So let me get this straight.
Jonathan Rosenblum is against Orthodox
rabbis attending Limmud in England, because the conference provides equal
standing to all denominations of Judaism and includes lectures on Jewish
culture, humor and even anti-Israel presenters.
Mr. Rosenblum: This is
not 19th-century Germany, in which religious Jews founded new streams of Judaism
as a way out of a religious lifestyle. It is 2013, and it is a shame that you
and others who share your perspective don’t realize that millions of Jews in
other streams are looking for a way in.
And, thank God, newly appointed
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and other Orthodox rabbis (myself included) will
appear at the Limmud Conference and any other place where people want to hear
words of Torah.
I had a remarkable experience on Shabbat two weeks ago.
An Orthodox rabbi in New York hosted me and some congregants of his, along with
two Reform rabbis, one of whom brought along his wife and children. We talked
about Israeli politics, sang zemirot and had in-depth discussions about the
Is there really “no theological common ground or meeting point”
among those of us who gained so much from this Shabbat meal experience, as
Rosenblum argues? Is the “chasm” really “unbridgeable and absolute,”
as he suggests? The remarkable Torah discussions in which we engaged prove
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
Yehuda Avner, in his book The Prime Ministers
, describes a
beautiful scene which took place on May 15, 1948: “There were about 25 of us,
armed with pickaxes, shovels and a dozen World War I Lee-Enfield rifles – an
untrained, inglorious bucket brigade of diggers and hackers fortifying a narrow
sector of Jerusalem’s western front… We’d heard that Iraqi irregulars were
infiltrating Ein Kerem to join up with a Jordanian brigade coming up from
Jericho. We were supposed to stop them… Grimy, exhausted diggers assembled in
the glow of a hurricane lamp hanging on the door of a stone ruin, hidden from
enemy view, to recite the Shabbat prayers…” “Someone then came and told them
that David Ben-Gurion had declared the new state that afternoon. “‘Let’s drink
to that,’ said Elisha, with delight breaking open the new bottle of wine and
filling a tin mug to the brim. ‘A l’chaim to our new state, whatever its name!’
“‘Wait!’ shouted a hassid whom everybody knew as Nussen… a most diligent
volunteer digger from Mea She’arim, the ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem. ‘It’s
Shabbat. Kiddush first.’ Our crowd gathered around him in a hush… he added the
triumphantly exulted festival blessing [sheheheyanu] to commemorate this first
day of independence – ‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who
has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time. Amen!’” Was the
“chasm” between these secular soldiers, religious-Zionist soldiers and
ultra-Orthodox soldiers “unbridgeable and absolute?” Was their ability to unify
solely based on the secular Jews being in a “frame of mind to change their
lives,” which Rosenblum implies is the only platform for unifying together?
Every Tuesday, there is a beit midrash in the Knesset. Secular and religious
Jews join together to study Torah. But not all religious Jews come.
MKs from the haredi parties have ever come and seem to have no interest in
attending – and this is a tragedy. It is tragedy born out of the holier-
than-thou philosophy espoused by Rosenblum but masked as some sort of important
and traditional ideology.
The Bible records that the Jews were camped
around Mount Sinai, with the Talmud expounding that they were “like one person
with one heart.” But then, as they traveled from Sinai, the Bible describes how
each tribe had its own flag and special place to camp. Why were we creating such
divisions after that massive show of unity? The answer is clear. Unity does not
mean that we agree about everything. We are going to be different, as
demonstrated by the different tribes and their individual flags. Unity means
treating each other with basic respect despite our differences, and putting
aside those differences in order to work together when we can. In the desert it
was reflected by the rituals in the Tabernacle, which sat in the middle of the
camp; in May 1948, it meant fighting together to save our country and people;
this past Shabbat, for me, it meant enjoying a Shabbat meal, and at the Limmud
Conference it will mean joining to study and discuss Torah.
There is a
natural bond which all Jews must feel towards one another despite our
differences. Morrie Schwartz, the professor dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease in
Tuesdays With Morrie, told the story of “The Wave”: The waves were all out in
the ocean bobbing up and down and having a great time. Suddenly, one of the
waves said, “Why are we having fun? This is crazy. All the waves are crashing
into the beach and disappearing. All is lost!” Another wave responded to him,
“You are looking at this all wrong. We aren’t individual waves. We are part of
the ocean…” All Jews are part of a unique ocean. We are on a national journey
together. Every generation plays its role with different challenges and
But we share the deepest of bonds, regardless of those
differences in geography, culture – and even beliefs. No “chasm” is
“unbridgeable” and the only thing that is “absolute” is our bond to one another,
which no holier-than-thou ideology can break.
A story regarding the
well-known Orthodox rabbi Aryeh Levin demonstrates the approach which Jews
should have towards one another.
Levin was walking in his hometown,
Jerusalem, when he noticed a familiar young soldier who was home on break from
his military service.
“Hello,” said Levin, who was already an older man.
“Please come to my home and share some tea with me. I would like to hear about
what you are doing.”
The young soldier seemed uncomfortable and replied,
“I don’t think it’s right for me to come visit you. I don’t even wear a kippa
Rabbi Levin, wearing his black hat and long black coat, took
the soldier’s hand into his own and with a smile on his face, he said: “Don’t
you see? I’m very short. I cannot look above your head to see whether you are
wearing a kippa or not.
However, I can see your heart and it is big and
kind, and that’s what counts.”
Levin then paused and added, “You are also
a soldier placing your life at risk for all of us in Israel.
tea with me – your ‘kippa’ is probably bigger than mine.”
A Jew is a Jew.
Our numbers are very small. We need each other’s support, respect and love.
Rejecting opportunities to join together – especially when the opportunity
involves sharing words of Torah – is destructive and potentially
The Babylonian Talmud relates that when God came to destroy
the Temple, the angels asked Him to put a mark on the heads of the righteous
people so they could be saved. God replied that these “righteous people” will be
the first to be punished because it was their responsibility to reach out to those
who were unlike them and inspire.
God did not see a “chasm.” God saw
nothing as “unbridgeable.” God did not assess whether they were “in a frame of
mind to change their lives.”
I will be at the Limmud Conference and
believe that God’s Presence will rest upon a gathering of Jews from all
backgrounds, who will join together to discuss, debate and connect.
Rosenblum: I hope to see you there. The writer is a Member of Knesset in the
Yesh Atid party.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>