Q & A Board - View Post
Author:  Lazer A.
E-mail:  LazerA@aol.com
Date:  7/19/2004 6:23:00 PM
Subject:  Jewish History & Anti-Torah Ideology
Message:  The posting by "rager" (the supposed PhD in Jewish history) (http://www.kashrut.org/forum/viewpost.asp?mid=8693) is severely flawed and either should not have been allowed on the website or should have been accompanied by a vigorous rebuttal, rather than a meaningless "no comment".

This fellow basically repeats all of the standard anti-Torah garbage sold by the extreme left-wing of Modern Orthodoxy, i.e. that Chassidus (a "style of strict, superstitious Judaism") was a break from the true "rationalist" Judaism of the "Geonim" and "Spanish rishonim" (the reference to Spain is very deliberate, as it leaves out the purportedly "anti-rationalist" Baalei Tosafos and their "ilk").

This is part of a general ideological campaign by the left-wing Modern Orthodox and the Conservative movement to portray themselves as the true bearers of the mesorah of "rationalism", as represented by the Rambam, Rav Saadia Gaon, and the general pro-philosophy school, and to portray mainstream (i.e. "black hat") Orthodoxy as a breakoff from true Judaism due to "irrational superstition" (read kabbalah and plain old reactionary attitudes or "medievalism"). (The Conservatives and their MO allies are actually not representative of either side of the dispute on philosophical study.) This ideology, and revision of history, has its roots in the teachings of the Wissenschaft des Judenthums school of thought, especially in the writings of its most well known proponent, Heinrich Graetz.

Some secularist and MO "scholars" have attempted to portray the opposition to Chassidus by the Vilna Gaon and others as a continuation of, in their ideology, the old struggle between rationalism and anti-rationalist forces (the Maimonidean dispute). This is a complete misunderstanding of BOTH disputes. Neither side of either dispute was "anti-rationalist".

The accusations regarding the new customs from "idol worship and paganism" is a standard canard of the secularists in their attack on the mesorah and kabbala.

Rav Moshe, in his teshuva (OC 2:24), specifically states that we can't criticize the Chasidim who changed their nusach for they certainly had reason to permit doing so.

The absolute confidence that "rager" has that blaming the Holocaust on Reform (or any group) is "most foul" and "foolish" runs in the face of the entire concept that God controls events and that evil only befalls the Jewish people when they sin.

Moreover, the equation between Reform and Chassidus is absolutely absurd. Chassidus is certainly open to challenge, and many things the Chassidim did were problematic. I suspect that, if I had been alive at the time, I would have sided with the misnagdim. Nevertheless, despite the heated rhetoric, the Chasidim were totally committed to the beliefs and practices of Judaism, and the matters of dispute were generally on relatively subtle issues (permissibility of changing nusach and some esoteric Kabbalistic issues). Reform, on the other hand, was, and is, an outright fundamental rejection of every basic principle of Judaism. This was recognized by all, even the most vigorous opponents of Chassidus, which is why all serious opposition to Chassidus ended as the anti-religious movements (Reform/Haskala) began to come to the fore. It was recognized that fighting with Chassidim was a distraction from a far worse problem.

(It may be worth mentioning that the controversy regarding the change in nusach was not regarding the validity of the nusach itself, which was in wide use by many mekubalim including those outside of the Chassidic movement. That nusach, which comes from the Arizal, had been considered reserved for initiates to Kabbalah (including such non-Chasidim as Rav Noson Adler and, if my memory serves correctly, the mekubalim of the kloiz in Brody). The controversy was whether it was proper to popularize the practice. The issue of the popularization of Kabbalah, both in practice and in teaching, was one of the critical issues in the dispute.)

This posting is truly offensive, and based on an extremely inaccurate reading of Jewish history (even according to most serious secular scholars), and is rooted more in secularist ideology than historical scholarship. If the poster truly has a PhD in Jewish history, then I feel better about the fact that I never chose to pursue one (I have often been tempted to).

Not being a regular visitor to this website, I don’t know if this kind of anti-Torah material is regularly disseminated here. I was made aware of this particularly offensive piece by another person. This response is, obviously, not a full treatment of the subjects. Quite frankly, I doubt the poster is worthy of that kind of effort.

Unfortunately, even more disturbing than the posting itself is the failure of the moderator to respond or even comment. Ignorance of history does not justify spreading libelous anti-Torah myths to the masses. If the moderator's ignorance is truly so extensive that he isn't aware of the subtext of this posting, then he really shouldn't be moderating an online forum about Judaism.

Lazer A.
Reply:  You sound like you know what you are talking about. So does "rager". Do you honestly believe that he felt Chasidim and reform are the same? Just as you make a point by making an extreme point, so does he.

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