Thursday, March 26, 2009

Response to Shimi

Shimi wrote:
After reading your letter (which as everything you write was beautifully articulated), I had the following thoughts which I hope you could comment on at some point. Not that I'm trying to justify a ban. But isn't there something to each section of Judaism needing to present itself with a certain conviction and fire that this is the only way. Otherwise if each side is rationally discussed it kind of dilutes the other, if I'm making sense.
As far as the Torah Umaddah issue, I consider myself a Hirschian, and far from what I believe Torah Umaddah represents. It seems to me that all these classifications are more cultural than substantial, (how many people classified as one or the other have put 1/1000th of the amount of thought you did) and if your message is one of rationality than it would be best to do away w/ these stereotypes.

With regard to your first point, it is essentially correct; charedi Judaism, by its very nature, is not able to tolerate the existence of other groups laying claim to legitimacy. I think that everyone else therefore has to tolerate a certain amount of intolerance. However, the question is how much the charedi world needs to fight other approaches, especially when it is possible for them to tolerate it as "kiruv" or whatever.
Your second point may well also be legitimate. To be sure, most people in all communities have not given serious thought to any of these issues. Because this issue is so important to me, I may well be blowing it out of proportion. Still, I find that there are many, many differences between Charedim and non-charedim which relate to this issue.


  1. Excellent idea for a blog! I hope you make a positive contribution with this second blog as well.

    I'd like to relate a personal experience regarding the Charedi world and rationalism.

    At one of the heated points in the Science/Torah controversy, I met with a very respected "moderate" Charedi rabbi to try to sort out the issues. While I don't see a point in anonymously quoting hashkafic opinions, suffice it to say that the conversation was overally pleasant (I have a, perhaps, perverse sense of gratitude to R. Slifkin, for were it not for the ban, I would never have gone through the effort to meet this individual!)

    While I was respectful, I was at the same time frank and blunt from the beginning. I told this rav that when it comes to "daas Torah" for example, my nature is to "never accept it without thinking and questioning". His response, I assume trying to be helpful and probe my background, was to ask whether "my parents were always frum", and "how did I survive in "Yeshivat XYZ?!".

    There seems to be an assumption that someone who goes through the "system" will not have a "questioning" nature. This assumption is perhaps partially due to our milieu and age; we don't live in an idealistic general society, the European Haskalah/Wissenschaft being a product of the non-Jewish environment.

    As mentioned from Paul Jonson in your original "defense" essay, the danger of rationalism is that "it laid dangerous eggs" and that this could lead to questions on more fundamental levels than Science and Torah. This would naturally lead to a question: how the frum community can best deal with any such issues, particularly when they are raised by "rationalists", some of whom at least, don't accept answers without further questioning them.

    Finally, I think that the point in the current essay about the "Charedi community being in flux", is an excellent one. It is interesting to speculate on the causes of this flux, although predicting the future is an exercise in futility. Here is where, bitachan, I think, comes into play, ie, trusing that frum society(even the Charedi one!) will not fall apart.

    On that positive note, perhaps the "rationalist" approach, in the broad sense, of certain individuals can be considered a "refuah kodem l'makkah". For example, websites such as those of Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, Daas Torah of Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, and Cross Currents, certainly represent more openness than what is typical in the Charei media.

    While it is true that Rabbi Horowitz discusses educational and social issues and not Science and Torah(or certainly not more fundamental historical matters), nevertheless, such dialogue is progressive and I think lends a healthy balance to the Charedi world.

    I would be interested in comments on these points from Rabbi Slifkin or from others.

  2. Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
    Its very important that I write to you. When the controvercy broke out I immediately reacted against you. Over the next few years i started to learn many of the Rambams works, and I began to see things differently. As the years went on I became more aware of rational Judaism. At this point in my life my position changed completely. I ask you for forgiveness on all that I said, which I can guarantee at times were pretty nasty. At this point all I can do is apoligize. I definately cannot take anything back. I'm glad though that at least at this point in my life I got out of the camp of those who percieve stupidity as a virtue.

  3. >I think that everyone else therefore has to tolerate a certain amount of intolerance.

    Why? Is this a greater good kind of thing?

    Or is it simply that tolerating intolerance is a test of the tolerant, or those claiming to be?

    Or is it that there is realistically no way for self-professing Orthodox Jews to not tolerate Chareidism but remain Orthodox, whereas there is no realistic way for Chareidism to tolerate non-Chareidi Orthdooxy?


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

More Tzedaka Shenanigans

Kupat Ha'ir, the charity with the unfortunate tagline of "100% Pure Tzedaka," sent out an interesting campaign before Rosh H...