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A Jew Dare Not Live with Absolute Certainty

Rabbi Emmanuel Rackman, past Chancellor of New York’s Yeshiva University and President Emeritus of Bar Ilan University in Israel, died in early December, 2008, at age 98. Rabbi Rackman was also the spiritual leader of the prominent Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan and an outspoken advocate of a more inclusive, intellectually open Orthodox Judaism.

What I know about Rabbi Rackman impressed me so. One colleague said that his great strength – particularly in a Jewish world that is increasingly polarized – was his assertion that Jewish pluralism was a Torah-True perspective even for the Orthodox. Here is a quote from a 1966 article:

Perhaps, like Socrates, I corrupt youth, but I teach that Judaism encourages doubt, even as it enjoins faith and commitment. A Jew dare not live with absolute certainty not only because certainty is the hallmark of the fanatic and Judaism abhors fanaticism, but also because doubt is good for the human soul, its humility, and consequently its greater potential ultimately to discover its Creator.

May his memory be for a blessing.

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    The late Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Rackman wasn’t chancellor of Yeshiva University. That position was created for the current seat-holder, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, who assumed that position following his tenure as president of Yeshiva University.

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