The Siyum Ha’Shas-Solidarity March Venn Diagram – The Times of Israel

Posted By on January 8, 2020

About 30 years ago, when I was deciding which Yeshivain Israelto attend, the joke that went around was: Whats the difference between Gush,Shaalvimand KBY? When there is a solidarity rallyin support of Jews or the state of Israel, theShaalvimguys will go and cheer during the rally, the KBY guys wont go because itsbittulTorah, and the Gush guys will debate endlessly whether or not they should go and they will end up going and having a lousy time.

This past week, I found myself thinking about the challenge of the committed, passionate Jew who engages with the outside world. I wonder if we could draw avenndiagram. In one circle we would include those who attended theSiyum HaShascelebration atMetLife Stadium, at Barclays Center or at some other location. In the other circle we would include those who marched in the No Hate No Fear Solidarity MarchAgainst Antisemitism. I wonder how many people would find themselves inside both circles.

There are many people who participated in aSiyumHaShascelebration and would not participate in a mixed gender march and/or a march that was organized by non-religious Jews who may not share the same religious worldview as them. At the same time, there are many people who participated in the solidarity march against antisemitism that have no connection to the study of Talmud and would not have felt at home participating in theSiyumHaShascelebration organized by Agudath Israel.Our modern orthodox community is uniquely ideologically positioned to both celebrate Torah and to march in solidarity with all of our Jewish brethren in support of a value that we all share.

The complex, fullness of our ideology also presents us with tremendous challenge. How many in our community participated in theSiyumHaShascompared to those in the Charedi community? Truth be told, I can understand why many women in our community who value learningGemarathemselves may not have wished to attend theAgudathIsraelSiyumHaShas,because the message at theSiyumwas that the men should learnGemaraand the women should not learnGemarabut should support their husbandsstudies. At the same time, I wonder how many from our community would have showed up ifour community would haverun our ownSiyumHaShaswith our own speakers and our own messages which, in some instances, are different than the messages that we heard at theAgudathIsraelSiyumHaShas? Are weaspassionate aboutconsistentTorah study as much as those in the Charedi community?

In one ofRavLichtensteins essays, entitled, Centrist Orthodoxy: A Spiritual Accounting, he asserts that vibrant centrism should issue from the dialectical tension between diverse and, at times, even divergentvalues.It can succeed when we can honestly state, by analogy with Byrons statement (in Childe Harolds Pilgrimage), I love not man the less, but nature more, that, in comparison to others, we love not Torah less, butderekheretz in the full, rich sense of that term more. How much of our Centrism indeed derives from dialectical tension, and how much from tepid indifference? Is our commitment toTalmud Torahtruly as deep as that of the Right, but only modified in practice by the need to pursue other values? Do our students devote as much time and effort toTalmud Torah, minus only that needed to acquire culture or build a [Jewish] state?

RavLichtenstein challenges us not to be moderately passionate. He challenges us to be passionately moderate. He writes, Kanaut(zealotry), is, among us, a dirty word. But I believe we should learn to distinguish between two senses ofkanaut. I mentioned R.AharonKotlerztlbefore. In terms of the objective positions he maintained, he was far more liberal than his contemporary disciples. But he maintained his positions with a dynamism, a fire, an energy, a passion which is almost incredible There was within him akanautnot for extreme positions, but forhispositions.

RavLichtenstein writes of the advantages of the centrist orthodox approach. He writes of a story when he was in a Charedi Jerusalem neighborhood, and found a merchant stuck there with his car There were some youngsters there from the neighborhood, who judging by their looks were probably ten or eleven years old. They saw this merchant was not wearing akippa. Sothey began a wholepilpul, based on thegemarainPesachim(113b)about whether they should help him or not. They said, If he walks around bareheaded, presumably he doesnt separateterumotu-maasrot, so he is suspect of eating and sellinguntithedproduceI told [R.Soloveitchik] of the incident. I ended with the comment, Children of that age from our camp would not have known thegemara, but they would have helped him. My feeling then was: Why,RibbonoshelOlam, must this be our choice? Cant we find children who would have helped him and still know thegemara? Do we have to choose? I hope not; I believe not. Ifforced to choose, however, I would have no doubts where my loyalties lie: I preferthat they know lessgemara, but help him.

RavLichtensteinchallenges us to livea life of complexity, but to do sowith passion for our holy texts and our holymesorah. He would challenge us to find ourselves inside both circles of theSiyumHaShas-solidarity march venndiagram. He would challenge us to attend the solidarity march and connect with our brothers and sisters who are in pain under the threat of increasing antisemitismwhile making sure that we are learning Torah on the train or bus ride both to and from the rally.

Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.

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The Siyum Ha'Shas-Solidarity March Venn Diagram - The Times of Israel

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