Chairman’s Message

by | in Chairman's Message

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We recently celebrated Shavuos, a holiday on which we rejoice in the giving of the Torah not just to a nation, but to 600,000 individuals. As Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes, according to the Maharsha, 600,000 people means there are 600,000 ways to interpret and understand the Torah.

This notion of diversity is fundamental to Jewish life and to Jewish learning. Walk into any yeshivah and witness the vigorous debates taking place; this attests to the multifaceted, multilayered and complex nature of the Torah. Debate and argumentation leshem Shamayaim—for the sake of discovering truth—have been the hallmark of the Jewish people for thousands of years.

Jewish Action has always encouraged debate and dialogue for the sake of fostering greater unity and respect. While Jewish Action is the family magazine of the Orthodox Union, our mission, as stated in each issue, is not to present the opinion of OU leaders but to “provide a forum for a diversity of legitimate opinions within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism.”

Jewish Action’s refreshing honesty—its willingness to present both sides of a debate—is, I believe, one of its greatest strengths. When, for example, we addressed the topic of social media, we published a symposium featuring rabbis and educators with vastly differing opinions—those who fully embrace the social media revolution to those who passionately reject it. Similarly, when we ran a piece on Orthodox life on campus, we presented the story of a student who became Orthodox on campus as well as the story of one who experienced significant challenges to his religious way of life.

Our approach is neither to oversimplify nor to shy away from difficult topics. We respect our readers too much to tell them what to think. We present the issues and let our readers decide for themselves.

Does our approach alienate certain readers? Inevitably it does. But we believe that “shivim panim laTorah”—“there are 70 faces (facets) to Torah”—must be our guiding principle if our publication is to genuinely reflect the full breadth of contemporary Orthodox Jewish life. 

We received a flood of letters in response to an article we published in the last issue about a young Chareidi woman serving in the IDF. While many of the writers extolled the soldier for her obvious courage and the impressive kiddush Hashem she made, others felt that the article did not address the serious concerns that the religious community in Israel has about women joining the IDF. As we noted in our Letters section, we hope to correct this oversight by exploring this complicated topic more fully in an upcoming issue.

Our jam-packed summer issue is perfect reading during long Shabbos afternoons. As we approach the first yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, we offer a talmid’s personal reminiscences of the tremendous posek as well as articles on some of his halachic decisions on public policy issues and on the latest medical technologies. We also feature an article exploring the little-known relationship between Rav Elyashiv and Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook.

In a moving piece by OU Senior Writer Bayla Sheva Brenner, we read about the incredible courage of Rabbi Yehuda Simes, whose life was turned upside down two years ago when his car swerved off the road, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Rabbi Simes, the dean and co-founder of NCSY’s Torah High Ottawa and his remarkable life partner, Shaindel, teach us about patience, faith and optimism.

On a lighter note, we meet some of the rising stars in the world of frum comedy, including Yisrael Campbell, whose former Off-Broadway show tells the story of his spiritual journey, and David Kilimnick, who opened a frum comedy club in Jerusalem.

Additionally, in a special section, parenting experts seek to answer some of the toughest questions facing parents today. Topics include raising confident children, instilling emunah and discussing sexuality, to name a few.

Of course, this issue also includes our usual array of articles on books, food, Israel and more. Please keep in mind that our editorial doors are always open, and we love to hear from you! So send us your comments at www.ou.org/jewish_action or e-mail us at ja@ou.org. Wishing all of you a restful and enjoyable summer!

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2013.

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