‘He is Charedi': A Short Response to Rabbi Rosenblatt

I am charedi. I was born in Brooklyn, went to mainstream charedi elementary and high schools, spent two years in Mir Yerushalayim and attended Kollel at Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. I wear a black hat on Shabbos and dark pants and a white shirt much of the week. My yarmulke is large, black and velvet and being a frum and inspired Jew is my most basic self-definition, on par with being human and being male.

Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/08/06/i-am-charedi/#ixzz23K8p5Bvh
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

This morning I glanced at Cross-Currents  (while avoiding my studying) and saw an interesting and enjoyable post from Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt, who is the CEO of a meat company, a rabbi at NCSY- Dallas, and a self-identifying Charedi. This last point is a large part of how he sees himself, and he seeks through some short examples to carve out a niche for himself in between those to his right and left on the Orthodox spectrum, which I think he does successfully.

However, there were two things his post left me wondering about.

1)Rabbi Rosenblatt writes that he believes in the “utter supremacy of Torah wisdom to secular knowledge”. What intrigues me about this statement is that it assumes something that is true could be inferior to something else that is true.

 Presumably, Rabbi Rosenblatt assumes our ability to learn and discover information outside of the Torah is God-given, so it is odd that this information should be any better or worse than other information that comes from God.

Perhaps the author could argue that not all of that information brings a person to the service of God, and therefore the Torah, which does, is superior. However, he himself admits that analysis of the physical world may bring one to a “richer appreciation” of God. That sounds like “Torah wisdom” to me. So what causes the “utter superiority of Torah wisdom” to “secular knowledge?

As Maimondies wrote in his “8 Chapters”, (from the Twersky “A Maimonides Reader”) “one should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds”. He similarly states in Laws of the New Moon, chapter 17 that “we need not be concerned with the identity of…authors, whether they were Hebrew prophets, or Gentile sages….we rely on the author who has discovered them only because of his demonstrated proofs and verified reasoning.”

It seems to me that Rambam holds all truth is the same, as long as it leads to ‘avodat HaShem’ (serving God).

2)Rabbi Rosenblatt says that part of being Charedi is the belief that “Torah study is a most worthy pursuit”, as is value to “lionize” great scholars. To me this implies that the Modern Orthodox do not believe these things.

I can only strongly disagree. At least from my own experience, the great majority of the Modern Orthodox would profess that Torah study is a most worthy pursuit, even while refusing to write a cheque for a local Kollel and hoping that their kids end up working as lawyers or doctors. These values and desires do not necessarily contradict each other, as Rabbi Rosenblatt seems to be aware of, since he says he is no longer certain that “Kollel-for-the-masses” is a good idea.

Similarly, many people simply want their children to prosper, and do not believe that Kollel is the proper way to live in a non-utopian society.

At any rate, I did like his post, and it’s always nice to see normal people trying to influence others in that direction. Best of luck Rabbi!

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