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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Weinberg’

Not in Accordance with the Torah?

Monday, October 15th, 2012

One of the most informative books I have ever read on the subject of early 20th century American Jewry was Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet’s biography of Bernard Revel, the 1st President of Yeshiva University.

The picture painted of American Jewry in the Revel bio matches that of Rabbi Rakeffet’s own autobiographical account of growing up in pre-war era New York. To put it simply – Orthodox Judaism as we know it today did not exist.

The fact is that Rabbi Rakeffet reported that some of the Rebbeim in his elementary religious day school were barely religious. Indeed, the general studies principal there, Harry Sherer (brother of Rabbi Moshe Sherer) ended up becoming a Reform Rabbi.

Virtually the same story was told by Rabbi Hirsch Diskind, son in law of one of my heroes, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky. In an article published in Hamodia he said that in the early days of his own right wing Yeshiva, Chaim Berlin, the Rebbeim were barely Shomer Shabbos.

Another point Rabbi Diskind made was the following:

[T]heir hashkafos were not always in accordance with the Torah… For example, I remember how once [when I was in] in sixth grade, my rebbi entered the room crying bitterly. He had just heard the news that Chaim Nachman Bialik (pictured above), the father of modern Israeli poetry, had passed away, and this affected him deeply.

Life was indeed different then. But I must take strong issue with the way Rabbi Diskind framed the issue here. In the most subtle of ways he has condemned secular poetry as not in accordance with the Torah.

I received an e-mail from Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg. Rabbi Weinberg has Semicha from Yeshiva University and spent many years learning Torah. He has multiple degrees from top universities and is currently the Principal of Judaic Studies in North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck New York.

His e-mail included a letter he wrote to Hamodia in response to that article. Bearing in mind Rabbi Weinberg’s prestigious educational background in both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol – here in part is what he wrote:

Let’s discuss now the Hashkafos which were not in accordance with the Torah.

Bialik was a Talmid of Volozhin and was always very fond of Jewish life and culture. Maybe the reason why the Rebbe was crying was because of the fact that he felt connected to another Jew who had a strong passion for his love for the Jewish people, maybe he was a relative of his, maybe he learned with him in Volozhin. Maybe he just liked Hebrew Poetry. Why does that mean that his Hashkafos were not in line with Torah? Did he stop being Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos? Did he do something Assur? Is it just that it is Assur to read Hebrew Poetry…

The hypocrisy is painful!!! Rav Hutner was a student of philosophy in the University of Berlin, who no doubt came across true Kefira in the things he read there, Rebbitzin Bruriah David, Rav Hutner’s daughter was allowed by her father to go to Columbia University where she got her PhD, and Rav Hunter who together with Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz wanted to start a fully accredited college and only because Rav Aharon Kotler said not to did he cancel those plans.

What kind of absurd double standard is it to to say that a Rebbe who cried because of Bialik’s death not knowing why he was crying is considered a person whose Hashkafos were not in line with Torah, whereas Rav Hutner who had a degree in Philosophy from the University of Berlin and read real Kefria is referred to as an individual who “understood each person intimately, better than he understood himself. His brilliance was overpowering, he was able to make everybody feel very close, and we all felt that he was interested in us and our growth.”

Rabbi Weinberg had other criticisms including being Dan L’Kaf Zechus to those ‘barely’ Shomer Shabbos Mechanchim instead of cavalierly dismissing them as barely religious. But the one reflected in the above excerpt is what resonated with me. I believe it is a profoundly important point.

Here is the problem. That a Rebbe in Rabbi Diskind’s era was strongly moved by the death of a Hebrew poet is characterized by him as reflecting a Hashkafa not in accordance with the Torah (emphasis mine) – is very troubling.

Language of The Heart: A Conversation With Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva University’s SBMP (Irving I Stone Beit Midrash Program) was born and raised in Philadelphia. Rabbi Weinberg currently lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife and three daughters.

KG: You have been educating students for a long time? How did you make the transition to educating the public?

RW: I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with opportunities to speak beyond my “official” teaching positions. When we lived in Teaneck, I had numerous opportunities to give Shabbos derashos and shiurim in our young couples shul. From there I began speaking in someone’s home in Bergenfield on Thursday night, and as the shiur grew, we moved it to Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck. The Thursday night parsha and chassidus shiur has been one of the highlights of my week for the last 2 years. The shiurim were well received and it has led to invitations from other communities, schools and camps to share the messages of our Torah.

What is it about your messages that you think resonates with younger audiences?

While it may seem somewhat obvious, I have always tried to speak to the heart of my audience. I once read a great quote from the Bendiner Rav (who was a son-in-law of the famed Gerrer Rebbe, the Sfas Emes). He said in the name of his grandfather, “Just as a person from England only understands English, so too the heart only understands the language of the heart.” I have tried (and continue to strive) to learn to speak and teach “the language of the heart” to all who are open to learning it. The shiurim I give are always filled with a wide-range of Torah sources ranging from the words of our sages to the writings of the great Chassidic masters and Mussar giants. If you offer a wide range of approaches and ideas, hopefully everyone finds something to leave them feeling inspired.

What message do you hope young audiences come away with?

There is no doubt that we live in spiritually trying times. The challenges facing today’s youth can be extremely overwhelming. I try to inspire people to believe in themselves and to strive for true greatness. We have come so far as a people and to see people lose confidence in their ability to make a difference is a real tragedy.

What do you think educators can learn from camp programs?

I love the camp atmosphere! I wish our schools would adopt some of the great benefits of informal Jewish education and try to incorporate them into the regular school year. In truth, I would love to see grades removed from all Judaic Studies classes and allow students to study the Torah for its sake. While I certainly understand the challenges of doing so, it troubles me that we have turned Torah study into just another class. Our students have to see Torah as the basis of their very lives and not some external system imposing itself upon them. Camp creates a great opportunity to grow spiritually as the religious experiences are usually presented without the pressures of a formal school environment. The past two summers I have headed a post-Israel learning program for young women returning from seminary. Their enthusiasm for Torah and religious growth is remarkable and they are a great pleasure to teach and spend time with.

What do you see as the main philosophy in chinuch?

As I see it, we have to face the harsh reality that the lure of secular society is tugging at the hearts and minds of today’s youth. We therefore have an absolute obligation to make Judaism as meaningful and attractive as possible. If we can’t inspire our children and students to believe that our relationship with our Creator is our greatest gift and privilege, then we risk losing the future of the Jewish people to the fast-paced hedonistic world around us. As a teacher, I have to know that at the end of the day, each student will choose the lifestyle that he or she wants to live. Sadly, forcing a student to be obedient to Torah will only last until he reaches an age where he can sever those ties. We must show the next generation the great beauty and depth of meaning and purpose that accompanies a religious lifestyle. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld of Yerushalayim was once asked to give a letter of recommendation for a new yeshiva opening in his neighborhood. He responded that he would only do so if the school felt confident that Mashiach could be a graduate of their program! We need our students to be proud Jews and feel that they have endless potential to impact the world around them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/language-of-the-heart-a-conversation-with-rabbi-moshe-tzvi-weinberg/2012/09/21/

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