Monday, August 16, 2010

Vlog Post 1

This blog post will remain as a "sticky" until I write another post. Note for newcomers: to navigate this blog, please use the sidebar ---->
This is my first vlog post and first time posting a video on the internet, so go easy; I was going largely off-the-cuff and was a bit nervous. In the future, I will try to keep vlog posts to 1 clip that goes less than 15 minutes. I start off discussing two misrepresentations of Hirsch's view of science and then move to discuss my understanding of Jonathan Rosenblum's hashkafa. Finally, I move into the question of rationalism's relationship with religion.


  1. Avoid the heavy back lighting. You'll get a better picture if the light is in front rather than behind you.

  2. Very interesting post. I feel a little intimidated by how much you know that I don’t.

    I really liked the format. There’s something about being able to see and hear you that’s very different than reading a blog post. One criticism. You’re an engaging speaker, but it’s distracting to see you constantly checking the time, pausing to check things, and correcting yourself. For future vlogs you could try recording the whole thing straight through, then use a simple video editing program like Windows Media Maker to chop out the pauses and corrections and to cut the video into YouTube-friendly segments.

    In response to your final question, Gideon Slifkin/GH/XGH doesn’t believe. He just likes being part of the Orthodox community. As for the others, like all religious believers, they have faith. One can say, “All of these proofs for my religion are wrong/illogical/stupid, and here’s why they’re wrong, but I have faith anyway that Judaism is true.” It’s not an epistemology that I’m comfortable with, but it seems to work for some people and it’s more honest than clinging to “proofs” that are anything but.

    I found your discussion of R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch’s views very interesting. My father grew up in the Beruer’s community in the 60’s and 70’s, and I’ve often wondered what my life might have been like had I grown up in a community that really believed in Torah im derech eretz. Sadly, it seems that the old community is no more, and the new rav of Beruer’s shul is very much a chareidi in the Litvish mold. So much so that he had the audacity to repeat in a drasha the chareidi canard that R’ Hirsch’s views were a stop-gap measure he adopted only to save Frankfurt from the Reform, and Torah im derech eretz was never meant as a universal concept. This despite R’ Hirsch explicitly stating in writing many times that Torah im derech eretz is l’chatchila the form Yiddishkeit should take. Apparently today’s Roshei Yeshiva know what R’ Hirsch thought better than he himself did.

    The way in which he was quoted in the examples you discuss reminds me of the way Creationists quote the paragraph from the Origins of Species in which Darwin described how ludicrous it is to think that something as complex as the eye evolved through natural selection, but leave out the very next paragraph where he goes on to say that despite the apparent absurdity, the evidence shows that the eye did in fact evolve and we must accept this fact. Quoting R’ Hirsch this way is nothing less than quote mining.

  3. After looking around on your new blog, I stumbled upon the vlogs and heard some glaring mistakes and misunderstandings. Please make sure they are publicly retracted and corrected.

    You claim here!
    at min 8:10
    that the continuation of the section in the article shows that Rav Hirsch was trying to "give over the exact opposite concept than what they wanted".
    But I'm afraid you are committing a similar error to what you are accusing me of committing. You are trying to color the first statement in light of the later ones. The reality is that Rav Hirsch is giving a number of different responses to the Age of the Universe issue. They cannot be unified under one theme with an overall thrust as you are claiming. Here is the entire section:

    R' S. R. Hirsch (Educational Value of Judaism Collected Writings #7p265):
    "Judaism is not frightened even by the hundreds of thousands and millions of years which the geological theory of the earth's deve­lopment bandies about so freely. Judaism would have nothing to fear from that theory even if it were based on something more than mere hypothesis, on the still unproven presumption that the forces we see at work in our world today are the same as those that were in existence, with the same degree of potency, when the world was first created.
    Our Rabbis, the Sages of Judaism, discuss (Midrash Rabbah 9; Chagiga 16a) the possibility that earlier worlds were brought into existence and subsequently destroyed by the Creator before He made our own earth inits present form and order.
    However, the Rabbis have never made the acceptance or rejection of-this and similar pos­sibilities an article of faith binding on all Jews. They were willing to live with any theory that did not reject the basic truth that "every beginning is from God."
    In fact, they were generally averse to specula­tions about what was in the past and what will be in the future, because, in their view, such questions transgressed the limits of that which is knowable to man, or, at best, they did not enhance man's understanding of his moral function. In the view of our Rabbis, the Book of Books was intended to be mankind's guide for life on earth as it is at present, to teach man to recognize God, in the here and now, as the everlasting Creator and Master of the universe, and to worship Him by faithfully obeying the laws by which He governs mankind."

    Let me break it down for you.
    His first approach is to dismiss the validity of the scientific conclusion from the evidence. The conclusion is predicated on an unverified assumption and Judaism has reason to believe that this is assumption is unwarranted.

    So his first approach says we have nothing to fear from the theory because the theory is based on a flawed assumption. We can remain with our traditional view of young Earth.

    The second approach is to meet the theory half-way. Bereishis was indeed only thousands of years ago, but traditional Judaism can incorporate the theory through the back door by relegating it to Pre-Bereishis history.

    The third approach basically retreats from the traditional Jewish understanding altogether but excuses it because it is not an article of dogma.

    There is no single thrust here. There is a clear progression in the different approaches from no compromise--the science is unfounded, to accommodation and concordism, to total retreat to red lines leaving this non-binding tradition behind as a casualty.

    To be continued in next comment.

  4. I see nothing dishonest with presenting one of these approaches in isolation. My article was not claiming nor gave the impression that it was making a comprehensive review of Rav Hirsch's view towards the Age of the universe.

    Rav Hirsch was rightly cited by me to augment the non-compromise approach which he indeed shares. Rav Hirsch obviously felt that not compromising a traditional understanding of a young earth was the first-and therefore most likely his preferred option.
    True, it happens to not be Rav Hirsch's exclusive option, but it is squarely one of his, and I believe his preferred, options.

    So you are incorrect in asserting that Rav Hirsch was in fact "giving over the exact opposite concept". This is simply wrong. He gave over my exact concept of not compromising and rejecting the validity of the science, and its opposite.

    My article (and the thrust of my blog generally) never claimed to present Rav Hirsch's multi-faceted and sometimes contradictory approaches.
    It had a specific objective--to show that we can remain with Rav Hirsch's preferred approach and explain why no retreats are necessary.

    Second point:
    You wrongly assume here
    that I omitted Rav Hirsch's willingness to compromise because have some kind of need to co-opt Rav Hirsch into my views of no- compromise.
    This can be disproven by reading my article in Yated on Evolution and Rav Hirsch.
    If I had such a need, then why did I state openly that Rav Hirsch was willing to accommodate evolution under certain conditions?
    And how can you possibly divine that I wouldn't accept evolution if those conditions were truly met?

    Again, my objective was to show that those conditions have not been met. There are no adequate scientific grounds, and is no theological necessity for compromise.
    I do not recall citing Rav Hirsch for support in the context that any compromise of tradition is theologically unacceptable. That would indeed be a misleading distortion.

    In the absence of any such misleading citations of Rav Hirsch by me, I expect a retraction and an apology.

    Dovid Kornreich