Sunday, June 1, 2008

Open Minded Torah Redux

A recent post from Open Minded Torah was cross-posted on Cross Currents (, a great resource for diverse Jewish perspectives within the orthodox (i hate that word!) framework. Sarah Shapiro, noted author (and friend), expressed a reservation about the title of this blog (which she had actually already shared with me privately). Since her comments appear on Cross-Currents, I thought I'd re-post them here with my response--which addresses, though indirectly, some of the comments posted on this blog. Her post came as a specific response to my "Loving the Stranger (within)"

Here are Sarah's comments:

The idea of understanding “love the stranger” as a command to “love the stranger within” is for me a new, fascinating interpretion, one that’s rich with multi-faceted meanings.

Yet the phrase itself — “Openminded Torah” — still grates, somehow, and strikes me as a misnomer. Even though it’s clear from the above essay that this is not at all Dr. Kolbrener’s intent, my inner ear still hears those words as if they were apologetically acquiescing to those who view the Torah-observant as “narrow-minded.”

Here's my response:

Sarah correctly intuits my intention (notwithstanding her diyuk--inference--from my blog title). I don’t want to give the sense that Torah observant Jews are narrow-minded, but I do think that there are representations of Torah (appearing extremely authoritative to some) which give the impression that somehow being ‘open minded’ goes against the spirit of authentic Torah. I’m not writing from a sociological perspective, but hoping to write something that may be enabling to those who–-in the service of their Judaism-–want to be more open-minded to themselves.


Spinal Muscular Atrophy - Shira Fisher said...

Wikipedia: Someone who has an open mind is receptive to new ideas or information

open mind

• noun a mind willing to consider new ideas.

— DERIVATIVES open-minded adjective.


• adjective 1 allowing access, passage, or view; not closed, fastened, or restricted. 2 exposed to view or attack; not covered or protected. 3 (open to) vulnerable or subject to. 4 spread out, expanded, or unfolded. 5 officially admitting customers or visitors; available for business. 6 (of an offer or opportunity) still available. 7 frank and communicative. 8 not finally settled; still admitting of debate. 9 (often open to) accessible, receptive, or available. (open to) admitting of; making possible. Music (of a string) allowed to vibrate along its whole length. Phonetics (of a vowel) produced with a relatively wide opening of the mouth and the tongue kept low. (of an electric circuit) having a break in the conducting path.

• verb 1 make or become open. 2 spread out; unfold or be unfolded. 3 formally begin or establish. 4 make available or more widely known. 5 (open on to/into) give access to. 6 (open out/up) become more communicative or confiding. 7 break the conducting path of (an electric circuit).

• noun 1 (the open) fresh air or open countryside. 2 (Open) a championship or competition with no restrictions on who may compete.

— PHRASES the open air a free or unenclosed space outdoors. in open court in a court of law, before the judge and the public. in (or into) the open not concealed or secret. open-and-shut admitting no doubt or dispute; straightforward. open up (or open fire) begin shooting.

— DERIVATIVES openable adjective openness noun.

— ORIGIN Old English.


• adjective inclined to think in a particular way: liberal-minded.

Open minded denotes a "Liberal." I don't think you can be a Liberal Orthodox Jew, can you?

Daniel said...

Sarah's comments concerning the name of the blog sums up in a few words what I presume other readers also felt.

Considering the multitude of topics and minutiae of discussions to be found in the Talmud and related works, it would appear to be unneccessary to qualify the Torah with an adjective such as open-minded unless the aim is to signify ideas within the spirit but not to be found within the Torah itself.

True Bill sees open-minded as a window to the soul, enhancing a personal attachment to the Torah, but that attachment appears to be a far more limited connection to other posters:
"If I could humbly elaborate on Bill's motif in this post, I'd say that Judaism is a minimal part of the MUCH larger game"