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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
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Letters To The Editor

Thanks, Fox News
 
   As I sit here in Jerusalem writing, a fierce battle rages in Lebanon as our dear sons fight for the life and safety of the Jewish people in their homeland.
 
   Because Israel doesn’t broadcast news all day, I sometimes turn to the foreign networks. As I sat and watched Fox News reporters describe the war we fight, my heart was warmed in a way it has not been for a very long time.
 
   I want to thank Shepard Smith and Fox’s excellent Jerusalem-based correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, for their thorough, fair, and informative reporting.
 
   I want to thank Sean Hannity for his forthright and stirring defense of Israel in this current crisis. I want to thank Greta Van Sustern for her excellent, sympathetic and fair coverage.
 
   For the first time since the intifada started, I felt I was hearing the truth from the news media. I am grateful to them for leading the way out of the darkness sown in the world by CNN and BBC and The New York Times, who have let us all down time and time again, foisting off liberal editorializing as news reporting and ignoring the inconvenient facts. We are where we are because of their brainwashing propaganda.
 

   All of Israel’s friends should be watching Fox. And we should all be sending our thanks:

   foxreport@foxnews.com (Shepard Smith)

   hannity@foxnews.com (Sean Hannity)

   comments@foxnews.com (general comments)
 

Naomi Ragen

Jerusalem
 

   (Editor’s Note: Ms. Ragen is the author of a number of bestselling novels including The Covenant and The Ghost of Hannah Mendes.)

 
 
Unconscionable Behavior
   In the June 23 Rebbetzin’s Viewpoint column there was a letter from a reader who was going through a difficult divorce situation. The reader described how, because her ex-husband had failed to pay their daughter’s tuition, the child was sent home from school, causing the poor girl untold humiliation on top of everything else that was happening in her life. And this was after the mother had begged the principal to just let her child finish the day and not be humiliated.
 
   Yes, tuition must be paid and schools need to meet all sorts of obligations. But menschlichkeit must come first. There are just too many hair-raising stories of a total lack of compassion on the part of principals and school administrations for poor suffering children caught in a situation not of their making.
 
   We cannot fix the world, but I think one way to possibly curtail this kind of behavior is to publicize the names and schools of those who engage in it.
 

Leora Myers

(Via E-Mail)

 
 
Difficult Questions
   As I took a stroll on Kings Highway last week I felt harassed by Jews for Jesus missionaries. But since we live in a country that allows freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all, what can we do about this nuisance?
 
   After all, I know non-religious Jews who complain about Lubavitchers asking male pedestrians on Kings Highway and other busy streets if they’re Jewish and, if the answer is yes, urging them to stop and put on tefillin. And what about all the store flyers constantly thrust at people out for a leisurely stroll, or Army recruiters who stand outside subway stations? Where do we draw the line?
 
   What some people consider acceptable may be a real annoyance to others, but is it right for frum Jews to spit on representatives of Jews for Jesus, taking their literature and ripping it up in front of them? How, in a democratic society, do we deal with those whose message or tactics anger or annoy us?
 

Gisele Strauch

Brooklyn, NY

    

   

Whither Modern Orthodoxy?

Readers Respond To Rabbi Saul Berman

 

Erudite Overview
 
      Rabbi Saul Berman is to be commended for his erudite overview of the rise and decline of Modern Orthodoxy and the efforts of Edah to counteract that decline (“The Emergence, Role, and Close of Edah,” front-page essay, July 14).
 
      I also wish to thank The Jewish Press for not only running the article but featuring it as the front-page essay. Given the fact that you’ve never hesitated to take issue with elements of Edah’s program, your decision to so prominently feature Rabbi Berman was refreshing, to say the least.
 

Rifkie Kemmelman

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

False Assumptions

 

      Although Rabbi Berman means well, his theories are based on false assumptions. For example, he misunderstands the chumrah approach. The Torah mandates precautionary measures to guard against transgression and offers high praise those who are scrupulous in their mitzvah observance.
 
      Such conscientious observance is codified in halacha as indicated in Berachos 20b, with regard to Birkas Hamazon. In fact, the aforementioned Gemara explicitly affirms that such sincere devotion pleases Hashem. (Of course, each person should follow the guidance of a competent rabbi or posek with respect to the halacha decision-making process.)
 
      I disagree with Rabbi Berman’s belief that the Israeli government should be classified a monarchy according to halacha. Proponents of this view misinterpret the Rambam’s treatise in Hilchos Melachim where he is referring to a religious Jewish government. Rabbi Kook’s theory as explained by Rabbi Berman has no halachic basis. Building the land without a religious purpose is not virtuous. Our ancestors built the land and had a monarchy, but they nonetheless lost the land because they did not comply with the Torah.
 
      Rabbi Berman incorrectly describes Rabbis Jacob Ettinger and Samson Raphael Hirsch as forerunners of Modern Orthodoxy. In my humble opinion, that is a simplistic description. Rabbi Hirsch, unlike modern theologians, did not compromise any of his principles. In fact, he boldly pursued a policy of austritt, secession, in order to preserve the religious integrity of the Orthodox community at that time.
 
      Finally, I do not understand why Rabbi Berman and his colleagues assume they have a monopoly on the ideals of kovod habrios and ahavas Yisroel. It is presumptuous for them to reach that conclusion. Instead of establishing schismatic ideological institutions, it would be better to support our yeshivas and kollels.
 
Chaim Silver
(Via E-Mail)
 

 

No Comparison

 

      I would like to take issue with Rabbi Berman’s favorable comparison of current Modern Orthodox leadership with gedolei haTorah such as Rabbi Yaacov Ettlinger and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.
 
      Rabbi Hirsch, a disciple of Rabbi Ettlinger, took extreme Torah-true and malachi measures to maintain Orthodoxy in trying times. The Reform movement threatened the essence of Yiddishkeit and in an uncompromising fashion Rabbi Hirsch and his small congregation in Frankfurt am Meine remained true to halachic Judaism. He believed that “style” and externals could be changed but did not allow changes in religious law. He regarded Torah as the ultimate purpose of the Jewish people.
 
      To favorably compare modern day organizations and yeshivas such as Edah and Chovevei Torah to the organizations and yeshivas championed by Rabbi Hirsch is a misrepresentation of his legacy.
 
      May Hashem grant each of us the wisdom to become better Torah-true Jews.
 

Martin S. Katzenstein, M.D.

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Authentic Modern Orthodoxy

 

      No doubt authentic Modern Orthodox Jews were very surprised by Rabbi Berman’s article on the closing of Edah. According to Rabbi Berman, to be Modern Orthodox is to be willing to join with non-Orthodox Jews on even the organizational communal level. HaGaon Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, forbade the association of Orthodox rabbanim with non-Orthodox clergy in religious and spiritual endeavors. (The article, in English translation, appears at yuweb.addr.com/archives/v62i9/features/rav.html.) Was he not Modern Orthodox?
 
      According to Rabbi Berman, to be Modern Orthodox is to be believe that public policy decisions are not the exclusive purview of our best and brightest, the gedolim. (This is an unprecedented limitation to Da’as Torah, by the way.) In what Rabbi Lawrence Kaplan labeled “an elegant expression of the Agudah ideology of Daas Torah,” Rav Soloveitchik taught that public policy questions are no less the domain of the gedolim than technical questions of Issur V’Hetter. (“Daas Torah,” by Rabbi Lawrence Kaplan, in Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy, pp. 8-9.) Was he not Modern Orthodox?
 
      According to Rabbi Berman, to be Modern Orthodox is to advocate the expansion of women’s roles in tefillah. Rav Soloveitchik was incontestably opposed to women’s tefillah groups and women’s pseudo-krias haTorah. (Many sources are listed at EineiHaEdah.blogspot.com.) Was he not Modern Orthodox?
 
      Finally, how can Rabbi Berman imply that HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and otherharedi gedolim were lacking in their love for all Jews because they forbade any organizational bonding with non-Orthodox clergy?
 
      I wish Edah’s ideological sympathizers much hatzalacha and bracha as they strive to attain the madreiga (level) of being genuine Modern Orthodox Jews.
 
Eliyahu W. Ferrell
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
      Rabbi Berman Responds: I would like to express my appreciation for the mutual respect reflected in these letters. I will offer brief responses but since space is limited I urge readers to avail themselves of the extensive resources of the Edah website and its Modern Orthodox Library, at www.Edah.org, to uncover Orthodoxy’s rich diversity on the matters my article and these letters raise.
 
      To Chaim Silver I would say the vast majority of Talmudic references caution against p’sak le’chumrah lest they reflect badly on prior generations, discourage correct observance, or represent a failure in intellectual consistency. Conscientious observance is our duty, say Chazal, but they clearly and broadly discourage elaborating restrictions beyond what halacha requires.
 
      Rav Kook’s religious Zionism is consonant with Rambam, Ramban, Ran and most other rishonim, as well as with sugyot in Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi. We are, as individuals and as sub-communities, entitled to privilege the positions of some gedolim over those of others. We are, however, not entitled, just because we personally have chosen to reject the positions of some of those gedolim, to disqualify their positions as illegitimate or to demean them.
 
      To both Chaim Silver and Dr. Martin Katzenstein I would suggest Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s vision of “Torah im derech eretz” is today more fully realized in the Modern Orthodox community than it is in the haredi. His embrace of the secular world – an embrace that at the same time fully preserves the integrity of halacha and Torah thought – explicitly and roundly rejects the impulse to sequester Orthodoxy away from the wisdom, science and culture of non-Jews. Read his writings carefully and you will see even his opposition to Orthodox participation in the overall Jewish community which was then dominated by Reform was strategic, not absolutist.
 
      I found Eliyahu Ferrell’s objections charming but weak. He cherry picks isolated statements of Rav Soloveitchik’s and so misrepresents the true thrust of the Rav’s thinking. First, Rav Soloveitchik presided over the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) for over thirty years during which tenure, with the Rav’s active approval, both the RCA and the Orthodox Union participated as full members of the Synagogue Council of America, an inter-denominational body of synagogue and rabbinic organizations.
 
      Second, after living through the Shoah Rav Soloveitchik left Agudah and joined Mizrachi – and in so doing altered and downgraded his position on the extent to which the community should grant unquestioned authority to the political and social judgments of gedolim. The Rav would, for example, frequently inform his students they were not bound by his public policy conclusions.
 
      Third, Rav Soloveitchik vehemently supported Torah study by women, including Talmudic learning. He himself was reluctant, for various reasons, to approve modification of the standard synagogue practice, but he upheld and respected the privilege of any mara d’atra to adopt halachically permissible practices that would help transmit Torah to his local congregants, including the use of women’s tefillah groups so long as those groups omitted devarim sh’b’kedusha.
 

      In sum, I believe, despite ideological differences, our common Orthodox vision of Torah, our common duty to support all institutions that uphold and spread Torah, our common efforts to enable all of Am Yisrael to understand and live lives filled with Torah – these common threads bind us together with love and respect. That is what Edah has been teaching for close on to ten years now, and it will, with God’s help, forever be true.

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