Menachem Mendel

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The Opening Battle


I am not sure if history will see this as the opening battle, but the struggle for what may be the future of Religious Zionism seems to be under way. A number of weeks ago Rabbi Neriah Gutal wrote a review of Rabbi Israel Rosen’s book, Ve-Ohev ha-Ger in Musaf Shabbat. A number of responses were written to the review, all of them critical of Rabbi Rosen. Rabbi Rosen’s response was also published, but this was far from the end.

In this week’s Shabbat be-Shabbato (here), Rabbi Rosen published a vicious attack on Musaf Shabbat, its editors, and writers. You can read the response of one of Musaf Shabbat’s editors here.

I think that it is relatively clear that this is about more than the conversion issue. As Rabbi Rosen made clear in his Shabbat be-Shabbato diatribe, it is about the nature of Judaism and Religion Zionism in 21st century Israel. If you live in Israel and agree with the vibrant intellectual forum that is found in Musaf Shabbat, think of subscribing. If you don’t live in Israel, spread the word about its existence among interested parties and inform them about its web site.

Update: See this post (Hebrew) by Tomer Persico.

17 Responses to “The Opening Battle”

  1. 1
    Benjamin Of Tudela:

    Far from the opening battle. Isn’t this the war Religious Zionists fight “בכל דור ודור”?

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    I don’t think that there has been such an ideological divide RZ about what Judaism should be in Israel for quite some time. This may be a continuation of the Hardal/non-Hardal struggle, although I think that this gets to the heart of what it means to be Jewish in 21st c. Israel.

  3. 3

    With all due respect, I think you’re over-reacting. This debate has been ongoing for at least three decades, and most of the arguments have been made before (remember the R. Shapira vs. R. Sherlo debate or “Tanach Begovah Ha’eiynayim”?). Indeed, many of these debates play out on the pages of Shabbat, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much (besides the obvious).

    “although I think that this gets to the heart of what it means to be Jewish in 21st c. Israel”

    This is a little presumptuous. As much as I love the Shabbat Mussaf, its influence is not THAT great.

  4. 4
    Menachem Mendel:


    I do think that the articles that were probably responsible for making Rabbi Rosen go nuts do present a different model of what Judaism should be in 21st c. Israel. It is a model that is very different from the the official mainstream of RZ. I guess that time will tell.

  5. 5
    Jeffrey R, Woolf:

    I agree with AIWAC. There is a healthy debate going on within RZ Judaism. Rabbi Rozen, who you obviously do not know, is a high-strung polemicist who ALWAYS responds this way to criticism.

  6. 6
    Menachem Mendel:

    While I don’t know Rabbi Rosen personally, I am very familiar with the tone of his writings. We’ll see what happens.

  7. 7
    Benjamin Of Tudela:

    I’ll point out that Harav Rozen can hardly be put into the “Hardal” camp.

  8. 8
    Seth (Avi) Kadish:

    I deeply disagree with some of the above comments. Rabbi Woolf for instance writes that “there is a healthy debate going on within RZ Judaism.” Not so!

    Rather, it is a debilitating, sick debate, precisely because it is not really about the issues at all. It is only about voices: Which voices may be heard in the beit ha-midrash, and which ones must be silenced.

    That is why I agree with the author of the blog that this controversy surrounding the Musaf Shabbat is highly significant. Yoav Sorek succeeded in creating a high-quality forum for a wide spectrum of views among people who love Judaism and Torah, the large majority of them Religious Zionists, and a great many of them from the “chardal” end of the spectrum, including rashei yeshivah who routinely silence other views in their own batei midrash (!). That is an extraordinary achievement. And it is exactly that achievement which Rav Rozen objects to: He does not want those voices he considers not to be “Torah-true” to participate in the discussion anymore. He wants Religious Zionism to reject Sorek’s forum.

    That is why this is so important. It is a perfect example of the true schism in religious Zionism today, which has nothing to do with the issues or with Avodat Hashem, and everything to do with tolerance for intolerance.

  9. 9


    IIRC, Rav Rozen is definitely a chardal “fellow traveler”, and I seem to recall him being very close to “I wish the Mizrochniks were all Charedi” Rav Avrum Shapira.

  10. 10

    Rav Kadish,

    I think you are overreacting. Yes, we have the screaming kono’im – we always have. But I highly doubt what Rav Rozen says will convince anyone who’s not already convinced. To paraphrase:

    הכלבים נובחים והשיירה עוברת

  11. 11
    Seth (Avi) Kadish:

    Hi, it’s not the screaming kann’aim who worry me. What is truly scary are the soft-spoken rashei yeshiva and Torah scholars who state quite openly that “if they are present here then it is no longer my beit midrash” (regarding Torah scholars with whom they disagree on the “big” issues), and advocate a single “kav” in the beit midrash as the proper way to educate yeshivah students.

    The model of a beit midrash where people with different views study Torah with each other despite their differences (YU in the days of the Rav?) is virtually unknown today among the vast majority of dati’im in Israel (for whom Har Etzion is at best a curious anomaly).

    Even scarier are the “moderate” Religious Zionists who support these men and their batei midrash politically and financially (such as through across-the-board Knesset support for garinim torani’im with no underlying criterion), with the claim that by doing so they are honoring the entire spectrum of Torah voices…

    Makor Rishon may or may not be very important (I tend to think it is somewhat more important than you do). But tolerance for intolerance is at the very heart of every single debate in Religious Zionism today.

  12. 12

    Rav Kadish,

    I happen to think that Makor Rishon, and with it Shabbat is very important. I just don’t think that it’s as important as Menachem Mendel thinks it is.

    You have more experience on this than I do, but my impression from interviews is that not every gar’in torani is a Chardal outpost.

    “The model of a beit midrash where people with different views study Torah with each other despite their differences (YU in the days of the Rav?) is virtually unknown today among the vast majority of dati’im in Israel (for whom Har Etzion is at best a curious anomaly).”

    Among adults? Really? BTW, I was pretty shocked to learn through comments that the supposedly “pluralistic” Hartman scholars don’t read or write for Shabbat because its considered “too religious” and “too conservative”. So close-mindedness exists by the so-called liberals as well…

  13. 13

    Isn’t it Rav Neriah Gutal, not Gertal?

  14. 14
    Menachem Mendel:


    Thanks for the correction.

  15. 15
    Seth (Avi) Kadish:

    “…but my impression from interviews is that not every gar’in torani is a Chardal outpost.”

    Absolutely correct, a great many are but certainly not all. This is exactly the justification given to allow funding and support for the intolerant ones. (I do not mean that “Chardal” means “intolerant”, but rather that many of the garinim are intolerant regardless of the label.) The political tactic is simply to say that we in RZ support garinim of *all* ideologies evenhandedly. That seems to be a remarkably tolerant idea, and it is a very hard one to argue with. It is a great propaganda coup that has been very effective too. The problem with it is that it tolerates and even celebrates the intolerance of many individual garinim towards their own local communities, and grants those garinim great power to undermine and silence those who disagree with them on the local level, even as they tolerate the fact that other models may exist in other cities.

    Regarding Har Etzion, absolutely yes among adults. If you hang around in religious academic or Anglo circles Har Etzion gets inflated standing. Leave that realm and the Gush barely even exists among the amcha.

    Regarding Hartman, if true, then it simply shows that intolerance can come from the left just as well as from the right. The whole 20th century goes to show… 🙂

  16. 16

    Forgive the ignorance, but is Musaf Shabbat available in the US? Is all of the content available on the website?

  17. 17
    Menachem Mendel:


    I don’t think that all of its contents is available on the website, and I am not aware of any place in America that it is available for purchase. A better option might be to make a PDF of the entire Musaf available. I would be more than happy to pay a subscription price in order to support it.




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