Modern Orthodoxy Redux

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By Robert Lebovits

I wonder if the creators of Cross Currents ever imagined that it would be such a vital forum for addressing the critical issues facing the Orthodox world. The present dialogue on the form and trajectory of Modern Orthodoxy – and the broad range of comments that have been put forward – are a testament to the success of this venue. Perhaps most impressive of all is the tenor of the discussion. Rabbis Adlerstein and Broyde have shown us all how to have discourse without disrespect, leaving polemics and acrimony by the wayside. There are some thoughts and ideas of my own that I would offer for consideration.

R. Broyde has identified the core dispute to be the question of whether the “Far Left” (FL) is or is not “seeking to leave the halachic community”. He states they are not and avers “the crux of the issue [is] they steadfastly refuse to defer to the judgments of the gedolim who dominate the community that Rabbi Adlerstein comes from and instead either put forward their own gedolim or deny the need for sanction from gedolim to make the changes they recommend”. I would suggest R. Broyde understates the issues. Let me refer to the controversy initiated by Rabbi Kanefsky over the removal of the brocha “Sh’Lo Asani Eshah”.

In his revised article R. Kanefsky writes:
“I know of course that ‘You have not made me a woman’ can be understood in many different ways. But by its plain meaning, and by the simple smell test, it has the effect today of justifying our lack of progress, and of affirming for us that women do not possess the spiritual dignity that men do. In our specific time, given our specific challenges the blessing hurts us. We thus find ourselves today in a halachic “sha’at hadchak”, an “urgent circumstance”, the sort of circumstance that justifies utilizing an ingenious halachic stratagem to effectively drop this blessing from our liturgy” (italics added).

Clearly, R. Kanefsky’s goal from the start is to remove this bracha as it offends modern sensibilities. His suggested halachic maneuvering is simply a clever means to a pre-determined end. Moreover other tshuvot coming from YCT/IRF scholars directly affirm the premise that they seek to employ the halachic process to attain congruity with contemporary cultural mores, no matter how forced or convoluted the “stratagem” might be. Such candor in identifying how they use halacha is refreshing – but it ought not be mistaken to be an honest search for truth in halacha.

Perhaps more than the actual opinion by R. Kanefsky to abrogate a bracha for the sake of social justice is the attitude that permeates his writing. Simply put, he is embarrassed by Chazal. The bracha smells bad and offends today’s woman who, one assumes from R. Kanefsky’s own acknowledgement of the multiple meanings invested in this bracha, has limited Torah understanding and therefore only considers the literal translation of the words. Might it not be more worthwhile to encourage Torah study for women so that the complexity of the bracha could be appreciated and accepted rather than altering centuries of tradition?

Additional statements by R. Kanefsky vis-à-vis Chazal’s views on women and other comments where he challenges the correctness of halacha in view of modern sensibilities seem to be at odds with R. Broyde’s own formulation of the criteria for RCA membership: “The Modern Orthodox community, and the RCA specifically, ought to welcome into its tent anyone who professes loyalty to the theology of Jewish belief endorsed by Rishonim and Achronim as historically and halachically understood, and whose conduct is governed by classical Jewish law”.

Is admonishing – and even demeaning – Chazal for not conforming halacha to the contemporary zeitgeist consistent with classical Jewish law?

At the risk of over-reaching I will take this critique one step further. Conservative Judaism in this country took root as an attempt to keep Jews Jewish, believing as the movement did, that Orthodoxy was too rigid and rejecting of New World realities. A number of Conservative clergy had Orthodox smicha and some were recognized scholars. The “tshuva” written to permit driving to shul on Shabbos and similar policies were efforts to redefine halachic principles to fit the perceived needs of the people (“sha’at hadchak”?) and give sanction to extrahalachic behaviors so as to maintain a façade of religious adherence. Today it is evident to all how poorly that strategy has played out.

I don’t question the sincerity of Rabbis Weiss, Kanefsky, et. al. and their conviction that they are serving Hashem and Klal Yisroel. I believe R. Broyde when he says they are all well-meaning ma’aminim. However, that isn’t the dispute and focusing on personalities obfuscates the real problem.

“Hachachom einay berosho”. One who has eyes sees the chasm opening up between the FL path and that of mainstream Orthodoxy. Certainly, this critique may be wide of the mark and all that will evolve from the FL activity is some expansion of what becomes acceptable within the realm of Orthodoxy. Yet truth requires one to acknowledge that the fears R. Adlerstein expresses have substance and are grounded in historical precedent. Can we agree that there are real dangers that ought to be faced as potential threats to the Klal and respected accordingly? In the opinion of many in mainstream Orthodoxy, some breaches have already come to pass: YCT lists non-Orthodox clergy on their faculty as “Rabbis”; Kabbalat Shabbat service led by a woman; The ordination of a Rabbah; A demand that the “hecsher” of a Conservative clergyman be accepted by the frum world. I fear Jimmy Durante was correct when he said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

After making the case for the “big tent” approach to Orthodoxy R. Broyde in fact turned his attention to the “Far Left” and movingly admonished the group for their intemperate excesses and apparent unwillingness to draw some boundaries of their own – a curious rebuke given his reluctance to concretely define where he would place his own borders. While his reproach is welcome, I wonder why it only came in response to R. Adlerstein’s essay and not at the very start of “this current firestorm” – i.e., the article by R. Kanefsky. Further, putting it at the very end of his response to R. Adlerstein seems to suggest that in the spirit of even-handedness R. Broyde must address both sides of the debate, almost pro-forma not to be taken too seriously. The Rav was not timid or time-sensitive in criticizing Rabbi Rackman loudly and clearly. Is that not the model for this discussion?

In reviewing the comments to both articles and the clarifications offered by both R. Broyde and R. Adlerstein, I believe it’s worth asking “How far has the Far Left taken us already?” It is not only the practices they advocate that are at issue. By setting the boundary of acceptability further and further to the liberal extreme we are all pulled away from the standards of the past, both in personal practices and in our worldview. How many in the Modern Orthodox community presume the yeshivish olam to be beneath them for their lack of advanced secular education? Did Rav S. R. Hirsch look down upon his Eastern European peers with disdain because they had no university training supplementing their Torah greatness? R. Broyde is eloquent in his description of Modern Orthodoxy as combining the best of Western Culture with Torah. Yet where is the balance point between those two sources of knowledge and what influences where the set point is established? The Far Left always exerts pressure on our thinking and behavior. Some – the Far Right – pull fiercely in the opposite direction to countervail a leftward tilt, sometimes with undesirable consequences. Unfortunately, many in the Modern Orthodox world take no notice of this drift, subtlely reframing their perceptions, allowing it to erode their commitment to Torah and mitzvos and diminishing their regard for those who choose a more stringent Torah way. I don’t live like the yid in Meah Shearim, Bnei Brak, Monroe, etc. but I recognize there are characteristics of such a lifestyle to admire and even elevate above my own. Can the Modern Orthodox do the same, respect someone whose religious practices surpasses one’s own without denigrating their actions or motives?

I would add one final observation. There are many who dismiss the debate over the acceptance or rejection of the Far Left as “same old, same old” and see it as simply a recapitulation of familiar Jewish infighting. Maybe so; maybe not. There is a psychological phenomenon known as the Normalcy Bias. It’s the cognitive process by which we seek to diminish the prospect of danger by identifying elements of an event or trend as something we’ve seen or been through before and survived without needing to take drastic action. It’s been used to explain for example why people stay in their homes even when confronted by imminent disaster like a flood or a hurricane – or a Holocaust. “I got through something just like this before and I can do it again”. There are some challenges to the future of our continuity that may call for extraordinary responses.

Dr. Robert Lebovits is a psychologist in private practice, and the former president of the Kollel Jewish Learning Center in Pittsburgh.

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56 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    R. Adlerstein –

    With all due respect, you keep on mentioning how in your interactions with the “Far Left” you have not noticed a shared language in Torah, Mesorah, Halacha, etc. You draw conclusions about the “Far Left” in its opinion of consulting poskim, in their valuing of Chazal, etc, etc, and you do so primarily based on your interactions, which you reference repeatedly and on a few blog posts or articles written by a handful of people. However, I have asked close to 40 YCT musmachim if they have ever met you, spoke to you, or interacted with you on any level and none of them have. Remember there are right now less than 100 musmachim from the yeshiva. So how small is your sample size? You seem to be making tremendous claims and accusations and drawing an entire sociological map of a supposed “far left” community based on knowing, meeting, speaking with or interacting with how many rabbonim from Chovevei? Furthermore, there are about two hundred rabbis in the IRF – how many have you interviewed? Do you not feel any sense of achrius in due diligence or some sort of chakira before making such claims?

    I am affiliated with the IRF and like many of the IRF members spent time in Charedi yeshivas, I consult my poskim often on shailos and have deep reverence for Chazal and our Mesorah.

    I think the “crux of the issue,” borrowing your language, is R. Broyde has actually spent time and gotten to know MANY of the IRF and Chovevei affiliated rabbis. His opinions are based on extensive knowledge of the rabbinic community you keep on referencing. However, based on asking almost half of the Chovevei musmachim, who never spoke to you once, it seems you are mostly speaking from conjecture and assumptions. That doesn’t seem very mentschlich to me.

    I, along with the other close to 100 musmachim of Chovevei, look forward to hearing from you and helping you gain a clearer picture of who we are. Maybe your opinion will remain the same but until you do the actual chakira you will never know.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      You seem to be making tremendous claims and accusations and drawing an entire sociological map of a supposed “far left” community based on knowing, meeting, speaking with or interacting with how many rabbonim from Chovevei?

      1) I have indeed interacted, in person and digitally, with YCT products, faculty, and members of the IRF. Their identities will remain as anonymous as yours
      2) Those interactions have not been the primary basis of my opinion – and that of the large group of rabbonim who supported my article, both before its drafting and after. (I keep on having to remind the readership that this is not a one man effort. It is one man writing for a much wider group of non-haredi rabbis.) The primary basis is the large literature that I and others have plowed through. Issues of Mili Chavivin; countless postings on Morethodoxy, the IRF website and the oeuvre of some of its members. Please do a reality check, and remind yourselves just how much material is out there in the public domain – material that often openly writes of a campaign to change the face of Orthodox practice.

  2. cohen y says:

    ” That’s to be expected of Jews! Now what? Where do we go? My contention is that we have always gone to Torah authority – even before the expansion of the concept of Daas Torah. Call it what you want, but that is what I see in the Mesorah. The right calls it Daas Torah; the center calls it asking a question. The left grumbles about autonomy, and mixes a bit of authority into it. The Far Left hardly recognizes the concept at all. Autonomy wins out, big time. ”

    The FR is probably closer to the center (or the left) than to the right on that one.

    —————————

    Whatever happenend to the R’YA’s preposition:to erect a Beis Din?

  3. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding mb November 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, since mb cited you as a source, what was the context of the quoted statement attributed to Rav Hirsch ZT”L?

    Thanks!

    [YA – I read it (several times) years ago. No recollection of where.]

  4. Menachem Lipkin says:

    “Please spell it out to your heart’s content. Then I can more fully deny it. This has simply not been my experience, certainly not with people in positions of authority. To be sure, there are differences in ideology and life-style. But we can and do converse in a common language of halacha, Maamarei Chazal, and anecdotes. Sadly, this is not so in regard to people I know on the FL – both rabbis and laypeople.
    Don’t get me wrong. In the neighborhoods you point to, they have much to criticize about me. But except for the most extreme, it doesn’t get in the way of serious halachic work.”

    Rabbi Adlerstein, B’Kavod. This, of course, is not the case in Israel. Here you have “respected” rabbis invalidating the conversions of other respected rabbis with catastrophic consequences. It certainly does get in the way of serious Halachic work regarding conversion, Kashrut, Shmitta, just to name a few. These are not just differences in ideology and life-style, they are fundamental halachic differences that are ripping this country apart. Issues such as a changing a bracha or having a woman posek with a “title” are mere fluff in comparison. (I’ll take those “problems” any day.)

    You say “except for the extreme”, and yet nobody in the orthodox world is calling for the removal of these “extremists” from the “tent”.

    As to speaking the same language, my Rav (you know who he is and his impeccable stature) met with a Rav in a far right group nobody is will to eject. After they met for a couple of hours my Rav said, “this guy is from a different planet”. There was no common basis for talking in Torah. None!

    So until I see the same vitriol directed at those on the far right, who have the potential to do far greater damage to us, I’ll continue to see this tirade against the “far left” as much ado about nothing.

    And to anyone who’s thinking that this can’t happen here in the good ‘ol US of A, just be warned that we are the canary in your coalmine. This radically destructive ideology is well on its way to a ghetto near you.

    [Parts of it have already arrived. But parts will never gain traction. You may not remember, but the community here IS substantially different. We do have examples of living alongside those who are different, and cooperating with them. The bottom line may be the bottom line: because the funding structure is different here, there is still a good deal more freedom.]

  5. cohen y says:

    “Bob Miller
    November 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    MB wrote above — November 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    “I doubt it. Regardless, he said of the Eastern European cheredim, or whatever they were called at that time, ‘cousins, yes, but brothers? No.’”

    What is your exact documented source for this (the more original the better), and what exactly was its original context?”

    I have seen this in print, but I also heard it from my revered teacher, Rabbi Adlers

    They had the same disdain or more for the yiddishists,Bundints,etc.

  6. mb says:

    “Bob Miller
    November 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    MB wrote above — November 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    “I doubt it. Regardless, he said of the Eastern European cheredim, or whatever they were called at that time, ‘cousins, yes, but brothers? No.’”

    What is your exact documented source for this (the more original the better), and what exactly was its original context?”

    I have seen this in print, but I also heard it from my revered teacher, Rabbi Adlerstein!

  7. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Orthodox Judaism is in serious trouble….”

    I am not a triumphalist and I recognize that Orthodoxy has some problems, some major others more minor, but where have I heard that prediction before? :)

  8. Mendy says:

    Robert wrote:

    “I imagine the “Kabbolos Shabbos” music might have been some sort of pre-Shabbos interlude.”

    This is incorrect.

    In a 1679 Siddur you have the following instruction right before Lecha Dodi.

    “A Pleasant song by Rabbi Solomon Singer played in the Maisal synagogue of the Holy Community of Prague on the organ (Ugav) and lyre prior to Lekha Dodi.”

    Even the Hasam Sofer noted that “We have reliable testimony that they ceased their playing before the recitation of Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbos.”

    In other words, the organ was being used for *Kabbolos Shabbos* itself. Its is just that they started KS early to make sure that the organ wasn’t played on Shabbos itself.

    See David Ellenson, “A Disputed Precedent: The Prague Organ” in his boom*On Emancipation*

  9. Robert Lebovits says:

    Mendy: I believe we are both drawing our information from the same website, onthemainline.blogspot. While the article initially mentions the use of the organ for KS, there are two reports later on affirming that the organ was not used on Shabbos or Yom-tov and the music stopped a half hour before Shabbos started. I imagine the “Kabbolos Shabbos” music might have been some sort of pre-Shabbos interlude. It is hardly believeable that Rav Dovid Oppenheim zt”l, the chief rabbi of Prague, or the Noda B’Yehuda who succeeded him, would have permitted the use of an organ on Shabbos.

  10. Mendy says:

    Robert wrote:

    “The historical references to the organ in the shul in Prague testify to the fact that it was never used after the start of Shabbos or Yom-Tov. It was not a musical supplement to davening.”

    The Prague organ was used for Kabbolos Shabbos. Do you not consider KS part of davening?

  11. Bob Miller says:

    MB wrote above — November 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    “I doubt it. Regardless, he said of the Eastern European cheredim, or whatever they were called at that time, ‘cousins, yes, but brothers? No.’”

    What is your exact documented source for this (the more original the better), and what exactly was its original context?

    ———————

    Menachem Lipkin wrote above — November 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm
    “We darn well better be able to figure out a way to embrace the Kanefky’s and Weiss’s”

    Menachem, are you proposing that we all embrace them as the card-carrying members of Klal Yisrael that they are, or to embrace even their most incendiary positions as somehow legitimate and worthy of consideration?

  12. Menachem Lipkin says:

    While you gentlemen have been so busy eviscerating the messenger, I believe you are missing the message. Orthodox Judaism is in serious trouble. Oh sure we’ve experienced a reprieve from a near-death experience in the 50’s and 60’s, but ensconced in our ever growing ghettos from Brooklyn to Lakewood to Monsey it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see beyond the end of our eruvs to the fact that we are mere fleck in all of Judaism.

    For all the criticism here of modern orthodoxy’s modernity, they really are nothing of the sort. American orthodoxy is in the midst of homogenizing itself. And while that’s going on and everyone is patting themselves on the back, people, young and old, are exiting, stage left. Oh, they’re not all going “off the derech” they are becoming orthoprax, half-shabbosers, or just people that are spiritually bereft and just going through the motions. 19th century platitudes are increasingly failing to mollify 21st century angst.

    Modern orthodoxy has abdicated its role in addressing cutting edge issues and into the vacuum has flowed the “far left”. Rather than pushing people out of the tent we should be figuring out ways to bring IN as many people as possible. And not just on our terms. We darn well better be able to figure out a way to embrace the Kanefky’s and Weiss’s, otherwise, yes, there will be a new “conservative” Judaism created but it won’t have been created by “them” it will have been created by us.

  13. Robert Lebovits says:

    Mendy: The historical references to the organ in the shul in Prague testify to the fact that it was never used after the start of Shabbos or Yom-Tov. It was not a musical supplement to davening.
    Benjamin E.:I don’t believe I slandered the Conservative movement in focusing on the ruling made in the 1950s sanctioning driving to shul on Shabbos. In the original response they indeed considered it a sha’at hadchak to drive to shul owing to the fact that Jews in America at the time had expanded to the suburbs and without driving they would have been cut off from communal activity on Shabbos. The halachic justification they employed was as you described, identifying it as an issur d’rabbonon and possible PRDLNL. What unfortunately ensued shortly thereafter was a wholesale violation of Shabbos driving for almost any reason at all. Some time later another response sought to reassert the rule that driving was only permitted for shul, but the genie was already out of the bottle. However much the ruling was not “meant for the average Conservative Jew”, the results were (and are) a decline in halachic observance among the entire movement’s members.
    Bruce (I’m sorry, I can’t call you Dov): So nice to hear from you after all these years. I think reading tshuvos in seforim is not the same as watching the posek grappling with a shailo and coming to a conclusion. In the former we get a coherent presentation of the arguements pro and con and the posek’s considered opinion about each possibility – AFTER the real consideration and analysis has taken place prior to the writing of the response. In the latter we see and hear how the posek searches for the proper weight and significance to give each position based on all apprpriate references from tanach through shas,geonim, rishonim, poskim, et.al. to the present. Since the written tshuva is essentially a report on the conclusions, it may not reflect the entire process. That might give the appearance of bias you see. The “gut instinct” you mention comes from the accumulated Torah knowledge derived from years of observation and experience. I absolutely agree that the fidelity filter is a critical component in examining the reponses from all poskim.

  14. S. says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein: “Your point about the need for “wishy-washy-compromisey Orthodox Judaism” needs to be considered more fully. As it happens, I don’t agree – although you may be correct.”

    Fair enought. But here’s the thing. By the standards of Meah Shearim, New Square, and elsewhere you are wishy-washy-compromisey Orthodox Judaism. You probably don’t need or want me to spell it out. Nothing offensive is meant by this. I believe, Rabbi Adlerstein, that you know that this is perfectly accurate. Who says they’re wrong? So rather than you disagreeing that there is a place for it, you already are in that place – according to some. So, to paraphrase a certain wit, we are just haggling over the details.

    I get it – just like we were opposed to Conservative Judaism the first time around, there seems to be no reason not to oppose it the second time around. Alright. But that presupposes that YCT is Conservative Judaism 2.0. If that is not an opinion which someone shares than then surely you will see why they would defend YCT (or the “FL”) if not be a part of it? So, for example, obviously Rabbi Broyde disagrees. Likely many fine people affiliated with YU, who have participated in events at YCT or published in their journals, disagree as well. We’ve all got our opinions.

    Putting that aside, there is also the possibility – admittedly this can be called weak, and it’s a matter of opinion at best – that the mistakes of earlier failed experiments can be avoided precisely because we do have 200 years experience. There was, in the final analysis, nothing wrong with moving the bimah to the middle. Or omitting piyutim. There was, in the final analysis, nothing wrong with speeches in the vernacular, even with changing the names, clothes, etc. Let’s be frank. There were plenty of Reforms which really were permissible by the Torah. And eventually many of them became incorporated into Orthodoxy. So what was wrong? Maybe it was the timing. Maybe it was the men who championed it. There are other possibilities. But who can say for sure that because in some people’s opinion the “FL” resembles early Reform that it must lead to Reform? Or CJ? Maybe it will lead to a Torah renaissance.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      “Fair enought. But here’s the thing. By the standards of Meah Shearim, New Square, and elsewhere you are wishy-washy-compromisey Orthodox Judaism. You probably don’t need or want me to spell it out. “

      Please spell it out to your heart’s content. Then I can more fully deny it. This has simply not been my experience, certainly not with people in positions of authority. To be sure, there are differences in ideology and life-style. But we can and do converse in a common language of halacha, Maamarei Chazal, and anecdotes. Sadly, this is not so in regard to people I know on the FL – both rabbis and laypeople.
      Don’t get me wrong. In the neighborhoods you point to, they have much to criticize about me. But except for the most extreme, it doesn’t get in the way of serious halachic work.

      Some examples: I sit on a beis din for giyur, and work with colleagues in some much blacker redoubts without tension or acrimony. Years ago, Ruth Blau, z”l, the widow of R Amram, iconic head of Neturei Karta for many years, got stuck in LA for Pesach, and was placed in an empty house next door to mine. She knew my leanings, where I worked, and my university degree. She not only ate in my house (Pesach!), but handed me her husband’s kos before Yom Tov and entrusted me to kasher it for her. One of my closest friends is Ner Israel trained, a PhD psychologist and a talmid chacham. Not only has he become the point man for the Eidah Charedis on psychological matters of a very serious nature, they asked him to come to Yerushalayim for shimush and elevated him to the rank of Dayan!

      “ get it – just like we were opposed to Conservative Judaism the first time around, there seems to be no reason not to oppose it the second time around. Alright. But that presupposes that YCT is Conservative Judaism 2.0. If that is not an opinion which someone shares than then surely you will see why they would defend YCT (or the “FL”) if not be a part of it? So, for example, obviously Rabbi Broyde disagrees. Likely many fine people affiliated with YU, who have participated in events at YCT or published in their journals, disagree as well. We’ve all got our opinions.”

      We are getting closer to the crux of the matter here. Indeed, there are different opinions. That’s to be expected of Jews! Now what? Where do we go? My contention is that we have always gone to Torah authority – even before the expansion of the concept of Daas Torah. Call it what you want, but that is what I see in the Mesorah. The right calls it Daas Torah; the center calls it asking a question. The left grumbles about autonomy, and mixes a bit of authority into it. The Far Left hardly recognizes the concept at all. Autonomy wins out, big time.

      To the majority of us (especially those who have spent serious, rather than trivial, amounts of time learning), a good question like the one you pose requires an answer, and we know where to go to find one. We have no guarantee that it will be “correct,” other than in the sense that it is what the Ribbono Shel Olam has always expected of us. Communities have – must have – standards, and they don’t mix well with an apotheosis of autonomy.

      “Putting that aside, there is also the possibility – admittedly this can be called weak… But who can say for sure that because in some people’s opinion the “FL” resembles early Reform that it must lead to Reform? Or CJ? Maybe it will lead to a Torah renaissance.”
      And maybe not. As before, this is a judgment call, and one that I believe must go to serious talmidei chachamim for input.
      BTW – I hope this exchange doesn’t get between us. I LOVE your blog!

  15. S. says:

    “That’s not the point”

    Sure it’s the point. Otherwise there was no point in what I was replying to either. It presumes that wishy-washy-compromisey modern Judaism is not necessary for the many who will simply never, ever, ever go completely to the right. Look, the Chazon Ish turned a treif city into a Chareidi kehila kedosha! Putting aside whether this is even accurate, that only matters insofar as a finite number of Jews will ever be attracted to the non-“open minded, judgmental” variety. Do you disagree?

    As I see it you already agree with this, and you already realize that wishy-washy-compromisey Orthodox Judaism (“open-minded, non-judgmental” is crucial for countless Jews. You just happen to disagree with Rabbi Kanefsky about the boundaries of what is acceptable. I get it, pork will never be acceptable even if some Jews will never stop eating it. But to bring someone like the Chazon Ish into it? All that proves is what we already know: some Jews can and will be drawn by that. It does not speak to Rabbi Kanefsky’s point at all, neither confirming it nor disproving it.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      No, it is not the point, although yours is one that needs to be fully addressed as well.

      My point is that early reformers could still pass as “inside” the big tent, by speaking halachic language with an accent similar to that employed by the FL. It was illegitimate then, and it is illegitimate now, because it reduces halacha to a process rather than a search for a presumed truth. There are readers who understand exactly what that search for truth means; there are those who have no idea. This very division demonstrates that the issue of the FL’s place within contemporary Orthodoxy is moot. We have already arrived at an ideological and experiential “speciation,” with different groups unable to intellectually “mate” with each other.

      Your point about the need for “wishy-washy-compromisey Orthodox Judaism” needs to be considered more fully. As it happens, I don’t agree – although you may be correct. Conservative Judaism began as a wishy-washy-compromisey Orthodox Judaism, and failed because it never could pass itself on to a next generation as compelling and authentic. Past a certain point, wishy-washiness may still keep people doing some mitzvos (a good thing), but lose its connection to the Mother Lode (a bad thing.) Without that connection, it cannot propagate observance, and will slide further into non-authnticity. I fear that this has already happened with the FL, or will happen soon. I sincerely pray that I am wrong, and would love to meet you face to face in ten years, with you smirking at me, and pointing a finger at me calling attention to how stupid I was. May HKBH prove you right, rather than me!

  16. Rafael Araujo says:

    Rabbi Kanefsky,

    Do I understand you correctly that you believe that shelo asani ishoh leads to men withholding a get from their wives? You have not proven causation. This reminds me when Marc Lepine went into the Polytechnique Institute in Quebec in 1989 and killed 14 women. Instead of looking at the mental and emotional history of the murderer, the media and feminists screamed how this was a result of the mysoginist society that existed and resulted in the hatred Lepine felt towards women. However, this ignore factors like his mental state and how it is certainly possible that his hatred stemmed from interactions with women that got twisted in his diseased mind. I can tell you that by doing away with shelo asani ishoh, you will not stop self-centered men from withholding gittin. Further, other things you mentioned speak to a specific agenda that you have – that women should be given the right to “fully” participate in Judaism, even if it is controversial and a strained position in halochoh and that at odds with minhag Yisroel.

  17. S. says:

    C.L.

    “The Chazon Ish, etc.”

    Do you think there is any real chance that the Chazon Ish and that approach can ever speak to millions of Jews whom it does not presently speak? Is that really the lesson of Benei Brak? That Utopia is possible?

  18. Mendy says:

    RYA:

    Check your history. The Hamburg installation of an organ was not without precedent. There was an organ being used in the Prague synagogue as early as 1679. In 1679 there was no such thing as Reform and the Prague synagogue would have been regarded as fully “Orthodox” at the time (of course there was no orthodoxy at theneither).

  19. L. Oberstein says:

    I will not wade into this pool, it is full enough already. On the side issue of how German Jews viewed Eastern European Jews, one has to distinguish various time periods. I learned that after WWI, there was much more interaction. That is when people like Rav Shimon Schwab went to Telshe and Mir and returned to be a rabbi in Germany.In that 20 year period, it started to become more acceptable to go East to learn. I recently told a very good friend who is German to the core the following anecdote from the biography of Rabbi Shapiro of Lublin. He was in Germany and the Rov of the town asked him what he thought of his kehilla. He answered with the following quip.I passed a store selling ice cream, the sign said Ice Cold under Rabbinical Supervision. That is how I describe your kehilla. The Rav wasn’t happy with the answer. Over the years of interacting with many Jews of German decent, I have noticed that their concept of humor is not the same as those of Eastern European ancestry.
    But,the Yekkes can teach us punctuality, intgefrity in business, politeness and good grooming. Now, there are many intermarriages and the next generation will hopefully have the positive aspects of both groups.

  20. Mr. Cohen says:

    SheLo Asani Ishah offends some women, and they want it eliminated.

    I personally met a Greek American who was offended by Chanukah
    because it celebrates the defeat of the Greeks.

    Should we eliminate Chanukah to avoid offending Greeks?
    Should we eliminate Passover to avoid offending Egyptians?
    Should we eliminate tefillin to avoid offending animal rights activists?
    Should we eliminate prayer to avoid offending atheists?

  21. Shades of Gray says:

    “it is rather with the damage that I believe the bracha is contributing to in the real world…These are the real issues. Not the bracha in and of itslef.”

    If one agrees that the berachos were not meant negatively by Chazal, but the only concern is an unintended negative effect on the listener, it’s an entirely different point that has a different context.

    First, it’s hard to prove anything conclusively about a beracha causing a negative effect. However, if one is concerned that there are individuals who may absorb something negative in their education(eg, see the Makor Baruch’s account of the Netziv’s wife, Rayna Bataya), the best solution within tradition for LWMO, is simply to sensitize men and women to the positive’s in Chazal about women, the same way the rest of Orthodoxy does.

    Take “shlo asani goy”, or more generally, the issue of how to explain differnces between Jews and non-Jews. Rabbi Adlerstein for example wrote regarding certain insular corners of the Jewish world that “the bottom line is that if your children are absorbing inappropriate conceptions about the worthlessness of everything in the non-Jewish world, you had better modify their instruction”(“Silver Lining of the LA Scandal Cloud”, 1/18/08). In such a case, the solution is obviously not to stop making Kiddush and Havdalah but to see how to transmit a sensitivity about Tzelem Elokim in their education in cases where it may be lacking.

    Similarly, R. Dov Brezak recently quoted in the American Yated a respected Israeli mechanech who described how some of those who go off the derech have a solely punitive view of Hashem. The solution is not to discard hashkafos regarding reward and punishment, but to create an overall sensitivity and balance to whatever is lacking in their education either at home or in school, assuming this is a problem(he discusses the specifics).

  22. C.L. says:

    According to the YCT website, in order to reach out to the “needs of the larger Jewish community and the world…we require a new breed of leaders- rabbis who are open, non-judgmental, knowledgeable, empathetic, and eager to transform Orthodoxy into a movement that meaningfully and respectfully interacts with all Jews, regardless of affiliation, commitment, or background.” The idea that only a “open minded, non-judgmental” person (according to the Western understanding of these words) can reach out to other Jews is LUDICROUS. The Chazon Ish, who is known today as being one of the most machmir rabbanim in the last one hundred and fifty years, came to Bnei Brak at a time when even public chilil shabbos was rampant. Over the course of his time there, he literally transformed the city into a town of Torah scholars and pious lay men. Today, Bnei Brak is known as a holy city where great Torah giants live. How did the Chazon Ish accomplish this? NOT by being “open minded and non-judgmental” but by setting a standard. To often, in today’s society, do we forget that structure is a necessity. In our quest to bring back so many lost souls we forget that Judaism is not a religion and it is not a nationality it is a 24/7 life. It cannot be watered down or reduced. Dr. Lebovits was spot onwhen he said that ” By setting the boundary of acceptability further and further to the liberal extreme we are all pulled away from the standards of the past, both in personal practices and in our worldview.” Often times, newcomers to the religious system droop out because they claim, “It was so easy when I was having Shabbat dinner at Rabbi X but when I became fully observant, I realized that it wasn’t so easy.” Judaism comes with rules and regulations. If we forget this we are in fact doing a disservice to many.

  23. Baruch Gitlin says:

    “Is contemporary culture the “independent variable” that moves freely and Torah the “dependent variable” that we must adjust to fit or is it to be the reverse? Fascinating how there is an assumption that we are living in “the best of times” and all that exists today is an improvement over the past, especially in regard to social roles. Perhaps it’s not.”

    Yes, men and women will always be different. “An assumption that we are living in the best of times, and all that exists today is an improvement over the past…” Who said that? I know I didn’t. I don’t think any of this is either disputed (at least not by me), or relevant. What is relevant is that for better or for worse, the roles of men and women are radically different in the western world today than they were in the times of chazal, and we should try to deal with that fact. 100 years ago, I believe that most rabbis in Eretz Israel, including Rav Kook, adamantly held that women should not vote. About 10 years ago, in one of the Israeli elections (I forget which), my wife received several calls from our local United Torah Judaism (Gimmel) representative asking why she had not yet voted (he was incorrectly assuming that as a resident of a mostly haredi city, she would be voting for UTJ). What this small incident illustrates is that times change, and sometimes the psakim change with the times. Sometimes they don’t, and shouldn’t. When they should and when they shouldn’t can be a hard question, but its no disrespect to chazal to suggest that a change is necessary because society has changed.

  24. mycroft says:

    “YCT lists non-Orthodox clergy on their faculty as “Rabbis”;”

    Rav Soloveitchik would refer to non Orthodox Rabbis as Rabbi-see eg letters quoted in Community, Covenant and Community pages 125-127 where he refers to “Rabbi Shubow”.

    “what about the phenomenon of German Jews learning in Easter European (ie. Lita) yeshivos? Like Dr. Weiss, Rav Wolbe, etc”

    What about the phenomenon of Washington Heights Jews learning in Lakewood and Lakewood Jews learning in YU? People do/did travel to Yeshivot of hashkafot that they were close to. Of course, East European Jews went to Germany too se eg the Sreidei Eish for example.

    “But actually the explanation given by historians is that during WWI there was an attitudinal shift among many German Jews, occasioned by their contact with the Ostjuden during the war in their home turf. ”
    Just as likely Ostjuden moved to Germany and were often memlamdim, mechanchim, tutors etc in Germany.

  25. S. says:

    Rafael Araujo

    “S – what about the phenomenon of German Jews learning in Easter European (ie. Lita) yeshivos? Like Dr. Weiss, Rav Wolbe, etc?”

    There are exceptions to everything, aren’t there? Have you heard of Rabbi Aharon Marcus, the so-called “Chassid from Hamburg”? This doesn’t mean that in reality the German Orthodox Jews inclined toward Chassidus.

    But actually the explanation given by historians is that during WWI there was an attitudinal shift among many German Jews, occasioned by their contact with the Ostjuden during the war in their home turf. Many of them liked what they saw (good for them) and were impressed by what they perceived as great piety and authenticity. This is what spurred the phenomenon you mention.

    See “Brothers and Strangers: The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800-1923” by Steven E. Aschheim. IIRC Marc Shapairo also discusses it a bit in his biography of the Seridei Eish.

  26. Yosef Kanefsky says:

    Hi Dr. Lebovits,
    I am happy to share(from a very reliable source!) information concerning my views. Please give me a call at 310-276-9269. Meanwhile, as I wrote in the post you cited, my concern is not with the bracha of shelo asani isha per say. it is rather with the damage that I believe the bracha is contributing to in the real world. It’s my belief that the constant repetition of this bracha contributes to atmosphere whihc has produed the lag in Gemara education for girls, the discouraging attitudes regarding matters from women reciting kaddish for their parents to their making a zimmun after they’ve eaten, and to husbands exploiting their wives around the giving of a “get”. These are the real issues. Not the bracha in and of itslef. I can also state with personal knowledge of the matter, that I am not embarrassed by Chazal. Thanks! yosef

  27. lacosta says:

    “On a personal note, I would suggest that the issue of whether “Sh’Lo Asani Eshah” is offensive to women is best solved by asking them. If they find it offensive then perhaps the conditions have changed in the world that we need to recognize (whatever the source).”

    —- while you may not use the data for psak, you might at least learn if your Immovable Object tenets of frum judaism are so out-of-bounds to the non-frum joe in the street , that you have almost no chance of influencing him/her , nor earning their respect….

    kiruv rechokim is hard, expensive and low yield; making O judaism more dogmatic than neccesary may also increease the need for kiruv krovim…..

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    Yasher Koach to Dr Lebovits on a great essay. Like it or not, we need to realize that a committment to Chesed does not and should never preclude or cause us to view a committment to Mitzvos Bein Adam LaMakom as not worth the investment in sweating the details or in adhering to the Baalei Mesorah of our communities.

  29. Robert Lebovits says:

    Baruch G.: The world is ever-changing, yet Chazal’s directives are timeless. Is contemporary culture the “independent variable” that moves freely and Torah the “dependent variable” that we must adjust to fit or is it to be the reverse? Fascinating how there is an assumption that we are living in “the best of times” and all that exists today is an improvement over the past, especially in regard to social roles. Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps Chazal has warned us that men and women are and will always be different – no matter how hard social theorists and activists try to manipulate interpersonal environments or society blurs any gender distinction. Differences are not deficiencies; a Yisroel is no less than a Kohen though only the latter can serve in the Beis Hamikdosh. If culture says Torah is backwards does that make it so?
    Joel Rich & lacosta: Respect definitely swings both ways. I fully appreciate the need to “call out” the Right as well. Yet the burkhas in Ramat Beit Shemesh look as crazy to the overwhelming majority of the yeshivish/chareidi as they do to the Modern Orthodox and have little real impact on the direction we are headed. Ordaining a rabbah is considerably more impressive.
    I can only disagree with the statement that the Right dismisses ANY position or contribution from those to its left. There is definitly a tipping point, though I cannot precisely spot it, where the chasm begins. Isn’t that after all the focus of this discussion?
    David S.: I did not question R. Kanefsky’s motives; I was simply presenting his own comments (in the Revised article; the original article was much more strident). Do you think he would say he was not reaching for this goal when he described “this strategem”?

  30. micha says:

    I believe R’ Broyde’s point is that “being on the same path” doesn’t mean they followed that path beyond the limits of Orthodoxy. The “doxy” of “Orthodoxy” involves a few core articles of faith (which they are not being accused of denying), but the bulk is a set of beliefs about how halakhah works. And Open Orthodoxy (to use a label at least one of them picked for themselves) has not violated those beliefs. They may in practice be abusing the rules (RMJB implies he believes they are), but they do not actually believe in a different kind of legal process than the normative range.

    There is no parallel between taharas hamishpachah and this change in berakhah, for which they try to make a justification that does not defy the system. Even if wrong, that’s not crossing RJMB’s red line. Open O rabbis agree that doing away with ThM /would/ require breaking the system. C legal decision-making would simply broaden the system, although in reality they didn’t make the suggested change either.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      I strongly disagree. As I have stated many times before, the methodology of halacha of the FL differs in essential approach and understanding from the traditional one – not just in nuance and flavor. See my post of two years ago http://www.cross-currents.com/?p=2211 When early Reform wished to install an organ in the Hamburg Temple, they did not do so without halachic sanction, despite believing that the typical Orthodox service of the day had no appeal whatsoever to German Jews who had tasted enlightenment. The Temple sent the question to rabbonim around Europe. All of them forbade the use of the organ as a violation (derabbanan) of hilchos Shabbos. One rov, who seems not to have understood the question adequately, provided a lenient argument. Being a “sha’as ha-dechak,” they exercised their prerogative of chosing a lenient halachic voice.

      They were not looking for emes. They were looking for a way out. The rest is history.

      I have read much of the halachic ouvre of the FL. I don’t find much of a difference, if any

  31. Benjamin E. says:

    Much as we may not like it, let’s not slander the Conservative movement by referring to straw-man examples of their teshuvot, especially if you have never read them.

    The teshuva that “permitted” driving did nothing of the sort. What it did was declare that perhaps driving was a derabanan issur on Shabbos rather than a deoraita, based on Tosfos’s concept that a melakha is only deoraita when done for the same purpose as was done in building the mishkan (which lighting a fire for propulsion is not). (Note that they know it is still an issur.) They then argue that the actual fire starting *might* be pesik reishei d’lo nicha lei (due to the vast number of wear-and-tear effects on the car that you don’t want).

    They then conclude that if driving is potentially both of these – a d’rabanan and a PRD’LNL – that this is sufficient grounds NOT to *permit* it, but to be melamed zchut bedieved on people who are *already* not fully observant but are driving to shul. They are absolutely clear that this does not at all apply to the average Conservative Jew.

    This is all not to mention the Masorti movement (The Conservative movement’s parallel in Israel), which has a teshuva that explicitly prohibits driving. If you want to disparage the halakhic approach of the Conservative movement, find a good example and not a popular catchy straw man suggesting that they permitted something they never actually did.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      This treatment gives them far too much credit. Citing halachic language does not mean that one is doing halacha. Conservative halacha was profoundly dishonest. It took advantage of the ignorance of the masses. Employing Hebrew and Aramaic terminology that no one could understand, the authors could “wow” the audience – with no possibility of criticism.

      I know the above cited responsum well. I used to assign it to high school seniors in a modern Orthodox school as an exercise. Students were supposed to find all the holes, the misapplications of principles. Most classes succeeded. Did I mention that the students were girls?

      Virtually every concept cited in the responsum is cited inaccurately, toggling between the foolish and the fraudulent.

  32. Dov (Bruce) Krulwich says:

    It’s a pleasure to see such a clear article from Dr. Lebovits, who I knew many years ago at a stage of life when these issues were on my mind quite a bit.

    While I agree with the main point hethe article makes, I’m concerned that it goes too far in painting the purity of classical poskim. Can anyone learn, for example, Rav Moshe’s teshuvos on the Manhattan Eruv question and not see clearly that Rav Moshe was starting with a presumption of issur even as he “shlugged up” one reason after another to prohibit, leaving him stretching to assur it based on a stretched agadata? Many classic shailos u’teshuvos make it clear that the Gadol who wrote them started with his gut instinct, and in fact this gut instinct is presumnably what Chazal refer to in discussing talmidim learning from what they see from a Rav as much as what they learn from a Rav (Yehoshua, Eliezer eved Avraham, …).

    If we can admit that poskim follow instincts all the time, the question becomes one of (a) what those instincts are based on, and (b) whether the results are filtered by fidelity to halacha and mesora. On these two tests I still believe many “changes for modern sensibilities” fail, for reasons that Dr. Lebovits details.

    Lastly, the Chofetz Chaim stands as a role model in willingness to recognize a need to make changes in practice. The underlying issues do not only exist in Riverdale, and there’s no reason that they can’t be addressed by talmidei chachamim anywhere on the spectrum.

  33. S. says:

    “Halochoh should not be based on surveys and popularity contests”

    It should be based on reality. We can’t say it doesn’t offend people (i.e., it is not offensive) if it actually offends people. We can say “too bad,” or “learn to change your outlook,” but we can’t say that the reality is that it isn’t offensive because the sources say it isn’t offensive. Reality is reality. And I confess to having know idea what the survey results would be.

    Furthermore, in certain applications the way of determining halacha is puk chazi. Sounds like a survery to me.

    Thirdly, while, or if, it’s true that halacha should not be based on popularity contests, nor should it be be based on unpopularity contests. I know that it is fashionable nowadays to desire halacha to be out of sync with the zeitgeist, ostensibly because it is an opportunity to show mesiras nefesh, but there’s nothing intrinsic in halacha that makes it by definition in opposition to the zeitgeist.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      Furthermore, in certain applications the way of determining halacha is puk chazi. Sounds like a survery to me.

      To the best of my recollection, this is not quite true. Puk chazi (which really is limited in application to matters of establishing what previous halachic standards were accepted) asks us to survey behavior – but only behavior of those who are thoroughly committed to the halachic system, not those whose commitment is, by their own admission, tepid or circumscribed by what they consider “reasonable.” I believe that the point was first made by the Baal HaMaor. You can’t judge what dress should be considered tzanua by turning to women who don’t recognize the right of halacha to legislate how they should dress; you can’t judge a standard of yashrus in business by looking to those who never ask shaylos in Choshen Mishpat.

      Thirdly, while, or if, it’s true that halacha should not be based on popularity contests, nor should it be be based on unpopularity contests. I know that it is fashionable nowadays to desire halacha to be out of sync with the zeitgeist, ostensibly because it is an opportunity to show mesiras nefesh, but there’s nothing intrinsic in halacha that makes it by definition in opposition to the zeitgeist.

      Very true, and we see too many violations of this. At the same time, the people making the determination of when or not halacha should oppose any zeitgeist have to be – for better or worse – the baalei halacha and baalei mesorah. Not just rabbis, but the upper echelon of Torah scholarship. It is going to take a while for the Far Left to produce anyone like that.

      [BTW – I am a HUGE fan of your blog!]

  34. mb says:

    “Bob Miller
    November 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Regarding the comment by mb November 23, 2011 at 5:31 am:

    I believe Rav Hirsch ZT”L was alluding to a type of traditionalist that existed in Germany in his time.”

    I doubt it. Regardless, he said of the Eastern European cheredim, or whatever they were called at that time, “cousins, yes, but brothers? No.”

  35. Shades of Gray says:

    “Hachachom einay berosho”

    I agree about the general direction where the Far Left is heading. My specific criticism of Rabbi Kanefsky and another YCT rabbi who has defended him on “shlo asani ishah”, is that they have not made enough of an effort to appreciate the greatness of Chazal and their intent, and instead are ready to jettison a beracha.

    A question I have been thinking about, based on a statement by R. Nachman Bulman(as quoted by R. Natan Slifkin in a blog post on 2/25/10), is whether the Far Left, indirectly, brings anything positive to the table by creating intellectual foment, despite the significant negative. R. Bulman said that certain anti-religious elements in Israel were “doing a service for the frum community in that they would force it to confront [certain intellectual] issues”(one might also comment on the dubious intent behind such “services”, and compare it, in the case R. Bulman was discussing, to Pharoh’s doing Hashem’s will in Mitzrayim).

    Likewise, R. Berel Wein writes in the appendix of his history volume on the Middle Ages, IIRC, that it was hashgacha of the golus experience’s encounter with other cultures that lead to the need for fleshing out the ikkarei emunah. Similarly, R. Chaim Miller, author of Chabad’s volumes on ikkarei emunah disagreed with certain approaches to science/chazal and aggadic issues which are discussed in circles to his left but said, “to their credit, they’re the only ones who are really thrashing out these issues, trying to get to the bottom of them”(“We Desperately Need To Get Back To Theology’: An Interview with Rabbi Chaim Miller”, Jewish Press 12/2/09).

    If this is applicable here to any extent–people can disagree–I would suggest that it is inevitable that these issues will be discussed, and perhaps greater depth would be added from a Torah perspective. This does not contradict that there is a problem and damage done in the way the Far Left brings these matters up(which in the case of “shlo asani ishah” is also not particularly new), nor the fact that many apparently feel that they need to be rebuffed on the organizational level of the RCA.

  36. Ely Gerstein says:

    As a “ultra orthodox right wing” yeshiva guy who has lived out of town and had many contacts with the MO and FL, I disagree with those comments that state that we look down on the MO or FL. I personally (and most of my friends) don’t care that you don’t wear a black hat etc. However i have found that the MO and FL are for some reason bothered that i do wear a black hat. However,this misses the point of the good doctors article. The article was not about this point. However, the fact that so many immediately jumped on this sentence, speaks volumes about the correctness of the statement itself.

  37. Rafael Araujo says:

    S – what about the phenomenon of German Jews learning in Easter European (ie. Lita) yeshivos? Like Dr. Weiss, Rav Wolbe, etc?

  38. Rafael Araujo says:

    “On a personal note, I would suggest that the issue of whether “Sh’Lo Asani Eshah” is offensive to women is best solved by asking them. If they find it offensive then perhaps the conditions have changed in the world that we need to recognize (whatever the source).”

    That is a perfect example of where the FL is heading and that Dr. Lebovits identified. Halochoh should not be based on surveys and popularity contests. We don’t ask a non-Jew “is shelo asani goy offensive to you.” We don’t ask women “are you demeaned by hilchos niddah.” If that is what the FL is heading towards, then the good Dr. is correct in that the FL is on the same path paved by the Conservative movement.

  39. S. says:

    “How many in the Modern Orthodox community presume the yeshivish olam to be beneath them for their lack of advanced secular education? Did Rav S. R. Hirsch look down upon his Eastern European peers with disdain because they had no university training supplementing their Torah greatness?

    Probably. After all TIDE was lechatchila, and Ghetto existence was forced on us by the goyim. That was his belief.

    Wow, you really don’t know about the attitude of the German Jews toward their “Polish” East European brethren, an attitude which permeated at all levels, right up to and including the rabbis? Don’t worry, the condescension was mutual. As it is today.

  40. Mendy says:

    See Rabbi Slifkin’s response to this piece on his Rationalist Judaism site.

    His point is that deviations by the Far-Right including their condemnation of those who follow the Rishonim’s view of Chazal’s statements on science, making working for a living a bedieved, eliminating hanosen teshu’a lemalachim from the siddur and having a very lax attitude to Dina Demalkhuta Dina also need to be called out.

  41. S. says:

    There are many things in Chazal that have nothing to do with our lives, no matter how un-modern. For example, we do not marry women for one night when we travel. And I can give other examples that will in reality make us squirm even more, whether we admit it or not.

    True, these were left in the Gemara, while the beracha is a daily reality for Jews who daven. But I’m a little skeptical about people whose comfort level happens to be with what we do, when they make the easy – but unlikely – claim that they are fully comfortable with every single thing in Chazal and someone is krum for saying otherwise.

  42. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by mb November 23, 2011 at 5:31 am:

    I believe Rav Hirsch ZT”L was alluding to a type of traditionalist that existed in Germany in his time.

  43. hit the nail on the head says:

    Excellent piece – I would add that many in the FL write and speak as if it is just a matter of time before the larger mainstream “comes around” and these sentiments are echoed by JOFA, et al…while we should certainly recognize the good works (which are many) of the FL crowd, surrounding oneself with one’s peers in a “lovefest”-type manner does not prove anything.

  44. lacosta says:

    with attention to the next to the last paragraph—

    How many in the Modern Orthodox community presume the yeshivish olam to be beneath them for their lack of advanced secular education? Did Rav S. R. Hirsch look down upon his Eastern European peers with disdain because they had no university training supplementing their Torah greatness? R. Broyde is eloquent in his description of Modern Orthodoxy as combining the best of Western Culture with Torah. Yet where is the balance point between those two sources of knowledge and what influences where the set point is established? The Far Left always exerts pressure on our thinking and behavior.

    ———– let us now substitute haredi everywhere it says MO , and MO where it says yeshivish. pick any standard haredi RY to substitute for r hirsch.

    doing that, we would have a false paragraph—since the Right lends no credence of any kind to anything to their left. i remember a Jewish Observer [a”h] article in which a Godol commented he is always machshiv dei’os to his Right , since there is doubtless an element of Truth there, while vehemently lambasting those to his Left.

    Regardless, of whether the Kanefsky’s and Weiss’s of the world amount to a hill of beans [ only MO should know the cultural reference], it is an undeniable fact that the segment of Jewry that sees themselves as Yisrael Saba clings ferociously though to the 12th Commandment— Chadash assur min hatorah…

    as to —
    His suggested halachic maneuvering is simply a clever means to a pre-determined end.

    — you know, i don’t doubt when there is a shailah about whether a fish is kosher or quinoa is kitnios , i don’t think the Gdolim start with preconceived notions in psak. but what about cultural issues— about whether a certain technology is muttar , or whether women can have a [MO like] role in jewish society, or whether to report abuse to the police, or macht es shtill, is there no ‘pre-determined’ end?

  45. David S says:

    “Clearly, R. Kanefsky’s goal from the start is to remove this bracha as it offends modern sensibilities. His suggested halachic maneuvering is simply a clever means to a pre-determined end.”

    I think that it presumptuous to question R. Kanefsky’s motives here and exactly NOT in keeping with level of dialogue between R. Broyde and R. Adlerstein. It is just too easy to suggest that someone else’s views of Halacha are biased while those of your own champions (whoever they may be) are not. I might suggest that in the case of many of the Gadolim there is a knee jerk bias towards a conservative agenda and that would be equally unfair. The point here is to debate the issue on the merits alone and to leave to Hashem to deal with the things that are in a person’s heart.

    On a personal note, I would suggest that the issue of whether “Sh’Lo Asani Eshah” is offensive to women is best solved by asking them. If they find it offensive then perhaps the conditions have changed in the world that we need to recognize (whatever the source).

  46. Bob Miller says:

    Dr. Lebovits wrote in this article that “Conservative Judaism in this country took root as an attempt to keep Jews Jewish, believing as the movement did, that Orthodoxy was too rigid and rejecting of New World realities.”

    Already in the Old World, the seminary in Breslau had pioneered the historical approach that negated the Halachic approach and Mesorah as traditionally understood since Matan Torah.

    Someone who wants to change with the times can always identify some “reality” to justify this.

  47. mb says:

    “Did Rav S. R. Hirsch look down upon his Eastern European peers with disdain because they had no university training supplementing their Torah greatness?”

    Yes he did! In fact he didn’t think they were great at all.

    See 19 Letters, 18th letter Pages 126/127 Drachman translation,

    “the party that has inherited uncomprehended Judaism as a mechanical habit, without its spirit. They bear it in their hands as a sacred relic, as a revered mummy. And fear to awaken its spirit”

  48. joel rich says:

    I don’t live like the yid in Meah Shearim, Bnei Brak, Monroe, etc. but I recognize there are characteristics of such a lifestyle to admire and even elevate above my own. Can the Modern Orthodox do the same, respect someone whose religious practices surpasses one’s own without denigrating their actions or motives?
    ================================================
    now try this on for size “I don’t live like the yid in yct etc. but I recognize there are characteristics of such a lifestyle to admire and even elevate above my own. Can the chareidi do the same, respect someone whose philosophical religious commitment surpasses one’s own without denigrating their actions or motives? ”

    now as to agenda driven halacha – how would you frame a tshuva that says “don’t do x because we don’t think the people doing x have the right motives?

    While I disagree with the FL (just what we need-a new acronym), imho we need to be clear about what the issue really is – who gets to define how halacha deals with changing circumstances.

    Kol Tuv and Happy Thanksgiving (to those fellow us geirm and toshavim who recognize those roles in the US)

  49. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I don’t think Rav Kanefsky and the liberal wing of the Orthodox world (I think “far left” is a loaded and inappropriate phase, just like “ultra-Orthodox”) are embarassed by Chazal. I think they are reacting to a world that is much different than the world Chazal lived in, a world in which women work side by side with men as lawyers, doctors, professors, senators, etc., and women’s position in halacha therefore seems more and more like an anomoly that should be addressed in some way. You can agree or disagree with the specific reactions, but to claim that these rabbis are embarassed by chazal is to completely miss the point of where they are coming from.

    As for the left versus right issue, yes, maybe there is something to learn from the lifestyle of the charedim in Mea Sharim, but there is also something to learn from the lifestyle of a modern orthodox Jew who supports himself or herself honorably through an honest profession, applies the Torah in all facets of daily life, and finds time before and/or after a hard day’s work for regular shiurim. In fact, I would venture to say the full time learner in Meah Shearim could learn as much or more from this person as the modern orthodox professional in Teaneck, or wherever, could learn from the full time kollel man.

    To a large extent, I think many of the differences come from the fact that people live in different environments. How can a person living in Meah Shearim, with no secular education, and a culture that has barely changed in 100 years, understand why someone who has studied science would be dissatisfied with an approach that holds that evolution is a fraud, and anyone who claims otherwise is a heretic, or why someone that works side-by-side with women in a professional capacity has a hard time accepting statements of chazal that reflect a completely different status of women than that which exists in the western world today? And vice versa. This is the situation we Jews have to live with, and if the Orthodox world is to avoid further fractionalization, there has to be more respect for these total different environments and lifestyles than there is now. And I think, as someone who has lived in both worlds, that while there is much work to be done on both sides, there is a lot more work to be done on the right towards understanding that theirs is not the only valid world view.