Monday, December 09, 2013

Interesting posts and articles #390

1. Pop Chassid on how Baalei Teshuva should keep on rebelling.
And a baal teshuva is uniquely positioned to notice those mistakes.  He comes to Judaism with a fresh perspective.  While, yes, he needs to spend much of his process letting go of a lot of the falseness he picked up throughout his life, he also brought along plenty of his own truth.  That’s why he chose to be a baal teshuva in the first place: he already had a voice within him, guiding him, that caused him to finally choose to be an orthodox Jew. And so it is inevitable that he will notice inconsistencies in the culture of the orthodox world.  It is inevitable that he will be bothered by them.  It is inevitable that he will want to change things. And so, after he rebels against the world that brought him up, he now must rebel against the world that brought him in.
Frum Satire on how Baalei Teshuva are a danger to the Orthodox community (probably intended as satire, but there is a valid point about people from outside Judaism bringing in foreign values):
I’m not just talking about polluting the pure blood yichus and mesorah of the FFB master race, I’m actually talking about a full fledged movement that seeks to destroy Orthodoxy as we know it. Pop Chassid has written an article that explains exactly what I have been saying all along, that BT’s are seeking an escape from their former lives, only to try and bring snippets of their former lives with them. Unfortunately, these snippets of their former lives are usually the negative aspects, concepts such as sexy and tznius, art, culture, music, and other things which have been banished from our community in order that we stay strong and don’t assimilate.
And a followup rant by someone who took his satire seriously.

2. I just got a SodaStream, and was wondering whether I could use it on Shabbos. Mi Yodea covers the issue...

3. An interesting Imamother thread. Some of those comments denying legitimacy to the Rationalist Jewish position, from a baalas teshuva who doesn't know better, are quite aggravating. E.g.:
Sir, this is a religion. We believe in a talking snake. If you want rational, the science department is down the hall and across the quadrangle. They even have their own elevator. Sometimes they need to come here and sometimes we need to go there. But we can tell the difference. 

Your poor befuddled DH can't tell the difference.
And these poor befuddled commenter never was exposed to the Abarbanel.

Or from another commenter:
One more thing: IIRC, the exact quote from Rashi is "אני לא בא אלא לפרש פשוטו של מקרא" 
(My commentary is nothing except to interpret the pshat) It's a much stronger, precise statement than "favoring".
When this is not the exact quote, but rather - ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא, דבר דבור על אופניו, which undermines the claim that the only thing in Rashi is peshat.

4. It seems that World Net Daily is promoting a book by some guy who thinks Rav Kaduri ended up endorsing Jesus as mashiach. The claim is of course total nonsense. I wrote about this a few years back, analyzing Rav Kaduri's note. To quote one comment from there:
However, as I mentioned before, the cultural, intellectual, theological, and sociological divide for a Sefardi kabbalist initially from Iraq but who lived most of his life in Israel to become a sudden (closet) Christian seems just to wide as to be implausible.
There are other, more probable explanations. And even if he did somehow go off the deep end, that shouldn't that matter to us.

5. Rabbi Natan Slifkin has a series of posts subjecting Rabbi Moshe Meiselman's latest work to careful analysis.

My own take on this subject: There are many approaches to Torah and Science, and (seeming or real) contradictions between the two. Historically there are different approaches as well. Depending on which sources you choose (either before or after the fact) you can come up with an approach and bolster it. Either strongly or weakly. And the people involved in that approach believe that they are right, to the exclusion of the people / sources involved in the other approach.

Rabbi Meiselman has an approach. Some of it is grounded on sources. Some of it he has innovated (e.g. where he rejects explanations of gemaras by all the Rishonim and gives his own novel interpretation). That is nice, and fine. It might be true, or it might be false. The "problem" arises as he tries to write the competing approach out of Judaism, label those who follow that approach heretics, and so on. And that is why the critical analysis of Rabbi Meiselman's book becomes necessary, to show how he ignores certain sources (gemaras, Rishonim) and is inconsistent as he violates his own established principles of what is theologically acceptable to say.

6) As part of that series, see in particular about Metzitza and the Rav (part one and part two). Anda post at the Seforim blog. It demonstrates the importance of learning mipi soferim velo mipi sefarim. To quote:
In a post at the Seforim Blog, Dr. Marc Shapiro noted that Rav Schachter wrote a footnote in the second edition recording the view of one of the Rav's talmidim that the Rav was not opposed to metzitzah per se, just to metzitzah b'peh. Someone sent me the following comment:
I spoke to Rav Schachter after I read Marc Shapiro's post and he insisted that Rav Soloveitchik did not require metzitzah at all (he mentioned the Sdei Chemed to me when I asked him how Rav Soloveitchik could say such a thing). When I mentioned Marc Shapiro's post to him, he said one or two of the Rav's talmidim in Israel insisted that the Rav never said metzizah is unnecessary, so Rav Schachter added a footnote to this effect in the next edition of Nefesh Harav. However, Rav Schachter in his conversation with me was insistent that the Rav, indeed, did not require metzitzah at all.
7) Life In Israel wonders whom to credit for the rainstorms in Israel. He didn't consider HaRav Nir Ben Artzi, shlita who after all predicted it. (Oy.)

8) At Hirhurim, in a post by Rabbi Joshua Berman, a fifth essay about Orthodoxy and Biblical Criticism. Discrepancies Between Law in Sefer Devarim and the Other Books of the Torah: Laying Out the Questions. And now a sixth essay.

And Rabbi Gil Student responds, in The Art of Halachah.

I think that it is wonderful that people are "saving" Judaism from the threats posed by Biblical Criticism, with strong arguments. And they are frum arguments. But if in the course of this defense, one dramatically redefines the core beliefs from the traditional, I wonder if we are really saving it. Chazal and the Rishonim by and large believed that the Torah was deliberately written "poor" in some places and "rich" in others, that irregularities of language and seeming contradictions were part of that deliberateness, and that the hermeneutic rules of the Oral Law were part and parcel of the Authorial Intent, rather than a weak kvetch made after the fact to resolve difficulties. When one rejects that premise, saying for example that:
Abarbanel’s approach has value, and I shall review it more closely in my fourth essay. But it is also limited as a solution to the problem of discrepancies between law in Devarim and elsewhere. The notion that some of the mitzvot in Devarim may represent extensions, corrolaries—toladot—of some earlier mitzvot is well and good. It does not, however, help us reconcile the law of the first born in Bamidbar 18 and in Devarim 15. Here, there is no way to see the law in Devarim as an extension or a toladah of the law in Bamidbar 18. The law in Devarim 15 directly contravenes the law given in Bamidbar 18. Abarbanel was aware of this discrepancy, but does no more than to cite the harmonistic solution of the Sifre mentioned above.
thus implicitly rejecting the validity of the derasha of the Sifrei, then even if one does not go with the "Competing Legal Traditions" approach, but instead redefines what "Law" meant, and argues that it was meant to be fluid, then one is losing something.

Maybe what one is losing is the unnuanced haredi approach. (And yes, in other contexts, I myself have championed approaches that diverge from the simplistic traditional approach accepted by the hamon am.) But I wonder if we are redefining our tradition as something entirely separate from historic traditional rabbinic Judaism. And then I wonder if there is any point to the endeavor. (Well, of course there is a point, if one believes that these answers are correct. It is then the pursuit of truth.) Is it possible to defend the traditional approach, on its own grounds?

(Update: I should also note that the author intends to ground his position in traditional thought. Thus, he wrote about the upcoming third and fourth essays:
The [ed: third] essay concludes by demonstrating that the conclusions reached here are in concert with provocative comments by the Netziv (R. Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin; ) about the fluid and changing nature of halakhah. Finally, in the fourth essay I build on the previous essays and explain why law in Sefer Devarim diverges from law found in the earlier books of the Torah. I demonstrate that the conclusions I reach were already anticipated in the writing of R. Zadok Ha-Cohen Rabinowitz of Lublin (1823-1900).

9) Tablet Magazine on an important issue -- how to get wax off of your menorah.

1 comment:

Henoch said...

Regarding point # 4:

See the attached Rashbam who writes about his criticism of Rashi, his grandfather, about Rashi's style which often strayed far from Peshat.

רשב"ם בראשית פרק לז

אלה תולדות יעקב - ישכילו ויבינו אוהבי שכל מה שלימדונו רבותינו כי אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו, אף כי עיקרה של תורה באת ללמדנו ולהודיענו ברמיזת הפשט ההגדות וההלכות והדינין על ידי אריכות הלשון ועל ידי שלשים ושתים מידות של ר' אליעזר בנו של ר' יוסי הגלילי ועל ידי שלש עשרה מידות של ר' ישמעאל. והראשונים מתוך חסידותם נתעסקו לנטות אחרי הדרשות שהן עיקר, ומתוך כך לא הורגלו בעומק פשוטו של מקרא, ולפי שאמרו חכמים אל תרבו בניכם בהגיון, וגם אמרו העוסק במקרא מדה ואינה מדה העוסק בתלמוד אין לך מדה גדולה מזו, ומתוך כך לא הורגלו כל כך בפשוטן של מקראות, וכדאמ' במסכת שבת הוינא בר תמני סרי שנין וגרסינ' כולה תלמודא ולא הוה ידענא דאין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו. וגם רבנו שלמה אבי אמי מאיר עיני גולה שפירש תורה נביאים וכתובים נתן לב לפרש פשוטו של מקרא, ואף אני שמואל ב"ר מאיר חתנו זצ"ל נתווכחתי עמו ולפניו והודה לי שאילו היה לו פנאי היה צריך לעשות פרושים אחרים לפי הפשטות המתחדשים בכל יום. ועתה יראו המשכילים מה שפירשו הראשונים


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