Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Once you've eaten the apple of modernity, can you go back?

A comment from someone called Chicago on R.Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer's blog:
The problem is for those of us (most Jews in fact) who straddle both worlds. Not only is there an onslaught of "evidence" against the literal mesora, but there is an even greater social onslaught (i.e. anti-fundamentalism) in the intellectual/academic/"enlightened"world. Most of us are weak in this regard and can't easily withstand the intellectual/social pressure exerted against our belief system.

For many (actually the vast majority) people, alternative pshatim, allegories, and cognitive dissonance are the only mechanisms available to enable functioning as a "believer" in the mesora. These issues have been around for centuries, and the rationalization approach has survived side by side with the fundamentalist approach all this time. R' Slifkin (and his many supporters) is clearly just the latest version of this "rationalist" approach to the mesora.

My concern for nearly everyone that I know is that if the gedolim label R' Slifkin and the rest of the rationalists as koferim (and we all lose our chelek in Olam Haba) then what is the point of continuing as observant Jews? How can kiruv continue amongst those with a secular education?

Furthermore, the apparent lack of derech eretz with all the book banning (at least in the eye of the rationalists) makes Torah-true Judaism extremely unpalatable to outsiders and baalei t'shuvah.

Whereas the bans may be reasonable inside an "RW chareidi" yeshiva, it seems to me that, even if the guardians of the mesora think the rationalist approach is factually incorrect (or completely wrong), that it is extremely unwise to approach the problem with bans and labels of kefira. There are better ways to address the problem, as it has been repeatedly addressed over the centuries. Can't there be a few words of pleasantness, or some polite discourse? Don't the banners care that, by banning rationalist ideas, they are not only declaring about 95% of Jews as treif, but also writing them off forever?
I don't necessarily think that kiruv rechokim is as much an issue as distancing people who are already karov.

The bottom line is whether space can be carved within Orthodox Judaism for "95% of Jews" or not.

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