teach. By “Torah,” I speak of a basic philosophyrn—a core theology —that guidesrnthe everyday encounter with the crises ofrnlife, both public and private, and that accordsrnwith the revelation by God tornMoses at Mount Sinai. In general, rabbisrndo not refer back to a common body ofrnlearning that marks them as rabbis—notrnprofessors, not social workers, not communityrnadministrators, not ethnic cheerleaders,rnnor any of the myriad roles rabbisrndefine for themselves by reason of the intellectualrnbankruptcy of the rabbinate.rnThe exceptions today, and they are notrnfew, prove the rule. But in prior generations,rnone could look to Reform andrnConservative rabbis as well as to synagogue-rnOrthodox rabbis for a distinctivelyrnrabbinical message. Prior generationsrnmade the effort, at least, to deliver a religionsrnmessage, and if they took a politicalrnposition, it was in dialogue with thernTorah. Today, they do not even trv. ThernAmerican rabbinate once took for grantedrnthat a rabbi is someone who knowsrnspecific things and believes them. Thesernspecific things always included Scripturernas mediated by the rabbis of the Mishnah,rnTalmuds, and Midrash compilations,rnas well as the body of received exegesisrnof Scripture produced by RabbinicrnJudaism from antiquity to our own time.rnRabbinic discourse reflected two things.rnThe first was sheer knowledge of “thernTradition,” which was defined as Scripturernand Talmud, broadly construed.rnThe second was something harder tornidentify but just as palpable: a certain attitudernof mind, a philosophy, a theolog’,rnformed in dialogue with Scripture andrnTalmud. Given the contents of thernTorah, this attitude reflected conservativernvalues.rnReconstructionist rabbis are an easyrntarget, since their seminary includes in itsrnfaculty so few heavyweight scholars. AndrnReform rabbis, with their investment inrnJewish ethnicity, political liberalism, Israelism,rnand holocaustism, as well asrntheir frequent substitiition of personalityrnfor intellectual perspicacity, scarcely carernabout Torah learning. If the ReconstructionistrnRabbinical College sets the lowwaterrnmark for scholarly inconsequence,rnhow many important books have comernfrom the entire faculty of Hebrew UnionrnCollege-Jewish Institute of Religion inrnLos Angeles, Cincinnati, New York City,rnand Jerusalem? The intellectually rigorousrnwork of Eugene Borowitz does notrnstand entirely alone over the past tenrnyears from that facult}’, but it also doesrnnot occupy a crowded platform.rnHow the JTSA has fallen! I studied atrnthe Jewish Theological Seminary ofrnAmerica from 1954 through 1960, abandoningrnmy Reform upbringing to getrnwhat I then conceived to be a better Jewishrneducation in Conservative Judaismrnthan I believed I could get in the Reformrnseminary. It was a difficult venture, butrnworth the anguish because of the galaxyrnof intellectual and scholarly superstarsrnLouis Finkelstein had assembled. (Hernwould replace them with mediocrities inrnthe next generation, manv of tiicm JTSArnalumni, who would find their vay intornthe academy and out of Jewish-sponsoredrninstitutions entirely.) One need notrnreach the stratospheric level of an AbrahamrnJ. Hcschcl or a Mordecai Kaplan orrna Shalom Spiegel to serve as an intellectualrnmodel for generations of young rabbis.rnEven second-rank players such asrnSaul Lieberman and Moshe Zuckcr andrnJndah Goldin and Chaini Zalman Dimitrovskyrnmade an impact. Today’s JTSArnfacult)’ has no Heschel. I consulted tiiernfaculty listing on its website, and I was astonishedrnby the low scholarly aspirationsrnof nrost, though not all, of that mostlyrnmediocre collection of never-wases-pretending-rnto-be-has-beens (a phrase someonernonce used of the Boston HebrewrnCollege of a prior generation).rnAh, but what of Orthodox rabbis?rnSurely, they bring to flie Jewish eommunit)’rna deep knowledge of the sources ofrnJudaism? That intiutive judgment isrnboth right and wrong. Yeshiva-Orthodoxy,rnsegregated in its educational world,rnwith its emphasis on Talmud study andrnon Torah learning, produces large numbersrnof young men who have encounteredrnthe Talmud and know this and that.rnWhen I meet such voung men and askrntirem what they are studying, I am usuallyrnpuzzled by their low educational ambitions.rn’This is summed up by an admittedlyrnextreme case. When I was lecturingrnin Moscow last year, I was introduced torna young man who told nc he was studyingrnI’almud in some yeshiva in that city.rnI asked, “What chapter?” He didn’trnknow. “What tractate?” He still didn’trnknow! “Well, what did you study thisrnmorning, what Mishnah rule?” He wasrnnot sure. I said, “Could it have been …?”rnAh, yes, that’s it!rnBut there are universities and thenrnthere are universities, and the same is sornin the yeshiva world. While the alumnirnof the best of them exhibit certain intellectualrndeficiencies-tiiev find it difficultrnto construct a lucid, logical propositionrnand argument but are verj’ good at lowbrowrnexegesis of words and phrases —rnyeshiva-Orthodoxy does meet the expectationrnthat a rabbi will base his teachingrnon the Torah. I have never heard of arnrosh yeshiva (a professor) of a reputablernyeshiva lacking substantial mastery of therntexts, their theology, or law. And they livernby the ideals of what they learn, or try to.rnBut in the pulpit-Orthodox rabbinate,rnthat part of Orthodoxy that is integrationistrnand that chooses to address thernworld of Judaism, the situation hardlyrnproves more promising than the Reform,rnConservative, or Reconstructionist rabbinate.rnA kippah on the head of an Orthodoxrnrabbi does not guarantee Torahrninside. More to the point, while the Orthodoxrnrabbinate knows things, it is rarernfliat such rabbis can make a coherent andrncompelling case for the Torah, viewed asrnthe source of culture and sensibility ofrnthe holy communit)’ of Israel, God’s people.rnWriting in the Jerusalem Report, Ze’evrnChafets recentiv challenged the intellectualsrnof Judaism to answer a simple andrnreasonable question: “What’s it goodrnfor?” We in the academic humanitiesrnhave to answer that question every day.rnOur students ask it, because wc arc notrntraining them to get good-paying jobsrnwhen they graduate but educating themrnfor a long life of the intellect. No onerntakes the question as effrontery or interpretsrnit as an attack on the fields of philosophy,rnliterature, historv’, or the academicrnstudy of religion. We answer that questionrnnot onK’ b’ what we say but by whatrnwe do in the classroom ever’ day. But respondingrnto Chafets, Bercl Wcin, writingrnin the jerufialem Post of October 29,rn1999, saw his question as an attack onrnthe Talmud. How does he respond tornChafets’ question?rnIt was and is the study of the Torah,rnabove all else, fliat has preservedrntiie Jewish people to this day. Thernimpractical, uneconomical, othcrworldlvrnstud’ of Torah is the mainrnforce that has kept the Jewish peoplernalive, vibrant, creative, andrnstubborn to the core.rnAlas—the argument from cflinicit}’ oncernmore! Rabbi Wein docs not argue aboutrntire merits of what is studied, only aboutrnthe results. But such an appeal to tirernpractical eonsequencc^the socially desirablernresult of keeping Jews Jewish —rn40/CHRONICLESrnrnrn