Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cross Currents on Slifkin

The Slifkin ban was announced on Hirhurim on January 11, 2005. The following three posts were my reaction to Cross Current's notorious non-reaction, including the famously bad attempt by R' Emanual Feldman to address the situation.

Original post date: Thursday, January 13, 2005

Day 1: Will they weigh in on the Slifkin controversy?


Original post date: January 16, 2005

I'm glad they said something. I'm not sure I like what they said...

Updates: I don't like what they said.
Paul, also, does not like what they said and his points are on target.
Daas Hedyot makes a good point.

Original post date January 28,2005

Gill writes: R. Emanuel Feldman brilliantly comments on the Slifkin controversy. hmmmm. Let's see.

The Following Are Real Time Thoughts That Occured to Me As I Read R' Feldman's Article

Hey, he can write! They ain't making Rabbis like that anymore. Wonder where he went to school, and if he'd let his own kid go there.

Uh oh. Why is he bashing the Modern Orthodox? Ok, he's cleverly put the bashing into the mouth of a "highly intelligent baal-teshuva" but it's bashing all the same. He repeats that the same hoary myths about MO culture, and makes the same mistake about the MO approach that every yeshivish person makes. Why is he doing this?

Here's the nut of his attack on the MO: He looks at the MO masses, and pretend that their behavior defines the movement. But every single shortcoming he identifies among the MO masses are present to the same degree among the black hat masses. Casuallness. Materialism. It's all there. So why aren't the black hatters defined by their masses? Why are the black hatters defined by their rabonim instead? Couldn't he offer the MO the same courtesy and define MO by their rabonim? This dishonest approach is all too common, and its 100 percent unfair.

Oh my! When writing about the Haredim, he hedges: "I fully realize that many individual haredim are kind, generous, charitable, but the group comes across..." No similar bone was thrown to the MOs. They were denounced as a group, with no exceptions offerred. No mention was made of all the sincere, religiously scrupulous MOs. Why?

He writes: "After all, it was the cultural elite of the 20th century who were also the leaders of 20th century brutality, playing Bach while the crematoria did their work." Excuse me, but owning a record player, and knowing how to operate it does not make you a "cultural elite." This is a straw man. And a flabby one at that.

He writes: "Despite all this, the haredim have been most successful, and have really defeated the MO on the battlefield of ideas." No, they just have more children.

He writes: "They have a charismatic leadership, a consistent ideology, they are intensely Jewish, they sacrifice." Spoken like a man who has never been inside a Brooklyn shul, or on the sidewalk outside a Brookln starter-palace. Charisma? Sacrifice? You mean they bought a Lexus instead of a Mercedes?

He writes: "Their is purpose in their lives, spiritual strength, sanctity, self assurance - and these have attracted many Jews under their umbrella.Unlike the MO, they have little difficulty is retaining their next generation" Spoken like a man who's never been inside Yeshiva University. Is that Bes Medresh silent? Is there no purpose inside those walls? Has enrollment at Hesder Yeshivot dropped? The lies in this little sentance are too many to count.

Overall: What a disapointing hack job. And I don't know what Gil was talking about. This article doesn't discuss Slifkin. It's just a vile propoganda attack on the MO.

I don't think it was particularly favorable toward haredim, either.

Some specific comments:

'why can’t they use larger kippot that will stay on their heads? '

I wear a large black velvet kippa, but I still require velcro.

Seriously, this emphasis on externals is really ridiculous. Does the author of these remarks really think that wearing crocheted kippot is one of the problems with modern Orthodox Judaism?

'Movies, theater, TV, with all their crassness'

Hey, I don't watch TV. Neither does my wife. Does that make us not MO?

'female megillah readings'

What is ussur about an all-women Megillah reading? The overwhelming majority of halachic sources permit a women to fulfil her mitzvah in hearing the Megillah by
hearing another woman leyn it.

'In many MO day schools, Torah study is a subject among other subjects: Talmud first period, mathematics second period, biology third period, etc. This reflected is some MO lives. Although obeisance is given to Torah as the supreme value, Torah is compartmentalized as one of a number of pursuits.'

I would argue the contrary: In many MO day schools, Torah is not compartmented; the message is that Torah is a part of life and that it informs everything.

'When was the last time you heard of a MO chumra? '

My posek, a YU grad with semicha from RIETS, suggested that it might be advisable to get rid of my chametz rather than selling it. I agreed to take that one on.
Miraculously, I met a woman who had taken on the same chumra, so I married her! (Thank you,!)

Or maybe it isn't a chumra, just not taking advantage of a heter? In any case, we dropped of several bags of food containing chametz at a local shul yesterday to be distributed to poor non-Jews.

And in my experience, MO folks are much more machmir regarding zemanim
than are charedim -- especially Chasidim.

'I am uncomfortable with the whiff of compromise '

I've seen the statement "Moderation is not compromise" attributed to
Rov Soloveitchik. Can anyone identify the source, if he did indeed say that?

'group as group comes across as self-righteousness and intolerant of other viewpoints'

My experience could not be further from the truth. I have been blessed with two haredi rabbis as important teachers in my journey and I have seen none of

OTOH I think that the haredi rabbis who banned Rabbi Slifkin's works made huge mistakes in doing so, with negative consequences for the long term future of rabbinic Judaism is the ban is obeyed.

'it was the cultural elite of the 20th century who were also the leaders of 20th century brutality, playing Bach while the crematoria did their work'

They may have listened to Bach but they certainly did not listen to Schoenberg, arguably the most important composer of the first half of the 20th century!


Neither charedi nor modern Orthodox Judaism is quite so sterotypical as indicated here.
Ugh. What a bad article. Thanks for bringing back the awful memories.
hey DB, can't you retcon the dates of these archived posts to match when they were actually written?
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