Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Things I learned in yeshiva....and things I didn't learn in yeshiva

Wolfish Musings once had a great post called Things I Learned In Yeshiva...And Things I Didn't Learn In Yeshiva. It's worth looking at his list. Bear in mind that I'm not discriminating between what I was taught in 6th grade or 10th. Here is mine:

Things I learned in Yeshiva...
And things I didn't learn in Yeshiva...

Long hair is forbidden by halakha
for men
Long hair is not forbidden for men by halakha. While there are halakhic issues with how long hair lies when putting on teffilin, al pi din a man can wear his hair like King John or John Lennon if he wants.

Christianity is about repressing sexuality and insane asceticism, Islam is the same only in reverse.
Like a lot of stereotypes, there are kernels (or even whole ears) of truth to it. But a true assessment of these religions is far, far more complicated. It's like the old saw about how Judaism is all legalistic show without substance. There were trends, movements, currents and cross currents in Christianity and Islam such that they cannot be boiled down to a trite stereotype. Besides, Judaism, at least as presented to the walking hormones teenagers we were in yeshiva is not exactly providing a sexually healthy environment at all times.

Moses Mendelssohn was the founder of Reform (not Reform Judaism, as it could only be called 'Reform')
While there is simply no way one can maintain that Mendelssohn was Orthodox (even though the term is anachronistic--it was, by the way, acknowledged that he was Orthoprax). However, nothing about Mendelssohn and his chevra was acknowleded apart from the 'fact' that from Mendelssohn came Reform and non-Jewish grandchildren. That the nature of the controversy was over the fact the the Bi'ur was a passport to German literacy (like the KJV of the Bible was earlier), I never heard. Nor, that R. Itzele Volozhiner had a seder in Parshat Hashevua with Bi'ur.

Non-frum and non-Jewish Bible scholars hate the Torah, Hashem and Judaism.
Again with the stereotypes. There were and are Bible scholars who hate some or all of the above (although I keep thinking of nineteenth century Germans when I try to think of names). Its abundantly clear from reading commentaries, studies and articles by Bible scholars that many of them have an abiding love for Torah, Judaism and Hashem (or some combination). In fact, often people become scholars in a field precisely because they love it.

There is a listable group of rabbis called The Gedoilim, most of whom, ironically, are of the Lithuanian yeshiva tradition with a couple of Chassidishe rebbes and an occasional Sephardi Haham thrown in for good measure.
Need I elaborate?

R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto was so great that the Vilna Gaon said he would have walked to Italy to meet him. The Vilna Gaon said x% of the Mesilat Yesharim was written al pi ruah ha-qodesh.
Yes, but. R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto was highly controversial and not without reason. He may have had messianic pretentions of some sort, wrote secular poetry and plays in Italian and attended the University of Padua.

Ad kan for now.

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