My recent post on the YCT graduation speech generated a large bevy of comments; go read them -many of them are excellent. But is seems to have hit a raw nerve with some readers of the blog. Was this nerve hidden until now?
The comments did not deal with the speech itself. The comments offered several detailed and well thought out comments on Modern Orthodoxy, way beyond what we are used to hearing. Go read them.
It seems to have revealed the live issue among the commenters. But what was the issue? What was the meta-issue at stake? There seems to be two clear sides with at least 6-7 on each side. Neither side was advocates of an intellectual ghetto and neither side wanted to relinquish Orthodoxy. Yet, half the commenters evoked a visceral reaction from the other half who called the first half negative or cynical. So what is the dividing line? Why so emotional?
One side wants to be Orthodox and read Hegel, Derrida, and Biblical criticism but does not work on resolving any problems. This position seems to strike the other side as a rejection of Modern Orthodoxy, as Neo-Haredi, as anti-Orthodox. Why? Is the other side clamoring for synthesis works? And why the emotions?
Is it that one side sees Orthodoxy as a social imaginary in the Charles Taylor sense, non-foundational and not subject to apologetics.
One side wants Torah uMadda volumes of apologetics that are comforting even if they don’t prove anything because maybe they do prove something? Or they show the strength of Orthodoxy to confront modernity.
Is it that one side wants truth claims even if apologetic and the other side relinquishes the need for truth?
Is it that one side thinks that one must be invested in a specific ideological project called Modern Orthodoxy and the other more loquacious side believes that one can be committed to Orthodoxy and Western culture without a specific ideological project, or to a specific project of synthesis?
Is it simply that one side has a double truth theory and the other side has a single truth theory. Why does the position of Averroes, Maimonides, Albalag, Narboni, Ibn Caspi or in modern times Krokhmal and Isaac Breuer seem to betray Orthodoxy to the other side?
Is this mid-brow vs high-brow?
And what about the struggle and angst? Do people on the synthesis side really think that everyone has to have it? Or is it just a need for confrontation of ideas and not necessary angst?
There are lots of good lines to quote in all the substantive comments but to give one:
Isaac- “Maybe the whole struggling trope is an existential answer to the contradictions of modernity and Orthodoxy, rather than a strategy for overcoming or resolving them.”
Deep struggle with ideas in graduate school in a chosen discipline makes sense after training a field for many years and where one knows the prior data and method. Then struggle can lead to new knowledge. But does intellectual struggle to achieve synthesis and confrontation mean something without training or enough prior mastery of the problem so that one can formulate something of significance? Is it important to struggle to go though open doors?
Bottom line- some blogs have their identity on a fault line of pro and con skepticism, others are pro and con feminism, it seems this topic is one of the live fault lines on this blog. So those of you who responded viscerally or felt that the anti-synthesis side is wrong. What is the issue?
So Nachum, Jon, Isaac – how do you explain the fault line? Even if you called the other side negative – what do you offer in its place that AS & EJ did not offer?