05 April 2006

Editorial in the Jewish Press

Although in a previous posting, I have done a run-through (which continues in the comments section there) of blogs and more which talk about the bishops and cardinals visit which took place last week at YCT (btw, since my most recent update of bloglinks, Gil (who, while restrainedly, though smartly, didn't weigh in as he didn't know much of the facts on the ground), LMOM and Steven I. Weiss have also responded to the CrossCurrents posting), as well as note my experience there and mentioned Rabbi Weiss' position on the matter, I will yet again post on the subject. Why? Because the Jewish Press just took a potshot at YCT over it in a recent editoral entitled, "Warm and Fuzzy 'Halacha'" (note that they put the last word in quotes). While the editorial ends off only cautionarily, that wasn't the direction in which they were headed.
A big issue about which has been debated on the blogs has been the Rav's famous article "Confrontation". Since I haven't read it in a few years (I read it sometime when I was either a sophomore or junior in college), I don't remember many of the specifics and therefore am preferring to stay out of the ring on this one. However, the editorial quotes a paragraph of this article
We certainly have not been authorized by our history, sanctified by the martyrdom of millions, to even hint to another faith community that we are mentally ready to revise historical attitudes, to trade favors pertaining to fundamental matters of faith, and to reconcile "some" differences. Such a suggestion would be nothing but a betrayal of our great tradition and heritage and would, furthermore, produce no practical benefits. Let us not forget that the community of the many will not be satisfied with half measures and compromises which are only indicative of a feeling of insecurity and inner emptiness. We cannot command the respect of our confronters by displaying a servile attitude.
While the editorial goes on to question Rabbi Weiss and the school's direction, it doesn't take a genius to explain even just this paragraph. First of all, let's touch on the background: the Rav had lived at the time (though living in Boston and not in Europe) of the Holocaust and even lost relatives through it, so he was definitely affected by that (he tries to deal with this in his famous "Kol Dodi Dofek", which I read as a college senior (for a paper on the Rav's views on evil)). So the Catholic Church's trying to deal with all of this during the Second Vatican Council and enunciated in their Nostra Aetate coming less than two decades after the Holocaust, surely generated within him some weariness on his behalf when he published his "Confrontation" in Tradition in 1964 (while the Second Vatican Council was still proceeding (it would end in the following year in 1965)). However, over forty years later, and especially with what we've seen, there is hope. Granted, I think it is unreasonable that the Vatican should just feel, "Well, hey, y'know we're cool with you now, and we know we've been really protective of our massive and precious storehouse, but we figured all's well in the name of ecumenicalism - y'know, it's all good, our Jewish brothers. Come on in." I doubt that it will go down like that. While I have not spent much time considering the Vatican's storehouse (or whatever it is), I'm sure that if (and, please God, when) the Catholic church opens up, it will be done in a slow and gradual manner.
While these things take time (and apparently the eighties weren't so great), and the Rav was correct that these things can't just be erased in the blink of an eye (paraphrase), would it be too much to go out on a limb to say we can't make little steps, eventually leading up to better relations? Heck, we may even get to see what's in the Vatican.
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Anonymous said...

Wonderful Chovevei approach: make any inconvenient Mekor into a teaching limited to its time.

spotter said...

Drew, your approach to confrontations seems to view it only through a prism of catholicism.

What about other segments of christianity or other religions?

And I don't mean in the fact that they treated us badly. Heck, there are religions which we generally had no major interaction with (Hinduisim, Shintoism...) which the message behind Confrontations is equal valid.

"First, we must state, in unequivocal terms, the following. We are a totally independent faith community. We do not revolve as a satellite in any orbit. Nor are we related to any other faith community as "brethren" even though "separated.""

think about this line. Do you believe it? Do you believe thats what the catholics feel? Do you think sitting down and learning in a chavrusa fashion the way we do learn w/ our brethern encourages or discourages the idea that the Rav states.

Drew Kaplan said...

I do believe it. While I do believe that that's what the Catholics may feel, I don't, however, think that that's what we feel. As to your last question, I'm not sure that that's a right question to ask. Were I to answer the question, I would say that it's not that encouraging to us, but perhaps it is for them. A better version of that question might be to ask is are we truly a non-orbiting satellite in the universe, not near any solar system or galaxy (to use his metaphor)? I'm trying to ponder this point, as just last night, I was reading some of the Rav's statements (found in the recent volume edited by Rabbi Helfgot) and he wrote to the RCA not to have rabbis discussing with other faiths concerning Judaism and others as we do not share a similar language. Furthermore, he said, not to discuss Judaism in a historical or sociological fashion with them as it is a private matter. I have been brewing over this a little bit and am not sure what to make of it. This, btw, is a separate question than the historical realia the Rav was describing in his quote in the Jewish Press.

For at least the passage cited, the Rav, himself, was making a statement regarding historical realia, how can you say that the response cannot also be tied to that same historical realia?

spotter said...

Drew, that's sort of my point. Public Policy is Halacha. So yes, the rav was stating Public Policy, but if Rabbi Weiss disagrees, he has to state his reasons for either

a) why the Rav's public policy doesn't apply anymore. I believe this would be difficult to do, at least from the context of the Rav, as you say yourself, it's mostly general, even if thats not what the JP focuses on.

b) Why the Rav's public policy was wrong (i.e. was never correct in its stated form, even if in practice the outcome was the correct outcome for a specific time). This is easier to do, but I have my doubts Rabbi Weiss would be willing to make that claim.