Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?
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Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

July 31, 2018 09:51PM
In Re: “Where Do We Go from Here?” by Rabbi Anthony Knopf

There two points that I would like to make:

One day several years ago, I found myself stuck in traffic while sitting in a cab at the Pat Junction in southern Jerusalem. The driver and I both watched as several representatives of the Breslov Chassidic sect (this is a makom kavua for them) approached the drivers of other vehicles that were similarly stuck attempting to distribute and/or sell some of their materials and books.
At one point, the driver (who was an Israeli without a head covering) asked me: “What do these guys and the others of their kind do all day?”
Not put off by the negative generalization, I told him that I really didn’t know, but that I could assure him that there are certain things that they definitely DON’T do.
He asked: “Like what?”
I said: “They don’t murder. They don’t rape. They don’t steal. They don’t cheat. They don’t sleep with other men’s wives.”
He looked at me and reluctantly said:”You’re probably right!”


Is it possible that I exaggerated a bit in my assertion? Is it possible, or even likely, that my generalization was, unfortunately, not grounded in fact? Absolutely!

However, my error (or generalization) in this case is no more egregious than Rabbi Knopf’s assertion that “…the Orthodox community doesn’t live up to its calling to be an ethical exemplar to the world.”

It is clear that we are all pained whenever the bright light of impropriety is shined on the Orthodox community when one of its members is taken to task for breaking the law or violating our collective moral sensitivity. There is no greater “Chillul Hashem.”

It is clear that, despite Hashem’s best efforts to help and show us the way, human beings must remain human beings with all the potential for good and for evil that that designation implies and with the freedom to choose which He implanted in us.

It is also clear that the history of mankind has amply demonstrated that Hashem’s approach in the Torah is by far the best hope that mankind has of overcoming its failings and evolving into a more wholesome collective.

I don’t know the statistics on which Rabbi Knopf relies to make his sweeping assertion about ‘failure” in the Orthodox community, but I find the statement highly negative and divorced from reality.

Would we prefer an Orthodox community where “Kiddush Hashem” prevails? Absolutely! But the results on the ground are pretty amazing!
For reasons known only to him, Rabbi Knopf chooses to focus on the portion of the cup that remains “unfilled” rather than on the vast portion that is “filled”!

My second point is that Rabbi Knopf seems to intimate that he “discovered” the highly toxic phenomenon whereby individuals can be totally committed to following halacha to the letter, but simultaneously insensitive to moral issues and ambiguity.

Truth be told, the issue was broached in the Chumash, throughout the Nevi’im, in the Mishna, in the Gemara, certainly among the Acharonim, and in particular by the Ba’alei Mussar.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of this issue and I want to praise Rabbi Knopf for focusing our collective attention on it, once again. But,
I for one am a bit put off by the lack of historical context and the absence of any reference to previous attempts to deal with the problem.

Norman Meskin
Jerusalem



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/31/2018 09:52PM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Anthony Knopf July 31, 2018 09:34PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Shmuel Silberman July 31, 2018 09:37PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Daniel Rothner July 31, 2018 09:42PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Barry Kislowicz July 31, 2018 09:46PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Norman Meskin July 31, 2018 09:51PM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Seymour Epstein August 02, 2018 02:21AM

Re: Jewish ethical wisdom - Where Do We Go From Here?

Anthony Knopf August 03, 2018 12:13AM



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