Monday, October 23, 2006

How to Review a Book

Thoughts of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt'l, and words from the Chovos HaLevavos on focusing on the positive in people. See link.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Siyim Hashas Unity

I had an interesting discussion about the Siyum Hashas and Jewish unity today with another blogger(his comments are italicized) elsewhere on the internet. As I have posted on Cross-Currents (comment #9), achdus(unity) is an important goal. Nevertheless, satisfying everyone in today's Jewish communal life is virtually impossible! But we should at least try. Please e-mail me(see my profile) if you have any comments.

...Of course, those who organized the most recent Siyum HaShas for the DY realized that it would be prudent to have RHS, RMW and R D Lamm on the dais to avoid the Chilul HaShem that almost occurred at the 1997 Siyum. However, the possibility of RHS speaking at the Siyum in its present format remains a Hilcasa LeMeshichah.

Perhaps, the answer to that question is a separate Siyum organized by the OU and RIETS.That would certainly prove that Talmud Torah is not the exclusive province of the Charedi world and that RIETS certainly has world class Gdolim, Poskim and Talmidie Chachamim.

"Perhaps, the answer to that question is a separate Siyum organized by the OU and RIETS"

I think that this would be a mistake. This would eliminate an important, if infrequent, opportunity for Achdus and unity(although there are other examples such as Hatzalah and chessed organizations).

In American society in general, there is an increased detachment from the social and political community. Sociologist Chaim Waxman has written that this might be partially manifested in the trend towards what he terms as "shtibelization", the phenomenon of having many small synagogues. This exists for better or for worse, but it does affect the communal structure, and I don't think we should increase it.

There can be plenty of other opportunities for RIETS/OU to make siyumim on their own. There can be, for example, an annual siyum of the entire Torah, like I think Baltimore makes each year, and there can be much publicity.Indeed, one of R. Meir's Shapiro's goals in Daf Yomi was to unite Jews, and the Siyum does this to an extent, for even those who didn't "do the Daf". IIRC, there were separate statements in the Jewish Press from both the OU and RIETS congratulating Agudah, which sponsored the Siyuym. That in itself is a positive thing which should be noted.

I agree that the ideal Achdus would be to have a RIETS RY speak. However, the issue of satisfying everyone at the siyum is a thorny one. It should be noted that Agudah is also trying to bring in groups on its Right, like Chassidim and the very yeshivish, although realistically, it is an impossibility to bring under one roof every group before the Messianic era, as Steve notes.

One of Agudah's executive leaders noted at the Siyum, that Chassidim, Litvishe and those who daven in "OU-affiliated schuls" were brought together by Torah learning(this specific statement was also noted and echoed in the above-mentioned OU statement). And while there was no official mention of "Tzahal", there was Tehilim said for "the brave soldiers who protect the Am Hayoshev B'tzion" . So an attempt was made to satisfy everyone.

As I commented on the recent Cross Current post by Shira Schmidt("Was Ezra haredi"), it is unrealistic to have genuine unity before Moshiach. It is more useful to use the model of an umbrella group, like the Thirteen Colonies(a loose confederation of states coming together for mutual benefit) for unity in Orthodoxy in general, as well as in its subgroups.

Baruch-In an ideal world, these issues wouldn't exist. However, IMO, one can claim that the current format of the Siyum is really a celebration organized by and for Charedi Jewry's main organization with Gdolim who are not Agudah oriented being grudgingly invited and placed on the dais without being afforded an opportunity to share Divrei Torah from those Gdolim who are not affiliated with Agudah

Let's be real here-if the Schottensteins (who bankrolled the ArtScroll Shas) and R Pam ZTL hadn't prevailed, R D Lamm would not have been invited to sit on the dais. The Schottensteins' pressure led to the inviting of RHS and other RIETS RY to sit on the dais.

I was not aware of the specific information you mention, but am not naive, and I know that there are behind the scenes issues, factions and pressures which are endemic to communal and organizational life.

So if MO want to apply pressure to get the proper honor due, I can understand that. I also understand that there will be complaints about the current arrangement for speakers as well. But I still think that it would be a mistake to organize a separate Siyum for that reason, and I indeed credit their leadership for attending the event even if they are not represented in the speakers part of the program. We see what happened when other factions appointed a second Chief Rabbi in NY at the end of 19th century: that spelled the permanent end of the concept of a NYC Chief Rabbinate; so having separate siyumim might weaken the concept of Siyum Hashas and Jewish unity in general.

It is an unfortunate reality, but I don't think that it would be possible to have a RIET speaker at least at the main event. Perhaps as an alternate idea, a RIET Rosh Yeshiva can speak at a smaller venue, and a clip can be broadcast on the video in the main areana, as was done with Siyumim in Mexico etc. I understand that it is not ideal, but I am trying to be creative. Like I said, the OU and RIETS leadership deserve credit for attending the event, even if its not in the ideal form.

Baruch-Having a RIETS RY speak elsewhere and having it broadcast would IMO go a long way towards a show of real, as opposed to one-way Achdus. After all, R N I Oelbaum, D Dunner and R A Z Weiss, among others, spoke elsewhere such as Toronto, Meadowlands Arean and LA and were connected via video to MSG.