Volume 39 Number 17
                 Produced: Thu May  8  6:42:53 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Daas Torah Article in RJJ Journal
         [Michael Frankel]
"Open Orthodoxy": A Request
         [Janice Gelb]
Query re: Orthodox Institutions statements supporting worker
         [Arieh Lebowitz]
A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem
         [Russell J Hendel]


From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 18:27:17 -0400
Subject: Re: Daas Torah Article in RJJ Journal

<<From: I Kasdan : I would like to point out and commend to the list Rabbi 
Alfred Cohen's nicely developed, fairly extensive and in many respects very 
open and different kind of article on "Daat Torah" in the most recent RJJ 
Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (Vol. XLV, Spring 2003).>>

I read it and do not find the article nearly as compelling as does the
highly esteemed Yitz.  It also deploys at least as many roundhouse
zingers as in the materials it tut tuts. Thus e.g. talking about other
"daat torah" articles he disapprovingly notes they "...appear to be
remarkably lacking in objectivity and lax in their approach to the
truth.  Often based on secondary sources and feature inflammatory
language or an unflattering tone; they are polemics rather than
scholarship, with faulty conclusions arising from failure to check into
what was really said or written".  Whew.

Actually, I rather enjoy a more sharply worded essay as it tends to make
one's points in an emphatic enough way to keep the readership awake so I
do not cite the above remarks by R. Cohen to find any intrinsic fault
with their mode of expression, but only to note the inconsistency of his

But if we give a pass on the mode of expression, we cannot do so on the
substance, which is guilty of numerous interpretive errors.  I do not
know whether Kaplan's basic thesis is correct or not - and in
particulars he has surely missed some stuff- but if one is going to
criticize the thesis he must represent it accurately, and this is not
done.  I am hampered a bit by not having Kaplan's article handy to
refresh my memory but if it serves, I recall Kaplan's identification of
a "Daas Torah" included key characteristics not addressed by R. Cohen
(this does not mean Kaplan is "correct", rather that he has a defined
conceptualization within which the context of his remarks need to be
understood, at least if you want to criticize them). In Kaplan's
concept, Daas Torah was above all a manifestation of the exercise of a
type of rabbinical authority.  Some important characteristics are
1. that it is a "p'saq" unconstrained by the localisms of adherents, but
rather is purveyed as a ruling (though never asked for) incumbent upon
those outside both the geographical and ideological boundaries of the
"poseiq's" flock.  In particular it may be catalyzed by no "sh'ailas
chokhom" as are traditional p'soqim.  2. a salient characteristic is the
kaplenesque version is the ex cathedra nature of the pronouncement which
precludes any traditional halakhic discussion of the issue.  3.  it is
often, though not always, propagated by a group of rabbonim, invariably
only a subset or a small subset of the full universe of rabbonim.  None
of this really has much to do with who is the individual poseiq (a rosh
yeshiva or a "townie" rov) but rather the nature of the circumstances of
the shailoh - or lack of any shailoh - and its incumbency upon parties
who haven't solicited the opinion. though the decline in authority of
the townies vis a vis the roshe yeshiva in a traditional poseiq role has
surely facilitated the growth of Kaplenesque "Daas Torah" and is
doubtless regretted by Kaplan.

R. Cohen's failure to come to grips with Kaplan's actual thesis is
nicely illustrated by his perception of "irony" in the cited approach of
R. L.  Bernstein of the RCA - a presumed MO and thus presumptive anti-DT
bastion- to a Rosh Yeshiva! for a p'saq as though this too was a
manifestation of Daas Torah in the sense of Kaplan.  It is not - see
above - and the issue of just who is the individual poseiq is really
quite beside the point of Kaplan's taxonomy and renders R. Cohen's point
here something of a non-sequitor..

For another illustration of the articles's misreading of Kaplan's
arguments is the citation of a RYBS remark to the effect, that one of
the hardest things is the submission to the will of one's mentor.  But
this too, whatever the Rov may have meant by it as insight into the
talmid-rebbe relationship (and the article's simplistic equation to a
universally submissive rebbe-talmid posture is contradicted by other
well known testimonies), again has nothing at all to do with the
Kaplanesque "Daas Torah" which in fact explicitly excluded the
talmid-rebbe relationship during kaplan's discussion of what it is not.

As a final example, let me point to the article's citation of the
Netziv's remark that "And yet, there are many in Israel who have not
attained [the level of] daat torah. Nevertheless, only the torah is the
rationale for the elevation of Israel." R. Cohen's provides his
understanding that the Netziv is here defining Daat Torah "as a person's
realizing what it is that Hashem expects from him, how his life's
efforts should be directed toward fulfilling the role of the Jewish
community, what is proper what is not".

  And then R. Cohen concludes with the notion that, under these
circumstances, who better to guide the individual's action than someone
endowed with an abundance of Torah insights.  Again, whew.  This
extraordinary extrapolation may or may not (and surely the correct
answer is, it is not) be pregnantly implicit in the Netziv's brief
remarks, but it certainly has nothing at all to do with Kaplan's above
described vision-definition of what daas torah is, which is what with
one should somewhere come to grips in an article focused on its

Finally, I'd note that R. Cohen calls kaplan's paper polemical and
unscholarly a number of times and I'm not sure what to make of this.
Surely it is not just the sharp language employed since R. Cohen would
not, I imagine, consider his own equally sharp note unscholarly.  Kaplan
cites original sources and provides footnotes as more or less
appropriate. that R.  Cohen may disagree with some of the interpretaions
does not render the original either unscholarly or the latter opinion
correct. There are surely scholarly bases on which to criticize kaplan
(e.g. his failure to identify the machinations in Hungary a full
generation before as an earlier manifestation of the phenomenon he
wishes to identify) but it is clear that this article has not done so as
it never really came to grips with much of the fundamental argument.

I also think R. Cohen's avowed objective of producing a balanced
criticism might have been better served by paying a bit more critical
attention to the substance of R. Wein's tendentious "review" in the
Jewish Observer (set off in quotations because one must really read an
article to review it and I was never convinced that R. Wein had actually
done so) rather than limiting himself to a fleeting and undeveloped
reference in a footnote.  .

Mechy Frankel				W: (703) 845-2357
<Michael.frankel@...>			H: (301) 593-3949


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 09:33:11 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: "Open Orthodoxy": A Request

Stan Tenen <meru1@...> wrote:
> Today, 90% of Am Israel has more or less turned its back on
> Torah. Instead of competing for inclusiveness, and for mutual respect
> among different views, which would allow a much greater percentage of Am
> Israel to participate, we have, in effect, "Bar Khamsized" everyone who
> doesn't fit our own particular (and often narrow) definition of Torah
> Judaism.
> Much of the Torah world appears to me to no longer even care about
> reaching those who are excluded. There seems to be a failure of the
> golden rule, where some seem to think they can be disrespectful towards
> others, while demanding respect from them. In order for Torah, Torah
> Jews, and Israel to be respected, _we_ must find legitimate (not fudged,
> not merely polite) reasons to _genuinely_ respect non-believing, Reform,
> Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews, and non-Jews also. If we
> cannot genuinely respect the contributions of others, even though their
> points of view may be very different from ours, then we can't expect
> others to respect our views.
> [snip]

If you truly mean this, you might start by finding terminology other
than "non-believing" to refer to Jews in other streams of Judaism. I can
only speak from the viewpoint of a Conservative Jew but I know of many,
many Conservative Jews who strongly believe in Torah and Judaism. I am
not the only one in my C synagogue to walk to shul on Shabbat and Yom
Tov, to keep a kosher kitchen, and to believe in a halachic
system. Implying that Jews in other streams do not "believe" in Torah is
insulting at best, and at the very least will not promote the kind of
dialogue you seem to be hoping for in this message.

-- Janice


From: <ARIEHNYC@...> (Arieh Lebowitz)
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 13:45:14 -0500
Subject: Query re: Orthodox Institutions statements supporting worker


I am trying to locate documents / resolutions / statements issued by
U.S. Orthodox instititions; statements that support - explicitly or
implicitly basic worker rights, from support for traditional Halachic
statements on behalf of workers to support for the right, for instance
to form or join trade unions.  Any items that people "here" know of --
recent material or material in archives and folders from years past --
would be deeply appreciated.  Reply "here" but please send an e-cc
directly to me at: <AriehNYC@...>

Thanking you in advance,

Arieh Lebowitz


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 4 May 2003 22:55:29 -0400
Subject: A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem

Stan and our Moderator (Avi) had a dialogue in v39n10 on the open
orthodoxy issue. I disagree with both their approaches and have a SLIGHT
modification which I believe is acceptable to both of them.

Stan correctly points out that if 90% of any organization walks out then
something is the matter with that organization(So 90% of the orthodox
Jews walked out and we must do something about it)

Avi correctly points out that it is against the mail-jewish rules to
discuss practices against halacha.

So quite simply (and let me emphasize that it is SIMPLE) let me suggest
an operational solution which is perfectly acceptable halachically.

To give the solution we have to identify the problem. Stan identifies
the problem with lack of openness and tolerance.  I was privileged to
hear the CHief Rabbi of the British Empire who spoke at Shomrey EMunah
last week---he was more emphatic-- he PROMISED us that if we showed
tolerance then Mashiach would appear immediately (he then said...or you
can "sue me" for misleading you and the audience broke out in
laughter). I have heard many other gedolim issue similar sentiments.

I want to go one step beyond the OPENNESS issue and introduce another
component of the problem. About a year ago I heard Matti Klein President
of LeMaan Bnoth Yisrael speak (The organization helps agunoth get
divorces). Matti said that she doesnt know of one agunah case where the
problem is halachic(She was very emphatic about it--even though part of
her talk was about post 9-11 agunoth). She said in every case of agunoth
that she met there was pressure from "influential members" of the
congregation or whatever to prevent the woman getting a divorce.

That defines the problem: a) Lack of openness to other points of view b)
use of halachah to seriously hurt people (as in agunoth).

To define the solution I would cite a gemarrah about the expenses of
funerals which were becoming unbearable.  Rabban Gamliel(or some other
Gadol) ordered he be buried simply and after that the trend stopped. The
point is that people immitate their leaders

In modern times I have heard that Rabbi Teitz of Elizabeth has one day a
year when they dont use the Eyruv...the purpose of this is to teach
those who are blessed with an eyruv that there IS a prohibition of
carrying on Shabbath. Here is a very simple learning situation that
encourages tolerance.

Another example: When I was in the south the local Chabad Rabbi had a
chevruta with the local conservative Rabbi EVEN THOUGH HE WAS
INTERMARRIED. I did ask him about it...he explained that in small
southern towns Rabbis have to pool all their resources together to
sustain the Jewish community. He further explained that by having a
chevruta with him he was not in any way lowering his own standards.

We can now define a 4 part solution to the problem:

A) Let eg Charedi and other strict orthodox Rabbis have chevrutas
(possibly by phone or mail or in person) with less orthodox
Rabbis. THese unions will help foster tolerance.

B) Let Rabbis review Eves sin in Paradise. Adam prohibited her to TOUCH
the fruit--this was an enactment so she should not EAT the fruit. But
the snake pushed her into the fruit and when she didnt die she decided
to eat it. So let Rabbis (even Charedi Rabbis) give regular sermons
explaining the difference between Rabbinical, Custom and Biblical
obligations. Again there is no confrontation with halacha and this will
help foster tolerance

C) Let various strict and less strict Rabbis get together occasionally
for issues of common cause (like charity) where there are no halachic

D) Let the community as a whole strongly protest (possibly with
sanctions) any acts of abuse of peoples freedom thru communal pressure
(Such as denying women divorces).

In summary: We have suggested that the solution to the 2 part problem of
agunoth-tolerance is learning-together-sermons-on
-light-vs-stringent-matters-charity-communal pressure. Nothing in this
solution is against halacha. I believe it would work I also believe it
would alleviate much of the problem

I would also be curious what other think

Russell Jay Hendel;Ph.d.;http://www.RashiYomi.com/


End of Volume 39 Issue 17