Modern Orthodoxy Should Be a Noble Synthesis, Not a Lukewarm Compromise

Although he was one of the leading figures of Modern Orthodoxy in our times, the late Rabbi Norman Lamm declared in 1969 that he was “uncomfortable” with the term, but could not find a better one. And although three years later he would say of Modern Orthodoxy, “I write about it, I advocate it, I defend it, I preach it,” he would in the same breath express his “worries” about its health. Lamm, as Jeffrey Saks explains, criticized the movement both for its lack of religious zeal, on the one hand, and its insularity, on the other.

The problem, of course, identified early on by Rabbi Lamm, was that too many would-be devotees of Modern Orthodoxy gave the impression that it is a pareve form of [religious piety] instead of an ennobling synthesis. He earnestly countered, this “is not a case of ideological wimpishness.” “The main idea is that Torah must be embraced together with that which is noblest and most compatible in the prevalent culture, and that the Jew, totally committed to Torah, must utilize his spiritual powers to inhere in Torah in order to fructify and sanctify all the rest of human endeavor. . . . Whereas we in fact accept this ideology, . . . we have been too apologetic in explaining and interpreting ourselves to the outside world.”

Lamm eventually came to hold up as his ideal the Maimonidean (and Aristotelian) virtue of moderation and the pursuit of the Golden Mean, but he saw this virtue as anything but wimpish:

For Maimonides, and by extension Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Lamm, “the key to character . . . is not the mean as such, but the weighing and measuring and directing, the conscious use of reason rather than passively following nature blindly and supinely. In other words, the process of arriving at a determination of one’s own life and character is more important than the results.” . . . [Lamm] saw the ability to navigate the Maimonidean path as “the halakhic implementation of moderationism.” . . . While Rabbi Lamm reminded us that moderation is not a “mindless application of arithmetic averages,” he understood why some were tempted by that easier path of an imagined calculator crunching the numbers and pointing toward a position.

Read more at Tradition

More about: American Judaism, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Modern Orthodoxy, Norman Lamm

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security