Modern Orthodoxy Derailed – Time to Return to the Station
The train has derailed, but no one knows why. Far too much time and effort have been invested trying to hoist the railcars back up and onto the tracks, but it is not really helping.
The train is called Modern Orthodoxy, and it is clear that it has partially derailed. Disaffected and disillusioned constituents, confused messages, significant and frequent “defection” to “Traditional Orthodoxy” or to non-Orthodoxy, and overall lack of palpable inspiration on the part of many of Modern Orthodoxy’s adherents have prompted interesting solutions to get back on track: Carlebach minyanim, independent minyanim, Neo-Chassidus, Tikkun Olam-centered Orthodoxy, liberal intellectual Orthodoxy, Zionist-based Orthodoxy (Orthodoxy that is presented as a function of Zionism), NeoCon Orthodoxy (Orthodoxy that is presented as a function of political or ideological conservatism), and yes, even Centrist Orthodoxy as a creed and a theology – you name it. These are all to a large degree responses to core problems in and around Modern Orthodoxy, with each solution seeking to salvage, redirect or recharge a somewhat floundering and faltering venture.
The specific causes for the partial derailment of Modern Orthodoxy seem to be the often sterile and uninspiring environment in some of Modern Orthodoxy’s religious institutions, as well as Modern Orthodoxy’s deep immersion in secular culture, whose allure and appeal are certain to compromise the spiritual identities of those lacking proper preparation and fortification. Hence do Modern Orthodox high school and college students often decrease their commitment to Torah observance or abandon observance altogether, as others among Modern Orthodoxy’s youth gravitate to yeshivish settings, where they find the spiritual verve and religious dynamism that they could not locate in Modern Orthodoxy. (Although the “OTD” phenomenon affects the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy to varying degrees, as does the “migrating between Orthodoxies” situation, their prevalence is considered to be far greater in Modern Orthodoxy. But please see here regarding a modified version of this in Chabad.)
The “year in Israel” has become another solution (a very crucial and necessary one!) to the Modern Orthodox malaise, such that Modern Orthodox educators rely quite heavily on the post-high school year spent in Israeli Torah institutions to provide the necessary religious excitement and motivation to masses of students who sorely lack it and did not absorb it during their many years in American Modern Orthodox day schools and shuls. However, to place all of one’s eggs in this short-term basket has proven to be less than perfect as a surefire solution. Furthermore, reliance on one year of Israeli Torah education to counteract or compensate for over a dozen years of American Torah education does not speak well at all about the specific American Torah education system in which these students were enrolled.
Rather than fish around and invent more possible permutations of Modern Orthodoxy, let’s return to the station and see how the journey was originally envisioned.
When considering the genesis of what later became Modern Orthodoxy, we must go back to the founding of Yeshiva College and its first president, Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel. Upon reading Dr. Revel’s vision and efforts to create and build Yeshiva College, one is dumbstruck: Here is a man who learned in the original Telshe Yeshiva and elsewhere, at the feet of some of the greatest Torah luminaries of the time, and whose primary focus, orientation, attitude and gestalt were those of a traditional “yeshiva man”. But he was a yeshiva man who also deeply valued secular knowledge and who foresaw the need for Orthodoxy to attain a grasp and mastery of American intellectual and communal life in order to perpetuate Torah on these shores. Dr. Revel was staunch and unwavering with regard to both Torah observance standards as well as the primacy of Talmud Torah (Torah learning), speaking out against mixed-seating congregations and refusing to allow non-Orthodox Jews to serve on the board of Yeshiva College. I recall one of Dr. Revel’s students relating that Dr. Revel used to go about the beis medrash at RIETS and ask the talmidim, “How’s the yiras shamayim (fear of heaven)?” Profound piety and the fire of Torah were at Dr. Revel’s core. And at the same time, he founded and ran an institution that featured secular greatness and accomplishment. Such a personage clashes with many contemporary notions of Modern Orthodoxy and is an enigma. Yet there was a deep logic to it all, as we shall see.
The other American organs of what is now Modern Orthodoxy had similar beginnings. The common denominator was a quest to preserve and perpetuate Torah life in America, usually by harnessing the tools and media of American society. Secular knowledge, support for political Zionism and general social engagement were present, but pure and traditional Torah understanding and observance were at the forefront. Yes, Yeshiva College and the other institutions which set the stage for Modern Orthodoxy were quite controversial in some circles, but the leading personalities of these institutions, as well as the messages emanating from them, were nearly identical in terms of their Torah element to those of the more “right wing”.
This somewhat rare duality, in which a clear and unabashed commitment to Torah and Mitzvos is harbored along with an appreciation and interface with refined Chol (secular knowledge and endeavors), is what Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik denoted Ramasayim Tzofim: the tradition and purity of Torah stands apart from Chol, as while Chol is highly valued and utilized, it remains separate and does not impact upon or even temper the towering commitment, tight embrace and uncompromising attitude toward Torah. That is why the phrase “Modern Orthodoxy” was never used by the founders or leaders of the above proto-Modern Orthodox organs and the institutions that were their fruit, as there was no new, modified Orthodoxy. There was plain, classic Orthodoxy, plus the often serious pursuit of Chol, all to varying degrees and for varying purposes. (The concept of synthesis described by YU president Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin reflected a synthesis of knowledge within the individual – such that the Orthodox Jew should be learned both in Torah and in worldly studies – and did not in any way represent a synthesized pedagogy or theology. See Belkin, Essays in Traditional Jewish Thought, p. 17. It is thus notable that Dr. Belkin, under whose leadership YU was incorporated as a university, hired the largest number of roshei yeshiva/rebbeim in the history of the yeshiva, and that those rebbeim were for the most part decidedly not pursuers of Chol – yet that was not an issue, as there was no such thing as a Modern Orthodox theology or religious hashkafa that needed to be promoted.)
This stands in stark contrast with some of the recent expressions of Modern Orthodoxy, in which the purity and passion, and perhaps the fundamentalism (if one may use that term and disassociate it from evil people and agendas), are occasionally replaced by muted fervor (sometimes positively labeled or spun as “nuance and moderation”), external elements, and a toning down of Torah. Whereas Torah study and tefilla in a Modern Orthodox day school or shul should be substantively indistinguishable from Torah study and tefilla in a “Charedi” yeshiva or shul (not that there are never problems in the latter), the truth is often that the former embodies less knowledge, seriousness and inspiration than the latter.
(Although this essay does not purport to reflect Centrist Orthodoxy as articulated by Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm – nor does the essay reflect any form of Orthodoxy with a modifier – I was present when Dr. Lamm orally introduced the concept of Centrist Orthodoxy in a public presentation, whereupon someone in the audience posed the question, “Does that mean that a person should always take a middle-ground approach?”, to which Dr. Lamm replied that every situation requires its own approach and must be dealt with uniquely – the approach sometimes needs to be strict and sometimes lenient – but the aggregate should end up somewhere in the middle. In other words, moderation per se was not being preached, for each issue must be considered and decided on its own, as opposed to taking an across the board “party line” approach to everything.)
Perhaps it is time for what is known as Modern Orthodoxy to return to its roots and be a descriptor of people (those who are modern and are Orthodox) or of pursuits (adhering to Orthodoxy and positively engaging modernity) rather than of theology. The passion and enthusiasm for Torah and Mitzvos in Modern Orthodoxy, as well as the undiluted Torah perspective/hashkafa, would and should be identical to those of the “yeshiva world”, the only difference being that the people involved in the former would also have a more developed appreciation for Chol and would therefore engage in it with more comfort and adroitness. Although this would obviously be a long-term endeavor, it is a meaningful goal (even if it is not fully achieved), and it can save much of what is currently known as Modern Orthodoxy and engender a blossoming of Torah Judaism that is constructively involved with the “outside world”.
Rather than continue to experiment and concoct, let Modern Orthodoxy return to the original vision. It was not a vision of a new form of Orthodoxy, but rather one of classical and traditional Orthodoxy, manifesting passionate and unyielding avodas Hashem (service of God), alongside an appreciation and engagement with broader society and its offerings.
Pushing the train back onto unstable tracks will not work; returning to the station and instead using the tracks of those masters who laid the original rail is what is needed.
The issue is that MO is a term that has been used by many to mean different things-thus a different answer if M is an adjective or a noun in MO.
Intellectual MO is lost in the US because there has been no mainstrean institution advocating such an ideology since 1984-when RHS and other Roshei Yeshiva signed their psak agiainst WTG-it is not the psak which in general was new-it was the language. Note of course, the Rav was obviously sick by then but still giving shiur-yet the psak did not have signatures of the Rav or RDL.
Query-could one imagine other RY of other more traditional Yeshivot signing a psak wo their apparent Rebbes approval while the Rebbe was still alive and giving shiurim. Since 1984 there has been a whole generation of talmidim asher lo yadu et Yoseph and naturally very few would show allegiance to such an ideology. WO Rabbonim or mechanchim who believe in such an ideology no MO ideology. Thus, if one is MO and student attends an MO school and schul-but neither his Rebbe at school or Rav at schul believe in MO the child will not accept MO-some fine will become more chareidi but many will say they don’t believe what they are getting paid to teach and a plague on both ideologies
If anyone has the courage of his conviction that an Orthodox movement deserves a revival or a fitting present-day adaptation, he ought to step up and join with like-minded Jews to organize to make it happen. If no old institution will tackle this, that should not deter him. The old schools were once young. There is no point in mere nostalgia or finger-pointing if you truly believe in something.
Mycroft-Take a look at Tradition and the Orthodox Forum series on a wide variety of subjects. Are you seriously claiming that the same are not MO?
The Orthodox Forum deals with issues that MO should be concerned about.
I will stand corrected-but has there been an article or an OF book devoted to the OTD within the MO world in the same manner as described by R Gordimer and the links in his article?
“That is why the phrase “Modern Orthodoxy” was never used by the founders or leaders of the above proto-Modern Orthodox organs and the institutions that were their fruit, as there was no new, modified Orthodoxy. There was plain, classic Orthodoxy….”
Rav Gordimer! Isn’t “Orthodoxy” itself a relatively new term? It wasn’t used by the Mechaber or the Rema. Perhaps just as “Orthodoxy” was not meant to denote something new, neither was Modern Orthodoxy. Perhaps (I wasn’t there) it was meant as an answer to the Charedi “chadash assur min haTorah” Orthodoxy, by people who believed that keeping with the times never contradicted avodat Hashem, and sometimes even enhanced it. I.e. Torat Yisrael (Orthodoxy) always went hand in hand with the developing scientific and cultural worlds (modernity) – hence “Modern Orthodoxy”.
Agreed!!!! Before many loss their nerve-or frankly the desire to fight without the backing of RYBS when he stopped being active-there was a proud MO. IMO one can’t underestimate the marketing decision of a President of YU to use the term Centrist Orthodoxy to appeal to more groups that YU attracts that IMO inadvertently gave the impression that even YU doesn’t believe in MO.
MO in the 50s and 60s was an intellectual movement in US heavily but not exclusively being developed by students of the Rav-by the 80s the term was used soiologically to describe a mass movement of Orthodox lite-hence confusion.
I believe you are correct, that for the masses, MO evolved from an intellectual movement coming to grips with the desire for secular knowledge to a social movement desiring secular culture.
No institution articulates a common path for becoming a more “modern orthodox” Jew. Each generation chooses to be either more orthodox or more modern. The original tenets of the intellectual movement you describe are foreign to the current generation.
Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, “Modern Orthodoxy” was already being heavily used in your sociological sense, even while Orthodox Jewish academics had their own doctrine.
Your analysis of the MO in the 50s and 60s as an intellectual movement is correct. However, one can argue that MO lite remains a huge problem as described in the first linked article.
I was surprised that R. Avrohom Gordimenr did not mention the outstanding talk by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, z”l, on “Centrist Orthodox: A Spiritual Accounting”. The transcription and adaptation by R. Reuven Ziegler of Rav Aharon’s talk is available on the internet and also in a book of Rav Lichtenstein’s essays and talks. See the series “Developing a Torah Personality #12” at this link http://etzion.org.il/vbm/english/archive/develop/12develop.htm
Why note quote RAL for the ideas that one could consider such attempts for unity in Klal Israel as the Neeman Commission on gerus, RAL we do not gain anything by non Orthodox movements losing influence-are we truly better off if the Jew in Dallas and Dubuque does not drive to his temples on Shabbos.
Mycroft paraphrased a comment of RAL ZL”
” RAL we do not gain anything by non Orthodox movements losing influence-are we truly better off if the Jew in Dallas and Dubuque does not drive to his temples on Shabbos.”
What about the same Jew in Dallas and/or Dubuque who goes to a community Kollel or Chabad house”s claims and decides to become observant and send their children to yeshivos? Why ignore RAL ZL’s comments about what he viewed as the issues presented by MO lite?
I don’t ignore them-they are repeatedly mentioned here. The differences between RAL and certainly the Rav and 21st century RIETS are not mentioned. Obviously there are more similarities between the Rav and 21st century RIETS are much more numerous than the similarities with OO in general and certainly RYG which are very minimal. However, one can’t gloss over the major differences that exist between the Rav and current RIETS.
Modernity in the general society around us (sometimes even in us) does not stand still. Lately, general societal attitudes and characteristics have degenerated from a Jewish point of view at an increasing rate. Positive values in that society that we could incorporate into our Torah way of living have begun to dwindle. It might have sounded cool or even been cool to identify as modern, but, to a thinking Jew, the thrill is gone. The problem is not mainly the new gadgets, but the new mindset.
We can choose to use “modern” in some comfortable, archaic sense, but that makes no sense.
I fail to see how the appearance of “Carlebachian minyanim” (which I enjoy) or “Religious Zionism” (which I identify with) or “Tikkun-Olam” Orthodoxy (which I reject) are somehow connected with a supposed “crisis” in what is called Modern Orthodoxy. People are different and many who are committed to the world of Torah and Mitzvot may wish to find their way within that world by way of different emphases. The implication here is that “True” orthodoxy is a world in which everyone wears a monotone, monorchrome uniform, attends one a select group of yeshivot, davens in one of a few different formats, has his political views dictated to him from on high and distances himself as much as possible from Jews who are different than him, particularly in Israel where we all live mixed together.
Yes, it is true Modern Orthodox is facing a crisis, so is all of Jewry, including the Haredi world. Young Jews of all ideological persuasions are facing new challenges. The fact that the Haredi world emphasizes external conformity in dress and behavior does not mean that young Jews within it are not searching for new ways of expressing themselves the same way those who daven in Carlebachian minayim or who identify with Religious Zionism are doing it. It is simply that the Haredim are forced to avoid “rocking the boat”. I find the fact young Jews are experimenting with new ways of living Torah Judaism to be healthy and refreshing. I hope the Haredi leadership understands that their young people want the same and will find ways to accomodate their aspirations, and not view it simply as “a crisis”.
I find it admirable that Modern Orthodoxy has found ways to innovate itself and address the wants and needs of so many of its followers with new concepts such as Neo Chassidism, Carlebach minyanim, and the like. Hey, we’ve all got our problems; at least they are putting a progressive foot forward and actively creating ways to address them.
I don’t see how the hashkafa of someone who engages in and appreciates chol can be identical to that of one who rejects it outright.
In any event, in my opinion, the main reason MO isn’t appealing is that it’s essentially an endless effort to reconcile two completely different doctrines, which is sysiphean and not fun.
RELIGIOUS ZIONISM, on the other hand, is much more appealing than MO while preaching the same hashkafa, because the idea of a Jewish state is *precisely* where chol and kodesh come together naturally.
Think about it…
I don’t see 1984 as a watershed year at all, except for the departure of RYBS from giving shiurim at that time.We know where RYBS publicly and vehemently stood on such issues as mixed seating, ecumenical theological dialogue and his publicly voiced opposition to the feminist critique of halacha, notwithstanding his teaching Talmud to the first class at SCW and both genders being taught Talmud at Maimonides, which Dr. Schiff wrote had nothing to do with feminism, but rather the importance of women as the future mothers and spouses of the next generation of the Jewish People. I think that your analysis of the RY in RIETS ignores the fact that most, if not all, are products of RIETS, and its Kollel system, do not advocate learning 24/7 at the expense of any other goal in life, and who are the proudest of their talmidim who work hard in whatever career path they have chosen and who still are Kovea Itim Latorah in a very deep and profound manner. Like it or not, the RIETS of today, which RAL ZL praised as a far improved Makom Torah than the RIETS of the 1950s and 1960s, but for the absence of an advocate of a TuM hashkafa, is nowhere near a RW yeshiva in any sense of that term, but is the premier Makom Torah for anyone who wants to learn on a high level and obtain a college education.
Like it or not, neither the rabbinate nor chinuch has never been viewed in the MO as an ideal career path. Until that changes, MO schools and shuls will be staffed by devoted and dedicated rabbanim, rebbes and moros who have a Charedi background and hashkafa.
I believe Prof Brill in his lectures on Modern Orthodoxy on YU Torah discusses the importance of the 1984 psak. R Rakefet recently on YU Torah was the one who emphasized the difference signing a psak while Rebbe still around that would not have been done in chareidi world.
In R’ Rakeffet’s recent lecture he specifically played down the fact that the Rav didn’t sign it.
To the best of my recollection the lecture mentioned that it was signed wo the Rav and Chareidi Rabbonim wouldn’t,t have done that. If you merely want to point out that it is very likely the Rav would have agreed with basic Psak that is obvious-but what is unique is the change in tone and dicta in the Psak. That is a clear crucial change.
R’ Rakeffet said that those taking care of the Rav did not want him to get involved. His point was that the fact that the Rav didn’t sign it doesn’t show any disagreement.
The Rav zt”l strongly opposed Womens Tefillah Groups. See Rav Mayer Twersky’s completely authoritative two essays presenting the Rav’s view on this topic and feminism in genral.
As Mycroft writes he was very, very weak at the time of the psak. There is very little space between RHS and the Rav on this issue (and most others as well). The hashkafa parts of the psak where RHS discusses the differences between a man’s and woman’s role, and the obligation to not change from our mesorah based in outside influences exactly represents the Rav’s views, as explained by RMT.
RDL signed the 1956 ban against Orthodox Rabbis serving on boards jointly with Reform and Conservative. He was way to the right of the Rav on that and other issues. Is Mycorft’s implying that his lack of signing indicates disagreement with the psak and somehow RDL was more supportive of MO than RHS and the others?!?
As RMT writes, the Rav was strongly and consistently against all of the feminist deviations from our mesorah. (He supported advance women’s learning for reasons RMT explains in those articles and in his article in the special Tardition issue in memory of the Rav. He held the advanced Torah learning would help preserve the mesorah. He wasn’t giving in to outside pressure of following the New York Times feminist agenda of complete egalitarianism etc…, which is completely antithetical to Torah, when he supported such learning.)
Rav Schachter consistently publicly presents the Rav’s views, associated with MO, on supporting the medinah as well as the Rav’s view that the norm should be receiving an education and being able to live and support oneself in dignity.
Read Farbers book on Maimonides-it deals with the Rav extensively on various issues. He quotes different opinions and facts.
The 1956 psak concerned the Synagogue council of America, that had both rabbinic and lay representation. The Rav ztl was openly opposed to the 14 or so RY (including RDL ) who signed the ban. Of course, history proved the Rav completely correct. In the 50 years until the time in the 90’s when SCA disappeared NOTHING religious in nature was EVER was adopted; the organization represented Jews klapei chutz as RCOG ztl permitted. Instead it allowed (perhaps led to) a number of orthodox leaders to rise to prominence leading other joint organizations across the spectrum, klapei chutz. The Rav was opposed to Rabbis sitting on organizations of rabbis only like NY board of Rabbis.
What is rarely reported is that SCA had orthodox representation since its formation in the 20’s. Among those not signing the kol koreh was Rav Silver ztl, who had allowed such participation. In fact one prominent RY who did not sign, openly questioned why are we interfering telling the Rav’s talmidim ought to behave.
The Rav was in favor of staying in the SCA-he helped in strategy in thr fights that the OU had whether or not to stay in the SCA. It is plain revisionism to imply anything else.
Also on a similar matter the Rav did make a distinction between allowing theological dialogue and non theological dialogue. It is important to see in the roughly 25 years of active psalms what he meant by those terms. There are enough contemporaneous records written while the Rav was active-not merely while written claims of private conversations published after his pit rah.
Why that record is ignored like much else of the Rav is a question that is worthy of analysis
It should be pointed out that the RCA and OU stayed in the SCA on the express condition that they could veto any issue that had an even remotely interdenominational theological tone -the veto was rarely exercised-but the threat to do so accomplished just as much, and the SCA died when R and C realized that there would never be any such discussions within the daled amos of the SCA. As RAL ZL pointed out, staying in the SCA was hardly the sole noteworthy achievement of RYBS. It should be noted as documented in a new bio of Harold Jacobs ZL, that staying within the SCA was never an issue that was without dissenting views within the OU’s lay leadership.
two of your historical assertions are patently false; another is misleading. a few of the orthodox members of the SCA are still among us, thank God.
do you really think it took the conservative and reform members 40 years to figure that out?
You are both correct. The SCA had financial difficulties in the early 90s . Rent in Manhattan was becoming an issue. They were offered cheaper quarters I believe around White Plains in a Conservative synagogue-the orthodox members of SCA refused to have headquarters in an non neutral institution. Meanwhile the C and R movements were always unhappy with the veto power in the SCA and thus essentially formed a new organization wo IMO mainstream Orthodox support run out of Connecticut. IIRC it was run out of an institution affiliated with the OU. IIRC those Orthodox loyalists of the RAv who were active in the SCA did not follow to the new organization. My impression is first the lack of veto which was a crucial aspect and one other point. I heard from one who is now in the olamhaemet that wo the RAv he wouldn’t have done most of the SCA activities and interrelations activities that he engaged in-thus after the Rav’s passing was very cautious in activities of that sort because one could never be sure of what was the exact reasons for the Rav’s rulings in these matters. This position is entirely different than the attempt to limit the Rav’s approval of horas shah-even if relatively clear of the proper approach wo the RAv caution was of order. Of course , why the actions of those and there are a few who were in the lifetime following the Rav’s approach are currently ignored in interpreting the Rav’s viewpoint is beyond me. IIRC prof Brill has made a similar comment.
What Mycroft calls “fights” were significant debates within the lay leadership of the OU as to whether the OU’s role in the MO world as an advocate for the breadth and depth of Torah observance was enhanced by participation in Klapei chutz and non-theological defined roles with heterodox movements that the heterodox movements always pushed the envelope of turning into theological debates and slugfests in the communal scene and at other venues of communal interaction, or compromised as being part of the “three branches of Judaism” that sociologists wrote about.
The fights involved strategy to stay within the SCA which the Rav was intimately involved in. IIRC correctly Prof Kaplan in a blog comment close to a decade ago referred to the Rav being involved in strategy to get the OU to remain in the SCA.
All of the above is true but of little import when one discusses the trajectories of MO and the American yeshiva world. YU could have been and should be the flagship for the hashkafa that one can become a Ben or Bas Torah, and even a Talmid Chacham with a college education, and that the message of Torah observance and study has depth and profundity in the 20th and 21st Century. Instead, we have seen new hashkafic messages rolled out like ad campaigns for the Super Bowl, with not enough done on the ground to address the issues raised by R Gordimer in the linked articles.
Yes, the American yeshiva world( which is called Charedi , but is nowhere as so as in its Israeli counterpart) has built kollelim, schools for both genders, has created communities throughout the US ( take a look at any Ezras Torah luach posted in your shul from this year and compare it with the old calendars and you will see the evidence) and now is the leading supplier of educators to the MO world.
For better or worse YU as an institution has never been controlled by its RY-it has been controlled by its Board. Thus, when R Joel was selected as Pres -public objections to a non Rabbi being select by leading RY were ignored. Even the Ravs public objection to separation of RIETS from the university were completely ignored. YUs controlling board members are to say the least friendly with leading OO figures.
Mycroft, the Rav ztl’s objections to a separation of YU and RIETS were overcome; a student of his who he trusted to represent his position on many matters, conducted “shuttle diplomacy” between the Rav and Dr. Belkin. You are correct that the board has more control than the RY .
The RAv and Dr Belkin were personally close-going back to Dr belkins time as a student at Brown when R Belkin was often aShabbos Yom Tov guest at the Ravs house. Dr belkin was teaching the highest level shiur at YU when the RAv came to YU and when Dr Belkin encouraged his best students to leave his shiur and go to the Ravs shiur was something the RAv would always remember. Additionally, the RAv unlike RAS believed that a good attribute is knowing when to fight and when not to fight. Thus, of course, many of those closest to the Ravin 1970 had had a relationship with Dr Belkin too.
KDarcko BaKodesh, R Gordimer has written a superb article with excellent links that describe many, but by no means, all of the issues confronting MO.
I can’t vouch for the age of many posters, but as someone who has been working in NYC for about 30 years, as well as enjoying its kosher restaurants thanks to a dear aunt, it has always struck me how so many externally appearing Charedi and MO Jews simply neither recite a bracha rishonah nor say birkas hamazon or a bracha acharonah. I have seen people who look observant ( kipa and/or hat on their head or wearing appropriate female head covering) who simply walk away from a meal without any semblance of reciting a bracha of any sort-whether before or after their meal.I have always wondered why.
The minyanim that I have attended over the years for Mincha are primarily attended by yeshivishe and/or chasidishe guys. We now have shiurim given at law firms, and chavrusos in offices, and a lot more guys who will download a shiur, open a sefer on the way in to work or on the way home, and I know of noone who arrives home well after Shabbos has begun,and minyanim in my neighborhood especially for Maariv well into the late hours of the night.
One of the linked articles cited the high cost of institutional dinners and the all too predictable honorees. WADR, in my neighborhood, I know many people who have been honored who were in between jobs, to use a felicitous phrase and/or who simply would never be considered as gvirim by a range of communal organizations.
Yes, MO lite remains a factor, but that is part of the overall problem of “mitzvos anashim mlumada” which has an ancient origin, and which clearly knows no hashkafic boundaries
“refusing to allow non-Orthodox Jews to serve on the board of Yeshiva College”
Why has nobody mentioned the flagrant contrary-to-halachah practices of the Yeshiva University Board over the past decades?
(I strongly suspect that the roshei yeshivot have had utterly no influence or even input into these decisions.)
Maybe America in the 40s and 50s was infatuated with the promises of Science and Modernism, and second-generation Jews wanted nothing more than to be part of that brave new future, even at the expense of their old-country heritage? Maybe such an environment demanded a Torah philosophy of synthesis, promising to take the best that the secular world had to offer?
But maybe America of the second half of the 20th century and beyond is anti-intellectual, anti-Science, Post-modern? Maybe even the Academy has rejected the linear structures of Eurocentric thought in favor of moral relativism, retreating into a tower separated by a wide moat from anyone not prepared to drink the radical Kool-aid? Maybe young secular today people are more interested in an MBA or learning how to code than a PhD in Milton? Maybe third- and fourth-generation Jews identify themselves as American as anyone else by birthright – and what does it mean to be fully American anyway in the multi-cultural present – and are prepared to take or leave secular culture a la carte without feeling they’re missing out on something?
Remind me again what it was of secular culture that the “Modern” signified that was so desirable?
Maybe even the Academy has rejected the linear structures of Eurocentric thought in favor of moral relativism, retreating into a tower separated by a wide moat from anyone not prepared to drink the radical Kool-aid? Maybe young secular today people are more interested in an MBA or learning how to code than a PhD in Milton?
Yes, yes, and yes …
Things Have Changed …. just as they did in the times of RSRH, RYBS etc.
The next generation of educators needs to figure out how to deal with this zeitgeist and educate within it (most people who write and comment here seem to be over 40 or over 50) …
I think that America from the 1960s to the present is anti intellectual , but definitely technologically driven and in search of quick , feel good answers.Whenever we have a technological disaster, we try to explore the basis for the same in order to reach a conclusion that will satisfy everyone, but really ignore the underlying cause. Whenever there is a mass shooting, we blame gun possession as opposed to mental illness being simply out of the purview of the criminal justice system or latchkey families where parents have no clue what their kids are doing seeing or writing. Urban city crime is blamed on policing as opposed to the total absence of a nuclear family and culture that encourages education. All of the above has one common denominator-the refusal to look at the underlying cause.
Our communities are not immune. We also want precise answers about to properly and precisely fulfill mitzvos, not long philosophical treatises . We flock to magidim and darshanim who tell us what we already know, but really miss IMO at imparting the depth and profundity of Torah study and observance.We know that it is important to learn, yet despite all of the excellent sefarim in both English and Lashon HaKodesh, we have little patience to work through a difficult Mfaresh on Chumash, or to delve into a sugya in any Masecta in the original without resorting to an English language crutch. We need to produce high quality sefarim in the traditional sense of the world in addition to volumes of English language Judaica.
From what I’ve read (not having been around back then), YU did not feature “secular greatness and accomplishment” in Dr. Revel’s time, and was oriented toward TIDE rather than Torah U’Maddah, to use more contemporary shorthand. Dr. Revel’s YU would be Touro today. I say that without expressing judgment.
IIRC, pinchos churgin and solomon zeitlin both ob’m were recruited to the faculty by dr. revel ztl.
both wissenschaft des yudentum stalwarts whose colleagues were at JTS. not close to Touro/Lander.
Dr Bill-That is true-However, many of the RIETS RY that R D Belkin ZL appointed who survived the Shoah were also not known as great fans and/or devotees of TuM, etc. IIRC, DR M Shapiro wrote an article about this on his blog a while ago.
i agree, but the discussion was about Dr. revel ztl. Dr. Belkin ztl felt a unique obligation post holocaust that transcended ideology. I do not know many, but in my MO world, I bump into a few children, grandchildren who are decidedly MO, including some from a RY who openly opposed the Rav ztl despite a personal warm relationship. OTOH, I have also met a very few descendants that squirm when asked about whether a father/grandfather taught at YU.
Mycroft-take a look at your local seforim store. There is no shortage of sefarim on a wide variety of halachic issues that were written by talmidim of RMF , RSZA and other Gdolim in the lifetime of RMF and RSZA on a wide range of halachic and hashkafic issues.
Show me a major Psak-not a detailed explanation of specific issues-where parties had different hashkafot than their Rebbe and published them while he was still giving shiur.
Mycroft, i suspect you are correct but do not know for sure . However, I will give you a more extreme example. In lakewood, a recent 400+ page attack on fixed zemanim, like alot hashachar always 72 minutes before sunset, no where mentioned who followed that opinion. you can guess.
Hashkafa has nothing to with the subject unless you assume as you mistakenly insist that none of the current RY of RIETS are “true” talmidim of RYBS. Take a look at ShuT Minchas Shlomoh where RSZA clearly disagrees with the CI re the source of the issur of turning on a light on Shabbos. Look at the widely differing views of the CI, RAK and RMF on many issues in Hilcos Eruvin. Last night, in a weekly chabura that I have been attending for years, we discussed Tumas Mes with respect to Mesei Yisrael and Mesei akum. RMF writes in the first volume of IM that Mesie Akum are Mutar BHannah according to “Rov Rishonim”, a statement that requires explanation in light of the seemingly Pashut Pshat of a view of Tosfos in BK10a and the Gemara in AZ 28b, and which requires clarification in view of the huge literature in the Acharonim on the subject and the related halachic issues involved in deriving educational benefit from an autopsy that only begin with the view of the Noda BiYehuda.
RSZA ZTL argued not just “the source of the issur,” but much more importantly the level of issur for the vast majority of electrical devices. His position often opens the door for the State of Israel functioning, halakhicaly, in many critical situations.
Ain Haci Nami. Yet, many Charedim refuse to use state funded electricity on Shabbos and YT.
Unfortunately I don’t see G-d in the conversation. MO is just a label. It’s hard to teach G-d/Ein Sof in the context of modern scholarship. Perhaps G-d are the tracks that the many movements have derailed from.
Orthodoxy, with or without modifiers or descriptors is a modern term. While not an entirely unique circumstance, for much of prior European history, Jews lived with limited interaction with the surrounding culture. As that changed in Western Europe beginning in the middle of the 18th century and then slowly spreading eastward, Jews have been divided with the extremes embracing or avoiding contact with the surrounding culture. Those who have tried to find a shvil hazahav that validates or aggressively promotes some form of synthesis, are what are now called modern orthodox. Few individuals and fewer communities have been able to maintain a proven approach for obvious reasons – the world into which jews were becoming full citizens was rapidly changing. Thus one certain formula that insures failure is to attempt to adopt a solution created for a previous environment. This is a fortiori true in our society when change and its first two derivatives are increasing.
Today it is fair to say that those who are called modern orthodox are accused of laxity in their commitment to bein adom laMakom. Whether and to what extent that is factual is debatable. Also claimed is that the so-called chareidi community suffers from charges of (tolerating) sexual abuse and unethical (financial) behavior, sins often bein adom lechaveiroh. Whether and to what extent that is factual is also debated. Undoubtedly, the latter, its negative affecting another individual beyond just the perpetrator, is in my mind much more serious. Sadly, there is room for improvement in all societies.
Before hitting the panic button, the future for orthodoxy continuously engaged with current society is moving forward. In fact, it is those who reacted to feminism, sexual preference, academic study of canonical texts, etc. without sufficient thought often were often unnecessarily rash. Claims that homosexuality must be (largely) curable or X is definitely a forgery have not resulted in a Kiddush haShem. I for one find a growing community that will thrive as it (perhaps awkwardly) attempts to show how Torah lives in every society. We must all continue to be both a ger and a toshav.
Dr Bill wrote in part:
“In fact, it is those who reacted to feminism, sexual preference, academic study of canonical texts, etc. without sufficient thought often were often unnecessarily rash. Claims that homosexuality must be (largely) curable or X is definitely a forgery have not resulted in a Kiddush haShem.”
So far, what we have seen is a movement with respect to all of the above that in all of the above issues works from the POV of throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. When you refer to such issues as “sexual preference” and “academic study of canonical texts”, that IMO reminds me of R D Revel ZL’s query about Yiras Shamayim. Noone who is textually illiterate IMO should either be exposed to nor offer his or her own views on such subjects for two reasons-they are lowering what is written in Tanach, and what was said by the Heleige Tanaim and Amoraim to their POVs which are infected with the cultural and intellectual POV of our times instead of accepting the same as having relevance today and because they lack the tools of textual literacy that would demonstrate that they have at least a basic understanding of the subject matter at hand. I am pessimistic about a generation that approaches Torah UMitzvos without Yiras Shamayim and views the same as merely “canonical texts” and the like.
another rambling /illogical non-sequitur. i guess you see the connection to what i wrote; i do not.
I do not know a shorter phrase for tanach, mishnah, talmud – bavli and yerushalmi, tosefta, sifre, sifra, etc. than “canonical texts.”
BTW your phrase “textual literacy” means understanding words as understood by their authors/contemporary readers, not something a good bochur is normally exposed to. A typical rebbe/yeshivah student imputes meaning largely based on mesorah, without much regard for textual literacy. dealing with conflicts is an important challenge i see no reason to address in this forum.
When I use the phrase “textual literacy”, I mean the ability of the reader to “make a leining” and translate the same from the original. Why not use the names of the texts as they have been known and studied throughout the ages as opposed to “canonical texts”, which are what academics use?
Why should the ability to make aleining in the original be so crucial? How many gado lim have ever read perish hamishnayas in the original rather than translation
What DR Bill has vaguely called ” academic study of canonical texts” strikes me as the antithesis to Torah Lishmah. When I learn Chumash, Gemara and Halacha, I learn because the Avos, Moshe Rabbeinu , Aharon HaKohen , Miriam HeNeviah, and the Heleige Tanaim, Amoraim , Rishonim and Acharonim are real people whose lives as recorded and their discussions inspire and have meaning to me and POVs have meaning because I am refraining from superimposing means of analysis that were unknown to them and “allow” me to engage in sociological, physchological and historical analysis of them-none of which IMO will add one iota to why I in 2016 should study Chumash, Talmud and Halacha or enable me to apply what I study to contemporary realia. I don’t see “academic study of canonical texts” being able to help or inspire any person who is searching for an answer to the question of “why be Jewish”-merely academic study of ancient and medieval Hebrew and Amoraic texts seems IMO to be a field of extraordinarily limited interest which lacks any eternal and redeeming value outside of those who specialize in the same.
Deciphering a cryptic phrase in a canonical text in a way that rings true brings joy whether using a yeshivish methodology like Brisk or an academic methodology like intertexuality or knowledge of then current science. Neither methodology was known to the rabbis of the talmud but both were practiced by them in some form, primarily the latter when they interpreted yet older texts. cast aspersions as you wish, but the academic study of canonical texts is flourishing in the modern orthodox community in Israel. it is coming to a theater near you soon.
Unlike other haskafot within Orthodoxy, MO has no mechanism for cultivating outstanding Torah scholars from a young age. The best MO schools offer an extra hour or two a week of gemara enrichment to their most dedicated students. There is no MO program for full immersion in Torah study prior to receiving a college degree. The best Charedi boys are oceans ahead of the top MO students by the time they reach kollel.
Many MO high schools purposefully do not teach their students how to learn because they consider it too boring. They expect the boys to figure it out on their own during their gap year. Most parents spend $250,000 dollars on an MO education and after 12 years their child still needs Artscroll to read a daf of Gemara.
MO risks becoming a lowest common denominator hashkafa unless it affords young motivated students an environment supportive of Torah scholarship. Those students would have the potential to inspire the community as they blossom.
the issue is not the elementary/hs education; its the number choosing a commitment to (full-time) study afterwards. in the US that is a problem; in Israel it is not. I can name dozens of middle aged talmidei chachamim/scholars in Israel that compare (some more than favorably) with their chareidi counterparts. the charedi, one size fits all system, with almost cult like group-think, is having difficulty producing unique individuals, like slabodka and volozhin of old.
I think the issue has its roots in the MO primary and secondary educational systems that do not gear students to Torah learning as a lifetime vocation as compared to the Chareidi system that does.
In Israel, there are RZ/Chardal Talmud Torahs that compare favorably to the Chareidi schools and are producing students who choose to learn for 10+ years after army service. In Israel, RZ young children can be inspired to aspire to become lifetime learners.
Israel has many more MO Yeshivot and hence more seats for Torah scholars than the US. The gap year in many ways funds and drives this disparity. The American students who choose to become lifetime learners often make aliyah after their gap year. Torah should go forth from Zion.
I do not like the use of the word cult describing pious Jews, even though you avoided a direct reference. However, I understand your point. Chareidi Hashkafa has become more uniform post 1967. Slabodka and Volozhin produced many Torah personalities whose works inspire me more greatly. Every year I discover more brilliant seforim from these Rabbeim.
In general we agree; schools today do not emphasize scholarship as a goal generally. However, on the membership of the a group maligned once on this site – beit hillel – you will find a (good) number of first rate talmidei chachamim most of whom went to MO schools. In terms of the need for teenage dedication to a torah only curriculum, i think it is vastly overrated. OTOH, as you argue the encouragement and strong push to full-time learning has much greater impact IMHO. (perhaps irrelevant, there are even a small number of academic scholars of talmud, incredibly well versed, who did not even read hebrew until their late teens/twenties; some were not even born Jewish. :))
R’ Gordimer suggests that MO should become more yeshivish in their hashkafa, but perhaps the problem is that MO in America has been too yeshivish? Due to the Rav’s influence, the Brisker derech, focused on analytical Torah study above all, infused the MO community, leaving little room for the greater focus on prayer and experiential spirituality often found elsewhere (not only in chassidus, but also among traditional Litvish sources such as as R’ Alexander Zyskind, the modern Mussar movement, classical mussar seforim, and kabbalistic seforim.) Today’s Yeshiva world is also very Brisker-centric.
So in effect what R’ Gordimer is saying could be read as asking for more of the same. Yet I don’t think that’s what he means (especially since he gives the yiras shamayim example). By saying MO should retain a yeshiva hashkafa I think he means basic, normative halachic Judaism.
I would agree we don’t need to worry about creating a specific MO hashkafa. Rather, we should draw on the variety of Torah-true hashkafos within halachic Judaism, according to our own interests and inclinations. Thus, some will opt for fervent religious Zionism, others will lean toward chassidus, and some will focus on some derech within the yeshivah world. Each person needs to explore the world of Torah Yiddishkeit while eventually finding their own chelek in the Torah, what most fills them with enthusiasm and allows them to cultivate true Jewish piety at the highest level they are capable of. Many of the current trends within MO — such as the prevalence of Yeshivish rabbis as pulpit rabbis for MO shuls, the spread of neo-Chassidus, and the growing interest in the mysticism of Rav Kook and the Bilvavi — are on the whole positive, because they foster more Torah study and piety and adherence to Torah-true hashkafos.
Perhaps much of what is seen as the “move to the right” by LWMO and OO critics is really a fruitful and diverse interaction between the right and left wings of Orthodoxy — in other words, a new breed of Orthodox Jews who are actively involved in secular learning and professions, while at the same time are comfortable with, connected to, and enriched by the various hashkafic and halachic views of their fellow frum Jews who are not.
If one limits himself to shiur perhaps the Rav came across as analytical exclusive. It has been shown that charicature exists primarily by those who dealt with the Rav.
I should have completed sentence that caricature exists primarily by those who dealt with the Rav solely from shiur.
Really appreciated this article, though I am not MO I do care deeply about the future of this very important part of Klal Yisroel. In addition, as mentioned in the article, this message is important throughout ALL of observant Jewry, Lubavitch included.
The message is especially timely as Sunday is Pesach Sheni or Pesach 2.0, to quote the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, “Pesach Sheni teaches us that nothing is ever lost. The situation can always be corrected. Even a person who is ‘impure’ or ‘far removed’ (and even if he willfully brought these conditions upon himself) can correct his status.”
Indeed, the trains can be brought back to the station and there is no better time than Pesach Sheni, for each of us, to joyously re-inspect the tracks we are riding on.
i don’t know what Bible RYYS ztl was reading. While there are no limits on teshuvah, there are clear limits on the right to celebrate pesach sheni. perhaps the lesson is that while repentance may (almost) always be possible, undoing the past and correcting an evil may not. an abused child or a maligned individual may not recover as easily as the perpetrator.
Pesach Sheni, if one learns the Sugya properly with the Rishonim, teaches us that Chazal went out of their way to ensure that someone who did not offfer a Karban Pesach on the 14th of Nissan would have an opportunity to do so on Pesach Sheni or a valid excuse for not doing so in order to avoid subjecting a person to a Chiyuv Kares for being Mvatel a Mitzvas Aseh. There is a significant discussion as to whether Pesach Sheni is merely Tashlumin LRishon or more than that. What that has to do with the enormous evil perpetrated on an abused child or a “maligned individual” who may have been deserving of severe criticism escapes me.
The problem with MO is doing it in America in English. For most of Jewish history the vernacular was a second language for Jews who learned Torah. Their mother tongue was either Hebrew or the Aramaic of the Jewish world or Yiddish or Ladino etc., not Greek, Russian, German or English. In Israel today RZ schools not only teach Ivrit b’Ivrit, since it is the spoken language, the so-called limudei chol are Jewish-Israel-based. History is not American or European history but Jewish/Israeli history with world history as a backdrop. Literature is not English literature but Hebrew literature, often quite secular yet influenced by Tanach and Chazal. Even the study of sciences and math taught in Hebrew often breathes the air of Jewish heritage at the most unlikely moments. No, one gap year will not solve the problem. Aliya will. The future of Jews is in Eretz Yisrael. Another issue brought up in the comments is that MO kids are not getting an intensive exposure to Torah at an early age. Well, I’ll tell you, there are today in EY RZ yeshivot ketanot where the kids learn gemara NOT from Artscroll (referred to as Schottenstein here). Many of them will go on and do their matriculation exams (bagrut) and do whatever they have to do secularly. Others will become the RZ contingent of the next generation of talmidei chachamim with a sense of responsibility to an organic Jewish-Israeli society. Other kids get the more ordinary RZ education in yeshiva high schools and hesder often followed by academic education. All of the above include much deeper Torah roots than the MO kids in America. YU graduates are making aliya in increased number and are dealing with the problems of Israeli education, and there are many. As for the secular campuses in America, the secular universities in Israel are more friendly to Jews and Judaism even with all the stuff we don’t agree with. Non-orthodox Jews should be encouraged to send their kids to English-language degree programs such as IDC at a fraction of the cost of private US colleges. We are in a transition period, and a lot of Jews are getting lost. We still have responsibility for them. But in general the quality of education is what it is all about, and the future of Jewish education is in EY, not in America.
Mycroft wrote in relevant part:
“Why should the ability to make aleining in the original be so crucial”
The means of transmission of the text is that of translation from Lashon Ha Kodesh to whatever is your native language. If you can’t make a leining, and comprehend what you may have read, you can’t even begin to explain it to someone else. I think that the SA HaRav states very clearly that any Kiyum HaMitzvah in learning TSBP depends on understanding what you have learned.
Perish hamishnayas of the Rambam was written in Arabic. I am unaware of the fluency in Arabic of RY including R Chaim Brisker in Arabic. Did that prevent them from writing chiddushim on a translation.
However, the Yad HaChazakah was not written in Arabic . Are you claiming that R Chaim lacked the ability to translate a Mishnah or any passage in Shas into his lingua franca?
Of course not-but R Chaim made chiddushim on Rambams perush hamishnayis. He could not read Arabic.
The sefer in question is Chiddushei R Chaim HaLevi al HaRambam-if you look at the sefer , the Chiddushim all begin with a Halacha from the Yad and explore various sugyos and views of Rishonim therein. If you look in the table of sources that have accompanied the more recently published editions, you will see many references to the Yad, Shas and RishonimI may be incorrect, and I would welcome a correction, but I haven’t seen any references However, even if there are references to and comments that refer to the Perush HaMishnayos, one would not automatically dismiss the same because RCS merely didn’t have access to the best translation of the Arabic original.
IMO, Rabbi Schachter is the person doing the most to directly continue the legacy of the Rav, at least here in the US. The Rav brought the idea of Torah study, mesorah, proper interaction with the outside world, and more, of course to the US Orthodox world. His following ended up being mostly the non yeshivish Orthodox world. A major part of his struggle was to fight against the non orthodox movements which at the time were strong. He wrote and spoke against the issue of the mechitza, invoking memories of the holocaust. Feminism was starting during his active lifetime, and he spoke against it. See the articles of Rav Mayer Twersky on Torah web.
Starting in the early and mid 1980s the feminist movement within Orthodoxy made a radical left turn. This radical left turn included the formation of JOFA and other such. Part of the agenda was changing the mesorah as we know it. Rav Schachter, through his teshuva on women’s minyanim, and through his many, many shiurim has been at the forefront of continuing the Rav’s legacy, in clarifying what is not acceptable within Orthdoxy. Just as the Rav wrote and spoke with razor like precision against the feminist push, Rav Schachter continues in response to the more radical breaches from the mesorah, which had not occurred yet (within Orthodoxy) during the Rav’s lifetime- partnership minyanim, women rabbis, women receiving aliyot, women reading the megillah for men (the Rav was even against women reading for women, see Rabbi Twersky’s article), women wearing tefillin, challenging the absolute truth of the prohibition of homosexuality, OO, YCT, and there are more. It goes without saying the Rav would have strongly opposed these, as Rav Schachter does. The non yeshivish Orthodox world has to stay true to the mesorah in general and true to the Rav’s mesorah, or it will end up as another Conservative movement. That is exactly what is happening in YCT and OO, where they have rejected the Rav’s approach to halacha, mesorah, bible criticism, and many other areas as well. Rabbi Rakeffet and many other of the Rav’s talmidim have referred to PORAT and the like as Conservative.
Rabbi Schachter is being aided by, among others, Rabbi Mayer Twersky and in the last few years Rabbi Gordimer. Rabbi Twersky in his articles continues the Rav’s tradition of the razor like precision, in demonstrating the deviation from our mesorah found in these movements. Rabbi Gordimer does the research to bring to everyone’s attention just exactly how far the deviations have gone. It is actually quite frightening how far and how quickly things have gone. The slippery slope is steep and slick as ice. I don’t think his goal is to change the minds of those who already sympathize with OO, YCT, and PORAT. His goal is kiruv kerovim, That people who are mainstream, non yeshivish should be aware of what is acceptable within Orthodoxy and what is not, and should be aware of what is actually being produced by many of the leaders and leading graduates within YCT and OO, so they can make informed decisions for themselves. People who are involved in starting shuls and finding Rabbis, should know what they are getting into (and know that they are leaving Orthodoxy) with OO and YCT.
As a case in point, a shul, which would be described as MO, in the Washington area was looking for a new Rabbi several years ago. In the early discussions, the possibility of considering a YCT graduate was raised. Several members of the board brought to the table many of the arguments found in Rabbi Gordimer’s various articles. And in the end, all the candidates were taken from RIETS, and one of them was chosen. That is a victory for the Rav , Rabbi Schachter, Rabbi Twersky, and a vindication for Rabbi Gordimer’s writings. Of course it is also a victory for the mesorah and Torah true Judaism as well.
Mycroft consistently links together Dr. Lichtenstein’s article about the Rabbeim at RIETS, former and present, who have turned their backs on the Rav’s hashkafa, together with the fact that the Rav did not sign the 1984 psak/teshuva from Rav Schachter and the other Roshei Yeshiva at RIETS. The impression given is that a) Rav Schachter is part of the group who have turned away from the Rav and b)the Rav was against the psak and the psak was the ‘launch’ of the RIETS Roshei Yeshiva leaving the Rav’s mesorah.
IMO, the teshuva reflected exactly the opposite. As mentioned the Rav was quite sick at the time. IMO, Rav Schachter saw the Rav being weaker, and he saw the new radical inroads of feminism beginning to strengthen within MO communities. And the teshuva was the beginning of RHS asserting himself as continuing the Rav’s mesorah to fight the deviant movements. And it has continued the last 30+ years. Since then, RHS, with the help of others, has continued to maintain the Rav’s mesorah. It is because of him that the Rav’s true legacy in the US is more clearly defined. His authoritative presentations of the Rav’s views on mesorah and the like over the past 30 years have helped define the parameters of MO. And therefore, it is easier to discern the clear breaches being done by OO and YCT. It is largely because of RHS’s leadership that OO and YCT are beginning to be referred to as Conservative in a variety of circles (including for example, R Maryles’ blog).
Rabbi Twersky, in a completely authoritative way, showed the Rav agreed with the thrust of the teshuva, even if he may have argued on some of the details. It’ s quite common that close talmidim of a rebbe sometimes pasken in different ways on some issues. The Rav allowed one who shaves everyday to shave during sefira, every day or every other day, whenever he reaches the level of go’arin bo. Rav Schachter explains the lomdus behind the psak in his sefarim and regularly in shiurim, most recently in a shiur on Minhagei Sefirah available now in YUTorah. He would pasken this way lemaaseh for those that ask, (and I think he relied on this himself before he had a beard.) That can be checked out. RAL, on the other hand, was uncomfortable with that psak. He would pasken to shave only lekavod Shabbat, and that is what he did himself (I think). That doesn’t mean RAL was less of a talmid, obviously.
RHS continues the Rav’s mesorah regarding the medinah and regarding a college education as a given (for nearly everyone) for parnassah to’ live in dignity’, as Rabbi Rakeffet says. RHS sometimes also discusses the advantages beyond parnassah of a secular education. This is not his emphasis, but he does discuss it. See for example his press conference at the Gush, available on YUtorah.
The present RY at RIETS do not deny the Rav’s very positive approach to secular studies as some talmidim not at RIETS have done. But there is certainly less of a focus on secular studies for more than parnassah. However, IMO that is largely a function of the preferences of the student body. The trend in general in college education has been towards making money (Sy Syms school of Business)and away from the humanities.
RHS does speak against English literature, as it is largely filled with inyanei avoda zara and arayos, which is problematic. In this he differs from RAL. RAL explains his view at length in various essays. However we have no evidence that the Rav would have supported that the average college age student needs to read English literature and use it as part of his religious development, which seems to be RAL’s approach. I assume his position was somewhere between RHS and RAL. Certainly, involvement in Eng. Literature was not a core, primary value in the Rav’s weltanshaung. He did not speak about it with the same frequency as RAL and he certainly did not write about it in a significant way. (I am not sure he wrote about it at all.)
Regarding interaction with non Orthodox movements where the Rav clearly differed from many of the other Gedolim, the issue has become largely mute. The Orthodox have their own strong advocacy groups (OU and Agudah among others) and it has become much less crucial than it was 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago.
YU/RIETS has changed in the last 20-30 years. There is much more learning and more emphasis on dikduk behalacha among the talmidim. Nights seder is much more well attended. This is due to the influence of the Rav’s talmidim all over the world who are inspiring the younger MO crowd, and due largely to the year in Israel. Are these developments a break from the Rav’s mesorah?!?
Regarding teaching Talmud to women, Stern has a program which many of the RY support publicly. There is no rejection of the Rav there.
Regarding the RZ in Israel, I agree with Larry, Dr.Bill and others who mention that it is flourishing, which it is. There is a strong hashkafa and strong Torah learning as well. However, I would add the following. Part of the RZ world has begun giving in to the feminist push. RZ leaders will have to decide where they stand on this issue. For example, when Rabbi Herzl Heftr ordained women and wrote an article defending the propriety of this clear break from the mesorah, he was responded to by RAG and others. I am not aware that Tzohar or Beit Hillel publicly rejected his approach (I don’t know). Rabbi Riskin seems to have also moved closer to ordaining women as rabbis. IMO, there is a potential for a slippery slope where parts of the RZ world will end up close to YCT/OO. That would be tragic.
RHS is certainly the Rav ztl’s greatest student among active RY. However, with deference to RHS, he and the other RY at RIETS cannot compare to RAL ztl or yibadail lechaim Prof. Blidstein in their ability to understand other aspects of the Rav’s weltanschauung. Others who had a broader perspective on the Rav’s thinking are no longer with us. Rav Rakeffet is an excellent student and I enjoy listening to his shiurim/lectures; I assume he would openly admit the above 3 individuals are in a different league. Reading any of their writings demonstrates that.
Beyond that, as historians study the Rav’s legacy, perhaps something of the quality of Prof. Schapiro’s work on RYYW ztl will emerge. Until then and in all likelihood even after, I doubt many will be dislodged from their current positions. In a world where both Rabbis Riskin and Meiselman claim fealty to his legacy, I am not hopeful. From my point of view, the Rav reached decisions, both strictly halakhic and not, both meant as a horaat shaah and more permanently, influenced by how he perceived the environment around him. How that ought be translated into today’s environment has been contested, to say the least; the final arbiter is no longer among us.
But of one thing I am certain; stridency in tone and language were not a part of his or certainly RAL’s legacy. In the year since his passing, militancy and the decibel level has increased.
Unfortunately R Riskin’s written record on matters of Halacha and Hashkafa, has for a long time rendered serious doubts as to whether R Riskin is a Talmid of RYBS.
Like it or not, R Shurkin, one of the RY in Toras Moshe, R Meiselman’s yeshivah , is the author of three volumes of shiurim, not drashos , from RYBS. You may think that they sound too “yeshivishe”, but one can check many of the shiurim therein against the Noraos HaRav which are verbatim transcripts of shiurim from RYBS and you will find that the shiurim in Hareei Kedem on the Tamin Noraim and the Shalosh Regalim are very faithful to the shiurim in the Noraos HaRav.
R Moshe Twersky ZL HYD was a Rosh Kollel in Toras Moshe-you may not like the hashkafa of Toras Moshe, but noone denies the Hasmadah BaTorah and Gadlus BaTorah of R Moshe Twersky ZL HYD.
Yearning today for someone today to totally fill RYBS’s shoes in a way that suits your sensibilities and sensitivities inn a certain sense is all too similar to views by Chabadniks about the Rebbe ZL and Breslavers about R Nachman of Breslaver. Once in a lifetime individuals cannot be replaced and we shouldn’t think and hope that what was important in the 1950s and 1960s is similarly relevant today, especially among a Dor Asher Lo Yada Es Yosef. It is unfortunate but true- for many of our children, the printed works and taped shiurim and videos of RYBS ( part of one from a 1979 Kinnus Teshuvah which I saw last Sunday at YU, which was amazing in RYBS’s recollections about YK in Brisk and Chaslovich and being transported back to the Beis HaMikdash) are just that-the Torah of another Gadol BYisrael which is part of the library that is part of the Mesorah of TSBP, but not something they pour over every spare minute as to the hashkafic messages therein .
It is a simple matter of Dor Bo vDor Holech. We are a generation that as RHS points out is so technologically aware of everything that being precise, as opposed to being reflexively meikil of machmir is what counts. One of the legacies of RYBS that those who hurl the charge of “revisionism” ignore is that RYBS was very mdakdek in Shemiras HaMitzvos with many chumros, kulos, and hanhagos that offered many chiddushim in many areas of halacha and views in hashkafa that were extremely well grounded and which ignored the extremes of the MO and Charedi worlds. Emphasizing Boston over RIETS and hinting at the contents of RYBS’s library does not change the facts on the ground. We know based on what is written in the wake of the Petirah of RAL ZL that RAL ZL also maintained views that differed from RYBS on a wide range of issues, but noone curiously has claimed that RAL ZL was not a Talmid of RYBS for suggesting the same.
There you go again. Yes, RAL ztl did on (rare) occasion disagree with the Rav ztl, but he was careful to mention that. Others behave that way, but not all, unfortunately. I smiled when you observed that I emphasized Boston over REITS when talking about the Gaon ABD of Boston.
Have you ever heard what was RYBS’s reaction to RAL making aliyah? I have all of R Shurkin’s superb sefarim-when I bought each-I amended the “Shaar Blatt” to mention RY of RIETS. I see no problem in seeing RYBS’s legacy alive and well in RIETS, Gush , Toras Moshe and Boston. They all parts of the whole package.
“I see no problem in seeing RYBS’s legacy alive and well in RIETS, Gush , Toras Moshe and Boston. They all parts of the whole package.”
If what is implied is that those places among others are parts of the whole package that all should be studied in an attempt to learn the complete Rav-I AGREE. There are many sources primary and secondary and everything should be read and understood when hearing something from or about the Rav.
There are very few attempts to try and mention apparent conflicts among sources of info. Among the few who I have seen mention them or attempt to explain them are Rabbis Genack and D Berger. Most sadly simply cite one person as the source of all Rav knowledge with no attempt to try and square opinions heard from one person no matter how great with facts about the Ravs actions.
again post hoc ergo procter hoc pervades your thought process. ok course gush, riets, tomo, etc. are lead by former talmidim. and yes the Rav ztl opposed RAL ztl’s aliyah as Rebbitzen Lichtenstein discussed recently. maybe there is a reason we have not heard that reaction to others going. 🙂
but in terms of intellectual heritage, a cursory look at Rav’s seforim before and after his death, tell a convincing story.
your implication about RAL is not deserving of comment.
“RHS is certainly the Rav ztl’s greatest student among active RYRHS is certainly the Rav ztl’s greatest student among active RY”
AGREED!!!! Of course, that does not mean that RUHS differs from the Rav in many ways
Rav Rakeffet is an excellent student and I enjoy listening to his shiurim/lectures;”
I enjoy listening to many of his lectures too
“I assume he would openly admit the above 3 individuals are in a different league”
I would hope so-it sometimes gets forgotten that R Rakeffet was a freshman HS Rebbe in MTA before he made aliyah. He refers to his RIETS background there may well have been more continuity but there was a difference between Rebbeim teaching in MTA and those in the BeisMedrash. Other freshmen HS Rebbeim were considered at least on his level .
“But of one thing I am certain; stridency in tone and language were not a part of his or certainly RAL’s legacy. In the year since his passing, militancy and the decibel level has increased”
Agreed -but of longer and more importance I would change your comments to
“But of one thing I am certain; stridency in tone and language were not a part of the RAV’s legacy. In the years since his passing, militancy and the decibel level has increased..
“Mycroft consistently links together Dr. Lichtenstein’s article about the Rabbeim at RIETS, former and present, who have turned their backs on the Rav’s hashkafa”
I link because it is in writing-it is consistent with words that I have heard from others who were close to the Rav -at least as close if not closer than the one who always refers to his ideas based on a close family relationship.
. “It is because of him that the Rav’s true legacy in the US is more clearly defined. His authoritative presentations of the Rav’s views on mesorah and the like over the past 30 years have helped define the parameters of MO.”
The question is that the Ravs true legacy. One should start with the 1999 article by Prof Kaplan to understand revisionism of the Rav In it he does discuss RHS. Of course, his revisionism pales to that of Rabbi Greenberg, Hartman and Meiselman. It is a subtle but crucial change in tone and emphasis
mycroft, We strongly agree that there is (great) distance between RHS and the three Rabbis you mention. However, Rabbi Hartman never claimed to represent the thinking of the Rav ztl. Rabbi Greenburg was not a talmid, iirc, and never claimed any fealty to the Rav; his thoughts were clearly labeled as his own. Rabbi Meiselman is the only of the three that tries to claim to authoritatively follow in the Rav’s footsteps providing the most extreme example of revisionism; others pale in comparison.
“and mid 1980s the feminist movement within Orthodoxy made a radical left turn. This radical left turn included the formation of JOFA and other such. Part of the agenda was changing the mesorah as we know it. Rav Schachter, through his teshuva on women’s minyanim”
JOFA was founded in 1997-it is precisely the stridency and tone of his tshuvot on womens issues that could lead to a reaction such as the founding of JOFA. This does not mean that I don’t agree that most of RHS piskei halacha and approach in womens issues would be similar to the Rav-certainly infinitely closer than that of Rabbis Riskin, Greenberg and Lau-R Benny Lau.
I would distinguish between the views of the three Rabbis above. Rav B. Lau is a great deal more nuanced in his positions and was a talmid of Rav Amital ztl (and RAL ztl.) As noted above, Rabbi Greenberg was not a student and his views preceded those of JOFA.
Rav Lau is certainly much more constrained by halacha than the others-on the other hand he is certainly developing a much more liberal attitude to womens issues as time goes on. Rabbi Greenberg was a Rabbi in Boston. His views essentially go back at least 50 years-since his Commentator debate with RAL
This is a great post as to what has happened in the MO world and RIETS since 1984.
‘JOFA was founded in 1997-it is precisely the stridency and tone of his tshuvot on womens issues that could lead to a reaction such as the founding of JOFA.’
I was wrong about the timing f JOFA. \
I absolutely totally disagree that the tone of Rav Schachter’s teshuvot in any way led to the rise of JOFA. There are so many, many things within JOFA that are keneged are mesorah, the leaders of JOFA did not start suddenly believing these things after reading RHS’s teshuva.
JOFA/OO/YCT are all a part of ‘Orthodoxy’ which has fundamentally taken the position of the New York Times on egalitarianism and tried to cover it with token Orthodox language. This is exactly how the Conservative movement began.
The issue is does one accept the Absolute truth of the Torah that men and women are different and play different roles or not? Does one accept the complete authority of Chazal as defining our mesorah? Does one view halacha as binding and a goal to follow carefully or as a burden of obstacles that we need to deal with as we try to live a religious life on our own (not Hashem’s) terms? Read RMT’s articles. He articulates the issues much more precisely and eloquently. The C took down the mechitza and the Rav fought them, the (radical) feminist push made its way into Orthodoxy and started with women’s minyanim and eventually all the other deviations (women receiving aliyot, women leading the service for kabbalat Shabbat and pesukei dezimra, removing shelo asani isha from the siddur, referring to Hashem as the Godhead as opposed to Him, partnership minyanim, women reading megillah for men, the Rav opposed even reading for other women, women rabbis, the list goes on and on and on, r”l etc…) and RHS is leading the fight against them. It is exactly the same struggle.
It is striking how strident and extreme the Rav was in his own written and oral word against the deviations from our mesorah. He referred to the Holocaust and the gas chambers on several occasions. He referred to destroying yahadus and setting fire to the beis yisrael in his famous speech on hafkaat kiddushin. He regularly referred to yehareig v’al yaavor in connection with the new deviant movements.
If the ethical norm of thus shalt not kill has not lost validity during the days of extermination camps and gas chambers… then every halachic maxim assumes greater import in times of widespread disregard….(from the Rav’s psak abut a shul without mechitza)
The Rav publicized these words way before the Conservatives ordained women, basically rejected the prohibition of Homosexual behavior, began to consider allowing their clergy to officiate at homosexual ‘marriages’, and everything else that happened in JTS in the last 40 years. We all know there is basically nothing left of the C early token fealty to the halacha. It is basically another version of Reform. Do we think the Rav’s strident tone and reference to the gas chambers could have led to these further deiviations?!?
Let me ask you a question — ribono shel olam, G-d Almighty, if you should start modifying and reassessing the chazakos upon which a multitude of halachos rest, you will destroy yehadus. So instead of philosophizing, let us rather light a match and set fire to the beis yisrael, and get rid of our problems. (from the famous speech abut hafkaat kiddushin)
(I seem to remember the Rav referring to the Holocaust also in one of his strong rejections of hafkaat kiddushin, but I can’t find the reference right now. He does refer to ‘destroying yahaudus and setting fire to the beis midrash.)
RHS is less strident in his language than the Rav was. He does not invoke the gas chambers in his remarks as the Rav did on the major issues of public deviations from our mesorah. I have never heard him refer to burning the beis midrash in reference to YCT/OO.
RHS’s strong language in his teshuvot is just quoting the Rav and applying his ideas to new deviant (Conservative) movements that had not fully blossomed yet during the Rav’s active lifetime. When one rereads RHS’s teshuva from 1984 it is incredible how prescient he was. On p.34, he writes how the outside world has impacted on the Jewish way of thinking. And the feminist movement has already led the ‘Conservatives to be metzareif women to a minyan, give women aliyot, give women semicha, etc…’ And R Schachter was writing the teshuva partially because that is where he saw women’s minyanim were heading.
Those three things are exactly what have been happening in the OO/YCT world, r”l. They haven’t quite yet actually been metzareif women to a minyan, but they are definitely heading in that direction.
Let us not forget R Rakeffet’s deeply insightful comment. “JTS was started by well meaning Orthodox Rabbis.” The leaders of YCT/OO would do well to read and reread that comment. Ten years ago I would have said ‘history has started to repeat to itself.’ Now I think it is clear ‘history has repeated itself’, r”l.
RHS in his teshuva in 1984 was ahead of the game, and saw things clearly already then.
‘The question is that the Rav’s true legacy. One should start with the 1999 article by Prof Kaplan to understand revisionism of the Rav In it he does discuss RHS. Of course, his revisionism pales to that of Rabbi Greenberg, Hartman and Meiselman. It is a subtle but crucial change in tone and emphasis.’
Prof. Kaplan’s claims of RHS’s revisionism can be easily countered. Some of them clearly reflect his own bias, but I don’t’ think this post is the correct forum for discussing them in depth.
“Prof. Kaplan’s claims of RHS’s revisionism can be easily countered.”
It has been 17 years since the publication of Prof Kaplan’s article-I have not seen his articles facts disputed-that does not mean it hasn’t been done. I would appreciate a cite to any article/comment etc that disputes his examples
“Some of them clearly reflect his own bias, but I don’t’ think this post is the correct forum for discussing them in depth.”
You essentially claim that Rav Schachter is essentially following in the footsteps of the Ravs hashkafa-claims by reliable sources countering that viewpoint are relevant. A lot of the attacks on CC appear to rely on Rav Schachters viewpoints as representing the Rav. If the viewpoints would rely on their own svara or just Rav Schachter not claiming he is following through on the Rav I would agree with you.
Prof Kaplan although he has smicha and while a grad student taught at Maimonides, and for many years led a secondary minyan in a schul in Montreal does not claim the title Rabbi in his articles-thus he is not holding himself out as a posek-he holds himself as a expert on 20th Century Halacha-show how his writings are factually false. As far as I am aware Prof Kaplan is the only one who translated with cooperation of the Rav during the Ravs lifetime Ish Hahalacha.
For an interesting comments on the revisionism of RIETS and the Rav and importance of how women are treated inYahadus see Prof Waxman’s 2 footnotes
“…This may, in part, help explain the perception of the “move to the right.” It may well be that Modern Orthodox rabbis, including those ordained at RIETS in the latter part of the twentieth century, were considerably more to the rightthan were their predecessors. In other words, the move to the right may have been within the RIETS semikhah (ordination) program, under the influence of a revisionist approach to the thinking of its revered head, the late Rabbi JosephB. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”), rather than within Orthodoxy as a whole, but is so glaring because rabbis are much more visible than the laity. On revisionism with respect to the Rav, see Lawrence Kaplan, “Revisionism and the Rav: The Struggle for the Soul of Modern Orthodoxy,” Judaism 48,3 (Summer 1999): 290-311.
8 Tovah Lichtenstein, in a personal communication, has suggested a fourth factor, and one that has become increasinglydecisiveâ€” the attitudes toward women as manifest in patterns of women’s education, especially Jewish education.”
or of course a fragment of what I’ve quoted previously on cross-currents from Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein “… And yet, there are former students,
notable among them a number of faculty members or former faculty
members at RIETS, who have not only turned their backs on the complex
worldview the Rov espoused but are anxious to claim that the Rov himself
turned his back on this view.”
Mycroft, You are absolutely correct. Prof. Kaplan, a Ph.D. student of the Rav’s SIL, was chosen by them to translate Ish haHalakha. He meticulously captured the Rav’s mode of expression.
Compare his translation of kol dodi dofek to another one available. I am reading his current book reconstructing the Rav’s shiurim on Moreh Nevuchim and you can literally hear the Rav speaking in a formal setting.
The only challenge to his comments about the Rav, AFAIK, concern the laws of aveilut on Yom tov (on a utube at NYU law school.)
“Rav, AFAIK, concern the laws of aveilut on Yom tov (on a utube at NYU law school.)”
I was unsuccesful with that info to finding with a serach engine-if you have more info or cite would appreciate it.
a very interesting shiur /lecture and comment
not sure my last web address worked – on utube – google: tikvah lecture kaplan
Thanks for the link. Interesting
(sorry about the long delay in responding)
For an interesting comments on the revisionism of RIETS and the Rav and importance of how women are treated in Yahadus see Prof Waxman’s 2 footnotes
“…This may, in part, help explain the perception of the “move to the right.” It may well be that Modern Orthodox rabbis, including those ordained at RIETS in the latter part of the twentieth century, were considerably more to the right than were their predecessors. In other words, the move to the right may have been within the RIETS semikhah (ordination) program, under the influence of a revisionist approach to the thinking of its revered head, the late Rabbi JosephB. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”), rather than within Orthodoxy as a whole, but is so glaring because rabbis are much more visible than the laity. On revisionism with respect to the Rav, see Lawrence Kaplan, “Revisionism and the Rav: The Struggle for the Soul of Modern Orthodoxy,” Judaism 48,3 (Summer 1999): 290-311.
IMO, the move to the right of RIETS is not at all due to the present RY leaving the Rav’s mesorah or something like that. Indeed there has been a move to the right which I described in an earlier post. I think there are many factors which combined to give the (mis)impression that this move to the right happening at RIETS somehow is a move away from the Rav’s hashkafa. People have misinterpreted it as such. In fact, it is a direct continuation.
1. During the 60s and 70s the main struggle in YU and the main struggle for the Rav himself was to continue the fight against the Conservatives. There weren’t too many times when the Rav needed to criticize other Orthodox rabbis. (except for the time he felt forced to respond to the hafkaat kiddushin (and as I said above he was very, very strident, much more than RHS.) The more serious breaches of LW Orthodoxy were just starting.
2. At the same time, the general atmosphere in YU reflected the atmosphere in the University world in general, where there was a lot of interest in the humanities.
So the overall tone in YU was pro humanities and not anti left wing Orthodox.
During the 80’s and into the 90’s, both of these changed. As I said earlier, the feminist movement’s inroads into O began to grow. And therefore, the RIETS RY, as a hemscech of the Rav, needed to sometimes be critical of other O rabbis. This created a perception of being different than the Rav, but indeed, it was a direct hemshech.
Also, there was a general movement away from the humanities and towards business/making money. Therefore, the atmosphere in YU/RIETS became less focused on philosophy and the like. This created a perception of moving away from the Rav. This was not led by the RY. The RY focused on teaching Torah, yiras shamayim, etc… and secular studies for parnassah mostly. They did not speak against SS for more than parnassah. Sometimes the idea of SS of more than parnassah was discussed. It just wasn’t very relevant for the vast majority of talmidim anymore. That is where the talmidim were holding. The move away from SS for more than parnassah came from below, not from above.
3. As I mentioned above, there was a general growth in more learning at night seder and a greater dikduk in halacha, due primarily to the year in Israel and to the influence of the Rav’s talmidim.
The combined impact and impression of these three points was a more RW atmosphere, which included some criticism of LWO, which was uncommon when the Rav was active, for reasons I explained. None of that in anyway reflected moving away from the Rav. Just the opposite, as I wrote in an earlier post, more learning at night seder is not something the Rav would have objected to, obviously.
4. There were some RY who indeed did speak against TU’M and who denied the Rav’s strong involvement in philosophy and the like (this includes the quote cited by Dr. Lichtenstein). Those RY have since left RIETS for many years already. But their presence, combined with the 3 factors above created an impression of the ‘RIETS RY’ moving away from the Rav. Again, the present RY in RIETS were just not a part of that. Anyone (objective) who attended YU during that time can attest to this. The comments of these RY have led some to misinterpret that many of the Rav’s talmidim were saying these things in RIETS. However, that is not historically accurate.
5. Rabbi Dr. Lamm published his book about TU”M. Some of the RIETS RY did not agree with some of his radical formulations, especially the part where he suggests the possibility of saying birchos HaTorah on some secular studies. Most did not respond publicly or at most responded minimally that RL went ‘too far’. They mostly ignored his book. This could be perceived as moving away from the Rav by not supporting TUM. However, IMO that is incorrect. RL has some radical formulations, and there is no evidence that the Rav would have agreed. Indeed, RAL himself disagreed in print with RL’s assertion that I mentioned above. I am not aware that RHS ever was critical of RL’s book in print (or for that matter in shiur. I don’t know if it was discussed). The RIETS RY always spoke (and wrote, see the introductions to their sefarim) of RL with kavod. They were sincere, but disagreed with some of RL’s comments about TUM. But again, the non support of his radical formulations added to the perception of a move to the right. But again, RL presented things which seem to be to the left of the Rav, and the RY stayed with the Rav (without disagreeing in print, except for RAL.)
6. There is one area where there was a major change to the right in RIETS caused directly by the RY, especially RHS. YU had(s?) a program called the MBAT’s (mishna brurah achievement tests). RHS took them very seriously. He taught the M”B inside for all of shiur for several days straight every year of the MBATS. In this way, he instilled into the atmosphere in RIETS a major emphasis on halacha lemaaseh. His shiur in those years was very large and his influence spread and took hold. By the 90’s in YU, there was a much stronger feeling of focusing on nitty gritty halacha lemaasseh than had existed in the 70’s. As I wrote above, does that reflect moving away from the Rav’s legacy?!
(I am aware that some may claim, when they hear the M”B, things like ‘chumras’ or ‘the Aruch haschulchan was more meikel’, etc… Therefore, I can see someone claiming that RHS focusing on the M”B means he moved lechumra away from the Rav. That is inaccurate. The Rav was machmir in many areas much more than the M”B. and teaching the M”B often meant being more meykel. All long time students of RHS are aware of many many examples of this. Just to name a few- the Rav was machmir to stand with feet together during chazras hashatz, the M”B does not require this. The Rav was machmir to avoid answering amen to the bracha of the chazzan before hallel by starting the bracha before the chazan finished the bracha, the M”B does not mention this. The Rav was machmir regarding details of tekias shofar beyond the m”b’s requirements. There are areas of course where the Rav was more meikel than the M”B, but focusing on the m”b in no way meant leaving the Rav’s legacy. Also, when RHS teaches M”B, he always mentions the Rav’s approach where relevant.)
However, due to RHS’s focus on the MBAT’s (among other things. In general, he focused on halacha a lot, the MBAT’s stand out. The other RY also focused a lot on halacha, especially Rav Willig who also had a large shiur during those years), a strong focus on keeping the nitty gritty of halacha developed in YU, not chumras v. kulas, as I proved, but more of a focus on the nitty gritty.
(The Rav did teach Orach Chaim and Yorah Deah, much more than other RY in RW yeshivas, however the focus was not on the nitty gritty details, but rather on the lomdus. Anyone who attended YU in the mid to late 80s and early 90s is aware of this new focus.)
The combination of these 6 factors led some to misinterpret that the move to the right in RIETS was somehow led by the present RY as a move away from the Rav’s legacy. It had nothing at all to do with ‘leaving the Rav’s legacy’, (except for the RY mentioned above who said things which Dr. Lichtenstein quotes which are prima facia different than what the Rav stood for. And those RY have since left YU. By the way, I don’t mean to be critical of those RY. They were presenting their view of the Rav, which is quite similar to Rav Meiselman’s. I assume they could defend themselves. However, the focus in this thread is RHS and his influence in RIETS and beyond.)
So I don’t accept the opinion of Prof. Heilman. There has been a move to the right in RIETS, as I described, over the last few decades and I think it reflects a hemshech of the Rav’s legacy, not a departure from it. (There were other things that added to the perception of a move to the right as well.)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the present RY by and large are supportive of the medinah similar to the Rav. They certainly support as a given that young men should go to college to get a parnassah ‘to live in dignity’ (Rav Rakeffet’s term, from the Rav I think). Regarding the Rav’s view of interacting with non Orthodox, I explained in an earlier why IMO that has become largely moot.
Again, as I explained in an earlier post, the present RY support the notion, for those that want it and if done with the correct hashkafic approach etc…, of learning SS and the like for more than parnassah purposes. They do not emphasize it, but then again IMO neither did the Rav emphasize it (it=studying sec. studies for more than parnassah purposes) in print or in his public lectures.
IMO, it is not emphasized largely because that is where the students are holding. The focus in colleges all over the country now, is much more on parnassah than the humanities. YU has followed that trend.
As mentioned in an earlier post, the area of sec. studies where RHS is openly critical is in regard to Eng. Lit. And as I explained in an earlier post, there is no evidence that the Rav fully agreed with RAL in this issue either. IMO, the Rav was in between RHS and RAL on this issue. Even if the Rav was in full agreement with RAL, that does not mean RHS has left the Rav’s legacy or revised it. He may argue on this point, as many talmidim may argue with a rebbe. (But again, it is an open question whether the Rav fully agreed with RAL’s views on studying Eng. Literature.)
You essentially claim that Rav Schachter is essentially following in the footsteps of the Ravs hashkafa-claims by reliable sources countering that viewpoint are relevant. A lot of the attacks on CC appear to rely on Rav Schachters viewpoints as representing the Rav. If the viewpoints would rely on their own svara or just Rav Schachter not claiming he is following through on the Rav I would agree with you.
Prof Kaplan although he has smicha and while a grad student taught at Maimonides, and for many years led a secondary minyan in a schul in Montreal does not claim the title Rabbi in his articles-thus he is not holding himself out as a posek-he holds himself as a expert on 20th Century Halacha-show how his writings are factually false. As far as I am aware Prof Kaplan is the only one who translated with cooperation of the Rav during the Ravs lifetime Ish Hahalacha.
IMO, the question of Prof. Kaplan’s specific claims of revisionism are not relevant to your comments about the criticisms on CC emanating from RHS’s talmidim. The issues facing O today are the deviations of YCT/OO mostly revolving around radical feminism, rejection of the complete authority of chazal, and ultimately heresy (depending on your definition), as has been very, very carefully documented by RAG. There is nothing in LK’s alleged revisions which relate to the Rav’s legacy in those areas. It is 100% clear that the views of RHS, (Rav Mayer Twersky)RMT, as well as RAG exactly represent the Rav’s approach to these issues. This is what the struggle is about. Take an average US non-yeshivish O shul. Would the Rav want the Rabbi of that shul to believe in or promote the following:
Women rabbis, partnership minyanim, women wearing tefillin, women reading tefillin for men, women leading kabbalat shabat, women ‘saving’ their birchot hatorah so they can say a ’birchat hatorah’ at an aliyah, Avraham failed!! the akeidah because he should have told (or at least asked) Hashem ‘no, this is not moral’, Hashem not being ‘perfect’ because of His internal hashkafic contradictions, having publicly available podcasts discussing the most private of Jewish inyanei kedusha in the most public way, promotion of the LBGQT agenda, claims of the Rabbis of the Talmud adjusted the Torah shebichsav to be more moral and fit with the times (specifically regarding Sotah), the feminization of the siddur, referring to Hashem as ‘she’ or as Godself as opposed to He, rejecting in one form or another the mitzvah of mechiyas amalek because it is ‘immoral’, the list goes on and on and on. Unfortunately, and this is written with sadness, this list is far from comprehensive if one reads RAG’s articles carefully.)
All of these deviations and many more have been carefully documented on this site by RAG. Here, RHS, RMT, and RAG are leading the struggle to save that ‘average’ non yeshivish O shul from falling into the very slippery slope leading to Conservative Judaism. That is what is happening in some presently O shuls unfortunately, and that is exactly what the struggle is about. There is no question at all what the Rav’s legacy is on those issues, none whatsoever. As mentioned earlier, Rav Rakefet has also already referred to OO/YCT as Conservative.
I would encourage the CC readers to read or reread RMT’s articles presenting the Rav’s approach to the feminist issues, as well his own application of the Rav’s approach to the new deviations. There is no space at all between RMT and RHS in these issues. Note the following opening footnote to RMT”s article about women wearing tefillin.
1] Rav Schachter shlit”a has authoritatively dealt with this question in his recent responsum. This essay, disseminated with his approbation, merely seeks to expound and expand upon some of the relevant, seminal issues in a popular forum.
Just one more quote from a 1999 article by RMT that is especially relevant:
Accordingly, if, God forbid, halakha were to discriminate against women in the realm of tefilla, it would eo ipso suppress their religious experience and stifle their spiritual aspirations. Such a religious handicap would relegate them to spiritual mediocrity.
This false, egregious conclusion replete with potentially tragic ramifications is dictated by women’s tefilla groups. These groups are predicated upon the mistaken notion that the experience of tefilla is enhanced by assuming active roles and conversely is stunted when such roles are off-limits. And yet women’s tefilla groups, conducted with even minimal technical allegiance to the particulars of halakha, cannot provide their participants with the same or even equivalent active roles to those that are available to men praying with a quorum. Within such groups it is impossible to recite devarim she-bi-kdusha as such, fulfill the mitsva of keriat haTorah, etc. And thus, according to the mistaken premise of the tefilla groups, women’s religious life remains muted even within such groups.
The participants in women’s tefilla groups will, within the present generation, become intellectually and existentially aware of the failure of such groups and the concomitant false yet inevitable conclusion regarding women’s standing within Yahadut. We must recognize that the possible ramifications of this falsehood are especially frightening and particularly tragic. Propelled by negative momentum and misguided by erroneous teachings, some women, God forbid, could reject all remaining halakhic constraints in an unrestrained attempt to enhance their (inauthentic) tefilla experience in particular and religious experience in general. Needless to say, this development would be especially tragic.
Unfortunately, this tragic ‘prediction’ from the turn of the century has come true. It is the same as RHS’s prediction in his teshuva.
That is very important to remember. RHS and RMT take the Rav’s ideas and apply them to the newer deviations. They have different writing styles, but the thrust is the same. As mentioned in an earlier post, they do differ from the Rav in their slightly more moderate tone. They don’t, as far as I know, refer to the ‘gas chambers’ or ‘So instead of philosophizing, let us rather light a match and set fire to the beis yisrael, and get rid of our problems.’ If RHS has referred to the Holocasut or ‘setting fire to the beis midrash’ in his discussions of OO/YCT, I will stand corrected. As far as I remember, his most extreme comments are generally him quoting the Rav and applying his ideas to the newer deviations.
It is clear that when the Rav thought the Mesorah was in danger, he wrote/spoke very, very strongly against those deviations. RHS and the other RY have not spoken that strongly. It is incorrect to say that the tone has become more strident.
It has been 17 years since the publication of Prof Kaplan’s article-I have not seen his articles facts disputed-that does not mean it hasn’t been done. I would appreciate a cite to any article/comment etc that disputes his examples
IMO, there are good reasons why RHS and his talmidim don’t feel a need to respond to Prof. Kaplan’s claims. And again I don’t think this forum is the place to discuss the alleged revisions.
I will mention one since it somewhat relates to the feminist issues. LK makes a point of RHS not mentioning the Rav’s stance on women learning TSHBP. I agree that is an interesting question. However, it is important to note that RHS repeatedly has paskened that women may learn gemara (if done for the right reasons). He has spoken about this publicly. See the press conference at Gush I mentioned in an earlier post. He does this as a hemshech of the Rav’s psak. For years, there was a gemara shiur in Manhattan for women, given under the direction of RHS, RMW, RMT, and RMR. RHS mentions it in the above press conference. The shiur was given for several years by Rav David Hirsch, a talmid of RHS. RHS sanctioned the shiur. Stern has a new program for women learning advanced TSHBP which was started with the support, as far as I know, of RMW and RHS. (I don’t know of the status now.) RHS does not hide the Rav’s support for women learning TSHBP. IMO, his approach is the same as RMT’s presentation of the topic in his article on the Rav in Tradition, ‘A Glimpse of the Rav’. There RMT explained that the Rav’s approach to women learning gemara was in no way a response to a feminist push. Rather it was the same yesod as the Chofetz Chaim allowing TSHBP for women (albeit not gemara obviously) applied in a more far reaching way. But the goal was to maintain the mesorah, not changing it. That is the crucial point.
For sake of disclosure, RHS has spoken against the emphasis on gemara learning at the HS level, for both young women and young men. He thinks it is much better for them to learn halacha, navi, chumash, ikarei emuanh etc… However, this is not at all based on some rejection of the Rav’s pro feminist stance. A) as I explained the Rav’s stance was not pro feminism, and b) RHS maintains this view for educational purposes. He says the same thing for the young men as well. He has said that instead of changing the women’s curriculum to be more like the men, we should be changing the men’s curriculum to be more like the women’s curriculum of old. Young men leave MO HS nowadays knowing very little navi, halacha, and basic Torah hashkafa. He thinks we should be focused on changing that.
Does that make less of a talmid?! He doesn’t hide the Rav’s view. He discusses it when relevant.
In an earlier post I mentioned some points where RAL differed from the Rav. Does that make him less of a talmid?! Rav Rakeffet differs with the Rav on the very fundamental issue of land for peace in Israel, which is an issue of nefashos. The Rav was more of a dove on that issue (like RAL), and RR is much more of hawk. Does that make him less of a talmid?! Of course not. Every talmid has his agreements and disagreements with his rebbe.
I will be signing off on this thread now. These responses take a lot of time. I will allow Mycroft and whoever else to get the last word.
I will just say for the record that shetikah is not kehodaah here. I just don’t have the time to respond to everything in a complete way. My goal is to provide a more accurate (IMO) narrative about RIETS in the mid 80’s to the 90’s, the Rav, and RHS/RMT/RAG.
Therefore, IMO the criticisms of OO/YCT on these pages, which are based on RHS’s ideas as a hemshech of the Rav are fully appropriate and accurately reflect the Rav’s views as explained by RHS and RMT and others.
Finally, again I repeat the very insightful words of Rav Rakeffet, “JTS was started by well meaning Orthodox rabbis.” That is what the struggle is about.
You wrote a lot and I agree with a lot and disagree with some to the extent I respond it will be as time permits .
“Rabbi Dr. Lamm published his book about TU”M. Some of the RIETS RY did not agree with some of his radical formulations, especially the part where he suggests the possibility of saying birchos HaTorah on some secular studies. Most did not respond publicly or at most responded minimally that RL went ‘too far’. They mostly ignored his book. This could be perceived as moving away from the Rav by not supporting TUM. However, IMO that is incorrect. RL has some radical formulations, and there is no evidence that the Rav would have agreed. Indeed, RAL himself disagreed in print with RL’s assertion that”
RL to a person who treats halacha as primary has some radical viewpoints-how much of it is due to extreme modernism or how much is due to his Chassidic influences is beyond my capacity-suffice it to say there were those MO who by the early 60s who openly disagreed with RL on RLs extreme belief in secular studies importance compared to Torah study narrowly construed. This area has probably been ignored for the past 40 years since RL became President of YU-but IMO his differences with what I assume the Ravs hashkafa go way back-before RHS had smicha.
“During the 60s and 70s the main struggle in YU and the main struggle for the Rav himself was to continue the fight against the Conservatives. ”
The Rav was opposed to mix pews-unlike RMF he did not look at the Conservative movement as the enemy or evil-he treated them as mistaken.
I am aware of his criticizing polemics against the Conservative movement for having too harsh language-the language was more diplomatic compared to what one sees on CC.
The Rav believed that one should let non Orthodox Clergy use communal mikvaot for their conversions. The Rav in his letter quoted in Helfgotts book to the President of Rabbi Shubow’s Conservative synagogue in addition to stating that he can’t attend the dinner because it might imply his approval of mixed pews-also congratulates the synagogue for helping bring Judaism to a new section of Boston.
The Rav was choshed that non Orthodox conversions could be valid-and unlike RMF the Rav believed that weddings preformed by non Orthodox clergy required a get
There weren’t too many times when the Rav needed to criticize other Orthodox rabbis. (except for the time he felt forced to respond to the hafkaat kiddushin (and as I said above he was very, very strident, much more than RHS.) The more serious breaches of LW Orthodoxy were just starting
If one reads the letter in its entirety, the bottom line was that although that RYBS thought that the C clergyman in question was a nice gentleman, RYBS declined to go to the deviatrionist house of worship’s annual dinner because attendance thereat would pronounce an undeserved sense of legitimacy to a C house of worship.
If one reads the letter in its entirety, the bottom line was that although that RYBS thought that the C clergyman in question was a nice gentleman, RYBS declined to go to the deviatrionist house of worship’s annual dinner because attendance thereat would pronounce an undeserved sense of legitimacy to a C house of worship.”
That aspect of the letter is obvious and I wrote similarly:”The Rav in his letter quoted in Helfgotts book to the President of Rabbi Shubow’s Conservative synagogue in addition to stating that he can’t attend the dinner because it might imply his approval of mixed pews”
However, that is the obvious point that all cite-but what is unique about the Rav is recognizing positive aspects of identification with heterodox movements versus not having any Jewish identification- as RAL stated” Nor do I share the glee some feel over the prospective demise of the competition…Their [the Conservative and Reform movements’] disappearance might strengthen us in some respects but would unquestionably weaken us in others…The people currently served by these movements–many of them, both presently and potentially, [are] well beyond our reach or ken…Can anyone responsibly state that it is better for a marginal Jew in Dallas or Dubuque to lose his religious identity altogether than drive to his temple [on Shabbos]? (“The State of Orthodoxy: A Symposium,” Tradition, vol. 2, no. 1 [spring, 1982]).”
It is my belief that the Rav would have agreed with that comment by RAL
I think that it is clear that you are spinning RYBS’s letter to make it sound more palatable and compatible with RAL’s POV. There is a marked difference between not attending a dinner for the reasons stated by RYBS and hoping as RAL expressed that someone ” lose his religious identity altogether than drive to his temple [on Shabbos].”
“I think that it is clear that you are spinning RYBS’s letter to make it sound more palatable and compatible with RAL’s POV.”
The Rav was careful with his words-he wrote BOTH of not being able to attend so as not to appear to support mixed pews AND that the new Conservative synagogue would help bring Judaism to a new section of Boston.
“There is a marked difference between not attending a dinner for the reasons stated by RYBS and hoping as RAL expressed that someone ” lose his religious identity altogether than drive to his temple [on Shabbos].””
There is no conflict between the two positions.
The terms right and left are misleading but we all understand the shorthand-RAL if anything was to the right of the Rav-in addition to the Rav on his left he was very much influenced by Rav Hutner and RAS on his right.
Great post! I haven’t seen a better post that shows the evolution of talmidim in RIETS from the ground up here, and the role of the RIETS RY in reaction to egaliatarian feminism and the needs of their talmidim .
” in his article on the Rav in Tradition, ‘A Glimpse of the Rav’. There RMT explained that the Rav’s approach to women learning gemara was in no way a response to a feminist push. Rather it was the same yesod as the Chofetz Chaim allowing TSHBP for women (albeit not gemara obviously) applied in a more far reaching way. But the goal was to maintain the mesorah, not changing it. That is the crucial point.”
The Ravs viewpoint on teaching women Talmud and the reasons why have been the subject of implicit debate-the reason why I say implicit is that Farber on Maimonides School quotes different people-none OO or sympathetic to OO who have different viewpoints of the Rav in this manner. They are apparently contradictory-to be fair recently R Genack tried to square the different viewpoints. If one wants to get a fair background on the Rav read as much and as varied as possible-in one school one has the RY-one can’t ignore those who dealt with Rav for decades on public policy issues and many of whom were close students of the Rav-read everything. If one wants a quick historical background listen to Pro Brill’s series on Modern Orthodoxy-he discusses the Rav MO and Centrist Orthodoxy in a couple of lectures in the middle of his series-available on YU Torah-certainly RHS/RMT/RMM are all talmeidei chachamim but there are/were others who also wrote on the Rav. Read them all for a balanced picture.
“In an earlier post I mentioned some points where RAL differed from the Rav. Does that make him less of a talmid?! Rav Rakeffet differs with the Rav on the very fundamental issue of land for peace in Israel, which is an issue of nefashos. The Rav was more of a dove on that issue (like RAL), and RR is much more of hawk. Does that make him less of a talmid?”
One can be arguendo a great student of ones Rebbe but if one rejects fundamental haskafot of ones Rebbe no matter how bright and knowledgeable one is than it is problematic to be treated as a talmid. Thus, R David Hartman was certainly brilliant and knowledgeable-one would hardly state that the Rav was his Rebbe.
The Ravs viewpoint on territories for peace was that it was an area for military/diplomatic experts. However, it is at least possible/probable that the Rav would have tolerated Kahanism-he lashed out at Betarnicks in his Rubin Spring 1968 speech about their implied threat to do their thing if Lord Caradon came to YU. A fortiori he would not have approved of Kahanism
“For sake of disclosure, RHS has spoken against the emphasis on gemara learning at the HS level, for both young women and young men. He thinks it is much better for them to learn halacha, navi, chumash, ikarei emuanh etc… However, this is not at all based on some rejection of the Rav’s pro feminist stance. A) as I explained the Rav’s stance was not pro feminism, and b) RHS maintains this view for educational purposes. He says the same thing for the young men as well. He has said that instead of changing the women’s curriculum to be more like the men, we should be changing the men’s curriculum to be more like the women’s curriculum of old.”
Look at Maimonides school curriculum-the Rav certainly agreed that far more than Gemarrah should be taught to HS students
“on RHS’s ideas as a hemshech of the Rav are fully appropriate and accurately reflect the Rav’s views as explained by RHS and RMT and others”
RHS and RMT are both great talmeidei chachamim-their viewpoints are important like others are. There are others who dealt with the Rav halacha lemaaseh more-RHS during the Ravs active life RY and head of Kollel, RMT was frankly young to have dealt with the Rav on policy issues-to the extent he quotes the Rav or his father ZT”L on theRav-I believe he is a man of complete yosher. He gives his analysis but there are others. Try RMTs assistant pricipal from part of his elementary school days-R Blau.