Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday 18 August 2013

Reattaching Reason To Ritual

Over the last while we've seen repeated posts at Morethodoxy and Cross-Currents dealing with both the recent Rabbi Farber essay on the Documentary Hypothesis (DH) and the ongoing struggle in Israel between the Chareidi community and the government issue over the impending draft and implementation of a real curriculum in Chareidi schools.  While the two subjects don't seem very connected it seems to me that there is something deep that unites them and explains what is so wrong with Orthodoxy today.
Let's look at Rabbi Farber first.  Ever since he published a piece at along with an unrepentant follow up piece in which he embraced the DH over Torah MiSinai (TMS) as his preferred explanation for the origin of our holiest book Morethodoxy has been posting essays which debate the issue back and forth.  Is the DH legitimate?  Is TMS a viable opinion?
There are two problems with this whole discussion.  First of all, in a real debate both opponents enter with the goal of convincing the other side or at least a substantial part of the audience that their position is correct.  If both sides prefaced the debate with the statement "And we don't care what you say, we're not changing your mind" it would not be a genuine debate, just an exchange of opinions.  This is what happens when people debate the DH vs TMS.  The bottom line is that Sinai-deniers will not accept any of the multitude of arguments put forth by Chazal, the later commentators and some modern academics that confirm the truth of the unity and antiquity of the text.  On the other side Torah-observant Jews stop listening once someone gets to the second syllable of the word "Documentary".  We know the Torah is true, we are only interested in those legitimate Torah sources that discuss the issue and therefore outside academics and their opinions are of no interest to us.  That's why these discussions go nowhere.
The real discussion therefore, and one which Morethodoxy is eager to avoid, is: can one hold that the DH is true and still call oneself Orthodox?  Rabbi Farber and probably most of the YCT crowd, even those who publicly state otherwise, would say that it is possible.  For those of us on the other side we wonder how this could be.  How can one be Orthodox while denying the authenticity of Judaism's founding event, Matan Torah?
Now let's look at the other side.  Rav Natan Slifkin recent posted a critique of an article by Eytan Kobre on his blog.  Kobre, a PR guy for the Chareidi side in the ongoing army draft controversy brings a number of sources to show that learning full-time is an accepted, traditional and preferred method of life for the observant Jew.  Rav Slifkin, on the other hand, looks at the sources in a more complete fashion and points out at pretty much none of Kobre's sources actually support his position.  Rav Slifkin wonders where Kobre draws his conclusions from.  My belief is that Kobre knows quite well that his footnotes are not relevant to the argument but he's hoping that a selective quoting, a smattering of dropped names and enough references will convince the reader who doesn't have the time or interest in double-checking things that his position is the correct "Torah true" one.   Anyone familiar with the genuine halachic method would have to be greatly disturbed by this unOrthodox distortion of our mesorah.  
In other words, Eytan Kobre has reached a conclusion and handpicked the sources he needs to support his predetermined conclusion.  If this sounds familiar then go back to the first part of this post.  Rabbi Farber and his supporters, in their quest to turn the Torah into a human document, are also able to quote from a smattering of Rishonim and statements in the Gemara which they turn into a proposal to suggest that the DH is accepted by authentic Jewish authorities.  They too will handpick sources to fit their predetermined conclusion.  Two radically different groups in the Orthodox world using the exact same methodology.
How do both these groups justify their belief that their positions represents genuine Orthodoxy despite the obvious problems with them?
The answer might be that they have detached the two principle elements of Orthodox practice, reason and ritual, from one another.  Contrary to the assertions of scoffers we are a religion of reason.  We do not draw laws and rituals from thin air.  We practice on the foundation of thousands of years of legal discussion and philosophical reason.  This intelligence must ever inform our approach to ritual.  Ritual without the thinking behind it becomes a mindless routine, as decried by Yishiyahu HaNavi and Yirmiyahu HaNavi. 
Recall Yirmiyahu's cries of anguish in the final days of the First Temple.  He well noted that the general population believed that the Har HaBayit was a place inviolable, that God would never allow His holy habitation to be destroyed.  Here were people who would routinely sin and then routinely bring sin offerings as a payment, not as a penitence.  No matter what the Navi told them they could not change this outlook.  For them Judaism was about the ritual and as long as the ritual was performed properly the reasons behind it mattered not a whit.
This is the position that Orthodoxy finds itself in today.  Is it any wonder we are a community divided by the type of hat or kippah a person wears?  Is it any wonder we base a shidduch on the type of sheitl a person wears or whether or not they allow their children to wear a certain colour of socks?  Where are questions about the person's innate honest and decency?  Where are questions about the depth of their beliefs or the understanding of the nature of the godhead?  We worry about when the last time they went to the shaatnez checker but not the last time they put on their tefillin and stood for a moment to appreciate their enhanced connection to the Ribono shel Olam.
We are now deep into Elul.  We are approaching a series of holidays rich in ritual but also in reason.  We are faced with a challenge.  We can worry if the shofar is appropriate and fulfills all the strictest halachic requirements, if the etrog and lulav pass our inspection with a jewel cutter's glass or we can apply that same rigorous approach to ourselves.  Do our souls survive the same scrutiny we give our external ritual behaviours?  Do we spend more time worrying about the status of the tzitzis on our Yamim Noraim tallis or about whether our connection with the Divine is frayed?  Do we take the time when the shofar is blowing not just to make sure the tokea is stretching out each note precisely or to make sure we pour out our whole hearts during that sacred moment and beg our Father in Heaven to accept our words?  Are we there just because that's what one does or because we desire an audience before Him?
In short, is it just about ritual for us or does the reason also play a role?
Both Morethodoxy and UltraOrthodoxy seem to have detached the reason from the ritual.  The YCT crowd proposes one can be Orthodox entirely through behaviour without regards to one's underlying thoughts and beliefs.  The UltraOrthodox crowd puts an emphasis on ritual that relegates reason to a limited supporting role, only relevant when supporting that ritual.
We must reject this approach and remind ourselves that God wants from us an intelligent practice, one where the reason and ritual intermix and influence one another in perfect synergy.  This is the challenge of real "Torah-true" Judaism that makes it such a challenge to do properly.  May we merit that all of us consider this in the coming weeks so that our High Holydays are celebrated properly for our benefit?

Thursday 15 August 2013

The Evolution of Artscroll

Over at the Seforim Blog , Eliezer Miller recently posted a scathing review of Artscroll's new edition of Sefer Yishiyahu, the book of Isaiah.  In competition with Judaica Press' extant and complete Nach series Artscroll has slowly been rolling out a version of its own.  This set is different from the books in its older Tanach series.  Whereas those were exhaustively researched works formatted with a few lines of the Hebrew text and translation at the top of the page and tons of commentary at the bottom, these new books are formatted to look like they could replace the old Mikraos Gedolos volumes.  The text on the Hebrew side is clear and in an eye-catching format.  The communtary, while not as long as the Tanach series counterpart, is quite detailed.  For all the ideological differences one might have with Artscroll there is no denying they put a lot of effort into making their seforim look fabulous.  So what trouble might Eliezer Miller have had with this new edition of Isaiah?
Going through that post Miller raises points that should be completely obvious.  Artscroll isn't in the business of putting out comprehensive commentaries that include secular information.  Miller notes a lack of interest in archeological and anthropological information that might have enhanced the commentary but that's not the crowd Artscroll is selling to.  They're looking right at the yeshivish crowd and those BT's who want to fit in with that group.  The commentary is meant for people who know nothing of Nach and want to get some basics.  This would explain most of Miller's objection.
But after reading Miller's review I think I can explain most of the problems he has in another way.
Remember that within the Chareidi community the study of Nach is very problematic.  Some yeshivos ban it outright.  Others let you study the weekly hafataros but not much else.  The idea that someone would sit down with a set of Bible books and a good commentary to understand them is incomprehensible in their worldview.  Why would a good bochur want to do that when he could be learning Gemara and halacha?  From this perspective Artscroll is actually being quite daring in wading into this area.
Knowing this Rav Nosson Sherman, the chief editor, is simply doing what he is expected to do for his books to be accepted and get the right haskamos.  Were he to include an essay showing the differences between our text of Isaiah and the one on display in the Israel museum he'd face a tarring and feathering.  You mean there's different texts?!  Were he to try and explain all those times in Nach when major figures in our history commit acts that are apparently against halacha without simply retreating into a "Chazal knew best" shelter he'd be forced to pull the line off the shelves.
When it comes to their Talmud Artscroll is a huge resource.  The time and intelligence they've invested in that series makes those books masterpieces.  When it comes to their other books, however, the overarching agenda - the Agudah version of this is the only legitimate version, etc. - tends to show through.  Their infamous translation of Shir HaShirim is a travesty to any thinking person but then, Artscroll doesn't want you to think when you're learning Shir HaShirim, just to know what you should be thinking.  Similarly their digests of famous commentators (the Pirkei Avos of the Maharal and the Sfar Emes series come to mind) aren't so much presentations of the original work but rather the Artscroll author's version so you won't reach the "wrong" conclusion you might have if you had actually seen a decent translation of the original.
For those who are paying really careful attention you'll also notice that the Satmar philosophy of anti-Zionism infects their works in the relevant places.  Consider Artscroll's commentary on the Three Oaths at the end of the Kesobus or the couple of places in their translation of the Kinnos where they brazenly insert Satmar principles (no forcing the end!  no ascending like a wall!) even when there's absolutely no Hebrew lines on the other side to stick them to.
Their Nach series is therefore simply more of the same.  The average person, it seems, can't be trusted to think about what he's read in Nach so Artscroll saves you the trouble.  Eliezer Miller wonders what's wrong with Artscroll but really there's nothing wrong.  They are the publishing arm of the Agudah and the Agudah has an agenda.  Enough said.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Old Loyalties Die Hard

Anyone out there remember the Palm Pilot?  Back in the late 90's it was the gizmo to own.  A small (for the times) device it not only came with a built in contact list, calender and memo program but it also had lots of other neat applications (back then we still said the entire word).  As the device evolved it got smaller and sleeker and its app catalog exploded with fun and relevant programs for almost any field.  About the only thing the Palms couldn't do was act like a phone but unless you were a Blackberry user you didn't really care about that.
In the hi-tech world one either evolves constantly or dies a quick death.  Such was the fate of the Commodore 64 in the late 1980's as Apple's Macintosh took over the home computing scene.  Such was the fate of Palm.  Late to the phone game Palm only realized inthe mid-00's that Blackberry was onto something when it combined personal data assistannts (PDA's) and phones.  It came out with the Treo and then the Centre which were okay phones but the underlying operating system never really changed.  Yes, the graphics resolution improved a bit and colour became a standard feature but overall it looked and felt the same as the original.
Then came the iPhone and Androids.  Suddenly Palm was in huge trouble selling a phone with an antiquated operating system.  Yes they had the app catalog but those programs also looked positively antique when compared to what Apple and Google were putting out.
Much too late Palm put out the Pre and then the Pre2.  I owned a Pre2 and had high hopes it would revive the company.  It was fast with great graphics and an intuitive operating system.  Unfortunately it never took off.  Palm was bought by HP which tried to make waves with the Pre3 and then just gave up on the cell phone business altogether. 
So there I was with a Palm phone and it was a lonely experience.  The app catalog numbered in the 1000's with only 2-3 new programs appearing a week, sometimes less.  It was frustrating to read about all the new app's coming out but only for Apple, Android and usually Blackberry.  It's an awful feeling to be left behind but I'd been with Palm since 1998.  I was so reluctant to let go.
Ultimately I did though.  I didn't want an iPhone or Android (I found the original Terminator movie frightening when I was a kid and he was an android) so I tried out the Blackberry Z10.
Now, full disclosure: I own Blackberry stock and I bought it on the hope that the Z10 would be a kick ass phone.  I'm pleased to note that it is.  Suddenly I'm working with a huge app catalog that is growing daily and constant updates to programs I have.  As opposed to the lonely quiet world of Palm I feel like I'm back on the information highway again, not some information side road in the country.
But every so often I look at my old Palm, still sitting on my desk and wonder about what could have been.

Sunday 11 August 2013

What Putin Knows

A country about to hold the Olympics usually wants to impress the world.  The Games are, after all, a multi-gagillion dollar endeavour and a chance to show the world all that's glorious and positive about the host country.  Never mind the economic opportunities that it brings, the Olympics is a chest-beating moment.
It's odd then that Russia seems to be taking the opposite approach.  Far from endearing itself to the world before the Games begin, the governmet in Moscow seems intent on the opposite: showing the rest of the world - and especially the West - that it doesn't care what others think about it.  President Vladimir Putin and friends have done this by passing new legislation that bans the public promotion of homosexuality, a law draconian enough to cause people to fear that just wearing a rainbow pin in public could get one arrested.  What's more, the Russians have promised that this law will apply to all international athletes while in Russia raising the possibility of some of them getting arrested on the flimsiest of charges.
It's given Russia quite the black eye in the international arena and seems to make no sense.  Russia is, after all, not a particularily religious country.  Some columnists I follow suggest that Putin is doing it to win the popular support of the Russian Orthodox Church and its followers but considering that theft and abortion are also major sins in that religion it's curious that the government isn't coming up with restrictive laws about those.
The timing is also problematic.  Why couldn't Putin have waited until after the Games to avoid the negative publicity?  Doesn't he know this might hurt his tourist income?
It seems to me that Putin isn't out of touch when it comes to these matters but rather that he has a very accurate sense of the pulse of things.  He knows something that the pro-homosexual lobby hates to have shown and he's exposing it to the world.  He knows that the pro-homosexual lobby are craven bullies.
Look at the Western world and what happens to any politician who dares to even muse about not approving gay marriage and giving it equal standing to the traditional equivalent.  What happens to any public figure who uses the phrase "That's so gay!" in the wrong context? 
Ever noticed how strongly Pride parades demand public support in places like Rome and Jerusalem?  Despite the religious sensitivites of many of those cities' inhabitants, or possibly because of them, these parades are turned into major human rights demonstrations.
But is there a Pride parade in Mecca?  To quote the immortal Al Bundy, "Uh, no Peg."
Every year the Toronto Pride parade features a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.  Meanwhile over in so-called Palestine it's illegal to be homosexual and getting caught means execution.  Is there a float for so-called Palestinian victims of so-called Palestinian violence?  Uh, no Peg.
Do you think there will be any public demonstrations by the Olympic athletes when they arrive for the Games in Russia?  Uh, no Peg.
There is no question that Vladimir Putin is a bully.  His whole model of government presumes that very thing.  He is the biggest oligarch amongst the worst collection of corrupt "biznesmen" in the world, the chief viper in the snake pit.  He's looked across at the pro-homosexual lobby and seen something familiar.  They are also bullies prepared to scream, show and be absolutely fabulous when any of their principles or beliefs are even slightly questioned.
But they'll only do it if it's safe.  They're quite happy to stand up to middle-aged white folks while the police stand nearby guaranteeing their safety.  It's quite another to stand up and shout when the cops are the opposition.  When they can't bully their opponents the pro-homosexual lobby goes eeerily quiet.
And that's what Putin knows.  After all the caterwauling back home in the West where it's safe all the gay athletes and their supporters will show up in Russia because they don't want to miss the even they've dedicated their lives to.  They'll publicly play good heterosexuals and won't say a word about the repressive Russian legal system.  They very much believe in their equality but not quite enough to stand up to an even bigger bully.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Just Wait Quietly

When the subject of Yair Lapid comes up amongst Torah-observant jews someone inevtiably mentions his father, Tommy, and how Lapid the elder was a virulent anti-religious fanatic.  Much of this is true.  Lapid was very anti-Chareidi and by extension did not show much love for non-Chareidi Orthodox Jews.  His Shinui party won 15 seats in its most successful election which earned him a senior seat in the cabinet rom where he tried to implement his anti-religious agenda.  Frum folks often speaker of Lapid the younger as the second coming of Tommy with the same dedication to destroying the "Torah world" as his father.
What people often don't recall is what happened to Tommy and Shinui.  There is a good reason the party was a one-election wonder.  Shortly after getting his cabinet position Lapid discovered that personal popularity and decent election showing did not translate into anything close to political omnipotence.  He also discovered that the people he elected were no immune to the disease that afflicts all politicians sooner or later: corruption.  Shinui wound up becoming like every other minor party that made it big.  It failed to implement much of its platform and its members wound up on the front page of the newspapers guilty of the same crimes they had so condemned during the election campaign.  And then Shinui disappeared.
If one is going to compare the two Lapids one needs to keep this whole picture in mind.  Like his father, Yair campaigned on a populist platform, shouting about the needs of the middle class and the need to reduce the hegemony of the Chareidi parties in matters of religious and national affairs.  Campaigned as a righteous defender of the poor is easy.  Remaining one once you're elected is a real trick.
To his credit Lapid has handled himself in a superb fashion until recently.  The master manipulator, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, gave his the Finance Ministry portfolio, a graveyard for ambitious politicians.  Yet he has remained on message when it comes to economic reforms and he has refused to be publicly enraged by the ongoing abuse he receives from the Chareidi leadership and its political representativies.  All it would take is one statement like "You stupid religious bastards..." and the "Ah ha!" shouting would being.  So far he has held his temper and has made the Chareidi leadership look all the more infantile for it.
But now there is a first chink in the armour.  It's one thing to go on and on about needing to strengthen the middle class.  It's one thing to itnroduce a budget.  It's another to implement one's plans and for that one needs senior people on message.  Lapid is under further pressure because Israel is, to our sorrow, one of the most corupt countries in the world when it comes to financial issues and the concentration and control of wealth by the few over the many.  The governor of the Bank of Israel is an especially important person for Lapid yet so far he has picked two contestants for the position and both have had to withdraw their candidacy for personal reasons.  This has created the impression that finding a decent person to run the Bank is more difficult than it should be and that Lapid's ability to find such a person is defective.
Now by itself this is not such a crisis for Lapid.  I have no doubt he will shortly find a qualified candidate.  But it is instructive in that it is a first failure for him.  He is not omnipotent, he is not automatically the next prime minister as he himself has crowed and he has stumbled.  Perhaps him opponents, instead of trying to turn him into a martyr the public can rally around, should just step back and see if this initial stumble turns into a full fledged fall.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Who'd You Rather Have Dinner With

Following up on my last post, I would like to bring up another important point, one I think is always lost when we start screaming "heresy" and the like.
Let's compare two people who have been in the news lately that occupy the opposite ends of the Orthodox spectrum.  The first is Rabbi Zev Farber.  The second is Avraham Mondrowitz.
Now for those who don't know Mondrowitz is a serial pedophile and child rapist who victimized multiple boys in both the Jewish and Italian communities he lived in.  Naturally it was the Italians who attempted to bring him to justice while his Jewish community did everything it could to run cover for him and eventually get him to Israel where he has escaped extradition with the reported help of the Gerer Rebbe himself.
Now, let's run that comparison.  Rabbi Farber doesn't believe in Torah MiSinai.  Despite a lack of any archeological evidence to contradict its occuring and some to support it, Yetzias Mitzrayim and the greatest event in human history are just mythology for him.  This drops him out of Orthodoxy as far as many are concerned.  Heck, I'll go further.  I'll bet you he thinks evolution is real and the world is billions of years old.
In his personal behaviour Rabbi Farber is exemplary.  He's a scholar, polite and cultured and treated his colleagues and laymen with decency and honesty.  If he's every touched a young boy it's probably been to prevent the child from running out into traffic.  If he's ever touched a woman other than his mother and daughters he has probably done everything he can to banish lawd thoughts about the encounter from his mind.
Mondrowitz, on the other hand, definitely believes in every word of the Torah at its most literal level.  He probably also accepts all Midrashing as literal historical fact.  He surely thinks that the world is only 5773 years old and that the dinosaurs are a stunt put there by secularists to deny the Torah.  His tefillin, both Rabbi and Rabbeinu Tam, are perfectly kosher and the only part of him that would ever touch a woman is the spittle in his mouth.
He's also a child molester.  He's walking proof that an intense Torah education and lifestyle is not incompatible with base immorality.  Need I add anything to that?
So on one hand you have Rabbi Farber who doesn't believe the right thing but acts quite Jewish when it comes to the overarching goals of making the world a kinder and more decent place.  On the other you have Mondrowitz who believes in all the right things but is a menuval min menuval l'mehadrin
Is it just about beliefs and not about actions?  Yes, the best path is to have the correct beliefs and act in the correct fashion but given the choice of just one, should we be obsessing over a decent guy whose basic metafacts about Creation are wrong or over the people who think that enabling and protecting a monster are fulfilling the ratzon HaShem?
In short, if you were looking to have a good Jewish dinner, who'd you rather eat with?

Thursday 1 August 2013

The Heresy Of Zev Farber

Once upon a time I was sitting in shul on a Shabbos morning and an acquaintance, a proud Conservative, wandered over and asked me if I knew whose yahrzeit it was coming up in a couple of days.  Without hesitating I answered "A.J. Heschel".  The acquaintance smiled and seemed pleased that I knew.  After he walked off someone asked "How did you know?" I responded, "Well, he's Conservative so he'd really only make a big deal out of one of them and when you've only got one 'Gadol' to choose from it's kind of easy to guess."
One must feel a little sorry for Yeshivat Chovevei Torah these days.  Like the Jewish Theological Seminary many students have passed through their gates but only one seems to have qualified for the coveted "Yadin Yadin" status, Rabbi Zev Farber.  Now it turns out their greatest prodigy is trying to redefine Orthodoxy into something that violates much of its treasured core principles and beliefs.
YCT is, of course, no stranger to controvery.  Ever since Rabbi Avi Weiss printed his "Open Orthodoxy" credo the yeshiva and its followers have continually struggled to redefine Orthodoxy further and further into secular territory.  From their pulpit in the Morethodoxy blog they have espoused changing some of our morning blessings because it offends their egalitarian senses, subtly encouraged the idea that halacha should change to allow for homosexual marriage and presented deadly enemies of the State of Israel in an encouraging light.  Each time they insist they have support from the halacha using their pick-a-posek method of decision making.  Each time they insist they are Torah observant in their views and are not violating any principles of Orthodoxy.
In fact there is a tremendous difference that does remain between Morethodoxy and right wing Conservativism. Despite all the comparisons and accusations that have been made that YCT is just JTS with a mechitzah we must acknowledge that the pick-a-posek method, while invalid, is still superior to the so-called Rabbinal Assembly's method of open voting on halacha.  YCT recognizes that they still cannot simply make up new rules or dispense with old ones willy nilly.  We should not forget that.
But Rabbi Farber may have finally crossed a line and provided opponents of YCT with their "Ah ha!" moment.  In a recent essay he endorsed many of the lies that the Documentary Hypothesis has been spreading over the last couple of centuries while analyzing Sefer Devarim.  True, his first statement is vague and can be explained away as simply pointing out that the conclusion of those Sinai-deniers who fail to see the unity and holiness of our Torah.
The simplest explanation for these differences between the accounts in Exodus-Numbers and Deuteronomy is that they were penned by (at least) two different authors with different conceptions of the desert experience
But one of concluding statements dispenses with that assumption of innocence:
 it appears to me that being able to accept that there are contradictory perspectives expressed in the Torah allows us to offer meaningful interpretations of each and to address significant tensions in the text without feeling the need to create hollow apologetic explanations
By referring to the wisdom of Chazal as apologetics Rabbi Farber seems to be stating his preference for the academic approach to Chumash rather than the Jewish one.  His tossing out of the phrase eilu v'eilu to justify his position smacks of open Reformativism.  Eilu v'eilu doesn't include opinions that allow driving on Shabbos or the eating of bacon.
This is not the only time Rabbi Farber crosses the important line.  He dismisses the narratives of Bereshis as mere allegories and moral tales, denying the historical existence of Avraham Avinu et al, something no believing Jew could conceive of doing.  His final justification for continuing to be "Orthodox" despite not believing in fundamental principles of it sounds like a paean to orthopraxy:
I was once asked by a friend how I can go on being an Orthodox Jew when I believe that virtually all of the stories in the Torah are ahistorical. I responded with a story from the Babylonian Talmud (Berachot 61b). During the Hadrianic persecutions, when the teaching of Torah was a capital offense, a man named Pappos asks Rabbi Akiva why he continues to teach Torah if it could get him killed. Rabbi Akiva answers that a fox once asked a fish why he swims in water if he could get caught by fishermen. “Would it not be better,” the fox asks, “to hide on the dry land and avoid the nets?” The fish responds that this would be a bad idea. “Outside the water,” the fish says, “I will surely die; inside the water I have a chance.” “I am the fish,” says Rabbi Akiva, “and the Torah is my water.”
This is a powerful story about Rabbi Akiva’s commitment to his faith and people. Now, if Pappos had responded by saying, “Akiva, you are telling tales—fish don’t talk,” he would have been missing the point. “It doesn’t matter whether fish talk,” we would respond, “Rabbi Akiva’s story is still true.” Now, I am going to tell you something else: there was no Pappos; the story is a fictional account, written in Babylonia four hundred years after Rabbi Akiva’s death. Nevertheless, that is not the point; it is still true. 
In short, Rabbi Farber doesn't believe the Torah is a produce of the Divine.  He doesn't believe our forefathers existed.  He simply feels comfort in Orthodox practice the same way a Reformative feels comfort in what passes for Judaism on their side of the line.  He continues to keep kosher not because of some imperative from Sinai because frankly the Sinai experience probably didn't happen, chalilah.  He does it because he likes it, it gives something to him. His religious experience is selfish, just like that of the Reformatives.
And despite YCT's protests to the contrary we should not be fooled that the leadership of Morethodoxy has any problem with this position.  They can't.  Accepting that Matan Torah happened, accepting that the Torah is a divine and accurately preserved expression of the Will of God and that the Oral Law is a necessary part of it, not a product of Chazal invented much later on, creates the authoritative mesorah which must be handled with extreme care and only by the greatest authorities, none of whom work for YCT.  It means that being Torah observant is the correct lifestyle for a Jew and the only one at that.  It means no moral relativism but external standards of right and wrong that do not change to fit secular society's mood.  In contrast, the new "Rosh Yeshivah", Rabbi Asher Lopatin, is on regard as dismissing the uniqueness of Orthodoxy when it comes to genuine Torah observance.  For him, like Farber and the others Orthodoxy is simply a stream, a style, not the authentic practice of the mesorah we have received from our ancestors.  I have no doubt that the leadership of YCT does not believe in the historical reality of Matan Torah or the unity of the Torah as a God-given document.  Unlike Rabbi Farber they realize they cannot continue to portray themselves as "Orthodox" if they admit it publicly.
Now Rabbi Farber may be a nice man.  He is probably quite ethical, honest and decent in his dealings with others.  But it seems that he is not, despite his attempts to redefine the term, Orthodox.  A pity such a mind has gone off in the wrong direction.