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Rabbi David Hartman z”l

Rabbi David Hartman z”l, the founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem has passed away in Jerusalem. The influence of Rabbi Hartman on Judaism in both America and Israel has been vast. Whether it was through his scholarship, the institutions that he founded, his students, or he as an individual, Rabbi Hartman’s influence can be found in most corners of the Jewish world. יהי זכרו ברוך.

5 Responses to “Rabbi David Hartman z”l”

  1. 1
    DF:

    It’s curious to me how certain public Jews like to call themselves orthodox, even though they are anything but. Rabbi David Hartman is one example, who, despite an orthodox upbringing, was thoroughly conservative. Some left wing writers of Slate, like Dalia Lithwick and Peter Beinart(the guy who claims young people hate Israel because he claims its not liberal enough for them) also call themselves orthodox. Then every now and then you get the usual “first orthodox female rabbi” or “first gay orthodox rabbi” etc. Why this desire to be called orthodox?

    I can think of five possibilities, which may all be right or may all be wrong:

    1) They dont want to be associated with conservatism, which they deem a failure.
    2) They think orthodoxy, having finally been discovered by the mainstream media, is on the rise, and they want to be associated with a winner.
    3) They think that by calling themselves orthodox, it will give their liberal positions more clout (like conservative republicans liked Zell Miller, and liberal democrats like John Mcain.)
    4) They genuinely think they ARE orthodox, not understanding that choosing to pray occasionally (on their own terms), or choosing a couple of customs to adopt (same) does not make someone orthodox.
    5) Similar to # 4, they may think they are orthodox and may have even once been orthodox, but dont apprehend that you cant just disregard certain laws or customs everyone else observes, no matter how foolish they seem, and call yourselves orthodox

    I offer no assessment or critique of the late R. Hartman. I merely note a curiosity. Your perspective, as always, so different from my own, is very valuable.

  2. 2
    Abul Bannat:

    Some might argue that many features of “Orthodoxy” are not necessarily “orthodox”. Maybe it’s better to eschew labels and look more at content and substance. Different perspective are, indeed, very valuable. elu v’elu…

  3. 3
    DF:

    Abul – I agree with you that substance is most important. And Lord knows I do not think orthodoxy is “better” than conservatism, as if such a thing can even be judged by mortals. On many of their pre 1983ish positions – ie, before they began their slide into basically whatever the democratic party platform is – I think the conservative position is 100% right. But for various reasons their positions, however sound they may be, often have no staying power, and that is a factor to be weighed.

    In any event, as I said, I agree with you, adn each Jew must be judged (by God) on his own. Still, labels have meaning, and so I am genuinely curious why so many lefties out there are so eager to attach themselves to the orthodox label. It was exactly the opposite 50-60 years ago.

    [One small correction. A friend who saw this pointed out that in article with the liberal writer Jeffrey Goldberg, Goldberg asked Beinart why he "as an orthdox Jew" spoke about Zionism as he did. Beinart answered that he didnt say he was orthodox, he said he attented an orthodox synagouge.]

  4. 4
    Abul Bannat:

    I think every group is guilty of importing the popular politics or zeitgeist of those they are comfortable with and defining their judaism by it – whether they are נערי גבעה of the חרד”לניקים or gay reform.
    I can “get” Beinart as I also attend an orthodox shul though nobody (knowledgeable) would call me “Orthodox”. I find it challenges and sharpens my thinking while making me feel at home. That’s probably hypocritical but I’m comfortable – even though I’m far left of most people there.
    I do, however, agree with you (if that’s your point) that anyone who isn’t actually orthodox shouldn’t bandy the label as some kind of bona fides.

  5. 5
    Rebecca Lesses:

    But what does it mean to be “actually orthodox”? Does it refer to a) a political outlook? I don’t see that there is a connection between any particular political outlook and being Jewish b) observing Shabbat and Kashrut and Taharat ha-Mishpachah? I know people who do this (like my rabbi) who definitely don’t call themselves Orthodox – he’s a Conservative Rabbi). c) believing certain things? (since the “dox” in Orthodox refers not to right action but to right opinion)

    I’m also curious, DF, why you brought this issue up in connection with Rabbi Hartman?

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