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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Interview with Chaim Rapoport

Steven I. Weiss

Canonist

I sat down with the Chabad rabbi and author, who presented a paper on The Rebbe's Commentary on Rashi: Some Initial Reflections, to discuss the Rebbe conference.
What is the difference between the way the Rebbe is discussed in, say, your session, and how he'd be discussed in a Lubavitch yeshiva? His answer was "threefold."
1) "The academic style, in essence is the studey of a subject — it's very detached…with the Rebbe there'd be a sense of awe."
2) "Academic presentations insist on putting things in context…you learn the Rebbe's Torah, you don't want to…it's not exposed to any form of comparison or analysis."
3) "Critical evaluation — that you actually ask the questions. Did the Rebbe — was [what he said] new? It just means you evaluate the thing."
Would the volume to be published from this conference be read by a Lubavitcher? "Not by your rank and file Lubavitcher."
Why is that the case — after all, Lubavitch chasidim can't get enough of the Rebbe's work, so wouldn't it stand to reason that they'd want to read something that'd give them insight into how his work develops? "For a chasid, that's not what it's all about…[just like] when you pray, you don't come to discuss theodicy."
What about Rapoport's paper? "My paper, although they wouldn't declare it heresy, they wouldn't read it."
Lubavitch tends to have a reputation as being more worldly among chasidim, and it may be that they more often know more about secular and scholarly matters; doesn't it seem odd, then, that they wouldn't want to engage the Rebbe academically? "Worldliness and academia don't go together…any worldly religious person, when it comes to his religion, has an amount of blind faith."


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