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February 5, 2012 / conservadox

Got to see Slifkin speak today

I got to see Natan Slifkin, of the Zootorah and Rationalist Judaism blogs, today.

First, he spoke about the controversy in Ramat Beit Shemesh in Israel (in which about 50 fanatical haredim are engaged in various forms of bullying against Religious Zionist Jews).  Slifkin explained that this has nothing to do with halacha and is all about turf.  A government-subsidized housing project for haredim is near a school for more moderate religious Zionists, and the haredim feel offended that anyone other than haredim is within eyesight of them.  So their view is that the school should move or be closed down. 

He also pointed out that the haredim creating a ruckus do not represent most haredim, and in fact most haredim are disgusted by such misbehavior (which includes jeering at and spitting on schoolgirls).  However, he feels that more moderate haredim have tolerated less extreme forms of misbehavior for too long, allowing things to get to this situation.

Finally, he pointed out that modern Orthodoxy is indirectly responsible for the growth of haredi-ism, by failing to make its voice heard.  Modern Orthodoxy has not had its own siddur until recently (thus allowing the more hard-line Artscroll to take over the market), not had its own chumash (ditto), and has created enough rabbis to serve affluent pulpits but not enough to serve K-12 religious schools, after-high-school programs in Israel, or shuls needing part-time rabbis.  So all of these are dominated by haredim.

His second speech was about wildlife, and in particular predators, in Judaism.  He focused on predators, focusing on midrashic comparison of various people to bears.  Midrash compares the Persian Empire to bears (because of their gluttonous and omnivorous eating habits) and Potiphar’s wife to a bear (because the type of bears found most frequently in Israel attack when humans are not alert, and according to legend Joseph was complacent when the Potiphar situation arose).  But Slifkin also made another comparison.  Today, people in First World countries are rarely in areas where wild bears live, so are unlikely to be attacked unless they do something dumb like go up to bears and assume that bears are just people in bare suits.  Similarly, Jews sometimes assume that their enemies (say, Hamas) are just like them.

He also talked about hawks; although the weight of Jewish tradition was against hunting, he points out that some sages (such as Rabbenu Tam) apparently hunted with hawks, probably to make nice with Christian noblemen who did the same.





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