[Today, I’m going to make this debate interactive. This post will include only AIWAC’s challenge, and will remain unanswered until next week. I invite readers to think of ways to respond in the comments section. Kol Tuv, Avi/AIWAC]
Look, I agree that it is necessary to do everything possible to prepare answers and responses to the challenges of modern scholarship, if only to try and head off or at least slow down the rate of Jews going OTD because of it. Indeed, the previous policy of extremely controlled to no exposure (i.e. “don’t ask, don’t tell”) to scholarly and philosophical problems no longer works. Rabbi Dr. Michael Avraham mentioned once that many of the people who approach him with questions are precisely from the more intellectually closed yeshivot.
But it’s worse than that. The internet has pretty much destroyed any remaining barriers. If in earlier times an inquisitive Jew had to at least shlep to a library and seek out forbidden tomes, now anyone with an internet connection can do so. All the most difficult challenges to Orthodox Judaism are available to anyone at the click of a mouse. In his response to Rabbi Breuer regarding Bible study, Rabbi Dr. Shneyur Leiman admonished that the issue needs to be carefully controlled for different audiences, depending on age, background and experience. That policy is now pointless, if not outright harmful.
Nevertheless, while I agree that the challenges need to be met, my original point still stands: little to no good can come from academic Jewish studies for Orthodoxy. For every positive benefit, there are dozens of problems and dilemmas. One who enters this field or learns its teachings will only be mekayem the passuk “He who increases knowledge, increases pain” (Kohelet 1:8). The only purpose to expose Orthodox Jews to this must be to help them cope with the problems.
No religious good can come from integrating academic Jewish Studies and Judaism. No spiritual or religious growth, no benefit for limmud Torah or kiyum Mitzvot. The people who advocated such a synthesis in the 19th and early 20th can at least be forgiven their naivete for thinking the integration could be done. Surely, at the beginning of the 21st, we know better.