You were born into a Hareidi family, but you decide to make a change and become Modern Orthodox.

According to Charedi authorities, is it halachically allowed for a Haredi Jew to change and become Modern Orthodox? Or is it forbidden? And, if so, why?

(In case it matters: Please assume that the Chareidi Jew's new rabbi will be an average Modern Orthodox rabbi who graduated from the Yeshiva University rabbinical school).

  • 4
    What do you mean by "allow"? It's probably frowned upon, but it's not the equivalent of going off the derech. I doubt there are Charedim who have become MO who first requested permission from Charedi rabbis for the transition. It usually occurs for other reasons (such as becoming disillusioned with the Charedi way of life).
    – Harel13
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 19:56
  • 4
    You will often have disagreement when someone changes outlook, regardless of which way it is... "allow" is not the right word.
    – bondonk
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 20:15
  • 4
    The question can also be asked the other way and there too Modern Orthodox rabbis won't generally encourage people to become charedi. Both groups think their way is the "best" or "most authentic" way (or however you want to phrase it) and still respect the others for genuinely trying.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 22:53
  • 3
    Torah is Torah. Lots of us chareidi types don't have any interest in quarreling.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 2:51
  • 2
    The labels that are given to different groups have no basis in Halacha. There’s one question about switching minhagim which is a legitimate halachic problem. The rabbi may find an issue with this in some cases. Otherwise, there’s a mishna in Avos that says “make for yourself a Rav”. So if you already have a Rav who you are going to ask, then the question is really that you are taking leave of him. If you don’t have a Rav yet, then you can pick anyone, labels don’t matter so long as they follow Halacha
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 8:09

2 Answers 2


It depends on the Charedi rabbi. It's not actually that monolithic, when you look carefully.

It also depends on what you mean by "become Modern Orthodox."

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein allowed immigrants who'd worn Hassidic garb to shift to American-style clothing (provided it was modest), shave with an electric shaver, switch their siddur text from the Hassidic one to the non-Hassidic Ashkenazi one... at the same time, when no one was left wanting to be the Boyan Hassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Feinstein begged the father of the heir-apparent to encourage his son to take on the mantle. Presumably (and this is my read on it) not because Rabbi Feinstein felt that Boyan Hassidism was the best thing ever, but what would it mean to all of its followers if nobody wanted to be the leader anymore? (It's not practical to expect the masses to change over to something else.)

Let's go back to what may be a similar scenario, the deep schism between Hassidim and Mitnagdim a few centuries ago. Rabbi Shlomo Eiger sat shiva when his son Leibl went Hassidic; the grandfather, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, did not. Often the greater people have the broadest perspective.

(I recall discussing R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin's family with historian Rabbi Dovid Katz of Baltimore. Not all of the Henkin kids went into the rabbinate. The attitude at the time was if you can get shomer shabbos, it's a win!)

In very broad terms, the Charedi world is concerned about the negative influences of the outside world. If a competent rabbi feels that a particular individual both needs more exposure to the outside world and won't throw out the baby with the bathwater (i.e. abandon halacha) while doing so, then they may quietly approve -- or at least not condemn -- that individual's choice. But the leadership has to be careful as they don't want to endorse that for the masses.

Think of something like this whole fight over whether Halacha demands that we read Genesis Ch. 1 as not including evolution. One very great "Haredi" rabbi was asked, shrugged, and said I wasn't there. But to the communal gatekeepers, it's too dangerous sociologically to be seen as giving in to modernity.

  • 1
    Do you see Rabbi Feinstein's heterim as defining Modern Orthodoxy?
    – Harel13
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 19:56
  • 1
    @Harel13 where exactly to put Rav Moshe is a complicated question. Here my intention was to draw a distinction between "what is right for the group" and "what can a specific individual choose to do." He would let an individual Boyaner Chassid leave Boyan if right for them, but also realized that the Boyaner masses would be devastated if they lost their leadership.
    – Shalom
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 10:32
  • "Rabbi Shlomo Eiger sat shiva when his son Leibl went Hassidic;" source?
    – wfb
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 23:56
  • @wfb sorry, just one of those things you hear in yeshiva. Hopefully someone more scholarly can track it down. (It actually touches on a halachic question ... Leibl explained that people would jump while carrying their dalet minim...)
    – Shalom
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 13:34
  • @Shalom I've heard it's a myth
    – wfb
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 0:01

It really would depend on the exact life style change. Both the Charedi and the Modern Orthodox (MO) world are too large and too diverse to give a clear definitive answer. There are certain sects, ostensibly Charedi, that are controversial enough that most Charedi rabbis would far prefer their child become MO rather than join one of those sects.

There would also be a general question of changing customs, that would apply to a switch even within the Charedi world.

In a general sense, however, as long as the MO group is not doing anything and does not have any hashkafic beliefs that the Charedi world considers outside the realm of Orthodox Judaism, there would be no halachic issue of making such a switch. Obviously they don't consider it to be ideal: otherwise the Charedi rabbis being asked would join that group themselves.

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