Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Framing a debate

If you haven't already read Gil Student on women learning gemara, do it now. This is how he dismisses the basis of many of the opposing arguments:

Note that the suggestion that this prohibition emanates from some sort of misogynist rabbinic bias or historical circumstance is insulting and bordering on heresy. (emphasis mine)


He then goes on to enumerate various positions on the issue in his usual style. I frequently disagree with Gil's conclusions, but, I usually respect him for presenting a reasonably complete, well-backed-up argument for his case. For comparison, look at his discussion on the documentary hypothesis, which is also a rather contentious area in Modern Orthodoxy (for the understatement of the century). The problem here is that one cannot be expected to have a reasonable debate on an issue when the conclusion is predetermined. It is the same issue that stunts the intellectual growth of the right-wing Orthodox. If they think the ideas presented by secular society (or, worse, by other Jews) are any threat, the ideas are not confronted, but banned. The adherents are then taught that the idea is wrong, and that any questioning of their interpretation is heresy (in case you ever wondered why DW puts up "Meredith warnings" on some of her posts, now you know). The adherents are then forced to forsake their communities, or to follow along like sheep.

Yes, it's true... if halacha is totally devoid of historical circumstance, then the position of women in the Jewish community can never change. Women will always be considered intellectually deficient beings (on par with children), and thus, in need of care by either father or husband. This is the plain reading of the sources, all apologetics aside. But, where is the proof that halacha is unlike any other legal or social construct, that is, that it is not informed by its historical context? Or, do all posekim (decisors) wear cultural blinders?

Gil, sorry for insulting you. Do I get my apikores pin now?

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Comments:
following like sheep? There's a reason for being little and fluffy :-)
 
What happened to your original apikorus pin? I hope you didn't lose it! :-)
 
ummm, the government took it ... blasted taxes (this comment's for you, Abu Gingy!)
 
Hey! I am of intellectual inferiority, on par with children, and I do need my husband to take care of me! And don't you dare disillusion him!

Next you'll be telling me to let him into the kitchen...
 
You don't let him in the kitchen? That's cruel.
 
"The problem here is that one cannot be expected to have a reasonable debate on an issue when the conclusion is predetermined."

Check out this quote from Gil: "I will believe even if the evidence contradicts that belief."

Talk about predetermined conclusions. Gil can put up a great facade of intellectual inquiry, but he's as phony as a three dollar bill.
 
he's as phony as a three dollar bill.

:: looks in his pocket :: oh, darn...
 
You don't let him in the kitchen? That's cruel.

No, no, I do. Somebody has to empty the dishwasher, after all. He is also allowed to separate cabbage leaves on erev Pesach. ;)

All kidding aside...Julian is "allowed" in the kitchen whenever, and he's perfectly capable of whipping up meals...I just enjoy cooking much more than he does. But I let him clean up after my messes, because I generally suck at that.

Wow. I've totally gone off the path of this conversation. I blame the codeine.
 
Talk about taking one line completely out of context. You gave me completely the wrong impression about the general direction of his post. Thanks for the link though.
 
I do not believe that I took the line out of context. It is conclusively dismissive of a valid approach to the topic. If he wanted to say "I don't want to discuss it from this perspective," he could have, and if it were meant as a joke, putting :-) after it would have removed ambiguity. From my perspective, the "general direction of the post" is not at issue. The idea of banned ideas is at issue.
 
Re: "The adherents are then taught that the idea is wrong, and that any questioning of their interpretation is heresy (in case you ever wondered why DW puts up 'Meredith warnings' on some of her posts, now you know)."

"Meredith warnings" go up only if there is a question of Biblical authorship. No idea (save that) is beyond my pale of discussion. I just rarely, if ever, post my comments/thoughts for discussion on EFL's blog. We usually discuss them over the phone.
 
"Meredith warnings" go up only if there is a question of Biblical authorship. No idea (save that) is beyond my pale of discussion.

Does this in any way defeat my interpretation?
 
"If they think the ideas presented by secular society (or, worse, by other Jews) are any threat, the ideas are not confronted, but banned. The adherents are then taught that the idea is wrong, and that any questioning of their interpretation is heresy (in case you ever wondered why DW puts up "Meredith warnings" on some of her posts, now you know)."

The _only_ "non Yeshivish" (for lack of a better term) idea that I don't discuss is the questioning of Biblical authorship. I took what you wrote--and if I misinterpreted, I do apologize--to mean that I don't question anything beyond the pale of a contemporary Yeshivish read (i.e. all of normative halakhah, hashkafah, etc.).

I believe that anyone who doesn't ask questions is inherrently being intellectually dishonest. However, for me personally, a large part of belief is acceptance that I can't prove things. I can take "Moshe emes ve'Soraso emes" at face value, but little else.

I cannot prove that God exists. I cannot prove that He wrote the Torah through Moshe's hand. I cannot prove that if I drink unfiltered NYC tap water I'll burn in a firey hell. Belief, however, if just that: believing. If we could prove God exists (versus accepting that "God is a postulate"), Judaism wouldn't be a belief, it would be an intrinsic de facto truth.

I don't ask my questions in public, and I don't ask questions that run as deep as yours and ELF's do, but that doesn't mean I don't ask them.
 
If you're really accepting Torah MiSinai on unshakable faith, then you would be willing to *read* ideas that question it, but you would necessarily be forced to (1) question their bases, conclusions, or some combination of the two, and (2) find some other answer to the question that was posed that works within your faith-framework [or (3) alternatively, you can duck your head in the sand and pretend the question doesn't exist]. In the end, though, it should make no difference whatsoever to you whether you read them or not. To you, it is not only an idea rooted in faith that Torah is from Sinai, but a banned idea to question it.
 
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