Sunday, March 07, 2021
Tuesday, February 09, 2021
למרות שטעם קריאת הפרשה הוא כנ"ל, הקרבה בינה לבין פורים מעוררת עניין. היתכן ש חז"ל ביקשו בכל זאת לרמוז שקיים קשר בין תשלום מחצית השקל לבין אותו נס שאירע לעם ישראל בתחומי האימפריה הפרסית, עשורים בודדים אחרי חנוכת הבית השני?
אחד שסבר שקיים קשר כזה הוא הרב עזריה פיגו, חכם איטלקי שחי בין 1579- 1647. הרב פיגו היה תלמיד חכם בעל שיעור קומה שחיבר פירוש ל'ספר התרומות' הנקרא 'גידולי תרומה'; חיבור חשוב ובעל השפעה המתעסק בדיני ממונות. אולם, הרב פיגו מפורסם במיוחד בזכות דרשותיו. הוא היה הדרשן מראשי לקהילת מגורשי ספרד ופורטוגל בגטו של ונציה, ודרשותיו משכו קהל רחב. אוסף דרשותיו, 'בינה לעתים,' נחשב נעס צאן ברזל של הסוגה ומעולם לא יצא מהדפוס, מאז צאתו לראשונה ב1643.
בדרשא לפורים (סי' כ), תוהה הרב עזריה מה הביא את המן הרשע לחשוב שיצליח במזימתו להשמיד את העם היהודי (שחי כולו בתחומי האימפריה הפרסית). הוא טוען התשובה נרמזת בדברי המן למלך, בהציעו לו כסף לביצוע זממו: 'יֶשְׁנ֣וֹ עַם־אֶחָ֗ד מְפֻזָּ֤ר וּמְפֹרָד֙ בֵּ֣ין הָֽעַמִּ֔ים בְּכֹ֖ל מְדִינ֣וֹת מַלְכוּתֶ֑ךָ וְדָתֵיהֶ֞ם שֹׁנ֣וֹת מִכָּל־עָ֗ם וְאֶת־דָּתֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֵינָ֣ם עֹשִׂ֔ים וְלַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֵין־שֹׁוֶ֖ה לְהַנִּיחָֽם' (אסתר ג, אסתר ג, ח). הרב פיגו פירש את המילה 'מפורד' מלשון פירוד ומחלוקת. הוא קבע שליהודים מגיעה כלייה 'לאשר שלט בהם הפירוד ביניהם, וכלם מלאים קטטות ומריבות, ולבם רחק אלו מאלו.' יסוד הפלגנות היהודית, הוא התאים, נמצא באנוכיות מופרזת ובחוסר התחשבות בצרכי הזולת. חיי 'אם אין אני לי, מי לי' הוא קרא לזה. המן קיווה שניצול נקודת תורפה זו, חוסר האחדות ולכידות המאפיינת את היהודית, יסלול את הדרך להשמדתם.
אולם, הצהיר הרב עזריה פיגו, 'הוא, יתברך, הקדים רפואה למכה זו במצות השקלים, אשר היא ממש הוראת הפך כל זה, בהיותו מזרז לישראל על התאחדות ודביקות אלו עם אלו, להיות כולם אחדים כאיש אחד.' חובת מחצית השקל מלמדת שכל ישראל שווים, כל ישראל ערבים וכל ישראל תלויים זה בזה. זה המסר המרכזי של אסתר המלכה כשציוותה: "לך כנוס את כל היהודים" (שם,
ד, טז). הלקח, כידוע, נקלט והתוצאות היו בהתאם.
דברי הרב עזריה פיגו חייבים לעמוד לנגד עינינו בעמדנו מול מגפת הקורונה. הנטייה היהודית לפלגנות ולסכסוך, העדפת צרכים אישיים על חשבון (ומתוך שלילת) אלה של אחרים, יכולה להיות בעוכרינו (בדיוק כפי שהבחין המן). קל וחומר בן בנו של קל וחומר, הדברים נכונים בעת מגיפה כזאת כשהחלטה אישית שלא לקיים את הוראות הממשלה ואת דרישות הרופאים ( לחבוש מסיכה, לא להתקהל ומעל הכל להתחסן) מסכנת ישירות את עצמנו ואת כל העם כולו. התנהלות כזאת מקעקעת את יסודות התורה ומפרה גם את החובה לשמור על בריאותנו וגם את האיסור להזיק לאחינו ואחיותינו.
במילה אחת, רק אם נפנים את המסר המרכזי של מצוות מחצית השקל נזכה לחגוג את 'פורים קורונה.'
Sunday, February 07, 2021
This Shabbat, after the weekly Torah portion, we will read Parshat Sheqalim (Ex. 30 11-16); which invokes the obligation to contribute a half-sheqel to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The passage is always read on the Shabbat after the first of Adar because in Temple times public reminders to pay the half-sheqel began to be issued on Rosh Hodesh Adar (M. Sheqalim 1, 1). As with so many other things, the Rabbis ordained that the practice be continued in memory of the Temple (and in anticipation of its speedy rebuilding).
Still, despite this obvious explanation, the proximity of Parshat Sheqalim to Purim is intriguing. Could it be that the rabbis wanted to highlight a connection between the commandment to pay the half-sheqel tax and the miracle that occurred in the Persian Empire, less than a century after the Second Temple was dedicated?
One commentator who thought so was the Italian Scholar, R. Azariah Figo (1579-1647). R. Azariah was a Talmid Hakham of the first order, the author of a halakhic work entitled Giddule Terumah. However, he is best known because of his collection of sermons, Binah Le-Itim which has remarkably never been out of print since it was published in 1643.
In his first sermon on Purim (no. 20), R. Azariah asks what was it that made Haman think that he could destroy the Jewish People (all of whom lived within the borders of the greater Persian Empire). He suggests that the answer is found in the deadly proposal that Haman made to Ahasuerus: ‘And Haman said to King Ahasuerus: 'There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed (mefuzar u-meforad) among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are different from those of every people; nor do they obey the king's laws; therefore it profits not the king to suffer them’ (Esther 3, 8). R. Azariah suggested that the vulnerability of the Jews lay in their disunity. He understood the words mefuzar u-meforad to refer not to the Jews’ geographic distribution, but to their being deeply divided. Each Jew put his or her own concerns ahead of the needs of the nation; living a life based on, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’ The endless in-fighting among the Jews, Haman was telling the king, would be their Achilles’ heel. By exploiting it, they could be destroyed.
However, R, Azariah declared, God had already prepared the cure to Jewish disunity: the mtzvah of the Half-Sheqel. The fact that each Jew gives half a sheqel teaches us that half of us belongs to God. We are not allowed to devote ourselves solely to our own concerns. When the
chips are down, God commands us to transcend our selfishness and coalesce into a unified whole, devoted to the vision and purpose that He laid out for us at Sinai, which is achieved through unity, ‘as one person, with one heart.’ Happily, the lesson was not lost on the Jews of the Persian Empire. They responded to Esther’s call to gather ‘all of the Jews together,’ in fasting, prayer and in military self-defense.
R. Azariah’s point should ring out loudly in our present situation, as we face the scourge of Corona. The Jewish penchant for divisiveness, for emphasizing our personal needs and desires while ignoring the general welfare, could God forbid be our undoing (just as Haman discerned). This is especially true in this time of plague, when a personal decision not to obey the rules directly, and malignantly, affects everyone around us. The Mahatzit ha-Sheqel teaches that our bodies belong to God. It does not ask, it demands that we wear masks, observe social distancing and above all be vaccinated, not only to save ourselves (which is a mitzvah in its own right), but because of the binding Torah obligation to save the Jewish People, as a whole. Irrespective of what others might say, only by internalizing the lesson of the Mahatzit ha-Sheqel is there any hope of our celebrating Purim Corona.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Rabbi Dr. David Hartman (1931- 2013)
As surprising as it may be to some, I had a long, admiring and fascinating relationship with Rabbi David Hartman ז"ל. It started, as so many good things do, with my wife who was (and is) a very close friend of his wife Bobbi. The latter suggested that David (aka Duvy) and I meet. We met, clicked, became friends and on several occasions he invited me to be a fellow of the Hartman Institute. More importantly, over the years we had the occasion to just sit and talk in his office and Living Room about, well, anything and everything.
One subject that always came up was Rabbi Soloveitchik זצ"ל. The Rav had had a formidable impact on both of us, so it was totally unremarkable that we should talk about him.
Duvy had a very complicated, stormy relationship with Rabbi Soloveitchik (one aspect of which I addressed here), which deserves closer treatment by those who are more conversant with his oeuvre than I. However, one of the dominant characteristics of these specific conversations was that I often felt that we were discussing two different people. That perception was partly due to the oft-noted transformation that the Rav underwent in 1967, in the wake of his year of 'triple mourning,' when he lost his mother, brother, and (most importantly and devastatingly) his wife. In a relatively short period of time, he mellowed marked, going from a demanding Father-Teacher to a more gentle, Grandfather-Teacher. Duvy, who studied and interacted with the Rav in the 1950's and 1960's (and was the study-partner of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein זצ"ל), experienced the former. I, who came to study with the Rav in 1973, only encountered the latter (though, he remained sufficiently awe inspiring and scary).
Yet the different ways in which we perceived our shared mentor were not not only due to differences of style, but of substance. On a number of occasions, Duvy emphasized and decried Rabbi Soloveitchik's objectification of Judaism to Halakhic principles (including the emotional, moral and axiological elements therein). In addressing this point, he often got tremendously agitated: "Halakhah! Halakhah! Halakhah!" he exclaimed, "It can't all be just Halakhah!"
I recall replying that, with all due respect I thought he was misreading the Rav (at least partially). The Rav, from 1944 on (at least), dedicated an enormous portion of his thinking to the cultivation of the individual, subjection spiritual experience that should inform the observance of Halakhah. This theme, it is true, found less explicit expression in his formal published writings (prior to the establishment of the Toras HaRav Foundation), and more in his recorded lectures and shiurim. Nevertheless, that does not diminish their importance or their centrality. When he would make an assertion that 'The Halakhah is that one needs to concentrate in prayer,' he was not objectifying the individual experience. On the contrary, he was actively affirming that the experiential moment was a built in requirement of objective observance, without which it would be woefully deficient (and in the case of prayer and other internally performed commandments (קיום שבלב) deeply compromised). If anything, and here lies the great irony that Rabbi Soloveitchik was exquisitely aware of the dangers of robotic ritual performance that inhered to precisely the type of Pan-Halakhism with which he was so often identified.
In retrospect, though, there was clearly an additional (and more formative ) dimension to Duvy's pained cry: "Halakhah! Halakhah! Halakhah!" he exclaimed, "It can't all be just Halakhah!" He was obviously deeply troubled by circumstances wherein Halakhah seemed to violate moral norms, to do harm and incur pain rather than good. That is how I understood the enthusiasm with which fellows at the Hartman Institute (during my tenure, at least) embraced Halakhists and Traditional thinkers who seemed to endorse the subordination of Jewish legal processes and decisions to larger moral and spiritual considerations. Hence, the writings of R. Haim Hirschenson were a perennial favorite (indeed, it was the Hartman Institute that made him famous), alongside R. Eliezer Berkowitz and R. Shimon Shkop's introduction to his book Sha'are Yosher.
I certainly understood, and understand, Duvy's position, pain and even his outrage. In principle, the idea that the Law should be totally aligned with what appear to be moral and axiological principles and sensibilities should be a corollary of its Divine origin and mandate. For Rabbi Dr. David Hartman, philosopher extraordinaire, this was self-evidently the way things were meant to be and must be.
I disagree and, if my memory serves me, I told him so. I disagree for two reasons. First, because I am fully persuaded of the cogency of Rav Soloveitchik's position that Halakhah is fully autonomous, it possesses its own integrity, it functions according to its own rules and largely constitutes a closed universe of discourse. As it happens, the Rav's postulate (in a somewhat softer form) is borne out by the leading historians of Halakhah, starring with the founder of the field, Professor Jacob Katz z'l. In this model, axiological and moral considerations certainly have a built in, mandatory role to fill in guided the Halakhic decisor, moving him in certain directions and even in discerning interpretions of the normative sources of Halakhah that might not, at first glance, have been obvious. However, the plain upshot of the sources demands that other considerations give way thereto (See BT Hullin 49b s.v.
רב, ואיסורא דאורייתא, ואת אמרת התורה חסה על ממונן של ישראל? ). [I, of course, fully acknowledge shifts and changes in the way the Torah is understood and the Law is applied. How that works, though, requires a separate discussion. I addressed it partly here.]
So, simply as an historian of Halakhah, I cannot agree with the total subordination of the Jewish Law to axiological or apparently ethical considerations (even as the Posek will do his utmost to avoid such a head on clash, because 'its ways are ways of pleasantness and all of its paths are peace'). That's not how it's always been done. The philosopher will, I suspect, retort that this way is the way it should be done.
My second objection derives from the first, and is equally rooted in the historical record. The essential dynamic of Rabbinic Judaism was beautifully characterized by Professor Twersky in his essay, 'Religion and Law':
Monday, November 09, 2020
Prof. Nahum N. Glatzer (1903-1990)
The other day, I had an experience that brought to mind a memorable, actually formative, conversation I had with the late Prof. Nahum N. Glatzer. I've written quite a bit about some of the giants with whom I was privileged to study, like Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל, Rav Gedaliah Felder זצ"ל, Prof. Isadore Twersky זצ"ל and (mutatis mutandis) Professors Haym Soloveitchik, David Berger, and Reuven Bonfil. However, there were others like Prof. Yosef Haim Yerushalmi ז"ל , Prof. Alexander Altmann זצ"ל, the late Prof. David Herlihy and mutatis mutandis Profs. David Berger and Giles Constable.
Among these latter, Prof. Glatzer ז"ל holds a special place in my heart. When I graduated High School, I was accepted to Brandeis. I so very much wanted to go there, both because of the Jewish environment, and because I wanted to study with the two luminaries who were the stars of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Professors Alexander Altmann and Nahum Norbert Glatzer. My ambition remained, however, unfulfilled because the tuition at Brandeis was way out of our reach (especially since my father ז"ל had passed away not long before, and our family's financial situation was precarious). So, I ended up going to Boston University, which had offered me full tuition remission. However, strange are the ways of the Creator, and in my Sophomore year BU announced that Professor Glatzer would be coming to the university as a University Professor (having been retired from Brandeis the previous year).
I jumped at the opportunity. Not only did I enroll in his class on the Book of Job, at the end of my junior year I asked him to co-direct my Senior Thesis on the Disputations of Paris, Barcelona and Tortosa (together with Prof. Reinhold Schumann). He graciously agreed (and he was ALWAYS gracious). Thus began a year of bi-weekly meetings in which we discussed my project, and innumerable subjects that came up along the way. I treasure the memory of every one of these, but one in particular proved to be formative.
Mid-way through my senior year, I found myself in the dark wood of a personal crisis. Despite the fact that I had long assumed that I would enter academia (at least, for part of my life, the rabbinate being my perpetual antipode), I was having second thoughts about the value and importance of academic Jewish Studies. In seeking to resolve my I turned, inter alia, to Prof. Glatzer.
We met in his study in his home in Waltham, which was lined from floor to ceiling with books. It felt as if we were sitting in a timeless space. I described my dilemma and, somewhat impertinently, asked what value is there in doing what we do?
Professor Glatzer sat quietly for a moment. He then said that, yes, most people don't understand the attraction or value of studying Jewish History and that our path is, indeed, very lonely. What make it worthwhile are those moments when you study that which the past has left us. You then leave the present and connect with the past, which then becomes alive again. As he said these words, his face glowed. It was clear that he experienced researching our people's past as a spiritual, transcendent moment. His words resonated deeply with me, and I left his home resolved to continue upon the path that I had chosen.
Last week, I had an experience that reminded me of that conversation, and of the force, conviction and veracity of Prof. Glatzer's words.
I am in the process of (finally) turning my doctorate on Maharik (R. Joseph Colon Trabotto; 1420-1480) into a book. Maharik was one of the two leading Ashkenazic Halakhic decisors in the Fifteenth Century, and had a massive impact on the nascent Rabbinic culture of Poland. Among the things that I am naturally doing is checking the manuscript record for material that was unavailable to when I was originally writing during the eighties. This effort is today rendered so much easier by the ongoing Ketiv project for the digitation of Hebrew manuscripts (which has, happily, reached the collections that are most important to my research).
Last week, while looking for something else (of course), I saw that the catalogue listed an autograph letter by Maharik to his student David da Modena (in the Braginsky Collection). I was stunned. While there are many manuscripts of Maharik's responsa and commentaries, I was unaware of an actual autograph (it now emerges that there are two). I went to the website, and there it was!
I was transfixed. Before me, albeit virtually, was a letter written by a person, a Torah giant, to the study of whose writings I had devoted ten years of my life (and not a few years subsequent).
I immediately thought of Prof. Glatzer. I could see the look on his face; a soft look of radiance and spirit. I beheld a piece of the past with which I had an intimate connection, and was transported to Quattrocento Italy, which became alive again.
Thursday, November 05, 2020
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Wednesday, April 08, 2020
מחד גיסא, מאד צר לי על המגיפה המקיפה אותנו וגובה מחיר מיתמר בחיי אדם, בפרנסה ובחרות. צר לי שלא נהיה השנה יחד עם אהובינו, במיוחד עם האנשים הקטנים, המלבבים את חיינו. מאידך, כואב לי הלב על אלה שייאלצו לחוג את ליל הסדר בגפם. אני מתפלל, יחד עם כולם, שד' יסיר מעלינו את המוות הזה, ירפא את החולים ויחזיר אותנו במהרה למסלול התקין של החיים.
מאידך גיסא, המצב מחייב אותי לספור את הברכות שחנני הקב"ה. יש לי בית, רעיה, ושלושה ילדים שכן יהיו סביב השלחן.
כמו שאמרו רבים, הסגר מחייב את כולנו להיכנס פנימה: פיזית ורוחנית. למרבה האירוניה, למרות התלות המחוזקת במכשירים אלקטרוניים, הסגר מכריח אותנו להכיר מחדש את אלה שאיתם אנו גרים: בעלים, נשים, ילדים. זוהי מתנה אלקית שלא תסולא בפז ושאת ערכה חייבים לשמר גם כשכל זה ייגמר בב"א.
ועוד משהו...רבים בפיד שלי (במיוחד בני 25-45) מעירים שזאת הפעם הראשונה שנאלצים לארגן ולחגוג את סדר הפסח מחוץ לבית ההורים. רבים מהם בהלם מזה ואפשר להבין אותם. אין דבר יקר יותר מסדר משפחתי גדול, ותוסס וסואן. אולם, יש משהו מתוק ויפה בצורך לחגוג כל אחד בביתו, במיוחד אלה שעושים כך בפעם הראשונה.
במצב זה, יש לאלה הזדמנות להבטיח על אחד את המשך המסורות שעליהן גדלו, ולגבש מיזוג מסורות במידה שבני הזוג צמחו בערוגות שונות. ככה מבטיחים את הקיים ומוסיפים וממציאים חוליות חדשות בשרשרשת מסורת הדורות.
במצב זה, ניתן לשאול ולהתייעץ (אמנם מרחוק) עם ההורים והסבים והסבתאות, מה עושים ואיך עושים. כלכך הרבה פעמים שמעתי מאנשים שהוריהם וסביהם כבר אינם בחיים שמצטערים שבדיוק את הדברים האלה לא שאלו כשהיתה הזדמנות לכך. זוהי הזדמנות יקרה. לא הרי מתנה מחיים כירושה לאחר מאה ועשרים.
במצב זה, האינטימיות תשתלט על הסדר. יהיה זמן להרגיש וללמוד ולהפנים ולתת לדמיון האישי ולזיכרון הקולקטיבי לעוף: לצאת ממצרים, לחוות את סדריהם של הקדמונים ע"פ מה שכתבו בפירושיהם ולבטא את הטמון בלבנו ואת הכמיהות האישיות והלאומיות שלנו.
מאחל לכולנו חג כשר ושמח ובריא.
בניסן נגאלו ובניסן עתידין להיגאל.
השתא בעגלא ובזמן קריב.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Response: The Canopy’s Dissolution
by Jeffrey R. Woolf
It has been twenty-five years since the appearance of Prof. Haym Soloveitchik’s “Rupture and Reconstruction which introduced the concept of “mimetic religion into Modern Orthodox discourse. The essay has been a perpetual touchstone of discussion whenever questions arise of the present state and future direction of Orthodoxy in the United States (and, in many ways, Israel as well).
As is now widely known, Soloveitchik described the collapse of the seamless, organic character of Jewish life, of the type which was once vibrant in large parts of Eastern Europe (and throughout Mizrahi communities, though these don’t figure in his discussion). That mode of religious existence was largely non-self-reflective. Values and modes of religious conduct were internalized by participation in the life of the community, and by absorbing its identity and its heightened sense of historic continuity. Above all, the mimetic Jew was enveloped by a tangible awareness of the presence of God, which provided life with meaning and context, and religious observance with a heightened sense of His service. This all-encompassing, self-contained religious context, a “Sacred Canopy, in the sense advanced by the late Peter Berger, was the sine qua non of the mimetic culture that Soloveitchik described. It was a world in which, as he himself writes elsewhere, people did not hold beliefs, they were held by their beliefs. It is the demise of this all-inclusive world, wherein the Psalmist’s injunction to set God before us is a sufficient reminder to devote our lives to Him , which “Rupture and Reconstruction” describes and whose loss it bemoans (81-82 and 98ff.).
The central thrust of “Rupture and Reconstruction” is the transition from halakhic observance based on tradition (which is deemed to obligate, per se), to nearly exclusive reliance upon the formal codified literature of Jewish law. This development, he asserts, is largely responsible for the dramatic and unprecedented preference for legal stricture (humra) in the observance of the commandments and in jalakhic jurisprudence, generally. It is worth noting that the author’s own father, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l, was outspoken in his insistence that people cling fast to the practices of their parents’ homes and not scour the Shulhan Arukh for either leniencies or strictures. There is no small irony in this, since the punctilious precision advanced by the so-called Brisker School of Talmudic analysis often contributes markedly to the phenomenon.
Almost all of the discussion that “Rupture and Reconstruction” engendered has centered upon this shift from an organically transmitted religious culture, to one that is based almost exclusively upon the study of sacred texts, with all of the educational, social, and behavioral implications thereof. This was to be expected. Therefore, it so no surprise that this is largely true of the consistently excellent and thought-provoking essays that make up a symposium on the original piece and its impact in the latest issue of TRADITION.
Still, it has long been my contention that the more repercussive and fraught element of Soloveitchik’s argument is found toward the end of the article, where he discusses the decline in the profound, powerful awareness of God’s Presence that marked earlier Jewish communities (as well as non-Jewish ones). Truth to tell, the forces that helped to undermine enveloping faith (secularism, historicism, and materialist-atheist Scientism) were formidable. However, Orthodox educators and rabbis neglected the importance of the individual’s intimate and personal relationship, in favor of the admittedly important imparting of Torah knowledge. The tragic irony was that the triumph of Jewish religiosity based upon text study went hand-in-hand with the rise of the deeply flawed, and ultimately corrosive, phenomenon known as orthopraxis or “Social Orthodoxy.”
I was, therefore, very gratified to see that Rabbi Daniel Korobkin focused his superb contribution to this symposium on precisely this issue. I fully agree with his observation that Judaism is not sustainable, in the long run, without deference and commitment to God. Yet, ironically again, the exclusively text-based curriculum, in which we take justified pride, may well be undermining that very same commitment it is designed to foster.
The danger lies in the widespread disappearance of Modern Orthodoxy’s “Sacred Canopy,” of which God-awareness is the central quality. However, it also includes the conviction that, as Rav Soloveitchik frequently emphasized, the act of Torah study is not merely a cognitive or intellectual gesture. It is an act of worship, carried out in an ambience of reverence and the desire to live in accordance with His Will (cf. Sefer HaMitzvot, pos. 5). Given its Divine origin, the student of Torah will exhibit tremendous caution in interpreting the words before him, lest vouchsafed legacy be distorted. He or she will, in the manner of those who live in a traditional society, adopt an attitude of reverence and deference toward the words of the prior generations. In the absence of this posture, however, the sacred texts are exposed to the built-in skepticism, judgmentalism, and relativism that have rushed in to take the place of the previous integrated religious worldview. This leads to a revolutionary reevaluation of the way in which the sacred corpus of Judaism is perceived. These will be evaluated not from a position of humility but judgmentally, in line with the degree in which contemporary values and ideals take the place of the previous communal worldview. (This is not to deny that Judaism in manifestation doesn’t change over time. However, the dynamic that leads to such changes is very nuanced. I touch on this here.)
Hence, the dissolution of the Orthodox “Sacred Canopy” has a decisively corrosive effect upon Torah and halakha. If they are no longer experienced as the Word of God, care in observance will disappear (as will the concepts of sin and personal responsibility in areas of ritual). The Torah, at this point, becomes a mere function of transient intellectual and cultural fashion, reduced to a mere Jewish decoration (as it were) upon the body of a different culture. Anything that was originally part of Judaism that does not align itself with current norms or modes of perception will inevitably be dispensed with.
In other words, the rupture described by Prof. Soloveitchik does not only lead to stringency. It can equally lead not only to leniency, but also directly to anti-nomianism. To paraphrase the author, “having lost the touch of His presence, they seek now solace in the absence of His yoke.”
[I’ve expanded upon some the points raised in this essay, both here and here.]
Rabbi Prof. Jeffrey R. Woolf <<The author is an Associate Professor in the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan University >>