Monday, March 22, 2004

First, a happy birthday to my main man William Shatner. (Leonard Nimoy's is coming up in a few days- same age.)

Anything else to report before I get to Shapiro? Yeah, sure. The gal I saw last week isn't interested (sniff), but she wants to consider friends for me. And now I have other "offers" too. It's funny how things work out- job, dates, etc. when they're least expected and/or unlikely. God is being good to me lately, not that I deserve it. Praise Him!

I guess I'll miss the Cardozo Federalists event tonight. It's cold and I'm tired- and I don't have the details.

Why does the Jewish Week think it's productive to have high school kids tell us their half-baked (or, more often completely raw), ideas on various topics of import? As Graham Chapman would say, "Stop it, it's getting silly."

Hmmm...I could go on with various LammTrivia, but let's go to Shapiro.

He likes handouts, I see, which is nice. His main point was about mistakes in the Rambam- that is, places where the Rambam quotes a pasuk or midrash from memory, and gets it wrong. Now, it's clear as day that Shapiro has an agenda, here and elsewhere. To put it simply, Shapiro would like to stir things up. He sees himself as someone who's going to turn the Jewish comunity upside-down. In this instance, he's fighting against people making chakiras in the Rambam- after all, if the Rambam made mistakes (as he himself admitted), then why split hairs trying to explain apparent errors and/or contradictions? And, of course, this goes further- starting with this, it becomes easier to rejuggle halakhic ideas and long-held firm beliefs (such as, dare I say it, the Ani Maamins).

Now there are those- even those who know Shapiro well- who don't quite get this about him. They begin analysis of him as if he was writing solid academic stuff only, and critique him based on that. Thus, they can say, for example, "Ah, but Dr. Shapiro- just because people argued with individual Ani Maamins doesn't mean they're illegitimate!" and so on. I'm not taking sides in any of this- but I'd like to point out that it's irrelevant, as I'll show below.

Others "see" what Shapiro is aiming at- and find it wrong. "Ah, Dr. Shapiro- you show how German Jewish leaders wrote a letter to Hitler without providing context- context of the decadence of Weimar, or the lack of understanding of Nazi anti-Semitism, and so on. You're a sensationalist!" The last point is true- but I don't have a problem with that.

You see, I think Orthodoxy has settled into certain rigid modes of thinking. And I think Shapiro (or anyone)has to shake it up. "No! The Ani Maamins (even individually) were not universally accepted! Yes! The Seridei Aish had Reform friends! Yes! The Rambam made mistakes!" I don't know if he's out to make wider points, or have deeper effects. But in this much, at least, he's doing a good thing. Point out uncomfortable truths (and, despite what one questioner asked, the truth is the truth), shake people up, make them think. And as that Twilight Zone episode (The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street) said, sit back and watch what happens. Of course, perhaps some guidance is good, so things don't spin out of control- but there's not much of that either nowadays.

Anyway, that's what I saw at the conference. Then I hit all my Broadway spots- Virgin, Forbidden Planet, Strand, Tower. Got the Sherman CD, which has nice liner notes. Home, bed, wake, shul, work, here...Monday evening.