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Why are we getting frummer and frummer?

machmir chumraSomeone sent this new blog to me that tries to explain why we get frummer and frummer, it was always pretty clear to me, but his theory is that it’s like a prisoners dilemma. Basically, Poskim feel the need to paskin machmir because if one contradicts the other, the klal will always go stricter. I’m not sure how that makes an entire generation of folks more machmir, but I have my own ideas on the subject and I’m sure plenty of you all have your own as well. In one sentence, it’s a lot easier and better sounding to rule stringently, you don’t have to do any research and people “think” strict is more pious. Those people, obviously never learned much, but the masses will always be asses. I tried to leave the following comment, but the blog was set up to force you to login, I hate that and I boycott those systems.

Actually we probably get frummer and frummer as we become more assimilated, in the alter heim you fried out by learning the language and leaving the shtetl. In America, everyone was encouraged to assimilate, yiddish was lost, the kids went off the D, the kiruv movement came in and wrangled everyone back in. When this happened, it introduced the frum community to the ills of secular society (hence the reason I think the BT movement has hurt Orthodoxy more than any non-Jewish society ever could) So the more secular exposed we get, we all know the language and no matter how insular we try to get ourselves, we are fully exposed like no way in history since maybe the Greeks. Exposure breeds stringency, we need to fight the evil forces of secular society and since kashraus, yayin nesech, and avodah zorah didnt have the desired effect because ancient Judaism didnt predict that we would be able to blend in while still retaining those laws, we need to be machmir.

Its also a lot easier to be machmir, you dont have to consult obscure Aruch Hashulchan stuff that contradicts the shulchan aruch and Mishna Brura and then come up with an excuse to go by the AH because Rav Moshe held that since he was a community Rav he took precedence over the MB.

See, machmir is easier and to most unlearned ppl it sounds way frummer. It’s kind of like that Seinfeld episode where George pretends to be angry at work all the time to make his boss think he was working harder. It’s all an illusion of frumkeit,

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Sergeant J October 2, 2013, 10:32 PM

    Fake it till you fall for it?

  • A. Nuran October 2, 2013, 11:50 PM

    So the choice is Off The Derech or Off The Deep End?
    Where is the “Religion Without a Ratchet” option?

  • tzfatisha October 3, 2013, 5:56 AM

    as one of my rav’s says… (he’s also the husband of one of my friend’s and very very knowledgeable)
    it’s always easy to rule stringently, anybody (/fool) can do that.. you just say it’s forbidden..
    it takes somebody really knowledgeable to rule on the lenient side.. for that you really have to know something!
    ( i paraphrase)

  • Dov October 3, 2013, 7:29 AM

    Anyone interested in this topic should read the essay ‘Rupture and Reconstruction’ by R’ Dr. Chaim Soloveitchik which is one of the classic works on this subject. It’s widely available online. His point isn’t to discuss the chumra culture, but it plays a large role in his discussion, at least ‘between the lines’.

    • David October 4, 2013, 11:05 AM

      I read the article, and thank you for the suggestion. I found it fascinating and on-point as a general sociological examination of the trend towards frumistanization in the orthodox world. However, my own focus has been to examine it on a meta-hashkafic level – what are the key elements of this hashkafah that drives this religious orientation? Once that is established you can delve into the sources, find counter-points to those key elements from unassailable sources, and thereby build an independent functional and fully kosher and authentic hashkafah that is more in tune with the derekh rishonim and torat eretz Israel. Indeed, frumistan has gone off the derekh and left the rest of the Jewish people what happened. I hold by the Tosafot on teqanot, not the Rema (who assumed a great deal about the Rambam’s position on same). The Tosafot were not apikorsim and neither am I. And that is just one point of contention. The difference is, I can usually explain the normative halacha, competing points of view among the sages, and why I prefer one over the other – whereas the champions of the status quo usually can’t – or simply make fallacious arguments because they “don’t like it.”

      • Anonymous October 6, 2013, 11:58 AM

        Its all made-up BS so why do it?

  • Avrumi October 4, 2013, 6:26 AM

    The masses are asses! Hee haw.

    • Anonymous October 6, 2013, 11:59 AM

      Yep, rabbies are just cult leaders. All religion is the same. Baaaaah

  • Gitty October 7, 2013, 6:18 PM

    I think it’s just the frum version of keeping up with the Joneses. If being frum is good, being frummer (more stringent) must be better, right? Wrong, but it’s the natural way that people think. In a world where people aspire to higher spiritual heights, people’s natural desire to compete doesn’t go away – it just takes a different form. So whereas eight year olds Mike & Joe will argue over whose Daddy is physically strongest, Menachem & Yossi will argue over whose Daddy is the bigger talmud chachum. Which is all well and good until Miriam is a shiksa for leaving her wrists exposed and it becomes “minhag hamakum” to not shower at all for the Nine Days. It turns the spiritual into a game of one-upmanship.

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