Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Innovations in Orthodoxy

The controversy over Open Orthodoxy is something that I have been studiously avoiding discussing, for three reasons. First of all, there already seem to be enough people making all the points that need to made. Second, the limited amount of things that I have to say on the topic would anger people on both sides. Third, the truth is that it does not particularly interest me.

However, I came across something today which made realize that there really is a serious and dangerous innovation here, which some are trying to pass off as "traditional," and which needs to be refuted. I am referring to the innovation of Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, one of the leading activists against Open Orthodoxy. He penned the following lines in an op-ed in The Times of Israel:
...Cutting to the core of the issue, the defining feature of Orthodoxy is submission to Chachmei Ha-Mesorah and Gedolei Ha-Dor — the generation’s top-tier, preeminent rabbinic authorities — and perpetuating their approach to Torah (emphasis his), be they names such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Aharon Kotler or Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik.
This is not the defining feature of Orthodoxy. In fact, it's not a feature of Orthodoxy at all.

Whether you want to use the term Orthodoxy in its popular sense of "traditional rabbinic Judaism," or in its academic sense of "the approach to traditional rabbinic Judaism that was innovated in the nineteenth century as a response to emancipation and Reform," there has never been a requirement of "submission to Chachmei Ha-Mesorah and Gedolei Ha-Dor."

Who even decides who makes the cut for such a list, anyway? The original Misnagdim didn't recognize the original Chassidim as being on that list. The charedi Gedolei Ha-Dor don't include Religious Zionist and Torah u-Madda Gedolim on that list.

There are innumerable streams of religious Judaism who have no concern with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik, or anyone else who would appear on Rabbi Gordimer's list. There are countless streams of Chassidim who couldn't care less about submission to such people. Some of them have their own leaders who could be described as Gedolei HaDor, but others do not. There is Chabad, including its large messianic branch. There is Breslav, including the unusual Na-nach branch. There are the followers of Rav David Bar-Chayim. None of these people care about submission to some Rabbi-Gordimer approved list of Gedolim. Is Rabbi Gordimer therefore going to start writing all of these people out of Orthodoxy? If so, then there are bigger things to worry about than a handful of Open Orthodox Jews.

To be sure, every group has its own treasured beliefs and norms, and those who undermine those treasured beliefs and norms will justifiably not be welcomed in that group. For example, Rabbi Gordimer, who probably espouses some form of Zionism, would not be welcomed in the charedi community (except insofar as he bashes the Open Orthodox). On a broader scale, characteristics of the Orthodox community in general include the acceptance of the divinity of the Torah, allegiance to the halachic community, and so on. But "submission to Chachmei Ha-Mesorah and Gedolei Ha-Dor" is simply not a feature of any form of Orthodoxy outside of charedi Judaism, itself an innovation.

It is quite ironic that in his efforts to preserve traditional Judaism against innovation, Rabbi Gordimer has innovated an entirely new feature of Judaism!

84 comments:

  1. I think this criticism would be stronger if you would explicitly address the sources that R' Gordimer would presumably quote to back up his claim that such submission has always been a requirement of Judaism, starting with "Lo tasur."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lo Tasur is talking about the Beis Din HaGadol in Yerushalayim.

      Delete
    2. Not according to the Sefer ha-Chinuch

      Delete
    3. Right. And since when does the lone view of the Sefer Ha-Chinnuch, in opposition to major Rishonim, suddenly become normative?!

      Delete
    4. Rambam's introduction to the Mishneh Torah

      http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/p0000.htm#32

      32 The enacted legislations or enacted customs of the courts that were established in any town after the time of the Talmud for the town's residents or for several towns' residents did not gain the acceptance of all Israel, because of the remoteness of their settlements and the difficulties of travel, *and because the members of the court of any particular town were just individuals, and the Great Rabbinical Court of seventy members had ceased to exist several years before the writing of the Talmud.*

      33 So a town's residents are not forced to observe the customs of another town, nor is one court told to enact the restrictive legislations of another court in its town. So too, if one of the Geonim understood that the correct way of the Law was such and such, and it became clear to another court afterwards that this was not the correct way of the Law written in the Talmud, the earlier court is not to be obeyed, but rather what seems more correct, whether earlier or later.

      34 These matters apply to rulings, enactments, and customs that arose after the Talmud was written. But whatever is in the Babylonian Talmud is binding on all of the people of Israel; and every city and town is forced to observe all the customs observed by the Talmud's sages and to enact their restrictive legislations and to observe their positive legislations.

      Delete
    5. Not to mention that the Chinuch's approach is very difficult to understand - how in the world are we supposed to get an objective definition of who the "Chachmei HaDor" are, and who they are not. Just for the record, however, the Chayei Adam states that one who eats kitniyos on Pesach is violating Lo Tasur (even though he certainly knew that only Ashkenazim accepted that minhag), which seems to indicate that he held that there could be Lo Tasur for only a certain community or country. That itself is a chiddush, because it is not the same situation as there was when there was a Sanhedrin, which obligated ALL of the Jews in the world.

      Delete
    6. And perhaps Lo Tausr is not even applicable to the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim, see Horiyot for what to do if you know the Sanhedrin's ruling is incorrect.

      Delete
    7. That question is asked by the Ramban, among others, Snag: he makes the following distinction: if a student knows that the Sanhedrin has erred, he is not allowed to follow their ruling, until he discusses his problem with them. After he points out the error, if the Sanhedrin continues to hold of their position, then Lo Tasur applies, and even the one who pointed out the error is obligated to follow it.

      Delete
    8. The Chaye Adam also considered potatoes as 'kitniyot'.. (I guarantee you his grandchildren are eating potatoes..

      Delete
    9. R' Slifkin- you cannot say that " there has never been a requirement of "submission to Chachmei Ha-Mesorah and Gedolei Ha-Dor." if the Sefer Hachinuch says there is. I agree there are other rishonim, but to throw that shitta completely out is over the top.

      Delete
    10. @Anon Chareidi Could you quote your exact source. You can see from the quote above that Rambam didn't believe in any such concept. He clearly believed in a very decentralized system of authority in which even two courts in the same city could make different rulings in the same matter and no one could force one court to go by the other court's decision.

      Delete
  2. There may even be more than enough people talking about this, but few can put these yahoos in their places like you can!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't make any assumptions about which side I would take!

      Delete
    2. Precisely because I don't know what you would say...I'm curious to read what you have to say..

      Delete
    3. I don't care which "side" you'd take, but you'd bring sanity to a conversation which has become insane.

      Delete
  3. I would assume that in general you are not a fan of broad strokes. In other words, whatever principles either side espouses, there is merit within a halakhic framework, but not when taking some thing that is either uber-halakhic or non-halakhic and disguising it as a religious principle. On or off target.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't know, this doesn't really rebut his point. You're not addressing the principle and whether it is in fact a true principle- perhaps all of those groups are indeed wrong! Much more effective, if you do disagree with the claim, is to actually hit the claim at the source. There are many rebuttals he could issue in response- that this is more of a necessary attitude in Orthodox Judaism and that many to all of these groups at the very least have some rabbinic authority to whom they all look (absolutely true about chassidim, and sociologically, at this point, rebbes do fall in the gedolei hador category, whatever people may think about it), or that their principles at least don't depart from those of these gedolei hador as do (lefi his viewpoint) those of the OO movement.
    Can you instead address the core issue? This is just cosmetic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, that's true. There always is *some* authority, even if only to tell you if the chicken is kosher or not. OO doesn't seem to have anything like that.

      Delete
    2. The authority is the mara'd'atra. When my primary shul in Queens had a yeshivish rabbi, I asked him these kind of questions. When I moved to Manhattan and went to a primary shul with a YCT-trained rabbi (though I have no idea if he calls himself "Open Orthodox") I asked him. And so on....

      Delete
    3. Mara a'asra refers to the rabbi of a city not a shul.

      Delete
    4. Find me a rabbi of all NYC, or for that matter, any city with a larger than small Jewish community. Besides for some places in Israel and Europe that have a broadly accepted chief rabbi, there is no such thing. Even the in the medium sized community where I come from there are two shuls and two rabbis. Today the best proxy for an atra is a shul and the community based around it.

      Delete
    5. In that case, the rules of mara de'asra do not apply.
      Mara de'asra has Halachic ramifications.
      A pulpit rabbi does not have that authority.

      Aruch Hashulchan YD 242:63 says that these laws do not apply nowadays since we have Shas and poskim. That is why the Rambam skips these laws.

      Delete
    6. By your logic (op, Anonymous), the oo people can claim that Avi Weiss is THEIR authority/gadol hador/chacham hamesorah (him or whoever else is involved in that program), just as according to you chassidim x consider rebbe y theirs. So not only is this idea not supported by tradition as Rabbi Slifkin pointed out, it also creates a problem for anyone seeking to define orthodoxy by any type of objective measure or litmus test. If everything is relative I can claim any old person as a gadol hador of my group therefore our views are traditional, whether true or not.

      Delete
  5. Hi! I posted a comment as anonymous before reading your note about them not being posted- do you mind posting my comment, whether along with this comment or with my name added onto the end?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rav Soloveitchik is usually quoted as making statements along these lines. I don't think he made them in quite the same way that they are being made today- he means it more in the sense of a manner of learning from the previous generations, and perhaps having a deal of respect for the opinions and ways of life of those who have passed down the tradition. He does not seem to be arguing for actual authority.

    At the same time, the way he is quoted and used in this context makes me very uncomfortable sometimes. It often seems to boil down to, "What I feel comfortable with." You thus get his ideas about, say, tefillah, in which he feels that every word in the siddur (notably, the siddur in the year he was born) is part of the "mesorah," while at the same time you encounter views like, "Oh, not every Gaon was part of the mesorah."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where do you get the idea that every word in the siddur, notably the siddur in the year he was born, is part of the mesorah? Rav Soloveichik introduced many changes to the siddur, mostly following in the path of the Gra, which was the Soloveichik mesora in general.

      Delete
    2. That's part of what makes it so ironic. But the Rav, for example, felt that every piyut was composed by one of the "ba'alei mesorah," (or that only the piyutim of baalei mesorah ended up in the siddur, or whatever) which is why he didn't favor adding, say, a kinnah commemorating the Holocaust or the Tefillah L'Shlom HaMedina.

      As you point out, he wasn't consistent. To a certain extent, he wasn't uncomfortable with things he hadn't grown up with, as he admitted- it's why he didn't want to use the Frankel Rambam, for example. But sometimes he used language of "baalei mesorah" to explain his distaste.

      (And just for the record, some of the most charedi people out there have written new kinnot for the Holocaust and are behind new editions of various classic sefarim.)

      There is a famous story about a discussion he had with R' Shaul Lieberman in which the latter cited some new found opinion of a gaon and he said, "Oh, anyone can write something." Every now and then, R' Schachter will make a disparaging remark about the Geonim in a shiur and you just know you're hearing the Rav talking.

      Delete
    3. A perfect illustration of the problems with the Masorah argument. Everyone, even an iconoclast like RYBS, loves tradition when it favors his pet viewpoint, but finds a way to distinguish it when it doesn't. And the hypocrisy is obvious to all. That's why R. Gordimer's articles on this subject are so wrongheaded.

      Delete
  7. Rabbi Gordimer wrote "names such as...", so obviously he did not claim his list is exclusive. And I thought that following the judges of our time (=Gedolim) and not deviate left or right is the Torah requirements?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, you thought wrong! We follow the explanations of pesukim given by Chazal and the Rishonim.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps there's no specific list of gedolim that everyone needs to follow, but do you not agree that normative practice is to have some recent precedent, especially when it comes to making drastic changes, whether it be in halacha or hashkafa/beliefs?

      Delete
    3. Of course, but that's not the claim that Rabbi Gordimer is making!

      Delete
    4. "he did not claim his list is exclusive"

      I had the same thought at first, that R. Gordimer might agree that every community should follow its own "top-tier" poskim/leadership. But of course this is precisely what the OO community is doing - i.e. following the psak and halakhic reasoning of its own leadership!

      Delete
  8. But "submission to Chachmei Ha-Mesorah and Gedolei Ha-Dor" is simply not a feature of any form of Orthodoxy outside of charedi Judaism.

    Then Charedi Judaism is the only true form of Judaism. If all the Chachmei Hamesorah and Gedolei Hador say X is a violation of halachah, and someone who does not qualify as such says and does otherwise, even if because that is what he thinks Judaism says, he is not an observant Jew. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right. So what about Sephardic Jewry?

      Delete
    2. What about it?

      Delete
    3. What about it? Sephardic Jews have a lot of respect for their Rabbanim but their Rabbanim never took great amounts of power for themselves to claim heresey as motivating all opposition. So no, complete submission isn't a hallmark feature of Sepharadic Jewry (truly nothing really is as it was not defined and behaved much more as a democracy- where locals followed their local rabbis)

      (Rav Ovadya is a modern phenomenon, and yet he was very open, accepting, and inclusive relative to the Charedi world. Just look at the amount of modern orthodox talmidim that he had.)

      Delete
    4. So Out of bounds is correct.

      Delete
  9. I dont agree with your inference of Rav David Bar-Hayim on your 'list'. Hes a real Torah scholar, unlike the groups you grouped him into. Please a some respect ! As for Gordimer, when has he spoken for anything but himself? I think he can get the treatment he deserves - being ignored.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not say or imply anything about his Torah scholarship.

      Delete
    2. Rabbi Gordimer speaks for the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of charedi and MO Jews who criticize Open Orthodoxy at their Shabbos tables but don't think it important to actually write articles that challenge the movement on the Internet and elsewhere. Unfortunately -- and this is a long-standing problem -- the more charedi one is, the less likely that one will fight the battle of ideas in the public sphere. I don't agree with everything Rabbi Gordimer writes, but kudos to him for actually fighting this battle against Open Orthodoxy, which is a product of political correctness and almost nothing else.

      Delete
    3. Yehudah: I wish they would stress the "political correctness" or, better, "political liberalism" point more than arguments like this. If the argument would simply be made, "OO is motivated almost entirely by its proponents' swallowing modern day liberalism whole, and that is treyf," that would be much more straightforward than all this pilpul.

      I imagine you'd get a whole bunch of responses along the lines of "But I AM a liberal," or "But let's not bring up politics!" but I don't think those people can be argued with using pilpul either.

      Delete
    4. Nachum,

      I agree with you to a certain extent, but Rabbi Gordimer's point, modified, is true as well. As YU's Rabbi Schacter said recently, if you're going to make a major innovation in Judaism, it better be at the hands of someone of stature.

      Chassidus was a major change, as was Mussar, but people like the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal HaTanya, and Rav Yisroel Salanter were no lightweights (in traditional terms). (Indeed, some people think the Baal HaTanya printed his impressive Hilchos Talmud Torah so early in his career to shore up his traditional credentials.) Who does Open Orthodoxy have at its head? Rabbi Avi Weiss has done a tremendous amount for the Jewish people, but no one would ever deem him a heavyweight in traditional terms.

      I have often thought to myself that if these women rabbis were super impressive (in traditional terms), people would have a harder time saying "No way." But all these "rabbis" come across as mushy emotional liberals. And their leaders can't even give a straight no to a question like "Would you celebrate the bas mitzvah of two moms in your shul?" (asked of Rabbi Lopatin on a Jewish radio show). They are not heavyweights.

      Even as smart a man as Eliezer Berkowitz realized you couldn't just unilaterally change things in Judaism on one's own if one wants to consider oneself within the traditional (i.e., Orthodox) community. No, you don't need a "Rav Moshe Feinstein" at your head, but you do need someone who is a heavyweight in traditional terms and it needs to be less than super obvious that liberalism -- a liberalism, incidentally, that largely opposes G-d and traditional morality -- is influencing your entire movement.

      Delete
    5. I agree.

      I hate to be snotty, but the background of the YCT students is almost always if not always some secular college. In other words, these are people who did no serious learning before starting YCT. That says a lot too.

      Delete
    6. @Yehudah: A small technical point: The Ba'al HaTanya printed Hilchos Talmud Torah anonymously, so I don't think it was in order to strengthen his credentials. The bulk of what he wrote was published after his passing.
      The approbations to Tanya mention that his printing of Tanya was something that was out of the ordinary for him, only done to put out an authoritative edition.

      Delete
    7. At first I didn't interpret anything negative implicit in Rabbi Slifkin's inclusion of Rav Bar Hayim. In fact I interpreted it as a positive menton that his students are justified to accept his views and are not beholden to others. But now that I think about it, the other two examples used as "within orthodoxy" are kind of debatable aren't they? Messianics and na nachs? Really?

      Delete
    8. @Student v: I think that the Messianics in Chabad (and they comprise a part of my shul) and the Na Nachs are perhaps a bit eccentric, but I don't think their halachic practices are any different than mainstream Chabad or Breslov. Open Orthodoxy is pushing the envelope quite a bit more.
      I was toying with the idea that Judaism can't really punish or ostracize someone for what s/he believes, but only for what s/he does. For example: It's one thing to believe the world is 4.5 billion years old, but as long as it doesn't impinge on Shabbos observance because the six days of Creation are viewed only allegorically, the person is still within the fold. Is this a correct assessment?

      Delete
    9. @Nachum I think it's unfair to tar all current and former yct talmidim with the same brush. Yes, it is true that many of them look to reconcile halakha with modern liberal philosophy, but many others, some of whom I know personally, are truly dedicated to halakha. I also think many did spend a year or two in yeshiva before college.

      Delete
    10. I'm actually a fan of R' Bar-Hayim- I hope to go to a shiur of his next week- but the way some of his followers write about him in comments sections can get a bit culty.

      Delete
    11. YCT musmachim are not (generally), college grads what is your objection to that; probably should be a smicha requirement) but are generally ivy league grads.

      Delete
  10. The post is 100% right. I actually agree with the opprobrium and dismissiveness Open Orthodoxy has agreed, but R. Gordimer is way off base. In one of his posts he referred to "charedi" Judaism as "traditional" Judaism, which, of course, is a complete fiction. He also wrote an article opposing OO on the basis of "Mesorah", a claim entirely undermined by charedim, bereft as they are of any mesorah altogether.

    Again, I agree with the conclusion that OO is not orthodox at all, and agreed with both the RCA and Agudah's recent pronouncements in their regard. But R. Gordimer himself has done nothing to help matters. An OO'er who reads his comments would likely be emboldened, correctly reasoning that everything he accused OO of (lack of mesorah, innovation, etc.) can also be laid at the doorstep of charedim. There are far better reasons to reject OO than this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there are far better reasons, but for some reason almost no Orthodox rabbis will touch them. Probably because they don't want to be accused to discussing "politics," which we've been told over and over is something rabbis Must Not Discuss.

      Delete
    2. Could you please elaborate why charedi Judaism is not traditional (with some specific examples)? Also, why do you agree with the conclusion if not for R. Gordimer's reasons?

      Delete
    3. see http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/01/making-of-haredim.html

      Delete
    4. I'm far less opposed to OO than DF, but I jut want to echo his point. When Rabbi Gordimer repeatedly argues against Open Orthodoxy with (pseudo-)halachic challenges that simply cannot withstand scrutiny, then it becomes increasingly apparent that his opposition isn't Halacha-based (or, for that matter, based in good faith).

      That of course doesn't preclude opposition for other reasons, but Rabbi Gordimer has unwittingly demonstrated OO's halachic validity.

      Delete
  11. I am usually quite a fan, and though I don't read blogs I check you site every time I open a internet browser. I even wrote my term paper in a philosophy course on religion based on your works.

    However, this is the first post that I can remember that I disagree with. I do think think the point the original writer is making is about following mesorah in general, and does not need the specific list at all.

    [I do not think he is referring to lo tasur, but there are times that we speak of minhag yisroel as a rather strong concept, such as the adoption of minhagim of the past as law in the present - like ma'ariv and the chumrah of shivim nekeim. Even to the point where minhag yisroel discounts already established laws, as tosafos defends the minahg yisroel to dance on shabbos thought the mishna says it is assur.

    Following 'mesorah' and minhag do have their own place, it seems. And his point is that he is speaking of something intangible, not something that has halachik ramifications. Lo tasur does have sugyas that help define its extent. He is speaking of an enigma that is hard to define but is essential to Orthodoxy. It is certainly not the essence of it, in my opinion, but it is essential. ]

    All the groups you mention certainly do seek guidance from their respective leaders, and rely on them as a source to vindicate their practices, especially when the practice of their sect are unique to their sect. All of them respect tradition and continue the momentum of tradition when possible
    All of them certainly do try to keep traditions of old in their practices as much as they can, and if they deviate from expectations, they tend to seek precedent in Jewish history and do not try to be overly inventive. They would not want to be called 'reform'.

    You yourself are always trying to show how Rationalist Judaism is the true tradition. The fire to call ourselves 'pshat' is true in all orthodox sects, but not true for people who think it is important to be inventive and progressive.

    yes, the writer is a bit unclear in his brevity, and he may disagree with us a bit, but I think his argument is less strong than you are taking it, and that you would agree with his basic points.

    Sorry, my first post is in argument, but I usually do love your posts and hope you keep writing. I was upset when in a post - a while back - you suggested you would start writing less because of the museum. It is so important that you keep writing rationalist responses to current events for those who find vindication in your reasonable responses, and do not have such role models in their areas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if he was making the argument that you claim he is making, he certainly wrote it in a very misleading way!

      Delete
  12. Cutting to the core of the issue, the defining feature of Orthodoxy is submission to Chachmei Ha-Mesorah and Gedolei Ha-Dor — the generation’s top-tier, preeminent rabbinic authorities — and perpetuating their approach to Torah (emphasis his), be they names such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Aharon Kotler or Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik.

    The funny think here is that R. Gordimer is creating his own subset of Rabbis that he calls Gedolim that doesn't match with anyone else's. The followers of Rav Aharon consider the Rav to be out of the fold. "Changing the Immutable" mentions that a picture of Rav Aharon along with the Rav in a biography by his student actually cuts the Rav out of the picture. YU is not more kosher than Open Orthodoxy to the right wing (unless they are attacking OO, in which case YU is now a useful bludgeon).

    But as usual, it is easier to divide than do something useful. We're going to have to answer as to why we sowed such discord among our respective groups.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The followers of Rav Aharon consider the Rav to be out of the fold." This is an absolute fiction. I don't care what it says in "Changing the Immutable" I know hundreds of of followers of Rav Aharon (many of whom are my cousins) and they are certainly on the more chareidi side of his followers (their kids go to brisk/mir/tomo and learn in kollel after yeshiva; dont go to college) and they dont consider the rav out of the fold.

      Delete
    2. I'm sure that you are right since Rav Aharon himself had a relationship with him. The fact remains that his picture was cut out of a biography of Rav Aharon and the Briskers in Israel quote his Torah, but not by name. Someone who knows better will be able to say, but I believe that no-one from BMG attended the Rav's funeral.

      Those on the right that do accept him (like R Meiselman) do so by cleansing him of all of his "controversial" views so that he can be accepted as a person, while his "liberal" opinions are elided.

      Delete
  13. By stating that everyone can call their man the gadol, you are affectively saying that there is no normative religous approach. That is a dangerous position to take. Of course there are groups who move away from accepted practices. Major breaches from established norms are problematic. One tha5 has a completely new innovation which has thusfar been unacceptable, should not be considered a gadol. This is true in the haredi and MO camps.

    ReplyDelete
  14. It seems to me that R. Gordimer's definition of orthodoxy here rests on a central proposition of modernity as we know it--namely that all our geographical (and sociological) regions should presently be united in a single homogenous entity. This is more the m'halach of multinational media corporations, or totalitarian regimes, than anything resembling our mesorah. The various parts of klal yisroel should be unified in the long run, of course, because we believe in the ultimate in-gathering and redemption; and in the time of the printing press and the re-inhabitation of the holy land there is surely more of this than previously. But the instantaneous nullification of local rabbanim to distant authorities is a mortal blow to the entire structure of Torah sh'bal peh and its divine capacity to encompass all places and milieus. Torah is a living, unfolding, multifaceted reality, and not some global media strategy that despises the resistance of time and space. Thank G-d neither the rishonim nor the achronim were bloggers! Let us preserve our tradition from the evils of techno-imperial time as it seeps in, unconsciously reified and theified, and heavily disguised.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Assuming that Rav Gordimer is referring to halachic and hashkafic matters, he is absolutely correct. In American law one goes according to SCOTUS, in medicine one goes according to the leading medical specialists. In Judaism one goes according to the gedolim on general matters with specific matters generally being within the purview of the maar d'atra. Of course, each group has its own gedolim but all are recognized as such by other groups, at least among the leading talmidei chachamim. However, just as one would not go for medical treatment to some wet-behind-the-ears who knows how to use Google, certainly not against the leading practitioners, one does not go against all of the gedolim because some Internet rebbele (to use Rav Avraham Shapira's term) disagrees. Judaism is not hefker.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Of course, each group has its own gedolim but all are recognized as such by other groups, at least among the leading talmidei chachamim."

      Really? Maybe fifty or a hundred years ago, but today?

      Delete
    2. Sigh.

      "In American law one goes according to SCOTUS,"

      Since when does the Torah follow American law?

      "in medicine one goes according to the leading medical specialists"

      Yes, but one may consult with many and then choose whom to follow oneself. And if one decides that one trusts a doctor that is less of an expert because one thinks that he or she understands the situation better that is entirely within one's right and that may be wise.

      "In Judaism one goes according to the gedolim on general matters"

      There is nothing wrong with consulting Gedolim, but the idea that Gedolim have the final word "on general matters" even when they are not local and do not know the particulars of the situation
      is wrong and was rejected by many great rabbis.

      "However, just as one would not go for medical treatment to some wet-behind-the-ears who knows how to use Google.."

      Open Orthodoxy consults with some great talmidei chachamim like R. Sperber

      "Judaism is not hefker."

      No one disagrees. This is meaningless rhetoric.

      Delete
    3. Also Judaism had its own supreme court, it was called the Sanhedrin. That no longer exists. The notion that "Gedolim" replace the supreme court is a modern invention

      Delete
    4. I don't think your analogies work. We (regrettably) have no system analogous to the Supreme Court at this time, and if a wet-behind-the-ears Google user correctly identifies a medical procedure that actually works, it won't stop working just because leading specialists oppose it. If Rabbi Gordimer's arguments against Open Orthodoxy fail, then they fail.

      Delete
  16. We are now entering the saga of Joseph and his brothers. Charedim, please weigh in on the following: was Joseph, a daas yachid, correct, or were his 11 brothers, who comprised the "rov minyan u'vinyan" of Klal Yisroel, correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That, of course, is the subject of a famous essay by R' Soloveitchik himself.

      Of course, growing up, we were never told there was a machloket at all.

      Delete
  17. R. Gordimer's article ends with the Rav's quote: "Kabalas ol malchus shamayim -- which is an identical act with talmud torah -- requires of us to revere and to love and to admire the words of the chachmei hamesorah..."

    But he leaves out the end of the sentence: "be they tannaim, be they amoraim, be they rishonim."

    I suspect the reason he left this last part out is that the Rav didn't use the word "achronim" or refer to "gedolei hador" or "contemporary top-tier rabbinic authorities."

    Which is not to say that the Rav wouldn't refer to these as "chachmei hamesorah" if asked. But I thought the omission on R. Gordimer's part might be worth a mention.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Also your analogy to SCOTUS does not work. SCOTUS is the supreme court of the land that can overrule every other. The decision follows the majority. You are claiming gedolim are like SCOTUS. But then you say that a person can follow their own gadol. But this applies even if the gadol is in the minority. Otherwise, Satmar would be not be Orthodox.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Perhaps we can understand Rav Gordimer's comment in one of two ways:
    1) There are many groups in Orthodoxy and as you noted, they each have their own "gedolim" and ignore or disparage the "gedolim" of the other groups. But the point is that each group has its "gedolim". OO, on the other other, stresses personal autonomy and a minimizing of the authority of rabbinical figures. Perhaps this is because they have so few world-class talmidei chachamim (in fact, probably just one) backing them up.
    2) If he wants to get published on Cross Currents, he has to push the "Daas Torah" line.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moshe Dick writes;
      wow! That last sentence is the epitome of wisdom . He is,of course, totally wrong in his approach to Judaism,as many posters have said. The main reason why he espouses this novel view of Judaism is because otherwise he would be ostracized by the editors of cross-currents. I know, because i suffered that -privilege?- indignity.

      Delete
  20. "Open Orthodoxy consults with some great talmidei chachamim like R. Sperber"

    That...pretty much sums up all you need to know about OO.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Regardless of how one feels about Open Orthodoxy, it should be clear that the Haredim are seeking a parting of the ways between themselves and Modern Orthodoxy. They exclude MO children from their schools, or open new schools to avoid subjecting their children to the sight and company of ours. They deny the reliability of MO kashrut supervision. For the better part of a decade, they have been attempting to deny MO rabbis the right to conduct marriages, divorces and conversions.

    The Haredim do not respect Modern Orthodoxy, its rabbinic leaders, or even the views of the rationalist rishonim and geonim, which the brazen hypocrisy they call hashkafa presumes to describe as being outside of the Jewish tradition.

    The MO response, when Haredim call them heretics, has been to deny it. That is not a winning argument: at best it leaves MO dubiously acceptable, and Haredism pure as driven snow.

    MO needs to get up off its knees and stop grovelling for Haredi approval, because it is never, ever going to happen. It should embrace the division the Haredim call for, and openly disavow any obligation towards the views of Haredi authorities.

    And then MO should go on the offensive. It should tell the world that Haredism is a perversion of Judaism, that Haredi cosmology is incompatible with the facts, that Haredi education is a form of child neglect if not abuse, and that Israel's Haredi population is the greatest threat to the survival of the state.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are absolutely correct. Unfortunately though, it will never happen. And so, we will continue to march, like lemmings, into the abyss.

      Delete
    2. AMEN!!!

      It shocks me that the mo/dl world rarely argues against the Haredi dat or even work to be mikarev Haredim to the correct derech hatorah.

      Delete
  22. We're all, even Nachum, dancing around the real issue here, which is the lengthy extract from RJBS, of which I think the key part of this:

    "It’s ridiculous to say “I have discovered something of which the Rashba didn’t know, the Ketzos didn’t know, the Vilna Gaon had no knowledge"

    The bottom line is it's not ridiculous at all and we are blessed to live in an age of scholarship, into the Tosefta and Yerushalmi in particular, when this happens quite commonly. As it happens, the advances in Torah scholarship in the last century only serve to demonstrate how far Open Orthodoxy and all the other movements that R Gordimer mentioned which sought to normalise the position of Jews in galut from real Judaism. Of course they also demonstrate how far (even further in many ways) movements based on the Zohar are from the Torah.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the charedi world at least, people who learn Tosefta and Yerushalmi (and Mishna and Tanach, and any practical halacha) are seen as a bit iffy at best.

      I'm not sure what R' Soloveitchik felt about those.

      Delete
    2. Gavriel M, I hope that the sentence that you cited from RYBS was taken out of context since it is inconsistent with the idea that the "Brisker" Talmudic/MT analyses was an innovation of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, i.e., his paternal grandfather. On the face of it, it is an approach quite different from that of R' Eliyahu Kramer, the Vilna Gaon, or R' Aryeh Leib Heller, the Ketzot. Perhaps he was guilty of rabbinic hyperbole. My impression of the Brisker derech halimud, however, is that it deals only with the standard texts of the Bavli Talmud and Mishne Torah and does not delve into relevant passages from the Tosefta and Yerushalmi - much less, seek scholarly versions of these sources (or even the Bavli text). This story may be apocryphal but relevant - if not amusing/distressing. RYBS was said to have asked an assistant to bring him a Rambam (Mishne Torah). When he was brought the scholarly edition of Fraenkel, he replied, "No, I meant the 'real' Rambam".

      Y. Aharon

      Delete
    3. It depends on if you ascribe to the idea of the decline of generations. If you do, then yes it is ridiculous. If you don't, then it's not, and one of the main reasons it's not is because we have computers which can allow an average scholar to search instantaneously every halachic work ever written, and every known primary source and make connections that could have easily slipped by even the greatest minds of the past. Computers and instantaneous search are a paradigm shift which completely changes the ball game and goes way beyond the idea of standing on the shoulders of giants.

      Delete
  23. Rav Gordimer lost all credibility to me as a “centrist” spokesman when he wrote on http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2015/11/10/women-rabbis-and-the-rabbi-bakshi-doron-letter-time-for-a-fact-check/ this past month-
    “In the broader and public realm, women such as Rabbanit Batsheva Kanievsky, of blessed memory, and Rebbetzins Esther Jungreis, Feige Twerski, Dr. Bruria David, Tzipporah Heller, Tehilla Abramov, Leah Kohn, Ruthie Assaf, Malka Paretzky, Shira Smiles, Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, and publishers and editors such as Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein and Arutz Sheva’s own Mrs. Rochel Sylvetsky, and countless others, have carried and disseminated the messages of Torah teaching, inspiration, enlightenment and policy more effectively and comprehensively than any female rabbis ever have or ever will.”

    Really? He could not think of any non-Haredi Torah women who are role models to list? Rabbanit Bina of Mattan? Rabbanit Henkin of Nishmat? Rabbanit Esti Rosenberg of Migdal Oz (Rav Lichtenstein’s daughter and Rav Soloveitchik’s granddaughter?, Shani Taragin? Etc.?

    ReplyDelete
  24. As an observer of the "open orthodox" phenomenon and its critics, one thing stands out, although i would put it differently than R. Gordimer did. So far as I know, the open orthodox camp has not a single individual whose opinion on a difficult halachik matter carries any weight --to stay away from politics, let's say in matters of yuch'sin or in medical matters or in the application of new technology to shabbos or in the duties of and restrictions on soldiers in the IDF. Some will object that the determination of whose opinion carries weight is subjective, but one needs to be reasonable --how good an individual is at basketball is also subjective, but no one thinks that high school stars are the equivalent of NBA players. If the open orthodox were following the opinions of one or more rabbis who were already established and recognized in non-political areas (say that one of their rabbis were an outstanding mesader gittin who was consulted by other rabbis, or had published volumes of teshuvos that were widely consulted), it would seem different to me as an outside observer. So without any comment on the legitimacy of the innovations of open orthodoxy themselves (my opinion certainly doesn't carry any weight), it is strange to this observer that they are coming without the seal of approval of any outstanding talmidei chachamim.

    ReplyDelete

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.