Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Let's Go Toboganning

Honestly Frum has a nice piece on Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's recent rebuttal to Rav Aharon Feldman's attack on non-Chareidi Jewry.  His heartfelt cry for Modern Orthodoxy to stand up for its values and resist the current attempt by some in the Chareidi community to delegitimize their brand of Torah observance is quite forceful.   Unfortunately, I don't know how effective it will be.
Rav Lichtenstein thoroughly demonstrates how Rav Feldman's conclusions were reached through a limited use of sources that seemed to agree with his predetermined conclusion.  This has, in recent years, become an area of division between Modern Orthodoxy and Chareidism.  The halachic method has never been to give equal weight to all sources but to still examine as many relevant opinions as possible before reaching a decision on pertinent issues.  Chareidism has veered in one direction by choosing to ignore all those sources that contradict its ideology as if they don't exist.  Modern Orthodoxy has steered in the other direction, giving equal weight to any posek, no matter how obscure or unaccepted by other authorities.  For the Chareidim, it doesn't matter if Tosafos, Ritva, Rashba and Rif permitted something.  If the Ran and the Rosh said no, then it's no and it's a universal "no".  For the Modern Orthodox, if Tosafos, Ritva, Rashba, Rif, and Ran all said no but the Rosh said maybe, then it's "Well, we found an opinion permitting it!".  Neither is ideal but the Modern Orthodox method is more honest in its examination of the sources.
To expand on my comment to the post: To answer Rav Lichtenstein's final question over the division that has sprung up between the Modern Orthodox and Chareidi communites: No they shall never sled again. Global warming, no snow, right?
All right, seriously though, no they shan't sled again because Rav Feldman cannot be seen as being chummy with Rav Lichtenstein for fear of the fallout he'll get from his own community.
Time was that the Rav and Rav Moshe Feinstein could hang out together. It wouldn't happen today. Time was Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch could espouse Torah Im Derech Eretz and the Seridei Eish could get a PhD in a German university and still be accepted as giants in the Torah world. Not today.
Today Chareidi thought, as exemplified by the ongoing attacks on Sliffkin, are based on limited sources and historical revisionism. Is Rav Feldman aware of the dissenting views that Rav Lichtenstein cites? I have no doubt he is, but they interfere with his central thesis so they do not rate a mention, just as the ooddles and oodles of support Rav Sliffkin has for some of his positions don't matter because his thesis contradicts Chareidi theology.
Modern Orthodoxy needs to be careful in how to react to Chareidi attacks on its legitimacy. On one hand, there is the YCT crowd which has responded by emphasizing a Reform/Conservative approach to emphasizing secular values and trying to push the boundaries of what is considered Orthodox in order to practice them. The disadvantage of this method is that it effectively cedes that which is seen as Orthodox to the Chareidim.  Yes, the YCT crowd proclaims, we may not dress tznius, we may be very lenient with certain issues around kashrus and Shabbos, but we're very makpid on helping out at the local food bank!  Real Modern Orthodox must be open-minded and allow for a proper investigation of halachic issues without preconceived conclusions but must not be so open-minded that their brains fall out of their heads. It is this balance that the leadership needs to endorse and the membership needs to follow because this is the true traditional Jewish method that both sides have currently abandoned.

1 comment:

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I must first admit that I am at somewhat of a disadvantage in commenting directly on this issue as i have not read Rabbi Lichtenstein's review of Rabbi Feldman's book. I have, though, skimmed the latter and sadly and unfortunately found it a narrow presentation of the Charedi position. One of the major effects of recognizing a machloket is the acceptance of the realization that the base substantive material is actually most complex and that any resolution is ultimately only an attempt at understanding. The practical outcome, in most cases, is not a determination of the one, absolutely correct position but, rather, the acceptance of the position with, in one's opinion, the least problems. Ultimately it is the reality of the complexity that is the lasting message. This is exactly what the charedi world is attempting to circumvent. They cannot accept a reality of a machloket for they want their view to not only be the accepted position but for it to be seen as perfect, without any difficulties. An alternative view which identifies weaknesses is thus shunned even if this view is practically rejected. It is not just that the charedim want their halachic views accepted as "the" halacha to be followed but as "the" only correct presentation of the detail and spirit of the halacha. The actual Divine complexity of Torah is the casualty.

The charedim, though, may not be the only ones promoting this type of simplification of Torah but it may be a tragic symptom of the left as it is the right.

Rabbi Ben Hecht