The new Azure is out with many an interesting article. We will mention tow in particular here:

1) An article that discusses a middle ground among Jewish medieval philosophers between those that demand that ethics be determined by reason alone and those that demand that monopoly for tradition. The “third way” argues for a dialogue in which tradition needs to be rationally justified, but need not be rationally self-evident. Very interesting.

2) Yet another article, albeit a very well written one, about halacha’s failure to rise to the challenge of Jewish sovereignty and modern existence in this day and age. While I agree with much that they say, I am extremely skeptical. I have almost completely despaired of the ability of any halachic authority – big or small – to leave the “shteitel mode” and stop acting like we’re still in kehilot in Europe with the goyim doing everything else for us (military protection, law enforcement, production of food, electricity &c). Furthermore, in a day and age where most religious learning institutions either ban or look down upon basic secular knowledge (as was done in the Hildesheimer seminar), I see no possibility of pathbreakers making a mark. Most are simply rejected and ignored; the case of Rav Goren is just such a cautionary tale.

While I like to hope that the authors are right that the tools exist for rejuvenating Orthodox halacha and thought, the will for doing so is completely non-existent. As long as that is the case, no amount of well-reasoned arguments will make any difference.

3) Lookjed has an interesting discussion regarding letting academic Talmud study into the Beit Midrash and religious schools. I’ll have more to say on the issue of Talmud study, but I would like to address Rav Blau’s plea to stick to “traditional” Charedi methods of learning to maintain “unity”.

My response is two-fold:

First, unity does not mean uniformity. We are under no compulsion to learn exactly as one branch of Orthodoxy does, even if it means that we don’t exactly speak the same language. In my opinion that cat is already out of the bag – our attitude towards so many things, such as Hazal and science, the question of whether to take aggada literally &c already separates us. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we are a people “divided by a common language”.

Second, I am sick and tired of calls for self-debasement in the name of unity. Apparently, for all that we are “modern” we will throw all that away if only the Charedim will “accept” us. Do we have no self-respect at all? If we truly believe that there are different approaches that are all legit, why is it Rabbi Blau and others still work on the assumption that “some approaches are more equal than others”?! MO will not become vibrant until we learn to stand up to both the right and the left and proudly announce that we truly believe in our path.

The question of inviting academic methods into our world is a sticky one, and there are many legit questions on this issue, some of which I discussed bizmano. But the idea that we should drop everything we have built at the possibility that the Right will accept us is a betrayal of our derech, one that smacks more of unjustified feelings of inferiority than genuine “achdut”.

Shabbat Shalom



Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at: opdycke1861NOSPAM@yahoo.com
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