Thursday, October 04, 2012

Open Minded Siyum

Mazel Tov to all those who are learning daf hayomi and made a siyum today on Masechet Berachot. I don't think Hallmark have yet made a card for this milestone event, but mazel tov to all of us, and may we continue to learn, to teach, to observe and to keep the mitzvot.

(I still agree with my brother's post that daf hayomi is not necessarily the best use of a person's learning time, but the strength of the community and being part of a worldwide learning program does give daf hayomi a unique power).

We made the siyum in the Sukkah this morning, and the mesayem quoted a piece from Rav Kook (found in Olat Harayah on the relevant section of the Siddur (p.330):

“Rabbi Elazar said: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children will be learned of God, and there will be great peace for your children.” Some people make the mistake of thinking that world peace will only be possible through a single unity of thought and understanding. Therefore, when they see Torah scholars investigating the wisdom and knowledge of Torah, and through their investigations come up with different views and opinions, they think that this causes arguments and is the opposite of peace. The truth is the opposite. For the real peace cannot come to the world except through the value of increasing ‘peace’. Increasing peace means to see all the sides and all the views, and to see that there is room for all of them, each according to its own values, place and ideals. Conversely, those things that appear irrelevant or contradictory can only be understood when the true wisdom is revealed in all its facets. Only by gathering all the parts and the details, all the opinions which appear different, and all the different areas of knowledge, only through that can the light of truth and justice be perceived, along with the knowledge of the fear and love of God, and the light of true Torah. Therefore Torah scholars increase peace, because when they broaden, explain and give birth to new words of wisdom, in many different ways, which leads to many differing ideas, in this way they increase peace.

It struck me as a very different approach from the one I have often heard about Da'as Torah. In fact, just yesterday I was reading Baruch Pelta's article (linked to on Rationalist Judaism) which discusses how Rav Soloveitchik and his views were sidelined by the American 'Gedolim' because his views did not conform to their Da'as Torah. He brings one example, a book review by Rabbi Joseph Elias, the Observer's book reviewer since its founding. He reviewed a volume of sermons by Modern Orthodox Rabbi Shubert Spero and quotes one such speech on Sukkos as teaching the lesson that:
...we have a responsibility toward the Jewish people as a work out a realistic policy of 'integration' which, while saving us from the pitfalls of separatism, will enable us to uphold...Torah truth"...For the reader interested to know what such a policy should be, Rabbi Spero provides a footnote at this point, referring him to an article of his in Tradition in which he takes issue with the Psak Din on Synagogue Council of America membership issued a dozen years ago by the Brisker Rav, Reb Aaron Kotler, and the other Gedolei Hador! In other words, the "realistic policy of [sic] integration" which the author considers the lesson of Sukkos, does not agree with what the Gedolim have taught on the subject.

I have no idea what the 'real' (or authentic) message of Sukkot is, but may we all merit to learn much Torah, and to develop our Torah ideas, and merit to understand and respect the views of others, so that we can all increase peace in the world, and sit together in the rebuilt Sukkah of David HaMelech. (I won't mention the meal of Leviathan there - I'm vegetarian. Though look what Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch says about it in his piece on Sukkot. Apparently he does not believe we will actually be eating whale when Mashiach comes. That's fine with me. And probably the Greenpeace people as well).

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