July 15, 2024
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Speak With Love, Not Fear

In “A Response to ‘The First Modern Orthodox Jew: Two Models’” (December 5, 2019), and “The First Modern Orthodox Jew: Two Models” (November 21, 2019), it behooves me to first state that I am neither a rabbi nor a member of any rabbinical organization. I am neither the bearer of any advanced degree in any Jewish academic studies nor have I ever been associated with any Jewish organization in a leadership role. For all intents and purposes, despite a personal disfavor of labels, I consider myself a Modern Orthodox Jew.

After reading and rereading Rabbi Pruzansky’s article numerous times, I was compelled to at least comment on it, for the lack of response would be a gross dereliction of my moral compass. However, before continuing, I must say that on a personal basis I am acquainted with Rabbi Pruzansky and admire him and respect him as a rabbi, scholar and a human being and am not in a position to argue or debate on a scholarly basis but rather as a member of the Bergen County Jewish community.

To begin with, the analogy of Avraham Avinu and Lot to a model of two types of Modern Orthodox Jews is at the very least a stretch despite the plethora of midrashim quoted as to Lot’s religiosity and observance. The civilization and world that Avraham Avinu and Lot were a part of can in no way be compared to today’s modern world. Truth be told, if you would want to compare and examine the two different paths taken by Avraham Avinu and Lot, then you might come to the same conclusion of what is the better approach to life. However, to compare their paths to the journey a Jew takes in today’s modern world is, at the very least, a forced stretch.

However, more important, as noted by Mr. Koslowe in his eloquent response to Rabbi Pruzansky, is the tone of the article. There is an event in Jewish history reminiscent of Rabbi Pruzansky’s article. In the late 18th century, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (the Chasam Sofer) in response to the spread of the Reform movement in Europe coined (in essence borrowed) a phrase “Chadash asur min haTorah” as a rallying cry against the Reform movement. In addition, Rabbi Sofer opposed any changes, modifications or, seemingly, flexibility in any Jewish practices. According to many of the Yeshiva and Chasidic world I have heard that this stemmed the tide of Reform practices infiltrating everyday Jewish life. It is my contention that perhaps the Chasam Sofer’s adamant objection, opposition and blatant marginalization of an entire segment of European Jewry was a direct cause of the assimilation of that self same group. Not by his stance on Halacha, not by his adamant and fervent observance but rather by his condescending tone and staunch attitude of “my way or the highway.” How many Jews were lost to assimilation between the early 19th century and WWII? Without denigrating or belittling the tragic loss of the Holocaust, I would venture to say that the numbers are comparable. All because of the tone and need to draw a line in the sand that could not be crossed for fear of heresy. The use of fear instead of love was the cause. And that is why Rabbi Pruzansky’s article is troubling. There must be another manner and path to advise the Modern Orthodox Jew as to how to navigate the modern world.

Jay Orlinsky
New Milford
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