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Rabbi Julius Berman Reminisces On Rav Soloveitchik And 50 Years Of Community Service


Julius-Berman

Regarding wearing a yarmulke: I’ve never had any problems at all throughout all my years of communal work. In fact, just the opposite. I think they have more respect when you have it.

Even Minchah bizmanah. When I met President Mubarak in Cairo, I left the palace afterward and went to the American embassy to be debriefed. The first thing I did was daven Minchah because it was getting late. I’m not suggesting that I’m such a hero because I davened Minchah bizmanah. But I am suggesting that you can play a leadership role in the Jewish community – locally, nationally, and internationally – without violating any principle you stand for.

            Any other insights from your years of community service?

The Rambam writes that every Jew must learn during the day and at night, and he quotes a verse from Yehoshua [as his proof text]: “And you shall meditate on them day and night.” Rav Soloveitchik asked: Why a verse from Sefer Yehoshua? Why isn’t there a clear verse in the Torah? He answered: Yehoshua was about to lead the Jewish people in a seven-year battle for the country followed by seven years of chalukas ha’aretz. If there’s anybody in our history who should’ve been able to theoretically say, “I don’t have time to learn,” it is Yehoshua. Therefore, Hashem told him specifically, “And you shall meditate on them day and night.”

No matter how much you’re involved in saving the world, there’s no excuse whatsoever not to learn a little bit every day. As the Rav once said so beautifully, if you learn a little in the morning and a little at night, you won’t accomplish anywhere near what 24/7 learning would. But you start off the morning with, what he called, “a rendezvous with Hashem.” Your day is different, and if you conclude your day with a little learning, that just rounds it all out.

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