New Periodical: Tradition 44:3

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Tradition 44:3 (Fall 2011 – link) is now available:

  • “When the Land is Sinful, Her Officers are Many” Is There Ethics Outside of Politics? by R. Shalom Carmy – A defense of legalistic religion and small government
  • Grief and Joy in the Writing of Rabbi Soloveitchik by Alex Sztuden – Part 2 of this series, this time addressing the distinction between the ma’aseh and kiyum (act & fulfillment) aspects of a mitzvah.
  • Midrash Matters by Dr. Moshe Simon-Shoshan – Arguing that midrash should also be taught in order to become more a part of “the covenantal community,” in the process describing midrashic methods. Midrash also helps “inculcate students with the values of interpretive and methodological pluralism.”
  • Metsitsah Be-Peh, Nineteenth Century New York Jewry, and the Board of Health by Daniel Poliak – A historical accounting of the 1873 NYC metzitzah be-feh controversy.
  • Universalism and Particularism in the Jewish Tradition: The Radical Theology of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks by Dr. Alan Jotkowitz – A respectful critique of elements of R. Sacks’ theology as unsupported in Jewish tradition. Requires a post of its own to defend R. Sacks, hopefully soon.
  • May a Sabbath-Desecrator Drink Wine? by R. J. David Bleich – A thorough study of the prohibition of drinking wine touched by gentiles, whether it applies to Shabbos desecrators, the status of Shabbos desecrators today and a few related topics. Some sources not mentioned: re wine touched by Shabbos desecrators, R. Chaim Hirschenson’s strange responsum in Malki Ba-Kodesh (vol. 2 3:5:5 – link) and his mechutan R. Tzvi Pesach Frank’s sharp response in Malki Ba-Kodesh (vol. 4 letter 10 – link); re tinok she-nishbah, R. Menachem Kasher, Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah (ch. 6, 2001 edition pp. 100-101).
  • Communications – Prof. Yehudah Leo Levi argues that ethical principles should be derived from aggadah and, following R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, defines kedushah as being “dedicated to a sublime ideal.”

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, 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 currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four 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.


  1. typo: R. Jonathan Sacks, not Sack

  2. Jotkowitz completely misunderstands R. Sacks. Incredibly, he cites Isaiah Berlin once, but fails to mention that R. Sacks’ entire philosophy is rooted in Berlin’s idea of pluralism. The entire review, while respectful, shows an utter unfamiliarity with the key philosophical ideas underpinning R. Sacks work, and thus is largely irrelevant to any serious discussion of R. Sacks thinking.

  3. I thought a key missing element is recognition that R. Sacks writes differently for gentile/non-observant Jewish and frum audiences.

    Care to write a guest post about R. Sacks’ philosophical sources? E-mail me

  4. In footnotes 4, 5, 6 and 7 of his article, Dr. Jotkowitz describes the key revisions that Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks incorporated into his second edition of The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. I have recently co-submitted a manuscript to Journal of Halachah and Contemporary Society which implicitly applauds Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks on his sagacious decision to revise his book, based on RMF in IM YD 3:43. While I don’t know yet whether my manuscript will be accepted, I would argue that it is the second edition of R. Sacks’ book which is authoritative Halakhah Le-ma’aseh in terms of chovot he-levavot. Yes: absolutely, it is our duty as Jews to love and care for every human being, no matter what his race or creed. But we as Jews are not permitted to believe any theology that contradicts the prophecy of Mosheh Rabbeinu. I would regard Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks’ first edition of the book as an important rehearsal draft on the way toward the second edition. The rehearsal is valuable but does not present the final product.

    Permit me to offer a parallel example from another great sage, and also from the newest edition of Tradition. R. Bleich (on p. 89) identifies that the most recent edition of Iggerot Mosheh that was published was Vol. 8. Obviously, that is contrafactual; Vol. 9 was published already, B”H. I am sure that when R. Bleich republishes the material in book form, he will revise his chapter to be more accurate and more truthful. The same occurred with Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon R. Sacks.

    Bottom line: “tovim ha-shenayim min ha-echad”: we should all buy the second edition of Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks’ book, not the first.

  5. Lawrence Kaplan

    R.Spira: R. Sacks rewrote Dignity of Difference under Haredi pressure, and it is not clear to me whether it is the first or second edition which better represents his true views.

  6. Here is a comparison of chapter 3 from the two editions:

  7. If someone is going to write a defense for Rabbi Sacks, I needs to be better that what Dr. Shapiro did or it won’t be worth his time:

  8. Perhaps Kaveret’s punning of “tovim ha-shenayim min ha-echad” as “tova’aim ha’shnayim min ha’echad” is apt. When R. Sacks is unencumbered of his political responsibilities, perhaps we will have a clearer sense of his views on a number of issues.

  9. I have two of R Sacks books at home, the titles of which escape me, and have subscribed to his Dvrei Torah on the parsha for a number of years, at none less than R Gil’s suggestion. While I raised issues with his most recent book vis a vis his take on certain limited issues which I commented on last year, I think that R Sacks’s recent pre Yamim Noraim letters, as well as the drashos that he gave in America and at the Vatican as well as his take on social issues in general, have established R Sacks as a great thinker who can articulate why being a Torah observant Jew has relevance and meaning, despite the cultural and economic milieu that we live in. All of his writings show a familiarity with not just basic Halachic and Hashkafic sources, and a lack of apologetics in explaining the same, but also a very keen awareness of politics, history, secular intellectual and cultural trends. May CR Sacks continue to express himself on such issues for many many years.

  10. If some one who has access to TraditionOnline could send me a PDF of my article I would be most grateful.

    mdshoshan at gmail

  11. American Jews have always liked Rabbinical speakers who speak English with a upper crust British accent. IMO, don’t be surprised if somehow YU finds the financial wherewithal to create and offer CR Sacks some sort of tenured chair in Jewish philosophy. CR Sacks was a huge hit when he was at a YC/SCW Shabbaton and when he marched in the Salute To Israel Parade a few years ago.

  12. Moshe Shoshan-I am not a Tradition subscriber-could you send me a PDF of your article?

  13. MS: What a truly bizarre criticism of the Chief Rabbi.

  14. If the author of the criticism was a haredi I would get it, but he is not. He maybe just doesn’t like the Chief. And to address him as Dear Jonathan is chutzpah.

  15. I think Chancellor, Steve.

  16. Lawrence Kaplan

    I also feel that Geoffry Alderman’s criticisms of Rabbi Sacks was captious and carping, and his addressin him as “Jonathan” an open letter was disrespectful.

  17. I thank Mori ve-Rebbi R. Kaplan for his kind response, and concede that Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks revised the book due to request of other rabbis. But, in my opinion, that request was appropriate. As Rashi to Deuteronomy 13:9 writes, the golden principle of “ve-ahavta le-re’akha kamokha” is inapplicable in the context of mesit u-medi’ach la-avodat kokhavim.
    Or perhaps, to rephrase the Rashi, the greatest love we can show our fellow human being is to rescue him from being mesit u-medi’ach la-avodat kokhavim. Thus, Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks chose correctly to revise his book. [Theological interfaith dialogue is considered mesit u-medi’ach la-avodat kokhavim by RMF in IM YD 3:43.]

  18. For a while I lamented every new issue of tradition thinking that the quality of writing and scholarship had gone way down and, despite the occasional gems, they would publish poorly written drivel so long as it took the proper apologetic stance they were interested in.

    This was based on reading issues from the 70s when there was more quality writing and more receptivity to divergent views.

    Then I got an online subscription and started looking through the old archives and realized that this is what they had been doing the whole time and the 70s were more the exception than the rule.

    I’m not sure whether that makes me feel better or worse.

  19. I am pleased to note the discovery of a responsum devoted the intriguing question at hand. Namely, R. Shmuel Eliezer Stern, in his 2004 book on the laws of conversion, reports that he was asked by R. Aharon David Dunner of London what is the Halakhah if a Noahide converts to Judaism on the assumption that there are multiple religions revealed to multiple nations. R. Stern’s conclusion (after consulting R. Shmuel Wosner) was to perform a geirut le-chumra for the convert again. Although not mentioned by R. Stern, I think this affirms that Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks was correct to produce a revised edition of his tour de force book, and indeed I assume that R. Dunner works with Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks on a regular basis.

  20. Shalom Spira – I’m not quite sure why you are assuming that Dayan Dunner works together with R. Sacks regularly. As far as I am aware, they have little to do with each other – their roles don’t really intersect and they are affiliated with totally different strands of Orthodoxy.

  21. Thank you, R’ J., for your illuminating response. It is much appreciated.

    You have succesfully identified a previously hidden point in my thesis, and I thank you for bringing it into focus, viz. that I believe there is only one Orthodox Judaism, pursuant to the concept of “lo titgodedu – lo ta’asu agudot agudot”, as per the gemara in Yevamot 14a. Therefore, I assume that Ha-Rav Ha-Ga’on R. Sacks and Dayan Dunner confer with each other, as they are both distinguished morei hora’ah in the city of London.

    [Parenthetically, as an inyana de-yoma interest, R. Yechezkel Livshitz attempts to reconcile this concept of “lo tigodedu” with the episode in Shabbat 21b which records how two scholars in the same city lit their Chanukah candles in opposite ways.

    Later, Mishnah Berurah would offer an alternate explanation to this same question in the Bi’ur Halakhah to OC 671:2 (although one which he apologetically admits is contrary to Vilna Ga’on, and also which he emphasizes he is only tentatively raising).

    Interestingly, the analysis of R. Bleich in Be-Netivot ha-Halakhah II, pp. 47-48, that “mehadrin min ha-mehadrin” is not a normal case of “hiddur mitzvah” but is rather a special mitzvah kiyumit in the context of Chanukah, will dovetail with R. Livshitz’ approach.]

  22. Thanks for the marei mekomos. Sorry, one point I forgot to note is that the Rabbi Dunner mentioned in conjunction with the opposition to R. Sacks’ book was R. Aharon Dovid Dunner’s father. He was Raaved of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (Kedassia), during the CR’s tenure, until his death in 2007.

  23. R’ J.,
    Thank you for the valuable information and the kind acknowledgment.

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