Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Conversion, The Rabbinate and David Landau versus Modern Orthodoxy

ADDRabbi has, what I think is, the best interpretation of the current efforts by the Rabbinate to delegitimize the entire Modern Orthodox Rabbinate (including YU, RIETS, the OU and of course the RCA and its Bes Din). I urge anyone who's interested or affected by this business to read his posting and follow the highly instructive links he provides.

What has this to do with David Landau? It actually has quite a bit to do with him, though indirectly. Landau, a native of England and a graduate of the premier hareidi yeshivot, is the Editor-in-Chief of Haaretz. He is an articulate, highly intelligent person. He is also a committed Leftist, which has earned him the opprobrium of much of the Religious Zionist community.

What few people have noted is that his Leftist orientation is based upon deeply held principles. Those principles are, moreover, religious. I realized this when I read the very revealing interview that Landau gave to Yedidyah Meir and Sivan-Rahav Meir, in their book Yamim Ketumim. In that interview, Landau presents a carefully thought out religious position regarding the significance of the State of Israel. What I found jarring was that Landau's world-view lies somewhere between Reb Yoilish Teitelbaumזצ"ל, author of ויואל משה, Rav Shach זצ"ל and Yeshayahu Leibowitz ז"ל. In his world, all of the texts that inspired Religious Zionism have been spiritualized and taken totally out of their concrete context.

There is, however, more. Yesterday, I was listening toone of my favorite radio shows: 'The Last Word' (המילה האחרונה). It's a news and commentary show that's hosted by a religious and a secular personality and almost always provides important insight into our all to complex world (and is incredibly entertaining). In any event, yesterday's religious host was Jacky Levy, a first rate stand-up comic. Levy was discussing, en passant, the fact that Haaretz never publishes moderate or modern Orthodox reportage or op-ed pieces. Those identifiably Modern Orthodox writer whose article appear are restricted to political issues or to religion bashing. Levy claimed that Landau axiologically rejects the idea of Modern Orthodoxy as an oxymoron (he said כלאים), and refuses to countenance its advocacy.

When I heard this, I thought about the conversion issue. I am hardly a conspiracist. It is, however, striking that just now there appears to be growing a serious anti-Modern Orthodox agenda in certain, very influential circles.

There is a (potentially) tragic irony here. Just when the Israeli Jewish population clearly is looking to become more Jewish, the form of Orthodoxy best suited to opening Torah up to them has come under such serious attack.

Perhaps, they know something we should know.

Perhaps, we should get our act together and strike while the iron is hot.


Out of Step in Kfar Saba said...

This just goes to show that with all do respect R. Madan, his proposal to align ourselves more closely with the haredi world is a non-starter.

Ben Bayit said...

I don't find Landau jarring at all. Rav Yoilish and Co. have clear, well thought out positions. Those who denigrate them with hubris like certainty(like Norman Lamm in his tradition article 40 years ago, or the author in the intro to the new sefer on rabbinic positions regarding Atchalta D'Geula that appeared this year) who do well to have some humility and respect.

It's the Religious Zionist left that ascribes nearly all encompassing authority to the "shiltonot haleumiot" (a term that was used and encompasses both issues in the pre-state era as well as current); authority to the point of allowing their determinations to force us to violate issurei d'orayta (and even chamas and gezel for which Pikuach Nefesh may not even be docheh according to ceratin opinions) that I find much more jarring than the non-zionist or cultural zionist Landau.

The only thing I find jarring about Landau is that he remained in Israel and did not go to chu"l as per Asa Kasher's statement on leaving Israel being the ultimate fulfillment of Zionsim for a Jew (or something to that effect - I don't have it in front of me).