ynet features an op-ed by Yoaz Hendel examining why both haredi and secular Jews lack knowledge in each other’s primary fields of study.
Do you know why our people fear the internet? He asked, and I said it was because of decency concerns – a euphemism referring to the web’s easily accessible pornography. No, he answered immediately, porn isn’t scary. Everyone has urges, with or without the internet. What’s frightening to us is the knowledge on the net. Wikipedia. How do you preserve the ultra-Orthodox separation from the rest of society when you can read what scientists write about the creation of the world? How do you explain what Jewish law said two thousand years ago and how Jews used to act and look? We sat there for an hour and then said our goodbyes, but the conversation stayed with me.
Channel 10 recently began airing a series of excellent reports by Avishai Ben-Chaim. “Ultra-Orthodox society is slowly dissolving,” he claimed, receiving widesporead criticism from his subjects. One of the reasons he gave for this change is knowledge. It simply cannot be stopped.
Those who don’t know enough about Jewish history, who have never read a page of the Gemara or studied the Halakha, can’t seriously argue about prayers at the Western Wall, the Sabbath, or Jewish sects. At the end of the day, they’ll always have to bow their heads to those who claim a monopoly on Judaism.
I see it all the time around me. Most Israelis can’t tell the difference between Reform Jews and Religious Conservative Jews, who make up the majority of the Jewish public abroad, where only about 10 percent are ultra-Orthodox. Most don’t know how converting one into Judaism took place historically, and thus they accept the current ultra-Orthodox decisions on the matter. Most of them don’t know what Kosher laws really mean, and thus they avoid confronting one of the country’s biggest economic monopolies.
As someone who appreciates both worlds, I have to ask the religious why not appreciate science? If you love the Creator of the Universe don’t you want to know all you can about the process of creation? Is your faith so feeble and pathetic that its foundations can be shattered by a scientific process that is always changing and self-correcting? Does preservation have to mean stagnation? As believers in God are you incapable of looking at the wonders of this Universe as science continuously reveals new discoveries and attributing it to the Creator in which you believe?
If watching the above video inspires fear of Jews going off the derech and doesn’t leave you with a sense of awe for the fingerprint of your Creator, then your problem is not science, it’s your lack of faith. All of your declarations of “Master of the Universe” are merely empty lip service.
Likewise, I agree with the author on the point that secular Jews (and ignorant Jews trying to navigate Judaism) must have some knowledge of Jewish laws and history. Without it you are setting yourself up to become the chumps of religious power structures that don’t necessarily have your best interest in mind. This is apparent in areas of religion that become industrialized and are ripe for corruption, like Jewish conversion and kashrut, where scandals and abuse of consumers are common.
(hat tip: Shayna G)