At a time when Orthodox observance and yeshiva study enjoy unprecedented resurgence across the Jewish world, it is difficult to see clear successors to those (often European-educated) rabbis who defined Orthodoxy in the second half the 20th century, writes Andrew Friedman in The Jerusalem Report (June 29). In recent years, several haredi—or ultra-Orthodox—leaders have died, including Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Shmuel Wosner who passed away just this spring. There have never been as many students at yeshiva as there are today, but some observers suggest that the very spread of Talmud study, rather than retaining the preserve of the intellectual elite, has contributed to that situation. Rabbi Ari Kahn (Bar-Ilan University) adds that many Jews have embraced Orthodoxy without previous knowledge and family traditions, which means the need for simpler material and a dilution accompanies numerical growth.
Some Orthodox authorities also warn that the rise of extremist attitudes is detrimental to the emergence of new leaders of high intellectual stature: this does not encourage “creative thinking or moral courage,” that often have been characteristic of great leaders willing to make decisions, “often in the direction of leniency.” Most people interviewed by Friedman, however, think that this is merely a temporary state of affairs. They are convinced that a new generation of leaders will emerge, even if this needs to take some time after the death of those of the old generation. “People are living longer, but as long as Rabbi X is alive, no one will be recognized as the new authority” in a milieu that values what is old, says sociologist Samuel Heilman (Queens College, City University, New York).
(Jerusalem Report, P.O. Box 1805, Jerusalem 91017, Israel – http://www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report)