News & Links

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

185 comments

  1. Am I the only one disturbed by reports that R’ Elyashiv referred to these crooks as “rodfim”? It’s as if geneiva is no big deal; it’s only bad inasmuch as it affects the image and funding of the Charedi world.

    (I feel the same whenever something is condemned first as a “Chillul Hashem,” by the way.)

  2. Nachum,
    I think that before you start condemning Rav Elyashiv, you must understand his audience. To his audience.

    a) A rodef is a much stronger charge then a ganuv.

    b) Many people in his audience may dispute that it is geneiva, so that charge would not accomplish anything.

    I am not a posek and do not know what his opinion is on the matter, or if those who claim it is not geneiva have a leg to stand on, but I do know that his charge that these people are rodfim carries a lot more weight in the world if Israeli Chareidim then any charge of geneiva.

  3. What do you mean – many people in his audience dispute that it is geneiva?! If they are of this opinion, and they respect what R. Elyashiv says – then it is HIS duty to inform them that they are wrong. I can’t believe that anyone with half a brain, and the moral sense of a normal human being, thinks it’s OK to misappropriate public funds through false declarations. And if the world these people inhabit has produced moral pygmies of this stature – then it says an awful lot about what the Torah they have learnt has taught them – which would be less than nothing. It’s surely better to learn no Torah at all, than to learn lot’s of it and take out that it’s muttar to lie and cheat your fellow.

    What is blindingly obvious is that this story is the almost inevitable consequence of this iniquitous system, which needs to be radically reformed. What’s really needed from R. Elyashiv is to take some responsibility for the devastated lives of those who have been sucked into a system which promotes kollel for all, and deprives the rest of the means to get a normal job (which usually requires at least a high school diploma). It is already too late for those who have had their potential careers destroyed through lack of education, and for all those who are not suited to sit in front of a gemoro all day, who are 40 years old and have nothing to show for their time in kollel except a cigarette habit, a pile of debt and a broken soul. Those who direct this system must begin to accept responsibility for the lives they have condemned to poverty.

  4. There are mekoros that equate theft with murder. See these sources: http://www.cbeyshiurim.com/Shiurim/BavaKamma/RSR-BavaKamma-GeneivaUGezeila-091206.pdf

  5. Yes, but that:

    1. Doesn’t make the thief a rodef.

    2. R’ Elyashiv (reportedly) said that the term “rodef” is used specifically because they are making it tough on the others.

    By the way, Former YU, I didn’t use the word “condemn.” OK?

  6. It reminds me of R’HS saying that if gneiva had been listed as a yesh omrim in the m”b, it would be taken more seriously.
    KT

  7. i doubt what r.elyashiv says is accurately reported. if he said they are rodfim because they impact israeli society – the poor, the IDF, etc., that may be hyperbole but certainly understandable. If he said they are rodfim because they make it tougher on the rest of the chareidim, that would be rather distressing.

    i would prefer he used a biblical reference and demand that hibadlu mitoch haEidah harah; there is still too much coddling of heimeshe criminals. The impact is devastating.

  8. The negative opinion voiced here about harav Elyashiv allegedly declaring the Hareidi scammers to be ‘rodfim’ is misguided – in my opinion. I believe that he was reacting to another aspect that was reported by Rafi; that the scam was allegedly brought to the attention of the police by the extremist anti-zionist opponents of the scammers and their community. According to this account, the scammers used the names of those avreichim who don’t take state money in order to create fictitious attendees of their kollelim. Now, the charge of ‘mesira’ is a common ploy used in Hareidi circles to attack those who report crimes committed by Haredim. Rav Elyashiv was then stating that ‘mesira’ should be given no consideration in this case since the crime was destined to be uncovered and to blacken the face of the entire Hareidi world. Instead of condemning the alleged ‘mosrim’, he would say that they should be congratulated for exposing the matter and helping to mitigate the possible repercussions.

  9. Joel Rich, that’s a fantastic line. I laughed out loud.

  10. R’Rafi,
    It was not for nothing that I was called the keeper of the bubba meisas back in the day 🙂 (remembering a pshat in a ktzot probably would’ve been better but…)
    KT

  11. Re online bar mitzva stuff: as if we didn’t already know liberal Judaism is absolutely useless.

  12. “But meaning is just what many of the independent families say they are looking for, and not finding, within the synagogue walls. Eli Kapsack’s mother, Joanne, said she was put off by the “cookie cutter” nature of the bar mitzvahs at their San Francisco synagogue. “It was like, “insert name here,’ ” she said. And when she asked whether they could hold the ceremony somewhere else, the rabbi said no. That’s when Ms. Kapsack turned to Rabbi Miller, a former congregational rabbi now working online, who was willing to conduct the ceremony around a relative’s pool.”

    Too perfect.

  13. Jon_Brooklyn:

    >Re online bar mitzva stuff: as if we didn’t already know liberal Judaism is absolutely useless

    It’s not what you don’t know, it’s what you know that isn’t so…

    Yes, a lot of liberal Judaism is “useless”, but not all of it. E.g., my cousin, a child of intermarriage, had his bar-mitzvah at PSJC, which has a lesbian rabbi. Despite this, he performed well at his bar-mitzvah, leading half the davening, and saying his haftarah, quite musically (his grandfather having been a chazan in Brooklyn, whose better-known brothers wrote songs and prayers that we all sing today). He gave two terrific speeches, which included his non-Jewish father quite sympathetically while clearly declaring allegiance to his mother’s Judaism.

    My father a”h learned to lein and lead davening in his late 60s and early 70s, to help out their summer C-nagogue. In doing so, it brought him from atheism to agnosticism.

    Much as it may no longer be my cup of tea, I’m loath to write off all heterodox Judaism.

    >>willing to conduct the ceremony around a relative’s pool.”

    >Too perfect.

    And yet, where is it written that a bar-mitzvah needs to be in a shul? My father’s bar-mitzvah, such as it was, was an interview with a local rabbi in his office, where he demonstrated that he could read a little Hebrew. His Zeide brought him in, as his parents never went to synagogue – they threw off Judaism after an Orthodox upbringing in Proskurov and Berdichev. He leined his first haftara on Yom Kippur in his 70th year.

    We had an informal bar-mitzva at our seder table last year. Our friends’ son, again a child of intermarriage, for whom I had been sandek at his bris, was 13. I had been trying to get him interested in one-on-one tutoring in Jewish stuff, which his parents kept conflating with “preparation for a bar-mitzvah, which we then have spend a lot of money on.” Not at all, I just thought he should have some Jewish education, but they couldn’t get out of their blinders.

    So anyway, at the seder, he had passed his 13th birthday, and hadn’t done anything towards a bar-mitzvah or Jewish education, beyond some books I had given him in previous years. So at the Second Cup, I called for attention, had L___ read the brachot Asher goal et avoteinu and Hagafen, everyone said Amen, and drank, and then we said “Mazel tov, you’re a bar-mitzvah,” and gave him some Telushkin. Because that’s all a bar-mitzvah is – public performance of something that only a Jewish adult can do. In this case, make a bracha and have others be yotzei on him.

    Another Jon in Brooklyn, who is thus content to keep his silly handle, “thanbo.”

    PS I gotta say, every time I saw the name Kapsack, I read it as Knapsack.

  14. Muslim schools in UK using anti-semitic texts:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/world/europe/23britain.html?hp

    Aside from the policitcal aspects, I saw this quote:

    “One of the textbooks, according to a BBC article about the program, prescribed execution as the penalty for gay sex, and outlined differing viewpoints as to whether death should be by stoning, immolation by fire or throwing people off a cliff.”

    and thought — when we do starting teaching our kids these types of gemaras? Tenth grade?

  15. I believe MK Amsalem’s offense leading to the call in the link below was to say that those who will excel should stay in yeshiva full-time and the rest of the population should work.

    http://www.vosizneias.com/69401/2010/11/22/jerusalem-council-of-torah-sages-call-on-mk-amsalem-to-resign

    Anyway, it sheds an interesting light on the compromise whereby 4 Ashkenazi charedim, 4 Sephardi charedim, and 4 datei-leumi were appointed to the rabbinical courts of Israel. How many of them believe that religious Jews should not work?

  16. Joel
    Th quote is correct and excellent.
    Actually,I think it was R.Dr.David Berger who stated it in an article in Tradition many years ago.

  17. daat y,
    may well be, I heard it from R’HS many years ago, at the same time he told a story about a fellow who had been in Yeshiva and was convicted of some type of crime (robbery, white collar or something) who said his rabbeim had never told him it was prohibited, so R’HS said (then – this is probably 25 years ago) that he told his shiur every year that gezel is forbidden.
    KT

  18. Jon_Brooklyn on November 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm writes: “Re online bar mitzva stuff: as if we didn’t already know liberal Judaism is absolutely useless.”

    I read it differently — the families quoted are not really “involved” in organized Judaism at all.

  19. Thanbo – look no need to take my diction that seriously. It looks like we agree on the important part – bar mitzvas are silly. All I’m (really) saying past that is, a religion that has all this emphasis on a non-event, and next to no emphasis on anything substantial as far as living your life goes, isn’t a religion so much as a commodity.

    If you really want to know, I don’t think bar mitzvas should get anywhere near the attention they get in our denomination either. “having it at a shul” is just as silly to my mind. But don’t *you* see the irony in someone looking for a meaningful ceremony, and consequently doing it poolside??? Do you not agree that the “rabbis” portrayed mentioned here aren’t so much giving “spiritual guidance” or whatever, rather selling a product (note the salaries) – and yes, I DO think that definitely separates us from them.

  20. regarding the article on conservative openess to children of intermarriage: i don’t really care either way whether the conservative movement tilts toward conversion or inclusion. what i think is more important is what it says about the demographics of the conservative movement that that this has become such a big issue to begin with.

  21. lawrence kaplan

    I seem to remember that it was Jacob Katz who said the vort about geneiva, and he referred to a “yesh nohagim be-medinos elu” in the Rema, not the MB.

    Certainly RHS did not originate it, and I do not imagine that he would take the crdit for it.

  22. I just read the Gary Rosenblatt piece on feminism and Orthodoxy, and I’m a bit unclear: was Berkovitz told by R. Goldberg and R. Lichtenstein that they would not talk to her, or that did they talk to her and eventually tell her ‘no”?

    If the latter, that would certainly seem to be problematic, but I don’t really have much of a problem with the latter. After all, even if I disagree with him (I’m not taking a position, just making the argument), Dr. Frimer is surely right that sometimes the answer is ‘no.’

    Now, as far as her substantive concerns: I certainly agree that the RCA and Orthodox leaders have failed to lead on these issues (and no, Gil, simply saying ‘no’ to everything does not count as leadership; leaders need a vocabulary with more than one word in it). However – and in fairness to Gil – feminists also need to accept that ‘leading’ is not the same as ‘saying yes to everything we want.’

    Conclusion: this is a tough issue!

  23. I suspect the reaction she faces has a lot to do with how she presented herself and the issues.

  24. “I suspect the reaction she faces has a lot to do with how she presented herself and the issues.”

    So what you are doing is making an assumption that she did something wrong in her discussions with the various Rabbaim? If ever there is an example of a preconceived notion…this is it. There is NOTHING in the article to suggest that she did anything more than humbly ask questions.

    If I had to guess, the reaction she faces has a lot to do with the fact that the audience is reactionary.

  25. Yes, I am explicitly making that assumption. It is based on my knowledge of the two rabbis and how they typically react to people who approach them.

  26. lawrence kaplan

    We do not have enough information to judge.

  27. Gil, what’s the point of commenting before you know one way or another?

    Does anyone know for sure?

    (I should add that above I mean “if the FORMER that would certainly seem to be problematic…”).

  28. I was there. I wrote extensive notes. So I can judge her tone. She said A LOT of controversial things that Rosenblat didn’t quote (wonder why).

    I really don’t want to resort to ad hominems about the way she dresses, covers her hair, etc, but…. the fact that she claimed to be very strict with halacha seemed… I don’t know, dubious? Things that have to do with women’s rights, yes, I am sure she is, but I wasn’t so convinced from other things she said.

    She admitted she would make a minyan with ten women but that her community doesn’t allow it, so she doesn’t. She makes mizumin with a mixed crowd (2 women and a man), etc. She said a few other things that were really strange, but didn’t expand. She spoke from emotion, not halacha, and that was troubling. Saying “Hashem knows me, and he couldn’t have created me and have me not act in a certain way, because he knows it goes against who I am”, needs clarification, and she didn’t. Honestly, all the arguments she made could have been applied to gay marriage too. I wasn’t convinced.
    Also, when she asked RAL about dancing with the torah, and quoted “nachat ruach”, he snapped “a torah isn’t a behaima!”. Personally, I LOL’ed. Rivka Blau pretty much said that it was probably her tone and way she approached them, but was too nice to really say that straight out.

    Best point she made, IMO, was pointing out that “tartei de’sasrei” is problemactic, yet ppl do it, and there were poskim who wrote t’shuvot to justify it. She claimed the same thing could be said with many women’s issues, but poskim don’t want to. It was a valid point to a degree. Especially because I daven at the 7:15 erev shabbos minyan at my shul in the summer which just happens to be “tartei desasrei”

  29. Also, the MP3 should be available from Torah in Motion (probably costs about 10 bucks) so if you are really curious you can judge for yourself.

    I would have preferred a more RW speaker to balance it out, but Dr Rivka Blau was pretty good. Everyone was very nice, and minus a few snarky comments from one panellist regarding Charedim, it was pretty civil.

  30. Jerry: The point is being melamed zekhus (easily) on two Gedolei Torah.

  31. or you can wait 2 weeks till I review it and then it will be free
    KT

  32. ari
    what is the tartei dsatrei in the womens issues?
    KT

  33. Gil: yes, but at the risk of being mevazeh an innocent Jew if you’re wrong! Just don’t say anything next time (and wait for someone like ari – who apparently was there – to comment).

    Ari: thank you for the info. I’ll have a listen. Anyway, that’s pretty much what I suspected. The problem with those on the feminist side of things is that anything less than ‘yes’ seems to be unacceptable. (Of course the problem with the other side is that they all seem to think being the Party of No equals Leadership).

  34. >Also, when she asked RAL about dancing with the torah, and quoted “nachat ruach”, he snapped “a torah isn’t a behaima!”.

    That was the Shammai answer. Which godol gave her/ will give her the Hillel answer?

  35. JR- Sorry meant to say that she pointed out how people have no problem with other things that are halachically questionable, and some poskim even defend these actions. She gave tartei desasreh as an example, I can think of not sitting in a suckah on shmini atzeres, eating before shofar on rosh hashanah, kiddush on a shot glass, etc of issues that are controversial but people defend the practice, but when it is a women’s issue they don’t. Not a bad point, though obviously I can see where we would draw a “yesh lechalek”

    And I know Gil doesn’t like most of those things I pointed out, but many frum people do them, myself included.

  36. > That was the Shammai answer. Which godol gave her/ will give her the Hillel answer?

    She may be the nicest woman in the world, but I would guess the Hillel answer wouldn’t have helped either. I think if you listen to her talk you would agree. No isn’t something she felt was the right answer after learning the issues. Dr Frimer actually told her that she may have thought R’ZN was rude to her, but in Techumim he published an article about women participating in the wedding service (she approached him about that, RAL about dancing with a torah), so he obviously took her question, or at least the issue, seriously.

  37. lawrence kaplan

    Ari amy have LOL, but if if, indeed, Rav Lichtenstein answered her question about nachat ruah with “Torah isn’t a beheimah, I believe that was a completely inappropriate answer.Perhaps he meant as a (not very funny) quip, and went on to discus the matter seriosly. After all the beheimah is a KORBAN, and I can see people seriously arguing back then that one does not make light of a korban. Sound familiar?

  38. “>Also, when she asked RAL about dancing with the torah, and quoted “nachat ruach”, he snapped “a torah isn’t a behaima!”. ”

    It is not only RAL who was opposed to dancing with a Torah by a female-I once heard an MO Rabbi who almost never got publicly angry-state upon seeing women grab a Torah for dancing Simchat Torah-a Torah”is not a TOY”

  39. MiMedinat HaYam

    jews with guns — there are several org’s / clubs of this type, esp in the northeast.

    conservative keruv (sic) = understanding non jewish customs, but not to understand jewish customs. also, “right wing” C was somewhat acceptable; now they allow solomon schechter schools to take in non jews without formal commitment to convert.

    jews have arrived — at a museum open on shabat. also has patrileneal jews on display there. pop culture judaism. (but it sells tickets. unlike below.)

    jewish toys — a friend in the business is always telling me there is no $ in the jewish toys business. not worthwhile to get into it.

  40. “a Torah is not a TOY”

    That’s right! Those silly, empty-headed girls should stop pretending a Torah is just another one of their dolls, and let the men get back to some serious spirituality. Now go sit yourselves back down in the ezras nashim and twiddle your thumbs while we men split our time between dancing and doing whiskey shots!

  41. Aryeh

    “She may be the nicest woman in the world, but I would guess the Hillel answer wouldn’t have helped either.”

    It wouldn’t have made her cry – that’s the point.

    What you quoted R. Aharon Lichtenstein as “he snapped “a torah isn’t a behaima!”” was an answer, presumably, borne out of exhasperation or impatience. Yes, he is a human. That’s fine. So was Shammai. But Hillel was too. So the Hillel answer may not be what she was looking for, but it wouldn’t have been snapped and it wouldn’t make someone cry in public.

  42. I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way, but it’s just something that has been bugging me:

    I can recall a couple of occasions where a female feminist scholar or advocate confronted some sort of Rosh Yeshiva or rav over a feminist hot topic, or something to that effect, and the story ends with the feminist scholar crying because of a harsh – maybe overly so – remark by the rav.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think the crying does any good to the feminist cause. It may actually hurt it. I can’t think of any other context in which crying in a public discussion like that would be considered acceptable, or somehow demonstrative of a larger point. And for better or for worse (I may not like it, but I think it’s a reality), it just calls attention to what many would perceive as the female/male divide.

    Maybe I need to think this through a bit more, and if someone thinks I’m wrong please point it out and I’d be more than glad to change my mind.

  43. My assumption is that either she misinterpreted R. Aharon or she pestered him until he felt a need to speak harshly. Either way, I don’t see how any of us can (or are halalakhically permitted to) assume wrongdoing on his part. I also don’t think any of us should discuss this any further, even if it is now in the public domain because of the Toronto lecture.

  44. >Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think the crying does any good to the feminist cause. It may actually hurt it.

    Maybe she didn’t turn it on, but it just – happened?

    Also, one of the things we are always reminded is that the feminists want to be just like men/ think they are just like men. Since this is evidently a bad thing, maybe some graphic reminders that they are not is not a bad thing and indeed not bad for their cause.

  45. “Either way, I don’t see how any of us can (or are halalakhically permitted to) assume wrongdoing on his part.”

    It’s not a question of “wrongdoing”; it’s a question of whether a very wise man acted as wisely as he should have in a particular situation. There’s a difference. And, Gil, you seem to be in a pattern; questioning anyone who you put in a special category (the Ramban, RAL) is off limits because you assume that they always do the right and wise thing. But great men do err sometimes; they sometimes do not act as wisely as they should. And we can learn lots of lessons from that, unless we are always forced to “assume” it can’t be the case.

  46. I’m not sure she said she cried, and she wasn’t crying in Toronto, she just was getting very emotional the entire time, even before talking about gedolim not answering her. She was upset at Dr Frimer for saying that he cannot allow woman’s aliyot because of “halachic integrity”. The entire time she was very emotional, and I have to say, I was very uncomfortable when she mentioned the stories with RAL and RZNG.

    You know what, I spoke to Sperber afterwords and he wasn’t that friendly, and I am sure had I pestered him more he would have been a bit rude. Big deal. That’s life, and I am sure the way she remembers the story changes every time she says it. Her whole rant was bizarre, and even some of the left wing people there felt uncomfortable through it.

  47. “liberal Judaism is absolutely useless”

    Reform Jews are much less likely to violate the prohibitions of talking during services.

    And Reform Rabbis are much less likely to get busted for financial crimes.

    My conclusion is that Orthodox Jews are better at keeping some mitzvot, and Reform Jews are better at others.

  48. I thought about that actually – the reason for all that is numbers. Reform Jews are much less likely to talk during services because so few of them show up to them, so rarely. Reform rabbis are less likely to get busted for such crimes because, again, they make so much money to begin with and there are far fewer of them than Yeshivish rabbis (though I wonder how many rabbis, per se, have gotten busted for financial crimes.) My conclusions is that just because our failures are more conspicuous doesn’t make more significant.

  49. I think it would help just a bit if no one bothered talking about this TIM situation until they actually heard the tape? And R. Gil, gotta tell ya, the whole “it’s assur to question the actions of gedolei Torah” thing is a bit off the wall (and probably a tad incoherent, seeing the number of times we see that happen in the Tanakh, Gemara, etc.)

  50. Gil: “I don’t see how any of us can (or are halalakhically permitted to) assume wrongdoing on his part.”

    Why must you assume anything? Just say “I don’t know.” In fact, even though I agree with Joseph Kaplan’s comment above, I wouldn’t even go that far! All I asked was if anyone knew what happened. I didn’t assume anything PRECISELY because I genuinely wanted to know.

  51. Jon_Brooklyn and Jerry: See the Rambam’s Peirush HaMishnayos to Avos 1:6. This is an halakhic obligation.

  52. Money quote from the article on Avos and mitzvos:
    “The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule. It is wrong and unbecoming of members of a Torah nation. This is especially true in regard to a Youtube video done with sarcasm, cynicism and an openly mocking, deprecating tone.”

  53. Gil —

    that is the money quote but what R’Hoffman did not address is that it is not possible that maximalist position agree with the character in the YouTube video. No one can believe that the Avos wrote sifrei Torah to be mekayem the last mitzvah of the Torah, there is no halachic way for Yaakov to have converted and married Rachel and Leah without a beis din for the giyur (or without eidei kidushin or a miynan for sheva brachos, etc etc). I believe the point of the Youtube video was to demonstrate that there are limits even to the maximalist position, which need to be noted and recognized. The maximalists are bothered by this because then the obvious question arises as to where to draw the line, but that should not allow the maximalists to maintain a position that cannot be correct.

  54. Yes and no: The maximalists would argue that Yaakov was able to fulfill the Torah because those requirements did not apply to him (e.g. the Brisker Rav on kiddushin of the Avos). The point of the video was simply to mock the idea that the Avos kept mitzvos by knocking an extreme and unknowledgeable presentation of it. And by doing so, mocking some of the greatest Torah scholars in history.

    If there is any parallel, it is perhaps to the controversy over the publication of Parashas Derakhim, in which some rabbis objected to the ahistorical nature of the lomdus. But in this video, the apparent objective is to denounce any form of the idea that the Avos kept mitzvos.

  55. I asked someone who watched the streaming video (I have noit had a chance to do so yet) “What do you think Berkowitz meant when she said that R. Goldberg and R. Lichtenstein ‘rebuffed’ her? Did she mean they treated her poorly or that they said “no” to what she asked (or some combination of both)?” He responded: “It was both. Her ‘pain’ was that they did not take her seriously enough to engage in an intellectual and source based dialogue.”

  56. Gil,

    I fully agree that mocking is not appropriate but I am not sure whether the video was mocking the great rishonim and acharonim who held the maximalist view or the fact that our educational system allows that view to be presented in a way which is not true either to history or to the lomdus. And even if you want to argue an approach like the Brisker Rav’s re: kiddushin (whose hagdarah was always difficult for me to understand but that is acm”l), then at least note that and engage the issue that even the maximalist position has some limits, and confront the question of where you draw the line in an intellectually honest way. That is what I believe the mocking was about — not the shitos rishonim, but those who engage in Torah study without respect for those shitos by not thinking through the implications of what they are saying.

  57. Gil: “See the Rambam’s Peirush HaMishnayos to Avos 1:6. This is an halakhic obligation.”

    I’ll quote it in full, so people can see what we’re talking about (comments to follows – and correct me if you were referring to something else).

    והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות – עניינו, שאם יהיה אדם שאינו ידוע לך, לא תדע האם צדיק הוא או רשע, ותראהו עושה מעשה או אומר דבר, שאם יפורש באופן מה הריהו טוב, ואם תפרשהו באופן אחר הרי הוא רע – פרשהו כטוב, ואל תחשוב בו רע. אבל אם היה איש ידוע שהוא צדיק, ומפורסם במעשי הטוב, ונראה לו מעשה שכל תכונותיו יורו על היותו מעשה רע, ואין להכריע בו שהוא מעשה טוב אלא בדוחק רב מאד ובאפשרות רחוקה – צריך לפרש אותו כטוב, הואיל ויש צד אפשרות להיותו טוב, ואין מותר לחושדו, ועל זה יאמרו: “כל החושד כשרים לוקה בגופו”. וכן אם היה רשע ונתפרסמו מעשיו, ואחר כך ראינוהו עושה מעשה שראיותיו כולן מורות שהוא טוב, ובו צד אפשרות רחוקה מאד לרע – צריך להשמר ממנו, ולא להאמין בו טוב, הואיל ויש בו אפשרות לרע, אמר: +משלי כו, כה+ “כי יחנן קולו אל תאמן בו, כי שבע תועבות בליבו”. ואם היה בלתי ידוע, והמעשה נוטה אל אחד משני הקצוות – צריך בדרך המעלה שידון לכף זכות, איזה משני הקצוות שתהיה.

  58. Here are a couple of factors that I think affect your position:

    1) The chiyyuv lefaresh oso k’tov – and the entire keta’ here in general – seems to envision a scenario where you see a person violating an issur, or some such. For instance, let’s say you see a person eating a hot dog wrapped in tinfoil with a Hebrew National logo on it. It doesn’t seem to envision how to evaluate interactions with others. This brings me to my next point…

    2) If a person about whom it is yadu’a she’hu tzaddik potentially sins AGAINST ANOTHER PERSON, then I think we have a problem, and this Rambam might not help us. After all, that other person is entitled to favorable judgment just as much as any other person, potentially even as much as the tzaddik (if we assume any less, that would make nonsense of the rule to be “dan es kol ha’adam l’kaf zechus”). In fact, I don’t think the Rambam provides any guidance on how to judge relative claims to favorable judgment.

    3) On the other hand, the Rambam’s lashon here is telling. In the standard case he says both “פרשהו כטוב” and “אל תחשוב בו רע.” Likewise, in the case of the tzaddik he says both, “צריך לפרש אותו כטוב” and “ואין מותר לחושדו.” This may or may not have been intended to convey anything, but I think the upshot of this feature of what the Rambam says is as follows:

    If we are in a situation (e.g. when two people have potentially acted improperly towards each other) where, absent more information, we cannot possibly actively judge one favorably without judging the other person unfavorably, we STILL have an option: withholding judgment (not being chosheid anyone) – possibly pending further information. That is the position I took above, and I think the Rambam’s words confirm this.

  59. >The point of the video was simply to mock the idea that the Avos kept mitzvos by knocking an extreme and unknowledgeable presentation of it. And by doing so, mocking some of the greatest Torah scholars in history.

    The point of the video was to mock yeshiva bochurim. Hoffman correctly realizes that if this is what yeshiva bochurim are saying, it’s because this is what they’re taught (or what they infer, being inexperienced, from what they are taught). At the end he still recommends that the masses be catered to be propagating only the maximalist position (except, nebech, BTs) even though it was this teaching which gave rise to the video. Chas ve-sholom we should teach a plausible, confident Orthodoxy also derived from our authentic traditional sources which can inspire the masses rather than give rise to this cynicism. Instead, we must defend what we’ve always done because this is what we’re doing! Da ma le-hashiv le-YouTube.

  60. The video was certianly mocking the “maximalist” position. And let us be clear, R’ Hoffman did not present them as three equal views but the maximalist one as first among equals, i.e. the one taught to children and the others limited to the baal tshuva or the occassional questioner. Or in other words that it is most true. Perhaps Gil can elaborate to the less knowledgeable about the issues raised in the video since R’ Hoffman makes plain this is to be taught to children as the Jewish view of history.

  61. Gil: “The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule.”

    Then don’t say ridiculous things. If you have a defense for the Brisker Rav’s position that doesn’t involve defining down what “the Torah” means (until it’s pretty much not “the Torah” anymore) then by all means lay it out.

    In general, I am skeptical of attempts to completely remake the Avos in our own image.

    As far as I’m concerned, the video is quite humorous and effective in that it mocks the uncritical and unthinking nature of many of the assumptions of the hamon ‘am. If there are rabbanim who are also guilty of this, that is their problem.

  62. “Da ma le-hashiv le-YouTube”

    Some advice: slap a patent on that sucker and stick it on a t-shirt. I’m thinking a nice, big display at the Seforim Sale – all the bells and whistles!

  63. >Some advice: slap a patent on that sucker and stick it on a t-shirt. I’m thinking a nice, big display at the Seforim Sale – all the bells and whistles!

    If I do that, I may merit another 5 Towns Jewish Times article myself.

  64. From R. Hoffman’s article: “The overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position, and this is the general position that should be taught in our Torah institutions.”

    Fine. Then take it like a man.

    The bottom line is that much to the chagrin of people like Gil and R. Hoffman (to borrow from R. Hoffman), the modern insistence that our leaders be sophisticated and responsible in their approach to Yiddishkeit is not going anywhere, and certainly will not be chased away by articles like this meant to bully everyone else into submission.

    If you really, truly hold to the maximalist position, then be prepared to defend it critically instead of hiding behind the Radvaz.

  65. What I find striking is not that no one is willing to defend the maximalist position, but that here we are told 1) you can’t criticize it but on the other hand 2) you should shove the minimalist position under the rug, or at most teach it only alongside the maximalist position.

    (How Hoffman is not embarrassed to quote the Noda Beyehuda as saying that only the maximalist positions *exists* is beyond me. Evidently he thinks it’s striking testimony as to how primary the maximalist position is, but does he bring honor to the Noda Beyehuda by quoting it in a medium meant to be consumed by the masses?)

  66. >>The overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position,

    This may or may not be true (I have no way of knowing), but given that he cites 4 people is support of the maximalist position and 11 on the minimalist side, the assertion is woefully unsupported and therefore extremely tendentious. The best I can make out of the article is that he is saying that we should support the maximalist position because (some) people who support the minimalist position are cynical. Not a strong argument. Indeed, it is one that feeds into the cynicism of the minimalists.

    Also, R. Hoffman would sound much more engaged, and not just reactive, if he said something along the lines of “However, if people are coming out of our yeshivos understanding the maximalist position as it is caricatured in this video, then we also have a problem and should be adjusting our teaching of this preferred position so that it is properly understood by our talmidim.”

  67. Sounds like a post in the making. It’s very easy to defend the maximalist position. The guy in the video was just an idiot.

    (BTW, Noda Bi-Yehudah’s son)

  68. Gil: “Sounds like a post in the making. It’s very easy to defend the maximalist position.”

    I doubt it, but looking forward.

  69. >>The guy in the video was just an idiot.

    That’s the point. The video is primarily mocking an attitude, not a particular position. The response to the video is not a defense of a more sophisticated maximalist position (interesting though that might be), but an assertion that these idiots are a figment of the video-maker’s imagination, by and large. Of course, such an assertion will simply be denies (“I meet them every week in shul”), but a defense of a position not presented in the video misses the point.

  70. MDJ: “Also, R. Hoffman would sound much more engaged, and not just reactive, if he said something along the lines of “However, if people are coming out of our yeshivos understanding the maximalist position as it is caricatured in this video, then we also have a problem and should be adjusting our teaching of this preferred position so that it is properly understood by our talmidim.””

    Agreed. But if R. Hoffman and others like him possessed that sort of sensitivity to nuance this would never have happened in the first place.

  71. I should add that a defense of the position that is presented in the video would also miss the point. However, if such a defense could be offered (and both Gil and R. Hoffman seem to agree that it can not), then the video-maker’s credibility in recongizing idiocy would be severely undercut.

    BTW, does anyone know if the machlokes about lentil is really in the gemara, and if so, where?

  72. gil: “But in this video, the apparent objective is to denounce any form of the idea that the Avos kept mitzvos.”

    then you misunderstood the video. the objective was for people to think about what they are saying and the possibilities outside their position doesn’t equal kefira. it objects to the literal understanding of midrashim as the only way to understand the avot. it asks the logical questions that everyone should ask if you really literally believe that the avot keep all the mitzvot including derabannans.

    btw, my son told me that his chavruta during his year in yeshiva in israel would have the exact type of arguments with him. this is not something that is taught to little kids – its adults and learned people too. we are in the age where all you need to know about judaism is what your rebbe muvhak teaches – tells – you – thats it (please do not think for yourself). the ridicule is not the torah authorities.

  73. ““The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule. It is wrong and unbecoming of members of a Torah nation. This is especially true in regard to a Youtube video done with sarcasm, cynicism and an openly mocking, deprecating tone.””

    Essentially agree-of course that does not mean that one has to agree with any particular Torah authority.Of course, I wish the Chareidi world had acted that way in the lifetime of the Rav ZT”L.
    BTW-who says that Torah authorities are saintly-they have to be honest, moral etc. For better or worse, our authorities have in general been selected by their brainpower-there may well be clerks who are at least as saintly as gdolim. Our gdolim are human.

  74. >(BTW, Noda Bi-Yehudah’s son)

    Sorry, I didn’t look it up and since Hoffman attributes it to the father, I didn’t assume that he was unreliable and meant a note by the son (or grandson, I think). Also, I should mention that through quick reading I slightly misunderstood his citing the Tzelach – I thought he meant to say that the Noda Beyehuda writes that no one disagrees with the maximalist position in general, while (according to him) he writes that no one disagreed that Yaakov converted the sisters, that is, no one disagreed with the maximalist position in this specific case. Of course that’s not the same as “the maximalist position.” Hoffman even says that Rashi explains things this “when the other two positions simply will not fit well,” which implies that these are local, rather than general explanations. In addition, he writes that this is the “common manner in which the Meforshim deal with such halachic questions.” That is, it’s halachically useful.

    And maybe someone can enlighten me, since I couldn’t find it in the Tzelach at all.

  75. No, sorry, my mistake. I had read Yechezkel but somehow absorbed Eliezer.

  76. In any case, this is the fruit of totally failing to address the needs of people with a historical sense. That we can fail to teach the minimalist position indicates that we can also fail to teach the maximalist.

  77. Charles B. Hall

    “The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule”

    R’Hoffman does just that with his slap at YU early in the essay.

    “This is especially true in regard to a Youtube video done with sarcasm, cynicism and an openly mocking, deprecating tone”

    I’ve actually had conversations with yeshiva bocherim who are just as clueless as the one portrayed in the video. It reminds me of Tina Fey simply repeating exactly what Sarah Palin said to Katie Couric. It isn’t mocking so much as it is embarrassingly accurate.

  78. can some one say what video they are talking about?

  79. I thought the video was funny and everyone that I know who saw it did not take what Gil did from it. It mocks people who cannot think critically.

    Gil – Is the maximalist position easy to defend in that you can quote numerous sources that hold it is true, or you can defend those claims by watering down what is in fact the maxmalist position.

    The position of the cuddly bear yeshiva guy is so extreme I don’t think you can actually really defend it, and that is what the video was mocking, not those who hold the Avos kept the Torah but in a much more moderate way than Yeshiva Bear thinks.

  80. “Yeshivish rabbis (though I wonder how many rabbis, per se, have gotten busted for financial crimes.)”

    Or is it that until recently the government did usually tend to indict the leaders of religious groups that benefited from the financial crimes -they tended to go after the low level functionaries.

  81. On a much lighter note, the New York Times discovers cholent. Note the halachic note in the recipe:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/dining/24hanukkah.html?_r=1&ref=dining

  82. Did anyone else find Hoffman’s charge that it was mocking Rav Elyashiv odd?

  83. >>can some one say what video they are talking about?
    http://www.youtube.com/user/krumbagel

  84. Shades of Gray

    I agree with R. Hoffman that one shouldn’t mock any Torah position, or one might add, even any unsophisticated presentation of the “maximalist” position. Even on it’s own terms, mocking backfires, and instead of leading to “enlightening” the yeshiva world, it leads to charges of emulating the Makilim who engaged in such behavior. Further, as R. Slifkin recently noted in a post, “it’s always easier to knock things down than to build things up, and my mentors taught me that it is generally not the appropriate path in life”.

    One substantive issue not noted in R. Hoffman’s article is the position of R. Hirsch in the preface to Chorev on Aggadah. There is debate about what R. Hirsch meant, with R. Elias interprating it closer to the yeshivish position(see R. Danziger’s article in Summer 1996 Jewish Action); on the other hand, I’ve come across an article some time ago by R. Wolbe in Beer Yaakov Torah journal where he takes issue with the passage in Horev, thus understanding it not like R. Elias. The bottom line is that similar to the Hirschian position on Science and Torah, the Yeshivah World, which accepts R. Hirsch to an extent, would need to acknowledge another “minimalist”, one who lived closer to today’s times.

    Finally, the minimalist position is not only relevant for kiruv rechokim purposes as R. Hoffman notes, but like Science and Torah minimalism, is also relevant for anyone who is exposed to historical issues which the yeshivah world generally insulates people from. For such people, a more rational minimalist position takes off some of the pressure of what one is required to believe, though as above, mocking the yeshivah world and certainly Acharonim is wrong as well as couterproductive.

  85. Who says it’s counterproductive and backfires? Mocking enlightened many people. In fact the yeshiva world teaches that it is appropriate to mock apikorsus, and that certainly produces some of the intended effects.

  86. Shades of Gray

    “Who says it’s counterproductive and backfires?”

    From a debating point of view, it can give points to one’s opponent and it takes away from discussion of issues.

    For example, R. Aharon Feldman noted in his article(which did discuss the issues) about the “vulgar caricatures” which followed the Slifkin ban. Regarding Daat Emet, R. Matisyahu Salomon, at the Siyum Hashas, referred to those who ask “mocking and arrogant questions”(I agree that they deserve criticism for their mocking). However, R. Slifkin quoted R. Bulman in one of his posts that substantively, the former organization “was doing a service for the frum community in that they would force it to confront these issues”.

    My point is not that the above rabbonim were avoiding substantive issues(the Siyum Hashas, for one thing, is arguably not the place for such discussion), rather that the mocking is a counterprductive strategy, even on its own terms, because in debates, people will get caught up in it, instead of dealing with the issues.

  87. Living in the 5 towns

    As a friend of Rabbi Hoffman, I can say that his teaching method is highly geared to making his students (girls) THINK and not swallow whole the stuff they are dished.

    But after watching the video I do have some questions:
    Can someone be the ROV to megayir someone and then marry them? Donlt you need a bais din? Why would Yaakov have been megayir Leah? He had no interest in marrying her. And why would he need to if he was already magayir Rachel? Did Shimon really marry his sister Dina after the Schem episode? How did Yaakov allow that? etc etc.

    I do hope whatever post R Gil writes will answer all these types of cynical questions in an intelligent way.

  88. Joseph Kaplan – I was at the talk, and if I remember correctly the story about being rebuffed was about Rav Zalman Nechemia, not Rav Lichtenstein. Rav Lichtenstein has been-pro women’s learning for a long time. Memory could serve me wrong though so let us know.
    Even for Rav Zalman Nechemia, one would have to get more details on the story of course, but to draw the inference that he rebuffed her simply because she is female seems unfair… maybe he just had a bad day? Happens to the best of us… maybe someone who actually knows him could comment.

  89. lawrence kaplan

    It is surprising that Rabbi Hoffman did not mention that the minimalist view is espoused by the Rambam in Hilhkot Melakhim. So let’s see: A view espoused by the Rambam, Ramban, Rashbam, Radak, ibn Ezra, Seforno, Rema, etc. is fit only for BT or at risk students. So what does Rabbi Hoffman suggest? That we not teach Hilkhot Melakhim, or when teaching Humash we not teach the Ramban, ibn Ezra, Rashbam, and Seforno on the relevant verse?

  90. living in the five towns – “will answer all these types of cynical questions”

    why are all these questions cynical? what is that anyone who ask common sense questions is always negative? why are we ask to suspend belief when hearing these type of midrashim because other gedolim believe them? as that is proof they are true? judaism does not ask one to leave their brains at the door when they enter the beit midrash. but many think so.

    proof is in the eye of the beholder.

  91. Shades of Gray

    Comment posted on R. Slifkin’s blog today:

    “The Rambam wrote explicitly that the avos did NOT keep the Torah in his letter to R. Chasdai haLevi.”

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/vl/rambamuvno/rambamuvno17.pdf

    [Page 15 of the PDF, or page Chaf-Daled, right side in the text]

    http://yediah.blogspot.com/2007/11/did-patriarchs-avot-keep-whole-torah.html

  92. lawrence kaplan

    As I pointed out in rationalist Judaism, there are serious reasons for doubtinng the authenticity of the Letter to R. Chasdai Halevi attributed to the Rambam. See Iggerot Ha-Rambam of R. Shailat. But what need is there for the letter when, as I already mentioned, the minimalist position is clear from Hilkhot Melakhim, chapter 9. What is ironic is that Rabbi Hoffman cites the Kesef Mishneh on the Rambam, but not the Rambam himself.

  93. “As I pointed out in rationalist Judaism, there are serious reasons for doubtinng the authenticity of the Letter to R. Chasdai Halevi attributed to the Rambam. ”

    And this is why people have no problem saying the letter by Abraham Maimonides or Hirsch or whatever are forgeries. They also believe there are “serious reasons” for doubting their authenticity.

  94. I don’t think the maker of the video was being disrespectful to anyone. Even the maximalist position doesn’t mean what the chipmunk/bear/whatever it was in the video was saying it means. I don’t know who made the video, but it appeared that he was poking fun at a silly misunderstanding/oversimplification of the original statement by chazal about Avraham observing the mitzvot. Whether such a misunderstanding exists in a real person, I don’t know.

    NOt sure exactly what Gil is going to write in defense of the maximalist position, but it can’t possibly be in defense of the distortion of that position in the video. Right, Gil?

  95. lawrence kaplan

    Guest: There simply are no serious reasons for doubting the authenticity of the essay of Abraham Maimonides and the letters of Hirsch. No scholar of the works of Abraham Maimonides and no scholar of the works of Hirsch believes these works are forgeries. The arguments of those “people” who claim that they are forgeries have been thoroghly discredited, and it is clear that their claims were ad hoc and motivated soley by ideological considerations. NONE of this applies to the serious reasons cited by Rabbi Shailat for doubting the authenticity of the letter to R. Hasdai Haleivi.

    I frankly do not understand your argument. Do you mean to assert that because some scholars say some letters attributed to Maimonides are of doubtful authenticity and bring serious arguments for that claim, that one may without good reason chose to cast doubt on any ideologically inconvenient text? Does anything go? Are there no scholarly standards? This is aside from the fact that it is well known that many texts have been attributed incorrectly to Maimnides, while there are no such mistaken attributions with respect to the works of either Rav Avraham ben HaRambam or Rav Hirsch.

  96. It is hardly surprising that one can believe in abraham’s fulfillment of (all) miztvot lierally. if one can pssul a geirut because the dayan believes the year is not 5771, is this surprising or even noteworthy?

  97. People write books, articles, long blog posts, even short comments, on all sorts of “controversial” topics. But apparently to get people truly engaged you need talking cartoon bears. Shouldn’t we therefore be talking about the obvious impending apocalypse instead?

  98. I think that in a certain way, these welfare reforms will be of long-term benefit to London’s charedi community. A mentality seems to have developed according to which it is legitimate to conduct a lifestyle which inevitably results in forcing one’s self on the state. These changes, and others like it, are likely the only things that will get this community to ask itself the hard but necessary questions required.
    If Rav Schachter can say that it is not right (in certain circumstances) to have an unlimited number of children when one will put the burden of their school fees on others, then why can we not extend this logic to say that one should not do the same when they can only afford it by subsisting on government handouts. The man interviewed states that he cannot give his children away – but are his community members prepared to change their reproductive habits even in the wake of these changes? Surely articles such as the one on the BBC website constitute a chilul hashem of exactly the sort Chazal imagined when they forbade taking tzedaka from goyim.
    Can it really be the case that being a frum yid entails being a burden on the surrounding society? It does if one forbids secular education, discourages the value of gainful employment and forbids contraception. What happens when this community is many times thie size on a few decades time (as is already the case in Israel) – do we really want to be seen as a fiscal drag on our countries of residence? As a people, we have contributed so much to the world – is this something that we want to see continue, or are we destined to rely on the physical and technological labours of others? Perhaps we are destined to see a paradigm shift – and for that we should be encouraging this.

  99. How comes the Shas fight with their Knesset member, R Haim Amsalem, is not making it here? They are bashing him as non-Orthodox, no longer referring to him by his rabbinic title, using language similar to excommunication (and not to mention demanding he resign his seat) for calling for a communal structure similar to much of both the MO and charedi world in America (and I would have thought not to much different then much of the Sepahrdic community in Israel)

  100. “J. on November 25, 2010 at 8:46 am”

    I tend to agree with your post. I just have problems with people who have many children, telling other people who don’t receive as great an income you shouldn’t have so many children.

  101. Just to clarify-only this “I tend to agree with your post.” was intended to agree with J.
    The following sentence has nothing to do with J-who to the best of my knowledge I don’t know-“I just have problems with people who have many children, telling other people who don’t receive as great an income you shouldn’t have so many children.” It is just a general statement of my personal beliefs not necessarily in respond to J.

  102. When Chazal choose a certain metaphor that echoes biblical usage, that might tell us what they were thinking about in formulating that particular halachah and may shed light in a way that classical study alone does not. Such study is not typically Halachah le-ma’aseh, because Halachah has its own canons,
    ==========================================
    llimud v’lo lmaaseh, this is the part I never get. If chazal couched something in terms to give an extra level of information (or if we find historical facts that bear on how chazal understood something), why did the “canon” exclude this information if it helps us better get emet l’amito?
    KT

  103. “llimud v’lo lmaaseh, this is the part I never get. If chazal couched something in terms to give an extra level of information (or if we find historical facts that bear on how chazal understood something), why did the “canon” exclude this information if it helps us better get emet l’amito?
    KT”

    Al regel achat I agree with Joel Rich-any statement that chazal meant has to be treated seriously. I suspect that a lot of the ideas of Torah lishma eg modern days pandemic learning of Nezikin which in general is not lemaaseh is an accident of histroy. Nezikin got developed-a lot of mephorshim etc because until a couple of hundered years ago Jews were autonomous and had their own legal system and thus Nezikin was very halacha lemaaseh. Note the Rif did not write on kodashim and Tahorot which are not halacha lemaaseh.

  104. “YU, as a matter of generally accepted policy and tradition, will not have a speaker come to campus who is outside the mainstream of Centrist Orthodox Judaism to discuss any matter relating to halacha or hashkafah,” ”

    Certainly not true-it is certainly true for example that many RY in the past were not in the mainstream of Centrist Orthodox Judaism. See eg rAbbis Gorelik,Parness, Bronspigel, Rav Lessin etc etc. I doubt they would prevent an Agudah Rav from speaking.

    ““There isn’t a simple solution of just fighting the committee existence,” she said. “This is a conversation that needs to be had… This committee brings out a meta-question of what Orthodoxy has to deal with… and what it means to be an institution that is Torah U’Madda.””

    I have trouble understanding something-if YU is a non-sectarian University-separating RIETS from the UNiversity in the early 70s for financial reasons-how can a non sectarian University prohibit speakers based on religious ideology.
    Of course, if I were running a Yeshiva I would not invite Dr. Kugel etc.

  105. I do not understand R’ Wieder at all.

    Lomdus is not outside the halachik canon. It deals with questions that are not l’maaseh and often there is no halachik nafka mina (at least a practical one), but the lomdus definitely impacts and often underlies understanding the halacha, even in nashim and nezikin. L’asukei b’shmaytisa aliba d’hilchosa means to learn in order to find the psak halacha, so what in YU and the rest of the Lithuanian yeshiva world is called Torah lishma is not aliba d’hilchasa in that sense.

    However, R’ Wieder seems to draw a parallel to learning sources in an academic way that often undermines the halacha and that according to the halachik canon are false.

  106. I read R Y Hoffman’s column and I agree with Larry Kaplan that there are numerous ways of understanding the Avos and their observance of Mitzvos. One can see a contemporary Charedi discussion of whether the Avos were Mtzuveh Voseh on the same level as Bnei Yisrael after Kabalas HaTorah in R Asher Weiss’s Minchas Asher and many other sefarim that R Weiss quotes therein. To claim that there is some sort of Charedi Catechism on this issue requires far more proof than asserted by R Hoffman in his attack on a you tube video. Characterizing the same as minimal or maximal and viewing certain approaches as “dangerous” when all are part of the Mesorah of Parshanut on this issue strikes me as an approach to this issue that we simply do not see in Chazal or the any of the classical Mfarshim , excepting those Mfarshim who view Aggadic statements as requiring the same degree of acceptance as Halacha, as POV that can be traced to Maharal, but certainly one which Rashi and Ramban rejected in many places in their commentaries on Chumash.

  107. When one reads R Hoffman’s column and watches the video, one must realize that the terms maximalist and minimalist are really irrelevant terms and that the issue of the extent of the Avos observance of the Mitzvos has led to the development of many different views, which are all within the Mesorah. There is a companion issue of what category would one clasify such observance-like Bnei Yisrael after Har Sinai or Eino Mtzuveh Voseh-all of which Rishonim and Acharonim have discussed and debated through the ages. Indeed, discussing the same would illustrate the richness and intellectual honesty of Chazal and Nfarshim, rather than present a Charedi Catechism premised on the blind acceptance of all Aggadic statements, which Rashi , Ramban and Ibn Ezra rejected, and which only became a popular view in the view of the Maharal.

  108. The real issue that the video and the reaction to the same illustrate is that there are many legitimate paths of Parshanut within the Mesorah and that how one views the same is a matter of Elu vElu Divrei Elokim Chaim, not one of Mutar, Assur.

  109. “YU, as a matter of generally accepted policy and tradition, will not have a speaker come to campus who is outside the mainstream of Centrist Orthodox Judaism to discuss any matter relating to halacha or hashkafah,” ”

    “From the RIETS website
    The requirements for admission to Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary are:

    The holding of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university…”

    It is my impression that RIETS has accepted a BTL from “Israeli institutions” for admission to RIETS as satisfying this requirement-if that is so it certainly makes a mockery of the requirement to have a Bachelors degree. I am not getting into the debate of whether or not it is a good policy to require a bachelors degree for admission to smicha and I suspect many of the current RY in YU would be opposed to such a requirement-but certainly it is a step away from the ideal that RIETS required for decades that distinguished it from the other Yeshivas. Thus, another example of YU not following its classic approach and acceptance of a right wing approach-certainly not Centrist Orthodoxy.

  110. I agree with Steves 3 posts 0f 817, 840 and 916

  111. As a relatively centrist student of YU, I feel obligated to point out that not all YU students are in favor of having speakers like Ethan Tucker, Sarah Hurwitz, and James Kugel speak at YU, in any format official or otherwise. Quite obviously the right wing element in the YU beis midrash is opposed, if they even know what is going on. However, a more moderate segment of the population believes in YU as a Yeshiva and as a University, a place in which the Torah is absolutely the ikkar and other ideas are the tafel. Obviously not all speakers at YU will necessarily represent this ideology. Professors in the University and outside speakers may say things that can clash with halakha. Whether that is appropriate is a different debate. Nevertheless, when bringing in speakers who purport to be representative of a Torah way of life, the lines are more clearly defined. Those who have ideologies which obviously clash with that of the Torah and claim to dovetail with those supreme values should not be invited to speak in a Yeshiva and even in its connected environs. One issue is that such speakers, when sanctioned by the administration, give an appearance that the Yeshiva agrees. This was the clear implication of the gay panel last year and the reason that most Roshei Yeshiva were so vehemently opposed. This can be seen when the most strident opponents of Kugel’s speech were Rabbi Jeremy Wieder and Dr. Moshe Bernstein, certainly not parts of the most yeshivish elements of YU. I have not directly spoken to either of them on this issue, but the rumor around YU is that at least one of those agrees with the committee’s decision on this speech as well. I have no doubt that those who wish to bring in these speakers have only good intentions in mind, but ziyuf hatorah on this level should not be brought into the YU campus. These articles focus on this who are against the censorship committee. Whether this is a good idea in all situations may be debatable. But if a committee like this prevents people who are not “non-mainstream Orthodox” from speaking in the Yeshiva venue, it is doing a great service to the community rooted in the Torah. Once again I’d like to stress that the opinions expressed within these articles are not the only ones within the YU community, not even the only ones within the non-Yeshivish parts of YU.

  112. “One issue is that such speakers, when sanctioned by the administration, give an appearance that the Yeshiva agrees.”

    This really isn’t an issue. All the administration has to do is say that unless the University invites a speaker (as opposed to a student group), the Yeshiva does not necessarily agree with or endorse the speaker or his/her position. There, done.

    My youngest child is in college (not YU affiliated), and in the past two years she heard Goldstone and Chomsky, among many others, speak. That’s one of the reasons I am happy where she goes; she is confronted with ideas and speakers that make her uneasy, whose ideas she rejects. And in this manner, she grows, matures and learns. She develops from a young adult into an adult. In my view, that is an important part of the college experience. But once again YU treats their college students like children. I was proud of my alma mater last year when the panel discussion of being gay in the Orthodox community was presented. I am less proud now.

  113. Disclaimer: I would definitely be considered “left-of-center” at YU. Also I am a college student. Also, if it weren’t for the tuition, I’d be in YU. So my issues with these kids are not ideological by any stretch.

    This whole issue is idiotic. Any semi-reasonable student would have realized from the beginning that founding a group like TEIQU is unnecessarily provocative, that inviting these speakers is a transparent attempt at self-validation (being inside the Jewish bubble and all) and that complaining about the censorship committee that formed afterward is the latest example of college students (I’m including myself here, yes) have way too much free time on their hands, with far too few opportunities to put to practice all the ideals they’re taught in the classroom.

    Why do I say all this? Because ANYONE semi-reasonable knows you don’t learn anything from these public talks! I would bet large amounts of money that R. Tucker’s shiur was just that: a shiur. Unless you learned an incredible technique, or an incredible source, or an incredible technique brought to bear on an incredible source, if you’ve gone to one – no matter how amazing – then you’ve gone to them all. I would bet large amounts of money that Kugel’s talk was just that: another boring lecture. These public talks are leisure, not serious intellectual engagement by any stretch of the imagination. You know what does constitute serious intellectual engagement? READING A BOOK. Guess what! YU has a massive library that is ENTIRELY UNCENSORED that will have PLENTY of controversial things to read that will allow you to ACTUALLY ENGAGE the ideas of the people you want to invite on campus! How about, instead of being cranky about the fact that they might not be able to start “Heated Fight Between Academics Round 2: Kugel Returns to YU” they all resolve to actually read one of his books! Or better yet, read the article that he’s published that will be the basis for his talk in watered down form – because when’s the last time a revolutionary new idea from an academic was presented at a fun chat with undergraduates??? They all just take things they published and read them out loud!

    The reason I’m disappointed with YU is not because of the administration – I think the administration gets it. I think the administration realizes that these speaking engagements aren’t serious, and that it’s just not worth the hassle to keep them going – between headlines in Matzav like “YU Hosts Noted Toeivah Scholar” or whatever, and then the RY’s getting cranky about Matzav’s headlines, and on and on. I still think it was the wrong move, precisely because it sets a horrible precedent. But the kids? If they’re this progressive and forward thinking and intellectual, shouldn’t they be able to see past this juvenile obsession with people instead of ideas?

    If the “intellectual” and “forward thinking” and whatever wing of the MO community is going to consist of these types of juvenile people, leave me out of it. If the best YU can produce in that regard is a bunch of dilettantes trying to dip into the shallow end of real intellectual engagement with Judaism so that they can believe they’re different from all the frummies and they’re experts on all these interesting topics, then THAT’S the biggest proof of the failure of TUM that I can think of.

  114. I went to, and enjoyed, Kugel’s (entirely pareve from the “controversy” point of view) talk. That said, I’m shocked that they’re “shocked.” Come on: The whole point of their organization was to be provocative. Well, they’ve provoked. Move on.

  115. Right – enjoyed! You didn’t come away thinking you’d done some “intellectual questioning and engagement” with Judaism, did you? Because these talks are a form of leisure and nothing more.

  116. “Why do I say all this? Because ANYONE semi-reasonable knows you don’t learn anything from these public talks!”

    Of course, reading is a more efficient way of learning than listening to a lecture. Of course, that raises the question of why have a lecture system in Universities. It is probably an historical accident just keeping on the tradition from pre printing times.
    Would you say the same thing about public talks by RY-read Nefesh Harav it is a far more efficient way of learning per hour than to hear RHS on the Rav-but I submit you’d liely listen to a shiur by RHS on the Rav-as I would.

    “I think the administration realizes that these speaking engagements aren’t serious, and that it’s just not worth the hassle to keep them going – between headlines in Matzav ”
    Would you say the ame thing about the speeches at the current Agudah convention?

  117. Not really, outside of gaining more knowledge of what he was talking about. Some of those present were clearly hoping for what you described, but he wasn’t really interested in giving it to them.

  118. Jon_Brooklyn,

    I really feel sorry for you. The power of new ideas explained clearly by a challenging live speaker is a unique form of human intellectual discourse (and an ancient one). If you have never heard a speaker who challenged you in that format, I suggest you try very hard to find one to attend. I agree of course that books are important. But you don’t have to choose one venue, and in a university setting, having a live speaker to whom you can address questions and from whom you can hear responses, is fundamental to the intellectual experience. Otherwise, there is really no reason to go to university at all — just stay home and read books in the local public library.

  119. “Otherwise, there is really no reason to go to university at all — just stay home and read books in the local public library.”

    Why not? BTW if its lectures you want get the top on the Internet etc-I doubt there are any lecturers as effective as Feynmann onPhysics-yet it is my gut that the vast majority of those who took ohysics had to listen to someone a fraction as knowledgeable aand not even in the same ballpark. As far as degrees when one can use a degree from the following profit making schools of University of Pheonix, Grand Canyon University, Touro etc what does a degree mean-or when RIETS has accepted BTLs as degrees what does a degree mean.

  120. Jon’s black and white approach (lectures useless, books good) is simply baffling. Has he never heard a lecture that stimulated his thinking on a topic that he never thought very deeply about? Has he never heard a lecture that sent him to the library to follow up with … a book? Has he never gone to a lecture where a speaker was challenged, challenged the questioner back and a thoughtful discussion broke out? Has he never been to a lecture where those attending kept speaking about the topic throughout the evening and perhaps even at Shabbat lunch a few days later? Well, perhaps he hasn’t, but that’s only because (a) he’s too young and inexperienced, or (b) he attends the wrong lectures (not all are good, of course) or (c) he doesn’t attend lectures because he spends all his time sitting in the library reading. Hopefully, he’ll learn that life is more complex than he thinks; that’s there’s more than one way to learn. I would hate to live in Jon’s one-dimensional world

    As far as “I think the administration gets it. I think the administration realizes that these speaking engagements aren’t serious, and that it’s just not worth the hassle to keep them going”: I strongly doubt the administration thinks any such thing. My guess is that they think just the opposite; that speaking engagements ARE serious, but that they need to protect their students and their school’s reputation from serious talks that pose challenges to their world view. To me that’s sad because it shows an insecurity that requires them, they think, to treat college students like children.

  121. Skeptic – that is only the case when the talk is not designed for non-specialists, when it isn’t just a watered-down version of some paper they already published, and when email doesn’t exist.

    In theory at least, the reason you go to university is the same reason you go to a yeshiva: the environment and motivation. The university is supposed to be an intellectually stimulating place, and if you just sat and read books from the public library you probably wouldn’t get very far. But again: invited speakers are at best a means to generating discussion. If the TEIQU kids wanted, they could actually READ something R. Tucker published and formally discuss it themselves and a) learn more that way, and b) skip the controversy. The fact that they instead chose to throw a series of tantrums in print does not impress me.

  122. I prefer the view from Stephen Hawkings physics. In some extra dimension the Avot kept all of the mitvot (this being one possible outcome). In other dimensions they did not. Thus both sides can be said to be correct.

  123. I don’t understand how YU justifies having a regular academic library if this is the approach they took toward speakers. One Ethan Tucker speech is nothing compared to the thousands upon thousands of books containing far less Orthodox things that he will say in an hour. Right under their nose tens of YU students are reading these books every day, and not a peep. Thus, the only conclusion I can draw is that this is cosmetic. There are no ads about these thousands of books, but there is publicity about these speakers.

  124. Rav Moshe Lichtenstein wrote the following which should be of interest to those of us in galut also.

    “Just as inflation ruins the value of a currency, it has a similar effect spiritually. There is no greater enemy of educational action and spiritual experience than inflation and the accompanying devaluation; we must therefore vigilantly guard against it. When in doubt—minimize fasts and prayer rallies and do not allow them to proliferate, for their harm outweighs their good.”
    IMHO including saying the couple of tehillim for et zarah after davening every day for years

    “F. The status of the Chief Rabbinate
    I will not expand on this, but merely assert that for all sorts of reasons the status of the Chief Rabbinate is very far from the reality described in the gemara in Ta’anit in which the decree of the exilarch obligated the entire community. I do not view the status of the Chief Rabbinate or its heads as being binding on the community nowadays. I wish the situation were different, but it is not.”
    A fortiori the same applies to what any gadol says-one may be a fool not to listen to him but assuming he is not YOUR Rebbe no obligation to listen to him.

  125. I would suggest that speakers such as Kugel, Tucker, etc are proper for either graduate students in BRGS or Wexner Scholars, as opposed to the average undergraduate, whose POV , even and especially after a year or two in Israel, is that of curiousity, as opposed to having to deal with such perspectives as part of their role in the Jewish community. One wonders why the group named Teyku uses that title, when the traditional usage of the term means that one is compelled to live in doubt with an answer to the issue at hand and why one sees a veritable absence of Charedi speakers,ever speak at YU, when I suspect that more than a few would speak if they were simply and respectfully approached to give a shiur, etc.

  126. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “My youngest child is in college (not YU affiliated), and in the past two years she heard Goldstone and Chomsky, among many others, speak. That’s one of the reasons I am happy where she goes; she is confronted with ideas and speakers that make her uneasy, whose ideas she rejects. And in this manner, she grows, matures and learns. She develops from a young adult into an adult. In my view, that is an important part of the college experience”

    Would you think that hearing the current PM of Iran or Arafat Yimach Shmo during the intifada would serve any educational purpose that could not be experienced from reading about their POV? WASR, IMO, if you know of someone whose POV is so nasty and negative to Israel , there is no need for an adult to hear their perspective, but rather to either ignore their POV or voice a contrary POV. Listening to evil legitimitizes the same.

  127. “if you know of someone whose POV is so nasty and negative to Israel , there is no need for an adult to hear their perspective, but rather to either ignore their POV or voice a contrary POV. Listening to evil legitimitizes the same.”

    Agree-providing it is evil-disagreement with ones view does not necessarily mean something is evil. See eg the Ravs lecture about Lord Carradon and speaking at YU Spring 1968. The rav was clear that one must listen to those people with respect.

  128. “Would you think that hearing the current PM of Iran or Arafat Yimach Shmo during the intifada would serve any educational purpose that could not be experienced from reading about their POV? … Listening to evil legitimitizes the same.”

    1. I’m surprised you didn’t bring out hitler. Godwin’s law wins again.

    2. Don’t agree about listening to evil.

    3. Ethan Tucker, or even James Kugel, are not evil. Wrong (maybe), but not evil. Big difference.

  129. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. rav tucker’s father is the “posek”, in a matter of speaking, for the conservative movement (prob a talmid chacham, though “heretical”). thus, he is not just any other innocent speaker / personality.

    2. no proper charedi speaker will come to speak at yu, till we release the RAK film.

    3. though note a number of yu / riets roshei yeshiva who are moreh de’asra of charedi ( = aguda) shuls. (i’m sure they will not deny they are teaching gmara, not just “machshava”)

    4. the rabbanut on american divorce cases — this is an old story. i know of one particular case dating back over ten years ago (the party was even put in prison.) note, too, the us state dept alert on this subject (i assume its still on their web site). also note it has been particularly successful against ex wive’s refusing to accept gittin (a number of such cases). also note cases where the rabbanut required a party to discontinue new york state divorce case, and the party promptly resubmitted its case upon arrival in new york, despite (non religious) case law to the contrary (i.e., new york state did not recognize lawful israeli divorce, though they will recognize a saudi, or other, divorce. because of this rabbanut practice.)

  130. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mi-Medinat Ha-Yam: Rabbi Gordon Tiuker, the father of Rabbi Ethan Tucker, is no a, much less “the,” posek for the Conservative movement. hs areaof specilty is Jewish thought,not halakhah. In an event, the fact that he is the father of Rabbi Ethan Tucker is irrelevant for our judging Rabbi Tucker fils. He is his own person.

    What film of RAK are you talking about?

  131. MeMedinat HaYam wrote:

    “2. no proper charedi speaker will come to speak at yu, till we release the RAK film.”

    I am not sure what film of RAK you are referring to, but I think and believe that there are more than a few Charedi Talmidei Chachamim who would accept an invitation to give a shiur in the Beis Medrash. All it takes is a little thinking outside the MO box and a telephone call.

  132. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “1. I’m surprised you didn’t bring out hitler. Godwin’s law wins again.

    2. Don’t agree about listening to evil.

    3. Ethan Tucker, or even James Kugel, are not evil. Wrong (maybe), but not evil. Big difference

    Ain Hacin Nami.There is no difference between Hitler and the PM of Iran with respect to their views on Jews, Judaism and Zionism. One fights evil, as opposed to attempting to rationalize or appease the same.

    Why is a speaker who is clearly wrong from his or her POV on Machshavah, Halacha and Hashkafa not evil? We have Halachos about being Machei Es HaRabim.

  133. ” In an event, the fact that he is the father of Rabbi Ethan Tucker is irrelevant for our judging Rabbi Tucker fils. He is his own person”
    Agreed-but it is certainly irrelevant that Rabbi E Tucker’s mother married Joseph Leiberman.

  134. >Why is a speaker who is clearly wrong from his or her POV on Machshavah, Halacha and Hashkafa not evil?

    If anyone who is evil here it may be you. Yech.

  135. Charles B. Hall

    I write as a non-rabbinic faculty member in one of YU’s graduate divisions. My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect that of my employer.

    First, I should say that I had never heard of Rabbi Tucker until this story broke, so I can have no opinion on him.

    Second, after meditating on this issue for a few days, I realized that at least in principle I have no objections to the university administration being able to veto a speaker. I would hope that should some misguided professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (my division) invite a Peter Duesberg (of the HIV doesn’t cause AIDS nonsense) or an Andrew Wakefield (of the vaccines cause autism nonsense) that the invitation would be rescinded — and similarly for an evolution denier, a young earth creationist, a climate change denier, or chas v’shalom a holocaust denier. There are certain opinions that simply don’t deserve a hearing! I have no idea what are Rabbi Tucker’s views, and I would not assume that they are as out of bounds as the examples I’ve given here, but in principle I support the right of the university to set limits on what is within the realm of scholarship.

  136. Charles B. Hall

    “There is no difference between Hitler and the PM of Iran with respect to their views on Jews, Judaism and Zionism”

    Iran does not have a position of Prime Minster today.

  137. “Ain Hacin Nami.There is no difference between Hitler and the PM of Iran with respect to their views on Jews, Judaism and Zionism. One fights evil, as opposed to attempting to rationalize or appease the same.”

    Why don’t you look up Godwin’s Law so you’ll understand my comment; your response, as is so often the case, missed the point. And , of course, no one here, including me, ever suggested rationalizing or appeasing evil. But there’s no stopping you from putting words in your opponents’ mouths, is there.

    “Why is a speaker who is clearly wrong from his or her POV on Machshavah, Halacha and Hashkafa not evil?”

    Your inability to understand the difference between wrong and evil makes any discussion on this topic with you impossible. But I would note that I’m happy that you were never wrong in your life, because if you were, that would, according to your analysis, make you evil and while I think you’re a lot of things, Steve, evil isn’t one of them.

    Charlie: While I agree with you on most things, this is the exception. We’re not talking about a professor teaching false material; we’re talking about a student sponsored event. So, if a group of students want to hear an evolution denier or a vaccine/autism nut, let them. And then (a) stand outside, picket and hand out literature showing how ridiculous they are, (b) attend the lecture and challenge them, (c) organize your own program(s) on the topic, (d) all of the above and more. Banning speakers that students want to hear is not, I think, the way to educate college and graduate students; that may be how you treat children, but not adults or even young adults.

  138. Climate change, Charlie? Really? Come on.

    Steve, after a remark like that about “evil,” I’m not sure there’s much point talking to you. I’m probably “evil” in your eyes as well. I should just point out that in his talk at Stern, Kugel didn’t deal at all with Biblical criticism or anything you wouldn’t hear in the average undergrad YU Bible class, and brushed off students who tried to get him to talk about it.

    Conservatives who have been labeled “worst person in the world” by Keith Olbermann have created an informal club to celebrate their status. (They actually banded together to defend him when he was recently suspended, something Charlie likely wouldn’t do.) Perhaps we can create a “labeled kofer and evil by Steve Brizel” club as a mark of honor. 🙂

  139. By the way, what’s up with The Commentator?

  140. I have no doubt that if Teiqu would sue the university, they would prevail. YU has no right to ban speakers who are not “centrist Orthodox”. The college is chartered as a secular university.

  141. Oh, YU would prevail. Trust me, they’ve worked this stuff out.

  142. “YU has no right to ban speakers who are not “centrist Orthodox”. The college is chartered as a secular university.”

    Would that also be true for the Jewish studies divisions except for RIETS. My understanding was that RIETS was separated to be the sectarian theological seminary, everything else is secular, non sectarian.

  143. “Nachum on November 28, 2010 at 8:02 am
    Oh, YU would prevail. Trust me, they’ve worked this stuff out.”

    I doubt it-for example they really can’t enforce religious requirements in residence halls. Nachum is minyan attendance required? Decades ago-it was-maybe observed in the breach but required.
    Would YU openly reject from attendance a lo yehudi? Don’t they occasionally put in the non sectarian language. One must abide by ones own language. It is my impression that YU has gone way beyond the4 vast majority of sectarian schools that have become secualr in keeping its undergrad divisions sectarian.Of courws, when it comes to AECOM they didn’t even fight things like homosexual couiples in dorms.
    What is the legal distinction in non sectarian aspects between Aecom, Cardoza and YC?
    I supect it is likely the matter of it not being in most peoples interests for a fight-and to prove YU is lying one would need a sacrificial lamb-ie someone knowledgeable enough to go to YU who is not a believer and would be willing to fact the scorning that would come-but what we really have is something that is notlegally correct but maybe no one is going to enforce it-or maybe eventually depending on politics someone will and then the Rav would have been proived correct.

  144. Mycroft, why do you repeatedly use the words “lo yehudi”? It’s a little odd, and I’m just curious.

    I think your analysis is way off. YU can enforce quite a few things. For starters, all those Jewish studies requirements.

  145. “Of courws, when it comes to AECOM they didn’t even fight things like homosexual couiples in dorms.”

    I pretty sure they did fight it and lost.

  146. “Nachum on November 28, 2010 at 8:50 am
    Mycroft, why do you repeatedly use the words “lo yehudi”? It’s a little odd, and I’m just curious.”

    Internet searches-I try to minimize certain posts being picked up in internet searches using search engines.

    “I think your analysis is way off.”
    Could be-but so could any analysis be way off.

    “YU can enforce quite a few things. For starters, all those Jewish studies requirements”
    There are non maaminim that would be interested in Jewish studies -see eg those working for “yehudim for otto haish” “committed missionaries” “people who intend to be clergy for other religions but want to learn what they call OT in the original language”
    or as far as Jews someone who rejects mesorah but wants to become a heterodox clergy but wants to learn the sources in greater detail.This al regel achat I’m sure there are many other examples.

  147. “Joseph Kaplan on November 28, 2010 at 8:52 am
    “Of courws, when it comes to AECOM they didn’t even fight things like homosexual couiples in dorms.”

    I pretty sure they did fight it and lost.”

    Dangerous arguing with a Kaplan but it is my impression that although some administrative agency ordered YU to do that-YU did NOT appeal the administrative agencies decision to courts. They used the excuse that their law firm felt they would lose. But if one believes in something one fights all the way-even if it means formally not getting leave to appeal in the state court and if a federal question a denial of cert by the Supremes. YU simply did not do what one that was truly opposedto doing something should do. Of course, this also raises the general question of a religious institution taking government money-they may be required to do things against their religion. Of course, that is assuming the Board of YU really opposed the decision.

  148. “Climate change, Charlie? Really? Come on.”

    The average world temperature has eesentially increased in a straight line since around 1850-except for the roughly 20 year period of around 1950-1970.
    I get surprised that “climate change” is argued so vehemently by both the right and left-there is evidence both ways but IMHO the preponderance ofthe evidence certainly indicates climate change.I don’t say it is BARD but more likely than not. Others of course, can have different opinions of the probability that we are in a period of climate change. Of course, given climate change there is also the question about how much of it or any is man made? In a limited sense around metropolitan areas it is BARD that manmade climate change occurs look at how temperatures have increased in the past century around built up areas-there is strong but weaker evidence for the world as a whole.

  149. Joseph Kaplan-IMO, Goldstone and Chomsky do not deserve a hearing by anyone who considers themselves a supporter of Israel. Their writings clearly establish their POV as denying the right of the State of Israel to engage in self-defense.

  150. “In a limited sense around metropolitan areas it is BARD that manmade climate change occurs look at how temperatures have increased in the past century around built up areas-there is strong but weaker evidence for the world as a whole.”

    The urban heat island effect has nothing to do with the notion of broad climate change. It occurs because the manmade construction materials in cities absorb more solar radiation than natural materials. It’s solely an effect of having a large landscape dominated by synthetic building materials.

  151. Sorry, Mycroft, I’m right this time. YU was sued by two lesbians who were denied Einstein student housing, moved to dismiss and won, the dismissal was affirmed by the Appellate Division and then reversed by the Court of Appeals. See Levin v. YU, 96 N.Y.2d 484, 754 N.E.2d 1099, 730 N.Y.S.2d 15 (2001). Can’t do much more than that.

  152. “IMO, Goldstone and Chomsky do not deserve a hearing by anyone who considers themselves a supporter of Israel.” That’s a perfectly acceptable opinion and you therefore shouldn’t go to any of their speeches. But some supporters of Israel have an opinion that is different than yours. Why should your opinion prevail?

  153. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “That’s a perfectly acceptable opinion and you therefore shouldn’t go to any of their speeches. But some supporters of Israel have an opinion that is different than yours. Why should your opinion prevail?”

    Someone who is willing to hear Chomsky, Goldstone or Finkelstein as presenting a legitimate “opinion” is either severely confused or worse , a self hating Jew.

  154. JOSEPH KAPLAN:

    “But some supporters of Israel have an opinion that is different than yours.”

    i understand that there are LW “supporters” of israel, even though i may think they’re notion of “support” is misguided. but i don’t understand how you can include chomsky et al. in the rubric of “supporters” of israel by any stretch of the imagination. (i still don’t think this is a reason to deny them a platform in an academic setting, but let’s not pretend they support israel.)

  155. Abba: I see now that I wasn’t clear, and I apologize. I don’t think Chomsky or Finkelstein are supporters of Israel; they are, in my view, enemies of Israel. (Goldstone is more complex, so I’ll leave him out of this discussion if you don’t mind.) The “opinon: i meant was the opinion of some supporters of Israel who, unlike Steve, think it is a good idea to hear enemies of Israel speak so they can understand the enemy (similar to da mah lehasiv).

    Let me also note, so I am not misunderstood, none of this relates to where this thread started; R. Ethan Tucker’s invitation by students to speak at YU. He’s not an enemy of any person or institution related to this discussion. As I said before, he may be wrong but he’s not evil or an enemy. So with respect to him, not allowing students at YU who wanted to hear him speak the opportunity to do so was, IMO, a mistake.

  156. Funny, the students of MTA get to hear regular “hashkafa” “debates” between two rebbeim which include views on Israel. Neither are Zionists, one quite anti-.

  157. Teiku ( and/or especially Kasha) strikes me as a poor name for a student organization interested in provocation via dialogue with speakers who are clearly not in the MO mainstream. How about Tiyuvta or Mshabeshes for a name that is more in line with their goals?

  158. Nachum wrote:

    “Funny, the students of MTA get to hear regular “hashkafa” “debates” between two rebbeim which include views on Israel. Neither are Zionists, one quite anti”

    I seem to recall that one candidate for the YU Presidency who had served in the Defense Department was viewed as insufficiently Zionist. I think that there is a huge difference betweeen supporting the existence of the State of Israel and not accepting RZ as Torah MiSinai on all issues ( ala RYBS and RAL( or following the Charedi Hashkafa on Zionism as opposed to subscribing to the perspective of NK.

  159. Nachum wrote:
    “Funny, the students of MTA get to hear regular “hashkafa” “debates” between two rebbeim which include views on Israel. Neither are Zionists, one quite anti”

    Would you consider either RYBS or RAL as sufficiently “Zionist”? See Thinking Aloud ( Pages 194-256) and RAL’s own self description as being insufficiently Zionist for the RZ crowd in Israel and insufficientlty Charedi? There is a world of difference between that perspective and the views of NK or a certain person who was viewed insufficiently Zionist to serve as President of YU. I think that it is wonderful that MTA students are exposed to hashkafas other than MO and RZ, instead of presuming that MO and RZ are the only hashkafic options available.

  160. “I think that it is wonderful that MTA students are exposed to hashkafas other than MO and RZ, instead of presuming that MO and RZ are the only hashkafic options available.”

    So presumably they should have a similar one between Ethan Tucker and one of the MTA rebbeim about whether Hazal are to be followed at all times?

  161. Lawrence Kaplan

    I think that we all agree on the following :1) Chomsky and Finkelstein are enemies of Israel. (Goldstone in my view is not an enemy of Israel, but a “useful idiot” in the service of Israel’s enemies.) 2) Student groups ahould not accord them invitations to speak. The question is then; What if a student group does invite them? The view of my brother, abba, and I is that the university should not deny them a platform, as despicable as their views are. The next quesition is whether students who support Israel should attend their lectures either to protest, challenge them or dah mah she-tashiv. Concerning this there is room for a legitimate difference of opinion.

    I agree entirely with my brother’s response to Charlie Hall: indeed, I am surprised at Dr. Hall’s surprisingly illiberal view.

  162. While we have boundaries on both the left and the right, some boundaries are stronger than others. There are red lines and just pink lines. Basic halakhah and principles of faith are red lines. Egalitarianism — which is what R. Ethan Tucker represents and promotes — is past a red line.

  163. Are there red boundaries on the right?

  164. “Basic halakhah and principles of faith are red lines. Egalitarianism — which is what R. Ethan Tucker represents and promotes — is past a red line.”

    O)kay. Even if it’s past a red line, so what? Ket them hear it; let the rebbeim, the deans, the President, the Jewish Philosophy professors and all the other people at YU who are knowledgable on these issues explain why the line he crossed is a red one and what’s wrong with that. What are they/you afraid of? Have you so little faith in YU’s ability to teach their students where the red lines are and why they shouldn’t be crossed, that one lecture by Kugel or Tucker will undo that? I guess I have more faith in YU than you and thus are more disappointed in their decision to censor student-invited speakers.

  165. My concern is the other way around. Speaking at YU is an honor. It’s something someone on the margins will use as a source (albeit limited) of legitimation.

  166. Gil, do you really think that James Kugel, whose classes at Harvard sometimes had enrollments of 900 students, really needs, or uses, YU as “legitimation”? And while I am a YU graduate and still have warm feelings towards it, I have to ask: an “honor”? Sure, getting an honorary degree is an honor; but having a bunch of college students ask you to speak to them is an honor that you don’t want to bestow on a world famous author and former Harvard professor who has crossed some red line? Wow! If I had known that back in 1968, I would have been even more impressed with my degree.

  167. As in: “Me, not frum? I just spoke at YU two months ago and the students were very receptive.”

  168. Yeah; that’s exactly what Kugel says.

  169. Steve Brizel on November 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm … There is a world of difference between that perspective and the views of NK or a certain person who was viewed insufficiently Zionist to serve as President of YU. ..

    you have repeated this assertion twice. the contention is false and reiteration does not make it any more true the second time. al zeh ne’emar there are more things in heaven and academic politics, stevatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. or it was something like that. what’s more, the confluence of the person you are misrepresenting in the same sentence with NK is itself slanderous.

  170. Charles B. Hall

    “YU was sued by two lesbians who were denied Einstein student housing”

    The student housing in question is not owned by YU.

  171. Charles B. Hall

    “I am surprised at Dr. Hall’s surprisingly illiberal view.”

    It comes from spending too many hours fighting junk science and the postmodernist nonsense that all ideas are equivalent. People die from such trash.

  172. Charles B. Hall

    ” not accepting RZ as Torah MiSinai on all issues ( ala RYBS and RAL”

    Huh? In what ways do RYBS and RAL not accept RZ?

  173. Charles B. Hall

    Regarding “legitimation”:

    Does it matter to anyone here where I’ve given invited professional talks? Should it?

  174. R’ Gil: I’d be very impressed if you could find a single interview with a person on the margins who tried to establish his Orthodoxy by pointing to speaking at YU.

  175. Steve is ignoring the fact (or is perhaps unaware) that the “debates” I mentioned are between a:

    1) Old-school German Agudist (literally, a big fan of the American Agudah, for some reason) who, despite that little thing called World War II, thinks that the Hirschian view of Zionism is perfectly valid today. At best a non-Zionist, perhaps anti-. (Yekke charedim and the related British charedim can be notable for their literal anti-Zionism.)

    and a

    2) Skverer Chasid who is quite literally anti-Zionist in the literal American Council on Judaism sense. (Much as I admire him.)

    Young minds full of mush are presented with this as their only two options. It’s not surprising that YU is turning out people who think Israel is no big deal (see this rabbi in Omaha, for example). I think this is a small part of that.

    Zionism does not even enter the debate. And if you’re going to protest that YU should have standards, I don’t see why the red line has to be on only one side, especially in a circumstance like this. Steve is a bit odd in his “Let’s ban anyone not up to *my* standard of Zionism but charedim are A-OK.”

    And I won’t even bring up Kahanists. People might start frothing at the mouth.

  176. Lawrence Kaplan

    Dr. Hall: I understand and sympathize with yout passion and your sentiments and your frustration. Keep up the good fight. My brother suggested ways as how to fight –I am sure you use all of them. But banning lecturers sponsored by students is not the way to go.

  177. “Charles B. Hall on November 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm
    Regarding “legitimation”:
    Does it matter to anyone here where I’ve given invited professional talks? Should it?”

    If in the course of your professional talks you were presenting very controversial or ‘subversive’ ideas, it might.

  178. MiMedinat HaYam

    to jo kaplan — that case was “new” law in the sense that the precedent was with yu, and yu won in lower courts, till the state atty gnl, for his political reasons (which he always stated while running for office, yet, all the agudists, etc endorsed him enthusiastically; which he repaid with their govt grants) got in on the action, and pushed the state court of appeals to declare “new law” on this issue.

    to charlie hall; — the short title of the cae is ” … versus yeshiva”

  179. MiMedinat HaYam

    to mycroft — by the way, it was a housing case, not a govt funding case.

    you are probably confusing this case, with the supposed “gay club” at yu theoretical case (theoretical = it never came up) (supposedly). yu claims it cant win that one, though there is plenty of precedent that it could (st johns denying a jew the student council presidency, for example. st johns won that case.)

    as for eino yehudim applying to yu; it would be a pblm in grad scholl, but yu can do that in undergrad. and they are allowed in grad school (though cardozo students are always complaining they cant use the library on shabat.)

    also note a woman applied to riets a number of years ago. when she admitted she was not orthodox, no action was taken on her application.

  180. “oseph Kaplan on November 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm
    Sorry, Mycroft, I’m right this time. YU was sued by two lesbians who were denied Einstein student housing, moved to dismiss and won, the dismissal was affirmed by the Appellate Division and then reversed by the Court of Appeals. See Levin v. YU, 96 N.Y.2d 484, 754 N.E.2d 1099, 730 N.Y.S.2d 15 (2001). Can’t do much more than that”I was probably confusing what medinat hayam was talking about.
    “MiMedinat HaYam on November 29, 2010 at 6:55 pm
    to mycroft — by the way, it was a housing case, not a govt funding case.

    “you are probably confusing this case, with the supposed “gay club” at yu theoretical case (theoretical = it never came up) (supposedly). yu claims it cant win that one, though there is plenty of precedent that it could (st johns denying a jew the student council presidency, for example. st johns won that case.)”Probably what I had been discussing with someone awhile back-it is funding and government aid law intersection with 1st amd that has interested me much more than housing.”

    “as for eino yehudim applying to yu; it would be a pblm in grad scholl, but yu can do that in undergrad. ”
    what is the distinction undergrad and grad-both nonsectarian

    “and they are allowed in grad school (though cardozo students are always complaining they cant use the library on shabat.)”
    Why should that be different than libraries closed on \\\\\sunday by non sectarian universities.

  181. STBO on November 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm
    “In a limited sense around metropolitan areas it is BARD that manmade climate change occurs look at how temperatures have increased in the past century around built up areas-there is strong but weaker evidence for the world as a whole.”

    The urban heat island effect has nothing to do with the notion of broad climate change. It occurs because the manmade construction materials in cities absorb more solar radiation than natural materials. It’s solely an effect of having a large landscape dominated by synthetic building materials
    Generally agree except for solely-manmade heating.Also, mans activities affect local temperatures.

  182. MiMedinat HaYam

    mycroft — for some reason discrimination of this type is allowed in undergrad, but not allowed in grad programs, under federal (?state?) law. good arg re sunday. but yom tov still applies (partially). actually, students know about this when they apply.

    the “levin v yeshiva” case was decided as a housing discrmination case, so it applies to everyone, not only yu.

    though with the recent “availability” of gay marriage and / or civil unions, the appeals court reasoning may be moot, so the decision may not be applicable anymore to yu / anyone. too detailed reasoning for a blog, but read the decision.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: