Yeshiva University’s Torah u-Madda Journal, devoted to the interaction between Judaism and general culture, has just published its 18th, and final, volume.
This journal, founded by Rabbi Norman Lamm in 1989 and edited first by Rabbi JJ Schacter and for the past 21 years by Dr. David Shatz, has represented the best of the Torah u-Madda approach. This issue, which is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Dr. Lamm, z”l, and his wife Mindella (Mindy) Lamm, z”l, lauds how Rabbi Lamm “brought Modern Orthodox ideology and the idea of Torah u-Madda – the animating principle of this journal – … to an unprecedented level of articulation and advocacy.”
An extension of Rabbi Lamm’s Torah u-Madda Project, the journal spent its early years working out some of the questions and objections relating to the validity of combining secular studies with Torah. More recently, it has been focused on putting out a quality product that showcases precisely the fruits of that approach. As a peer-reviewed journal, it has routinely published rigorous articles that easily could run in other peer-reviewed academic journals. At the same time, it has focused particularly on issues of interest in the Jewish and Torah community.
This issue in particular features articles considering the political theology of Rav Nachum Rabinovitch, z”l, issues of philosophy of law and halakhah, questions in medieval Jewish philosophy and Maimonides’ historiosophy, literary and other approaches to different biblical passages (all three, coincidentally, in Sefer Shemos), and other studies considering issues of science, history, and halakhah. It is available on YUTorah, and everyone is invited to peruse the volume and see the sort of strong, relevant articles it has run.
The Torah u-Madda Journal has served as an incubator shaping both Modern Orthodox thought and its thinkers over these past decades. While some articles have been authored by established academics, many others have been written by either young scholars or laypeople with academic interests but not training. Still, and certainly due to the herculean editorial efforts of Dr. David Shatz and editorial assistant Meira Mintz, the quality of the journal has consistently remained excellent.
I had the privilege of experiencing this process up close as a youthful semicha student a decade ago. My ambitious yet not fully formed paper on self-defense in philosophy and halakhah was improved, step by step, to the point that, by the time it was published I could submit it as a writing sample to university doctoral programs. All of this is a testament to Dr. Shatz and not just his commitment to the journal, but even more so to his interest in helping young individuals along in their own development as scholars, and his willingness to painstakingly invest so much time and effort in ensuring their success.
That this wonderful run of over three decades and eighteen impressive volumes is coming to an end is not only poignant but will also leave a real gap in YU’s and Modern Orthodoxy’s public profiles. In a world where academic scholarship and the public interest are drifting apart, both generally and especially in Modern Orthodoxy, it is even more necessary that the value of Torah u-Madda not be abandoned. Hopefully other outlets for rigorous scholarship for the frum community can be maintained and developed (and while some still exist, none are quite like TUMJ), carrying on the spirit of the Torah u-Madda endeavor, and the excellence of the Torah u-Madda Journal.
As the Torah u-Madda Journal’s run comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to offer a thank you to Dr. Shatz, and to Rabbis Schacter and Lamm, z”l, for their contributions in building this journal. May its soul and values continue to live on in our community.