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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
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Can You Cry ‘Heresy’ in a Crowded Beit Midrash?

Why does a opinion in the Talmud say the last verses in Devarim were not written by Moses? Was it the easiest solution to a very obvious problem?

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If this is what R’ Farber is doing, and I am pretty sure it is, we can say that he has good intentions. We can also say that it deserves a conversation and not to be shot down as heretical immediately. I was particularly upset that the article on Cross-Currents did not articulate the objections to R’ Farber’s statements. Instead quotes were mined and the audience was expected to simply conclude that the statements were heretical. It is symptomatic of a larger problem in orthodox Judaism where reason and debate are stifled. Dogmatic proclamations are very much in style. Well argued responsa died with R’ Moshe Feinstein.

Purely for the sake of honest religious debate, I think that R’ Farber’s approach demands a discussion and not condemnation. But for the social reasons I think there is even more benefit to an inclusive approach. We should not be rooting for a breakaway from orthodoxy by the Left, nor should we even give the appearance of rooting for it. One thing that Yeshiva Chovevei Torah and its community do well, is inclusivity. The times we live in are dark in some ways, but people are more capable than ever before to think on their own and formulate their judgments. I see no benefit to jettisoning an entire group of people and the people who are sympathetic to them because of controversial statements. I am aware that this is a time-honored custom of Jews and religious people everywhere. I just don’t see the utility in it anymore. Our best defense against losing the battle vs. complete secularism is not insularity and narrowing the playing field. Our best defense is the exact opposite.

If we want to have a small narrow-minded cult that ignores the outside world and in turn is ignored by the outisde world we should continue the trend of ousting people and movements from orthodox Judaism. If we want to keep a foothold in the outside world and carry weight and influence in a world that could certainly use some of our wisdom, we need to keep the broadest base possible.

I hope that R’ Farber’s article and the entire theTorah.com website can become a springboard for education and discussion. Inclusivity to the maximum should be our goal.

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Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.

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