Friday, November 04, 2005

Why Can't Kiruv Rabbis M'kariv Their Own Parents?

It's axiomatic in the BT world- you can't m'kariv your parents. None of them seem to be able to.
Sensible enough; there are too many thorny issues, e.g. respecting them, and certainly not chastising them. But perhaps the real reason is that you just are too ignorant to be able to answer the hardest question of all- "Why?"

However, kiruv rabbi's shouldn't have such a problem. After all, they have the tools of torah. They are trained (or at least should be) to address sceptical questions along the path to "truth." Or at a minimum, they could get their parents to meet with another kiruv rabbi that isn't the child. But that still counts as "m'kariving" in my book.

I think the reason kiruv workers are unsuccessful in this department, is that they use clowny techniques that their parents would simply scoff at. And they use subtle intimidation sometimes. On the other hand, perhaps they think their parents are "damaged goods" and don't have much to be hopeful at this later stage in their lives. Perhaps.

Kiruv is something in between counseling and making sure your son has a bris.

There are aspects of it where you are helping someone on their way, and there are coercive aspects as well. You are hurting the potential BT, but to a kiruv rabbi, it's for their own good. Taking the analogy one step further, as is my wont, the bris is a commandment and a sign of a covenant with god.

The belief that you are hurting someone for their own good would seem to require 100% conviction in the truth of the torah. How many kiruv workers really have that and how many just do it for a living because they don't want to learn in kollel or get a real job? I'm asking.

I'm also curious- how many kiruv rabbi's go OTD? Probably almost none. Perhaps they find doing the kiruv part far more interesting than learning. It probably is.

A nutty FFB wannabe from my community (can't stop with those cheap rhymes) told me how his son (who's learned forever in israel since high school and has kids is in kollel at the Mir and is a total zero when you meet him) was told by a rabbi not to get involved with BT's. The reason: "when you reach into the mud, there's always some that gets stuck on your hand."

I think mud in this analogy would be rational scientific thinking! Oh well, the Dark Ages never ended for some in our stiff-necked nomadic tribe.


Blogger Rebeljew said...

The reason: "when you reach into the mud, there's always some that gets stuck on your hand."

As the Tanya quotes it:
Hamitavek Im M'nuval, mitnavel.

This post is right on track! Kiruv "pros" spend too much time on subjects like science that they do not understand, and in the end, they do more harm than good, by inventing fabulous foothills of nonsense.

However, I do know two girls who m'kareved their families. In general though, I think that it is rare. You just don't listen to your own. Just read this post about the Lubavitcher Rebbe's brother.

11/04/2005 8:55 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I think it's harder to be 'm'karev' one's own family - there's too much emotion in any debate.

However, plenty of people I know or have met have either been m'karev their families or made them somewhat more religious.

11/04/2005 11:42 AM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

I am former chasidishe yid who is now a complete Apikores and loving it. Good site btw. I was never involved with Kiruv myself, but met many BTs at various shabbos tischen and was generally impressed with their sincerity. I had thoughts of leaving Yiddishkeit from the time I was 12 and got my 1st glimpse of Spinozism, and I silently wondered why someone would trade the freedom of secular life for a life of control-freakism.

I noticed that ba'alei teshuva with MONEY were coddled and adored much more than those without (it's the same for FFBs), AND of the few former BTs I have met in my travels, there aren't any with enough money to keep the attention of the various Mosdos that chase it.

I was also shocked by the attidudes of many toward BTs. I had a landlord in Crown Heights (My family are Stoliner Chasidim, NOT Chabad), who defrauded the goverment, was caught with a hooker, pled down from a drug charge, and after all that, had the gall to be upset when someone proposed a sidduch for his daughter with a BT because he didn't think his daughter should marry a ben nidah.

Kol Tuv

11/04/2005 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, perhaps they think their parents are "damaged goods" and don't have much to be hopeful at this later stage in their lives.

I think that is partially it. Sometimes there is too much anamosity regarding religion in the family and the BT would rather stay away from that delicate subject. But another reason is definitly what RebelJew said

"You just don't listen to your own"

11/04/2005 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

that annonymous was me

11/04/2005 3:22 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

Just try telling YOUR parents what to do regarding anything.

"Heyshiv lev avos al banim"??? Yeah right.

11/04/2005 3:55 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I am former chasidishe yid who is now a complete Apikores and loving it."

so, Shlomo, I take it by "complete apikores," you mean that it doesn't seem worthwhile to do anything jewish at all? Maybe you need time, maybe you figure what's the point.

Still, with getting married and having kids, it would seem to have benefits. you're probably young and just enjoying the good life right now.


11/04/2005 6:07 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...


If one rejects the Ikar, then why hang onto the tofel? Once I became Kofer b'ikar, then it was only am matter of time before the internal thinking altered itself, though not without some effort.

I thought time would help too many years back. It doesn't. Time heals emotional wounds and physical scars, but it doesn't create new facts.

re:good life

I'd like to know what exactly the good life is to YOU. If that means being surrounded by mishpocho and chaverim, or being bound to the safety and security of a kehilla, then NO, I am not living a good life.

If one defines a good life as having the freedom to think for oneself, explore experience and emotion, and to meet the world without any preconceived notions, then I am a very happy man living a very good life. I think a lot about the past and some of the things I miss.

Kol Tuv

11/05/2005 6:59 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Thanks, Shlomo. I'm going to check out the links to your blog.

11/05/2005 8:51 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

SLA's comments are all too common. People see the hypocracy and wonder why. Not that it is so different in the rest of the world, but because Judaism requires mesiras nefesh, and the earnest person sees how many of the people around him just want to take advantage of the "chumps" who are idealistic and want to do the right thing.

I worked in kiruv for years, and I can only say that not every mosad works like that, but enough do to un-frum the universe many times over. and make no mistake, no peshara, no rationalization. When paragons and salesmen of "THE WAY" are hypocrites, they do unspeakable damage, much more so than just "stam" community members.

11/05/2005 11:03 PM  
Blogger BTA said...


I'm fortunate to say, I never crossed paths with an actual criminal kiruv guy. In fact, they were all nice and earnest, just somewhat cultish. They figured the ends justified the means, so they could justify manipulation and some dishonest tricks.

Still, that alone is enough to inspire dislike. Extreme dislike.

That's why I worry about the path with the kids- I don't want them to see me as an ends justifying the means dishonest person.

11/06/2005 1:25 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

As a totally seperate note... I just saw most of "Inspired" - it was a nice video.

11/06/2005 4:17 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

How do I email you? I'm thinking about a guest post... but it would have to wait a couple of weeks. And, it may not be limited to one post... so much to write!

11/06/2005 4:18 AM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

BTA, I had just that discussion with a kid a knew as he grew up (now married with kids). I asked him point blank if he that that morally the ends justify the means in kiruv. He sheepishly said yes, in most cases.

We then discussed how we could sell red strings to rich airheads for 26 dollars each. All for kiruv, of course. I gotta get a piece of this.

11/06/2005 12:42 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...


Can't wait.

11/06/2005 12:43 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Me too, Ezzie. If you want, you can just email it to me at (note BT is singular)

I'm definitely looking forward as well!

11/06/2005 2:16 PM  

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