Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Rabbi Adlerstein is beyond the pale

A post from beyond the grave.
by XGH (deceased)

Related 1, 2, 3
Rabbi Adlerstein's 'Beyond the Pale' series of posts is wrong, wrong,wrong. And here's why:

1. It is too simplistic
In RYA's world, there only exists 100% okay hashkafot, and then'beyond the pale' hashkafot. In the real world, there exists acontinuum of hashkafot (within Orthodoxy), which could be categorizedin a number of ways, including:

Mainstream Hashkafot

Minority Hashkafot, but 100% accepted

Minority Hashkafot, a bit debatable

Minority Hashkafot, very borderline

Hashkafot beyond the pale

100% bona fide kefirah

Clearly, RYA does not like YCT or LW MO. That's his prerogative. But it is nonsense to declare that everything he personally doesn't approve of is 'beyond the pale', especially where it is simply a minority view.

2. It is highly subjective
Of course even this seven step model is too simplistic, since you have to account for the following groups:

RW Chareid

iLW Chareidi




Cult Groups (e.g. Neturei Kartah)
and many more besides.

What may be 'mainstream' in one group could be'beyond the pale' in another group, as the recent Science & Torah controversy showed. Who gets to define what is 'beyond the pale'? As one commenter noted, a well known maggid shiur in Gush insists thatall Breishis could be mythological. A well known maggid shiur in YU says the same. RYA on the other hand writes that this is definitely 'beyond the pale'. Could there be a clearer example of how subjectivet his is? We have halachah for a reason: halachah defines limits(though even halachah itself is somewhat malleable). But if somethingi s declared muttar by halachah, how can RYA insist it must be beyond the pale?

3. Hashkafa evolves
While RYA takes pains to say that the Science & Torah writers are not beyond the pale (presumably due to his support for them), the fact is that evolution and an ancient age were once very much 'beyond thepale', and still are in some circles. RYA explains that there is ample support for such views in the Rishonim, but this is just hypocrisy from RYA, since ample support in the Rishonim doesn't help if something is 'beyond the pale' today, as he explains in his post. I'm quite sure that if YCT advocated some minority view that had support of some Rishonim, RYA would be opposed. The fact is that things change, hashkafa changes, and even halachah changes somewhat. Declaring things to be 'beyond the pale', especially in areas which are clearly under going severe change and pressure, is just a conservative knee jerk reaction or someone who doesn't have any better arguments than 'choddosh ossur min Hatorah'.

4. It's just bad policy
There are many pressures nowadays on Orthodoxy, chiefly its lack of compatibility with current standards of morality (Women's rights and Homosexuality being the two main examples here) and the fact that it doesn't jive (well) with what we currently know about ancient History and the development of religion and the Bible. Attempts to make Orthodoxy more palatable to those on the left should be welcomed. I'm not saying that these changes are for everybody, or that everything is up for change, but certainly things which are inherently permissible within the context of halachah should not be declared 'beyond the pale'. This is an appalingly bad choice of strategy, and only serves to make Orthodoxy less desirable for people on the fringes. (maybe that's a good thing, depending on your POV).

RYA is simply succumbingto the Chareidi 'circle the waggons' mentality and should be ashamed of himself. If Halachah permits something, then it is permitted, period. (Note: I'm not talking about novol birshus haTorah here).

I think what motivates people like RYA is that they are always scared of the RW. If they legitimize the LW, then they too become targets forthe RW, so they have to denounce the LW as 'beyond the pale'.

Well, either that, or just the inherent intolerance which typically accompanies fundamentalism.

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