It is a great pleasure to present to my readers the first of several essays, written by my dear friend, student, colleague and scholar Yehudah DovBer Zirkind, based on my insights into Torah and Halacha and the discussion of these ideas within the David Cardozo Academy’s Think Tank.
This time the discussion centers around the thoughts of the great Chassidic master Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica, (Poland, 1800-1854) known by his work: Mei Hashiloah, one the most unusual works ever written by a deeply ultra-orthodox master thinker.This work has influenced many other orthodox and non-orthodox scholars. It may also have inspired the famous halachist, and mystic, Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1865-1935).
Rabbi Leiner’s thoughts are of the greatest importance for our days. It deals, among many other issues, with the numerous serious problems which emerge when our moral intuition conflicts with conventional Halacha; the question whether the Halacha is able to respond to the radical changes which have taken place in modern times. Is the conventional Halacha appropriate for all Jews when it is becomes clearer and clearer that human beings are by nature so radically different and consequently unable to live by one and the same code? How can one standardized deeply religious law respond and give guidance to all those different people? And what happens when an individual has a “religious illumination”, a kind of divine revelation, coming from God which contradicts the very requirements of the Torah?
And while Rabbi Leiner lived long before the State of Israel was established, his many unconventional thoughts touch on perhaps the most important question with which Jewry struggles at this very hour: How to secure the democratic State of Israel’s religious Jewish character which gets constantly compromised but nevertheless wants to stay Jewish. No doubt, this matter touches on the very core of Jewish identity and consequently on the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
In my writings and thoughts, I have dealt with many of these problems. (See for example: Jewish Law as Rebellion, A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage, Urim Publications, 2018)
In the following essays, Yehudah Dov Ber Zirkind discusses my thoughts on the Mei Hashiloah in relationship to my own ideas as I presented them in our Think Tank and also shows us the highlights and pitfalls of these ideas.
Much more can be said about all these topics which we hope to present to you in the future.
It is of outmost importance that our discussion should be read with a great amount of Yirath Shamayim, the awe of Heaven, deep belief in the divinity of the Torah, which are fundamental to the very thoughts of the Mei Shiloah and my own small contribution.
Nathan Lopes Cardozo