Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Day The World Changed

Whoops! It's so embarrassing to miss an important anniversary.

Yesterday was the 6th of Tishrei, which was the sixth anniversary of the day that I received that fateful call from Bnei Brak warning me to retract my books or face scandal and humiliation. At the time, people told me that the whole thing would blow over very soon. Little did we realize that it would rage for nearly two years and have permanent effects.

The Science, Torah and Rabbis Controversy (STARC) was a much bigger deal than the controversy over Making Of A Godol, the controversy over One People Two Worlds, and even the controversy over the Lipa Concert (which, to my mind, was far more egregious). The reason for for this was that STARC went much further than just a ban on three books or a condemnation of one person. First of all, it was a ban on views held by thousands of people, not just me. Second, it was a War of the Worlds, a clash of cultures that involved so many issues. It wasn't just about dinosaurs, evolution or the validity of a few statements in the Talmud. It was about the nature of Chazal and our relationship to them, the definition of Gedolim and our allegiance to them, the way in which contemporary rabbinic authority functions, the way in which the Internet affects Orthodox Jewish society, our relationship to science, and fundamentally different worldviews regarding how knowledge is acquired. It took me years to realize that the differences were so fundamental and far-reaching, and that it was truly the case that every single page of my books was unacceptable to my distinguished opponents.

I personally know of many dozens of people who distanced themselves from the charedi world to a lesser or greater extent as a result of STARC, and there are doubtless many more. The ramifications of STARC are still appearing, in all kinds of ways. I therefore don't think that it's "wasteful bringing up of the past" to further explore the issues surrounding STARC, and I plan to do so in future posts. Meanwhile, don't forget that a vast collection of documents relating to STARC can be found at this link.

37 comments:

  1. 1. Excellent Post.

    2. Do you plan to take a "Sabbatical" of any sort to commemorate your seventh year? (Even G-d rested!)

    3. Just a question: Why "Science, Torah and Rabbis Controversy"? Why not just "Science and Torah Controversy"? The Rabbis were not the subject of the controversy per se.

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  2. It's true, the "Slifkin Scandle" certainly caused me (and many other people I know) to reassess the way I relate to the Charedi world.

    Until the scandle broke, I didn't really see much difference between the "Dati Leumi" and "Charedi" worlds, other than relatively minor points (dress preferences, how to observ Yom Haatzmaut, relationship to secular learning, etc.).

    After your scandle broke, and other issues that have arrisen since then (various recent riots, concert bans, etc) I've come to realize that there is a fundamental difference in World View between large segments of the Charedi World and myslef.

    This has caused my to rething many other issues such as whether there is such a thing as "Daas Torah" or how much we should rely on "Gedolim".

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  3. "Whoops! It's so embarrassing to miss an important anniversary."

    I immediately thought you were going to talk about 9/11.

    even the controversy over the Lipa Concert (which, to my mind, was far more egregious

    The concert was egregious? The controversy was egregious? I suppose you mean the ruling was egregious.

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  4. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I really enjoy reading your materials. So much of what you have to offer klal Yisrael resonates with me in a very profound way. You give expression to the instincts of many, and provide comfort to those who fear the enforcement of rigid doctrine found in other Orthodox precincts. Yet, your obsession of your victimization is distasteful. Let it go, for your sake. All you are doing is allowing your antagonists to "live in your brain rent free" and distract you from your work.

    Moreover, I do not believe that what was done to you was so earth shattering. Do you think what was done to you was worse than the fate of -say R. Esriel Hildesheimer, who was practically chased out of Hungary and his pulpit, by R. Hillel Lichtenstein of Kolomea? That event heralded the end of any organized progressive Orthodox in Hungary. Your books were not publicly burned (?) like those of the Rambam, the Talmud in Paris, or the Steinsaltz Talmud in Bnei Brak. No one even paskened that they ought to be burned (?) as did the Debreciner Rav about the critical editions of the Rashba and Ritva of the Mossad Harav Kook.

    Yes indeed you were unfairly sandbagged and attacked. Indeed your ego and public image took a hard blow. But it didn't bring you down. Just move one.

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  5. Phil - Yes, I meant the ruling. It was particularly bad in that it caused a loss of tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars, and yet the next year it was suddenly perfectly acceptable for him to do it.

    Daniel - What happened to me was not remotely as bad as what happened to Rav Nosson Kamenetsky, let alone to the others that you mention. It's not what happened to me that I care about so much - rather, the implications of what happened for so many aspects of Judaism and the community. In fact, it was due to the controversy that I grew to understand the significance of the rationalist/non-rationalist divide. I think that there are many issues worth exploring, but feel free not to read it!

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  6. "the way in which the Internet affects Orthodox Jewish society..."

    R. Gil Student similarly wrote in the Jewish Press that, " [the effects of the ban] have come to signify the lack of centralized rabbinic authority in our globalized world and the increased empowerment of the individual afforded by the Internet."

    While the internet is associated with the ban, however, timewise, the ban came first, and in fact, had the popular effect(both criticism from frum as well as from more skeptical sources) of the internet been realized before the ban occured, perhaps the ban, if it at all would have occurred, would have happpened differently. Though a particular anti-Orthodox organization already existed, perhaps the thinking was, to the contrary, the ban would not stregthen such forces, but contain them.

    Another point about the context of the ban, is that sociologically, many in the American yeshivah world moved away from the 1960's and the 1970's, when many attended college, AOJS and the collegiate organization of Yavneh were in their heights, Feldheim published Rabbi Norman Lamm's books, etc. Today, however, many yeshivish people I know attending the same yeshivos, and also as represented, say, by the readership of the Yated and Hamodia , have little interest in the whole topic, and in that context, the ban occurred. The strength and success of the kiruv movement to deal with issues was perhaps also a factor in the ban.

    The limit to sociological analysis and predictions from a Jewish perspective, though, is that God can influence and affect how the community relates to outside ideas(see Prof. Marc Shapiro's "TIDE in the Shadow of Hitler" on the effect of anti-semitism on TIDE). The spread and acceptance of rationalist and kabblistic ideas can also be tied to outside forces(one can put this in terms of hashgacha as well).

    So perhaps it's not literally the "day when the world changed", when you look back from a perspective of fifty years, though it may certainly seem like that.

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  7. I suggest then, that you concentrate on those issues, and not personalize them quite so much.

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  8. Re what Daniel Schwartz wrote.

    This may or may not be good advice for R. Slifkin, but that's a separate issue from the wider one. He does not own the controversy, even if it is true that he personally could choose to distance himself from it, although that is questionable. Who says that people can just put such things out of mind? R. Hildesheimer may not have had a web site, but who knows what he thought in his heart of hearts, what he told close friends and to what extent he dwelled on it for 6 years afterward? To be crass, no one likes being screwed.

    But even ig he could or should (let's see what R. Slifkin is thinking about in 20 years) the issue is much wider. A lot of people, mostly who seem to be opposed to his writings, seem to propose that in reality the event wasn't so controversial, but that R. Slifkin himself stoked the controversy. Really people weren't so bothered by it. It was all an illusion. But that is simply not true. I made my blogging bones, so to speak, during the year or two after the bans, and I know full well that the dozens of people participating in the *public* discussions (and many more were passively participating by following it) were not soldiers accepting orders from Slifkin. They were regular Orthodox Jews who had not realized how Orwellian Orthodox rabbis could be and found that realization shocking.

    In fairness to the banners and their supporters, in reality they were not greatly departing from past patterns of behavior, which you succintly pointed out. What seems to have actually happened was that there was a hiccup in time (let's call it mid-twentieth century) that allowed Aryeh Kaplan, Challenge and the like to slip through into mainstream Orthodoxy, and no one realized that this perspective was wholly unacceptable to a big segment of Orthodoxy which would eventually assert itself in a big way.

    Then there is the Israeli influence, which just wasn't so present in America before. Speaking of which, when I grew up American Jews looked at Israel and Israelis as a bit nebby. I mean, obviously not their prowess and accomplishments, but they were seen as just a little bit backward, not so stylishly dressed, a little bit culturally isolated. The yeshiva world in Israel was also seen as just a little bit too primitive. Certainly they had great learning and yiras shamayim, but still. The parallel with German Orthodoxy and the Jews in the east, while not exact, is there a little bit. But things changed, just as it did in Germany after WWI. There was no longer a Reb Moshe Feinstein here, Israelis got a lot cooler and cleaner, and you didn't have to schedule long distance phone calls a week in advance. Gradually Israelis began to influence the Americans in a way they really hadn't before. Perhaps some of it is due to a greater percentage of the bochurim who learned in the Mir and Ponovizh in the 70s and 80s growing up. But certainly the essentially Israeli character of the bans is not a coincidence, even though Slifkin lives in Israel. The books, after all, are in English.

    Getting back to the hiccup in time, to quote Lucien Febvre (via Talya Fishman), "A Catholic of the year 1520 who may have been irreproachable then may well be suspect in the eyes of an orthodox Catholic of the year 1570." Due to certain historical conditions feine Orthodox Jews and rabbis were teaching, belieing and propagating views which at the time were unremarkable and mainstream in their own circles. Due to other historical circumstances, by 2005 this could no longer pass, certainly not in public. Also, to the extent that this controversy could not have happened without the internet, that doesn't make it artificial.

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  9. > Yesterday was the 6th of Tishrei, which was the sixth anniversary of the day that I received that fateful call from Bnei Brak

    Wait, were we supposed to fast or something?

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  10. "In fairness to the banners and their supporters, in reality they were not greatly departing from past patterns of behavior, which you succintly pointed out. What seems to have actually happened was that there was a hiccup in time (let's call it mid-twentieth century) that allowed Aryeh Kaplan, Challenge and the like to slip through into mainstream Orthodoxy, and no one realized that this perspective was wholly unacceptable to a big segment of Orthodoxy which would eventually assert itself in a big way. "

    Interesting that you view it that way (especially since your knowledge of history is so much better than mine). I tend to view contemporary orthodoxy as extraordinarily insular in a way that it never was. Perhaps you're even correct when looking back over the past couple hundred years. But there's no question that once upon a time, rabbis might have a discussion with a philosopher/theologian/scientist of another religious persuasion. Even the ramban, typically viewed by charedim as a charedi, used archeology to decide a halachic argument.

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  11. I fasted only part of the day :)

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  12. Interestingly-while STARC was among other things an attempt to control by many gedolim, it also signified the growing loss of control by those same gedolim.

    The positive aspect of this is that more frum Jews will be thinking with greater open-mindedness. The negative aspect is concomitant lower levels of observance.

    May a new hashkafic and halachic paradign arise which enables both unshackled, profound thought and high levels of observance.

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  13. Avi

    >Interesting that you view it that way (especially since your knowledge of history is so much better than mine). I tend to view contemporary orthodoxy as extraordinarily insular in a way that it never was. Perhaps you're even correct when looking back over the past couple hundred years. But there's no question that once upon a time, rabbis might have a discussion with a philosopher/theologian/scientist of another religious persuasion. Even the ramban, typically viewed by charedim as a charedi, used archeology to decide a halachic argument.

    I just meant an ugly, unjust process. I have posted many examples of "suprising" things;

    - the famous kannoi Rabbi Moshe Chagiz writing enthusiastically about his meetings with Johann Christoph Wolff in his home library, where they discussed seforim, the way the shem Hashem is written in Hebrew manuscripts, etc. The very *name* of Wolff, which in Maharam Chagiz's original sefer is printed in extra large type was REMOVED in later editions.

    - the same Wolff being granted access to the Rab"d of Prague, Rabbi David Oppenheim's famous library so that he could examine the books and manuscripts and write his monumental Bibliotheca Hebraea. Do you think BMG will ever let a Christian theologian examine its Otzar so he can write - any way he wishes, mind you - about their seforim?

    - the Chida writing approvingly about how he examined William Surenhuys's Latin Mishnah (and many many other things in Maagal Tov - I have only scratched the surface).

    - Rabbi David Nieto (writer of Esh Das - Kuzari Sheni) acknowleding that the Gentiles in Europe understand and accurately translate the Rambam, Mishnah, etc. (not to mention that they expelled the Jews in the early middle ages for usury)

    - R. Elazar Fleckeles and R. Bezalel Ranschburg being friendly with the Hebrew censor, Karl Fischer, but not just in a superficial way: sending him Shalach Manos and Hebrew poems in honor of the *Christian* New Year.

    etc. etc.

    These are only the first few examples which jumped into mind, and I have posted many more such things.

    cont.

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  14. cont.

    >Even the ramban, typically viewed by charedim as a charedi, used archeology to decide a halachic argument.

    And many other examples. Heck, the Chasam Sofer endorsed celery as the proper vegetable for karpas because in Arabic "karpas" means celery. Hello?

    So in a sense the current insularity is newish - but it's also lineally descended from Eastern Europe, which was more insular than these mostly Western and Central examples I provided. But the other side of the coin was that in the times of these examples there were literal ghettos, sometimes they were even locked at night. So there may have been these relations, but there were also distances which don't exist today. In addition, something like the archaeology or the Chasam Sofer's comparative linguistics were different in the sense that they didn't realize how challenging archaeology, linguistics and the like are to traditional assumptions and beliefs.

    Someone once put something very well, about how these fields developed in the 15 and 1600s by confident Europeans who truly believed they were going to prove the Bible was true. What they didn't realize is that they were not going to do that, and they were undermining the faith. Similarly, modern biblical archaeology, which began after Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1799, and subsequently the important European states staked their influence in the Near East, began with believers holding a bible in one hand and a spade in the other. They thought they were going to prove the bible is true too. They did not intend to undermine anything. Today our rabbis are not so naive, because they have seen that these fields and these actions did not lead to strengthening the faith. The problem of course is that only a small part of the community - that is, the 12-15 million Jews - can just ignore this stuff or pretend it doesn't exist. Thus their solution is not to minister to the rest of the Jews, but only to their own flock. They also don't give them any cushion for the shock of stumbling into this stuff on their own.

    In addition, there is that thing I quoted above, which I thought was pretty perceptive: in 1520 dissenting Catholics could say one thing and get away with it. But 1570, after Luther, they had only one word for them: heretics. I don't know exactly what it is that made certain statements acceptable in the 1970s and not now, but the situations are somewhat analogous. The fact that it used to be you could say or believe X doesn't mean you can now.

    In any case, I meant the process. Rabbinic bans, polemics and outbreaks of heresy hunting were never nice. This is what I meant that it is not new and in that sense they were continuing the pattern rather than forging a new, ugly one. The shock may be in that most people who were shocked never read the sources in which this strife is documented, or if they did, never read the other side of those stories - and boy, can that be eye opening.

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  15. I personally think this is even more important than Rabbi Slifkin explicitly states.

    I think this is about whether Judaism is at all relevant to the modern world.

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  16. "I don't know exactly what it is that made certain statements acceptable in the 1970s and not now, but the situations are somewhat analogous. "

    I think you've touched on one of the important distinctions. The rabbis simply did not yet realize how discordant contemporary knowledge and orthodox beliefs are. To a large extent, I think they still don't realize. A few other possible contributing factors come to mind: 1) a post-holocaust positive outlook on anything religious 2) shtetl shock in a new age when science has figured out how to reach the moon 3) back to the earlier point, R' Ahron Kotler and other proponents of contemporary kannois hadn't yet won the day.

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  17. A little confused. The post says, "was a much bigger deal than the controversy over Making Of A Godol, "

    But later your comment rabbi, was, "What happened to me was not remotely as bad as what happened to Rav Nosson Kamenetsky,"

    So, if I understand correctly, you mean that Rav N Kamenetsky was treated worse, but your controversy has more key issues surrounding it and was more of a heated controversy? Thanks.

    As a BT finding a place within Orthodox Jewish society, I was certainly been turned off to the charedi world by the STARC (as well as the other subsequent controversies mentioned and those not mentioned), however, my charedi rabbi has also been discouraged by the STARC scandal, and perhaps the divisions are not so clearly on charedi vs. modern/national-religious lines.

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  18. Much of this discussion focuses on this problem of science vs faith as unique to Heredi Judaism. However, we really don't need to reinvent the wheel.

    The Christian world has been dealing with this for a long time. They deal with the same issues as we do, although the particulars may be a little different. For most Christians it has been resolved, except in the the US, which has a high number of fundamentalist Christians. The hard core Bible toting evangelicals will never change their views. But most Christians (and Muslims I think) have made their peace with science, and evolution in particular.

    I am not in any way diminishing the personal ordeal that R Slifkin experienced, and the hillul hashem in which some Heredi leaders looked like idiots. However, when you think about it, it is a sad state of affairs when orthodox Jews have to spend their time and energy battling ignorant and nonsensical ideas that pervade their communities.

    I still find it shocking when I encounter this ignorance. I have a MO friend whose son is in a right wing yeshiva. This is a very smart kid, and he is told that evolution is not true, but God made everyhing look like it is true, in order to make things look natural. He actually accepts this reasoning. How can you counter this thinking? Obviously, this is not a scientific argument (if it was it would refute all inductive reasoning), but a theological/philosophical one.

    I think it will take another generation or 2 for Orthodox Jewry to fully internalize how the world has changed.

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  19. The shock may be in that most people who were shocked never read the sources in which this strife is documented, or if they did, never read the other side of those stories - and boy, can that be eye opening.

    S -

    1 - Where is this strife documented?

    2 - Where are the "other side of those stories" documented? (Regarding the strife of the past.)

    3 - No Orthodox kids, not even Modern Orthodox, are taught about this ugly underbelly of our history. At most, those who are perceptive can figure out that it was not all peaches and cream after learning about the history of the Second Beis Hamikdash. But after that, kids are taught it was all Holiness and Perfection. After all, the writing of the Mishnah and Talmud which were holy endeavors came after the Bayis Sheini. There could be no rabbinic ugliness involved. Further, teenagers tend to think in black and white. When learning Jewish History in high school, Orthodox kids are taught about all that was good and holy, and our persecution, not about the ugly acts of our rabbis.

    It might be a good idea to prepare Orthodox kids (in high school) with a little maturity in outlook so that they don't get the rug pulled out from under them when they grow up and are shocked, sometimes with their Orthodoxy crumbling together with their rose colored glasses.

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  20. "No one even paskened that they ought to be burned (?) as did the Debreciner Rav about the critical editions of the Rashba and Ritva of the Mossad Harav Kook"

    Daniel schwartz would it be possible to know where (specifically) he wrote that?

    thanks

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  21. S.,

    I have to say that I find your extremely negative attitude towards the relationship of Orthodoxy and Chochma (history, humanities &c) to be very depressing and disconcerting.

    The way you put it, one either deliberately remains completely ignorant vis-a-vis secular knowledge or you abandon belief wholesale and go OTD or Orthoprax.
    What hope does that leave to us middle-grounders?

    The way you put it, it sounds like anyone who believes that integration, either partial or total, between Orthodoxy and secular knowledge is just a well-meaning naif.

    Is it really that hopeless? Does the fact that there were ugly Rabbinic politics really compell collapse (as opposed to just a more sober, realistic view of our world)? Does the fact that there are problems with Biblical history/archaeology really compel a nihilistic attitude on the subject?

    I like to hope this isn't the case, but maybe I'm just naive...:)

    Gram Chatimah Tovah,

    Avi/AIWAC

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  22. I know this is not relevant to this post - but what is going on with the poll results on your website? The vote is over, the results are in, and yet the numbers keep changing daily (with a reduction of votes on all sides of the issue - the yeses, the nos, and the sometimes). What's happening here?

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  23. >1 - Where is this strife documented?

    Depends on the controversy, and there were many. Suppose we're talking about the controversy surrounding the Ramchal. Many of the relevant documents can be found in Simon Ginzberg's ר׳ משה חיים לוצאטו ובני־דורו אסף אגרות ותעודות.

    >2 - Where are the "other side of those stories" documented? (Regarding the strife of the past.)

    Again, depends on the controversy. For example, in the heated Alexanderssohn affair during the time of Chasam Sofer, afterwards Alexanderssohn published the relevent documents and letters, both pro and con, as well as his own defense and additional light that his antagonists didn't acknowledge in a book called Tomekh Kavod.

    R. Nosson Kamenetsky wrote a book called Anatomy of a Ban, etc.

    Obviously, the accounts of BOTH sides in controversies need to be read critically.

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  24. Tom - that's weird! I haven't even been looking at it. Last I looked was a few weeks ago - it was about equal in both directions, with only a small number saying "sometimes." Apparently people are either pretty much rationalist or not - there is little middle ground.

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  25. "3 - No Orthodox kids, not even Modern Orthodox, are taught about this ugly underbelly of our history"

    This is not true. Granted, I was not taught about all the controversies, some of the ones S mentions here are new to me. However in high-school I was taught about the rejection of the Rambam during his lifetime, the conflicts between the Chasidim and the Litvaks, the conflict between the Spanish mystics and the French and Germans, as well as a few choice commentaries (which I have since forgotten) which showed a clear conflict of opinion and very harsh ad hominems.

    If anything, I was taught that if there aren't (relatively) violent conflicts we are not living up to our namesake of "Yisra el"

    Oh.. and lets not forget about the ganomim who believed they were descendant from King David, and those who "bought" the position from the Babylonians!

    The only thing in the modern era which is new to me, is the immoral behavior/breaking of halacha depicted in the news by so many RWOJs. That was supposed to be something that was limited to 1920s Americans for very specific historical/cultural reasons.

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  26. "I know this is not relevant to this post - but what is going on with the poll results on your website?"

    I'm going to guess that somebody who has access was having some fun with the poll numbers and getting all non-rational on the site.

    "Votes so far: 613
    Poll closed "

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  27. To S.

    Is there an English source which covers the controversy of (Rabbi?) Jonathan Alexandersohn and the Chatham Sofer? I have never heard of this person, or the controversy itself and would like to look into it.

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  28. >Is there an English source which covers the controversy of (Rabbi?) Jonathan Alexandersohn and the Chatham Sofer? I have never heard of this person, or the controversy itself and would like to look into it.

    Yes, Jacob Katz, "An Unclarified Episode in the Life of the Hatam Sofer: The Alexandersohn Affair" in his "Divine Law in Human Hands" (which is itself a translation of many articles from two of his Hebrew volumes). I actually have a post in the works about it.

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  29. My perspective on the controversy and the trends in Orthodoxy in the post-war (WWII) years is a bit different. The ideology that was responsible for the ban was always there in some circles, but their voices were little noted due to their small numbers. Yeshivot were typically eager to get students of whatever background, and college attendance together with bet midrash studies was not forbidden - even if discouraged. I recall the menahel of Torah Vodaath, Rav Gedalia Schorr, giving a shiur in Kuzari (the classical book on Judaic philosophy and apologetics) specifically for college students.

    The change in the US started with the advent of large numbers of Hasidic survivors of the holocaust and the arrival during wartime of Rav Ahron Kotler. The latter's strong personality, scholarly reputation, and ideological extremism set the stage for the adoption by yeshivot of a "torah only" approach. Hasidic ideology had traditionally stigmatized college attendance and the adoption of modern ideas. Strong population growth in the hareidi sector insured that such an ideology would prosper.

    In Israel, the largest yeshiva, Ponevez, in Bnei Brak fell under the leadership of an equally strong minded extremist, Rav Elazar Man Schach. His dominance in the Israeli yeshiva world insured that there would be no deviation from a "torah only" approach together with a rejection of modern ideas. The same was true of the various Hasidic rebbeim, particularly the rebbeim of Gur. Again, strong population growth insured the dominance of these obscurantist ideas.

    What appears to have brought matters to a head with the publication of those 3 books by R' Natan Slifkin was a combination of the ego of the instigators and the disillusionment in some quarters with some of the results of the kiruv efforts in Israel. The books in question were believed to be subversive to the ideology that was being taught to ba'alei teshuva and, therefore, apparently required being labelled as heretical.

    At any rate, this is my understanding of the book bannings. R' Natan, of course, is in a position to have more insights into the personalities and issues involved, together with a remarkable objectivity - under the circumstances. I hope that this discussion doesn't agitate the blog owner, and I wish him and his readers a g'mar chatima tovah and an easy fast.

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  30. My wife and I had no idea about this controversy at the time. But we subscribed to the Jewish Observer. Suddenly, they came out with many articles that were highly insulting to anyone with even the average scientific training that one gets from school combined with a lifelong interest. My wife is a convert to Judaism so it hit her pretty hard that these out-of-touch-with-reality rabbeim would be given complete issues of the magazine as well as continuous access to publishing their insulting articles. With each insulting issue, my wife would pull away from supporting the religious world. The ridiculous pseudo-scientific claims of the kiruv organizations [like Aish HaTorah with their codes and Amway-like atmospherics] were embarrassing to the extreme. It's difficult to go to one's secular family and feel proud to be a part of a group that, at best, says nothing about such anti-intellectual antics. And more often, our synagogues and kollelim sponsor the drinking of the kiruv Kool-Aid.

    When I talked to our rabbi about the situation he suggested reading your Science and Torah book. Then, by coincidence, you came to our city and gave some badly needed lectures followed by a ripping trip to the zoo. I found your website and then later you started the blog. Now, my wife and I both feel a lot more at home in Judaism because of our hometown rav, your essays, and other (what in our world seems like) normal-thinking. We can listen to podcasts from people like Rabbi Adam Mintz or writings from you or Menachem Kellner.

    Best of all, we don't feel bullied into agreeing with commentators such as yourself. You don't require a lock-step Amway-like peer frenzy in order to get us to invest our thoughts with your texts. And this is not only how we prefer it...this is how the presentation must be in order for us to see where the text does or does not stand on its own.

    I am unhappy and embarrassed about the shabby way you and your family have been mistreated. But, I have to say, many of us who innocently believed that entering the observant world would bring the rigorous intellectuality that is associated with the yeshiva system and observant life in general have been tremendously and continuously disappointed. We have to endure the high octane horse manure being shoveled about the philosophical underpinnings of Torah by kiruv organizations, the anti-science of the Yeshiva world, and the ridiculous scientific "Twister" game of those trying to marry magical thinking and pseudo-science [i.e. how 6,000 years in the Torah is the same as 13,750,000,000 years in the real world]; nevertheless, it is these voices that are ceded to as the voice of Observant Judaism. And in this way, all our families are very shabbily treated.

    One of my kids does not want to be observant. He expresses this as the resolution to the cognitive dissonance between the anti-science and anti-intellectual training he got in yeshivas and the evidence based world in which we live. I hope he will realize that the observant world has a place for him, too. I can't say I'm even upset about it. I understand his point of view completely... even if I don't completely agree with it. That is something he will get to work out as he moves away from home and gets more perspective. But what voices do you think he'll hear as the voice representing Observant Judaism?

    Looking forward to another wonderful year.

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  31. Eppur si muove

    Just remember they may have put Galileo in house arrest but they never broke him.

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  32. DF

    Your case is not materially different than the MOAG saga, the Reinman saga, the Shmeltzer saga, etc. Nor are any of these cases materially different than any other of the myriad rationaist disputes between rationalists and traditionalists that have flared up from time to time over the centuries. But there is one extraneous difference which makes all the difference in the world: the INTERNET.

    In previous times Rabbis, nearly always traditionalists, had a monopoly on the pulpit. Thus, they could make pronouncements and it was simply ASSUMED that the rabbis spoke for their communities. If the people actually didnt share those viewpoints, there was no real way to know. This began to change with the hebrew press, but that was mainly limited to intellectual circles.

    The internet has changed everything. People are beginning to realize that no matter what their beliefs, there are more of them than they once thought. [Cf. to the Tea Party revolution in the Republican party. For years the establishment press had conservatives believing they were a marginal group at best. With the rise of the interent they've begun to realize there's more, much much more, of them than they once thought, and they are beginning to find their voice.]

    That's what's happenning here. All of these controversies are happening in the age of the internet. There is a hirhurim blog, this blog, and many others, all with commenting forums. People are much more aware, for the first time, that the traditionalist viewpoint is the not the only one. Though I really enjoy Rabbi Slifkin's work, to say "the world changed" when his works were published is not only hubris and pompous, it is simply wrong.

    DF

    ReplyDelete
  33. Um, I didn't say that the world changed when my works were published.

    ReplyDelete
  34. >"Um, I didn't say that the world changed when my works were published."

    No, but you say the world changed, per your own headline, when someone told you to retract them. Amounts precisely to the same thing.


    DF

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Though I really enjoy Rabbi Slifkin's work, to say "the world changed" when his works were published is not only hubris and pompous, it is simply wrong. "

    DF,

    On the contrary, RS said nothing really novel. What changed was not with his publishing but with his banning. And no other banning you mentioned, each ridiculous in its own way, comes near the the Slifkin affair in intellectual ramification.

    ReplyDelete
  36. "And no other banning you mentioned, each ridiculous in its own way, comes near the the Slifkin affair in intellectual ramification."

    Disagree.

    DF

    ReplyDelete

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