I’m a big fan of Professor Marc Shapiro. I have some of his books, and enjoy his online Torah in Motion lectures, as well as his semi-regular posts on the Seforim blog. Marc’s erudition and clear thinking are exemplary. He is a controversial figure, to be sure. Some consider him to be on the left of the Modern Orthodox continuum. His first claim to fame was his PhD thesis on the famed R’ Yechiel Ya’akov Weinberg ז’ל, the Sridei Aish, which was subsequently published as a book.
In a recent post on the Seforim blog where he discusses “The Future of Israeli Haredi Society”, he states:
On p. 406 Adler tells us that one cannot sell or rent an apartment in a religious neighborhood to a non-religious person. Will the author then complain when the non-religious don’t want to sell or rent to haredim (especially if they think that these haredim might hold the same views as Adler)? If it is OK for haredim not to want to live together with secular Jews because of the “atmosphere” the latter bring, why have the haredi Knesset members cried racism when secular residents don’t want an influx of haredim for exactly the same reason? In a democracy one can’t have it both ways.Adler is part of a growing trend in haredi writings not to see the secularists as tinok she-nishbah, with all the halakhic implications this entails. While Adler acknowledges the existence of tinok she-nishbah as a category, note what he puts in brackets which pretty much empties the category of any meaning (p. 31):ולענין הלכה, מכיון שאין בנו כח להכריע, במחלוקות אלו, וגם אין כל הענינים שוים, מתי נקרא בשם “תנוק שנשבה” ומתי לא, ובפרט קשה ההכרעה המציאותית של “שיעור ידיעת כל אחד ואחד” בזמנינו, לכן, בכל הנוגע לדיני תורה, יש להחמיר ולנהוג כלפי מחלל שבת בפרהסיא [שלא ידוע ככופר] ככל דיני “אחיך”, כגון לענין דיני גמילות חסד, לבקרו בחוליו, לתת לו צדקה, להלוות לו, להשיא לו עצה טובה. וכן יש להצילו ולהחיותו.But when it comes to Shabbat, Adler states that it is absolutely forbidden to violate the Sabbath to save a non-religious person, even if he is a tinok she-nishbah! (p. 556).I realize that, with only some exceptions, Adler hasn’t made up any of the material in his book, and even the most extreme rulings can be found in earlier traditional sources. So what does it say about so much of contemporary Orthodoxy, be it haredi, Habad, or Modern Orthodox, that its adherents would never dream of relating to the non-Orthodox the way Adler prescribes?[Emphasis below is from me]The reason they wouldn’t dream of relating to the non-Orthodox this way is not because they can point to other halakhic sources that disagree with the ones Adler cites (although the scholars among them can indeed point to these sources). There is something much more basic at work, namely, the moral intuition of people which even when it comes into conflict with what appears in halakhic texts does not agree to simply be pushed aside. Most Orthodox Jews of all stripes refuse to believe that what Adler is advocating is what God wants. It is impossible for them to accept that the Judaism they know and cherish, which has been taught to them by great figures, would have such a negative outlook, and all the halakhic texts in the world won’t be able to change their minds.
- The more left-wing variety have a view and they seek to buttress that view with Halachic sources. At times, when their view cannot be reconciled with credible Halachic sources, they submit to Halacha.
- The more right-wing variety begin with halachic sources and not some “moral intuition”. They will, however, include the realities of the modern world as a vital halachic ingredient in coming to their eventual conclusion. In the end, however, they recognise that they may become the lonely man of faith, possibly at odds with their moral intuition.