Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yitzhak Levy- An Intellectually Challenged...Former Education Minister?

Ben Chorin has provided further proof of the limitations of Rabbi Yitzhak Levi. Ben describes his experience as follows:

Another wild day in vaadat chukah today. Never before have I seen one politician do so much damage to his own constituents' interests as I did today. The discussion was about the definition of the state. The alternatives were to bury the Jewish character of the state in the useless "Jewish and democratic" formulation or to include a strong separate Jewish clause. We had lined up the Kadimah, Labor and Likud people behind the strong version. Things were going well. Which idiot torpedoed the whole thing? Yitzhak Levy of Mafdal-Ichud Leumi!Why, you might ask? A combination of warped ideology and personal vanity.First, he did not want to separate the words "Jewish" and "democratic" because his conception of the state involves intertwining Jewishness and democracy as a matter of principle. Whatever the hell that means. Second, he was duped into supporting Basic Law: Dignity and Freedom of Man back in 1992. That law has proved to be an unmitigated disaster. So Levy has begun acting like the Woody Allen character who, having fallen into the orchestra pit at the theater, repeats the performance for thirty consecutive nights so as not to let on it was an accident. He now wants to enshrine the language of that law in the opening chapter of the constitution so as not to let on that he was played for the fool in 1992.If you voted for Mafdal-Ichud Leumi thinking that you were advancing the cause of a Jewish State, you wuz robbed. When the chips are down, you are being represented by someone of extremely limited intellect.

I, myself, had earlier experienced these limitations. In the Spring of 1998, after the totally unnecessary fiasco known as פעמוני היובל, the Religious-Secular dialogue group known as שחרית had an emergency meeting to which Rabbi Levy was invited. The discussion got around to the question of the place of the representational arts in Judaism. I noted that in the 1970's there had been a big brouhaha about teaching Art at Yeshiva College and thaty the Rav had not only refused to support the campaign against Art, he actually said that it was permitted to teach it. No limitations were set.

Rabbi Levy, whose religio-cultural world begins and ends at Merkaz HaRav, looked at me blankly and said, 'That can't be true!' (לא יכול להיות). Desiring to maintain his dignity as Minister of Education I kept quiet. I was, however, stunned. Was he there? Did he know anything about it? Had he ever seen a Giotto in his life?

Yes, Ben Chorin is right. Yet the fact that a person such as this could be the Minister of Education is an example of why Religious Zionism is in such a sorry state. It also says alot about the state of Israeli education. Consider the last three ministers. There was Levy ('nuff said), Livnat (who doesn't have a BA) and Tamir (who's defended female circumcision on the grounds of multi-culturalism).



Anonymous said...

Is this the same R' Yitzchak Levy who is a ram at Yeshivat Har Etzion, or a different one?

Ben Bayit said...

I'm sorry. I just don't buy into dissing Levy - and by extension Mercaz HaRav - based on this incident. The situation with Arts studies at YU is not so cut and dried. No less that RYBS's brother, Rav Aharon, spoke out against certain aspects of the Arts course. We all know about how R. H. Schachter's degree (and institutional semicha) was held up around this issue. If you are correct - and based on RHS's status of the "leading talmid" during his decade in the shiur - one would assume that RYBS might have encouraged him to back down on the issue - not issue him a personal semicha in lieu of the RIETS one.
That comment by Levy indicates nothing. You're reading too much into it.

Jeffrey said...

1) No it's a different Yitzhak Levy.

2) I stand by my evaluation of Levy's remarks that night, based upon other things he said and the text that he taught. He is a typical example of the type of cutural obscurantism that prevents the spread of Torah to large sectors of the community and serves as the direct cause of horadat kippah in others. Read the Rambam's Introduction to Helek where he discusses attitudes to Aggadot Hazal.

As far as the YU controversy is concerned...a) I was unaware that it affected Rav Schechter that way. If so, that was morally reprehensible on the part of the administration. The issue was academic freedom, after all. b) What does Rav Aharon's zt'l view have to do with his brother? c) The Rav's approach to issue is borne out not only by this incident but by others.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Tamir decidedly did *not* defend female circumcision. Re-read my comment on your original post, or better yet, re-read Tamir's article without preujudice or jaundice.

But you are right on about Levy. How did he make to the Knesset? Is this the best the RZ world has to offer?

Ben Bayit said...

That's the way I heard the story. From what I heard,after a certain point RHS was allowed to write a paper on why taking the course was assur, in lieu of fulfilling the course requirements and was then given his bachelors degree. Eventually by the 1980's the requirement was lifted in the sense that it became either speech, art and music courses or one of the 3 plus 2 semesters of a foreign language. The "bnei yeshiva" tended towards the latter option - upon the advice of their rebbeim in YU.

You are correct that Rav aron's views had no bearing on his brother's - but to one who is only familiar with YU from afar, these types of nuances are difficult to discern and it is plausible that people will have pre-conceived notions of the institution - and by extension it's leaders - as a whole. That's all.