A Time To Be Silent: In Defense of Rabbi Lamm
The law does not say that a Jewess cannot marry a Christian, nor a Jew a Christian woman; nor does it state that the Jews can only marry among themselves. The only marriages expressly forbidden by the law are those with the seven Canaanite nations, with Amon and Moab, and with the Egyptians…The prohibition in general applies only to nations in idolatry. The Talmud declares formally that modern nations are not to be considered as such, since they worship like us the G-d of heaven and earth. And accordingly there have been at several periods intermarriages between Jews and Christians in France, in Spain, and in Germany. These marriages were sometimes tolerated, and sometimes forbidden by the laws of those sovereigns who had received Jews into their dominions… We cannot deny that the opinion of the Rabbis is against these marriages. According to their doctrine, although the religion of Moses has not forbidden the Jews from intermarrying with nations not of their religion, yet, as marriage according to the Talmud requires religious ceremonies called Kiddushin, with the benediction used in such cases, no marriage can be religiously valid unless these ceremonies have been performed. This could not be done towards persons who would not both of them consider these ceremonies sacred. (Response of the Assembly of Jewish Notables to Napoleon, August 1806, Third Question)
Written two hundred years ago, the author of these lines was spared the fury of today’s bloggers and commenters who would have been appalled by what they would have seen as a ziyuf Ha-Torah – a counterfeit presentation of Torah truth – for the sake of some PR points. What misrepresentation! What a collection of double entendres, staying (maybe!) just on the right side of truth, but appealing to what Napoleon wanted to hear! Thank G-d, all of us would have spoken more forthrightly, and let the chips fall where they may. Thank G-d, we have the Torah training to avoid smarmy sycophants who write drivel like this.
Except that the drivel in question may have saved a community from the full repression of religious practice by Napoleon, who asked for answers to twelve crucial questions that would shape his approach to all the Jews in his growing realm. The author was not a kal, but Rav Dovid Sinzheim, known to us denizens of the bais medrash for the Yad Dovid, and one of the gedolim of his generation. The Chasam Sofer not only authored a lavish hesped for him, but spoke specifically of the wisdom he used in dealing with hostile rulers.
Why did people not rise in righteous indignation at the sacrifice of Torah principle? Because they knew there was a time to be silent. When Torah and the Jewish people are under attack, and someone rises to defend them – that moment is not the time to publicly debate the rectitude of every phrase he used.
I have sat through several presentations in which Judaeophile Christians have made all kinds of ridiculous and exaggerated laudatory claims about us. I have never observed any of my colleagues rise to his feet in protest, arguing for Truth’s sake that we really don’t deserve all that praise. Thank G-d, some common sense prevails. We are beset by enemies around the planet. We do not need to sharpen their swords, and we do not need to dull the enthusiasm of our friends.
Noah Feldman’s screed not only blackened the face that Torah shows the world, he may well have put Jews in mortal danger by adding respectability to old canards about Jews that had gone underground, emerging only in the febrile rants of the lunatic fringe. That may be changing. A week ago, a respected Christian internet outlet, the Christian Post, published an openly anti-Semitic op-ed by a coworker of one of America’s most established professional hate mongers. It included the claim that the Talmud urges Jews to regard the accursed goyim as less than human. Was the timing related to the respectability that Feldman gave to this claim? It might have been. Or it might not.
For most people who cared enough to search out a Jewish response to Feldman, one piece stood head and shoulders above all others. It should have ended all discussion. Rabbi Lamm’s rejoinder in The Forward was a model of strength and humanity; of speaking to the audience on their terms; of maintaining Jewish pride by tweaking the Gemara’s advice under the extremity of the circumstances and being דוחה בימין ומקרב רק בשמאול/ “pushing away with the right hand, and drawing close with the left.” It did the job with aplomb, with refinement, with finesse. It addressed every important point raised by Feldman with full confidence and authority. His gravitas and academic credentials insured that he would be heard.
It should have ended all discussion, but it didn’t. My deep friendship with two of my associates on this blog is rich and deep enough that it will survive this, but I must take exception to two recent contributions. Cross-Currents, or anywhere in the public domain, was not the place to question Rabbi Lamm. (And mentioning him together with Boteach in the same universe, let alone the same piece, was completely inappropriate.) We should have realized that Feldman couldn’t care less which modifier we chose to put before the word “Orthodox.” He was coming after all of us, and we should be standing together. If anything, Feldman’s attacks should make us understand how much we really share, when we are not snarling at each other.
I noticed one phrase in his essay that concerned me, and I initiated a dialogue with him soon after publication of his response to Feldman. Circumstances have prevented us from getting together on the phone long enough to get to the key issue. BE”H, we will. (I have always found Rabbi Lamm gracious in speaking to me, knowing full well that we differ deeply on some very important issues. Years his junior, I have never been made uncomfortable to voice my differences. At times, he has even sought out my feelings on key issues, and taken them into account. I wish I saw as much tolerance – at least to listen – in some of the circles I travel in.)
Until that time, I cannot speak for Rabbi Lamm. I see several possibilities. He may have used the words somewhat loosely, in trying to speak Feldman’s language. (My guess is that he meant that at times, try as we may, we cannot get to the depth and core of what Chazal are saying. What the words say to us is something we have great difficulty understanding. We believe that they are correct – but aren’t quite sure what it is they meant. At such times, one of the ways we are able to resolve the tension is within the parameters of halacha, by halachic devices and tools entirely within the orbit of accepted halachic practice.) Like R. Dovid Sinzheim, that would be no great sin. On the other hand, he may have meant exactly what the phrase seems to imply – that we can sometimes look at a moral position taken by Chazal and find it objectionable. In that case, I will disagree with him – privately. (Moreover, I will remember R. Yaakov zt’l’s famous speech at a Torah Umesorah Principal’s conclave, in which he was asked to define “insider” and “outsider.” He responded that the Rambam was a posek, and he had already paskened. In the words immediately following his thirteen foundational principles of Judaism, Rambam says, in loose translation, that one who embraces these ideas, regardless of other faults, must be regarded as an insider and entitled to all rights and privileges of membership.) He may have meant something in between, relying on some reliable daas yachid, which I firmly believe is his entitlement, even if I would choose the majority for myself and my talmidim. There would seem to be no great crime in giving him the benefit of the doubt until we hear to the contrary. Even groups which jousted ideologically with him in the past ought to give him a bit of breathing space on this one, given the task of defending Torah that he shouldered himself.
But what if…what it.. what if? Can we sit back and allow a possible distortion of Torah to go by unchecked? Didn’t the Yam Shel Shlomo write that it is forbidden to distort Torah even if lives are on the line? He did – and Rav Moshe zt”l used to remark that the minhag of Klal Yisrael was not like the Yam Shel Shlomo! How many works (including early editions of the Mishnah Berurah) sport asterisks near many halachos that deal with non-Jews, and direct the reader to some assurance that these laws only applied in the olden days of barbaric idolaters and surely not in regard to enlightened beneficent rulers like the beloved Czar. These footnotes were the price we paid to the censor. They were not true; we published them nonetheless.
I personally don’t believe that Rabbi Lamm did anything comparable. I don’t believe that he exercised any license to misrepresent. that he could have taken. I hope to find out, in time, what he really meant. Again, if I must disagree, I will do so – but in private. There is too much at stake in this battle for us to break ranks at this time.
are all your kids married off?
No, but my only daughter is. Boys, B”H, are a slam-dunk.
Excellent column! When one puts aside whatever reservations one has with R D Lamm’s understanding of TuM , etc, the article in question was excellent.
“Boys, B”H, are a slam-dunk”
agree. once there is ezras hashem, it’s no biggie. at worst, maybe you can marry into a (frum) YU family.
A wonderful piece written with a sense of perspective usually missing from the world of the internet.
“Even groups which jousted ideologically with him in the past ought to give him a bit of breathing space on this one, given the task of defending Torah that he shouldered himself.”
I agree with that; people can speak to him privately, if he chooses not to clarify his remarks in a wider forum(I had hoped that he would, somehow, clarify his remarks in the context of the general question of Mesorah, above). I can say as well, based on experiences of a (Charedi) relative of mine, that he is personally, a gracious individual.
“Noah Feldman’s screed not only blackened the face that Torah shows the world, he may well have put Jews in mortal danger by adding respectability to old canards about Jews that had gone underground, emerging only in the febrile rants of the lunatic fringe.”
I am very concerned about that.
The antidote would seem to be a clarification of Torah positions, both internally and externally. I have quoted in the past a radio interview in which a member of Agudah and RIETS both agreed that, to whatever extent the issue of bein yisrael l’amim needs discussion, it should be done internally. Here is(another) opportunity for all Orthodox groups to come together.
If you ask me, the Jewish community should emphasize more some of the universalistic writings of Rav Hirsch and others; the issue is one of balance. However, even if some communities have different points of balance, there have in the past been messages and ideas that have been communicated to and by the public– perhaps unintended– that I don’t think reflect any authentic Torah position, certainly in terms of perception, balance and emphasis, and are in fact detrimental to k’vod shomayim, v’ein kahn makom l’ haarich.
Rabbi Lamm has a great burden to carry by the simple fact of his position. It’s good to see people appreciating that.
“Didn’t the Yam Shel Shlomo write that it is forbidden to distort Torah even if lives are on the line? He did – and Rav Moshe zt”l used to remark that the minhag of Klal Yisrael was not like the Yam Shel Shlomo!” Assuming RYA’s quote of the YShSh is accurate, how did the YShSh justify/understand the Rabbanan of the famous Qamtza&BarQamtza story (recorded on BT Gitin 56a) — isn’t his opinion that of R’Zechariah ben Avqulas?
Your point about inappropriate forums is well taken. I guess sometimes we (or at least I) forget that blogs are a “reshus harabbim” (public domain) and not the closed discussion group we treat them as. I imagine Dr. Gewirtz meant something similar when he responded to me on a different thread: “I could not explain R. Lamm to you on a blog, but he was being brutally honest for a reason that, if you think carefully, you can figure out”. (Dr. Gewirtz, I cut and pasted from that thread, to make sure I got it right this time.) But you’ve effectively cut the legs out from under not only anyone who takes issue with Rabbi Lamm on the particular point in question, but also anyone who disagrees with your perspective on the matter. I take much pleasure in the opportunity to comment on the many issues raised in the various posts on this blog, and reading all the responses (my day job has suffered accordingly). I enjoy following (and participating in) the intellectual thrust-and-parry on the various threads, and in the short time I’ve been logging on to Cross-Currents I have come to feel a kinship with all the regulars who comment here, even (I should say, especially) with those with whom I disagree. I find their comments thought provoking and helpful in clarifying my own views. The experience has certainly broadened my horizons. I am dissapointed that I will not have the opportunity to discuss on this blog the topic you refer to. Surely there must be a forum where we can have open and honest debate about such issues without “breaking ranks”, as you say. What do you suggest?
Your point about Boteach needs no comment.
P.S. Does this mean we don’t get to see part II of Eytan Kobre’s article?
For the record, I appreciate the difficulty of the task Rabbi Lamm took upon himself, and I agree that for the reasons you mentioned he was probably the most qualified to perform it. But it is precisely because of his qualifications that I found that particular phrase so objectionable.
Boruch Horowitz said
“The antidote would seem to be a clarification of Torah positions, both internally and externally.”
So, now that public statements have already been made, are we to have the clarification that should have preceded them?
s/b “Baruch”. Sorry!
Wow! A debate between the Contributors to Cross Currents. Is this a first?
“Wow! A debate between the Contributors to Cross Currents. Is this a first?
Comment by LAWRENCE KAPLAN — August 29, 2007 @ 9:01 pm”
Maybe you thought you should have all the fun?
“So, now that public statements have already been made, are we to have the clarification that should have preceded them?”
I just threw out the idea; in fact, in one case, a Charedi leader issued a public statement to correct an impression that was in the media. Those in various positions of leadership obviously will decide what the best approach to take is as far as what is needed as a communal public response to the Feldman Affair and related issues, as well as to make sure that internally, there is the correct balance between particularism versus universalism. As far as individuals relating to any philosophical issues, people can clarify these issues for themselves on an individual basis.
Your point is well taken – that we should applaud R. Lamm for attempting to minimize the damage to Orthodoxy (and possible hatred), even as we don’t agree on all the details, and find his words deeply mistaken .
– I’m interested in seeing a source for the claim that R. Moshe ruled that one may falsify torah (explicitly) due to eivah. It’s not that I don’t believe you, just that I’d like to look more into it. For my part, I have personally heard a Gadol Batorah rule like the Yam Shel Shlomo. (p.s. one of your sons was in his shiur two years ago.)
– The quote you cited from the Yad David happens not to support your point. His statement about intermarrage is TECHNICALLY correct. Tosafos in various places states that intermarrage aside from the 7 nations is mutar m’deorayso, and there was an article in the first edition of Halacho and Contemparary Society which sought in vain the isur doraiso for intermarrage. The question at hand is whether a statement can be made which is technichally incorrect.
– Your implication – that Rabbi Lamm would write differently internally awaits comment from him (maybe in a diferent venue). And we would like to hear what his response is to your “concern”. I would sincerely hope that he doesn’t believe the essence of that which he wrote.
It appears that Jonathan Rosenblum desires a Silence of the Lamm 🙂
Thank you for an interesting perspective and a very thought-provoking one at that. If I may be so bold to suggest what triggered the outrage at his words I would say that it was those words [which most certainly need a good explanation – though you may have provided one] coupled with a general attitude that his entire piece gave some the impression that he didn’t have a major problem with NF’s expectation that the law be ignored or changed because it offends our sensibilities. All he argued was that NF could have seen another side of the coin.
In other words, NF attacked MO for what he felt was inconsistency in demanding that the secular and holy can be reconciled seamlessly. Dr. Lamm’s response gave off the impression that it really could but one would have to do some fancy footwork.
Your point about anti-semitism, this would have been a great opportunity for a luminary from the MO to stand up and say, “Darn Right! HAlachah does override our sensibilities! You misunderstood what we were teaching. Never can Halachah be breached in favor of looking good for the Umos HaOlam. You NF simply don’t understand the Halachah which makes many exceptions to the law you quoted out of context…”
Instead, he only confirmed the uncomfortable feeling that many have that MO is not as clear on this point as need be. The statement about “creative halachahists” only exacerbated that point.
Just my two cents and a limud zechus on those who took umbrage at his words.
“Your point about anti-semitism”
should read “Your point about anti-semitism aside”
I applaud a reasoned approach to R. Lamm, though I suspect some many view Prof. Feldman as less ominous long-term than Napoleon with less justification to be circumspect.
I do not want to speculate on which of multiple approaches R. Lamm was taking. But let me stake out two (extreme) positions a Posek might take when he is ethically perplexed by aspecific view of Chazal, particularly in a halachic context:
1) Get past the simple cases: a) it is an isolated / minority opinion or one spoken under extreme circumstance, or b) Chazal may have spoken with the assumption that the context was understood, did not (fully) provide it, and/or it may have changed. Rather assume Chazal have clearly expressed their “psak” and its context and the Posek is still bothered. Two letters of RYYW zt’l to Prof. Atlas a’h on this topic (and Prof. Blidstein’s quote of RYBS zt’l) indicate that RYYW (and RYBS)was troubled particular halachot. I suspect both would work to avoid the application of such halachot via halachically sanctioned, majority approved approaches. I believe there are examples of this even among charedi Poskim, albeit described more obliquely and most often not even acknowledged. You use your ethical sense to guide your halachic reasoning and practical decisions. This begs the question of how that ethical sense is developed, a deeper topic than blogs or the moderation panel allow.
2) There is a personally more acceptable minority view (sometimes not even explicit) that disagrees with the majority and the accepted psak, that a contemporary posek feels that he must/can adopt using the principle of Yiftach Bedoro…. The stories on hirhurim: R. Riskin on RYBS (based on a Ramban) and R. Feldman on Prof. Lieberman zt’l, might imply that. (Note the conflicting opinions on the position of the Rav. My (vague) recollection of his brother’s position is similar to R. Riskin’s attribution to the Rav. But RAS zt”l may have been only addressing a non-Jew living in a Jewish state versus a non-Jew outside of Israel.)
IMHO, Chachmei HaMesorah not just can but must behave using either approach described above in situations they feel warrrant it without regard for the abuse they will likely receive.
The relevant excerprt from JosephW to which my immediately preceding post ( — which for some reason did not post Joseph’s qoute — ) is — “I’m interested in seeing a source for the claim that R. Moshe ruled that one may falsify Torah (explicitly) due to aivah.” Again – see R. Dovid Cohen’s mavoh in his sefer Heakov L’Mishor (lamed gimel – lamed daled).
Thank you for your articulate “limud zechus”. In truth, it was more than simply a limud zechus.
Well said! Where is the Xtian Post article?
I didn’t want to post it in the body of the article and give it more exposure. But since you asked (and 95% of our readers, we believe, do not read the comments) here it is:
“Didn’t the Yam Shel Shlomo write that it is forbidden to distort Torah even if lives are on the line? He did – and Rav Moshe zt”l used to remark that the minhag of Klal Yisrael was not like the Yam Shel Shlomo!”
Regardless of whether we follow the yam shel shlomo, I don’t think the Yam shel shlomo requires us to correct other people’s mistakes.
“Noah Feldman’s screed not only blackened the face that Torah shows the world, he may well have put Jews in mortal danger by adding respectability to old canards about Jews that had gone underground, emerging only in the febrile rants of the lunatic fringe.”
I’m sure I read an essay on CrossCurrents arguing that Noah Feldman did us all a favor! 🙂 All this stuff is available on hate sites, etc. Actually, in an interview, NFeldman argued the same as you did – it’s on hate sites, why shouldn’t it be in the NYTimes?
The answer of course is that people dismiss what they see on fringe sites and dont dismiss what they read in the NYTimes. Feldman knows this, as dareIsay does the author of that CC piece. Although it is a judgement call, I thought it was a mistake for you to take NF’s line about the harmlessness of his article in what was otherwise an excellent essay; what he wrote has potential to be harmful and I think we should condemn his mischief making frankly. People understand “there are no OJ doctors leaving gentiles to die and why is this guy fomenting distrust” v’idach pirusha.
R Adlerstein – the link to the Christian Post piece doesnt work
While working as a journalist I overstepped the mark on a jokey story for Purim. Of all the things my rabbi told me as a result one in particular penetrated very deeply: his observation that a necessary component of being a journalist was insensitivity. Paradoxically, this comment stung me more than any other and was a primary reason behind my re-evaluation of my career. Journalists of all kinds would do well to take note.
Rabbi Adlerstein, once again you are to be commended for reminding us that one does not apply different standards of analysis to atatements made by those to whom we are, or supposed to be, ideologically or politically opposed. If someone does or says something good, we should appreciate it and treat those of his words we have trouble with exactly as if they were said by someone “on our side” If we do otherwise our Torah runs the risk of not being either Toras Emes or Toras Chaim. Again this discussion would not be necessary if we were not living in a time when divrei Chazal and Divrei Halacha have been replaced by “Shittos” in defining how we are to live and think.
“I wish I saw as much tolerance – at least to listen – in some of the circles I travel in.)”
I find it ironic that not only do many vry frum people not know any Jewish History but they oppose the facts coming to light. To them History is only for mussar purposes and emes is not the goal.Mishpacha Magazine often dares to include articles that are not 100% party line and invariably someone will write “How can a Torah publication write such a thing” In other words, the interview with Rabbi Berel Wein on the Ramchal brought out that he didn’t look chareidi and wrote plays,etc. Immediately someone pounced on him for besmirchim a kodosh elyon. Thus Rabbi Adlerstein’s reference to Napoleons Sanhedrin may convince me but it will have no effect on the cognitive dissonance crowed that still wants that anyone who considers evolution
should “bite the dust”. Rabbi Moshe Sherer wanted YU included in Am Echad but it was sa botaged on purpose by a certain rosh yeshiva to the charin of Rabbi Sherer. So there is a major divide between people who are willing to think and people who say that their mind is made up and don’t bother us with the facts. Which of the two groups is ascending?
Loberstein asked above, “Which of the two groups is ascending?”
That should not affect what each of us needs to do.
Bob Miller is correct. My observation is that ‘resonable” and “normal” are not words used by many followers. There are too many seeking to ostracize and exclude from the community anyone who thinks differently. There are 2 groups who deride the kiruv movement, those within ultra-orthodoxy who feel we have to circle the wagons and that mingling will contaminate our pure children. A bigger opponent that I have observed as the left orthodox who take snide pride in their intellectual superiority and their nuanced belief and observance and do nothing to be mekarev the non frum. They destroy community day schools, split shuls. where is their mesirus nefesh. Fortunately,both extremes are not typical of all, only of a slice of their communities. The smug modern orthodox who do nothing for kiruv but complain that the kiruv rabbi is too frum have a lot to answer for, where is their ahavas yisroel. I have seen this destructiveness and I hope that the center can hold.
“those within ultra-orthodoxy who feel we have to circle the wagons and that mingling will contaminate our pure children.”
I’m not saying you’re wrong on this, but I’ve never seen evidence of this in my own work. To the contrary, I’ve spoken with very prominent Roshei Yeshivah [Rav EM Shach zt”l, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Rav AC Levin, Rav Gamliel HaKohen Rabinovich to list a few] and some well-known Mashgichim [Rav M. Salomon, Rav S. Dishon] who have all actively encouraged kiruv and spoken publicly to that effect. There is an enourmous amount of Kiruv taking place around Lakewood and is supported by the Yeshivah BMG.
Hamodia runs a weekly feature discussing Kiruv and its importance.
Perhaps you’ve seen something different, but I’ll venture a guess that this minority [if it exists] falls under the category of “batel B’shishim”. I’d be curious to hear what you’re basing your opinion on if you’re willing to share it.
“Mishpacha Magazine often dares to include articles that are not 100% party line and invariably someone will write “How can a Torah publication write such a thing”
I agree that this can, at times, drive someone to distraction! What bothers me, is not that the authors of the letters express strong disagreement, but rather that the issues are expressed as a Federal case without attempting to understand another point of view, which in turn creates undue pressure on the editors(who already have a rabbinical board).
I understand why some may want to oversimplify matters in order to maintain haskafic purity; some people may feel that such an approach can benefit impressionable young students. Ideally, those who feel this way should form their own, pure, “shemen zayis zach” publication, and there will be shalom al Yisrael!
There is, however, a bright side to the current situation. A few months ago, Mishpacha printed a letter, where the author noted the headaches that all editors of Charedi publications have, to make their publication “acceptable”; if one publishes letters which acknowledge a problem, that, itself, is something positive. Mishpacha also prints advertisements for Lander College, for which I can see them taking some heat for. So it will be interesting to see how far Mishpacha can push the envelope, while still remaining within the Charedi world.
In response to Mark, of course you are right that the gedolim that we turnd to were men of great compassion and insight. Let us not forget that they experienced the destruction of the old world and saw how many were running away from observance.Thus, if you put the lives of Rav Ruderman, Rav kamenetzky, rav Moshe in context of their own life experiences they were very understanding of the need to be mekarev Jews.
You don’t have to look too far to find the “circle the wagons” people. It isn’t even denied that Israeli chareidi schools discriminate openly against anyone not of their exact type. Can a sephardi girl get into a good high school, can a girl whose brother goes to Maarava get into a good school? My friend Meir Fialkoff told me that his daughter needed special orthopedic shoes and he got them for her in the USA. The school she attended told her that if she wore these “different” shoes she would not be accepted into a high school. I checked this out and found that he is not the only one who experienced such intolerance of any diversity. If this is how they treat frum bnei torah families, what connection do they have to those of a different madreiga(level).
Here in Baltimore, Bais Yaakov has always done outreach and many very frum girls came from modern or less than strict homes.This is still true today and we are better for it. I know that in Lakewood, the schools are much more segregated. I admit that I have the internet in my house and even look at Cross-Currents,yet , so far, my children can go to school.
In brief, my rabbeim are the teachers of the founders of the Kiruv Movement, so we are open to kiruv, but kiruv requires openess and a willingness to understand other people, even overlooking things. Many people truly fear that exposure. Their rabbeim did not and do not teach what my rabbeim taught.
A sensitive and wise article.
“If this is how they treat frum bnei torah families, what connection do they have to those of a different madreiga(level).”
I’m afraid I don’t get your analogy. You’re confusing kiruv krovim with kiruv rechokim. There’s an unusual openness to kiruv rechokim amongst Chareidim both in EY and the US. It’s kiruv krovim where the problems exist and much more so in EY than in America although to some degree, it’s here as well. Your examples are from EY where there is a great degree of prejudice against the Sefardim [across the board btw – not just amongst Chareidim] and while I’m not excusing it at all, if one hasn’t lived there, it’s not possible to comment on it because there are many dynamics that aren’t well understood. [I learned that much from the years I spent living in EY. Is that prejudice wrong? Absolutely. But not everything that appears to be motivated by prejudice really is.]
Bottom line – your statement that among Chareidim there is a vocal minority against kiruv [assuming you meant of the rechokim variety] is where I’m still at odds with your sentiments.
As far as your point that it’s unhelpful when people of any stripe insist that it’s their way or the highway – I couldn’t agree more.
“among Chareidim there is a vocal minority against kiruv”
– “vocal” implies that it’s on the radar. i think it’s more of a cluelessness
“Again this discussion would not be necessary if we were not living in a time when divrei Chazal and Divrei Halacha have been replaced by “Shittos” in defining how we are to live and think.”
Comment by michoel halberstam — September 3, 2007 @ 11:36 am
NOTHING sums up the difference between much of the charedi world and the modern orthodox better than this statement. Given my cynical nature, i might wonder if the reason charedi culture denigrates history, is its desire to believe as written above.
At least from the days of Hillel and Shammai, we have always had “shittos.” Practice in an evolving environment, by its very nature, creates the reality of divergence. Think of our Mesorah as demanding consistency not abstract correctness; then, as long as the divergent shittot remain consistent with our (written and oral / mimetic) traditions, their “correctness” derives from the principle of “eilu ve eilu”. Once you try to step beyond that and argue for some idyllic state with a defined “answer” ALWAYS derivable from first principles, you step into a logical abyss. To the extent that such an idyllic state may have existed prior to Hillel/Shammai, as some statements of chazal imply / assert, it was likely the result of Horoah – a Beit Din haGadol, not just first principles (and shimush), that acted as an oracle. (BTW I was careful to word this from an orthodox versus orthoprax perspective, the orthoprax take / push this arguement a few steps further.)
and IMHO “divrei” is plural for multiple reasons!
Dear Dr. Gewirtz, in fact, I agree with you. The term shittos to my mind represents a shortcut which allows Jews to quantify each other not on the basis of what kind of Jew they are, but on the basis of which group they belong to and which minor, or even unnecessary beliefs and practices dominate their lives. It is clear to me that in our lifetime, and in the life time of the generation which preceded ours these notions went a long way to creating the atmosphere that one “belongs or does not” without regard to who the person is, or what he has to contribute. For example, one would ignore the fact that Rabbi Lamm is clearly right just because you don’t like where he’s coming from. You are obviously addressing something else that bothers you, for which I cannot claim any credit.