Modern Orthodoxy Faces the 21st Century

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I have the honor of moderating a forum at the upcoming RCA convention on the subject of major issues for the future of the Orthodox community. The panel will consist of:

  • R. Basil Herring, Executive Vice President of the RCA
  • Mr. Richard Joel, President of YU
  • R. Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the OU
  • R. Shmuel Goldin, incoming RCA President

The convention will be in Cong. Ahavath Torah in Englewood, NJ from May 15th through May 17th. This panel is scheduled for 8pm on Monday, May 16th and will be open to the public.

My instruction to the panelists will be that they are speaking on the panel as leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community, not as leaders of their respective organizations. They should therefore speak about communal needs and initiatives rather than their specific organizations or pet projects.

I have a long list of issues to raise and questions to ask. However, I’d like to reach out to readers for your suggestions. Please keep in mind the following:

  1. This is not a request to bash the panelists or their organizations (or anyone or anything else)
  2. I will not ask anything about a specific person or organization so don’t bother suggesting it
  3. In the end, I will choose whether to incorporate your questions into my existing list

That said, I look forward to the suggestions the knowledgeable readers raise in the comments section.

About Gil Student

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

129 comments

  1. Just on a technical note, is it possibly to post the audio of the shiur here or elsewhere online?

  2. 1. cost of education/ creating a modern orthodox education, not dependent on educators of other streams
    2. a positive definition of modern orthodoxy(not just that we aren’t Conservative or Chareidi)
    3. Steps to take to defend Modern Orthodoxy from the challenges of the right as well as the left. ie the place of science, growing chumrahization, challenges of those advocating autonomy, egalitarianism, etc.
    4. going back to number one- the challenge of educating the next generation to be serious about learning and judaism, while also being able to use their intellect- emunah with rationality

    these are but a few of what comes to mind

  3. i would ask the panelist what they think are the top 3 major issues – and in what priority – facing the mo community – asking rather than telling them – in the next 20 years and why they think these issues effect a majority of the community. the key is to get the questions phrased correctly.

    of course, correctly (if there is such an animal) defining what is mo is always a prerequisite to what issues they face.

  4. 1)place of women in the future of MO
    2)dealing with the the digital youth culture. “half-shabbos” etc.

  5. 1) What should be the parameters of our educational and policy towards “sinners” (both aveirot and theological positions)? What methods are out of bounds and what are the preferred attitudes?

    2) Should we devote more time and energy to dealing with, and answering, the challenges that emanate to our tradition from academia (e.g. to the Torah Shebiktav and the Torah SheBe’al Peh?) If so, how?

    3) Women’s religious roles in MO – should we strive for full integration/egalitarianism? Or should there be “parallel roles” for different genders of comparable worth?

    4) What steps should we take to increase cooperation with our Israeli counterparts? It often seems like we exist on two parallel planes; there is little cultural exchange and (most of) those that come here tend to stay in American bubbles.

    5) Should MO have any “red lines” when it comes to working with the Charedi world (including the Chief Rabbinate), or is it “unity above all”?

  6. Does American MO have anything to contribute to Israeli society (either society generally or perhaps more specifically to the Dati Tzioni community) other than bodies?

  7. A lot of mine were already covered – I would add:
    what percentage of your populace sees MO as lchatchila vs. as a compromise position? what percentage of your populace seeks to understand what the ratzon hashem is for them in every situation?How do we improve on these results?
    I might add(since it is RCA):what is the proper lay/rabbinic leadership model(s) in MO(give examples and please also comment on the impact of the paid rabbinate on this model)?
    KT

  8. Talk about increasing Torah and mitvos. All else is secondary.

  9. I would ask, why are we struggling with our own identity and legitimacy 1, 2 or even 3 centuries (if you include places like Italy, Holland, and England) after our mesorah has been established?

  10. Should MO get more involved in America’s culture wars? Could be rephrased as: How come MO is not more vocal in America’s culture wars? Should it be?

    Why do most MO thinkers lean left? (You don’t really find the equivalent of an Antonin Scalia in the MO community.) Is this a problem?

  11. I left out my favorite:
    Who does your populace see as its heroes/role models/honorees (those who are primarily torah only, those who are primarily mada only…)
    Put another way how would your community react to getting 5 out of 10 graduates into Harvard in the same year? into Gush?

    KT

  12. How does the MO community deal with the materialism infecting our community? Our homes and lives (vacations etc.) tend to be grand, while our schools and other organizations struggle. Just a generation or two this was not so widespread. What happend, and what can we do to have a course correction?

  13. I would like to hear the panelists’ thoughts on a “achishenah” approach to aliyah (communal initiatives/pushing people to utilize NbN) instead of the rampant “b’ito” approach (no more than verbal acknowledgement of the importance of yishuv haAretz/waiting & watching as the economic situation worsens). Thanks.

  14. I would ask them to discuss how MO is dealing with (or not dealing with) the breakdown of the moral fabric of the Jew. The increase in things like sexual addiction, “half shabbos” spousal abuse etc. is rarely discussed, especially by organizational leaders. It would be nice to hear their thoughts.

  15. What steps do leaders of the MO world think need to be taken to have a greater voice in the direction of the European Jewish Community. Right now, the Jews in Europe are not being served in a significant fashion by any Orthodox group other than Lubavitch. Is this a concern? Do the great MO institutions plan to step up their efforts?

  16. >Why do most MO thinkers lean left?

    I don’t know if its true, but isn’t it for the same reason that most non-MO thinkers lean right (if that’s true)? Why would anyone be surprised if or when the more conservative religious people lean right and the more liberal religious people lean left? If anything it’s surprising that so many MO rank and file lean right.

  17. Keeping the ORTHODOX in MO ie How do we create a community where Torah defines our lives even though we participate in the wider world not merely as a means of parnassah ?

  18. Lawrence Kaplan

    All good question. To elaborate on aiwac’s secnd question: What are the challenges posed by academic Jewish scholarship and the possible contributions it can make to studying our tradition and sacred texts and articulating our world view? What do you think ought to be the relationship between rabbis and Orthodox scholars of Jewish Studies?

  19. Which leaders in the general world – business, politics, media, etc. – does the Jewish community have most to learn from to further succeed in Avodas Hashem?

  20. second Baruch’s comments

  21. Ruvie: “I would ask…” preferably *before* the panel, so you can get some idea of what the panelists think before you get there, and can adjust your list of topics/ideas accordingly.

    ben dov: that’s Centrism, that took over the banner of “Torah & mitzvos” from the charedim, helped by NCSY. Listening to a lecture by R’ Brill from 2006 on “varieties of modern orthodoxy”, the yeshivish and the moderns of the ’50s have changed places – the Centrists are all about Torah Torah Torah, while the Charedim are producing the pop psychology (Dr Twerski, Miriam Adahan), cookbooks, Jewish fiction, etc.

  22. Michael Feldstein

    Some good stuff here from various posters, so no need for me to repeat anything.

    On the women’s issue, I would like to hear the panelists answer a very focused question like this:

    What specific roles in the synagogue are available for a new generation of women who are interested in finding professionally meaningful and halachically appropriate roles to serve the Jewish community? What roles are definitely halachically inappropriate?

  23. Yeshiva Tuition, Yeshiva Tuition and Yeshiva Tuition. And, when they are done discussing Yeshiva Tuition, they discuss Yeshiva Tuition.

    We no longer have a tuition crisis, we have a tuition tsunami!

    Rabbis! Let’s get to work on this!

  24. “Right now, the Jews in Europe are not being served in a significant fashion by any Orthodox group other than Lubavitch. Is this a concern? Do the great MO institutions plan to step up their efforts?”

    i think this is a problem in much of america as well, not just in europe.

    in some respects MO in america is qualitatively stronger than ever, but i feel as if its appeal and involvement outside its core are quantitatively more limited than ever.

  25. ZEVI FISHER:

    “Yeshiva Tuition, Yeshiva Tuition and Yeshiva Tuition. And, when they are done discussing Yeshiva Tuition, they discuss Yeshiva Tuition.”

    agree. most young(ish) MO parents i know don’t really care much about all the intellectual debates that take place here regarding women in the synagogue, gays, science, academic jewish studies, organ donations, MO theology, haredi-MO relations, etc. what they grapple most with is an immediate practical issue, i.e., tuition.

    “Rabbis! Let’s get to work on this!”

    my questions on tuition:

    1) is it possible rabbis aren’t the ones best qualified to assess what is essentially a financial crisis? where are the accountants, actuaries, independent auditors, etc.?

    2) is it possible that the current model isn’t financially sustainable, and if so, where do we go from here?

  26. Abba’s Rantings:

    I believe we are at the point that the Rabbinical Leaders must get involved.

    There is a lot of money out there but it is not getting to the right places. In the old days, wealthy people were content with donating money directly to Yeshivas as long as thier names got plastered on the walls of the buildings.

    Today, these philanthropists are not satisfied with that. They create these foundations with multi-million dollar payrolls which use up so much of the money, and merely create redundant services.

    We need the Rabbinic leaders to approach and confront these philanthropists and tell them to donate thier money directly to the Yeshivas!

  27. MiMedinat HaYam

    the foundations with the million dollar payrolls are typified by (some) of the panelists. (not that its wrong, but are these the ppl to decide such communal issues?)

    and most of these questions should be directed to active pulpit rabbis (if not rank and file, who definitely dont count for nothing, unless they have the flooz to back themselves up), not those (like here) who now answer to a different constituency ( = the flooz constituency).

  28. >We need the Rabbinic leaders to approach and confront these philanthropists and tell them to donate thier money directly to the Yeshivas!

    And then we need to tell the yeshivas to cut the tuition.

  29. what do they see as the major trends in general American (or world) society over the next decades and what will those trends mean for Orthodoxy?

  30. Professor Heilman, in his 2006 “Sliding to the Right” estimates that Charedim constitute between 27% and 32% of the American Orthodox Jewish demographic (ref: http://tinyurl.com/3vu25x3), thus leaving MO in all its forms with no more than 73% of the Orthodox demographic.

    Five years on, what are your views on MO market share within Orthodoxy; and the trendline?

  31. Should the MO Rabbinate consider Rav Soloveitchik’s Halachic positions, as they relate to the community and public face of MO, binding?

  32. ” subject of major issues for the future of the Orthodox community”
    r’ gil: the assumption on the posts that the issues are for the mo/centrists community and not the general ortho community which would include many more factions- charedi,yeshivish etc if so the question should be modified.

  33. thanbo: you are correct. it should be done before.

    abba – i think you are right – who says rabbis have any of the answers to this problem or are even qualified to lead the issue – of course they have a say.

    zavi fischer – i wonder why you would think that would be effective? or even right on many different planes. “Rabbinic leaders to approach and confront these philanthropists” — and never see a penny again. have you ever raise money for a non-profit jewish institution?

  34. Lawrence Kaplan reminded me of another issue:

    How come to date there isn’t a single book in English by a rabbi dealing with the archeological, and literary challenges to Torah sh’bichsav and the historical challenges regarding Torah sh’baal peh? Isn’t this a big enough issue requiring a “Guide to the Perplexed” type of book?

  35. At this point, Orthodox Judaism is still viewed as a single denomination, albeit with multiple subdivisions (e.g. Modern, Chareidi).

    Does the panel think this will continue? At what point are two factions no longer part of the same denomination? Might there be a real break looming (between Modern and Chareidi, or between “Open” and Modern/Chareidi) dividing the denomination into two? Is this good or bad? Should we be doing something to prevent it, and if so, what?

  36. R’ Baruch,
    Thank you for your excellent question. R. Moshe Feinstein wrote a responsum on the question (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, nos. 114-115) and R. Marc Shapiro wrote a counter-responsum (Limits of Orthodox Theology, chapter addressing eighth principle). See the “Rav Lichtenstein on Academic Trends” forum for a discussion between Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan and myself on this fascinating topic.
    https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/08/rav-lichtenstein-on-academic-trends/

  37. R’ Daniel,
    Thank you for your excellent question. You may rest assured that division is impossible. The gemara in Yevamot 14a derives from “lo titgodedu” that Orthodox Judaism is indivisible, and will always remain a coherent enterprise.

  38. R. Spira,
    The Gemara in Yevamos says nothing whatsoever about Orthodox Judaism, a concept that did not develop until alomst 1500 years later.

  39. How come to date there isn’t a single book in English by a rabbi dealing with the archeological, and literary challenges to Torah sh’bichsav and the historical challenges regarding Torah sh’baal peh? Isn’t this a big enough issue requiring a “Guide to the Perplexed” type of book?

    1. Most people don’t care, or at least aren’t aware of such challenges.
    2. Those who do care generally find whatever answer they find in lectures and articles.
    3. There are many different theories out there. They change in details and method of presentation with time. A book could only address a fixed set of challenges.
    4. Different people expect different answers – some cannot accept that a midrash is historically inaccurate, some are willing to ascribe sections of the Torah to prophets other than Moshe, and everything in between. These groups cannot all be given, and would not all accept, the same answer.
    5. For many issues, neither side can prove their position in a way that satisfies all listeners, and the issue remains in a sort of “teiku”. Having your vital theological positions depend on a teiku is quite unsatisfying, and many rabbis prefer to explain the issues one by one as they come up and ignore them otherwise, rather than opening a discussion through the publication of a book.

  40. Daniel’s question is the best asked so far.

  41. yossi goldman

    How do we create an environment of “Ahavas Yisroel” that allows all sectors of the Jewish Community to work together to survive the challenges of the 21th century?

  42. MiMedinat HaYam

    “Baruch on May 1, 2011 at 12:50 am

    Lawrence Kaplan reminded me of another issue:

    How come to date there isn’t a single book in English by a rabbi dealing with the archeological, and literary challenges to Torah sh’bichsav and the historical challenges regarding Torah sh’baal peh? Isn’t this a big enough issue requiring a “Guide to the Perplexed” type of book?”

    rabbi p stolper (who (claims he) founded ncsy) wants to write exactly such a book, and is still looking for a sponsor, years after proposing such a book. but dont mention rabbi s at the rca. and why english? why not hebrew? (i know why, but ..)

    2. (besides the OTD issues,) why arent we doing proper “hasbarah” (for lack of a better term) to counter unfounded charedi (let alone other circles) aspersions on modern orthodoxy?

    3. another question — why dont the majority of orthodox jews (of all persuasions) speak / understand normal conversational (if not more) hebrew?

    i know the reason — failure of our yeshivot, for various reasons. but their reasons are faulty. the real reason is a: laziness b: no desire and c: misplaced priorities.

    add d: fear of charedim (who should also be teaching hebrew.)

  43. “How come to date there isn’t a single book in English by a rabbi dealing with the archeological, and literary challenges to Torah sh’bichsav and the historical challenges regarding Torah sh’baal peh? Isn’t this a big enough issue requiring a “Guide to the Perplexed” type of book?”

    Baruch, these matters are far too broad to be dealt with in the space of a single book. Besides, why does it have to be a Rabbi, davka? Why not just a religious professor?

    “2. (besides the OTD issues,) why arent we doing proper “hasbarah” (for lack of a better term) to counter unfounded charedi (let alone other circles) aspersions on modern orthodoxy?”

    To convince who, exactly? My impression is that their minds are sealed shut on the subject.

    “3. another question — why dont the majority of orthodox jews (of all persuasions) speak / understand normal conversational (if not more) hebrew?”

    To play devil’s advocate – why should they? Everything you need to learn is “artscrolled”.

  44. MiMedinat HaYam

    sealed shut

    maybe this will make their “gedolim” (those that are somewhat open minded; prob those that work for MO insitutions — hey, that million dollar foundation on lower bway comes to mind) justify their attempts at open minded ness.

    besides, many of them have MO relatives.

  45. aiwac’s devil’s advocate point raises another angle to the Charedi/MO questions posed above: in addition to demographics & the rejection of MO’s gedolim by the Charedi world, there is also the increasing dependence by MO on Artscroll “translations” and, let’s not forget, the dependence by MO on Chabad for the services they provide in low-Orthodox-density locations here and abroad.

  46. Does MO view itself as having a unique and profound message to the unaffiliated masses of American Jewry or does MO essentially see its function as preserrving the MO communitites that exist at the present from the twin threats of the nex generation either flipping out or going OTD? I also wonder why the panel does not include at least one RIETS RY.

  47. Lately, Orthodox Jews who attend a non-YU university are very often neglected or written off, if not cast away, by educators at yeshivot and elsewhere, even though such study was widespread and acceptable until the current generation of educators.

    What kind of support should be given to such students? How should educators be trained to assist students and not abandon them?

    Thanks Gil!

  48. “I also wonder why the panel does not include at least one RIETS RY.”

    well maybe a question should address the extent to which the average REITS RY identifies or doesn’t identify with MO and the ensuing implications.

    “How come to date there isn’t a single book in English . . .”

    for the most part the MO intellectual elite cares more about footnotes and tenure. not that there is anything wrong with this and our best minds should be engaged in the highest forms of intellectual pursuit. but if you’re going to make a career (or at least a reputation) out of basing artscroll, how about proving that an antetode is possible. all the grimacing about the artscroll shir hashirim (and general chumash commentary/translation), but where is the popular MO alternative edition? all the MO bible scholars, semitists, midrashists, etc. can’t get produce a MO alternative? and all the MO historians complain about artscroll hagiography and haredi censorship, yet how many popular biographies have they published? how about a biography of the seride esh that non-hirhurim type readers can actually read?

    (i think there was a question somewhere in that rant)

  49. ZEVI:

    I believe we are at the point that the Rabbinical Leaders must get involved.

    “There is a lot of money out there but it is not getting to the right places.”

    assuming you are correct that there is a lot of frum philanthropic money out there to be tapped or redirected, do you really think that throwing more money at the problem will help in the long term? and do you think that perhaps there are other causes that are more deserving of this untapped money?

    “In the old days, wealthy people were content with donating money directly to Yeshivas as long as thier names got plastered on the walls of the buildings. Today, these philanthropists are not satisfied with that . . .”

    when you make your millions you’ll be entitled to donate it as you wish anonymously.

  50. Anyone who reads MAOG and other sources will see that the SR”E was far from contemporary MO.

  51. Abba’s Rantings,

    Right on. I think people like Gil (using his Yashar press) and others were/are trying to fix this problem somewhat (witness R. Sacks’s new siddur), but for the most part, I agree with you. Many of MO’s best brains seem to enjoy writing academic books rather than inspirational books for the masses.

  52. c y on:

    my point was more about the manner of presentation than the subject of presentation. (although subjects of presentation should also be addressed)

    BARUCH:

    yes, r. sack’s siddur is an exception, which is why i didn’t mention the artscroll siddur in my comment.

    but it is a joke that for all these years since the de sola pool edition, the best the RCA could offer is a standard artscroll siddur with a new preface, an extra page of mi sheberachs and a different colored cover.

  53. Ok, so what size shoebox is the market for such “inspirational books for the masses”?

    It comes back to demographics. If there are a total of half a million adult Orthodox Jews in the US; and 25% of them are Charedi, that makes about 375,000 adults or, say, 250,000 family units.

    And of the 250,000, how many would spend $20 on a “Guide to the Perplexed” regarding archeological, and literary challenges to Torah sh’bichsav and the historical challenges regarding Torah sh’baal peh?

  54. What seems more plausible is that these books will be written in Hebrew for Israeli audiences; imported to the US; and, in time, some subset will be translated and sold expensively.

  55. How’s about an updated version of Da’at Mikra?

  56. Baruch,

    What about the works of, say, R. Dr. Wurzburger?

  57. AIWAC:

    “How’s about an updated version of Da’at Mikra?”

    1) except for tehillim, which is available in an english translation, it is useless for the majority of MO jews (and of course the vast majority of american jews in general, if they were an MO target)

    2) iirc there is an interesting review of daat mikra in jewish bible quarterly that is critical of it in the same way that many are critical of artscroll.

  58. 1) except for tehillim, which is available in an english translation, it is useless for the majority of MO jews (and of course the vast majority of american jews in general, if they were an MO target)

    That’s a shame. Da’at Mikra is a great tool for understanding Mikra al pi pshuto and learning realia. It helped me pass the very difficult Tanach iyun bagrut…

    “2) iirc there is an interesting review of daat mikra in jewish bible quarterly that is critical of it in the same way that many are critical of artscroll.”

    Wha…? By who?! Daat Mikra isn’t even in the same universe as Artscroll! I’m guessing the reviewer would not be satisfied with anything less than total acceptance of DH as well as de-historicizing much of the Chumash. How very James Kugel.

  59. R’ MDJ,
    Thank you for your response. In counter-response, my personal believe that Orthodox Judaism was given by the Creator to Moses at Mount Sinai. Not that Moses necessarily ate cheesecake on Shavu’ot or sang Ma’oz Tzur on Chanukah, but he was still an Orthodox Jew. See R. Hershel Schachter’s recent article on mesorah in the Jewish Action. Yi’yasher kochakha for raising the issue; now is the opportunity to point out a technical oversight in R. Schachter’s article (with all due respect to R. Schachter): he mistakenly quotes Tosafot to Chullin 41a as the source for a prohibition against emulation of heterodoxy. Actually, the source is Rashi, there, s.v. aval oseh guma.

  60. That should read “my personal belief is that…”

  61. AIWAC:

    “That’s a shame.”

    agreed. i also use it (i only regret not having purchased the entire set because i probably spent more on the individual vols i own than the entire set at YU seforim sale 2 years ago). but i think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of (ortho) jews in america don’t know what it is.

    “Daat Mikra isn’t even in the same universe as Artscroll! I’m guessing the reviewer would not be satisfied with anything less than total acceptance of DH”

    http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/344/344_daatmikra1.pdf

  62. http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/344/344_daatmikra1.pdf

    Abba, thank you for the link (I actually found it in a google search!).

    My impression is that Avioz is a lot more respectful of the dangers involved here, and rightly recognizes that Daat Mikra is a big step forward. Personally, I think that dating issues and authorship are marginal to its ultimate contribution to spreading the understanding of Mikra in its original geographical-historical context.

    That said, I don’t find his vague, general arguments about the need to surrender to critical scholarship persuasive. If Avioz, Simon, Cohen et al are so convinced that it is possible to do so without completely undermining both faith and the structure of the halachic/mitzva system, then I would like to see some proof.

    This would come in the form of hard arguments with full attention to all the issues (incl. archaeology, linguistics, the million and one versions of DH, minimalism &c). To quote a favorite adage of mine, המוציא מחברו עליו הראיה.

    Until then, I remain entirely unconvinced. Personally, I’m more looking forward to Rav Dr. Berman’s efforts in this territory:

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/joshua-berman-interview/

  63. Abba and aiwac — thanks for the discussion which then yielded this fascinating article. For those who don’t want to read the whole piece, I would suggest the summary on p. 9 of the PDF which addresses the point of contention.

    I am hopeful that an increasing number of these large sets (e.g. Da’at Mikra, Olam ha’Tanach and for that matter the Steinsaltz Hebrew Talmud) become affordably available in electronic form where the costs of production/distribution are low.

    With devices like the iPad2 there is no longer a need to choose one set over another, assuming the pricing is set relative to cost.

  64. Some of the posts are illustrative of the correct but ultimately unanswerable problems raised by some of the more academic and LW sectors of MO-addressing DH and historicity of TSBP, instead of being able to realize that there may be no answers and approaches that can satisfy both adherents to Masorah and the intellectual world.

  65. Steve, probably not, at least not most academics. Although, there are two professors whose work I admire who are able to be מוציא עז ממתוק with the issues:

    Prof. Yehuda Elitzur and Prof. Yehoshua Meir Grintz (both z”l). May I suggest you check out some of their works (all in Hebrew, I’m afraid); they are very enlightening.

  66. it seems to me, Steve, the point you raise is one of the key differences between Modern Orthodoxy and the Yeshivish/Charedi hashkafa.

    So, back to Gil’s request, perhaps that is another piece of the questions to be posed to the panel about the future of Modern Orthodoxy.

  67. IH,

    I don’t know about TSBP, but I’m fairly certain the clash between TMS (in any sense) and academic Biblical scholarship is something which troubles O Jews across the boards. MO, UO &c are all in the same boat on that issue.

  68. According to R. J. David Bleich, the answer is simply to ignore academic biblical scholarship. That’s the approach I take, because I don’t see any siman in Shulchan Arukh that says “Mitzvah lilmod limudei yahadut chiloni’iyim bi’universita”.

  69. IH-I suspect that more than a few MO, regardless of their position in the MO world, would have grave reservations over their children and grandchildren being taught Tanach from any POV that acknowledges the critique of DH as well as TSBP being taught from an academic/historical POV. Who would buy such works other than the academic world and those MO or even Charedi Jews interested in such works? We have been through this before here, but IMO,I would maintain that any such works, regardless of whether the author wears any kind of headgear, arguably lacks the criteria of being Torah Lishmah and deserves the critiques of such works offered by the RaN and Beis HaLevi in the relevant daf in Nedarim.

  70. IH- WADR, I don’t see it as a MO v Yeshivish/Charedi dividing issue. None less than RYBS emphasized that a Torah observant Jew must live with doubt. That is the essence of a Kasha or Teiku-as opposed to Tiyuvta. The importation of DH and academic Talmud from the graduate school into the Beis Medrash is IMO an attempt to ignore the hashkafic importance of the fact that living with doubt is always a far better solution than a solution that can not withstand a critique.

  71. Going back to the issue of educational and communal attitude towards “sinners”:

    What would be your attitude, Steve, to someone who is exposed to these issues in, say HS, and feels forced to accept it but still wants to stay frum? Should such a person be thrown out?

    Or how’s about someone who erred and had pre-marital sex?

  72. I wasn’t clear: I was referring to: “instead of being able to realize that there may be no answers and approaches that can satisfy both adherents to Masorah and the intellectual world.”

    In other words, is there the struggle to reconcile; or, a closing of eyes?

  73. “…living with doubt is always a far better solution than a solution that can not withstand a critique.”

    Steven,

    I can’t believe it, but I actually agree with you on this one.

  74. IH wrote:

    “In other words, is there the struggle to reconcile; or, a closing of eyes?”

    When you live with doubt, you realize that there is no need to even struggle to reconcile if the struggle provides you with answers that seem logically compelling, but which cross the lines of Masorah. Just as there is no compelling need to reconcile science and Torah, there is really no need to reconcile Tanach with DH or TSBP with the academic/historical critique. Science, DH, and academic Talmud all explain “what”, and can even offer a supplement to traditional bases of learning, but can never be seen as a basis for explaining “why” or the mystery of our basic beliefs.

  75. Aiwac wrote:

    “What would be your attitude, Steve, to someone who is exposed to these issues in, say HS, and feels forced to accept it but still wants to stay frum? Should such a person be thrown out?”

    WADR, why would a person be exposed to such issues in high school? Let that person sample the richness of traditional Parshanut in a detailed manner. IMO, there is more than sufficient room for any person to raise hashkafic issues and realize that there are more than adequate bases for discussion of the same.

  76. Baruch Alster

    Re: Daat Mikra
    I attended the session at the World Congress of Jewish Studies where Avioz presented his findings. There was an interesting discussion there in which the straight Bible scholars present agreed with Avioz while scholars of parshanut (myself included) thought the proper method of evaluating DM is by standards of traditional parshanut.

    Using those standards, of course, DM will fare much better, but it really depends who the parshan is – Amos Hakham is head and shoulders above the others. See Leah Himmelfarb’s article (Bet Mikra 52:1 [2007], originally a lecture in the same Congress as Avioz) on the use of te`amim in DM on the Humash, in which she shows Hakham’s knowledgeable use of te`amim in his perush on Shemot as opposed to the embarassing mistakes to be found in the volumes on Bereshit and Devarim.

  77. Steve — I am familiar with RYBS’ philosophy, but in practice — as evidenced by your frequent comments — you eschew engagement with any critical texts. This is not living in doubt; rather, avoiding living in doubt through the “closing of eyes”. In practice, it seems to me, this is Yeshivish/Charedi hashkafa, in practice, despite the apologetics.

  78. Dr. Alster,

    I believe your standard is better suited, since the primary purpose of Daat Mikra was to serve as accessible Parshanut for the layman. Though understandably a mixed bag (what projects this big could maintain a uniform quality?), I think that its merits outweigh its faults.

    On a side note, were you ever zocheh to meet Prof. Elitzur z”l? I’m becoming a big fan of his.

  79. Baruch Alster

    Anonymous 2:44PM:
    I heartily agree that DM’s merits outweigh its faults, especially for those who do not teach Tanakh professionally. Those who do should know how to use it critically.
    Unfortunately, I was not “zoche” to meet Prof. Elitzur z”l. I did, however, have his son and talmid, Dr. Yoel Elitzur, as an undergraduate at Herzog (not a small zechut in its own right…).

  80. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rabbi Spira: The discussion on the post re “Rav Lichtenstein and Academic Trends” was not just between you and me. It was you against me, Nachum, Josh Waxman, S., MDJ, Chardal, Benny, AIWAC, Jerry, and others, all of whom sought, mainly in vain, to show you that your adherence ot RMF’s teshuvah as the last word on Orthodoxy displayed gross ignorance of a multitude of sources. I grant that you proved to be a quick study, even if your interpretations on that post were quite krum.

  81. Shalom Rosenfeld

    One hears too often of a product of twelve (expensive!) years of Modern Orthodox education who throws it all away as soon as s/he walks onto a college campus. What can be done about this?

  82. IH wrote:

    “Steve — I am familiar with RYBS’ philosophy, but in practice — as evidenced by your frequent comments — you eschew engagement with any critical texts”

    RYBS himself had the same POV re such texts, as per a letter re the JPS translation of Tanach and the shiur re Gerus. The fact that RYBS was quite traditional on these issues IMO ends the discussion.

  83. Shalom Rosenfeld wrote:

    “One hears too often of a product of twelve (expensive!) years of Modern Orthodox education who throws it all away as soon as s/he walks onto a college campus. What can be done about this”

    Perhaps, MO schools should have a more critical and realistic view of which campuses are more conducive to remaining MO, as well as which courses should be avoided as dangerous to a student’s spiritual well being.

  84. “One hears too often of a product of twelve (expensive!) years of Modern Orthodox education who throws it all away as soon as s/he walks onto a college campus. What can be done about this?”

    Shalom,

    1) As long as free will exists, so will the possibility of people leaving religion or changing their life. A hundred years of education wouldn’t change that.

    2) With regard to college and OTD:

    My vantage point is different, since I went to Bar-Ilan (Land of Israel studies), but I don’t remember there being any “mass defection” religiously in my department. Somehow I doubt that college is the frum-killer you think it is, or at least other factors are involved as well.

    OTOH, if you have hard proof that O Jews are indeed defecting in droves because of college (either because of intellectual issues or the pluralistic atmosphere), then, by all means, share it with us.

  85. Incidentally, since Steve has raised DH multiple times, I should point out that Alter dings it nicely in the introduction to his Chumash translation:

    “This rapid summary may make matters sound pat, but it fact all the details of the Documentary Hypothesis are continually, and often quite vehemently debated. […] (I should add that efforts to distinguish between J and E on stylistic grounds have been quite unconvincing.) It is small wonder that the Documentary Hypothesis, whatever its general validity, has begun to look at though it has reached a point of diminishing returns, and many young scholars, showing signs of restlessness with source criticism, have begin exploring other approaches – literary, anthropological, sociological, and so forth – to the Bible.”

    I recently shared this with a Greek classicist friend, who responded: “I agree on source criticism – it is a dead hand which has also laid its chilly touch on branches of classics – particularly Thucydidean scholarship. Its worst feature is the pseudo-certainty its proponents bring to the subject, whereby their ultimately unprovable and methodologically flawed hypotheses are put forward as proven facts. I expect this also infuses NT scholarship. I will be interested to see if the scholarship manages the orality-literary interface well, which is likely the key to it all: probably a very complex interaction in the early Church.”

    Isn’t it time for MO to move on from the long expired culture wars RYBS fought?

  86. IH wrote in part:

    “This rapid summary may make matters sound pat, but it fact all the details of the Documentary Hypothesis are continually, and often quite vehemently debated. […] (I should add that efforts to distinguish between J and E on stylistic grounds have been quite unconvincing.) It is small wonder that the Documentary Hypothesis, whatever its general validity, has begun to look at though it has reached a point of diminishing returns, and many young scholars, showing signs of restlessness with source criticism, have begin exploring other approaches – literary, anthropological, sociological, and so forth – to the Bible.”

    WADR, any aproach that is not rooted first and foremost in Torah Min HaShamayim and Torah Mi Sinai deserves to be treated in the same manner as DH. I would add that IMO that culture wars referred to by IH merely change their names, but are by no means “long expired.”

  87. To be clear, you mean Steve Brizel’s view of Torah Min HaShamayim and Torah Mi Sinai. There’s little point in arguing what has already been established in last year’s thread (before my time): https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/05/modern-orthodox-view-of-history/ where one can see your fundamentalist perspective on this issue.

  88. IH wrote:

    “There’s little point in arguing what has already been established in last year’s thread (before my time): https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/05/modern-orthodox-view-of-history/ where one can see your fundamentalist perspective on this issue.”

    In a certain sense you are correct, because issues of this nature IMO invariably involve issues that revolve around what is the invariable and probably irreconcilable conflict between Masorah and the issues posed by the academic world, whether or not the same are intentitional or otherwise, and the lines of demarcation therein. Like it or not, many MO simply IMO fail to recognize that they have far more in common with the views of the CS than Moses Mendelsohn.

  89. Steve — are you incapable of expressing a thought without (often inaccurately) resorting to name-dropping and ha’mayvin yavin codes?

    And while I am venting, the hyperbolic rhetoric & strawman argumentation you like to employ are really counter-productive.

    Can’t we have a healthy exchange of views without these prolonged silly exchanges? And looking at past discussions, it is not just me and this is not a new phenomenon. To the extent it has brought out the worst in me, I apologize to all.

    דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום

  90. Baruch Alster

    I have to agree with Steve about the Bible Criticism problem, and even partially about its solution.

    The fact that source criticism has many unconvincing aspects does not mean that TMS is validated. It’s just that there’s a limit to what one can show convincingly by source criticism. The data that prompted post-Mosaic datings of the Torah and its disunity haven’t gone away. It’s just that it’s really difficult to prove exactly what the sources were, whether they were oral or written, and exactly when they (and the final text) were produced. General guidelines – yes, details – no.

    But even these general guidelines, no matter the details, are enough to possibly undermine TMS, has veshalom. So we’re still fighting the same battle, as Steve says.

    I agree also that at least for now “tsarikh `iyyun” is the best strategy. But contra Steve, “tsarikh `iyyun” can only be a temporary solution, at least for educators and those students convinced by academic Bible criticism. Yes, many can ignore it, and that’s fine. But what do you do with those who cannot? And educators, especially Tanakh teachers, must be prepared for the challenges their students will face. An honest look at the issues, which includes knowledge of what goes on today in Biblical studies, the different methods used, the respective weight of different arguments, is a must to deal effectively with these students.

  91. IH,

    “Isn’t it time for MO to move on from the long expired culture wars RYBS fought?”

    As Dr. Alster pointed out, the issues haven’t gone away, even if Bible scholars don’t deal with them as much. DH in some form is still accepted axiomatically in Bible studies today just as it was 100 years ago.

    Furthermore, there are at least two large(ish) segments of MO who are exposed to the problems: college students and adults interested in learning more about their history or who begin to ask questions they didnt in their younger years. So it’s a bigger issue than you think.

    Dr. Alster,

    1) What do you think of R. Dr. Berman’s efforts in this area?

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/joshua-berman-interview/

    2) If Prof. Avioz (or Simon/Cohen et al) is so convinced that it is possible to deal with these matters head on faith-wise, why doesn’t he, or his colleagues do so in an academic forum?

  92. Baruch Alster

    IH,

    I really liked Created Equal, but I think it explains Devarim well, not Vayikra. Specifically on issues such as covenant and equality, there are differences within the Torah that do not seem to be reconcilable. That said, his new project seems to deal with these matters specifically, so I guess we’ll wait. From what he told me recently, it seems promising regarding the problem of unity in the Torah. Regarding the dating problem, however, at least so far, Berman has dealt with the dating of specific passages only and not of the Torah as a whole. I for one was not convinced by Kitchen – although his work is definitely serious scholarship, I think he actually proves a lot less than he says he does.

    In any case, even Berman’s new project, assuming (as he does in the interview) that it will not prove the antiquity and unity of the Torah beyond reasonable doubt, may convince some of our students, and can be used to calm the spiritual angst of others, but there will still be a large portion who will not be convinced and will need more help.

    As to mori ve-rabbi Simon, he has expressed his opinion on these matters in the second (2004) edition of Bakesh Shalom Ve-rodfehu. See also my review in Megadim 48 (2008). I have not discussed this issue with Avioz at all, and I don’t know which Cohen you refer to.

  93. Dr. Alster,

    It was me you were answering, not IH. As to your answer:

    “In any case, even Berman’s new project, assuming (as he does in the interview) that it will not prove the antiquity and unity of the Torah beyond reasonable doubt, may convince some of our students, and can be used to calm the spiritual angst of others”

    God’s existence cannot be proven “beyond reasonable doubt”, so I don’t see how one can do this with the Torah (aside from finding an 13th bc era torah scroll). Personally, I see it as analogous to the “teiku” between ex nihilo creation and creation “yesh miyesh” in the Moreh Nevuchim. Since there is no way to decide either, and there are good arguments on either side, the Rambam argues to go with tradition, barring decisive proof. I’d say that’s a good approach. One can live with “reasonable doubt” if it’s not overwhelming.

    “but there will still be a large portion who will not be convinced and will need more help”

    I don’t see how one can “help” people who are irrevocably convinced that the Torah is post-Mosaic and composite. Maybe introducing them to the Kookian or Leibowitzian solutions?

    “As to mori ve-rabbi Simon, he has expressed his opinion on these matters in the second (2004) edition of Bakesh Shalom Ve-rodfehu.”

    I read the article in question and found it very disheartening to say the least. Simon did not seem to understand at all the problem of TMS vs. DH (which has little to nothing to do with belief in God, and everything to do with the foundational integrity of the halachic system). Like Avioz, he demands adherence to “shma et ha’emet mimi she’amara”, but he does not explain at all how one can reconcile the two beyond some nice platitudes.

    “See also my review in Megadim 48 (2008).”

    Is it available online? I dont really have time to check the library right now? Or can you send me a .pdf?

    “and I don’t know which Cohen you refer to”

    Prof. Menahem Cohen (emeritus). He has written repeatedly of the need to accept “Jewish sciences” wholesale similiar to the natural sciences, even when they are constantly changing.

  94. Aiwac,
    If Dr. Alster gives the title, it would be available here:
    http://www.herzog.ac.il/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105&Itemid=186

  95. Dr. Alster, Steve, aiwac — some tachlis please:

    Was all Sefer Yeshayahu, as we have it, written by one man, Yeshayahu ben Amotz, circa 8th century BCE?

    Was all of Sefer Daniel, as we have it, written by one man, Daniel ish chamudot, circa 6th century BCE (including the large chunk in Aramaic)?

    I’m not looking for a debate, just trying to understand the degree of your agreement “the Bible Criticism problem” with each other.

  96. MDJ,

    Unfortunately, it is not available online, I checked.

    IH,

    What we are discussing is the question of authorship of the Torah, which has profound theological import. This is the cornerstone of the “Biblical Criticism” problem.

    The question of authorship of Neviim, Ketuvim &c, while of some interest, is far less critical.

  97. This lecture by R. Yehuda Brandes also makes the distinction between Torah and Nach in terms of “authorship problems”:

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3765600,00.html

  98. aiwac: actually, we are discussing the future of Orthodoxy. Steve espouses a maximalist position on Torah mi’Sinai that he seems to view as a red line for Orthodoxy. I was suggesting this may be part of one of Gil’s question to the panel he is moderating.
    [ref: May 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm]

  99. Shalom Rosenfeld

    More open-ended questions/topics for the panel:

    1.) What opportunities are there / should there be for the growing Orthodox single population (both genders) to feel connected to our community and Judaism in general?

    2.) What does the change in gender roles over the past few decades — both parents working, increased involvement by fathers in chores and childcare — mean for Orthodoxy? Is it harder/easier to be a good Orthodox mother/father now compared to 30 years ago?

  100. Apologies for the redundancy, but I want to state my question again since I think I was originally unclear, and I think the ensuing discussion has really brought it into relief. The questions that are sparking debate here are about the current problems of modern orthodoxy – things that are already happening (e.g., tuition, responding to biblical criticism). It seems to me that the point of a panel on vision should be, at least in part, to talk about things that are not yet really happening (though obviously not torally unforeseeable either).
    So, it would be useful if the panelists could articulate what they see as the challenges of the rest of the 21st centurey – beyond its current decade, say. To do so they need to have a view on where the (rest of the) world is going in the coming decades. What is that view? For example: What is going to happen to religion in the public sphere in the u.s. in general? What about multiculturalism/pluralism? Do they agree with the general sentiment that most of today’s “middle-class” children will not attain the standard of living of their parents, and what would that mean for a suburb-centered modern orthodoxy?

  101. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Oh yeah — and this one — will MO lose its best and brightest to Israel?

    A while back someone had written — “what happened to Baltimore, fifty years ago it was a Mizrachi town? They all made aliyah.”

  102. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his kind words and for his important points.

  103. R Alster-thanks for your comments. We agree to disagree re how Tanach should be taught in high schools.

    IH-Feel free to read all you wish re the authorship of any portion of Tanach. The facts remain that the historicity of Tanach or portions thereof is uniquely an issue for academics. I again reiterate that the academy , a term that I use whether in the sense of hard or soft sciences, can answer or provide valid approaches as to “what”, whether in helping provide us with the best editions of seforim, etc. However, the academy, in all of its brances, can not provide an approach or answer to “why”, without ultimately recognizing that committment to the Mesorah is beyond verification, a POV that is anathema to an academic whose approach is rooted in verification of all data.

  104. MiMedinat HaYam

    “One hears too often of a product of twelve (expensive!) years of Modern Orthodox education who throws it all away as soon as s/he walks onto a college campus. What can be done about this?”

    on the other hand, (questions will be asked re:) lowering the costs of those twelve (exp) years, so its a cost / benefit analysis issue.

    as mentioned in other posts, the teaneck solution, like it or not (some are reportedly ‘not’ing to that $8000 proposal, which undoubtedly will be discussed if its brought up. i bet you the speakers and the host org will do all it can to prevent its being brought up) is to spend more and more.

  105. IH posed the following two part query:

    “Was all Sefer Yeshayahu, as we have it, written by one man, Yeshayahu ben Amotz, circa 8th century BCE?

    Was all of Sefer Daniel, as we have it, written by one man, Daniel ish chamudot, circa 6th century BCE (including the large chunk in Aramaic)?”

    Let’s assume that the academic answers to both questions is in the negative and that the traditional answer is in the positive. It is akin to asking a question to which you already know the answer and are merely seeking confirmation. Would such knowledge enhance one’s level of Emunah or detract from the same?If the answer is either equivocal or negative, I think that one can argue that there is no virture into entering into a house that is on the verge of collapse, but rather to realize that there are many unbridgeable gaps between Mesorah and the academy and to live in doubt, rather than investigate scenarios such as the above, where living in Emunah Pshutah, and in doubt, is a far better path than accepting solutions that have the potential for challenging one’s entire belief in Maamad Har Sinai. Why then explore an issue that would illustrate the conflict between Mesorah and the academy?

  106. ibn Ezra seemed it worthwhile (re: Yeshayahu) But, more to the point of this thread, what will the impact be on the students of maximalist dogma such as you advocate?

    The issue is not Bible Criticism, as an academic subject, the issue is the approach Orthodoxy takes to successfully educate its youth. You seem to be advocating increasing ignorance to somehow protect the innocent.

    I’d suggest that your maximalist approach exacerbates the conflict by including more and more of TSBP into the category of Torah mi’Sinai. Perhaps this is helpful to bridge MO with the Yeshivish/Charedi velt; but, at what expense to Modern Orthodoxy?

  107. Baruch Alster

    Anon 8:32AM – A few points:
    1. Sorry about the mix-up. It would help if you would use a pseudonym.
    2. There are many options to present to students who deal with these issues. R. Kook-based approaches are definitely useful. But not all students are the same, and even if I think a certain approach is plausible, others may not. As educators, we should beware a situation in which there is only one acceptable response to a problem.
    3. If you want a pdf of the review, please write me at [email protected].
    4. Re: Cohen. Has he written anything on the topic besides on text-criticism (which is probably less problematic educationally than source criticism or historicity)?

  108. Baruch Alster

    Steve,
    If Bible Criticism is not necessary (because of previous or impending exposure), I agree it should not be taught at th HS level.

    However, many “technical” issues do have religious implications that can enhance one’s emunah and commitment. I gave a shiur on nevu’ah once that relied on the late dating of the second half of Isaiah. The question is, after understanding the “what”, how to proceed to the “why”. This is not the job of academics per se, but rather of those educators who use academic methods, or of academics who double as educators.

  109. IH wrote in part:

    “ibn Ezra seemed it worthwhile (re: Yeshayahu) But, more to the point of this thread, what will the impact be on the students of maximalist dogma such as you advocate”

    IH-I have never advocated a purely ArtScroll/Midrash/Mussar/Chasidus oriented approach to learning Tanach, despite the fact that there are many inspirational and positive elements in such an approach.

    On the contrary,I think that is far better for students to be taught that a variety of views, including that of Ibn Ezra, exist within the Mesorah, and that it contrast to Halacha, which is a far more vertical process, as to how it is transmitted, Parshanut is a far more horizontal process with many voices on a wide range of very fundamental views. I would certainly advocate that students recognize that despite the widespread view of Maharal on Medrash and Aggados, Rashi, Ramban and Ibn Ezra, for starters, were masters of working the Medrashim and other views that they viewed as aiding in Pshat, but in rejecting others that were far closer to pure Drush. I would also advocate that at least one shiur, at the minimum, be devoted to the well known controversy between Rambam and Ramban in the Sefer HaMitzvos as to how to define a Mitzvah Min HaTorah and how Halacha was affected by the same, as well as the treatment of this issue in subsequent works.

  110. Dr. Alster,

    I do use a pseudonym: aiwac (or in caps if you prefer). It’s been accepted by all the users here. You can call me by my first name (Avi) if it helps.

    “There are many options to present to students who deal with these issues. R. Kook-based approaches are definitely useful. But not all students are the same, and even if I think a certain approach is plausible, others may not. As educators, we should beware a situation in which there is only one acceptable response to a problem.”

    I agree, but it behooves educators in any difficult area (be it philosophy, bible &c) to realize that there will be students who simply do not accept any solution regardless of how much we bend over backwards. You and your colleagues need to be realistic about this and not try for an 100% success rate.

    “Steve,
    If Bible Criticism is not necessary (because of previous or impending exposure), I agree it should not be taught at th HS level.”

    Dr. Alster,

    What about teaching the factual bases for all this (the contradictions, repititions &c), but not necesarily supporting the theories that stem from it? R. Breuer, R. Bin-Nun &c have done much in the way of turning these hot potatoes into vehicles for enlightening Talmud Torah.

  111. Shalom,

    “1.) What opportunities are there / should there be for the growing Orthodox single population (both genders) to feel connected to our community and Judaism in general?”

    Very good question.

    “2.) What does the change in gender roles over the past few decades — both parents working, increased involvement by fathers in chores and childcare — mean for Orthodoxy? Is it harder/easier to be a good Orthodox mother/father now compared to 30 years ago?”

    This sounds like a subject for a sociological study, not a policy discussion.

    “Oh yeah — and this one — will MO lose its best and brightest to Israel?”

    Why not phrase it thus:

    What steps should we take (if any) to hold onto our promising young minds (and communities)? Also, what steps should we take to ensure that even those make aliyah have an effect here?

  112. Steve, I can’t believe you wrote this line: “The facts remain that the historicity of Tanach or portions thereof is uniquely an issue for academics.”

    Really? I, for one, can no longer study many portions of Tanach or talk about them with anybody without wondering if Moshe really wrote the Chumash, whether all the facts in Tanach are really accurate, whether many books in Tanach may have had been editted compilations of several different accounts, whether some of the books are frankly written poorly etc. etc. And since very few people write about these topics in a clear fashion, I (and I imagine others) am left dealing with these questions on my own.

    How in the world can you say that it doesn’t matter to non-academic Jews whether the traditional account of who authored Tanach is true or not? It doesn’t matter to most people because they know nothing about the topic. Those people, however, who are aware of the literary problems (and archeological problems — Pesach and Purim kind of hinge on small details like history) are troubled.

  113. Any high school kid who looks something up in Wikipedia for a school paper will stumble on these so-called academic issues.

    The articles are of a remarkably high quality. See, for example:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Isaiah

  114. MiMedinat HaYam

    “What steps should we take (if any) to hold onto our promising young minds (and communities)? ” — aiwac

    and not have them become charedi?

  115. AIWAC:

    “What steps should we take (if any) to hold onto our promising young minds (and communities)?”

    1) i’m very skeptical about the so-called aliyah brain drain

    2) some would argue that the question should be the opposite: what steps can be taken to foster aliayh (or alternatively, why has american MO zionism been such a failure?)

  116. Barch wrote:

    “How in the world can you say that it doesn’t matter to non-academic Jews whether the traditional account of who authored Tanach is true or not? It doesn’t matter to most people because they know nothing about the topic. Those people, however, who are aware of the literary problems (and archeological problems — Pesach and Purim kind of hinge on small details like history) are troubled”

    Baruch-How many people are you are aware of in your self described class of “non Academic Jews” who have actually learned the relevant Parsshiyos in Sefer Shmos or Megilas Esther with the classical Mfarshim?

  117. At the risk of repeating myself on this thread, Teiku means that we live with doubt not just in understanding a Daf Gemara but also in hashkafic issues because we don’t have an answer, as opposed to thinking that we do have answers. IMO, thinking that we do have the answers or even a bad approach on such issues is a sign of intellectual arrogance.

  118. I couldn’t agree more. That is why we should not reject approaches to understanding out of insecurity; or, because it might lead to mixed dancing as the old joke goes.

  119. You don’t need to read mefarshim to know that the absence of any evidence of certain biblical stories is a bit troubling. How troubling? I’m not sure since I don’t know much about the art of archeology and ancient history. But it does seem initially troubling. Don’t you think?

    And I wasn’t just referring to those two books. There are various problems of various sorts.

  120. Ask them what they propose to do now that conservative Judaism is falling apart? Ask them how to make orthodox Shuls more attractive so that orthodox Judaism will not meet the same fate as conservative. Ask them how to stem the tide of negativity that permeates ortodox rabbinic homiletics.

  121. Baruch Alster

    Aiwac,
    My apologies. Your name didn’t show up on some of your posts, don’t know why.

    “You and your colleagues need to be realistic about this and not try for an 100% success rate.”
    Agreed, but neither should we be so narrow-minded as to believe that there is only one possible correct approach to this issue.

    “What about teaching the factual bases for all this (the contradictions, repititions &c), but not necesarily supporting the theories that stem from it? R. Breuer, R. Bin-Nun &c have done much in the way of turning these hot potatoes into vehicles for enlightening Talmud Torah.”
    Definitely agree!

  122. Challenges for the future:

    1) An increasing number of non-Orthodox Jews are “marrying out” and having non-halachically Jewish children. This trend seems likely to increase in the coming decades (perhaps even penetrate our communities at the fringes, coupled w/OTD, e.g. Noah Feldman).

    What steps should we take, either in conjunction with other denominations or separate from them, to deal with this situation?

    Should we look into the possibility of opening the floor for “bending the halachic rules” when it comes to conversion (perhaps in the form of conversion demands or creating new halachic categories for non-halachic Jews which aren’t “goyim”?)?

    2) “Talmud Torah”

    The RZ community has been investing heavily in “branching out” in terms of religious tasks. In place of the monolithic “litvish iyun bachurim” model of yesteryear, more and more RZ Jews are entering other fields such as art, cinema, poetry, literature and more. They have gained increasing legtimacy and are no longer considered “second class” (to the yeshiva bachurim).

    Should MO begin to cultivate a more internally pluralistic view of the ideal MO Jew, which does not restrict itself to the intellectual pursuits? Should we take more steps to raise the banner of the “Jewish baalabos”?

  123. Shalom Rosenfeld

    How about this one:

    “From talking to a few shadchanim, it seems like there are plenty of “good, frum, normal single girls” out there, but very few “good, frum, normal single guys.” If this is correct, why is it that way, and what can we do about it?”

  124. How is the middle class or poor people going to afford to be orthdox with the costs involved?
    What special thing does MO have to offer over Hasidic J or Black Hat?
    Why do some people perceive MO as less religious or committed than Hasidic or Black Hat?
    How do people deal with affluence?
    In 1900 people lives to average of 47 , now it is to over 77. What suggestion do you have for the extra 30 years of life bonus each person has?
    Rav Soloveitick zl said Orthodox Jews are selfish vs. the wider Jewish COmmunity. Has the situation gotten better in the 40 years or so since he said it?
    What do orthodox Jews to make the world a better place and how come people don’t really know about it?

  125. Thank you for all the great questions. I have finalized the questions now, using many of the ideas here. Please understand that I obviously cannot ask everything.

  126. 1. Pertaining to your post about Yavneh, ask the panel how they will deal with developing torah umaddah scholars and personalities. Being that President Joel should be taking the lead role in this regard ask him how YU plans on doing that, and how he believes the new Straus center will do this, it at all. From my impression it seems that the program will not be doing enough.
    2. A second issue to address is the role of informal Jewish education in the community for frum kids. Meaning not about NCSY, but about learning programs for high school kids. Why there are so few and what the leaders think about increasing it. How to increase the talmud torah and religious growth of students. Where summer programs, such as NCSY Kollel and the like fit into this scheme and what the community can do to help.

  127. 1. Jeffery Toobin writes–seemingly very astutely–that centrism and moderation are “passionless creeds.” How does MO and centrist Judaism develop passion in its youth, a requirement so desperately needed to prevent those from moving left and right?

    2. What will MO do as more and more of its leaders are people who never learned under the Rav? Is RHS the head of MO? Is there another? Do we need one?

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