Monday, March 19, 2007

RAL – facebook and Ha’aretz

Gush alumni are big fans of RAL. Some are so devoted to him that they ironically become Hassidim of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein. If you thought rebbe worship was something only for the ultra-Orthodox, you would be mistaken.

There are facebook groups such as I♥Rav Aharon

People at Gush were even thinking of printing shirts with “I♥Rav Aharon”, of course not to be worn in the biet midrash or anywhere where Rav Aharon would see you

One of this years ideas for the overseas program sweastshirt with Mt. Gushmore, moddled of course on Mt. Rushamore with the likenesses of the four Rashei Yeshiva (Rav Ahraon, Rav Amital, Rav Gigi, Rav Medan) cast into the cliff face.

There is this fan website. He admits:

This is either the closest thing I have to God or the closest thing I have to Avoda Zara. Or both.

If you want a more reasoned approach to Rav Aharhon I suggest you read his books, or at the very least this Ha’aretz article

Concerning Yonatan Bassi, Lichtenstein argues that, as head of the Sela disengagement administration, he displayed conduct reflecting profound morality, as well as Zionism and a sense of mission. "His actions betrayed neither his nation nor the religious camp," he states categorically. "He wanted to serve Israel's best interests. He wanted to open the eyes of a public that was uninterested in understanding the situation. I think such conduct deserves respect. I am very angry that there are still people in my world who not only state that he failed but joyously celebrate that failure."

This does not mean that Lichtenstein completely condemns the criticism directed at Bassi. He believes that, when people say harsh things, they are showing they really care. "We live in an era when the future of the Jewish community here and Israel's future hang in the balance, and some people are more sensitive to this than others," he notes. "The British poet and writer T.E. Hulme related how, during a discussion in France of who was the better dramatist, Shakespeare or Racine, people threw chairs at one another. That shows they deeply cared about the issue."

Somehow I don’t think that Rav Aharon would find it acceptable to throw chairs in the beit midrash. Also he is not exactly condoning people’s actions, he is just saying that it is good that people are passionate.

Nonetheless, he observes: "When people become more religiously observant, they are convinced they have a monopoly on the truth. Although they might care more passionately about certain issues, they are not particularly imbued with a sense of humility or self-criticism that is rooted in a full-fledged spiritual world. They are unprepared to hear what others have to say because they believe it might weaken their religious faith."

It is easy to imagine that this criticism is leveled against the Hardali - the Hebrew acronym for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) nationalist - community. Although, in his view, the Hardali community displays some degree of intolerance, he sees a definite advantage in the strengthening of religious behavior it has fostered: "The Religious Kibbutz Movement is considered tolerant but is also perceived as prone to making compromises. Religiously speaking, it is less impassioned. The Hardali community is devoted to the Torah and strictly obeys the commandments."

Its interesting that he says that, considering how I have heard many times that despite the machon at gush he doesn’t exactly have a great love of academic Jewish studies. I for one would much rather be an impassioned meticulous member of the Religious Kibbutz Movement than an open-minded Hardali

Lichtenstein says that it's not his political positions that have changed; rather, the national-religious camp has moved further to the right. "Today," he admits, "I am in a political wilderness. I once belonged to the National Religious Party, but today the party is unprepared to hear my views."

People tried to obfuscate and doubt the move to right religiously, but I doubt people have the hutzpa to try the same tactics to convince us that Religious Zionism hasn't taken a drastic right wing turn politically. They also have taken on right wing politics as a religious credo, almost on the level of Rambam's 13.

Nevertheless, he emphasizes that he has never been a member of Meimad, although he supports it from behind the scenes: "I do not see myself going down that route. I advocate territorial compromise, but also hold the view that Jews must never be indifferent to the various parts of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel."

His support of territorial compromise is based on the religious principle of piku'ah nefesh, Judaism's paramount directive to save human life. Soloveitchik also spoke of the need for territorial concessions. "When we talk about territorial compromise, we are talking about a calculated risk," explains Lichtenstein. "And, as long as experts see such concessions as serving Israel's best interests, we must respond. If every lieutenant in the army chooses to ignore policies established by democratic forces, that is a problem."

Don’t worry folks he hasn’t turned left on you. He is still central, all of you just ran as far up those Judean hilltops as you could.

There is also the moral aspect. "When a society becomes overly militaristic spiritually, a price is always paid," he explains. "One price is narrow-mindedness. Unfortunately, that statement holds true for a fairly large segment of the religious-Zionist community."

I’ll let that stand


Then why is he in the minority? Why has modern Orthodox Judaism not caught on here in Israel?

"The very complexity of that outlook," he replies, "requires a certain level and ability to balance things and clarify issues. It is much simpler to follow a single flag."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

for a great perspective on this and other issues: