A goodly portion of Yeshivat Hadar spent this Shabbat in Riverdale, and I had the pleasure of cramming everyone into my apartment for (yummy potluck) lunch.
Following lunch, there was "Ask Rav Eitan."
Which is what? Well, here's a whole bunch of people who can see that their rosh yeshiva is entirely awesome, and they want to know what he thinks about fun questions like "Why is Judaism important?" Clearly nobbling him after Shabbat lunch, when he's too full of cholent to run away, is the best way of getting answers.
I jest. He wasn't trying to run away.
This is what was really going on:
When one's worldview isn't rendered in stark black and white, one has to find subtle shades-of-grey answers to any important question, existential or otherwise. One has gut feelings, or vague ideas, or half-formed rationales, regarding the big questions and the bigger picture, but fitting them together neatly is generally a bit beyond one, and we muddle along with more or less faith that it'll turn out okay in the end.
Then every so often you come across someone who has thought about all these things, and studied extensively, and is aware enough and articulate enough to express cogent, nuanced, informed, reasonable opinions. Sometimes they're saying clearly exactly the words you've been groping for; sometimes what they say or how they say it resonates with you so strongly that even if you don't quite agree, you want to hear more so that you can learn how to express your own opinions like that.
Here, you can see, is a way of constructing the security, the groundedness, which comes with the confident black-and-white answer, in the shades of grey one's intellectual integrity demands. Bit by bit you can muddle less and stand firm on sure ground; as people drawn to a measure of religious leadership, such grounding is a needed strength for ourselves and others.
So you meet someone in whose expression of the bigger picture you can see your own fuzzy approximations, but clarified and extended and set into place almost beyond recognition. It is a picture you have been trying to see; you have found someone who sees it, and you want to know all about
the picture as they see it. Every last detail, so that you can see it through your own eyes and carry it with you.
That's what "Ask Rav Eitan" is doing, in a sense.
The next chapter here probably concerns the nature of the picture seen by the Yeshivat Hadar leadership, and why I think it is at present unique and hence uniquely important, but it's 1am so it'll have to wait for another day.
In any case, this was originally intended as a light-hearted post about how this Shabbat, when we were Asking Rav Eitan, and Rav Eitan was talking in rather powerful and compelling ways about how and why Judaism is the framework of his life, the doorbell rang.
Two Jehovah's Witnesses were at the door, one of them brandishing a much-worn Bible and the other with a folder of magazines.In my apartment right now
, flashed through my mind, there are three rabbis and a dozen people who spend all week learning Bible and Jewish canonical texts. I could invite these Witnesses into the lions' den. It would be hilarious.
But it would also be rather cruel and gratuitous, so I suppressed the fit of giggles that was arising and said politely "This really isn't a conversation we want to be having right now."
"Oh; why not?" one responded eagerly.Because here are a group of yeshivaniks clustered round their rosh yeshiva hanging on his every word,
I thought, you couldn't really have chosen a less likely target. Every single person in this room learns Bible on a level you've never even thought about. You'd get slaughtered. And nothing you can say could be anywhere near as interesting as Asking Rav Eitan.
"We're a bit busy right now," I said feebly, closing the door.
I hope they didn't hear the laughter.Originally posted at Dreamwidth. Re-enabling comments over here because dreamwidth fail at LJ integration. Pity, because they have principles.