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From the outside looking in

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I have the privilege of being an American married into a South African family, and have been impressed by the cohesiveness and kindness manifested by South Africa’s Jewish community. I read the recent article by the chief rabbi relating to the decision to boycott the Limmud conference, and feel compelled to offer some comment.
by Lester Gottesman, New York City | Jul 11, 2019

I am only an observer, but one who is life-long orthodox affiliated.

It is fitting that this discussion is taking place on parshat Korach, since Korach felt he knew better than Moses what was best for the Jews, and that story did not end well for Korach. I think this story might be a timely subtext for this drama playing out in South Africa.

The “line in the sand” the chief rabbi and Beth Din draw is a specious one. As much as one can believe that Torah Judaism is truth, at the end of the day, it is only a belief, and as such, cannot be assumed to hold any superiority. If the spokesmen for Torah Judaism’s representation of the beauty and wisdom of orthodox Judaism are sacred, they surely should not be intimidated by the ideas propagated by Limmud. The Torah should stand on its own merit for everyone to partake in.

I, sadly, suggest that the arguments proffered are a surrogate for the arrogance of moral superiority of the leadership couched in the prosaic language of ahavat Yisroel (love for a fellow Jew). This “moral superiority” has plagued Jews in every generation, and led to the destruction of the Temple as well as fracturing Jewish communities for time immemorial.

If the inclusiveness of this community is to continue, it would appear the South African theocracy should not be afraid to share their ideas and love of Torah in what they consider to be a treif (non-kosher) environment. Not doing so is to deprive a large element of the community of exposure to Torah Judaism, which is unfortunate. Disagreement and debate are at the heart of the Talmud, and it keeps a community vibrant and alive. 


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