Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Pluralism in Lakewood

Continuing on this week's topic of Lakewood Blogging, I would like to bring up the topic of Pluralism in the Lakewood Yeshiva.
(Agav Urcha, are their any bloggers in Lakewood proper? There are Chassidic Bloggers, both in Israel and the United States, but where are the frum, Litvish Bloggers? OK. Besides the obvious answer that they would not be waste time blogging.)

As most people who have spent time in Yeshiva would tell you, in every Yeshiva, sometime before the Zman (learning semester) begins the Yeshiva (or some combination of the administration/hanhala) picks a Masechta (tractate), which will be learned for that Zman. There is, as a rule, one Masechta and various politics determine what that Masechta is.

As a rule of all Yeshivot/s, everyone has to learn what the Yeshiva is learning. Even in a place like YU/RIETS, one cannot just choose to learn what they want. They have to be part of the Yeshiva and learn the official masechta. (Agav, I have friends who were almost thrown out of Yeshiva University's Mazer Yeshiva Program because they tried not going to Shiur; ah "The Shuffle"....)

However, whenever I speak to friends or family who are learning in Lakewood, I ask them what they are learning and every one says something different. This one is learning Eruvin, another is learning Hilchos Shabbos, a third is learning Temurah.
Although there is an official "Yeshiva Masechta" and supposedly 2/3 of the Yeshiva is learning that Masechta, anyone who wants to can join a group (chaburah) which is studying whatever he wants to study.

The official Yeshiva Masechta (tractate) is usually something Yeshivish (Now why is one masechta considered Yeshivish and another is not is a whole other story, which I may or may not get to blogging about, but an interest case of cannons and cannonization) and people who have been learning seriously for ten years (as many people who learn in Lakewood have) have probably studied the standard Yeshivish masechtahs and are ready to learn something else. Therefore, they will study whatever they want. And since Bais Medrash Gevoha has thousands of students, one can find a Chaburah studying whatever topic or Masechta they want.

Now what are the implications of this? Imagine, if you will, a University where people can choose whatever they would like to study every semester. Now in most colleges, people can choose a course of study, but are limited to what courses are being offered any given semester and what courses one needs to finish their degree. (I am aware of the differences between the two : 1) Everyone is either studying Gemara or halakha; no one is spending morning seder studying Machshava or Tanach 2) Choosing between different masechtahs is much more narrow than choosing between different college courses, but I still believe that the parallel holds.) One of the miraculous feats that this requires is having Gabbaim to arrange seating for every Chaburah (study group) near each other within the various Batei Medrashim (study halls) and the Gabbai Seforim (librarians) arranging the necessary books to be near those Chaburot before every Zman (semester).

But an implication that I have recently begun to wonder about is the implicit freedom and choice that such a system entails. How does it effect their Judaism if they can choose what they would like to learn with whom when?

In my experience, however, this system does not foster any creativity. Presumably because by the time Bachurim (single students) get to Lakewood, any creative impulses in learning have been suppressed. And this is not a culture of creative approaches to learning. (Hmm maybe I should Blog about the road to lakewood and the freezer....)

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Halakhic Values and Fetuses

I try to avoid talking politics in this blog (though my policy may be subject to change in the future), but I was struck how something has missed the Jewish scene.
Last week Congress passed a law making it a Federal crime to kill fetuses. Not abortion (which was explicitly excluded from the law), but if one hurts a pregnant woman, there is a separate crimes to kill her baby.

Now clearly this is meant as a minor skirmish in the abortion debate, but this law reminded me of something. Like a Pasuk in Parshat/s Mishpatim about how killing a fetus is only a civil and not a criminal offense. This idea is backed up in several places in the Gemara.

I am not writing about this to make a pro- or anti- abortion statement, but wouldn't Jewish values require us to protest this law as a clear violations of the Jewish values which should inform every Orthodox Jewish organization's policy. But I have not heard a peep from anyone across the spectrum of the Jewish community. (To be honest, I am not an avid follower of Jewish public policy, except where it interests me.)

Now, of course I am blogging this to make a point. If we were to take the idea of "Jewish values" seriously, and using Halakha to inform our public policy decisions we should come out strongly against this law. However, noone will; at least not as a statement of halakhic principle. Which makes me question how much Orthodox Jewish organizations really use halakha to inform their decision-making.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Recently, the term "flexidox" recently was raised in assorted blogs, based upon a category.

Now although it is has been established that the term was coined by Gershon Winkler, author of the Golem book (the introduction is fascinating where he attempts to establish the historical accuracy of the Maharal & the Golem story) and currently a desert shaman of the Jewish persuasion, this category strikes a chord beyond the Shamanic community.

Why would someone call themselves flexidox? Clearly it's a play on the word, Orthodox. So does it mean that they keep all of halakhah, but are somewhat flexible in their beliefs? Though this would be a naive understanding of the term, a more accurate term would be Orthoprax. So I suspect that it means somewhat flexible in their observance of halakha. So why call themselves flexidox and not either Conservative or a culturally Jewish person?

Because, presumably they are culturally Orthodox and maintain, for the most part, an observance of the Orthodox lifestyle. So why not say Orthodox? Because clearly they deviate in some "flexible" ways from an Orthodox understanding of halakha and are acutely aware of their deviations. At least they have the courage to admit that what they are observing is not, strictly speaking, Judaism, but rather some close proximity to it.

So why not just leave? Because they can have all, (or most) of the benefits of an Orthodox lifestyle and the Orthodox community, without any of the burdens of not being able to do you want, when you want to.

The danger for the Orthodox community is that these people encourage an attitude of showing up and pretending to play by the rules. Besides the cynical attitude towards Avodas haShem that this implies, it makes a mockery of the religious observance that many people struggle with.
The Orthodox Community does not (and should not) want to reject these people for various reasons. However, the more Orthodoxy becomes a separate cultural community and less a community of believers and Ovdei HaShem, the greater this dangers becomes.

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Answer to Yesterday's Quiz

The largest institution of Jewish learning in the history of the Western World is....
Bais Medrash Gevoha of Lakewood, NJ.

OK. So why am I giving history lessons on my Blog? Mainly because this shows a major failing on the part of the American Jewish Media Elite. If one looks through the archives of the major (and minor) Jewish newspapers, they have almost no stories about Bais Medrash Gevoha. One can think of any one of a hundred reasons and counter-reasons why this is so, but it boils down to a combination of two factors:
1) The American Jewish media is lazy and doesn't do any real reporting (i.e. "since Hamodia and Yated are not available on the web and anyway, who cares about those silly backwards Chareidim, let's ignore them.")
2) The American Jewish media doesn't know anything about the Jewish Community outside of their backyard.

Now this would normally not be a problem. OK, so there are amharatzim and idiots in the world. However, since many Jews and, more importantly, non-Jews use this Jewish media for their understand of the American Jewish Community, it is more than just unfortunate that they appear to ignore one of the most vibrant, fast-growing, Jewish communities, it is irresponsible. It begs larger questions about perceptions of the Jewish community and Jewish education.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Interfaith Dialogue Continued

The basic question about interfaith dialogue:
Can radically different religions understand each other's inner faiths, foundational beliefs, and deepest convictions?
If yes (like I and apparently RIETS Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi K. J. Wieder believe) then the Rav zt"l is wrong in Confrontation and interfaith dialogue is possible. If no, then than the Rav is correct and there is nothing more to say.

However, if we are correct and interfaith dialogue is possibility, then the next question is whether such dialogue is prudent or productive. The answer might be no, but then this is no longer the Rav's framework.

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Whatever happened to Edah?
Their website hasn't been updated in years.

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Question of the Day

What is the largest institution of Jewish learning in the history of the Western world?
(Answer to be posted tomorrow, with commentary)

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Friday, March 26, 2004

Explanation of this Blog

People have asked me why I did not include in this blog a list of recommended blogs, links, etc.

The main answer is that I have enough faith in my readers to decide what they want and do not wish to read. Now, I know that this will win me few friends from fellow Bloggers (and even fewer links), but if I feel strongly that a particular site is worth visiting, then I will make a plug for it.

Furthermore, you may notice a lack of links on this site. Some sites get most of their readership from being a bulletin board of links to other sites. Now, one might claim that the essence of Hock is to know what is going on. Now, this is a fundamental misconception. The expert Hocker at a minimum knows what going on. However, knowing the fact is only 25% of Hocking. The other 75% is knowing how the spin the facts, providing context and the proper history and future for anything that takes place.

Indeed this is the fundamental challenge for most blogs. The more links one provides from a website or blog the more useful it is and the more hits it has. The more opinion, the fewer hits. Now, often a blog will increase the links to get the hits and therefore have a forum for the blogger's stories, opinions, etc.

I am going to buck the trend and see if this Blog can survive on a minimum of links and a maximum of spin. If my ideas hold water, then they will come. If not, then a will become another neglected corner of the blog-o-sphere, like the some many pieces of roadkill on I-95.

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Modern Orthodox Moral Quandry of the Week

Say, as part a larger Modern Orthodox organization, you are running an educational program to train future Modern Orthodox leaders. This would involve having undergraduate and graduate students listen to various "experts" speak about various topics of importance and interest to them and the larger Modern Orthodox community.

Now, what would you do if you found out that one of those speakers was not only not Orthodox, but her personal life was, to speak kindly, somewhat non-Ozzie and Harriet?

Now, let's assume, for the sake of arguement, that she is speaking about personal sexual matters, of a most private and discreet kind. Would you then decline to have her speak on the topic? Or, say she is an academic expert on this topic and her personal life is unrelated to the program?

Discuss among yourselves

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Run Down of the Jewish Weeklies

At some point in the not too distant future, this will be seen as a golden age, when you can go online, skim The Jewish Week, The Forward, glance through Protocols, and maybe the Town Crier and know what's going on in the Jewish World (or all that matters for New York Orthodox Jews, given that noone is Blogging Hamodia or the Yated yet, hint, hint.). In 15 minutes, I can be up to date on everything, and find an occasionally interesting article.

How long can this last for? Eventually, infomation overload will settle in and Hock again will be diffused.
OK, some interesting stories (besides the standard Israel, political and Jewish filler) in both The Forward:
Ariel Foxman: Abe's son, Frisch alumni, and Cargo's new editor
Dana Mase: Orthodox Hausfrau by Day, Pop Rocker by Night
Orthodox Jews at the Circus (SIW)

and The 'Week:
Victims of Brooklyn terrorist attack get Smicha
Karaite victims of Ashdod bombing
CBST (please, please, please give me attention!!!)

No news, but no one uses them for news anymore, anyway.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Quote of the Day

I love the sound of Torah in the morning; it is the sound of victory.
(With apologies to John Milius & Francis Ford Coppola.)

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Jewish Identity

This blog is threatening to quickly become another of those Rant-About-YU blogs. Though, cheaper than therapy, let's focus on something else, gentle readers, before J-Dub returns to blog again.

When anyone speaks about Jewish these days, it could refer to one of two things:
Judaism as identity
Judaism as religion.

Now with Judaism as identity, pretty much anything goes. And despite being a New York Orthodox Jew (you can see those two letters popping up on my Protocols link right now), I pretty much agree. There is no reason to say that something is not "Jewish" just because I feel that it is not "Jewish". So I am a pretty live and let live when it comes to Jewish identity. If you think that it is Jewish, gay gehzunter hey.

In contrast, when it comes to religion, I am pretty much a stickler for rules. Judaism is bound by halakha and ikkarei emunah. Hey, feel free to disagree all you want, but I just don't consider it Jewish. You can see that from my earlier comments, where, responding to the Elf, I called her position "not Jewish". It might be "Jewish" in the identity sense (like the Democratic Party, Kahane-esque politics, gay culture, or Commentary Magazine), but please do not confuse it with the religion which I hold to be true and dear.

Identity is an interesting phenomenon. It provides people with the essentials of life, meaning/significance, order, and connection. Everything people need other than food, clothing, and shelter. But it is vapid, constructed, and fungible; whatever one decides their Jewish identity is, that is it.

What makes this more interesting is that the entire Jewish community (with the exception of the Orthodox and Conservative Synagogues and Rabbis) is built upon Jewish identity. Why do people give to Jewish causes? Because it provides their identity with meaning, order, and connection. But if Jewish identity is purely constructed and intrinsically meaningless (not to say that it does not provide meaning, but since two opposite identities can be rooted in Jewish tradition and sources there is no way of privileging one identity over another, though Hartman Center is trying, more on that later) then why use the given Jewish identity (and its implicit responsibilities and requirements) that the Jewish Community says that you must have. This is the essential conundrum which the Organized Jewish Community is facing.

Last year there was a whole tumult about Douglas Rushkoff's book Nothing Sacred. Various publications and Blogs weighed in on the matter. Some pro; most con.
Now if instead of attempting to redefine Judaism Rushkoff had said the following:
"Judaism for most people these days is an expression of their identity, not of a religion. OK. Now if we accept that fact, we can get beyond the parochial, by-the-numbers, ritual oriented Judaism and really connect to Jews about what they truely believe," it would have been better received. And most likely true.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Cardinals and the Dialogue Question (corrected)

Simcha and the Town Crier have rather bland summary of opinion pieces on the visit of the Cardinals to the YU Bais Medrash. Rabbi Jeremy Wieder has a rather sane editorial in YC's newspaper, the Commentator, about the visit. He is essentially correct that the trip was rather uneventful and unavoidable, but he fundamentally misunderstands the Rabbi Soloveitchik's Confrontation (which is not surprising, given his tendency to speak about any issue about which he is asked whether or not he has knowledge of the subject). Although previously I wrote that the trip was a sea change in Orthodox dialogue, this trip had little to do with YU.

YU has basically declined over the past twenty years to be including in the public discourse. As religion has gained a distinct voice in the marketplace of ideas, the leadership of YU could have chosen to take a lead in establishing itself as an articulate, sane, and traditionally rooted voice. The downside would mean exposing itself to the public eye and suffering when exposed (ala Rabbi Dani Stein's recent article). It would also have required a certain interest in affecting public discourse, as opposed to churning out Modern Orthodox Baalhabatim and Rabbis, which is what it has, in fact, been doing.

Now Israel Singer and the World Jewish Congress seeking to become the leaders of the Organized Jewish Community, have taken control of the Christian Jewish dialogue and will be running things in the forseeable future, including Orthodox Jewish/Catholic dialogue. Next time, the Cardinal's trip will not include a visit through the YU Bais Medrash. It's causing too much flack. Next time, they will stick to Chabad/770 and Bobov. YU will continue to be a big player in Modern Orthodoxy, a bit player in the Organized Jewish Community, and absent from the larger American stage. Which is fine, because this allows it's Roshei Yeshiva to say and write what they want, and to maintain its mediocre status.

Of course an obvious implication of Rabbi Wieder's article could be that he fundamentally disagrees with the Rav zt"l's position. Religions can understand each other (which I personally believe). But dialogue is imprudent because it will encourage us to reconcile and force us to change our beliefs or practices. Which is counter to the Rav's fundamental proposition. And that makes him the most radical of all.

Last question: Since Protocols is fundamentally attached to the WJC, should they offer disclaimers anytime either interfaith dialogue or the WJC is discussed?

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Monday, March 22, 2004

More on Maimonides Conference

Someone remarked to me that Dr. Grach (aka Professor Haym Soloveitchik) in his Maimonidean conference talk was talking as much about his father, the Rav, as about Maimonides. Especially when he referred to Maimonides as an artist who everyone sees themselves reflected in work. The artist whose compositions are so perfect that noone can possibly know its full and real meaning. And that people are inhibited to expand upon his writings, as it contains both the theoretical framework along with case studies. How he covertly polemicized in such a way that unless one knows the context one cannot see the polemic. There is more to be said, but ha-maivin yavin.

Further reports saw Dr. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Basil Herring, and Rabbi Saul Berman, talking between lectures with a small crowd surrounding them.
Rumour has it that they were talking about Ikkarei Emunah and what would be considered an Ikkar. Dr. Grach was overheard saying that anything could become an Ikkar, if that topic became a point of polemic. (Personally, I would disagree. Ikkarim are Ikkarim because they are fundamental to the Jewish religion. If somone said that Mei Sotah are not efficacious, but merely meant to scare the woman; that would not now automatically become an Ikkar. Though Alexander Altman has an interesting essay about a 17th century debate on the soul, which would support Dr. S's position....)

More to come....

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Snark Report

Current certified for acceptable levels of snark:
The Town Crier: 7% snark
Protocols (the surprise of the day): 10% snark
Lamm's Posts

Passing levels of snark:
The Bronsteins: 13% snark
Jewsweek: 12% snark

Toxic snark:
The Village Idiots: 75%

More to come....

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Maimonides Conference

Notes should be going up shortly about the Maimonidean Conference. Or at least snippets based upon various reports.

Questions to ponder:
1) Why is none of the sessions at YC or SCW. Cordozo School of Law does not count as a YU campus? If YU is serious about developing the intellecual life for its undergraduate or smicha student body, why can't it have conferences in places where its students are?

2) Why is Marc Shapiro allowed to get away with what he does?

3) Why is everyone in the audience look frum or from the "older adult education circuit" chevra? What happened to everyone else in the New York Jewish community who cares about Maimonides?

(More snippets later.)

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Friday, March 19, 2004

New Anti-Snark Campaign

I am currently embarking on an anti-Snark Campaign. Like organic, kosher, and the USDA we will soon be labeling Blogs for snark-content. Nowm given the nature of blogs, we cannot expect anyone to go non-snark anytime soon. So let's start off on 50% snark. Anyone who goes over 50% will be labeled as "hazardous to your emotional health". Anyone under 15% snark will be considered battel (nullified) and safe from unhealthy levels of snark.
We hope that blogs begin reporting their snark content upfront to warn potential readers about toxic levels of snarkiness.

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

Run Down of Jewish Weeklies

I just went through the online versions of The Jewish Week and the Forward. Nothing worth hocking about. Israel, Gays, Anti-Semitism, Jewish identity of strippers, yawn....
Maybe Protocols can milk it for some cheap laughs.
Please comment of you found anything interesting.

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Jewish Action Articles

Normally, I would not plug articles in the Orthodox Union's Jewish Action magazine, as the vast majority of what's there is not worthy of Hock. However, in the most recent issue, which is not yet available online, there are two articles worth noting.

Yitzchak Adlerstein, who plays internet/computer guru for JA (not to be confused with the JLA) has an extremely positive article on Blogs, with a special plug for UnbrokenGlass. I believe that this is the first time a "mainstream" Orthodox Jewish publication or organization has come out in favor of Blogs.

On a side note, I would like to mention how I think that he misses much of the point of blogging. He points out the problem of potential Lashon Harah in blogging, but there is a more serious issue involved. There is something inherently un-tzenius about publicly talking about some of the most intimate aspects of your personal life with the potentially millions of web readers. (Even though most Blogs go unread, it is the implication of sharing the intimate details of one's existence with total strangers, which is unhealthy.) If there is any meaning in the Jewish values of "Kol Kavod Bat/s Melech Penima," "Kavod Ha-Brios/t" or "Tzenius" it implies a certain sense of discretion and privacy which is missing from the Blog-o-Sphere.

The other article is by Shalom Carmy about Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and his Derech Ha-Limud. Which is fodder for the neo-Briskers and Gushes (lo aleinu). Entertaining article which should keep them satisfied until the 2000 Orthodox Forum book is published in four or five years time.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Something Silly happened on the way to the Forum

Although my house-mate recently decreed an end to his Blogging about the Orthodox Forum, I have made no such promises.

The Forum is the favorite kicking post for every YU pseudo-intellectual, who simultaneously will publically disdain it while privately wishing to be invited.

Now, why is this so? Why does the Orthodox Forum invoke such wrath in some quarters?

Modern Orthodoxy at one point prided itself on having some sort of intellectual life. Now, whether it ever had a serious intellecual side is a matter of debate, but clearly these days it is basically DOA. Those who would like to think that they are thinking have whose ideas could be picked up by skimming the Anchor Bible or any light mechkar book in the Gottesman library.

All that Yeshiva University has left is the Orthodox Forum. (I tried to find link to a description of the Forum on the web and I know that someone once wrote it up, but alas it is nowhere to be found.) It has been described as a "think tank", but it is more like a private conference organized around a single topic over the course of two days. Unlike most conferences, attendees (in theory) have read all papers beforehand, so they can spend less time thinking about what the paper says than what their response to it is. Like many conferences, out of every Forum is published a book, with almost 10 having been published so far. And, unlike most Academic or other Conferences, attendees (theoretically) include a broad spectrum of academics, Rabbis, Roshei Yeshiva, educators, and communal leaders. In theory.

The most scandalous Forum so far was 1999 where Professor Tamar Ross was invited to present a paper which turned out to be considered heresy according the the artbiters of Faith. A minor scandal ensued. At some point I may blog my thoughts on that event and its aftermath.

Given that there is no other formal forum for intellectual life within Modern Orthodoxy one might hope that a serious engagement with the most relevant up to date research on any issue. Further compounding that hope is our knowledge that in almost every field there are prominent Orthodox Jews researching that area. If one attending the annual AJS (Association for Jewish Studies) conference, a significant portion of attendees are frum (nominally or otherwise). This would suggest the making of a great conferences:
1) Relevant topic
2) Money to spend on the program
3) A serious wish to confront the issues involved
4) Serious intellectuals and experts available to discuss the issues

So what went wrong? (to be continued)

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

More Orthodox Forum

I said that I would stop posting about yesterday's Orthodox Forum, but I am breaking my word, slightly.

Next year's topic is Relationships, Sexuality, and Singlehood, etc.

They are looking now for speakers.

So let's open this up to our readership. Who can you suggest should be speaking at next year's OF?

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Monday, March 15, 2004

Orthodoxy Re-Forum-ed

One of my housemates got a report from the Orthodox Forum, yesterday and today. He was going to Blog it, but decided not to, in the interest of suppressing information.

But towards my goal of keeping the House a-Hocking, I will make the following comments about this year's War Forum:

1) Forum Holaikh ve-Forum Ba, ve-ha-Issues l-olam amedet.

2) Something is theologically abuzz. *Someone* will be getting brownie points when they write the critical essay on progressive halacha.

3) The lack of self-awareness there sometime fazes even me.

More NOT to come....

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Explanation of Dogma

Someone asked me to explain my list of 9 Ikkarei Emunah. I hope that this brief exposition clarifies the matter somewhat.

I believe that it was in the midst of the lengthy Protocols discussion of this topic that the matter came up of what Marc Schapiro would ideally like. I suspect that he did not say the following, but rather someone suggested that his ideal would be following halakhah with the minimal belief needed to support the halakhic system.
So beyond the obvious problem that in today's day and age, there is no need for any justification to keep halakhah. One could (and many do) keep halakhah without believing in either God, Reward & Punishment, or Sinai, there is another problem.

This is so theologically boring.

Do we really want to get rid of theology so that we have some minimalist belief system to compiment halakhah?

Take, for example, the question of the Land of Israel. There is so much room for deep and wide ranging theologies about the nature of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.
Or Jewish chosenness. Or progressive revelation.

Judaism should be overflowing with theological ideas and options. But, denying theology is not the way to do so. An alternative suggestion is that we define a minimalist sex of Jewish dogma and, from there, people can create serious Jewish theologies

However, as in everything, boundaries have to be set. Once set boundaries are in place, then room is opened up for a more extensive theological discourse.

This is why I composed a minimalist set of Ikkarim which would be agreed upon my all normative Jewish thinkers.

The problem with the Rambam's Ikkarim is that there are fundamental problems with them, as Shapiro points out in his book. Therefore we need a new set of Ikkarim which would allow and encourage more theological discourse in the Modern Orthodox community, which has been a theological dead-zone for many years.

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Friday, March 12, 2004

New Dogma

As former Elder and Current Engaged-Boy AB pointed out, I left out prophecy last time:
So here is (#9 for those counting)....
7) God can and did communicate with men. Notable among them were the Jewish prophets who all communicated with God.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004


It was pointed out that this blog is getting too cynical, too attacking too quicky. (More on this topic later). So I am attempting to cut back on the attacks and telling my fellow writers to tone down their hock (make the house a bit more quiet).

Returning to the issue that J-Dub brought up, dogma, I would like to suggest a replacement for the 13 dogmas that Professor Shapiro has been so kind as to point out their deficiencies.

So here is my list of eight new Ikarei Emunah:

1) There is a God (who we can or cannot know something about).

2) This God had a hand in creating the world and bringing about man.

3) This God plays a role in history either through hashgacha clalis/t and/or through hashgacha pratis/t.

4) There was an event where the Jews left Egypt and received the Torah on Mount Sinai from God.

5) The Torah we have now is to a large extent the Torah which God gave us at Mount Sinai.

6) The law, as understood by the sages, throughout the ages, is binding upon all Jews.

7) God can and did communicate with men. Notable among them were the Jewish prophets who all communicated with God.

8) There is an afterlife where an individual faces the consequences for what he or she did in this life.

9) There will be a personal Messiah who will bring about a period that will include the resurrection of the dead and a time of peace and tranquility.

This is a rough draft. But I hope that this starts the ball rolling. I am welcoming both comments and criticisms.

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Avenue Q

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that The Jewish Week is giving away free tickets to Avenue Q?
Granted that, as a (semi-private) institution, they are free to give away whatever they want. But a pornographic puppet performance might not be the best choice for a raffle prize for a respectable mainstream Jewish institution.
(Unless they are pulling some sort of CLAL: Jewish is what you do when you think it is Jewish.)

So did they run out of Maxwell House Haggadahs? What's next, guest passes at gentlemen's clubs?

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So a certain Modern Orthodox Professor is finally getting some of the press that he so desperately wants.

Let's be honest. You cannot separate the man, from the wannabe Modern Orthodox Academic Superstar. Hey, why should David Berger & Larry Schiffman get all the press?

But he is lacking what other prominent Modern Orthodox intellectuals have, such as Halbertal (sheer genius), Yitz Greenberg (a genuine chush for what people believe/feel and excellent connections), Berger (years of street cred and sanity) Schiffman (MO's needs a world-class Second Temple & DSS scholar on its side, or Carmy/Shatz (Rav-cred).

But he does have some things going for him: He works hard and has excellent footnotes (which is the ambiguous boon of all Twersky zt"l Ph.D.'s).

Of course the problem with doing all the research and publishing it is that anyone else could do this research. Why do we need him to do this work? To make those points? It's a tough job, but, in the end, it is not what the community is looking for.

What are they looking for? The search for the Great White Knight of Modern Orthodoxy continues....
(to be continued)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Marc Shapiro & Dogma

One of the fundamental flaws behind Marc Shapiro's recent talk is that he presents a Straussian worldview without pointing out how since the 1970's the Straussian view has, by and large, been overturned by much more holistic readings of Maimonides. Notably his Rebbe, Prof. I. Twersky z"l was notable in his attempts to present unified readings of Maimonides.

Zen Warren Harvey spoke about this phenomenon at a BRGS lecture a few years ago.

There is more to be said on this topic, as well as the question of just who is Maimonides' Masses, and the role that Dogma does and should play in Judaism. I hope to pick up the thread later, but I am inviting comments on the matter in the meantime.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

An topic that has been a source of must debate over the past few months is the question of working-woman, feminism, and domestic life. Most notable is an article in the Atlantic Monthly by Caitlin Flanagan (who has been publishing there for a while now and will soon be jumping over to the even trendier New Yorker) and various attacks throughout the internet inspired by her essay.

Now given that the Orthodox community takes six months to a year to catch up on any trend, I would like to take the initiative to launch the discussion.

In addition to the responsibilities of career, education, and raising children, most Orthodox Woman (modern and otherwise) have the challenge of making Shabbos/Shabbat weekly and other communal responsibilities (Shaloch Manos/t, Meals-for-Mom, Sheva Brachos/t). Furthermore, unlike the non-Orthodox population they tend to have larger families, ranging from 3-5 for MO to 5+ for the Yeshivish families, which just ups the ante on all accounts including paying for a lifestyle which includes Day Schools, Yeshiva, and Summer Camps. Throw into this mix the idea of women's learning (who has time for any serious engagement with text, if she doesn't have time all her regular responsibilities).
Though interestingly, none of this has been talked about in any public forum, Modern Orthodox or otherwise.

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Best line from Sunday:
On Chanukah we celebrate killing lots of Yiddin; on Purim we celebrate killing lots of goyim.

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