You Can Be Modern Or You Can Be Orthodox Or You Can Lie To Yourself And Others

There is no way to reconcile Orthodox Judaism with modern disinterested scholarship. You can be Orthodoxprax (practice Orthodox Judaism while keeping your heretical views to yourself) but then you are not honest to the religion you practice.

Orthodox academics making visits to left-wing Orthodox communities got very upset with me when I blogged their comments. They want to live two irreconcilable lives — one in Orthodox Judaism and one in the academy.

Here’s a report on Bible scholar James Kugel’s visit to Stern College:

TEIQU (Torah Exploration of Ideas, Questions and Understanding) self described as ‘a new student organization founded this academic year with the mission of buildig opportunities for heightened intellectual discourse anddialogue in the realm of Jewish academics, faith and community at Yeshiva University’, recently held an evening with Professor James ‘Jim’ Kugel. Chanah has the full transcript on her blog. Much of it is similar to a talk I heard recently from Kugel and is his usual spiel about the ancient commenters. I skipped straight to the questions where this predictable question was asked:

Question: On your website, when people ask you about difference between Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy- do you believe that the five books of Moshe were given to him by Hashem?


I was really quite surprised by the bogusness of the answer though:

KUGEL: I don’t think I’ve given a talk in the last five years where people don’t ask that question. Really what people mean by that question, sometimes, is can I get you to say something that crosses the line and the answer is no, I’m really just like you except I have been studying.

We all know that Kugel believes in the DH, and some kind of Divine Inspiration model. So why didn’t he just answer that? Surely his audience is not that naive? Very strange. Anyway, ultimately I guess the event made the pseudo intellefundies at YU happy.

About Luke Ford

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