By Simon Rocker
December 24, 2013
When Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis announced his decision to go to Limmud, he might have expected the odd murmur of disapproval to his right.
But he must have been taken aback by the stridency of the resulting Charedi attack on Limmud, a clear attempt to dissuade his rabbinate from accompanying him there.
Now perhaps he feels his trip was worth the aggravation, after his enthusiastic reception at the event. Both his office and Limmud itself had tried to play down the significance of his appearance: he was simply to be one presenter among 450.
Nevertheless, one could hardly escape the sense of being the star turn for many in the auditorium. No one could remember a Limmud speaker being greeted by a standing ovation before he even spoke, let alone after - a recognition of his willingess to put principle above a quiet life.
His opening talk was a demonstration of popular homilectics, drawing lessons in leadership and moral example from the circumstances of Moses's birth and early years. He was clearly at ease as he spoke. There was nothing radical or political in what one member of the audience called "a safe speech".
But it carried a sting in the tail. When he talked at the end of the imperative of Jews having "universalistic ideals" rather than living in a "self-imposed ghetto away from the other peoples of the world", this was understood as a confident statement of modern Orthodox values in contrast to the sectarian of some of his critics.
And when he spoke of the necessity of engaging in Tikkun Olam, repair of the world, this was music to Limmudnik ears.
After his talk, he went to visit the young and teenage Limmud groups before an Israeli-themed dinner on campus. The next morning, before his second talk, he could be found in the breakfast queue: his Limmud experience, he said, had been "great".