Volume 7 Number 30

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Modern Orthodox (5)
         [Hayim Hendeles, Leon Dworsky, Eli Turkel, Morris Podolak,
Frank Silbermann]


From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Fri, 7 May 93 17:45:55 -0700
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox

First let me state openly that I consider myself to be an "idealist,
right-wing fanatic". So everything I say ought to be taken with a grain
of salt. :-) With that out of the way, I can begin.

I would like to respond to some of the comments that my initial post
(complaining about the term "modern orthodox") generated. I should add
that the reason this term disturbs me so greatly is that it often is
used to connote (perhaps wrongly) a "different" approach to Halacha -
and this I believe, is extremely dangerous. More on this later.

	>From: <dave@...> (David Sherman)

	 >is, then it is not *modern* Orthodoxy, but the same
	 >"old-fashioned" Orthodoxy that G-d gave Moses at Sinai.

	Is it really that simple?
	Is your adherence to Halacha identical to that of Jews 3000
	years ago?  Before the Gemara, Rashi, Rambam and the Shulchan
	Aruch, did they follow Halacha exactly as you do now?  The very
	presence of machlokes [dispute] in the Gemara indicates that
	they did not.

This is not true at all. Beth Shamai and Beth Hillel both represented
legal halachik viewpoints. The halacha may have followed Beth Shamai
yesterday, but today halacha follows Beth Hillel. (The subject of how
differing opinions can both be legitimate halchik viewpoints is that of
another thread.) So yes, I still claim, the Orthodoxy I subscribe to
is (theoretically) the same as the Rishonim and the Gemara.

	"Modern" Orthodoxy does not reject Halacha.  You can't deny,
	however, that Orthodox rabbanim have a range of answers to the
	same question.  Some are more lenient, some are more
	stringent.  If "Modern Orthodox" rabbis give answers that are ...

I don't know the meaning of "Modern Orthodox Rabbi's". If his answers
are consistent with the Shulchan Oruch , and perhaps I should add,
other "Non-modern-orthodox-Rabbi's" will agree that this psak is a
legitimate halchik psak although they themselves may not agree with it
e.g. the disputes between Reb Moshe and the Satmir Rebbe), then this
is ORTHODOX, as it follows the Shulchan Oruch. 

But if "modern" means, that living in Modern-day-America 1993 we can 
"bend halacha" (ch"v) even an iota, this cannot be called Orthodoxy.

IF modern means no such thing, then it has nothing to do with
Orthodoxy and  should not be used together with "ORthodox". (i.e. we
we don't classify people as chassidish Orthodox vs. Litvish Orthodox.)

	<Joseph_Greenberg@...> (Joseph Greenberg) Subject:
	vs. black (gush vs. yavneh). However, in comparing our religion
	to that of our anscestors, I personally think that if Yehoshua
	were to return today, he would not understand 1/2 of what we
	do, and what goes on in the contemporary Orthodox community.

Of course, much of what we do is based on custom. But that is an accepted
part of halacha. If Yehoshua lived in 1993 America, he would also have to
observe the same customs. This has nothing to do with a "different"
Orthodoxy. I would hope, that even by his definitions, we would still
be called Orthodox.

	(Isaac Balbin) Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox
	Hayim is living in an ideal world where we don't describe our
	differences.  I have written an article entitled `Tolerance and

Sure there are differences between differing peoples. There are
chassidim, misnagdim, ashkenazim, sefardim, etc. etc. etc. But none of
these differences reflect a different "Orthodox". As I said earlier, we
don't say someone is an "Ashkenaz Orthodox" or "litvish Orthodox". The
differences do not represent different ORthodoxies. Only the
differences between individuals.

(I have nothing against labeling people "Yeshivish" or "Non-Yeshivish",
-which is the way I would describe a so-called Modern Orthodox - for lack
of a better term, or even Black-hat vs. non-black hat, or some other
adjective describing the PERSON, I would accept that too.)

In conclusion, I suggest that we think about how the term is used.  IF
it used to imply (and I have seen it used in this connotation) "bending
halacha to conform to modern life", (ch"v) then we ought to realize
this is no longer Orthodox. If we use it to imply something about a
person's lifestyle, then perhaps a better term might be "Orthodox
Modern" as in "Orthodox electrician" or an "ORthodox physician".  Sure
there are differences between the electrician and plumber. But they
have nothing to do with their Orthodoxy.

The difference is subtle, but I claim is significant.

Hayim Hendeles

From: <ljd@...> (Leon Dworsky)
Date: Sun, 9 May 93 02:08:52 -0400
Subject: Modern Orthodox

Rabbi Emanual Rachman (President of Bar-Ilan) discussed the use and
application of the term "Modern Orthodox" recently in one of his weekly
newspaper columns.  Unfortunately, I did not save the column - not
foreseeing this discussion.  I will, however try to encapsulate his
view, which I whole heartedly agree with.  Please do not blame him for
my shortcomings in so doing.

He noted that what we are really talking about is a "provincial" view as
opposed to a "cosmopolitan" view of Judaism.  Neither is better or
worse, more within or without of halacha, right or wrong, more or less
desirable except to specific individuals.

A "Provincial Orthodox" Jew makes every effort to ignore sociological
and technical changes, while a "Cosmopolitan Orthodox" Jew tries to
incorporate these changes into his own life. Both act within halachic

The use of the term "Modern" is actually a misnomer as this dichotomy of
view points has frequently existed between the jew who lived in the big
city and the jew who lived in the village, even though they lived in a
century when changes were insignificant.

Neither are fully successful in their efforts - the cosmopolitan jew in
adapting, the provincial jew in ignoring:

      A cosmopolitan orthodox woman can dress very stylishly and still be
      dressed quite modestly.  However, if the current style for 20 year
      olds is skin tight mini-skirts, she can not adapt.

      What provincial orthodox does not use electricity today?

And both must deal with the question of how hallachic decisions made in
the past apply to new situations that arise today. For example: does the
permission to put out an oil lamp on shabbat because of fear of robbers
apply to an electric lamp?

It is true that if two recognized Poskim (Halachic Decisors) have a
Machlokot (Disagreement), the "Provincial Orthodox" Jew is likely to
follow the stricter decision, while the "Cosmopolitan Orthodox" Jew will
tend to follow the leniant view, but this does not make one more
"Orthodox" than the other.

I have by no means done Rabbi Rackman justice with these few lines, but
that is a problem that all public figures face.

Leon Dworsky    <ljd@...>

From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Sun, 9 May 93 16:39:31 +0300
Subject: Modern Orthodox

     Hayim Hendeles objected to the phrase modern orthodoxy. R. Lamm in
an article delves into this at length and has similar objections to the
terminology. He suggested using centrists instead and has a whole
explanation why centrist does not simply mean in the middle of two
extremes. The main objection to this is that one needs to be a
philosopher to understand his meaning. Other titles used are knitted
yarmulkes or national religious (dati - leumi). There are objections to
all of these and bottom line they are just some sort of a way of
identifying some group.
     A more significant question is what group?
R. Lamm gives 4 criteria for centrists

1. A positive approach to the state of Israel.
2. A positive approach to secular studies.
3. A positive approach to the position of women in society.
4. A positive approach to the outside world and participation in it.

     One problem is that various groups agree with some but not all his
criterion. Thus for example, Rav Kook was extremely pro-zionist but said
that women are not allowed to participate in elections.  He also said
that one can not change his pronunciation of Hebrew for prayers from
Ashkenaz to Sefard. On the other side R. Shamshon Rafael Hirsch
supported secular studies and participation in the world but was
anti-zionist. In summary there is no easy way to seperate people into
"Haredi" or "centrist". In modern Israel there are major differences
between a kollel boy from Merkaz ha-Rav and a Mizrachi kibbutznik though
they both belong to the Mizrachi party - Mafdal. I have heard statements
from Mizrachi kibbutz leaders that I would classify as conservative
Judaism.  Rabbi Lamm has an entire book "Torah u-Madda" on
justifications for secular studies. He consistently stresses throughout
the book that the bottom line is that secular studies are secondary to
religious studies. I am not convinced that YU follows this philosophy. I
agree completely with the statement that not everything at YU was done
with R. Soloveitchik's agreement or okay. Another problem is that
centrist (modern orthodox) is frequently viewed (with some
justification) as being less religious rather than just having different
viewpoints within Halakhah. One of the points of greatness of R.
Soloveitchik is that he symbolized the possibility of being "modern
orthodox" without compromizing the Shulhan Arukh. He makes abundently
clear that his zionism is not the zionism of Chaim Weizmann or David ben
Gurion (not to speak of Shulamit Aloni).

       Conversely, a "Haredi" would disagree with the above principles.
Again, there is a large variation within the haredi population. For
example, the sefardi haredim are much more pro-zionist than their
ashkenazi counterparts. There is a vast difference between a German Jew
from the "Breuer" kehilla to a Satmar hasid. R. Schach has stated very
explicitly in numerous letters that one of his (and other Bnei-Brak
rabbis) aims is to de-legitimize Mizrachi. i.e. Agudat Israel and
Mizrachi are not two equal alternatives but only Agudat Israel's
anti-zionist approach and anti secular-learning is the Torah true
approach. In general this attitude is much more prevelant in Israel than
America. The American haredi approach is more typified by R. Moshe
Feinstein. R. Moshe states in his sefer that one should not learn
secular studies and instead study full time gemara and rely on G-d for
help in a living. Nevertheless, his son-in-law has a PhD and teaches at
YU and his major talmid (R. Alpert) was also a rebbe at YU. Though I
never was privileged to know R. Moshe personally I had a friend who grew
up on the lower east side and frequently went to R. Moshe's house. This
friend had a college education but this was never a reason for R. Moshe
to remain distant.

    In summary there are no clear rules for who is a "centrist" and who
is a "haredi". The usual rule seems to be that whoever is a step to "my"
right is a fanatical extremist and whoever is a step to "my" left is an
apikores (heretic).

Eli Turkel

From: Morris Podolak <morris@...>
Date: Sun, 9 May 93 03:56:08 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox

In response to Hayim Handeles' posting about the term "Modern
Orthodoxy", I have to say I agree with much of what he says.  The point
was brought home to me once by the late Rav Avraham Lapin.  Someone
asked him if he was Orthodox and he said he was not.  Now Rav Lapin was
an elderly gentleman who learned in the Telshe Yeshiva before the war.
He was not only orthodox, but dressed the part.  His reply therefore
surprised the questioner who then asked if he was, perhaps,
Conservative.  He replied that he was not Conservative, not Reform, and
not "chas vechalila" Reconstructionist.  By this time the questioner was
completely off balance, and asked what in fact the Rav was.  He was told
"I am a Torah Jew".  The point is that labels carry all sorts of
connotations along with them.  In the U.S. (and elsewhere) these include
political connotations.  The Rav did not what to be classified in this
way.  He was concerned with Torah and its demands, nothing else.

This is, however, precisely why a term like "Modern Orthodox" is useful.
Sometimes you want to talk about a stereotype, and "Modern Orthodox"
conjures up a particular type of person.  It is in that sense that I,
for example, use the term.  But Hayim is right.  There are implications
involved in the term that are problematic.  One should think before
using it.

Moshe Podolak

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 7 May 93 18:39:15 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox

In his complaint about the term "Modern Orthodox", Hayim Hendeles

> There is one Torah only, and only one Shulchan Oruch."

I thought there were several versions of the Shulchan Oruch differing in
their glosses and commentaries.  No?

I do sympathize with his complaint that the term `Modern Orthodoxy'
implies that there are two Orthodoxies -- a modern one and an
old-fashioned one (or perhaps even several old-fashioned ones).  Calling
ourselves `Modern Orthodox' reveals an opinion that the development of
other Orthodox groups is somehow retarded.  (Even if one believed this
to be true, it is not nice to say so.)

The term is also not very descriptive -- our distinguishing traits were
also characteristic of certain earlier eras (e.g. medieval Spain).  The
term `Cosmopolitan Orthodox' seems more to the point.

Eitan Fiorino notes that such distinctions divide klal yisrael only when
there is a lack of respect (but that this has all too often been the
case).  It seems cliche' to hear of the mutual respect and friendship
between sharply differing gedolim being followed by disrespect and
rancor between their respective tamidim.

I suspect that in these cases the gedolim knew full well that their
differences were not established Torah, but merely opinion.
Unfortunately, many people unable to distinguish truth for themselves
follow whichever leader is more emphatic in his opinions.  When they
find a leader willing to state his opinion as fact, they conclude that
the other groups are violating Torah (whether willfully or in

Every issue has its moderates, but moderation fails to inspire most
people, sadly.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA


End of Volume 7 Issue 30