Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I am planning to post from time to time some of the ideas that I develop as I read and think about issues that catch my attention. Usually they relate to Machshava or Halacha especially how they affect our daily life.

My basic understanding is that Judaism is a rational religion that encourages clear thinking and searching for truth. I know it is not how it is viewed and practiced nowadays, but that does not daunt me. I submit that, as a percentage of the observant community, there are many more intelligent and rational practicing Jews nowadays than there ever were. Before the Holocaust, there was a very small elite group that was both observant and theologically informed. The most talented of that group were the leaders of Klal Ysroel, such as R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, the Rogatschover et al. They were well versed in both Halachik issues and theology (Hashkafah). The few leaders that survived and started rebuilding focussed all their attention on the basics - Halacha and Gemara relegating theology to a backseat. It is not fair to generalize because in Israel there is much more fermentation in theology especially among the followers of Rav Kook, and here in America talmidim of RYBS however that group, with few exceptions, has not produced universally accepted halachik decisors of the caliber the yeshivishe world has. ( I am not judging or measuring just observing). However we can all agree that the leaders that are currently the halachik decisors are quite unsophisticated when it comes to theology - and therefore make fools of themselves when they attempt to involve themselves in those areas.

On the other hand, the general population is well educated, many college graduates and professionals who have been exposed to general culture and knowledge in addition to their Yeshiva upbringing. Even those who refused to go to college cannot help it and are exposed in their work and social interactions to a sophisticated world view. These people have a very difficult time dealing with the conflict between traditional belief and reality. One can hear clearly the echoes of Rambam in the introduction to the Moreh, where he describes the pain of the intelectually sophisticated yet religious person "Hence he would remain in a state of perplexity and confusion as to whether he should follow his intellect... and consequently consider that he has renounced the foundations of the Law. Or he should hold fast to the traditional belief, turning away from his intellect and moving away from it , while at the same time perceiving that he has brought loss to himself and harm to his religion..... he would not cease to suffer from heartache and great perplexity." (paraphrased Pines edition with changes for clarity).

I found myself in that situation for years while in yeshiva and later. It took some interesting but painful twists before I realized that what I was suffering from was lack of information and knowledge. I am still learning every day new things and hope to continue to my last day. However I have come to realize that as I expand my font of knowledge and develop a better understanding of what Judaism is all about, many of the seemingly unanswerable questions have now disappeared replaced by a rational understanding of that particular issue. After a while one develops a certain confidence realizing that probably with time and diligent effort most of the unsurmountable problems will be resolved.

My hope is that by posting and hopefully getting comments back, through dialog, we will together develop new insights.