web analytics
June 30, 2015 / 13 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Shafran/Berman Exchange

On several occasions, we have taken Rabbi Saul Berman to task over the distinctively secularist bent of his organization called EDAH, which bills itself as the intellectual engine of
Modern Orthodoxy. Thus, when he convened an EDAH conference two years ago, purportedly to do no less than chart the future course of the Jewish community, it was driven by social scientists of various disciplines, such as political scientists, sociologists and political and social activists. It seemed to us at the time, and we noted so editorially, that the time-honored notion that Judaism was an halachic and rabbinic enterprise, was just not reflected in the agenda or deliberations. In a letter last week in The Jewish Week, responding to Agudah’s Rabbi Avi Shafran’s article on Da’at Torah, Rabbi Berman carried this secularist bent further, but also went well beyond the pale in his remarks.

In his article, Shafran defined Da’at Torah as follows:

What Da’at Torah means, simply, is that those most imbued with Torah knowledge and who have internalized a large degree of the perfection of values and refinement of character that the Torah idealizes, are thereby rendered particularly, indeed, extraordinarily, qualified to offer an
authentic Jewish perspective of matters of import to Jews….”

Shafran then challenged Berman. First he noted that, 
 
At a recent conference, Rabbi Saul Berman, director of the modern Orthodox group EDAH, recounted how encounters with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik had left him with the impression that the elder rabbi made a distinction between religious matters, where “his authority on halacha was binding,” and political or social matters, where they were not.”

He then attempted to link Rabbi Soloveichik, zt”l, considered the religious and intellectual inspiration for Modern Orthodoxy, with the notion of Da’at Torah by referring to some
comments he made:

“The very same priest whose mind was suffused with the holiness of the Torah of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer, of Abaye and Rava, of the Rambam and Ravad, of the Beit Yosef and the Rama, could also discern with the holy spirit the solution to all current political questions, to all worldly matters, to all ongoing current demands.

Not to be trumped, Berman responded:

…Rabbi Shafran quotes a translation of a journalistic report of an impassioned eulogy offered by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik, of blessed memory, at a convention of Agudath Israel of America in 1940, in support of a broad concept of rabbinic authority in non-halachic matters. A few years later, Rabbi Soloveitchik left the anti-Zionist Agudath Israel, and from 1946 until his death in 1993 served as the honorary president of Mizrachi, Religious Zionists of America.

Perhaps his defection from Agudath Israel to Mizrachi was in consequence of his realization that the Da’at Torah of European Agudah leaders, to remain in Europe and to oppose the creation of a Jewish state, was disastrously erroneous.

Perhaps? How dare Rabbi Berman be so free and easy about attributing motives to someone of the stature of Rav Soloveichik? To say nothing about so cavalierly defaming such luminaries as the Brisker Rav and the Chafetz Chaim among others? Moreover, it is well known that Rav Soloveichik venerated the Brisker Rav, who was his grandfather! This reminds us of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s rebuke of Rabbi Berman several years ago in the pages of The Jewish Press following Rabbi Berman’s erroneously attributing certain views to Rav Lichtenstein, favoring certain compromises on the conversion issue in Israel.

Sadly, it also brings to mind the problem of the seeming continuing obsession of Rabbi Shafran to appear in the pages of The Jewish Week. Does he really think that the essentially secular readership of that publication will be swayed by his perforce summary assertions about so profound a concept, which also runs counter to their outlook on life? Does he not realize that
such efforts only invite the kind of unhelpful confrontations such as Rabbi Berman’s?

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Shafran/Berman Exchange”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Pro-Israel Group: Tell Chuck Schumer Not to Cave [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Matan Katzman. regional executive at the StandWithUs

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Flag of Sweden

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Community-Jewels-logo

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

Menachem Zivotofsky sued the U.S. government because the U.S. refused to include "Israel" alongside "Jerusalem" as the place of his birth on his passport. So far the courts have sided with the government.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

PM Netanyahu has pledged the nation won’t rest until the hero Eli Cohen is returned home to Israel

“Palestinian armed groups” & “local authorities” are named in the report; Hamas’ absence stands out

Dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

The families of those slain even publicly forgave the murderer. Charleston was serene and at peace.

Changing plans needn’t be a frustrating experience. Sometimes the new path proves far more rewarding

More Articles from Editorial Board

The court’s finding that the president has exclusive jurisdiction in recognizing foreign countries might have been be apt if the issue at hand were a congressional attempt to grant recognition to “Palestine” as a state.

It wasn’t too long ago that Mr. Erdogan, in his determination to burnish Turkey’s credentials as an Islamist state at the cost of the secularism that had brought much economic and political success to Turkey, upended his country’s decades-long cooperative relationship with Israel.

Does the pope really believe that Father Dehon’s destructive anti-Jewish calumnies do not disqualify him from the highest honor of the Catholic Church because in his time everyone did it?

There was something else of great importance in play – something we would have liked to see him take into account before deciding to stand with the boycotters.

“Let’s get something straight so we don’t kid each other…[the Iranians] already have paved a path to a bomb’s worth of material,” said Mr. Biden. “Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal.”

Beyond the particulars of this tragic death, however, we should all be concerned about the possibility that a criminal prosecution in a major American city is being driven by fear of mobs in the street.

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/the-shafranberman-exchange/2003/05/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: