Thursday, February 12, 2009

R. Noah Weinberg zt"l

To the great sadness of Jews around the world, R. Noah Weinberg passed away last week (link). There are many moving tributes on* One thing about R. Weinberg was that he was passionate. You couldn't speak to him for more than 5 seconds without seeing his devotion to God and to the Jewish people. I didn't agree with everything he said or did, but I agreed with most of it and I certainly recognize that he has done more for the Jewish people and sacrificed personally more for it than I can ever hope to do.

Now that he has gone and cannot suffer any political fallout, I think I can share my discussion with him about the ban on R. Natan Slifkin's book. I approached him at a wedding on February 6th, 2005. About an hour later (I only came for the chuppah), I sent out an e-mail to some friends with notes on this conversation, although I omitted what was probably his strongest and harshest statement (see below).

Click here to read moreI introduced myself to R. Weinberg as the new distributor of the banned books and started asking him about the subject. He was clearly upset about the whole issue. His words, repeated a number of times throughout the conversation: "What the hell kefirah is there in that?" He also pointed out, without my prompting, that the banners were labeling as heretical the teachings of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rav Dessler.

He strongly disagreed with the ban and urged me to remain an independent thinker, not bending to every public pronouncement by famous rabbis (he gave examples of rabbis to whom I should not listen but I will not list them right now). But later he quoted the famous Chinukh (nos. 495, 496) about the prohibition of "lo sasur" (link) and said that it applies to the Gedolim. Even though they are wrong, we should still follow them and R. Slifkin should revise his books. I told him I'd pass along the message.

A correspondent responded to my e-mail by saying that R. Weinberg's brother, R. Shmuel Ya'akov Weinberg (rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore), had told him that the prohibition of "lo sasur" only applies to the high court in the Temple and not the Gedolim of each generation (but we must still follow the Gedolim anyway).

* The nitpicker in me feels the need to point out that he was not a giant in every sense of the word (link) because he was not tall.

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