Monday, July 23, 2007

Noah Feldman: First Take (Erev Tisha B'Av 4:37 PM)

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.)

1 comment:

Ben Bayit said...

Crybaby is what I have to say to Feldman.
I have no direct knowledge of the ins and outs of the Boston community and Maimonides HS, but I have to say that this seems to me to be another example of one of the uber-Jews (some of whom actually still claim to be Orthodox) in the US Foreign service and the Defense Department - that when all is said and done they have thrown in their lot with the West and cause the Jewish people more harm than good.
It is a miracle that YU only narrowly escaped having one of these defense department power-Jews appointed its President when Rabbi Lamm retired. Now THAT really would have been a disaster for Orthodoxy. (see here - original post and comments for more The Feldman article is child's play compared to the disaster that would have been.
The question is - where is the authority figure, like a RYBS, who can effectively disown these people who have literally cut themselves off from any meaningful identification with Am Yisrael
I'd also be more interested to hear what you have to say about Shmuly Boteach's response in the JPost. My gut tells me that even in Boteach is correct, and that we should reach out to intermarried couples, something else is at play here and that perhaps what you say is correct - Feldman cut himself off from am Yisrael with his ideas, writings and politics more than he did by marrying a shiksa and that his community senses this. Am Yisrael is fundamentally healthy, thank God.