The Cardinals, Chovevei Torah, and Crossing Lines

Everything about Chovevei Torah’s hosting of a group of cardinals to its beit midrash was appalling, wrong, and dangerous. Everything other than receiving them with warmth and dignity, and recognizing some of the important changes that many Christian groups have made in their dealings with Jews.

Don’t get me wrong. I have clocked more hours of close dealings with members of other faiths than most. I have published laudatory pieces about Nostra Aetate, and the past and present Popes, pieces that were well received in Catholic circles. I can proudly point to many Christians as exemplary people and personal friends. Their growth through their deep desire to do the Will of G-d is manifest. I do not believe that all non-Jews hate Jews. I welcome non-Jews often to my home, and am proud to showcase the beauty of a Torah lifestyle to them. All the while, I firmly and unhesitatingly reject major planks of their religious platform. Nonetheless, I am more than impressed by the real quest for connection to G-d that I have found in many of the people with whom I meet in my capacity as a liaison with other faith groups.

A few years ago, I was asked by the Israeli Consulate to accompany a group of evangelical ministers to Israel. Because of the very deep convictions of the ministers, the group sponsors thought it preferable to send an Orthodox rabbi than a Reform one. On matters really close to their hearts – Divine revelation, prophecy, the divinity of the Bible – they would share a common vocabulary only with a traditional Jew.

I sought the advice of a great Torah sage. His advice was predictably sagacious. Cultivating the friendship of non-Jews friendly to Israel was important, he said, but you must be careful not to do anything that detracts from our intense pride in being Jewish.

The visit of the Cardinals was an intrusion of outsiders into our sanctum sanctorum. No religion with any pride tolerates this, even when they are open and embracing of others. No Catholic priest would allow me to sample a communion wafer simply as a visitor. My wonderful Mormon friends would faint at the thought of my crossing the threshold of their sanctuary.

Our sanctuary is our holiest activity – Torah study. (Rav Kook wrote that it is a mistake to argue that Jews survived thousands of years without connection to their own land. They had a land. They created a homeland wherever they found themselves in the Diaspora. The place of Torah study became their land.) We should welcome well-meaning representatives of all faiths who extend a hand of friendship, but we should be mindful of protocol and our own dignity. The blatt Gemara is the holiest place for us, and decidedly the wrong place to greet official or semi-official emissaries of the leadership of the Church.

It is inconceivable that a group of rabbis would be received in Rome by a group of guitar-strumming cardinals singing Lema’an Achai in Latin. Rome is very mindful of protocol and decorum, and preserving its image as representing G-d’s interests on earth. We should insist on the same.

Warm hospitality is fine. I could not think of a poorer selection of song with which to greet them, however, than Lema’an Achai (“because of our family and friends” – see the classic commentaries to Tehilim 122:8 for whom this phrase is meant) It is no small distinction to be a tzelem Elokim – an image of G-d. The visitors should have been greeted with the honor and respect due to all created in His image. The further distinction of brotherhood is reserved for our coreligionists. There are halachic institutions whose function is to preserve that distinction. (Important figures in the Church do not flinch at preserving distinctions valuable to them. Pope John Paul made such important and sweeping gestures of acceptance to Jews, that some Catholics became confused. Could Jews have their own path to salvation outside of the Church? Despite the PC value of such an assumption, Avery Cardinal Dulles carefully and publicly wrote that this, alas, could not be true. He pulled no punches. Neither should we.)

Rabbi Weiss “seemed eager to say that he was not violating the taboo against holding theological discussions with non-Jews.” The taboo is important, but of recent manufacture; more important yet is the Gemara’s prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews, which likens it according to some opinions with theft. Yes, I know about many of the leniencies. I can find room for them in answering questions from non-Jews, even in slaking the thirst of many non-Jews to learn more of the Word of G-d because they wish to draw strength and enlightenment. But studying an abstract piece of the Gemara? With an apostate Cardinal who would love to have both worlds, and feel that he never relinquished his patrimony?

Just what part of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l’s “Confrontation” does Rabbi Weiss think no longer applies? Did he see it as a “political” piece, frowning on contacts with a Church that refused at the time to recognize the State of Israel? That is not the essay that I recall, one in whch the Rav beautifully analyzed the answers that Yaakov instructed his messenger to give to an inquisitive Esav and all his descendents. Where are we going? What do we plan to do with our gifts and talents? These we answer positively: We stand ready to direct our talents and resources to work with you to build a better world. But if you ask, “To whom do you belong” – to what conception of G-d do you commit your very essence – to this we do not even bother responding. There is simply no common vocabulary. The person of faith cannot explain his spiritual core to an outsider. How does Rabbi Weiss think that this has changed?

To get it right about matters as weighty as dealing with the Church on behalf of the Jewish people, you need more gravitas in Torah than the average well-meaning pulpit rabbi. You need to be so suffused with Torah excellence that your world view is a refraction of Torah itself. Both the right and the center of Orthodoxy have such Torah personalities. The left doesn’t come close.

You may also like...

54 Responses

  1. Calev says:

    I share your profound concern about the talmidim and cardinals studying together. There’s one part of me that says “Educate
    them! The vacuum created by their ignorance only ends up being filled by malicious falsehoods.” But then the voice of
    experience responds: “But they rarely, if ever, understand what they’re taught in the way you mean them to. They end up
    distorting what they hear through a 2,000-year-old lens of bigotry and rivalry.”
    I am happy to meet Gentiles, to host them in my home, to share good times and bad times with those of them I share a
    relationship. But I know what they believe – I don’t need to find out more. I will gladly answer their questions about what I
    believe but when it comes to learning about G-d, I’ll talk to the many learned Jewish people who, baruch Hashem, surround me.
    However, I would suggest that there is potentially a great problem being chummy with Christian Zionist types than with the
    Cardinals. While we may have to indulge the Christian Zionists because of their material and political support for Israel, we
    have to remember that they are evangelical and are itching to convert us one way or another. The Catholic Church as an
    institution has repudiated the conversion of Jews (unlike, it should be noted the Anglican Church, which in some parts of
    Australia, for example, actively supports Messianic Jews). Perhaps the evangelicals’ beliefs are closer to ours in some
    respects but I can’t remove the suspicion that when they’re kissing us on the cheek they’re in fact trying to bite our neck.
    Although the Catholic Church has problematic political stances concerning Israel I have a stronger sense that I know where
    it stands and, consequently, where I stand in relation to the Church. Vive la difference!

  2. abcdefg says:

    “more important yet is the Gemara’s prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews, which likens it according to some opinions with theft.”

    The Artscroll Talmud is sold on Amazon to anyone with cash.

  3. abcdefg says:

    “You need to be so suffused with Torah excellence that your world view is a refraction of Torah itself. Both the right and the center of Orthodoxy have such Torah personalities. The left doesn’t come close.”

    An out and out falsehood.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    Based on what has been posted here lately, truth-in-labeling would now appear to require Jewish Theological Seminary to rename itself Hebrew Union College II and Chovevei Torah to rename itself Jewish Theological Seminary. Have I missed something?

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    R A Weiss has zero basis for claiming that the RCA or anyone else engaged in ecumenicial interfaith isues such as R D D Berger viewed Condfrontation as not guiding their dealings in this ultra-sensitive issue. Only those who view these issues as photo-op sessions predicated on the themes of “Imagine” or “Why Can’t We Be Friends”would claim that Confrontation was not guding. One wonders who R Weiss consulted with in making such a statement. Certainly, no Talmid Muvhak of RYBS nor RD D Berger have made such a claim. For more on this issue, check out a symposium on the website of Boston College dedicated to this issue. R D d Berrger and R Shalom Carmy both stated that Confrontation guided and continues to be the lodestar for these discussions.Sooner or later, the MO community will recognize that R A Weiss cannot be viewed someone who should deal with these issues and that he enageges in protests that cheapen the memory of the Holocaust on issues of tangential importance to Klal Yisrael.

  6. S. says:

    >You need to be so suffused with Torah excellence that your world view is a refraction of Torah itself.

    What’s wrong with saying דעת תורה?

  7. Neviah T. says:

    YCT and its grads certainly enjoy running right up to the line. At what point will they cross it? (Or better put: at what point will the greater Orthodox community no longer deem them in the ambit of Orthodoxy?)
    What is the difference between UTJ and YCT? Anyone? Anyone?

  8. S. says:

    >“more important yet is the Gemara’s prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews, which likens it according to some opinions with theft.”

    So now we pasken from Gemara without any discussion? This is a complicated halakhic issue, with precedents and rulings for both points of view.

  9. Dov says:

    Steve –
    Have you ever met Avi Weiss?

  10. Bob Miller says:


    You responded to Rabbi Adlerstein’s assertion—“You need to be so suffused with Torah excellence that your world view is a refraction of Torah itself. Both the right and the center of Orthodoxy have such Torah personalities. The left doesn’t come close.”—by calling that “An out and out falsehood.”

    Which part(s) of the Rabbi’s statement do you regard as false? If it’s the part about the left, name individuals as your counterexamples. Possibly, there are different definitions of “left” in this discussion.

    About your book comment:

    In America, the free availability of Artscroll gemaras at on-line bookstores is unavoidable. Likewise at actual bookstores. No check of a buyer’s religion as a condition of sale is halachically necessary (or possible under American law), only that Jews should make no active effort to teach this material to non-Jews. Don’t take my word for this. Ask any posek.

  11. Edvallace says:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t YU host a prominent apostate cardinal in its Beit Medrash not too long ago? IF that indeed happened, was that against the wishes of the Roshei HaYeshivah or was it sanctioned by them? Weren’t there some who argued that RYBS would have approved of it? Please enlighten.

  12. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    There is an article by H. Allen Orr in the current “New Yorker” magazine, which mentions a trait called Predator Inspection. Apparently, when a school of guppies is approached by a possible menace, a few foolhardy guppies approach and inspect it. If they survive, they return and report to the group. This is not healthy behavior for the inspectors, and no sane guppy would want his offspring to be one, but it does benefit the school of guppies as a whole.

  13. Tal Benschar says:

    Perhaps I am being naive, but maybe they learnt Hilchos Bnei Noach with Their Eminences?

  14. abcdefg says:

    Those who I know to be talmedei chachamin from the Edah speakers list includes:

    R’ Shalom Carmy
    R’ Barry Fruendel

    Outside of Edah (or at least that list), I know R’ Aryeh Klapper to be a talmid chacham and with views that I think put him in at least some people’s opinions as on the left. I list only those names out of my own ignorance. I am not of Edah. I consider myself more to the center then the left.

    As to books, it may be there is no way to profitably sell only to Jews. But such could, as a legal matter, be done, albeit in restricted circumstances.

    As to your statement that active teaching is the issue, I simply note that if that is indeed is the problem, which I’ve heard before as well, it does not accord with R’ Alberstein’s language of ‘theft.’

  15. tzvee says:

    “You need to be so suffused with Torah excellence that your world view is a refraction of Torah itself”

    What does this mean? How do I know that I am suffused? Do you define excellence? Do you have any definition of worldview? And what is a refraction of the Torah itself? The sentence is gibberish – and yet the tone is so shrill that I feel patting you on the back and asking if you can take a deep breath and calm down.

    Yes the Rav was against theological debates with the Catholics. That’s not the same thing as giving them a royal tour of a yeshiva. But to someone in a heightened emotional state – such as yourself – borders blend together. All things goyish mix into one taboo soup. You are probably a smart man. Please start to use your intellect and stop talking from your gut.

  16. Observer says:

    The points made by the poster are all wrong and seem to be made out of ignorance. Writing several articles and saying that all my friends are non-Jews does not give the writer standing to say anything concerning this subject with any authority.

    1. People of other faiths would certainly welcome a Jew into their innermost sanctuary (this is something that personally makes me scared not happy). And they have. The past few years is replete with this kind of behavior.

    2. Inviting clerics into a beit medrash and showing them the mechanics of a blatt gmara so that they can understand what it is that draws Orthodox Jews to study lshma is not a violation of our innermost sanctuary.

    3. Inviting clerics into a beit medrash and showing them the kinds of substantive issues addressed in a blatt gmara so that they can appreciate the level of religious commitment and understanding a Jew seeks to attain is also not a violation.

    4. If the poster reads Confrontation with even half a brain and you read the letters the Rav wrote on the subject, the poster will see that nothing that took place violated his standing.

    5. Without evidence the poster suggests that Cardinals in Rome would not welcome Jews with warmth and openness. Firstly, Rome is not the only place to find cardinals. Secondly, despite the poster’s vast experience with Cardinals, this is simply not the case. Read a few news stories of the past few years and the poster can see he is wrong.

    6. It seems more that the poster’s personal views of Rabbi Weiss and the poster’s own vast experience paints his comments with hostility and anger cloaked in the seductive garb of piety.

  17. Roman Catholic says:

    Does Gd have only one blessing?

  18. norm depalma says:

    a few points

    1) how and when did oonkelos and other famous gerim learn?
    2) the more cardinals, imams etc. learn about judaism, the more they will realize that their religions are shams and blatant rip-offs of judaism
    3) notwithstanding top 2 points, shouldn’t we ensure that only talmidei chachamim would be learning with counterpart clergy scholars…it’d be a tad embarassing and possibly counter-productive for sample kollelniks to attempt and answer certain questions asked by intelligent counterpart clergy…

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    Edwallace-Many of the RIETS RY condemned the appearance of the RCC hierarchy and especially a cardinal-apostate in the Beis Medrash. Even the Chairman of the Board of RIETS, who is a consensus seeker, felt that the entire affair was handled poorly.

    Dov-I have seen R A Weiss in action on many issues. His book on women at prayer cannot be viewed as a serious contribution to the halachic discussion. He cloaks protests on some relatively insignificant and controversial issues with inappropriate Holocaust imagery, thereby cheapening the memories of the Holocaust.I stand by my convictions as to his inappropriate use of Holocaust imagery. There is simply no basis to state that Confrontation has no applicability to the issue at hand. Tzvee- I highly doubt that RYBS would take such an entourage on a tour of a Beis Medrash.

    Observer- 1)The fact that a Jew would be invited into another faith’s house of worship by no means removes any halachic objections. 2) There is a strong tradition of not teaching TSBP to a non Jew except for a potential convert. 3) Inviting RCC clergy into a Beis Medrash reduces the uniqueness of our Mesorah and makes an equation between the faith community of the smaller and larger faiths. 4) See 3 infra. 4)See 3 infra 5) Has the RCC backed away from a pro Palestianian position in El Observatore Romano? Read R Carmy’s perspective on the Boston College web site. 6) Read Confrontation and the letters-One cannot square R Weiss’s actions with Confrontation and the letters in any reasonable manner. Again-the issue cries out for an answer-what was R Weiss’s basis in saying that Confrontation is no longer applicable to the issue at hand?

  20. Nachum says:

    R’ Herschel Schachter, in his shiurim, seems to look back on the Cardinals’ visits to the YU Beis Midrash with a somewhat humorous light, portraying them as not entirely negative.

  21. Bob Miller says:

    Steve, in line with what you are saying—

    Some people claim to be followers of RYBS even though they frequently and publically deviate from his express instructions without presenting a believable, consistent rationale.

    What is going on here?

  22. Harry Maryles says:

    YCT crossed a theological line. In my view inviting a group of cardinals… princes of the Church… to sit and learn with a group of Smicha students who are in the infancy of their Jewish education is to invite theological debate amongst unequals. It not only violates the prohibition clearly spelled out by RYBS it does so in an egregious manner, Rabbi Weiss’s protests to the contrary not withstanding. I totally agree with Rabbi Addlerstein’s take on this. To me it is a “no brainer” and the article in last Friday’s Forward bears this out. The discussion between one YCT student and his “Chavrusa” quickly went to what Jesus did. How long would that take for that to deteriorate to a theological argument… if not this time, the next? I wrote about it on my blog at the time (last Friday) and noted the differences between this event and the one which took place a while back ago at YU. Here’s the link:

  23. mycroft says:

    Factual pont-in general other religions don’t have a problem with us visiting their houses of worship-it is we that can’t go there on halachik grounds.
    In general I agree with Steve Brizel-I believe however in a slightly different emphasis. It is well known that some of RYBS closest disciples-have/had close dealings with non Jewish clergy. You have mentioned positively some of those names.One can google various of those people-who you trust completely and find joint activities with non Jewish religious groups.
    Of course, none I believe would have done anything remotely like R. A Weiss did.

  24. Jordan Hirsch says:

    I cannot speak about “what RYBS would have done” in this insrance, as he is not here to tell me. I do know that Rabbi Helfgot and Rabbi Linzer are two outstanding Talmidei Chachamim, and before we as a community deliver a blanket condemnation of the actions of YCT, we invite them to explain their motivation, methodology, and halchic reasoning in welcoming the Cardinals in the manner they chose. I was not a talmid of RYBS directly, although most of my Rebbeim were. But I do know that one of hi goals as an educator was to create thinking talmidim. That has to allow for the possibility that they will disagree in some cases with their revered teacher.

  25. Toby Katz says:

    Contact with non-Jewish clergy should be like contact with Jewish heterodox clergy — discreet and private, off the record.

    Co-operation with Christians on political and social issues is another thing entirely. Allies are to be welcomed wherever they are to be found, on an ad hoc basis. If, for example, Catholic schools want to be exempt from the requirement to hire gays, then Jewish groups should work with the Catholics on this issue — or any other issue of mutual interest, on a case-by-case basis. (The example I gave is an actual case that came up when Ed Koch was mayor of New York and tried to force the Catholics to hire gays — the Agudah filed an amicus brief supporting the Catholics, quite properly, and the Catholics won that case.)

  26. Drew Kaplan says:

    YA, See my posting regarding Rabbi Weiss’ position on the Rav’s “Confrontation”.
    S., I second your comments – there has been more to halakhah than just the gemarra – awwww, the Rishonim, etc.
    Tal Benschar, We learnt Berakhos 26b about whence is tefillah.
    Harry Mayles, infancy of their Jewish education -what?!? That’s rough, man, just rough. Young, though we may be, unsophisticated we are not. And this goes similarly for our Jewish education. Moreover, we weren’t engaged heavily in theological discussion (see my post referenced earlier in this comment) and certainly not theological debate.

  27. Dov says:

    Noone has mentioned the fact that the Rambam permitted Jews to teach Torah to Christians.

  28. Tal Benschar says:

    “Noone has mentioned the fact that the Rambam permitted Jews to teach Torah to Christians”

    Can you back that up with a source? I don’t believe there is any such Rambam.

  29. Jewishguy says:

    maybe Iggeret HaRambam to R’ Chisdai HaLevi? Haven’t seen the source, but it’s worth a shot.

  30. Bob Miller says:


    It would be more useful if the responsible parties explained themselves before (not after) staging an act like this. Better yet, if they were humble enough to consult with Gedolim of their choosing before moving ahead.

  31. Jake Katz says:

    People are overlooking the fact that on the same day as the visit of these Cardinals to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, President Richard Joel and Chancellor Norman Lamm, along with Rabbi Michael Rosensweig and Rabbi Hershel Schachter accompanied these same Cardinals to the Stern College Beit Medrash in Midtown Manhattan. Alas, once again, the Jewish media has overlooked the more significant story for the hava-nagilah-dancing Cardinals at YCT.

  32. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding Jake’s point, the YU-affiliated posters above should explain why the Stern event was OK while the YCT one was not.

  33. Jordan Hirsch says:

    Bob, I see no reason why the Rabbonim at YCT have to clear their behavior with you or anyone else for that matter. You may disagree with thier conclusions, but I am fully confident in their abilities as Talmidei Chachamim and thoughtful individuals to render halachic decisions. Rabbi Weiss would not have acted if the rabbonimin his employ felt it was inapproriate.

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Jake Katz-where is your source that either RHS or R M Rosenzweig accompanied President Joel and R D Lamm and or participated in the appearance at the Stern College Beis Medrash?

  35. Harry Maryles says:

    Young, though we may be, unsophisticated we are not. And this goes similarly for our Jewish education. Moreover, we weren’t engaged heavily in theological discussion (see my post referenced earlier in this comment) and certainly not theological debate.

    I should have been a bit clearer. Obviously a Smicha student is well beyond his infancy in terms of his Torah education. But in terms of years put in with respect to a lifetime of learning Torah, a man in his twenties is hardly comparable to a man in his sixties. Getting Smicha is but the begining of an advanced learning proccess. R. Moshe though quite prolific by his twenties, was never the less in his infancy compared to what he knew in his sixties. A Smicha student in his twenties discussin Torah with a Catholic Cardinal in his sixties is rarely an even match.

    As for the the theological deabting issue. In concede that there was likely none at this event. But if there are future events, (which seem likely consdering the highly positive spin by both the Cardinals and Rabbi Weiss) then such intimate one on one Chavrusa discussion can easily fall into one of debating theology.

  36. S. says:

    >Noone has mentioned the fact that the Rambam permitted Jews to teach Torah to Christians.

    I did, in another thread on another blog. Here is an excerpt:

    Bear in mind also that this contradicts halakhah as brought in the Yad, which simple illustrates that Law Codes do not address every nuance of every issue, which is why you can’t just say “The Gemara says X” or “the Shulhan Arukh says X.”

  37. ja says:

    “Noone has mentioned the fact that the Rambam permitted Jews to teach Torah to Christians.”

    This characterization is sufficiently vague as to be misleading. Here’s a link to the teshuva (there are some some related comments in the discussion there):

  38. kar says:

    “I did, in another thread on another blog. Here is an excerpt:

    The link to this responsa presents a misleading excerpt. The question the Rambam is answering is omitted. The question is whether one may teach anything other than 7 mitzvot b’nei noach.

    “Bear in mind also that this contradicts halakhah as brought in the Yad,”

    That’s the impression left by the biased excerpt, but incorrect. The Rambam begins the teshuva by confirming the issur and stating that a nonJ=ew who learns torah is chayav mita beydei shomayim. Different authorities interpret the prohibition on teaching torah differently, e.g. some include torah she’biktav and some don’t. It is not clear in Yad if the Rambam includes torah she’biktav. The Rambam merely states in the responsa that teaching Christians the text of torah she’biktav and mitzvot is permissible.

    The teshuva doesn’t contradict the Rambam in Yad and doesn’t cover what was taught at this event.

  39. Just a Guess says:

    Sorry to lower the level of theological discussion here,
    but I highly doubt that this event had anything to do with
    theolology or philosophy.

    Rather, my hunch is that it’s about P-o-l-i-t-i-c-s as well as M-o-n-e-y.

    Given Rav Herschel Shachter’s vocal opposition to the visit of the cardinals
    last year at YU, this was an opportunity for Chovivei to show their supporters that
    they don’t share Rav Shachter’s “intolerant” “machmir” “yeshivish” “non-modern”
    view on this matter.

    Watch for this to show up in their mailings.

    Just A Guess

  40. DMZ says:

    He shouldn’t have done it, but don’t peg me as surprised that he did.

    I went to a lecture by R’ Weiss at Hillel of UMCP a couple years back, and went in hoping that “here’s the man who’s going to revitalize Modern Orthodoxy!” What I got was a tremendous disappointment. I’m hardly very yeshivish (anymore?), but I felt like he was taking Orthodoxy down the wrong path. Social justice issues, interfaith dialogue – it reeked of the Conservative movement’s slow slide into the oblivion of non-Halachism. Notably, I don’t have a problem with social justice per se – but when it takes on equal importance to halacha, don’t be surprised when SJ supplant halacha in a few generations. Heck, I don’t even have a BIG issue with interfaith dialogue – but this goes way beyond the pale.

    R’ Adlerstein might have a chip on his shoulder regarding YCT, but I certainly agree with him in a general sense. This isn’t going to end well for the Jewish people.

  41. Menachem Butler says:

    “Given Rav Herschel Shachter’s [sic] vocal opposition to the visit of the cardinals
    last year at YU…” Source please? Rabbi Hershel Reichman and Rabbi Abba Bronspiegel had each written their opinions in The Commentator, but I do not recall that Rabbi Schachter did the same….

  42. Yonah says:

    Having just read all 39 posts above together, here are a few thoughts:

    1) People are criticizing what has been done without:

    a. Focussing on the vision behind why the Bishops (most of them were not Cardinals, for the record) were brought to the US and to see Jewish life in action, in places including both Chovevei and the YU Talmud Program for Women.

    b. Focussing on the vision of Chovevei and if this visit was in line with what the institution stands for. Right on, Jordan Hirsch for pointing that out in different words.

    c. Actually having been there. Those of us who were there had a range of experiences, to be sure, so I will only speak for myself. I found the encounter to be quite meaningful in terms of my own growth. Learning with people from diverse backgrounds raises questions that help me hone my own skills and understandings of the text and concepts being studied. I did not feel theologically threatened in any way, and in fact felt sharpened by the experience. I have no interest in converting to christianity, and I assure you all, that learning a piece of Gemara Brachos did not give away any of the secrets these people didn’t know already.

    2) People are assuming a whole range of things about what goes on within the walls of Chovevei without having been there to see. I wonder how many have tried to visit to see for themselves what they are very quick to criticize. What I see every day is a group of guys who learn Torah very seriously, who love other Jews and who are committed to bringing Jews and Torah closer. Dangerous? Only if you’re affraid of bringing the Geulah closer by actually educating people about Judaism rather than by ignoring them (in the case of non-Jews) or trying to make them do things that they don’t want to do (in the case of Jews).

    3) I return to part of the last sentence: Fear. People seem to be scared stiff of what will happen to Jews or Judaism if they talk to people. I would argue that what has kept our religion and people alive for two thousand years has not been a total fear of the other, but a willingness to hear the other out in order to allow us to hone our own understanding of ourselves and our traditions. I for one refuse to live in an intellectual ghetto surrounded by the walls of “what if?”.

    In any event, Shabbat Shalom to everyone.


  43. Jewish Observer says:

    “Sorry to lower the level of theological discussion here”

    I think you’re safe

  44. Bob Miller says:

    Jordan and Yonah,

    While you’re both being true to your school, try (just as you ask others to try) to understand the other side of this issue and the halachic and historical reasons for it. Your openness to hearing other points of view should extend to the larger Orthodox world outside your own circle.

  45. Drew Kaplan says:

    Do you think that either Yonah or Jordan were not open to hearing other Orthodox points of view on this matter? Why do you think that they weren’t?

  46. ja says:

    “Why do you think that they weren’t?”

    Probably because of give-away lines like this:

    “I did not feel theologically threatened”
    “Fear. People seem to be scared stiff of what will happen to Jews or Judaism if they talk to people.”

    People are upset that the visit violates the spirit of the law (if not its letter) and the spirit of appropriate policy recommendations for interaction with our historic oppressers. There’s nothing in these comments that indicates that folks on the other side are afraid that Bishops of a declining church will convert Jews or that they are afraid of their theology. In Yonah’s comment, he imposed his preconceptions and didn’t relate to the actual objections raised in this thread.

  47. Eliyahu W. Ferrell says:

    FYI: I saw that Rav Adlerstein’s whole piece was reproduced on a pro-Da’as Torah blog,

  48. Jordan Hirsch says:

    I am honored to be misaken for a student at YCT. As it happens, I teach just down the street at a very different institution, but that’s not important. I take very seriously the halachic issues brought up here, and have had extensive discussions on this topic with a Rebbe of mine, who is both openminded, somewhat on the left end of YU, and in total disagreement with me and YCT. It is a mistake to think that just because I disagree with R’ Adlerstein, you, and my Rebbe, that I did not take the arguments offered into account. Rather, I offer two responses. One is that I do not agree that the issurim cited above were violated in this instance, and I am aware in saying that that bigger lamdanim than I feel differently, but rather the nature f the learning and the purpose of the learning fall outside the intent of the halacha.
    Second, sometimes we have to look at various historical changes in relationships between us and the outside world and take advantage of the opportunities they offer to strengthen respect for us and our practices in the eyes of people who were once adversaries and who are groping their way towards being friends, although I think they are not there yet. I do not know what the future holds vis-a vis Catholic- Jewish relations, but I am not impressed by fears of a slippery slope.
    Have a chag kasher v’sameach, and may our arguments be l’shem shamayim,


  49. Eliyahu W. Ferrell says:

    Sorry–Rabbi Adlerstein’s article was taken off that blog with every other reference to the Chovevei visit.
    By the way, from a conversation I had with HaGaon Rav Hershel Schachter, it is clear that he remains unalterably opposed to the YU Cardinal visit.
    And to those who say that the Orthodox Left has Gedolim because they have Rav Freundel, and Rav Carmy: with all due immense respect to all of these very fine rabbanim, they’re not Gedolei Yisroel–and they would be the first to say that.

  50. Steve Brizel says:

    If you are interested in seeing how YCT’s “talmidim” address other issues, take a look at its online journal. One article postulated that hats and the “penguin suit” are signs of Yiras HaShem and that kippot srugot and multi-colored attire are signs of Ahavas HaShem. Regardless of one’s view on whether a hat is a halachically mandated item or a part of one’s group identity, the above cited article struck me as pop sociology masquerading as lomdus.

    Another student-authored article asserted that women can lead Hallel on Rosh Chodesh because Hallel on that day is just a minhag. That article ignored numerous issues such as kavod hatzibbur, why a minyan is required according to some Rishonim, why we say a bracha, etc. Why a “yeshiva” allows articles on subjects of such gravity to be authored by students is a mystery. These articles are sufficient proof that YCT has left itself open to the legitimate critique that it is a Beis Charoshes LRabbanim-(to use R Chaim Ozer ZTL’s comment about a far greater predecessor-the Hildesheimer seminary)a factory for rabbis as opposed to a yeshiva. One can only wonder why the RCA would consider YCT’s “musmachim” as members.

  51. Steve Brizel says:

    Jordan-In your second post, you mentioned that you spoke to a rebbe of yours at YU. You mentioned that he disagreeed completely with both you and YCT. One simple question-How could you determine that he was wrong and that you were correct without transgressing the basics of a rebbe-talmid relationship?FWIW, I see nothing vis a vis the relationship between Klal Yisrael and the RCC that evidences a change in its fundamental attitudes vis a vis Judaism and especially its support of the Arab world — which remains unchanged notwithstanding its token recognition of Israel. I would suggest that the analysis and guidelines set forth by RYBS were violated by YCT without batting a proverbial eyelash because R A Weiss freely admitted that he did not consider them binding — despite the absence of an iota of proof that either RYBS or any of his talmidim who deal in these issues such as R D D Berger or R S Carmy felt that the guidelines were no longer binding.

    IMO, R A Weiss has once again demonstrated that his strong suit is activism, as opposed to setting forth either halachic or hashkafic analyis of an issue. We once again see a case where RA Weiss knew about RYBS’s POV ( as he himself admitted vis a vis women’s prayer groups) and went ahead against this view.

  52. Bob Miller says:

    On the whole, which present-day rabbinic leaders best carry on in RYBS’s direction?

  53. understand says:

    Briesel- I would think that it is much more of an interfaith problem when someone like S Carmy takes part in an interfaith discussion about theological issues AND MOST OF THE NON CATHOLIC MEMBERS CONVERTED TO CATHOLOCISM in the last few yers. That is exactly what RYBS was agianst.
    Read below- from FIRST THINGS WEBSITE

    In addition to Cardinal Dulles, among the participants were Joseph Bottum, our esteemed Editor, James Buckley of Loyola, Baltimore, Shalom Carmy of Yeshiva University, John Erickson of St. Vladimir Seminary, Douglas Farrow of McGill, Eric Gregory of Princeton, Paul Griffiths of University of Illinois Chicago, Thomas Guarino of Seton Hall (his book, Foundations of Systematic Theology was the occasion of Reno’s essay), David Hart, who will be at Providence College this year, George Lindbeck, retired after a century or so at Yale, Bruce Marshall of Southern Methodist, Edward Oakes of Mundelein Seminary, Chicago, Michael Root of Lutheran Southern Seminary, Jerry Walls of Asbury Seminary, and Steve Webb of Wabash College. A very distinguished group, you might well say.

    There is this oddity about the Dulles Colloquium. When we started it was a very ecumenical group of theologians, but we have had a hard time keeping it that way. Along the way, a number of participants have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church (Griffiths, Reno, Marshall, Farrow, and, of course, Neuhaus. Not to mention Dulles, who entered many years ago, and Robert Louis Wilken of the University of Virginia, who couldn’t make this meeting.) Hart and Erickson are both converts to Orthodoxy. The colloquium is not intended as a convert-making enterprise, and we regularly seed it with new participants to maintain its ecumenical character.

  1. April 6, 2006

    […] Cardinals and Crossing Lines April 05th 2006 Posted in Op/Eds, Religion In The News, Judaism R. Yitzchok Adlerstein’s post today about Chovevei Torah hosting Cardinals in its beis midrash seems to be generating some controversy. Let me direct readers to my posts about this issue when it happened, under different circumstances, at Yeshiva University. Cardinal in the Beis Midrash I, II Interfaith Dialogue III (less relevant: I, II, IV, V, VI) As to the incident at Chovevei Torah, I just don’t know enough about what went on, or the goal of the event, to have any sort of intelligent opinion on the subject. […]

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This