An Act of Courage — A Ray of Hope?

In a blog post on Times of Israel (November 6, 2015) entitled, “Standing at the Brink,” I discussed issues that are pulling the Modern Orthodox community apart and that threaten to create a permanent breach between two factions.  I lamented:

Can Modern Orthodoxy pull back from the divide? Can sober leaders across the community’s spectrum find a way to talk to each other about our mutual goals without rancor? Can we set aside our own egos? Can we fashion a Judaism that is relevant and traditional at the same time? Can we rediscover ways to move forward, yet remain loyal to the call of the ages? Can we avert the tragedy of our own division before it’s too late?  I pray to God that we can.

A recent statement posted by Rabbi Chai Posner also on a Times of Israel blog, “Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical graduates speak out” (July 27, 2016), offers, in my estimation, a ray of hope.  This statement, signed by Rabbi Posner and 10 of his colleagues, was nothing less than an act of courage. While speaking with deep passion of their loyalty to the Yeshiva that trained and nurtured them, these 11 Chovevei Torah graduates indicated a desire to distance themselves from halachic and philosophical positions that have become associated with leading personalities in that institution and its surrounding community. Singling out two such issues, divine revelation and partnership minyanim, they articulately and sensitively explained their own views, very much in line with mainstream, centrist Orthodoxy. In doing so, they appropriately challenged us all—right, left, and center—to remember that religious personalities in the modern Orthodox world are nuanced and that our various communities are not monolithic. They demonstrated that it might just be possible to avert a crisis, and step back from the brink of the schism that I lamented upon those months ago.  What is required is that we actively seek each other out to discuss our values and principles vigorously but respectfully.  What is required is that we seek common ground, recognizing that we all share the overarching need to keep our community together as move forward.

I don’t expect us to agree on all matters.  I do expect us, especially in the shadow of Tisha B’av, to find ways to strengthen and unite our community within the context of the laws that have united us for centuries.

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin has served as Rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood NJ for over 30 years. He is the immediate past president of the Rabbinical Council of America and the author of a 5 volume set on the Torah, “Unlocking the Torah Text”. He has led numerous missions to Israel, particularly during difficult times such as the two Intifadas, the Iraqi Gulf War, Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Fire and most recently, Operation Protective Edge.