Friday, May 18, 1984
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ests, the force that truly motivates
him is love and concern for the
Jewish people. "That's what makes
me run," he says. "My work on the
Talmud is not for me to show off but
to make that wisdom available to our
people. I try to build as many bridges
as I can because it's a matter of survi-
"Much of what I do is hardship. I
once vowed never to give talks in
public because I don't do them well.
So here I am on a lecture tour. And no
one thought I would be a good teacher
because I have no patience; I don't
tolerate fools. So here I am a teacher.
I'd like to be an engineer, or an inven-
tor, or to work with my hands as a
stonecutter. But I am part of a mis-
sion and I must help in areas that are
difficult for others."
Steinsaltz plans to open a new
yeshivah this fall which will seek to
create a corps of bright leaders, not
just scholars. "I hope to inspire in
them a feeling of duty to their people,
a sense of service and servitude.
Other yeshivahs excel at pure Torah
study; I want to work with those who
can inspire others, who can reach out
and transmit this notion of commit-
ment to the Jewish people."
But bringing Jews back
Judaism, he recognizes, hinges on
that first step of commitment. "I don't -
say to someone, 'First you must be-
lieve.' In fact, theologically speaking,
I would say that to speak about belief
is either unnecessary or hopeless.
Like trying to describe, say, a
watermelon. I say, 'Taste and see if it
is good. Take a bite.'
"I cannot describe a taste. I can
only say, 'it was good for me. Have a
bite. Get involved. See for yourself.' "
Fighting with the angels
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ollowing is a sampling of that a strong identity only comes
Steinsaltz's observations, from wrestling with the existential
culled from his writings, talks and
question, Who am I? If someone isn't
challenged by his environment to
On Jewish education: The one, wrestle with this question, then he
positive, clear-cut result of the Sun- can safely depend on that environ-
day school system is that kids come ment for the external shell that
out of it knowing that the path of passes for an identity. And with ex-
Judaism is worthless. But even so, I ternal enemies, the temptation
am for it. At least they still have the grows to define oneself through the
connection. And that is the most pos-
struggle against anti-Semitism or
itive thing one can say about most anti-Zionism. But the cultural or-
Jewish organizations. Its members ganism which then develops is like
belong to the Jewish family.— be-
an invertebrate animal, with no
long even though I don't know how or backbone of its own. It has only an
why. I may hate it. But it's mine.' "
outer shell, toughened by the
On pulpit rabbis: "The rabbi environment. Meaningful Jewish
doesn't teach and the congregation
survival requires the strengthening
doesn't learn. It's a kind of colossal
of an inner backbone that is uniquely
trick. The community knows it has to Jewish, without having to rely on ex-
have a rabbi. But it doesn't feel it ternal factors.
needs a rabbi in the sense that a man
"I maintain that the Talmud, as
needs a doctor when he is ill or a the central pillar of Jewish culture
drink when he is thirsty."
through the centuries, is still the
On stimulating American Jews:
main source of spiritual calcium for
"An American professor told me that
our collective backbone."
what American Jews need is a good
On the religious inner struggle:
dose of anti-Semitism. But it's not the "An affair with heaven is compli-
best remedy. You can be pushed into
cated. It never goes smoothly — at
doing some things, but the best re-
least if it is in any way worthwhile.
medy is from within."
Judaism is a matter of questions, of
On Jewish survival: "A great fighting with God. None of the Bibli-
irony of the Zinoist achievement is cal heroes are restful. They are all
that Israel provides the most fertile struggling. That is what makes them
ground for assimilation in the world great.
today. People think that if they speak
"I'll go on fighting with the
Hebrew, serve in the Israel army,
angels — good ones and bad ones —
and give their children Biblical for another couple of decades. Trying
names, they are ensuring the survi-
not to do the old sins, but probably
val of Jewish culture. The reality is doing a few new ones."
Romania will halt publication of hate articles
7100 Orchard Lake Road
West Bloomfield, MI 48033
New York (JTA) —
Ceausescu of Romania has
promised the country's chief
rabbi, Moses Rosen, that he
will personally see to it that
the publication of virulently
anti-Semitic articles in a
number of Communist
Party papers and in a book
of poetry is stopped.
Ceausescu and Rabbi Rosen
met in Paris last week.
The chief rabbi said the
president also told him that
the author of the poetry,
Corneliu Valerian Tudor,
was reprimanded "within
the (Communist) Party
framework as the editor in
charge of the book's publica-
tion." He said his meeting
with Ceausescu had been
"very friendly" and that the
President had shown full
Ceausescu had not tried to
deny the anti-Semitic na-
ture of the attacks, as some
of the lower echelon officials
had done, and he assured
the rabbi that from now on
he will personally see to it
that such incidents do not