web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



‘We Desperately Need To Get Back To Theology’: An Interview with Rabbi Chaim Miller


Share Button

I’m not saying there’s a consensus in everything. For instance, one of the selichos has a prayer which invokes the angels, which [seems to violate] the fifth principle of faith. I don’t think there’s a consensus in that area.

You write in the appendix of your new book that “[t]oday we understand that [Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereishis] refer to Kabalistic teachings about creation and G-d.” However, Rambam clearly writes that Ma’aseh Merkavah refers to Aristotelian metaphysics. How can you state categorically that we now know it refers to kabbalistic doctrines?

I was writing from a historical perspective. The Rambam was operating in the absence of information. He didn’t have access to the kabbalistic tradition which he thought had been lost.

I’m convinced that if the Rambam would have known about the kabbalistic tradition, he wouldn’t have said that Ma’aseh Merkavah refers to [Aristotelian metaphysics].

But why are you assuming that he would have embraced Kabbalah had he known about it? Great rabbis, Rav Yaakov Emden for example, famously rejected parts of the Kabbalah.

True, Rav Yaakov Emden challenged the authenticity of the Zohar. But again, although the academic world holds that the Zohar was authored by Moshe de Leon in the 13th century, I think it’s universally accepted in the Orthodox world today that Rav Shimon bar Yochai wrote it. If you stood up in a yeshiva anywhere in the world and said the Zohar is a 13th century text, I think they’d kick you out.

You also write in the book that the Guide to the Perplexed is a “highly apologetic” work. Why assume it to be an apologetic work and not a reflection of what the Rambam actually believed?

There are contradictions between the Guide and his other writings. For instance, the Rambam famously says in the Guide that the scientific views espoused by Chazal are not Torah. They are just the science of the time, which is now outdated and you don’t have to accept. That seems to be clearly at odds with his statement in Perek Chelek that denying any part of Chazal is heresy.

Maybe the Rambam meant that one must accept the halachic traditions of Chazal as well as certain key, widely acknowledged aggadic traditions, but that one is free to reject aggadic statements made by individual amoraim as well as the scientific portions of the Talmud. Many Orthodox Jews, certainly in the Modern Orthodox community, believe this.

Maybe in the Modern Orthodox community. To their credit, they’re the only ones who are really thrashing out these issues, trying to get to the bottom of them.

The traditional Orthodox community I think has always shied from theology, which could be partially due to the influence of gedolei yisrael who said you shouldn’t study the Moreh or get too philosophically inclined because you might become a heretic. But while that might’ve worked in the ghettos, I think nowadays we’re involved in the world and if you don’t have a sophisticated understanding of Judaism, and you do have a sophisticated understanding of the world, there’s going to be a tremendous imbalance. I think we desperately need to get back to theology.

Young kids in our communities all over the world are getting disenchanted because Judaism is just a lifeless dogma for them, enforced by social pressure. Social pressure is not enough. We’ve got to have a vibrant Yiddishkeit, and it is vibrant in the books. It’s fascinating, it’s compelling, and it’s what drew me in from a secular background. I think we need to overcome this fear of indulging in theology.

Share Button

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.


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.

No Responses to “‘We Desperately Need To Get Back To Theology’: An Interview with Rabbi Chaim Miller”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israeli soldiers closed off the area near where a terror attack occurred  near Hevron on Passover eve, in search of the terrorists.
Netanyahu: PA Incitement Caused Pre-Passover Terror Attack
Latest Indepth Stories
Lebovic-041814

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Benveniste-041814

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

Dann-041814

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

Not one world leader holds Abbas accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations.

The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty was a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.

Spies who caused American deaths and worked for enemy states received lighter sentences than Pollard.

Christie’s “good friend” is an Imam who supports murderers of Jews and defames Israel and Christians.

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Rabbi Zevulun Charlop

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Zalta with Mickey Mantle in 1990.

With the new baseball season underway, The Jewish Press chatted with Zalta in his Flatbush home about some of his other memories.

Rabbi Hammer recently spoke with The Jewish Press about his new book, Derash Yehonatan: Around the Year with Rav Yehonatan Eybeshitz (Koren), and his work in teaching Torah to secular Israelis.

Halpert doesn’t know why he was fired, and YU apparently won’t explain

There’s also the issue of accusing the Jews of being excessively materialistic and exploitative of non-Jews. You see a lot of that in far-left propaganda – that the Jews are overwhelmingly concentrated in the petty bourgeoisie, which in itself is an archaic class form, and thrives on tricking people and squeezing money out of them through illicit methods of trade.

Recently dubbed “the greatest living figure of chassidic music” by NPR, Shenker still composes several new pieces every year. He is currently recording an album of some of his Haggadah compositions, which he hopes will be out before Pesach.

Schanzer, who holds a doctorate from King’s College London, is currently vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and has testified before Congress on Middle East affairs on several occasions.

We want to hire couples who are going to reach out to singles to become their spiritual leaders and introduce them to someone of the opposite gender because there’s a lot of casual relationships but not nearly enough serious dating going on. This generation – even if they had rebbeim in yeshiva or seminary – they’re not connected anymore. There isn’t really anyone looking out for them at this point.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/we-desperately-need-to-get-back-to-theology-an-interview-with-rabbi-chaim-miller/2009/12/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: