Rabbi Linzer of Peki’in

In the Talmud Bavli Hagigah 3a we learn a wonderful story of Rabbi Yehoshua at Peki’in. Once he was visited by his students Rabbi Yohanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Eleazar Hisma. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them, “What hidush (innovative teaching) was there at the Beit Midrash (house of study) today?” As devoted students they replied, “We are your disciples and we only drink your water.” The Rabbi said to his students, “Even so, it is impossible for there to be a session in the Beit Midrash without some hidush”.  Rabbi Yehoshua was a master Jewish educator. He was more interested in his students’ education than his pride. He not only invited them to teach him, Rabbi Yehoshua also modeled for his students the love of Torah. He was incredulous that there could be learning of Torah which was not current, relevant, and evolving.

While I might have learned this Gemara many years ago, I only truly came to understood it when learning with Rabbi Linzer. While he was clearly our Rabbi he was never shy with sharing the Beit Midrash. He was mission-driven to ensure that his students were getting the best education. He was always looking to bring the right teachers for each of his students. And he was right there with us taking part in learning from them. The only thing stronger than his crushing intellect is his unparalleled humility. It is apparent to anyone who meets Rabbi Linzer that he models an unquenchable curiosity in Torah.

While others might have pushed for conformity, especially in the early days of the yeshiva, Rabbi Linzer encouraged each of us to find our own voices. There was always an expectation that we learn from the world with an open mind, learn from people with an open heart, and always live as a Mentsch. In retrospect it is amazing to me how he entertained my out-of-the-box musings. But in doing so, Rabbi Linzer empowered me to take ownership over our tradition. With my family, my community, the larger Jewish community, and the larger world I strive to emulate Rabbi Linzer in giving others a similar sense of ownership.

When leaving the yeshiva I confessed to Rabbi Linzer that I was worried about becoming a Rabbi in that I would not be able to give his kind of shiur. He laughed, demanding that I teach my own Torah. It was as if he was forcing me to ask Leo Rosten’s question. “If I shall be like him, who shall be like me?” Open Orthodoxy endeavors to empower people to find their own voice in our tradition. It is an honor to drink of Rabbi Linzer’s water. The hidush of Open Orthodoxy flourishes in Rabbi Linzer’s Beit Midrash, because he makes room for each one of us, his students.

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