Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?
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Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

October 30, 2018 08:03AM
I was a bit appalled at the treatment of Tova Mirvis' Book of Separation and the discussion on the possible use of it in High School. In this posting I will outline what I think Tova's real problem was, how this could be used profitably in a High School class, and what the reaction (halachic and otherwise) should be to her book.

I start off by pointing out that I am not the first to regard "leaving the path" (off the derech) as a search for physical intimacy rather than a dignified intellectual problem. Indeed, the haunting question of how a nation which personally experienced prophecy at Sinai worshipped a golden calf has been answered in our tradition by pointing out that the idolatrous calf golden calf ceremony had partying and fun, the real reason for the Jews sinning. There were no intellectual problems, just emotional problems.

As one reads her book one finds many hints of physical dis-satisfaction with her marriage: I list a few: i) her husband was rarely home, ii) she mentions she enjoyed hikes, pizza, and zip-lining with her second husband (the issue then becomes why she never attempted to do this in her first marriage), iii) her picking on silly items which however indicate physical unhappiness, for example, iiia) her childhood recollection of resenting the verse that Adam will rule over this wife, iiib) her overreactions to contents in the Jewish marriage manuals she read, iiic) her headaches from hairpieces in the synagogue.

So basically, I consider Tova a classic run of the mill case of off the derech, leaving the Jewish path because of lack of physical satisfaction. There is really nothing intellectual in her book; she doesn't raise any serious intellectual problem with orthodoxy; she uses emotional words like shackles knowing full well that there are orthodox men and women who go on hikes, enjoy art, and don't believe every idea in Jewish marriage manuals.

Could this be used in a high-school class? Well, a general issue is whether high schools should teach about problems of intimacy. Principles do have to answer to parents. But I went to a Yeshiva High School. There was a premarital sex problem; so, the principle asked the Talmud teacher to talk to the boys (all boy class) about premarital sex. On Lookjed there has been mention of drug problems and other things in High Schools. Drugs and physicality go together. If high-schoolers are doing things they should be spoken to and their parents should support this.

What would I teach in a high school class: I would start with the story of the Egel (golden calf). I would explain that typically people who leave religion do not have a serious intellectual problem. Rather they are bored and want fun and excitement. I would cite other cases throughout the Bible and history. I would also point out the importance and seriousness of interpersonal relationships (middoth); the actions teenagers take towards each other can easily push someone off the path.

I then might assign Tova's novel as a homework assignment: The assignment would be to gather all evidence of emotional discontent in the novel and expose her real problem.

What should be the halachic response to this? At first blush, it would seem that we should feel sorry for her. But I think halacha requires very strong condemnation. Why? Because her novel is in effect a slander of Judaism and God. She is blaming God, Judaism, and Orthodoxy for her lack of physical satisfaction in her marriage. She is publicly violating slander. Such a sin should not be given any sympathy. Like the proverbial drunken driver for whom we feel sorry, the first task is to get him off the road.

I think she should be severely attacked for violating our slander laws, for blaming a good religion for her problems. Then again, we can also blame her so called tight-knit community. How? Again, I cite a biblical precedent. In the laws of a dead body found without signs of whom the murderer was we read that the elders of the city wash their hands and say, "We didn't kill this person" All the commentators explain "We gave hospitality to all who came and did not endanger any passerbys.” Well this applies to Tova's case. Why did her friends not suggest a more constructive way to deal with her problems? If her husband did not want to spend more time at home and go on hikes she should have been encouraged to divorce but her friends should have paired her up with the type of person she needs.

This is also a high-school topic, the importance of reading between the lines, reaching out to friends, and helping them in their social relationships. A major biblical figure, Miriam the prophetess, spent her time in the desert doing actually that. Numbers 12 recounts how she would team up with men (actually priests) to get marriages back together (Her error was not in doing this but accusing Moses of haughtiness). The importance of Miriam as a role model can not be underestimated.

Let me recap and summarize: Do I think this novel can be brought into a high school classroom? Yes, provided the appropriate prerequisites are taught. And what are the appropriate prerequisites: I have listed three: 1) Slander: Do not blame God for your problems because that is slander; 2) Marital satisfaction: why not teach teenagers about off-the-path and its causes? Why not teach that prophetic knowledge of God did not stop Jews from seeking fun in an idolatrous ceremony and this could happen to us if we don't watch out; 3) Interpersonal relations: The importance of following Miriam the Prophetesses example, doing social outreach and helping couples stay happy. If you have these three prerequisites - slander, off-the-path, interpersonal relationship - why not bring in Tova's novel as an example of what not to do? What not ask high-schoolers to read the book and identify her real problem and how it should have been dealt with.

Respectfully
Russell Jay Hendel; PhD; Rashiyomi.com



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/30/2018 08:05AM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Moshe Simkovich October 17, 2018 06:18PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Yaakov Bieler October 17, 2018 06:44PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Elisha Paul October 17, 2018 06:57PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Pesach Sommer October 18, 2018 03:14PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Meshulam Gotlieb October 20, 2018 07:58PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Jonathan Kroll October 23, 2018 11:26AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Yosef Goldberg October 23, 2018 11:39AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Russell Jay Hendel October 30, 2018 08:03AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Michael Berkowitz November 06, 2018 01:54PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Yitzchak Blau November 13, 2018 08:53AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Michael Berkowitz November 25, 2018 07:45PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Yitzchak Blau December 05, 2018 08:05AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Michael Berkowitz December 09, 2018 06:19PM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Rose Landowne November 06, 2018 07:52AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Gideon Sylvester November 12, 2018 09:22AM

Re: Should Tova Mirvis’ memoir of leaving Orthodoxy be taught in yeshiva high schools?

Moshe Simkovich December 09, 2018 06:23PM



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