Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vlog Post 2 (Synagogue Council of America, Dovid Orlofsky, and the Modern Orthodox)

Alright, this is the second shot, go easy. I think somebody recommended using notes beforehand, but I might as well write a whole post at that purpose in doing these is that they should be off-the-cuff. The audio of Orlofsky I'm referring to can be found here. [I know what you're wondering off the bat, what's the deal with the shirt? I had to sit a bit low on an already low chair to get a good view of my head and didn't realize the shirt crippled up upon slouching. Duly noted for next time.]


  1. In terms of constructive criticism, it seems that logically one should support the OU's decision not to break with the crazies - at least if one thinks the Rav's perspective is pretty important, which would include me. Especially because it dovetails with what I heard Prof. Sarna say - big tent movements succeed and grow far more often than little tent movements. I don't think Orthodoxy is strong enough to sustain a split right now, and I'd rather wait for the Haredim to moderate themselves (which I do think will happen) than be the one to delay that process at least another 10 years by breaking with them.

    Of course, then we deal with the question, "well what does being Orthodox mean if you allow association with such vile individuals who matir gezel akum?" But I think that's not as big an issue (though of course I'll admit it's an issue) as the one I noted above. First of all, we already have fairly clear boundaries drawn between ourselves and the haredim, and while I know MO kids who become hatted, none of them become the type of hatted that would be ok with gezel akum - indeed, they become the type of hatted that denies that anyone they take orders from, 'has ve'hallila, is ok with gezel akum! Second of all, I don't think we're being "untrue" to ourselves if we associate with them because really, association isn't that big a deal. Finally, there are plenty of MO's who steal too (maybe fewer, but by definition no one has numbers on this) and they do it based on their upbringing as well - they receive the social message that Halakha is merely a personal choice we pay lip service to, so if the Halakha is "don't steal," well it's a personal choice, and besides I'll still pay lip service to it. Now granted the picture I'm drawing here is a bit exaggerated (and believe me, I'm no haredi apologist) but I think, at the end of the day, we need to worry about fixing the problems in our own subcommunity before we make it an official community. And I'm not just saying that the way people wave platitudes around about fixing yourself before you fix others - I think from a pragmatic standpoint it still makes sense as policy.

  2. At the same time, of course, I'm kinda hoping Orlofsky gets taken down the way Tropper did. (Though Tropper might not have gotten taken down... stay tuned!)

  3. Daniel:
    I don't recall him saying that in the shiur Sruly let me listen in on (but I could be wrong). I do know that his article in the Forward (on which that shiur was based) was very clearly discussing how big tents tend to fall.

    I'm not concerned with people who steal, but people who say stealing's mutar. Once certain things are justified, your ideology's treif. Once you start justifying banning the idea that Chazal could chas vishalom be wrong about science or sending a kid to Tranquility Bay or prophecy vis-a-vis facilitated communication, I think there's a problem. Moreover, these aren't the "eilu vi-eilu" type when it comes to Modern Orthodoxy. They want it dead and they want their ideology ascendant. That, I would think, is a danger to the very existence of Modern Orthodoxy.

    As for the Rav, perhaps his view could be sustained as long as he, the "treif gadol" -- "treif" because of where he was, "gadol" because of where he came from -- stood at the head of the Halacha Commission and YU, but without him living, Modern Orthodoxy will have to take its intellectual talent and apply it in a populist manner while splitting from its internal enemies (and they are enemies to the cause of Modern Orthodoxy, as numerous citations can demonstrate). Otherwise, the Rav will be right in his prediction that Modern Orthodoxy lacks the wings to fly.

  4. I'm pretty sure he mentioned it in the post-shmooze shmooze. Yes, he did say they tend to stop being big tent movements fairly quickly, but the point he made in the following (unrecorded) portion was that that's kind of tragic.

    I agree with you about the treifness of the ideology (of course, I'm pretty sure there exist haredi rebbeim, probably considered gedolim, who don't matir gezel akum, but are too shy to speak up. Which isn't justification for them, but creates a grey area for the ideology.) But my point is Modern Orthodox ideology, at least the Modern Orthodox ideology the masses live by, has the same problems. As for their attitude towards Modern Orthodoxy - I don't know, does it present a danger? I haven't seen much happen directly as a result.

    Don't quite get your last comment here.

  5. Daniel:
    With regards to the greys you speak of, I think JFK got it right when noting that there is a special place in hell for those who maintain neutrality in times of crisis.

    Regarding Harediism and MO: I think the nafka mina to me is that while the Modern Orthodox have a hamon am culture, the haredim have an ideal . Or, as I've often put it, all my problems with the Modern Orthodox are sociological, while all of my problems with the haredim are theological.

    My last comment was in response to your assertion that we take the Rav's policy of affiliating with the haredim seriously. The man was such an acknowledged great that during his life, his existence countered many darts thrown at Modern Orthodoxy, for the latter could always note who had very clearly marked himself on their side. Despite not directly and clearly endorsing all aspects of the principle hashkafas of his students (and why should he have?) -- I have in mind R' Schachter, R' Lamm, R' Lichtenstein, R' Wurzburger, and R' Rackman (who wasn't technically a student, but a chief interpreter), among others -- they were in his orbit (although, some -- like R' Rackman -- were cast out) and the Modern Orthodox worldview under his open-minded protection. Without somebody like the Rav, the attacks by "legitimate" and "authentic" haredi Orthodoxy -- as well as every other modern influence imaginable -- stand a very good chance of eroding thoughtful Modern Orthodox ideology. There is no Rav today and Modern Orthodoxy has to adjust to that reality.

    In Halakhic Man, the Rav writes of the glory of bringing Heaven to Earth instead of constantly reaching for the unattainable upper spheres. In Lonely Man of Faith, he writes of the (existentially tiring) duty of the great spiritual figure to -- while climbing the spiritual ladder to greatness -- bring himself down to Earth for the sake of humanity. Modern Orthodoxy can not solely rely on repeating the philosophical teachings of the late halakhic hero; it must develop from the roots planted by the Rav and his students and then relate its teachings to the general community. It must bring scholarly Heaven to mundane Earth.

    But I rant.