Monthly Archives: August 2012

Rabbi Riskin Responds to His Rabbinic Critics

OK- We are not out of the woods yet. The discussion is not over. Rabbi Riskin has just written a 14 page broad response to his Rabbinic critics, which was just posted today. He also has an op-ed in the newspaper.

Riskin completely revises Rav Soloveitchik by saying that he did not oppose dialogue. The essay refers to and relies heavily on much of Eugene Korn’s writings and takes them further, almost Korn vs Rav Schechter. Riskin gives an opening narrative of how he encountered Christians learning about Judaism. He argues that he is not soft on missionaries as shown by his reaction to missionaries in Efrat in the 1980’s. He turns his story to his realization in the second intifada that the only tourists to Israel were Christians with a deep connection to Israel. Riskin argues that in a hostile world of Arabs and the hostile EU, we should pragmatically embrace the Christian Zionists.

Riskin asked Pastor Hagee: Do you want to convert us? Hagee said no! So Riskin takes that as good enough to develop a relation.

Are We Permitted to Teach Torah to Christians? He answers that we can teach then the Noahide laws and that knowledge and love of God, must naturally include theology.

He offers an unsupported novel reading of Rav Soloveitchik, in which he argues that Rav Soloveitchik only banned theological debates but not friendly discussion. If the Rav wanted to give a pesak then he would have written a halakhic pesak instead of a theological essay.

Riskin really slips on the idea of the double confrontation. Rav Soloveitchik did indeed argue for a double confrontation, a universal social confrontation and a particular Jewish confrontation from the Patriarchs. But Riskin defines the particular covenant of Abraham as universalism and reaching out to all people. If some err in one direction by treating Rav Solovietchik as only one confrontation of particularism without the universal confrontation, Riskin in contrast errs in the other direction by treating the particular covenant of the patriarchs (brit avot) as Hagee’s universalism of Abraham. Our particularism is really a universalism. There are many valid universalists in the Jewish tradition such as Shadal, Mendel Hirsch (son of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch), and Seforno, who is cited in numerous places in the essay. But Seforno and Rav Soloveitchik are not in agreement. Rabbi Reines, the founder of Religious Zionism, was a proponent of Seforno’s universalism but that is another path.

Riskin reads the word “confrontation” as if it meant engagement. However, the original 1950’s dichotomy was between dialogue, integration, and embracing as terms of closeness, while confrontation means one is confronting a challenge. For Riskin, Rav Soloveitchik would have allowed dialogue is there is no mission, no debate of articles of faith, and theological compromise. He feels that in his dialogue with Evangelicals fulfills all three criteria.

Riskin concludes with a novel twist of Rabbi S R Hirsch interpretation of “consider the years of many generations” as a need to be sensitive to the changes in history and the Torah should respond to the changes. (Somewhat the opposite of the original.)

The essay concludes “Rav Soloveitchik wants us to communicate what we believe in the secret chambers of our hearts, the differences in our religious commitments. However, as shown in my transcriptions of Rav Soloveitchik lectures, he thought the self could not communicate the depths of the heart, not to parents-children, not to husband-wife, not to friends or students, and certainly not to a different faith commitment.

Is Christian-Jewish Theological Dialogue Permitted? A Postscript to Rav Joseph B. Solovetichik’s article, “Confrontation”

My contention is that Rav Soloveitchik fundamentally permits theological dialogue with Christians, albeit under certain carefully-crafted guidelines, and that, under those guidelines, such dialogue is essential and critical to defending the interests of the Jewish people today.

Missionaries in Efrat: Strong Measures must be taken to Prevent Fraudulent Attempts to Convert Jews to Christianity

In the late 1980’s, the Jewish Agency arranged for 72 families from the Former Soviet Union to come and make their homes in Efrat. Some Messianic Christians missionaries heard about our new arrivals and thought that these people would be easy prey. The missionaries placed copies of the Tanach – the 24 books of the Bible – together with the New Testament in Hebrew and Russian in every mailbox in Efrat; the “Jewish” and Christian Testaments were bound together in one bind, so that the unsuspecting Russian Jews would think they were a single sacred text, with the Gospel as part of the Jewish Bible. The text was published in Hebrew on one side, Russian on the other.

As soon as I heard what had happened, I sent a letter to all the residents of Efrat, instructing them to publicly burn the entire Bible together with the Gospels. This was because the Talmud teaches that a Sefer Torah, (Bible Scroll) which was written by a Jewish heretic or someone who is attempting to cause a Jew to renounce his religion (and anyone who accepts Jesus as a Divinity and/or the Messiah has ipso facto renounced his privileges as a Jew) has to be burned (See Rambam Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 6:8).

Israel Faces Fanatic Moslem Foes and Christian Religious Friends
More and more Christians kept coming to Efrat, expressing love and support for the Jewish State of Israel emphasizing our common heritage of the 24 Books of the Bible and seeking ways to help us socially and politically. I began to understand how crucial their newfound friendship was, given an international climate in which not only the Arab bloc, but also the European Union, the former CIS, more and more South American countries and indeed the United Nations as the “peacekeeping” force in the world, were questioning our legitimacy as a nation.

(For much of what is to follow in this regard, I am deeply indebted to my colleague and partner Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, and his essay “The Man of Faith and Religious Dialogue: Reviewing ‘Confrontation’ After Forty Years,” Modern Judaism, Volume 25, Issue 3).

In Dr. Korn’s words, [Pope Benedict] is an “eschatological supersessionalist.” (I cannot find fault with this position, since I believe that Maimonides teaches in his Laws of Kings 12,1 that in the eschaton, “all of humanity will return to the true religion” – that is, to Judaism, in accordance with the statement of R. Shimon ben Elazar in the Babylonian Talmud (Berachot 57b) and the words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:9). As long as we can respect each other in the fullness of our respective faith commitments without feeling beholden to convert the other, I can well appreciate the faith of each that he has the more perfect revelation, as will be proven by who converts to whom in the eschaton. This is also the position of R. Soloveitchik, as I later explain in this paper.

Nevertheless, since I was just at the cusp of announcing the opening of our Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, I had to ask my question: “Tell me the truth, Pastor Hagee, do you love us because you want to convert us? Do you love us to death?” He flashed one of his signature smiles, amused by the hutzpah, or naivete of my question. “No, Rabbi, I don’t love you because I want to convert you; but neither do I love you purely out of altruistic consideration. I love you because of Genesis 12:3, where the Bible records that ‘God said to Abraham, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I shall curse.’ Rabbi, I want to be blessed, not cursed!”
Pastor Hagee has a ministry which is measured in millions; he is undoubtedly the most successful pastor in our generation. Rabbi Scheinberg reported to me that during the 49 years he has lived in San Antonio, Pastor Hagee had not tried to convert even one Jew to Christianity. Given the overwhelming charisma of Pastor Hagee, this can only be because he truly does not believe that Jews must be converted to Christianity.

Are We Permitted – or Perhaps Even Mandated – to Teach Torah to Christians?
Large numbers of Christians continued to come to our Center; they were, however, less interested in discussing politics or even in Israel’s right to a Jewish State (which they took as an axiom, since the Land of Israel was promised – even guaranteed – to the Jewish people by the Creator of the heavens and earth Himself), and more interested in learning Torah: the Written Law, chiefly the Pentateuch (five books of Moses) in accordance with traditional Jewish commentaries, and the Oral Law, the Talmudic Pharisaic Tradition which had been studied by Jesus. Hence, I had to face a fundamental question: Are Jews permitted to teach Torah to Christians?

From these sources it should be indubitably clear that if we are to teach the Christians the commandments (at least the commandments of Noahide morality, perhaps all the commandments of compassionate righteousness and moral justice) as well as a deeper understanding of God (remember, the Noahide laws do not include faith in God, and Maimonides derives outreach to the Gentiles from the command to “know and love God”), how can we not be speaking to the Christians in theological terms? After all, when one teaches, one must always listen to one’s students, and learn from their responses. Theology means the study of God. Making God known and beloved to the Gentile world is all about theological dialogue!

Rav Soloveitchik’s “Confrontation”
Contrary to what many Orthodox rabbis have maintained, “Confrontation” is not to be seen as a cut and dried halakhic responsum permitting Jewish-Christian dialogue on “universal problems,” which are “economic, social, scientific and ethical,” but categorically forbidding dialogue in areas of “faith, religious law, doctrine and ritual” (Rabbinical Council of America, Mid-Winter Conference, February, 1966). Were that the case, Rabbi Soloveitchik would have written just such a precise halakhic responsum setting down these guidelines replete with Talmudic citations and halakhic precedents, rather than the highly nuanced, theologically rich, and dialectically infused “Confrontation.” Moreover, the very RCA statement of 1966 forbidding discussions of “faith and religious law” concludes (italics are mine – SR), “To repeat, we are ready to discuss universal religious problems. We will resist any attempt to debate our private, individual faith commitment.”

Apparently, how to define “religious” issues is neither simple nor clear-cut. In fact, Rav Soloveitchik defined his philosophical school of thought as that of an “Halakhic Existentialist” – committed to the proposition that halakha deals with the most fundamental existential problems of humanity! Rav Soloveitchik himself often cited in his writings Christian theologians such as Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth and Rudolf Otto (See, for example, the beginnings of “Halakhic Man”) and the first reading that he gave of his “Lonely Man of Faith” essay prior to its publication took place at an Inter-faith Seminar (sic) at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. (See Korn, “The Man of Faith and Religious Dialogue,” Note 8).

Perhaps, what the RCA was really saying in its 1966 statement was that “we resist any attempt to debate our private faith commitment,” whereas “discussion (or dialogue) of universal religious problems” is perfectly permissible. Perhaps, much more in line with the Rav’s thought is the statement adopted by the RCA [and probably written by R. Soloveitchik himself] at its Mid-Winter Conference in Feb ’64, which is appended to the “Confrontation” article in Tradition ’64 and calls for a “harmonious relationship among all faiths” in order to combat the “threat of secularism and materialism and the modern atheistic negation of religion and religious values.” Combating the negation of religion requires, at the very least, basic theological discourse defining “religious” values.

Indeed, it is the covenantal confrontation which defines and directs our national kerygma (mission) towards the universal and the universe: “Through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth,” was God’s charge to Abraham. “But only in this (not in wisdom or strength or wealth) shall be praised the one who is to be praised: be intelligent, and come to know (understand) Me, that I am the Lord who does (acts) of lovingkindness, moral justice and compassionate righteousness on earth (the whole of the earth), for in these do I delight, says God,” was Jeremiah’s message to the Israelites, as well as the citation with which Maimonides concludes his final magnum opus, “The Guide to the Perplexed.”

In other words, Rav Soloveitchik is not against religious dialogue with Christians; that is why this essay is entitled “Confrontation,” and not “Non-Confrontation.” The only thing he insists upon, however, is that the confrontation be in the spirit of religious equality, of mutual respect for the individual faith commitments of each which are not subject to logical debate, or traded compromises in matters of our unique covenantal faith values and rituals.

These are the three things that Rav Soloveitchik was against and these are, likewise, my red lines in dialogue with Christians:

We will never dialogue with Christians if they represent missionary movements, if their avowed or surreptitious purpose is to convert Jews.

We will never debate unique Jewish ritual or faith issues with Christians. We will attempt to share with them unique Jewish points of theology and ritual practice if they wish to better understand them, but we and they must realize that each faith community has religious expressions which transcend rational logical discourse and which are not subject to debate.

We will never enter into dialogue with Christians in which we are expected to compromise our religious values or doctrines in order to be more in consonance with Christianity.

In addition to universal social human concerns, Rav Soloveitchik wants us to communicate what we believe in the secret chambers of our hearts, the differences in our religious commitments. He opposes a debate on these unique issues with the other faith community, but not our teaching of these issues to the other faith community.

This excerpt was less than two pages. Read the rest of the fourteen pages –here.

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Which Jewish group uses Social Media the most to talk about their Judaism?

The article below states that White Evangelicals are using social media more than other Christian groups. So, which Jewish groups are most on Facebook? Who is most on Twitter? Which groups talk about their Judaism most in daily updates? Which group is most likely to fill in their religious affiliation? The actual study had a negative conclusion in that most Americans dont list a religious affiliation or give updates of their religiosity life.  Go check your accounts! Discount those that are active ideologues or program directors. Look at ordinary users. Who posts about their religious life? Better question:Who downloads the most sermons, shiurim, and lectures? Everyone claims their group does. How many synagogues or study groups have an active Facebook page or twitter updates?

 White Evangelicals Use Social Media More Than Other Religious Groups

A recent survey suggests that white evangelical Protestants are “significantly more likely than other major religious groups to use technology for religious purposes.” The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) study also suggests that few Americans use social media to interact with faith communities online, though critics say the survey does not accurately measure online religiosity. Case in point: evangelical dominance of Twitter engagement

.

According to PRRI, about 20 percent of white evangelicals have noted their church attendance on Facebook or other social networks, compared to 6 percent of white mainline Protestants and 2 percent of Catholics. In addition, 25 percent of white evangelicals said they’ve downloaded a sermon online or a podcast compared to less than 10 percent of white mainline Protestants.

Almost half of white evangelicals (49 percent) said that their church uses television screens for worship services, compared to 29 percent of white mainline Protestants. Also, 40 percent of white evangelicals said their church has an active Facebook page or a website where people regularly interact.

Just one-quarter of white evangelicals said they don’t post their beliefs to Facebook, compared to half of survey respondents. 

From here

Besht – Pillar of Prayer

For those looking for something to contemplate in shul for this Elul/Tishrei, I recommend the recent translation of the Amud haTefillah ascribed to the Baal Shem Tov and recently translated by Menachum Kallus as Pillar of Prayer.

Before WWII, Dunner and Wodnik collected every statement attributed to the Besht and published a volume called Besht on the Torah. It is a great teaching tool because all statement on a given topic is collected into one place. Everything on creation is in Bereshit, everything on prayer is in Noah, everything on freeing oneself from inner bondage is in Shemot to Beshalah and everything on Torah study is in VeEthanan. The volumes accept all the material from the school of the Magid of Mezerich and that of the Zlotchover Magid told in the name of the Besht. Both Scholem and Green cautioned that the learned commentary contained too much Galcian, especially Komarno material, which was too Lurianic for their conception of Hasidism. The volumes also do not contain the recent minted statements and stories of the Besht emanating from Rebbe Riyatz. Rather they contain the God-intoxicated aphorisms that were quoted, transmitted and followed in the late 19th century and in the footnotes how they were interpreted in later Hasidism, mainly Komarno.

Kallus recently translated the section in Noah on prayer with a commentary based on that of Wodnik. Read it, learn to pray with ecstasy and focus. This is not neo-hasidism or any of the recent soft repacking of Hasidism for pop psych or new age. This is fierce and demanding as the Greek Orthodox Philokalia or Tibetan Nyngma practice. Everything in the world is about God, or God’s emanted energies. It is not of self, psyche, or human potential. If you do use the sources for teaching, I would recommend softening the often abstract language of the translation and relegating the internal cited sources and parallel texts to footnotes.

The volume was recently reviewed and praised by Micha Odenheimer, Israeli journalist and founder of Tevel BeTzedek to help the unprivileged of Nepal. Micha reports on both Kallus and the sefer. The article is available from Haaretz online, but I also have a pdf of it-page one here p6 odenheimer 1 and page 2 here p7 odenheimer 2

Kallus made a journey from Hungarian Hasidc Brooklyn to practitioner of Lurianic kavvanot via Tibetan texts helps set the volume in its proper context of Komarno Hasidiism and actual meditation practice. As Odenheimer puts it “In this vision, our will, minds and emotions − the totality of our inner selves − can and should be marshaled at all times, and in all situations, in order to serve God by breaking through the illusion of separation and darkness and revealing the ecstatic truth of his unity, which includes and integrates everything…”

How does one raise distracting thoughts that arise during prayer? “through an array of contemplative tactics…” Three of those highlighted in the article are 1) hakhna’ah “surrendering” − by realizing that the content of all thoughts emerge from the divine; 2) havdalah − shifting one’s mind, for example, from desire for earthly pleasure to longing for the divine; and 3) hamtakah – sweetening our thoughts so that they connect with the divine source itself, the fount of all pleasure.

From the review:

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, however, some 140 years after the Baal Shem Tov’s death (the 250th anniversary of his death was marked in 2010 and “Pillar of Prayer” is one product of that commemoration), that two Hasidic scholars from Warsaw, Rabbi Natan Nata Dunner and Rabbi Shimon Mendel Wodnik, began to systematically collect these quotations. They spent 16 years at the task, poring over more than 210 books and manuscripts. By comparing nearly identical teachings, gleaned from sources disparate in geography and lineage, so that one’s versions could not have influenced the other’s, they were able to convincingly demonstrate that these words did in fact authentically reflect the words of the Besht himself. Mysteriously, their work, finished by 1916, was not published in Eastern Europe
until 1938, just as the world began to collapse around Eastern European Jewry. Republished in 1948, in Brooklyn, as “Baal Shem Tov on the Torah,” the implications of the collection were largely ignored by scholars Although the reigning scholarly authority of the past generation, Gershom Scholem, refers to their opus as “the most thorough anthology of all the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov whose value will doubtless be appreciated by any serious investigator of this literature,” almost no academic writing on his teachings, as they appear in the material culled by Dunner and Wodnik, has been published (though important biographical studies of the Besht have appeared ).

Instead, the Baal Shem Tov conveyed faith in the power of each individual to touch, experience, unite with and even influence the divine spheres in order to bring spiritual and material blessing down into the world. He speaks with authority, but also sounds as if he is speaking to equals. The idea that access to mystical knowledge must be democratized if the world is to achieve the spiritual transformation promised in the prophecies of messianic times is the theme of the most famous of the few surviving letters written by the Besht himself. Writing in 1746 to his brother-in-law, who had moved from Podolia, in Ukraine, to the Holy Land, the Baal Shem Tov describes putting his head down on the prayer lectern while leading the Rosh Hashanah services, while, his body inert, his spirit rises through dimensions populated by souls and angels until reaching “the Palace of the Messiah.” As any good Jew would do he greets the Messiah with a question: “When will you come, sir?” The Messiah’s answer startles him. “When your wellsprings flow outwards, and when everyone can do the unifications and soul ascents of which you are capable.”

What emerges from this book is a vision of human consciousness in constant contact with the divine in forms hidden and revealed, fallen and elevated; in darkness and light, majestically enthroned and in continuous process; aspiring to liberation and already redeemed. In this vision, our will, minds and emotions − the totality of our inner selves − can and should be marshaled at all times, and in all situations, in order to serve God by breaking through the illusion of separation and darkness and revealing the ecstatic truth of his unity, which includes and integrates everything, including the material world and our selves and the secret core of all our desires.Exactly because of this potential for goodness and revelation, prayer is almost invariably accompanied by distracting thoughts, as if the dark matter that is a necessary part of the weave of selfhood must inevitably offer resistance. The Besht’s innovation is in seeing opportunity in this dynamic.

Rather than resisting the resistors, the Besht encourages practitioners to follow their distracting thoughts to their roots in the divine. This is accomplished through an array of contemplative tactics: first by hakhna’ah “surrendering” − by realizing that the structure and content of all thoughts emerge from the divine; then by separating (havdalah ) − shifting one’s mind, for example, from desire for earthly pleasure to longing for the divine; and finally, by sweetening our thoughts (hamtakah ), so that they connect with the divine source itself, the fount of all pleasure.

What is practiced intensively in prayer is meant, on some level, for everyday pursuits as well. “The perfect person,” the Baal Shem Tov teaches, “would be able to unite with the Divine Presence in every step she or he takes and through everything such a one does − even in physical acts such as eating or business dealings − in all of them one is able to unify with God’s presence and recognize the Divine origins of one’s occurrences, in a particular way.”

Both the translation and the commentary are also evidence of the potential gains for all of us when a scholar of Jewish mysticism is also learned in other traditions. In this case, it’s Tibetan Buddhism, which has a highly developed language for states of consciousness. Kallus draws upon his knowledge of Buddhism to elucidate terms that are embedded in the intricate cosmological and redemptive structure of Lurianic kabbala and would thus otherwise
be incomprehensible to the lay reader. He can do this only because he knows kabbala so thoroughly − otherwise the risk of inauthentic comparisons and superficial similarities would be great.

Prada, Tznius, and Unintended Irony

Last week I visited a museum exhibit of Prada clothes with my wife. She commented as we faced a row of long dresses with long sleeves and high neck lines: “You can always find something tznius to wear in her fashion lines.”

I look down at the explanation accommodating the case to see:

Prada: Many critics have said that my spring 2000 collection referenced surrealistic fashions. In truth, it referenced …the bourgeoisie, especially those depicted in the films of Buñuel and Antonioni. The entire collection was based on the pretense of propriety, the facade of the bourgeoisie.

Meaning her goal was to play and contradict the “pretense of propriety” of the bourgeoisie. She gave them the propriety they wanted but with hard edges, ugly colors, and ideas pushed to extremes.

Bad taste is part of our culture, ” Prada is quoted as saying,
And City Arts reviewer, Mona Molarsky allows the fact that “Prada’s clothes tend to have a dowdy line that conjures up images of harried housewives, Catholic schoolgirls and disheveled cross-dressers.” It is clear the choices Prada makes are deliberate. What underlies those choices, however, is a dose of condescension uglier than any of the clothes she might design. A nasty choice, I think, for a self-avowed Communist, when the idea of mocking the bourgeoisie is more appealing than teaching or leading.

Ironic Tznius?

Above, Miuccia Prada (born 1949) has a Ph.D. in political science specializing in Marxism and she studied mime for 5 years. Below, more Prada tznius.

Rabbi Hershel Schachter rejects the Common Covenant with Christians.

It seems that Rabbi Hershel Schachter is responding to the recent work of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in interfaith dialogue. Since I reported Rabbi Riskin’s conference here and then again here with the Evangelicals, then this is a response. My post is not a critique, just presenting both sides. Rav Schachter should not be disagreed with. You may want to read the two Riskin posts firsts; they contain positive versions of the points condemed here.

Here we have Rabbi Hershel Schachter rejecting those who seek a combined Jewish-Christian covenant or any Christian claim to the holy land. He rejects making a distinction between idolater and ben noah when Christian. Since as long as the Christians still believe in Jesus, then it does not matter that you are educating them in mizvot. He condemns those who reinterpret Confrontation or say it does not apply today.

What’s interesting here is that the writings of Rav Schachter and Rabbi Riskin are the two basic building blocks of Centrist Orthodox Zionism. Torah centered Religious Zionism

The talk does not differentiate Evangelicals from Catholics. On the current approach of the Church toward Israel, Pope Benedict stated: “The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled,”which may be seen as a theological justification of the return of the Jewish People to Israel – indeed, an acceptance that has placed all previous Catholic denials of Zionism in the shade. They are not locked into the positions of 1902, 1947, or 1967. They recognized the State and sovereignty of the State of Israel in 1992. They do not seek political or sovereign internationalization. On the history of the changes- here, important speech that often gets distorted and quoted out of context, and TV report on the current issues.

Experimental Judaism: Playing with Fire

It is very painful to see that there is missionary activity taking place in Eretz Yisroel. The official Catholic response to the Zionist movement (when it first began) was that this “dream” will never be realized. They argued that Eretz Yisroel is “the chosen land” set aside for “the chosen people”, and the Jews lost their special status as “the chosen people” when they rejected oso ha’ish. The establishment of the medina in 1948 clearly contradicted this claim of the church. To defend their position they “explained” that the medinah did not include the makom Hamikdash, the old city of Jerusalem, or Chevron, i.e. all of the holy locations of ancient Eretz Yisroel, and as such was not considered to be “the chosen land”. Immediately after the 1967 war, when all of these ancient holy areas were also under Jewish control, the pope proclaimed (and every year since then all of the subsequent popes have made the same statement) that Jerusalem should become “an international city.” Because Jewish control of the old city of Jerusalem is a glaring contradiction to the claim of the Church that we have forfeited our status as the am hanivchar, the Church would like control to be taken away from the Jews to defend their theological position. The church feels that their missionary activities in Eretz Yisroel will ultimately lead to the Jews accepting oso ha’ish and once again becoming “the chosen people” who rightfully rule over the holy land.

Every so often newspapers quote non-Jewish ministers claiming that they have “a covenantal connection” with the holy land. This is a repeat of their theological principle that Eretz Yisroel is “the chosen land” for “the chosen nation”, and that after the Jews rejected oso ha’ish they (the Catholics) became “the chosen nation” to whom G-d’s covenant with Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yakkov to give Eretz Yisroel to their descendants applies. How painful it is that some Orthodox rabbis also state that their “brethren” (the Catholics) have “a covenantal connection” to Eretz Yisroel. These rabbis don’t realize that by making such irresponsible statements they are playing into the hands of the avodah zarah.

These same rabbis pride themselves on educating thousands of Catholics every year in the mitzvos of the Torah. The Chumash speaks of our accepting korbanos from non-Jews (Vayikra 23-25), and the halacha speaks of non-Jews volunteering, as an eino metzuveh v’oseh, to observe additional mitzvos over and above the basic seven mitzvos required of all Noachides (see Mishnah Berurah end of siman 304 in the Biur Halacha). However, these rabbis are fundamentally mistaken in their understanding of this halacha.

We may only accept a non-Jew’s sacrifices in the Holy Temple when they are offered la’shomayim. As long as they believe in oso ha’ish and are sacrificing to him, this is outright avodah zarah, and we may not allow these sacrifices to be brought on our mizbeach. If a non-Jew is convinced of monotheism and wears a tallis and sits in a sukkah etc. as an eino metzuveh v’oseh, this is commendable. But if a non-Jew still believes in oso ha’ish and wears a tallis and sits in a sukkah as a means of identifying with that avodah zarah, this does not fall under the category of one volunteering mitzvos as an eino metzuveh v’oseh, but is rather an act of deepening his commitment to his avodah zarah. Woe unto those rabbis who are deepening and furthering avodah zarah commitments and practices.

Years ago Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik warned, both in his public addresses as well in his written essay (“Confrontation”) against having any such contact with the church. How shameful it is that people who claim to be “disciples” of his have “reinterpreted” his words to mean the exact opposite of what they really say, and have then added that even if at one time he did prohibit such interaction with the church, this clearly no longer applies today. To the best of my understanding, moshiach has not yet arrived and the world is still full of avodah zarah!

Achronim had a debate whether believing in the trinity constitutes avodah zarah for a Noachide or not; but for Jews there is no question that it is avodah zarah! And even for bnai Noach, Rav Solovetichik quoted in the name of his grandfather Rav Chaim that this understanding of the Remah and Shach was a shegagah she’yatz’ah milifnei hashalit and it makes no sense to distinguish between the definition of avodah zarah for a Jew and for a ben Noach.

The human desire to be mechadesh (to act as an original thinker) has misled these rabbis in Eretz Yisroel to play into the hands of avodah zarah and shemad. The words of this week’s parsha stand out clearly to teach us that in Eretz Yisroel we are required to be even more careful when dealing with the church. Time and time again the Torah warns us that in Eretz Yisroel we must not get involved with avodah zarah. Officially Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the King over Eretz Yisroel (see Mordechai to Gittin #401), and the midrashim refer to all of Eretz Yisroel as the “palace of the King”. The Ramban (end of Acharei Mos) explains that the main location for observance of all of the mitzvos is Eretz Yisroel, and one who sins there is compared to one who rebels against a king’s authority in his palace, which is a more brazen sin than sinning elsewhere(see Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #454).

Apparently the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel arouses strong feelings of spirituality that one must take care to channel properly. These strong feelings can mislead even the wise to get carried away by their imagination and their desire to be original thinkers, and in turn to strengthen avodah zarah and shemad. Some rabbis have gained credibility by claiming to be disciples of Rav Soloveitchik, and then have proceeded to totally misrepresent his views on these issues of avodah zarah and shemad.
Original Here

While we are on the topic, last year YUTORAH posted a talk from 2002 where a different YU Rosh Yeshiva explained how when we see something positive in Christianity we should remember that these are the people that killed your great-grandfather, they are the ones personally responsible for the crusades, Inquisition, and Holocaust. He encouraged the contemporary saying of “shaketz teshaktzenu, ta’ev teta’avenu, “You shall surely abominate and abhor it, when passing a Church. (minute 48 to end).

Yoram Hazony-The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture part I- review of Stephen Frug

Yoram Hazony has a new book out called The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture and it is an interesting mixture of things. (1) An argument to include the Bible in the Political Philosophy canon (2) Readings of Biblical stories as political wisdom focusing on action centered pragmatic thinking (3) A vision of Judaism focusing on the Biblical text and his reading of it. I will review his book in future weeks, I am still working out my personal thoughts. I also have in the pipeline thoughts on Arthur Green’s new book and Peter Schafer’s book.) In addition, Hazony recently spoke for three lectures at Davar in Teaneck, so I heard how these ideas sound in person. My review will come later, in the meantime Stephen Saperstein Frug, Visiting Assistant Professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges published a 10k review on his blog- feel free to read the other 8.5k on his blog. Frug, a self-professed atheist and non-reader of Hebrew lets us start the discussion and deal with some of the philosophic issues before we get to the specifically Jewish ones.

Frug notes that Hazony (1) equates reason and philosophy (2) He approaches philosophy partly as a national endeavor, almost 19th century volkgeist, and not an academic or individual one; there is a Jewish national project at stake.
For Frug, Hazony offers rich new readings of the Bible but is it a neglected work in the history of philosophy? (4) if it was neglected then it is not part of the history of philosophy. (5) The Bible is not philosophy in that it is not part of the philosophic conversation and does not offer philosophic arguments. It is more literary than philosophic. (6) Hazony showed that the Bible has philosophic ideas but he did not prove that we should take them seriously; he just assumes it. (7) Hazony does not show awareness of the nuances of contemporary philosophic debates. (8) Since the Bible is chosen as an important text not because it can offer better answers than Wittenstein or Habermas, then the choice is national -religious, bringing religion back through the rear-door.(9)All philosophy is always recast and molded by the later conversation. No one takes the writings of Plato or Hobbs in their entirely. People say this line we take but reject another, this line is outdated, this line is just wrong. Does he really want the Bible subject to such secular reason?

Frug on Hazony (excerpts)

Hazony writes in chapter two:

In this book, I propose that if we want to understand the ideas the Hebrew Scriptures were written to advance, we should read these texts much as we read the writings of Plato or Hobbes — as works of reason or philosophy, composed to assist individuals and nations looking to discover the true and the good in accordance with man’s natural abilities. I don’t mean that this is the only way to read these texts. Nor do I believe that the understanding that emerges from such readings has to give us the final picture of the biblical authors’ worldview. But… I believe that in reading the Hebrew Scriptures as works of reason or philosophy, we come much closer to the teachings of the biblical authors meant to place before us than we do if we assume these works were composed as reports of “revelation” — of knowledge obtained by means of a series of miracles.

Hazony’s text divides into two major parts, the first outlining how one would read the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Tanakh as I will call it here,* — what it means, for example, to read as philosophy a book that is composed primarily of narratives, prophetical orations and legal codes. The second part then offers readings of the philosophical stance of the Tanakh in five areas: ethics, political philosophy, epistemology (focusing entirely on the book of Jeremiah), the nature of truth, and the nature of reason and revelation.

First, note that Hazony’s paradigms –in the root sense of archetypal cases which are the purest and best examples of a phenomenon — for philosophy are Plato and Hobbes. And much of the surrounding vocabulary reflects this emphasis — in particular his repeated pairing of reason and philosophy as if they were all but synonymous, and his thumbnailing of the purpose of philosophy as works “composed to assist individuals and nations looking to discover the true and the good in accordance with man’s natural abilities”. This is a decidedly old-fashioned sense of what philosophy is and what it does. (Replace “Plato and Hobbes” with “Wittgenstein and Heidegger”, or “Kripke and Derrida”, and you get a very different sense of what to expect from philosophy). In a work that sets out to say what the Tanakh’s philosophy is, the fact that Hazony has a very particular, and in many ways a very dated, idea of what this thing called “philosophy” is is of some import.

A second feature to note about Hazony’s statement of purpose is one that is slipped in in a single word. Read again Hazony’s statement summing up “works of reason or philosophy” as ones which are “composed to assist individuals and nations looking to discover the true and the good in accordance with man’s natural abilities”.For him, Zionism is not merely about a simple desire to provide a refuge for Jews threatened with antisemitism, nor the creation of a place where Jewish culture (religious or secular or both) can flourish, let alone the ethnic colonialism that Zionism’s opponents see it as. Rather, he sees nations as concrete entities, much in the way that (say) Marx saw classes. They are unified; they have agency; they do things. As with Hazony’s view of philosophy, this too strikes me as a very old-fashioned view (albeit one that is still prominent in some circles), in this case a sort of Nineteenth-Century (ethnic) nationalism. Unlike Hazony’s view of philosophy, I find this particular idea far less defensible (which is not to say, of course, that defenses might not be interesting or illuminating). Hazony is a Jewish patriot (not quite the same thing as being an Israeli patriot), and I think one of his purposes in this book is to forward that cause.

Does Hazony succeed in his purposes? Are his arguments successful?

Hazony’s readings of the bible are, I think, quite convincing. His readings are very careful not to reduce figures to a clunky allegory, but to understand them as symbols while retaining their narrative and individual complexity. He is particularly good at drawing together separate strands of biblical narrative, showing how later ones complicate, shade and revise earlier ones — and vice-versa. As I will get into later, I would call these readings “literary” rather than “philosophical”, but whatever they are, they’re good. He makes the text richer, makes one wish to return to it while at the same time shaping one’s view of it. To the extent that Hazony is indeed trying to write a “How to read the Bible” book, he has succeeded magnificently.

First, does Hazony make his case that the Tanakh is a neglected work in the history of philosophy? Second, is in fact accurate to say that the method of reading that Hazony proposes (and demonstrates) amounts to reading the Tanakh as philosophy? And third, does Hazony make the case that the Tanakh is philosophically relevant for us, now — that it has valuable contributions to make to contemporary philosophy?

Hazony seems to be claiming both that the philosophical tradition has been unjustly ignoring the bible’s intellectual contributions, and that the bible’s intellectual contributions have been omitted from the standard histories of philosophy. But of course if the bible’s views have indeed been overlooked — then they haven’t made contributions to the history of philosophy as it actually happened.Here is where Hazony’s conflation of a work’s importance in the history of philosophy with a work’s current (or abstract) philosophical value tells. It’s quite possible to say that an important work was ignored — so that, while it had (and has) current (and abstract) value, that value wasn’t actually incorporated into the philosophical conversation.

And part of that is that he succeeds in demonstrating that the Tanakh has substantive philosophical positions on issues such as the role of the state, ethics, epistemology and the nature of truth. I am less sure, however, that that is adequate to qualify the work as philosophy. This is a tricky issue — as Stanley Cavell has noted, the question of what counts as philosophy is itself a philosophical question — but I think that the Tanakh, even granting Hazony’s readings of it, does not qualify as philosophy on at least two counts (or perhaps I should say in two senses), one minor, and one more central.

The minor one is simply that one might argue that an essential aspect for a work’s being philosophy is that it is engaged in the ongoing conversation that has made up philosophy since Plato, if not before. There are various versions of this idea — that philosophy is best understood as a conversation, or a series of texts, rather than actual issues –
Which leads me to my major concern, which is that while I think Hazony quite clearly shows that the Tanakh takes philosophical stances, I don’t think that Hazony succeeds in showing that the Tankah makes arguments. And insofar as the reasoned argument is central to what philosophy is, this is a disqualifying problem.

Now, it’s not the case that reasoned argument is all that philosophy is. Philosophers have always relied upon stories and fables to make points — Plato’s cave, Descartes’s demon, Nietzsche’s madman and Wittgenstein’s society of builders all come to mind. Most if not all of the fables cited above, for instance, are made in order to explain or advance arguments in which they appear. Whether a work that is, overwhelmingly, non-argumentative can be philosophy strikes me as questionable.

Related to this point, I’m somewhat unsure about Hazony’s own familiarity with contemporary philosophy. It’s far from nonexistent — he cites a bunch of contemporary philosophy, and seems fluent with it. Certainly he seems to know as much about it as, say, I do. For example, Hazony contrasts the biblical view of truth with the correspondence theory of truth, and with the coherence view of truth — two standards, two be sure. But there’s been a lot of recent work in this area, and how Hazony’s arguments would stand up for someone familiar with it I simply don’t know. I myself kept thinking of pragmatist views of truth, as I noted above; and an expert might contrast the (rather varying!) views of Peirce, James and Dewey with those of modern pragmatists such as Putnam and Haack. (And that’s just the neighborhood I live in; there are lots of others that I don’t know, and it seems Hazony doesn’t know either.)

But this, of course, raises the question: why should we take these views seriously?

This is an issue that Hazony does not actually address. He seems to take it for granted that the views ought to be taken seriously.. he doesn’t really try to argue that it’s a powerful and important voice in contemporary philosophy. He just assumes it.

There is a subtle sort of circular reasoning at work here. Remember that what Hazony is trying to do is establish the Tanakh as a worthy and interesting work of reason, apart from its role as a religious text (that is, apart from the question of its revelatory status if any, apart from its historical role in the development of Judaism and subsequent religions, etc.) But his ultimate argument for taking it seriously depends on the esteem in which we hold the Bible, which is entirely dependent upon those factors which Hazony is trying to sidestep. We are back, in other words, on the grounds of revelation — not reason.
I suspect — that Hazony seeks to argue for the importance of the Tanakh as philosophy not simply for its own sake… but also for reasons connected to his Jewish nationalism:

Which leads us to the final issue, namely, to the reason why Hazony himself — might themselves not even want the Bible taken seriously in the realm of contemporary philosophy: that if it were to be so taken, it would not be taken whole.
ut nobody these days is simply a platonist or a hobesian, full stop. Philosophers take parts of any given view with only minor revisions, take others with substantial ones, and fully dismiss yet other parts. Of course, what people accept differs from case to case (on both ends).
Are people who take the bible seriously as a religious text — really willing to see the philosophy of the Bible chopped up, accepted in part, discarded in part, updated, and generally disassembled in this way? To have it be routine that thinkers say such things as “the Bible has views on epistemology but they have been updated and improved,” or “the major work in the Tanakh stakes out a particular political philosophy which is now commonly accepted as untennable”. But are religious people really willing to go there? Because even if Hazony, personally, is (and from what I know of him I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was), I doubt that most are.

Herbert Loewe on British Orthodoxy 1915

Herbert Loewe (1882–1940) was a noted scholar of Semitic languages and Jewish culture. Loewe was a graduate of Cambridge, then for most of his life he was a lecturer at Oxford from 1913, In 1931 he accepted an academic position at Cambridge. In addition, he served as Orthodox Jewish adviser at Oxford and had a University following that was similar in outlook to many aspects of the American Yavnah movement of the 1960’s.

He was one of the very few visible Jews teaching in Oxford and on return from war service in India in 1920, he made his house an open house for undergraduate Jewish students on the Sabbath and festivals. Sir Basil Henriques, QC, the famous Jewish social worker and founder of youth clubs, was instrumental in bringing him from Cambridge to Oxford to encourage young men in Judaism and Hebrew, at a very low point in Jewish life in the University. Loewe was noted both for his religious observance and tolerance and he conducted services that were inclusive as far as possible of the different Jewish traditions, as he made a point of including ‘English prayer’ to accommodate the Reformed and Liberal traditions. It may be that Loewe influenced Oxford Synagogue’s later celebrated accommodation of multiple traditions under one roof. – from here.

In 1915, he wrote a small book THE ORTHODOX POSITION that was to be start of a series to deal with contemporary issues. Below are some excerpts, the link has the full text. He argues for a self-evident theism and universal morality that needs Jewish ceremonies to make the ideals concrete. Why keep the ceremonies? They are Divine Will as known through rabbinic apostolic succession and because they consecrate life. His presentation of mizvot is aesthetic and ceremonial in a very British way comparing the Jewish ceremonial rules to British coronations or holiday plum pudding.

Loewe acknowledges that many dont live up to the mandated rituals, but laxity is a private matter. The synagogue as high church transcends the individual. One should not make one’s failings and adjustments to the modern age into changes to the tradition. He says that if you think the ceremonies are obsolete and harmful, that is only your opinion and should not effect the tradition itself. Throughout he appeals to individual conscience and does not seek to be engage in polemics or condemnation of other positions. Loewe avoids the ideological polemics of German Jewry between orthodoxy and reform. Throughout the tract he remains, as a good Victorian Anglican, an advocate of High Church about the Jewish ceremonies combined with a need to follow one’s conscience.

His work also is a fertile text for social historians, in that he documents the widespread British acceptance of carrying on the Sabbath, of playing golf and bicycling, and of taking transportation to see theatrical performances. (For a discussion of British observance that stops in 1850’s see Steven Singer, “Jewish Religious Thought in Early Victorian London.” AJS Review 10:2 (Autumn 1985).

For those interested, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies has an online exhibit on the Loewe family. Some highlights include sermons, pictures, a booklet he wrote in India as part of the Jewish War Services, and his wife’s diary of their time in the Middle East and India.

ESSAYS ON PROBLEMS IN JEWISH ORTHODOXY: PREFACE TO THE SERIES.

IN the fateful three years of academic life, most of us subject our religious beliefs and experiences to the same stringent investigation that we apply to other phases of human existence. We seek to discover what relation religious truths bear to the general body of truth, some branch of which our secular studies are striving to elucidate. Confronted with difficulties, we turn to our ecclesiastical authorities and look for guidance. Like Elihu we expect that ” Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” But hitherto our Rabbis and teachers in England generally have refrained from issuing any pronouncements. ”

Behold, we waited for their words, they spake not.” To take one striking illustration : the only orthodox contributions to Higher Critical study have been Mr. Wiener’s works, and Mr. Wiener is neither a Rabbi nor a teacher at a Jewish seminary, he is a layman. We wait in vain for some “official” guidance. We cannot nor do we wish to ignore modern difficulties, and we venture to hope that our efforts to arrive at conclusions compatible with our faith, to reconcile our orthodox position with facts and truths that seem to controvert that position, may perhaps be of use to others.
There is another reason, besides humility, that prompts us to write, and that is pride. In Cambridge we are far removed from strife. Questions of orthodoxy and reform that agitate Jewry elsewhere, have aroused our keen interest and discussion, but have stirred no bitterness among us. We may fairly claim to have achieved union without uniformity, and to have built up Jewish tradition without persecution

It will be our endeavour to keep these pamphlets free from the acrimony and uselessness of polemics, and we shall confine ourselves to the defense and justification of orthodoxy. It is not our purpose to attack the opinions of our Reform brothers. A statement of the orthodox attitude to various topics will be our aim. How far we succeed or fail either to convince or to remain faithful to these guiding principles, is a strictly personal matter.

THE ORTHODOX POSITION

When we examine the basis of our religious beliefs, we find ourselves at the outset dividing the whole field of inquiry into two parts. The former is of a general nature ” Why do we believe in God and revelation ? ” ; the second, which follows logically, is ” Why, admitting our belief in God and revelation, do we follow that particular form known as Orthodox Judaism ? ”

What we are asking ourselves is, why do we observe the Ceremonial Law The question that presents itself is obvious. ” If it is conceded that Christianity and Theism have the same moral teaching as Judaism, why should I be a Jew when it is so much easier to be a Christian ? I do not merely mean easier in the crude sense of the absence of the physical sacrifices demanded by the Torah, but easier also because, from the point of view of humanity, surely uniformity is preferable to diversity.”

Speaking generally, we certainly do not maintain that Jewish ” morality ” allowing for the moment the possibility of a special ” Jewish ” morality is superior to ” Christian ” morality. But in various aspects of life we claim for Judaism a different and, we believe, a better point of view. Thus we do not share the Christian belief that this world is evil ; we do not hold that the family tie impedes a man’s approximation to God or vitiates his ability to serve his Maker with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his might.

The reason why we remain Jews is because we believe that pure Theism, without that additional matter which makes it Judaism, is too colourless, too weak to influence men’s lives and actions, unequal to survive except perhaps among a few supermen whose strength of character is capable of making them impervious to their surroundings, who are self-sufficient, and who are able to dispense with all the aids to morality that the Mitzvoth provide. Theism teaches the transcendence, Judaism supplies the immanence. Judaism can appeal to every man, Theism only to the scholar and saint, for man cannot live by dogma alone. Further, Theism overlooks the essential fact that man is human. We cannot expect him to continue in the path of virtue fortified merely by general principles and vague rules of conduct. He needs the warmth of ceremonial.

Further, it will be agreed, much, if not all that has been said up to now could apply equally to Liberal Judaism, with possible reservations. We do not wish to base our faith on negative foundations. We do not believe in Judaism because Christianity is untrue.

What, then, is the value of the whole body of practice that belongs to Orthodox Judaism ? Why is it necessary to keep these observances, many of which seem so trivial ? The answer is twofold. We believe that these are divine ordinances, and that they represent the will of God, for Rabbinic interpretation also partakes, in a way, of the nature of ” apostolic succession,” being in strict spiritual and logical continuity with the past; and, further, that the observance of these ceremonies is essential to build up the Jewish life.

Far more ” faith-disturbing,” so to speak, to some of our brethren, are certain of the Mitzvoth which ought, they consider, to be superseded. It has been said that the Almighty does not take pleasure in them, no longer commands their practice, that they are at best, obsolete ; at worst, superstitions and impediments. ” What is the good of wearing Tsitzith ? What is the harm in eating shrimps ? ”

Well, Orthodox Judaism regards all these things as divinely ordained, as necessary, and as irremovable.
Nor had our teachers any material interests for the sake of which they might have been tempted to suppress the truth.. Every age has brought fresh questions for Judaism to face, it has had to adjust itself to every new scientific discovery. That our Rabbis men of learning and probity should regularly have maintained that there is a moral value in not eating shrimps and in wearing Tsitzith, is a convincing argument that we are not acting blindly, nor without due reflection.

The next answer is that all these Mitzvoth are necessary to establish and maintain Jewish life in its perfection. Every secular act of the Orthodox Jew is invested with some reminder, some association with religion in order to consecrate his whole life.

The year is a series of events, as artistically perfect as a Wagnerian cycle. Take, for example,the period from the first solemn call to repentance on the Sabbath eve, when the penitential season opens, until, after Sukkoth, the gaiety dies away peacefully on Sabbath Bereshith, a sober prelude to the coming of winter. In this period how wonderfully does each day fit into the general scheme, how the note of penitence rises in intensity until the consciousness of full pardon is reached in the grand diapason of Kippur, how the relief from the burden of sin gives way to rejoicing, until Tabernacles ends in the merry-making of Simchath Torah and the lengthening evenings invite us to recommence our study of the Law. Just as each sentiment, during these great days has its musical ” Leitmotif ” its canonical colour, so to speak so is the whole range of human feeling covered by the complex body of customs, precepts, prayers and poems which make up what we call the Jewish Life.

Possibly the most misunderstood of all our ordinances are those which regulate carrying and travelling on Sabbath. It seems a little thing to ride on a tram, to carry a parcel, or to make an Erub. Yet what is the object of all these rules? Simply and solely to prevent travel and keep people in their houses. Sabbath is the home festival, it is the strength and glorification of home life, home worship and home rest. Jews are to stay at home and thus create a love of home. Theatre-going, golfing, cycling and sight-seeing, harmless and even desirable though they be, are alien to the Sabbath spirit. If the “fence” is broken in the slightest degree, the Sabbath is entirely destroyed. The moment that ‘bus riding is tolerated, golfing is possible, and the whole Sabbath spirit is changed; it becomes something absolutely different

When then our dinim and minhagim go back, some of them, to the earliest dawn of history, shall we let them lapse while remaining faithful to others of modern date that we have adopted in England ? Shall we then go to the stake for ceremonies like the Lord Mayor’s show, or the picturesque but alas ! expensive function of taking a Degree, or the gorgeous displays of a Coronation, the peculiar customs of a regiment or a College, and at the same time be indifferent to our own usages, immeasurably older and more precious ?… Is a Christmas tree more significant, more elevating more interesting archaeologically or historically than a Hanuca lamp? Are ” Haman’s ears” less tasty than plum pudding?
We may have, some of us, our private “laxities,” but we have no right to “pasken” for others: our own faults are our affair.

” But what about an orthodox Jew who breaks the Law ? ” Every individual is free in his actions, for which he has to render account. But this account is a private affair in which no one has any call to interfere. Unless a Jew has publicly abjured his faith by embracing another religion, no one has the right to assume that he may not have repented for any former breach of the Law. To cast the first stone is no Jewish practice.
If then, a man breaks the Law, it is his business; but it is quite a different matter for an individual to declare that he regards the Law as obsolete, and therefore sees no harm in violating it. By so doing the Law disappears, and with its disappearance the unity and continuity of Judaism is destroyed.

” Ought I then to teach my son that which I myself do not observe, nay that which I believe to be obsolete and even harmful ?… If we are ” slack,” it is our own business, but we have no right to lead others astray. This is not hypocrisy, it is the “respect which vice pays to virtue.” Naturally, we do not like to admit ourselves wrong. It is more satisfying to our self-respect to say ” I do not believe in it,” rather than ” I ought to do it, but I am afraid I don’t ” ; the latter answer shews at any rate, that the speaker is not ashamed of his convictions. No one is morally entitled to call us hypocrites because we try to hand on Judaism unimpaired, irrespective of our own personal fidelity. We cannot take upon ourselves the responsibility of stereotyping our idiosyncracies, of committing the future irrevocably to the passing vagaries of the present…As custodians of a sacred legacy, we may only invest in “Trustee Stock,” even if we feel dissatisfied with the low rate of interest.

That Orthodox Judaism is beset with many problems no one will deny. They are designed to test our faith and to make us examine our beliefs. It is for each man to choose for himself what course he honestly feels to be right. We do not seek to force our views on others. Those who conscientiously differ from us are, in the highest sense, entitled to our respect and regard. But we speak for ourselves.
Read the Rest Here