Sunday, December 26, 2004

Brill Redux

A few months ago, I commented upon an article by Dr. Alan Brill of Yeshiva University that was entitled Judaism in Culture: Beyond the Bifurcation of Torah and Madda and published in the Edah Journal. I had both praise and serious reservations about Brill's contention that Modern Orthodoxy is what people do, not what ideologues (resorting to 19th and 20th century thought) say it should be.

Recently, Rabbi Yitzhaq Blau (one of Modern Orthodoxy's rising young stars) has offered a cogent response to Brill, in the same Journal. I agree with pretty much everything Blau says. I would only add, as I did in my original discussion, that confusing sociology with religion can prove exceedingly dangerous. Personally, while using Geertz and Peter Berger in my research, I feel that invoking them as a source for theology one could find oneself more than halfway to Schechter's 'Catholic Israel' or to Kaplan's 'Judaism As a Civilization' (for 'Civilization' substitute 'Culture').

Thanks to Hirhurim for pointing out the appearance of Blau's article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that both Blau & you are missing the point.

Brill's point is that by dividing the world into "Torah" and "Madda", which are artificial categories, you, ultimately, marginalize anything which doesn't fit into either category neatly.

Secondly, Torah is never an abstract ideal (I know that this is a potential heresy for a Brisker like you, Prof. Woolf), but it is always manifest as a real lived experience. How halakhah manifests itself is inseparable from Torah. If we want to talk about Torah U-Madda, using reified abstract categories like Halakha & something else (fill in the the blanks or call it madda). Ultimately you are helping no one.

-brother bob