Responses to Charedi Spring, Continued

letter-447577_1280

“There is just so much good coming from that community”

I’m wondering if you can list some- especially of the type that comes from them as Charedim (i.e., if the State does the same thing, it doesn’t count). Oh, and I wouldn’t count tzedakah etc. that responds to self-imposed problems.
I actually really want to know. Sometimes you wonder why the community needs to exist at all.

Dear Reb Nachum,
I do hope that the question is largely rhetorical – that you figured you could evoke a response this way. Although we often/usually disagree, I’ve always seen your comments as coming from the mind of a true charedi, i.e. someone who is chared le-devar Hashem, who urgently wishes to respond to the the Will of the Almighty.
If I am not incorrect, then you know full well about the contributions of the charedi community. Rav Saadya Gaon famously observed, “This nation is a nation only by way of its Torah.” Experientially, that has meant not only commitment to its values and precepts, but excellence in its study. We remain true to its call only when there are people learning and teaching Torah on the highest levels.

Baruch Hashem, Torah institutions thrive in all parts of the Orthodox world. But where do you go when you are really stuck on a sugya, or when you need an area of halacha explored from the ground up, where there are no preexisting teshuvos to cite?

To people who have real experience in Torah study, I don’t believe there is much of a question. There is great Torah in many parts of the Orthodox world, but the best and deepest is still the province of Israeli charedim.

I’ve visited yeshivos across the spectrum; I read the halacha journals all across the continuum. Techumin often has wonderful contributions; do you see them matching or coming close to Dibros Moshe or Minchas Yitzchok of a generation ago? You are not going to find anything close to the incisiveness of R. Shach on the Rambam, the Steipler on the daf; and today – yibadel le-Chaim, the precision in all four chelkei Shulchan Aruch of R Elyashiv and R Vozner.
There is a reason why the best of YU wind up spending some time at Mir Yerushalayim, and the chief halachic voices wind up consulting with R Elyashiv on the world-class issues.

If you’ve spent time in quality learning, and enjoyed the footnotes in the Mosad Rav Kook Ritva, you’ve noticed a vast difference in the quality of the footnotes. Have you taken notes on where the authors of the best quality volumes come from?
The quality of learning (yes, I know there is lots of mediocrity as well, but those volumes don’t survive the lifetimes of their authors) serves as both resource and lodestar to everyone else.

Charedim would be indispensible were it only for the quality of the Torah coming from their camp.

I reject your rejection of finding merit in their tzedaka projects. Yes, some of them address the self-imposed poverty of their own group. But charedim have also taken leadership positions in tzedaka and chesed organizations that help everyone in Klal Yisrael, without discrimination.
Can you imagine a Jewish world without the global assistance available through Chabad? I fully reject the anti-Zionism of Satmar, but would shudder to think of how different the hospital experience of hundreds of Jews every week in NY would be without the army of Satmar volunteers fanning across all the hospitals of the Big Apple.

Principled opposition to major themes of a group should not mean that we have to become blind to their laudable accomplishments. Isn’t that the very essence of what we find abhorrent in the inability of too many in the mainstream charedi world in Israel – its inability to relate to all the positive in the Dati Leumi world that she should recognize as precious in the eyes of Hashem? Should others be guilty of the same mistake in looking at the charedim?

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22 Responses

  1. Formerly Orthodox says:

    When my husband and I became baalei teshuva many years ago, we had heard about some violence in Israel in the name of Orthodoxy, but we perceived the perpetrators to be an insignificant minority of religious Jews.

    The incidence of Chillul Hashem by Chareidi Jews no longer seems to be an isolated phenomenon, but part of a growing trend. Those who commit despicable acts are just at the extreme end of a religious system whose values of insularity, intolerance, and economic dependence have crept into the Orthodox mainstream to which we used to belong. These values, which we do not share, do not, in my opinion, lead to holiness (even in Eretz Israel), which we always thought was the goal of Orthodox observance.

    I would also like to suggest that if yeshivos are not producing gedolim of the caliber of previous generations, it might be because they are not emphasizing the learning of the mitzvos bein adam l’haveiro, since a tzaddick, after all, is distinguished by excellent middos, in addition to great legal scholarship. In addition, it is doubtful that yeshivas encourage the creativity and independent thinking which I believe are necessary for leadership.

    Despite the critical tone of this post, we admire Rabbi Adlerstein for his willingness to expose himself to criticism from all sides, even to the extent of jeopardizing his reputation within his own religious circle. He is a deep thinker and an eved Hashem with a genuine concern for the welfare of klal yisroel and the greater Jewish mission.

  2. J. says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein – Could I be so bold as to ask you which aspects of R. Aharon’s ‘sicha’ you disagreed with? I am not, chas ve’shalom, asking ‘lekanter’, but am interested to hear a balanced view.

    [YA – Rav Lichtenstein’s shiur will be a topic of discussion for some time. It deserves more careful attention than I can provide in and off-the-cuff blog comment. Nonetheless, I will offer a few thoughts that came to mind.

    1) My most serious reservation concerns the implication that gedolim should all resemble Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in personality and demeanor. Clearly, Rav Lichtenstein misses him – as we all do. We would love that all our leaders should be beloved be all, with personalities that bring smiles to the lips of all who know them. I don’t think that this is reasonable. If Rav Aryeh Levine would have presided over the first generation after the Shabbtai Tzvi debacle, could he have extirpated the remnants of Sabbateanism? Didn’t it take the much less likeable personality of R Yaakov Emden (who wrote about himself that he did not like people) to accomplish that? Might not different – and even difficult – personalities be appropriate to different times and places?

    2) Rav Lichtenstein rightfully dismisses mystical empowerment as a substitute for knowledge and judgment. I would still have liked to see a fuller treatment of one of the foundations of chassidus, part of the legacy of the Toldos: that HKBH communicates with us through the manhigim of every community, and that manhigim are vouchsafed Divine assistance in addressing the problems of their charges. Such an assumption might be considered by Him as mystical, but it is important enough to a large group – and not the group from which the concept of Daas Torah is said to have arisen – that it deserves fuller consideration.

    3) I’m not comfortable with the apparent acceptance of the academic claim that Daas Torah is a modern concept. True, we’ve clearly seen an enlarging of an older concept in the last few decades. But the notion that talmidei chachamim are the go-to people for help on all kinds of problems seems to be a fixture of Jewish life for many centuries, as evidenced by response literature – even if no one attached the name “Daas Torah” to the assumption

    4) Rav Lichtenstein speaks of “high walls” behind which certain gedolim reside. To many of us, even where gedolim do not at all live apart from the people, the presence of gatekeepers who control the flow of information is still a huge problem.]

  3. dr. bill says:

    Dr. Bill, you are just reinforcing my position. Academic study may, in time, turn out to produce פרפראות של חכמה, but it is not going to replace חכמה]

    Rabbi, somewhat of a non-sequitor to my comments, IMHO. In any case, I assumed פרפראות של חכמה refers to astronomy, not academic limmud. What we both agree on, is that academic study is only an adjunct to psak, perhaps like the conceptual methods of Brisk are/were viewed by some. What we disagree on is whether academic study is gufai Torah.

    BTW, the mishna you reference happens to be an interesting academic topic – it uses the words “gufai halakha” as opposed to the somewhat more usual “gufai Torah.” That distinction may shed important light on this discussion if you were to assume “halakha” meant psak versus fundamental Torah principles.

  4. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Tal: The fact that there is a thriving community of lomdei Torah apparently drives some people wild.

    Me: Unless you’re suggesting that we should extrapolate the worst behavior to an entire demographic group, I’d suggest revising your statement to something along the lines of, “The fact that there is a thriving community of lomdei Torah that treats other lomdei Torah with disdain, and fosters indefensible violence, apparently bothers some people”.

    It’s very inaccurate to describe those angered or disgusted by the Beit Shemesh events as equivalent to the Soton.

  5. J. says:

    Rav Aharon Lichtenstein recently made some sharp (but necessary, IMHO) remarks about the price that Israeli charedim pay for maintaining their current system, and of the leaders who have allowed it to develop into its current form.

    [YA – I saw it differently. His primary focus, as conveyed by the title of his shiur, was the concept of Daas Torah as understood in some circle. Essentially, he showed how fraught that understanding of Daas Torah was, and offered his own. He quite clearly buys into the idea of Daas Torah, albeit in a different way than understood in some charedi circles.

    I have been recommending the piece and circulating it myself, because there is more in it with which I agree than with which I disagree.

  6. Ellen says:

    In my book Satmar and Chabad aren’t the same. They are galus-based. Something about the independence of living in Israel that has developed a Charedi culture different than ever before.

  7. Nachum says:

    Well, color me flattered. Yes, the question was rhetorical, but still:

    I do not claim to be so learned as to be able to respond to the points about learning, although I think some of the commenters make good points. (I’m reminded of the statement of R’ Dessler about 999 dropouts from “the system” being worth one gadol. Not only do I disagree with the premise, but I don’t see the gedolim either.)

    Regarding learning, let me address one point R’ Adlerstein made in the comments first:

    “The literature that I have seen coming from the “white” yeshivos is all of the moreh hora’ah variety, but not the arguments of poskim.”

    Again, I think the commenters addressed this, and you are 180 degrees incorrect. The charedi community often loudly proclaims that its poskim are disconnected from the greater world- how on earth can they be poskim if that’s the case?

    “Even in my limited experience I know that this is not the case regarding gedolim in the charedi enclaves of Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim. When Modern Orthodox rabbonim in the US needed ultimate halachic guidance regarding agunos after 9/11”

    Agunot is an issue that you want the greatest possible consensus on. I wouldn’t quite use it as an example. Do you really think R’ Broyde and R’ Willig can’t be mattir agunot on their own?

    “It certainly is an ominous thing to suggest that the community’s very right to exist should be questioned. It hearkens back to dark times in world history.”

    I guess I should have expected that someone would claim that I want to, chas v’shalom, actually kill people. I’m talking about the community, not the lives of individuals. That should be obvious.

    “But charedim have also taken leadership positions in tzedaka and chesed organizations that help everyone in Klal Yisrael, without discrimination.
    Can you imagine a Jewish world without the global assistance available through Chabad? I fully reject the anti-Zionism of Satmar, but would shudder to think of how different the hospital experience of hundreds of Jews every week in NY would be without the army of Satmar volunteers fanning across all the hospitals of the Big Apple.”

    True enough- I thought of this. Add Zaka. (Although, as someone’s already said, Chabad is an exception.) But what makes this a particularly Charedi occupation? Is the tzedaka a result of them being Charedi? (I suppose we could ask the same of the Torah study- again, I mean these questions sincerely.) One person above cynically suggests it’s because they don’t work- I don’t think that’s true. I’m not trying to move the goalposts here- I’m rather trying to understand what the Charedi mindset, in and of itself, contributes to the Jewish world. (Torah, Avoda, and Gemilut Chassadim are universal Jewish values, and indeed practiced by many non-Charedim. Do you think the Charedi philosophy encourages these more than others do? If so, why?)

    ““the yetzer harah does not mind if the Jew does kindness, fasts, and prays all day; as long as he does not study Torah!””

    I think this is self-serving. There’s certainly nothing in the story of the angel to prove this. So let me reverse it: Do you think someone who spits at little girls but otherwise “learns” all day is not, in the first action, motivated by the yetzer hara, disguised, as he often is, in supposed frumkeit?

    [YA – This comment addresses the words of a number of contributors. I will only address the response to my own

    I do not claim to be so learned as to be able to respond to the points about learning, although I think some of the commenters make good points. (I’m reminded of the statement of R’ Dessler about 999 dropouts from “the system” being worth one gadol. Not only do I disagree with the premise, but I don’t see the gedolim either.)

    Do I detect an inconsistency here? You don’t claim to be so learned to respond to my points about learning, but you don’t “see the gedolim” that the yeshiva world has produced. Think, maybe, that those statements are causally linked? Maybe you have to appreciate classical music to really get into an old Toscanini recording, or comprehend some physics to understand the promise of the Great Hadron Collider. Funny how people who do get into learning – even in the whitest of yeshivos – have no problem seeing the depth of charedi gedolim, even those they would never go to in hashkafic matters.

    Regarding learning, let me address one point R’ Adlerstein made in the comments first:
    “The literature that I have seen coming from the “white” yeshivos is all of the moreh hora’ah variety, but not the arguments of poskim.”
    Again, I think the commenters addressed this, and you are 180 degrees incorrect. The charedi community often loudly proclaims that its poskim are disconnected from the greater world- how on earth can they be poskim if that’s the case?

    Because in many, many areas the facts are easy to present, and do not require any special familiarity with “the street.” The questions that often go to poskim in particular are often academic – what to do after everyone had figured out that the halacha depends on deciding between a Rashba and a Rambam that have no prior hachra’ah between them. Again, this is elementary to those who have a yad in halacha – even as spectators.

    “Even in my limited experience I know that this is not the case regarding gedolim in the charedi enclaves of Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim. When Modern Orthodox rabbonim in the US needed ultimate halachic guidance regarding agunos after 9/11″
    Agunot is an issue that you want the greatest possible consensus on. I wouldn’t quite use it as an example. Do you really think R’ Broyde and R’ Willig can’t be mattir agunot on their own?

    I know they can’t, and you are out of your depth. I know whom R Broyde consults, and what he considers his limitations. And let me see – the last time I asked R Willig a pretty complicated question that had no readily apparent literature was – last week. (He is my mechutan.) No problem, he assured me. He was in Israel, and would make the rounds to the appropriate places. (The answer came from the chatzer of R Moshe Halberstam zt”l, who was not, as I recall, a product of the DL world.]

  8. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, your response to Gavriel requires clarification. sagi and zohar, while accomplished talmidei chakhamim, are professors of philosophy and law, not talmud or halakha, per se. and while i share your great respect for R. Broyde, those who read R. Moshe Lichtenstein’s short pieces in Daf Kesher or prof. shapiro analysis of R. broyde’s article, come away with more balanced perspective. and if i may add, it is clear that most european ashekanazi poskim, as opposed to many sephardi poskim, tend to view such issues differently, the latter not as exposed to (and influenced by) the haskhala and modernity. Some in Israel, believe the derech of sephardi poskim are of more relevance to a Jewish State regardless of its level of observance.

    as Gavriel said, academic study of halakha and talmud is producing significant output. how it will complement more classic torah study is still in its infancy in the orthodox world. interestingly, my guess is that most of its current students and professors are at least LWMO. i will take half of a century for this to play out. Nonetheless, when, on rare occasion, i see academic studies quoted (often without attribution ) in important seforim, it is certainly telling.

    [YA – Dr. Bill, you are just reinforcing my position. Academic study may, in time, turn out to produce פרפראות של חכמה, but it is not going to replace חכמה]

  9. E. Fink says:

    MIght this be a numbers game? More than any other group, Charedim spend the most time studying Torah intently and in a specific manner. It’s hardly an incredible accomplishment that they have produced the finest examples of Talmudic jurisprudence. The question that remains is: Is it worth it? To keep the supply chain so heavily stocked to produce the few at the top seems inefficient. Further, throughout our history, the greatest minds found their way to the top without a culture that demanded intense Torah study from each and every Jew.

  10. Tal Benschar says:

    In the Koveitz Maamarim, R. Elchanan Wasserman asks why the Malach specifically attacked Yaakov and not Avraham or Yitzchok. He answers that Yaakov represents Torah, while Avraham represents Chessed and Yitzchok Avodah. The Malach has a special reason to attack Torah because that is the defense of Klal Yisroel to the enticements of the Yetzer ha Rah. The Chofetz Chaim is quoted as saying: “the yetzer harah does not mind if the Jew does kindness, fasts, and prays all day; as long as he does not study Torah!”

    The fact that there is a thriving community of lomdei Torah apparently drives some people wild.

  11. ARW says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    The problem with the Israeli Charedi system isn’t that it is not producing enough serious Torah, it is that it is producing too many aberations. The range of acceptable behavior in the Israeli Charedi world is very narrow. As a result people are going to drop of of that path. Some dropout to the “left” and go to live in secular society. Others drop off to the “right” and become so radical we can sit here and write about how we in the Charedi community don’t even consider them to be frum even they keep many mitzvos. Unfortunately unlike no-longer-frum dropouts to the left, these radicals stay in Charedi neighborhoods for social reasons and terrorize their neighbors and create chilul Hashem. They have convinced themselves they are victims who must fight back.

    Among those who can stay on the narrow path, they often excel in Torah learning and yiras shamayim. Unfortunately I am not sure that they are always able to shake the narrow world view in which they are raised despite their tremendous Torah learning. I wonder if this leaves behind a kernel of radicalness in their attitudes that makes it difficult to condemn the true radicals. I would certainly be interested in your thoughts on this idea.

    [YA – I have many thoughts, but few or no solutions. My concern as a frum Yid, therefore, is to offer assurance and chizuk to those who identify with the charedi world in terms of commitment to halacha and love of limud Torah, but find themselves alienated from much of the baggage that comes along.]

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    IMO, it is a mistake to point out the wonderful Gadlus BaTorah in the Charedi world without stating in black and white the extremists who are responsible for this discussion should not be considered talmidim or chasidim of any of the Gedolim or Talmidei Chachamim cited therein. I cannot ever imagine RSZA, or R N T Finkle ZL, condoning such publicly disgusting actions. Belitling Tecjumin which routinely publishes articles by R Asher Weiss and R ZN Goldberg, and other Charedi oriented Gdolim does not IMO aid the discussion.

  13. DF says:

    “There is great Torah in many parts of the Orthodox world, but the best and deepest is still the province of Israeli charedim.”

    Respectfully, but thoroughly and completely, disagree with the above.

  14. joel rich says:

    R’ Adlerstein,
    This post raises 3 questions that I’ve thought about over the years, perhaps you could comment on them.

    1. Assuming that you are correct on the Torah/depth etc. issue, would you further argue that the result is worth any cost that would be required to produce it (The famous R’ Dessler position on 1000 to get 1 gadol, the cost to society to support it)?

    2.(next to impossible to ask) – Other than the stare decisis nature of halacha, what from our century will be quoted in 300 years (a la the Rambam, Gra etc.)

    3.How many “new” questions are truly answered from the ground up versus a halachic intuition which then is reverse engineered to yield that result?

    [YA –
    1) I wouldn’t. But I don’t call the shots.
    2) It’s not next to impossible. It is impossible. My crystal ball stops functioning at midnight. Nonetheless, if I had to predict, I would see Iggeros Moshe and Yabia Omer on the short list.
    3) Quite a few. Really. ]

  15. J. says:

    Another issue that must be considered, and this is entirely separate from my previous comments, is whether the sacrifices the Charedi community makes to achieve the valuable ends enumerated by R. Adlerstein are either worth it or even necessary to achieve them.

    The tremendous human cost (and again, I speak as a ‘graduate’ of Israeli charedi yeshivos) of bochurim who are effectively imprisoned in a system that is clearly ill-suited to them in terms of wasted human potential cannot be underestimated.

    Even without taking into account the costs to Israeli society of the diminution of its tax-base and increased welfare payments (note Eli Yishai’s candid comments that there should be no charedi Beit Shemesh because there would be nobody to pay taxes), the tremendous personal costs to the families of thousands of mediocre avreichim are far from minimal.

    Needless to say, the great gedolim mentioned by R. Adlerstein were not raised in a milieu where the vast majority of men remained in full time learning for decades, and it is questionable whether the current system is either a necessary, sufficient or even conducive condition for producing such gedolim now.

    And without taking away from the army of Charedi chessed-volunteers, at least in Israel one has to wonder whether there would be so many people with so much time to give if they were subject to the demands of paid employment.

    Rav Elyashiv recently condemned the introduction of vocational programmes to the charedi community in Israel. Is it really the case that the values R. Alderstein mentioned are only sustainable amidst an environment of ongoing economic dependence? And does anyone really have the heart to tell all the wretched children, whose faces peer out of the ‘Vaad Harabbonim’ and ‘Kupat Ha’ir’ brochures that I am constantly inundated with, that all the deprivation they experience as a result of the system they have been born into is worth it?

  16. YEA says:

    Is Chabad really included in the phrase “Charedi world” as used by most people?

  17. dr. bill says:

    please comment delete above – it went prematurely

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    As an avid reader of techumin, who has also read many of the tshuvot of R. weiss and R. feinstein ztl, i beg to differ. the greatness of the two authors is not the issue. they tower above many / most of the contributors to techumin who are not necessarily poskim. techumin articles / essays are often not tshuvot (albeit they are used that way) where additional context is often required and are often the output of extensive research in a narrow area of halakha. In that regard, they may provide perspective that is lacking in the psakim of a gadol. (The articles on shiurim over many decades are my favorite example. Compare them to RMF, the Steipler and the CI on that topic, for example.) Poskim tend to cover every aspect of halakha, and that complete mastery sets them apart. However, a gadol will pasken based on their innate sense (siyata di’shemaya, as some will note), and quotes sources to buttress their view. Their goal as r. moshe made clear on occasion is to get to the right answer, regardless of the completeness of their sources and logic. (the CS, I seem to recall made a similar point.) one can site various tshuvot where the answer towers over the logic or the completeness of relevant sources.

    As far as MHK is concerned, its scholars are from a broad spectrum. perhaps their greatest writer ztl (and i hope this will not get them banned) who recently was niftar, was a talmid of the Grash. in terms of their ritva commentary, you would do well to read the review of the late prof. Ta Shma to get an academic’s view on the nature of these very important works. (And frankly, talk with some of the authors; you would be surprised of their view of the positions of the chareidi right in Israel. They tend to come from the what I jokingly call charedi-lite.) Both ET and MHK have done well walking a fine line, independent of political orientation.

    In general, chareidim (and even most centrists) tend not to acknowledge (or initially value) changes in the derekh halimmud that have happened over the generation. rambam, the baalei tosafot, chakhmei sforad and in our day brisk innovated not just their views but the methodology. the halakhic / talmudic work of academia is different and rather incomparable. contrast prof. urbach /lieberman /katz /etc. with the greatest gedolim of the past century. after we are long gone and the political views are no longer active, i often wonder how history will judge.

    [YA- You wonder. I don’t. I don’t reject academic study, as I have said before. At times, it can be an important adjunct to classic methodologies of the beis mederash. I have read and appreciate Prof. Ta-Shema’s work. But he doesn’t help me figure out pshat in the Teshuvas Ha-Rashba that I need to answer a presseing halachic issue.

    I did not intend any slight to Techumin and its authors. I have used it heavily. I simply meant that it seems to represent the best of what we can produce outside of the oeuvre of the top gedolim. There is a huge difference.]

  18. J. says:

    R. Adlerstein – Whilst I find myself in agreement with the thrust of your arguments, and for this very reason have chosen to educate my children in Charedi institutions, I feel that you overstate your case somewhat. To put Techumin against Dibros Moshe is to compare apples with oranges.

    Firstly, R. Moshe was not educated in a ‘charedi’ education system, any more than religious-Zionist gedolim were educated in non-charedi ones. To apply these terms to an eastern-European milieu of over a century ago is ahistorical to say the least. Secondly, if we are to compare like with like, we must look at the current Charedi ‘Torah’ being produced and compare it with contemporary output from other sectors.

    More broadly, ‘best’ is very much a relative term. Even in terms of depth of halachic analysis, I would submit that much of the work that is being done by Israeli charedi talmidei chachamim is far too narrow in the conclusions it allows itself to reach. I, for one, cannot imagine an Israeli charedi producing a shu’t of the likes of Bnei Banim, or even, if we are being honest, Igros Moshe.

    My complaint is not merely of a tendency towards stringency, although it is that too, but rather that an entire genre of halacha has developed which can only reasonably be lived and applied within the framework of a kollel lifestyle, and which often seems to be missing an awareness of the broader consequences of its rulings.

    Furthermore, I am yet to be convinced that the post-war charedi education system is capable of producing gedolim such as the ones you mentioned in your article at all. I am not for one moment taking away from the monumental achievement that the current and previous two generations of Israeli charedi talmidei chachamim have achieved in explicating kol miktzo’os hatorah, but this is turn does not mean, and has not so far meant, that giants who fearlessly tackle a shaila with a combination of respect for precedent and personal courage (or perhaps even flexibility) exhibited by the likes of R. Shlomo Zalman or R. Moshe are being produced today.

    I am not claiming that other systems are more successful in this regard, but it is important not to overstate one’s case, and I hope it is not overly of clichéd for me to lament that modern day psak emanating from the ‘top’ poskim is ‘not what it used to be’. Indeed, one of the few bright stars on this horizon is the increasing stature of the rabbanim in places like the religious-Zionist Eretz Chemda. Taking a look at the last two volumes of B’Mareh Habazak (6 & 7), I am growing increasingly convinced that, when seeking a halacha which takes into account the variegated experiences of diaspora communities, to mangle a pasuk, ‘mi-tziyonim teitzei torah’.

    For issues regarding the conduct of soldiers in a modern army (admittedly not an issue that affects Israeli charedim or myself) or even a more digestible and liveable code to daily life, whether it is a hilchos brochos that does not lend itself to obsessive-compulsive disorder, or a hilchos tznius that does not reek of a heavy-handed fetish for chumras, I frequently find myself turning to RZ authors, such as R. Yosef Tzvi Rimon or R. Eliezer Melamed.

    Even on its own terms, and I write this as an insider, I cannot escape the sense that the ‘lomdus revolution’ has stalled somewhat. The great generation of post-war Roshei Yeshiva, from R. Nochum to R. Shmuel has passed, and whilst their positions have been bequeathed to worthy successors, there seems to be more reapplication of pre-existing concepts than any profound rethinking of analytical approaches.

    Nonetheless, it remains the case that the ‘mivztar ha’torah’ today is, in the main, the charedi community, and it is for the benefit of all of klal yisrael that this contribution is allowed to continue.

    [YA – Decades ago, a wonderful, Los Angeles bred talmid chacham, R Yonah Ganzweig z”l, chided me for referring to someone as a “posek.” He argued that someone who knows halachic literature thoroughly, and can weigh competing shitos, should be called a “moreh hora’ah” – but not a posek. The latter designation, he said, must be reserved for those who can roll up their sleeves and create compelling cases sui generis regarding new issues. Please do correct me if I am wrong. I would LOVE to be wrong on this. The literature that I have seen coming from the “white” yeshivos is all of the moreh hora’ah variety, but not the arguments of poskim. Even in my limited experience I know that this is not the case regarding gedolim in the charedi enclaves of Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim. When Modern Orthodox rabbonim in the US needed ultimate halachic guidance regarding agunos after 9/11 (regarding issues like DNA, and the like ), they went to R Ovadia Yosef, R Elyashiv, and R Zalman Nechemiah.

    In all other matters of your comment I must confess, alas, that I cannot disagree.]

  19. Daniel Weltman says:

    Sometimes you wonder why the community needs to exist at all.

    It certainly is an ominous thing to suggest that the community’s very right to exist should be questioned. It hearkens back to dark times in world history.

    Charedim would be indispensible were it only for the quality of the Torah coming from their camp.

    There are numerous methodologies of Torah learning. Which study hall people judge as productive of the “best” essentially reveals which methodology they personally feel is most “authentic” – most preferred. An objective decision of relative quality of batei midrash is incomplete without an examination of why one considers this methodology preferable over that methodology.

    The issue above, however, is a side-point, one that actually obfuscates the real point: does a society really need to be the “best” at something by a person’s subjective standards in order to validate its existence?

  20. Mitch says:

    “Rav Saadya Gaon famously observed, “This nation is a nation only by way of its Torah.”

    He did not write this. The Arabic is “shariya” which means “law.”

  21. Ellen says:

    All true.

    But how can one continue to be tolerant of a community when one of its fundamental principles is to be intolerant of you – even if you’re one of their moderates! And yes even if the intolerance doesn’t translate into anything beyond nasty attitudes.

    While we learned the chant in America, Jews don’t really believe that “sticks and stones” idea you know.

  22. Gavriel says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, you are defining “excellence in Torah scholarship” by a charedi barometer. Others would see what you describe as hair-splitting pilpul. Furthermore, with any region of Torah in which there is the slightest relevance to hashkafic orientation, charedi Torah is skewed to a predetermined result.

    The fact is that you will see much more thorough scholarship in Jewish academia than you will see in either charedi or dati-leumi yeshivos. There is a dissertation going around on brain-death in halachah, which is a vastly superior analysis to any teshuvah that you will find coming out of the charedi world.

    [YA – This is part of a very different discussion. Needless to say, while I see a place for academic study of all parts of Torah, I could not disagree with you more. The two methods of study yield different results; at best, they sometimes complement each other. (When experts in one try to cross over to the other, as in the Saghi and Zohar book on gerus, the results are risible. Read my friend Rabbi Broyde’s – hardly a charedi shill – analysis of their work.) There is mediocre stuff produced, but there is some stellar material coming out of the yeshivos. That material is absolutely crucial to the conduct of serious halacha, as well as setting standards for growth and gadlus in Torah.]