Volume 37: Number 98
Thu, 26 Dec 2019
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
From: Micha Berger
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2019 13:58:07 -0500
Subject: Re: [Avodah] A Modern Orthodox Hedgehog
On Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 9:03pm CST, R Harry Maryles pointed us to
his blog post "Of Hedgehogs and Ideology" at
written in response to R Gil Perl's two-part essay on The Lerhaus.
Responding to RHM's blog post:
> That said, I do not believe that Modern Orthodoxy should make being an
> or LaGoyim its passion no matter how noble it is. In my view it should be
> defined the way it is traditionally defined as adhering to the ideology
> of Torah U'Madda (TuM).
And skipping ahead to his close for a minute:
> Does that leave Modern Orthodoxy bereft of the hedgehog concept?
> Perhaps. But in my view using a Mitzvah that does not really define what
> we are really about in order to excite passion in us will in my view -
> not work.
I thought of this while responding to a very different conversation
on Facebook. Someone advocated a more meiqil approach to halakhah on
the grounds that the way O is done is scaring people away. I made two
objections: C was only one failed attempt at this approach -- it just
doesn't work. People just don't bother conforming to the lower standard.
The other objection ended with an on-topic one-liner:
You can't save something by redefining it.
But it matters less here. We don't really need to save Mod-O as much as
maximizing the shemiras Torah umitzvos of people who affiliate Mod-O.
So, assuming I thought people would stay with that affiliaiton even as
the movement redefined itself, I wouldn't object.
But personally, the resulting movement wouldn't be for me. As I see it,
halakhah has me prioritize those closer to me ahead of those further --
so immediate family, friends, aniyei iri, etc... and much further down
are non-Jews. The triage doesn't fit making providing Kol Yaaqov to the
community dialog our highest priority.
The other problem is that I already bought into Mussar's adage that
"my ruchnius means concern for my soul and your stomach". (Something the
pre-War chassidishe rebbe who was the rav of the shtielb of my childhood
also regularly said.) When it comes to others, gashmi aid is a higher
priority than moral education. Again, a different triage.
> Rabbi Perl rejects that. He references R' Norman Lamm who - as he points
> out - literally wrote the book on that subject. Rabbi Lamm says that
> TuM is not an ideology but rather pedagogy - a means of `arriving at
> knowledge of the Creator through the avenues of science and the arts'.
> In my view, that is a distinction without a difference. Aren't all
> Orthodox Jewish ideologies ultimately about that?
YU-style Mod-O is indeed Mod Yeshivish. The RIETS morning is no less a
child of Volozhin than Lakewood is.
But it's not true that "all Orthodox Jewish ideologies" are about
"arriving at knowledge of the Creator".
The Rambam would go for that. But chassidishe deveiqus is about having
a relationship with the Borei, not learning about him. Knowing G-d,
rather than knowing *about* G-d.
More on this in a reply REGerstl's email, which became its own thread
about the Rambam's notion of life's purpose.
> Not only that, but TuM need not be studied only by
> the elite anymore than Torah should. We each do the best we can with
> the capabilities God gave to us to do it.
Perhaps if you stick with *should*, but what's the motivator for learning
mada for the majority of MO Jews? It's not overtly one of the 613, and
the person isn't academic by nature, what's driving that time investment
into secular studies. And where in the entire span of secular studies are
they to choose among if they don't have a personal drive to pick up
On Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 11:29:25PM +0000, R Anthony Knopf replied to my
> - Your second point seems to assume that movements can't evolve in their
> point of emphasis. Is that necessarily so? ...
Evolve is different than reinvent.
Theseus's Paradox is a thought experiment about the ship Theseus sailed
in stories recorded by Plutarch. During the course of his travels, say
a sail tore and was replaced. Is it the same ship? Maybe on the next
trip, he replaced the mast. Let's say over the course of his lifetime,
every single plank and board in that ship was replaced. Theseus would
have had continuous use of a ship, at all times it sure seemed like the
same ship, and yet there is nothing in it now that was in the original.
Is it the same ship?
Identity evolves differently than sudden redefinition.
But this is a bit off coarse. We're getting more caught up in whether,
if the Mod-O infrastructure and membership would largely go for a leOr
Goyim ideology, if they would still be Mod-O or not. Which gets more
into the definition of a movement than either issues of right or wrong
or of feasibility.
I really wanted to focus on feasibility. I don't think MO membership
would feel they're on the same ship if this were attempted. And so, it
> - Rabbi Perl clearly wasn't assuming that proposing it in a Lehrhaus
> article would create the change. But it has initiated a conversation.
> And even if we don't accept his answer, I believe the question is a
> powerful one and can lead to meaningful reflection and even development
> in the Modern Orthodox community...
I think the question of ultimate purpose is a critical one, regardless
of who we're talking about.
I recently ran a workshop to help people write life-
> be achieved without a rabbi's rabbi at the helm but the development of
> "Neo-Chassidus" within the Modern Orthodox community that you refer
> to is instructive.
But it manages to do so without leaving Torah uMada. It seems the Brisker
tenor of Mod-Yeshivish a la RYBS is a less deeply held emotional issue.
The feeling that we're staying on the same core idea is still there.
After all, my youth included some very neo-Chassidus like moments at
> - I am more convinced by your later points about the necessity of finding
> an idea that is central to our approach to Judaism/life and the
> difficulty in justifying giving this centrality to non-Jews rather than
> "aniyei ircha". Indeed, I believe that middot, based on the teachings of
> Modern Orthodox thinkers and availing itself of the considerable recent
> academic work in the study of character, would be a more appropriate
> central concept for the community.
I do to, but...
> - You question whether something requiring so much work could become a
> popular movement. This is a sobering thought given how much work
> you have given to the cause over decades...
> But doesn't a life
> commitment to Talmud Torah take work?
But then, the learning that has become most popular is daf yomi. You
get a feeling of acocmplishment.
It's like the difference between a second hand and an hour hand on
a watch. The second hand is doing 3,600 times the work, but you can
see it working. An hour hand.... Working on middos is slow. There is no
"I finished my first mesechta" or "500 blatt" or whatever. You work and
you work, and eventually you notice the hour hand is pointing to a new
hour when your wife says something about how you've been with the kids
lately. And even that is months or years away from then you started.
Well, now that I have split my dream into two, I can more easily
articulate it. I hope.
A central idea for AishDas is to plant the seed of "a vaad in every
shul", paralleling the spread of daf Yomi. We had other ideas that we
would "get to later", but really the only project we ever invested effort
in was the spread of ve'adim.
My dream was not that you would have a whole movement of people actively
working on their middos. Halevai you could, but as you just noticed,
I don't think the masses are ready for years and years of work before
seeing signficant results. Character change is slow.
Rather, I thought that the existence of those 5-6 people in the va'ad
would have secondary effects on the rest of the shul. All the value we're
supposed to be giving ehrlachkeit would stay in the discussion. We would
be able to see a Yahadus in which how you act on line for the bus is no
less a defining feature of who is "one of us" as is what a person eats.
More recently, really since I was waiting for the editing of my sefer, I
started trying to put another buzzword out there -- Other-Focused Orthodoxy.
Because there has to be exploration on how to get to an ehrlachkeit-centered
rather than frummkeit-centered observance through ways other than hoping
the kind of people AishDas was reaching to would have cultural influence
on the kelal.
Micha Berger "I hear, then I forget; I see, then I remember;
http://www.aishdas.org/asp I do, then I understand." - Confucius
Author: Widen Your Tent "Hearing doesn't compare to seeing." - Mechilta
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF "We will do and we will listen." - Israelites
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From: Micha Berger
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2019 13:19:24 -0500
Subject: [Avodah] The Rambam's Hedgehog (was: A Modern Orthodox
On Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 1:32pm GMT, R Eliyahu Gerstl responded to RGP's
> I would propose that rather than Torah **U**Madah that the Rambam's
> concept of Madah as an important part of Torah rather than as an adjunct
> to Torah should be considered and that his form of Deveikut should be
> considered as the "hedgehog" being sought.
> The latter means that Madah is part of "Talmud" (Lehavin davar me-toch
> davar) which is the third of the tripartite division of Torah learning:
> Tanach, Mishnah (halachah) and Talmud...
I don't see two points here in the Rambam, Yesodei haTorah 2:1-3 and
Hil' Talmud Torah 1:11.
In YhT the Rambam defines ahavas H' and yir'as Hashem in terms of a
thirst to know about G-d. Because, as I wrote above (in response to
RHM), it seems to me the Rambam defines his "deveiqus" (as REG puts it)
as an intellectual unity.
"What is the way to love Him and feel yir'ah for Him? When a person
contemplates His Actions and His Creations, which are nifla'im
gedolim, and sees His Chokhmah in it... immediately he love, praises,
glorifies, and mis'aveh ta'avah gedolah ot know the sheim hagadol..."
First, in TT 1:11, the shelish betalmud is halachic dialectic --
"... until he knows what are the iqar of the midos [shehaTorah nideshes
bahen] and how to extract what is assur and what is mussar, andthe like,
from what he studied from the oral tradition."
Not aggadita. We do find aggadita included with Mada in YhT 2:2 as the
means to ahavas veyir'as Hashem. Different mitzvos than TT.
To skip to the end of this post too because I want to respond to it
together with the above:
> This may in fact be a type of non-mystical Chassidus i.e. focusing
> on love of HKBH and wishing to "partner" with Him (an element also of
> HIrschianism) but reaching that point of intense love and devotion by
> a different route. That is an authentic route taken by many role models
> in our history.
What neo-Chassidus shows is that the Mod-O Jew is looking for some
experiential / emotional Judaism.
But in any case, I don't think the Rambam's parallel to deveiqus is a
major element in today's hashkafic discourse. Too cerebral, too much
aimed only at the academic.
I also amnot sure the Rambam's hashkafah was particularly popular among
> Please see the Morah Nevuchim 3:54
To me, the core thought of this last pereq of the Moreh is his ranking
of the 4 types of perfection the gemara expects of a navi -- wealth,
health, intellect and middos. The Rambam flips the last two, not
only in the order he presents them, but the Rambam is clear that these
are asvending types of perfection. That only intellectual perfection is
a permanent refinement of the most core part of the self:
The fourth kind of perfection is the true perfection of man: the
possession of the highest, intellectual faculties; the possession
of such notions which lead to true metaphysical opinions as regards
God. With this perfection man has obtained his final object; it gives
him true human perfection; it remains to him alone; it gives him
immortality, and on its account he is called man. Examine the first
three kinds of perfection, you will find that, if you possess them,
they are not your property, but the property of others; according
to the ordinary view, however, they belong to you and to others. But
the last kind of perfection is exclusively yours...
And as REG also quoted:
> ...[T]he perfection, in which man can truly glory, is attained by
> him when he has acquired--as far as this is possible for man--the
> knowledge of God, the knowledge of His Providence, and of the
> manner in which it influences His creatures in their production
> and continued existence. Having acquired this knowledge he will
> then be determined always to seek loving-kindness, judgment,
> and righteousness, and thus to imitate the ways of God. We have
> explained this many times in this treatise.
Really, more so than middos and character?
And so I thought for decades, until I saw RYBS said differently. Not that
I understand how RYBS reaches that concludion, given how much of pereq
54. And the opening chapters of the Moreh about how the eitz hadaas
messed up the pursuit of knowledge by introducing precondition steps;
the definition of nevu'ah as an overflow from the Active Intellect;
3:18 where he defines a homo sapien's personhood in proportion to their
knowledge, so that a person receives hashgachah peratis is proportional
to yedi'ah; and 3:51 and the castle garden metaphor at the start of the
Moreh's closing section.
Really, it seems to be a recurring theme throughout the Moreh Nevuchim.
BUT RYBS understands this section of 3:54 as saying that even yedi'ah
isn't the end of the human endevor, chesed, mishpat and tzedaqah are.
Looking at pereq 53:
This chapter encomapsses the meanig of three sheimos that needs
explaining: chesed, mitzpat, and tzedaqah.
And so on, until:
We have shown that "chesed" refers to gemilus chesed gamur, and
"tzedaqah" to any good that one does because of the loftiness of
middos, to thereby complete one's nefesh, and "mishpat" sometimes
has an outcome of neqamah, and sometimes tov.
We already epxlained how distant attributes are [from theology][
that any attribute one attributes to the Deity yisbarakh
in the books of nevi'im is an attribute of action. ...
And then the Rambam returns to this idea later in 54.
The navi does not content himself with explaining that the knowledge
of G-d is the highest kind of perfection; for if this only had been
his intention, he would have said, ... He says, however, that man
can only gain praise for himself in the knowledge of G-d and in the
knowledge of His "Ways and Attributes", which are His actions, as
we have shown (MN 1:54) in expounding the passage, "har'eini na es
Kevodekha" (Exod. 38:13). We are thus told in this passage that the
Divine acts which ought to be known, and ought to serve as a guide
for our actions, are, ch??es, mishpat, antzedaqah." Another very
important lesson is taught by the additional phrase, "ba'aretz." It
implies a fundamental principle of the Torah; it rejects the theory
of those who boldly assert that God's providence does not extend
below the sphere of the moon, and that the earth with its contents is
abandoned, that "azav H' es ha'aretz" (Yechezqeil 8:12). It teaches,
as has been taught by the greatest of all wise men in the words,
"Lashem ha'atez umloa'ah" (Shemos 9:29), that His providence extends
to the earth in accordance with its nature, in the same manner as
it controls the heavens in accordance with their nature....
And so on. So far, all about knowledge of HQBH. Even chesed, tzedaqah
umishpat are about knowing *Hashem's* HZu"M, and that there is hashgachah
in this world.
And then, this:
The navi thus, in conclusion, says, "ki ba'eileh chafatzti, ne'um H'"
i.e., My object [in saying this] is that you shall practise HZu"M
the earth. In a similar manner we have shown (MN 1:54) that the
object of the enumeration of H's 13 Middos is the lesson that we
should acquire similar attributes and act accordingly. The object
of the above passage is therefore to declare, that the perfection,
in which man can truly glory, is attained by him when he has acquired
-- as far as this is possible for man -- the knowledge of God, the
knowledge of His Providence, and of the manner in which it influences
His creatures in their production and continued existence. Having
acquired this knowledge he will then be determined always to seek
HZu"M, and thus to imitate the ways of G-d. We have explained this
many times in this treatise.
So, the purpose of all this knowledge is to know what to emulate.
And yet the perfection of the knowledge is a greater perfection than
the perfection of the middos one acquired by emulation?
What am I missing?
Micha Berger One who kills his inclination is as though he
http://www.aishdas.org/asp brought an offering. But to bring an offering,
Author: Widen Your Tent you must know where to slaughter and what
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF parts to offer. - R' Simcha Zissel Ziv
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From: Michael Poppers
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2019 19:11:11 -0500
Subject: [Avodah] A Modern Orthodox Hedgehog
In Avodah v37n97, one of R'Micha's last thoughts was
> A return to the Judaism of aspiring to an ehrlicher
Yid, rather than the emphasis on ritual and personal holiness of frumkeit <
which brings us back to TiDE and RSRH's Mensch Yisrael.
--Michael via phone
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From: Akiva Miller
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2019 06:18:37 -0500
Subject: Re: [Avodah] Perceptions
R' Joel Rich asked:
> What percentage of people would like to know how they are
> really viewed by others (vs. maintaining their false self-
> image)? Are we failing (ethically? Halachically) by not
> telling folks if there are negative perceptions about them
> out there?
Personally, I would love to know about the things I do that are viewed
negatively by others. If I had that information, I could either correct my
actions, or I could explain myself to them and thereby improve their views
of me, and possibly even improve how *they* act.
However, as much as I would like that, I generally do not tell others when
I view them negatively. To do so successfully requires a great deal of tact
and sensitivity, and experience has shown me that I usually fail when I
attempt these things. I believe that this approach is supported by the
halachos of Tochacha: attempt to correct people, but first, do no harm.
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From: Rich, Joel
Date: Wed, 25 Dec 2019 07:14:21 +0000
Subject: [Avodah] kiruv
From a blog on relations with non-orthodox:
We should instead become more involved with them while accepting them as
they are. While the ultimate goal is to bring them closer to God, it should
be done by example.
Perhaps we should stop looking at them as our "cheftza shel mitzvah"
(object through which we carry out a mitzvah) and view them as Jewish human
beings with a tzelem elokim who we interact with in a manner consistent
with the will of HKB"H. If the result is we are mekarev them (as imho it
would be if we act this way), great BUT that is not our ultimate goal (much
as we don't do mitzvot for reward, it's an ancillary benefit)
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