Volume 7 Number 43

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Revisionism and the Rav
         [Eli Turkel]
The Rav and YU, a continued dialogue
         [Anthony Fiorino]


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Wed, 12 May 93 13:11:31 +0300
Subject: Revisionism and the Rav

     I recently attended a hesped to R. Soloveitchik in which the specter
of revisionism was again introduced as was mentioned in several other
hespedim. In terms of R. Aaron Soloveitchik I find this hard to believe.
R. Aaaron Soloveitchik has a book entitled Logic of the Heart, Logic of
the Mind with 2 chapters on secular studies (others on Israel, women,
non-Jews etc.). In these chapters he goes to great length to show
the importance of secular studies which he defines as the sciences, art
literature, philosophy. He gives several justifications including
expanding ones horizons, improving ones knowledge of Torah and increasing
one's love of G-d. He has only 2 caveats. One is that a person should
not study works that seek to undermine the Torah e.g. Bible criticism.
He specifically excludes from this the study of Freud and Aristotle, i.e.
these areas can be pursued as their purpose is not anti-Torah. His second
caveat is that a gadol who is totally involved in Torah learning need not
study secular studies. Thus, he gives as an example, that his grandfather,
R. Chaim Soloveitchik had the highest level of love for G-d without a
secular education.

    "Perhaps there are blessed individuals in our generation who are able
to devote themselves entirely to the study of Torah and to derive their
spiritual sustenance and self-fulfillment from Torah alone. These great
men have no reason and no permission to study other subjects. For most Jews,
however, the five perspectives on the study of science and all seven branches 
of wisdom must be wisely analyzed and applied".

     I feel that it is in this sense that R. Aaron Soloveitchik meant that
in another era the Rav would not have become a philosopher.

     In regard to R. Elchanan Wasserman he made clear that he strongly
objected to an institution that combined Torah learning and secular studies.
He felt that giving a shiur at YU would give his stamp of approval to the
place. It is no secret that many present day rabbis that work with YU
rabbis like R. Dovid Lipschitz will not meet with them in YU. It is easy
to state that YU is not the seminary but that is the viewpoint of a YU
graduate. Someone from the seminary could also point to "greats" like
Finelstein and Lieberman and Heschel for their justification. For some
haredi leaders there is not such a great difference between the two
institutions. Based on R. Aaaron Soloveitchik's remarks I wondor whether
YU would prevent a professor from discussing Bible Criticism in the
"college" portion of the university. In my day (eons ago) there certaintly
were no restrainsts on what a philosophy or English professor could teach.
It is clear that the Rav was not consulted about any such decisions.

Eli Turkel


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 13 May 93 15:55:15 -0400
Subject: The Rav and YU, a continued dialogue

I would like to respond to Yosef's response to my response . . .

>  These activities include organized sports in Inter-college leagues,
> the extensive socializing between YU boys and SCW girls (witness the
> "Guide to the Perplexed!") and partying, yes, courses in Art and other
> subjects taught not only not b'ruach HaTorah, but in a spirit foreign to
> it, courses in what are considered Limudei Kodesh in which views beyond
> the Halachic and Machshavic norm are given credence, and a general
> absence of an atmosphere of Yiras Shamayim which perforce accompanies
> such phenomena.

Exactly the point:  Yeshiva University is a University which contains both
a Yeshiva and a secular studies college.  In terms of the socializing
aspect, dating standards are quite different between the YU world and the
Yeshiva world, as they are quite different between the Yeshiva world and
the Chasidisha world.  If you don't like the way we socialize, that's
fine; we may not like the way the Yeshiva world socializes.  In regards to
teaching beyond norms of Jewish tradition, I don't know that you are
correct -- different people have very different opinions on the norms of
Jewish tradition.  I might mention that the Rambam's books were once
burned.  That an idea causes opposition is by no means evidence that it is
outside of Jewish tradition.

> As to the Rov's alleged acquiescence by virtue of the fact that he
> remained there, this smacks of oversimplification.  Does anyone suggest
> that Reb Yerucham Gorelick, since he remained at YU, approved of all
> these activities. Would one, yibadel lechayim, say that about Reb Dovid
> Lifshitz?  

To compare the Rav's position at YU to either of these gedolim also smacks
of oversimplification.  Only the Rav was _THE_ rosh yeshiva of YU.  Only
the Rav went on active fund raising for YU.  Only the Rav taught
philosophy in Revel.  Only the Rav founded a day school in Boston
dedicated to secular and Torah studies (a day school which, I might add,
sends many of its graduates on to, chas v'shalom, secular institutions
like Harvard, Princeton, Columbia . . .).  Only the Rav was actively and
intimately involved with the RCA.  Furthermore, the Rav far more than
"remained" at YU; he dedicated his life to commuting to YU to give
shiur, even when his wife was dying.

> The Rov was an
> employee - first of Rabbi Belkin, then of, yibadel lechayim,Rabbi Lamm -
> he did not set policy, and was not of the nature to protest it, if and
> when, head and shoulders above theworld as he was, he noticed it.

I think it is naive to think that the Rav had nothing to do with any
policy decisions of YU.  And to say that he was not of the nature to
protest policies is in striking contrast to the picture of the Rav that
I have been priviledged to hear from his talmidim.  In Rabbi Willig's
terms, "the Rav was a fighter."  He was never afraid to take positions
which would potentially isolate him.  If he saw something he didn't like,
he protested.  The Rav, from the descriptions I have heard of him, was
acutely aware of the world around him.

> Workouts are one things, clubs, tournaments, spectator sports,
> quite another. 


> The Rov clearly did not read the walls behind him at that
> juncture in his life.

How do you make such a statement?  Do you have evidence that this is so?

> And, perhaps it is the "very premise" which is
> indeed objectionable, if this is the way it must be manifested.

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  As I stated in my posting, this
view holds that YU is a pasul yeshiva because RIETS is part of a
University which includes secular studies on its campus.  It isn't that
these secular studies are necessarily bad on their own, because maybe it
is OK to go to Brooklyn College at night, away from the Yeshiva.  But the
physical and administrative linkage between these entities is what is so
disturbing.  For others, any and all secular studies are disturbing; from
this position, there is no question that YU is pasul and perhaps bordering
on heresy.

> You have just clarified YU's goals, which are in fact well
> understood, and may be amply achieved, both within and without YU in
> many College allowing yeshivos, without the accompanying questionable
> extracurricular activities.

Not true.  How many yeshivos, those that allow college or don't, have a
JSS?  How many can claim to giving support, knowledge, and nurturance to
so many people of limited background?  How many other Yeshivot can
generate lists of students who have gone on for PhD's, MD's, and JD's?

What you consider "questionable extracurricular activities" are not
considered that by others.  Obviously, those at YU who allow such
activities, disagree with you.  I respect your right to disagree, to say
that you wouldn't want to attend such a Yeshiva.  But I do not understand
how you can declare such an institution off limits to all Jews.  That you,
or if not you then others, would hesitate to set foot on the campus
because it lends legitimacy to YU.  This is not the same as eating lunch
in the JTS cafeteria, which some wouldn't do for this very reason.

I might as a hypothetical question -- what if there was no YU?  Forgetting
the kiruv aspect for a moment, it is clear to me what would happen.  The
majority of "modern Orthodox" (apologies for the use of this imperfect
term) Jews would simply go to secular colleges after their year or 2 in
Israel.  This is a segment of the observant Jewish population which far
outweighs the number in the Yeshiva community.  Is this better than them
going to YU?  Yet the assumption seems to be that all these Jews would
flock to traditional yeshivot and be "Torah-true" Jews if YU wasn't

I once heard from a guy learning at Lakewood how he couldn't understand
how Lakewood could have lost rabbanus in America to YU.  This guy tried to
get a job as a rav and couldn't.  Why?  Because he never went to college,
and all of his potential congregations did.  He couldn't relate to them or
their life experiences, and they couldn't relate to him.  And still, he
couldn't figure out why YU dominates in American rabbanus.

American Jewry, indeed world Jewry, has been changed irreversibly.  For
the majority of observant Jews, there is no shtetl any more.  Social
pressures con no longer dictate halachic conformity.  Many communities
have chosen to turn inward, and create a new shtetl mentality.  Yes, they
insure that their assimilation rate will be very small.  But at what price?
Those who are not in the shtetl with them are cut off.  I can respect, even
be a little envious, of such a closed in Torah world.  But that world has
little to offer Jews who, quite legitimately, want to live in the modern
world.  And it has less to offer Jews who are marginally affiliated or not
at all.  I, and many others, am not able to simply cut off the vast
majority of the Jewish world, which is not observant.  This consideration
alone, aside from my own belief in the l'chatchila approach to Torah
umada, would keep me in the YU vs. the Yeshiva world.

> My reaction, I have noted, would
> have been TO attend the Azkara, despite my discomfort, and just winced
> at Rabbi Lamm's excesses, as I do when reading his book.

My complaint is not with people who can put aside their political and
hashgafic differences and pay their respects to a great rav.  This is, I
believe, the appropriate response.  I saw chasidim at the azkara.  My
complaint is with those communal leaders who don't "do the right thing,"
and the numerous people who follow in their ways.

> But, as Dr.
> Turkel noted, Reb Elchonon refused to deliver a shiur at YU. I do not
> fully understand this position, but like it or not, it is precedent for
> those who follow it, and just as I respect my friends and acquaintances
> who have gone to YU, and emerged Bnei Torah Ovdei Hashem, I respect
> those who feel that in this case "b'makom Chillul Hashem ein cholkim
> kavod laRov" despite my difference of opinion with them.

I must protest.  Each person is required to make their own cheshbonos -- if
a gadol does an issur, it does not matir that issur.  And if a gadol calls
YU a "makom chillul hashem," I will not respect that, in spite of that
person's greatness.  Just as I would not respect a similar insult being
leveled at Torah Jews from other circles, be they right-wing, chasidic,
sefardic, whatever.

Eitan Fiorino


End of Volume 7 Issue 43