Thursday, May 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on My Interaction with Rav Amnon Bazak

I have great respect for Yeshivat Har Etzion, commonly known as “Gush”. It's founding Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yehuda Amital zt”l as well as his long time co-Rosh Yeshiva Rav Ahron Lichtenstein, represent to me the ideal talmid chacham; one whose greatness in Torah is matched by his character and actions. Their commitment to honest self-reflection about themselves, their community, their yeshiva and their country show them to be true mevakshei emes.

Rav Amnon Bazak is one of the Ramim at the yeshiva. I know very little of him, and have not yet had the opportunity to learn much of his Torah. Interestingly, Rav Bazak has a Facebook account where he shares divrei Torah and some of his thoughts on Israel. To his credit, he not only shares information but responds to questions. I discovered this today through experience.

In the past few days, I shared a few of Rav Bazak's posts. I found them to be thoughtful, thought provoking and challenging. They also focused on some of the differences between how his world and the charedi world view Torah and their and its role in Israeli society. Some of my friends who are either charedi or sympathetic to the charedi worldview felt that his positions were antagonistic to charedim. Although I felt that they were not (or I would not have posted them), I decided to reach out to him through his page for his thoughts. I must admit that I did not expect to him to respond, or if he did, to only do so briefly. I respectfully suggested that perhaps he could made his points without mentioning specific names. I asked about how productive it is to discuss other communities on Facebook. I asked whether he thought what he was doing was in line with his rabbeim's approach. Each time, he answered with thoughtfulness, nuance and humility. At one point he asked me to change venues so the discussion would be private. He gave me his email address and we had one more virtual conversation.

I'm not going to reveal his responses, as some of them were part of a private conversation. I will however, make several points:

  • At no point in the conversation did he “pull rank” and tell me that I had no right to question him.
  • He admitted to struggling with these kind of questions himself.
  • Both on his FB page and in his email he “signed” his name without a title.
  • He very much is guided by the things he learned from his venerable rabbeim.

Personally, in my sharing of at least one of the posts, I made a few mistakes. One was that my own words were not weighed enough and came off as inflammatory. Second, due to a fact that some friends had not understood the first post due to its having been written in Hebrew, I posted an article by Natan Slifkin, which discussed Rav Bazak's thoughts rather than simply translating them. In doing so, I mistakenly gave the impression that I wished to share Rabbi Slifkin's analysis, when in truth, my goal was to share Rav Bazak's message. As always, I will continue to try and weigh my words as carefully as I can.

Ashreinu sh'zachinu laRebbe kazeh


  1. It does you credit that you are constantly second-guessing your online behavious. It shows humility and consideration. But I don't think you need to worry overmuch. I've never seen anything by you written in an obnoxious or inappropriate tone.