4/10/2005

Modern Orthodox Pantheon

Everyone who's worth his yeshivish salt knows about the 4 letters that were written to the young R' Shimon Schwab on secular studies and attending university. All opposed, the letters were from R' Borcuh Ber Leibowitz, R' Elchanan Wasserman, the Rogachover Gaon, and a fourth that I can't remember.

The list you never read (perhaps because it's never been compiled?) is the list of bona fide gedolim who held doctorates from secular universities. Here goes:
  • R' Dr. Zvi Hirsch Chajes (mahari"tz chajes) zt"l
  • R' Dr. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt"l
  • R' Dr. Esriel Hildesheimer zt"l
  • R' Dr. Dovid Zvi Hoffman zt"l
  • R' Dr. Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog zt"l
  • R' Dr. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik
  • yblch"t R' Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein shlit"a
  • R' Dr. Nachum Rabinovich shlit"a
  • on tap - R' Dr. Michael Rosenzweig shlit"a
  • R' Dr. Yitzchak Breitowitz shlit"a
I'll also point out that of the first 6 that I mention, all of European stock, 4 were major poskim as well (R's Drs. Weinberg, Hildesheimer, Hoffman, and Herzog) who have penned many, many volumes of responsa. WADR to R's Wasserman, Leibowitz, and the Rogatchover, none of them are known as major poskim. Perhaps the 4th, who I can't remember, was, but these 4 are still nothing to sneeze at.

In addition, the following European gedolim attended Universities (American gedolim who attended universities are too numerous to count, and i'm not sure if YU should count since it's not really so secular; R' Gifter zt"l, yblch"t R's Scheinberg, Schachter, Willig, etc. all went there):
  • R' Yitzchak Hutner zt"l
  • R' Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt"l
  • R' SR Hirsch zt"l
I have no doubt that I'm missing some, and I'm sure that commenters will supply their names.
It's about time that the MO community recognize that it's not just RYBS and RAIK, and that there's no reason to be bullied by Binyan Olam-toting twits who give no credence to an alternative to the standard yeshivishe approach.

I'm not suggesting that a doctorate is evidence of a positive attitude toward secular education. Nor is lack of one evidence of a negative attitude. It does say something, however, when serious gedolim are shown to have gone after serious secular educations.

Finally, I'll add a list of those gedolim of earlier generations of the modern era - not listed above - who displayed characteristics that resonate well with the MO-i.e.- who should be 'drafted' squarely into the MO pantheon if they're not already:
  • R' Kook
  • R' Moshe Avidgor Amiel
  • R' Yaakov Reines
  • R' Aharon Soloveichik
  • R' Chaim Hirschenson
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