Friday, September 29, 2023

Coping with Modernity: An interview with Rabbi Emanuel Rackman

Jewish Review: One of the arguments against the ?modern Orthodox? or ?Torah im derekh eretz? point of view is that it seems to inevitably produce individuals who are less committed to halakha and who are less involved in Jewish learning.? Could you comment on this charge?

Rabbi Rackman: It is true, and there is no doubt that the rabbis of the Talmud recognized this too.? They spoke of four men who went into an orchard (the orchard, presumably, is Greek philosophy); one of them looked and went berserk, another one looked and converted to another faith, and one looked and died.? Only one of the four, Rabbi Akiva, entered in peace and came out in peace.? This indicates that we have always been aware of the danger, and that, therefore, not everybody should feel that all secular learning should be approached through an open door.? This is why many Orthodox parents who send their children to universities encourage them to study accounting, to become businessmen, chemists even, but not to engage in the study of philosophy and psychology.? The threats and challenges to Judaism come from the humanities and the social sciences, not so much from the natural sciences.? Natural science, we know, has no pretense to absolute truth; at best it gives you a good guess, a relative truth, and thus most observant Jews can safely enter its realm.? By the same token it is very important for some people to study the humanities, philosophy and social sciences, because, first, we know that the majority of Jews are going to be exposed to modern culture, and hence our permitting the dual exposure to Torah and philosophy, for example, helps to allow those who want to remain loyal Jews to do so without undue conflict.? In addition, we ultimately discover, for example, that the writings of the Rambam and his successors (including those who frowned upon him and prohibited his works) showed an influence of ?secular? ideas.? There were some ideas which emerged from the encounter of torah and secular thought which are of everlasting religious value.? For example, the writings of Samson Rafael Hirsch are so influenced by Immanuel Kant that we cannot fully appreciate Hirsch without an understanding of Kant, and there are indeed some insights of Hirsch, albeit stemming from a Kantian or Hegelian influence, which are valid despite these influences and have and will outlive (what might be perceived to be) the failure of Kant or Hegel.


  1. The failure of Modern Orthodox education occurs in high school. It's one thing for Yeshivish and Chasidish students to get a Torah-only education. Even if they go into post-secondary education, it will almost always be limited to specific programs designed to get one a trade. On the other hand, MO kids get dumped into the cesspool that is the modern university and are completely unprepared.
    MO high schools need to teach a full course on Biblical Criticism from the Torah-perspective which will prep students for the moment they meet a "You know there's no proof the Torah is divine" professor. They need a course of understanding the first chapter of Bereshis from a modern scientific perspective so that they are ready for the first biology professor who says "Look, fossils. The Bible's a lie." They need to learn how to make their Jewish practice a personal connection to God they take everywhere with them and not just something they do at home. And they need a course on Zionism from the religious and political perspectives for when they run into their first BDS protests.

  2. A few weeks ago we discussed the early role of MO and R Rackman in the kiruv movment, which was denied by our host.

    Here is the source for that statement i mad, by Charles S Liebman, the sociologist of Jewish life:

    "Like the other groups within American Orthodoxy, the modern Orthodox have not produced any systematic statement of their ideology; in
    part, perhaps, because they shun the practical consequences of their
    philosophical or theological position, and in part because none has been
    sanctioned by eminent talmudic scholars, still acknowledged as the arbiters of ideology. To the extent, however, that the modern Orthodox
    have produced an ideologist, it is probably Rabbi Emanuel Rackman,
    although his position is not representative of all modern Orthodox Jews.
    He is certainly the favorite target of the Orthodox right wing, notwithstanding the private concession of at least some of its members that he
    has brought more people into the Orthodox fold than any other person."

  3. Does not deal with your initial claim!
    The absence of anyone saying what you claimed is proof that your claim is false

  4. Perhaps his Kirov was not the style you are familiar with.
    Perhaps his sermons and lectures were effective.
    Charles liebman was a respected sociologist . Perhaps he was right.

  5. It does deal with my claim. It is my claim. Additionally, he was an army chaplain _ so this may have also been his kiruv for Jews in the Army.

  6. According to you every rabbi is involved in kiruv so Rackman could not have been a pioneer

  7. According to liebman, he was responsible for more returnees to orthodoxy than any other single person.
    He was in his prime, not focussing on how bad halacha is, but how good it is. And was one of the best and most eloquent English speaking rabbis.
    So you disagree that he brought anyone back into orthodoxy, or that he was not the first? Or simply his orthodoxy was worthless, therefore so was his kiruv?

  8. If I were to say that the 6 day war, and especially the scenes at the Kotel, with rav Goren liberating it _ sparked the modern teshuva movement, you wouldn't be at liberty to accept that either! Perhaps you prefer the Beatles, Hari Krishna and Kaplan!

  9. nonsense
    Goren did not liberate the Kosel

  10. He was part of it, and he convinced Mota Gur to take the old City - whcih was not part of the military plans.
    In terms of Jewish hsitory, it was Rav Goren who liberated the Temple Mount, and the Kotel. Also Hevron.

  11. How was he responsible?
    He didn't have a kiruv program
    Please explain what Liebman is claiming -it is nonsense

  12. Rav Goren was in Australia a few weeks before the war, and he said he is going back to Israel to liberate jerusalem.

  13. Maybe maybe - except nobody says that
    He was widely despised in the entire Orthodox World - except by you

  14. he may have been despised by the Hareidim. he wasn't despised in Modern orthodoxy. The hareidi end of the MO spectrum did part ways with him, but he was beloved in Mo and RZ circles, as well as the general Jewish population. Even the Lubavitcher rebbe didn't despise him. Rackman was close to the Rebbe, to Rav Kasher, R Eliezer Silver and many others. Even Lamm didn't despise him - he claimed ot be a friend but disagreed with his BD for agunot.

  15. what is nonsense about it? In the 40s, 50s and 60s, there was no real organised kiruv. The European rabbis were still learning English, and trying to rebuild their shattered communities. Rackman was American born, was a great speaker, and was active on campuses, at Zionist events, and the general jewish comunity knew him as a person who could put the case for orthodoxy in very clear Englsih,a nd was familiar with western intellectual culture.
    he also was an army chaplain, was an early campaigner for Soviet jewry, and tarveleld to Australia to help develop religious services for the community there.
    You have a binary aproach to everything - someone is either all good (i.e. those you deem good) or all bad.
    And many of the Hareidi world were attacking Rav Soloveitchik, and insulting him.

  16. that is a lie!

    see his many accomplishments and apponitments in the Orthodox world:

    Do you claim the RCA, 5th Ave synagogue, YU, Bar ilan U, etc are all non-orthodox?

  17. > He was widely despised in the entire Orthodox World

    Careful. So was Rambam.

  18. even if you listen to Rav Rakeffet, who is mainstream /Yeshivish YU, and denies being "MO", he says R Rackman was somoene with extraordinary personal middos, whether or not he agrees with his innovations in halacha. That is not the phantom"hatred" depicted on here.

  19. R Rakeffet discusses R Rackman, and also rav Goren.

    Says the Rav supported 3 out of 4 of the halachic argument brought by R Goren

    around 55 mins onwards

  20. He was not fighting
    The soldiers liberated the Kosel

  21. Rakefet is not reliable on this since he supports Rackman's solution-which the Rav did not

  22. False. He rejects rackman's solution. It is Goren whom he supports. He brings reasoning in both cases.

  23. Depends on which was the apikorsus part. Did he deny any of the 13 principles?
    Or was he megaleh panim?
    People are called Apikorsim for much less, whilst others deny ikkarim and are still considered kosher.

  24. He persuaded Gur to go against plans and possibly orders, to liberate the holy City.
    The soldiers were the conduit through which Hashem returned our City to us. Rav Goren was inspired to play a major part in this.

  25. Are nota greenblatt and rav kamen...
    Still considered orthodox?

  26. The problem is that for many in the UO community, people are seen in black and white terms. The nicest Chiloni is an evil bloodsucker because he's mechalel Shabbos. You could be the most corrupt lying businessman or slumlord out there but if you make sure your meat is mehadrin min mehadrin, welcome to our shul!
    And that's the problem with Rav Rackman. His conclusions were wrong and went against the halakhic consensus. That doesn't make him an evil person. He was trying to serve the same God as the rest of us based on his understanding of Torah.

  27. Nope he helped engineer the tamar epstein heter

  28. Source
    It seems that Goren simply tagged along

    In a private conversation, I told division commander Motta Gur that I had managed to secured a guarantee through operational documents that when we conquer the Old City of Jerusalem, I would be the first to reach the Wailing Wall. To this Motta Gur replied, "If you want to be the first to reach the Wailing Wall, you will have to be on good terms with me."
    "Why with you?" I asked.
    "Because," he replied, "I am going to be the one who conquers the Old City."
    I said to him, "If you promise me that you will conquer the Old City and allow me to be the first person by the Western Wall, I promise to keep on good terms with you."

  29. You obviously did not view the video I posted

  30. A good example of kiruv

  31. Evidence?

    He supports Rsk
    But he sides with Rav soloveitchik on the rackman Court.
    The solutions are very similar, but rsk is one of the gedolim in America.
    Supporting rsk is not proof of supporting rackman. Both soloveitchik and rackman are niftar.
    Oh, he also rejected kraus ibd. Listen to what he says, not your own guess work.

  32. This was in 1961
    He continues to say what happened in 67
    Motta was very depressed. He informed me that he had received orders not to enter the Old City but rather to surround it from all sides. Under no circumstances was he to enter the city. He added that apparently the policy was to leave the Old City in the hands of the city's Arab population without conquering it.
    To this I replied that were I in his shoes I would not be able to resist such an historic opportunity to liberate the Temple Mount after two thousand years. After all, what is the worst that could happen? They could put me on trial and perhaps sentence me to imprisonment. Better that I spend my whole life in prison so that Jerusalem and the Temple mount be free than to be free while Jerusalem remained enslaved

  33. I tried several times, no sound.

  34. the only source for your claims are Goren's claims
    Do you have a single source that backs him up?

  35. so he didn't approve of the beis din but accepted Rackman's psak over the Rav's!

  36. It's the same source you brought above.

  37. Try to speak logically dear teacher.
    I provided 2 lectures where he explicitly disagrees with Rackman's solution. He is quite clear that this method of Rav Rackman , in Soloveitchik's opinion, was flawed.
    Why are you twisting his words?
    Or are you making a syllogism - he supports Ora/rsk = supporting Rackman?

  38. I have Rav Goren's psak on ha'ach v ha'achot, on a digitized PDF. Would you allow me to post the link if anyone wishes to download it?

  39. Daas Torah
    "so he didn't approve of the beis din but accepted Rackman's psak over the Rav's!"

    where do you come up with this rubbish from? did you read it in the Eidah Star or Jewish Observer?
    The same literature that says vaccines are an abomination and bestiality?

  40. No "thisrubbish" is from his own words

  41. You are clearly an am haaretz. The logic is clear but seems beyond your capability to understand
    Rav Soloveitchik was against the annulling of marriage whils Rackman felt it was essential-Rakefet is in favor of annulment as he stated regarding Tamar Epstein - thus he could not be siding with Rav Soloveitchik but with Rackman
    We will conclude by citing from a speech delivered by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik to the Rabbinical Council of America, in response to Rabbi Rackman's proposal:7
    I have to discharge a duty. Believe me, I do it with much sadness in my heart. You know I never criticize anybody; I have never attacked anybody. But today… I feel it is my duty to make the following statement….

    I also was told that it was recommended that the method of afka'inhu rabanan lekiddushin mineih [to annul marriages] be introduced…. Do you expect to survive as Orthodox rabbis? Do you expect to carry on the mesorah under such circumstances? Chaos will replace Torah. I hope that those gathered here will join me in objecting to such discussion at a rabbinical convention. I cannot imagine a Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention where a symposium would be held as to whether communism should replace democracy in the United States.

  42. you haven't provided any evidence, and so you continue to create fiction

  43. DT: "You are clearly an am haaretz. The logic is clear but seems beyond your capability to understand"

    The logic is clear only to yoru intelelctual presbyopia.

    Different cases, different subjects, different rabbis.

    Rav Moshe also did annunlments, does that mean you support rackman too?

    R' Arnold Rakeffet has on numerous occasions discsused the Rackman court, and each time he supports the Rav,and rejects the Rackman (1990s) solution. he personally likes Rackman, as everyone did, as he was a Tzaddik and a mentsch , baal middos.

    On the Epstein heter (2014) , all I have heard him say is that you are wrogn in attacking Rav Shmuel , becasue he is a gadol and would not have violated halacha. According to you, Hershel Shachter also supports teh Rackman BD, becasue he said Kamenetsky is a Gaon!

    According to you, all of American Aguda support Rackman, - look

    See, he is supported by Agudah, and is one of their Moetzes Gedolei Torah!

  44. look

    more evidence Rav Shachter backs Rackman BD and Kraus IBD:

  45. Rakefet supported annulment which Rav So;oveitchic opposed
    Rav Moshe did not support the Kaminetsky Rakeffet Heter as Rav Dovid and Rav Kaminetsky concluded - but Rakefet still supports it

    You still are blinded by ideology and cannot deal with clear facts

  46. You simply don't understand the clear evidence. Listen to his tape regarding his support of the annulment

  47. So now you are adding Rakeffet to the Kamenetsky-Greenblatt heter? evidence?
    Which is the tape, i cannot find it. have you ever publsihed it?

  48. evidence which you did not provide!
    please provide evidence to supprot your circular claims

  49. no, I am blinded by facts, and cannot deal with your ideology

  50. Yes I posted a link to it in which he claimed he advised Tamar's mother to go for annulment

  51. Interesting - any way we can find that link?


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