I am impressed by Rabbi Yehoshua Weber. I never met the man, but I did read a column by him in Mishpacha Magazine (Yes, I know I’ve referenced Mishpacha a lot lately – but each mention was worthy.)
That column was written as a sort of epiphany about the concept of uniting all of observant Jewry – realizing that what unites us all is far greater than what divides us. This is a theme I have written about many times. I call it Achdus.
Now before I get accused of not including non observant Jewry under the tent of Achdus, I want to clearly state that I do indeed include them. We are all Jews and are treated equally in the eyes of God. The God of mercy judges us all in the context of our circumstances. So that given a similar set of circumstances God may view the behavior of a non observant Jew or even a non Jew more favorably than the behavior of an observant Jew. But I do believe that observant Jews have observance of Halacha as a uniting factor that binds us as a group.
And yet there is an attitude superiority among some of our observant subgroups. It is an attitude of ‘We are more religious than you… and therefore we are better than you’. I see it all the time here on this blog – almost every day in fact – where both right wing and left wing Jews express not only sense of superiority but a sense of triumphalism. A triumphalism that would prefer just cutting off anyone that does not agree with them. They will even vilify observant Jews for not measuring up to the standards of their community. They would rather just draw a sharp dividing line between ‘us and them’ and just let the other side fall off the cliff they are chasing.
Where do they get this attitude? I can only surmise that this is the kind of Chinuch they get. They are indeed told from the earliest ages that their approach to the Torah is the best approach… and that the approach of others is at best B’Dieved and at worst completely illegitimate. Just to cite one tragic example of this, the Hirschean philosophy of Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE) that Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch felt was the ideal way to observe Judaism is seen by the right as B’Dieved at best and a philosophy that should not be followed.
No one has a monopoly on the truth. All we can do is try and seek it. The best way to find that truth is to listen to what others have to say… and not close our minds to it. This is why for example I respect both Rav Kook’s views about the legitimacy of Zionism and the Satmar Rebbe’s views about the illegitimacy of it. Both have legitimate sources in the Torah upon which to base their views. And both views should be respected. It’s called Elu V’Elu.
(My issues with the Satmar Rebbe are not based on his views on that subject, but on the way he expresses them and on the vilification of Rav Kook – which is the inspiration for the disgusting anti Israel rhetoric on the part of his philosophical heirs, and the extremism one finds in the streets of Jerusalem – and elsewhere – in opposition to the government. But I digress.)
Getting back to Rabbi Weber… I think he did in fact see the light at a reception he hosted at his home in Toronto for Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. It included rabbis from all segments of Orthodoxy. Rabbi Weber marveled at Rabbi Lau’s ability to speak with one voice which resonated with all the assembled. The rabbis there spanned the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy in that city, from Left Wing Modern Orthodox to Charedi.