A Bold Leader in Torah and Science
The Jewish People lost a bold rabbinic leader over chag with the passing of Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, ztz"l. He was a rare individual with connections to both the yeshiva world and the scientific enterprise. In addition, he possessed a truly rare attribute of courageously speaking his mind, and not being intimidated into having to conform with the yeshivishe velt.
I certainly had my share of disagreements with Rav Tendler over the years, whether with regard to his rejection of the common ancestry of animals, his campaign against the kashrut of swordfish or his identifying the Biblical shafan as the llama. Still, we had a warm personal relationship, and his contribution to the basic notion of bridging Torah with the modern world is immense.
Over the years I had several conversations with him, but one in particular was so significant that I took notes at the time. It was on January 15th, 2005 - right in the heat of the great Torah-Science controversy. Rabbi Tendler told me that “my shver (father-in-law, i.e. Rav Moshe Feinstein) always said that Daas Torah is meaningless unless its backed up with a Shach and a Taz (i.e. that a rav’s pronouncement means nothing unless it's backed up by sources)." He also had some even stronger words to say about the popular approach to Daas Torah, but I'm not sure if it's appropriate to share them.
At that time, he also made an exceptionally generous offer. He said that I should collect a list of a hundred signatures of rabbanim who endorse my approach to Torah and science, and that he would be happy to be the first signatory. Those who remember the mass hysteria and witch-hunt of 2005 can appreciate just how brave this was! (I decided not to proceed with this approach, for reasons that I do not exactly remember now.)
Rav Tendler has a particularly special zechus. He shares responsibility for dramatically improving (and in many cases saving) the lives of literally hundreds of people, by ruling that brain death is death and thus enabling organ transplantation. How many people can claim such a zechus? May his memory be blessed.
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