The YCT Rabbinics Student Whose Wife Didn’t Cover Her Hair, Her Knees And A Whole Lot More

Mark writes on Hirhurim about Modern Orthodoxy (MO):

I’ve encountered numerous people who claim that they’re MO and while sometimes they share similarities, many times they’re worlds apart. For example, I recently encountered a young man and his wife in a park where I took my children. He and I struck up a nice conversation while the kids played and he told me how he’s studying to become a rabbi at YCT (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah). He sounded earnest, sincere, and as well-meaning as anyone I’ve ever spoken to. Yet, it was impossible not to notice that his wife does not cover her hair, knees, and a whole lot more. It was also rather obvious that he wasn’t wearing tzitzis at the time. He identified himself as a firm believed in MO.
At a Kiruv seminar, I met a group of students from YU (Yeshiva University). I was in awe of their hasmadah – any moment that they weren’t assisting the seminar they were in the beis medrash. Their dikduk in mitzvos was clearly evident in everything they did. All of them intend to become professionals and fit under the rubric of MO.
At another seminar I met some YU students who were far less impressive. Their language was far too colorful, their interactions with the females was highly suspect, and I finally had to ask some of them to leave when they spent the night in the room of two female students [I’ve never had that problem with the Lakewood or NI bochurim.]
One of the biggest supporters of the Kollel I attended is a staunch YI (Young Israel) member and very vocal proponent of MO.
A certain YI that I know well is full of members whom the rabbi told me he wouldn’t trust to eat in their homes [and this is not known as a far-left or kiruv oriented YI] and he’s a YU talmid.
I could go on and on but you get the picture. MO is a big umbrella – much of it is kiruv oriented – and so many of its proponents have different definitions that I no longer can speak of a monolithic MO [the same may be true for Chareidism and Chassidism but that’s for another day.]
No question, there are some derachim that claim to be MO that I view as safek traif [I imagine you do too for some]. There are some, that I have no problem with even if I choose another derech in life.
So if I have a talmid who chooses to pursue a professional lifestyle, I have no issue with that even if he never spends a day in Kollel. For some, that’s the healthiest path to take. For others, whom I feel still need more time in yeshiva or who have a bright future in Torah, I’d be disappointed if they chose to enter a profession. If chassidus is their thing, I rarely will try to stop it unless I feel that it’s being used as a cop-out from becoming a more halachic Jew. It all depends on the person.
The reason I don’t encourage my students initially to explore the MO lifestyle is quite frankly because I fear for the wide range of people they’ll meet because it is the wide umbrella that it is. I prefer instead to show them one derech and then let them make adjustments as necessary rather than exposing them to a multitude of derachim which rarely helps them find clarity in what I veiw as a major life transition.
Have students of mine attended more MO style yeshivos? You bet. Sometimes it’s worked out and sometimes not. As I’ve said all along, it all depends.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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