What would it take to develop Modern Orthodoxy in Israel? The question has been gnawing at me for a very long time. Of course, prior to asking that question, one must first ask: Do we need an Israeli version of that spectrum of Orthodoxy that developed primarily in the United States (with Frankfurter antecedents), here in Israel?
I believe that the answer to both of these questions is absolutely affirmative. We desperately require an Israeli version of the Modern Orthodox spectrum. I believe it is not only achievable, but eminently possible. In this, and the ensuing posts, I will set forth why I maintain this to be the case. Before doing so, however, I want to make a few points.
First, any legitimate interpretation of Torah must be based upon Love and Fear of God, upon קבלת עול מלכות שמים, and devotion to a life of שמירת מצוות. That means, inter alia, that there will be limits to where the Torah will allow one to go, despite one's burning desire to push further in the interests of a cherished ideal. It means that one must, at some point, admit the limits of one's understanding and surrender to the Will of God. This, it is true, will seem to some a matter of taste or judgment. It is, to a certain degree, that. However, I believe that there are objective limits to where Judaism (and Halakha) can go and still retain its integrity. The expanse is wider than many would admit. It is not, however, endless. I believe, that despite its polemical casting, that was precisely the Rav זצ"ל's point in the proem to his שיעור on Torah and Massorah.
Second, conviction requires a life of heroism and sacrifice. This sounds, perhaps, overly dramatic, and I suppose it is. What I mean is that devotion to Truth in Torah is a very complex thing. On the one hand, one should be open to respectful criticism and be ready and willing to engage other opinions and interpretations. He must be open to changing his mind However, one must never, ever surrender one's convictions out of fear: Fear of disapproval by those ostensibly more pious; fear of those ostensibly more progressive and trendy; fear of those who threaten social repercussions, who roll their eyes, who try to beat up with their self-important paternalism and so on.
I believe that the Rav זצ"ל once put this very clearly (cited by R. Lamm נר"ו). The Torah states (Gen. 32, 1): ויעקב הלך לדרכו ויפגעו בו מלאכי א-לוקים. The first part of the verse is, prima facie, superfluous. Of course, Jacob went on his way to Eretz Yisrael! There is, however, a deeper truth here. Jacob pursued his own, unique mission in the service of God. He did not deviate from that path, his path, His path. He did not look to the Right. He did not look to the Left. He looked straight ahead, and on his way encountered God's angelic messengers. ויפגעו בו מלאכי א-לקים.
Third, לא המדרש עיקר אלא המעשה. In the Modern Orthodox community, far too much time is devoted to debating the niceties of ideology and policy. That is not to deny the vital role of study and ideological exchange. However, these exchanges (courses, articles, debates, fora, caucuses and so on) are insufficient (though pleasant; מפגשי שבט we call them in Hebrew). Action is required. We need to do Modern Orthodoxy. We need to do Torah in the widest sense of the term (call it Madda, Hokhma, Derekh eretz; it doesn't matter). What that action involves will be a later subject.
Fourth, the path of Modern Orthodoxy is a חומרא. It is the harder, more worthwhile path. It demands more of the Jew than the alternatives. It demands spiritual growth, Torah learning in the narrow sense and Torah learning in the broader sense. A principled Modern Orthodoxy challenges its adherents, and vexes its opponents (be they secular or Haredi). Most importantly, a principled Modern Orthodoxy is תפארת לעושיה ותפארת לו מן האדם. Why מן האדם? Not because we seek כבוד. It is because we seek a life שיתאהב שם שמים על ידינו.
Next Post: Component Parts
[NOTE: מפאת חשיבות הנושא, והעובדה שבכל מקרה הדברים מיועדים להיות מיושמים כאן בארץ, החלטתי להחיות את הבלוג העברי ולפרסם שם דברים מקבילים למופיע כאן בהאנגלית, א"כ בשפת עבר. הבלוג נקרא 'הגיגים' ומופיע כאן. אני מקווה שהמאמר הראשון יופיע בימים הקרובים.]