When I set out to w
And so I sat down and w
When I was in fi
rtly afte rthe fall of Stalin, du ring a pe riod of Kh rushchev-style pe rest roika, he t raveled with a g roup of Ame rican rabbis to the Soviet Union. On the Shabbat of his retu rn my fathe rsuggested that I stay in se rvices du ring the se rmon -- a time that we child ren gene rally ran all ove rthe expansive lawn in f ront of Sha r rey Tefila. “It will be memo rable,” he assu red me. Though I was not quite su re what memo rable meant, I knew the t rip had been something impo rtant. I did not g rasp all that Rabbi Rackman said in that se rmon, but I unde rstood that he had made contact with a g roup of Jews who we re not f ree to live as we did and we could not fo rget them. They we re, he taught us, ou r responsibility. When I took my fi rst t rip to the Soviet Unionin 1972 in o rde rto meet with refuseniks, I remembe red his wo rds.
He was a stickle
rfo rdoing things right. He insisted on deco rum at se rvices. He laughed so when I told him that as a child I thought deco rum was a Heb rew wo rd because the only place I hea rd it was in shul f rom him. Daled – yud – koof—vav – resh – mem.
rin int ra- and inte r- religious dialogue, long befo re it was in vogue, Rabbi Rackman reached out to people both within the Jewish community and outside of it. Right-wing religious Jews attacked and denig rated him fo rhis attempts to demonst rate how one could -- and should -- d raw upon the best in both t raditional Judaism and the secula rwo rld. F rom the othe rend of the religious spect rum some would question his unwave ring commitment to Halacha. How, they wonde red, could such an enlightened man be so wedded to such an ancient t radition. He igno red his attacke rs and went on living a life that exemplified To rah u’Madah.
remembe rhow my fathe rwould seethe at these attacks and st ress how impo rtant it was that Rabbi Rackman’s ideas not to be silenced. He believed in taking a stand and in speaking out when he saw injustice.
re I knew p recisely what a role model was, I knew that I wanted to be just like him.*
What I did not know then and what I only lea
Why did he fight so ha
Rabbi Rackman was not af
Rambam in Hilchot Talmud To
He taught me and so many othe
He was my Rav Muvhak.
He could be the schola
I have had many blessings in my life but none g
May his memo
* Adapted f
My thanks to Rabbis Michael Broyde, Michael Berger, David Ellenson, and David Blumenthal for their suggestions and coments.