The name of the Chabad movement of Lubavitch is an acronym for chochmah (wisdom, or creative thought), beenah (understanding), and da’as (factual knowledge). Beenah is related to the word “bayn,” which means “between.” Understanding, therefore, means knowing the difference between concepts, situations, etc. My opinion is that in presenting their arguments, three of the letter-writers in your January 17 issue failed to meet the beenah standard.
Shel Haas takes Rabbi Shmuel Goldin to task for not acknowledging the behavior of certain so-called ultra-Orthodox Jews in Rockland County. Rabbi Goldin has been my pulpit rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Torah for almost 30 years, and throughout that time he has gone out of his way to keep open channels of communication with non-Orthodox denominations, including founding an organization called Edah designed specifically for that purpose. While that effort was unsuccessful, it wasn’t for lack of trying. To associate the rabbi, a former president of the RCA, and by extension Modern Orthodoxy, with people who are practically kindred spirits with those xenophobic charedim in Israel who think they are privileged characters exempt from military service is highly inappropriate. There’s a huge and obvious difference between them.
Dan Mosenkis describes several lenient decisions by Orthodox rabbis to be “agenda-driven.” In fact, Orthodoxy has always required the rabbis to seek out the most lenient result in every case of law, in order to keep observance of the religion from becoming too onerous. That’s not an agenda; it’s a fundamental principle. There’s a difference between them too.
Paul Einschlag compares the leaders of the Reform movement’s “rebooting” approach to Ben-Gurion and other secular Israeli leaders. Again, the comparison is invalid. The work of the founders of the state of Israel resulted in a Jewish country with a huge Jewish majority, Hebrew as the primary language, and the study of Tanach in schools. In contrast, Jews comprise less than 2 percent of the population of the United States, and the opportunities and temptations in this country for assimilation and intermarriage are overwhelming. The last 65 years show a massive difference between the results of their respective efforts.