June 2, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Debating Shalom Carmy

Over on the Hirhurim website, a discussion is underway about a new paper by an old teacher of mine:
R. Shalom Carmy was contacted by a former student who confessed that he lost his belief long ago and has become a confirmed Orthoprax Jew. Can Rabbi Carmy help him recover his faith?
Alas, the comments section on Hirhurim is to short to contain my reply. Herewith, therefore, my comments:
One serious problem lies in the of R' Carmy's paper (confession: I have only skimmed it), which assumes that the culture of Modern Orthodoxy (aka Teaneck) is taken for granted. The question is what should the former student believe in the privacy of his own soul.

He is not questioning his commitment to paying synagogue dues to support a rabbi who may well be morally problematic, or raising his children in schools where eisav soneh et ya'akov trumps tzelem elokim.

He is not even considering other varieties of Orthodoxy, let alone other modes of Jewish or religious experience; Carmy assumes that his teachers have all the answers, rather than suggesting, pace R' Brill, that the drop-out emulate the Vilna Gaon and become a vegetarian.

The conclusion to reject rationalist atheism and search for spiritual experience is a sensible one (but, for another view, make sure to check out The Raving Atheist). But that is not a defense of Orthodoxy; it is a defense of religion in an already Orthodox world.