Saturday, February 11, 2006

I really have no time to blog right now, but here's something else from Reb Aaron Berger:

From: Berger, Aaron
Sent: Fri 2/10/2006 1:04 PM
Subject: for your blog...

Recently, Cross Currents blog celebrated its placement in the Jewish Blog Awards.

In response to that posting I submitted a facetious comment that was rejected by the editors of this charedi blog. The comment was: "Chazak V'ematz. The Moetzes must be very proud!"

I think my facetious comment really speaks to a serious question which "we as charedim" need to face up to.

CC blog is designed to present the charedi point of view; i.e. the group that holds fast to "daas torah". And more than that, "we" (charedim) hold as a core principle that daas torah drives our hashkafa, not the other way around. So how does celebrating an Internet blog's award fit in with that? If you were to survey the daas torah of Rav Elyashiv, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and Rav Shteinman about what our joy should be about a blog award what do you think they would answer? Lakewood just assered the Internet. Most rabbonim of the type "our type" holds from do not allow it, or grudgingly allow it for work etc. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Internet is not a good thing to their minds (at least as bad as not keeping cholov yisroel) or so we don't we listen?? We are quick to listen when it comes to women's draft, yeshiva boys going to the army, bugs, sheitels, Slifkin, YU, etc.

My challenge to their readership and to us is whether/how are "we" better than the "modern" whom we accuse of being the tail wagging the dog; i.e. they do what they want and try to find sources to back them up. Are we not doing the exact same thing re: our gedolim? We look to them to endorse points of view that we think are right or otherwise want to do. This is a serious question that I had asked satirically and bekitzur.

Love (and hugs),



  1. I think this goes in line with the Chazal that accepted the fact that when the Sanhedrin made a takana, they waited for 1 year to see if the takana was accepted or not by the people, and if the people didn't do it then they would abolish it. So why should us listening to the Gedolim should be any different?

  2. I have a request rav Tzodik Hakohen can you do an english traslation or at least suggest a good one.

  3. Check out

    Sunday, February 12, 2006
    The Science of Judaism

    I didn’t post much last week. To be honest, it was a skeptical week, and I don’t like posting when I’m skeptical, it might affect some reader’s emunah. Nothing was going right. Nothing was adding up. I was getting deeper and deeper into doubt. By Friday night I was sliding towards the bottom of the slippery slope.

    ‘Is it all over for the Godol?’ I wondered, as I chanted ‘Hashem LaMabul Yoshov’ with the rest of the RW MO chevrah who make it to shul Friday night. The LW MO chevrah of course stay home, and as for the Centrist Chevrah, I don’t know what Harry Maryles does.

    But God had other plans for me.

    It so happened that I had performed the mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim that Shabbat. Thursday evening, my typically disorganized shul called me and asked if I could host a guest for Shabbat. As both the Godol and the Rebbetzin are hard working members of society, this was a difficult request, since on Fridays we tend to leave the house at 7am and not return home until an hour before Shabbat. On these kind of weeks, Shabbat Dinner consists of takeout, and Shabbat lunch is whatever happens to be in the fridge. (I usually make sure to eat well at the Kiddush).

    However, we agreed to host the visitor, at least to sleep, if not to eat. Turns out this was no ordinary gentleman, but quite a choshuve dude, someone who has spent his life as a Rabbi, as a Professor at a well known academic institution, and more besides.

    On the way to shul Shabbat Morning we got to talking about Hashkafah. Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it we are having a full fledged debate about Faith & Reason. I pulled out all the usual arguments – Breishis Mythology, issues in Shemos, lack of proofs of God etc., to show that Orthodox Judaism is based on faith (at least nowadays). He was trying to argue that Judaism was rational, like the Rambam.

    Suddenly we had a revelation. Or maybe he did, but I had it at the same time too. Honest!

    The basis of Judaism today is not reason, that’s true. You would have a hard time trying to logically prove God’s existence, or Torah MiSinai, or any of those things. However, neither is the basis of Orthodox Judaism simply blind faith. It’s something else.

    Listen carefully Rabbosai, because this revelation is the answer. This revelation ties everything together. This revelation answers all our questions. This is it!

    The basis of Orthodox Judaism is EXPERIENCE.

    What do I mean? I mean the experience of keeping Halachah. The experience of keeping Shabbat. The experience of keeping Kashrut. The experience of learning Torah. The experience of God. We all do these things. We all feel it. We know it to be true on the basis of our experience. We see it works. We see the results. We see how a dedication to these ideals produces upstanding communities, families and individuals.

    Some people will no doubt respond that there are plenty of fine individuals in other religious systems and communities too. And of course there are, to the extent that their religion mirrors the true ideals of Judaism. But you don’t need to look very far to see examples of religious extremism gone wrong.

    Look at the extreme intolerant behavior of religious Muslims last week. They would kill and burn because of some cartoons. Of course we have our extremists too, but would they ever stoop so low? I don’t think so. Compare our Gedolim to their Mullahs. There’s no comparison!

    But it’s more than that. Perhaps our society is an aberration? Perhaps in years past Judaism wasn’t such an effective religion. Well, let’s look back at the last 2,000 years of history. What has been our experience? Anyone who doesn’t see a marked difference between the behavior and accomplishments of the Jewish people and their religion compared to any other society is willfully ignoring the evidence.

    Rabbosai, this is the Kuzari principle in action. The Kuzari principle not some logical, rational proof about the mesorah, as Gosselieb would have you believe. It’s a practical, experiential proof from our own history.

    We know Torah is true because we experience it. And we know our fathers experienced it and we know their fathers experienced it too, all the way back to an event we call Sinai.

    That’s the Kuzari proof.

    But let’s go further. We talked recently about how the Rav was never troubled by the issues of Science, or the Documentary Hypothesis. We also talked about how Rav YY Weinberg said he didn’t need any proofs of religion because of his own experience. Now we can understand what they meant.

    Rav YY Weinberg and the Rav were not fools. They were not Kiruv Clowns. They were well aware of the Science of their day. They knew Breishis could not be literal. They knew the Documentary Hypothesis had (some) merit. So how could they not be troubled? Were they lying? Pretending? Deceiving us?

    No! The basis for their faith was their experience. They lived it. They lived Halacha and Torah. Maybe the Rav was okay with the DH. Maybe he was okay with Breishis being mythology. Maybe he was even okay with a Louis Jacobs or Halivni style peshat! Why? Because he knew the Torah to be true. He felt it, and he saw it work with his own eyes. And he knew his father and grandfather before him had seen it and felt it too.

    At this point I’m sure the skeptics are gnashing their teeth. ‘What about the 9/111 bombers?’ they cry. ‘Didn’t they feel it too?’ Of course they did. But they blew up 3000 people. The proof that their feelings were all wrong is before our eyes. We feel it, and we see the results. POSITIVE results. Of course, not always, not in all people and not all the time. But over the course of history, in every era, in every society, in every corner of the globe, the Jewish community has excelled. Even in Israel today, under extreme pressures, the community is still head and shoulders above the rest.

    We see it. We feel it. We know it. This is the basis for our religion.

    And of course, experience is the foundation for Western Philosophy too. ‘I think therefore I am’. And how do we know we think? Because we experience it!

    Rabbosai, when someone becomes skeptical, they typically start to observe less. They learn less. They attend shul less. And their skepticism deepens. Is it any wonder?! Of course not! They are cutting themselves off from the source of the experience. Chazal say ‘Borosi Yetzer Horoh, Borosi Torah Tavlin’. What did they mean by this? Not that the intellectual knowledge of Torah will save you, but the experience of learning. The experience of sweating over a Gemarah. The experience of the Divine. And this is what my Lakewood friend meant in his Friday Dvar Torah. The ikkar in Torah Study is not the knowledge. It’s the experience. The yegiah.

    So, now we understand how the Rav, Rav Weinberg, Rav Kook and all the other great people of our age kept their faith. But it’s more than that. How could Rav Kook be okay with evolution? How could Rav Kook be okay with the Documentary Hypothesis? Rav Kook famously said that even if the Torah had been compiled over centuries it would still be the Torah because of the kedushah of Am Yisrael. Do you realize what Rav Kook is saying here?!!!

    Rav Kook knew that Judaism was Divinely Inspired because he felt it. He wasn’t troubled by the DH, not simply because he dismissed it, but because even if it were true it would make no difference! His basis for being Orthodox was not some kiruv clown proof about the Divinity of Torah. His basis for Orthodoxy was his own experience.

    I would claim the same for the Rav too. Why wasn’t he troubled by any of these issues? The Rav was heavily invested in Halachah. It was his whole life. He experienced the Divine nature of Halachah. He knew it to be true. It didn’t matter if the Halachah was given in entirety to Moshe on Mount Sinai itself, or alternatively was Divinely Inspired or Intuited by the Jewish people over many generations.

    It’s clear from the Torah too that the ‘proof’ for Judaism was always in practical experience. When Moshe talks to the Bnei Yisrael he doesn’t give them philosophical proofs of God’s existence. He tells them they have seen it with their own eyes! Of course nowadays we can’t see it as directly. But we can experience it. And we also know that generations of our ancestors experienced it too. But even more importantly, we have seen the results. Anyone can claim a spiritual experience. But can they show the results?

    Only Judaism can consistently show both the experience AND the results, in every society, in every geography, in every era.

    Rabbosai, this is where the Gedolim go wrong. They think that our link to Judaism is so tenuous, so fragile, that any change or exposure to outside thought will be too damaging to bear. But they under estimate the power of experience! I always wondered how Conservative Rabbis remain frum. I mean, they don’t believe in Torah Min HaShamayim, so what motivates them? The answer is obvious – It’s the experience! And this is why the Conservative laiety are going off the derech faster than a rookie on a double black diamond. They don’t experience anything.

    But in a sense, the Gedolim are also very, very right. They realize that the Mesorah is what has kept Am Yisrael going for 2000 years. As any good Scientist knows, if the experiment works, don’t fiddle with the parameters! Orthodox Judaism has been tried and tested for 2000 years and we know it works. We see the results. We don’t need intellectual proofs. We have the empirical evidence!

    When a Scientist publishes some new findings, the key test is not the formulae or the proofs that he brings. The key test is whether his findings can be duplicated by others, in their own labs. If the results can’t be duplicated, his findings are rejected. No matter how clever his proofs, how well reasoned his arguments, if the results cannot be repeated, the Science must be a fraud.

    How many other religions can repeat our results? We see the extremes that other religions have sunk to, both in the past and in our own day. The Gedolim know this. The Gedolim realize the power of our system.

    But of course as the environmental factors change, we must change too. We must realize that the greatest ‘proof’ of our religion is our experience, and our ancestor’s experience. We experience God. We experience Halachah. And we experience Torah. Whether the DH is true or not, or whether Breishis really is ancient Jewish Mythology, is mostly irrelevant.

    Quite possibly a lot of the dogma that has accumulated over the past 2000 or even 3000 years is somewhat false, or exaggerated. But why these exaggerations? Probably because people felt it so intensely that it was as if Moshe had heard God Himself speak! As the Rambam says, of course it didn’t happen that way, and it was more of a case of Divine Inspiration. But we can understand how the mistake was made. Should we be troubled by this? To some extent I suppose. But we shouldn’t let it destroy our faith, because at the end of the day, we know it works! Experience and empirical evidence trumps logical reasoning every time.

    Imagine some flaw is found in our Scientist’s formula, does it invalidate his findings?! No, because his findings our repeatable. Clearly there is something more subtle occurring which needs to be investigated, but the basic truth of his findings are assured.

    Now the skeptics will no doubt respond that their version of reality is more plausible. All of our experience, all of our history, all of our achievements can be explained through simple naturalistic phenomenon. They will claim that our morality is really inbuilt human behavior borne from millions of years of evolution, and is not the result of some Divine Inspiration. But let’s think about this. Perhaps we can perform an experiment? Perhaps there is some way we can test this out? Could we take a statistically significant number of people, remove God and religion from their lives, or perhaps change the religious laws and concepts, and observe the results?

    If the skeptics are correct, then we should see no difference. If the skeptics are correct, then this Godless, secular group of people will display the same level of morality and excellence as the community of believers. If the skeptics are correct, then even taking Judaism but changing Halachah should make no difference. But how could we possibly perform such an experiment? How could we take thousands, if not millions of people and make them secular? Or make them worship a different religion?

    Well, of course this ‘experiment’ has already been performed. And not just once with one group of people, in one location. But many times, with different societies in different geographies. And on a massive scale. Of course I am referring to Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and China, Reform and Conservative Judaism (Lehavdil) and more besides. The atrocities and massacres resulting from those Godless societies were beyond all comparison. And in our own day we see the brutality in African countries and the extremism in the Moslem world, with their incorrect religions and conceptions of God. And we likewise see the rise in divorce rate and the other ills of society when Halachah is discarded or diminished within the Jewish religion. We have the evidence, and it’s on our side.

    This is the basis for our religion.

    We perform the experiments. We see the results. It’s repeatable in every era, in every generation, in every geography. When the experience and the activities are changed too significantly, the results are different, and always worse. In every era, in every generation, in every geography.

    Heck, it’s almost Scientific!

  4. I don't know of any translations of Reb Tzadok, I am very sorry.

  5. Conceivably, there are Gedolim who permit blogs in the service of outreach.

  6. In that case maybe you can do one.