New Periodical: Tradition 43:4

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The new issue of Tradition 43:4 (Winter 2010) has arrived.

  • Tradition and Modernity in the House of Study: Reconsidering the Relationship Between the Conceptual and Critical Methods of Studying Talmud by R. David C. Flatto – A passionate argument to combine lomdus and academic study of the Talmud, openly (and refreshingly) admitting the problems and dangers involved.
  • Cold Fury, Hidden Face, The Jealousy of Israel: Two Kinds of Religious Estrangement in the Torah by R. Shalom Carmy – Comparing and contrasting the blessings and curses in Lev. 26/Deut. 28 with the song of Haazinu (Deut. 32).
  • Grief and Joy in the Writings of Rabbi Soloveitchik by Alex Sztuden – Part 1 of this extensive study. No relation to me despite the similar last names, although we did meet in YU.
  • Alarm Systems in by R. Moshe Kletenik – “In conclusion, if an alarm system is turned off, but walking through a doorway or into an area with motion sensors will cause an electrical impulse to be generated, it is permitted on Shabbat to walk through the doorway if the light is and LED light. If the light is an incandescent light, it is permitted to walk through the door if the panel is out of view, or if the light is covered, so that there is no benefit derived from the light’s illumination.”
  • Hashkafic Divergence in Contemporary Orthodoxy: Nekudat ha-Mahloket by R. Howard Apfel – A discussion of two approaches to one’s fate — activism and passivism — and application to a variety of personal decisions including earning a living and using a doctor.
  • From the Pages of Tradition: Rabbi Ezekiel Landau – Letter of Reconciliation by Dr. Shnayer Z. Leiman – The Noda Bi-Yehudah’s letter that calmed the Emden-Eybeschutz controversy.
  • Communications by Sara Wolkenfeld and R. Shlomo Spiro – My much younger childhood neighbor makes it into the pages of Tradition before I do, questioning whether tumas nidah represents a negative phenomenon.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor 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 has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He 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.

16 comments

  1. Well, once again my login doesn’t work, and no one’s responded to my emails. If there’s anyone in the US who knows who I can contact, I’d appreciate it.

  2. R Student, Why did you not review the article on hashkafic divide?

  3. An initial omission to check whether it is the same article as in Ve-Rapo Yerapei. To my surprise, the update including the article got swallowed by the internet. Hopefully the update worked this time.

  4. I found R’ Flatto’s piece fascinating but still searching for where the rubicon is that gets you ignored in the beit medrash (and more to the point where it should be)
    KT

  5. I wonder why R Flatto in his footnotes re RIETS and Volozhin , as well as the traditional yeshivishe view of disdain for academic Talmud, did not mention RYBS’s shiur on Mesorah and Gerus, for which there are more than a few webbased links for the curious reader.

  6. Please forgive my ignorance, but what is it about mehkar on the Talmud that makes people so hesitant? Surely, even if one wishes to avoid lower/higher criticism, there is much to be gained from knowing realia and historical background?

    I mean, I can understand avoiding academic Bible (or at least the philological parts), but what damage could academic Talmud cause?

  7. Aiwac–

    I think part of it is that the assumption of academic talmud scholars that they know more about the Talmud than chazal did –this is a natural way to think for academic social scientists, e.g. a historian will explain the REAL reason that Napoleon or whoever did XYZ, but it at the minimum smacks of arrogance when talking about chazal. It sometimes becomes extremely jarring when you hear an observant Jew who is a historian or talmud professor speak.

    I am not taking a position on this, just describing what I see.

  8. I think what Carlos is trying to say is that Orthodox Jews לערן Torah, they don’t study Torah.

  9. Another way to say it is that we study what the Torah has to teach us, not what we can learn “about” the Torah

  10. But Carlos,
    Unless we know what the torah says, it is hard to know what it teaches us.

  11. MDJ, in my original comment (response to AIWAC) I had said “I am not taking a position on this, just describing what I see.” ie I am not arguing against academic Jewish studies (or for them), just explaining from my point of view why I think some people feel uncomfortable with them.

  12. OK, so I read the article in question (Flatto). Some comments:

    1) This debate seems strikingly similar to the issue of academic bible in form. For instance, you have the Orthodox scholars who claim that they are just following in the footsteps of chazal/rishonim, even though the latter are going far beyond what the former would have allowed in terms of interpretation. You have the confusion as to the full extent of critical study (not just girsa’ot realia, but wholesale questioning of the origins, authority and provenance of sources). Really, what’s the difference?

    2) The debate on how to read and understand the Talmud is clearly laden with contemporary issues. Put bluntly, it’s as much about the present as the past. Is halacha unchanging and rock-solid or can it evolve and/or be actively changed in this generation. ISTM that there is a correlation between those that argue for a multi-layer critical approach and the latter view. This may be an additional reason why the yeshiva world (including YU) so instinctively avoids it.

    3) Re: Historicizing. One of the main weapons used by secular/Reform &c was to “historicize” anything they didn’t like or feel comfortable with and dispose with them. Which is a shame, because historical inquiry has nothing to do with this.

    Yes, it’s true – all human activity takes place within a certain historical context. To say this is utterly banal. But that does not automatically render it time-bound – do we ignore RYBS, Rambam or Tanakh simply because they created in a different historical context? Surely not.

    The decision to “historicize” (i.e. render functionally irrelevant) is a VALUE decision, not a factual one. How and when we do this is a discussion we should have regardless of whether or not we accept Flatto’s suggestion to allow critical study into the Beit Midrash.

    Indeed, I would argue that the foundational issues (historicizing, TSBP, legislative authority of the present generation) need to be debated and discussed prior to this introduction (or at least concurrent with it).

    Just my two cents.

    aiwac

  13. Excuse me, in this paragraph:

    “This debate seems strikingly similar to the issue of academic bible in form. For instance, you have the Orthodox scholars who claim that they are just following in the footsteps of chazal/rishonim, even though the latter are going far beyond what the former would have allowed in terms of interpretation. You have the confusion as to the full extent of critical study (not just girsa’ot realia, but wholesale questioning of the origins, authority and provenance of sources). Really, what’s the difference?”

    reverse “former” and “latter”.

  14. re: difference between academic bible and talmud, it seems to me that there is a huge difference, in terms of acceptability to orthodoxy, between saying that something orthodox ppl think was written by God (the torah) was actually written by people, and saying that something that orthodox people think was written/edited by certain people (say, ravina and rav ashi) was really written/edited by other people. The first makes the text different in kind, the second does not.

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