Rabbi Angel’s Lament

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51 Responses

  1. Moishe Potemkin says:

    One suspects that what ultimately troubles Rabbi Angel is not that younger rabbis refer the shaylos that they consider beyond their ability to answer to more experienced or knowledgeable authorities, or even that Orthodoxy is no longer capable of providing a “message for other Jews and the world.” Rather it is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel…

    I vociferously protest this accusation. I have no problem with Jonathan Rosenblum disagreeing with Rabbi Angel’s philosophy, but his published “suspicion” about Rabbi Angel’s motivations is both mean-spiritied and irrelevant to his greater point.

  2. Shlomo says:

    1)
    “But the creativity and innovation that he stresses are not necessarily Torah values, and in matters of halachah can be dangerous.

    Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, in a very famous passage (Meshech Chochma to VaYikra 26:44), attributes the flight of German Jews from Torah observance to the natural human desire to make a name for themselves,”

    Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l, in a very famous book (Halakhic Man), described chiddushei torah as the most meaningful outlet for human creativity. The problem is not creativity, but one’s motivation in being creative.

    2)
    “One suspects that what ultimately troubles Rabbi Angel… is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel”

    Personal attacks are uncalled for. Your motivations, or the charedi gedolim’s motivations, could be speculatively condemned just as easily as you condemn R’ Angel.

    3)
    “But that process of Jews discovering the power of Torah to speak to their deepest concerns as parents, spouses, and human beings is not helped by one of the leading lights of Modern Orthodoxy proclaiming contemporary Orthodoxy to be something dark and cultish.”

    Fortunately, there are some Orthodox Jews who care enough about their community’s problems to speak up and try to solve them, as opposed to blithely and dishonestly pretending that they don’t exist. R’ Angel, unlike you, seems to be in the first category.

  3. Baruch says:

    Dear Reb Jonathan,
    I have been busy as of late and have not kept up with Cross Currents.
    Just because a person has semicha does not make him an authority to Posek. Inorder for one to be a Pasken he must learn to be a posek. Just like anything else in this world in order to gain a certain expertise in something one must study and practice for a number of years. Years ago it was enough that a Rabbi knew the laws of mourning but nowadays we have come a long way and people are more halachic oriented and people have questions on numerous different things and therefore not every Rabbi is capable of answering these questions and therefore must refer the questions to a higher authority I think this is a good thing every Rabbi has to know his limits so essentially I agree with what you wrote here. Rav Ahron Soloveichik I think use to say that having Semicha does not make one a Posek but not every question has to be refered to another Rabbi many questions that people ask are black and white in the Shulchan aruch and each person should become very familar wit Shulcan Aruch to know what has to be asked or what not.

    Kol tov

    Baruch

  4. S. says:

    >Rabbi Angel complained that the standards of Orthodoxy are ever stricter.

    Cultic and superstitious was what he claimed and lamented.

  5. S. says:

    >Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, in a very famous passage (Meshech Chochma to VaYikra 26:44), attributes the flight of German Jews from Torah observance to the natural human desire to make a name for themselves, coupled with their recognition that they would be unable to do so in the realm of Torah learning.

    What was the flight of Lithuanian and Polish Jews from Torah observance attributed to?

  6. Charles B. Hall says:

    Once again I urge the Cross Currents editors to invite Rabbi Angel to post a guest essay. He has been an important leader of the Orthodox community for many decades and deserves the opportunity to present his views, and it would be appropriate for Cross Currents to allow him to respond to the criticisms that have been leveled on this site.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    On the whole, I think it’s a good idea to have guest contributors here, as Charles B. Hall recommended above in Rabbi Angel’s case.

    However, I would like to see him (or any guest contributor) engage in some give-and-take afterwards with commenters on his piece.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that this column and R Auman’s letter the following week to the interview with R Angel illustrate a very cogent point. Like it or not, there is a mitzvah of Emunas Chachamim that is part and parcel of the Mitzvah of Lo Sasur. In adddition, the Braissa in Kinyan Torah speficically mentions “Pilpul vDibuk Chaverim” and “Emunas Chachamim” as necessary elements to becoming a Talmid Chacham. WADR to R Angel, no rav or RY can or should decide a Halachic issue on his own without discussing it with his peers-whether the issue is seemingly simple and straightforward or complex. I know that RAL has spken about the need for a local rav to consider himself halachically autononmous as the Moreh DAsrah, but RAL also has publically stated that there is a mitzvah of Emunas Chachamim in halachic issues.

    A number of years ago, RHS spoke at an RCA convention on the role of a rav in his kehilah. RHS mentioned that when halachic issues are brought to him-he discusses them with his colleagues-regardless of their simplicity or complexity.I highly suggest that anyone interested in this issue obtain and listen to it. Simply stated, consultation of experts in any field is hardly looked down upon. Yet, on issues where some Talmidie Chachamim have more expertise than the average Moreh Dasrah, , it is viewed as “cultic” to rely upon their greater body of knowledege. The simple question raised by this article and R Auman is-why.

    RYBS spoke out against those who would apply a strictly “common sense” approach as opposed to Lomdus in determining Halachic expertise and employing non-halachic disciplines to determining and understanding TSBP. In a shiur on the Aseres HaDibros, RYBS also publicly, vigorously and vociferously opposed the view that Gerus was possible without Kabalas HaMitzvos.

    I would hope that R Angel is not advocating the view set forth by Professors Zohar and Saggai on the issue of Gerus.Putting aside any objections to their expertise on this issue-IMO, their perspective seems very likely to be a house of cards built upon a marshalling of ShuT where a Shas Hadchak was evident and very likely against the views of Rov Rishonim and Poskim. I urge anyone interested in understanding the basics of the elements of Gerus and Halacha to go through the entries in the Encyclopedia Talmudis on these issues and then the treatment of Gerus in the Mossad HaRav Kook edition of the Ritva on Yevamos 46-47., together with all of the footnotes therein. R Asher Zelig Weiss offers a very thorough analyis of this subject in Minchas Asher on Shabbos in the sugya of Hillel and the convert. One simply cannot expreess an intelligent opinion on this complex issue without having at least a working familiarity with the Talmudic passages and how they have been understood by Rov Rishonim and Poskim.

  9. SephardiLady says:

    It is high time to invite Rabbi Angel to this forum and let him express and discuss his positions. To accuse him of the following is a really, really, really low blow: “One suspects that what ultimately troubles Rabbi Angel… is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel.”

    Accusing him of such arrogance without a forum where he can respond (would Mishpacha print a column from Rabbi Angel?) seems really inappropriate to me. (My own impression of Rabbi Angel is the exact opposite of the one painted here).

    PLEASE invite Rabbi Angel to come discuss his positions. I’d like to hear them and I think it is only just at this point. I believe this is the 3rd Cross-Currents article to come down hard on the Rabbi.

  10. HILLEL says:

    THE REQUIREMENT FOR INTERNSHIP IN HALACHA

    Dr. Angel overlooks the critical importance of post-Semicha internship (ShiMush), under the guidance of a seasoned Halachic authority–“GeDola ShimSha Yoser MiLimuda.”

    Book learning is totally inadequate when deciding a specific case, which is almost never exactly the same as presented in the books.
    How would you like to have an operation performed on you by a newly-graduated surgeon, who has virtually no experience?

    To their credit, the newly-graduated Rabbonim take their responsibilities seriously and go to the trouble of checking with an experienced Posek, before making a significant HalaChic decision.

    Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the attitide of Dr. Angel. His attitude seems to be: “If it feels right, do it!”

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    One more point-I don’t agree that Charedi based kiruv is the only successful brand. Those needing some proof should only look at NCSY and NJOP’s track record.

  12. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Doesn’t Jonathan Rosenblum get it already? Most of his article was a harsh but fair (if debatable) critique of Rabbi Angel’s views, and then he (JR) ruins it by engaging in the ad hominem “suspicion” that what “ultimately troubles Rabbi Angel is that younger rabbis are not referring their teshuvot to him.” As Sehardi Lady correctly said: “It was a low blow.” Forget about the fact that the suggestion is absurd, as anyone who knows Rabbi Angel at all knows to be the case. But does not the rule that comments should address ideas rather than personalities apply kal ve-homer to the articles themselves?!

  13. dr. william gewirtz says:

    A story about R. Yaacov Lissa zt”l (the Netivot)that i heard a while ago and have not checked for accuracy. I assume it is true and at the very least it is relevant. R. Lissa issued a very liberal ruling who someone followed and promptly passed on. someone asked him if he feels any responsibility for that person’s death. he said that the deceased live in town X whose rabbi, no match for R. Lissa, disagreed and was more stringent. he died, perhaps, suggested R. Lissa, because he did not follow his local Rav.

    in the age of global communications, it is all too easy to assume that the greater authority, however defined, is the better source for decisions. it might be, but it might very well not be. i hope i do not have to explain!

  14. Michael Atlas says:

    Chevra: It’s Erev Rosh HaShana! In general we should be careful of our comments, but y’mai elul should make that awareness more acute.

  15. Daniel Eidensohn says:

    While I am full agreement with your concerns about rabbinic authority and the issue of geirus [http://daattorah.blogspot.com/]- I am rather disappointed with this personal attack on Rabbi Angel and the polemical – rather than scholarly justification for it.

    1) For example you state “Recently, he has vociferously dissented from the view that geirus (conversion) requires an acceptance of yoke of mitzvos—a view that was axiomatic to his mentor at Yeshiva University Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik”. It is simply not true that this is a recent development. He published an article with this view in Tradition in 1972 which was based on a teshuva written by R’ Uziel in 1951. Which in turn was based on a teshuva of the Rambam. That article was republished in 1990 by the RCA in a pamphet “The Conversion crisis : essays from the pages of Tradition” / edited by R’ Emanuel Feldman and R’ Joel Wolowelsky. It was criticized in by R’ Riskin in “Conversion in Jewish Law” Tradition 1972 which also appeared in “The Conversion Crisis”. Granted that it is clearly a minority view – but I don’t see your justification for besmirching Rabbi Angel in the manner you have.

    2) Your description of the Meshech Chochma is a serious distortion. Rav Bulman zt”l personally told me that he was very upset about people misquoting and misunderstanding the profound insight of this Meshech Chochma as if it were simply limited to the German Jews and the Reform movement.It is in fact describing the inherent need for creativity for all Jews. Absent the Sanhedrin and prophets a society can only imitate previous generations. But since it is inherent in man to seek creativity this inevitably brings about assimilation of ideas from inappropriate sources. It wasn’t limited to Germany but applies to all Jewish societies without the possibility to be creative in Judaism. For those interested I have it translated on page 180 of my “Daas Torah”

    3) Your citation of the apochyphal story of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the eruv should be replaced by a real description of his reaction to the request to build an well known eruv. When a number of community activists requested his view about making an eruv in a well populated Jewish area – his first response was that they should not ask him but should ask other poskim. When they insisted on his psak he told them that he held that it was prohibited. They then said they would take his first advice and ask other poskim He reacted to this insult to kavod haTorah by publishing a harsh denounciation of the eruv. But if they had acted with derech eretz he would not have attacked them. He was willing to acknowledge that his was not the only correct view – even on an issue that he felt strongly about.

    4) Raising the issue of big rabbis versus little rabbis i.e., not all rabbis are equal the way you do is in fact an attack on Modern Orthodoxy as well as the local rabbi or one’s own rebbe. The issue is much more complex than the arguments you use. Again this is a polemical piece not scholarship.

    In sum your attack only makes sense on the assumption that Rabbi Angel views have absolutely no basis or justification from respected sources. As a minimum you should provide him with the opportunity to defend himself. These issues are inherently divisive enough without compounding the problem by distortions.

  16. JosephW says:

    Three commentors seem to have understood the line “Rather it is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel” to imply that Rosenblum is claiming R. Angel is looking for personal honor. They then went on to attack it as “mean-spiritied”.

    They MISSED Rabbi Rosenblum’s point. He wasn’t suggesting that R. Angel wanted shailos to be adressed to HIMSELF, but rather to any Rabbi who espoused his own philosophy of Orthodoxy, as opposed to those of the “cultish” type. It was an ideological point, and not a personal one. (The proof is from the second half of the very same sentence.)

  17. Charles B. Hall says:

    ‘I would hope that R Angel is not advocating the view set forth by Professors Zohar and Saggai on the issue of Gerus.’

    Rabbi Angel has published a book on the subject. Has anyone here read it?

    ‘Dr. Angel overlooks the critical importance of post-Semicha internship (ShiMush), under the guidance of a seasoned Halachic authority—”GeDola ShimSha Yoser MiLimuda.”’

    Rabbi Angel’s tenure at the Shearith Israel has overlapped with that of two of the great communal leaders of American Orthodoxy, Rabbi David De Sola Pool and Rabi Louis Gerstein, so I don’t think he lacked for such an internship.

    ‘this does not seem to be the attitide of Dr. Angel. His attitude seems to be: “If it feels right, do it!” ‘

    That is absolutely not the impression that I have received from my occasional visits to his congregation. They have some unusual minhagim and they insist that even visitors follow them, and they take particular pride in paying attention to the quality of tefillah even for a weekday minchah service. It is definitely not a “do as you like” kind of place.

    “I don’t agree that Charedi based kiruv is the only successful brand”

    Good point. To Steve Brizel’s mention of NCSY and NJOP I would add that of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z’tz’l and Rabbi Avi Weiss, each of whom has brought many to torah. (And Rabbi Weiss continues to do so to this day.)

  18. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “Fortunately, there are some Orthodox Jews who care enough about their community’s problems to speak up and try to solve them.” (Comment by Shlomo — August 30, 2007 @ 9:15 am).

    Sometimes, the proposed “solutions” do more harm than good, like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. “Binyan ne’arim stirah” is a Talmudic axiom that comes to mind.

    “One more point-I don’t agree that Charedi based kiruv is the only successful brand. Those needing some proof should only look at NCSY and NJOP’s track record.” (Comment by Steve Brizel — August 30, 2007 @ 4:03 pm)

    Steve,
    “The orthodoxy that [Rabbi Angel] espouses” does not shun “innovative thought”, encourages “creative expression” and is inclusive of “people with independent opinions”, as manifested by its principled stand of eschewing any guidance from “so-called authorities”. It is very different from the “cultic and superstitious” Modern Orthodoxy with which you identify. It is the particular brand of orthodoxy that Rabbi Angel prefers which has not attracted thousands of ba’alei teshuva to full Torah observance, not NCSY’s or NJOP’s. Evidently, “the message” which his brand is capable of providing “for other Jews and the world” is not resonating with its intended audience. The message of NCSY and NJOP obviously is.

    “To accuse him of the following is a really, really, really low blow: ‘One suspects that what ultimately troubles Rabbi Angel… is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel.’ Accusing him of such arrogance…” (Comment by SephardiLady — August 30, 2007 @ 3:33 pm).

    It would be more than accusing Rabbi Angel of arrogance, it would be accusing him of being a hypocrite! But based on the context, I think what Jonathan meant was that what bothers Rabbi Angel is that the younger rabbis do not refer their shaylos to Rabbis who subscribe to the type of orthodoxy he espouses, but rather to rabbis who are guilty of making Orthodoxy “cultic and superstitious”.

  19. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “I know that RAL has spoken about the need for a local rav to consider himself halachically autononmous as the Moreh DAsrah, but RAL also has publically stated that there is a mitzvah of Emunas Chachamim in halachic issues.” (Comment by Steve Brizel — August 30, 2007 @ 3:23 pm).

    Steve, pardon my ignorance, but is RAL R’ Aharon Lichtenstein? If he is, then you could also have pointed out that RAL himself would constantly seek halachic guidance from RSZA (as per “HaTorah Hamisameches”).

  20. lawrence kaplan says:

    I have read Joseph W.’s and Chaim Wolfson’s explanation of the controversial sentence in question and have reread the sentence in context. Well, perhaps. I am willing to give Jonthan Rosenblum the benefit of the doubt and assumme that he menat what they say he meant, and the point he was making was more of anm ideological than a personal one. But, if so, it was a very infelicitous and misleading way to make it. Why did JR not say that what troubles Rabbi Angel is that younger rabbis are not refering their shaylos to Rabbis like himself or to rabbis sharing his philosophy. And even under Chaim W’s and Joseph W’s interpretation JR’s suspicion would still amount to an accusation of inconsistency on the part of Rabbi Angel which has no basis and which adds nothing to the substance of the argument of the article.

  21. Bob Miller says:

    David Eidensohn (August 30, 2007 @ 9:10 pm) said, “But since it is inherent in man to seek creativity this inevitably brings about assimilation of ideas from inappropriate sources.”

    I’m not sure what is inevitable here. While it may be likely that some individual or group will fall into this error of assimilating the wrong ideas, we are certainly able to to be creative within the limits of Torah Judaism and many in all generations have done just that.

    Jonathan Rosenblum said in the above article, “Rather it is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel…” I don’t know what to make of this (I’m not as ready as some commenters to assume the worst) and hope Jonathan himself will clarify his intentions here.

  22. Moishe Potemkin says:

    He wasn’t suggesting that R. Angel wanted shailos to be adressed to HIMSELF, but rather to any Rabbi who espoused his own philosophy of Orthodoxy, as opposed to those of the “cultish” type. It was an ideological point, and not a personal one.

    That’s possible. Given the severity of being mevazeh talmidei chachamim, it should have been phrased better, but your point is reasonable.

    On the other hand, if Rabbi Angel, based on his own learnings and mesorah, sincerely believes that his hashkafa is correct (which I’m certain he does), then of course he’s troubled by the fact that people aren’t following it – he’s no different than any other rav that wants to see k’lal yisrael be as good as it can be. I don’t think that there’s anything at all to criticise in that.

  23. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Chaim Wolfson reminds me of another story (I hope my recollection is accurate) about my Rebbe – RAL. He went to RSZA ztl to ask about participation with conservative/reform in educating russian olim to prepare for conversion, an area that was clearly opposed by many in Israel. RSZA’s response was that if you were my talmid I would advise you against such participation, but you are not. Follow what your rebbe (RYBS ztl was quite ill at the time) would advise you. Like Daniel Eidensohn’s comment about RMF ztl, both of these gedolim understood the validity of multiple viewpoints, on a variety of issues. The boundary for legitimate alternatives is what appears to be contracting.

  24. Steve Brizel says:

    Chaim Wolfson- Thanks for the heads up.I should have mentioned RAL”s consultations with RAZA as per HaTorah HaMisamachas.

  25. Michael Feldstein says:

    I certainly don’t want to speak for Rabbi Angel, but I do think that Jonathan Rosenblum and others who have commented on the Jewish Week article missed his main point. I don’t think he is advocating that rabbis never should ask shailos. I believe that Rabbi Angel thinks that in many cases rabbis should defer to others who have greater knowledge on halachic issues. What Rabbi Angel is lamenting is the culture of fear that has enveloped the Orthodox community–and that makes rabbis afraid to take certain halachic positions, for fear of what it might do to their own standing in the Orthodox community. It manifests itself in rabbis defering more to others on halachic issues, but this is simply a smaller symptom of a bigger problem.

  26. David Roth says:

    “The story is told—perhaps apocryphally—of a rabbi who publicly challenged the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein concerning an eruv, and noted that he too possessed semichah. Reb Moshe ended the discussion by asking the rabbi how many daf there are in Tractate Eruvin (a tractate Reb Moshe had learned hundreds of times).”

    It is not kavod of Rav Moshe zt”l to repeat this story. For those who know anything about Rav Moshe, this story is not his way of speaking at all.

    R’ Daniel Eidensohn –
    “Your citation of the apocryphal story of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the eruv should be replaced by a real description of his reaction to the request to build an well known eruv. When a number of community activists requested his view about making an eruv in a well populated Jewish area – his first response was that they should not ask him but should ask other poskim. When they insisted on his psak he told them that he held that it was prohibited. They then said they would take his first advice and ask other poskim He reacted to this insult to kavod haTorah by publishing a harsh denunciation of the eruv. But if they had acted with derech eretz he would not have attacked them. He was willing to acknowledge that his was not the only correct view – even on an issue that he felt strongly about.”

    I think that the story as written by Rav Moshe (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87) is slightly different. Rav Moshe just told the rabbanim they he didn’t want to join them in the matter of establishing an eruv. However, when people claimed that he supported the eruv, he felt compelled to write a teshuvah explaining his position against the eruv. Even after he elucidated his opinion, he did not want to give a p’sak din barur. Rav Moshe clearly did not pen a harsh denunciation of the eruv.

  27. lawrence kaplan says:

    If even Bob Miller is calling upon JR to clarify his intentions, it’s pretty bad.

    I sometimes get the impression that there are two JRs: the private and the public. The private is the author of the chinuch and Two from the Road articles; the public is the author of most of the others. Both are very intelligent and articulate, both are equally frum and have the same hashkakfah. But the private JR strikes me as being very sensitive, nuanced, and and understanding, while the public JR strikes me as very polemical, highly ideological, toeing the Hareidi line and not giving an inch, and at times even allowing himself to indulge in unworthy suspicions. I understand that JR’s public role requires a different stance than his private one. But perhaps the public JR might do well to take some lessons from the private one.

  28. meir says:

    I am not entering the other areas of the discussion, but it is extremely unfortunate that Rabbi Angel puts so much effort to lessen the standards of conversion. Instead of thanking all those who realized how tragic their stance was in the past decades where they allowed and encouraged conversions without kabblat hamitzvot (which according to Shulchan Oruch and Rambam there is ZERO CONVERSION without KM, and instead for doing teshuva for all the fake gerut factories that many rabbis have brought, they are putting their energy to cool the momentum. Let all those who were pressured (to be melamed zchus on them) for their lenient stance on such a national issue that touches upon jews on a global level, take into account what they did in the past and change their outlook and understand that the public (those who are interested in genuine and true yiddishkeyt) are able to accept the truth! and from now they should promulgate conversion according to the dictatesof halacha and shulchan aruch!

  29. joel rich says:

    Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the attitide of Dr. Angel. Comment by HILLEL

    I didn’t see Rabbi Angel referred to anywhere in this post as Dr., Do you have information that he prefers this title?

    Three commentors seem to have understood the line “Rather it is that the younger rabbis are not referring their shaylos to Rabbi Angel” to imply that Rosenblum is claiming R. Angel is looking for personal honor. They then went on to attack it as “mean-spiritied”.

    They MISSED Rabbi Rosenblum’s point.

    As I’ve pointed out on several occasions, if enough people tell you you look sick, lie down. R’ JR has been misunderstood on a number of these posts and I have pointed out that some peer review/editing might help. In this case try showing the post to a number of people without the names (or titles)in it and let me know if you get a result different than what I got when I tried it (e.g. what a slam)

    WADR to R Angel, no rav or RY can or should decide a Halachic issue on his own without discussing it with his peers-whether the issue is seemingly simple and straightforward or complex.

    Really? IMHO there has always been a balance between what you paskin on your own and what you farm out. Technology may be part of it but it seems that there is less desire now to seek counsel but make a final decision at the local level.

    I know that RAL has spken about the need for a local rav to consider himself halachically autononmous as the Moreh DAsrah, but RAL also has publically stated that there is a mitzvah of Emunas Chachamim in halachic issues.

    Does that mean everyone should get all their questions answered by the gadol hador, is there only one?
    it is viewed as “cultic” to rely upon their greater body of knowledege. The simple question raised by this article and R Auman is-why.

    Perhaps if the reasons for a psak can’t be articulated but must be accepted?

    RYBS spoke out against those who would apply a strictly “common sense” approach as opposed to Lomdus in determining Halachic expertise and employing non-halachic disciplines to determining and understanding TSBP. In a shiur on the Aseres HaDibros,

    Comment by Steve Brizel

    does R’ YBS’s statement ,ean that Rabbis can’t paskin on their own?

    KVCT
    Joel Rich

  30. Mordechai Y. Scher says:

    As it is, I have had the good fortune to confer with Rabbi Angel on a matter of conversion. He was generous with his time, his knowledge, and his support. In fact, he wasn’t all that ‘lenient’ either. And no, the person did not convert in the end; at least not in my or his community.

    I have read his book, and previous writing on the subject. Like any talmid hacham, he is making an argument in learning. One with a very firm basis, btw. As Rav Haim David Halevy writes, the approaches among rabbanim vary from one extreme to the other where conversion is concerned, and the halacha has left much up to the judgement of the rav and the beit din. I understand Rav Angel’s greatest distress over conversion to be the abolishment of local authority and responsibility in these matters; not some mere quibbling over ‘standards’. He doesn’t want to see (if I understand correctly) the ‘standards’ imposed where the halacha does not do so. One can certainly argue that is a distortion and doing violence to the Torah. One can also argue that it is precisely what disturbs him about community rabbanim – that they abrogate their authority all too often.

    Once, when I argued a point with Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (what WAS I thinking?!), he stopped the argument and told me in no uncertain terms “I stand by my answer to you. You are the only one responsible for what you will do. THE BEIT DIN SHEL MAALAH WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS, AND YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO EXCUSE YOURSELF BY SAYING YOU WERE MERELY DOING OR NOT DOING WHAT I INSTRUCTED YOU.” He was clear on that point on other occasions, as well. Too many community rabbanim and individuals are acting as if they are absolved of responsibility by asking someone bigger. As I was taught, that doesn’t change anything. Asking may, of course, be a sign of being responsible; but it may also be a mistaken move towards evasion. I think that is some of what may be troubling Rabbi Angel.

    What troubles me is the disdain shown for a talmid hacham and faithful servant of Hashem and Am Yisrael who is brave enough to present his understanding of Torah for the Torah-concerned public to consider.

    Were I Rabbi Angel, I might refuse to present my views in a place that has already shown such hostility to rabbanim who aren’t on the ‘approved list’. It would be a matter of k’vod haTorah.

    Shanah Tovah!

  31. Daniel Eidensohn says:

    I think that the story as written by Rav Moshe (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87) is slightly different. Rav Moshe just told the rabbanim they he didn’t want to join them in the matter of establishing an eruv. However, when people claimed that he supported the eruv, he felt compelled to write a teshuvah explaining his position against the eruv. Even after he elucidated his opinion, he did not want to give a p’sak din barur. Rav Moshe clearly did not pen a harsh denunciation of the eruv.

    Comment by David Roth — August 31, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

    Look at O.C.V #28 page 93
    “Concerning what I have previously said that one should not make an eiruv in Brooklyn even in the Flatbush part and also that it is impossible to make it in Boro Park and they are relying on HaRav HaGaon R’ Menshashe Klein shlita who has printed in Shaarei Halacha that even the big cities like New York and Brooklyn which have 600 000 and more still are not considered a reshus harabbim because of 11 reasons. THEREFORE I AM FORCED TO EXPLAIN THIS DIN TRUTHFULLY SO THAT THERE WILL NOT BE A STUMBLING BLOCK TO HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE.

    What follows is a very long teshuva systematically refuting the 11 reasons and stating that it is prohibited to make an eiruv in these areas. There is no question that he is absolutely prohibiting making the eiruv becaue there is no legitimate basis for it.

  32. Steve Brizel says:

    Joel Rich-I think that you missed my point, which is that everyone should have a rav who is a link to the Mesorah. That does not mean all questions go to a Gadol Hador, but rather a talmid has to be at least able to look in the proverbial mirror and/or ask himself what would his rav say on a particular issue. When in doubt, one should ask questions. That being the case, we live in a generation when many of us do not know that we don’t know what is the halacha is in a particular situation

  33. Bob Miller says:

    Lawrence Kaplan opined, “If even Bob Miller is calling upon JR to clarify his intentions, it’s pretty bad.”

    It’s not pretty bad; however, I’d like to see Jonathan—and the other writers here—step in more often to reply when their statements are challenged or are not totally clear to all. Jonathan took some heat in this case and I’m more than open to what he has to say in response.

    I don’t accept Dr. Kaplan’s Jekyll-and-Hyde theory.

  34. Jewish Observer says:

    “even allowing himself to indulge in unworthy suspicions”

    – if this is what he honestly believed about Rabbi Angel, and the groundrules of this blog are that we are allowed to express exactly what is on our minds, then such public musing are perhaps not inappropriate. but if so, it wuold be in appropriate for the readership not be similarly allowed – as you just done – to indulge in similar analyses about the posters’ personal motives.

  35. meir says:

    IF Rabbi Angel is really worried about the state of conversions in the USA rabbinate in the past decades if they conform to Halacha he would would not rail about the power to the local authorities as he would rail against the fake conversion factories that exist in many “local” batey dinim!

  36. David Roth says:

    Look at O.C.V #28 page 93
    “Concerning what I have previously said that one should not make an eiruv in Brooklyn even in the Flatbush part and also that it is impossible to make it in Boro Park and they are relying on HaRav HaGaon R’ Menshashe Klein shlita who has printed in Shaarei Halacha that even the big cities like New York and Brooklyn which have 600 000 and more still are not considered a reshus harabbim because of 11 reasons. THEREFORE I AM FORCED TO EXPLAIN THIS DIN TRUTHFULLY SO THAT THERE WILL NOT BE A STUMBLING BLOCK TO HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE.
    What follows is a very long teshuva systematically refuting the 11 reasons and stating that it is prohibited to make an eiruv in these areas. There is no question that he is absolutely prohibiting making the eiruv becaue there is no legitimate basis for it.

    Comment by Daniel Eidensohn — September 1, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

    Please refer to that same teshuvah (page 102), where Rav Moshe states that since RMK mentioned that he would allow an eruv, he must clearly express his opinion that he does not agree to an eruv (see Shaarei Halacha page 14-15 where RMK stated that Rav Moshe agreed to an eruv in Boro Park). There is no doubt that Rav Moshe personally objected to an eruv in Brooklyn, but both of his teshuvos (4:87 and 5:28) were in response to claims that he would allow an eruv in Boro Park and Flatbush. I don’t see how the teshuvah in 5:28 changes the fact that Rav Moshe clearly stated in 4:87 that he doesn’t want to give a p’sak din barur.

  37. Daniel Eidensohn says:

    Comment by David Roth — September 2, 2007 @ 1:21 am “I don’t see how the teshuvah in 5:28 changes the fact that Rav Moshe clearly stated in 4:87 that he doesn’t want to give a p’sak din barur.”

    At this point I confess I simply don’t understand what you are saying. My original point was that Rav Moshe Feinstein was willing to acknowledge valid views concerning the eruv.[contrary to the implication of an apochryphal cited by R’Rosenblum] It was only when there was an insult to kavod haTorah he came out emphatically against making the eruv. You keep saying that he didn’t want to give a p’sak din barur – but he did in fact do just that.

  38. Joseph Weiner and Chaim Wolfson have accurately explained my speculations on what is really troubling Rabbi Angel. I do not know Rabbi Angel personally, and have no opinions on his character, other than to assume the best. The subliminal message of the essay to which I was referring was that American Orthodoxy, including MO, have made an undesirable turn to the “right,” reflected in undue deference to “authorities” and “roshei yeshiva” and the like. I don’t think it is a great stretch to suggest that Rabbi Angel would feel a great deal more optimistic about the current state and future of Orthodoxy if his message were the one that drew young rabbis to consult or which was drawing those from non-Orthodox backgrounds.

    By the way, my point was not that every life decision is of course a shayla for the greatest posek to whom one can gain access. I have written in the past about the dangers of people refusing to make any decisions for themselves about how to conduct their lives. At that time I quoted the daughter of Rav Chaskell Levenstein, zt’l, to the effect that in Lita people would have been embarrassed to take a gadol’s time with many of the questions asked today. (In answer to the question posed by Joel Rich on another string: No, in never occurred to me to ask a shayla about whether I should take my sons with me to shuls in which I was speaking, though in one instance, I decided on my own not to bring them.)

    Nor do I think that the greatest talmid chacham is necessarily the best person with whom to consult. Knowledge of the underlying metzios, knowledge of the one asking the shayla, and time to listen are all factors that may be much more important in determining to whom a shayla should be presented. And one must distinguish between halachic shaylos and decisions over one’s life course.

    I confess to being somewhat at loss as to what my friend and neighbor Daniel Eidensohn is attempting to say in his initial post. He seems quite exercised that I wrote that Rabbi Angel has “recently” written critically of the view that conversion requires Kabolos ol mitzvos. Now, it is true that I was not aware that Rabbi Angel has a scholarly work on the subject of geiros written decades ago. But that is hardly a contradiction to the fact that he also wrote recently on the subject in the Jewish Press. Nor do I see why writing “recently” is an insult.

    The apocryphal story supposedly involving Rav Moshe Feinstein did not remotely suggest that Rav Moshe’s position was: I’ve spoken: no one else has a right to an opinion. Rather the point was that he did not view “semichah” as the great equalizer. In any event, I have since received a communication from Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel of Cedarhurst informing me that the incident in question involved Rabbi Finkel of the Young Israel of Bedford Bay at a meeting of the Vaad Harabbonim of Flatbush. In response to the assertion that semichah makes everybody equal, Rabbi Fink asked the proponent of that view how many perakim (not how many dapim) there are in Eruvin. (Rabbi Frankel heard this story from Rabbi Reuven Fink of the Young Israel of New Rochelle.)

  39. joel rich says:

    By the way, my point was not that every life decision is of course a shayla for the greatest posek to whom one can gain access.

    R’JR-I understand that this wasn’t your point, my question is, theoretically, why not? If one invests daas torah with near (or complete but I don’t think I need to get into that debate to make my point)infallibility, would not one be best served by completely being mvatel daas (abnegation) to the greatest torah authority (or the greatest you have access to)? If this is true in theory, why not practically get as close as you can.

    I have written in the past about the dangers of people refusing to make any decisions for themselves about how to conduct themselves in life.
    Agreed, so perhaps R’ YGB could comment as iirc he went to a gadol to determine whether to come back to the US or stay in yeshiva in Israel – how do you communicate family dynamics, relationships, mesora, personalities…. that develop over decades to a gadol in a short time?
    BTW this happens all the time at the RY level in American programs in Israel – is “she’ll be upset but eventually get over it” from a headstrong 18 year old enough? (full disclosure – this was not personal experience)

    KVCT

  40. Daniel Eidensohn says:

    “I confess to being somewhat at loss as to what my friend and neighbor Daniel Eidensohn is attempting to say in his initial post. He seems quite exercised that I wrote that Rabbi Angel has “recently” written critically of the view that conversion requires Kabolos ol mitzvos. Now, it is true that I was not aware that Rabbi Angel has a scholarly work on the subject of geiros written decades ago. But that is hardly a contradiction to the fact that he also wrote recently on the subject in the Jewish Press. Nor do I see why writing “recently” is an insult.”

    My comments are not nitpicking but are the result of being a long time admirer of your mastery of eloquent language and nuance. It is a bit strange for person justly viewed as the erudite voice of charedi views claiming that he didn’t realize how his words would be perceived.

    The term “recently” is not an innocent indication of the chronology of events in your sentence.

    Your sentence reads:
    R’Angel “recently” [something he had not done in the past) vociferously dissented from the view which was axiomatic to his mentor [in other words he would not have gone against what his mentor held while he was alive].

    Thus in the context of your essay you were saying – R’ Angel was now deviating from his long held positions and was finally revealing his shocking true views or had just developed shocking new ones which deviated significantly from his own teachers.

    My point is that R’ Angel’s views are not something he has recently developed nor which he has been keeping a secret all the decades he has been an articulate and erudite spokesman for Modern Orthodoxy. Your essay conveyed the opposite message. In addition most of the other points you made are typically dredged up when criticizing Modern Orthodox – despite your disclaimer at the beginning of the essay. Your theme seemed to be that R’ Angel is simply bemoaning the fact that the Modern Orthodox movement has final come to its senses and is moving towards the chareidi position and away from his outdated and incorrect one – and R’ Angel is angrily clinging to a discarded corpse.

  41. lawrence kaplan says:

    I appreciate Jonnthan Rosenblum’s clarification, even if I continue to disagree with him on substantive grounds. I find it unfortunate, however, that he could not bring himself to admit (vidui), even in a parenthetical phrase, that perhaps he did not make his point clearly enough and regrets that it left itself open to being misintepreted as casting aspersions on Rabbi Angel’s character. After all, it is Elul, a time for all of us to engage in a heshbon ha-nefesh. I feel it is not inappropriate for me to give mussar to JR on this point, for I seem to be often apologizing for unclear or hasty or overly sharp comments that I have made on the blogs

  42. joel rich says:

    BTW perhaps a related question to daas torah is – in every situation in life does HKB”H prefer one and only one action and anything else is suboptimum, or are there areas where HKB”H will find several actions of ours equally valid?

    KVCT

  43. David Roth says:

    At this point I confess I simply don’t understand what you are saying. My original point was that Rav Moshe Feinstein was willing to acknowledge valid views concerning the eruv.[contrary to the implication of an apocryphal cited by R’Rosenblum] It was only when there was an insult to kavod haTorah he came out emphatically against making the eruv. You keep saying that he didn’t want to give a p’sak din barur – but he did in fact do just that.
    Comment by Daniel Eidensohn — September 2, 2007 @ 4:15 am

    I don’t disagree with you regarding the issue of Rav Moshe zt”l acknowledging other opinions regarding eruvin (I don’t believe this apocryphal story is true). However, just like in Flatbush where Rav Moshe was forced to clarify his personal opinion objecting to an eruv but nevertheless resisted issuing a p’sak din barur, so too regarding Boro Park. Since RMK claimed that Rav Moshe agreed to an eruv, he was forced to clarify his personal opinion, but he didn’t issue a p’sak din barur, as well. (Unless ,of course, you want to believe kol koreis.)

  44. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Comment by Mordechai Y. Scher — August 31, 2007 @ 8:13 pm

    “As Rav Haim David Halevy writes, the approaches among rabbanim vary from one extreme to the other where conversion is concerned, and the halacha has left much up to the judgement of the rav and the beit din. I understand Rav Angel’s greatest distress over conversion to be the abolishment of local authority and responsibility in these matters; not some mere quibbling over ‘standards’.”

    I strongly agree with the sentiment, though I might quibble on exactly how much is left to discretion and circumstance.

    In a similar vien, on another thread I raised the possibility that this disagreement is less about the law than about the judges. When a charedi judge can overturn the status of a woman and her two children 15 years after her conversion by a distinguished religious zionist Rav, without objection from gedolim, i can only wonder. Attacking R. Angel and Prof. Ish Shalom would not be where I would start.

    How this case differs from other cases on prior converisons where RMF zt’l ruled or from the Langer case where R. Goren zt’l was attacked so strongly particularly by the charedi community, is something I hope gets clarified. I may well be wrong and this “unconversion” was quite defensible, but I would give more attention to clarifying cases/actions than attacking based on short, op-ed pieces or interviews.

  45. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding “Comment by dr. william gewirtz — September 2, 2007 @ 11:23 pm”

    This takes the “religious-political” default view of a case about which Dr. Gewirtz admits he needs more facts. The more we enter any discussion with cliche-based assumptions related to people’s Jewish group affiliations, the less likely that we’ll get to the bottom of the issue.

  46. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “BTW perhaps a related question to daas torah is – in every situation in life does HKB”H prefer one and only one action and anything else is suboptimum, or are there areas where HKB”H will find several actions of ours equally valid?”

    Joel Rich,

    Rabbi Yisroel Greenwald(Jewish Observer, 3/07) writes that when he asked his rosh yeshiva what “the” daas Torah on an issue was, that his rosh yeshivah “cringed at the question, and explained that there is no such things as a single daas Torah”(I assume he would distinguish between a personal question, versus a public Kol Koreh, but even in the latter case, the principle can be true, in theory).

    I think that if one views “daas Torah” as a process which some talmidie chachamim can engage in varying degrees, rather than as an infallible result akin to the Urim V’tumim, then it becomes easier to relate to a) a multiplicity of contradictory views, b) the situation of a talmid chacham making a mistake in judgment c) the mere fact of a talmid chacham having secular knowledge not detracting from the “daas Torah” status of his ideas, out of concern that he might be “influenced” by secular knowledge.

  47. Baruch Horowitz says:

    In addition, parts of the Charedi world may, themselves, be inadvertently undermining true k’vod chachamim by using communication and advertising which should only be used in communicating with insular segments of the charedi world. For example, a very worthy educational organization recently advertised the showing of a video in which Israeli gedolim would be seen answering the public’s questions. The advertisements in newspapers and on lamposts in Boro Park and Flatbush read something like, “witness Daas Torah in action”.

    My friend, who has connections both to the YU and the Yeshivah world and who like myself, is sometimes confused by happenings in the charedi world, showed one of the posters to his (Charedi) rav, who admitted that he did not know what to make of the idea of viewing daas Torah “in action”. There are similar examples of this as well, one even noted by the American Yated.

    Evidently, either some of the charedi world likes to express their feelings of affection for gedolie Torah is such a manner, or this is merely a marketing technique which dramatizes the relationship between the public and it’s Torah leaders because of various pressing reasons. Either way, there may be a negative collateral effect to the entire concept of rabbinic authority, when the wrong target audience reads this type of message.

  48. joel rich says:

    R’ Baruch,
    I agree with you on daat torah but it would be interesting to survey the gedolim and the rank and file and see if they view it the same way.
    KVCT

  49. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding Comment by Baruch Horowitz — September 3, 2007 @ 6:18 pm :

    It’s also quite possible that other Jews viewing the presentation, even though they are not the intended audience and would continue to follow their own set of leaders, would still be impressed. These others are presumably mature enough to know that leaders of the highest caliber may differ on policy, etc.

    Those inclined to scoff at Gedolim in general, or at specific Gedolim, would be unlikely to spend time viewing the video presentation anyway.

  50. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Those inclined to scoff at Gedolim in general, or at specific Gedolim, would be unlikely to spend time viewing the video presentation anyway.”

    The individual bothered by this phenomenon(and similar ones) was not a “scoffer”, but was sincerely baffled by the language used in the poster. The rabbi who recognized his point, is a sincere person as well, in addition to being a competent, Charedi rav(admittedly, his competence is in the Shulchan Aruch, not in Halachos of Posters 🙂 ).

    Even the American Yated wrote that putting Gedolim on lampposts could be viewed as “hero worship”(although it’s done for pressing needs); so we see that at some point, genuine k’vod chachamim becomes cheapened, to the exact opposite of one’s intentions.

    My point was not about the video(I was fortunate to meet two of the featured Gedolim when I was in Bnie Brak), but rather about the way it was advertised. Some people are “turned off” when one speaks of “daas Torah” as having almost tangible attributes( e.g., “witnessing daas Torah in action”, “asking daas Torah”). Some, of course, find such language meaningful. As I implied in my comment, people can express themselves as they wish, and others should respect the motives behind such expressions, even if they feel the expressions to be excessive or dramatic.

    The objective issue, however, is whether such language is effective overall in terms of cost/benefit in today’s diverse Orthodox world of instant communication. That’s something that those involved in Charedi communication and advertising need to consider, and indeed to “ask daas Torah”(or, “sheilas chacham”, if someone prefers the old-fashioned term) from someone who is familiar with the facts on the ground. It might be possible to retain the essential concept of daas Torah and kavod Hatorah in varying degrees, while using effective language that speaks to, what eventually becomes a global audience in our day of instant communication.

  51. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Regarding Comment by Bob Miller — September 3, 2007 @ 7:07 am

    I follow the principle of and rely on “rov” until proven otherwise. If you add one’s personal interest, then together with religious and political orientation much can be explained and predicted.

    But that aside, I sat next to a wonderful Rav from Israel, a few days ago before the comment, and asked him his opinion on the (non-jewish) russian olim in general and the case referenced in particular. Since I do not know the details, there is little point in giving you his short comments. It supported what you labeled my ““religious-political” default view.” We all have biases; I believe mine are just closer to reality.

    As I indicated, I do not have the facts and I sincerely look forward to reading the learned defense of R. Atia’s opinion. We can then both judge how well it reflects “pure” halachic reasoning independant of personal, political and religious views. (yes – there exist religious views on all sides that may not reflect our halachic traditions.

    Until then, and perhaps even after, I will respect my instincts.

    Shana Tova

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