What is this Thing Called Hashkafa?

What is this thing, Hashkafa?

If there were no religious criteria for marriage short of “Torah observant Jew,” or “not,” we’d have a much easier time matching people up. But people quibble about the details, and these details are conveniently packaged into something called “hashkafa.” Amongst the things that fall under the realm of hashkafa are: television/movies/videos, various gradations of non-Jewish music (and Jewish music), media acknowledged, internet, time spent learning, shirt color, location and color of yarmulke, etc. None of these things are inherently religious matters, but to many, they make all the difference in the world.

I’ve been mulling over why. Maybe it’s obvious, but I can be a bit slow about some things, so bear with me.

It seems to me, that when it comes to religion, people have a comfort zone. “This is what I’m used to and this is where I’m used to drawing the line,” type of comfort zone. Someone who has never even used email draws the line at no internet. For them, crossing the digital divide is a journey fraught with religious uncertainty. Internet has not been part of their heretofore kosher life, and therefore, they don’t know how to deal with it. When in doubt, “al ta’amin biatzmecha,” so they keep away. Others believe that life is meant to be lived normally, while treading carefully on the safe side of the line. These people use internet with safeguards and filters. Then there are some who point out that you can’t hide forever, that you need to learn to keep a handle on yourself, and that there’s no greatness in having bechira if you don’t use it. These people prefer to surf unrestrained, and learn from any mistakes.

There aren’t many, if any, halachos of internet to broach or obey, yet people trying to maintain their religious integrity have difficulty moving from group to group. They haven’t been trained to live that way. It feels alarmingly free or unnecessarily constrained. They’re used to drawing the line in one location, and aren’t comfortable moving it too far.

And I’m betting that’s how it is in most “hashkafa” cases. It’s just a matter of where you draw your lines, and how far you’re willing to move them for the sake of a partner. Someone with no internet may be willing to have filtered internet as might someone with free-ranging internet habits, but rarely will someone with none feel comfortable moving to free-range, and the reverse.

…And that, folks, was Bad4 coming to terms with the necessity of hashkafic comparisons.

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21 thoughts on “What is this Thing Called Hashkafa?

  1. Amongst the things that fall under the realm of hashkafa are: television/movies/videos, various gradations of non-Jewish music (and Jewish music), media acknowledged, internet, time spent learning, shirt color, location and color of yarmulke, etc. None of these things are inherently religious matters, but to many, they make all the difference in the world.

    Many of those issues have Halachic implications.

  2. It seems to me, that when it comes to religion, people have a comfort zone. “This is what I’m used to and this is where I’m used to drawing the line,” type of comfort zone.

    The problem is, nobody wants to get married outside their comfort zone.

    This is of course, a relatively new phenomenon.

  3. The problem is, nobody wants to get married outside their comfort zone.

    People use minutia as proxies. Someone who has unfettered internet access is probably the type of guy who follows sports, reads newpapers, has an interest in secular studies, etc. Since dating periods are so short, people almost have no choice but to use proxies. The question is then why not marry someone who follows sports? Because many Yeshivish girls and guys are told their entire lives that these things are evil, and it’s hard to shake that.

  4. The question is then why not marry someone who follows sports? Because many Yeshivish girls and guys are told their entire lives that these things are evil, and it’s hard to shake that.

    And that’s the real problem.

  5. Bad4,
    Can you do a post on the length of dates in the yeshivish world? Like 1st date should only be an hour and half etc. Would be interesting….

  6. Sort of like buying a car. Some people are more interested in what is under the hood; how powerful is the engine, how easy to maintain, what’s its safety track record etc. Others buy a car based solely on the options: how many colors does it come in, what are the seats made of, does it have automatic windows etc. I guess that those options equate to hashkafah in many cases. They aren’t what makes a car a good car but people want them anyway. And then there are the people who buy the car because it is blue and never bother to check the engine at all.

  7. Nice post 🙂 Does the last sentence reveal your personal feeling, or just explain why others see the lines as necessary?

  8. Profk – I like the car analogy. All I’m lookig for in a car is good engine, good brakes, good suspension, and a 4-6 body trunk. Everything else is negotiable.

  9. The standard answer to is:
    Halacha tells you what to do in a certain situation, hashkafa tells you whether you should be in such a situation in the first place.

    Example: I work with non-Jews. Sometimes we have meetings and the like at non-kosher restaurants. Halacha tells me whether I can enter the restaurant, whether I can drink water, whether I can order undressed salad, etc.

    My hashkafa tells me to get a job, to create in HaShem’s world, to value the general studies that are part of my job and to be an or lagoyim. At times that requires that I contemplate entrance into non-kosher restaurants. Certain people’s hashkafa would tell them that they should never be in the situation where it would come up that they may even think about such a restaurant.

  10. “All I’m lookig for in a car is good engine, good brakes, good suspension, and a 4-6 body trunk.” YOU ARE A SICKO! You’ll deserve what you get…good luck.

  11. anon-
    I presume you are judging on my units of measurement for the trunk – I’m not planning on moving bodies in it, it is just a unit of volume in common usage in certain professions. But way to make judgments on single line.
    Let me do the same. Go take your pills.

  12. I think following sports is a normal, healthy outlet for most frum guys if it isn’t extreme.
    As far as the music, this might sound petty, but many couples spend a lot of time in the car together. Realistically, you won’t be talking the WHOLE time. I think you kinda have to agree on the music.

  13. i think the color of the car and its options do have a part in the car i canlearn alot aboutt a car by its external apperiance for example if i see a car that has GPS (built in ) or has mp4 (built in)i can say that this cars is not older than 5 years etc same with a person

  14. I am insulted that I have been reduced to a mechanical object that is soley used for ease and comfort. You can kick the tires, check under the hood, choose the color. How come no one mentions taking it out for a test drive?

  15. I have to say, i really love this blog, and i think it’s absolutely hysterical, but I kind of disagree with ur analysis of hashkafah. one of the most important things in marriage is having similar life goals, and hashkafah often serves as a benchmark of these goals. for example, i have a friend who was recently set up with a cousin of mine. My friend and I spent a lot of time discussing whether or not she should go out with my cousin. The major issue is that my cousin’s father works, but my cousin’s planning on being a “long-term learner”, with his father’s full support (religiously and monetarily). My friend’s father works and she’s more used to this traditional kind of household, with the father supporting the family and the mother staying at home. Even though she’d be able to stay home if she married my cousin, she still just feels kind of uncomfortable with the whole idea. If she’d marry him, even if she’d have made peace with the whole long-term learner idea (which I kind of doubt, because she’s really not that into it), she would still never fully support him in his learning, which i think would probably be kind of bad for their marriage–after all, he’s learning full time because he feels that’s the most important thing he could be doing with his time, but his wife is pretty ambivalent about this tremendous expenditure of his time and money. My friend’s still undecided, but I think you get the picture–hashkafa can be a pretty strong benchmark of common life goals, which is one of the most important factors in marriage. By that token, I strongly disagree with the metaphor of a car, seeing as the features that are analogous with hashkafa are the most superficial ones, and semi-common hashkafos are a crucial factor in marriage.

  16. The seemingly superficial things such as color, location, and material of kippah, color of shirt, etc. might not be dictated by either Torah or Halacha, but like different hechshers, uniforms on soldiers, length of white coats on health professionals, or brands of foods or even sneakers (many avoid “goyishe” food brands even before looking at hecshers; is a Tiger Woods golf shirt from Nike worth as much as it used to be?), they are market signaling mechanisms (as an economist might say) and shortcuts for decision making. What information do we get from seeing a young man without a tallis in shul or woman without a hair covering… we immediately know they are single, right?. In ever larger and globalized communities, societies, and markets (even the singles “meet market”), there are too many choices. Just ask modern Orthodox singles on the Upper West Side about inability to commit because there might be somebody better coming along tomorrow. Good or bad, accurate or not, we use those superficial signals to quickly winnow and cull. The larger the market and the greater the choice, the more information we need and use to narrow our choices. It might not be intended to be so, but it’s just a manifestation of modern consumer marketing.

  17. Pingback: Repost: What is Hashkafa? | Bad for Shidduchim

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