Natan, you're wearing me down. I don't have time or energy to be 'outraged' anymore. Maybe I'll take a hiatus and come back later. You are increasingly shocking me with your ignorance. When we started on this endeavor, I believed you to be somewhat learned, if not perhaps a little misguided or mistaken on this particular issue. But your last two posts sound either like you do not understand Torah study at all, or you are just a plain Reformist.

What R' Chaim did was revolutionize Torah learning and encourage scholars to look inwards and understand the text more carefully, rather than create 'pilpulim', 'l'shitasos', and 'ukimtas' to answer complications. While the terminology he used may have been his own innovation, the concept was admired by virtually all the gedolim of his time. The fact that you think that you are even on the same level as them to disagree is astounding. Yes, the Chazon Ish may have disagreed with him from time to time, but he wrote glosses on his sefer, he did not reject the entire method lock, stock, and barrel. And while it is theoretically possible that a Rishon erred, it is a lot more likely that we simply do not understand what they were saying. There are many responsa from the Rambam to the sages of Luniel explaining what he said - sometimes using fine chilukim - and not saying that he erred. The practice of all the poskim throughout the ages is to assume that their predecessors knew what they were talking about, and they did not understand it, rather than rushing to say that they were mistaken. Only in extreme circumstances where it seems that something is blatantly wrong will later authorities disagree with earlier authorities, and even then, with the greatest deference. This is not a Charedi innovation. This is how the Halachic sausage has been made throughout the ages. All Nosei Keilim and Teshuvos strive to understand their predecessors, explain them, qualify them, and on rare occasions disagree with them.

Whether or not one uses 'Brisker' terminology in his learning is not the deciding factor whether one knows how to learn or not. 'Knowing how to learn' can be explained the same way (l'havdil) any other subject matter expert can be trusted in his field, and we would not trust an outsider. A Talmid Chacham is someone who both possesses the raw data of Torah required to arrive at a psak, and is also familiar with the methodologies used by poskim throughout the ages to arrive at such a psak. The same way we would not trust a high school grad anti-vaxxer who opened a few science books but has no clue how to process that data, likewise, is it utterly ridiculous when someone with seemingly no background with the halachic authorities and the methods they use to arrive at their conlusions, opens a Tashbetz and totally goofs. Sorry, but no offense. All R' Chaim did was crystallize this method of deeper understanding and give it terminology and influence future generations to study things on a deeper level.

And the first part of Fozziebear’s comment that you did not quote here (although you wrote there was ‘perfectly stated’) sounded like it came straight from a Reform rabbi. There are clear klalei hora’ah codified in Shulchan Aruch (CM 25:2) and these are how poskim throughout the ages have arrived at halachic rulings. The fact that you feel this, which is the ‘Charedi approach’ (as well as the approach of even non ‘Charedi’ rabbanim such as R’ Herzog, R’ Yosef, R’ Weinberg and R’ Waldenberg) is wrong, is the biggest vindication of what I’ve been saying the whole time.

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Oy. While I am usually an admirer of your blog, your sheer ignorance of who R’ Soloveichik was and what his work was about is stunning. This whole post is so unnecessary and so tangential to your work. Anyone who has ever studied under anyone named Soloveichik knows that the entire effort is only to arrive at the clearest and most direct understanding of the text. Always. Always. That you portray R’ Chaim as some sort of creative intellectual gymnast is so grotesque and inaccurate. The techniques that he used that to you (and to us) appear so dazzling are in fact tools created and used by one of the great minds of history. Einstein, similarly, often spoke of the simplicity and clarity of his work, and it was simple- to him!

The arguments you put forward - that the CI disagreed with ‘some of’ Rabbi Soloveichik’s explanations, and that the Rambam (in sources that RS obviously didn’t have then) corrected himself - are nonsense and harmful because you use these ‘facts’ as a means to diminish RS. Look, you say - Rabbi Soloveichik isn’t so special - look - he was wrong about this, and so and so disagreed with him on this. (There was once someone named Moshe who was criticised, repeatedly, by a critic named Hashem.) it’s just so unnecessarily reductionist.

This is where you go wrong. You do not realize that there are worlds of comprehension and understanding that you (and all of us) haven’t achieved and will probably never achieve - and perhaps cannot achieve. Einstein would marvel at his realization, when he scaled new heights, of the new and much higher plateaus that now became visible, as yet unachieved - and it humbled him. I hate to say this, but if you have any flaw it is in a lack of some level of humility. None of us know ‘how to learn’ like R’ Chaim, or the CI - we can only be ourselves, and do the best we can. So be humble, ignore your detractors and focus on the as yet unrealised levels of accomplishment that you can get to -and I think you will get to - build on what you’ve done, and let that be your legacy.

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Jan 22·edited Jan 22

The funniest part of all of this is that BY FAR the biggest names in the Mod Ox/Mizrachi world stand in direct opposition to Nosson's conentions.

Rav Kook: More influenced by Mysticism the ANY Haredi Rabbi I can think of. (Maybe the Baba Sali). His whole outlook on Zionism and the attitude we should have towards the secular was based heavily on Kabalah.

Rav Moshe Soloveitichik: The eldest son of Rav Chaim Brisker. His style of learning was Brisk.

Rav Yosher Ber Soloveitchik. He literally held that his father Rav Moshe was the true inheritor of the Brisker dynasty. His style of learning was PURE brisk. He was obsessed with the brisker style. That WAS him and that WAS his greatness.

Rav Aahron Lichtenshtien. One of Rav Yosher Bers foremost Talmidim, whos entire style of learning was based off the Brisk mehalach.

Come on mate, you've only got a few big guns in that world, no need to get rid of them as well!

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Jan 22·edited Jan 22

I, for one, understood what you were trying to say.

My issue (upon which this post appears to be based) was with the way you said it and continue to say it. It is quite possible and likely that the Maharal and Reb Chaim did have the right Peshat when they learned Gemara. Obviously, others argue with their approach. I’d love to hear what you have to say. I just don’t understand why you can’t make your points respectfully.

Many Reb Chaim’s have the Chazon Ish printed in the back. Yeshivas routinely learn them side by side and recognize that they had two very different approaches. Often Reb Shimon, Reb Shach and the Ketzos will have equally divergent approaches. Besides, even Reb Chaim only explained the Rambam. Everyone acknowledges Rashi, Ramban, and even Meiri who might interpret the sugya differently. In fact, for those who learn Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch it is obvious that Reb Chaim’s approach usually does not affect the halachic process. Any Brisker will tell you that Reb Chaim was not the Poseik in Brisk. He sent the Shailos to Reb Simcha Zelig Rieger.

You aren’t breaking new ground here. You aren’t the only one who knows that there are approaches outside Reb Chaim and the Maharal.

You are welcome to share your understanding of the Tashbetz. You are unreasonable if you think you are the only one capable enough or open minded enough to understand him.

One anonymous commentator like me is not going to change you, but I genuinely like a lot of your stuff and wish you could write it without the constant put downs and disrespect.

Just one man’s vote.

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Imagine thinking that Rav Yosher Ber Soloveitchik and Rav Aahron Lichtenshtien were just 'making stuff up' The arrogance is outstanding. These are the bastions of Modern Orthodoxy/Mizrachi.

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Wow Nathan, 4 for 4! You must be really mad! First you bit off more than you could chew in the argument with Mecharker about the Tashbetz, and then after whining about how "vicious* he was, you lost the vote 77% to 23%!

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I'm reminded of the Brisker avreich, who was a Kohein, and when it came time for his Maamad in the Beit Hamikdash he refused because it would have made him late for his chaburah in Menachot

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I wish you would make an effort not to steal intellectual property. I've always found it very incongruent with your approach as morally upstanding but also in regards to the vehemence with which you critique haredim for accepting handouts which you have equated to stealing. Intellectual property theft is theft and violates halachah. Even if there is no watermark, you cannot simply take other people's artwork etc. and republish it without permission, which you do quite frequently.

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Just wondering...

1. Why did I get a paywall but friends of mine told me they did not? Are you trying to root me out even though I won the election?

2. It's pretty unprofessional to use a cartoon with a watermark. You couldn't spend a couple extra dollars to remove it?

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The same can be said for academics. Academics may be tremendous experts in "learning" Torah according to the academic method. But whether the academic method is actually the correct way of getting to the truth of what Torah/Mishna/Gemara meant is another matter (hint, it's not). See my response to Fozzie here:


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ואם יאמר האומר שדברי חכמים ז"ל הם מקובלים – אפשר שכן הוא, לא אחלוק עליו, כי אם קבלה הוא נקבל אף על פי שהוא רחוק מן השכל. אבל אם לדין יש תשובה. ובכל מה שאפשר לפרש דברי חכמים ז"ל שלא יחלקו על המפורסם ולקרבן אל השכל – מה טוב ומה נעים.

The above was not written explicitly against the Maharal's approach to aggadah (It is from the Rema's Toras HaOlah, beginning of section 1 chapter 2) but it serves the purpose nonetheless. Interestingly he is introducing a long section in which he explains a peculiar sounding Midrash according to Ptolemaic astronomy. Which does illustrate a problem with reconciling Midrash with contemporary science. The latter changes. Copernicus published his work around the time of Rema's bar mitzvah, but it would not be fully accepted among leading astronomers until a few decades after Rema's death (Gallileo's book that cause the trouble with the church would be published in 1632, 58 years after Rema's death.)

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I have read very little about fanaticism, as a topic of philosophical inquiry. But, what strikes me about many of these comments is the concern that the author is somehow insulting, denigrating, degrading, and minimizing -- and not just subjecting Talmud exegesis to a form of rational critique.

This is actually a tool of the True Believer to defend their movement. You aren't ever just offering a critique - you are instead a boorish, loutish, disgrace for a human being.

I don't know if the author (RNS) did a great job or just an ok job of defending the position he took. But, after reading, I do know it was a reasoned critique. Anathema to the deeply felt feelings of true believers. But, as we all know (and true believers ignore) feelings aren't facts.

Reminds me of when I dared to argue with a guy about climate change. I was trying to bring additional scientific perspectives in to the discussion. He seemed to believe I was transforming in to a white supremacist before his very eyes. Fanaticism, I realized, while fun and passionate and gets your heart rate up, is really a kind of substitute for the more boring idea of contemplation, inquiry, and discourse. I see some of that here, too.

It's interesting to note that Jews have often been accused of throwing cold water on fanaticism (through a deeper exploration - like psychoanalysis, referred to by some as the "Jewish Science") while demonstrating loads of it, when it suits them. Such is life.

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There is more to the story. Slifkin is not really intellectually advanced. That is the real truth. He has knowledge of certain things, yes, but his analysis is subpar. I have seen him ask talmudic questions that are not really questions, and then base his theory on his new way of understanding the Gemorah which was never a problem in the first place.

Part of the problem might be not spending enough time studying the text to understand it properly or not getting help from people that do understand it properly, like asking them his questions and getting answers, not jumping to premature conclusions.

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This recalls an earlier post. Rabbi Sligkin very correctly draws a distinction between discovering and creating meaning, and I think that's the crux in what's considered "learning". https://rationalistjudaism.blogspot.com/2020/08/torah-dogmatism.html.

While Rabbi Slifkin may be terrible in "creating" new meanings in the text in the derech of the yeshiva system, (just look at his contrived pirush in "Camel Hare and Hyrax") he is quite good at examining the context of the original statement, i.e., discovering the original meaning.

See also DF's comment there.

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Although you “quoted” the question about your reverence and unquestioning attitude toward the medical Gedolim (i.e. bureaucratic agencies with political skin in the game who attempted to censor anyone that disagreed with them), you didn’t answer it anywhere in this post.

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