Modern Orthodox Judaism

Studies and Perspectives

By Menachem-Martin Gordon

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 214

ISBN: 13: 978-965-524-059-7

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by Rabbi Dr. Menachem-Martin Gordon

Hardcover, 214 pages, including index
ISBN 13: 978-965-524-059-7
publication: 2012

Arguing for a “Fullness of Life,” Rabbi Dr. Gordon documents the case for Modern Orthodoxy – a fostering of cultural breadth, yet true to the Halakhah. His incisive analysis of the issue of hukkot ha-goyyim, the Biblical injunction against identifying with alien mores, is captivating, taking note of Maharik’s insistence that style of dress need not be distinctively Jewish, but respectably modest. Noted is Hazal’s denial of a pietistic black as standard dress. Aesthetic sensitivity is valued. Examined is the controversiality of the presumption that olam hazeh is but an ante-chamber to olam haba. Subject to a severe critique is Rav Dessler’s denial of natural law and the efficacy of human initiative – the facade of hishtadlut. The role of the sciences in a religious curriculum is accentuated. A definition of talmid hakham is probed, linked to a decisiveness in halakhic inquiry. Similarly explored is the status of torato umanuto – the issue of the avrekh ha-kollel. The principle of be-khol derakhekha da’ehu is developed, encouraging a diversity of career options. Tzelem Elohim is posited as the uniqueness of each man’s individuality in pursuit of self-realization.

In a particularly provocative inquiry, Rabbi Dr. Gordon examines, with rich Talmudic reference, the possibility of a respectful though critical halakhic view of autonomous value choices, the respectability of a subjective quest for meaning. He explores the intriguing question of formalizing disaffection – a forfeiture of Jewish identity – raised in connection with the status of the Lost Ten Tribes. Noted is Hazal’s reluctance toward exercising tokhehah (rebuke) – resisting a rush to judgment.

Incisively addressed is the issue of feminism in the contemporary milieu and its implications for a traditional halakhic/ideological perspective. A woman’s entitlement to the fullest in self-realization is systematically argued. Birkat she-lo asani ishah is explored in a fascinating exposition. Childbirth is proposed as a woman’s moment of brit.

This volume also offers fascinating insight into the vying worlds of the Talmud and the Kabbalah, examining the contrasting Talmudic and Kabbalistic perceptions of two rituals – mezuzah and netilat yadayim shel shaharit. Rabbi Dr. Gordon demonstrates, intriguingly, the Talmudic preclusion of any protective function assigned the mezuzah on the doorpost, as the Kabbalah would presume. He documents compellingly the Talmudic denial of any nightly death crisis resolved by the washing of the hands each morning, as the Kabbalah would claim. Popular belief in the demonic, reflected in particular Talmudic aggadot, is insightfully shown to have been denied halakhic significance by Hazal.

Addressing the issue of messianism, Rabbi Dr. Gordon systematically probes contrasting views of Mashiah and yemot ha-Mashiah as appearing in our classic literature, and examines the implications of each position for the redemptive significance of the State of Israel. The issue is: a messianism of abrupt Divine upheaval or a messianism of emergent human drama.

About the Author

Rabbi Dr. Menachem-Martin Gordon is a distinguished Modern Orthodox thinker whose lectures and publications are highly regarded. He was ordained by Rav Soloveitchik at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University (1962), and received his Ph.D. degree in Medieval Jewish Philosophy from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University (1974). His doctoral thesis addressed The Rationalism of Jacob Anatoli, thirteenth century Provencal Biblical commentator and translator of philosophic texts.

Rabbi Dr. Gordon served as Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University, and as Adjunct Associate Professor at Empire State College, Israel Program, State University of New York. He has lectured, as well, in Business Ethics, at the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev). Rabbi Dr. Gordon resides in Jerusalem with his wife Bilha, a distinguished artist.

Praise for Modern Orthodox Judaism:

"Rabbi Menachem-Martin Gordon is one of the young luminaries in the growing circle of centrist orthodoxy's champions. His essays are studied and often quoted because he clarifies for intellectuals where Judaism stands on many matters of contemporary interest.... His is truly a major contribution to the effort to combat Jewish Fundamentalism although he deals with it respectfully."
–Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman, Late Chancellor, Bar-Ilan University

"Rabbi Menachem-Martin Gordon treats us to a wonderful array of essays on important issues of Jewish life – such as feminism and universalism – which serves as a fine exposition of Modern Orthodoxy. He brings to bear erudition and originality in the way he looks at issues...."
–Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat; Dean and Founder of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs; Founding Rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue, New York

"In this collection of studies, Rabbi Menachem-Martin Gordon admirably succeeds in providing concrete evidence of the uniqueness and vitality of the approach of Centrist Orthodoxy, which combines meticulous adherence to Halakhic norms with openness to values of modernity. His book represents an important contribution to religious thought. It is especially welcome at a time of resurgence of fundamentalism, which attacks Centrist Orthodoxy as a compromise and does not recognize it as an authentic version of Halakhic Judaism."
–Rabbi Dr. Walter S. Wurzburger, Late Rabbi, Congregation Shaaray Tefila, Lawrence, New York