Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Grand Vision

Last week a rabbi asked to meet with me in order to discuss this website. At the meeting, he aired an important point. He said that he is familiar with a number of people who participate in this forum and find it to be the only one in which they feel intellectually and religiously comfortable. However, it does not provide a basic requirement for them: a grand overall vision for Judaism, such as that provided by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Rabbi Nathan Lopez-Cardozo, and especially a foundation for emunah. Instead, it is restricted to tackling small and often arcane topics within Judaism.

I understand his point, and I can try to cater somewhat to his request, but the fact is that to echo what Marc Shapiro wrote in his book, I am more of an intellectual historian than a theologian. And my own emunah is primarily based on Jewish history, which doesn't speak to everyone, and on hashgachah pratis in my own life, which is very personal and non-rationalist to the extreme!

Instead, I would like to people to submit recommendations for resources - books, websites and suchlike - that offer such a overall vision. The drawback with this suggestion is that some might suggest resources that others, including myself, find objectionable, and the comments thread could degenerate into the negativity that plagues the blogosphere. I therefore ask that people try to keep criticism to a minimum, and to remember, different strokes for different folks!

68 comments:

  1. I like listening to the Jewish history podcasts/lectures from Rabbi Adam Mintz of New York City. Taken as a whole, I think it supports the hashkafa that culture develops within specific contexts and that one should seek to identify the etiology of religious/cultural developments.

    http://www.rayimahuvim.org/pages/adam_talks.html

    Gary Goldwater

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  2. The writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch beautifully describe the great world-mission of the Jew. Some naturally love his poetic writing style; and for some, it's an acquired taste. But for others for whom this style is a barrier, we need qualified writers to bring them Rav Hirsch's ideas and vision in a more modern form.

    Rabbi Adlerstein has begun this work with his weekly "The Timeless Rav Hirsch" at Genesis.org.

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  3. I highly recommend the website of Rabbi David Bar Hayim. Machonshilo.org

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  4. Belief in Hashgacha Pratit is something very personal and I generally do not like asking people about it. People have their views and it is not for me to challenge so please forgive me if this question comes off as offensive.

    It is very clear that you a certain affinity for a more rationalistic worldview. This worldview was best expressed by the Rambam, who you seem to be a big admirer of. My question is that if in most cases you will go by the Rambam, why is it that when it comes you Hashgacha Pratit, you seem to reject his view? The Rambam is very clear that specific divine providence only applies to a select few. I am curious as to why you reject this view or at the very least do not believe in it.

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  5. James Kugel, In the Valley of the Shadow.

    http://www.jameskugel.com/valley.php

    IMHO, the only rationalist response to the new atheists.

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  6. I highly recommend the Machon Shilo website at www.machonshilo.org. Rabbi David Bar-Hayim teaches a logical, straightforward approach to Judaism which takes into account new realities, including that of Jewish sovereignty in Israel.

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  7. I actually think that the absence of a comprehensive vision may be an advantage; this can only present the opportunity for more disappointment when it does not come to fruition. Far better would be to cast your net wider and analyze more issues in a 'rationalist' light, in the hope of providing small scale solutions for the barrage of issues affecting 'rationalists' who live in the frum world.

    One example could be a 'rationalist' Torah based approach to health - whether in terms of exercise, vaccinations or the cope of rabbinic direction when considering medical issues.

    Another could be economics - whether in terms of the individual regarding matters such as bitachon/hishtadlus or for society as a whole such as the place for economic and technical endeavor - there is already a lot of material from the Torah U'Maddah tradition to work with, but I'm sure many would benefit from hearing your take on these issues.

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  8. you explain why what people to your right find theologicallly objectionable is not so (objectively speaking)

    could you blog about what you find do find theologicallly objectionable (and I did not mean the bans and other ills coming from the right).

    also could you or request volunteers to make the site more easily searchable. eg arranged according to topics.

    dovid

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  9. After looking over many of your posts, it would seem to me that one of the overall themes on this website is a search for objective truth. This includes having an undistorted understanding of history, an awareness of the diversity of views within the rishonim and achronim, etc. This being the case, I'm not sure what would be gained from creating some kind of an overarching philosophy. What exactly would this be applied to? The Messianic days? Our role vis-a-vis non jews? These are important questions, but I would argue that that would begin moving into more subjective areas which cannot be proven in any substantial way. To be clear, I don't think I would be against this per se, I just think it may move closer to revealing your personal beliefs (which granted you do from time to time), as opposed to using your personal logic to reveal what you believe is an objective truth.

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  10. Try MACHONSHILO.ORG great with audio shiurim and writings as well. I also very much suggest and encourage reading the writings of Rav Kahane ZTL HYD especially his 2 volume book "Or Harayon".

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  11. I think Joseph above captures my sentiment. Grand views can never (in my experience) be totally freestanding, and getting too attached to one makes one lose sight of the fact that Judaism is a rich tapestry.

    RSRH is by far my strongest guiding light, but in the past couple years I've come to see his worldview as a launching point to go forward. First principles, if you will. I've found I need to disregard every guy with a bullhorn spouting some ideology, and instead try to soak up as many of the different valid approaches, so that I can synthesize an approach that wholly works for me. It seems to me that RNS has done a lot of the same in CoC with his extrapolations from the derachim of the Rambam, etc.

    To this end, I'm hoping to audit a course at Touro's Jewish Studies program in NYC: Religion and Philosophy in Medieval Judaism. I think this will offer a good foundation of differing approaches: good for the approaches themselves, and also the knowledge of just how different some of these seminal thinkers were from each other.

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  12. I like the format the Rabbi mentioned was a problem for some specifically because I am interested in an intellectually honest approach to Judaism and Jewish History. Theology is a personal thing which I feel should be developed on its own, and often has no ties to anything tangible. There are many places where one can look to further their theology, but there are unfortunately not many places where you can go to learn an unfiltered and unbiased analysis of Judaism and the ideas surrounding it.

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  13. Correction: Rabbi Adlerstein's weekly "The Timeless Rav Hirsch" is on Project Genesis, but the links are:

    Archives:

    http://www.torah.org/advanced/ravhirsch/

    Sign-up to receive the e-mail:

    http://www.torah.org/subscribe/

    Check the box at the bottome right.

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  14. It seems to me that the grand overall vision for Judaism is the task of each of us to develop for ourselves over the course of our lives. It's about the journey of our evolving vision as we learn and experience more and more. זיל גמור.

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  15. I havn't read it myself, but I see quite a few people here mentioning R. Bar-Hayim. He recommends reading Shebbatai ben Dov, and apparently his writings had a great impact on R. Bar-Hayim. The name of the book is Ge'ulat Yisrael be-mashber ha-medinah

    http://www.machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-audio-shiurim/43-philosophy/326-shabtai-ben-dov

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  16. My question is that if in most cases you will go by the Rambam, why is it that when it comes you Hashgacha Pratit, you seem to reject his view? The Rambam is very clear that specific divine providence only applies to a select few. I am curious as to why you reject this view or at the very least do not believe in it.

    I did not say that I reject it. I just can't help how I feel.

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  17. (Off topic)

    Wow. In this letter, R' Belsky pulls no punches about his approval of Betech's analysis versus yours.

    http://www.tovnet.org/shafan/ShafanHaskamaRavYisroelBelsky19Tamuz5771.jpg

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  18. Indeed. And in these posts, I pull no punches about my view of Rav Belsky's views:

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/07/where-did-those-haskamos-go.html

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/07/there-are-no-kangaroos-in-tehillim.html

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  19. As the rabbi who is referenced in this post, I will clarify (or re-emphasize) that I was concerned about his outlining a positive, confident "grand vision", but also about Rabbi Slifkin iterating his rational foundations for actually believing (instead of why others' justifications are insufficient). His very honest response to me was that his expertise is not theology per say, and that his own foundations for emunah (G-d, Torah miSinai, etc.) are more personal and difficult to articulate.

    I then countered that many people do in fact come to this blog seeking such answers and justifications, and so he creatively thought of soliciting (through the blog) others' suggestions of resources that could address these interests. (I did point out to R' Slifkin that in his books, he makes what I feel to be a very eloquent and sophisticated case for G-d's existence, but that he has yet to do so for topics like Torah miSinai, or, as he noted, also the notion of a "personal" G-d.)

    I see many commentors are reacting to the "grand vision" piece of this equation, but fewer have been responding to the less "grand" but equally important call for suggested emunah resources. For those who don't subscribe to what one might call the "standard" reasons offered by kiruv organizations and others for belief, yet who themselves still do believe in and observe Torah miSinai, the question is very simple: Why?

    The answers might just benefit quite a few readers of this blog who visit more for its overall intellectual culture than for its treatment of obscure zoological topics.

    Even as a rabbi who works in the "mainstream" kiruv arena, I would be interested in such responses myself.

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  20. An important point brought out by this post is whether there is, b'zman ha-zeh, a Rationalist basis for emunah. Rationalism can still be used for allowing emunah, but most Rationalists (non-YBT) will have to admit that we can no longer *prove* emunah through rationalist means.

    I believe this has led many to what I would call Mystical Rationalism, where they accept science, etc. as rationalists, but find their emunah in Kabbalah. Many such approaches could be referenced, but the most famous would have to be Rav Kook.

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  21. For emunah issues, I find Rabbi Tuvia singer at outreachjudism very good. although his focus is on how Christianity is false, in the process he shows the truths of judaism based on only tanach text and basic sources. It is also very entertaining.

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  22. I'm a bit disappointed that only books and 'read only' websites have come up in the list.

    Is there no forum, email list, etc to have a conversation? If I wanted to hear my own thoughts and responses I wouldn't have come to the internet.

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  23. I do have a similar problem. I love Rambam but do live with a feeling of Hashgocha Protis being with me every step of the way. Even though my mind is focused on Divine matters for extended periods, I don't consider myself from the selected few. I would think RS has the same issue. But maybe we are these people that are subject to Divine Providence even though we don't think so? That would make everything fall into place, no?

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  24. Jose Faur has been mentioned in other posts. The Rambam himself also had a grand vision.

    Even though you feel it's not your area, you could discuss the Grand Visions of others here, if only in brief with some opportunity for discussion. I'm curious what the other commenters see in Rabbi Hirsch, for example, since I don't think of him as particularly rationalist.

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  25. Rabbi David Bar-Hayim definitely has a grand Eretz Yisraeli vision which respects and follows the rationalist tendencies of the Rishonim.

    www.machonshilo.org

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  26. I am very impressed by the writings of Rav Eliezer Berkowitz. His love for Eretz Israel and Am Israel and the pain he feels from the Holocaust have made a deep impression on me. His book "G-d, Man and History" attempts to create a comprehensive framwork for Jewish belief and performance of the mitzvot. I also like the mature tone of his writing which I find a refreshing change from too many Rabbanim who write with a condescending tone, as if their readers can't understand writing beyond the level of an 8th grade education. He takes a "common sense" approach to understanding the Torah and Halacha (see his book "Not in Heaven" for his understanding of the halachic system).

    I have also become deeply involved in what are called the "New TANACH Studies" coming primarily out of the Yaacov Herzog College-Yeshivat Har Etzion -examples can be seen at the "Virtual Beit Midrash" affiliated with the Yeshiva, and at Rav Yoel Bin-Nun's web site at

    www.ybn.co.il

    They have a "back to basics" approach to Judaism, attempting to reach a historical understanding of the TANACH, what it meant to the generations that received it and lived the events described. The proponents of this approach are definitely "rationalistic" and are willing to use historical and archaeological information to shed light on the world of the TANACH. They also want to rediscover the roots of the halacha that HAZAL compiled in the basic sources of Judaism.
    Rav Yaakov Medan has stated that the return of Am Israel to Eretz Israel and the new tools of research allow us to reach new interpretations of the TANACH that were not known to earlier generations. I find this approach most refreshing.

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  27. Hi Rav Natan,

    I don't think you should worry too much about lacking a grand vision.

    Just providing a forum where intellectual menstchlikhtkeit is expected as part one's commitment to Torah study -- that is more than enough. I think people get this point, and I think they find it valuable in and of itself. Given the intellectual climate prevalent in today's Jewish world, there is even something "grand" about it.

    On other matters, as promised I'll be sending you a post tomorrow about chapter 2 of "The Book of Abraham." Sorry for the long delay.

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  28. I also have found a great deal of satisfaction in the teachings of Rav David Bar Hayim. His teachings and audio shiurim are well documented, and as others have mentioned, his approach is well in tune with the current reality of a Jewish People in the Land of Israel. I am also very gratified by his approach to Minhag Eretz Israel, it is plainly more sensible than dragging in the minhagim of Poland, Russia, Germany, or Spain etc. along into the land of Israel.

    Yitzchak L.

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  29. Rav Matis Weinberg's vision is almost always overlooked, but it's the broadest I've ever seen: thelivingtree.org for blockbuster shiurim, Patterns in Time on the moadim, and Frameworks on the parsha (the audio shiurim really put everything else to shame, though). Also, he has a little known essay, called Frameworks for the Way, about the Derech Etz HaChaim, http://stores.lulu.com/ravmatis. It's enough for a pretty substantial boost in emunah. The Mystical Rationalism thing mentioned by Danny exists (I'm an example), but I'm not sure how widespread it really is.

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  30. An important Orthodox Jewish theologian of the 20th century was Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits. He was chairman of the Department of Jewish Philosophy at The Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, from 1958 to 1975.

    There was recently a symposium about him and I would recommend Prof. Marc Shapiro's talk that focuses on R. Berkovits' view of halacha as a function of his (grand) vision of Judaism: http://mahimahi.uchicago.edu/media/ccjs/spertus-symposium-2011-03-06-shapiro.mp3

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  31. "a grand overall vision for Judaism"

    Just as it is easy to lose the forest for the trees, we can sometimes lose the trees for the forest. The trees include Torah study, the Mishnah, the Gemara, halacha, some mussar, some lomdus, understanding the prayers, understanding the holidays, etc.

    Wait, it sounds like I'm recommending "A Daily Dose of Torah" by Artscroll.

    Of course, the series leaves out areas that many people will find important. But they all do.

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  32. "I did not say that I reject [the Rambam's position on hashgacha pratis]. I just can't help how I feel."

    I have a couple questions related to this,

    Most of the Rishonim who deal with this seem to take an approach similar to the Rambam....

    Do you think that this position is a straight forward understanding of Chazal's position on hashgachah, or do you believe it is reflective of the philosophical influence of the time?

    Given the predominance of the belief in hashgachah pratis among later authorities, do you believe we have reason to speculate whether the (less philosophically inclined) Rishonim who did not speak explicitly on the issue sided with the other Rishonim who did or the more "traditional" appoach?

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  33. I agree entirely with R' Natan both as to his attempt to treat important aspects of Judaism using reason, yet to admit to a non-rational basis for some even more important aspects. One can't prove the existence of GOD or the authorship of the torah. Yet without such beliefs, Judaism can easily become reduced to a mere culture of observance. Faithfulness to the practices of a people is not a substitute for believing this this way of life is both worthy and valuable - if not, vital to the future of mankind.

    I agree also with his non-rational feeling that he has been subject to a personal divine providence (hashgacha pratit). Such a feeling is, I believe, vital to developing and maintaining a relationship with GOD and true religious feelings. While such a perception may not come easy to some people, it is important to be receptive to such an impression. It's not a question of considering one's self worthy or unworthy of such divine consideration. We should be realistic and think of ourselves as not sufficiently worthy, but as subject to such providence nonetheless. Consider it as zechut avot (the merit of prior generations), if you wish.

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  34. Not everything is available via the web. While very "dense," the writings of R' Sololveitchik are an excellent source of thought-provoking material.

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  35. I wouldn't exactly call myself a rationalist, so what works for me does not necessarily work for others. But I would say I'm a rational spiritualist.

    Some books that have given me an overarching view, though a diverse one:

    One People Two Worlds - Yosef Reinman and Ammiel Hirsh

    To heal a fractured World- Jonathan Sacks

    God in Search of Man - Abraham Joshua Heschel

    The Quest for Authenticity - Michael Rosen

    Lots of articles written by Rabbi Ari Kahn

    Any audio shiur given by Rabbi Ari Kahn

    Any article about the Pri Tzaddik written by Yaakov Elman

    (I have been told that reading the Sabbath and the Prophets by Heschel, the Dynamics of dispute, the Oral Law by Schimmel, and Horeb by RSRH are also helpful for people of my temperament)

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  36. An outline of rational mysticism by my teacher Dr. Shaiya Rothberg
    http://bitterchocolate.faithweb.com/MD/Links%20for%20Mekorot%20veDeot.htm

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  37. "call the "standard" reasons offered by kiruv organizations and others for belief, yet who themselves still do believe in and observe Torah miSinai, the question is very simple: Why?"

    I think the question is poorly formulated. The truth is, I don't believe in "Torah miSinai". I believe in "Torah miSinai, vgam Moav, vgam Ohel Moed, vgam Yehoshua, vgam Zkenim, vgam Neviim etc.."

    I also don't believe in slogans, or believe anything that would be accurate in slogan form. I often can't even articulate my own thoughts. However, I do use 1 basic rule for figuring out Judaism. My rule is: How many factions disagree?

    Starting with the Chumash, I look inside and ask, what did they all agree on, what did they disagree with, then nach and the Gemorah, what did they all agree on, what did they dissagree on? Then the geonim, what did they all agree on, what did they dissagree on? etc etc. Through that method, I've come to my conclusions on keeping halacha.

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  38. Ari said: "For those who don't subscribe to what one might call the "standard" reasons offered by kiruv organizations and others for belief, yet who themselves still do believe in and observe Torah miSinai, the question is very simple: Why?"

    There are 2 major reasons why I identify with MO Judaism. 1) Whether Judaism is true/correct or not makes no difference. As my wife said a Jew should be a good Jew, a Christian should be a good Christian and I would add a Hindu should be a good Hindu. The point is that Human Beings have natural morals and everyone is born with an identity(Family & Friends, Nation, Language, History, Land, etc...) which is very hard to leave. One should try to be who they are, but always fitting their identity and subduing it to their natural morals. 2) There are certain aspects of History that would point to truthfulness in Judaism - specifically the return of Jews to their homeland, the restoration of Hebrew as the spoken language of the Jews in Israel and the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. Amazing things that have no parallel in History to the best of my knowledge - and all of them happened at the same time more or less.

    I personally have doubts about the truthfullness of Judaism, even more so the truthfullness of Orthodox theology. For example the belief that the whole Torah was dictated word for word from God - I don't believe that. I think no one can know for sure and everyone has to recognize the possibility of Judaism being false or partly false.

    On the other hand, we can "sell" MO Judaism to secular Jews based on the 2 principles above, 1) The vast majority of traditonal Torah Jewish morals fits in with the natural morals of human beings and everyone needs a purpose/religion - so be who you are a Jew, but a religious Jew like your ancestors to give purpose and meaning to life 2) If there is a true religion, Judaism is it based on historical reasons.

    I once asked a professor of semitic langauges and general linguistics "if there is any other example in history, to his knowledge, of a dead spoken language being revived to be the language of a nation and the answer was no except for Hebrew"

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  39. One of the Great things about Rav Bar Haim and Machon Shilo, www.machonshilo.org is that He doesn't say that he needs to have a monopoly on a new nusach and directions for Etrez Yisrael, he is very open to good suggestions and other ideas.
    He has laid out the groundwork to to get the jews out of Galut Mode Judaism and into Geula mode of Judaism. The folks at the http://www.templeinstitute.org are great too.

    G-d helps those who help themselves

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  40. I think R. Michael Avraham's books in general and specifically his latest (http://www.ybook.co.il/htmls/%D7%90%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%94%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%97%D7%A7_%D7%91%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%91%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA.aspx?c0=21455&bsp=13582) are a good background for what the mentioned rabbi is referring to.

    Though I think that the correct answer to the mentioned rabbi is that you do what you do in areas you were gifted in and he or someone else should do the same in other areas.

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  41. To quote Spock from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country:
    What you want is irrelevant. What you have chosen is at hand.

    Hameivin yavin.

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  42. I see many commentors are reacting to the "grand vision" piece of this equation, but fewer have been responding to the less "grand" but equally important call for suggested emunah resources.

    You could try Project Emunah - which tries to find some solid ground for emunah while inviting participation...

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  43. Herman Wouk's "This Is My God". More than fifty years old, still the best.

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  44. Shai said:

    "Whether Judaism is true/correct or not makes no difference. As my wife said a Jew should be a good Jew, a Christian should be a good Christian and I would add a Hindu should be a good Hindu. The point is that Human Beings have natural morals and everyone is born with an identity(Family & Friends, Nation, Language, History, Land, etc...) which is very hard to leave."

    Why in the world should one be loyal to one's origins simply by virtue of those having been his origins? Someone brought up an [insert abhorrent group here] should remain so? In our own tradition we have major iconoclasts (most notable Avraham and Mosheh) who defied their upbringing (depending on how you understand Mosheh's, anyway). And "very hard to leave" is not a reason for not leaving.

    If you decide for yourself that truth is irrelevant, that's a mistake (IMO) but up to you; but that in itself is a gross divergence from Jewish identity, according to many? most? of Jewish theological history.

    Granted, I'm biased; I was raised Episcopalian and left once I realized I never found Christian theology tenable.

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  45. I enjoy R' Shubert Spero's writings on the philosophy of R' Soloveitchik. He published a book recently, Aspects of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's Philosophy of Judaism: An Analytic Approach. I especially enjoyed this article on belief in God (access restricted, unfortunately; I got it through JSTOR).

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  46. Like R' Slifkin and a couple commenters, I am someone who believes in a rationalist approach when it comes to scientific topics, but who believes very strongly in divine providence in my own life. I can think of one good reason why it is not a contradiction to love Rambam and believe in individual, specific divine providence. Rambam's son, Avraham ben Rambam -- who certainly loved his father and vice versa -- also believed in a strong version of hashgacha pratit! For example, here is a quote from his book A Guide to Serving God (which you can view on Amazon's LookInside feature):

    "[T]he bitachon incumbent upon all the religious people...is a firmly placed conviction and a genuine, heartfelt awareness that the natural causes and normal channels are directed by God's detailed will for each person, in every time and every situation." (p. 213).

    What a wonderful quote! Baruch Hashem.

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  47. An intellectually honest person looking for an "overall vision" of Judaism is, in all likelihood, not going to find it in a single volume or personality, at least in my experience.

    Personally, I have been very moved by R' Yosef Soloveitchik's lectures and writings (particularly his magnificent and little-known "Man and His Social Institutions" series from the mid-50s), R' Hirsch's writings across the board, the sefer hachinuch, R' Aharon Rakeffet's mekorot series, Morah Nechama Leibowitz's "Studies" in parshat hashavua, and even elements of R' Avigdor Miller's writings (although that last one requires some significant cherry-picking in my case).

    I cannot call myself a "chasid" of any of the afore-mentioned personalities (I have too much of a communal vision of Judaism to completely accept R' Soloveitchik's existentialist concepts, the chinuch's scientific proofs for divine providence don't seem to be at all accurate, R' Hirsch's anti-Zionist is something that I can understand but not accept, etc..), but they are all magnificent expositors of Judaism, and have all influenced me in numerous ways great and small.

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  48. I once asked a professor of semitic langauges and general linguistics "if there is any other example in history, to his knowledge, of a dead spoken language being revived to be the language of a nation and the answer was no except for Hebrew"

    It's very hard to say what the implication of this statement is. The world is full of rare and unique occurrences, exceptions that prove the rule, etc.

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  49. I think that while it is important to have material that aide and supports belief, it is equally important to know what to stay clear from.

    In my opinion,any material that claims to be able to prove anything such as TMS... should not be read. It creates unreasonable expectations, which can never be met.

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  50. I've enjoyed a series of podcasts on Jewish Theology by Rav Assaf Bednarsh from Gush Etzion. They are available here:
    http://kmtt.libsyn.com/index.php?post_category=Theology

    He surveys a range of opinions from rationalist to non-rationalist on a variety of "grand" topics including free will, theodicy, hashgacha pratit, etc.

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  51. Elie - I think it depends on what you mean by "prove." If all that means is to make a very compelling case for it, a rational foundation, a likelihood, etc. then why should one avoid this? Just the opposite: if one cannot attain this, then why would one believe at all?!?

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  52. Elie writes: "In my opinion,any material that claims to be able to prove anything such as TMS... should not be read."

    I'm inclined to agree. What if the material admits to being suggestions instead of proofs?

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  53. To Ari and Phil

    Agreed, suggestion to me is fine. I was referring to the type who claims that TMS must be true because of the Kuzari principle, and it would be impossible to fabricate such a story.

    Although, personally I have a hard time seeing how such claims are beneficial, because they seem to be presented and defended as proofs. But that is just to me. Some people may find such suggestions helpful. It is personal.

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  54. I'm not sure that it qualifies as Rationalist, but for an interesting take on the 13 Principles try Rabbi Moshe Shulman's series: http://youngisrael-stl.org/articlereader.php?author=Rabbi+Moshe+Shulman&archive=yes&tags=Rambam

    Although it's not dealt with explicitly, the sections on prophesy helped me work through my own hashkafa by putting hashgacha (pratit) into historical perspective (pre/post nevua).

    Rabbi Shulman's tanach and other classes are also great and are the only good English language Rabbi Yaakov Medan and Rabbi Yoel bin Nun scholarship I have been able to find online.

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  55. R' Slifkin, I hope one day you will share with us the details of how you believe Jewish history and providence in your own life support your emuna -- that would be very interesting. I personally also feel that Jewish history supports the truth of Judaism, but I'm not sure if I've ever seen it laid out in a convincing fashion, and I'm sure you'd do a good job with this. This kind of argument is old and hard to do well, for sure -- 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal (in Pensees) argued for the truth of Christianity, for example, by arguing that the Jews had been exiled and oppressed ever since they rejected Christianity. This seems ludicrous to me, but so does the Kuzari to a lot of people.

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  56. 1) I love Rav Hirsch, but anyone who reads him has to take Torah min hashamayin in its literal sense as an axiom. Everything past that, he is amazing. (Unfortunately I know of no book in English that comprehensively discusses Torah min hashamayim in a satisfactory manner.)

    I read Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein's "The Faith of Judaism" years ago and enjoyed that as well.

    2) Rabbi Slifkin, I wouldn't compare youself to Marc Shapiro. He is solely a historian while you at least try to offer people guidance (maybe not in a comprehensive fashion, but it's still guidance).

    One of the main problems with Modern Orthodoxy in my opinion is the lack of intelligent, knowledgable rabbis who offer guidance. It seems that the best and brightest only do academics and do not offer answers or visions. You do; don't stop!

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  57. When I was in Yeshiva College (1961-65) the books we were reading were:

    1.Samson Raphael Hirsch, Nineteen Letters

    2: Eliezer Berkowitz, God, Man, and History

    3. Isidore Epstein, The Faith of Judaism

    4. Aaron Bath: The Modern Jew Faces Eternal Problems; and, on a more popular level,

    5.Herman Wouk, This is My God.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  58. God, Man and History by Eliezer Berkovitz

    See: http://old.rabbifohrman.com/series.cfm
    It's not a vision of Judaism, just some great stuff on Tanach (mostly narratives). The beauty of his shiurim is a foundation for emunah.

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  59. Rabbi, I am wondering if you will "curate" resources and post as a new post...

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  60. Nachum,

    An interesting trivia fact: I believe Herman Wouk wrote "This is My God" after Rabbi Jung showed him RSR Hirsch's "Nineteen Letters" and encouraged him to write something similar.

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  61. "And my own emunah is primarily based on Jewish history, which doesn't speak to everyone, and on hashgachah pratis in my own life, which is very personal and non-rationalist to the extreme!"

    I very much identify with that statement.

    I also feel that Danny's label & definition of "mystical rationalism" describes me quite well, which is probably why Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok's material has been great for me. Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller's classes have also been an invaluable influence on me.

    I hadn't heard of Rabbi Bar-Hayyim, but after reading the posts here, I went and checked out his website and got some good insights out of it. So thank you.

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  62. I find it interesting that a number of people have independently recommended Rabbi Eliezer Berkowits' God, Man, and History, and Rabbi Isidore Epstein's The Faith of Judaism. God, Man, and History has been recently reprinted; perhaps it is time that The Faith of Judaism also be reprinted.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  63. Rambam's is the approach that makes sense to me. My favorite blog is 'Knowing is Beleiving'. It discusses substantive issues in Rambam and other rationalist thinkers.

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  64. A blog that attempts to give some kind of basis for emunah based off modern miracles that have happened to the Jewish people:
    http://thejewishmiracle.wordpress.com/

    Miracles such as the return of the Jewish people to Israel and Jerusalem and the success of the Jews in the past few hundred years shouldn't be taken lightly.

    100 years ago Mark Twain wrote Concerning the Jews. Since then we've had the Holocaust, pogroms and constant attacks on Israel, but somehow the Jewish people is stronger than ever, has returned to its homeland after a 2000 year exile and has contributed more to the world in the twentieth century than any other people, while at the same time constituting a mere 0.2% of the world's population. That's amazing.

    There are most certainly many questions, but the above is amazing and a person wouldn't be crazy to base his belief on this alone.

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  65. RNS: You write in this thread that much of your emunah is based on personal hashgacha (while acknowledging that this would seem to run counter to Rambam's approach to that article). However, earlier you have written that we have a tendancy to see patterns where they don't exist, or where they do but w/o recognizing the many more instances where they don't. Perhaps your sense of "hashgacha" is just false pattern recognition? Confirmation bias?

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  66. Also, just two more points re. your hashgacha pratis rationale:

    1. While this may work ipso-facto, do you believe had you grown up not frum that you would have BECOME frum on that basis? If not, what arguments would you employ if approached by a secular Jew interested in exploring Torah Judaism but not convinced of its foundational tenets.

    2. Thinking about this more, the hashgacha approach would seem to work well as an argument in favor of G-d, and even of a PERSONAL G-d, but not in favor of Orthodox Judaism per say. Would you agree? If so, what arguments would you employ with respect to that particular question (as in point 1)?

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  67. I also want to recommend Rabbi Meir Treibitz of hashkafacircle.com. there are tons of audio/video shiurim there as well as fascinating journal articles from the reshimu journal he helps publish.

    While the site does not necessarily contain or spell out an overall Judaic worldview, the theme of the site is easily interpreted - Jews are supposed to think deeply about the greatest hashkafic questions and examine in depth the writings of our greatest scholars on these questions in order to arrive at an understanding of the issue in light of multiple approaches which were applied in our intellectual history.

    According to the hashkafa circle, clearly there are multiple "answers" and ways of understanding these topics, and the key is immersing oneself in the process of actually exploring what the greats discussed about them, not reading some pronouncement or being told a one liner by some modern day rav who never even bothered to read these sources and thinks there is a monopoly on jewish thought which consists of "how I assume it has to be because no one frum could possibly disagree." I'd say such a site is an essential part of the search alluded to in this post because hashkafa circle makes available a great amount of material for going about this process. This can then help narrow down whose 'grand vision' one wants to focus on.

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  68. "Carol said...

    I do have a similar problem. I love Rambam but do live with a feeling of Hashgocha Protis being with me every step of the way. Even though my mind is focused on Divine matters for extended periods, I don't consider myself from the selected few. I would think RS has the same issue. But maybe we are these people that are subject to Divine Providence even though we don't think so? That would make everything fall into place, no?"


    Isn't it possible to feel Hashem's personal presence constantly ("Shiviti Hashem..."), but not feel that He determines everything that happens to us ("Hashgacha Pratit")?

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