Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein Goes Sledding
In the recent Jewish Action, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, one of the leading rabbinic authorities for Modern Orthodox Jews, reviews a collection of essays, titled the Eye of the Storm, written by his Haredi colleague Rabbi Aharon Feldman. Rav Lichtenstein attacks Rabbi Feldman, but does so in the sort of sporting gentlemanly fashion that one often despairs into thinking is out of date in this world. Rav Lichtenstein begins by recalling his childhood relationship with the older Rabbi Feldman when they both lived in Baltimore in the early 1940s. While Rav Lichtenstein hints at his disagreements with Rabbi Feldman when it comes to Zionism, feminism and Rabbi Slifkin, his real focus is on Rabbi Feldman's polemical stance. Rabbi Feldman writes out of anger and denies the very possibility that others could reasonably disagree with him. Rather than attempt to reach out to others Rabbi Feldman openly states that he is writing for members of his community, for those already agree with him. Rav Lichtenstein ends with a touching plea for mutual understanding that I think is worth sharing:
Dear Reb Aharon: That pair of juvenile prattling sledders is now well past seventy-five. Each has, besiyat diShmaya [with the help of heaven], in successive contexts, respectively, learned much Torah and has been blessed with the ability and the circumstances to enable reaching out and personally transmitting to others that which we have been endowed. It stands to reason and is, presumably, mandated by joint mission, that our worlds meet and attain mutual fruition. As we both painfully know, however, this occurs rarely.
Must the walls that separate our communities and our institutions soar quite so high, the interposing moat plunge quite so deep? Shall we never sled again?