Stop Calling Us ‘Ultra-Orthodox’

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This is the excellently-expressed sentiment of English writer Abbott Katz, appearing in this week’s Forward.

“Ultra” — the modifier of choice for a press hawking its smudged cartography of Jewish religious life — has enjoyed a long, wearisome, dubious run, and it isn’t recusing itself from the discourse any time soon. The Jewish religious world occupies a bewilderingly disparate space, to be sure, but mapping its turf begs a measure of precision of which the media’s collective instrumentation seems largely incapable — and “ultra,” with its Latinate tinge, redolent of cultic cadres pushing their faith to mysterious extremes, badly misreads the coordinates.

Most complaints about the use of the “Ultra” modifier stop there — pointing out that the term is both inaccurate and pejorative, and seems to lump Satmar Chasidim together with Kahanists and Yigal Amir. But Katz takes his case a step further, pointing out that the use of any modifier on the term Orthodox implies that we are in some way not the original or genuine article.

After all, if there are ultra-Orthodox Jews, then there are merely Orthodox ones as well, and what makes the recourse to “ultra” so pernicious is its very status as prefix, a descriptive tack-on to a more primeval, integral Judaism of truer provenance. Orthodox Jews seem to be seen as marking the spiritual baseline, while the “ultras” are typed as a kind of fanatic insurgency, sparse but dangerous.

Katz proceeds to point out that the Charedi community represents the traditional form of Jewish practice. There is no substantive difference, he says, between Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, the Chasam Sofer, labeled as the “founder of ultra-Orthodoxy,” and his father-in-law Rabbi Akiva Eiger, or what was considered normative Judaism in the preceding centuries. This point is so obvious that one wonders why it isn’t mentioned more often. Who could argue that an Orthodox synagogue with a 4-foot tall Mechitzah (divider) and an open parking lot on Shabbos is at one with Jewish tradition, while a traditional shteibl is a departure?

Perhaps it is because we often see modifiers applied to “Modern” Orthodoxy as well. But you usually see the use of “Modern” when required to refer to that segment in contradistinction to the Charedim, while the “ultra” pejorative is far more universally used. Google turns up 150,000 matches on “Modern Orthodox” versus more than half a million references to “ultra-Orthodox.”

The truth is that the term “Orthodoxy” is itself a label. Rabbi Shamshon Rephael Hirsch wrote in 1854 that “…it was not
‘Orthodox’ Jews who introduced the word ‘orthodox’ into Jewish discussion. It was the modern ‘progressive’ Jews who first applied the name to ‘old,’ ‘backward’ Jews as a derogatory term. This name was… resented by ‘old’ Jews. And rightfully so…”

First and foremost, we are all simply Jews. Labels, “denominations,” personal beliefs and levels of observance do not change this basic fact. And it is the Charedi community that, at least in its own opinion, is simply trying to live in accordance with the vision of our mutual forebears. To call them/us “Charedim” or simply “traditional Jews” is both accurate and acceptable — even “Orthodox” implies something inaccurate, much less the “ultra” pejorative.

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115 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Baruch & Mark-Sometimes, the best response to an editorial, news article, etc that one disagrees with is a letter to the editor. Sometimes, cancellation of a subscription is the best response. However, neither recourse would be necessary if selling magazines were not the prime concern of the editor. I expect more from a magazine that bills itself as a family Torah magazine.

  2. Baruch Pelta says:

    Steve & Mark,

    I agree with Steve that the Mishpacha is charedi and I agree with Mark that Mishpacha likes to “print things that will provoke emotion.” But I don’t think Mishpacha prints those things just to sell mags. Rather, it is because those “things” are amazingly positivistic attempts to rectify problems in chareidi society without delegitimizing other camps within the fold and printing letters to the editor which express the true views of readership (imagine that). Now there is the occasional delegitimization and/or barb, but generally it’s just a gevaldik magazine.

    I admire R’ Grylack and R’ Rosenblum enormously.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    Mark-Mishpacha is edited by R M Grylack, who cut his journalistic teeth at the Yated. The journalists are all Charedi. I stand by my prior post about the article in question. WADR, for the most part, the Yated knows the difference between RYBS, RIETS and its RY as opposed to LW MO and its leaders. One can only imagine the reaction if one had seen comments in print that were openly and indiscriminately critical of the Charedi yeshivos both here and in EY.

  4. Mark says:

    Steve,

    “We subscribe to Mishpacha which is Charedi in its editorial orientation”

    I beg to differ. It is not Charedi, it is provocative. As a Charedi I find many things in the Mishpachah objectionable and I know I’m not alone because I’ve heard similar sentiments from others in our camps and I doubt I’d be termed a fanatic [but you never know]. Mishpachah does its best to always stay on the fence and print things that will provoke emotion. It sells mags after all.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    We subscribe to Mishpacha which is Charedi in its editorial orientation but which always has interesting feature articles. Unfortunately, a recent issue that featured a round-table discussion with R Y Belsky, R M Heinneman and R S Miller showed that urban myths and stereotypes aare still abundant and prevalent about MO . One wonders how in this day and age such an interview made the presses during Sefirah and how that such eminent Talmidie Chachamim could have essentially used MO as a label without being able to understand and differentiate the vast differences between LWMO and its spokesmen and the RIETS RY , their talmidim and the many Chashuveh Baale Batim and Bnei Torah who view these world class Gdolei Talmidei Chachamim as their Baalei Mesorah. Although there were some comments to the effect that there are some “serious Bnei Torah” within MO, there was no comment that there were some eminent and world class Talmidie Chachamim therein.IOW, it was sort of a “nice but nisht unzerer” type of comment as if the only improvement in MO was the near eradication of mixed dancing at simchos. One can only imagine the uproar if a MO leader or a RIETS RY had been interviewed and offered a less than totally approving appraisal of a Charedi Mossad HaTorah or other aspects of Charedi life.

  6. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    I wonder if anybody is still following this thread, being 5 weeks old. Still, since commenting is still open and I feel very strongly about this issue, I feel compelled to add another post.

    I was taken aback by post #34 who had the temerity to state, not merely as conjecture but as an unequivocal undebatable given, that if Ramchal and Rabenu Bachya were here today, they would be ostracized by the chareidi establishment. The pretentiousness of this statement goes far beyond earlier opinions that their Hashkafos may overlap with MO or RZ hashkafos.

    The poster presented 3 arguments for his opinion: “(1) Rabbeinu Bachya approvingly quoted non-Jewish philosophers! (2) He studied Greek and Arabic science! (3) He said that the Dor HaMidbar were religiously naive and that the Torah had to be simplified for their level of understanding!”

    I previously rebutted the first two arguments, but I will rehash them (with some modification):

    (1) To my knowledge, he does not quote any non-Jewish philosophers by name in CHL. To reflect the ideas of non-Jewish philosophers when they corroborate the basic Torah-based ideas is perfectly acceptable. I have done so myself.

    (2) Wikipedia says he was familiar with Arabic, Greek, and Roman philosophy and scientific literature. This makes him about as secular as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, ZT”L.

    What disturbed me the most was his third argument where he characterizes a passage from CHL. The implication is that there is something heretical about this passage and that is a clear departure from normative chareidi ideology. (If not that, then what’s his point?). He asserted that Chovos HaLevavos maintains that “the Dor HaMidbar were religiously naive and that the Torah had to be simplified for their level of understanding!”

    Now, tell me if I am the only one, but I read this characterization as saying that CHL holds the Dor Hamidbar were a bunch of neanderthal airheads (not like us geniuses) and HKB”H had to make the whole Torah real simple so that they could understand it. Of course, such a thing is shocking and heretical and certainly all the chareidim would certainly toss him out of the Bais Midrash.

    I petitioned the poster both online and off for the location of this passage so that I can examine it in context and he readily obliged. Shaar Bitachon 4 (about 75% through).

    My assessment is that this characterization is a gross distirtion. Now, here is what CHL REALLY says:

    CHL in Shaar Bitachon is asking why the Torah does not explicitly discuss the concepts of reward and punishment in the Afterlife. To this he suggests 7 reasons. In reason #2, he says that it was not necessary to explicate it insomuch as it is a kaballah from the neviim just like the bulk of Torah sheBaal Peh (IOW, they were really a learned bunch). In reason #3 (somewhat contradictory), he suggests that the Dor Hamidbar was religiously unschooled and therefore the Torah omitted the esoteric concepts of reward and punishment.

    I see this as much different than saying that they were naïve and G-d had to simplify the Torah.

    There is nothing remotely controversial or radical about this sentiment which he qualifies with a pasuk in Hoshea 11:1 and Marpeh L”Nefesh and Tov Halevanon (and others) add Devarim 29:3. The meforshim likewise point to Erechin 15a where Rav Huna says that “Yisrael of that generation were among those of little belief.”

    There is no question that poster #34 believes that if the heretical Rav Huna was here today, he would be “ostracized from Chareidi society”.

    Incidentally, Feldheim published CHL in English – along with Ramchal’s sefarim and, to date, no Chareidim banned them! They are on the shelves of every Chareidi institution along with Rambam and – I daresay – even Michtav M’Eliyahu. And you say Chareidim are at odds with them? Why did Mishpacha magazine give the radical Chovos Halevavos a six page spread two years ago?

    I get it. Feldheim and Mishpacha are not really Chareidi!

    With so few people actually remaining in Chareidi society is it any wonder that 99.99% of the world won’t define “Chareidi” as the Chareidim would define themselves?* Of course not! There are only 00.01% of the world who haven’t been ostracized!

    Maybe I am the only one.

    Yechezkel Hirshman, Author – One Above and Seven Below

    *This is what I call in my book “Consumer Hazard #6”

  7. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    They weren’t studying art, they were studying medicine.

    That’s a completely different ballgame, and totally irrelevant to my point! I asked: “Did the Rambam take Art, with nude portraits?”. For you to claim that by “nude depictions of the human form” you meant medicine is extremely disingenuous and quite misleading. So much for all the other points, such as about Halachic sanction.

    Regarding RSRH and permissibility of attending University based on his precedent, one would have to know exactly what the his immedaite surroundings were like on a consistent basis, what he could do to seclude himself from the environs, as well as his own thoughts on the matter, before concluding anything from the fact that he attended. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe also attended college and was no big fan of it subsequently, to say the least.

    Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in a responsum (Yoreh Deah Part 4 #34) that the reason why there is not such a hue and cry about American boys attending college is because, among other things, there is a limit to what they will listen to due to parental pressures, not due to its inherent permissibilty. During the summer, when there are females who are in inappropriate attire, there is no Heter under the sun. So even if what you say about RSRH is true, anecdotal evidence, along with dubious analogies to the present, does not have the ability to tip the scales versus this clear responsum, in favor of me being able to agree to the permissibility of University, although I do appreciate that you are wary of the pitfalls therein, and recognize the need for more care in this regard.

    All the best.

  8. Charles B. Hall says:

    “1) When was the Art section of the University started?”

    They weren’t studying art, they were studying medicine.

    “2) Was it a requirement in any way?”

    Yes, doctors have to look at naked bodies on a regular basis.

    “3) Under whose Halachic sanction did this take place?”

    It isn’t a shilah. Chazal rule that it is a Torah mandate for a physician to heal. (I’m actually unaware of specific references in Chazal to physician *training*; it seems to be taken for granted that Jewish physicians exist. Interestingly the Torah philosophy is that it isn’t the physician but HaShem who is doing the real healing. Yet halachah requires us to consult physicians who attended real medical schools.)

    “4) How do you know?”

    Doctors have always had to do non-tzniut things.

    “Does RSRH describe this happening where he went? ”

    I have not read all of his writings and have not found anything he has written regarding the social environment of his university. I can’t believe that the Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn would have been much different from all the other secular universities of Europe, though.

    “Even if he had to go through it, does that mean that it is appropriate? ”

    No. When I was a professor at a major state university the level of drinking and partying by undergraduates was a constant frustration. My point was that contrary to popular opinion, college students have been acting up for a very long time and it did not deter observant Jews then.

    “What I am questioning is whether this is done in a way that is Halachically acceptable”

    It is clear that it is halachically acceptable to attend universities, as my many examples have shown.

    ” as well as what safeguards do we have, that were unavailable to Rabbi Salanter, in screening out those who are at risk of succumbing to the breeding grounds of wrongheaded behavior and outlook, aka Universities.”

    Now you are finally getting to something that we can discuss if you will accept my point that universities are mutar. Exactly who should attend university, and at what time in life, are very important questions! I’ve long thought that older students are more mature and better able to benefit from university education; to some extent my wife and I are examples of that since I earned by PhD at age 37 and my wife her MD at age 40. And there are some who should not attend university at any age. But all this is a case by case decision, hopefully made with ones rav, not a blanket isur for the entire Jewish world.

  9. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    L’Chvod Reb Natan –

    “You used this kind of reasoning previously, and I still don’t get it. Of course you PERCEIVE yourself as following in their footsteps, but that doesn’t mean that you are! Think about how many different types of people perceive themselves as following in the derech of Rambam!”

    Of course you don’t get it. You didn’t read the book. I wrote a whole segment on “how many different types of people perceive themselves as following in the derech of the Rambam” (One Above Seven Below, pp. 111-117). Warning- even reading that segment won’t work unless you read the 110 pages that come before it.

    “You are blinding yourself if you think that Rav Soloveitchik was charedi!”

    I did not write that he was Chareidi (nor did I write that he was NOT Chareidi). I only wrote that he was an iluy. Iluy is not my definition of Chareidi.

    “(again, I am talking about the definition used by 99.99% of the world)”

    Okay, okay – I give up!! Exactly WHAT IS the definition used by 99.99% of the world?

    “And what makes you say that Rabbeinu Bachya and Ramchal only engaged in chochmas chitzonios after mastering kol haTorah kulo?’

    Forgive me for using the term “after”. I was “plagiarizing” the terminology of poster #79. My emphasis is not that it was chronilogically after mastering – it could be while mastering. My emphasis was that it was not at the expense of mastering as was the “seifa” of my “memra”.

    “And what does it mean to master kol haTorah kulo? Is it not always possible to deepen one’s understanding?”

    I would define it minimally as being baki in Tanach, shas, and Poskim. Of course it is possible to deepen one’s understanding. That is why Rabi Yishmael (presumably the same “non-Chareidi” Rabi Yishmael who “argues” with Rashb”Y)tells his nephew (Menachos 99b) NOT to learn chochmos chitzonius even though he learned Kol HaTorah Kulo (whatever that means!).

    I very much welcome debate on the issues of this thread and on my (00.01%) chelek in it (my book), but I truly do think my book represents a bit of a greater percentage of the Torah olam and one really cannot make cogent arguments about it as long as he hasn’t read it and caught its premise. I don’t mean to put you down, but your comments appear to me as one who is shooting at a target in the dark.

    I am very interested in a book swap. I will contact you offline about this.

    Kol Tuv and Good Shabbos,

    Yechezkel

  10. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    However, the Jewish students at Padua would certainly have studied nude depictions of the human form.

    1) When was the Art section of the University started?
    2) Was it a requirement in any way?
    3) Under whose Halachic sanction did this take place?
    4) How do you know?

    Probably not, as German universities were then all male. But European Universities have been well known for the, er, uh, rowdy and bawdy student conduct for centuries. Check out “Gaudeamus igitur” which is sung at Harvard commencement to this day.

    Does RSRH describe this happening where he went? Even if he had to go through it, does that mean that it is appropriate?

    The rabbis who earned medical degrees in Padua centuries earlier had already proven that to be true. Today I teach many yerei shamayim who are training to be great doctors. I’m also married to one.

    I don’t doubt that. What I am questioning is whether this is done in a way that is Halachically acceptable, as well as what safeguards do we have, that were unavailable to Rabbi Salanter, in screening out those who are at risk of succumbing to the breeding grounds of wrongheaded behavior and outlook, aka Universities.

  11. Natan Slifkin says:

    “I wrote that some Rishonim may not make the Rashb”Y model but engaging in these chochmos does not preclude one from meeting my basic definition of chareidi at least at the Rabi Yishmael level.”

    I’m sure it doesn’t preclude meeting YOUR basic definition of charedi – but it would preclude meeting the definition used by almost everyone else!

    “Incidentally, my definition does not exclude Natan Slifkin, either. Does that totally blow it out of the water?”

    Of course! Look, you are free to define it any way you want. You can define charedi as “being circumcised” and say that Avraham Avinu was charedi. But if virtually nobody else uses the term that way, it’s pointless and misleading.

    “Also, you make it sound as if all Rishonim were Torah-U’Mada-niks.”

    I certainly did not mean any such implication. There were enormous differences between Rishonim and Acharonim in different places. I was specifically referring to the figures that you mentioned.

    “Incidentally, I wrote both in my post and in my book that my ideology (and that of a typical chareidi) is BASED ON Rabenu Bachya and Ramchal. So, how different can we be?”

    You used this kind of reasoning previously, and I still don’t get it. Of course you PERCEIVE yourself as following in their footsteps, but that doesn’t mean that you are! Think about how many different types of people perceive themselves as following in the derech of Rambam!

    “By the way, did you notice that my comment on multi-faceted geniuses was bunched together with some names of contemporary (though recently deceased) scholarly figures? Are there great historical differences that go back a mere 15 years to which we are blinding ourselves?”

    You are blinding yourself if you think that Rav Soloveitchik was charedi! (again, I am talking about the definition used by 99.99% of the world)

    “Actually, with my comment I was more or less seconding the opinion of post #79 that we must distinguish between those who learn chochmos chitzonios AFTER mastering kol HaTorah kulo…”

    And what makes you say that Rabbeinu Bachya and Ramchal only engaged in chochmas chitzonios after mastering kol haTorah kulo? And what does it mean to master kol haTorah kulo? Is it not always possible to deepen one’s understanding?

  12. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    Reb Natan –

    I would expect you to be the last person to make judgments about a book based merely on what you hear ;-) But, seriously, the only difference between my definition and that of 99.99% (I don’t think it’s that unbalanced because I have Rabbi Moshe Grylak and Dovid Rossoff giving definitions just as broad as mine) is that 99.99% (as you would put it) would define chareidi as exclusively the ideology of Rashb”Y in Brochos 35b and I include Rabi Yishmael (you may have missed that line in my post). To say that it “would include people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps” is not totally accurate. What is more accurate is that it does not necessarily EXCLUDE “people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps” or, better, it “would include SOME people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps” but it would be the people that you would anyway look at and say “That guy may as well just put on a black hat, he is so chareidiish”. (Incidentally, my definition does not exclude Natan Slifkin, either. Does that totally blow it out of the water?)

    About the Rishonim – Either you do not seem to accept my thesis of two levels of chareidi (of course, you did not read my book) or you simply didn’t read my post. I wrote that some Rishonim may not make the Rashb”Y model but engaging in these chochmos does not preclude one from meeting my basic definition of chareidi at least at the Rabi Yishmael level. Also, you make it sound as if all Rishonim were Torah-U’Mada-niks. I have not done in depth research on Rishonim but my instincts tell me that, like thinkers of today, there were Rishonim and there were Rishonim. I have no reason to assume that Rashi, Rabenu Tam, Rif, Rosh or Ritva were anything but bona fide Rashb”Y material. Rambam, Ramban, and Rabenu Bachye may have been different.

    For your last comment – if you read my book, you will discover that it is (according to me) technically impossible for “very real historical differences between their ideology and yours” because their core ideology and mine is actually identical. They had the same Tanach and Talmud that I have. Incidentally, I wrote both in my post and in my book that my ideology (and that of a typical chareidi) is BASED ON Rabenu Bachya and Ramchal. So, how different can we be? Quite obviously, what you consider “historical differences” are fringe issues that are environmentally and culturally driven. I don’t believe that you can prove your assertion that if Rabenu Bechaye and Ramchal lived in our culture that they would be renegades and ostracized. My position is that they would most likely conform to today’s “Historical differences”.

    By the way, did you notice that my comment on multi-faceted geniuses was bunched together with some names of contemporary (though recently deceased) scholarly figures? Are there great historical differences that go back a mere 15 years to which we are blinding ourselves? Actually, with my comment I was more or less seconding the opinion of post #79 that we must distinguish between those who learn chochmos chitzonios AFTER mastering kol HaTorah kulo (the multifaceted geniuses)to those who use their initiative as a hetter to learn chochmos chitzonios INSTEAD OF mastering kol haTorah kulo.

    I don’t think you thoroughly read my post and you certainly did not read my book.

    I have a distributor in RBS :-)

    Kol Tuv,

    Yechezkel

  13. Natan Slifkin says:

    Yechezkel – I have not read your book but from what I hear, your definition of charedi is not that used by 99.99% of people, and it would include people from the Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox camps. I personally don’t find it helpful to use terms in ways that are misleading.

    You are correct that even in the charedi world, it is acceptable to quote from non-Jewish philosophers – but only if it is in way that makes it clear that it was off-handedly picked up, or as you say, from things learned in high school. But for the Rishonim, on the other hand, philosophy and the natural sciences was something that they engaged in as adults, in an active way, and which they valued greatly – whereas in Charedi society, this is very much not the case.

    To say that they were “were all multifaceted geniuses so mere mortals such as we have no business relating ourselves to their levels of complexity or eccentricity” is simply to adopt the typical charedi approach of blinding yourself to the very real historical differences between their ideology and yours.

  14. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    My attention was drawn to this blog about a week before Pesach so now that the rush is past, this is my first opportunity to post. I noted that one poster referenced my book (One Above and Seven Below) and he is correct that it addresses many of the issues that are discussed in this thread.
    I would like to summarize the perspectives that I put forth and readers can judge how and if they are applicable to these posts:

    • I write in a footnote on page 48 that we all eschew the modifier “ultra” because its definition is “exceeding the norm” or “extreme”. Nobody considers their level of observance as extreme no matter what stream he flows with.

    • Arguing about the term chareidi is pointless as long as it is not adequately defined. I make it my first order of business to do this.

    • The gemara in Brachos (35b) presents 2 models for hashkafa. One is the rigid “Torah and nothing but” hashkafa of Rabi Shimon ben Yochai and the other is the more flexible TIDE hashkafa of Rabi Yishmael. Most people define “chareidi” as being strictly of the Rashb”Y mindset. That is why they make assertions that earlier pious thinkers such as Rambam, Rabbenu Bachya, and Ramchal would not be considered chareidi by today’s standards. I heartily disagree and maintain that Rashb”Y and R”Y are not truly at odds (Chapter 2 of the book) but rather Rashb”Y represents the chareidi ideal and R”Y takes a more practical approach. This is based on the reality that (1) so many Jews who lean toward R”Y consider themselves chareidi (2) attend and send their children to chareidi schools and Yeshivas (3) follow chareidi gedolim, (4) maintain mehadrin kashrus, etc. It is also based on the fact that 3 Amoraim in Brachos make peace between the 2 sides.

    • In my opinion the group that is called MO (also in need of a consensual definition) covers a wide spectrum which at one extreme is barely Orthodox and at the other is quasi-chareidi.

    • When we try analyze the personalities and to piece together the hashkafot of iluyim from generations past we are walking on thin ice and are being quite pretentious. We see in the individual a few anomalies from today’s chareidi doctrine (per Rashb”Y) and we blow it out of proportion to characterize the person as non-chareidi. I especially take exception to the comment by Natan Slifkin in #34 where he asserts that Rabenu Bachya and Ramchal – who I name in my book as the trailblazers of today’s chareidi ideology – would be “very different” from today’s chareidi and that “they quote approvingly from non-Jewish philosophers”. Hey, in my book I claim to be a paradigm chareidi yet I “quote approvingly” Thomas Edison in my foreword and on page 254 I approve of many CBT philosophers (okay, those I quote just happen to be Jewish, but I approve of Burns and Rogers, too). What does it tell us that Rabenu Bachya studied Greek and Arabic sciences? I also attended high school and studied Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, languages, and literature and my critics still call me Grade A chareidi! I mention Venn diagrams and molecular compositions in my book but I still preach amelus b’Torah. Obviously the limudei chol was superficial and it was decades ago but I still remember most of it. Who says Rabenu Bachya’s secular study was any more extensive? They may not have been chareidi at the Rashb”Y extreme but according to my thesis Rabbi Yishmael was no less chareidi. Moreover, all the aforementioned plus enigmatic scholars of today such as the Rav (JBS) and the Lubavicher Rebbe were all multifaceted geniuses so mere mortals such as we have no business relating ourselves to their levels of complexity or eccentricity.

    • As per Slifkin’s comment about the Chasam Sofer and historical ignorance – I hold with Noah Efron (Real Jews, page 21) that it is a Zenoic paradox to say that Chasam Sofer revolutionized Orthodoxy if his cause celebre was to keep it the same. My gripe with Efron is that he accepts the paradox (as apparently does Slifkin) and I reject it.

    • Incidentally, which word in Chovos Halevavos translates as “religiously naïve”? (BTW_ Rabenu Bachye ibn Pakuda in Chovos Halevavos is not Rabenu Bechaye ben Asher in Chumash)

    I know this was a long post but it relates to a large bloc of comments. For a fuller exposition, check out One Above and Seven Below (I understand the moderator doesn’t like web links but you can find my web site on Google).

    Chag Sameach,

    Yechezkel Hirshman, Author – One Above and Seven Below

  15. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Bob, to trivialize – if you ask a shailah about case X, receive a psak, follow it and then you apply the psak to case Y, despite doing what you did yesterday, you are not following tradition. Our tradition is that circumstance matters a great deal. I know the analogy is poor, but it explains why arguing “tradition” is not always obvious.