Originally published 11/22/10, 9:32 pm.
In Good Faith: Sperber: Less modern, more Orthodox - In Good Faith: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and World Religions - baltimoresun.com
R Daniel Sperber [RDS] laments that Modern orthodoxy is losing it's Modernity at the expense of its Orthodoxy. RDS seems to be suggesting that Modern means "change" and that Modern Orthodoxy means a revised Orthodoxy - molding it to modern times
I would counter that Modern [or Centrist] Orthodox means more about having a positive attitude towards secular learning and being friendly to the world instead of being hostile to it.
Most of the Modern Orthodox "revisions" have been cosmetic in nature and centred about such issues as using the vernacular in preaching, using Mehitzot instead of balconies, modernizing modes of dress, etc.
The thrust of the Newness of Modernity has been more about accepting, for instance, "Kant and Sartre" in our philosophic discussions. My supposition is that, while neither Rema nor Rambam would go for major revisions in practice, they were quite open to modern ideas.
So Modern Orthodox does not necessarily mean revising the Shulchan Aruch - not its Halachah nor even its Minhaggim. Rather it's about an "openness" instead of an insularity.
I think of the The Leaders of the Berlin Seminary or of YU as paradigms of what that means. Would Rabbis Revel, Belkin, YD Soloveitchik or N. Lamm ordain women or have them lead Qabbalat Shabbat? Yet all the above had PhD's and thought in a modern way.
As far as Slippery Slopes go, whodathunk that "Modern Orthodox" circa 2010 would go for women's ordination when the Conservative Movement split over this very same issue just 25 years ago! How much more slippery can a slope get!
Modern Orthodox does indeed reject Hattam Sofer [HS] that all change is bad. But it does not mean that it is an advocate for change either! This is a straw-man approach.
RDS: Since HS Opposes ALL change
And since Modernity opposed HS
Ergo, all change [that can somehow be slightly justified] is good!
One would suppose that even Modern Orthodoxy would presume all Halachah and Minhag as valid and be highly reluctant to revise, unless somehow it ran into strong reasoning.
As far as not adding heaters or other technology, we see Hassidim engaging in modern technology regularly. So while this aspect of the HS has historical interest it really does not relate to the reality.