Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dr. Brill on R. Aharon Lichtenstein

I wrote a review -- or really, just gave my impressions in a blog post -- of Dr. Alan Brill's review essay of R. Aharon Lichtenstein's three recent books over a month ago (here) and I've been thinking about it ever since. For most of the few weeks, I've been carrying around the article with me and I've read it numerous times and underlined it extensively with various notations.

I don't know Dr. Brill. I've never met him and I know very little about him. I think that I read his essay with relatively few preconceived notions and arrived at my opinion of it based on what I saw and nothing else. But R. Ari Kahn, an old friend of Dr. Brill's and someone whom I like and respect, wrote in the comments that I misread the article. Did I? Did I improperly malign Dr. Brill and his work?

For starters, it seems pretty clear that I misunderstood the title of his essay. A commenter pointed out that "The Ideal Rosh Yeshiva" was a reference to the school of thought called Idealism. Woosh! That went right over my head. But did I misread the article itself?

This post is neither an apology nor a retraction. I've reread the essay many times and believe that I am still reading it correctly. If I'm not, it could either be my thickness, Dr. Brill's (or his editor's) literary imprecision or a combination. Regardless, he put his essay in the public domain and I wrote my honest impressions based on my best efforts to understand it. That's all I can do and that's all anyone can expect from me. So I'm not apologizing and I'm not retracting. All I'm saying is to take it for what it is: Just this one man's opinion.

You all have the ability and the option to read the essay for yourselves and arrive at your own conclusions (the article is available here -- PDF). I was told (after I published my post) by others whom I respect that they reached the same conclusions as I did from reading the essay (before they read my post). But that doesn't mean that we are necessarily correct.

(NOTE: This post is not an invitation to discuss whatever political affiliations or motivations you think Dr. Brill has)

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