web analytics
October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



‘Things Once Taken For Granted Are Now Considered Unacceptable’: A Conversation With Professor Marc B. Shapiro


Marc B. Shapiro

Marc B. Shapiro

Marc B. Shapiro, a Judaic Studies professor at the University of Scranton, is a mine of information and a lightning rod for controversy.

A summa cum laude graduate from Brandeis University and the last person to receive a Ph.D. from the late Harvard Judaic Studies Professor Isadore Twersky (son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik), Shapiro has authored and edited five books and more than 80 articles and book reviews.

His Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 and The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen principles Reappraised were both National Jewish Book Award finalists.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Shapiro about his writings and his views on the Orthodox community.

The Jewish Press: In your opinion, what would Rabbi Weinberg, author of the Seridei Eish and the subject of your first book, think of the Orthodox Jewish community today?

Shapiro: He’d think what a lot of gedolim would think from that generation. They would be very surprised that things they took for granted are now considered unacceptable – that the yeshiva world today in Israel, for example, sees something wrong with earning a living.

I think the frumkeit would surprise them. For example, the turn to glatt kosher as a standard, as well as the number of chumrot. This would surprise them only because part of traditional Judaism is reliance on the gedolim of the past and it’s very unusual for a tradition that regards itself as following the past to reject what previous standards were.

You write that Rabbi Weinberg didn’t support the Agudah. Why was that?

First of all, there are two types of Agudah. There used to be such a thing as a German Agudah, Torah im Derech Eretz. That has been totally demolished. But fundamentally, if you think about the post-World War II Agudah, Rabbi Weinberg was a Zionist and they weren’t.

Also, he believed in autonomy. He couldn’t tolerate the use of the cherem and the lack of ability to think for yourself.

Rabbi Weinberg wrote, “For the members of Agudah, every unimportant rabbi who joins them is considered a great gaon.” Can you elaborate?

Rabbi Weinberg wrote in his private letters that politics in Agudah circles is what makes you a gadol; it’s not how much Torah you have. They determine that Rav Soloveitchik is not a gadol because he’s not in their circle. Rav Elyashiv was never considered a gadol when he was with the [Israeli government] rabbanut.

You have written that at one point you wanted to write a biography of Rabbi Chaim Hirschenson (a posek and rav in Hoboken, N.J., in the early half of the 20th century). Why do you find him such an interesting character?

Rabbi Hirschenson believed there has to be – they didn’t have this term then but it certainly is adequate – a Modern Orthodox approach to halacha. He believed in updating halacha, all within the halachic system.

For example, now it seems almost quaint, but in his day pretty much all the gedolim believed that women couldn’t vote and they all – basically all – believed that women couldn’t be elected. He argued against this.

He showed how the Torah is not opposed to democracy. He spoke about issues of biblical criticism, how to deal with that. His sefer, Malki Bakodesh, deals with all the issues of how to run a country in modern times according to Jewish law. He was the first one to put this on the table. He said we’re going to have a state one day and we’re going to need to run it according to Torah law. Can Torah law work in a modern state and what do we have to do to make it work?

Why did your book The Limits of Orthodox Theology (which demonstrates that great rabbis throughout the ages often disagreed with some of Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith) raise the ire of some in the Orthodox community?

Because they’ve developed a conception that certain views are to be adopted, and you can’t depart from them. And this applies to views regarding secular studies, Zionism, all sorts of issues, and certainly with regard to what’s come to be regarded as ikkarei emunah [principles of faith]. Therefore, anything that shows that matters have not always been so clear, and that there were disputes about these things, is controversial.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


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 “‘Things Once Taken For Granted Are Now Considered Unacceptable’: A Conversation With Professor Marc B. Shapiro

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF soldiers are evacuated to a hospital after a terror attack.
Photo credit: Smiley Hafuch / Rotter.net
ISIS-Linked Terror Attack on IDF From Sinai
Latest Indepth Stories

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Front-Page-102414

While conceding that not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contended that those most likely to subject Israel to relentless and one-sided hectoring could be found with increasing frequency in one particular grouping – that of the political left, with the level of animosity rising exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

Noah and his Family; mixed media collage by Nathan Hilu. Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.

Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

FE_PR_100112_22Learning_CableTV425x282

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

If you remember, in 2006, a Jewish kid in Paris, Ilan Halimi, was abducted, beaten, and held hostage for three weeks… These are the kinds of people attending these Gaza solidarity rallies.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

Formerly an attorney at the prestigious law firm Proskauer Rose for 40 years – six of those years as its chairman – Fagin holds degrees from both Columbia and Harvard Universities. He retired in 2013 to devote more time to the Jewish community.

The message is that Zionism, which used to be great, is today very institutionalized and [consists of a] bunch of people who are just squabbling over titles and budgets.

For Steinsaltz, the Rebbe was no less than “the greatest man I have ever met,” as he writes in the preface to his book.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/things-once-taken-for-granted-are-now-considered-unacceptable-a-conversation-with-professor-marc-b-shapiro/2007/04/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: