Rabbi Slifkin: Not Every Diyuk is a Diyuk

In this week’s installment of News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy, I cited a few current news articles about the growth of Lakewood and issues related to it, and I made an observation:

Gender-segregated swimming policy at Lakewood makes waves

NJ township urges Justice Dept. to investigate haredi Orthodox ‘blockbusting’ – Use of a gross translation error (“shtikel” in Yiddish does not mean “second class”!) as evidence of a blockbusting effort is silly and counterproductive – but taking a step back, this episode and the one in nearby Toms River further demonstrate why a small New Jersey township that was selected over half a century ago to house a great yeshiva in isolation from the larger Jewish community is not equipped to become the primary population base of Traditional (yeshivish/chareidi) Orthodoxy in America. When one tries to squeeze tens of thousands of additional people (growing exponentially by the day) into a small town, which literally cannot contain them, and this population starts bursting en masse into other nearby townships – where Orthodox Jews are probably less than welcome – it is a recipe for trouble and major conflict. Please also see this important article. (Somewhat related to this, I wrote elsewhere recently: “A book must be written about the unprecedented phenomenon of American Orthodoxy substantially retreating from urban centers and relocating in large measure to suburban and rural areas. The relative abandonment of principal institutional infrastructures (such as many of the major New York City yeshivos, in favor of the dozens of small new yeshivos in Monsey, Lakewood and elsewhere), the resultant decentralization of leadership and the potential forfeiture of public influence that this current trend portends absolutely must be documented and considered. It is a seismic shift of historical import.” No, I am not advocating that all Jews live in large cities, but the accelerating, extensive Orthodox population shifts out of major cities, often to communities quite far away from these cities, may have significant unintended consequences.)

The intent of my observation was taken to a whole new level by Rabbi Natan Slifkin, who wrote an article about it:

Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer is a man on a mission: the delegitimization of anyone that he deems insufficiently Orthodox (on the left of the spectrum – he doesn’t seem to care about much more significant deviations from Torah on the right of the spectrum). Superficially, he appears to devote himself solely to the excesses of Open Orthodoxy. However, when one reads his writings more carefully, it is clear that his worldview is essentially charedi, and he is actually working to delegitimize anyone outside of the charedi community, in effect if not in intent.

I am not sure why Rabbi Slifkin asserts, among other very erroneous things, that I am “actually working to delegitimize anyone outside of the charedi community“. When is the last time that I criticized Religious Zionism? Or Young Israel? Or Yeshiva University? or Bnei Akiva? Umm… never. And when is the last time that I quoted with praise the writings and actions of those affiliated with Religious Zionism and Modern Orthodoxy? I do so on a regular basis, typically every week on Cross-Currents. I do not understand why Rabbi Slifkin painted me as he did.

Rabbi Slifkin continues:

Rabbi Gordimer refers to Lakewood as “the primary population base of Traditional (yeshivish/chareidi) Orthodoxy in America.” He defines “traditional” as “yeshivish/charedi”! In other words, if you’re not yeshivish/chareidi, you’re not traditional!

This is fundamentally mistaken. Let’s ignore the fact that it is more accurate to describe Orthodoxy in general as traditionalist rather than traditional (as I discussed in my essay “The Novelty of Orthodoxy,” the attempt to remain loyal to tradition in the face of the massive changes of the eighteenth century forced the creation of a new type of Judaism). Yeshivish/charedi Orthodoxy is certainly not “traditional” vis-a-vis non-yeshivish/chareidi Orthodoxy… (For extensive discussion, see my monograph “The Making Of Haredim.”)

I’m sorry to disappoint, for despite the lomdus (abstract conceptualization) which Rabbi Slifkin develops from a few of my words and his elaborate refutation thereof, I employed the term “Traditional Orthodoxy” here merely in order to distinguish it from Modern Orthodoxy – simple as that. My use of the word “Traditional” was not loaded with deep historical and sociological teachings. (Since we are on the subject, I ask if Rabbi Slifkin also objects to the term “Modern Orthodoxy”, as if dissected, this term conveys that Modern Orthodoxy is based on modernity rather than on tradition. But alas, the term “Modern Orthodoxy” is of course merely used by most as a popular expression of convention, to distinguish it from – you guessed it – Traditional Orthodoxy, or whatever you want to call it!) These terms are not profound history lessons, but are mere pragmatic identifiers (for all but a small handful of theologians), from which no “diyukim” (sophisticated inferences) were intended by anyone.

 Rabbi Slifkin concludes his analysis:

In another passing comment that reveals his true colors, Rabbi Gordimer describes Lakewood yeshivah as “the epicenter of Orthodoxy.” That’s as absurd as describing YU as the epicenter of Orthodoxy. You could describe YU as the epicenter of modern/centrist Orthodoxy, and you could describe Lakewood as the epicenter of North American litvishe charedi Orthodoxy, but to describe Lakewood as “the epicenter of Orthodoxy” reveals a severely distorted perspective.

The most interesting thing about this is that it is not what I wrote! I wrote, replying to a reader’s comment about Lakewood:

R.B.: I am in no way against Lakewood. My concern is the wisdom of overpopulating it and overwhelming its infrastructure, as it was not set up to serve such a massive influx. I am also concerned about moving the epicenter of Orthodoxy into rural towns.

For Rabbi Slifkin to charge that the above response constitutes an act of severe distortion is baffling, especially in the context of my post (the flow of American yeshivish/chareidi Orthodoxy out of large cities) and the specific comment to which I was responding.

It’s not clear what Rabbi Slifkin’s agenda is here.

I am used to being criticized on the internet (such as here, with colorful and entertaining attacks every week); it is part of the job, it does not faze me, and I normally do not respond. But from someone such as Rabbi Slifkin, who presents himself as a rationalist and a man of science and erudition, the quality of the analysis, the logic and even the reading skills invested into his newest article sorely disappoint and fail to deliver on the charges.

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80 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    Baruch Shekivanti, before rabbi slifkin’s comment i noted your use of traditional as yeshivish/chareidi.  while rabbi slifkin pointed out one large and critical difference, kollel for all, the number of other examples is also rather large.  artscroll’s hagiographies and histories and even some “seforim” are unfortunately having impact; sad but true.  chareidi judaism is as traditional as Moshe wearing a shtreimel :).  Is the rav ztl’s famous ger ve’toshav drash also OO?

  2. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    It is clear that Chareidi Judaism is traditional as opposed to decimation of halacha and Mesorah (yeah, that means tradition) by the OO and left wing MO.

    And certainly the philosophy that Torah and Halacha is prime is a continuation of traditional Judaism, and not as afterthoughts that can be pushed aside at a whim, as a philosophy.



  3. DS says:

    Even if Rabbi Slifkin is reading too much into the words (which personally I agree, and would have preferred a less personal refutation), his point remains true. Yeshiva/Chareidi society feels that they are the continuation of the mesorah, and the ideal Jew, to the exclusion of anyone else. This is what there is to take issue with.


  4. ” I ask if Rabbi Slifkin also objects to the term “Modern Orthodoxy”, as if dissected, this term conveys that Modern Orthodoxy is based on modernity rather than on tradition.”

    In answer to your question, no, I don’t object to the term at all, because it doesn’t have the implication that you ascribe to it. Modern Orthodoxy refers to the overt acceptance of significant aspects of modern society. This does not mean that those who do not overtly accept those aspects are traditional. First of all, accepting significant aspects of modern society itself has a long tradition. Second, other communities break with tradition in other significant ways. That is why we refer to those other groups as Religious Zionist, Chassidic, Charedi, yeshivish, etc. – not “traditional.”

    “But alas, the term “Modern Orthodoxy” is of course merely used by most as a popular expression of convention, to distinguish it from – you guessed it – Traditional Orthodoxy, or whatever you want to call it!”

    That’s the whole point. First of all, most people simply do not use the term “Traditional Orthodoxy” in that way. Second, in your original post, you defined Traditional not just as referring to those who are not Modern Orthodox, but as referring specifically to yeshivish/charedi.

    To clarify matters, please answer the following: Would you describe Israeli Bnei Akiva or American Young Israel type Jews as “yeshivish” or “charedi”? I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t. So would you describe them as “traditional”? If yes, then your original post was written incorrectly. If not, then your terminology is simply mistaken, subtly offensive, and betrays an effective (albeit perhaps wholly not consciously intended) effort at delegitimizing those groups, as well as delegitimizing Modern Orthodoxy. Or are you going to say that it’s fine to be non-traditional?

    • Dr. Tzvikah Emet says:

      You are picking a fight over verbiage. I suggest you re-read the title of this article.

    • Mendy says:

      ” Second, in your original post, you defined Traditional not just as referring to those who are not Modern Orthodox, but as referring specifically to yeshivish/charedi.”

      Actually, by adding the parenthetical qualifier Rabbi Gordimer is giving a nod to MO Machmir, Chofetz Chaim, Chasidish, etc. Because the simple meaning of the qualifier is to limit his remarks to the movement specifically of THIS traditional community of orthodoxy and not all.

      Furthermore, I know there  are favored teshuvos and ideas of the Seridei Eish and Rabbi Yosef Z. Carelbach, etc.etc. that receive overbearing attention in much the same way hagiographies are said to be selectively edited- but other than these vignettes MO does not as a platform have a an organized communal structure as old as the forms of Orthodoxy it seeks to differentiate itself from. And with that I don’t just mean Yeshivish Charedi.

  5. Nachum says:

    R’ Gordimer, with all due respect, you should be honest enough to admit that you have indeed criticized YU and some mainstream Religious Zionists (Young Israel, certainly at the leadership level, has not been Modern Orthodox for years, except in charedi shorthand) when they’ve done and said rather uncontroversial things you don’t approve of. Yes, I know, you merely link without comment. But sometimes your point of view is clear. I can provide examples if you want. And that (and the fact that your fora tend to be charedi) is what makes those who are equally uncomfortable with Open Orthodoxy a little suspicious.

  6. Michael Berman says:

    You are right that his response is bizarre. He’s simply becoming less and less relevant, and in desperate need of an audience.

    But I don’t see why we are afraid to embrace his diyuk even if that wasn’t your intent. Of course charedi  Judaism is traditional — Jewish tradition always required us to be subservient to our Gedolim. They lead the practices of each generation. Rebbe Akiva said “just like this bird cannot fly without wings, so Israel cannot do anything without its Elders.”  He didn’t say we have to do Taryag Mitzvos or seek their advice on Halacha, he said we can’t do anything without them.  Whether or not we dress for weddings the way Yeminites did  is not what makes Judaism “traditional.” The very fact that he attempts to use Norman Lamm to “shlug up” Reb Chaim Volozhner proves the point,  because our Gedolim  clearly follow the latter, and that is what makes it tradition.

    A Jew trying to decide what “tradition” demands, without the Gedolim, is like a Raphus cucullatus. I’ll let you look it up.

    • dr. bill says:

      i applaud your ability to find a reference to daas torah before the 20thy century.  your citation deserves a story.  someone asked rav zelig epstein ztl how could the advice of RCOG ztl not be followed. to which he responded – that was before daas torah was invented.

      • Michael Berman says:

        If not every diyuk is a diyuk, it is surely true that not every sarcastic remark is a psak! The real answer, of course, has to do with consensus. And that is why both you and DF have it all wrong. “Traditional” Judaism never meant doing precisely what we did 200 or years earlier. It meant and means that we follow the same leadership and guidance structure that we did 200 (or 2000) years ago when addressing today’s circumstances. That is what we do precisely as we did.

        What do today’s Gedolim say about today’s secular education? That’s your answer. DF has it backwards: “the modern yehivah or charedi movement” is the physical manifestation of traditional Judaism!

        It is silly for you to imply that it was a great feat to find that (very famous) quote from Rebbe Akiva, or any other of the countless references to following our Gedolim in every area of life. The Sha’arei Aharon, Rav Aharon Rotter, says that someone who believes we don’t have to follow today’s Gedolim testifies upon himself (Me’id al Atzmo) that he has not read, learned, or served rabbis. In other words, you have to be an ignoramus not to find the references… and we don’t find anyone telling his students to go out and make their own choices.

        The Chazon Ish said that to divide Torah into Halacha on one side, and daily life on the other, and only go to Rabbis about the first, is the root of the Reform movement (“be a Jew in the home and the man in the street”). In other words, nay-saying the idea of Da’as Torah isn’t a new concept, and it flies as well as a dodo bird.

      • mycroft says:

        Mr. Berm an read Lawrence Kaplan on das Torah. I will simply note that daas Torah in its modern sense arose during the same period as Papal infallibility. Papal infallibility in matters of faith became Catholic dogma during Vtican I -1870- read for how soon after daaas Torah claims originated. I am not claiming that 19th century Rabbonim got the idea from the Vatican but both faith systems under attack by modernity started to make more extravagant claims about clergy authority.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        One can find many examples of our obediance to rabbinic authority and to how Chazal defined how and when we perform Mitzvos of a Torah nature that contradict the simple Pshuto Shel Mikra , as well as our fulfillment of Mitzvos of a Rabbinic nature . All are premised on the mitzvah that we follow the Chachmei HaMesorah in every generation in providing Halachic guidance on all such issues . In fact, the Braisa in Kinyan Torah refers to Emunas Chachamim as one of the 48 means by which one is indeed Koneh Torah. One may argue that matters of hashkafa are not included within Lo Sasor, but one would be remiss and incomplete in one’s claim if one asserted that Rishonim do not exist who  state otherwise, or that the Chacmei HaMesorah are merely the equivalent of a walking Encyclopedia Talmudis.

      • mycroft says:

        Quoting R N Lamm the term is Emunas Chachamim not emuna bchachamim

      • mycroft says:

        lo tasur has 3 drastically different viewpoints-2out of 3 state if you know chazal are wrong don’t follow them

      • dr. bill says:

        think twice about referring to the response of a Gadol as a sarcastic remark.  the context, which i purposely omitted, was rather serious.  in anycase, after you read the article mycroft suggested, i can recommend a few more.  and RCOG ztl’s advice is of significantly more value than what passes for daas torah today.

      • DF says:

        Are you quoting the Chazon Ish and his gabbai (R. Aharon Rotter) as proof of your opinion? Seriously?

      • Michael Berman says:

        Rav Rotter provides a list of sources that anyone could examine. But the idea that Lawrence Kaplan and or Norman Lamm know more about Judaism than the Chazon Ish is beyond laughable.

        If anyone can find a source of a teacher, anywhere in the Gemara or Rishonim, advising his student to go out and do what he feels is right, then we can talk about it. All the rest is simply trying to avoid facing our clear and abundantly-sourced obligation to seek guidance from our leadership, those with superior Torah knowledge. Until someone can present such a source, there’s nothing here to talk about.

      • dr. bill says:

        michael berman, perhaps i will now laugh more.  but in answer to your question take a look at berakhot 45a and ask why daas torah was not consulted.  the chazon ish was a major gadol whose unique views continue to hold sway in many circles.  yes, some claim he had knowledge of medicine or mathematics or whatever; but jewish history is something i never heard.

        frankly, even some of his iconic halakhic views, were contrary to the vast majority of poskim.  in some cases, historical discoveries have cast significant doubt over his positions.

      • Michael Berman says:

        Now, Dr. Bill, you are being silly – so much so that you would not actually quote that Gemara, because if you did so everyone would know how silly you were being. It’s irrelevant, and you know it’s irrelevant. I challenged you to find even a single instance in Gemara or Rishonim of someone advising his student to go out and do what he feels is right. If you had an actual example to present of such a thing, you would have offered it. Good Shabbos!

      • dr. bill says:

        michael berman, my apologies but the gemara is obviously relevant; why not just consult daas torah?  your argument from silence is both fallacious  and meaningless.  both RSZA ztl and the Rav ztl would tell talmidim and talmidim only their non-binding POV, but would not dain to expect that non-talmidim follow their view in non-halakhic matters.  and what both considered non-halakhic conformed to a deep appreciation to what is halakhic, some often missing from today’s discussions.

      • Michael Berman says:

        I challenged you to find even a single instance in Gemara or Rishonim of someone advising his student to go out and do what he feels is right. An Amora telling his student to go see how people make a bracha, because the common practice of holy Jews is assumed to be correct, is a completely unrelated question. Ditto guidance to a single individual, where one can ask an opinion without asking what one should do. This is something that those of us who follow Da’as Torah know very well. That is part of the process, not its negation.

        Given that this was the best example you could find, you have proven my point — as if, given the host of references to listening to our chachamim, such were even necessary.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Dr bill-without resorting to hiding behind a reference to an academic POV,please explain the view of the Baalei HaTosfos cited in BK 41b d.h Lrabos

      • dr. bill says:

        you have to venerate/fear not just your rabbo muvhak, but also an acknowledged gadol ba’torah.  what does this have to do with daas torah???

        as requested i will not share views from academic sources on this gemara; you would not acknowledge its important insight in any case.

      • Steve brizel says:

        We venerate Gdolei HaDor even if we never formally learned anything from them because of their status as Gdolei HaDor. See the comments of Mharsha in the Chiddushei Aggados.I think that the above quoted statement of the Baalei HaTosfos requires some explanation by those who see Emunas Chachamim and or Daas Torah as contemporary sociological and political responses.

      • dr. bill says:

        steven brizel, emunas chachamim is not the same as daas torah and neither follow from the obligation to venerate.

      • mycroft says:

        Venerate? Since when do we treat people as saints? Respect, kavod -yes. Veneration gives me pause to put it mildly.

    • mycroft says:

      Mr Berman even Agudah has had in its century a lot of dispute about lay vs. Rabbinic authority see eg long dispute between Rosenheim and Breuer on that issue. They have essentially punted by having a Rabbinic advisory Board .

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Actually, R M Sherer ZL was known for what questions he presented before the Moetzes and which ones he did not.

      • mycroft says:

        Thus the lay head of the Agudah-I am aware that R Sherer had Smicha but IMO he had a job that did not require Smicha see eg Mike Tress ZT”L- decided which questions to ask his Rabbinic advisory board. BTW although many of their Moetzes are true taleidei chachamim that is far from all being gedolei ha torah-some have done an even more important function helping to spread Yiddishkeit.

      • mycroft says:

        Steve there has been academic literature dealing with founding of Agudah and the differences in governance ideas between Breuer andRoseheim. BTW I gave  a copy of a book describing the dispute to a descendant of one the protagonists and found it very interesting.

      • mycroft says:

        As Dr Bill stated the Rav stated that he had no special expertise in non Halachik matters. He might discuss his POV with talmidim but many of his closest talmidim and close family often disagreed with him on non Halachik matters. Halachik psak never.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Read my post re Lo Sasur and your response which is a paraphrase of sorts of the view of Ramban. However the view that the Chachmei HaMesorah of every generation tell us how when and how to fullfil both mitzvos of a Torah and rabbinic level as and the address for halachic and hashkafic guidance is a fairly well understood meaning of lo sasur which has long preceded contemporary theorizing and fulminations in favor of or against “Daas Torah”



      • mycroft says:

        For an interesting view of what Chazal did not name the book by Nehemiah after him see Nehemiah Statesman and Sage by Dov Zakheim. His reason relates to lay power vs Rabbinic power.

  7. dr. bill says:

    The use of traditional to refer to a particular variation of jewish practice implies other are, in some sense, not traditional.  This aligns well with those who wear shtremilach because that is traditional or make Kiddush on schnapps shabbos day because that is traditional or don’t eat in a succah on SA because that is traditional or daven mincha an hour after what is referred to as sunset because that is traditional, etc.  In these instances traditional means doing what my ancestors did without recognition for changed circumstance.  That is traditional but it can also be ANTI-halakhic.
    The most grievous SIN of that ilk relates to secular education.  Just read the insightful teshuvot of r’ Dovid Karliner ztl about secular education in Russian chadarim versus those chadarim in Eretz Israel.  I read a paragraph or two to some folk and they thought it was written recently not (almost prophetically) over a century ago.
    The impact of that sin makes the “sins” of OO pale in comparison.  Sadly, disregarding changed circumstance versus overemphasizing it can work that way.

    • Aryeh says:

      “or daven mincha an hour after what is referred to as sunset”

      Both the Mechaber & the Rema sanction this practice. It is the mishna berura who takes issue with it. Look it up…

      • dr. bill says:

        Aryeh,  you need to look up more than seif or two.  the literature on this topic is over a few thousand pages, with dozens of seminal full blown seforim or tshuvot.  but very briefly:

        1)  the mechaber and rama followed rabbeinu tam’s shittah.  since they did not describe their shittot with then prolifrerating clocks, we do not know how they behaved precisely.  but given both also spoke in terms of 3 stars, it is not likely they (or anyone in the 16th century)  davened mincha after the appearance of 3 stars (of any size.)

        2) referring to the mishnah berurah as taking issue with the shittah of Rabbeinu Tam is beyond outrageous.  it would get you thrown out of many a shiur worth attending.  you are disregarding the gaon and the baal ha’tanyah who preceded Rabbi Kagan by over a century. without opening a sefer i can list dozens of gedolai yisroel prior to the rabbi Kagan, who would not daven mincha that late, but it might be better if you discovered that on your own.

      • Steve brizel says:

        No need not to refer to the MB properly or as the CC as is done in polite company. Anyone who has learned MB knows that the MB regularly cites the shittos of the Gain and the SA HaRav

      • Aryeh says:

        1) That is correct, the mechaber & rema follow rabbeinu tam’s shita. That is precisely my point, according to rabbeinu tam’s shita one can daven mincha until 13.5 minutes before the 2nd shikya, which is 58.50 minutes after what we call sunset

        2) I quoted the MB out of convenience, as it is most accessible (of course he bases his psak on the fact the psak of the SA is at odds with rov rishonim). So try not to get bent out of shape over a trivial issue.


      • dr. bill says:

        the problem with reading the MB versus the original sources is that you miss the strength with which rabbeinu tam is rejected.   thus, you fastidiously miss my major point; shittas rabbeinu tam SHOULD NOT BE relied on to allow mincha at that late a time.

        btw, 13.5 and 58.5 are not necessarily rabbeinu tam’s shittah as you glibly assert.  that is how the mechaber and rama formulated his opinion; something questioned by three of the greatest achronim.  none of the chachmei sforad explain his shittah precisely that way, something you will not find in the MB.


      • Aryeh says:

        The bottom line is, those who are conducting themselves according to the shita of the SA (mechaber & rema) can hardly be considered renegades or anti traditional. At the  very least they have a potent “yeish al mi losmoch

      • Richard says:

        Would you say the same thing about women reading megillah for men?

      • Aryeh says:

        The only thing the SA writes about that issue is “yeis omrim she hanoshim ainem motzios es ha’Anaishim” & the REMA adds that her chiyuv is only to hear not read…

      • Aryeh says:

        The only thing the SA writes about that issue is “yeis omrim she hanoshim ainem motzios es ha’Anaishim” & the REMA adds that her chiyuv is only to hear not read…

      • dr. bill says:

        aryeh, you are quite right.  they are “super-traditional” following ways of the past in spite of what is now known.  it would take a long article to explain how this happened, but the reliance on the full view of the SA/RT for davening mincha an hour after sunset is in a certain sense the opposite reaction to one who is too quick to restructure practice based on changed circumstance.  both lead to unpleasant consequences.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Why lump yeshivishe or chasidishe attire together with davening mincha after shekiah , etc? I think that a strong case can be made that such attire is required as a means of group identity and fostering  Havadala Bein Yisrael Bein HaAmim and Bein Kodesh LChol, as well as inculcating a POV that one should be dignified in attire-even and especially when the outside world of both genders dresses in a way that shows no self dignity and accentuates the narcisstic self.

      • dr. bill says:

        i said nothing about dress to promote group identity but listed some things, all somewhat different, that are viewed as traditional.  davening mincha an hour after shikiah is clearly against halakha, a shtreimel is obviously not.

      • Steve brizel says:

        I have seen the same argument utilized in obviously self righteous fashion against what is considered yeshivish and chasidish attire. in fact it is a logically easy hop skip and jump to make such a questionable comment.

  8. DF says:

    R. Gordimer says this is mere verbiage, but verbiage counts. That’s why R. Avi Shafran tried (fruitlessly) for many years to get the anti-religious media he tries to curry favor with to stop using the term “ultra-orthodox”. He argued (correctly) that the term implied a sense of extremism. This is also why people fought for years over the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” until the stalemate set in. Because verbiage counts. Every politician knows this.

    In any event, if R. Gordimer was just using the term as a short-hand and meant nothing by it, he should simply resolve to be more accurate. His critics are entirely correct that the modern yehivah or charedi movement is no more “traditional” than Reform Jews or any other type of Jew. I don’t see how anyone can dispute that. So let R. Gordimer simply use the term “charedi” or “yeshivish”. This word is shorter than the other word, thus fulfilling simultaneously the dictums of speaking בדרך קצרה and the advice of חכמים הזהרו בדבריכם.

  9. Yossi says:

    I just wonder why Rabbi Gordimer cares what Natan Slifkin says. Slifkin was a member of the yeshivish community that he now derides and berates, of course formerly as Noson, and changed his affiliation when he didn’t like the treatment that he received. There’s no doubt that he has been badly hurt-burned, actually, and as a result is hypersensitive and hyper negative to anything smacking of support for yeshivish or Charedi.


    To me, it’s hard to maintain intellectual credibility when the change of affiliation was response based. I wouldn’t take his positions too seriously. Baruch HaShem for him, he’s found a position in a world that he seems happy enough to inhabit, and anyone outside that world to the right, or even appearing to the right, should expect to be criticized, belittled as archaic or just plain wrong, or any other manner of attacks.

    And to the essential point which I think someone made- of course kollel is a new innovation, but the main claim that Charedi or yeshivish have is a connection of Rebbi to Talmid tradition of their Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim leading the community. Brisk, Mir, Novardhok, Slobodka, and of course Volozhin are the chains that basically all the modern day Charedi yeshivos come from. While there may be some innovation, essentially they are continuing the tradition.

    It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with Daas Torah. And one thing is for sure- you can have Orthodox academics prove all that they want that this rishon did this, that one held that- but they face a tremendous uphill battle trying to say that the centrist or especially left leaning Modern Orthodox is a direct continuation or heir to the tradition.


    • Steve Brizel says:

      Obviously Kollel has changed from its origins in Lita, but as R Asher Weiss stated, Kollel, regardless of whether one is in a kollel for a few years or for life, sets the tone of a family that Talmud Torah is a value of extreme importance, not just lip service.

      • mycroft says:

        Torah is essential-but where is the idealism if that is thesaurus of onesincome

      • Sarah Elias says:

        mycroft, might I respectfully suggest that you recheck your posts after you run spell-check on them?

      • mycroft says:

        Good idea.

      • dr. bill says:

        saying “obviously kollel has changed” is like acknowledging that medicine has changed from medieval times to today.  kollel today has transformed from a method to produce gedolai olam from a pre-selected group of very talented students to a finishing school seen as beneficial/necessary to maintain religiosity in current society.  i am not making a value judgment, just a factual observation.  it is a tacit assumption for which i have not seen much evidence that the results produced in the kollelim of europe have been replicated by the current differently focused system.  that imho is what makes rav dessler adage questionable.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Kollelim serve a different purpose today and really should not be compared with the very rarified predecessors of pre war Europe


      • mycroft says:

        Lakewood alone has more students than the maximum amount found in all the Yeshivot of pre WW II.

      • mycroft says:

        Copying the Yeshiva movement as an ideal for all is disastrous.  Taking an educational system for the elite and demanding all fit in as is done in America using the yeshiva idea for all that all must beyodea Sefer of Shas and make a leining on Shas is foolhardy. That is a major reason for people being left out. Probably, only second to the monetary entrance fee to Yahadus to pay for the staff which calls most salaries that college grads receive peanuts.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Difficult to say that the yeshiva of pre war Europe is the blueprint for MO schools where a fair comment could be made that the atmosphere is either s balance between limudei kodesh and limudei chop or that of an expensive private school with some Judaic studies thrown in on the side with minimal amount impact on their lives as potential bnei and bnos torah

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill-the above quoted drasha from RYBS is critical , but one must be aware of what it means to be both a Ger and a Toshav in today’s society,not that of the 1950s and 1960s. Applying that drasha blindly without considering social realia and what the Torah demands of us in being a ger would render that drasha as decidedly embracing the toshav which would mean cultural assimilation and acclimation to social trends and norms that cannot be reconciled at all with being a ger.

    • dr. bill says:

      revisionism and binary options interpreting the most complex gadol in modern history. to the rav ztl, being a ger ve’toshav differed by person and circumstance, then and now.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Ain haci nami.

      • Steve brizel says:

        IOW we apply words written in the very different milieu of 1950s and 1960s without considering what it means to be a ger and a toshav? Highly unlikely.

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill wrote in part:

    “the chazon ish was a major gadol whose unique views continue to hold sway in many circles.  yes, some claim he had knowledge of medicine or mathematics or whatever; but jewish history is something i never heard.
    frankly, even some of his iconic halakhic views, were contrary to the vast majority of poskim.”
    I think that the above comments bordered on the dismissive, Actually, RHS has commented on many occasions that the CI’s commentary on OC is a running critique on the MB-who from the CI’s comments, was the Posek Acharon, but who in many instances departed from the Psak of the prior Acharonim and accentuated the importance, in many instances of the Gra. You can find the CI’s comments on the MB in any edition of the MB such as Dirshu that have the CI’s comments thereon. I would also note that the CI, more than any other Acharon, rendered Masecta Eruvin and Hilcos Eruvin a subject that could be learned and indeed mastered if one busted his brains to do so. It would be very interesting to compare the views of the CI and RMF on many aspects of Hilcos Eruvin. RHS has always maintained based on the views of the CI, that if the northern side of Manhattan was properly enclosed , he would encourage carrying in Manhattan because the other three sides are surrounded by natural mechitzos.
    It is also well known that the CI did indeed have a mastery of the sciences. It goes without saying that the Piskei Halacha of the CI, whether Lkula or Lchumra hold a great sway well beyond the confines of Bnei Brak and EY and that the CI wrote Gantz Shas and SA as well. If you learn Inyanei Shemittah, you will see that the CI visited kibbutzim to determine whether certain fields required adherence to certain halachos of shemittah. Similarly, there is a well known shitah of the CI that Hatafas Dam Bris of an adult ger requires the equivalent of a mere scratch that causes bleeding, as opposed to a laceration. Finally, one should go through Emunah UBitachon for a rejection of Musar that is emphatic as that of RYBS.

    The CI’s legendary Hasmadah BaTorah was clearly inherited by RSZA, the Steipler Zicronam Livracha and R Chaim Kanievsky, whose Hasmada can be easily found in HaShakdan and the wonderful ArtScroll biography of Rebbitzen Kanievsky Zicronah Livracha.

    • dr. bill says:

      steve brizel, than you for your comments.   it helps when you comment in the correct place; then your habit of taking things out of context is more clear.

      read some contemporary comments of gedolim on his insistence on the shiur of an egg.  they make my comments look respectful.

      RSZA ztl tells of witnessing hasmadah by watching Rav Kook ztl sitting and learning when he peeked in on the way to cheder and seeing him in the same position when cheder was over.



      • Steve brizel says:

        The question of the shiurim of an egg was hardly a chiddush of theCI

        IIRC it may have stemmed from the view of the Noda BYehuda with respect to the shiur for acilas matzah



      • dr. bill says:

        actually further back, but if you read the responses of contemporaries to bringing that shittah to eretz yisroel, you will get my point.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Obviously the issue of the shiur of an egg is not a chiddush of the CI as opposed to the arguments raised in favor of the larger shiur by the CI.

      • dr. bill says:

        can you be specific about what new arguments you assert that the CI raised with respect to shiurim dependant on the size of an egg?

      • dr. bill says:

        steve brizel, again can you backup your assertion with an example or two.  what new arguments did the CI make?  you said his shittah was not new but some of reasoning was  – please back it up!!

      • Steve brizel says:

        The answer as to why and whether the CI presented new arguments on the shiur of an egg begins with a close examination of the views of the CI and all Rishonim and Acharonim prior to and contemporaneous with CI who discussed this issue. To quote many mchabrei seforim I do not have all the seforim at my hands to marshall the mareh mkomos but the CI the Dirshu MB and the ET which I do have seem like a logical place to commence any such inquiry.

      • dr. bill says:

        Steve Brizel, read the stream of comments.  it was YOU that said the CI had an argument in favor of roughly doubling the size of an egg.  i am asking YOU to tell me what it might be.   i have read the relevant sources and do not know to what YOU are referring.  btw, if you want an introduction to the area the sefer by rav benish and the articles in Techumin over the years are a better place to start.

      • steve brizel says:

        Dr Bill-Yasher Koach for going thru all of the sources that you found-but that is hardly the end of the story. Why not talk to great Talmidei Chachamim who are know the  CI in and out and then report back to us on their understanding of why the CI paskened the way that he did on the issue, based on his understanding of the relevant Mareh Mkomos.

  12. Chaim says:

    When I grew up there were 2 terms, Orthodox and Chassidish.  I think the term “Modern Orthodox” grew out of the persistent attacks from some elements (no disparagement intended with that term) in the community who were dead set against “college.”  Only two yeshivas, in my memory did not permit their beis medrash students to attend college  — Lakewood and the Mir.  Even the Mir let most people go “2 nights a weeek.” College was not seen by most as a “hashkafa” but rather a way to get out of the lower economic and social classes associated with a lack of education.

    What was learned was considered kefira by some but for most it was just moved aside as a necessary pain on the way to the degree.  In my case few of the academics I encountered has anything worthwhile to say and even less to emulate.

    In my view a lot of this heresy hunting and labeling is about status and about our generation’s lack of security in the religion they grew up with and in many cases with a lack of connection with the communities of origin in Europe.

    Finally, my recollection of  a lot of the yeshiva educated or learned Jews from Europe revealed a well  read and thought out set of positions well informed by the world around them.  They knew what was happening and respected the knowledge of the society around them.  The most closed people I knew were those who were American “wannabes” who were eager to paint others with heresy and to push people outside the “tchum.”

    Just one person’s recollections.


    • mycroft says:

      Depends on circles one grew up in. Modern Orthodox certainly by the 50s was an intellectual movement heavily populated by students of the RAv but certainly others not from YU like Rabbis Shubert Spero, Eliezer Berkovitz-later in the 80s the same term began to be used as a sociological movement. Confusing same term for different usages.

  13. Shai Meyerson says:

    Rabbi Gordimer. R’ Slifkin is simply bitter (perhaps understandably so). Please ignore his rants.

  14. cohen y says:

    N Slifkin’s modus Operandi since the beginning of his blog  ( and the MO of younger Centrists in general ) has been to marginalize charedism as a pseudo religion . So much so,it is considered a given .

    They/He are the
    normative/classic ones.
    ( They’re about as normative as Narcissus admiring his reflection in a body of water)


    If Slifkin  could manage pull out the ultimate ad hominem, to prove from Rabbi  Gordimer‘s  own words  that really he  is an undercover or closet charedi ,that could  wipe out retroactively the  prior influence he has had on ‘serious’ people

  15. David Berger says:

    I prefer “Traditionalist” (capitalized), but I agree with R. Gordimer that R. Slifkin has read too much into the capitalized term “Traditional”  and that the overall critique exceeds the boundaries of fairness.  In order to get people to lighten up a bit, here is the text of an email that I sent someone in 2012:
    Quite a few years ago, Yitzchak Adlerstein emailed me requesting suggestions for a substitute for the term “ultra-Orthodox,” a subject he was discussing with the Los Angeles Times.  By then, we were already beginning to see “fervently Orthodox” as a substitute.  I wrote him that it was a challenge to come up with a substitute that would not offend either the “ultra-Orthodox” or the Modern Orthodox.  Many MO’s, after all, also see themselves as fervently Orthodox.  My serious substitute, which I use regularly in most contexts (it doesn’t always work) is “Traditionalist Orthodox.”  MO’s are also traditional, but the capital letter and the “ist” create enough of a quasi-sectarian impression without, I think, any pejorative connotation.  However, I also proposed some other suggestions to characterize TO’s: the Serious Orthodox; the Learned Orthodox; the Genuinely Orthodox. Alternatively, for use by MO’s who might not embrace these suggestions with unalloyed enthusiasm:  the Intolerant Orthodox; the Narrow Orthodox, and the one I really like: the Proud-of-their-Secular Education-but-Opposed to-it Orthodox.


    • dr. bill says:

      Traditionalist is much more accurate; it does not convey as much of a judgement (of what is and is not) that i sense in the word traditional.

      in defense of rabbi slifkin, i think he was reacting to more than just the word; the author does have a track record.  often, those who really identify differently than they claim, are most clearly exposed by trivial, but telling slips.

      but it deserves mention that rabbi slifkin also prefers traditionalist, but to define all of orthodoxy; imho, you are much closer to the mark.


    • Steve brizel says:

      Dr D Berger Kdarko BaKodesh. There is no one today with such a great command of the English language in our community



  16. david z says:

    My two cents: I read both rabbi gordimer and rabbi slifkin. I haven’t seen any of the animus rabbi slifkin attributed to him. Just careless language. (Is it any secret that rabbi gordimer probably feels more at home in Lakewood than yu? That doesn’t mean he vilifies yu especially with a common enemy in open orthodox.) And can we keep in mind they are both friends with rabbi adlerstein? Can’t he mediate? 🙂

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