Letter from the Editor: Trust the Person, Doubt the Ideas
Rabbi Shalom Carmy, in a sermon I once heard from him on Parshat Korach, discussed how we read the Korach narrative through Moshe’s eyes but not his mind. What this meant was, that we are not privy to know what Moshe is really thinking about Korach’s actions and words, but rather, we are simply presented with the words and actions as they occurred. R. Carmy argued that a valuable message is found in this narrative detail; it is important to take people’s actions and words at face value, and not assume there are conspiracy theories backing and motivating that person’s thoughts. Assuming negative intentions from opponents is an inappropriate and dangerous methodology.
Later, I saw a striking quote by Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, who also argued that we must not suspect others of acting with malevolent intentions. The context for this statement was a 1998 discussion of the Ne’eman Committee’s proposals (regarding conversion), which R. Lichtenstein was accused of being in full support of. In a letter to The Jewish Press he wrote:
I deeply regret the substance and tone of much of the charged rhetoric being leveled at its members in some quarters — or, for that matter, some of the almost vitriolic condemnations of Conservative and Reform Jewry occasionally heard in the heat of controversy. Vehemently as I disagree with the positions of these movements, I prefer to attribute to error what some appear bent on ascribing to malevolence; and I fail to see what the Orthodox world has to gain by putting the worst possible face upon the motives and actions of our rivals. Such a course is both morally and Halakhically problematic and, from a pragmatic perspective, probably, ultimately, counterproductive.
Similar to R. Carmy, R. Lichtenstein’s argument is that assuming others have insincere intentions is problematic morally, halakhically, and pragmatically.
This approach, of not casting aspersions on the motives of others, deeply resonated with me at the time, but even more so now, as I was unaware of how relevant this issue is to our community. Assigning ulterior motives to others is a dangerous methodology, and we are surely better suited by instead engaging in substantive debates about ideas and values.
In this vein, we chose the topic of “The Other in Judaism,” with the hope of shedding light on how Jews engage with communities, individuals, and ideas that are different than their own. During our preparation for this issue, Yeshiva University suffered a major loss, namely Rabbi Ozer Glickman z”l. Along with being close with many current and former writers and editors of Kol Hamevaser, Rabbi Glickman was a major supporter of Kol Hamevaser, and very much believed in its importance. Therefore, we have dedicated a tribute section to R. Glickman in this issue, which includes touching and insightful eulogies from both his colleagues Rabbi Yosef Blau and Dr. Stephen Fine, as well as his students Gabi Weinberg and Ari Friedman.
While this tribute section to R. Glickman in this issue was certainly unanticipated, R. Glickman’s life actually beautifully dovetails with this issue’s theme. As you will read in the various tributes, R. Glickman was a man that was very open-minded and remarkably respectful and open to the ideas and approaches of others. Indeed, R. Glickman’s life is an inspiring model for how to engage with others, even those with whom he strongly disagreed, in a substantive and respectful manner. Although he is no longer physically with us, R. Glickman will have a lasting legacy as a role model for meaningful and thoughtful dialogue.
In addition to the tribute section, Daniel Gottesman and Isaac Bernstein wrote articles relating to this issue’s theme, and touch upon important ideas regarding conversion and non-Jewish souls. In honor of Yom Yerushalayim, our symposium focuses on balancing responsibilities towards Medinat Yisrael. In the “Revisiting Classical Essays” section, I discuss the impact of Dr. Haym Soloveitchik’s famed article “Rupture and Reconstruction.” Finally, the issue closes with three book reviews by Matt Lubin, Tzvi Benoff, and David Selis.
We hope you enjoy reading this issue and look forward to hearing your feedback.
Avraham Wein is a senior at Yeshiva college and is majoring in Jewish Studies, Psychology, and Tractate Shevuot.
 I confirmed with Rabbi Carmy that my recollection of his sermon was indeed accurate. For a more extensive analysis of the korach narratives see Shalom Carmy, The Sons of Korach Who Did Not Die,” Tradition 49:1 (2016), 1-7.
 Jewish Press 3/27/1998.