Monday, February 04, 2008

Response to a Professor

Several commenters have stated that they found Rabbi Lamm's response to the professor inadequate (see this post). I disagree entirely. I did find his response somewhat confusing organizationally, in that he followed the general order of the letter to which he was replying. This led to the main ideas being presented and developed in multiple places. If I had been asked to write a reply, I would have written only one or two paragraphs and would probably have been accused of being condescending in my brevity.

The single point I would have made is that the professor explicitly assumes that there are only two possible approaches to the world -- that of extremist bigotry and that of liberal openness. It ain't so. And it is incredibly ironic that Rabbi Lamm, of all people, would be accused of being seclusive. For crying out loud, Google someone before you start inferring his worldview: Google. Rabbi Lamm is probably the most eloquent and vocal proponent of an Orthodox Jewish middle position.

The nuances of that position eluded Noah Feldman because he also assumed this dichotomy of worldviews and Rabbi Lamm had been trying to clarify these nuances. Then this professor came along and says that if Modern Orthodoxy isn't on the liberal/ Noah Feldman side then it must be on the extremist/ Ayatollah Khomeini side. The response to all of the professor's detailed points stem from defining this middle position, which is beyond the scope of a simple letter.

Bottom line: Know what you are disagreeing with.

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