Religious mis-education engendered an egregious handicap for second-generation survivors. Theological implications of the Holocaust were typically ignored in yeshiva curricula and teacher-student discussions. Religious instruction consistently disregarded, and even censored, aspects of scripture that could have been utilized to reconcile some negative Holocaust experiences with religious doctrine.
Good morning. I would like to thank Tom Severson, Michael Davis, David Nelson for inviting me to speak to you this morning and the many of you for allowing me to talk with you today.
"It's 2:00 in the morning. We are at Hackensack University Medical Center in Northern Jersey and are grieving beyond tears and words. Our younger son, Daniel, hasn't been feeling well for a couple of days, complaining of back pain and shortness of breath.
“Two hours ago, what we thought was perhaps a virus or something tied to the heat and humidity was something much worse. Our little boy has cancer.
“Just two days ago, Daniel had scored two goals in a street hockey game at camp, a performance more impressive when realizing he was playing with a collapsed left lung.
Afterlife in Tanakh
There is a paucity of explicit references to afterlife—whether a bodily resurrection or a soul world—in Tanakh. The Torah promises this-worldly rewards and punishments for faithfulness or lack thereof to God and the Torah. It does not promise heaven for righteousness, nor does it threaten hell or the absence of heaven for sinfulness. Given the ancient world’s belief in, and even obsession with immortality and afterlife, the Torah’s silence is all the more remarkable.
This article was inspired by the critical work of Jacobs on the halakhic process, A Tree of
Life (2000). His attention to the influences of social, economic, and political factors in
halakha coincided with my interests in the sociology of pesika, halakhic decision-making, and in the development of Orthodox Judaism in the United States. In an earlier work, Jacobs asserted that “the Torah did not simply drop down from heaven but is the result of the divine-human encounter through the ages” (1995, 3). That is a statement that strongly lends itself to rejection by traditionalists, especially the Orthodox.
A few years ago, the British anti-Semitism scholar David Hirsh remarked that while Israel was the ostensible target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, first in the firing line were diaspora Jews. This shouldn't be surprising if you consider it carefully — Jewish organizations are typically called on by the media to defend Israel, particularly during times of conflict, and many individual Jews have faced ostracism within their own professional communities for speaking in support of Israel and against the boycott.
Change is necessary
One of the very serious questions that faces every posek is what degree of flexibility does he have in determining his decisions, whether in the direction of stringency or that of leniency. Is he inexorably bound by the rulings of the Shulhan Arukh, for example? Or may he take a position which is more stringent than that of the Mehaber ? (It is generally agreed that he may add stringencies to his own private practices.) Conversely, can he take a position of leniency, which would seem to contradict the standard rulings?
It is axiomatic that Modern Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodox Jews value the academic field of Jewish Studies, which functions as the bridge between the Bet Midrash and the academy, both locations in which we seek to situate ourselves. In articulating the value of such study, proponents often highlight the insights it affords in the realm of Talmud Torah.
We are confronted on a daily basis with choices that require us to consult others before making a decision. We may call a lawyer for advice on a legal issue or an accountant for advice on our taxes. We do this because although we may be very good at what we do, no one person knows everything-and it is helpful to be guided by a professional who deals with the issue at hand on a regular basis. If one has a sink that is leaking or an electrical outlet that is malfunctioning, one might ask an electrician or plumber for advice, and will likely follow the advice if it sounds reasonable.
In recent years, there has been an attempt in some circles to introduce various aspects of academic Talmud study into the world of the traditional study of Gemara. Not surprisingly, there has been at times vociferous opposition to the introduction of this material. It is worth briefly reviewing some of the academic methodologies and their potential positive contribution to the denizens of the traditional Bet Midrash. We will also consider some of the objections to the introduction of such methodologies, as well as possible responses to those objections.
Three things might commonly differentiate the study of Gemara in the Bet Midrash and the study of Talmud in the academy:
1) The goal of study
2) The attitude toward the authority of the text and the Sages therein