Lance Friedman responds (“Letter Commenting on Rabbis’ Views Should Show Kavod,” February 28, 2019) to my letter (“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, Indeed,”) in the Feb 7, 2019 issue of JLNJ by doing exactly what he accuses me of, a personal attack. I was quite explicit in stating my respect and admiration for Rabbi Jachter. While I do not know Rabbi Jachter well, he has taught my sons at TABC, handled my Get with incredible sensitivity and kindness, writes a weekly column in JLNJ that I read with
delight, and recently published an inspiring book, “Reason to Believe: Rational Explanations of Orthodox Jewish Faith,” which should be required reading in our Orthodox Jewish community, especially for our youth. If I did not hold Rabbi Jachter in such high regard I would not have bothered to write the letter. I was pleased to see that Rabbi Jachter did not object to publication of my letter, but if Rabbi Jachter was in any way insulted by it, then allow me to express publicly my sorrow and regret.
My letter, however, was intended to address an issue of critical importance. Discussing the question of how we as Orthodox Jews should relate to the not-yet believing Jewish world, Professor Menachem Kellner, in his book, “Must a Jew Believe Anything,” argues that instead of being judgmental and dogmatic, it is critical that we understand our responsibilities as religious Jews to help secure the future of the Jewish collective. I believe that in our interactions with the less religious Jewish community, as well as the non-Jewish world beyond, we must recognize our sacred responsibility as representatives of Torah. If the Torah is to be perceived as “D’racheha Darchei Noam,” then our behavior should be pleasant and upstanding. Where possible we must seek the high road and act above the letter of the law, always keeping in mind the elusive fifth part of Shulchan Aruch, common sense.
Unfortunately, Lance Friedman fails to address the substantive issues raised in my letter. Rather than falling back on Kavod HaRav, he should recognize that discussion and debate of these matters will lead to more nuanced and sensitive behavior. In fact, I’ve asked myself had I been in Rabbi Jachter’s shoes in Tel Aviv that day, would I have acted differently. The truth is I don’t know what I would have done in the moment, but I am hopeful that his article has raised awareness for all of us.