Thursday, May 29, 2014
Fanning the Flames- The Wrong Way to Move Forward
I am frustrated and upset. My recent posts have repeatedly been about YCT and Open Orthodoxy. I had planned to write something else today, but feel compelled to respond to a very unfair article by Gil Student in his online journal Hirhurim. In “Tzelofchad's Daughters”, Student deals with a section of a letter that was sent from Rabbi Ysoscher Katz to Rav Herschel Schachter. In the letter, Rabbi Katz suggests that Bnos Tzelofchad were proto-feminists in that they they asked for land for themselves as women (the letter is quoted in Student's article). Student not only objects to this reading, which he is certainly free to do, but smears Rabbi Katz by showing that it was Reform scholars who first made this claim, with the obvious implication that Katz's reading is not Orthodox.
One problem that I have with this article is that following on the heels of Yoram Hazony's thought-provoking article on Open Orthodoxy, where he challenges the Open Orthodox world to explain how their views fit into traditional Orthodox thought, Student seems to show that he has no interest in hearing their response and is only interested in keeping YCT and OO out of the orthodox camp.
Equally disturbing is that Katz's reading was possibly anticipated nearly 2000 years ago by Chazal. In the Sifrei on parshas Pinchas, which I loosely translate here, it says:
When the daughters of Tzelofchad heard that the land was being divided according to the tribes, and not being given to the women, they gathered together to think of an idea (of how to approach this). They said, “The mercy of God is not like the mercy of flesh and blood, for by flesh and blood there is more mercy for males than for women, but for The One Who spoke, and created the world, it is not this way, as He has mercy on males and females as it says 'and His mercy is on ALL of his creatures' ".
While this passage is a bit enigmatic, it seems to, at least, allow for a reading that suggests that Bnos Tzelafchad were motivated by a desire for fairer treatment for themselves, rather than for their father, as Student suggests.
Of course, my purpose in writing this is not to talk about how to read an episode in the Chumash. It is also not to take a side in who is correct about theological red lines. It is just to point out that if you issue a challenge, it is only fair to wait for a response. Rather than attempting to help the Modern Orthodox community deal with a challenging situation, Gil Student suggests that his way is the only way. To that, I must strongly object.