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Chief Rabbi ‘doth protest too much’ about Limmud

  • 2b-Letter7
I read the purported justification given by orthodox Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein for the Beth Din’s decision to bar the rabbinate from participating at Limmud with despair and sadness.
by Professor Dennis Davis, Cape Town | Jul 11, 2019

Goldstein claims that the South African orthodox rabbinate has never sought to disparage Limmud. That, sadly, is not correct. I can certainly vouch for the fact that there have been sermons to the effect that at Limmud, it isn’t problematic to talk of making gefilte fish, but once Limmud trenches on any topic of Judaism, it’s guilty of propagating heresy.

If that isn’t evidence enough, the rabbi’s equation of Limmud preventing advocates of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign from participating at Limmud with the Beth Din’s boycott of Limmud is truly an own goal. In a mindset that regards BDS as the enemy of the Jewish people, to compare it to Limmud just reveals the awful attitude to Limmudniks, all protestations of pain and love notwithstanding.

Even more important is that this takes place in the context of a radically reduced Jewish community, with a clear minority of adherents to Goldstein’s brand of Judaism. While his segment of the community should be respected for their efforts to educate their followers and enrich their lives, the fact that at this time, he seeks to divide the community is unforgivable. In effect, he doesn’t want a significant section of the community – probably the majority on the basis of recent surveys – to drink from the fountain of Jewish knowledge. In a tradition as contested as ours, it beggars belief that any rabbi confident of his intellectual ability would pass up an opportunity to debate, deliberate, and persuade an audience eager to learn

Sadly, unlike other communities which show tolerance towards Limmud, and even some tacit support from the orthodox rabbinate, we, a beleaguered community, have to be divided. I would urge all members of the community to back Limmud.

Oh, and if Goldstein wishes, I’m happy to buy him a ticket, and he can attend my discussion of the Jewish influences in Gustav Mahler’s 2 and 9 symphonies. If I represent the tradition wrongly, he’s welcome to point out the mistakes to me. And, no, I won’t play any of the choral bits in deference to his particular interpretation of kol isha (the voice of a woman). 


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