Response to Dr. Marc Shapiro: Good Shot, but Wrong Target

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65 Responses

  1. Einer Aza says:

    I  have not heard a message from tradition on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Why is not being on the Israeli side a repudiation of tradition? It may be wrong, and it may be the easiest quote to appeal to the masses, but it has zero to do with tradition, or indeed Hashkafa or Halacha. It is merely factual.

    • Zev says:

      Traditionally, Jews do not side with those who hate Jews and wish to destroy them. They do not give succor to those who express the wish to kill all Jews.

  2. Marc says:

    I said that I would apologize to Rabbi Gordimer if I was wrong in characterizing his refusal to mention by name the people he attacks. So here it is. I was wrong and retract what I said and can also post this retraction on the Seforim Blog.

    I also apologize if any of my other words were ill-chosen.

    However I stand by my main point that Rabbi Gordimer devotes an inordinate amount of time to this subject and that he unfairly tars many rabbis and laypeople who haven’t done anything wrong. If Rabbi Gordimer looked closer he would see that there are many such people who are devoted to Torah and mitzvot. The reader doesn’t come away with this sense.  The reader comes away thinking that they all want to undermine Torah. That is simply not true.

    I fully acknowledge that I am not objective. Every couple of years I teach a class on the history of Jewish denominations at YCT.  Is that now a crime?

    Before teaching this class I knew nothing about the institution and might have felt the same way as Rabbi Gordimer, but it was the experience of meeting the students that showed me that they can do a lot of good and I have seen this with my own eyes. Just because someone identifies as OO does not mean that they have to be thrown out of Orthodoxy.

    As I said already, I have no problem with criticism of OO and no one has ever mistaken me for an adherent of OO.  But I believe in fair play and giving credit where credit is due.  I also regret writing my piece since people’s opinions are so strongly held on this matter that it is hard to have real dialogue and try to understand the other side.

    I thank Rabbi Gordimer for responding in a respectful manner.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • Avraham Marks says:

      You know, “I’m sorry you’re such a jerk” is hardly an apology.

    • Shmuel Landesman says:

      I am very impressed by your apology. Kol hakavod.

      [However I stand by my main point that Rabbi Gordimer devotes an inordinate amount of time to this subject and that he unfairly tars many rabbis and laypeople who haven’t done anything wrong. ]

      What’s the definition of inordinate?

      Who does he tar that haven’t done anything wrong?

    • YbhM says:

      However I stand by my main point that Rabbi Gordimer devotes an inordinate amount of time to this subject and that he unfairly tars many rabbis and laypeople who haven’t done anything wrong. If Rabbi Gordimer looked closer he would see that there are many such people who are devoted to Torah and mitzvot. The reader doesn’t come away with this sense.  The reader comes away thinking that they all want to undermine Torah. That is simply not true.

      If it’s appropriate to criticize R. Gordimer for supposedly unfairness to OO leaders who are allegedly not heterodox in the manner of Melanie Landau or Zev Farber, then it should be appropriate to criticize these same OO leaders for not objecting to the heterodox views of Landau and Farber.

      • R.B. says:

        YbhM,

        I believe that what prevents OO from criticizing views held by Landau and Farber is that this goes against the OO  community and leadership model, which espouses openness, a “big tent” concept. OO is ideologically prevented from writing anybody out of the tent, and has to allow all views to be presented, even views that should be criticized or are excessive (maybe its part of a “circle the wagons” mentality”). So far I have looked to see if OO leadership has made redlined, and unless I missed something, I haven’t seen it yet. Hence, your comment and R’ Gordimer’s approach are justified.

    • R.B. says:

      Dr. Shapiro,

      I have one question for you. You talk about “inordinate” focus by R’ Gordimer on OO, which may or may not be true. However, you point seems to be that there is plently on the “Right” to criticize and focus on, which R’ Gordimer does not do. However, I should point out that really, R’ Gordimer is one of the few to point out the excesses and issues with OO. Meanwhile, the Right receives the bulk of focus, criticism in blogs, websites, social media, etc. There is no lack of that, including your constant Seforim blog posts, R’ Natan Slifkin’s blog, UOJ, the now defunct False Messiah, etc. If anything (and I am not saying commenting on the propriety of such a focus) what R’ Gordimer does is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the counter-criticism leveled against the Right and Chareidism. It is not even at all. So, I say that OO, which is really not subjec to the same scrutiny, should learn to live with what I believe is a valuable service provided by R’ Gordimer, and the fact that OO is so thin-skinned points to me to the fact that they themselves realize that what they are doing is unprecented, on the fringe, and affects their self-appointed titles of being “Orthodox”.

      • S.B. says:

        Extremely well said.

        I’m not sure what Dr Shapiros point is. Is he going to feel better if R’ Gordimer starts criticizing charedim more? Will he feel more loved?

  3. David Ohsie says:

    [I]t must be noted that Dr. Shapiro is an adjunct faculty member at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), bringing into question the objectivity of his arguments.

    It’s hard to make sense of this argument.   He was giving his opinion, not reporting the news.  Do you think that his true opinion is that YCT is non-orthodox, but he claims to consider them Orthodox because they pay him? (BTW, he reported on Seforim Blog that his relationship consisted of “[S]ometimes a teach[ing] a class there on the history of Jewish denominations.”

    Dr. Shapiro has devoted a major portion of his professional career to questioning the accepted doctrines and approaches of traditional Orthodoxy.

    IMO, this is a pretty serious distortion (either that or very poorly written).  Some of Professor Shapiro’s writings show that the range of Traditional and Orthodox Jewish thought is wider than what you typically encounter in Yeshiva.  His professional writing, AFAIK, is academic in nature and reports on doctrines and approaches (and does not “question” them other than to reconcile them internally).  And when he does offer an opinion, he is very charitable towards groups and approaches that don’t align with his own (fully Orthodox) preferences.

    This statement makes it sound like he is some kind of professional anti-Orthodox polemicist.

    In stark contrast, Dr. Shapiro addresses the subject of meta-halachic principles impacting p’sak – which is a wholly different concept. For here we speak not of external, secular or worldly considerations being blended with Torah sources, but we instead speak of halachic adjudication that flows from a specific Torah orientation. In other words, we have before us the case of p’sak that is bound by internal Torah attitudinal principles and axioms that may represent the hashkafic alignment of the posek.

    This is a distinction without a difference.  Zionists think that their viewpoint is derived from the Torah, while anti-Zionists think of Zionism just a form of secular nationalism that has nothing to do with the Torah.   Jewish mystics think that their mysticism comes from the Torah storehouse of secrets, while the Rationalists think of it as pure superstition that got partially absorbed in the Torah.  Chasidim think of the Rebbe as important Torah figures with a special connection to God, while Misnagdim (are there any left?) think of them as following a cult of personality.   “Modern” Jews consider engaging the world as fulfilling the Jews mission as Mamlechet Kohanim, while “anti-Moderns” think that this is just an attempt to assimilate foreign values.

    Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l explained to his talmidim at RIETS that certain practices may not be performed, as they are silly (“stupid” is the word that one person present then related to me, if I recall correctly), and “the Torah does not permit one to do that which is silly (or stupid)”.

    According to the position espoused above, this is a mere tautology, since all measures of “stupidity” are derived from the Torah itself.  The Rav’s statement only makes any sense if the Rabbi is allowed to assess “stupidity” in his own mind outside anything specific found in the Torah.

    This is not an endorsement of everything that Prof Shapiro wrote in his blog post. (In a comment, I specifically endorsed R. Gordimer’s policy to allow a wide range of comments even when he doesn’t agree with them which Prof Shapiro thought deferred to much to unkind attacks on OO).

  4. Marc Shapiro says:

    However, I must object to what you wrote here.

    So too does the fact that Dr. Shapiro has dedicated much of his career to debunking traditional approaches to Orthodox conduct and textual fidelity, including his works that suggest a non-binding status of the Rambam’s Thirteen Ikkarei Ha-Emunah (Principles of Faith). . . . Dr. Shapiro has devoted a major portion of his professional career to questioning the accepted doctrines and approaches of traditional Orthodoxy.

    This is not a proper categorization of my writing as you make it seem that I have set out to undermine traditional conduct and belief when all I have done is write about things from an academic perspective. The book you refer to documents debates about the Thirteen Principles. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. I don’t even know what you mean when you mention “Orthodox conduct”. This makes it seem like I tell people not to follow halakhah which I don’t think you meant to say, but that is what it sounds like.

     

  5. Marc Shapiro says:

    And finally, you ask about my agenda. I simply wanted to point out that I think you have a blind spot when it comes to YCT and OO. You object to a number of things and this leads you to assume that all people identified with OO are trouble. I want to tell you that you are mistaken, that there are lots of good fellow Jews who identify with OO and we shouldn’t be looking to throw them out and say they are not legitimate even if we have different views than them. The OO Jews I know affirm the divinity of Torah etc.

    As you say, I am a professor, not a posek. I cannot speak about the halakhic legitimacy of reforms. If people want I would be happy to explain why e.g., I am opposed to Partnership Minyanim, seeing them as a real divergence from traditional Judaism. But I have done that in the past, before large audiences. Before large audiences I have discussed what I find problematic in Orthodox feminism (and I have mentioned on numerous occasions how years ago JOFA didn’t let me speak at its convention). Before large audiences I have also discussed the significance of Open Orthodoxy. None of this is news to people who know my writings and have heard my lectures or participated in my online classes.

    So I have dealt with what you call the real issues. But my purpose in the post was different, it was a request to recognize that there is more that unites us than divides us and that every left hand that pushes away should be accompanied by a right hand that pulls close.

  6. “Dr. Shapiro has dedicated much of his career to debunking traditional approaches to Orthodox conduct and textual fidelity.”

    No, he he has dedicated much of his career to debunking the notion that contemporary notions are actually traditional.

    “…when a p’sak seems to flow from the posek’s worldview, or when a p’sak is formulated as bound by ethical considerations, we have a case of internal Torah axioms and/or values that drive the emanation of p’sak.”

    And what about the Gra’s famous observation that Rambam was influenced by Greco-Muslim philosophy, which affected many of his rulings?

    • Yisrael Asper says:

      So what are you saying the Rambam reformed Judaism and Halacha and we can do the same?

      • No, I wasn’t saying that at all. I was saying that Rabbi Gordimer’s definition of what makes a “kosher” Torah authority would rule out Rambam.

        • Shai Meyerson says:

          The Gra does not accuse the Rambam of being influenced by philosophy in his general rulings – only regarding a very specific area. And he indeed rejects the Rambam’s rulings in that particular area.

          The Gra does not accuse the Rambam of mixing outside values into his pesak – he only claims that his understanding of the relevant metzius was influenced by philosophy. And I emphasize again, that he rejects his pesakim in this area on that basis.

          So this does not impinge on Rabbi Gordimer’s point.

        • Shai Meyerson says:

          The Gra does not accuse the Rambam of being influenced by philosophy in his general rulings – only regarding a very specific area. And he indeed rejects the Rambam’s rulings in that particular area.
          The Gra does not accuse the Rambam of mixing outside values into his pesak – he only claims that his understanding of the relevant metzius was influenced by philosophy. And I emphasize again, that he rejects his pesakim in this area on that basis.
          So this does not impinge on Rabbi Gordimer’s point.

  7. Y. Ben-David says:

    Whatever the reasons for not mentioning the names of those one is criticizing, it may very well be as stated that one “wants to deal with ideas and not personalities” but it is a fact that mainline Establishment Haredi Orthodoxy routinely turns people who are mainline Orthodox (i.e. not OO) but who identify with Religious Zionism or American Torah u’Madah such as Rav Kook or Rav Soloveitchik  and those who identify with their views,  are turned into non-persons and written out of history or who, when they are mentioned, not given the title “Rav”.  Writings associated with these groups , even on a high level, such as the Tehumin journal are also banned from yeshivot and synagogues associated with the aforementioned Establishment. (My thanks to Prof Shapiro for his fine book describing this phenomenon).
    Thus, for people who disagree with this approach it is only natural that they might think that not mentioning the names of those being criticized is actually nothing more than “political correctness” and simple delegitimization of them, as opposed to high-minded intellectual debate.

  8. Whereas my essays about Open Orthodoxy and its innovations are a side component of my life, occupying at most a few moments of my time (as opposed to “many hundreds of hours of reading”, as Dr. Shapiro asserts – my five-minute daily glance at social media feed, along with the receipt of articles from friends, is the extent of my effort)

    1. This is not a thing I believe.
    2. If true, the fact that you are willing to potentially destroy people’s lives based on five minutes of research done in your spare time does not inspire any degree of confidence.

    If you want to be Grand Inquisitor, if you want to have the power to pronounce Orthodoxy from Heresy, have the decency to take that duty with some degree of seriousness and trepidation for what the effects it has. To many people, this is not a hobby, this is their lives.

    • Avrohom Gordimer says:

      All sources are carefully examined and scrutinized before use. The articles are written with the continuing encouragement and authorization of roshei yeshiva and poskim, mostly not from the yeshivish world and not kanna’im, and are done with great koved rosh and yishuv ha-daas. It takes five minutes or less a few times a week to review new articles about all sorts of topics that come via social media feed and email, but everything is read and reviewed with extreme detail before being used as an actual source or a link for articles.

      • Josh says:

        Wait. So do you invest time in this stuff or not?

        In your article, you write that five minutes of daily glancing is “the extent of your effort”. You explicitly write that your, “essays about Open Orthodoxy and its innovations are a side component of my life, occupying at most a few minutes of my time”. That is simply not compatible with your claims in the above comment that, “everything is written and reviewed with extreme detail” and that you consult with roshei yeshiva and poskim (under the decidedly lengthy processes of koved rosh and yishuv hadaas) before publishing. Which is it?

        (I spend a few moments at most per day perusing emails and social media feed. When something comes in that I feel warrants a response, I invest a few hours in the following: going through those and other specific sources carefully and repeatedly, consulting at least one senior person, and, based on what emerges from that, putting together an article. It is done with utmost care, but it does not take anywhere near the time that has been assumed by many. A few hours once every 3-4 weeks or so, at most. – AG)

        • C Chaim says:

          The accusation that R’ Marc made was that Gordimer spends “many hundreds of hours reading everything written by OO figures…looking for a problematic sentence in order to pounce on them”. This was a strange accusation for a scholar of R’ Marc’s stature to make, as it was based wholly on supposition, beyond the fact that it wasn’t true. As I noted in a comment elsewhere, I, with no writing mandate or agenda, have come across the large majority of the sources Gordimer  references just by reading sites like the Times of Israel. And it’s obvious that the “few minutes” Gordimer was talking about was in response to how much time he spends on finding his OO sources, not on writing the articles.

          as I and others have noted, R’ Marc has spent years, for example, detailing some of the flaws in the Atrscroll endeavor – mistranslations, omissions – the list goes on.  The hundreds of hours he has spent on his work are important – it forces the ideologically motivated folks  within the Artscroll family to behave a little better. Similarly, holding a mirror to the OO movement is highly salutary, and I think will result in a necessary self-examination and recalibration.

    • R.B. says:

      Akiva,

      We have yet to see OO set up any redlines. Where are they? R’ Gordimer is doing a job that OO leadership should be doing. Its not unreasonable to expect that OO does not accept all views, and that some are beyond the pale (I am speaking of views on Yiddishkeit and not about political views on feminism, gay rights, Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism, socialist economic theories, etc.). Also, where is proof of destruction of lives? What hyperbole! R’ Gordimer is posting publicly available OO articles, divrei torah, links. He is just taking the reader to these sources to see what OO leaders, laymen, rabbis, and female clergy have to say in their own words. if there is anybody to blame, it is they for posting their views in view of the public and not be able to take criticism and scrutiny.

      • 1. Taking stuff from Open Orthodox people out of context and summing it up uncharitably in a blog post, not to mention researching the personal lives of their spouses, is a step beyond merely calling attention to them. I have spoken to friends of mine in YCT who tell me they get panic attacks whenever these articles are published. Not to mention that if what seems to be the goal of dismantling YCT and/or pushing Open Orthodoxy out of the fold is achieved, it will be to the detriment of many young rabbis who’s only crime might have been picking the wrong school.

        2. As far as Open Orthodox leadership being clearer on red lines. I have made this critique of Open Orthodoxy myself, and I do think they do need to clearer on red lines. But I do not feel the need to balance every criticism of one side with a criticism of the other. Furthermore, I have big issues with the red lines being declared things that not only do I find describe my own beliefs, but positions well attested to in the rabbinic literature, such that all but a very narrow idea of Orthodoxy is declared off-limits. Not only because I think such attempts are either ignorant or dishonest, not only because I think there’s a need for the Orthodox community to have a variety of approaches for a variety of types of people, but because bandying about the charge of heresy so freely renders it absolutely meaningless. Every time R. Gordimer criticizes Open Orthodoxy for a stupid reason, whatever good points he may have no longer matter, and it becomes that much harder to deal with actual heresy.
        By way of example, the political issues you mentioned. R. Gordimer seems to be of the opinion that expressing any degree of sympathy with the plight of Palestinian people (and yeah, it sucks to be a Palestinian. That doesn’t necessarily effect my views on security policy, but let’s just admit that it sucks) is grounds for removal from Orthodoxy, and brings it as proof of Open Orthodoxy’s perfidy in this piece. Last I checked, though, the political platform of the Israeli right wing was not an ikkar emunah,  (I also don’t see R. Gordimer attempting to write Satmar out of the fold, but that’s besides the point). Neither is voting for the GOP Platform, or voting a specific way on gay marriage (provided that one’s religious views remain separate from one’s political views on the matter). You can think that such views are terrible, actively harming our national security, ruining our democracy, violating the constitution etc etc. But to remove them from the community? This is a silly thing, and mine and I imagine many others’ reaction to it is basically “R. Gordimer doesn’t think I’m frum anyway, what do I care what he thinks?”
        What it comes down to, for me is
        1. People can have different opinions on things, and there’s room within Judaism for different people to have different outlooks on Judaism
        2. The fact someone has a different outlook on Judaism than you doesn’t make it heresy
        3. The fact that someone has different opinions on issues that have no halakhic import is definitely not heresy
        4. R. Gordimer seems intent on creating an environment where having a different opinion than him, even on issues that are miles away from ikkarei emunah, is heretical.
        5. This is a Bad Thing for the Orthodox community
        6. It is, furthermore, counterproductive, as it renders the charge of heresy totally meaningless.

        • lacosta says:

          >>> who’s only crime might have been picking the wrong school.

           

           

          —-maybe  we should be  asking  what the motivation is of various students of YCT  why they chose that over RIETS. it wasn’t an accident.   just like in the 50’s , Yeshiva college grads who chose JTS  over RIETS,  what’s the motivation /theology?      surely the student body knows the intent of the school , with a different mehalech than RIETS.  why should they NOT be blamed for picking the school?

        • C Chaim says:

          You obviously haven’t really engaged with the substance of Gordimer’s sustained critique of the OO movement. Whether you agree or not, he has dispassionately provided evidence and argument to support his views. He has shown 1. That although there is “room within Judaism” for lots of opinions, the OO opinions are not one of them; 2. He has shown that OO is not just “different opinions”, and, in fact, that OO opinions may be heretical in nature; and so on. If you disagree with him, please do so by engaging with what he says, and not offering your own opinions that disagree with his.

          And how do you know that it “sucks to be a Palestinian”? Does it suck to be a Jordanian, an Egyptian, a Syrian? Have you been to Palestine? What’s  the standard of living? (Read Tuvia Tenenbom’s remarkable book, “Catch the Jew”, in which he details the reality of life in Palestinian-controlled areas, and the lies that the media produces about the Palestinian condition on a daily basis).

    • charles says:

      Who cares what Akiva Weisinger believes or does not believe?

  9. YbhM says:

    <i>So too does the fact that Dr. Shapiro has dedicated much of his career to debunking traditional approaches to Orthodox conduct and textual fidelity, including his works that suggest a non-binding status of the Rambam’s Thirteen Ikkarei Ha-Emunah (Principles of Faith).</i>

    People who say that Shapiro’s work undermines the centrality of the 13 principles seem to have read a different book than I did.

    Shapiro’s informative book demonstrates that: a) the Rambam’s ikkarim do in fact represent the fundamental doctrines of Judaism as understood for centuries and millenia  b) positions that represent major deviations from these ikkarim (such as the Raavad’s remarks on corporeality, the Ralbag’s view regarding the eternity of the universe, or the view attributed to R. Yehuda Ha-hasid about the Torah text) may have been heterodox or may have been mainstream in their time, but were largely banished from mainstream thought – at least partially due to the intentions and influence of the Rambam himself c) more contemporary instances of deviation from the ikkarim (such as the observation that the Sephardic and Ashkenazic sifrei Torah differ by 2 letters)  tend to demonstrate that the ikkarim do in fact represent the central principles of Torah belief even allowing for differences in some details.

  10. R.B. says:

    If it is, G-d help us!

  11. dr. bill says:

    I think that Dr. Shapiro’s point about pesak is critical.  Beyond the small number of supporting sources that he quotes, his perspective resonates particularly with anyone who has read academic works on pesak.  Dr. Shapiro assumedly and correctly presumes that such sources would lend limited if any credence to his perspective among many/most cross-currents readers; it is probably heretical to those who value poskim who are viewed to have lived their life free from any influence outside of Torah.   Influence from the outside world and any of its values is automatically suspect.  
     
    Rabbi Gordimer disagrees with Dr. Shapiro and writes: “For here we speak not of external, secular or worldly considerations being blended with Torah sources, but we instead speak of halachic adjudication that flows from a specific Torah orientation.”  But how is that to be determined?  Was that presumption accorded to Rav Kook ztl or the Rav ztl by chareidim?  Do achronim not employ notions entirely absent from the talmud and rishonim?  Clearly such examples exist.  When such activity is to be praised versus questioned does not lend itself to simplistic answers.

    • zd says:

      As he states below, Horav Gordimer writes “with the continuing encouragement and authorization of roshei yeshiva and poskim”

      Are you on the same madreigoh as those authorities? Do you suspect these Gedolim of “simplistic” thinking?

      • dr. bill says:

        No. Yes, if they think the question has simple answers.

      • “Are you on the same madreigoh as those authorities? Do you suspect these Gedolim of “simplistic” thinking?”

        Being as literally the only thing I know about these authorities is that R. Gordimer claims they exist, I see no reason to assume I’m not. Maybe they’re amaratzim? Maybe this is a “girlfriend in Canada” situation? Maybe they don’t actually read the articles? I see no reason why I should pay fealty to rabbis with no mind to their actual positions but merely based on the fact that they have been asserted to exist. If we had some names, nu, that might be a different story. But its absurd to expect me, or anyone else, to take a demand to obey anonymous authorities with any degree of seriousness. Just ask the great rabbi I had read this post before I sent it.

        • mycroft says:

          Frankly I have to read a haskama-many simply say Rav X is a yire shamayim etc-unless the haskama states that  I read what Rabbi X wrote and agree with it-it is meaningless.

           

  12. dr. bill says:

    When you write: ” Values that arise from within the halakhic system play their role in producing pesak.”  I agree completely.  Traditional poskim are careful to frame a pesak that way and that is what legitimately constrains the range of possible pesakim..  However, as you argue and should be evident, more than one path forward can exist. The question is what points a posek one way versus another. That is a meta-halakhic question and probably a psychological or sociological one. Asserting that only Torah influences are legitimate in forming a posek’s orientation is the what is being argued. I have not seen any studies that would support Rabbi Gordimer’s position and poskim may not necessarily be sufficiently self-aware.  Something as simple as one’s empathy for a particular situation is IMHO the result of various influences.

  13. S.B. says:

    Please

    no censoring is going on. If anything OO tried to censure R Gordimer when they threatened him with a lawsuit.

    and please

    he isn’t destroying lives. He can’t possibly say anything more stringent than what the Moetzes Agudah said about OO. And their statement gives him plenty of halachic leeway in what he says and how he says it.

     

     

  14. Dr Shapiro said:

    “However I stand by my main point that Rabbi Gordimer devotes an inordinate amount of time to this subject and that he unfairly tars many rabbis and laypeople who haven’t done anything wrong. If Rabbi Gordimer looked closer he would see that there are many such people who are devoted to Torah and mitzvot. The reader doesn’t come away with this sense.  The reader comes away thinking that they all want to undermine Torah. That is simply not true.”

    If we are allowed to criticize a writer for “what the reader comes away thinking”, then Marc Shapiro should indeed be held accountable for devoting an inordinate amount of time publishing the type of academic research that consistently leads his readers to think many aspects of traditional Judaism are without basis and the 13 ikkarim are subject to question within Orthodoxy.

    So although Dr. Shapiro may not really be a “professional anti-Orthodox polemicist”, yet from what he consistently brings to the public’s attention, a reader cannot be blamed for coming away with this impression.

    • mycroft says:

      “13 ikkarim are subject to question within Orthodoxy.”

      Long before Dr Shapiro it was known by those with even the least bit of knowledge about machshava that we don’t pasken these issues. Many Rishonim disagreed with the Rambam-it is not a matter of psak.It is not halacha. To quote Rabbi Wieder in this matter who says we pasken like the Rambam-and even if we did who says God follows his Ikkarim. Of course, the question of 13 Ikkarim is a red herring-it is clear that all agree that Torah is minhashamayim. I suspect that all of the debates of what OO or C  and Reform Judaism go back to the issue of whether or not Torah is Minhashamayim.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        @ Mycroft. Then I suggest you read R JD Bleich on the subject, specifically in the introduction to his big grey book on ikarei emuna, the title of which escapes me right now. He’s absolutely clear that we do pasken in machshava and that as such the Rambam’s ikkarim have become obligatory.  And he’s a world class expert in Jewish philosophy. So perhaps you might want to walk back your unsupported assertion above.  I realise there are talmidei chachamim who disagree with him but that’s another question.

        • dr. bill says:

          The ikarim of Rambam have received a overwhelming endorsement from religious Jewry.  But as any popular religious consensus, it is subject to halakhic refinement.  And BTW why do you think that the fact that there is disagreement is “ANOTHER QUESTION.”?

           

           

          • Ben Bradley says:

            I mean the question at hand is whether or not it’s clear that we don’t pasken ikkarei emuna. Mycroft said it’s clear we don’t. I showed otherwise. Once it’s established that some hold we do pasken, the issue of how that machlokes plays out is a further and question which needs its own treatment.

        • mycroft says:

          I have read some of what Rabbi Bleich has written and am aware of his viewpoint.

          I don’t know what ” world class expert” means.He is certainly very knowledgeable but others who are very knowledgeable disagree with him. You write  “talmidei chachamim who disagree with him” That is enough right there to NOT attack those who believe that the Rambams Ikkarim are not mandatory-many disagree with them. Prof Shapiro has written about it in detail but it is a well known position which I have been aware of for half a century. If one looks for example at most of those who taught at YU including those who wrote a lot about the Rambam it is my impression that the majority would not have said it is NOT required to accept the 13 Ikkarim. Besides Rabbi Bleich those who were at YU who believe it was mandatory include I believe Rabbi Parness. I believe one can find an exchange on this issue in some of the first issues of Torah Umaddah.

          • Ben Bradley says:

            Now I fail to understand you. First you state, quite strongly, that ‘Long before Dr Shapiro it was known by those with even the least bit of knowledge about machshava that we don’t pasken these issues.’ Then you state that you’re aware of R Bleich’s opinion which is explicitly the opposite, that we do pasken in ikkarei emuna. Not only that but you state that other RY of YU held as does R Bleich.

            Which is it to be, mycroft? Any idiot knows, or dispute amongst scholars?

          • Steve Brizel says:

            Whether or not the Ikarim are “manadatory” is IMO beside the point. I would suggest that the real issue is what is a person’s intent when he recites any Birkas HaMitzvah which includes Asher Kidshanu bMitzvosav Vzivanu and many other Brachos and parts of Nusach HaTaTefilah such as Musaf RH and many others  which contain numerous hashkafic statements.  Again Rambam in Hilcos Teshuvah defines an Apikorsus, Min and Kofer and IIRC states that a Sefer Torah that is written by a Min requires Sreifah.  A Mchallel Shabbos cannot serve as a witness because he or she denies Maaseh Breishsis. Thus, denial of hashkafic fundamentals can lead to halachic consequences.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft-Take a look at Hilcos Teshuvah where the Rambam defines apikorsus, kefirah , etc. Yes, Raavad dissagrees on one or two, but there are no hasagos on the rest, and Ramban in Shaar HaGmul has a vastly differently view but I don’t believe that we should be looking for safe harbors to rationalize away our sefekos in Ikarei Emunah because that raises the issue of what is your intent when you recite a Birkas Hamitzvah, etc.

        • dr. bill says:

          I have no idea what the Raavad’s views were on what constituted kefirah.  However, I do know that trying to prove that Raavad agreed with something Rambam wrote by lack of a hasagah is false.  The Rav’s ztl view on this is well known.

        • mycroft says:

          All that I intend to state is that we don’t pasken the 13 Ikkarim as the Rambam wrote them-thus for example the Rambam’s Ikkar states the Torah that we have today is identical with the one from Sinai-for starters ein anu bekiim  in male and chaser -psula daka is spelt differently in ASHKENAZIC AND SEFARDI sifrei Torahs. Yemenites have about 7 differences in their sfrei Torah overwhelmingly maleh and chaser. Is it universally accepted for example that essentially the same Torah was given at Har Sinai-yes-but the identical one no.

          Even if God was corporeal was disputed The unity of God.

          Certainly sfirot in Kabbalah  where many consider them part of Gods atzmut and are part of God and part of the complete unity with God would be problematical to put it mildly with the Rambams 13 Ikkarim. DO I believe that there are Ikkrei Emunah yes-roughly Torah Minhashamayim, a God, sechar vonesh and probably more-it is the Rambams formulation that the vast majority of those who I knew in YU did not accept as kfirah if one accepted others Rishonims formulations or a combination of such. Has the frum world generally accepted the Rambams formulation yes-probably because we have a catchy song called Yigdal. Of course that brings to mind the Ravs quip that we don’t sing catechisms.  Most people have not thought through the exact language of the Rambam and its implications. Are the general ideas generally accepted as binding yes-the specific language I submit no by the majority of frum baalei machshava,

          BTW I accept the Rambams general idea of Ikklarim as true-thus for example that 99.99% of the Toah is identical from God- we do have different girsas. I am willing to accept those who follow a more mystical approach to be perfectly within acceptable belief-it is at least questionable if the Rambam would have agreed.

           

          • Steve Brizel says:

            This is all nice but not to the point about what Am Yisrael has assumed and voted with its head, and heart  via the text of any Birkas HaMitzvah and Nusach HaTefilos, regardless as to the absence of a formal Psak in SA on the Ikarim, but for which you can easily find many cases where the acts of a person who acts contrary to halacha and/or who denies ikarei emunah have very real halachic consequences. Why would anyone recite such texts if they were not assumed to be true? Could you fulfil anyone’s obligation via Shomea Koneh if you did not accept such Mitzvos as being rooted in Asher Kidshanu BMitzvosav VTzivanu?

          • Steve Brizel says:

            Mycroft-Look at Hilcos Teshuvah 3:8 and Hilcos Ksivas Sefer Torah 1: 13. Those two Halachos are two easy examples where inappropriate hashkafos have halachic consequences. Similarly, a Mchallel Shabbos cannot serve as a witness because he denies Maaseh Breishis.

          • Steve Brizel says:

            IIRC, RYBS in a series of shiurim on Sefer HaMItzvos pointed out that Ain Anu Bekiim BChaseros uYeseros has no relevance in determining the Taryag Mitzvos that were given to Moshe at Sinai.

          • dr. bill says:

            One thing is very clear: what it is an ikkar changes over time.  Differing opinions about God’s corporeality, the character of the Messiah, the nature of authoritative texts, etc. are recorded.  Even when we pasken on hashkafic issues, the psak is refined and changes, often dramatically, over time.  This is significantly different from how psak in halakhic matters operates traditionally.

        • mycroft says:

          “Whether or not the Ikarim are “manadatory” is IMO beside the point. I would suggest that the real issue is what is a person’s intent when he recites any Birkas HaMitzvah which includes Asher Kidshanu bMitzvosav Vzivanu and many other Brachos and parts of Nusach HaTaTefilah such as Musaf RH and many others  which contain numerous hashkafic statements. ”

          Agreed-I never maintained that there are a universal set of beliefs that are mandatory-but it does not include all  the 13 Ikkarim in its complete sense-see eg that we have the identical sefer Torah from Sinai-clearly we all can’t we have different girsas.

          “Again Rambam in Hilcos Teshuvah defines an Apikorsus, Min and Kofer and IIRC states that a Sefer Torah that is written by a Min requires Sreifah.”

          One just has to be careful in what a min or apikorus is. Due to censoreship-often the words are reversed in Rambam-compare standard Rambam to Kapach version for example on this issue

          “view but I don’t believe that we should be looking for safe harbors to rationalize away our sefekos in Ikarei Emunah because that raises the issue of what is your intent when you recite a Birkas Hamitzvah, etc.”

          But also no reason to exaggerate the uniformity of all the details of Jewish belief. BTW-I don’t believe that CJ or RJ by any means comes close to accepting any realistic traditional consensus of beliefs require.

          A

          • Steve Brizel says:

            Take a look in the Frankel Rambam which quotes both the censored and uncensored meanings of Apikorus, Min and Kofer.In any ecvent, Rambam throughout Chapter 3 in Hilcos Teshuvah spells out very explicitly what is meant by each of the above cited terms. One more point-In Mitzvos of a Torah basis, Mitzvos require Kavanah. That means the person fulfilling the Mitzvah has the positive intent to fullfil a Mitzvah on a Torah level for himself and at times for others-It may be quite problematical if not forbidden to answer Amen to a Bracha by someone who denies Torah MiSinai and and Torah Min HaShamayim. I think that how one views the Ikarim almost borders on the irrelevant because Chazal emphasized our fealty to Torah MiSinai and Torah Min HaShamayim in so many Mitzvos and especially the formulation of a Birkas HaMitzvah and such bedrock statements of Emunah and Hashkafa as the Musaf of RH and its components of Malciyos, Zicronos and Shofaros.

          • Steve Brizel says:

            Mycroft-why should anyone answer Amen to any Birkas HaMitzvah of someone who denies Torah MiSinai or Torah Min HaShamayim, the binding nature of the bedrock principles of  Malciyos, Zicronos and Shofaros or read from the Sefer Torah written by such a person?  That is hardly an exaggerated sense of the details of Jewish belief.

    • dr. bill says:

      Really?  Most people I spoke to, think that the last chapter of his last book went very far supporting the legitimacy  of chareidi rewrites of history.  i tried to explain that IMHO, unlike many of us, he is most often not in the business of proposing even reasonable theories/distinctions that would strengthen or weaken a particular point of view.  he often leaves that to the reader, who can draw his own conclusions. I assume you do not expect him to declare something a forgery based only on his personal beliefs?

      • mycroft says:

        “Take a look in the Frankel Rambam which quotes both the censored and uncensored meanings of Apikorus, Min and Kofer.In any ecvent, Rambam throughout Chapter 3 in Hilcos Teshuvah spells out very explicitly what is meant by each of the above cited terms”

        Before writing my previous answer I actually read the Kapach Rambam for the Chapter involved. My point was simply a technical point that it is likely that CJ and RJ are likely apikorus rather than minus-thus impact on min shekatav sefer Torah.

        “I think that how one views the Ikarim almost borders on the irrelevant because Chazal emphasized our fealty to Torah MiSinai and Torah Min HaShamayim in so many Mitzvos”

        Agreed-I believe that I have written constantly that principle is common IMO to all formulations of necessary belief.

        “or read from the Sefer Torah written by such a person?”

        I certainly would not purchase a Sefer Torah written by a non Orthodox Jew-I am not a halachik expert on your question-assuming it was not written by a min-can one use a sefer Torah written by a non frum Jew once it is written.  Thus would need an analysis prohibiting wo discussion of minus.

        “That is hardly an exaggerated sense of the details of Jewish belief.”

        I believe I have constantly stated the necessity for belief in Torah minhashamayim and not accepting an Orthoprax as acceptable behavior. My point has been simply that one is NOT required to accept the Rambams 13 Ikkarim and have written constantly that IMO the differences between Orthodox and nonOrthodox movements are obvious with any formulation of necessary beliefs by Rishonim-we simply have not paskened like theRambam or anyone else.

        • Steve Brizel says:

          Ain Haci Nami-what I presented as opposed to the Ikarim were examples that were so basic and bedrock -the terms Apikorus and Min-whether you look in the Frankel or Kapach editions of the Rambam continue to have practical halachic ramifications  or in classical terms-a Nafkeh Minah Halacha LMaaseh.

  15. Eli Blum says:

    Rabbi Gordimer: Thank you for pointing this piece of Torah in your essay regarding the “Palestinian Cause”. I humbly suggest that everyone read it. It reflects the Charaidi/Agudist viewpoint that we really should not be running the political show against those who live there as well, and the harm to others that has been caused by the settlement enterprise should not simply be ignored. Kavod HaBrios for all people, even those who whom we have bitter arguments that have caused loss of life from both sides, should still be a concern of Rachmanim Benei Rachmanim, even if we can’t do anything about it at this time due to Pikuach Nefesh.

    https://morethodoxy.org/2013/10/27/a-cry-is-heard-from-on-high-wailing-bitter-weeping-a-personal-reflection-on-hevron-city-of-our-fathers-by-rori-picker-neiss/

     

     

    • Larry says:

      “settlement enterprise?”  one man’s “enterprise” is another man’s mitzvah.  the dvar Torah you cite misunderstands the dynamics of Hebron.  The yishuv in Hebron hires Arab workers and contributes to the economy. Typical misundersatanding by failure to speak with the Jews of Hebron and leaping to unfoudned conclusions.

      You cite Kavod Habriot, where was that in 1929?

      • Eli Blum says:

        Larry – I come not to defend the position, but rather to point out that the link to the “Open Orthodox” “identification with the Palestinian cause” is a mainstream Charaidi shittah as well. I don’t see Rabbi Gordimer complaining here about how the Charaidi Gedolim (or even to a stronger extent the Satmar Rabbonim) “identify” with the Palestinian cause.

  16. Larry says:

    It troubles me that a rabbinic student would write that the Avot were human beings.  Are you merely commenting on their physiology or bringing them down to your level?

     

  17. Yair Daar says:

    R’ Gordimer,

    In your articles, you often use the (fair) argument that OO doesn’t have nearly enough true Torah scholarship. In that vain, would you not agree that Dr. Shapiro has more credibility than you do regarding certain matters? Understanding the history of halakhic innovation being a major one. Labeling Rabbi Turk’s article as “important” is a perfect example. It was written in the Jewish Link and the scholarship within is limited to simplifying the Rav’s philosophy to one quote from Halakhic Man (not to mention spelling it “Halachic” despite that not being how the Rav chose to spell it).

    If you truly want to be taken seriously in this debate by those who don’t already agree with you, I suggest increasing your own knowledge of and scholarship in the areas that you are discussing. The other option is to continue to develop a reputation as a Rabbi obsessed with OO and who repeats the same thing over and over. Dr. Shapiro’s article is about this issue more than anything. You continue to attack practices without a sufficiently developed argument against OO and for your own approach. It is not Dr. Shapiro’s obligation to address the issues you raise with OO, but he has chosen to do a public service by pointing out what is lacking in your approach (both in form and content).

  18. David Ohsie says:

    If we are allowed to criticize a writer for “what the reader comes away thinking”, then Marc Shapiro should indeed be held accountable for devoting an inordinate amount of time publishing the type of academic research that consistently leads his readers to think many aspects of traditional Judaism are without basis and the 13 ikkarim are subject to question within Orthodoxy.

    Evidence with examples, please?  This sounds like the equally unfounded charge against R Natan Slifkin that his works lead people astray.

    Also, are you asserting that there are mistruths or that revelation of truths to the masses that must be held from them?

    So although Dr. Shapiro may not really be a “professional anti-Orthodox polemicist”, yet from what he consistently brings to the public’s attention, a reader cannot be blamed for coming away with this impression.

    Examples and evidence?

    • You see, David, according to Dr. Shapiro’s standard, I don’t have to supply any examples and evidence in order to critique his writing. As long as the reader comes away with the impression that this is what he does, he is subject to censure.

      And yes, according to Dr. Shapiro’s standards, if readers came away with less confidence in the truth of the Torah or respect for Chazal after reading RNS’s books, that would also warrant his books being subject to censure.

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