Thursday, July 05, 2012

Moving Backwards

When Dr. Bernard Revel was trying to build up the reputation of Yeshiva College (YU's forerunner) he always sought out the Gedolei Yisroel - visiting the US from Europe - to give a Shiur to his students. He was successful in almost every case. Even Rav Aharon Kotler gave a Shiur there. One Gadol, Rav Shimon Shkop, actually accepted the position as Rosh Yeshiva of YU for a year.

Another Gadol, Rav Elchonon Wasserman absolutely refused to set foot in Yeshiva College. He said his mere presence there would be seen has an endorsement of the idea of a Yeshiva college. Rav Elchonon was a Daas Yachid. But it seems to be his lead that the current right wing leadership is following. 

Last month I gave a modest endorsement of the upcoming Modern Orthodox DafYomi Siyum HaShas that is being convened by Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT).  Although I lamented the fact that Modern Orthodox (MO) Jews felt the need to have their own Siyum, I still felt that it was a step forward in Achdus to have a Modern Orthodox Siyum host  Rabbi Nosson Scherman,  a very prominent Charedi personality - and Rabbi Tvi Hersh Weinreb, who I believe is probably more in the (moderate) Charedi camp even though he is affiliated with the OU.

In addition to that it was very thoughtful of the organizers of the MO Siyum to not schedule their event on the same night as the Agudah event – even promoting that event in their own ad campaign. How nice, I thought. It is a baby step - but still a step in the right direction.

But my optimism was pre-mature. Rabbi Scherman is no longer on the program, and neither is Rabbi Weinreb.

This is a very sad commentary about the state of Achdus in Orthodoxy. I can only guess at the reasons these two esteemed individuals are no longer on the program. Either they were pressured by some of their right wing colleagues to back away or they somehow didn't know that this Siyum was heavily weighted towards the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy (LWMO). I can't believe that they were so naive as to not know the latter. I am therefore inclined to believe the former.

If they were indeed pressured not to attend, it would seem that the right wing has put LWMO into virtually the same category as Conservative Judaism. Rav Aharon Kotler and other Gedolei Yisroel of that generation forbade any participation with rabbis from Conservative and other heterodox movements because it would grant legitimacy to Apikursus to even be on the same stage with them. However, those same Gedolim never forbade speaking on the same stage with Modern Orthodox rabbis  - even those of the far left.

I understand that they reject LWMO. I even agree with some of the issues they raise with respect to  them.  But I can't tell you how upsetting it is for me to me to see these distinguished gentlemen off of the program. What could possibly be wrong with addressing a group of Jews together with rabbis who are NOT Apikursim, and are all Shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos?

If it is true that Rabbis Scherman and Weinreb were pressured to cancel their appearances at an Orthodox event because of Hashkafic differences (even serious ones) it is a very sad day in Jewish history indeed. Because they are in effect being Merachek Kerovim  - pushing away religious Jews with these types of tactics! 

There are so many Jews who are thirsty for knowledge about their own Judaism.  Many Orthodox Jews - especially those who are newly observant - are observant only because they have found a home in left.  Are we to abandon them now? Are they not worthy of hearing the Charedi perspective?

What are we to deduce from all this? ...that LWMO is just another form of heterodoxy - like Conservative and Reform Judaism?! Can we no longer trust their Kashrus? …or drink from their wine? …or intermarry with them without a Yichus check? …or accept their children into our schools? …or even  allow our children to play with theirs?

It is clear to me that this is a one way street. The  left accepts the right but right rejects the left. I can guarantee that unlike the Modern Orthodox support of the Agudah Siyum - there is no support at all of the Modern Orthodox Siyum by Agudah.

What a terrible feeling I have in the pit of my stomach.