After I received my first link to Noah Feldman's notorious piece in the New York Times, I knew it would only be a matter of hours until my mailbox would be bombarded with; 'Have you seen this?' and 'What do you say to that?' After reading Feldman's piece, my first reaction was to write a letter to the Times. I quickly thought better of it. I could already imagine the Sunday Magazine editor's desk piling up with letters and rebuttals from all the heavy hitters of the YU world, representatives of the Maimonides School, avowed secularists thrilled at another example of Endecktes Judenthums from within, and all kinds of other types. What, I thought, could I add (and in a mere letter)?
Then again, what is there to add? Noah Feldman (whose family I recall very fondly from my years growing up in the Athens of America, and who can't be kleibing nahas from Noah's internationally broadcast temper tantrum) is a typical True Believer. In this case, though, he doesn't believe in Orthodox Judaism. He believes in himself. He dogmatically maintains that everyone must accept him, irrespective of their own views and beliefs. As a devoted follower of contemporary Western, post-Modern relativism he cannot accept a Judaism that does not adapt itself to his perfect form, much as the phylactery straps tied on to the statue of Apollo, immortalized by Tchernichovsky.
I have news for Professor Feldman. It does not work that way. Thirty years ago, the founder of his school and my beloved and revered teacher Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל, put it this way:
We are facing an awesome challenge, and I am mindful of all that. However, if you think that the solution lies in a reformist philosophy, or in an extraneous interpretation of the halachah, you are badly mistaken...If we say to our opponents, or to the dissident Jews, "This is our stand" -- they will dislike us, they will say we are inflexible, we are ruthless, we are cruel. But they will respect us. However, if you try to cooperate with them, or if certain halachic schemes are introduced from without, you will not command love. You will not get their love, but you will certainly lose their respect...What can we do? This is Toras Moshe. This is surrender. This is Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim. We surrender [to God].*
This is something Noah Feldman never understood, and may never understand. To engage him in debate or reproach is nothing short of humiliating for us. As the kids here say, חבל על הזמן!
[FYI, our friend Feldman led the anti-Eruv forces in Tenafly (waving the establishment clause) and is the most eloquent defender of Hamas in the younger echelons of academia.]
* The transcription is from Eitan Fiorino's posting (corrected based upon the original tape.)