New Periodical: Tradition 45:1

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A blockbuster issue of Tradition (45:1, Spring 2012) has been published:

  • The One Thing That Money Can’t Buy by R. Shalom Carmy, Avi Woolf and R. Yitzchak Blau – Avi Woolf’s guest post on this blog on Modern Orthodoxy and fun (link), in response to an article by R. Yitzchak Blau, gave rise to this discussion on the subject in the pages of Tradition. R. Shalom Carmy’s hilarious intellectual humor makes a surprisingly strong appearance in this exchange on “kosher” (both religiously and intellectually) forms of fun.
  • The World of Women’s Torah Learning–Developments, Directions and Objectives: A Report from the Field by Esti Rosenberg – Rav Soloveitchik’s granddaughter (via the Lichtenstein branch) and a pioneer of women’s Gemara learning reports on the current state of the field. Eye-opening to me (when I first saw the article at the Orthodox Forum two years ago), although Matan’s recent closing changes the facts somewhat. I’m not sure that these developments are “good for the Jews” but it’s always good to know what is going on.
  • Harnessing the Authority of Beit Din to Deal with Cases of Domestic Violence by R. A. Yehuda Warburg – A very important article (which we briefly discussed here: link) about how battei din evaluate and respond to cases of spousal or child abuse, particularly what prohibitions they bring to bear and what types of evidence they accept. Serves as a refutation of claims that children cannot testify about abuse.
  • The Methodology of Creativity: A Review of Rav Yaakov Medan’s Contribution to the Modern Study of Tanakh by R. Yaakov Beasley – A fascinating and careful analysis of R. Medan’s unique approach to peshat via midrash. Many examples of multiple aspects and a few criticisms.
  • Seeking the Keys to the Palace Gates: Rabbi Moshe Shamah’s Commentary on the Torah by R. Hayyim Angel – A review of R. Moshe Shamah’s unique commentary to the Torah. The commentary takes a serious look at peshat but explicitly and repeatedly deviates from an assumption of Mosaic transmission of the text. Ironically, R. Ovadiah Yosef published a teshuvah defending R. Shamah from accusations of heresy on other issues. I doubt R. Yosef would defend this belief.
  • Substitution of Lottery Tickets & Products Liability by R. J. David Bleich – A complex analysis of a case of lottery tickets, disagreeing with a theory attributed to R. Meir Simcha Hacohen. And sides with Maharsham against the editor of his responsa and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that there is no halakhic concept of products liability, at least in the case under discussion.
  • Communications – My letter (based on this post) defending R. Jonathan Sacks and Dr. Alan Jotkowitz’s response which I don’t think adequately answered my challenge.

About Gil Student

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

41 comments

  1. Regarding the article on women’s learning:
    Migdal Oz has just announced they are opening an advanced scholars program in Gemara and Halakha for women. The program will be headed by Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshivat Har Etzion. Applications are being accepted now: see http://haretzion.org/images/stories/YHE/pdfs/mo-tochnitmitstaynot.pdf

  2. I’m not sure that these developments are “good for the Jews”

    Which developments are you unsure about?

  3. R’MS,
    I don’t consider myself RWMO (my wife says I’m classifiable but i think she means it in educational terms :-)) but I really was struck by the same article, it left me the impression (I will b”n reread it) of an almost chassidic type model (women davening at the midreshet for holidays etc.) which left me wondering.
    KT

  4. I have not read the piece, but dont underestimate the impact of neo-Chassidic spirituality on the younger generation of the DL community.

  5. Lawrence Kaplan

    Moshe Shoshan: What strikes me is that this neo-Hassidic spirituality is often combined with a more open and critical approach to Talmud study, as in Yeshivat Otniel,for instance. Any comments? (BTW, I’ll be in Israel this Thursday for two weeks Why don’t we meet if possible?)

  6. R. Gil,

    I read the review of R. Moshe Shamah’s commentary and saw nothing in it to suggest he comes anywhere near MBC in dating or authorship. Is there something I missed?

  7. Halevai all Jewish ladies should learn gemara and become the poskot of Klal Yisrael (-see Rashi to Ketubot 36b, where he describes a lady as a poseket) if only to affirm that belief that our Sefer Torah was dictated by HKB”H to Mosheh Rabbeinu is an essential prerequisite to being an Orthodox Jew, based on the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a and Megillah 2a. Now, it is true that much confusion has been caused by the (seemingly contradictory) gemara in Bava Batra 15a which discusses the authorship of the final eight verses (-and then we have Ibn Ezra and Chatam Sofer who pump up the volume to the final twelve verses), but the overwhelming consensus of poskim reconciles the two sugyot in terms of the halakhot of ikkarei emunah. [I.e. The overwhelming consensus of poskim hold that even if the last eight/twelve verses were dictated to Yehoshua, a Jew is obligated to believe that Mosheh Rabbeinu was told by HKB”H that the mitzvah of Ketivat Sefer Torah cannot be accomplished without those eight/twelve verses that will be added by Yehoshua by divine command.] Interestingly, though, it must be candidly acknowledged that R. Moshe Feinstein’s attempt to address this problem (IM YD 3:114-115) failed because of numerous errors in R. Feinstein’s argument. However, I believe that as his son-in-law R. Moshe David Tendler humorously commented in an entirely separate context (the brain death symposium with R. Hershel Schachter in 1988), “all the errors managed to cancel each other out”, and so R. Feinstein’s conclusion is halakhically correct, even if his reasoning is flawed.

  8. Correction: Megillah 2b. Thank you.

  9. P. 92: Regardless of how one defines these critical hashkafic boundaries, R. Shamah treats the Torah’s text as unified and as prophetically revealed. Even though R. Breuer maintained that this hashkafic position was beyond the boundaries of classical Jewish faith…

    n. 20: There are a few instances where R. Shamah understands one passage in the Torah as being later than another, serving as a form of “midrash” on the earlier passage (e.g., 309-310; 364-371). Depending on what he means by “later,” these studies may be examples where the outcome of one’s analysis does depend on the process of writing the Torah.

  10. “There are a few instances where R. Shamah understands one passage in the Torah as being later than another, serving as a form of “midrash” on the earlier passage”

    Emphasis on few. How is this different from R. Bonfils/Tzofnat Paneach, who I assume is considered acceptable?

  11. Aiwac: How is this different from R. Bonfils/Tzofnat Paneach, who I assume is considered acceptable?

    Why do you make that assumption? Who has ever even seen the sefer, much less learned from it?

  12. Gil,

    The quotes you give merely suggest that R. Breuer would not have approved. is there more?

  13. “Who has ever even seen the sefer, much less learned from it?”

    R. Gil,

    You asserted that the review says something about R. Shamah’s commentary that it does not say. It may well be that the commentary itself is way out of bounds, but I see no evidence for this in the review.

  14. Moshe,

    There is more; it mentions Knohl who points out sources that do not rule out later (minor) prophetic glosses on the Torah. Emphasis here on small additions and not wholesale non-Mosaic authorship. Knohl himself is a DH man, but the sources he brings are legit (Ibn Ezra, R. Yehuda Hachasid &c).

  15. R. Blau in his critique of Prof. Shapiro said the following:

    “We can exclude Ibn Ezra’s view from the charge of
    heresy, remain unsure about how much more latitude to give for an
    expansion of Ibn Ezra, and still confidently assert that J, P, E and D are beyond the pale”

    Nothing in the review suggests that R. Shamah went even close to beyond the pale.

  16. What strikes me is that this neo-Hassidic spirituality is often combined with a more open and critical approach to Talmud study, as in Yeshivat Otniel,for instance. Any comments?

    The original Hassidic authors also advanced many ideas which, while perhaps not scholarly, were significant departures from tradition. When you are (or just appear to be, depending on the case) more strongly rooted in spirituality, your motives in advancing an untraditional approach are more likely to be trusted.

  17. aiwac: You asserted that the review says something about R. Shamah’s commentary that it does not say.

    Here is what I wrote in this post: Seeking the Keys to the Palace Gates: Rabbi Moshe Shamah’s Commentary on the Torah by R. Hayyim Angel – A review of R. Moshe Shamah’s unique commentary to the Torah. The commentary takes a serious look at peshat but explicitly and repeatedly deviates from an assumption of Mosaic transmission of the text. Ironically, R. Ovadiah Yosef published a teshuvah defending R. Shamah from accusations of heresy on other issues. I doubt R. Yosef would defend this belief.

  18. “Ironically, R. Ovadiah Yosef published a teshuvah defending R. Shamah from accusations of heresy on other issues. I doubt R. Yosef would defend this belief”

    Would he also accuse R. Yehuda Hachasid of heresy?

  19. R. Ovadiah Yosef did not publish a teshuvah defending R. Shamah from accusations of heresy on other “issues”. There was one issue. R. Shamah claimed that we are not mechuyav to believe that all science in the Talmud is correct, and that it is possible that Chazal were using the most advanced science of their times. He was called an apikores for saying this, and R. Ovadiah Yosef wrote a teshuvah saying that he was not an apikores for saying this.

  20. Why is this the first new Tradition printed in almost a year and a half?

  21. Reb Chaim HaQoton,
    Thank you for the question. There actually was a new edition a few months ago but our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student didn’t formally review it, because instead he focused on “Factchecking the Slifkin-Bleich Debate”. That’s why it may appear that there hasn’t been a new Tradition in a long time.

    In any event, I’ll take the opportunity to wish mazal tov both to R’ Avi Woolf and R. Student whose contributions on Torah Musings are now evidently reflected in this new edition Tradition. This is a significant scholarly achievement to celebrate.

  22. BTW, the article about R. Medan provides great encouragement to those of us who think that intellectual greatness comes solely from some miraculous and easy kind of brilliance. It’s 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

  23. Reb Chaim: Tradition has been regularly publishing new issues about every 3 months. And for the record, I did not review the last issue because my subscription had lapsed and I never received it. And printing out the entire electronic issue was too much.

  24. “Eye-opening to me”

    in what respect?

  25. Matan did not close. It lost funding for one aspect of one particular program – a third-year of a kollel-like learning program, I believe. Partial funding has been restored.

  26. Matan as a whole is indeed going strong, and even the Talmud-track program that was going to close is staying open, at least for another year, after publicity regarding the potential close led new donors to come forward and keep it afloat for the year.

  27. R’ Student,

    I am as puzzled as aiwac re your take on R. Angel’s review.

    Why did you give no hint of R. Angel’s strongly positive assessment of R. Shamah’s work that was the major part of his review?

    Your selective comments were not what I expected.

  28. avinoam: I wrote that “The commentary takes a serious look at peshat” and then focused on what I thought was the most important part of the review.

  29. Alex Schindler

    You thought the most important part of the review was a tangential hypothetical discussion of the pale of “Jewish dogma” re: Torah mi-Sinai?

    Do you think Hakham Angel would agree with that assessment?

    I can’t decide whether to disdain this ‘summary’ more as a passive-aggressive slander of H. Shamah, or an offense to H. Angel for distorting the intent of his review by zooming in on a little side point at the end, which, indeed, appears to misunderstand both the review and the book.

    But then, as I am certain you did not read the book, you had no way of knowing the context of the comments in the review. In such situations, seyyagh leHokhma, as always, shethiqa.

  30. It was hardly tangential and, yes, I believe R. Angel intended it to be central to the review.

    And while I did not read the entire book (it’s huge), I read large sections. The first hint to me that something was wrong was when he refers to the phrase “Ad Dan” as an “anachronism” (I know he used the word anachronism, I believe it was on that passage).

  31. Tangential hypothetical discussion? The pertinent section (yes, it is a whole section) is entitled “Hotly Debated Hashkafic Issues” and subsection B is called “Revelation of the Torah.” How is that tangential or hypothetical?

    Besides, lets not get to critical on R’ Gil. His three sentence review of the review is meant to give a taste of the article and get others to read it. He has done Rabbis Angel and Shammah a great service.

  32. MiMedinat HaYam

    aiwac — “… brilliance. It’s 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”

    those edison bulbs are illegal now. (edison made that 1/99% quote.)

  33. shachar haamim

    “Moshe Shoshan on June 18, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I have not read the piece, but dont underestimate the impact of neo-Chassidic spirituality on the younger generation of the DL community.”

    This point should not be underestimated. Many “YU types” and their extensions in Israel who are less “plugged in” to the trends in Israeli society are missing this important aspect of religious life in the DL community. Brisk is really on the wane in the DL world. One even sees crticism of the “lomdus” approach to learning and life in the charedi world – such as Yisroel Lefkowitz’s articles in Makor Rishon (Moshe – I did read your published response to him, but suggesting that Lomdus has value in the academic understanding of the talmud really only supports his argument – it is basically not relevant to the day to day life of most people that study the gemara as a tool for life)

  34. “It was hardly tangential and, yes, I believe R. Angel intended it to be central to the review.

    And while I did not read the entire book (it’s huge), I read large sections. The first hint to me that something was wrong was when he refers to the phrase “Ad Dan” as an “anachronism” (I know he used the word anachronism, I believe it was on that passage).

    The discussion of “hashkafic issues” (I’m so glad we had to coin an English neologism to avoid using a Christian word like “Dogma” to discuss matters of Dogma. Did you ever see the word “hashqafati” thrown around in medieval Jewish writings?) was near the end, which someone who reads a lot of book reviews should generally recognize as less-than-prime placement for a topic of high priority. I presume you read a lot of book reviews, so I am struggling to give you the benefit of the doubt here.

    More obviously, even to people who do not read many book reviews, that section was not a focused discussion of the content of the book, but rather of existing dogmatic controversies about where ‘Orthodox’ or “Traditional’ or whatever-label-you-prefer Jews have historically drawn the line regarding views of Tora authorship. The book, and views which are in no way explicit therein, though presumably Rabbi Angel felt they were clearly implied if he wrote about them, was a springboard for this discussion, whose conclusion amounted to “belief in the Tora as a unified prophetic work written by someone other than Moses is a notion occupying an interesting and controversial place in Jewish dogma, and one which readers may be uneasy with.”

    In 1100 pages or so of Biblical commentary, the relevance of the alleged view is barely ever significant to the analysis, something that no reader of your blog would get out of your ‘summary.’ In fact, they wouldnt’ even recognize that this discussion of authorship and Jewish dogma was a minor part of H. Angel’s review, nearly an afterthought. The review largely focused on the approach toward biblical literalism, toward traditional interpretations, and toward new techniques like numerical symbolism (the discussion thereof was rather perfunctory and dismissive, incidentally, as H. Angel’s comments would apply quite well to Bible Codes nonsense, but were not at all germane to the commentary. I intend to write a response to that effect, actually).

    Your one-line summary of the review reflected neither its overall assessment, which was highly positive, nor the many sections of interest. It reduced the entire review to this sentence: “The commentary takes a serious look at peshat but explicitly and repeatedly deviates from an assumption of Mosaic transmission of the text,” and an irrelevancy about what Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would or would not defend (the day that becomes a matter of concern to the Jewish people, who have been subjected to his offensive rants for decades now, will be a tragic one). Not only does it not “explicitly” do so, as one who has read the whole thing, and some sections more than once, it does not even make claims much stronger than babha bathra 15, or ibn `ezra’, or qiddushin 30.

    There are some comments about bits and pieces of the text of Tora being later redactions to render things more comprehensive to a generation. That there were minor differences in siphre tora by the time of `Ezra’, who had to reconcile three versions, is explicit in our tradition. That the middle sentence, word and letter of the tora was unclear to the rabbis of our tradition (who knew how to count), is also explicit in our tradition. That these facts challenge a child’s conception of what a unified, received prophetic text means, did not prevent the rabbis of the talmudh from recording them for posterity.

    The anachronism regarding calling a place “Dan” before “Dan” was there might be one such suggestion, James. As for your “any publicity is good publicity” theory, I would have to disagree. If all I read was this ‘summary,’ I would get from it that yet another heretic wrote another bit of heresy. And then if I read H. Angel’s review, I would already have that preconception, and focus on the less significant aspects of the (overwhelmingly positive) review. Rabbi Shamah didn’t write his commentary to sell books. People adding it to their kfira shelf out of curiosity raised by controversy generated on such blogs is not a ‘service’ to him. He wrote it to teach Tora and the unique insight he offers (which he would credit to his own teachers) to a wider public. Thoughtlessly dismissive one-line summaries of either his book or its reviews are simply obnoxious, even if they somehow ‘sell books.’

  35. The way I read the review, R. Angel went out of his way to praise the many unique qualities of the book before he proceeded to point out its questionable aspects. It was a gentleman’s move that is unavailable in brief summaries.

    In the end, I reserve the right to read an article as it appears to me and summarize it as I choose to do so. I will do it my way and will sometimes be inconsistent.

    I will not debate endlessly about how to interpret the book or the review. If you want, you can write your own reviews or summaries. However, maybe some other commenters here will be interested in engaging with you on any of these issues.

  36. Thank you Alex for your response and analysis of Gil’s three sentence summary of Angel’s review of Shammah’s book. The day that a three line summary of a review of a book becomes a matter of concern to the Jewish people, such that it generates this much discussion, will be a tragic one.

  37. Strange, given Gil’s even more blunt tweet “I just read R. Hayyim Angel’s article in latest Tradition. He all but calls R. Moshe Shamah’s Torah commentary kefirah, but gentlemanly.”…

    http://judaicseminar.org/addtl_files/booklaunch.htm

  38. Only strange if R. Angel had completely read the whole book by then.

  39. http://www.imageusa.com/index.php/component/content/article/23-community-events/1416-rabbi-moshe-shamahs-torah-commentary-recalling-the-covenant.html

    “First to speak was the rabbi of Shearith Israel, Rabbi Hayyim Angel. His address was one of gratitude towards Rabbi Shamah and the great service his commentary has done for our community. Of the book itself, Rabbi Angel remarked that it was undeniably “a Kiddush Hashem from cover to cover.” He cited the work as a blend of tradition, beauty and intellectualism.”

  40. The fact that some of use are strongly taken aback by R. Student’s one-sentence comment is a reflection of the high regard we have for him and his well-thought-out opinions.
    His seemingly agenda-driven comment, raising the specter of kefirah against a talmid hakham and yar’eh Shamayim, was therefore unexpected and disappointing.

  41. I appreciate the high regard you hold for me. I believe my three-sentence summary highlights the most important–but not only–points in the review.

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