Thursday, January 29, 2009

what the f does being MO really mean?

I consider myself ModOrth for one reason and one reason only: I don't think I fit any of the other labels.

  • I'm pretty involved with the Jewish community where I am - so I am definitely not unaffiliated.
  • I keep Shabbos and Kosher - rules out Reform or Reconstructionist or Humanistic or any of those other New Age-type denominations.
  • I would feel weird sitting next to a guy in shul - so I couldn't be Conservative (but maybe the fact that I haven't been since the 'High Holidays' does make me eligible )
  • Although I think Rebbes are cool, I think ALL Rebbes are cool - so I couldn't be any particular type of Chassid because there isn't any other Chassidish group that I hate.
  • I watch TV and Movies (shocker) and like to show skin (ok, relax, it's just my collarbones) - so I definitely wouldn't fit in the Yeshivish world. (despite the fact that they all secretly watch TV and Movies).
So I guess that makes me Modern Orthodox? But what exactly does that mean anymore? I went to an MO school growing up and almost none of the kids there kept kosher fully. Some moms (usually the ones married to teachers or principals) covered their hair with sheitels, others covered with hats, most not at all. Many moms wore pants (officially they weren't allowed inside of the building dressed that way, unless of course their husband's name was on the building), some wore skirts with short sleeves. Everyone was so different (and I've only really brought up outfits) and yet most considered themselves MO.

Apparently some dating sites are distinguishing between MO Machmir and MO Liberal. Anyone know the difference between the two? If I said I was Liberal, would that make guys think I was easy? Does Machmir mean I want to make Aliyah and wear Naots?


Child Ish Behavior said...

Modern orthodox means that you do what you want because you know God really doesn't stress the little things. Machmir means that you think he minds just a little bit more; liberal, just a little less.

jamie said...


regarding your post on porn and the boyfriend, what % of unmarried "frum" (learned in seminary type) girls do you think have had an O prior to getting married?

Ronen Levi Yitzhcak Segal said...

In terms of school, it seems to be common practice to send your children to a school slightly above the level of observance that you yourself subscribe to with the dilusion they will somehow come out more frum than you.

Of course, children learn far more from what they see at home than anything any teacher (great as he may be) could ever teach them. And when tatti watches television as he instructs Yankel to do his homework, somehow the generations get weaker.

I also strongly dislike labels and feel we are far too individual and unique to fall into these broad, sweeping categories.

I'm Jewish. Ask me a specific question and I'll answer you. But please don't try to group me together with thousands of other people I may not see eye to eye on on several sensitive issues regarding G-d for the sake of your intellectual convienience.

You're doing both you and I a disservice at that point...

Nice post...

Anonymous said...

I think a big difference in the MO velt is eating certain items at non-kosher restaurants.

Moshe said...

I'm of the "Observant Jew so STFU" denomination. :-D

Anonymous said...

Labels are silly. My family belongs to a conservative synagogue, though we are more observant than that. We belong there because my parents don't believe that women should not sing or have a bat mitzvah in front of the congregation. My parents also like the whole family to sit together and daven together in the same row. That is the way most people sit in conservative synagogues (with their parents and siblings). We would fit the Conservadox Liberal label. There are too many jews in the world that think that it is all or nothing, black or white, but in the real world, it is just shades of grey.

Honestly Frum said...

"I think a big difference in the MO velt is eating certain items at non-kosher restaurants"
Are you kidding me? Way to paint an entire frum community with a broad brush. I proudly consider myself MO and do not eat in treif restaurants.

Implodium said...


MO is an interesting label.. I always considered myself MO.. I like to snowboard and surf and play sports, wear nice clothes, try new things.. etc.. you know the nice things in life... I enjoy a good wine and scotch or beer, but don't subscribe to getting downright smashed. I prefer a secular education, I will be a working man when I am married, not a learning man. I was brought up with a black hat, (but it stays in my closet for now) it comes out for simchas and holidays. (mishneh brurah says it's a custom, a dress code, not halocha). I watch tv and movies, and enjoy them. I'm modern in every sense of the term.. but in the end I realized no matter how modern I am, I am and will always just be, just orthodox.

As long as I subscribe to the fact that Hashem gave the torah to moshe at mount.sinai, and spoke to all of us, and it was passed down.. I will always be orthodox.. no matter how modern I may be. As long as I believe in the above fact, logically I must accept everything within the torah all its rules and principals, both oral and written. It's the only logical conclusion if you analyze it further.

So shouldn't I flip a leaf and become chassidish/yeshivaish or extremely religious?! absolutely not.. I'm human and there is only so much I can do at any given time.. how do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time. Torah is like an elephant.. it's huge.. you can't swallow it all at the same time. One small bite at a time...

I will constantly learn and grow, and maybe even take on more things as I get older. One small bite at a time. I'm in no rush and very happy with where I am. Being jewish also means there is always room to improve oneself.

So, MM... I would say your Orthodox.. you're modern in the sense you relate to the present more so than past (just like me, and many others). I think that is the essence of being MO, how one relates to torah. What does one expect of todays generation in modern society, with flashy computers and tv.. how are we to connect with our grandfathers dusty old tombs.

However when you drill down to the core of it you see that you are in fact orthodox. I mean to say that is only if you believe in the account of Mount Sinai, right? whether you do a lot or a little it matters none, that is between you and hashem. Not between you, me, the community, and that yente who keeps staring you down. Those yentes have their own learning and growing. shame on them.

In regards to dating sites... I think they use those terms because they are trying to give people a sense of how much one follows according to the tradition, I think we follow on the lesser side.. but perhaps that is only for now.

Mikeinmidwood said...

MO is lost in too many peoples minds to really be translated. From a real yeshivish perspective; MO isnt frum. From a conservative perspective; Mo is yeshivish without the hat.

What I think is that MO is lenient on some halachos (e.g. non live music during sefira, and denim skirts, all hechshers are good, and tuna salad on vaction). MO machmir is really somewhere in between a kollel lifestyle and no learning at all, with Tv and Internet.

Maidel said...

uh jamie - are you suggesting a new post idea?

Ronen - i kinda agree. most people do what they've learned at home.

implodium - i like the elephant reference! sounds like something i learned in psych class (you know, three blind men touching an elephant - all feel different things, all think their description is right, but it's realy just different aspects of the same elephant!)

I have to agree with Honestly Frum. Sorry Anonymous. But eating treif out isn't something all MOs do.

A lot of people seem to think that being MO is like taking on a relaxed Judaism. But I know people in other 'more frum' denominations who are a lot more chillaxed than me!

chaviva said...

Like me, it makes you Underconstructionist. The ultimate non-label label :)

All Jews are under construction, and that's the point. I think it's the most applicable to every branch/sect/stream/whatever of Judaism.

Just a thought :)

Anonymous said...

4 levels:

3)something in between
4) the ones who have peyos

frum single female said...

i think that all of these labels just make it more confusing. ones level of orthodox can only be defined on an individual basis.

Miri said...

Maidel-we all know that deep down, you're a lubavitcher.

Lion of Zion said...

"but maybe the fact that I haven't been since the 'High Holidays' does make me eligible"


Anonymous said...

The Israeli comedian Yair Orbach (hysterical btw- the one who did the parity of rotze banot called rotze mitzvot, google him!) has a whole thing on how he was talking to a guy who called himself mesorati (in english that's traditional)and hes trying to understand what traditional means. So he asks the guy- do you keep kosher? Yes. Do you keep shabbos? Yes. Do you daven three times a day? No. So why don't you just call yourself a religious girl, its exactly the same. It was funnier when he told it but I think it fits in with the point here.
I hate labels but one thing I notice is that even a lot of "modern orthodox" people like implodium seem to think that they would be more yeshivish, but it's too hard right now, as if yeshivish is really the ideal for everyone. I don't believe that's true. I think the ideal is to keep mitzvot and also to be an integrated member of the modern world. Learning is important but having a job is not a be'di'eved situation, it's an important role in society. Learning secular subjects helps us become better people and therefor better Jews. I wish people who did use the label MO were less apologetic about it and viewed it more as something that can be, if done right, and ideal form of Judaism. I'm far from perfect but that's what I'm working toward.

Moshe said...

Sounds like me. :-D
I'm never apologetic for the way I am. I keep kosher, shabbat, go to daf yomi, shul on shabbat. I don't see why anyone should tell me how to dress or who to be friends with though. I'm religious for myself, not for somebody else. I don't see a need to impress some random people with how black my clothes are or how long my peyos are or how many hours a day I learn.
I also don't think that my sons should go to some frummie school so that they can be "better than me".

Y-Love said...

I -- dig my info page on my facebook -- refer to myself as modern Orthodox, but that's not just out of halachic leniency, it's for me a fundamental way that one views the world.

I once heard a MO rabbi in Texas who had lived in New York speaking about planned shtetlach (like New Square, Kiryas Yoel, etc). He began to rant about how, "in Europe infant mortality rates were at X, in Europe expected life span was X... you do not become nostalgic for this!" One does not stand in the age of communication and pine for the age of Czars. To eschew the entire modern age is just ridiculous.

Plus I don't believe that most of our more haredi communities really equip their children with what they will need -- socially -- to deal with an increasingly diverse society, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

AH said...

If you really feel the need to label yourself you can always create your own. I personally consider myself Orthodox, not MO, not Ultra-Orthodox, just plain middle of the road Orthodox.

I have no idea how someone can eat "certain items" at a non-kosher restaurant. No one with any knowledge of kashrus would do such a thing. (Yes, I wrote kashrus. I have what to say about that too.)

Mikeinmidwood: Denim skirts? What kind of leniency is that?

What Y-Love says about Europe is 100% true on so many levels. True there may have been some things that were "better" in Europe, but why waste time on that—one is supposed to yearn for Yerushalayim, not Europe.
Regarding education in the more right-wing communities I'm inclined to agree and actually tell people the same thing. I'm finding, however, that this is only true in "Yeshivish" communities, the Chassidim tend to work and somehow they do just fine with whatever education they have received.

Mikeinmidwood said...


No its not a leniency, its just something the yeshivsh people dont do; therefore, making it a MO thing, or just not yeshivish.

AH said...

Wearing denim skirts isn't really MO, it's just not Yeshivish. There are plenty of people who were denim skirts that wouldn't fit into the MO camp. See the first paragraph that I wrote for more on that.