Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yeshiva Hogwarts: Why Wizards are Really Haredim

The wizarding world of Harry Potter, incredibly enough, is a lot like the Haredi world. To the extent that if you are not paying close attention you might easily confuse the two.

1. Wizards and Haredim both live in isolated communities, rejecting the modern world around them. They do this despite the fact that they often live in close physical proximity to some of the major cultural centers of the surrounding society.
2. They have their own legal systems handling the full life cycle of issues to the extent that it is expected that one would go from birth to death without making any recourse to the legal system of the outside world.
3. These communities have their own newspapers which focus on what is going on in the community while ignoring the outside world around them.
4. These communities have well developed entertainment industries, particularly in regards to music, so that members of these communities usually know little about the popular entertainment culture.
5. Both groups send their children to special schools which focus on subjects of interest to themselves but to few people outside their communities.
6. Neither of their school systems have much use for math, science or literature. As a result graduates of these school systems do not have the equivalent of a high school diploma.
7. On a good day members of these communities dress as if they were living in the nineteenth century. Other times one would think they had gone all the way back to the Middle-Ages.
8. Most of the men sport long unkempt beards.
9. These are both very bookish cultures, particularly for large volumes of arcane knowledge.
10. Neither of these groups seems to have much use for movies and television. Radio seems to be the furthest they go.

This raises an interesting issue as to the nature of the wizarding world. We know why Haredim live as they do. They view the outside world as a cultural and theological menace to themselves and believe that the only way to preserve their way of life is to isolate themselves as much as possible. Why does the wizarding world isolate itself? Most wizards are unable to operate within the Muggle world. Even Arthur Weasley, who studies Muggles as a hobby, has trouble with basic things like handling money. We are told by Hagrid, back in the Philosopher’s Stone, that the Muggles needed to be kept unaware of the existence of the wizarding world because if people knew about magic they would constantly bother wizards to solve their problems for them instead of handling it themselves. This though does not explain why wizards for the most part do not live as Muggles. The wizarding world does not seem to have any special beliefs unique to themselves. They do not appear to have any formal religion. What purpose is served by them going off and living as their own society? This something that J.K Rowling has never explained.

2 comments:

Sitting on the Fence said...

I remember when I read the first Harry Potter book, and I remember thinking the same exact thing. Hogwarts is just a Yeshiva, and they practice magic instead of Judaism. And to be honest, to the average gentile, visiting a Yeshiva would provide just as much wonderment and bewilderment as a tour of Hogwarts.

This is great stuff, how you laid it out. And the parallels go even deeper. I mean, look at dumbledore, and then look at R' Ahron Feldman at Ner. It's scary.

I'm just now reading through some of your stuff, and I like it a lot. Come visit by blog, onyeshivish.blogspot.com . I would love to have some of your input over there.

Nikol said...

While I mostly agree with your post, this article by Obadiah Shoher presents the haredim in somewhat different light http://samsonblinded.org/blog/not-true-rabbis.htm Shoher argues against haredim isolating themselves from other Jews instead of bringing the religion to masses.