Rav Aharon Lichtenstein & the Haredim

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She is on the board of the Charedi College of Jerusalem. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survved the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She s available to lecture in Israel and in the US.

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55 Responses

  1. Ben Waxman says:

    The article fails to mention RAL’s tz”l complete opposition to the blanket deferment of yeshiva students from service in the IDF. It also fails to mention Rav Aaron’s rejection of the over-emphasis of learning at the expense of middot (a failing he saw in the Chareidi world).

    Rav Lichtenstein’s complete respect for certain Chareidi rabbis, such as Rav Hutner or Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, is also telling. They were from a different generation, disciples of Rav AY Kook.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Gedolim don’t fit stereotypes.

  3. joel rich says:

    “taught that full involvement in Israeli society and a passion for social justice are key religious obligations, not the isolationism … that characterizes too much of ultra-Orthodox … today.”
    ==============================================================
    Just leave out everything after the comma and I believe you have a statement (perhaps leaving out full, depending on how you understand it) that R’ Lichtenstein could have easily made. Of course it would be in the context that life is complex and weighing these obligations against others must be a carefully considered, life long process. He would never delegitimize an approach that he thought had some basis, even if it were not optimum. This includes recognizing that some nonreligious people could be ethical. The life he chose for himself, and his teachings, show where he placed his priorities. Must like R’YBS, many will only take the portions that resonate with them (in my opinion, there loss). BTW R’ Lichtenstein imho was in many ways harder on his own (Modern Orthodox) where he might have an impact, than on those in other circles who were unlikely to be listening.

    KT

  4. Tal Benschar says:

    Rav Lichtenstein’s rejection of a modern-sensibilities interpretation is on a theoretical/hashkafic level. Note that vis-à-vis the practical issue of disabilities, yeshivat Har Etzion is in the forefront of inclusiveness and hosts special-needs boys from the U.S. in the Darkenu program whereby the latter are integrated as far as is possible into yeshiva life.

    You had me until these two sentences. I don’t think the distinction he made was between “theoretical/hashkafic” and “practical.” The distinction is one made in the Torah itself: a baal mum cannot do avodah, but he is not ostracized from society (indeed he can even eat kodshim!) There is no reason to think that in a conflict between the Torah and modern sensibilities, Rav Lichtenstein would not always follow the Torah, whether the issue at hand was theoretical or practical.

  5. Raymond says:

    I do not know Rav Lichtenstein nearly as well as many people do, but the impression I have been getting from the various columns written about him since his death, is that he was anything but a Modern Orthodox Rabbi. At this point, I am not even sure I would classify him as an ideological follower of Rav Hirsch. He seems to me to be Chareidi, just not the type of Chareidi that shuts himself off completely from the world at large. Yes, he had a PhD in literature, but my impression is that he really devoted virtually all of his time and energy to the Torah world. Perhaps he has been given the label of Modern Orthodox due to him being a son-in-law of Rav Soloveitchik, but I remember many yeas ago being at a lecture given by a fairly Modern Orthodox Rabbi, in which that Rabbi explained why Rav Soloveitchik himself was misperceived to be Modern Orthodox, when he was really nothing of the kind.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    One wonders why the above comments by RAL were not duly noted by any of the contributors to the recently posted special tribute to RAL ZL in Tradition

  7. Dovid Shlomo says:

    It wasn’t clear to me how ANYTHING written here by Ms Schmidt is relevant to Mr. Weinberg’s characterization, let alone demonstrates that it’s “wrong.”

    Here’s what Weinberg wrote:

    “He taught that full involvement in Israeli society and a passion for social justice are key religious obligations, not the isolationism and jingoism that characterize too much of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist communities today.”

    Has Ms. Schmidt shown that:

    1) Rav Aharon DID NOT view “full involvement in Israeli society” as “a key religious obligation”?

    2) He DID NOT view “a passion for social justice” as a “key religious obligation”?
    3) He FAVORED “the isolationism and jingoism that characterize too much of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist communities today”?

  8. Joel Rich says:

    I would like to thank Raymond for demonstrating my point concerning people taking only the points that resonate with them. Rav Lichtenstein left much more of a paper trail which speaks for itself – as a simple example, how many Roshei yeshiva cared to act for Biafra?
    Kol tuv

  9. Kalman Neuman says:

    As someone who was zocheh to learn from Harav Aharon zt”l to some degree, I think the way his relationship with the haredi world was described is accurate. He always stressed the need to differentiate ikar and tafel and regarding the things that are most important, he felt a communality of all people dedicated to Torah and its tradition, whatever their position on various issues. Even when he was committed to his own position, he held those gdolim who differed with great reverence. He was sorry that circumstances do not allow his talmidim to have more interaction with the haredi Torah world and he was emphatic that there is much his community can learn from the haredi dedication to Talmud Torah.

  10. Yehudah Mirsky says:

    I highly recommend this article by Dr. Shlomo Fischer, which carefully discusses Rav Lichtenstein’s approach, which the author characterizes as not liberal but as a unique kind of Jewish religious humanism. See in particular the text at pp. 21-22
    http://traditiononline.org/pdfs/47.4/0017-0033.pdf

  11. Akiva Weisinger says:

    While the general point, that Rav Aharon did not view himself or his world as isolated from the Haredi world, and that Rav Aharon was more of a hard-liner on matters of halakha than necessarily given credit (or blame) for, and I certainly approve of more people learning his work, a couple of small quibbles.

    #1 While you are correct that Rav Aharon was careful with his words, it is incorrect to assume that there is any significance to him using the term Centrist Orthodoxy in the context you brought rather than Modern Orthodoxy, because by and large Rav Aharon did not use the term “Modern Orthdoxy”, and mostly uses the term “Centrist Orthodoxy”. This does not seem to be a choice particular to this topic, though it certainly may be generally motivated by that consideration.

    #2 The quote cited from the essay on Centrist Orthodoxy, while expressing essential identification with the “Right”, continues:
    “Nevertheless, important differences clearly do exist, and these relate to substance as well as to style, to strategy no less than to tactics. While an abstract eschatological vision may be common, its specific content may vary, and quite significantly so. While the ideal of “a holy nation” animates us all, its definition is far from agreed. And if we all labor with an eye to certain ultimate questions, we may—and do—differ greatly with regard to the respective weight to be assigned to them.”
    And the rest of the rather long essay goes into detailing the various ways in which they differ. In fact, only a small part of his essay is expressing identification with the right. This is not an unimportant detail, as it seems to me that you have taken one quote out of its rightful context.

    #3. If having been taught by Rav Hutner and appreciative of that fact is indicative of Haredi leanings, than someone ought to tell David Weiss HaLivni, for one.

    #4. In terms of the quote from R. Sabato about how people perceive Rav Aharon as a liberal and not someone deeply religious, there seems to me to be an assumption being made here that “deeply religious” is equated with sympathy to Haredi ideology and a rejection of liberalism. This does not seem like a fair conclusion. If anything, what Rav Aharon represented was the ability for both of those traits to coexist. It is quite likely that Rav Aharon’s definition of “deeply religious” did not exactly line up with positions of the Haredi world

    In sum, I have no objection to Rav Aharon being described as a deeply religious, even uncompromising, religious leader. I have no problem with pointing out that Rav Aharon, along with everyone in the Modern Orthodox world, identified more with Haredim than he did with Conservative or Reform. I do have issue with the implication that that uncompromising religious ideology necessarily should be described as sympathetic towards Haredi ideology, as a matter of historical accuracy and as a matter of understanding Rav Aharon in the terms he wished to be understood by. Unlike the Haredi world, Rav Aharon did not see being fully Orthodox and involved in the world as mutually exclusive propositions. His unwavering and deep faith should not be understood as being opposed to being Modern Orthodox.

  12. dr. bill says:

    I am bothered by so rapid an attempt at re-casting RAL ztl.
    First, as Joel Rich noted, David Weinberg captured RAL pretty accurately, but perhaps not completely. His piety is often not mentioned because he did not highlight it; he remained a very private person.
    Second, I guess being a Rebbe of RAL, can cause your “t” to be omitted as well. Or perhaps, there is something other going on that I am missing.
    Third, I too saw videos of the levaya. I did not see chareidi gedolim or many dressed in chareidi / Chassidic garb. I wonder how many even made a shiva call.
    Fourth, RAL’s written word about the statements (one relating to politics and one to mada) of one “doyen of current rashei yeshiva” (since deceased) or his views on “Torahso Umnaso” or IDF service, etc. are all clear. Like the Rav ztl (and I believe most modern/centrist/traditional orthodox Jews), he still felt much stronger affinity with chareidim than chilonim.
    Fifth, I believe his use of the term centrist, like Rabbi Lamm’s, is not meant to separate him from the philosophical tenets of modern orthodoxy.

  13. George says:

    Raymond wrote

    “I do not know Rav Lichtenstein nearly as well as many people do, but the impression I have been getting from the various columns written about him since his death, is that he was anything but a Modern Orthodox Rabbi. At this point, I am not even sure I would classify him as an ideological follower of Rav Hirsch. He seems to me to be Chareidi, just not the type of Chareidi that shuts himself off completely from the world at large. Yes, he had a PhD in literature, but my impression is that he really devoted virtually all of his time and energy to the Torah world. Perhaps he has been given the label of Modern Orthodox due to him being a son-in-law of Rav Soloveitchik, but I remember many yeas ago being at a lecture given by a fairly Modern Orthodox Rabbi, in which that Rabbi explained why Rav Soloveitchik himself was misperceived to be Modern Orthodox, when he was really nothing of the kind.”

    And so the revisionism of R. Lichtenstein begins….

  14. mycroft says:

    Rav Lichtenstein ZT”L was certainly the talmid muvhak of the Rav and would have been his closest talmid even if he hadn’t married the Rav’s daughter. Rav Lichtenstein had other major influences on him besides the Rav eg Rav Hutner and R A Soloveichik. Those two had in general much more chareidi hashkafas than the right. That RAL devoted his energy to the Torah world rather than English literature proves nothing-it is given by MO too that Torah comes first-one can think of many close students of the Rav including MO who received Phds -I believe that they are known- if at all- for their Jewish writings.
    That RAL believed in the primacy of Torah is no chidush-it is given by I believe all Orthodox of the primacy of Torah-otherwise by definition they are not Orthodox.
    However RAL certainly had beliefs as to actions that certainly the Chareidi world would have rejected. He was at least able to contemplate having a joint conversion institute a la Neeman Commission if it could be halachikally done. I believe at the end he didn’t go through with it as I believe he wrote in a letter after discussing with the Rabbis {non Orthodox} involved he felt it wouldn’t work out and better not to start something if it won’t work out. He did NOT attack those who felt otherwise and he did NOT write column after column attacking their motives. RAL did attend conferences both in North America and Israel where Orthodox ,Conservative, Reform clergy/thinkers/theologians would get together and learn/discuss issues together in resort settings. Even appearance he was clean shaven -not typical chareidi uniform.

  15. A yid says:

    I don’t want to quibble over the texts, (not that it isnt important just that I dont have the time) I commend the author on ehat I regard as a perfect depiction of the R Aharon I came to know and love over the course of reading everything the man ever wrote. (an excellent example of the R Aharon depicted in the post is found in the small kuntras that records the back and forth between R Aharon and Yehuda Brandis over how to teach gemara to the uninterested).

    R Aharon was complex and multidimensional like the Rav was,however, all the points that are being debated above are spoken too in his writings. In LOF 2, if the memory serves, R Aharon rejects his being called “an apostle of culture.” His veiws on hesder are in LOF 1. In Varieties he explicitly writes, and it may be in the shiur that the post quotes as well, that everyone has to recognize that the charedi approach is a valid form of avodas hashem. In the shiur quoted (again this is from memory so I apologize for any errors) he says that we have our differences with the charedi world as far as hashkafa nay even halacha but it is definitely a valid form of avodas hashem.

    A charedi? Hardly. Modern Orthodox? A resounding no.

  16. Nachum says:

    Raymond: Yes, he devoted most of his time to Torah because he was a rosh yeshiva. That’s what roshei yeshiva are supposed to do. Had he been, say, a professor of English literature (and it’s a good thing he was a rosh yeshiva), he could have done just as good a job without changing his views one bit.

  17. mycroft says:

    Rav Lichtenstein ZT”L was certainly the talmid muvhak of the Rav and would have been his closest talmid even if he hadn’t married the Rav’s daughter. Rav Lichtenstein had other major influences on him besides the Rav eg Rav Hutner and R A Soloveichik. Those two had in general much more chareidi hashkafas than the Rav. That RAL devoted his energy to the Torah world rather than English literature proves nothing-it is given by MO too that Torah comes first-one can think of many close students of the Rav including MO who received Phds -I believe that they are known- if at all- for their Jewish writings.
    That RAL believed in the primacy of Torah is no chidush-it is given by I believe all Orthodox of the primacy of Torah-otherwise by definition they are not Orthodox.
    However RAL certainly had beliefs as to actions that certainly the Chareidi world would have rejected. He was at least able to contemplate having a joint conversion institute a la Neeman Commission if it could be halachikally done. I believe at the end he didn’t go through with it as I believe he wrote in a letter after discussing with the Rabbis {non Orthodox} involved he felt it wouldn’t work out and better not to start something if it won’t work out. He did NOT attack those who felt otherwise and he did NOT write column after column attacking their motives. RAL did attend conferences both in North America and Israel where Orthodox ,Conservative, Reform clergy/thinkers/theologians would get together and learn/discuss issues together in resort settings. Even appearance he was clean shaven -not typical chareidi uniform.

    “And so the revisionism of R. Lichtenstein begins….”

    Revisionism is actually a big challenge to our mesorah-our mesorah rises and falls on the integrity of transmission -no intentional distortions-to the extent that occurs there is a fundamental attack on mesorah.

    “Second, I guess being a Rebbe of RAL, can cause your “t” to be omitted as well.”

    I don’t understand the comment the Rav spelt his name with a “t” Soloveitchik, his brother RAS did not have a “t” in his name Soloveichik

  18. ben dov says:

    “Has Ms. Schmidt shown that:

    1) Rav Aharon DID NOT view “full involvement in Israeli society” as “a key religious obligation”?
    2) He DID NOT view “a passion for social justice” as a “key religious obligation”?
    3) He FAVORED “the isolationism and jingoism that characterize too much of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist communities today”?”

    David Shlomo is correct. While Rav Aharon certainly appreciated the positive aspects of the charedi world and the deeps flaws of the MO world, Sara Schmidt’s article suffers from poor logic.

  19. Chaim Saiman says:

    This article takes a thinker universally acknowledged as a sophisticated dialectician, cherry picks a few issues, and fuses them into a portrait. A dialectical thinker, by definition however, will come out on both sides. The key is not to look to one side or the other but to assess how competing values are balanced.

    Mrs. Schmidt is correct in noting that RAL, had occasion to speak out against those on his left. These include not only Rav Benny Lau, but also Rabbis David Hartman and Yitzchak Greenberg, as well as Dr. Tamar Ross and others. But he also saw the need to respond to R. Aharon Feldman, the espousers of Daas Torah and its ideology, the practice of universal army deferrals, and in a different vein, he isapproved of certain expressions of hard right religious Zionism (all curiously absent from this article).
    To understand RAL however, we should not start by looking at who or what he came out against– he was a restrained personality who rarely criticized others directly. Rather, we should look at what he taught by example, and what he spend his life building. Rav Aharon headed a large yeshiva premised on the view that hesder is lechatchila. By definition this means that other options were bedieved. Rav Aharon’s support of women’s learning ensured that it became mainstream in DL and MO communities, and under his leadership the Gush opened Migdal Oz, what can only be described as woman’s yeshiva. And Rav Aharon’s broad form of religious humanism emphasized learning and absorbing the best of what was out there and leveraging it towards avodat hashem. Of course RAL valued aspects of the charedi world, especially its dedication to Talmud torah—how could he not. But his genius is found in how he lived these values along with countervailing interests generally absent from that world, and this is the crucial aspect this article misses.

    After the Rav passed away, RAL took to the pages of the Forward to challenge what he saw as overly leftward interpretation of the Rav’s legacy. His op-ed concluded with a description of the Rav that applies equally to RAL himself. “He sought as we should the best of the Torah world and the best of modernity. For decades this sui generis sage… bestrode [] Orthodoxy like a colossus, transcending many of its internal fissures. Let us not now inter him in a Procrustian sarcophagus

  20. Baruch says:

    Mrs. Schmidt makes the very harsh accusation that “Some on the liberal end of the Orthodox spectrum attribute to him a harsh rejection of the haredi world” and then substantiates that charge with one quote from Weinberg’s op-ed, which said only that RAL was not in favor of the isolationism that characterizes much of the charedi world. What Weinberg wrote is absolutely true, and it is not anywhere near saying that RAL “harshly rejected the charedi world.” I think everybody realizes that RAL was all about complexity, and thus his approach to the charedi population was complex – he admired some aspects, and opposed others. And this is pretty much his approach to other groups, as well.

    Yes, there is plenty to criticize about liberal Orthodoxy, but let’s not make up accusations. I have yet to see any liberal Orthodox writer try to recast RAL into one of them, and I don’t think they will, as – unlike in the case of the Rav – many of his lectures have been transcribed and he wrote numerous articles. It’s all there on record.

  21. DavidF says:

    One interesting point I’ve noted from all of the comments and a number of articles regarding Rav Aron zt”l, is that while many spare no efforts to castigate the Charedi world for not demonstrating sufficient reverence for him, an equal if not greater number take great great pains to highlight his numerous differences, lack of total appreciation for, and points of divergence with the Charedi world. It can’t go both ways. If Rav Aron was clear about his lack of appreciation for the Charedi world, it should come as no surprise that the sentiment is reflected in an equal lack of appreciation. If indeed, he greatly appreciated them, then why the insistence that he did not? Something here simply doesn’t add up.

  22. eli says:

    @raymond What seems more likely? That the two men weren’t Modern Orthodox (R Aharon used the word “centrist” Bec he intuited that many people use the term “modern” as a pejorative)? Or that your preconceived notion of what Modern Orthodoxy is different than that of the two of the most prominent leaders of said subsect of orthodoxy

  23. lawrence kaplan says:

    DavidF: RAL greatly appreciated the Haredi world, but had sharp differences with it as well. Where is the contradiction?

  24. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-Your comments, as always, are on the mark-yet RAL ZL never hesitated as shown in the linked passage and elsewhere in his writings at expressing his disappointment with the priorities of MO, and especially how Torah values tended to be devalued at the expense of the contemporary Zeitgeist. That POV was noticeably absent from all of the articles in the recent issue of Tradition.

  25. Bob Miller says:

    Why not just consider Rav Lichtenstein ZT”L’s ideas and decisions on their merits without wasting a lot of time placing him into some category? If he was not exactly in your chosen category are you forbidden to entertain his ideas? If he was in your category, are you forbidden to dispute his ideas?

  26. Avraham says:

    DavidF – the answer is very straightforward. Rav Aharon zt’l indeed had great apreciation for the Charedi world and when he expressed his disagreement it was always done with incredible reverence and derech eretz as befitting the adom gadol (and exceptional ba’al middot) that he was. However since there were areas where he disagreed – l’shem shamayim – commentators have rightfully objected to revisionist attempts to portray him totally in the Charedi camp.

    More broadly,there have always been profound disagreements between gedolim that never diminished the mutual respect each one had for the other. (Rav Aharon Kotler zt’l and the Satmar Rebe zt’l had bitter disputes but that did not stop the latter from giving a glowing hesped at Rav Aharon’s levayah) Yes, Rav Lichtenstein did not always agree with his Charedi counterpoints but his greatness in Torah and middot should have elicited a different response upon his passing.

  27. Bency says:

    Let it be known to all Cross-currents readers. Rav Lichtenstein zt’l loved chareidim passionately! He often urged many in his own machaneh to admire and emulate the hasmadah and dikduk b’mitzvos so commonly found amongst the chareidim. He was an “anov mikol odom”. He led his yeshiva according to his hashkafa, expressed his opinions to those that sought them, and, in his deep heartfelt humility, did not make proclamations expecting others to follow. (The few notable exceptions were instances when he publicly protested against some instances of chillul hashem that occurred in the national Israeli and dati leumi world.) He stated that the chareidi lifestyle was, of course, a fully valid expression of avodas hashem that did not need his haskama, and that it even had “roiv minyan and roiv banyan” on it’s side. He was explicit in stating to his followers that there was every chiyuv of “ve’ahavta lerayacha komoicha” towards chareidim, and, (like any other mitzvah from his beloved Hashem,)lived it in every fiber of his being. When talmidim complained to him that they were denigrated by chareidim, he responded that they must be “tolerant of intolerance” and that this intolerance was in no way a p’tur on their chiyuv of “ve’ahavta l’rayacha komoicha”. One of his many fundamental beliefs was that there were “shivim panim l’torah” and that even if he believed in something strongly, that did make those that differed from him wrong. BTW, you don’t have to believe me on this- go to yutorah.com and listen to him stating much of this himself in a 2 part shiur, “Ahavath Yisroel: Attitudes and Behaviour Towards People With Whom We Differ”. Yes, while he believed that his people had much to learn from the chareidim, it’s quite clear that many should learn from this giant in yedias kol hatorah kulah, yiras shmayim, and midos toivos.

    Chaval al d’avdin v’lo mishtakchin. Yehei Zicro Boruch.

  28. mycroft says:

    ” DavidF
    May 21, 2015 at 11:47 am

    One interesting point I’ve noted from all of the comments and a number of articles regarding Rav Aron zt”l, is that while many spare no efforts to castigate the Charedi world for not demonstrating sufficient reverence for him, an equal if not greater number take great great pains to highlight his numerous differences, lack of total appreciation for, and points of divergence with the Charedi world. It can’t go both ways. If Rav Aron was clear about his lack of appreciation for the Charedi world, it should come as no surprise that the sentiment is reflected in an equal lack of appreciation. ”

    Why not let me copy your post and change a few words

    One interesting point I’ve noted from all of the comments and a number of articles regarding Rav Aaron Kotler zt”l, is that while many spare no efforts to castigate the MO world for not demonstrating sufficient reverence for him, an equal if not greater number take great great pains to highlight his numerous differences, lack of total appreciation for, and points of divergence with the MO world. It can’t go both ways. If Rav Aaron KotlerZT”L was clear about his lack of appreciation for the MO world, it should come as no surprise that the sentiment is reflected in an equal lack of appreciation.”

  29. mycroft says:

    ” DavidF
    May 21, 2015 at 11:47 am

    One interesting point I’ve noted from all of the comments and a number of articles regarding Rav Aron zt”l, is that while many spare no efforts to castigate the Charedi world for not demonstrating sufficient reverence for him, an equal if not greater number take great great pains to highlight his numerous differences, lack of total appreciation for, and points of divergence with the Charedi world. It can’t go both ways. If Rav Aron was clear about his lack of appreciation for the Charedi world, it should come as no surprise that the sentiment is reflected in an equal lack of appreciation. ”

    Why not let me copy your post and change a few words

    One interesting point I’ve noted from all of the comments and a number of articles regarding Rav Aaron Kotler zt”l, is that while many spare no efforts to castigate the MO world for not demonstrating sufficient reverence for him, an equal if not greater number take great great pains to highlight his numerous differences, lack of total appreciation for, and points of divergence with the MO world. It can’t go both ways. If Rav Aaron Kotler ZT”L was clear about his lack of appreciation for the MO world, it should come as no surprise that the sentiment is reflected in an equal lack of appreciation.

    Of course, I doubt you would see such a paragraph written-MO does not in general write article attacking Chareidi Judasim to the extent that Chareidi/Yeshivish Judaism attack MO-attacking MO is their religious equivalent of Delenda est Carthago.

    “recast RAL into one of them, and I don’t think they will, as – unlike in the case of the Rav – many of his lectures have been transcribed and he wrote numerous articles. It’s all there on record.”

    Why not the Rav had extensive record see eg http://www.math.tau.ac.il/~turkel/engsol.html
    for an extensive bibliography of the Rav. The Rav was far from the only victim of revisionism-RSFSR has probably been an even more distorted by revisionism.

    “against those on his left. These include not only Rav Benny Lau, but also Rabbis David Hartman and Yitzchak Greenberg”
    It is unfair to compare Rabbi Benny Lau to Rabbi Hartman and Greenberg as far as respect for traditional halacha.

  30. shaul shapira says:

    I’d like to throw out that part of the debate about RAL being MO or C might be more of a question about who is MO and who is C. If you define charedim as being only me’ah sh’earim type, he was obviously nothing of the kind. If you look at Har Nof types, they might be a lot closer. I don’t think that RAl is going to be considered C by any measure, but the comparisons are going to at least be more reasonable depending on which kind of C you’re talking. As an example, I think R Avi Shafran would agree with a whole lot of what RAL has to say.

  31. Moshe Shoshan says:

    RAL always thought t that the charedi refusal to go to the army was profoundly immoral. He though their restrictions on Women learing Torah shebaal peh were irrational and baseless. He had profound and extremely harsh critiques of the Charedi world. RAL was far to the left of the leading Rashei Yeshiva in REITS on many many issues. Shira Shmidt, whose sons learned with me in the Gush surely knows this.

    When RAL spoke of the charedi world he first and foremeost meant R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. The derech of RSZA was discarded in the charedei world for that of R. ELyashiv and now even more extreme Kanaim. In later years, RAL began to realize that the Charedi world which he respected no longer existed. In a famous talk he said that in the charedi world today what they call dass torah is really Talmidei chachamim shein bahem daas. In his article attacking R. Feldman he made it clear that he had no tolerance for charedi anti Zionism or indeed for their attacks on practices like women putting on teffilin. Not because he supported women putting on tefillin but because he thought that the attacks lacked intellectual honesty and respect for womens feelings. He thought their efforts to reverse the conversions done under R. Druckman were pure rishus. I can go on and on.

    unscrupulous efforts to distort RJBS teaching to portray him has as charedi, often promoted on this site have been quite successful. It pains me greatly to see a similar campaign being waged against RAL’s memory.

  32. Bency says:

    Let it be known to all Cross-currents readers. Rav Lichtenstein zt’l loved chareidim passionately! He often urged many in his own machaneh to admire and emulate the hasmadah and dikduk b’mitzvos so commonly found amongst the chareidim. He was an “anov mikol odom”. He led his yeshiva according to his hashkafa, expressed his opinions to those that sought them, and, in his deep heartfelt humility, did not make proclamations expecting others to follow. (The few notable exceptions were instances when he publicly protested against some instances of chillul hashem that occurred in the national Israeli and dati leumi world.) He stated that the chareidi lifestyle was, of course, a fully valid expression of avodas hashem that did not need his haskama, and that it even had “roiv minyan and roiv binyan” on it’s side. He was explicit in stating to his followers that there was every chiyuv of “ve’ahavta lerayacha komoicha” towards chareidim, and, (like any other mitzvah from his beloved Hashem,)lived it in every fiber of his being. When talmidim complained to him that they were denigrated by chareidim, he responded that they must be “tolerant of intolerance” and that this intolerance was in no way a p’tur on their chiyuv of “ve’ahavta l’rayacha komoicha”. One of his many fundamental beliefs was that there were “shivim panim l’torah” and that even if he believed in something strongly, that did make those that differed from him wrong. BTW, you don’t have to believe me on this- go to yutorah.com and listen to him stating much of this himself in a 2 part shiur, “Ahavath Yisroel: Attitudes and Behaviour Towards People With Whom We Differ”. Yes, while he believed that his people had much to learn from the chareidim, it’s quite clear that many should learn from this giant in yedias kol hatorah kulah, yiras shmayim, and midos toivos.

    Chaval al d’avdin v’lo mishtakchin. Yehei Zicro Boruch

  33. mycroft says:

    ” RAL was far to the left of the leading Rashei Yeshiva in REITS on many many issues.”

    “In the United States, I believe that the influence of my father, the Rov, is on the decline…And yet, there are former students, notable among them a number of faculty members or former faculty members at RIETS, who have not only turned their backs on the complex worldview the Rov espoused but are anxious to claim that the Rov him-
    self turned his back on this view. It has even been claimed that “Whatever
    he (the Rov) did aside from learning Torah came to him coincidentally.”
    It is, indeed, preposterous to think that his major philosophical essays,
    which interweave general philosophy and science, are “coincidental.” From page 15 of pdf file of article by Dr Tovah Lichtenstein
    http://traditionarchive.org/news/_pdfs/0007-00221.pdf

    Query-how much of the change in RIETS would not have happened had Rav Lichtenstein stayed in RIETS and not made aliyah? How has the change in RIETS changed the perspective that people have about Orthodox Jews.

  34. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Mycroft: You write that “Of course, I doubt you would see such a paragraph written-MO does not in general write article attacking Chareidi Judasim to the extent that Chareidi/Yeshivish Judaism attack MO-attacking MO is their religious equivalent of Delenda est Carthago.” That may not be true today, but in the 1960s, 1970s and well beyond, Tradition, Jewish Life, and the secular Jewish media were full of attacks on the Charedi sector. In my pre-Charedi years, I remember my shocked reaction to Rabbi Oscar Fasman’s 1967 Tradition Article “Trends in the Modern Yeshiva.” And although I didn’t read it, I have seen quotes from Rabbi Maurice Lamm’s “Escalating the Wars of the Lord” that were just as forceful, if not downright vicious.

  35. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    And I remember a 1990 lecture in which Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called Rav Shach a nivul be’reshus haTorah.

  36. Talmid says:

    “RAL always thought t that the charedi refusal to go to the army was profoundly immoral. He though their restrictions on Women learing Torah shebaal peh were irrational and baseless”

    Your portrayal completely distorts the spirit of Rav Lichtenstein’s attitude. He had respect for positions he disagreed with, particularly those that were espoused by many gedolei Torah. These two issues were no exception; and in particular, the notion that he thought those who did not teach torah shebaal peh to women “were irrational and baseless” is laughable. (Which is not to say, obviously, that he did not very much believe it was lechactchilla to do so in our current reality.)

  37. Avraham says:

    With all due respect to Lawrence Reisman, I proudly keep my feet in both the Charedi and MO worlds (both in terms of where I originally learned and the communities that I have been asscoated with) and you simply can not compare the natrue of the discourse and the amount of vitriol expressed. Yes, you can find instances of MO rabbis speaking harshly of Charedim – although there is great irony to your choosing to highlight Rabbi Riskin and Rav Shach considering that the latter put the former in cherem without ever speaking to or meeting him, and Rabbi Riskin’s comments were uttered much later – but the routine total disrespect that was shown to the Rav zt’l by the yeshiva world, let alone the total disdain for talmidim of Yeshiva University, was not matched by a comprable attitude in MO circles.

  38. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Avraham: I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree. As to the “cherem,” I’d like to hear it from a source other than Rabbi Riskin himself. From what I have seen, the use of a cherem today is quite rare.

  39. Chaim G says:

    I generally refrain from commenting on threads, but as a talmid of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l, it pains me to read so many comments attempting to characterize and pigeonhole him into various denominations of contemporary Orthodoxy. By and large, Chaim Saiman already did the best job here portraying Rav Lichtenstein zt”l accurately (something we should all recognize is by definition impossible), but I will simply echo him and try to add a bit. We have to realize that Rav Lichtenstein was a complex personality, meaning he could have great respect and reverence for the Chareidi world while simultaneously disagreeing sharply with Chareidi hashkafos and not see any dissonance between those two positions.
    For those who prefer a more simplistic portrait, I’ll say the following: Rav Lichtenstein zt”l was an eved Hashem and yarei Shamayim on levels unparalleled by virtually anyone today (and I’ve been around many gedolim of all camps), and anything that could be and was marshaled towards genuine avodas Hashem was something Rav Lichtenstein valued (obviously, proportionally, some things more than others) and anything that wasn’t to be directed to avodas Hashem was not valuable.

  40. dr. bill says:

    Mr. Reisman, Your argument, if substantiated and as I understand it, is that you sinned in the past, therefore I can sin now? In any case, it is the ad hominem nature of attacks that is particularly disturbing. Your example of what Rabbi Riskin called Rabbi Shach (I assume naval not nivul) is rather rare among the MO. But given Rabbi Shach’s propensity for (vicious) personal attacks, I am not surprised. Even Rav Lichtenstein, whom this post is about, attacked him by name/title on at least two occasions, one concerning his assertion about chazlal’s source of mada and one over a political incident, that if my memory serves me, may have been around 1990. This should be compared to the way RAL normally referred to other Rabbonim whose positions he attacked. Given the care with which he spoke, there is much to be implied from an uncommon personal attack.

    Talmid, RAL had the ability to disagree strenuously and respectfully. Moshe Shoshan’s characterization represents only strenuous disagreement not disrespect.

  41. Moshe says:

    If RAL thought that the Charedi refusal to go to the army was profoundly immoral, he must have considered R’ Shlomo Zalman profoundly immoral. On the contrary, R’ Shlomo Zalman thought it a chutzpah for Hesder to consider itself lechatchilah, and was even opposed to such institutions calling themselves Yeshivas. This can be confirmed with his sons.

    It was just that RSZA had such deeply ingrained Derech Eretz that he accorded great honor even to those with whom he utterly disagreed.

  42. dr. bill says:

    Moshe, I would be more impressed hearing that from his SIL as opposed to someone who “edited” what RSZA ztl wrote. You should know that about 30 years ago when RAL ztl asked RSZA a shailah (some might say advice) with an important non-halakhic component, RSZA said to him, that he would answer if RAL was his talmid, but you should do what your rebbe would likely instruct you, were he able.

    And BTW, it is not just to RSZA that your last sentence applies. In our (orphaned) generation such behavior is unfortunately rarely seen.

  43. Bency says:

    “Rav Aharon headed a large yeshiva premised on the view that hesder is lechatchila. By definition this means that other options were bedieved.”

    Pardon me, but this sounds a bit too brash and confrontational for RAL. I prefer his language in “The Ideology of Hesder”, laden with passion while remaining non-judgemental of those that differed:

    “In another sense, however, it (hesder) is very much l’chathillah, a freely willed option grounded in moral and halakhic decision. We – at Yeshivat Har Etzion, at any rate – do not advocate hesder as a second-best alternative for those unable or unwilling to accept the rigors of single-minded Torah study. We advocate it because we are convinced that, given our circumstances – would that they were better – military service is a mitzvah, and a most important one at that. Without impugning the patriotism or ethical posture of those who think otherwise, we feel that for the overwhelming majority of bnei torah defense is a moral imperative.”

    And later in the article:

    “These are matters on which honest men of Torah can differ seriously out of mutual respect and I certainly have no desire to denigrate those who do not subscribe to my own positions. What I do wish to stress minimally, however, is the point that, for the aspiring talmid hacham, hesder is at least as legitimate a path as any other. It is, to my mind, a good deal more; but surely not less.”

  44. Avraham says:

    Lawerence – I do not know if you can find old copies of the Yated – the Israeli version of course – either online (doubtful)or in print but if memory serves me correctly that was where Rav Shach’s attack on Rabbi Riskin took place due to his hiring of Nechama Leibowitz zt’l. He criticized him quite harshly despite never having met him or spoken to him.

  45. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Avraham: There’s a big difference between harsh criticism and a cherem. Rav Shach was known for his strong words on about any and every issue he felt strongly about. (Ask the people who run Nichlala.) However, to say that Rabbi Riskin was put in cherem is a gross exaggeration, if not outright falsehood, and Rabbi Riskin has been perpetuating the myth of his being in cherem for quite a few years now. As Harry Truman once said, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  46. Rafael Araujo says:

    “He criticized him quite harshly despite never having met him or spoken to him.”

    I didn’t know that is a criteria for leveling criticism, or even harsh criticism. Sometimes, the actions of an individual speak for themselves (I am not commenting on whether such criticism was deserved or not).

  47. Steve Brizel says:

    The bottom line remains that RAL, in his own words, as published, refused to be pigeonholed Hashkafically-whether with respect to the RZ , Charedi, or MO worlds, and voiced his appreciation for the best elements of the RZ, Charedi and MO worlds, while rejecting those views therein that he viewed extreme, untenable and not in their best interests. The article in question provided a necessary corrective to many of the articles published elsewhere.

  48. Avraham says:

    Let me add one more thought to clarify my initial observation. You can not draw much inference about how the MO world treats Charedi gedolim from the fact that Rabbi Riskin said harsh words about Rav Shach after the latter attacked him, as that is people of all stripes do when attacked. Chabad was far more harsh in its criticism of Rav Shach after he attacked the Rebbe (I still recall my yeshiva taking time off from learning to attend a rally organized by Rav Elya Svei in defense of Rav Shach in light of Chabad’s criticisms)and in his early years Rav Avraham Yehoshua Soloveitchik of Brisk was relentless in his criticism of Rav Shach whom he felt had betrayed the legacy of his grandfather the Brisker Rav. Rav Shach was extremely outspoken and therefore naturally attracted the criticism of others in return.

  49. clc says:

    First the claim that MO didn’t attack and demean with the harshest words those to their right.. then a revision that they surely have but it only was a while ago..

    How about doing a Google search of recent years of thousands of posts and comments?

  50. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Avraham: How about the Jewish Week columns of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman? The RCA journal columns of Rabbi Louis Bernstein? How about browsing through old editions of “Tradition?” If I had the time and energy, I could put together a large list of MO attacks through the years. Rabbi Riskin’s comment was just one of many.

  51. Avraham says:

    Lawrence – you are welcome to do such a search and all that you find will pale in comparison to the vitriol and patronizing that emerges form Charedi publications. Ask anyone who has learned in both worlds and the difference is simply vast. Moreover, you conveniently chose to deflect the discussion away from Rav Shach which means that you have acknowledged the accuracy of my point.

  52. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Avraham: We will have to agree to disagree. As for Rav Shach, he is not the issue here. It is the “vitriol” that appears in publications on both sides.

  53. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    If you are looking for vitriol, try this for size: http://traditionarchive.org/news/originals/Volume%2019/No.%201/Judge%20Not%20A%20Book.pdf I grant you that it garnered quite a condemnation from all sides of the Orthodox world, but the fact that “Tradition” magazine thought worthy to publish tells you something.

  54. dr. bill says:

    Mr. Reisman, An expression of (strong) disagreement is not vitriol. You may not like the term deceptive and the pig, that chazal labelled as such. No one was called a pig; deceptive yes, but a pig, no. In addition to Prof. Levy’s attack on Artscroll, which you linked to, Tradition also published an attack on the Steinsaltz talmud. Neither is vitriolic; neither attacks individuals or their beliefs and/or actions. Halevai such civility ruled in all circles. BH, I have an extensive library, but do not knowingly allow deceptive books in my house, except where needed to help me observe: dah ma shetashuv. When the first volumes came out 50+ years ago, a distinguished talmid chacham, suggested that the Anchor Bible does a better job at explaining Esther. Much has changed; today we have daat mikre and a number of other valuable modern commentaries.

  55. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    “An expression of (strong) disagreement is not vitriol.” If you go back to what Rav Shach said about Rav Steinzaltz (for example) rather than what was stated in Yated Ne’eman, that was strong disagreement. Nonetheless, he was attacked for being vitriolic. I guess one man’s strong disagreement is another’s vitriol.

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