What is leadership in Modern Orthodoxy? We've been having a fascinating discussion on the Hirhurim comments to this post about what it entails. (Here's a direct link to the comment thread.)
I mantain that there are two types of leaders. There is the Rabbi, who is the role model, the teacher, the one whose piety and erudition astonishes and stuns his audience. This is the man whom we respect and want to follow, the person who embodies true religousity, the person whose very essence is bound up with Torah. This Rabbi is both pious and knowledgable; he practices what he preaches. He is a man who is aware of the modern world and lives within it rather than hiding from it in despair, but he focuses on halakha and on texts. His textual study impacts his halakhic rulings which impacts his life.
The second type of leader is what we might term the real-world leader. This is the person who is involved with things as they are, not as they could be in an ideal state. This is the person who works with politics, works to bring the fun and meaning back into Judaism, to make it attractive to teenagers. This is the person who creates and funds programs like NCSY and Eimatai and CJF. This is the person who works through practical measures to create a workable vision of Modern Orthodoxy.
You could even make a case for the Rabbi acting more like the real-world leader. Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik's definition of a Rabbi:
- ...for guidance in Jewish law, one may go to a dayyan [rabbinical judge]. However, the main role of the rabbi is to help the needy, protect the persecuted, defend the widows, and sustain orpahns. In a word, it is acts of loving-kindness [gemilat hasadim]. (The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, 193)
- Why doesn't Judaism have room for both types of leadership? Surely we need impressive thinkers and scholars, people who "wrestle with a R' Chaim Al HaRambam" but we also need noble, caring individuals (perhaps laymen!) willing to dedicate their time to creating a workable vision of Modern Orthodoxy. These people may not be scholars or particularly learned, but their efforts are no less valuable. It would seem that the scholars and the political movers are both necessary.
- My comment about Orthodoxy was in response to Mr. Brizel's feeling that our newspaper represents Modern Orthodoxy. I don't really know what that term means. In fact, I changed the Rav Hayyim line in the actual print edition to read "mastery of Shulhan Arukh." To me, that is the true ideology of any Jew -- halakha. Therefore, coming back, briefly, to the question you both raised: Jewish leadership, like anything else in Judaism is based in our halakhic code. Rambam might disagree with the Tosafists about a given halakha, but both are properly anchored in an interpretation of halakha that is valid. You do not need to be able to understand every Rav Hayyim to be a leader, but you certainly need to be grounded in halakha to be a proper representation of our people.
- ...while these programs certainly help bolster an individual's social skills and may even hone his leadership skills, leadership has to grounded in Torah exclusively. The extra elements are just extra. They may help a great deal, but the core cannot be a 'leadership training' seminar. That's all I meant.
- If the current RIETS roshei yeshiva are perceived to be the inspirational leaders and driving forces in Modern Orthodoxy, and that we seek to be like them and their ilk, then why don't we follow in their path? I don't think that Rav Hershel Schachter or Rav Aharon Lichtenstein -- among thirty, or so, others -- took any CJF leadership courses.
- Menachem,Very true that R' Herschel Shachter and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein didn't take any CJF leadership courses. Is that reason to denigrate the type of leadership that differs from theirs, such as President Richard Joel's?
Now, what do you think? What makes a leader in Modern Orthodoxy? Are there two types? Only one? How does it work?