So there seems to have been some major beef over at e and TRS's blogs about the very poetry gathering I just wrote about. It seems to be a culmination of sorts, between TRS and his ideologies and Mottel and his. Between the Liberal and open to secularism aspect of Chabad and it's conservative counterpart. While TRS is accepting of the idea of communication between the sexes online and even in real-life social situations where there is nothing to bar the mingling of the sexes, Mottel sees it as a cancer in the heart of Crown Heights, and laments the fact that in the very epicenter of everything that Chabad stands for, and from where it emanates to the world, there should be gatherings that not only bring to question principles of Chassidut, but principles of halacha as well.
To me the disagreement is of interest since I was not aware of this schism until very recently. It seems that the children of the founding generation of Chabad Chassidut in America have spawned a generation that, to an extent, has become just as Americanized as many of their parents before the light of Chabad shone upon them. Yet which is correct (in regards to mingling)? Obviously neither and both, but I wish here not to speak of the objective truth, but of my own experiences on the subject:
In the past I took the stringent approach to this subject. The smallest hole in a dam is likely to cause an entire breach. Halacha and the ideals of Jewish spirituality don't allow for concessions in this realm. Yet upon reflection I questioned whether halacha was not the only factor which affected my behavior. I was by nature the type to be constantly bent over an oversized tome of Talmud, to separate himself from society into a world of individualist spirituality and by nature shun the society of the womenfolk. I concluded that it was not only halacha and tzniut that kept me from socializing, but it was part of my natural disturbing level of timidness. I was only using halacha as an excuse to fall deeper into the trap of my own pathologically unsocial personality. It's not that I didn't believe in speaking to women, it's that I was unable to, even if the situation called for it. Instead of becoming more religious I was actually becoming a social hermit of sorts.
But there are also more generalistic concerns at play here, such as whether total separation of the sexes from an early age is really the best and socially 'healthiest' way to go about things. You see, while it could be it is the religious ideal, the fact is that in many cases the only representation one receives of the opposite sex is the gross misrepresentations of the media. Which in turn causes what I see as a derivative of the principle that "separation makes the heart grow fonder", which is that upon the absence of a person or thing a person can develop a fanciful nostalgia for them. I'm not certain this is always true, but for young men at least, a certain untrue and unhealthy glorification of the fairer sex can develop upon the lengthy lack of a female presence. In my opinion most of us are far more corrupted than the type of individual these halachot were intended for. If anything we require the unideal reality of "rehabilitation". In this instance of "עת לעשות לה הפרו תורתך" one of the only potent forms of rehabilitation is to interact with actual individuals of the opposite sex with the hopes of dampening of this false glorification.
That is if one views the problem from a psychological perspective, but from an ideological perspective there are also good reasons to be flirting. But it is only one of two legitimate, but fundamentally different, outlooks on Judaism. One approach is exclusive, as I was when I was younger, and states that every evil inclination that has ever entered the minds of our people to cause them to sin have been caused by the direct or indirect influence of the ung-dly nations whom we have lived amongst, but during eras when the people of G-d have shunned all influences that were not our own, and cleansed the heathen spirit from within them and without, they were capable of creating a Utopian, g-dly, purely Jewish, society. And if we followed in their footsteps, and threw off of ourselves all the corruptions of the alien gods in our midst, we would be capable of the same spiritual utopia.
The other, absurdly inclusive approach, suggests that "Torah" means 'teachings' or 'instructions'. The instructions are for life itself. If one hides themselves away in a Beit Midrash all the time what opportunity will they have to apply the Torah to their lives. The Torah supposes you engage in life in all it's aspects. In the time of the Talmud our sages were part and parcel of the society around them, and were able to employ EVERY rule of the Torah in reality, the same rules that, to our loss, have become mere theory and intellectual speculation in our time. According to this outlook then, engaging in life and in real world situations (like interacting with females), yet acting in a lofty manner though the application of Torah principles is the very essence of our propose here in this world.
All this is from my own experience though, and does not reflect the Chasidic approach to the subject which spurred the argument I mentioned. Yet I am not discussing the issue with those premises in mind since I believe that much of that movement was founded fallaciously, so it's not worth considering...
And to think; all this and I haven't even mentioned how this relates to the shidduchim issue!