Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ten Questions for Rav Feldman, Rav Schechter, and Rav Salomon

This Sunday evening, March 5th at 7:30 PM at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey, an event that could be of monumental importance is taking place. Three of the most prominent Rabbinic leaders of Orthodoxy are speaking there. The names should be familiar to all who have even the most basic information of who are among the Torah world leadership. They are: Rabbi Matisyohu Salomon, Mashgaich of Lakewood, Rabbi Aaron Moshe Shcechter, Rosh HaYeshiva of Chaim Berlin and Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Israel. For those not familiar with the demographics, Teaneck is a bastion of Modern Orthodoxy and if I understand correctly so is this Shul. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that anything like this of such scale has ever happened. It pleases me greatly that these distinguished Rabbanim are reaching out to this community. There has long been a need for unifying Klal Yisroel and this could be the beginning of a rapprochement between the two camps of Right Wing Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodoxy and I am certain that the intentions of all concerned are quite noble in that respect.

There has been much discussion in various forums on the internet about this event and there are some serious questions that have been asked. I have been amongst those asking these questions. For the most part the questions have been honest inquiries about the nature and purpose of the event and whether some of the major differences between the two groups will be discussed, how these differences will be treated, and whether the differences are resolvable.

Earlier today in the comments section of my last post, a commentator identifying himself as “Dave” asked ten questions which I believe to be legitimate ones; some of which I have asked. I don’t know who "Dave" really is nor do I know if the questions were intended as rhetorical in an effort to debase these Rabbinic leaders or not. But I am going to err on the side of being “Dan L’Kaf Zechus” and interpret these questions as a sincere attempt to find out what these leaders really believe... about Modern Orthodoxy as a viable Hashkafa and about various differing positions of Right Wing Orthodoxy versus Modern Orthodoxy.

I have decided to post here those questions. I note that some of these questions may seem a bit sharp and I would not ask them quite that way. Nor would I wish to make this a confrontational event or in any way embarrass these leaders. But I believe these questions are being asked for the right reasons... to help identify whether our differences are real and whether they are significant enough to prevent rapprochement. In that spirit, I now post the questions.

1. Rabbis Feldman, Solomon and Schechter are here sharing their Torah wisdom with a community who ordinarily seek wisdom from rabbonim affiliated with their own community, such as Rav Hershel Shachter. Would Rabbis Feldman, Solomon and Schechter be open to having Rav Hershel Schachter speak in their own yeshivos?

2. Would Rabbis Feldman, Solomon and Schachter be open to returning next year and participating in a forum with Rav Hershel Schachter?

3. This event is taking place in the Bnei Yeshurun synagogue. Our rabbi is Rabbi Steven Pruzansky. If there is a difference of opinion between him and Rav Elyashiv over a halachic matter, who are we obligated to listen to?

4. In a letter in HaModia, Rav Aaron Schechter described the book Making Of A Godol as “a collection of fabrications, the fruit of foolish immaturity, which is engaged with scorning the birthright.” Could Rav Aharon Schechter elaborate upon which of the accounts in the book he is referring to?

5. When do Rabbis Feldman, Solomon and Schachter believe that dinosaurs lived (if at all)?

6. The Gemara speaks about mice that grow from dirt. Do Rabbis Feldman, Solomon and Schechter believe that such creatures ever existed?

7. Many of us find it impossible to believe that such creatures ever existed. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch states that Chazal were relying on the mistaken reports of the Roman naturalists of their era. Is it permissible for us to accept Rav Hirsch’s view?

8. At the Siyum HaShas, Rav Mattisyahu Solomon condemned those “midgets who give makeshift solutions to problems with Chazal” and indicated that such people are betraying the legacy of the Holocaust martyrs. Could he clarify who he was referring to, and what exactly is problematic?

9. Rav Aharon Schechter wrote regarding Rabbi Slifkin’s books that “The impudent and audacious spirit of throwing off the yoke of the mesorah from Sinai, and our sages who are its bearers, denies any excuse for the mistakes therein.” Yet Rabbi Slifkin claims that there are no significant novel ideas in his books and they are based on earlier authorities such as Rambam, Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook. In addition, he had his books checked by distinguished rabbonim and received haskamos. Could Rav Schechter therefore clarify his statement? And has he read the books in their entirety, or just extracts?

10. In his essay on “The Slifkin Affair,” Rav Feldman condemned Rabbi Slifkin’s answers to conflicts between Torah and science and stated that he himself would be writing an essay providing “cogent answers” to these questions. When will this essay be forthcoming, and will it deal with the spontaneous generation of mice, the existence of mermaids, and Rabbi Hirsch’s essay on this topic?