Orthodox Jews Divided?

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The Yiddish proverb that “What Christians do, Jews do” is not just about Jews who adopt the trappings of the dominant Christian culture. It applies equally to social and cultural trends. An article in the March 2011 issue of First Things magazine brings this into sharp focus.

In “Evangelicals Divided,” Gerald McDermott describes the fissure developing in the Evangelical community as its left wing grows increasingly radical. McDermott describes three ways in which this group deviates from mainstream Evangelicals: 1) by emphasizing religious experience over belief (orthopraxy over orthodoxy), 2) questioning the inspired status of the Bible and 3) lacking authority. McDermott further describes key figures as 4) respecting but not slavishly adhering to tradition, 5) challenging key theological doctrines and 6) rejecting moral teachings like strictures against homosexual acts.

A timely example appeared over the past few weeks with the controversy over Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell, an Evangelical pastor, preaches a universalist message in a very provocative way. This heresy has been denounced loudly by many mainstream Evangelical leaders, yet Bell is representative of a growing presence within Christianity called the Emerging Church.

Substitute some theological language and add in some halakhic terminology, and this article is about Orthodox Judaism. As Dr. Alan Brill has been saying for a long time on his blog (link), the corresponding trends among Evangelical Christianity and Orthodox Judaism is remarkable. The left wing of Orthodoxy has been provocatively pushing the line on similar issues: 1,2 & 5) questioning fundamental beliefs and emphasizing Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy, 3) rejecting rabbinic authority, both those of central rabbinic figures and often all rabbis by emphasizing personal autonomy, 4) deviating from traditional attitudes such as customs (e.g. kitniyos), and 6) questioning if not rejecting moral teachings about politically sensitive issues like homosexuality. Obviously, when we discuss trends about other Judaism or Christianity we must paint with a wide brush that is often imprecise about individuals.

I’m not sure what to take away from this. Does it mean that a split within Orthodoxy is a sociological inevitability? Should we dismiss the left push as born of a cultural trend rather than a religious impulse? Or should we embrace the left’s agenda as the unavoidable future? Or, perhaps, we should try to minimize the impact of this trend by reining in the excesses on both extremes. My suspicion is that this last suggestion is only possible if we are willing to cut off the foot in order to save the leg, something for which few have the stomach even after it becomes the only possible choice.

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 and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance 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.

177 comments

  1. Why is the left more of a cultural trend than the right?

  2. It seems to me that if questioning traditional attitudes to rabbinic authority and looking at discarding certain customs like kitniyot are “pushing the line” of what Orthodoxy was and should be, then continually expanding the definition of kitniyot and banning formerly permissible attitudes toward history and science also pushes the same line, though in the opposite direction.

  3. “both those of central rabbinic figures”

    Remember that R Chaim Brisker refused to join the Agudah because of their attempt to start a central Rabbinic body -what the Agudah calls the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah. R Chaim believed that when we don’t have a Sanhedrin we can’t have central Rabbinic authorities binding on Jews. A Jew is only bound by the one to who he asks his sheilot.

  4. “The left wing of Orthodoxy has been provocatively pushing the line on similar issues: 1,2 & 5) questioning fundamental beliefs and emphasizing Orthopraxy over Orthodoxy,”

    IMHO Orthopraxy was pushed much more so half a century or so ago-how much was tactics or belief of people like the great [deleted] etc or how much were their beliefs is a question-but in practice Orthopraxy was much more accepted in the very large Manhattan schules.

  5. “Remember that R Chaim Brisker refused to join the Agudah because of their attempt to start a central Rabbinic body -what the Agudah calls the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah. R Chaim believed that when we don’t have a Sanhedrin we can’t have central Rabbinic authorities binding on Jews. A Jew is only bound by the one to who he asks his sheilot.”

    i never heard that before. what did r chaim think of the vaad arba aratzos?
    r chaim also signed various joint rabbinic proclamations on topics for which he was not asked sheilot by individuals.

    i am under the strong impression that r chaim didn’t agree or at minimum was hesitant about the political goals and strategies of the agudah and that this was his reason for not joining.

  6. It’s problematic to extrapolate from Christianity to Judaism, because they are fundamentally different. This is shown clearly in this sentence:

    “1) by emphasizing religious experience over belief (orthopraxy over orthodoxy)”

    The term “Orthodoxy,” as applied to a certain approach/group within Judaism, was borrowed from Christianity in the first place, and is a misnomer as applied to Judaism. Christianity is all about belief. But throughout Jewish history, with the prominent exception of Rambam, Judaism always rated devotion to halachic observance as being much more important than personal beliefs. Consider the laws of gerus as discussed in the Gemara (which say nothing about beliefs), and the huge emphasis on halachah in the Gemara vis-a-vis the virtual absence of any discussion regarding beliefs. “Orthodoxy” is just not a good description of traditional Judaism. Nor, of course, is “Orthopraxy,” but some have suggested “Orthonomy.”

    So to say that certain Jewish groups are following trends in Christianity by “emphasizing religious experience over belief” and describing that as “Orthopraxy rather than Orthodoxy” is buying into a Christian description of what Judaism should be about, rather than a traditional Jewish understanding.

  7. Gil: The halachic left has been defined primarily by the phenomenon that Dr. Brill succinctly summarized as “This transformation [to Centrist Orthodoxy over the past ~35 years] involved the transfer of authority to roshei yeshivah from pulpit rabbis, the adoption of a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, and increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.”

    What you consider normative, is a modern tack to the right and has no greater authority than halachic Judaism to your left — regardless of how hard you convince yourself to the contrary.

  8. Orthopraxy is far more common on the right than the left, in my experience (which includes both types of communities.) People on the left who stop believing are more likely just to leave the community.

    As far as loyalty to the tradition, neither left nor right (or for that matter center) wins as many points as they like to think; we are all reacting to modernity.

    Since you seem quite well aware of novel behaviors on the left, let me point out some on the right. When I was a young man, Litvishe Roshei yeshivah made fun of Jews from Poland and Lithuania who adopted the Hungarian chumrah of requiring glatt meat; when my father was a young man a bar mitzvah bachur in a black hat would have been dismissed as a chutzpan. And no one would have thought of demanding separate seating in public buses. Or insisting it is shameful to earn a living. And someone already pointed out R. Chayyim’s reaction to the Moetzet.

    For that matter, while our tradition evolves slowly, the idea of a static tradition is itself a fairly recent novelty. For example, the Beis Halevy’s drasha (which is one of my favorites–I find it very inspiring) on mattan Torah, where he starts from the hava amina that the min in the gemara shabbos was right because putting na’aseh before nishma was a defective labor contract would have unthinkable 2 centuries before.

  9. R. Slifkin’s comment as well “But throughout Jewish history, with the prominent exception of Rambam, Judaism always rated devotion to halachic observance as being much more important than personal beliefs” is also borrowed from Christians. R Travers Herford makes the same remark in his book well over 100 years ago. The fact is that it is not true. The Chovos Halevavos and a number of other Rishonim disagree too.

  10. “apiat on March 25, 2011 at 12:08 am
    “Remember that R Chaim Brisker refused to join the Agudah because of their attempt to start a central Rabbinic body -what the Agudah calls the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah. R Chaim believed that when we don’t have a Sanhedrin we can’t have central Rabbinic authorities binding on Jews. A Jew is only bound by the one to who he asks his sheilot.”

    i never heard that before. what did r chaim think of the vaad arba aratzos?”

    I don’t know what R Chaim thought about the Vaad Arba Aratzot but the Vaad was NOT a Rabbinic Organization-delegates were ELECTED by the communities-there were Rabbis as part of the Vaad.

    “r chaim also signed various joint rabbinic proclamations on topics for which he was not asked sheilot by individuals.”
    No contradiction signing joint proclamations is not equivalent to having a central body that claims authority over over Rabbis.

    “i am under the strong impression that r chaim didn’t agree or at minimum was hesitant about the political goals and strategies of the agudah and that this was his reason for not joining.”
    R Chaim was an anti-zionist-the Agudah was formed a few years after the Mizrachi at least in part as an anti-zionist response to Mizrachi.

  11. The Yiddish proverb that “What Christians do, Jews do” is not just about Jews who adopt the trappings of the dominant Christian culture. It applies equally to social and cultural trends.
    ===========================================
    but halacha as formed in a specific time and place is generally assumed unaffected?
    KT

  12. Um,

    Before this degenerates into yet another legitimacy debate, why don’t we consider the options presented by R. Student in the last paragraph?

    Personally, I think that right now, the best option is to work towards having the sides talk to each other and keep an open mind (from right and left). I’d like to see more publications and conferences where it’s not just a bunch of like-minded people preaching to the converted. Yeshivot and institutions should start inviting people from the “other wing” for a rigorous, yet respectful debate.

    I don’t think it’s wise to make any sociological moves to isolate or cut people off. These things tend to set off a vicious, almost unstoppable cycle of mutual excommunication shesofa mi yeshurenu. The threat of cutting off should only be an extreme last resort, not something used regularly.

    So, yeah, I think it’s better if we find ways to work together (when we can) rather than just keep splitting into smaller and smaller groups.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  13. Gil, there has not been a tremendous breakdown of authority in the charedi community; or are you conflating LW Charedi Orthoprax with LW MO Orthodox? Over the last five years among the charedi that breakdown has not been noticable? When yeshivot do not teach hashkafa but rely on people loving the blatt (or the kugel) that is not putting experience over right-belief (not to mention, has it ever been our way to be intrusive about determining right-belief?)

    And, FWIW, the reason rabbinic authority has broken down in the US is that someone like R Norman Lamm was never respected on the right, someone like R Herschel Schachter never was of an inclination to be inclusive of the left and someone like R’ Aharon Lichtenstein chose to make his place in Israel. By default there are no real rabbinic leaders in the US today for a large chunk of MO.

  14. “As far as loyalty to the tradition, neither left nor right (or for that matter center) wins as many points as they like to think; we are all reacting to modernity. ”

    Agreed-modernity for better or worse has impacted reactions for the past 250 years or so-even theHatams Sofers chadash assur min hatorah is his reacti0on to modernity.

  15. Jordan: It seems to me that if questioning traditional attitudes to rabbinic authority and looking at discarding certain customs like kitniyot are “pushing the line” of what Orthodoxy was and should be, then continually expanding the definition of kitniyot and banning formerly permissible attitudes toward history and science also pushes the same line, though in the opposite direction.

    Really? You don’t see a difference between rejecting a custom that was practiced for centuries and expanding it? We don’t eat kitniyos as a long-standing practice. We do/did eat certain foods that some want to now label as kitniyos not as a religious custom but as a mundane practice. One is rejecting a long-standing religious practice. The other is rejecting a mundane practice. You can object to both but the former is certainly more of a breach.

    Mycroft: R Chaim believed that when we don’t have a Sanhedrin we can’t have central Rabbinic authorities binding on Jews. A Jew is only bound by the one to who he asks his sheilot.

    Yes and no. As I will IY”H blog next week, on big issues you have to ask big rabbis, not just your LOR. And if you don’t, there might be halakhic implications.

    Nation: The term “Orthodoxy,” as applied to a certain approach/group within Judaism, was borrowed from Christianity in the first place, and is a misnomer as applied to Judaism. Christianity is all about belief. But throughout Jewish history, with the prominent exception of Rambam, Judaism always rated devotion to halachic observance as being much more important than personal beliefs.

    You are certainly correct but I don’t see the relevance. Are you saying that rabbis can be atheists as long as they are shomer shabbos because practice is more important then belief? And while you may dismiss the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch and rov poskim follow him, a you can see in hilchos geirus and elsewhere. Wait, you of all people are dismissing the Rambam??? Although the truth is that, to my knowledge, every Rishon demanded certain beliefs, including the Ra’avad and Sefer HaIkkarim. They differed on which beliefs are fundamental and what to do with someone who is an inadvertent heretic. Frankly, I’m not sure how to read the Semak without seeing him as demanding certain beliefs. Same with the Sefer HaChinuch, who is quoted by the Chayei Adam and Aruch HaShulchan.

    My point is not that Jews are following Christian trends. It’s that both are following social trends, but they appeared earlier in Christianity as is often the case.

    I’m not sure that Orthonomy is an actual word — it isn’t in the dictionaries that I consulted. But if it means both practice and belief then I agree. If it means practice and half-belief, then I don’t.

    IH: You are in denial about the trend to the left. Are you saying that Evangelicals are following the Modern Orthodox? Or that acceptance of homosexuality and women rabbis was always the case until the evil roshei yeshiva grabbed control from the rabbanim?

    Mike S: Orthopraxy is far more common on the right than the left, in my experience…

    Not, in my experience, among rabbis.

    For that matter, while our tradition evolves slowly, the idea of a static tradition is itself a fairly recent novelty.

    I think of the center as Evolving Orthodoxy and the left as Experimental Orthodoxy. The difference is the pace and whether the attitude to change is acceptance or advocacy.

  16. Gil: I was not addressing the specific moves to the right or to the left, just that neither has any more authority than the other.  Both the moves to the right and to the left (within the framework of halacha) are reactions to modernity – including the 2 issues you raise.

    From what I see, it is only the right that is trying to “write out” the left; whereas, the left takes an eilu v’eilu approach regarding the right. Is this denial?

  17. Reform and Conservative also believe in eilu va-eilu.

  18. R’ Gil: “Really? You don’t see a difference between rejecting a custom that was practiced for centuries and expanding it?”

    No, of course there is a difference, and kitniyot is just an example. My point is that “the line” gets pushed by some people and pulled by others.

  19. Jordan: I agree and I protest against the shifts to the right when they are unwarranted. When it comes to glatt, though, I’d eat good non-glatt if it existed. To my understanding, once shechitah became centralized and moved away from the vicinity of big rabbanim, non-glatt percentages suddenly rose to implausible to numbers.

  20. Thanks, Gil, for making my point. Shabbat Shalom.

  21. You can object to both but the former is certainly more of a breach.

    Not so. If a supposed religious practice is not proper, even if sanctioned for long periods of time, stopping it is less of a breach.

  22. I was thinking more of ba’alei batim than rabbis when I was offering my experience.

  23. To my understanding, once shechitah became centralized and moved away from the vicinity of big rabbanim, non-glatt percentages suddenly rose to implausible to numbers.

    On the other hand the Rav used to frequently wonder aloud how the glatt schlochthausen had such healthy cows that they found fewer treifos than his (non-glatt) bodkim.

  24. joel rich: “but halacha as formed in a specific time and place is generally assumed unaffected?”

    LOL. Bang on.

  25. Mike S: The Rav’s non-glatt yield is roughly equivalent to today’s glatt yield.

  26. Rabbi Student,
    Thank you for an excellent observation. Is the split you are speaking of a de facto or de jure split and between exactly which groups?
    An effective split already exists between the Yeshivish/Charedi world and the left wing MO. Although no formal ban or cherem exists, the two operate in different and almost completely non-intersecting spheres. They daven in different shuls, send their children to different schools and operate with different halachic, hashkafic, and social expectations. I doubt a de facto split would occur between the Yeshivish and LWMO any more than one exists between Yeshivish and Lubavitch. Very few people are in a rush to create a broad schism which would be difficult to explain to the outside world. The main issue here as I see it is if the attitudes of the LWMO start to seep into the Yeshivish world. As one LOR I spoke to recently told me, the main threat from the LWMO to the Yeshivish is that many Yeshivish people lack the appropriate hashkafic depth to explicitly understand and explain why the LWMO views are wrong. I do not believe there is any possibility of rapprochement between the two. There is really very little in the way of common reference points between the two.
    If you are talking about a split between RWMO and LWMO then it might be possible that some sort of rapprochement could happen. My personal feeling is that the RWMO and LWMO will probably settle into the same sort of detached co-existence that exists between the Yeshivish and LWMO, although not as severe. There are common reference points between RWMO and LWMO such as YU, religious Zionism etc..

  27. Are you saying that rabbis can be atheists as long as they are shomer shabbos because practice is more important then belief?

    R. Gil, please don’t make a strawman; you know full well that I wasn’t saying that. Saying that practice is more important than belief does not mean that belief is unimportant! I might as well say to you – “Gil, are you saying that rabbis can ignore halachah, as long as they have the correct beliefs?”

    And while you may dismiss the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch and rov poskim follow him, a you can see in hilchos geirus and elsewhere.

    NOBODY follows Rambam in his over-arching importance for belief, such that according to Rambam, if you have the correct beliefs but don’t observe halachah, you go to Olam HaBa, but if you observe halachah and have an incorrect belief, you don’t. In Hilchos Gerus, the Gemara speaks only about teaching halachos – Rambam adds the part about teaching beliefs. There’s a reason why Rambam was very controversial!

    Wait, you of all people are dismissing the Rambam???

    Absolutely. In some things (such as his views on Chazal’s science) Rambam was normative, but in this, he was very much an aberration and was forcing Judaism into Greco-Muslim ideas. Do you really think that Rambam represents normative Judaism in his view of the role of beliefs?!

    Although the truth is that, to my knowledge, every Rishon demanded certain beliefs, including the Ra’avad and Sefer HaIkkarim. They differed on which beliefs are fundamental and what to do with someone who is an inadvertent heretic. Frankly, I’m not sure how to read the Semak without seeing him as demanding certain beliefs. Same with the Sefer HaChinuch, who is quoted by the Chayei Adam and Aruch HaShulchan.

    Of course certain beliefs are demanded. The Torah itself demands some! But the point is that, putting Rambam aside, everyone in Jewish history held that observing halachah is vastly, overwhelmingly more important. Nobody ever interrogated people about their beliefs, provided that they were loyal members of the halachic community. And that’s why, aside from Rambam and YBT, nobody would regard corporealist Rishonim as unworthy of respect.

    That’s why Judaism would have never originated the term and concept of “Orthodox” to describe Jews in good standing. “Shomer Torah u’mitzvos” is a much more accurate label. Borrowing a label originally devised for Christianity, and then using that concept to bemoan how some Jews are distorting Judaism, is itself a distortion of Judaism.

    Look, of course the group that you describe is changing from tradition in several ways. But so is everyone else. The approach to Judaism known as “Orthodoxy” is itself is a modern phenomenon in many ways. So you have to be more careful when describing exactly what is wrong with group, and using Christian ideas to define Judaism is not the way to go!

  28. The American Evangelical movement(s) are not themselves that traditional, and much of their current orthodox theology is only as old as the 19th century.

  29. > I might as well say to you – “Gil, are you saying that rabbis can ignore halachah, as long as they have the correct beliefs?”

    Interestingly, a person was more welcome in the original Hirsch kehillo if he had the correct Orthodox beliefs but was mechalel shabbos than the reverse.

  30. Natan: R. Gil, please don’t make a strawman; you know full well that I wasn’t saying that. Saying that practice is more important than belief does not mean that belief is unimportant! I might as well say to you – “Gil, are you saying that rabbis can ignore halachah, as long as they have the correct beliefs?”

    Then I don’t see the point of your comment because you are agreeing with me. The connotation of Orthodoxy within Judaism means correct belief and practice. We didn’t make the term up but that is how it is used. If you prefer the term Orthonomy, go ahead and use it but don’t expect anyone to know what that means.

    I certainly do not advocate investigations into people’s beliefs. But, historically, when people advertised their deviant beliefs they were criticized for it and sometimes rejected from the community. Do you think a rabbi who rejected the Torah SheBe’al Peh would have been regarded as an halachic authority in pre-Maimonidean Judaism or would he have been rejected as a Karaite?

  31. >That’s why Judaism would have never originated the term and concept of “Orthodox” to describe Jews in good standing.

    Judaism didn’t. Jews originated the term and concept to describe not Jews in good standing, but Jews who were outdated and reactionary.

  32. Do you think a rabbi who rejected the Torah SheBe’al Peh would have been regarded as an halachic authority in pre-Maimonidean Judaism or would he have been rejected as a Karaite?

    Of course he would have been rejected – because such a belief results in deviation from the halachic community! But someone who had wrong beliefs (e.g. corporealism) would not have been rejected as long as wasn’t undermining the community. (Prof. Shnayer Leiman explains that this is why Koheles was canonized but Jubilees wasn’t – theological deviance can be tolerated, halachic deviance cannot.)

    The connotation of Orthodoxy within Judaism means correct belief and practice. We didn’t make the term up but that is how it is used.

    As a term of convenience, “Orthodox” is fine, and people use it all the time. It’s just shorthand for “Jew in good standing who is shomer Torah u’mitzvos.” But when you speak about “Orthodox vs. Orthoprax” then you are implying that Judaism should be fundamentally defined by belief, which is a distortion. Neither dox alone nor prax alone are correct approaches to Judaism, but, as a term, “Orthoprax” is much closer to the correct definition of a good Jew (Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos, which includes some beliefs, but which overwhelmingly involves practice) than “Orthodox”.

  33. Natan: But when you speak about “Orthodox vs. Orthoprax” then you are implying that Judaism should be fundamentally defined by belief, which is a distortion.

    I appreciate what you are saying but you need to define your terms because you are using them differently from everyone else. In contemporary usage in the Jewish community, Orthoprax refers to someone who observes mitzvos but does not believe — sometimes in anything including God. Orthodox refers to someone who both believes and practices. You can object to the terminology and offer other suggestions, but that is how they are generally used.

    Your preference for Orthoprax to replace Orthodox is simply confusing and will inevitably lead to your being misunderstood.

  34. Gil – I know I’ve said this before, but I continue to be surprised about your belief in a future schism in Orthodoxy, when it’s already happened.

    Lakewood’s rabbis sermonize in Teaneck, and the Modern Orthodox there celebrate it as a grand event without stopping to think about the lack of reciprocation.

    Your very publishing firm has produced books that place their authors explicitly, if not their publishers and readers implicitly, in the category of heretics.

    And due to ever-increasing stricture in asceticism, vast numbers of ultra-Orthodox won’t eat in the average Modern Orthodox home.

    What further evidence are you seeking before asserting that, yes, a schism has developed, and we’re dealing with at least two distinct denominations here?

    Thus far, all my statements have been plain fact. However, I have one controversial assertion to leave you with: in the long run, your destiny is likely to share far more with the left-wing Orthodox than the right-wing.

  35. Yi’yasher kochakha, R. Slifkin, on distinguishing between the normativity of Rambam’s beliefs to the accuracy of Chazal’s science and Rambam’s beliefs in Ikkarei Emunah. I can confirm from consultation with RJDB that he agrees with you, although he arrives at reverse conclusion. Namely, he believes halakhah lima’aseh that a Jew must believe in the Ikkarei Emunah of Rambam, but he does not necessarily believe that Rambam’s approach to the accuracy Chazal’s science should be followed. I hasten to emphasize that this does not detract from the excellent value of the sefarim you have written, like “Challenge of Creation”, etc. You should continue publishing these precious sefarim, because there are poskim who hold by the position that these precious sefarim espouse – and I myself enjoy reading your precious sefarim (and, more importantly, RJDB does too! See his “New York City Water” article in Tradition 38:4, where he praises your sefarim)- but in practice RJDB does not feel one should question the science of Chazal. [E.g. RJDB holds that, out of doubt – because safek di’oraita lichumra – one should assume the universe was created in six days. Nevertheless, your sefarim are a beautiful cheftza of Talmud Torah, because they correctly illuminate the other side of the safek.]

    I also agree with your hesitancy to accept the Yiddish proverb that begins this post. “Va’avdil etkhem min ha’amim lihiyot li” (Leviticus 20:26); we Jews should certainly be distinct from the nations of the world.

  36. Methodologically speaking, the same phenomenon between distinguishing between Rambam’s normative works and more exploratory but not-necessarily-normative writings appears in RHS’s 1988 symposium with RMDT on the definition of death. There, RHS says we pasken Halakhah based on a Peirush Hamishnayot of the Rambam, but we don’t pasken Halakhah based on the Moreh Nevukhim. [Of course, although not mentioned by RHS, where the Moreh Nevukhim is actually cited by Shulchan Arukh, e.g. the very first Rema in Shulchan Arukh, then obviously we must tip our hat to the Moreh Nevukhim and accept the Moreh Nevukhim.]
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/711848/Rabbi_Moshe_D._Tendler/Definition_of_Death_II

  37. “And, FWIW, the reason rabbinic authority has broken down in the US is that someone like R Norman Lamm was never respected on the right, someone like R Herschel Schachter never was of an inclination to be inclusive of the left and someone like R’ Aharon Lichtenstein chose to make his place in Israel. By default there are no real rabbinic leaders in the US today for a large chunk of MO”
    Since the Rav-there has been no person who has qualified as a real rabbinic leader for large chunk of MO. A leader is much more than a Watson(IBM) of mesorah.

  38. SIW: That schism is over 50 years old. The only new aspect is that, to a degree, it is softening on the margins.

  39. “There, RHS says we pasken Halakhah based on a Peirush Hamishnayot of the Rambam, but we don’t pasken Halakhah based on the Moreh Nevukhim”

    Both works express the Rambams viewpoint-I don’t believe Jews other than Teimanim pasken on the basis ofthe Rambam-for starters the SA. One may well try and be one who tries to the extent that one can be machmir for the Rambams viewpoint-but we Ashkenazim don’t go to the Rambam for psak when he disagrees lekula lechatchila with the SA.

  40. “Your very publishing firm has produced books that place their authors explicitly, if not their publishers and readers implicitly, in the category of heretics.

    And due to ever-increasing stricture in asceticism, vast numbers of ultra-Orthodox won’t eat in the average Modern Orthodox home.”

    Depending on definitions many ulta-Orthodox never would eat in average MO homes.

    “What further evidence are you seeking before asserting that, yes, a schism has developed, and we’re dealing with at least two distinct denominations here?”

    I don’t believe that-except for at most a few Rabbis -I don’t see how RCA members differ in belief from BMG RY. There may be difference of tactics-representing difference between gown and town. But that is essentially the difference between RAK and RES and RYK-debate described in R Rofkpf’s book on R E Silver.

  41. Michael Rogovin

    #1 has been dealt with by others. #2: I don’t think that many on the MO left question the “inspired status of the Bible” – please do not conflate any part of MO with Reform or LW Conservative. As for #3 – rejecting authority, does Orthodox Judaism have any authority, at least in the sense that say Catholics do? groups within orthodoxy CREATE authorities (ie the Aguda’s Moetzes, the Young Israel Council of Sages, etc) but in general, individual rabbis recognize that some rabbis by virtue of their knowledge, reasoning, clarity of opinions and following become non-binding authorities that can be relied on. But everyone of those authorities was rejected by large groups of people/rabbis. Not everyone followed R Moshe’s psak. Or the Rav. Or Ra Auerbach. Or (well you get the idea.

    I don’t think that “respecting but not slavishly adhering to tradition” is necessarily bad, but I would say that slavishly rejecting tradition would be bad. I do not know of anyone who is “challenging key theological doctrines” so you would have to be specific as what doctrine being challenged is “key.” R Slifkin has asserted that Rashi might have been a corporealist. Would that make him a LWMO? Finally, as for “rejecting moral teachings like strictures against homosexual acts” – I suppose some do. But to my mind there is a difference between acknowledging the presence of persons whose sexual orientation is different and treating them with dignity and the assertion that this equals approval of prohibited acts. Homosexuality is not prohibited (there is no halachic concept of sexual orientation); certain acts are prohibited (as are certain heterosexual acts and other things, many of which are called toeva but are ignored when Jews violate them). I have not seen any major MO Rabbi come out in favor of any prohibition. I think you are just wrong on that.

  42. “This heresy ”

    Some Christians would argue that those views aren’t heretical at all, but normative!

    Protestant Christians periodically go through periods of conflict on these kinds of issues. 200 years ago half the Puritans in New England rejected the Trinity. A century and a half ago most US Protestant churches split over slavery. Late in the 19th century the issues were evolution and modern science vs. biblical literalism. A century ago the pentacostal churches enthusiastically endorsed female clergy and since then their growth has been the most rapid of any Christian group in the world. Not one of those disputes has been resolved today.

    (And we think WE have machlokets!)

  43. Steven I. Weiss

    >Lakewood’s rabbis sermonize in Teaneck, and the Modern Orthodox there celebrate it as a grand event without stopping to think about the lack of reciprocation.

    That’s proof that the schism hasn’t yet occurred. Lakewood rabbis don’t sermonize in Conservative shuls.

    The “problem” with the Chareidi attitude toward Modern Orthodoxy is not that they don’t consider MOx Jews to be Orthodox, but that they don’t recognize MOx Jews as operating as a legitimate kehila kedosha, with legitimate traditions and moreh hora’ah. But they recognize that they’re Orthodox. That’s why they’ll come into a Teaneck shul. They don’t recognize MOx as possessing rabbis, yeshivas and real Jewish institutions though.

  44. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rabbi Spira: For the life of me, I do not understand how one can apply safak de-oraita le-humrah to matters of belief, particularly the age of the world.

  45. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his kind response and for correctly inquiring what is the “issur” involved, which I neglected to identify.

    The issue at hand is Shu”t Chatam Sofer, YD 356, who rules that to deny the historicity of any event described by the Torah is a violation of “vilo taturu acharei livavkhem” (which as interpreted by the gemara in Berakhot 12b, refers to the prohibition against contemplating heresy). RJDB feels that since the entire subject of Creation is shrouded in kabbalistic mystery (as per the discussion in Tractate Chagigah, ch. 2), it is therefore impossible to submit beyond cavil that R. Slifkin’s allegorical interpretation of Creation is more correct that RMF’s literalist interpretation of Creation (in IM YD 3:73). Therefore, holds RJDB, we should learn both opinions, and in practice believe like RMF, to be theologically safe.

  46. >Therefore, holds RJDB, we should learn both opinions, and in practice believe like RMF, to be theologically safe.

    How can we learn both opinions as if they’re Torah, while holding the more stringent one, which considers the more lenient one an issur de-oraysa? The lenient view is then not Torah, but sifrei hamerus.

  47. “Do you really think that Rambam represents normative Judaism in his view of the role of beliefs?!”

    What is normative Judaism-Litvishe Yeshivot? Chassidic Tishes? Yeminite Schuls? etc etc

  48. “The “problem” with the Chareidi attitude toward Modern Orthodoxy is not that they don’t consider MOx Jews to be Orthodox, but that they don’t recognize MOx Jews as operating as a legitimate kehila kedosha, with legitimate traditions and moreh hora’ah. But they recognize that they’re Orthodox. That’s why they’ll come into a Teaneck shul. ”

    They come to MO schuls for two reasons: to raise money and perhaps to missionize-but I suspect especially if from the state of a book that I’m reading now-The Jersey Sting-money is important.
    Also, many people will speak essentially anywhere the trick of acceptance is will they invite a MO Rabbi to speak at BMG-keep dreaming.

  49. I don’t think that many on the MO left question the “inspired status of the Bible” – please do not conflate any part of MO with Reform or LW Conservative. As for #3 – rejecting authority, does Orthodox Judaism have any authority, at least in the sense that “say Catholics do? groups within orthodoxy CREATE authorities (ie the Aguda’s Moetzes, the Young Israel Council of Sages, etc) but in general, individual rabbis recognize that some rabbis by virtue of their knowledge, reasoning, clarity of opinions and following become non-binding authorities that can be relied on. But everyone of those authorities was rejected by large groups of people/rabbis. Not everyone followed R Moshe’s psak. Or the Rav. Or Ra Auerbach. Or (well you get the idea”

    Agreed

  50. >They come to MO schuls for two reasons: to raise money and perhaps to missionize-but I suspect especially if from the state of a book that I’m reading now-The Jersey Sting-money is important.

    It doesn’t matter – they could also come to a Conservative shul, but that is considered really assur, money or no money. My point is that the fact that they will go to Teaneck is proof that this denominational schism hasn’t yet occurred. Perhaps the kuntz is that they don’t really consider MO to be a denomination, just the am haratazishe, baalei tayva, rabbi-less wing of Orthodoxy.

  51. I detect a schism within those sectors of MO that refuse to recognize the twin concepts of halachic authority and expertise, ,who attach a minimalist approach to the span of Lo Sasur as the basis for the Chachmei HaTorah Sbecol Dor VaDor to act as Baalei Mesorah, and who evaluate the Torah by the Zeitgesist of their generation,as opposed to vice versa. A far as theRIETS RY as concerned, if one reads the Yated and the JW, there is far more respect for the RIETS RY in the Yated as RY and Talmidei Chachamim than in the JW.

  52. Steve, I didn’t know the JW was trying to be a MO newspaper. Anyway for you, halachic authority is a euphamism for the authority of R HS or, at most, the REITS RY. In tradtional Torah Judaism, a Jew only need respect the authority of his own posek.

  53. >if one reads the Yated and the JW, there is far more respect for the RIETS RY in the Yated

    In which issue of the yated have the RIETS RY actually been mentioned??

    They respect you and your community less than you respect the LWMO – just so you know – and they don’t consider your rabbis to be “baalei mesorah” in any way shape and form.

  54. “RJDB that he agrees with you, although he arrives at reverse conclusion. Namely, he believes halakhah lima’aseh that a Jew must believe in the Ikkarei Emunah of Rambam, but he does not necessarily believe that Rambam’s approach to the accuracy Chazal’s science ”

    We don’t pasken matters that don’t affect halacha lemaaseh-there are obvious universal held ikkarim like Torah misinai,a binding halacha-but necessarily things such asGods lack of corporeality.

  55. “RJDB that he agrees with you, although he arrives at reverse conclusion. Namely, he believes halakhah lima’aseh that a Jew must believe in the Ikkarei Emunah of Rambam, but he does not necessarily believe that Rambam’s approach to the accuracy Chazal’s science ”

    We don’t pasken matters that don’t affect halacha lemaaseh-there are universal held ikkarim like Torah misinai,a binding halacha-but necessarily things such as Gods lack of corporeality.

  56. “halachic authority and expertise, ,who attach a minimalist approach to the span of Lo Sasur as the basis for the Chachmei HaTorah Sbecol Dor VaDor to act as Baalei Mesorah, ”

    One opinion of lo tasur-there are others.

  57. Anonymous-The Yated always has a weekly feature as to which Rabbanim have recently spoken in certain locales in the US and Canada. I have seen RHS, R M Willig and R Z Sobolosfky on multiple occasions as well as pictures of R M Genack. I also saw a picture of the Bostoner Rebbe at the SOY Seforim Sale.

  58. HAGTBG wrote:

    “In tradtional Torah Judaism, a Jew only need respect the authority of his own posek”

    That’s assuming that such a person consults with a Posek who is qualified to render Psak Halacha, not merely a Musmach of a yeshiva.

  59. HAGTBG wrote:

    “Steve, I didn’t know the JW was trying to be a MO newspaper”

    The JW is consistently pro LW MO, rarely has anything complimentary to say about the MO/OU/RIETS world, and views the Charedi world as a source for articles re scandal, etc.

  60. “Anonymous-The Yated always has a weekly feature as to which Rabbanim have recently spoken in certain locales in the US and Canada. I have seen RHS, R M Willig and R Z Sobolosfky on multiple occasions as well as pictures of R M Genack.”
    I don’t know Rabbi Sobolofsky-the others listed are far from MO.

    “I also saw a picture of the Bostoner Rebbe at the SOY Seforim Sale”
    Which one Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz A’H? R Mayer? Are pictures supposed to be representative of lomdus?

  61. Steve Brizel on March 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm
    “HAGTBG wrote:

    “In tradtional Torah Judaism, a Jew only need respect the authority of his own posek”

    That’s assuming that such a person consults with a Posek who is qualified to render Psak Halacha, not merely a Musmach of a yeshiva”

    I have an obligation to get a psak-it is not my concern who if anyone that person consults with-my obligation is to ask someone in good faith.Naturally, if the issue is a difficult one -absent the sheila occurring on Shabbos or Yom Tom and an immediate answer is needed the person I ask is likely to discuss the issue with others of his choosing butthat is not my responsibility.

  62. “views the Charedi world as a source for articles re scandal”

    Obviously, one can find scandals everyplace but do you not believe that the attitude taught to Chareidim is one of to put it mildly gaming the system.
    Read The Jersey Sting by Sherman and Margolin.

  63. >Anonymous-The Yated always has a weekly feature as to which Rabbanim have recently spoken in certain locales in the US and Canada. I have seen RHS, R M Willig and R Z Sobolosfky on multiple occasions as well as pictures of R M Genack. I also saw a picture of the Bostoner Rebbe at the SOY Seforim Sale.

    I don’t know which Yated your are speaking of – but the one here in Israel won’t even put the acronym shlita after R’ Ovadia Yosef’s name. Never mind, mention a bunch of YU רעבייס.

  64. The father of the editor of the American Yated preceded R Genack as the head of OU kashrus and had good relations with Rav Soloveitchik. The son still retains some of that good will to Rav Soloveitchik and some of the right wing roshei yeshiva. The claim that Rav Schachter, Rav Willig and Rav Genack are not MO is, in my opinion, incorrect. All are Zionists and favor women learning Gemara. There are other MO elements to their worldviews, particularly R Willig and R Genack but also R Schachter, but I don’t want to get too personal.

  65. “The claim that Rav Schachter, Rav Willig and Rav Genack are not MO is, in my opinion, incorrect. All are Zionists and favor women learning Gemara.”

    Being a Zionist and in favor of women learning Gemara is not the marker of MO.
    Some of the most extreme Zionists are Chardal-learing gemara for starters Bruriah Hutner Cohen clearly was knowledgeable in Gemarrah,she edited Pachad Yitzchak-does anyone claim that R Hutner was MO.
    My definition of MO revolves around these attributes
    pluralism/tolerance to other Jews who don’t accept Torah
    attitudes toward and behavior between Jews and non-Jews-not merely accepting dina dmalchusa dina which everyone knows RHS is very strong on
    rabbinic authority,including attitudes towards centralization in self selected baalei mesorah
    Torah and secular study -not merely a bedieved to learn a living.

    Certainly RHS is the leader of RIETS since the passing of RYBS and thus I believe this statement of Prof Waxman is appropriate to RHS

    “It may well be that Modern Orthodox rabbis,
    including those ordained at RIETS in the latter part of the twentieth century, were considerably more to the right
    than were their predecessors. In other words, the move to the right may have been within the RIETS semikhah (ordination)
    program, under the influence of a revisionist approach to the thinking of its revered head, the late Rabbi Joseph
    B. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”), rather than within Orthodoxy as a whole,”

  66. The deplaning of passengers from this morning’s Delta arrival in JFK from Israel was delayed for 30 minutes while the police came on board to detain someone. It seems that one of the black-hatted and attired Orthodox middle-aged men on board, groped a women early in the flight.

    I quickly saw him on my way out of the plane, surrounded by officers, but did not get a chance to ask him if he was Orthodox vs. Orthoprax, or his feelings on the morality of homosexual relationships. Although, it would not be a risky guess that this man considers himself a defender of the faith and would never dream of shaking hands with a woman.

    Something is wrong in the state of Yeshivish/Charedi Orthodoxy that outside of Gil’s taxonomy and a much deeper threat to normative halachic Judaism than the issues Gil is highlighting in this piece. Perhaps the core schism is between those who believe in dina de’malchuta dina; and those who apply it only when it suits them?

  67. R GIL:

    The claim that Rav Schachter, Rav Willig and Rav Genack are not MO is, in my opinion, incorrect. All are Zionists and favor women learning Gemara.

    I do not know R’ Genack and I am ambiguous on RMW but RHS is the leader of RW MO. However, he is not MO himself and I don’t believe anyone I’ve discussed him with in the past few years thinks he is. RHS is not a leader of Torah Umadda. His children were not raised MO. There is little indication he cares to find the good things about secular culture. He is no longer associated with women learning Gemara, whether he supports it or not. (He is in fact associated with limiting the role of women in learning and I don’t believe this is solely due to his leadership role and beliefs but, rather, the method he carried it out.) And he is not known for his Zionism either.

    SB:
    The JW is consistently pro LW MO, rarely has anything complimentary to say about the MO/OU/RIETS world, and views the Charedi world as a source for articles re scandal, etc.

    It is pro Reform, Conservative and MO. It has as much to say complimentary about RW MO as LW MO. It covers scandals in all worlds equally (remember Lanner?). It is certainly not a MO paper, LW or otherwise though because the editor straddles the LW MO and RW Conservative world, that does get some personal sympathy from him.

    That’s assuming that such a person consults with a Posek who is qualified to render Psak Halacha, not merely a Musmach of a yeshiva.

    On the one hand your comment is non-controversial. On the other, I suspect its a code word for – if MO- must be a student of R HS.

  68. Lawrence Kaplan

    RJD Bleich may feel that in pratice one should not question the accuracy of Hazal’s science, but many many disgree with him.

    R. Spira: The Rambam states we do not pasken in matters of belief. Moreover, I simply do not understand how if say I read RMF and R. Nathan Slifkin regarding creation and I am convinced by the overwhelming evidence supporting R. Slifkin’s view, how do I decide to believe the contrary on the basis of safak de-oraita le-humra. It is bad enough to apply your mechanistic method pesak to matters of action, but to belief???

  69. So does Rav Bleich believe in spontaneous generation?

  70. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rrrrrr. Slifkin: Presumably R. Bliech would say that Hazal did not believe in it either, but were only dealing with appearances.

  71. Re RHS, I honestly don’t know the answer to this, but is it possible he’s changed/ evolved? People have told me certain things that suggest he’s got a real MO streak (e.g., familiar with literature) but perhaps those things reflect earlier interests? Maybe he gets complete intellectual and spiritual fulfillment from yeshivish-style learning nowadays? Maybe he’s been 20+ years without a mentor who was open to certain things and kept him aware of a certain direction which he no longer finds so useful? Can anyone who’s known him over the decades comment?

  72. Prof. Kaplan – I don’t see how he could say that with the dirt-mouse. (I don’t think he could say it with lice either, but the dirt-mouse is even more blatant.)

  73. Lawrence Kaplan

    R. Slifkin: I, needless to say, agree with you, but after a point, it is fruitless to speculate about what R. Bleich would say about these issues.

    R. Spira: Has R. Bleich written about this anywhere? And, by the way, what is YOUR opinion about spontaneous generation and the dirt-mouse? Or is this also a safek de-oraita?!

  74. “People have told me certain things that suggest he’s got a real MO streak (e.g., familiar with literature) but perhaps those things reflect earlier interests?”

    That RHS is familiar with secular culture to some extent proves nothing about his belief. RHS went to Yeshiva College when one had to take at least a somewhat normal college coursework-before the acceptance of fake Israeli yeshiva credits en masse-. RHS is certainly very smart-thus knowledge certainly from his studies proves nothing about his beliefs of the desireability of spending time learning that knowledge.
    Certainly RHS perhaps due to his background is willing to treat MO Rabbonim who accept the halachic process with respect and kavod. I would not say that for the vast majority of the Yeshiva world.

  75. IH: “It seems that one of the black-hatted and attired Orthodox middle-aged men on board, groped a women early in the flight.”

    Sounds like a disgusting chilul hashem.

    By the way, did I tell you what I saw a certain LWMO Jew do today?

    Oh wait, I promised myself I wouldn’t descend to the level of libeling an entire society based on the behavior of one individual.

  76. >That RHS is familiar with secular culture to some extent proves nothing about his belief.

    Of course, but I wasn’t talking about being “familiar with secular culture to some extent.” According to my sources, we’re not talking about osmosis (e.g., as a kid I heard the Bostoner Rebbe refer to the Red Sox in an inspirational speech, and before I was married a very definitely non-TUM rosh yeshiva recommended I read ‘Men Are From Mars.’). According to my sources, RHS knows modern Hebrew literature quite well, and not in the manner of someone who took a few undergrad classes 50 years ago.

  77. Shlomo — the premise of the posting is about sociological segmentation. I was using an example to suggest another division within Orthodoxy.

    Since you mention it, I reject your glib response to the very real problem of sexual deviancy in a society that has made an obsession of tzniut and being shomer negiah.

  78. “The claim that Rav Schachter, Rav Willig and Rav Genack are not MO is, in my opinion, incorrect.”

    I agree with R’Gil.

  79. “in practice RJDB does not feel one should question the science of Chazal”

    By definition, ANY scientific experiment or observational study that addresses ANYTHING Chazal discussed would be questioning them. Does Rabbi Bleich really believe that no Jew should become a scientist?

  80. “though because the editor [of the JW] straddles the LW MO and RW Conservative world, …”

    Sorry, HAGTBG, but although I often agree with you, in this comment you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

  81. RHS is simply more complex than many people allow him to be.

  82. …and labels are more simplistic than people tend to be: e.g. “the left”.

  83. “Hirhurim on March 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm
    RHS is simply more complex than many people allow him to be.

    IH on March 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm
    …and labels are more simplistic than people tend to be: e.g. “the left”.”

    I agree with both statements-most people are complex

  84. Sorry, HAGTBG, but although I often agree with you, in this comment you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

    Could be. It was my impression from afar. If I’m wrong and I offended I apologize.

  85. Accepted.

  86. Daniel Ehrenreich

    Saying Rav Schachter is not “known for his Zionism” seems wrong. I certainly had that general impression in and around Yeshiva (c. ’92-’98), and remember very distinctly being handed an article by him at a Bnei Akiva weekend arguing (among other pro-Zionist points) that pikuach nefesh is not docheh cibush ha’aretz.

  87. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan, R. Slifkin, R’ S., R’ Mycroft and R’ Charlie Hall for their important responses. To answer the excellent questions that has been posed to me, some of what I am quoting in RJDB’s is written but mostly it is oral conversations with me. In writing, RJDB has addressed spontaneous generation in Tradition 38:4, commencing on p. 82. [There, RJDB presents various sides of the debate, but he himself maintains (as R. Kaplan indicated) that Chazal were correctly describing phenomena as they are perceived by the human eye.] Regarding Genesis, RJDB has written about it in his birkat hachammah book, as well as in his essay regarding observance of Shabbat at the poles of planet earth (in Contemporary Halakhic Problems V, ch. 3). The former book clearly adopts a literalist approach to Genesis, but the latter work is self-contradictory. On the one hand, RJDB does take the days of creation as literal 24-hour periods in the latter work as well, but on the other hand, he refuses to endorse the thesis of R. Yechiel Michal Tukatchinksy that mountains which existed during the six days of Creation must be distinguished from mountains that came into existence after Creation. When I asked RJDB why he rejects R. Tukatchinsky’s thesis, RJDB responded “how can anyone know which mountains existed at Ma’aseh Bereishis and which evolved over millions of years afterward?” [Being an old-fashioned student, I am obviously jumped out of my shoes when I heard RJDB say this.] I then pointed out to RJDB that he was contradicting himself on the R. Slifkin vs. RMF debate. This led RJDB to clarify that he regards the matter as a safek in terms of Chovot Halevavot, that both sides are legitimate, and that in practice one should take the old-fashioned approach, just to be on the side of certainty in complying with the Chatam Sofer. It is true that R. Slifkin has many excellent arguments against RMF, but I think the Jewish Observer did a decent job responding to R. Slifkin in their Sivan 5766 edition, to uphold RMF’s position (-which is also the Steipler’s opinion in Karyana Di’iggerta I, no. 115). [OF course, I do appreciate that R. Slifkin has excellently counter-responded to the Jewish Observer at http://www.zootorah.org/controversy/ResponseToRabbiChaimKeller.pdf ]

    R’ S.: I appreciate your enthusiasm to be machamir, but one may rest assured that R. Slifkin’s books are *not* heretical. R. Slifkin is presenting a legitimate halakhic case. Everyone should read R. Slifkin’s sefarim; he has RJDB’s endorsement – what could be better? We just can’t know for sure whether R. Slifkin is historically correct or whether RMF is historically correct, so RJDB holds we need to be cautious in practice as a matter of Chovot Halevavot. RJDB specifically told me (after I instigated the question) he would not eat the shechitah performed by someone who believes that the universe is billions of years old. But my understanding is that RJDB will certainly be honoured to eat R. Slifkin’s shechitah. R. Slifkin never said RMF was definitely wrong; R. Slifkin simply said “RMF holds like this but other talmidei chakhamim hold like that”. I think RJDB would only refuse to eat the shechitah of someone who thinks that RMF is definitely wrong beyond question.

  88. Incidentally, I must confess that there is always the possibility that – despite the best of my efforts – I have (accidentally) misquoted RJDB’s oral conversations with me, and everyone is accordingly welcome to ask RJDB in person what is the Halakhah on this important topic.

  89. Parenthetically, it is also worth mentioning that R. Menasheh Klein agrees with the opinion of RMF and the Steipler. See the paragraph that begins “ve-gam”,
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1874&st=&pgnum=120

  90. A wonderful fellow I once knew, Sam Horowitz once said something like this: “Yiddishkeit is like a cube. It is OK to be anywhere inside the cube. There is an upper right corner that is far away from the lower left corner, but as long as you are inside the cube, you are OK. It is dangerous and questionable to be on the edge, and you shouldn’t ever drift outside the cube. But there is plenty of room for us all inside the cube.”

    Can we stop this denigrating and judging each other? As long as we keep this up, Moshiach is never going to come. I don’t buy it that this is a Torah-arguement. Each side sounds self-righteous and arrogant, my way or the highway.

    MO is not perfect. Charedei is not perfect. I’m not perfect. It’s not the imperfections that I dwell on. If I did, no one and nothing would ever be good enough. I look at what is good in each derech and learn and do the best I can. Of course, what I think is good may not strike you the same way. OK. Knock yourself out, my friend, and do it the way you think is best. Just as I won’t put you down for doing what you think is best, I hope you will treat me with the same respect and fraternity that I treat you with.

    It such a policy too much to ask of each other?

  91. “Incidentally, I must confess that there is always the possibility that – despite the best of my efforts – I have (accidentally) misquoted RJDB’s oral conversations with me, and everyone is accordingly welcome to ask RJDB in person what is the Halakhah on this important topic.”

    I’ve asked RJBD in the past and he said NOTHING like what you are writing here. I’m certain you’ve misunderstood him about safek d’oreita lchumra mandating the stance that chazal didn’t err on science.
    Caveat emptor.

  92. “R. Slifkin never said RMF was definitely wrong; ”

    Who is RMF, and what did he say?

    Incidentally, I do think that anyone who believes that the world is 5771 years old is definitely wrong. But I don’t shecht animals, so I guess that’s okay!

  93. mycroft 8:41
    Points 1 & 2
    There are many non-MO who are more punctilious than most MO.
    Point 3
    MO often does the same sometimes more so.
    Point 4
    Many non-MO are of the same view(as long as one is not -in the Alter of Slabodka’s words-infatuated).

  94. IH 2:27
    If you don’t like Halacha ,say so.

  95. c y on March 28, 2011 at 1:52 am
    mycroft 8:41
    Points 1 & 2
    “There are many non-MO who are more punctilious than most MO.
    Point 3
    MO often does the same sometimes more so.
    Point 4
    Many non-MO are of the same view(as long as one is not -in the Alter of Slabodka’s words-infatuated).”

    What is your definition of MO and non MO?

  96. c y: I don’t like distortions of halacha (often via chumraization) that leads to perverse results that cannot be Ratzon ha’Shem no matter what pilpul is used to justify it. I gave one example from one day in my life. Go to FailedMessiah.com (et al) to see many more.

  97. Advocating extreme right-wing positions politically is not Zionism. If RHS were Zionist, he’d probably be living somewhere else.

  98. “Something is wrong in the state of Yeshivish/Charedi Orthodoxy that outside of Gil’s taxonomy and a much deeper threat to normative halachic Judaism than the issues Gil is highlighting in this piece. Perhaps the core schism is between those who believe in dina de’malchuta dina; and those who apply it only when it suits them?”

    Or, between those who cling to “dina d’maluchsa dina” now matter whether it applies or not, and believe there is no need to refer to and reply upon S.A. Chosen Mishpat, and those who understand that Choshen Mishpat is applicable in many, if not most cases, and that “dina d’malchusa dina” cannot replace and should not replace those halachos.

  99. Rafael, who exactly do you think your strawman is? I don’t know a single person on the “left” who would argue that dina d’malchusa should replace CM when CM is more mekil.

  100. “Jon_Brooklyn on March 28, 2011 at 11:27 am
    Advocating extreme right-wing positions politically is not Zionism. If RHS were Zionist, he’d probably be living somewhere else.”

    Raising issue of can one be a Zionist outside of Israel? Of course, even if a Zionist one could take the Ravs position that essentially issues of life and death have to be decided by those facing the consequences of those stands. Thus, Israel should not concern itself with those who live in the US and don’t want Israel to give up territories so that they can have a place to go for their annual or so 5 hour religious theme park visit of maarat hamachpela etc and don’t haver to live with consequences of keeping the territories; or on the other hand Peace Now who say give up the shetachim don’t have to live with the consequences of such actions.

  101. R. Slifkin, thank you for your response. I apologize for my excessive penchant for acronyms. RMF = R. Moshe Feinstein. His responsum is available at
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=920&st=&pgnum=326. The school I attended (Hebrew Academy of Montreal) followed his approach when I was a grade 9 student there in 1992-1993; we skipped the parts of the biology textbook that referred to evolution. [I can’t say we literally tore out the pages of the book, though…]

    R’ Apiat, thank you for the testimony from RJDB. Food for thought…

  102. “I don’t know a single person on the “left” who would argue that dina d’malchusa should replace CM when CM is more mekil”
    Do youknow a single person on the “righ” who would argue that dina d’malchusa should replace CM when CM is more mekil.

    BTW- The cast of Rabbonim and institutions that are mentioned in The Jersey Sting are not MO.

  103. Anon wrote:

    if one reads the Yated and the JW, there is far more respect for the RIETS RY in the Yated

    “In which issue of the yated have the RIETS RY actually been mentioned??

    They respect you and your community less than you respect the LWMO – just so you know – and they don’t consider your rabbis to be “baalei mesorah” in any way shape and form”
    Ever attend an Ask OU Kashrus event-take a look and see where such events are held-Lakewood, BP, etc.

  104. Mycroft wrote:

    “Anonymous-The Yated always has a weekly feature as to which Rabbanim have recently spoken in certain locales in the US and Canada. I have seen RHS, R M Willig and R Z Sobolosfky on multiple occasions as well as pictures of R M Genack.”
    I don’t know Rabbi Sobolofsky-the others listed are far from MO.

    “I also saw a picture of the Bostoner Rebbe at the SOY Seforim Sale”
    Which one Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz A’H? R Mayer? Are pictures supposed to be representative of lomdus”

    First of all, viewing R Genack, RHS and R M Willig as “far from MO” and claiming an ignorance as to R Sobolofsky IMO boggles the mind. None are Charedi. The picture of the current Bostoner Rebbe was to illustrate that he went to the Seforim Sale, just like any other visitor. The picture of R N T Finkle,RY of Mir, at the OU Kashrus Office, was IMO a precious example of Achdus in action.

  105. Anon wrote:

    “I don’t know which Yated your are speaking of – but the one here in Israel won’t even put the acronym shlita after R’ Ovadia Yosef’s name. Never mind, mention a bunch of YU רעבייס.”

    I read the US edition of the Yated.

  106. Mycroft wrote:

    “My definition of MO revolves around these attributes
    pluralism/tolerance to other Jews who don’t accept Torah
    attitudes toward and behavior between Jews and non-Jews”

    I guess Kiruv and Chizuk are less important values than “I’m Ok, You’re Ok,let’s ignore the fact that I am a Shomer Torah Umitzvos and you don’t keep any mitzvos or rationalize away the same”. Please don’t quote RYBS’s letters out of context, because we all the bottom line know how RYBS viewed the deviationist movements in the letters and in many of the Drashos that RYBs gave at the Chag HaSemichas in the 1940s and 1950s

  107. HAGTBG wrote:

    “It is pro Reform, Conservative and MO. It has as much to say complimentary about RW MO as LW MO. It covers scandals in all worlds equally (remember Lanner?). It is certainly not a MO paper, LW or otherwise though because the editor straddles the LW MO and RW Conservative world, that does get some personal sympathy from him”

    May I suggest that you take a look at the JW archives and compare the ink devoted to Lanner as opposed to a homicide orchestrated by a deviationist clergyman and allegations of sexual abuse against a deviationist clergyman and cantor? WADR, I don’t think that it is correct to view LW MO as the sole criteria of MO. Viewing where anyone sends their kids to yeshiva as valid criteria IMO ignores the fact that we all make decisions in Chinuch, and none of us would appreciate the same being second guessed because of the priorities that we view as important in that decision. Yet, you view yourself as competent to pass judgment on where Talmidei Chachamim send their children.

  108. IH wrote:

    “Since you mention it, I reject your glib response to the very real problem of sexual deviancy in a society that has made an obsession of tzniut and being shomer negiah”

    WADR, you did engage in an argument that when reduced to its elements assumes that Charedim will engage in inappropriate conduct. I hate to break it to you, but using the term Shomer Negiah IMO betrays an ignorance of the fact that Negiah is not a mere Minhag ala standing for Chazaras HaShatz or Krias HaTorah, but may very well be either Issur Min HaTorah according to Rambam or an Issur DRabanan according to Ramban.

  109. Jon wrote:

    “Advocating extreme right-wing positions politically is not Zionism. If RHS were Zionist, he’d probably be living somewhere else”

    Jon- WADR, being a self hating LW post Zionist is also not a Zionist POV, but rather IMO an example of a self-hating Jew. Ever read Jabotinsky’s works-he was hardly a Labor Zionist. Do you say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut or are aware of RHS’s views as to the same?

  110. HATGBG wrote:

    “There is little indication he cares to find the good things about secular culture”

    WADR, let me pose the following response. The notion that RHS and RMW share the Charedi POV that all males must learn 24/7 in Kollel for as long as possible is definitely not part of their Hashkafa. Neither RHS nor RMW delve in the rhetoric that their talmidim who work for a living are engaged in a Bdieved endeavor. Neither RHS nor RMW engage in the rhetoric of Yissocher/Zvulun which in its worst context, attaches no value except $ to the efforts of Baalei Batim. To the contrary, they refer us to the fact that Rabbeinu HaKadosh obligates the rich and Hillel HaZaken obligates the not so rich to learn as much as possible in their time. They do insist that a person who works for a living make Limud HaTorah a main priority in their lives as well as that of their family members.

  111. Steve, your argument is horrible. I will do RHS the credit that, if he is MO, the proof is something better then he does not engage in the rhetoric of “Yissocher/Zvulun which in its worst context, attaches no value except $ to the efforts of Baalei Batim” or that “all males must learn 24/7 in Kollel for as long as possible is definitely not part of their Hashkafa.” In fact, whether MO or not, as a YU RY, I would be shocked if he has not said something more pro MO then that.

  112. May I suggest that you take a look at the JW archives and compare the ink devoted to Lanner as opposed to a homicide orchestrated by a deviationist clergyman and allegations of sexual abuse against a deviationist clergyman and cantor?

    Steve, allow me to disabuse you of the notion that you are more of a bahki in the Jewish Week then I. I have no interest in reviewing their archives on the basis of your belief as to your superior familiarity. Review if yourself. And review the Wikipedia entry of Gary Rosenblatt which marks the articles taking down (the MO) Lanner as one of the notable articles of his career.

    As for your end note about my concern about RHS sends his children, I’ll tell you a little secret: its his own business. And were he to send his children to a different school based on the view of the mighty HAGTBG for afar then he’d be a moron. You can quote me on that.

    But don’t tell me that, were he MO, the needs of his children meant that each did not go to a MO school. Clearly he thinks there is something deficient about the MO educational system. It is indicative of his true regard to the institutions he has such a prominent voice in.

  113. from afar. Not for afar. That would make no sense.

  114. when I used to ask my shai’alos of one of the YU roshei yeshiva who are being referred to here as “right wing” (I since moved away), I recall him being very familiar with certain shakespeare plays that I wanted to know if I was permitted to see during sefira (and basing the answer on the rules of sefira and the content of the plays, not discouraging me from seeing shakespeare). I also recall him quoting coleridge in his shabbos morning drasha (the coleridge quote wasn’t a one-time phenomeon, I just don’t remember what else he quoted from english literature from time to time). this wasn’t the type of stuff he usually discussed, and it was likely lost on many of the congregants, but he apparently was knowledgable about it and wasn’t against using it where it was helpful and appropriate.

  115. “Negiah is not a mere Minhag ala standing for Chazaras HaShatz or Krias HaTorah, but may very well be either Issur Min HaTorah according to Rambam or an Issur DRabanan according to Ramban.”

    Steve — lots of things “may well be” including the seeming correlation between obsession of separation of the sexes and sexual deviancy.

    Times change and with them our attitudes – and our interpretation of halacha. For example, the Shulchan Aruch asserts it is entirely appropriate for a father to sleep naked in the same bed as his children: http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2010/09/family-bed-reality-halacha.html

  116. “http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=920&st=&pgnum=326. The school I attended (Hebrew Academy of Montreal) followed his approach when I was a grade 9 student there in 1992-1993; we skipped the parts of the biology textbook that referred to evolution. [I can’t say we literally tore out the pages of the book, though…]”

    Fascinating. As far as I recall, none of the NYC-area MO schools, including those affiliated with YU, took this course in the mid-late 70’s. My wife and I both recall being taught evolution in a matter of fact way, with the understanding that this was not contradictory to Jewish belief.

    It is somewhat ironic RMF’s teshuva is dated on Yom ha’Atzmaut: I’m wondering whether Hebrew Academy of Montreal held by RMF’s views on Israel, in the time period you attended, as well?

  117. R. Spira, btw, can you be more explicit about what you believe RMF considered: עניני כפירה בבריאת העולם and what you believe in this regard?

  118. IH wrote:

    “Steve — lots of things “may well be” including the seeming correlation between obsession of separation of the sexes and sexual deviancy.

    Times change and with them our attitudes – and our interpretation of halacha. For example, the Shulchan Aruch asserts it is entirely appropriate for a father to sleep naked in the same bed as his children”

    According to your POV, pre Marital sex is now somehow Mutar Min HaTorah?

  119. Mycroft: thanks for the pointer. Meant “when CM is more machmir”. That is, the only people arguing for wider application dina d’malchusa dina are people arguing for more stringency, as a supplement to CM. Rafael is painting them as… well something else.

  120. Steve — do you think it’s mutar for a parent to sleep naked in the same bed with their post-infancy children, in 21st century US or Israel?

  121. Steve: so let me get this straight. RHS says Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. RAL does not. As a zionist, RHS>RAL?

  122. “pre Marital sex is now somehow Mutar Min HaTorah?”

    Interesting topic. It seems Ramban was lenient on this, according to: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Sex_and_Sexuality/Premarital_Sex.shtml

    but, I have not studied the sources, nor is it an area of great interest for me; but, it seems you may learn something.

  123. Jon-RAL has always descibed himself as insufficiently Zionist for RZ and insuficciently Charedi for the Charedi world. I would not be surprised by RAL’s not saying Hallel. RHS’s views on Israel are far closer to RZ thought than that of RAL in his views re the theological significance of the creation of the State of Israel.

    IH-I think that the Ramban that you quoted may very well be Lshitaso as his view of Negiah in the Sefer HaMitzvos, but IMO, it is incorrect to say that Ramban viewed pre marital sex beyond a single man and woman as Heter Gamur, Lchol HaDeos.

  124. HAGTBG wrote in part:

    “Steve, allow me to disabuse you of the notion that you are more of a bahki in the Jewish Week then I. I have no interest in reviewing their archives on the basis of your belief as to your superior familiarity. Review if yourself. And review the Wikipedia entry of Gary Rosenblatt which marks the articles taking down (the MO) Lanner as one of the notable articles of his career”

    If you don’t read the JW or have any interest in the archives, then IMO, you really are ignoring the facts as printed therein.

    “As for your end note about my concern about RHS sends his children, I’ll tell you a little secret: its his own business. And were he to send his children to a different school based on the view of the mighty HAGTBG for afar then he’d be a moron. You can quote me on that.

    But don’t tell me that, were he MO, the needs of his children meant that each did not go to a MO school. Clearly he thinks there is something deficient about the MO educational system. It is indicative of his true regard to the institutions he has such a prominent voice in”

    WADR, many YU grads and RIETS musmachim send their kids to schools that are not part of the MO orbit for a wide variety of reasons. That would make an interesting study in its own right. However, many of these same families do not subscribe to classical Charedi views on many Hashkafic issues.

  125. HAGTBG wrote:

    “Steve, your argument is horrible. I will do RHS the credit that, if he is MO, the proof is something better then he does not engage in the rhetoric of “Yissocher/Zvulun which in its worst context, attaches no value except $ to the efforts of Baalei Batim” or that “all males must learn 24/7 in Kollel for as long as possible is definitely not part of their Hashkafa.” In fact, whether MO or not, as a YU RY, I would be shocked if he has not said something more pro MO then that”

    WADR, RHS’s views on this issue as very different than the classical Charedi 24/7 Kollel forever POV. IN all seriousness, you just can’t see the same as different.

  126. Steve — since you raised it, I have now found the next level of detail at the same site, which is interesting (e.g. the Ravad criticism of Rambam): http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Sex_and_Sexuality/Premarital_Sex/Traditional_Sources.shtml

    But, back to my question: do you think it’s mutar for a father to sleep naked in the same bed with his prepubsecent children, in 21st century US or Israel as allowed by the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch?

  127. HATGBG wrote:

    “There is little indication he cares to find the good things about secular culture”

    Secular culture today is dominated by Pritzus , an antipathy to religious values and language that none of us should ever express publicly or privately. I read the NY Times and search for a movie that I would feel like seeing that would not consist of my violating Yehareg Val Yaavor in seeing or not an insult to my intelligence. TV once was a waste of time-now much, network and cable lacks any redeeming social values. To insist that one allow oneself to be exposed to the same willingly so that one is “modern” strikes me as inconsistent to how a Jew should act in reaction to phenomena that not only are a waste of time, but which are a danger to his or her Neshama.

  128. steve b. – see the movie – the king’s speech for your neshama. there are movies you CAN SEE. but i would also recommend the broadway musical “THE BOOK OF MORMOM” which is not appropriate for you but which i found hilarious. but then i again i will have no issues with in seeing this type of entertainment (and most mo folks go too).

  129. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve: Aside from The King’s Speech there is Of Gods and Men, as austere and moving a movie as I have seen in a long time. But perhaps its Christian milieu and sensibility would turn you off.

    Also, as ruvie intimated, secular culture is not limited to movies or TV. There are plays, novels, concerts, etc., that woulf neither be yehareg ve-al yaavor nor a waste your time.

  130. “WADR, RHS’s views on this issue as very different than the classical Charedi 24/7 Kollel forever POV. IN all seriousness, you just can’t see the same as different.

    overuse of referent “the same” creates unintentionally amusing sentences.

  131. We just can’t know for sure whether R. Slifkin is historically correct or whether RMF is historically correct,

    R. Spira- since you clarified that you said this with regard to the antiquity of the universe and evolution, then I would have to disagree. There are ways to determine these things beyond reasonable doubt!

  132. Steve: there’s just one slight problem with your argument: RAL actually lives in Israel! RHS does not!

  133. mycroft 4:59am
    1. unself-consciousness vs.whatever contemporary trend is cresting
    2…
    4:02 pm
    yes

  134. IH 8:03,8:23
    Assuredly, the discussion is only if she went to the mikvah,and still RMF ,RYBS(,and on the other side of the atlantic)ybl”c RAL all forbade it(Noda Be’yehudah?).

  135. R’ IH,

    Thank you for your kind response and insightful questions. Although RMF does not identify with specificity what textbooks he is outlawing, I think it is contextually clear he is referring to textbooks that would be required in a typical Jewish day school in 1969 America (the time the responsum was authored) which contradict the plain meaning of the verses in Genesis, i.e. textbooks that discuss cosmology, geology and evolutionary biology. Indeed, this is also the reading of the book “Hamafte’ach Hagadol”, which indexes contemporary halakhic responsa by topic, and lists this particular teshuvah of RMF under the heading “evolutzia”.

    It is particularly significant that – as R. Shabtai Rappaport testifies on the HODS website – RMF never paskened any scientific question until he was fully informed of all the details by his son-in-law HaRav HaGa’on RMDT (-who, incidentally, did honour the Hebrew Academy of Montreal with a visit when I was a high school student there, in order to deliver a hesped for RYBS zatza”l. It was a very exciting derashah, but my memory is a bit hazy, and I can’t recall if RMDT discussed the particular topic of cosmology/geology/evolutionary biology. I do recall him discussing whether Pyrex can be kashered.) RMDT is surely well schooled in the scientific doctrines of cosmology, geology and evolutionary biology; he surely apprised RMF of this information. And yet, the final conclusion of RMF was to outlaw this study as denying Creation.

  136. c y: As mentioned, I have not studied the sources and only looked as a result of Steve’s non-sequitor: “According to your POV, pre Marital sex is now somehow Mutar Min HaTorah?” And, it seems this is not the slam dunk he thought.

    Meantime, he has twice ducked my question: do you think it’s mutar for a father to sleep naked in the same bed with his prepubsecent children, in 21st century US or Israel, as allowed by the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch?

  137. I’ve been swamped and totally unable to follow comments. But I see this question about sleeping naked with children. I wouldn’t say it’s assur. I’d say it’s disgusting, stupid and dangerous.

  138. Barukh shekivanti – I see now that RMDT takes his father-in-law’s approach in one discussion
    http://www.borhatorah.org/home/conference/paneldiscussion.html
    But in another discussion RMDT recognizes the legitimacy of R. Slifkin’s case, as well as the Jewish Observer’s counter-case.
    http://www.yutorah.org/_shiurim/7.%20John%20D.%20Loike%20and%20R.%20Moshe%20D.%20Tendler%20-%20Molecular%20Genetics%2C%20Evolution%2C%20and%20Torah%20Principles.pdf

  139. R. Slifkin, thank you for your kind response. I agree with you – in terms of derekh hateva – we are forced to admit that the universe is ostensibly billions of years old. The issue, though, is that perhaps we should say (as R. Avigdor Halevi Neventzal claims in his Sichot Lisefer Bereisheet) that we have a mitzvah to believe that the universe was miraculously created in literally six days, contrary to derekh teva. Therein lies the key safek.

    In Chatam Sofer’s responsum, he says that Adam HaRishon saw that he was miraculously created without parents, and that Adam HaRishon communicated this miracle to all his descendants, which is why we have a masoret regarding Ma’aseh Bereisheet. Admittedly, Chatam Sofer never read Darwin. So that’s the key safek: if Chatam Sofer would have read Darwin, would he have changed his ruling? For this reason, RJDB believes we should study all of your excellent sefarim to appreciate the full spectrum of possible interpretations of Ma’aseh Bereisheet, and in practice believe like RMF since safek di’oraita lichumra.

  140. Parenthetically, to endow this analysis with a pre-Pesach spirit, we can further claim that the stringent side of the safek may serve to offer insight why Rambam (seemingly superfluously) compares remembering the Exodus to remembering Shabbat in Hilkhot Chametz Umatzah 7:1. [Of course, RYBS has a marvelous treatise on this in the “Yeshiva University Haggadah”.] Perhaps we can say that just as there is no archaeological evidence for the Exodus – and we are commanded to accept it as truth because of tradition from our ancestors (as well as the Revelation of HKB”H to us at Mount Sinai) – so too with Creation as described in Genesis.

  141. “Mycroft: thanks for the pointer. Meant “when CM is more machmir”. That is, the only people arguing for wider application dina d’malchusa dina are people arguing for more stringency, as a supplement to CM. Rafael is painting them as… well something else.”

    I appreciate you are being dan l’kaf zchus, but total reliance on dina d’malchusah dina does not replace knowledge and application of CM. In other words, there are many who simply say: dina d’malchusah dina and leave it and that.

    Also, are you saying that CM is always meikel across the board?

  142. R’ IH,

    Thank you and yi’yasher kochakha for the intriguing observation that RMF’s responsum was written on 5 Iyar. The fact that RMF does not conclude the letter with “Yom Ha’atzmau’t Sameach!” or the like seems to indicate that RMF did not recite Hallel on 5 Iyar. [Ditto with IM YD 3:132.] By contradistinction, in his Hilkhot Geirut shiurim at RIETS, RMDT reports that his child Rivka is the principal of a school in Efrat where Hallel is indeed recited on 5 Iyar. [N.B. The relevance of the report to Hilkhot Geirut is that RMDT continues that Rivka was summoned to a Beth Din to testify how observant a prospective convert was in Shemirat Mitzvot.]

    While never explicitly discussing Yom Ha’atzma’ut, a number of responsa in IM illustrate RMF’s rulings vis-a-vis the State of Israel. An additional vista on RMF’s relationship with the State of Israel can be deciphered from the following excerpt from the RMF 25th yartzeit biography Artscroll just published:

    “On a visit to the United States, Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin met with the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in Reb Moshe’s home. It was a fruitful meeting. Begin showed genuine respect for the gedolim, wore a large yarmulka in honor of the occasion, and conversed in Yiddish rather than Ivrit. In Reb Yaakov’s words (-S. Spira’s editorial addition: Artscroll is referring to R. Yaakov Kamenetzky), with Begin one felt he was talking with a Yiddishe mentsch.

    “Before the prime minister arrived, Israeli security agents searched Reb Moshe’s apartment for possible explosives or weapons. As one of the agents looked underneath the dining room table, Moetzes member Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner remarked, “He is looking for explosives there? *There* are the explosives!” and he pointed to the multi-volume Igros Moshe. (S. Spira’s editorial addition: Artscroll adds the following footnote: “In the yeshivah world, a great chiddush in Torah is sometimes referred to as “a bumba” (a bomb).”)”

    I encourage the various armies in Libya (Gaddafi, rebel, and NATO) to take this inspiring anecdote to heart and peacefully study Torah with one another (firing spiritual bombs) rather than throw physical bombs at one another.

  143. Ruvie wrote:

    “steve b. – see the movie – the king’s speech for your neshama. there are movies you CAN SEE. but i would also recommend the broadway musical “THE BOOK OF MORMOM” which is not appropriate for you but which i found hilarious. but then i again i will have no issues with in seeing this type of entertainment (and most mo folks go too).”

    I saw The Kings Speech. It is my understanding that any speech therapist will tell you that what is Nivul Peh under ordinary circumstances is permissible in a therapeutic context. I would not see “The Book of Mormon”, nor I would see a similar play if it was written that examined Charedim or other MO who are active in outreach. IMO, the play is just another example of anti religious rhetoric on Broadway that is replete with Nivul Peh, from what I have read in the reviews. WADR, I can think of far better ways to spend one’s money. FWIW, I do think that it was a Kiddusgh HaShem that BYU suspended its highest scorer and cost the team advancement in “March Madness” because of his violation of the school’s code of honor re sexual misconduct. Can you imagine YU or SCW ever throwing an athlete off a team or suspending a student macher on campus for such improprieties or being a Mchalel Shabbos?

  144. R. Spira — incidentally, your comment about grade 9 biology class at Hebrew Academy of Montreal in 1992-3 intrigued me enough to check with one of my Bnei Akiva chevra who took the same class there about 15 years earlier. She distinctly remembers learning about Darwinism and natural selection when she attended.

    Perhaps it was at the discretion of the teacher; or, perhaps the school policy changed in the intervening 15 years? In any case, as I mentioned, the NYC day schools — including those of YU — taught evolution in the mid-70s (to the best of my and my wife’s memory).

  145. IH wrote:

    “But, back to my question: do you think it’s mutar for a father to sleep naked in the same bed with his prepubsecent children, in 21st century US or Israel as allowed by the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch”

    I agree with R Gil who commented in part:

    “I’d say it’s disgusting, stupid and dangerous”

    FWIW, I don’t think that cherry picking comments of Chazal, Rishonim and SA that we might find repugnant adds anything to the discussion. There are numerous such comments that simply have no practical application and should be viewed as such-no more, no less. It is easy to find such comments. However, only a person interested in illustating why he finds all of Halacha repugnant would waste his or her time in presenting the same as worthy of serious discussion.

  146. IH wrote:

    “Interesting topic. It seems Ramban was lenient on this, according to: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Sex_and_Sexuality/Premarital_Sex.shtml

    but, I have not studied the sources, nor is it an area of great interest for me; but, it seems you may learn something”

    First of all, may I suggest that you study the sources. Then, you won’t have to rely on what is printed in a “transdenominational” oriented site’s presentation on the issues-which IMO isn’t worth considering a Snif of a Cheftzah Shel Torah.

  147. Larry Kaplan wrote:

    “Aside from The King’s Speech there is Of Gods and Men, as austere and moving a movie as I have seen in a long time. But perhaps its Christian milieu and sensibility would turn you off’

    I saw a preview for Of Gods and Men before we saw The King’s Speech. The issues presented therein of the interaction of men of faith and political events intrigued me, but I think that such a subject can be presented in a RZ milieu. I wait for the Yefei Lev of the Israeli cinema to explore how the residents of Gaza and RZ soldiers felt prior to and during the disengagement, as opposed to generating far too many examples of Jewish self hatred.

    FWIW, B”H, most of the secular media as well as the JW panned Julian Schnabel’s film which IMO has advertising hinting at a Jewish conspiracy preventing its being shown with a Magen David with wire on a red background either as poorly made or an exercise in Palestinain agit prop. The question remains why the 92nd Street Y views such a film as worthy of a special performance with a lecture by Schnabel. IMO, such a program is a distinct waste of Jewish communal funds.

  148. R’ IH,

    Thank you for the information from the earlier Hebrew Academy class. This is an interesting question. Hebrew Academy rotates educational directors every few years like (lihavdil) U.S. Presidents. It could be every educational director had a different mahalakh. Or maybe there was no mahalakh altogether and the teacher decided how to teach.

    Be that as it may, the issue of evolution returned to confront me as a McGill physiology student. Here, not all professors sang the same tune. Some professors were indeed advocates of Darwin. These professors were gracious with me and allowed me to answer on every evolution-related exam question: “Only for appearances’ sake does it seem to naive observer this way, but Orthodox Jewish belief, based on the Book of Genesis, holds that homo sapiens was created miraculously five days after the Big Bang, and such is my personal conviction.” This obviously prolonged the time it took to complete each exam, but Bichasdei HKB”H, Yishtabach Shemo, I was successful. Other professors de-emphasized evolution; they would say “there are two approaches to the life sciences: reductionist [which involves evolution] and teleological. Biologists take the reductionist approach, but we physiologists take the teleological approach.” One such professor, named Dr. Ian Shrier, added that “the Celestial Committee that assembled us decided that…”. I was flying on cloud nine after he said that; what a class act that he had brought Rashi from “na’seh Adam” (that HKB”H consulted the angels before creating Adam) into the lecture!

    Regarding Hallel, indeed you correctly surmise that the policy at Hebrew Academy is like Rivka Tendler Rappaport’s pesak halakhah – to say the Hallel with a blessing. I did, however, recently send a letter to the current educational director of the Hebrew Academy (R. Baruch Perton), encouraging him to switch to R. Ovadiah Yosef’s approach of omitting the blessing on Hallel (Yabi’a Omer VI, Orach Chaim no. 41), particularly out of respect for RJDB’s opinion (Contemporary Halakhic Problems II, p. 229) that Hallel is not recited altogether on 5 Iyar. We will see if my letter is accepted.

  149. lawrence kaplan

    Rabbi Spira: Had you given me that answer in any of my Jewish Studies classes, I would have taken off marks for your oversimplfication of Orthodox Jewish belief!

  150. To flesh out the discussion of RMF’s views, I think it is quite noteworthy that he gave a haskama to Rav Dovid Brown Zt”l’s fascinating book: “The Mysteries of Creation”

    What is significant is that the book strongly promotes the Tifferes Yisroel’s “destroyed previous eras” approach to explain the geological and paleontological evidence, but utterly rejects evolutionary theory for human origins.

    What might make all this much less significant is that the haskama states that RMF did not read the book himself. Rather, it was described to him by his grandson– and the haskama is based on that.
    I tried tracking down the grandson for more details of what Rav Moshe held was permissible belief but was unsuccessful.

  151. “a “transdenominational” oriented site’s presentation on the issues-which IMO isn’t worth considering a Snif of a Cheftzah Shel Torah”

    You never fail to entertain, Steve. Thanks for the laughs.

  152. lawrence kaplan

    IH: I am as as strong a critic of many of Steve’s views as anyone. But too many of your comments have a nasty edge. Particularly considering that you post anonymously. At least Steve posts in his own name.

  153. IH-WADR, a transdenominational site IMO cannot be considered a Cheftza Shel Talmud Torah Lishmah.

  154. IH-see both the Beis HaLevi and RaN on the Sugya in Nedarim re Shelo Barchu BaTorah Batchilah. You may laugh, but I posted my comment of the “transdenominational” site in all seriousness. I should note that you failed to disclose the nature of that site.

  155. Steve: as a reminder, you raised the issue as a non-sequitor to my point that times change and with them our attitudes – and our interpretation of halacha, to which you wrote (Steve Brizel on March 28, 2011 at 7:41 pm): “According to your POV, pre Marital sex is now somehow Mutar Min HaTorah?”

    Rather than complain about your inappropriate response, I took a quick look to see if your bait was factually correct and saw that it wasn’t. If you’re going to attack inappropriately, at least be correct.

  156. Incidentally, the final sentence in Steve Brizel on March 29, 2011 at 3:21 pm is even more inappropriate.

    I choose to laugh rather than to feel insulted.

  157. >Cheftza Shel Talmud Torah Lishmah.

    Steve, you always come up with terms that you yourself seem to understand very clearly but others, such as myself, have no clue how to untangle them.

    Tachlis, do you really think that there is no Torah to be learned from non-traditional sources? You do realize, of course, that the great luminaries of our past often had no qualms about consulting with sages from other sects and even other religions – I guess they didn’t know what “Cheftza Shel Talmud Torah Lishmah” meant either.

  158. >IH-WADR, a transdenominational site IMO cannot be considered a Cheftza Shel Talmud Torah Lishmah.

    If a “transdenominational site” notes a Ramban, that particular Ramban doesn’t cease to exist because of the source which called it to our attention.

  159. S-Of course, the Ramban exists, but I would never consider the aforenmentioned source quoting the same as a Cheftzah Shel Talmud Torah.

  160. Chardal wrote:

    “Tachlis, do you really think that there is no Torah to be learned from non-traditional sources? You do realize, of course, that the great luminaries of our past often had no qualms about consulting with sages from other sects and even other religions – I guess they didn’t know what “Cheftza Shel Talmud Torah Lishmah” meant either.”

    Chardal-Consultations with other sects or even other religions by no means that the same is a Cheftzah Shel Torah. Chachmah-definitely, but by no means Torah.

  161. IH-WADR, I have yet to detect in your comments or selective citations from Chazal, Rishonim or SA anything other than a cherry picking exercise at what bothers you in the MO and Charedi worlds.

  162. Chardal and S-do you consider ShuT Besamim Rosh to be a legitimate Torah source or not, especially in light of the background of its author, who IIRC ( and Nachum Lamm can correct me) was a R leaning Maskil? Both the CS and the Avnei Nezer had very strong words about that sefer, which in their minds obviously did not have the requisite elements of a Cheftzah Shel Torah.

  163. Steve: you are entitled to whatever opinion you choose. As for your accusation, that is the pot calling the kettle black.

    If you want to avoid future such skirmishes, say what you have to say politely and coherently, without your all-too-often vulgar point-scoring rhetoric.

  164. IH-WADR, you are entitled to say what you want, but to assume, like anyone who posts, that the same is somehow protected from a concomitant right of inquiry and critique which you dismiss as impolite or incoherent without addressing the merits of the same is an all too common phenomenon of someone who refuses to engage in a real conversation, as opposed to someone who is interested in dictating his POV as a take it or leave it fait accompli. Instead, such a person decries any legitimate critique as persecution or worse, and adopts the unwarranted position of the suffering martyr suffering for the mere presentation of an opinion that just might warrant discussion and criticism. That is IMO being an intellectual imperialist.

    In the meantime, the readers here are still waiting for you to substantiate your claim that the Torah based issur against Mishkav Zachor was imported from Christianity.

  165. Steve — Readers will need to wait a long time, since I never said that. Anything else on your mind?

  166. IH-Why don’you read your past posts in which you rationalized away the Issur and stated that the same was the product of Christian influences? I guess like Ambassador Adlai Stevenson noted in commenting on the role of the Soviets during a UN debate on the Cuban missile crisis, we will have to wait a long time before you find your response, unless another poster is kind enough to post your comment.

  167. Steve — I know what I wrote; and what I think. Readers will reach their own conclusions. My opinion, is that you lack critical reading skills; and I have no reason to believe that your reading of sources is any more accurate. Di.

  168. IH wrote:
    “I quickly saw him on my way out of the plane, surrounded by officers, but did not get a chance to ask him if he was Orthodox vs. Orthoprax, or his feelings on the morality of homosexual relationships”

    I trust that you will agree that the above post IMO is a fair quotation of your views on Negiah and Homosexuality.

    If I subscibed to the email version of this blog, I would have a far more complete list of some of your assertions that others besides myself have challenged, all of which you have resisted any critcism whatsoever- a small list t would begin with your claims that an intermarriage a is a Bayis Neeman BYisrael, your views expresssed with the logic of “the times they are a-changing” rhetoric that Halacha, especially in areas of sexuality, must adjust with the times, as expressed in your posts on Homosexuality , Tznius and Negiah, and your views on prayer in heterodox synagogues.

  169. IH wrote:

    “Steve B: thank you for finally conceding that one can’t use the word Toevah to demonstrate that the sin of homosexual acts are immoral (a Christian concept imported into Orthodoxy). That was my point in our earlier debate””

    IIRC, my response was a simple question:

    “Proof?”

    WADR, I think that the readers of this blog are still awaiting a source justifying the above comment, especially the Torah condemned homosexual behavior as immoral long before the rise of Christianity.

  170. Steve — The Torah condemns male homosexual acts as a sin, just like being mechalel shabbat. The linkage of “morality” to this particular sin — above other toevot — is Christian in origin as far as I can determine.

  171. To be more accurare, I should say like eating treif (also a toevah).

  172. Here are 3 reference to תּוֹעֵבָה:

    1) male homosexual sex acts (Levit 18:25 & 20:13)
    2) eating food that is not kosher (Deut 14:3)
    3) a man remarrying his 1st wife once she has been divorced or widowed by a 2nd husband (Deut 24:1-4).

    Are all 3 of these sins “immoral” in your reading?

  173. IH-The Torah also uses the term Toevah to condemn improper business practices as well as immoral Al Pi Din, regardless of wbhat you may think of the same. All of the four actions are considered by the Torah to be a Toevah, regardless of whether you enjoy the same or not. I should also add that I do not see the linkage between these verses and your suggestion that “one can’t use the word Toevah to demonstrate that the sin of homosexual acts are immoral (a Christian concept imported into Orthodoxy”.

    Parenthetically, with respect to eating Treife, there is a well known statement of Rambam IIRc in the Perush HaMishnah or possibly in Shemoneh Prakim that one must say to oneself that one would like to eat Treife, but the Torah prohibits me from doing so. OTOH, one can look at a Machlokes HaTanaim in the Mechilat between R Akiva and R Yishmael, of which Rashi only quotes the view of R Yishmael, which RYBS discussed in a shiur on the Aseres HaDibros, in which RYBS contrasted the following two attitudes-No-I won’t commit this transgression or Yes, I shall listen and not comnmit a transgression-a concept which IIRC, was discussed also by the Rashba, but I am not sure where with respect to why no Birkas HaMitzvah is recited on the giving of Tzedakah and similar Mitzvos Bein Adam LChavero. In the context of that Shiur, RYBS emphasized that there is no difference between Chukim and Mishpatim and that surrender and obedience are required not just for Chukim, but for Mishpatim as well.

    IMO, you are suggesting that the Torah’s condemnation was borrowed R”L from Christianity. As far as the linkage between Maacalos Assuros and Issuei Biah, none less than Rambam includes the same and Hilcos Shechitah in Sefer Kedusha of the MT because IMO adherence to the Halachos therein are acts of Kedusha, which HaShem expects , commands and demands of His People, a view that one can find expressed in a similar manner in Rashi at the end of Parshas Shemini a long passage of Ramban at the end of Parshas Acharei Mos, as well as the openning comments of Rashi and Ramban to Parshas Kedoshim.

  174. “RYBS emphasized that there is no difference between Chukim and Mishpatim and that surrender and obedience are required not just for Chukim, but for Mishpatim as well. ”

    As sadly can be seen by the laxadasical attitude to Mishpatim

  175. >Chardal and S-do you consider ShuT Besamim Rosh to be a legitimate Torah source or not, especially in light of the background of its author, who IIRC ( and Nachum Lamm can correct me) was a R leaning Maskil? Both the CS and the Avnei Nezer had very strong words about that sefer, which in their minds obviously did not have the requisite elements of a Cheftzah Shel Torah.

    He was not just a Maskil but a master forger who attributed the work to the Rosh.

    I can not possibly answer your question because I still have no idea what a “Cheftzah Shel Torah” is. It seems to be some kind of Brisker/Soloveitchic term which seems obvious to you but not to me.

    BTW, many many poskim (who were aware of the authorship of Besamim Rosh) utilize it in their psak halacha. This is a fact. The only question, IMO, is whether the interpertation of Besamim Rosh are convincing or not – same as anything else. If we are to take the Rambam’s dictate of accepting the Truth from wherever it comes, then we have no other choice.

    As far as other denominations – politics aside, our approach should be the same. If the arguments are good ones, then great. Otherwise, not so great. Frankly, I get the same nasty feeling in my stomach when I read conservative responsa as when I read the letters of the Steipler or R’ Shach. Not because of the religious/political outlook of the author but because of the total disregard for proper scholarship.

  176. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I?ll be subscribing to your feed and I am hoping you write once more soon!

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