Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On introducing a bachur to history

I had an interesting conversation with a twentiesh year old yeshiva bachur (don't worry, I'm not corrupting yeshiva bachurim).

Basically the conversation centered around the fact that R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik had a positive attitude towards Israel, as expressed in his essay Kol Dodi Dofek, and his grandfather R. Hayyim very negative attitude towards Zionism.

The bachur (let's call him Ari) is a good boy and a serious person and just couldn't understand how the einekel* could depart from the zeide** on such a weighty issue as this. What's more, since the collective gedolim were against the establishment of Israel, so Ari told me, how can R. Soloveitchik, great man he was, go against this?

So I introduced Ari to a concept I call "when facts change." When facts change, issues must be evaluated anew. R. Hayyim died in 1918. Israel was established in 1948. Some things occurred between 1918 and 1948. Positions on issues do not stand suspended outside time and outside circumstances. R. Yosef Ber had boundless attachment to his grandfather's ways and teachings. But he believed that a position which was tenable prior to 1918 was not tenable in 1956, when he wrote the essay, if the facts surrounding the position were different.

You'd think this wasn't a novel idea, but it took some time for Ari to digest it. After some more discussion he agreed that it makes sense. Or at least he could understand now how R. Yosef Ber could "go against" his grandfather.

Anyway, Ari was probably just inexperienced. But this touches on a larger issue regarding how I've observed some people, who are older, view positions of a selected set of gedolei Torah.


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