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I have seen the vision of RSRH ignite the souls of master teachers, starting with my great mentor, Rav Nachman Bulman, zt”l. Inspired by them, I have always encouraged my students to ask questions, and tried to do my best to address them. I believe they are the stronger for it.
Major sections of Torah literature simply have no consistent, systematized approach outside the writings of RSRH. I have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful vertlach and longer insights on Chumash Vayikra, but no one besides RSRH takes all the details of the mishkan, all details of every korban, and combines them in a unified whole.
For people like myself who are frequently challenged by others, sometimes smirky and sometimes sincere, to make sense out of individual sections of the Torah, no one comes close to RSRH. Whether to believer or agnostic, RSRH’s approach to symbolism in particular almost never fails to elicit interest and spark thought and begrudging admiration in all but the most cynical critics.
Most important, many of us somehow sense within our souls that the world as a whole is a beautiful place. We believe that many people we meet outside our community live lives of value and integrity, and desperately attempt to connect with God. They have a role to play, and Hashem has a message for them. We believe that the trajectory of human civilization has been, on the whole , in a forward direction, rather than the reverse, despite many setbacks and disappointments.
We believe that there are truths to be discovered (the yesh chochmah bagoyim of the Gemara) by exposure to general culture. We reject the notion that beyond the perimeters of our community is a vast cesspool. There is much depravity, to be sure, but there is also much good. We are grateful to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for having given us a Torah that provides us with the tools to make the proper selection. We have discerned in our own lives that the Torah has much to offer the rest of humanity, not just with the advent of Mashiach, but even today.
We also fully believe that Torah can and must illuminate every (permissible) nook and cranny of the planet, that there is a way to be a Torah attorney, a Torah carpenter, a Torah journalist, a Torah politician. These are not bedieveds, but for the right people, lechatchilas, each according to his or her God-given talents. We find no one who writes as much and as convincingly about the mandate for Torah Jews to take Torah everywhere as does RSRH.
Lastly, we find ourselves in a Torah world that increasingly opts for limitation, which sees restriction and a narrowing of creativity, individuality and worldview as the best way to avoid problems. For many of us, this does not and cannot work. We are buoyed by the great vision of RSRH and reminded that Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, said that Torah Im Derech Eretz “means the Torah’s conquest of life and not the Torah’s flight from life. It means the Torah’s casting a light into the darkness rather than hiding from the darkness. It means applying Torah to the earth and not divorcing it from the earth.”
There are thousands upon thousands for whom all of these are apparent truths. Whether they recognize it or not, their lives and values are consistent with what RSRH had in mind for us.
Now as never before, I am proud to be a Hirschian.
About the Author: Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Sydney M Irmas adjunct chair, Jewish Law and Ethics, Loyola Law School.
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