1873, Rabbi Esriel Hildisheimer addressed those gathered at the inauguration of his new Theological Seminary in Berlin:
“We want to remain in the service of the Jewish tradition and, as much as possible, make it a common good. This Theological Seminary is not a rabbi-factory, but a site for the fundamental and total knowledge [of Torah], and we therefore call upon the future rabbi as well as the craftsman, the future professor as well as the merchant, the theologian as well as the lawyer and the physician. Everyone who is attracted by our atmosphere, who has the desire for Jewish wisdom and longs to dedicate his spirit and his life to loyalty before the law, and who is also willing to devote the necessary amount of time to it, is welcome.”
Today we celebrate you, who have the desire for Jewish wisdom.
And you who long to dedicate your spirit and life loyally to the Jewish law in the very land where Rabbi Hildesheimer and Rabbi Hirsch, the Baal Haturim, and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, the Malbim and the Maharil did the same.
What a remarkable moment – with all of you gathered together, to charge these new rabbis on their sacred mission, to celebrate with wives, parents and grandparents, children and friends
What a remarkable moment, as this new academy celebrates its profound mission of advancing Torah and helping to guide, teach, and lead our people in Germany and beyond.
What a remarkable moment, for these gathered graduates to thank their loved ones for their belief, support, and commitment up till this moment and onward
And what a moment to appreciate and celebrate the devotion and dedication of the established rabbis of this Yeshiva, who have taught, guided, inspired and informed the newly ordained
By adding more educated and talented rabbis to this world, this yeshiva has further connected itself to our long and proud tradition going all the way back to Moses
On one of the darkest days for our people, after the sin of the golden calf, Moshe, the ultimate exemplar of a rabbi pleaded with G-d
He said וַיֹּאמַר הַרְאֵנִי נָא אֶת כְּבֹדֶךָ:
Let me, I pray, behold Your Glory. G-d responds. וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא תוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת פָּנָי כִּי לֹא יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי:
He said, you cannot see my countenance for man shall not see me and live.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְקֹוָק הִנֵּה מָקוֹם אִתִּי וְנִצַּבְתָּ עַל הַצּוּר:
And G-d said, behold, there is one vantage point next to me; stand upon the rock
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, the great German-Jewish sage sees in these verses a master principle of life. We cannot see Hashem, for it is not the human’s role to see G-d. But G-d says, Hinai Makom iti – come stand next to me. As Rav Hirsch teaches: “There is only one vantage point – not to look up from earth to G-d to attain a vision of G-d, but to be uplifted by G-d, to stand next to him, to look upon man and human concerns from G-d’s standpoint.” In other words, the role of the human is not to see G-d, but to see as G-d sees, and to do as G-d does.
As rabbis in Germany, you are all in a unique position to teach our people and the world that our role is to see as G-d sees.
May you stand with G-d to ennoble and enable a brighter tomorrow
These are days of civilizational challenge and civilizational opportunity.
In this time of confusion, we are all privileged to recognize our responsibility to add with our Jewish voice a harmonic line in the chorus of civilization to remind the world of its best instincts. That our role is to see as G-d sees and do as G-d does
It is wonderful that this heroic rabbinical school is in the heart of Europe where so much of future civilization must be influenced.
It is crucial that the Jewish melody contribute to a symphonic chorus of civilization from this place as you inform the future that you recognize your role in building a strong Jewish people who matter in the world.
As President of Yeshiva University, the largest Jewish university outside of Israel and President of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary one of the premier institutions of Jewish higher learning in the world, I am uniquely aware of the central role of the rabbi as purveyor in the chain of Jewish law and the academic integrity of rabbis as important players in establishing a bright Jewish tomorrow
I had the privilege in confirming the ordination of 190 students in our yeshiva in New York this past March
This is every bit as glorious and every bit as meaningful
At Yeshiva University – and clearly at this Yeshiva as well – we strongly subscribe to the notion that devoted and knowledgeable rabbis can inspire whole communities to advance civilization by living meaningful lives
From there, the Jewish communities they partner with, can model the values our world needs to thrive
Part of this idea stems form the example set by Rabbi Hirsch and Rabbi Hildesheimer here in Germany in the nineteenth century
This is why it is fitting that Yeshiva University’s main campus is located in the Washington Heights section of New York
Because of its historic German-Jewish community it is often called Frankfurt on the Hudson
I am so pleased that its president is now welcomed to Leipzig on the Elster
YU is honored to be included in the renaissance of Jewish life and Torah life in Germany
We are excited to be partners with the proud and flourishing and growing German communities and we look forward to continuing and strengthening this relationship into the future.
How remarkable it is to witness this German Jewish community thriving and contributing to the Jewish tomorrow, as was the case a century ago.
In the encroaching noise of mass communication and mass information, when ideologies and technologies scream at us and create a cacophony of ethical and moral confusion, the sweet, strong voices of Torah, the guidance of a compassionate G-d, and the inspiration of the sacred Jewish journey, are more needed than ever. Here, and in artzeinu hakedhosha; in the marketplace of ideas and values, and the sacred privacy of the Jewish home and the home of all people of good will, kol Torah – the voice of Torah – must ring out.
May you venture forth as the concert masters of G-d’s chorus.
May you script wonderful music, conduct wonderful harmonies, and shepherd the Jewish people forward to a warmer tomorrow, to fashion a Jewish destiny of pride and purpose. May that destiny be rich in learning and wisdom; in principal and in purpose; And may your efforts bring to our people and the world, sheleimus and shalom, wholeness and peace, V’cheyn yehi Ratzon, so may it be G-d’s will.
Die Rede wurde in englischer Sprache gehalten
– Es gilt das gesprochene Wort –