Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What a Rav

After reading this blog I feel the need to stand up for a rav who has been receiving some negative press concerning his stand on inter-faith dialogue. I in no means am a halachic expert, either in general or in this particular sitution. I am not taking a stand on whether or not Rabbi Riskin's Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation  goes against halacha. Jewish Israel quotes a psak of rav Soloveitchik taken from the book Community, Covenant and Commitment.

In a letter to the Rabbinical Council of America in November 1964 Rav Soloveitchik wrote,
…We are, therefore, opposed to any public debate, dialogue or symposium concerning the doctrinal, dogmatic or ritual aspects of our faith vis a vis “similar” aspects of another faith community. We believe in and are committed to our Maker in a specific manner and we will not question, defend, offer apologies, analyze or rationalize our faith in dialogues centered about these “private” topics which express our personal relationship to the God of Israel. We assume that members of other faith communities will feel similarly about their individual religious commitment.

We would deem it improper to enter into dialogues on such topics as:
1) Judaic monotheism and the Christian idea of Trinity.
2) The Messianic idea in Judaism and Christianity.
3) Jewish attitude on Jesus.
4) The concept of the Covenant in Judaism and Christianity.
5) The Eucharist mass and Jewish prayer service.
6) The Holy Ghost and prophetic inspiration.
7) Isaiah and Christianity.
8) The Priest and The Rabbi.
9) Sacrifice and the Eucharist.
10) The Church and the Synagogue – their sanctity and metaphysical nature, etc.
There cannot be mutual understanding concerning these topics, for Jews and Christians will employ different categories and move within incommensurate frames of reference and evaluation.
Again, I am not trying to make any halachic argument. I have had the honor of meeting Rabbi Riskin in person (and in a more personal setting) several times. I know that he still is a great follower of his mentor Rabbi Soloveitchik as well as another mentor of his The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whom he was extremely close with and had a great influence on him as well. I havent heard or read any statements of his on this most recent project of his, but I feel it is important to recap some segments of his life as to show all the greatness this one man has done for Modern Orthodox society. He changed an entire conservative community, helped it become orthodox and made aliya with lots of this congregation. Together they formed Efrat and he is still the chief Rabbi there today. He was the leader of the movement to free the Soviet Jews, he has set up a very well respected program to train rabbis specifically for chul and was the founder of Midreshet Lindenbaum. He developed the first program for people with severe learning disabilities, so they could still come to Israel for a year. Created (and first fought for) a program to train women to advocate for women in the beit din and fight for agunot. Right now he is fighting in the Israeli beit din to change the way they pasken when it comes to agunot (since they now use a minority opinion, backed by non to deal with the agunot, while the majority opinions are a lot more lenient). You can read about all of this here (I normally wouldn't use Wikipedia as a source, but I have heard him personally speak on each and every one of these subjects, so I know this to be true). So, given what this rav has accomplished in his life, I for one am not going to judge him unfavorably as others seem to be in a great hurry to do.

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