Saturday, July 12, 2008

Klal Israel and not "Judging Judaism by Jews"...

(my emphasis) "Based on my experience and the hundreds of off the derech stories I have heard, I am convinced that when people say "you should not judge a religion by its practitioners" they are mistaken. We say Torah lo bashamayim hi - the Torah is not in Heaven. It is here on earth, in our interpretations of it, in our commitment to it, in our love for it. We believe that Torah is not a theory to be studied, but a way of life to be lived. Judaism is ultimately about the way we live it. The Judaism that exists in books may be intellectual stimulating and essential to our observant lives. But what impacts us most dramatically in terms of our commitment to observance is the reality we create with it here on earth. And what impacts us most in terms of our feeling toward Judaism is the relationships and experiences we have with observant Jews. Negative relationships and their painful experiences [with religious Jews] push us away from both Torah and Jews."
-"Off the Derech" by Faranak Margolese - Page 49-50.

Each of us comes to their own senses about these things (Gedolim bans, abuse coverups and charges, Conversion Crisis, hegemony in the Rabbinut, unrelenting double speak, 'orthodox' criminals, Torah Higher-Education crisis, ad infinitum), via whatever ideological commitments and filters render their 'factness' agreeable to us; thats what makes us human - shomrei Torah or not. And we're all Klal Israel, regardless (or at least we are in this dor; previous generations, you were frei, you're right out; but that's for another post..though I'd love to know where those neshamot are now...). God Gave us, collectively, Torah. And the world does not even learn there is such as thing as Torah except from, through us - and for this very reason I think it is frequently deliberate evasion to direct peoples attention from the behaviors of religious Jews as religious Jews to blaming their 'mere humanity'.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Now, about Modern Orthodoxy...

Charedi rabbonim who have openly proclaimed the 'Modern Orthodox' movement to be a no longer acceptable, if not patently non-Orthodox movement, here (the article itself, and here additional insight here;), I'm aware of other public leaders' statements, but will have to hunt them up later), bother to specifically single it out as a movement. Think about it. If it was mitzvah violation as such that offended them (or that they thought to be errant, not simply distasteful), there would be no reason to condemn an identity.

The "identity" common to Jews is "Israel" - and all klal Israel are ultimately - to some degree, however minor - selectively Observant - that's what Tshuvah, Viduy, Tachanun, Yomim Noraim, etc., are "for", right?...

...but those who do not identify as 'generally observant' are considered inadvertant/unknowing/unwillful transgressors, and regarded with compassion and outreach, etc, etc; actual derision and scorn is reserved for those identify with or through Modern Orthodoxy. Just as the Orthodox have long ago dispensed with considering the Conservative movement to be halachic (which remains debatable, so long as Conservative Judaism claims to adhere to "pluralism" - as many within the movement see no basis for saying C.J. denies Observance as a legitimate derech for Conservative Jews...), many Charedim, leaders among them, are quite willing to declare the same of Modern Orthodoxy. The words of the Charedi Rabbonim noted above were public - and clearly, the attitude has developed and been 'worked on' outside the written, published setting, as many 'closet' Modern Orthodox can attest (having mixed in 'charedi settings'). Many Charedi laypeople are well on their way in this regard; open public dismissal in settings from Shabbat tables to yeshivah halls, has been too frequent for me to even specify instances of.

Much antagonism also arises in the Charedi Kiruv sphere about Modern Orthodoxy - I know this by experience in kiruv settings, by reading literature and attending 'lay-Outreach' campaigns. Yet Modern Orthodoxy, since it's earliest days and among its antecedents (Hirschian Derech, etc) - has always been resoundingly Kiruv oriented...the shuls are totally open to whomever may want to come, aliyot are given without recourse to tsitsit-checking, etc....the movement has always been about inclusiveness, non-judgmentalism and the 'relevance' of Torah lifeways to modern life, and to a degree there has been 'dumbing down' or 'accomodating' (within halachic limits), Yahadut to fit the comforts of those being reached out to, etc...

...all things also indicative of Charedi Kiruv efforts.

but among the Charedim....they become condemnations leveled at Modern Orthodoxy - clear symptoms of its degradation, at best, illegitimacy from infancy at worst (and "most likely").
When Modern Orthodoxy succeeds in their kiruv efforts - drawing the not-yet-Observant into their pews, their classes, their kehilot and schools, brings them closer to Observance - they are deemed, as a movement, villainous. When charedi kiruv settings draw the not-yet-Observant into their pews, their classes, their kehilot and schools, brings them closer to Observance - though many are not fully-compliant with even general's a wonderous - nay, miraculous success - they are heroes...

On other dynamics between Modern Orthodoxy and Charedi Judaism, I highly suggest the Yuter piece that this post is excerpted from. I don't take his tack, personally. Similarly pertinent is this recent post, where response is made to an equivocation of certain Charedim and the Essene sect.

Rav Kook on Youth off the Derech

"[to] The great majority of [Torah] scholars in our times it is fitting to abandon those children who have been turned from Torah ways and the faith by the raging current of the time. I say emphatically, that this is not God's way...! R. A. Y. Kook; Selected Letters, Tzvi Feldman, 1986 pp.51-4

Rav Kook is widely known, acutely in the circles of those who claim his discipleship, for being deeply sympathetic towards secular Chalutzim, particularly those who left Torah in their Zionist idealism. He believed emphatically that they were not willful transgressors, but were enticed by ideologies of their day, thoughts of freedom, empowerment, etc. He believed this emphatically - just, as it seems, his loyal opposition believed otherwise empathically...those who left the folds of tradition did so as willful [self-sacrificing, Eretz Israel-rebuilding, charedi-defending...] transgressors. The "Daas Torah" of his opponents...remains Daas Torah does it not? And it was the majority who did not support Zionism or the Zionists, many even the Zionist endeavor -even to the last while the Shoah was going on! Rav Kook - as their disciples would argue (I'm secure in supposing), was a mere daas yachid. His derech was poorly timed, misinformed, starry-eyed...whatever it was, it was simply not in accord with the majority of the Gedolim of his day! have held by him then is to hold by him now - and such is to stand in opposition to those Gedolim - and their ideological descendants today...oh what a world.

More discussion later I"H. More on this era here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Challenges to Challenges

I have found, as I'm sure others have, that when seeking advice regarding challenges to torah, you can receive some pretty personalized hints towards resolutions that you may even been counseled not to share with others. But...'others' are what makes Judaism...communal. It's a faith community, a family! And at times, the resolution will be regarding, say, the roots or heartwood of the entire geneaology or 'family saga'...and your told a resolution about 'them' that you aren't to share with them?...but 'them' is us!

B"H, most all such 'challenges' I have had, I've managed to find resolutions, and those offered by others, within the mesorah itself. Ironically, at times this has led to deeper doubts - not about the tradition, but about the substance [not essence] of those 'from whom one seeks counsel' and the exclusivity of the parameters of 'the one true derech'!

1)The 'counselors'; if their knowledge was so vast and deep (which is why I sought them out or was sent their way), how did I find the[ir] resolution explicit in the tradition...where they did not? - and in fact, they wrestle to situate it within what seems to now be "their" dalet amos. Amos is a measure, dalet is a number - all of which, to function as metaphors, have to have some actual, communal meaning; you can't have your own dalet amos.
I think there is danger in encouraging people to be too comfortable with incredibly-"individualized", eccentric, theoretical resolutions towards problems in Torah Judaism - sometimes they are very idiosyncratic and ill-conceived in the 'big picture' - sometimes made is not a communal big picture! I have been told to look at a detail of "the big picture", when the big picture seems to exist only for the person offering it. And no one sees the big picture other than HKBH; so what big picture am I asked to regard? Communal faith issues are bound up with Torah in a faith community! One can resort to Maimonidean "necessary belief" solutions (a utilitarian, necessary exoteric belief for the rabbim, the 'true belief' explicit for the "enlightened"), only so much, and about so much - before there is no common, shared unanimous mesorah to speak of. Resolutions that are communally-regarded would seem to be of more standing - considering Torah Judaism is about KLAL Israel! For example, there are indeed learned people in the Modern camp (I don't know regarding elsewhere), who have resigned themselves to certain positions on critical issues, but do not speak about it in the community. But don't these learned authorities - both "learned" and "authorative" in accord with the standards of their community - share a REALITY with the community, share in the authority of the tradition with their communities?! I have know of people who held positions regarding the tradition (as communally understood), that are fundamentally subversive. They will not speak out publically these positions - based on some view of 'necessary truths' held by certain of those IN THE COMMUNAL TRADITION. If they are confident their position is 'kosher' - why not submit to the Gauntlet of...real communal life?; perhaps they believe they have the 'true belief'. and also likely, it's because they have the view - from a few within the communal tradition - that one who does not SPEAK OUT apikorsut isn't an apikorus. Both positions ('necessary truths' and 'the apikorus who does not speak apikorsut') are claimed from Rambam - who I don't think would have gone to such lengths as he did, BH, if he held these positions in the non-communal, idiosyncratic manner they do. These rabbis and scholars seemingly have self-referential apprehensions about the kashrut of their own views!; they literally rely on the validate having fundamental doubts about the tradition. The very communal authority of 'kashrut' is subverted by the community-threatening nature of their personal position! I wish they would just say they've accepted literary critical theory, documentary hypothesis and postmodernism and orthoprax observance/'belief' "Without Foundations". They would seem to be few - yet they speak of others. And I know that they work with others consider more kosher - are published in the 'establishment' journals, etc.

2) Where am I? As I have said, I have found resolution to many, many issues. I am a stickler for finding some svara, something to 'hang' an idea on from Chazzal for my resolutions within The Tradition. But as I have come to find, the individual solutions that have precedent most often have no currency with any single, current living observant community; Torah is "not in Heaven", and realia of halachic settings evolve. It becomes normative that certain beliefs are within the pale, beyond the pale or normative - depending on the generation you ask; but you hold by the one you are in or something like that...but Moderns can say their views are normative, and whatever a 'normative' scholar has poskened, it holds. Charedim say anything but a modern posek... And none of it makes sense with a big picture; if there is a unified, 'big picture' that results from what I have found livable/reasonable/ethical/defensible - it has potentially wider parameters than current Orthodoxy, even 'open' varieties, can accept; regarding allowable belief (a variety of conceptions of 'revelation' have been 'kosher' over a long time, etc, etc; see shapiro's "maimonidies' thirteen principles"), practice and communal borders; many of the resolutions, particularly philosophical ones (even ones held by other Orthodox), could justify, in a unified fashion, an observant, "classical Conservative", Judaism no less (if not in some senses, more), than Orthodoxy. And in a sense, 'current orthodoxy' is just the rub; Orthodoxy is very current! (sources abound for it's "newness") - not observance, Orthodoxy.

I can't help but maintain that, along with some conception of peoplehood and reception of Revelation, some framework of observance has been maintained since day one; archaeology, history, everything evidences something of a core of communal belief & practice -but it must be rephrased; selectively-maintained belief and practice since day one - Open Tanach! I also must also maintain that this selectivity has been fluid - sometimes/places more observance, sometimes less. The parameters of community - historically bound to observance - have also likewise been very fluid. The parameters of the communal, the parameters of collective observance (private vs. public transgression), parameters of belief...If something is within the Tradition (over time/place, not just now), it's - in the Tradition. Isn't it? Or is the Tradition only what is sanctioned now? Or now and here? do beliefs/practices, etc, only exist by the decision of the current rabbim, the current rabbonim, ones own mara d'atra? But what's "in" has therefore been "contingent"...But there has always been The Tradition...right? Traditional, b'Ivrit - Masorti; not an ideology behind a name, based on definition up-and-against another group (Orthodox, Reform, Conservative all carry this seemingly-inocuous name baggage), etc...just..Masorti. Of course, public use of the term is taken. Am I, then, 'masorti'? I stop now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

LWMO Engagements with Biblical Criticism & James Kugel
Rabbi David Silber (founder of Drisha), and Prof. James Kugel (who needs no intro), here.
R. Yosie Levine does a followup in two posts from (under machshava).

an audio interview with Kugel from Canadian public radio.

-A 2008 lecture by R. Hanan Schlesinger at the Dallas YU Kollel on Kugel, Bib Crit, etc.

-Lectures from the Judaic Seminar (1996-7), by R. Dr. Sid Leiman on BibCrit, scholarship and text, etc.

-YCT Yemei Iyun 2006 lecture on Lower Biblical Criticism by R. Nathaniel Helfgot.

-Panel discussion with some interesting speakers (R. Shalom Carmy, Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, Zelig Aster, etc), on Biblical Criticism all from Orthodox perspectives - but some with interesting suggestions.

Also this post I'd done on R. Kook and Bib Crit.

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