Can we learn from the story of religious persecution and humiliation that characterized Islamic Spain? Can we learn to shape a better, more harmonious world by insisting on genuine respect, equality, decency, and theological humility among all religions? Can we afford not to learn these lessons?
A few spoons of inspired foolery can shape the way we view the world. In terrible times, dare we waste time on humor? Dare we not?
Rabbi Dr. David de Sola Pool (May 16, 1885-December 1, 1970) was the foremost Sephardic rabbi in the United States during the middle decades of the 20th century. While scholars can list his many accomplishments and publications, the distinctive religious worldview that animated Dr. Pool’s life has remained relatively unexplored. This article will examine basic themes in Dr. Pool’s thinking, so that his unique contributions—and failures—might be better understood.
When I was a young rabbi, I believed that the classic models of Sephardic rabbinic leadership provided a responsible and meaningful example for all of world Jewry. Nearly 50 years later, I still believe this to be true. In spite of all the negative signs that abound, I still believe this to be true.
Rabbi Uziel believed that the purpose of the State of Israel on the world scene is to serve as a model nation, characterized by moral excellence. Just as individuals are religiously required to participate in the life of society, the Jewish people as a nation must participate in the life of the community of nations.
We may find it jarring to come into contact with Jews who observe minhagim different from ours. We may think that their practices are quaint, or odd, or plain wrong....The hope is that through greater awareness and empathy, we will function as a stronger, happier, and more diverse Jewish community. We need a genuine recognition that in our various searches for Divinity, different Jewish communities have followed diverse—perfectly halakhic and proper—roads.
The rabbinic conferences in Morocco are the only example in modern times of a living halakha that responded to contemporary concerns with a united rabbinic front. These rabbis had confidence in their authority and didn't feel the need to look over their shoulders. Who knows what would have been achieved in Morocco had the conferences continued?
With regard to central values and religious orientations found in the writings of Sephardic rabbis of recent centuries: their import extends beyond Sephardim by birth, to all Jews attempting to chart a course for a personal and communal life in which authentic Judaism and humanity go hand in hand.