Why Should I Pray?

In his first lecture on R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinksi for Torah in Motion, history professor Marc B. Shapiro says:

“What do you see in Elie Wiesel’s book Night? Wiesel never rejects the existence of God. He describes his journey from belief and piety to disillusionment. In his youth, his life is dominated by God. He tries to bring about the redemption.

“When asked why he prays, Elie Wiesel says, a strange question. Why do I live? Why do I pray? That’s a good Hasidic perspective.

Saul Lieberman had a different perspective. Lieberman said to Hillel Halkin, ‘Why do I have to daven (pray)? I don’t want to daven. I have nothing to say to God. It’s bittul Torah. It’s time taken from the study of Torah. That may be a Litvisha (Lithuanian) idea.

“Many of these Litvisha rabbis did not daven with a minyan. Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg did not daven with a minyan because he thought it would take too long.”

“Wiesel expresses a void, a separation from God. He never denies God’s existence.”

“God exists but there is no reason to have any connection with him anymore because God has abandoned His people.”

“Wiesel was never shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant). He was traditional.”

“At the end of the book, there’s no reason for a Jew to have any connection to God.”

“The French version of his book has no vengeance. The Yiddish version is much larger and has vengeance. On the last page of the French version, the boys go into town to sleep with girls. In the Yiddish version, they go into town to rape German girls as an act of vengeance.”

“I don’t get the sense that R. Eliezer Berkovits saw any benefit in Christianity. His view of Christianity is so negative as to be unfair.”

“Berkovitz was not speaking as an academic. He was speaking as a rabbi and a halakhic (Jewish law) thinker. He wanted to change the culture of Orthodoxy. He wanted the great rabbis to accept this. He doesn’t want to do it on his own. He doesn’t want to split the Jewish people. He’s willing to be radical in small areas. Writing responsa permitting Jews to enter a church is out of the mainstream.”

“Eliezer Berkovits and Emmanuel Rackman were arguing the same things.”

“Berkovits never acted. He never married someone with a conditional marriage of this sort (Reb Moshe Feinstein agreed with his conditional marriage on halachic terms but was not interested in implementing it). Had Berkovits lived another ten years, he might’ve acted on these proposals. Rackman didn’t act on these [matters] until his 80s.”

“Berkovits had no connection with the academics Saul Liberman and David Weiss Halivni.”

Yeshayahu Leibowitz was the exact opposite of Berkovits.”

“Berkovitz was involved with the American Orthodox rabbinate, especially those on the left. He was a leading Orthodox thinker. He spoke at conferences. He trained them for 20 years [at Hebrew Theological College]. He was not one to join with others.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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