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Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Judaism’

Intermarried Rabbis

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

I am not one to criticize the Reform Movement. Not because I think they are beyond criticism. But because they are so out of my orbit of mandatory ritual – that any criticism from me would be entirely meaningless to a movement that doesn’t mandate it. They do not believe in the binding nature of Halacha. And until recent times they rejected virtually all ritual – claiming only the ethos of Judaism to be valid.

In recent times they have done a 180 with respect to the ritual observance. They finally realized that avoiding all ritual left them bereft of any Jewish identity.

Nonetheless there is a debate in Reform between liberal factions who want to stick with the old tradition of rejecting all ritual (How ironic is that! …sticking to a tradition?!) and a newer breed of rabbis on the right of the Reform Movement who want to re-embrace ritual albeit on a voluntary basis. That seems to be taking hold to a certain degree.

Some Reform Jews are indeed beginning to observe Jewish rituals. When ritual becomes voluntary, it becomes easier to observe. There is no sense of responsibility or guilt if it is not done. This is why the Talmud teaches us that a metzuveh v’oseh (a person who is commanded to perform a ritual and complies by doing it) is greater than an eino metzuveh v’oseh (A person who is not commanded to do the Mitzvah but does it anyway). The metzuvah v’oseh feels the “strain” of obligation on his shoulders. The eino metzuveh v’oseh does not.

In this way a Reform Jew can pick and choose which ritual seems more meaningful to them and reject those that aren’t. Either way there is no sense of obligation, burden, or guilt attached.

Where it was once taboo, Reform rabbis can now be found wearing a kipa on their heads. Hebrew has been reintroduced into their prayer services. Torah is talked about more frequently and its study encouraged. In short there are more than a few elements of ritual that are being promoted by Reform rabbis and accepted by Reform Jews.

I have always felt that this was a positive development. Mitoch shelo l’shma bah l’shma. The more Mitzvos one does that are meaningful to them even if they only considered voluntary, the closer they become to being truly observant. Former Reform Movement head, Rabbi Eric Yoffie is of the newer breed of Reform rabbis that encourages mitzvah observance. This is how he raised his children. If I recall correctly one or more of his children are now Orthodox. And he is quite proud of them.

But all is not rosy. There is a pull in the other direction… all with good intentions. It is a pull based on sensitivities to others. The motivation is noble. But their innovations based on them are tragic. Redefining “who is a Jew” to include people of patrilineal descent (those born of a Jewish father and a non Jewish mother) is one such innovation. It increases their numbers but not with Halachicly definable Jews- which include only those born of a Jewish mother or sincere Halachic converts.

The latest such innovation is a move generated by Reform Rabbi Ellen Lippmann. She is “married” to a non Jewish woman who terms herself a “permanently lapsed Irish Catholic.” In an open letter published in the Forward she urges that their rabbinical seminary (The Hebrew Union College – HUC) policy barring intermarried students from entering their rabbinate be changed. It is not enough, she says, that intermarried couples be accepted into their temples. It should be reflected in the policies of their schools as well. While there is still resistance by some of their leadership, it seems like their future includes intermarried rabbis.

How absurd this is. It follows a trend that began with ordaining women; to ordaining GLBTs (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender people) and is now trending toward ordaining intermarried couples. Like I said, I am in no position to dictate policy to a movement in Judaism that is non-Halachic. But it is the height of folly to be going in this direction.

Why, I would ask, stop there? If Reform Judaism is to be true to its ideals of ecumenism and an ethos free of prejudice, why not let a non-Jew become a rabbi? As long as they renounce the divinity of Jesus why bar them? That would be discriminatory! Non-Jews can be trained in pastoral duties. They could counsel Jews just as easily as non-Jews. Let them be educated at their rabbinic seminary. There are some pretty talented non-Jews out there that can be very spiritual and trained in Judaism’s ethos. These non Jewish Reform rabbis would not after all be required to do any mitzvos since even Jewish Reform rabbis aren’t.

This is of course ridiculous and they would never do this. But as absurd as this is, the argument is valid. Furthermore if ritual observance is voluntary, why not just drop the whole charade and just call anyone with an ethical perspective on life a Reform Jew? The only caveat (for the moment) being that they reject the divinity of Jesus. Once they do that – they can be called a Jew if they live an ethical lifestyle. Why stop with patrilineal decent? On the other hand why call yourself Jewish at all? What’s the point?

And yet there is that pull to the right that encourages observance on a voluntary basis. The battle rages on in their circles.

As Orthodox Jews – why should we care what happens in Reform Judaism? Because Kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh. We have a responsibility to our fellow Jews to keep them as Jewish and observant as humanly possible. I therefore add my own protest to this idea. To the extent that they increase mitzvah observance we ought to encourage them. To the extent they they move further away from Judaism we ought to discourage them. The one thing we should not be is apathetic.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Ending Zealotry in the Name of God

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Sometimes I just want to explode! I keep reading stuff about how some people believe they are foreordained by God to be His messengers. As such they feel they have a right to do whatever it takes to see that His will is done. His will… according the best of their understanding. Whatever it takes usually ends up hurting innocent people. In some cases it includes even murder and suicide for that cause. That’s what Islamists do.

Although there have been exceptions (Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir come to mind) Jews do not tend toward murder or suicide. But we do have our zealots. Many of them. And they can be found among the extreme fringes of observant Jewry. These people will have the same sense of doing “what’s necessary” in service to God.

There are religious Zionist zealots called “price taggers.” They have attacked innocent Arabs or government installations in retaliation for injustices they believe were done to them. But they are not the only price taggers. In the most ironic of ironies, there is a new group of zealots who have taken a cue from the price taggers. They refer to themselves as Torah taggers. And they are Haredi.

These Haredi zealots are the polar opposites of the Religious Zionist price taggers. They actually support the goals of the Arabs. Instead of insisting on colonizing all parts of Eretz Yisroel at all costs – as do many on the extreme right of religious Zionism – they would cede all of Eretz Yisroel to the Arabs. But that is not what animated them recently.

This time it was the Women of the Wall (WoW). They have decided to act in the name of God. And have vandalized the home of Peggy Cidor, one of their leaders. This is being reported inmany media outlets. The graffiti uses some pretty disgusting language about these women. From the Jewish Press:

Some of the graffiti sprayed on the door and stairwell of Peggy Cidor’s apartment read in Hebrew: “Women of the Wall are wicked,” “Peggy, your time is up,” “Peggy, we know where you live,” and “Jerusalem is holy,” according to the Women of the Wall.

Now I know that graffiti is not the same as physical violence. But these are the same people who throw rocks at cars, spit on reporters, yell at little girls calling them whores, burn dumpsters, throw acid on women who do not dress according to their modesty standards, beat up vendors who dare to sell MP4 players, burn down stores that sell clothing that do not measure up to their modesty standards, beat up women who dare to sit in the front (men’s) section of a Mehadrin bus, intimidate victims of abuse and their families, torch restaurants that allow mixed seating… and use all manner of violent behavior in the name of God. Graffiti is just their latest tactic.

Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich has condemned their actions.. saying that these people do not represent Judaism. But these people argue that they are the epitome of Judaism claiming justification for their actions because of WoW’s breach of tradition.

The apologetic response I often hear from the right is that these are just vandals and not mainstream anything! Not even mainstream Meah Shearim. In fact the Women of the Wall actually conceded this point in their own statement saying that it was likely the actions of bored youth.

You know what? I don’t buy that. At least not completely. There is just too much of that going on all over Israel in places where individuals like these are found. And they all react in similar ways – with violence of one sort or another. The thugs who beat up a defenseless woman on a bus in Jerusalem are not the same people who called a little girl a whore in Ramat Bet Shemesh. But they are of the same mindset. The actual vandals may be few in numbers relative to the whole. And they may take ‘the law into their own hands’ – whereas most of their community does not go that far. But make no mistake about it. These aren’t just kids out on a lark with a can of spray paint out to do indiscriminate damage. These are people with a plan and a goal. They are zealots for God!

A Haredi Thawing? Oops, Never Mind

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Once again I am disappointed. A few months ago in a moment of reflective candor – Mishpacha Magazine Editor in Chief, Rabbi Moshe Grylak, put aside the rancor that so often characterizes the Haredi response to the kinds of issues now before them and actually had a good word or two to say about the recent elections in Israel. He praised the fact that there are a record number of observant Jews now serving in the Knesset. Formerly anti-religious parties now went out of their way to court Kipa wearing rabbis as part of their lists.

Although still firmly in the camp that opposes current attempts by the government to equalize the burden of army service by subjecting Haredim to the draft and that also opposes the installation of a core secular studies curriculum, he definitely seemed to be thawing out a bit. At least as far as the cold harsh rhetoric is concerned.

I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he was taken out to the proverbial “woodshed” by a rabbinic leader. But in his latest entry in the war of words against sharing the burden and altering even slightly the ‘no secular studies’ policy in their schools, he has returned to the harsh almost vitriolic rhetoric of the past.

Here are some selected excerpts from Rabbi Grylak’s editorial atoning (without using that word) for the terrible mistake of thinking something good may come of this new Knesset:

[O]ur gedolim agree that the current situation calls for intense public prayer…

From its inception, Torah study has always met with difficulties, malicious decrees, persecution and plotting…

Due to this age-old animosity, Torah study has faced countless threats throughout history. The peoples who would rather be left to sleep in peace among their abominations will do anything to silence the voice of Torah. Ever since the Roman decrees against Torah study, burning of Torah scrolls and deadly persecution of Torah Sages have run like a red thread through the chronicles of Torah life, encompassing the entire Jewish people…

When liberal-minded rulers in Europe first proclaimed emancipation for the Jews and granted them various civil rights, leaders in the world of Torah and [H]assidus saw this as an incipient disaster, leading to assimilation and the loss of a large portion of Jewry, another form of Holocaust. We have been witness to this sad reality from then to the present day.

The same secret applies to the survival of Torah in Eretz Yisrael. (emphasis mine)

Those who plot against the Torah world today are motivated by the same animosity that has long stirred in the hearts of the nations. They can’t enjoy their Western liberalism and self-centered individualism in peace, because the presence of Torah gets in the way of a new permissive society unfettered by Judaism. So, sensing where their values have led them, they can only justify themselves by striking out at those who won’t let them sleep in peace.

I think Rabbi Grylak has satisfied his attempt at teshuva (repentance). He echoes the harsh rhetoric of his rabbinic leaders. What happened to the nice words he said about all the Kipa wearers?

Shhhhhhh… don’t mention it. He made a mistake! He’s sorry! He corrected it! Don’t embarrass him. Leave him alone.

Well, I’m not going to leave him alone. I am going to praise his first thoughts and question his recanting them. In the first instance he spoke from heart. In the second instance he reverted to the harsh words of his rabbis. Rabbis that are still fighting ghosts. Ghosts that Rabbi Grylak says are still here motivating the “Torah haters” they are fighting.

There is one paragraph in that editorial that is very telling:

We should be grateful to Ben Gurion for making army service obligatory on anyone who leaves yeshivah for the workforce. In this convoluted way, young men have remained in yeshivah for decades, thus realizing the dream of the Chazon Ish and Rav Aharon Kotler, who saw it as their obligation to rebuild the decimated Torah world following the war. As a result, a generation of talmidei [h]achamim has emerged that has immeasurably changed the face of Haredi society.

It seems to me that this is a clear admission that the main reason the Torah world has grown to its current size is not because these young men were motivated by a love of Torah study, but by a fear of being drafted.

Is he then not saying that this growth is artificial? That not everyone in a Yeshiva or Kollel would be there if they had a choice? That perhaps they could be more productive for Klal Yisroel and in the eyes of God and man if they developed and used their innate talents for Klal Yisroel instead of burying them for the sake of avoiding a draft?

Not that I think that Rav Aharon Kotler’s goal of rebuilding the glorious Yeshiva world – decimated in the Holocaust – is a bad idea. I think it was a good idea. An important idea. A necessary idea. He deserves all the credit he has gotten for it. I actually support the concept of Yeshivos like Lakewood and Mir. I want to see them flourish. Not because of artificially inflated numbers due to draft dodgers. But because of a genuine love of Torah study that generates the kind of greatness seen in the Yeshivos of Europe.

Rav Aharon Kotler’s goal of restoring the great Yeshivos of Europe has more than surpassed his goals – looking at it in sheer numerical terms. Instead of Yeshivos that have the elite of Torah scholars studying in them (as was the case in Europe) the vast majority of male Haredim are now studying in them. This is not what European Yeshivos were about. They were not about quantity. They were about quality. We do have quality now. But I suggest that the same ratio of greatness in Torah that existed then exists now – camouflaged by the geometrically greater numbers that are in Yeshivos now – learning at mediocre levels.

If the draft was suddenly abolished, I wonder how many Haredim would stay in the beis medrash? My guess is that it would probably be a lot since they are indoctrinated to do that. But I think we might just see a significant drop off that would auger well for Haredim as a whole in many ways – not the least of which is financially.

The questions that remain are the following. What is really being gained by continuing to force Haredim to stay in the beis medrash full time via a draft that exempts Haredim? Is this the best use of our young people? Is the poverty class of semi motivated people that this situation has created really what God wants of His people?

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A Crack in the Wall of Haredi Opposition

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

There are two major issues that the Haredi world in Israel is now being confronted with. One is the draft. The other is the funding of their schools. The new government has promised to severely reduce allocations to their schools if they do not adopt a minimal core curriculum of limudei hol (secular studies).

It’s hard to tell exactly where the truth lies. But there is definitely something going on with Shas, the party guided by the rabbinic leadership of Rav Ovadia Yosef. And it is for the better.

According to a Ynet report last week, Shas actually agreed to install a core curriculum into its educational system. That would mean that it will not lose any funding. It would also mean that all Sephardi yeshivos would be able to continue functioning as they have in their study of Torah for the vast majority of the day – leaving only a couple of hours for the core curriculum. If that is the case, it is an earth shattering decision. A crack in the wall of unified Haredi opposition to limudei hol.

If this were to happen a new era would begin whereby Haredi students (at least Sephardi ones) would for the first time be able to learn some of the basic skills necessary for the modern day job market. Skills that would enable them to go on towards a higher education and even professional schools.

Not that they would all do that. I’m sure that the Haredi ethic of full time Torah study would still be emphasized and that a core curriculum would be seen much the same way it is by Haredim in the U.S. – as a necessary evil required by the government. While that is still problematic, the mere fact that they are mandating a core secular studies program is a major step forward as it will provide better options for those who do want to enter the workforce at some point in their lives. They will have those skills in their pockets.

I would hope that even though they would be installing a core curriculum under protest, that they would have at least the same attitude about it that Rav Elia Svei had that there is no mitzvah to waste your time. If you are going to study limudei hol, you may as well do it well. His Yeshiva high school in Philadelphia once boasted a fine secular studies program.

But the the truth is that it is not yet clear that Shas is on board with this. There has been some controversy about a short conversation between Education Minster Shai Piron of Yesh Atid and MK Aryeh Deri of Shas. In an attempt to avoid hatred between the two factions, Piron phoned Deri to assure him that funding will not be cut until a new system that will include a standardized core curriculum will be established for Haredi schools that will not damage the Haredi way of life. It has yet to be determined if this will happen.

Unfortunately the conversation was characterized by Deri as a victory for Shas. That deteriorated into an accusation by Finance Minister Yair Lapid into calling Deri a liar. So much for trying to avoid hatred.

But, despite all this uncertainty, I see light at the end of the tunnel. It seems that Shas has at least blinked. If in the end there is some sort of core curriculum adopted by Shas… that will destroy the so-called unified opposition by Haredi rabbinic leadership to secular studies. The idea put forward that the evil Israel government is out only to destroy Yiddishkeit incrementally – a little bit at a time will lose its validity. Because if Shas has adopted this program it will show that a gadol (great leader)is now convinced that this is not so… something which most of the rest of the religious world already knows. Besides – they would have to accuse Rav Yosef of joining with the forces of evil. I do not see that happening.

I don’t know where that puts the Ashkenazi rabbinic leaders. But my guess it is somewhere between a rock and a hard place. All the screaming and shouting about leaving the country instead of succumbing to the evil decree will be seen for what it is – an unreasonable fear of the past. A past based on legitimate fears about removing Jews from the shackles of Torah. Where anti-Torah forces insidiously wanted to introduce a few innocent core subjects that they hoped would become a slippery slope away from Yiddishkeit. This is what I have called fighting ghosts.

I don’t know whether the current Askenazi rabbinic leaders will change their attitude. My guess is that they won’t. How they will deal with Rav Yosef is an interesting question. But I’m sure they will stick to the program.

What may very well happen is that a new grass roots paradigm will arise along the lines of a Yeshiva like Marava. Marava is a Haredi Yeshiva that operates on the American model. They have a serious limudei kodesh (religious studies) program and a serious limudi hol program. Which is subject to the educational standards of the State. These new schools may not measure up entirely to Marava, but they will measure up to whatever the government decides is a required core curriculum.

It would therefore be a prudent move for these rabbinic leaders to be in on the negotiations of what a core curriculum should consist of. If Shas has decided to go along with this program than I’m sure they will be in on the process.

If this happens the Ashkenazi Haredi world can then have its cake – and eat it too. What will happen is what should have happened a long time ago. The vast majority of their students will get a minimal amount of preparation for a better life – a life that will no longer almost guarantee poverty. But there will also probably still be some Haredi schools that will not offer secular studies. They will be privately funded. And there will be a lot less of them. They will contain the elite students of Torah with the potential to be gedolim.

Not that I think they too wouldn’t be better off with a strong knowledge of limudei hol. But… one battle at a time.

Now that Shas has (hopefully) come around… this is a step in the right direction which may spark an overall change. The only question is… have they? Or is all this just talk? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Rav Soloveitchik’s Clear Stand on Homosexuality

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

A rabbi who studied at Yeshiva University recently posted a blog where he commented on the prohibition of homosexual relations in Vayikra 18:22, “[E]very time I encounter these two verses, I feel I understand them less.”

Y.U. recently commemorated the twentieth yahrtzeit of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (zt”l), the rosh yeshiva most associated with this institution. A man of immense integrity and Halachic loyalty, Rav Soloveitchik had no such problems understanding the clear, Divine language of the Torah. Speaking in 1974 about how “it’s quite in vogue to be heretical,” Rav Soloveitchik related the following:

A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Chumash and read a pasuk. V’es zachar lo sishkav mishk’vei ishah. [Vayikra 18:22] We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth.

Rav Soloveitchik likewise observed in Man of Faith in the Modern World:

We think we know the motivations for the prohibitions against stealing, murder, adultery, and false testimony and for the positive commandments which reflect a sensitivity to the rights and welfare of others. They seem to be morally uplifting and socially stabilizing. In fact, however, their moral reasonableness is often in question in our modern world. The campaigns to legitimize abortion, euthanasia, adultery, and homosexuality are examples of the unreliability of the social conscience…

Specific to sexual morality, Rav Soloveitchik emphasized the universal nature of such standards. He noted in The Emergence of Ethical Man with reference to the Seven Noahide Laws,

It is worth mentioning that both prohibitions (bestiality and homosexuality) apply to non-Jews too and form part of a universal religion that is based upon the concept of man and personality.

Rav Soloveitchik elaborates in Abraham’s Journey on our duties to the gentile world in this area:

Our task was and still is to teach the Torah to mankind, to influence the non-Jewish world, to redeem it from an orgiastic way of living, from cruelty and insensitivity, to arouse in mankind a sense of justice and fairness. In a word, we are to teach the world the seven mitzvot that are binding on every human being.

What Rav Soloveitchik said in 1974 is truer than ever: normative Judaism is on the defensive in the modern world. The answer to this hostility is not to abandon our internal and global duties. The answer is not to pretend that HaShem is ambiguous where He is perfectly clear—an act equal parts arrogance and cowardice. May Rav Soloveitchik’s example give us focus and strength in days ahead

The ‘Maharat’: Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

When I was a young man around the time I was studying for semicha at the Hebrew Theological College, I had written article in a now defunct local Jewish magazine, the Sentinel. It was in response to a scathing attack against the idea of ordaining women by a prominent rosh yeshiva (yeshiva dean).

I explained that the title rabbi stems from the word “rebbe” which literally means teacher. As such there was nothing wrong with calling a woman educated to teach Judaism with that title. That was over 40 years ago. Some would say that I was ahead of my time.

But I was wrong and regret writing it. I was wrong because in my impetuous youth I did not understand what I understand today, that something which is not a black and white issur (prohibition) does not necessarily make it a good idea to pursue. Nor did I understand that breaking with tradition can open a Pandora’s box that will be counter-productive to our future.

The truth is that there are Halachic issues with female rabbis. I’ve discussed them before in essays where I argued against the ordination of women. It is not that I am a misogynist. I personally have no problem with female rabbis. But I would not have any problem counting women into Minyan either. Except that Halacha does not allow me to do that. There are Halachic issues with respect to female rabbis too. Like serara. While I have no personal problem with it, I have a Halachic problem with it. Women are forbidden by Halacha to take positions of leadership in certain Jewish areas. Like Shuls.

I had also argued in the past that even though women can serve in other areas the way rabbis do (e.g., teachers) the primary and historic function of a rabbi has always been in a shul as a pulpit rabbi. Leaving aside the issue of serara it is highly impractical and awkward for a woman to be the rabbi of a shul.

The primary function of a shul is prayer – doing so with a minyan. A woman may not be counted into a minyan and may not be present in the actual sanctuary of a shul with the men unless she is separated by a mechitza (partition). While a rabbi can have a position outside of the actual area of prayer – like in a classroom or as a principal or a pastoral marriage counselor, that has always been a secondary role. Even though there are ways where a woman can technically lead from ‘behind the mechitza’ and address the members with a D’var Torah from a podium after the service… I think it is safe to say that this is a highly impractical way for a spiritual leader of a shul to function.

There are also perception issues. When an Orthodox Shul lists a woman as a rabbi a public unfamiliar with the nuances of Halacha on this issue can make the mistaken assumption that the Shul has broken with Halacha.

So while there may be ways to skirt the Halacha and technically not violate it – it isn’t pretty… and in my view undermines the spirit if not the letter of the law. What is gained on some sort of equal rights way is lost by the radical departure from normative Orthodoxy.

Which is the reason I agree with the Rabbinical Council of Amercia (RCA) position on the recent graduation of three women clergy from Yeshivat Maharat. They have rejected it. In an article in the Forward RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin explained it as a violation of our Mesorah – tradition:

“We feel extremely strongly that there is certainly room for women leadership within the Orthodox community, both educationally and professionally,” RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin told the Forward. “We do not believe, however, that it is appropriate for women to be ordained as rabbis.”

Goldin added that he did not think the school was defying the Orthodox community but rather was “moving in ways that are removing it from the normative Orthodox community. It’s not a question of defiance, it’s a question of direction.”

I completely agree. Calling a woman a “maharat” instead of rabbi is an irrelevant distinction. A spiritual leader, a maharat, and a rabbi are all the same thing. That Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss gave in to pressure- promising not to call his graduates rabba (his feminization of the word rabbi) is really a meaningless gesture. With apologies to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – a rose by any other name is still a rose.

Will the Real Haredi Please Stand Up?

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Last Thursday, someone by the name of T. Felik wrote an essay on Matzav about Rabbi Lipman that makes Rav Feldman’s initial reaction to him mild by comparison. Since then R’ Feldman apologized for his characterization of R’ Lipman as a Rasha – although retaining his strong views about how terribly wrong he is.

Mr. Felik has followed that up with another article last week… and third one today!

In his second article he excoriated not only R’ Lipman but the Orthodox blogs as well – accusing us in varying degrees of all kinds of nefarious motives mostly having to do with destroying the Haredi world. He even made an oblique reference to me – attacking me for daring to ask questions about the words of gedolim (great leaders). He accused me of being mevazeh (denigrating) some noted Haredi talmidei hahamim (Torah scholars) hat he mentioned by name. He even put the word “Orthodox” in quotes in this reference implying that I am not really Orthodox at all!

I will admit that a few years ago I had made a mistake along those lines in one instance and have tried mightily to never do that again. But it was only because of the denigration by that talmid haham of another that I did so. In my zeal to defend the kavod (honor) of one talmid haham I went too far in my criticism of another. For that I apologized… although standing by my contention that it was still wrong to denigrate another talmid haham in the way that he did.

Since that time the person I defended has dishonored himself with some very foolish and damaging behavior for a yalmid haham of his stature. But that has nothing to do with my original defense of him since at the time none of this was known by anyone – including the talmid haham who so viciously attacked him.

That said, I would like to respond directly to Mr. Felik right here since I do not believe that Matzav will give me a guest post on their website:

Mr. Felik, I appreciate your candor and your explanation of the Haredi world view. I think it is important to know exactly what the hashkafos (philosophy) of the Haredi world are if we are going to have an intelligent conversation about the truths of Judaism.

I agree with you that there is a woefully small Haredi presence on the internet that is overwhelmed with a lot of negativity against it. And as you have admitted, the internet is very influential on public opinion – including the opinion of many Haredim who access it – right or wrong (…which is why you have chosen to post your views on it. I’m sure you consulted with your own Daas Torah before doing so.)

In my humble opinion, I think that the Haredi world – starting with Agudah – should re-think their position about not having a presence on it. We need to hear more from people like you so that people can make more informed and better decisions about what living a Torah true life really means.

Of course I do not believe for a minute that you truly represent what the mainstream Haredi world really believes. Based on personal experience and on the writings of many popular Haredi writers, the vast majority of mainstream Haredim view the world not all that differently than I do (although there is some disagreement in some key areas).

The views which you have expressed so angrily are those of the extreme right wing fringes of the Haredi world. I believe that they represent only a small minority of Haredim. Unfortunately some of the rabbinic leadership occasionally say and do things that seem to corroborate your definition of it making it sound like the mainstream position.

Another thing. Contrary to what you have been saying – this isn’t about our obligation to listen to our rabbinic leaders. It is about whether we should listen to YOUR rabbinic leaders. In your view, it is only those leaders that have what you call Daas Torah. I agree that many of them may qualify as possessing it. But they are not the only ones. There are actually talmidei hahamim who differ with your rabbis that have Daas Torah too.

Thankfully (as you not so thankfully point out) the internet is changing how the mainstream sees things. In the interests of finding and promoting emes (truth), I believe that we ought to have more dialogue between us – and that it should include not only writers like Jonathan Rosenblum, but writers like you as well.

We must be clear in how all of us who claim to be observant – convey who and what we are. You have been very clear about who and what you are and for that, I applaud you. The only question for me is whether you represent mainstream Haredi thinking. As I said, I doubt it. But the only way to really know is by having a greater presence on the internet as that would promote more dialogue between us. You add that the frum (religious) blogs should consider not publishing comments. That will only serve to decrease our understandings about each other. It is important for all of us to know just what the other side thinks – and how passionate we each are about our views. The only way to dialogue with each other is to know where we stand and how strongly we feel about it. This does not mean that we should allow nasty comments. But we should allow passionate ones.

Interestingly in your third essay you actually promote the idea of an increased internet presence. Are you too now questioning the decision by the Agudah Moetzes to not have a presence on the internet? Because if you are, I join you in your quest.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/will-the-real-haredi-please-stand-up/2013/05/13/

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