Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Take your shoe off, Rabbi Khrushchev

Shortly after the Slifkin ban came out, well-known haredi Rabbis Aharon Schechter, Matisyahu Salomon and Aharon Feldman were invited to address a Modern Orthodox gathering in Teaneck, New Jersey. The idea was to promote healthy dialogue between haredim and people like us. Unfortunately but predictably, the opposite occurred. R. Salomon had signed on to the original ban, and the other two endorsed it later on. Not surprisingly the question of the relation of Torah to science came up, and R. Schechter, a Rosh Yeshiva at Chaim Berlin, was asked to answer. A video of his answer recently came to light, and it casts a bad light on the kind of thinking emanating from Schechter and his ilk.
The rabbi opines that "it is not our assignment to know bri'at ha-olam [brias ha-oylim to him; suspect anybody whose holam is a Yiddish kvetch]. Wrong. We are told v'khivshuha; we have to master the world. To master the world we have to understand it, and that includes understanding its history and the history of its life. He tells us that we may not make new interpretations of Torah, and implies that Slifkin did so without mentioning Slifkin's name. Wrong on both counts. Torah advances, and always has, because people developed new interpretations of old texts; American Constitutional law advances in much the same way. But Slifkin did not come up with any hiddushim, as he himself states. He provides ample citations of luminaries such as the Rambam, Rav Avraham ben ha-Rambam, Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch and Rav Kook. If Rav Schechter wishes to trash all of them that is his prerogative, but he ought to be man enough to say so.
The content of Rav Schechter's presentation is not new and hardly worth my notice here. But it gets worse. Rav Schechter indulges in what is familiar to me from my days at left-liberal Columbia University. When logic fails, increase the decibel count and the histrionics. At about 4:22 into the video, he amplifies the above quote by amplifying his voice to a scream and pounding his fist on the table. People of a certain age will remember Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the late unlamented Soviet Union, taking his shoe off and pounding the table with it while addressing the United Nations General Assembly. The leftists at Columbia were following precedent, and so does Rabbi Schechter.
Rabbi Schechter and his ilk are not interested in dialogue with those who choose not to inhabit their Fantasyland. He says so in the same video. If you have a problem with such matters, "too bad for you." And if our best and brightest leave Jewish observance, too bad I suppose. Such things don't bother the likes of Rabbi Schechter. But they do bother us. Rabbi Schechter says he is not obligated to think about such questions. That's fine, but we are not obligated to accept his authority. Enough deferring to that gerontocracy of evil. We have our own authority figures, every bit as good as theirs, and we have to help them find their voices (see my previous post). If Rabbi Schechter and Company want a schism, they will get one - and the onus will be on them.

Hat tip: Emes Ve'emuna

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, remember the environment Rav Schechter comes from:
1) All rabbonim must be listened to without question
2) All MO's are simpletons who must be spoken to slowly and with a loud voice so they'll understand what you're saying.
As Rav Schechter himself notes at the beginning of the video, "I'll tell you what you should think". He has no idea how to really relate to the MO crowd.

Thu Feb 05, 08:21:00 AM EST  

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