The Significance Of Lamm Over Rackman

Shalom Auslander‘s memoir would not have been as juicy if his Uncle Norman did not run YU.

Professor Marc B. Shapiro blogs:

No one has yet written an article focusing on the Rackman-Lamm contest for election to the presidency of YU, and the historical significance of Lamm’s victory. I hope that a capable YU student takes upon himself this task. To do it right, he must interview the people still alive who were on the committee and can testify as to what led them to go with the younger and less distinguished Lamm. Until now, all we have had are rumors and fairy tales. One example of this is the following passage from R. Herschel Schachter’s Mi-Peninei ha-Rav (p. 170).

What Rackman does say is as follows (One Man’s Judaism, pp. 248-249):

The Talmud itself was not dogmatic, but contemporary Orthodoxy always feels impelled to embrace eveery Tradition as dogma. The Talmud suggests that perhaps David did not write all the Psalms. Is one a heretic because one suggests that perhaps other books were authored by more than one person or that several books attributed by the Tradition to one author were in fact written by several at different times? A volume recently published makes an excellent argument for the position that there was but one Isaiah, but must one be shocked when it is opined that there may have been two or three prophets bearing the same name? No Sage of the past ever included in the articles of faith a dogma about the authorship of the books of the Bible other than the Pentateuch. . . . How material is it that one really believes that Solomon wrote all three Scrolls attributed to him? Is the value of the writings itself affected? And if the only purpose is to discourage critical Biblical scholarship, then, alas, Orthodoxy is declaring bankruptcy: it is saying that only the ignorant can be pious – a reversal of the Talmudic dictum.

The book about Isaiah he refers to is Rachel Margalioth’s The Indivisible Isaiah: Evidence for the Single Authorship of the Prophetic Book, published in 1964 by Yeshiva University’s Sura Institute. (She was the wife of famed scholar Mordechai Margalioth.)

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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