Monday, November 24, 2008

R. Yuter, in a Brief Moment of Clarity
(usual caveats, my emphasis)

"The matter of Bible scholarship, critically understood, like interfaith dialogue, should be examined with dispassionate religious scholarship. R. Reuven Kimmelman wrote an excellent article, recently republished in the Edah Journal, that actually changed my mind on the subject.[;] There is no formal issur on dialogue, only policies. Reasonable people can reach different conclusions.

Rav M. Breurer [sic] called the position of the higher bible critics who were Torah observant [alluding I believe to Prof. Moshe Greenberg]to be wrong. Prof. Greenberg purchased Rabbenu Tefilin when the Dead Sea Tefilin were found. Here is a critical scholar who cares deeply and introspectively about what God asks of him. For R Breuer, Greenberg not is not totally outside the pale precisely because Greenberg believes in the Commander and observes the commandments. If we wish to inspect everyone's theology, we must ask about the Bible Criticism in Rashbam, Sefer Hasidim, and Ibn Ezra. We must explain why the Hummash that Rashi quotes appears to be different from our own. We would do well to examine the relationship between prescriptive and descriptive statements in our Torah canon, and define the actual parameters of legitimate Orthodox diversity. Professors Menahem Kellner and Marc Shapiro are probing this issue in their fine scholarship.
R. Albo argued that our core beliefs are that [a] God is real, [b] God commands, and [c] there is accountability for what we do. Error is not the same as Torah denial. If we are always told "we do not pasken like Rambam," why then, is the Rambam the last word on issues of revelation and Messiah? When the Rambam's reasoning is rejected, ritually, in favor of custom [like allowing women to make a blessing on a lulav, against the principle of not making a blessing on an act that is not a commandment] we would do well to explain why, in theology, we do pasken dogma. Remember that some hassidim refuse to say Yidgal precisely because they reject the Rambam's theology. Either these Hassidim are heretics, or the Rambam is a heretic. I suspect we do not want to go in this pointless, divisive, direction.
If we hold that a "custom may break a law" which is the word of God [like using the Tosafist eruv so popular today, against the position of the Talmud, philologically understood, and the position of R. Soloveitchik] we would do well not to engage in heresy hunts. We might unwitttingly be caught in the snare of our own making. A. Yuter

[In response to a statement on conversion in a thread, but again on heresy hunts to the 'Left']

This position is problematic for several reasons:
1. Korah denied Moshe's request for dialogue. While recalling R. Soloveitchik's talk on Korah, now in print [carmy or Besdin versions] where it is implied that Korah is Conservative Judaism, the orthodox response to dialogue with non-Orthodoxy does not echo Moshe's position[.....]
2. We require partitions for the synagogue. But we did not invalidate the bona fides of rabbis who took such pulpits when they remained in the RCA.

3. We can fault anyone and everyone within Orthodoxy. Clapping hands on Shabbat is forbidden, but we [or some of us] rely on a Tosafot opinion that seems to conflict with Torah law. The way we observe Shimhat Torah presents many problems. What is the boundary of Orthodoxy? What groups who call themselves Orthodoxy? Commitment to obeying an honest reading of Jewish law?

4. when observant believing Conservative rabbis in the past [I doubt that there are many, if any now] served as witnesses in a bet din for conversion, which by law requires hedyotot, or lay people, those conversions were valid. The late R. Aron Soloveitchik claimed that the name "conservative" invalidates one's Bona Fides [haPardes 1987] There are two problems with this opinion. Qesher Reshim, i.e., bad affiliation, is rejected by the Gemara [da aqa] and is not cited by the decisors as a legitimate legal doctrine. And Abayyee, in Nidah and Berachot, speaks of kuti haver, a member of a sectarian group who is, on our terms, frum.

5. the bet din is composed of 3 observant, believing men [whose rabbinic bona fides we do not regard as Orthodox] accept a convert who tries to obey Torah law as best as they are able, the conversion is valid. Conversion is a margin defining issue which defines who is Jewish, who is a rabbi, or Jewish virtuoso, and the boundaries of our community. Modern Orthodox Jews look to halakhah first and last, and we find that Jewish law, in its masoretic version, is much more flexible than the modernity resisters in our community claim."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let's see if I can actually articulate this..

I have more difficulty defending or affiliating with a derech in Torah that, in expositing Torah faith and observance, systematically tolerates rational truth, the sciences, the best of Chokhmat ha Olam, humanitarianism, independence of mind, etc, as expounded within the general Mesorah (R. Slifkin and evolution are b'dievaad at best, Hirschian derech and Torah "had its day", voices of hashkafic pluralism themselves are tolerated, but not hashkafic pluralism as such [except maybe R. Lev Zeff as I recall], etc), than a derech in Torah that, in expositing Torah faith and observance, lauds all of the above - but tolerates irrational, ignorant, provincial, anti-goyishe attitudes and voices of authoritarianism from with the general Mesorah. Modern Orthodoxy is as tolerant of the Non-Observant/religiously-ignorant as any 'kiruv' setting, and only at the fringes could be accused of advocating possible transgression, let alone non-observance. Ideologically speaking, it cannot defend the lack of emphasis in Talmud Torah in the lives of it's laity...[still writing this post].

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Religious Zionism, Yichud and the Internet
Great clip from a great show which occasionally brought up sharp differences in worldview in whimsical ways;

I had read a bit from an Orthodox forum volume on gender and human relations, an essay by Daati Leumi posek R. Yuval Cherlow. He noted therein a ruling of his were he suggested that the Internet at home should have rules similar to those of Yichud, a concept I found very powerful. Other 'primal' cultures have been asking similar questions about the place of the Internet (Howe, Craig. "Cyberspace is No Place for Tribalism", Wicazo Sa Review, 13:2, Autumn, 1998, pp. 19-28; search net for ensuing discussion), not merely in terms of access to dangerous stimuli or data, but in the formulation of identify and the perpetuation of group pedagogy, etc.

R. Cherlow on chatting on the Net.

Audio on the effects of the Internet as a means to engaging responsa.

More on the Net and the Tzioni community from Haaretz.

An interesting blog post very briefly on digital technology and Rabbinic authority.

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