web analytics
July 30, 2015 / 14 Av, 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
Stabbing at Gay Parade
6 Stabbed in Jerusalem ‘Gay Pride’ Parade by Haredi Repeat Gay Stabber
Latest Indepth Stories
Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 were likely to be extended beyond Obama's self-imposed deadline.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

Magnanimity by Moshe Dayan, allowing Muslim control of the Temple Mount, led to today’s situation.

More Articles from Editorial Board

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

Mr. Kerry may or may not be genuinely disturbed and troubled by the Iranian leader’s continued belligerence. With the deal completed, that’s not even a matter of concern anymore.

Mr. Silver’s legislation changed the primary date to April 19, which avoids any conflict. And, we are happy to say, he received the support of Republicans in the legislature for changing the date.

The issue of the Chief Rabbinate’s control over conversions and other life-cycle matters has long been a contentious one.

Can adoption agencies limit the placement of children to heterosexual couples only?

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?

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: