Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Other Siyum

There’s another Daf Yomi Siyum coming to New York. This one is sponsored by a  “wide range of Modern Orthodox Synagogues, Yeshivot, and Institutions” and is being convened by YCT (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah) Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Dov Linzer. It will take place one week after the  “big one” sponsored by Agudah at  MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

One might think I would be overjoyed at this event.  But one would be wrong. Not because I don’t think that modern Orthodox Jews have a right to hold their own Siyum. Of course we do. Especially those of us who will have completed Shas via learning Daf Yomi. And we are not a small group.

It is noteworthy that Rabbi Nosson Scherman – a card carrying Charedi Rav and publisher of the widely used ArtScroll Shas will be addressing the audience. That is an amazing fact all by itself. That Rav Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva of YCT and Rabbi Scherman, a widely known and respected Rav in the Charedi world, will be sharing a podium is a small step forward toward some sort of Achdus in Orthodoxy. 

It should also be noted that this is not the first time Charedi personalities have accepted invitations to address a Modern Orthodox audience. Rav Matisyahu Salomon and Rav Aharon Schechter did so a couple of years ago in Teaneck, New Jersey. But it was not in conjunction with any YU Roshei Yeshiva – and certainly not with any YCT Roshei Yeshiva as is the case now. So it is a baby step. But a nonetheless a step forward.

So in that sense I am relatively happy about this Siyum and I support it.

So why am I not overjoyed?  Because of the fact that Modern Orthodox Jews even feel the need to make their own Siyum.  And the feeling is justified. Modern Orthodoxy and many of its leaders have been disparaged more than once by various Charedi leaders. Some within Agudah and some without. Most famously many years ago - Rav Elya Svei referred to then YU Rosh HaYeshiva, Dr. Norman Lamm as a Sonei HaShem …a hater or enemy of God! (…based on an erroneous understanding or a speech Dr. Lamm made describing the difference between Lakewood students and YU students.) At the 10th Daf Yomi Siyum R’ Svei threatened to boycott it if Dr. Lamm was invited.

I have long ago called for an end to this divisiveness on the part of Agudah in their public forums. But my calls have so far gone unheeded. The upcoming Agudah Siyum will very likely not have a single Rosh Yeshiva from YU addressing the crowd. But they will have a variety of speakers from various other segments of Orthodoxy, including various right wing Roshei Yeshiva, an assortment of Chasidic Rebbes, and perhaps a representative or two from the Sephardic world.  

Not only will there not be any YU speakers at the podium, there probably won’t be any sitting on the main dais either. Those of who identify with the Hashkafos of modern Orthodoxy and look to the YU Roshei Yeshiva and other non Charedi Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshiva for guidance are justifiably upset by such lack of respect for our values, our Rabbanim, and our Poskim. There is absolutely no excuse for that whatsoever.

The modern Orthodox Siyum HaShas is in some ways a reaction to that. One that may have many of our own people saying “Hooray for us and the heck with them”.

I do not consider a good result. In other words as much as a step forward this MO Siyum might be, it pales in comparison to the lack of respect being shown by the Agudah Siyum. It is Sinas Chinam on their part which in turn generates Sinas Chinam from many of us!

And yet to its credit, the MO Siyum promotional material actually plugs the Agudah Siyum. What are the odds that Agudah will be plugging the MO event? It’s a one way street, my friends.

Added to all this is the fact that the Agudah Siyum is being celebrated worldwide  with simultaneous Siyumim sponsored by local Agudah outlets with ‘hookups’ to the main event at MetLife in New Jersey. Thus multiplying the disrespect. I don’t think the Modern Orthodox Siyum is coordinating with any other city. Those of us out here in the ‘hinterlands’ will not be attending (although it will be streamed live on the internet).

So we have one baby step forward and one huge step remaining backward - and in its intransigent place. What I would like to see is the two Siyumim merge. Now that would make me very happy. Perhaps even overjoyed. But I’m not holding my breath.