Monday, February 27, 2006

The Gedolim Challenge

Like many schoolboys, my third grade son has a Gedolim Album, for which he gets stickers of pictures to fill in the blank spaces for good learning and davening. He is very proud of his album and likes to talk about it and look through it. This past Shabbos, I presented him (and my other children) a challenge. I took out two books that have pictures of recently deceased famous rabbis on the cover, told the children these Gedolim's names, and asked them to find their places in the album. The names of these great rabbis are R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Mi-P'ninei Ha-Rav) and R. Shaul Yisraeli (Ha-Rabbanus Ve-Ha-Medinah). Needless to say, as you and I know, their pictures are not in the album (although my son insists that R. Yisraeli looks just like R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach). Two pictures of R. Avigdor Miller. Zero pictures of Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Kook, and Rav Herzog. (Interestingly, R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin and R. Eliezer Silver made the cut, but not R. Pinchas Teitz or R. David Lifschitz. Maybe they'll be in the next series.) And they decided to give R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv the title "Posek Ha-Dor," which many would consider ludicrous.

My point, to my children and to this blog's readers, is that the album is not meant for our community. I do not believe that any insult was intended. It is just members of a different community showing pictures of the leaders they value, clearly implying that anyone outside of their community, no matter how great a Torah scholar, is irrelevant to their children. This is certainly close-minded but that is to be expected from insular communities. I would not present my children with pictures of Conservative rabbis, but to make the comparison between a Conservative rabbi and a Religious Zionist rabbi who is a master of the entire Torah is, in my opinion, highly insulting.

I simply told my children that the people who made the album seem to really like Hassidic rebbes but not Gedolim who disagree with them on issues such as going to college and a Jewish country in Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, in this family we value the latter much more than the former.

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