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Voices

Why is the Beth Din so afraid of Limmud?

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C Ralph, Johannesburg

First, does any conference involving Jewish life, Israel, and Jewish issues have to have a Beth Din hechsher for South African rabbis to participate? I can understand if they are representing the Beth Din (and the chief rabbi) or the Union of Orthodox Synagogues. But what if they are participating in their own right?

Second, why are we restricting or prohibiting the dissemination of Torah to Jewish audiences. You might not agree with some of the other speakers, even vehemently disagree, however why not use the platform to inspire and share creative Torah? I have attended Limmud many times (even presenting at conferences) and have found it to be stimulating, inspiring, and provocative. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to give the 1 000 to 2 000 attendees some expansive and creative Torah. What’s the Beth Din and chief rabbi afraid of? You would think South African rabbis could make a call as to whether they could make a meaningful contribution or not. If they can’t do that, then maybe they shouldn’t be a rabbi.

Of course, anyone can rightfully decide whether they want to attend or not, but to be prohibited by Beth Din decree! I find such a prohibition distasteful, it smacks of an archaic policing of Torah teaching and thought control. I can imagine a handful of South African rabbis who could instil some amazing Torah light into the Limmud programme – what a lost opportunity! Where are the voices of the community, and where are the voices of the rabbis (are they too afraid of the Beth Din and the chief, their jobs, and livelihood?) As a community, we are entitled to know what halacha is being violated?

Readers might be interested in reading the account of Rabbi Simon Jacobson, the director of the Chabad New York Meaningful Life Center (and a presenter at Sinai Indaba) of his very positive experience at London Limmud (www.meaningfullife.com/vayechi-2500-seekers/). United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis also felt it was in order to attend the conference. Makes you think, doesn’t it? 

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