoxy, in and of itself, or in contradistinction to other forms of Orthodoxy that are out there. By way of metaphor, one can criticize poverty under capitalism on its own, or in relation to other systems. The latter is foolish; any other system, such as feudalism or communism, produces more poverty. But, there is of course some poverty in a capitalist system. One could criticize it in isolation.

If, as a Modern Orthodox teenager, you are attempting to point out the failings of your own group, then what you’re saying is on point. A few minor quibbles on my part is not enough to undermine the thrust of your arguments.

However, if indeed your are consciously or otherwise comparing Modern Orthodoxy to other groups, let us proceed apace.

The question simply put: is Modern Orthodoxy less successful than other groups within the Orthodoxy system? 

By what metric is success to be measured?

If success is measured by retaining the highest number of members within the fold, Modern Orthodoxy fails. Prima facie evidence suggests that the Ultra-Orthodox lose less of their kids to the off the derech phenomena. By the metric of kavanah during davening, Modern Orthodoxy falls short again. My experience has been that groups outside Modern Orthodoxy concentrate more on davening.  

If you want to maximize your chances of having kids that will marry Jewish and give you Jewish grandchildren, or if you want your sons to be at minyan every day, three times a day (during Chanukah break), or if you want your sons to able to make a reading of the gemara with Rashi and Tosafos, then there are Charedi and Chasidish options available for you.

But what about the metric of truth? As you well know, there is no real honest intellectual inquiry in the Charedi world. The simple reason is the cudgel  of heresy that has been used successfully against people ranging from Rabbi Slifkin to Rabbi Sacks. The obvious effect of the intellectual ghetto that the Charedim have assembled for themselves is falsehood. There can be no investigation into the beliefs that they hold dear. This has resulted, in my opinion, in a paradigm of belief, on every major theological and ideological issue, from the Zohar to Zionism, that is false when it is not simply nonsensical.

If the metric of success your are looking for is truth, look no further than the free inquiry and intellectual openness that is Modern Orthodoxy. You may question whether they have all the answers. But there is no doubt that they let you ask the questions.   

Keep up the good work.

Yours truly,


Author: 004




One comment

  1. I’m not sure how you derived the insight that the search for “emes” is more honestly pursued in the MO world, and my personal experience contradicts that thesis, but if we were to accept your thesis as true it leads to a fascinating conclusion: g-d created a world in which the search for truth leads to a (relative) failure to transmit it to the next generation and greater difficulty coming close to g-d (what you refer to as “kavanah in davening”), while refusing to acknowledge the truth leads to success in transmitting it to the next generation and greater ease in coming close to g-d. that is very counterintuitive.


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