Pesach the Rabbi Served Chametz

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14 Responses

  1. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  2. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    Sounds like the title of one of the old Rabbi Small mysteries by Harry Kemmelman.

  3. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Gordimer, I too oppose the view that R. Yanklowitz conveys; in any case, it is a tad early to abandon a prayer for retribution. At best we can pray for such an era. As to Rabbi Katz’s lengthy teshuvah, I am ambivalent and I think it can be written more precisely and read more charitably. In any case it is less objectionable than blurring faces and other forms of behavior that border on misogyny. Rabbi Linzer’s piece however, is entirely consistent with and extends/clarifies Rambam’s replacement of lir’ot with le’har’ot. I am still looking for the chametz in that piece! I continue to believe if cross-currents spent time looking for excesses to the right and modern orthodox blogs dealt with those on its left, more would be accomplished.

  4. Nachum says:

    I commented elsewhere that one dangerous point about his (and others’- Lopatin and Herzfeld seem to have jumped on the bandwagon) comments on how Shfoch Chamatecha is “troubling” is that it assumes, completely out of context, that it refers to all non-Jews. How anyone can think this based on the pesukim (and they seem not to realize that they are pesukim- would they have us edit Tanach? Probably.) is beyond me, but even more: Do they think the anti-Semites of the world won’t notice this and trumpet it? “Central part of seder involves cursing all non-Jews!”

    Even more oddly, they seem to be saying that even if it doesn’t mean all non-Jews, but only anti-Semites (which, again, is the clear meaning), it still shouldn’t be said, because…why? There are no more anti-Semites in the world? What world do they live in?

  5. Jewish Observer says:

    why the obsession with OO and what they’re doing and saying

  6. Raymond says:

    Am I missing something here? Because to me, the matter is so very simple: these people calling themselves Open Orthodox, are not really Orthodox at all. The only question that remains for me regarding this, is whether they are deliberately trying to fool us into believing them to be Orthodox, or whether they have somehow falsely convinced themselves that they are still Orthodox. Either way, their whole movement sounds like some bad joke, kind of like a Jewish version of April Fool’s Day.

  7. Bruce says:

    Two separate points.

    1. I’m Conservative. I usually enjoy reading CC, and I find its thoughtful Orthodox perspective valuable. I appreciate the non-controversial topics, and I even appreciate the serious, thoughtful, and kind intellectual attacks on more liberal types of Judaism, including my own. I have a different perspective, of course, but I have learned much and in fact have modified some of my religious behavior over the years in response to some of these arguments. But with all respect, I echo Jewish Observer’s comment above. R. Gordimer’s posts are seeming more and more like an odd crusade against OO, and less and less instructive. I get the message — OO is too liberal, steers away from halacha, is really a new brand of Conservative Judaism (yuck), and no one should follow it. In fact, I got that message implicitly — at least from a traditional Orthodox perspective — when I first read some of their writings, even without R. Gordimer’s guidance. It is not hard to figure out.

    2. Are far as the particulars go, isn’t inserting our own values into the haggadah exactly what we are supposed to do. The magid section could simply tell the story, either using the words of Exodus or a simple summary. Instead, it goes to great lengths to tell the story at least four times, all from later and different perspectives.

    First, Shmuel tells the story from the perspective of a parent answering a child’s question. And the story is simple: We were slave and God freed us. We could have moved to hallel right there. But it goes on.

    Second, Rav tells the story from the perspective of the time of Joshua, who uses it to motivate people not to give in to the temptation of the day, idol worshipping. And he broadens the story: We worshiped idols, Abraham got the land, we were slaves, God freed us. now we are back in the land. Do you want to worship idols? I don’t!

    Third, we get the story from the perspective of someone offering first fruits in the land of Israel. Again, the story is broader and different. Jacob was the wandering Aramaen, his family became large, slavery, persecution, God saved us, took us to Israel, and now I am offering first fruits.

    Fourth, we get a verse-by-verse rabbinic exegesis on the wantering Aramaen story. This type of midrashic elaboration is how the rabbis of the Talmudic era analyzed stories and derived additional meaning. And this is followed by a rabbinic exegesis on the 10 plagues themselves, and the plagues at the yam suf.

    These different retellings show how later Jews used the story. Jews used it to teach their children, Joshua used it as a warning against idol worship, later Jews use it to focus on their gratitude for the land and the food, and chazal used it to derive additional meaning through detailed elaboration. Each retelling is slightly different, and each involves a different purpose.

    It seems to me that the message of the haggadah here is that we don’t just tell the story, but we USE this powerful story to inspire us and motivate us to seek freedom from all sorts of narrow places in our own day, our own and others.

  8. Bob Miller says:

    Now, if ever, we should be very aware of the need for Divine intervention on our behalf against our dangerous enemies, some of whom have attracted quite a following that includes Jews who are complicit or in denial.

  9. Jewish Observer says:

    “I echo Jewish Observer’s comment above. R. Gordimer’s posts are seeming more and more like an odd crusade against OO, and less and less instructive. I get the message — OO is too liberal, steers away from halacha, is really a new brand of Conservative Judaism”

    – a story is told about the Chazon Ish in which he chided someone for being negative about Zionism. When challenged: aren’t you also an avowed non-Zionist, he responded with a mashal. The housewife and the cat are both enemies of the mouse, but they each approach it from vastly different angles. The housewife truly hates the mouse so is glad where there aren’t any around. When one does appear her goal is to do away with it. The cat, however, wants the mouse to appear so he can ravage it. You are the cat, whereas I am the housewife

  10. tzippi says:

    Bruce said, “As far as the particulars go, isn’t inserting our own values into the haggadah exactly what we are supposed to do. The magid section could simply tell the story, either using the words of Exodus or a simple summary. Instead, it goes to great lengths to tell the story at least four times, all from later and different perspectives.”

    Good point. In fact, you can find all sorts of non-controversial hagaddos out there, such as Rabbi Dr. Twerski’s, which focuses on our own personal exoduses, whether from external or self-imposed imprisonment.

    OTOH, we are to view our experiences and values through the prism of Torah and Torah thought, not subject the Torah to contemporary mores and conventional wisdom. There is a Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, “Aseh Torascha keva,” make your Torah established. This is often explained to refer to establishing firm, non-negotiable times for Torah study. I’ve heard something attributed to Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, IIRC, that Torah is to be the “keva”, i.e. set in stone. Every thing else can change but not Torah.

    Allegra Goodman takes on creative medrash in her book Kaaterskill Falls. I don’t believe that that’s where you’re heading in the thoughtful approach you outline in your post. Unfortunately, some of OO spokespeople seem to be flirting with this, and it’s getting very hard to take them seriously, even for those who ever did.

  11. dr. bill says:

    Tzippi, When you write: “OTOH, we are to view our experiences and values through the prism of Torah and Torah thought, not subject the Torah to contemporary mores and conventional wisdom.” I believe most if not all (orthodox) Jews would agree. The question is how one addresses what some will view as ethical values that have taken on new dimensions in our era. To say that our tradition has not responded in the past, is to deny the historical record. I think the nub of the argument is who ought lead the response and how quickly, if at all, ought it proceed.

  12. tzippi says:

    Dr. Bill, that most if not all Orthodox Jews would agree is a heartening thought. Unfortunately, articles like this make me skeptical about that “all”.

  13. Yaakov Menken says:

    I concur with Avrohom Gordimer’s determination that discussion of OO remains very relevant — despite the Novominsker Rebbe’s address on the topic nearly a year ago, OO rabbis continue to take positions in what were Orthodox synagogues. As Rabbi Gordimer is himself an active member of the RCA, he’s in a position of influence.

    The story regarding the Chazon Ish is a red herring. “Jewish Observer” brings no evidence to support his obvious implication that Rabbi Gordimer’s essay is inconsistent with the Chazon Ish’s own opposition to Zionism.

    Bruce, it may be true that you “get the message” reading OO writings themselves, but there is a great deal to be spelled out. To use a salient example, though you probably knew that your understanding of the Haggadah was based upon what Conservative Rabbis told you (the same that they told me in Hebrew School), you don’t know quite the extent to which that version is at odds with the Mishnah and Talmud, Pesachim 116a.

    What you describe as the “third” and “fourth” (later) versions are explicit in the Mishnah, which tells us to say “a verse-by-verse rabbinic exegesis on the wandering Aramaen story:” “We explicate [the verses] from ‘an Aramean destroyed my father’ until he completes the entire section.” This is, of course, not “the perspective” of someone offering first fruits, but what the Torah commands every person to say in the course of offering them.

    It is the same Mishnah that says, in the immediately preceding phrase, “we begin with denigration and conclude with praise.” Rav and Shmuel, who were contemporaries, argue about the “denigration” in question. Rav (who answers first) says this refers to our forefathers having been idolators. This isn’t “because” of Joshua, but because (as we read in the Book of Joshua) Terach the father of Avraham was a leading idolator. Shmuel, who answers second, says the key “denigration” in question is that we were slaves to Pharoah. So their argument isn’t about history or the introduction of later perspectives, but about what the Mishnah intended to tell us. In our Haggadah, of course, we follow both opinions.

    As long as distortions of Torah are being produced, rebuttals are neither beating a dead horse nor an “odd crusade.” The horse is alive and stampeding, and we would do well to man the garrisons until the danger has passed.

  14. Bruce says:

    Yes, I know that the debate between Rav and Shmuel is explicit in the mishnah. And much of my knowledge of Passover in particular, and Judaism in general, comes from reading and learning as an adult, from many sources, including traditional Orthodox sources. For example, in his Pesach shir this year (linked to on this blog), R. Adlerstein asked the same question I did: why doesn’t the haggadah simply tell the story of the exodus with a few verses from Shmot. I noted the different tellings of the story several years ago and have discussed it at several of my seders.

    But my point is much simpler: how we tell a story depends on the purposes for telling it. And that determines where we start, what we include and exclude, and where we end. (This is not some new postmodern insight; Aristotle discussed it in detail in the Rhetoric.) In the haggadah, the story of the exodus is told multiple times, in different ways, with different facts, based on different texts, and from different perspectives. My conclusion from this is that the story is powerful enough to be inspiring in multiple ways and on multiple levels. I don’t think that is controversial.

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