There is something about people who live in more than one world. What do you call them? The name that works in one world might not be entirely natural in the other.
To draw examples from vastly different times and places — say 12th century Spain and Egypt — was Moshe ben Maimon Maimonides? Or was he Rambam?
He was both. He was all three.
Then jump to the 20th and 21st centuries, and move a continent and a half over, to the metropolitan New York area. Was the man born Anthony Scott Glickman 67 years ago Rabbi Ozer Glickman? Was he Tony Glickman?
He was both. He was all three.
The two men — Maimonides, who died in 1204 CE, and Rabbi Glickman, who died on March 19 — had much in common in their breadth of knowledge and their ability to live intensely in both the Jewish and outside worlds. Although of course it is a huge stretch to compare even the most brilliant and accomplished of modern Americans with a figure whose reputation has been burnished both by time and even by controversy.
That’s why Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, which had been Rabbi Glickman’s shul, is offering a series of shiurim — lectures — in Rabbi Glickman’s memory, called “Rambam and Moreh Nevuchim: Innovation and Controversy.” (“Moreh Nevumchim” is the title of one of Maimonides’ three major works; it’s known in English as “Guide of the Perplexed.”)
Jeffrey Hochman of Teaneck is a lawyer. He is also a longtime Rinat member, a member of its board, and its immediate past president. He is one of the organizers of the shiurim. (See box for schedule details.)
These shiurim grew out of a series that Rabbi Glickman had agreed to teach. “Our shul is blessed to have so many scholars, world-class scholars,” Mr. Hochman said. Many of them teach there, and “even before Rabbi Glickman joined, he became part of the roster. It wasn’t like a one-off, either; he gave multiple six- to eight-part shiurim. They were informal conversations, but it wasn’t as if it was just him coming in and speaking off the top of his head. He worked at them. And everyone was welcome.”
Rabbi Glickman was unusual in that he was deeply involved in the worlds of Orthodoxy and business and academia; he was a musician, an active online presence, and a mentor to a wide range of younger scholars and thinkers and students and people with compelling stories or presences or talents. He was, among other things, a rosh yeshiva in Yeshiva University’s Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon Theological Seminary, and he was vice president of strategic risk management at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
He drew on all that as he taught.
“He gave talks about business ethics, and about the halacha of being a kohen,” of the priestly caste, Mr. Hochman said. “He gave a 10-part series on modern Orthodox thought, going back to Descartes and Hume.
“We have a concept of legal fiction in halacha. Coming from his unique perspective of scholarship and business background and rabbinic background, he taught about legal fiction — what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, and what is pushing the envelope. He would talk about economics in halacha, about how it is treated in the Torah and about the evolution from an agrarian economy to a currency-based on.
“And as soon as he’d finish one series, he’d say, ‘What can we do for the next one?’”
Rabbi Glickman and Mr. Hochman had come up with an answer to that question. The next one was to be about Maimonides. “I had just read a book by Moshe Halberthal on the Rambam and I liked it, but I don’t know enough about it to read it critically,” Mr. Hochman said. “But I thought it would be right up Rabbi Glickman’s alley, so I suggested it. And on the Sunday and Monday before he passed away we were in email contact about it.”
Rabbi Glickman died that Monday. “And my son Ariel said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do what we would have wanted to do, and do it in his memory?’
“We can’t reproduce what he had in mind, but we have a great lineup of scholars and experts and we can replicate at least some of it,” Mr. Hochman said.
Ari Mermelstein of Teaneck, an assistant professor of Bible at Yeshiva College, also is a member of Rinat, and he worked with Mr. Hochman in organizing the series.
“I don’t think that we could think of another personality from Jewish history who would be more appropriate to pay tribute to Rav Glickman,” Dr. Mermelstein said. “Maimonides is such a complex figure. He authors one of the most important works of Jewish legal literature” — that’s his Mishneh Torah — “and maybe the most influential work of Jewish philosophy” — that’s the Guide. “Students of Jewish literature have been puzzling over centuries, trying to figure out which is the genuine Maimonides.”
Maimonides also was a physician; he worked not only in his head but also in the very real physical world, and did so among non-Jews as well as Jews.
“In a certain sense, you could ask the same questions about Rav Glickman. He was a businessman, and one of the great teachers at YU, and he taught at Cardozo Law School, and he trained rabbis. Which one was the real Rabbi Glickman?”
“They both stand for synthesis. We diminish the importance of Maimonides if we think of him as just one thing or the other. The same is true of Rabbi Glickman.”
Dr. Mermelstein met Rabbi Glickman at Cardozo; Rabbi Glickman was a scholar in residence at the school’s Center for Jewish Law, and Dr. Mermelstein is its assistant director. (Cardozo is part of Yeshiva University.)
“Rabbi Glickman taught about Jewish law to non-Jewish students, and to Jewish students who had no prior engagement with the Jewish legal tradition. He had read widely in American legal theory, and he offered a entry point into Jewish legal tradition.
“He wasn’t someone who thought that only the Jewish legal tradition had something enriching to offer. He thought that the outside world also had something of value to contribute, and he brought that with him. His lectures were peppered with references to prominent American jurists, because he wanted to inform his sophisticated students with an understanding of what ideas out there could be relevant for their Jewish legal studies.
“It was similar to what Maimonides did, drawing on the Greek philosophical system. Rabbi Glickman respected the integrity of both systems, the Jewish and the American. He talked a lot about the need for synthesis and coherence. He didn’t feel that he was diluting the Jewish tradition by bringing it into conversation with other ideas, and he also felt that the Jewish tradition had much to teach the world.
“He was a remarkable person,” Dr. Mermelstein concluded. “Remarkable.
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark of Teaneck is the principal of the SAR Academy High School in Riverdale, N.Y. He will be one of the speakers. “Tony was obviously an extremely learned person,” he said. “The range of his interests was striking. And he was very engaged in the real world.”
As for his talk, “The Rambam spends a lot of time on explaining the reasons for the performance of mitzvot,” Rabbi Harcsztark said. “It was coming from a very different place than just saying ‘You are commanded to do it so just do it.’ So the charge was to talk about his philosophy of mitzvot, and to me the Rambam seems to have called overwhelming majority of mitzvot political, by which he meant that they were used to establish a certain type of community. That is different from being just between a person and God. Ethics were very important to the Rambam. Being a certain kind of person was very important.
“There is a tremendous relevance to Maimonidean thinking because it bears on how we are developing as a people in the world in an integrated way, and on how we shape community in a real way, on the ground. That is different from mitzvot taking us out, separating us from everyone else.”
He will explore those issues and more when he speaks, but more than that, just now, Rabbi Harcsztark said, “I am honored to be part of this tribute.”
What: “Rambam and Moreh Nevuchim: Innovation and Controversy” —
a series of lectures in memory of Rabbi Ozer Glickman
When: On Shabbat, April 28, Dr. David Shatz will speak on “Rambam, Maimonides, or Both?” at 6 p.m.; he’ll speak again, on “What Is Perplexing About the Guide of the Perplexed?” at 7:20. On Sunday, May 6, Dr. Moshe Sokol will address “Providence, Evil, and Human Suffering” at 8 p.m.. On Shabbat, May 12, Rabbi Tully Harcsztark will talk about “Politics, Practice, and Pedagogy: Mitzvot in Maimonidean Thought” at 6:30 p.m. On Shavuot, Monday, May 21, Dr. Daniel Rynhold will talk about “Creation, Revelation, and Prophecy” at 6:55 p.m., and on Shabbat, June 9, Rabbi Dr. Michael Shmidman will take on “The Messiah, Messianic Age, and Olam Baha” at 6:50 p.m.
Where: At Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 West Englewood Ave., Teaneck
For information: Call (201) 837-2795 or go to www.rinat.org.