02 April 2006

My Take on the Cardinals and Bishops Visit

As the blogosphere has generated a number of posts about the World Jewish Congress' delegation of about 30 or so cardinals and bishops involving their stop off at YCT, I figured I would hop in, as well (there are three primary sources: the posting at the YCTChevre blog, Steven I. Weiss' posting at the Canonist, and the Forward article and so far, I have found a few other blog references: On The Main Line, who calls it a kiddush haShem, Harry Mayles at Emes ve-Emunah, who thought it stepped over theological boundaries, some Hoffman guy at On The Contrary (this last one is a bit strange, though), as well as "Ricky Ricardo"). My experience of the event wasn't something of a theological or philosophical debate or something of a huge scale, but rather it was significant to me for another reason: I got to brush up on my French. Yeah, I studied French in high school and a semester in college, but have since been doing a lot of forgetting of it (very unintentionally), so this was an excellent opportunity for me to work on it. While I definitely didn't do so well French-speaking-wise, fortunately, there was a YCT guy who had grown up in Montreal who was around to help me. It was also good to learn a few things about these guys, plus, as they don't often interface with Jews, it was good to have a positive meeting with them.
As I've noticed throughout the JBlogosphere, there seems to be a bit of a lack of information about the event. As such, I figured, while I was at Ben's wedding today, that I would ask Rabbi Weiss (who was the מס
דר קידושין - organizer of the wedding rituals) about the event. When I asked him regarding the Rav's famous article, he had said that it was a statement on public policy and not on halakhah. As such, public policy issues are to be measured at that time, weighing the various social and other considerations. As far as meeting with them, it certainly wasn't a theological debate, where each side would be trying to convince the other of the correctness of their beliefs. Actually, it was hardly even a theological discussion, but more of a schmoozing, than anything else. So, that takes care of the Rav's article, etc. Rabbi Weiss also shared with me that the Rav was leery of the Second Vatican Council and how sincere they were. He said that things actually got to a shaky point in the eighties, part of which was his fault (he said he had protested the convent at Auschwitz, and he also protested in the Vatican and subsequently got arrested), but since then, things have gotten better. As to the learning Talmud with them (we learned Berakhos 26b, which I have mentioned earlier on my blog), he said that there are some people out there with that שיטה (viewpoint) that one is not allowed to teach gentiles the oral Torah, but that's not how he sees it.

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27 comments:

Ben Bayit said...

Ben Bayit,
Actually, one of our rebbeim is a Satmar rabbi, though he may be a bit different from the rest of the crowd. Sure, YCT does invite rebbeim who are more "to the right" to come and speak, but they often decline the invitation. But, to set the point straight, yes - Lakewooders and Satmars are welcome in our beis midrash.
Drew Kaplan | Homepage | 04.03.06 - 12:25 am | #

Rabbi Katz doesn't count.

Even if they decline the invitation have YOU taken an initiative to go there and learn together with them? You can certainly try and be as catholic as..........your guests.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>As to the learning Talmud with them (we learned Berakhos 26b, which I have mentioned earlier on my blog), he said that there are some people out there with that שיטה (viewpoint) that one is not allowed to teach gentiles the oral Torah, but that's not how he sees it.

Can you clarify this? I honestly assumed there was some sort of halakhic justification of a real halakhic issue beyond "some have a שיטה, but that's not how I see it."

EineiHaEdah said...

You wrote,
"When I asked him regarding the Rav's famous article, he had said that it was a statement on public policy and not on halakhah. As such, public policy issues are to be measured at that time, weighing the various social and other considerations. As far as meeting with them, it certainly wasn't a theological debate, where each side would be trying to convince the other of the correctness of their beliefs. Actually, it was hardly even a theological discussion, but more of a schmoozing, than anything else. So, that takes care of the Rav's article, etc."
Public policy is ALSO the province of the Sages, so where is the SAGE who tells us that the Rav's stance is no longer relevant. What an unacceptable thing to do, to relegate the Sages merely to the realm of technical halachic infractions and not feel bound to them in terms of guidance on Jewish values and proper deportment. Of course, if your Dean felt bound to the Sages, he'd have to close down his women's Tefillah group. and what a violence to the Rav's stance, to say that he wouldn't have minded priests and Jews learning Gemara!

See eineihaedah.blogspot.com for sources for all of the above.

EineiHaEdah said...

And what would the Rav have said about embracing the unrepentant meshumad Lustiger?

Anonymous said...

CBS-you still haven't explained your halacha of being shomer negiah with a meshummad.

EineiHaEdah said...

There is a concept called Chizzuk Ovrei Aveirah.
To hold hands warmly with an unrepentant Meshumad who comes representing his gentile beliefs is a major Chizzuk.

I WOULD NOT HAVE ANY ISSUE WITH WARMLY WELCOMING A GENTILE CARDINAL. But not in a beis medrash and I certainly wouldn't learn Gemara with him (unless he wanted to become a Shomer 7 Mitzvos).
You all realize of course that the problem with Chovevei'ism is that it's all Chessed and Shalom without any real regard for "inconvenient halachos" that "get in the way." Hardly a Torah approach.

Anonymous said...

CBS,
Please direct us to a source for such a concept. A quick search of the ENTIRE Bar-Ilan database for that phrase yields a total of 0 results. I know that the database can be misleading if you don't have the right search terms, so some source would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

See the Ritva to A"Z 6a. There are hundreds of places where "chizuk yidai ovrei aveira" is mentioned. It's a very well-known concept.

Anonymous said...

"some out there have a shita"???

This is how casually Weiss dismisses rov rishonim and achronim?

Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

This is how casually Weiss dismisses rov rishonim and achronim?

You're giving him too much credit. It's actually a gemara.

Anonymous said...

Aha, now we have a real discussion instead of name calling. Well first of all, it's on 6b from the Ritva, not 6a. And this would be a fascinating study in literalism, as well as the development of halacha (something we do a great deal of at YCT). The quote in the Ritva is "me-sa-ye-ah yedei ovrei averiah"-"assisting the hands of sinners". At some point the word chizuk, which could mean holding, or could also mean assisting, replaced me-sa-ye-ah. The subject under discussion in the Ritva is whether one can assist a sinner in performing a sin, and whether it violates the prohibition of lifnei iver.

The phrase occurs in many places with "machzikin" instead of "mesayeah" (including mishnah gittin 5:9 and mishnah shevi'is 5:9) but as far as I can tell they are always referring to the same thing-assisting a person to sin, or doing something that would indicate that the behavior is acceptable. I cannot find a single posek who rules that you actually can't hold someone's hand who is a sinner (and by the way, if that were the case it would apply to all kinds of sinners, not just meshummadim). If someone can explain to me why holding hands with Cardinal Lustiger (not to mention the others who were not born Jewish) is a chizzuk to his sins in any way, I'll agree there's an issur. The man is a cardinal, do you think that when a Jew shakes his hand he suddenly thinks to himself, "Wow, before, I knew the Jews thought I was a sinner, but now that Rabbi Weiss shook my hand, it must be that he thinks that all of my beliefs are completely A-OK according to Judaism.!!" And to top it off, they weren't coming to "represent their gentile beliefs", but to show how friendly they could be with Jews-it's probably better PR for them than for YCT. If they had come representing their beliefs, they would have been studying the gospels instead of gemara!!

This leaves aside the question about teaching Torah to non-Jews which is a real question but which I believe is not applicable. In the meantime, I'd love to see someone post a list of those "rov rishonim and achronim"-as I recall, the literature on the subject is pretty scarce. Perhaps I'll post on that later.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bar Ilan CD:

For your further research, check out the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Hagiga 13a, and the Tosafos there (one of the medieval commentators located on the side of that folio of the Talmud).

Side question:

Do you learn on the Jewish Sabbath? Last I checked, it was forbidden to use computers on the holy Day of Rest, but maybe Avi Weiss doesn't care about that either. It seems clear that without a computer, you couldn't find the "bet" in Bereishit.

yctgrad said...

That was me up there. I'll continue to discuss this with people who want to learn about it, but not with condescening, arrogant people who attack others. How dare you accuse me of violating shabbat. I'm the rabbi of an Orthodox synagouge, thanks very much. Since you and others have attacked my yeshiva and my rebbeim, I am inclined to defend them, but since I actually have other things to do like prepare for Pesach, counsel congregants, I thought quoting sources instead of spouting random statements might be more productive. I use Bar-Ilan because it makes it easier than running back and forth from my office to my home to look at all my seforim. Generally on Shabbat I don't have to learn with people who are antagonistic, but instead are more interested in actually learning.

Also, I'm familiar with the Tosfos (as well as who they are), thanks very much. Tosfos is far from the only opinion on the subject. I'll post more on that later.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough.

But I think that cbs's comment of machzikin was not to be taken literally. That is, it is literally assur to hold an ovrei aveira's hand. I think he was allowing for some halachik creativity; suggesting that the very "hand holding" (in this case, the invitation into YCT and subsequent comraderie) is in and of itself an act of "chazaka".

As far as teaching Torah to gentiles is concerned, there are poskim who permit it - or at least don't forbit it. The preponderance of poskim, though, do consider it an issur (in general. About the specifics of this case, I guess I'll have to wait for you.)

Anonymous said...

FYI: See the recent posting on this topic at Cross Currents

EineiHaEdah said...

My comment about Chizzuk Ovrei Aveirah was meant literally. The unrepentant Meshumad comes as a representative of his Gentile beliefs, and we welcome him with song and hand-holding. He'd have to be insane not to think that he's not that bad in our eyes.
There's a big difference between holding hands with a sinner per se and the milieu that we've been discusssing.

Drew_Kaplan said...

He'd have to be insane not to think that he's not that bad in our eyes.
CBS, do you think that he cares what we think about him as far as having been born a Jew? I highly doubt that he cares. He probably cares more about how we treat him as a high-ranking member of the Catholic faith. He probably gives little or no weight to how we consider him in terms of Jewish identity as it is a moot issue for him. If anything, to him, it is disrespectful to him as we should say that he should really be Jewish(!). Don't think that Christians are perfectly happy with us being Jews - they would probably rather have us be Christians. (Okay, I will admit that this gets a little confusing since Catholicism has toggled their stance towards Jews in the last helf-century....)

Drew_Kaplan said...

Cross-Currents has just picked up the visit, as well as DovBear and [Not the] Godol haDor therefrom. However, I have yet to read the comments on the latter two.

EineiHaEdah said...

Sorry, Reb Drew, I really do believe that a person born a Jew should really be Jewish.

Drew_Kaplan said...

CBS,
Why do you have to be sorry? I also agree with you that someone born a Jew should be a Jew. I don't see how my previous comments say otherwise. I was merely responding to how he might feel, not how we think he should be.

EineiHaEdah said...

Oops! You're right! I misunderstood you!

Anonymous said...

Chizzuk Ovrei Aveirah:
see for example
Rambam, Hilchos Rotzei'ach U'Shemiras HaNefesh 12:14

EineiHaEdah said...

To the Blogger and all Readers,
I truly ask Mechila if in the course of responding I have wronged anyone verbally. I may have failed in focusing on issues without focusing personalities.
CBS/YS

Anonymous said...

CBS,
It's amazing that someone can be such a proponent of listening to gedolim and not be keenly aware of what the Chafetz Chayim has to say about speaking ill of others. Asking mechila isn't good enough. Can you imagine the harm you do to people's reputations and possibly emotions when you make posts like the following:
" An atheist speaker at the yeshiva. Charming.
Follow the money, Avi."
(Taken from your comments on the yctchevre blog)
Remember the story of the man who wanted to do teshuvah for speaking lashon hara, and the rabbi told him to scatter the feathers of a pillow, then collect all of them. Hamavin yavin.

By the way, nice to censor comments on your blog. I submitted a comment to the post you made with the quote from the Rav about disagreeing with a person's opinion but not denigrating the person, and you didn't even have the courage to let it be posted.

RM said...

Hello,

I am interested in learning what these danse and song between jews and catholics were.
Is it related to the jewish faith ?
and what is it called ?

Thanks
RM

Drew_Kaplan said...

RM,
I do not recall which song(s) we sang (it has been over a year), though, as far as how we danced, it was merely holding hands and we might have walked a little in a circle.

RM said...

Thanks for your answer.
But does this kind of dance and song have a religious meaning in your religion ?
Because we don't have such a thing in the catholic religion. And I can't imagine that people from two different religions just join like this to dance and song without any special purpose...
Your, RM