Saturday, April 24, 2010

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Yesterday evening between Kabbalas Shabbos and maariv Harav Yitzchak Mordechai HaCohen Rubin, Shlita spoke about the volcanic eruption in Iceland. He took note of how we tend to get overly complacent about the perpetual motion of the industrialized world as if the man-made forces of communication, commerce and transportation are immutable forces of nature themselves. Never in recent history has a purely natural event brought such a large part of the industrialized world to a virtual standstill.

He characterized it that HKBH felt the need to remind the world that it has a Supreme Manhig - Operator - and, in this case, He chose to show us that he leads us with an Amud Ha'annan - a pillar of cloud.

And he went on to tell us a fascinating story which illustrates how his Amud Ha'annan can be midas harachimim for his "followers" at the same time as it is a midas hadin for the non-believers. The story was as follows:

There is an observant Jew who lives in Kiryat Matersdorf here in Jerusalem who was suddenly stricken with acute liver failure. The doctors here knew that he would require a liver transplant. The leading hospital for liver diseases in the Eastern hemisphere, where virtually all liver transplants in Europe are performed, is located in Belgium. And so, the Matersdorf patient was rushed to Belgium for treatment. This must have occurred a few days prior to the mid-April volcanic eruption.

In Belgium it was confirmed that the patient requires a new liver. However, the prevailing policy was that citizens of the European Union have priority for all transplants in this hospital. Israel is not a member of the Euroean Union so our Israeli patient was not so accredited. This meant that even if a compatible liver should become available, as long as there are EU citizens in need who are likewise compatible, he is automatically at the bottom of the list. At the moment there were four other EU citizens with his blood profile awaiting liver transplants. Beside that, it wasn't too relevant because the hospital's butcher shop was out of liver.

As to be expected, this fellow tried to see what local connections and persuasions can be brought to play to neutralize his last place status. Whoever could be called was called and whoever might be bought was solicited and nothing could be accomplished not for love or money. He was still in last place and time was short.

Then, the volcano hiccupped and sent the Amud Ha'annan to northern Europe.

You can guess the rest of the story. Some fellow from Germany checked himself into the morgue (careful on that Autobahn) and was all too happy to yield a compatible liver. The liver would only be viable for a very limited time so it was rushed to Belgium by rail. The four people on the waiting list were all contacted and none of them were located in a place where they could get to Belgium within the critical time. The only patient on hand who could be a recipient for the life saving liver was our last place Israeli patient from Kiryat Matersdorf.

Shlomo HaMelech writes (Koheles 9:11): כי לא לקלים המרוץ ולא לגבורים המלחמה

...for the swiftest do not win all the races and the mightiest do not win all the battles...

HKBH leads the world. Usually behind a veil of "nature". But sometimes it is with a pillar of fire and sometimes it is with a pillar of cloud.

And every cloud has a silver lining.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ah, But How White are His Teeth!

Am I the only one who noticed that there seems to be some differences of opinion between 2 very renowned Roshei Yeshiva - Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Shlita and Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Shlita?

Yes, it's a rhetorical question.

Now, I am certainly not worthy of weighing in any opinion of significance between these 2 great Princes of Torah. Especially since I have never gone sledding in my life. (Yes, there was plenty of snow where I come from but there was an acute shortage of hills.) Yet, in the simple-minded capacity of the child in The Emperor's New Clothes, I feel I can naively express that which I can plainly observe.

Owing that I have already discussed my impressions on Rabbi Feldman's book in a previous post, it remains for me to comment on the articulate remarks of Rabbi Lichtenstein. Let me declare that, aside from having read Rabbi Feldman's book in its entirety, I likewise have thoroughly read Rabbi Lichtenstein's essay, more than once. Nevertheless, after these repeated readings of Rabbi Lichtenstein's essay, I have one word to describe my feelings.


There is so much that I do not understand (child that I am) and perhaps a bit of "pilpul chaveirim" can clear the air for me.

First, let us review some basics. Rabbi Aharon Feldman has published a book whose purpose is "an attempt to present an authentic Jewish perspective on various issues regarding which many in the observant Jewish public are confused, because of the lack of understanding about how the Torah retlates to them." In other words he wants to explain the Torah community's (i.e., Yeshivish/Chassidish/Chareidi) perspective to those observant Jews who are confused (don't get it) and wish to be enlightened.

That's cool. I did the same thing.

Said book comprises a collection of essays from recent years on "raging issues". He groups the essays into 5 categories:

  • Zionism - Where he discusses our rejection of secularism

  • Feminism - Where he discusses our rejection of liberal trends

  • Books and Persons - Where he discusses (pro and con) the works of other observant Jews

  • Matters of Belief - Where he discusses Messianism and RabbinicAuthority

  • Matters of Behavior - Where he discusses criminality and homosexuality
And now we discuss Rabbi Lichtenstein. My first challenge was that, since I never attended Harvard, I was quite befuddled by some of those ten-dollar words that he employed. Undaunted, I was able to navigate this minefield thanks to the handy-dandy online dictionary that I have linked in my Favorites folder. I am, after all, a technical writer. But I was still befuddled by his choice of words. As a friend (from Baltimore, no less) told me in the Imrei Shefer mikveh, "He used terminology that you won't find in the New York Times."

It is certainly Harvard level vocabulary, not Jewish Action. And so the question nags at me: Who was he writing this for? Was it only for people with Harvard level education or for people who may be interested in Rabbi Feldman's book? And if the latter, why make it so taxing to try to understand what he is trying to say?

Perhaps it was meant to keep simple-minded children like me from being able to formulate a response. Almost worked.

After conquering the lexicon, the next befuddling issue was his use of a very simple and common word: anger.

I took the liberty of even looking up this word in my online dictionary to see what kind of aberrant connotation may be intimated by a Harvardian. There were so many definitions available there as to render his intent a matter of guesswork. But there was one dominant definition: a strong feeling of hostility.

And now I am triply befuddled.

Firstly, as one commenter in the OU.Org web site (one Mike Rose) points out: "I read the Eye of the Storm, and I did not detect any anger." Likewise, I also read the entire book and I fail to see what can be construed as hostility or "anger". It looks as if Rabbi Lichtenstein qualifies this assertion by quoting some perfectly relevant statements from the "Introduction" and comes to the conclusion that: "hence, the predominant polemical thrust of The Eye of the Storm." It is as if he is taken aback by a "polemical thrust".

But, please. Let's wake up and smell the coffee. The chareidi (or Torah or "authentic") community is indeed somewhat rejectionist. It rejects secularism, liberal trends, messianism, homosexuality, and the like. The purpose of this book is to politely, respectfully, and rationally explain WHY our community rejects these ideas. Such a book is inherently going to have a polemic thrust. It is unavoidable as it is its purpose. But it need not be hostile (angry).

And it isn't.
(Indeed, I need to point out that Rabbi Lichtenstein's unfettered use of the term "anger" inspired a very popular blogger to accuse Rabbi Feldman of "inspiring hatred" based solely on Rabbi Lichtenstein's characterization. I hereby submit my macha'ah to Rabbi Lichtenstein for being responsible for this chain of events.)

And a second thought befuddles me: What has Rabbi Lichtenstein achieved by characterizing this work as a work of anger?

I will tell you what he has achieved. And it is a nifty trick. To say that a work is motivated by anger is to say that the work is not purely a work of rational debate. In other words, the rationale of the party in question is at least partly impaired by whatever level of emotion (anger, passion... whatever you want to call it) that is present. As such, this serves as a preamble to the rebuttals that follow as if to explain or excuse the perceived flaws of the author as a result of "anger".

And, thirdly, even if we are to agree with Rabbi Lichtenstein that Rabbi Feldman's critques, despite his respectful and eloquent presentation, can be characterized as "anger", I fail to see how Rabbi Lichtenstein's critiques, despite his respectful and eloquent presentation, can be characterized any less as "anger". (And I am certain that, in this vein, some readers will feel justified in characterizing my critique as "anger".) And thus, Rabbi Lichtenstein has succeeded in opening a Pandora's box that, in my humble opinion, was best to have been left undisturbed. I question the wisdom of Rabbi Lichtenstein in introducing this assertion and I submit that for the rebuttals that he is soon to present, it does not serve his case well by any means.

Now, let us discuss these rebuttals. Rabbi Lichtenstein chooses to focus his attention on the first 2 sections of the book: Zionism and Feminism.

First things first - Zionism. Rabbi Feldman presents a collection of essays in an effort to follow the mission of his book: to help the "confused" understand why the world of "authentic Judaism"is at odds with the secular ideologies of the "Jewish" State. In general they focus on the "vacuity" of a secular based ideal and how it can be shown to have contributed to a very noticable breakdown in society.

On this, Rabbi Lichtenstein doesn't seem to offer a more potent response than to "play down" severity of this decadence by writing: "Must we, may we, be so radically judgmental as we deplore certain lapses in religious motivation and result?"

This is actually one of the "4 kushyos" that Rabbi Lichtenstein presents in the main rebuttal paragraph and the only one in which he addresses, in general terms, what Rabbi Feldman wrote. The other 3 "kushyos" address what Rabbi Feldman did not write. They are:

    1. At one end of the spectrum, is it indeed desirable– or even possible–to engage in a foray of utter denial of Jewish worth to what the Zionist enterprise, albeit regarded as a monolithic behemoth, hath wrought?

    2. Is the reclamation of Eretz Yisrael, accompanied by gradual progress towards rov yoshvehah alehah, Jewishly neutral?

    3. Can we blandly overlook the infant country’s commitment to kelitah, arguably the most monumental initiative of post- Biblical chesed, as if only atheists and Christians valued caritas?

In general, Rabbi Lichtenstein is asking: Is there nothing positive that we can say about the Zionist enterprise?

I don't want to get bogged down in specific refutations here, but I would (to be very brief) say the following (note- I am not speaking for Rabbi Feldman): For question 1 - nobody has denied that there are some positive aspects to appreciate BUT - for questions 2 and 3 - these 2 "achievements" (if they are indeed 2) have not been absolute virtues. The Zionist enterprise has seen to it that they have come at a heavy price to the spiritual well being of the population. The argument can certainly be made that to the extent that the Jewsih character of the state is vibrant is in spite of it and not because of it.

I am not certain when Rabbi Feldman wrote the included essays, but they were not all written yesterday. I mentioned that they focus on the "vacuity" of a secular based ideal and how it can be shown to have contributed to a very noticable breakdown in society. Current events show us that this is only "the beginning". Rabbi Feldman's essays evidently pre-dated a society which, on the one hand, can expel a Hesder Torah institution because it did not retroactively want to condemn those who protested throwing Jews from their homes and, on the other hand, an ex-soldier passes more than 2000 highly sensitive security documents into the hands of hostile media sharks. Our enemies can shoot rockets at us with impiunity and we can barely respond and our government bows to foreign rulers to halt all construction in much of our land. "We are still subservient to Achashverosh!" (TB Megilah 14a) Consequently, one thing Rabbi Feldman did not emphasize, is that the vacuity of Zionism has currently not only perpetrated a breakdown of society at large, but we are experiencing what is being called a post-Zionist era. In other words, secular Zionism has destroyed itself!

Rabbi Lichtenstein, whose essay is much more current, doesn't seem to acknowledge this new reality and the dangers that it poses. He merely decries that Rabbi Feldman does not acknowledge the "modicum" of benefits.

And when I read this "criticism" in his essay, I could not chase away from my mind a legend that is brought in Chovos HaLevavos (Shaar Kniah 6):

There was an incident of a certain pious man who was strolling with his students and they chanced upon the putrid carcass of a dog. The students exclaimed, "Oh, how putrid is this carcass!" And the pious one retorted, "Ah, but how white are his teeth!"

Now, it is clear that the pious Jew in no way negated the observation of his students. He merely was trying to teach them to see the good side in everything. But this is merely a philosophical lesson, not an excuse for folly. I would tend to doubt that the pious man was ready to pick up the dog's carcass and bring it home to his wife and when she says: "Don't you walk in here with that putrid carcass", he will say, "But, look how white are his teeth!"

And so, by "exposing the vacuity of secular Zionism", I hear Rabbi Feldman saying the obvious: "How putrid is this carcass!" And now I hear Rabbi Lichtenstein, not negating the observation of Rabbi Feldman, but assuming the role of the pious Jew and telling us: "Ah, but how white are his teeth!"

And, now we discuss the second section: Feminism.

By way of summary, I would like to submit that perhaps this section of the book was not aptly titled. It could more aptly be called "Liberal Orthodoxy" because that is the underlying catalyst of Orthodox feminism. Feminism is the effect but liberal mindedness is the cause. Accordingly, Rabbi Feldman devotes 3 chapters to this issue. All of which, essays written at different times for different audiences, point out the inconsistencies in the feminist approach to mitzvos which serve to cast aspersions on the true sincerity and spiritual altruism that the protagonists lay claim to.

The middle essay (Halachic Feminism or Feminist Halachah?) is a protracted one which reviews the Halachic essays titled Jewish Legal Writings by Women and asserts that they are politically motivated works whose writers seek to manipulate the Halacha to fit the feminist agenda. This is accomplished using Halachic sleight-of-hand (now you see this authority-now you don't or "watch me pull a Rishon out of a snood") and reverse osmosis (deliver the verdict first and call the witnesses later). A major segment is a critical analysis of an article penned by Ms. Aliza Berger that discusses the permissibility (or advisability) for women to don tefillin. One of Rabbi Feldman's trump points is that the author simply ignores that virtually all authorities from the time of the codifiers (he mentions: Beis Yosef, Rema, Magen Avraham, Peri Megadim, Aruch HaShulchan and Mishna Berura) who discuss this issue maintain that women are proscribed from donning tefillin.

Here again we get from Rabbi Lichtenstein the "How putrid is this carcass"/"Ah, but how white are his teeth" treatment as he totally sidesteps any debate on Rabbi Feldman's main point of an agenda based movement and contents himself with seeking out the "flaws in the context of Halachic discourse". As this entire criticism does not directly relate to the theme of the book or Rabbi Feldman's prevailing points about feminism, only on Halachic discourse, I could claim there is no need for rebuttal. Still, Rabbi Lichtenstein's points do have merit and deserve to be addressed.

Rabbi Lichtenstein criticizes on 2 levels - general theory and detailed application. In the general theory department, he quotes an excerpt from the chapter:
Thus, an opinion of the Rishonim, when codified by the major later authorities, is inviolable.

Rabbi Lichtenstein goes on to present numerous legitimate opinions that, under the proper circumstances, scholars of a later era (Achronim) can argue with those of a previous one (Rishonim). A case in point is the well known demeanor of the Shaagas Aryeh. Interestingly, I discussed this very issue in a very recent post that I wrote about Halachic process. I presented Rabbi Feldman's position as a rule of thumb. One commenter challenged me with similar sources as well as a mention of the Shaagas Aryeh. My response was that I concede to him that this is not an iron clad rule without exception, but I also noted that the Shaagas Aryeh - a 17-18th century sage - was not nearly as chronologically removed from the Rishonim as we are.

Thus, though I cannot speak for Rabbi Feldman, I think that perhaps the statement quoted by Rabbi Lichtenstein was also not meant to be an absolute rule without exception and we can accept the assertion of Rabbi Lichtenstein that people with the stature and "broad shoulders" of the Shaagas Aryeh are qualified to debate with Rishonim. Perhaps there are some such giants in each generation, even ours. Perhaps Rav Elyashiv, Shlita, perhaps Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlita, perhaps Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita. Nevertheless, for the average - or even above average - rav, avreich or Rosh Yeshiva of today, and certainly of Ms. Aliza Berger, I would tend to doubt that any exceptions are in order.

But, perhaps, Rabbi Lichtenstein is misreading this statement to begin with. It looks to me like he is reading the statement: Thus, an opinion of the Rishonim, when codified by the major later authorities, is inviolable.- with the accent on the Rishonim; but the proper reading is: Thus, an opinion of the Rishonim, when codified by the major later authorities, is inviolable - with the accent on the codifiers and later authorities. And he means to say that when the consensus is so persistently unanimous (even if not completely), then the Halacha is inviolable. I will get back to this point shortly.

Now, let's discuss the detailed application. Here is where I was more befuddled than ever. When I first read the essay, I initially caught the impression that Rabbi Lichtenstein is championing the cause for Orthodox women to don tefillin. And I was flabbergasted. How could this be? Is not Rabbi Lichtenstein the star disciple and son-in-law of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitcik Z"L? And is not the tale that Rabbi Feldman himself relates in his book (pages 74-5) concerning Rabbi Soloveitchik and the woman who wanted to wear a tallis of legendary renown?

But, when I reviewed the piece more thoroughly, I noted that after the argument on Halachic discourse is duly registered, Rabbi Lichtenstein does indeed offer a minor concession to Rabbi Feldman that "traditional prevalent practice should be sustained". Just not on the basis of Rabbi Feldman's position; in line with the Talmudic adage of "Halacha kimoso v'lo mitaamei". (The source reference should read Kesuvos 83b-84a, not 83a-84b). My concern for Rabbi Lichtenstein is that many readers who are not as meticulous will likely also catch the impression that he is championing the cause for women to don tefillin and will not notice his conclusion. Here again I wonder if instilling this sort of impression upon these readers serves his best interests.

That said, the final thing left for us to do is to examine his argument and determine if it is valid. Rabbi Lichtenstein opens by taking Rabbi Feldman to task for calling the poskim "unanimous" in 2 places and "nearly unanimous" in a third. I agree that Rabbi Feldman should be more consistent. Nevertheless, in terms of Rabbi Feldman's list of poskim, it does seem to be unanimous or "nearly so" and Rabbi Lichtenstein does not offer us a single authority of the "post-codifier" era with a dissenting opinion.

However, Rabbi Lichtenstein continues:

Strictly speaking, of course, if we use Rishonim as a yardstick, neither statement is accurate. A practice which was regarded as open to acceptance by the Rashba, the Ritva, the Meiri and less prominent Rishonim....

This is a fatal flaw in Rabbi Lichtenstein's argument. It is what I have learned in the blog world is known as a "straw man" argument. And the straw man is in these words: If we use the Rishonim as a yardstick...

If we use the Rishonim as a yardstick, then Rabbi Lichtenstein is absolutely correct. But Rabbi Feldman does not use the Rishonim as a yardstick. He uses the poskim. In fact, Rabbi Feldman himself concedes fully on page 95 that by the Rishonim, the issue is not unanimous. He writes: "Nevertheless, Aliza Berger...prefers the opinion which emerges from some other Rishonim..." The issue is only "unanimous" in the poskim. And Rabbi Feldman distinguishes between the poskim and the Rishonim.

Let us understand Rabbi Feldman's position (the way I see it, at least).

Rabbi Feldman, along with the core chareidi/Yeshivish world, maintains that while the Rishonim were the primary analysts of the Talmud and their opinions are all authoritative, it is left to the codifiers and the poskim that came after them to guide us through the various opinions of the Rishonim and direct us how to go"Halacha l'maaseh". Thus it is the major consensus of the poskim and codifiers that we must listen to and not to seek "Halacha l'maaseh" from the early Rishonim. Similar to a low level employee who takes his instructions from a foreman even though it is clear that the foreman himself gets his instuctions from the "higher-ups". The employee himself is not authorized to go "over the head" of the foreman to the source.

Similarly when we have a general consensus on an Halachic issue from the poskim - those being the authorities on Rabbi Feldman's list and their peers (Beis Yosef, Rema, Magen Avraham, and onward to Mishna Berura) - we bow to them and assume that they were as aware as we are on the gamut of opinions in the Rishonim and they knew which opinions it is best to accept and which to reject. Thus, according to Rabbi Feldman, the primacy is in the hands of the later poskim and not the Rishonim even though the Rishonim were undeniably greater.

Thus, as I said, the Rishonim are not our yardstick. At the Rishonim level, Rabbi Feldman concedes there are various opinions and at the poskim level, Rabbi Lichtenstein does not prove that it is not unanimous. As such, when Rabbi Lichtenstein concludes his paragraph: Are not the giants here cited “classical authorities?” the answer is: No! These giants are not the classical authorities that Rabbi Feldman consults for our consensus. They are the precursors of the classical authorities. They are greater than the classical authorities, but for our purpose, we look to the Achronim as the classical authorities. And, from this group, on this issue, we do not have any dissenters.

So, to summarize, Rabbi Feldman's complaint on Ms. Berger is that she ignores the consensus of the poskim which is unanimous or nearly unanimous and goes over their heads to the era of the Rishonim where she can find support. His position is that even though there may be some prominent Rishonim who allow a woman to wear tefillin, the general consensus in the poskim is that they must not. Comes Rabbi Lichtenstein and responds that even though the consensus in the poskim is that they must not, there are still prominent Rishonim that allow it.

We call this: טענו בחטים וכפרו בשעורים He claims from his neighbor 2 bushels of wheat and his neighbor says, "I do not owe you 2 bushels of barley".

I would like to conclude on a personal note - I wish to note that I do not know Rabbi Lichtenstein personally. And for the most part, I do not know Rabbi Feldman, either, except that I am a friend and neighbor of his son Rav Eliyahu and Rabbi Feldman was in Har Nof over Chol Hamoed Pesach. I took this opportunity to introduce myself to him and to present him with a copy of my book.

And as I do not know either of these 2 great Roshei Yeshiva personally, I do not wish them to take any of my comments or rebuttals personally. Obviously, my hashkafic bias is evident but I have done my best to present Rav Feldman's case from logical debate.

And, as for me--will I ever sled for the very first time?

Sure I will...when Har Nof freezes over.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Getting the Season Off to the Right Start

Yom Tov is over and it's my first day back at the office in Har Chotzvim. It's kind of slow and a co-worker suggested that I take a look at Obama's first pitch to open the season for the Washington Nationals.

Well, I tried to open the clip but this is all I got:

What does it say to you?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book 2 and The Eye of the Storm

Those of you who are familiar with my book (i.e., read the whole thing or have the misfortune of being related to me) are aware that it is a 2-part project.

To rehash:

Book 1 - the one that exists - is meant to present the hashkafos of the chareidi/Torah-oriented/One Above world to those who don't understand it (no small group).

Book 2 - not yet published - is meant to apply the hashkafos to the "raging" issues of observant Judaism to show how they play out in the field and why. These would include hot topics such as: State of Israel and army service, work vs. learning, technology and Internet, beis din and agunos, geirus (new addition), kanaos, mehadrin kashrus (and buses?), eruvim, chareidi miscreants and שאר ירקות. Incidentally, a chapter about chareidim who go off the derech (OTD) was included in Book 1.

It goes without saying that Book 2 stands to be the more juicier, confrontational and perhaps "mud-slinging" volume. As such, every so often somebody from my tiny group of fans asks me "When is Book 2 coming out?" to which I am forced to answer, "Currently, there is no scheduled release and, currently, there is no release to schedule."

Or, in other words, I have suspended the second half of the project for the time being.

And why?

There are a whole slew of reasons. Among them:

  • Resources - Books require a lot of time for writing and editing and a lot of money for typesetting and printing. For Book 1, I was blessed with adequate supplies of both. This is no longer the case.

  • Poor Yield - Although One Above and Seven Below has successfully made a name for itself and commands the respect it deserves, it is not as sought after as I would have hoped it to be. In other words, sales are fair but disappointing.

  • People don't read- An extention of the previous point is that people do not have the time or patience to read like they used to. The world of books is suffering terribly from competition from more stimulating media as well as from an over-abundance of books. All booksellers (and authors) that I have spoken to are complaining about this.

But I think the trump point is that the hashkafos of the chareidi world (Book 1) are steadfast and unchanging. As such, it is not much of a challenge to start writing a book in 2003 and publish it in 2007 and it can be just as relevant in 2017 and 2027.

Not so the issues. Our world is changing every day um hour um minute so that some issues may suddenly lose their relevance and others take their place in the spotlight. As an example, the issue of the chareidi's disdain for army service is not nearly as hot a topic after the universal disillusionment of the disengagement (2005), the surplus in manpower or the success of Nachal Chareidi. Conversely, I initially (in 2003) never thought to address the chareidi approach to conversion. Now, however, a work that overlooks geirus issues would be incomplete at best.

Writing a book on current issues is like trying to change a tire on a moving truck!

And for that reason I have opened this blog where I can present my message in a more popular forum (the Internet) in bite-size pieces and present the material for immediate consumption while the issues are current. I have shifted my limited time and energies in this direction.

In short, this blog is in effect a substitute for Book 2. As a side effect, it has held me back from working directly on Book 2. Nevertheless, I do not consider this delay to be detrimental for a number of reasons.

One is that I have learned so much about the world of the "Seven Below" - the scoffers, the cynics, the antagonists, and the "centrists" - over my 20 months of blogging that I am much more prepared to deal with issues on "their" terms than I would be if I had not delayed Book 2.

And a second reason is that, in the interim, another "spokesman" from the chareidi world, and one considerably older, more erudite, more articulate, and more venerable and acclaimed than I has taken the trouble of writing a version of Book 2 in my stead.

And, with this, I wish to pay tribute to HaRav Aharon Feldman, Shlita and his superb book: The Eye of the Storm.

And, from what I understand, this book is selling like hotcakes.

I first got wind of the book about 2 months ago when my son, Yaakov, who was working afternoons at Manny's in Meah Shearim told me told me that a book came out by Harav Aharon Feldman that was very similar to mine. He offered to get me a copy with his employee discount, but I had a better idea. I got the book at retailer's cost from Rav Feldman's son (Rav Eliyahu) who lives in the building next to mine.

I wanted to be one of the first people on the blogosphere to review the book (okay, it was way too late for Slifkin from last November) but I suffered from one handicap - I wanted to read it first. So it was hard to compete with some other reviewers eid-m'pi-eid commenters who didn't bother to read the book at all.

To generalize, the purpose of his book is identical to the purpose of mine, but he says it better: A calm view of raging issues. It is meant to present the perspective of the chareidi/Torah/One Above world on current issues in an effort to restore some calm.

Now, in my Book 1, my approach is to focus on the hashkafos and, through understanding them, to set the stage for dealing with the issues. His book approaches from the opposite direction - to deal with the issues and, through them, to present an understanding on the hashkafos.

I believe that this is a more effective approach (and the sales figures seem to bear it out) and it is the approach I had in mind for Book 2. So, to some extent, he has saved me the trouble of writing Book 2.

Now, of course, he doesn't nearly cover the full list of issues that I presented at the top of this post and, conversely, some of the topics that he does discuss, notably his discussions about homosexuality and Messianic Lubavitchers, are things that I did not want to touch in my book (though I posted a blog about homosexuality HERE).

The primary overlap issue is his discussion about secular Zionism which I planned to discuss as a preamble to the army issue (which he does not elaborate upon). Needless to say, I am in full agreement with him on the topic. Another overlap is his discussion on feminism which I did indeed deal with briefly in my Book 1 on pages 161-168. His main point is that women are not required to perform certain mitzvos and, thus, these mitzvos are not priority aspects of Avodas Hashem for a woman. As such, the drive for a woman to perform these mitzvos regardless is more born from self gratification than a longing for Avodas Hashem. This is the identical message that I present in my book.

In other points of "collusion" Harav Feldman, Shlita, has an essay about Daas Torah where he clarifies that Daas Torah does not mean overruling the opinions of experts on civil or medical matters but rather it means adding Torah based considerations into the cholent of secular or scientific considerations as an integral part of the process of formulating a course of action. I do not discuss this form of Daas Torah but I do have a chapter about Rabbinic Authority in Book 1 (Cops and Rabbis).

In his book, there is one chapter that is more an overview on chareidi hashkafa than a position on a "raging" issue titled: Credo of Credence. Likewise, in my Book 1, I present my deepest, most scholarly discussion on chareidi hashkafa in a chapter titled: Getting to the Heart of the Matter. The highlight of his chapter is a commentary from the Vilna Gaon in Shir HaShirim which declares that there are only 2 actual mitzvos: Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye Lecha and all positive mitvos are manifestations of Anochi Hashem and all negative mitzvos are manifestations of Lo Yihiye Lecha. The highlight of my chapter is a commentary from the Maharsha in Maseches Makkos which declares that there are only 2 actual mitzvos: Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye Lecha and all positive mitvos are manifestations of Anochi Hashem and all negative mitzvos are manifestations of Lo Yihiye Lecha.

So as Harav Feldman zeros in on The Eye of the Storm, he presents the hashkafos that are universally upheld in the chareidi world. It is natural that we see the storm "eye-to-eye". That said, there was one essay in which I am not in complete agreement. Most of you can probably guess - it is his overview on the Slifkin affair. I may want to elaborate on where I disagree and why, but if so, it will have to wait for a separate post. Likewise, I did see the review penned by Harav Aharon Lichtenstein and I have much to comment on it. This, too, will have to command its own post.

All in all, I certainly agree with my son Yaakov that Harav Feldman's book is both a compliment and a complement to mine. His book is much more practical and much less theoretical than mine is. Also it is a bit shorter with larger print and, of course, it has the eloquence and succinct delivery that Harav Feldman is known for. So it adds up to a more comfortable and less tedious read.

I highly recommend it and, more so, I strongly urge anybody who has read my book or who rejected my book to experience Harav Feldman's approach.

Because our mission in life is to outlast the storm.