Outside the Pale

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62 Responses

  1. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Can I respectfully suggest that when on one hand, we criticise people for using litmus tests other than halacha, and on the other, we suggest that halacha actually comprises an insufficient set of parameters, we are sacrificing consistency for the sake of apologetics?

  2. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Moishe –

    You raise an excellent point, but I can’t see any other way. We are talking about two different arenas of Torah focus. Despite hype to the contrary, Judaism is not a religion of deed alone, just as most of Christianity is not about creed alone. Both are important.

    Actions have to be judged by halachic parameters. Actions that fall short of halachic seriousness come up short.

    As I wrote, there is no real psak in areas of machshava. Of course halacha cannot be the litmus test here. But neither do we have to accept a free for all. Rabbi Leff’s “outside the pale” touchstone can and should have a place in determining what ideas and institutions we are interested in supporting and embracing.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    There is a Trojan horse factor to many attempts to legitimize thought in the gray area between heresy and Orthodoxy. Such thought can be made to serve an anti-halachic agenda even if respected sources can be used or misused in its support.

  4. la costa says:

    while not completely disagreeing with the premise, doesn’t this always give the rightest wing of chareidi judaism the right to decide what is normative? will the limit be set by who is creating the change, or the nature of the change itself?
    as an example, the role of women in O judaism–especially public roles , such as shul leadership [meaning an officer], giving a drasha/dvar tora in mixed company etc is different in chareidi vs OU audiences.
    kvod r adlerstein, while if invited, would not refuse to lecture to a mixed audience at the OU west coast convention, maybe even with a frum lady bible professor oon the panel; but wouldnt dare do that on La Brea in harediland, LA. now ,according to haredi thought , this type of MO behaviour is outside the pale–yet i dont think THAT is what he is referring to. he is probably referring to the aliyot-women chazanit type of issues.
    if so, what kashered this type of gender role behaviour– the fact that it inherently is OK; or because r shecter or r willig allowed it?
    or because it has been around for 30 yr and you dont want to write 100,000 jews, their institutions , and their $ out of the acceptable column?

    ie is all MO treyf, or just some of its ingredients?

  5. Melech Press says:

    In support of Rabbi Adlerstein’s point I would cite the comment I heard from Rav Aharon Soloveichik zt”l that one can be mistaken in a matter of belief but that every error doesn’t make one an apikoros. It is possible to be a misguided fool without being a kofer.

    Rabbi Adlerstein’s point is consistent with the well-known statement of the Rambam about the seriousness of separating oneself from the community of believers even if one is thoroughly observant of mitzvos. Such separation ought not to be taken lightly. On the other hand, the community of believers is certainly not to be defined solely by the community of ranters or fools, even if they are learned ranters. We should keep in mind that even within the Chareidi world, there are large numbers who consider the screaming of Israeli kanaim as irrelevant. Gadlus is not necessarily defined by signatures on pashkvilin, even in the heart of Chareidi communities, and certainly not among American Chareidim.

  6. joel rich says:

    As I wrote, there is no real psak in areas of machshava.
    =====================================
    iiuc that is exactly what happened recently with R’ Elyashav and the literal understanding of the world being 6000 years old.

    On the more general question, has Rabbi Leff articulated this differentiation between heretic and outside the bounds? I think it is probably not understood that way by most of his readers.

    KT

  7. Daniel Eidensohn says:

    “Rabbi Leff’s point, however, is that there are ideas and values so important and so widespread that they define the experience of a Torah Jew. It might not be forbidden for people to think differently, but if they should do so, it would not be inaccurate to say that they would be living something significantly different from the rest of the community. We would not be able to point an accusatory finger and brand them as violators of some prohibition; we could accurately say, however, that they were not Torah Jews in the colloquial sense.”

    I am bothered by the assertion that there is a new way to divide the Jewish people determined by the perceived importance of a belief and its widespread acceptance.
    Are you simply arguing that while there is absolutely no source for this pejorative label – but we nevertheless need it for crowd control? That the traditional categories of kofer or apikoros are not adequate to preserve the sanctity of the Jewish people?

    Furthermore what in fact are the consequences of being “beyond the pale”? Are you counted in a minyan.What about your wine. Can you be a witness?

    The Chasam Sofer’s view – which appears in YD 2:356 & Beitza 5a – is the only source I have seen for this view – and I have never seen it cited as authoritative. Even his justification for the view is not convincing.

    Are the following views beyond the pale? 1) belief that the world is more than 6000 years. 2) fallibility of Chazal, 3) acceptance of the view of hashgocha protis of the rishonim 4) the acceptance of the state of Israel – 5) value of secular education? 6)Daas Torah

    In sum, while I agree that the concept provides some benefit to bolster rabbinic authority – it is a loose canon as there are not even semi objective parameters that define it. The label sticks when you find people who accept it. It is unfortunately very similar to saying someone is a “fellow traveler” or “pinko”. It is an easy to say slur which is impossible to disprove. Note also that Rav Leff is saying the holder of view X is outside the pale. He is not just saying that view X is outside the pale.

  8. Garnel Ironheart says:

    > Situating oneself within these more narrow limits does not guarantee that one is “right,” but it does allow for a commonality of experience with more people in the same generation, and a sense of deep connection with generations that preceeded.

    The difficulty with this statement and Rav Adlerstein’s understand of Marc Shapiro’s position is that, in recent years, a few zealous individuals have undertaken to create the impression that the “more narrow limits” are the de facto limits to being called a Torah Jew. Thus strictures that might once have been optional are now becoming enshrined as “halacha l’Moshe miSinai”. What then happens is that if one cites poskim who didn’t hold by these strictures, one is told that they are now outside the consensus.

    Marc Shapiro deals with first principles. At the root of the matter, is a particular something permitted or forbidden? If it is permitted, even though the community consensus for centuries has been to forbid it, we must relate to the prohibition in a different manner than something which is outright forbidden on all levels. Too often the “siyag l’Torah” is treated with more holiness than it truly merits. It is this runaway thinking that Shapiro is speaking against.

  9. Tal Benschar says:

    I always find a concrete example to be helpful in making a point.

    There is an idea floating around the blogosphere that the entirety of sefer Bereishis — including the stories of the Avos and the shevatim –are all allegorical and never happened. I understand that someone recently gave a speech in which he asserted that such a view is not heretical. That may well be true — it is not clear to me which, if any of the 13 ikkarim such a view would violate.

    But frankly IMHO such a view is so against the fundamentals of Judaism and the narrative of the Torah itself in the other 4 chumashim as to be beyond the pale. A person who believes that is, IMHO, not Orthodox.

  10. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein’s idea seems indicated by the Raavad himself. The Raavad asks on the Rambam why he would consider those who believe in the corporeality of G-d heretics, if Gedolim V’Tovim Mimenu held it to be true because of their understanding of Pesukim, and especially Midrashim which are Meshabshos Es HaDeios.

    The Raavad here is making a statement that those who hold such a belief are wrong and have their Hashkafos distorted, while they are not heretics.

    Clearly, even the Raavad agrees that certain concepts can be called Deios Meshubashos – wrong and unacceptable, even if not technically heretical.

    R’ Yochanan Beckhoffer argues that the Rambam’s purpose in listing his Ikkarim was not to define the limits of Orthodox theology, but to determine whether to relate to a particular individual as a member of Klal Yisrael with the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael etc., as well as whether he will earn a share in the World to Come.

    The Raavad thought that those who held that G-d is corporeal should not lose their ticket to Olam Haba and are members of Klal Yisrael. Even the Raavad agrees, though, that it is not Orthodox theology.

  11. Charles B. Hall says:

    How can we say that anyone who does not accept all 13 of the Rambam’s principles is outside the pale when we have prayers to angels in our siddurim?

  12. Seth Gordon says:

    I think there is a subtle but very important distinction between saying “contemporary Orthodox authorities would agree that belief in X is incorrect” and saying “nobody who believes in X can be Orthodox”.

    I also fear that if we do not use the process of halakhic argument to provide some sort of touchstone for what is “Orthodox”, then nothing prevents the circle of “ideas and values so important and so widespread that they define the experience of a Torah Jew” to be drawn progressively (ahem) more and more narrowly. (At what point will belief in a universe more than 6,000 years old be considered “not really Orthodox”, even by those who agree that such belief is not actually heretical?)

  13. yitzchok shapiro says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, While I agree with the premise of your explanation of Rabbi Leff’s remarks, I can’t help but wonder where the line is drawn with regard to hashkafa that is beyond the pale. For example, many powerful voices have recently argued that the explicit hashkafa of Rishonim dealing with Chazal’s expertise in the area of science is no longer part of normative Torah belief. If a belief becomes so “widespread” in the Torah community, because its proponents simply overwhelm their opposition, does the new, “widespread” acceptance of that ideology also relegate the alternative to the status of an hashkofo that no longer “defines the experience of a Torah Jew?

  14. Esther says:

    Why is this issue only used in reference to ideas on the “left”? Why does it not apply to people on the “right” who have started enacting ideas that are contrary to how most of the Jewish world lives? This includes setting up roles for women that are just as contrary to our mesorah as the issues you write about in this article. (Such as the requirement to be the breadwinner.) Why does the “beyond the pale” label only get applied to the left and not the right, when halacha says that veering in either direction is incorrect? I think many of us who have great respect for Rabbi Adlerstein would be interested in an explanation of this.

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, R Yitzchak Blau published a very detailed and incisive critical review of R D M Shapiro’s book in one of the issues of the TuM Journal. WADR to Rav Leff’s critique, I think that R Blau’s review raises questions of a more fundamental nature on the Orthodox-Orthoprax dichotomy as well as the methodology of how one selects sources. R Leff’s critique represents the POV of a distinguished Charedi rav and Baal Machshavah. R Blau’s critique is that of a RZ and MO Baal Machshavah, which IMO should be read by anyone interested in this issue.

  16. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Independent of the details of the debate, I agree with R. Alderstein (and perhaps even Dr. Shapiro), that despite disagreements, Rambam’s Ikarim are widely accepted as defining Orthodoxy’s articles of faith. However, at this point, I strongly part company. “Baalei Machshava” like R. Leff and R. Alderstein ought to be nervous about that state of affairs as opposed to trying, at least partially, to defend it. I believe that Orthodoxy, as defined by the wider community, will continue to face yet more severe challenges from history, archeology, literary analysis, etc. not to mention, science and medicine. Asserting too many (preferred, acceptable, inside-the-pale, pick whatever adjective you like) Ikrei heEmunah will likely force adherents to yet more primitive beliefs and encourage further statements by chareidi leaders that are hardly defensible. Understanding that even Rambam may not be listing universally accepted fundamental beliefs and was, on occasion, reflecting the philosophy of his time is critical. Heaven forbid we study why the Ikarim were written, their historical context and how they relate to MT and MN.

    Charedi-lite thinkers are caught between a rock and a hard place, constrained by the statements and bans that continue unabated. Forget the age of the earth, and the ridicule positions on that issue can engender. Take something as concrete as the earth’s size about which a former chareidi icon found it necessary to assert, and I paraphrase (with emphasis added): Who needs science, hafoch bah … This was already known to Chazal! before blatantly and, alas, unknowingly, repeating an error, one that I would guess, mischievously, was based on Chazal’s knowledge of the science of their day. The beat goes on, and if one is opposed to some/many of its excesses, then I would suggest that one ought to worry about the orthodoxy that provides its intellectual foundation. Perhaps, think of Dr. Shapiro as a welcome ally in questioning that intellectual foundation. Walking your thin line is, IMHO, at best, ineffective, if I am right about your objective.

  17. Daniel Eidensohn says:

    Comment by Binyomin Eckstein

    The Raavad here is making a statement that those who hold such a belief are wrong and have their Hashkafos distorted, while they are not heretics.

    Clearly, even the Raavad agrees that certain concepts can be called Deios Meshubashos – wrong and unacceptable, even if not technically heretical.

    This is a mistaken understanding of the Raavad. He was simply arguing that the person who sincerely held these views is not himself an apikorus though the views themselves are heretical.

    This is eluciated in the literature of nebach apikorus. See pages 88-92 in my sefer Daas Torah.

    Rav Elchonon Wasserman says in Explanations of Agados #2: The view of the Rambam is that a person who believes G d is physical is a heretic. The Raavad commented: “There are greater and better people than the Rambam who erred in this issue because of mistakenly accepting the literal meaning of verses and agada.” I heard in the name of Rav Chaim Brisker that the Rambam views that there is no such thing as inadvertent heresy. Irrespective of how a person arrives at a mistaken belief, the fact is that he believes something which is heretical. Furthermore, it is impossible to be a member of the Jewish people without proper faith. Rav Chaim used to say that “a nebach apikorus (mistaken heretic) is also a heretic.” It would appear that he must be correct since all heretic and idol worshippers are mistaken. Obviously there is no one more mistaken than one who sacrifices his son for idol worship and yet he is subject to capital punishment.

    Similarly Rav Sternbuch told me that he regards the assertion of an ancient universe to be heresy but that he accepts the view of the Raavad that those who assert it are not heretics.

  18. Natan Slifkin says:

    I am going to surprise everyone here by essentially agreeing with Rabbi Adlerstein. But I am not at all certain that Rabbi Adlerstein is saying the same thing as Rabbi Leff. It seems to me that Rabbi Adlerstein is saying something very simple:

    If someone possesses beliefs that are considered unacceptable by a majority of the community, it would not be inaccurate to say that they would be living something significantly different from the rest of the community!

    That doesn’t need to mean that there is a flaw in their theological beliefs. (Which is one reason why Dr. Shapiro’s book is so valuable.) But it does mean that they are making a break with their community, which is no small matter.

    People have asked, what about believing that the world is billions of years old, or that Chazal relied on faulty science (to pick some random examples!). Some may be surprised to hear this coming from me, but I do believe that IF (and it can be debated as to whether this is the case) the chareidi community has decided that such beliefs are fundamentally wrong, then one cannot possess such beliefs openly and consider oneself a card-carrying member of the chareidi community!

    Of course, it is important to remember that there is no one single community in Orthodoxy. There are Litvaks and Chassidim, Sefardim and Ashkenazim, Charedi and Torah u’Madda. What is unacceptable in one community may be perfectly acceptable in another (which is another reason why Dr. Shapiro’s book is so valuable). But it may also be possible to sketch the definitions of a larger community, and to say that someone possessing beliefs that are unacceptable to everyone else has placed themselves outside of the larger community.

    Again, I don’t think that this is what Rabbi Leff was saying – he was saying that people with these beliefs are theologically outside of JUDAISM, not sociologically outside of the Jewish community. But I think that this may be what Rabbi Adlerstein is saying, and Dr. Shapiro may well agree with it.

  19. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    #11 Charles B. Hall: I think that the prayers to angels should be understood as metaphor rather than something we really mean literally theologically.

    #16 Dr. Gewirtz: WADR I try hard to keep up with the alphabet soup around here. I don’t always get all the initials of the rabbis. As for MT and MN, IIUC MT is Matan Torah. Is MN masoret neviim, or what. Can we dealphabetize a little bit around here? ROTFL.

    General comments: The dangers of witch hunts are great. The people who live or pretend to live in the ghettos of old are forgetting that educationally such behavior is dangerous because it can induce people, especially young people, to kick over the traces and go off the derech.
    Nevertheless the claim that there are some technically permissible positions that stretch things a bit. I am thinking of the edgy side of Chabad meshichist and Breslav Nanach. Back in my anti-missionary volunteer days I met a halachically observant fellow who believed JC was not G-d but was or will be Moshiach. This is a wrong position, a foolish one, but by saying that the Yeshu of the censored Chazals is not the JC of the NT it might avoid both idolatry and frontally crossing Chazal. But it is still very much beyond the pale. This meant sociologically he was hanging out with Christians and was giving missionaries aid and comfort. This would be a good example of a legitimate tightening of the boundaries of acceptability. I wouldn’t touch his wine with a ten-foot pole. Jump from this to a Moshichist who says the same things about the Rebbe that he says about JC. My palms begin to sweat. Writers and readers, your opinions, please.

  20. S. says:

    What about this?

    A question was asked of R. Leff and he said the following:

    >”Is a person who does not believe that the Zohar was revealed to Shimon bar Yochai counted as a heretic–Dovid from Beit Shemesh–the authenticity of the Zohar has been accepted by Klal Yisrael, and therefore one who does not believe in the Zohar as being a part of Torah she-be-‘al peh is, yes, a heretic.”

    Hear the recording:

    http://onthemainline.googlepages.com/R.LeffontheZohar.m4a

  21. ka says:

    “There is indeed a huge amount of latitude in what people can believe without being halachically termed heretics. There is usually no firm psak about matters of hashkafa. The counterexample cited by the Chasam Sofer in his last teshuva in Yoreh Deah likely has no peer. (The opinion of Hillel that the redemption would come without a human redeemer was fully rejected by a vote of his contemporary amoraim; there is no parallel with minority opinions regarding other principles of faith.)”

    This is not the Chasam Sofer’s opinion. The Chasam Sofer says in this teshuva that all the Rambam’s principles of faith are binding since all are ratified by the gemara. He only gives one example, regarding moshiach, but his claim is general regarding all of the rambam’s ikarim.

  22. ja says:

    “Similarly Rav Sternbuch told me that he regards the assertion of an ancient universe to be heresy but that he accepts the view of the Raavad that those who assert it are not heretics.”

    I’ve heard this sort of claim several times since the Slifkin ban, and do not understand it. If a Conservative or Reform rabbi does not believe in TMS, will R Shternbuch consider him a valid eid on a get? Will he drink his wine, etc etc? Why can we not say he is espousing a heretical view, but is not himself an apikores, since he is sincerely mistaken?

    If the view when it comes to ikarim is nebach a apikores is also an apikores, so how is it that when it comes to issues that are not formally included in the ikarim, one can suddenly follow the Raavad? If one can drink the wine of someone who espouses ancient U., why can one not drink the wine of someone who follows Reform teachings on TMS. The latter is no less a tinok shenishba than the former.

    If you are in a position to ask R Shternbuch, I would appreciate clarification.

  23. yoni says:

    “Similarly Rav Sternbuch told me that he regards the assertion of an ancient universe to be heresy but that he accepts the view of the Raavad that those who assert it are not heretics.”

    Is he then asserting that the ramban is then a heretic? an honest reading of his comentary forces such a conclusion, not to mention that his student, rav yitzchak of akko held and explicitly stated that this was the ramban’s personaly stated oppinion to his students. (Rabbi kaplan repeats the entire sourcing in his sefer yitzira.)

    I thought that we had a principle of not “Casting aspersions on our father’s” ie, declairing what they did in practice to be traif. (which is reason why we don’t keep certain halachot that should be fact with regards to two day yomim tovim, rosh hashana in particular.) This is one of the large problems I have with declaring many of the different practices traif that were reacently declared so.

  24. Jacob Haller says:

    Reply to S.

    What about it? I don’t mean to be patronizing but how is it relevant to the issue of this thread? Rabbi Alderstein was discussing a dichotomous rift between Rav Leff and Marc Shapiro regarding Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith.

    If Rav Alderstein’s take on this is correct

    “the essence of Rabbi Leff’s argument is that one need not be adjudged to be a heretic to nonetheless stand firmly outside the boundaries of the Torah community”

    it doesn’t mean that the heretic label is NEVER applicable.

    Perhaps the term “Torah community” wasn’t defined clearly enough to zero in on boundaries (thus providing fodder for Natan Slifkin’s interpretation) but IMO it doesn’t completely disable the use of terms like “heretic” in absolutist’s terms.

  25. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Rabbi Eidensohn, see Even Shesiyah by R’ Yochanan Beckhoffer, pp. 54-55, quoting R’ Yaakov Weinberg of Ner Yisrael, that the Raavad’s argument on the Rambam is limited to the third Ikkar, and that the Raavad held it was not an Ikkar.

  26. joel rich says:

    How can we say that anyone who does not accept all 13 of the Rambam’s principles is outside the pale when we have prayers to angels in our siddurim?

    Comment by Charles B. Hall
    ====================================================
    Charlie,
    One could argue that the angels are cogs in the machine, not independent powers (I tend to agree with you but…)
    KT

  27. zach says:

    Yehoshua Friedman: I think that the prayers to angels should be understood as metaphor rather than something we really mean literally theologically.

    I see, it must be a metaphor because otherwise it proves Marc Shapiro’s point that not all of the Rambam’s ikkarim (in this case #5) were always universally accepted…

  28. zal says:

    I think that much of the criticism regarding Rav Leff’s response to Dr Shapiro’s article was that he basically does not have a grasp of the sources like Shapiro. This was very apparent in Shapiro’s followup responses that showed how Rav Leff was in error (or ignorant about) much of the source material. And that simple fact detracted from Rav Leff’s message.

    Rav Leff is a talmud chacham (and I say this as a result of what rabbaim have told me as I am not qualified to judge) as well as a brilliant speaker (and this I AM qualified to judge – if you have a chance to hear him in person do so!) but he is not a scholar in the classical sense of the word. If you have a kasha about a gemara, you’d ask Rav Leff. But if you have a question about a lesser known rishon’s comment on Moreh Nevuchim, you’ll almost certainly want to ask Marc Shapiro!

  29. DF says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein’s post is an example of the tangled web we weave when we blur the boundaries between halacha and hashkafa. There are chapters in the Mishne Torah devoted to who is and who isn’t an apikores. There are halachic ramifications too, eg, with regard to use of their wine. Now Rabbi Adlerstein suggests it is permissible, yet still unacceptable? What opinionated Jew – and we all are – will accept someone else’s view as to what is “unacceptable”?

    I actually agree with the sentiments described by Rabbi Adlerstein. But he should recognize the slippery slope he is entering. If ultimate issues such as heresy are so loosely defined, what are we to say about issues such as tzenius? Until now the schools have taught that women’s pants are outright prohibited. Will this also morph into permitted, but unacceptable?

  30. Gil Student says:

    I agree with Rabbi Adlerstein. A belief can be seen as being wrong, perhaps dangerously wrong, even if it is not heresy.

    Regarding the question that this obviously raises, I think the record shows that R. Natan Slifkin’s views have ample support within the Jewish tradition and are not wrong.

  31. michoel halberstam says:

    At the risk of seeming over simple in my thinking, I would like to ask, what is the point of this discussion? Is it that we are trying to define ourselves, each staking out where he or she stands, and we would like to be in the mainstream? Or are we looking for a vehicle whereby we can effectively criticize certain beliefs without being called narrow (after all, we didn’t call them apikorsim). Or are we just troubled by the notion that Hashkofo, unlike Halacha, does not require Hachra’a. This means that, in most cases, we don’t need to decide what is right, and the community of ideas should be left alone.

    I understand the danger of such thinking. On the other hand, Chazal do say” Kshaim she’ain pnaihem shavos, Kach ain dayosayhem shavos” excuse the spelling, but doesn’t this mean that different people just think differently?

    I think the only real issue is how much we want to open this discussion to little children who haven’t learned enough. With respect to adults, however, maybe it’s not so terrible that people disagree

  32. Larry Rabinovich says:

    RE Binyomin’s comment #10.

    It is certainly the current standard interpretation of the Raavad on Teshuva 3:7 that you have provided, one that both you and I am comfortable with. ( It was also mentioned on this site a few weeks back in response to one of Dr Gewirtz’s posts). But I am not sure that it is what the Raavad meant. There is evidence that the Raavad was concerned that the Rambam’s formulation would cast aspersions on certain Kabbalistic beliefs ( remnants of which we retain in places such as the selihot between Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur)which the Raavad believe quite firmly . Raavad almost certainly believed that he and his teachers were “gedolim and tovim ” vis-a-vis the Rambam.

  33. Larry Rabinovich says:

    That should have read ” both you and I are”; also “Raavad believed.” Two mistakes in six lines. If one of my associates did that I would have roared at him ( or her).

  34. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    “#11 Charles B. Hall: I think that the prayers to angels should be understood as metaphor rather than something we really mean literally theologically.”

    “One could argue that the angels are cogs in the machine, not independent powers (I tend to agree with you but…)”

    If either of these examples are acceptible, what prohibits very lenient interpretations of the other 12 as well. When do they lose their meaning?

    “one who does not believe in the Zohar as being a part of Torah she-be-’al peh”

    That is not the same as saying it was not written by Rabbi Shimon.

    FWIW I recently visited a congregation that does not recite the “Berich shmei”. I asked the rabbi and he said that the ancestors of the founders removed it from the nusach after the Shabbatai Tzvi disaster. That isn’t quite the same as saying it isn’t part of TSBP, but it is a serious matter to remove something from the liturgy.

    “schools have taught that women’s pants are outright prohibited”

    Religious Zionist Kibbutzim say on their internet site that trousers are permitted for women, at least on the Kibbutz:
    http://www.kdati.org.il/info/mesimot/ulpan/Rules_form070514.doc
    (The age range here is 18-28.)

  35. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    ka writes #21 –
    This is not the Chasam Sofer’s opinion. The Chasam Sofer says in this teshuva that all the Rambam’s principles of faith are binding since all are ratified by the gemara. He only gives one example, regarding moshiach, but his claim is general regarding all of the rambam’s ikarim.

    I once thought that way as well. Rabbi J David Bleich, who not only is as hefty a talmid chacham as they come in America, but also wrote a book on the ikarim, took strong exception. After looking at the Chasam Sofer again, I bow to his opinion.

  36. tzippi says:

    I am not an intellectual so am straining my brain following this. What I see as a possible fundamental dividing line is, what are the practical ramifications, that is, how does it impact how one Jewishly lives his/her life? IOW, if someone believes that the book of Bereishis is allegorical, s/he may well be skeptical about the Divine origin of the Torah and mitzvos, and fundamntal concepts such as maaseh avos, etc. If someone believes that the world is more than 5767 and a fraction years old, but completely believes that Hashem created the world and universe, in whatever time frame, and is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and intimately involved in the running of the universe, s/he will not necessarily be skeptical about the Divine origin of the Torah and mitzvos. I’m sure I’m oversimplifying.

    And I’m not clear about prayers to angels. Is it prayers to, or about, angels?

  37. Michab Berger says:

    When dealing with actual hersesy, such as kefirah, apiqursus, and meenus, there are certainly halachic rulings. Whose wine may I use? Is this person’s conversion valid? Can they be counted toward a minyan. All of these halachic decisions depend in part on defining heresy. In addition to considering other factors.It is clear from Hilkhos Teshuvah ch 2 that Maimonides uses this same list of 13 articles of faith were his definition of those terms.

    And so, I would consider the question to be very much about heresy (or the 3 Hebrew equivalencts), not merely some looser concept of defying norm. And, because the issue as defined in this way is amenable to halachic process, one can’t simply invent new heresies of whole cloth.

  38. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “We would not be able to point an accusatory finger and brand them as violators of some prohibition; we could accurately say, however, that they were not Torah Jews in the colloquial sense.”

    I am concerned, like others, that this will be used to de-legitimize and brand as beyond the pale Science/Torah ideas which were previously acceptable in parts of the yeshivah world.

    “We use the term “heretic” too loosely; in that regard, we would be well served to take some of Dr Shapiro’s points to heart”

    This may be the idea of “kol hamoseif gorea”, that adding is subtracting.

    In the TuM review , R. Yitzchak Blau concludes from the fact that certain sharp statements were used to describe some gedolim’s ideas as “heresy”, that misuse of the term “heresy” may have gotten out of hand, and he accordingly sees Dr. Shapiro’s book as a resource against “increasing dogmatism”. While I have no wish to get involved in machalokes(dispute) among gedolim, I extrapolated from this point one of my own(unrelated to R. Blau’s review), that expanding the Limit of Torah Theology on the Right, may make less-sacred boundaries on the Left as well. Kol hamoseif gorea may therefore at least be a concern when considering rejecting Science/Torah positions which were previously deemed acceptable, in that it makes less sacred the boundaries on the Left.

  39. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “I believe that Orthodoxy, as defined by the wider community, will continue to face yet more severe challenges…The beat goes on, and if one is opposed to some/many of its excesses, then I would suggest that one ought to worry about the orthodoxy that provides its intellectual foundation.” (Dr. Gewirtz, comment # 16)

    Rabbi Berel Wein discusses in the appendix to his work on Medieval Jewish history how fleshing out ikkarie emunah had historical causes and background to it. Interest in Dr. Shapiro’s work came in the context of discussion in the Torah Umaddah Journal about acceptable intellectual inquiry, and the current eruptions of Science/Torah disputes added relevance to what are basic Torah beliefs; I believe that there will be a more comprehensive response from the Torah world regarding these issues, just as there was in medieval times when confronting foreign ideas.

    A separate point to consider is the comparison and contrast of today’s era with 19th century Volozhin. In what way is Orthodox world, and Charedi world in particular, better or worse off? Should responses be inner- focused such as Mussar Movement was to Haskalah, or should we build higher and thicker external fences, as in fencing out the internet, or should there be people directly engaging foreign ideas, as was indeed done by some European gedolim? Even if we would not directly engage every foreign idea and instead focus inward, perhaps public discussion and debate will at least need to be more nuanced and be less complacent, if we are sensitive to the historical comparisons.

  40. Dovid Kornreich says:

    Gil student wrote above #30:
    I agree with Rabbi Adlerstein. A belief can be seen as being wrong, perhaps dangerously wrong, even if it is not heresy.

    I take this to mean that he agrees to the idea that even if a belief has sources in minority opinions and is not heresy, it can still be wrong-even dangerously wrong.
    That is why he too, opposes Dr. Shapiro’s work.

    But then he says the following:

    Regarding the question that this obviously raises, I think the record shows that R. Natan Slifkin’s views have ample support within the Jewish tradition and are not wrong.
    Comment by Gil Student —

    If he is refering to the non-literal understanding of Bereishis, I don’t see how R. Natan Slifkin’s views are any less wrong than Dr. Shapiro’s.
    Having support from the Ralbag, and hotly disputed support from a sub-visual view of the Rambam (meaning, you can’t find it anywhere in the Moreh and you can find many explicit statements that are against it) is not ample enough to save this view from being wrong. Dangerously wrong.

    If Gil Student was not intending to defend R. Slifkin’s view of the non-literal understanding of Bereishis, then why doesn’t he (and R’ Adlerstein as well,) acknowledge that severe criticism of R. Slifkin’s view of Bereishis as dangerously wrong is fully warranted?

  41. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Baruch Horowitz — December 19, 2007 @ 1:21 am:

    More emphasis needs to be placed on arming all Jews at all ages with a detailed understanding of the world and our role and duties in it according to our Mesorah, and a burning desire to do HaShem’s will. No external defense measures can possibly insulate an ignorant, unmotivated Jew from all possible temptations and false notions. Any defensive strategy that dulls a Jew’s ability to think also makes him more vulnerable, especially to unanticipated dangers.

    It is also foolish to try to be a hero by opening oneself up to more known or unknown dangers than one can handle.

  42. Am Kshe Oref says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    I’m somewhat surprised you seem to have ignored Esther’s comment to you (comment 14) and her request for an explanation as to why the “beyond the pale” label only gets applied to the left and not the right, when halacha says that veering in either direction is incorrect. Have you an answer? Yehoshua was commanded “Lo Sasur YAMIN o Smol,” and Yamin, to the right, is mentioned first, implying it’s even more wrong to be noteh to the right than to the left. Further, the Torah itself tells us not lean either way. Why is this ignored in the Chareidi world? Why are people to the left the ONLY ones considered doing the wrong thing, but not the ones to the right?

  43. Shlomo says:

    A few people have noted that a heretic can’t touch Jewish wine? What is the basis for this statement? I understand that it applies to an idolator and some hold also a Sabbath violator, but on what basis can one say that if someone has a false doctrine, but is an observant Jew, that his wine is no good. I can’t find that anywhere in the Rambam or Shulhan Aruch

  44. Gil Student says:

    Dovid,

    Your opinions on this matter have not caused me to budge one bit. I will not be baited into another drawn-out debate in which I have to spend even more time pointing out exactly what I find objectionable in your arguments and presentations. I am merely reaffirming my previous statement: “Regarding the question that this obviously raises, I think the record shows that R. Natan Slifkin’s views have ample support within the Jewish tradition and are not wrong.”

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    Baruch Horowitz-I would suggest that a careful reading of R Blau’s review article in the TuM Journal would lead the reader to the conclusion that while R Blau applauds R D Shapiro’s goal, he was not so pleased with the methodology,sources cited and alternative set of fundamental beliefs. IOW, while Rishonim and Acharonim have discussed the Ikarim at length, R D Shapiro’s book leaves the reader wondering what, if any, are the crucial elements of Judasim. That conclusion ignores the fact that we affirm Creation, Revelation and many other critical elements every time that we say a bracha or Tefilah, especially Musaf of RH.

  46. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Allow me the assumption that speaking of God’s anger is not different than speaking of His finger. I suspect if one took a poll of Orthodox Jews (and Rabbis) and their thoughts about believing in God’s anger, we might be down to 12 Ikarim. I do not think that talking about “acceptable” beliefs based on generally accepted beliefs is just a slippery slope as some have suggested; in my mind it has already descended. To be clear, I believe we have fundamental tenets of our faith and non-believers are heretics; can those tenets be precisely articulated in binding fashion is a different question.

  47. joel rich says:

    R’SB,
    R’MS of course can answer for himself but iiuc his goal was to research a particular issue, not to write a redemptive essay. Interesting that on this list one sometimes sees posts that articulately do something similar but then have a paragraph or line at the end (which, at least to me ,seem unnaturally grafted on) to belay concerns similar to yours.
    KT

  48. michoel halberstam says:

    I once after a careful reading and comparison of Yigdal and the language of the Ani Maamin which is, as we know wa paraphrase of the Rambam’s exposition ofthe ikkarim in Sanhedrin. It seems possible, if not obvious that Yigdal departs from Ani Maamin in five significant places. Some of these departures suggest that the actual ikkar itself may have been understood differently by the author of Yigdal. We know that the Arizal, and most Chassidishe Tzadikim of the early peiod objected to reciting Yigdal Aside from those who just think that Chassidim have to be wrong, Can one account for all this without confronting the issue that the nature of what the ikkarim are has not always been understood by everyone the same way.

  49. Gil says:

    michoel,

    The Yigdal is actually a very good summary of the Rambam’s 13 ikkarim. Its author had a good grasp of the Rambam’s philosophy. The Ani Ma’amins have many contradictions to the Rambam’s actual ikkarim. R. Chaim Hirschenson has a fairly extensive analysis of this in one of his teshuvos and others have written about this also.

  50. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    I think part of the problem with Dr. Shapiro’s very fine and learned book is the title. The book does NOT really set forth the limits of Orthodox theology, except to say that the 13 ikkarim do not define those limits. But what are they? Good question.

    With reference to the main point: I do not believe that it is accurate say with reference to some of the ikkarim that only “isolated voices” opposed them. Certainly this does not hold true for ikkarim 5 and 8.

    What particularly disturbed me about Rabbi Leff’s review, aside from some of his (in my view) carping and at times inaccurate criticisms of some of Dr. Shapiro’s specific points, is the following. Rabbi Leff’s review was a review of two books: Dr. Shapiro’s and a book based on the lectures of Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, on the 13 ikkarim. Rabbi Leff, however, did not challenge any of Rav Yaakov’s highly innovative and, in my view, questionable or at the very least debatable theses, while ripping into Dr. Shapiro’s views. It would almost seem as if Rashei Yeshiva are not to be criticized, even on scholarly matters, while academics are fair game.

  51. Steve Brizel says:

    Joel Rich-Are you aware of anywhere in print where R SD Shapiro has addressed the issues raised by R Yitzchak Blau?

  52. ka says:

    “Having support from the Ralbag, and hotly disputed support from a sub-visual view of the Rambam (meaning, you can’t find it anywhere in the Moreh and you can find many explicit statements that are against it)”

    It’s not subvisual in the meforshim on Rambam. See here for some of the references:
    http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/LetterToJO.pdf

  53. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Steve,

    I might not have made it clear in the previous comment, but I support and believe in the Rambam’s ikkarim. It is also obvious from the review that Rabbi Blau was taking issue with the latitude which Dr. Shapiro allowed.

    I just observed an independent point(Rabbi Blau wasn’t making it in the precise way I did, thus I “extrapolated” it) that a loose usage of “heresy” in reference to an issue such as Zionism, may very well generate more interest in Dr. Shapiro’s position to some extent or another.

    Similarly, if an idea was acceptable as recently as in the era of Rav Hirsch, but in today’s generation is said to be beyond the pale, then one has effectively given more flux and instability to principles of faith–kol hamoseif goreia. You can disagree with this concern, but I’m simply mentioning it as a possibility.

    Bob,

    I agree with your comment.

  54. Binyamin says:

    I cannot claim any sort of expertise inthe Rambams thought, but from the little I have done it seems clear that his Ikarim are based on his Aristotelian philosophy. I do not believe that he bases his Ikarim on the Tanach or Gemara, but they are rather the result oh his conception of what G-d must be like to be a logically coherent concept. This is particualry true of the more specific Ikarim he gives, such as that man cannot comprehend G-d. If this is correct, would requiring belief in the Rambams Ikarim also require us to accept the rest of his philosophy?

    The only Ikarrim which actually appear in the Torah are the existence of G-d, without any specifics, and that He gave the immutable Torah to Moshe.
    The acceptance of the Torah as a binding document is an Ikar in the sense that without it one is simply not playing the game, so its not relevant to discuss his beliefs.
    Does any other Ikar have a clear source in the Torah?

  55. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding Comment by LAWRENCE KAPLAN — December 20, 2007 @ 11:20 pm:

    This comment ended, “It would almost seem as if Rashei Yeshiva are not to be criticized, even on scholarly matters, while academics are fair game.”

    On the whole, Rashei Yeshiva have had a more authentic understanding of Judaism than academics, so hashkafic statements by the former are normally considered to be more authoritative, even when these might appear to be bold or innovative. Many academics look at traditional Judaism as an outsider would.

  56. ka says:

    “I once thought that way as well. Rabbi J David Bleich, who not only is as hefty a talmid chacham as they come in America, but also wrote a book on the ikarim, took strong exception. After looking at the Chasam Sofer again, I bow to his opinion.”

    I responded to this, but the comment did not go through. I see now that he does not state this specifically. But how then do you understand that he considers violations of ikarim to be violations of belief in torah and neviim?

  57. Zev T. says:

    “On the whole, Rashei Yeshiva have had a more authentic understanding of Judaism than academics…”

    Care to back up that assertion? Assuming that “authentic” means “accurate,” the exchange between Rav Leff and Dr. Shapiro would very much seem to support the conclusion that academics have a more accurate understanding of Judaism than Rashei Yeshiva.

  58. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Zach,
    I’m not saying praying to angels is a metaphor in order to encircle Marc Shapiro in a circular argument. I simply do not have that intention when I say those prayers and don’t believe that others have it either. If there is someone who really believes he is praying to angels (how would Rabbi Angel feel about that?), speak up.

  59. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Charles Hall referred to the religous kibbutzim permitting women to wear pants. I’m not being dogmatic, but that is a movement which, although officially Orthodox, does not always scrupulously consult with poskim. Find me a rav who poskened that way (there may be one) and then we can decide what the basis is, if it’s mainstream, and all the other stuff that everybody is arguing about. But this alone is mere sociology and insufficient evidence.

  60. michoel halberstam says:

    Gil, regarding Ani Maamin versus Yigdal, how do you account for the fact that Yigdal does not contain the phrase “: Aino Rouy L’hispalel lezuloso,” an idea reflected in both Ani Maamin and The Perush Hamishnayos. Michoel

  61. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding, “Comment by michoel halberstam — December 24, 2007 @ 10:18 am”:

    Some of my other ideas of this type have been called balebatish (oh, no!), but anyway…

    There is only so much one can put intelligibly into a concise prayer-poem with rhyme and meter such as Yigdal. I don’t think the cited omission implies any tolerance for worship to other than HaShem. This could also explain any other perceived deviations of the poetic, highly abridged Yigdal from Rambam’s long formulation.

  1. January 5, 2008

    […] Note that this might have some bearing on the previous discussion concerning what is “Outside the Pale” — that although one cannot point to certain beliefs and cry “heresy,” one […]

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