Volume 10 Number 90
                       Produced: Mon Dec 27 16:43:01 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Mussar Movement
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
R. Hirshfeld and the Rav
         [Ben Berliant]
Rabbi Hirschfeld's letter
         [Marc Shapiro]
Rav Soloveichik
         [Jeff Woolf]


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sat, 25 Dec 93 22:42:21 -0500
Subject: Mussar Movement

                          The Mussar Movement

     MJ v10n82 contained outstanding contributions by Mike Gerver,
Bennett J. Ruda and Shaul Wallach. I would like to address the two
former postings, aware that this may set off some considerable response.

         Mike Gerver writes:
         Strangely, the Mussar movement of Rabbi Israel Salanter seems
         to have viewed social convention as bad in itself,  from  the
         little  I  have  read  about   it.   Perhaps   someone   more
         knowledgeable  could  explain  this.  It  seems   a   strange
         attitude, since it is hard to imagine any society functioning
         without strong social pressures to keep its members in line.

         and Bennett J. Ruda quotes the Rov zt"l:
         "This [mussar] movement, at  the  beginning  of  its  growth,
         symbolized  the  world  perspective  of  the  universal  homo
         religiosus, a perspective directed toward  the  transcendent,
         toward that existence lying  beyond  the  realm  of  concrete
         reality. The emotion of fear, the sense of the lowliness, the
         melancholy so typical of  homo  religiosus,  self   negation,
         constant   self-appraisal,   the   consciousness   of    sin,
         self-lacerating torments, etc., etc., constituted the primary
         features of the movement's spiritual  profile  in  its  early
         "...The halakhic men of Brisk and Volozhin sensed  that  this
         whole mood posed a profound contradiction to the Halakhah and
         would undermine its  very  foundations.  Halakhic  man  fears
         nothing. For  he  swims  in  the  sea  of  the  Talmud,  that
         life-giving sea to all the living. If a  person  has  sinned,
         then the Halakhah of repentance will come to his aid One must
         not  waste  time  on  spiritual  self-appraisal,  on  probing
         introspections, and on the picking away  at  the  "sense"  of
         sin." (pages 74-75)

As to Mike's question, the Mussar movement is not against social
pressure and societal norms as a tool when necessary, rather it is
against the consistent basis of one's life's perspectives and behavior
on this standard, EVEN when the societal norm is a good, positive one.
Why? Because as the Prophet bemoaned: "vatehi yir'asam osi mitzvas
anashim milumada" - they (the Jews) worshiped G-d without the vigor,
elevation and profundity inherent in a spontaneous inner generated
Avoda, and performed the Mitzvos by rote and habit.  Take a good
example: our daily davening, for most of us (myself, unfortunately
included), is often little more than a drone, an incantation (I think R.
Aryeh Kaplan's zt"l's "Jewish Meditation" was at least partially written
to try to help people out of this rut, but its hard to change). Reb
Yisroel Salanter zt"l's Mussar movement, which BTW, he meant no less, if
not more, for Ba'alei Battim (the laity) as Yeshiva bachurim, was meant
to great extent to combat that lulled and dulled observance.

You might ask: "So why didn't he go for Chassidus?"  Well, Chassidus
indeed too often emphasizes the mass experience (Kotzk-descended
Chassidic schools are a notable exception to this) and "fervor of the
mob" (or the drink) over individual thought, introspection, and growth.
Reb Yisroel found this inadequate for the sea change in personality he
wanted to bring about: The self-critiquing, probing, growing individual.

Chazal expressed it succinctly: "Rachmana liba ba'i" - "It (Avodas
Hashem) requires the heart" - sensitivity, emotion, awareness, and
understanding - to make it alive, and uplifting.

As to the Rov's comments. This is very painful to me, because it's
difficult to come out in public against a giant of epic stature.
Nonetheless. No characterization of the Mussar movement could be further
from the truth. The talmidim of the greatest Mussar school of them all,
Slabodka, were the most idealistic, spiritual and bold individuals - and
the most dynamic and energetic - of their generation. They were stirred
by the greatness of Man's potential (Gadlus ha'Adam) and the nobility of
the aspirations for achievement and accomplishment. The other schools,
Kelm, and yes, even the much maligned Novardok, were not much different.
I am most stirred and elevated when reading a poem or essay of the
Mussar Greats, and who that has read the recently issued "Reb Yaakov"
(extraordinarily impressive for an Artscroll!)  was not move by this
product par excellence of the Mussar movement. All great Achievers (even
the Rov) are occasionally plagued by melancholy, but the issue is the
rule, not the exception.

There is, BTW, a frequent contributor to MJ, Frieda Birnbaum, whose
(great?) grandfather-in-law, I believe, was a giant of the Western
European Mussar movement (Dr. Nathan Birnbaum zt"l). Perhaps she would
care to comment?


From: Ben Berliant <C14BZB@...>
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 93 15:43:22 -0500
Subject: R. Hirshfeld and the Rav

	In m-j vol 10 #80, Shaya Karlinsky attempts to clarify
(explain, excuse, etc.) R. Hirshfelds' letter about Rav Solovietchik's
legacy.  To quote a portion:
>						...the Rav viewed
>secular knowledge not as a value _in and of itself_, for its own sake,
>but of importance because through it one increased ones understanding of
>Torah; as well as giving one a better understanding of the world in
>which we live, bringing one to a deeper and more sophisticated
>appreciation and understanding of G-d.  This was independent of any
>study for a parnassa.

	I believe that to be correct.  But that doesn't alleviate the
objectionable implication of R. Hirshfeld's letter.  As Aaron Fishman
put in later in the same issue:

>>"Shnayim ochazim b'Reb Yosef Dov."  Two are clutching Reb Yosef Dov,
>>each claiming "He is mine."
>Must we be so divisive? 

	I have been following the arguments back and forth about whether
the right wing (RW) or left wing LW is the true heir to the Rav's
traditions.  I believe that the question cannot be answered, because it
is a priori a false question.

	In Rav Aharon's hesped for the Rav, he described the Rav's Torah
as a "Ketonet passim" - (a coat of many colors).  The implication of the
hesped was that these many colors were necessary in order for the Torah
to be accepted by modern American society.  Many have interpreted Rav
Aharon's words as implying that these "many colors" were merely a
concession to the necessity of American Jewish community, but that they
did not really represent the Rav's intrinsic views.  I believe that to
be an incorrect interpretation.
	The fact that the many colors were necessary for relating to
American Jewry is, of course, true.  That much is obvious.  That also
was not unique to the Rav.  If one looks back at the history of YU, one
will find that the Yeshiva College was created largely because the
semicha students of the 20's and 30's felt a need for secular studies in
order to pursue the Rabbinate.  Since the YU semicha program has always
seen it's goal as training Rabbis for the pulpit, one can also
understand why YU will always require and encourage secular studies.
	In this vein, I know of several examples where new musmachim
told the Rav that they were going into the Rabbinate and were advised by
him to get a degree in Sociology or Psychology in order better to serve
their congregations.  This is evidently what Rav Aharon was alluding to.
	But I believe that the ketonet passim has other implications as
well.  In the context of "shiv'im panim laTorah" (Torah has seventy
faces), I believe that the Rav presented different aspects to his
students as well.  When I was in the Yeshiva, the popular folklore had
two students arguing:  One said "The Rav told me X" and the other said,
"But the Rav told _ME_ Y".  The implication of the story was that both
were right.  
	The Rav was a many faceted individual, and he presented his
Torah on many different levels, so that each listener could relate to it
in his own way.  In that way, his Torah would be broken up into many
"colors", and each listener could correctly say "I heard it from the
Rav" -- and I believe that each variant opinion did, indeed, correctly
represent a portion of the spectrum of the Rav's thought.  
	Thus R. Genack, R. Shachter, R. Lamm, R. Lichtenstein, R.
Riskin, R. Miller and countless others can all legitimately claim to be
heirs to the Ravs' tradition.  (Query:  Did R. Rackman get semicha from
the Rav, or was his semicha from an earlier age?)  I believe the Rav
deliberatly eschewed the single-valued uniformity of opinion that is
prevalent among the "traditional" (i.e black hat) Yeshivot.
	This brings me back to Aaron Fishman's question.  The phrase
"Shanyim ochazin"  (two are clutching) is fundamentally wrong.  It is
not two, but many.  The allocation of these many views into two camps is
an exercise in divisiveness.  It is an oversimplification which promotes
schism.  Therefore, I vehemently object to R. Hirshfeld (and others)
dividing the world into RW and LW, because that forces people to choose,
and eliminates any possible middle ground.
	In spite of the many arguments between Beit Hillel and Beit
Shammai in the Mishna, the Tosephta (I believe at the beginning of
Ketubot) records that "Chiba v'reiut nahagu zeh bazeh"  (they dealt with
each other with love and friendship.)  We can learn from their example.

					Ben Zion Berliant


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 93 10:57:51 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbi Hirschfeld's letter

Since Rabbi Hirschfeld's letter has already been attacked by a number of
writers I will not repeat what has already been said.  Let me just make
a few points. Rabbi Rackman was never a student of the Rav.
Nevertheless he was close to the Rav and the latter pressured him to
become a candidate for YU's presidency. The two were always very good
friends. This does not mean that they saw eye-to-eye on everything. It
is well known that the Rav publically opposed Rackman's view on a matter
relating to women's nature as described in the Talmud (and with
contemporary implications re. gittin) He later apologized to Rackman. I.
e. he apologized for his public attack but he never changed his
ideological opposition. But the Rav would have been appalled at the
slanderous way Hirschfield refers to Rackman. As for Lamm, there are few
people in the world who knew the Rav better. Lamm was the only student
ever to have a doctoral dissertation directed by the Rav.
	It is true that there is a dispute among the Rav's students as
to whether he believed (a la Hirsch) that secular studies had inherent
value and were necesssary for the Torah personality to develop or that
secular studies (a la Hildesheimer) were necessary but only for
utilitarian puroposes. That is, they had no inherent value and a
lifestyle of all Torah, while impossible in today's world, is still the
Jewish utopia. The latter view is expressed by the Rav's right wing
students as well as by Rackefet (see his letter in Torah u-Madda 2). The
first view is advocated by many of the left-wing students. Furthermore,
the view that Western culture has inherent value, is shared by the Rav's
son and two son-in-laws, the three men who probably knew the Rav best.
	Rav Aharon Soloveitchik obviously knew the Rav better than all
of us on a personal level, and he was his student at one time. However,
from reading what he writes about the Rav's philosophical views it is
clear that he hasn't really read them closely (if at all).His summary of
what the Rav sais is often mistaken. I am not referring to issues of
interpretation but rather fact. R. Aharon's long letter in the
Allgemeiner Journal had well over twenty errors in fact. He also doesn't
seem to understand why the Roshe Yeshiva opposed the Rav. At the funeral
he went on about how all the Rav did was teach a litle Kuzari, Moreh
Nevukhim etc.  Apparently Rav Aharon doesn't understand that the Rav was
also interested in expounding Kant and Cohen and that he believed a
college education was valuable etc. That is why the Roshe Yeshiva
opposed him and not because he taught a little Kuzari. Of course there
are other reasons for the opposition. An important reason is that the
Rav trained two generations of rabbis who are now leading Orthodoxy but
who are not bound to the Agudah. This is difficult for the latter to
accept because they always portray themselves as the guardian and
representative of Orthodoxy and here there are hundreds of pulpit rabbis
who are not pulling their line.
	Finally, the JO "eulogy" was not an exception. The Agudah, from
its beginnings, has always engaged in demagoguery and personal attacks
against its opponents. As the Rav explained in a letter to S. Z.
Shraga, that is a major reason for him leaving Agudah and going to
Mizrachi. The latter always respected gedolim even when they disagreed
with them. However, Agudah and its newspapers always attacked the
religious authenticity of those who opposed their Daat Torah (which has
often been formulated by Hasidic rebbe who have been placed on the
Moetzes Gedole ha-Torah because of their position which was an
inheritacne from their fathers. That is, these rebbes are not Torah
scholars of any great stature, and yet they choose to make public policy
and call it Daat Torah.  This latter point was made by R. Weinberg in
one of his attacks against the Agudah establishment)
							Marc Shapiro


From: Jeff Woolf <F12043@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 93 20:25:59 -0500
Subject: Rav Soloveichik

When they distort him through slanderous revisionism, simplifications
and forcing a highly complex, multifaceted person (whom I loved and
revered) into some procrustean bed fixed by Religiously correct
thinking. I now am still hurt, but not angry. In fact, I'm sad because
these revisionists who were at best uncomfortable with the Rav (like
some of his students) or at worst condemnatory (like almost all of the
so-called Yeshiva World) are now playing out their guilt or guile by
making him over in their own image and the Rav (HKM) can't defend
himself ....I'm also sad because all of this was inevitable.  Witness
those who say Rambam didn't study (or better abjured ) philosophy or
became a Kabbalist or some other such nonsense ... And maybe it's
inevitable because like the blind men and the elephant none of us can
comprehend the Rav's totality and complexity...What I DO know is that
those of us who had the zechut to be close to him and sit at his feet
have to tell the truth as we know it (and add that), while confident
that only a minority will be able to hear alot of things he believed in
(Creativity in Lehrnen, Acquiring the widest possible education,
Zionism, Respect for Women, Equal education for Women) and so forth. But
then he was a minority of one and for us it was more than enough.

                  Jeffrey Woolf


End of Volume 10 Issue 90