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Diatribe + Monologue = "Dialogue"
A new journal has just appeared, by the name of "Dialogue." Its rabbinic board consists of Rabbi Aharon Feldman from Baltimore, Rabbi Shlomo Miller from Toronto, and Rabbi Moshe Meiselman from Jerusalem. I will be publishing a detailed rejoinder to Rabbi Moshe Meiselman's article, and others will be responding to the other articles. For now, I would like to simply address the editors' preface, which contains some astounding and deeply disturbing statements. The first paragraph raises the question of what need there is for such a publication, and the second paragraph provides the justification:
...this journal hopes to fill a void which exists in the present Torah observant world. There is presently no platform for the intelligent, Torah-oriented discussion of important contemporary issues and ideas by writers who are both steeped in Torah knowledge and committed exclusively to its values.
What?! What about Tradition and Hakirah? The preface continues:
The existing Orthodox magazines are either family magazines which by definition are not dedicated to such serious discussions, or else they are intellectual journals that, in their perspectives and language, seem to be directed exclusively to an academic readership and often espouse opinions which, from a Torah standpoint, are problematic.
I don't think that either Tradition or Hakirah could be said to exclusively address an academic leadership in either their perspective or language. Thus, I assume that they "fail" on the last point. So in the very second paragraph of this new publication, we are told that Tradition and Hakirah - two popular and respected publications in the Orthodox Jewish community - are not "Torah-true" publications. Indeed, this sets an accurate tone for "Dialogue," as the articles in the inaugural issue demonstrate: It is a journal whose primary objective is to discredit and disqualify others.
Later in the preface, we are told the following:
DIALOGUE hopes to be true to its name and will welcome dissenting opinions as well, whether submitted as full articles or as letters to the editor.
That sounds promising - living up to its name, seeking dialogue between those with dissenting opinions. But, lest one receive the wrong impression, the editors immediately clarify matters:
There is one limitation which DIALOGUE will place on itself, the limitation imposed by the verse from Malachi (3:16) whose beginning appears on the masthead: “Then the fearful of God spoke to each other...” This means that the dialogue in this journal will be conversations of yirey Hashem, i.e., those who consider the truths of the Torah and the interpretations given by its teachers throughout the ages until our day to be immutable and fully binding. Its pages will be open to anyone, regardless of which grouping he belongs to, whose ideas are based on these premises, and who are able to present fresh ideas and perspectives for modern-day Jewry.
This paragraph is quite disingenuous. Pay attention to the all-important phrase "the interpretations given by its teachers throughout the ages until our day" - and note especially the last few words. Now, Rav Feldman is well-known for claiming that a view espoused by dozens and dozens of Rishonim and Acharonim - that Chazal were not infallible in scientific matters - can now be termed kefirah, since it has been paskened unacceptable by Rav Elyashiv and other Charedi gedolim. The interpretation of virtually all the Rishonim, many Acharonim and innumerable contemporary Torah scholars on Pesachim 94b must be rejected from Torah-true discourse. In other words, the Torah "interpretations given by its teachers throughout the ages" count for nothing at all - the only thing that counts is that legitimized by the Torah teachers of our day - by which they mean a particularly extreme sub-set of the Charedi world.
Furthermore, claiming that DIALOGUE's standards of Torah-true discourse, by which widespread views of Rishonim and Acharonim can be termed kefirah, and respected Orthodox journals such as Tradition and Hakirah are not considered acceptable, are all simply the standard imposed by the verse from Malachi - peshat in the passuk! - is nothing less than perverse.
We live in an upside-down world, where sexual perverts and predators are honored by the Gedolim's cohorts for publishing sefarim on taharas Yisrael; where the followers of Daf Yomi are given short shrift at its siyum, in favor of those who disdain it; where those crying about the fate of the yeshivah boys in Japan are simultaneously sending more people to prison (I'll be posting about these last two points in due course). But perhaps there is no greater irony than that a journal such as this, built upon a foundation of delegitimizing anything that doesn't fall within its incredibly narrow standards of acceptability, calls itself "Dialogue."