While our students were busy taking finals last week, Rabbi Matanky slipped away as the co-chair of a JUF Rabbinic Mission to Rome. Upon meeting the Pope (pictured above), Rabbi Matanky presented him with an ICJA kippah, of course, and the book By His Light by Academy Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein shlita.
Besides meeting the Pope, the group also visited important historical sites, like the oldest shul in the western world, Ostia Anitica, which was built before Churban Bayit Sheni. They visited Cardinal Kurt Koch – the man who is charged with Catholic Jewish relations, and also visited the Vatican Library where we saw an illustrated manuscript of the Tur from the 15th century (pictured), a copy of the Chumash from the 12-13th century, along with other priceless Jewish manuscripts that were displayed specifically for our group.
The illustrated manuscript of the Tur.Rabbi Matanky writes:
I want to share with you a very interesting exchange that we had with Cardinal Koch. Recently in a magazine article he was asked about what he thought should be the next steps in the dialogue between the Jewish and Catholic communities, and he said, that the time has come for the Catholics to develop a theology relating to the Jews, and the Jews should create a theology of their relationship to the Catholics. When we asked him about this, he explained, that this was an interview that he gave to the Catholic press, but that he knew that such a thing could not happen. Because ‘Catholics are concerned with theology, while Jews are concerned with halacha!’ (And yes, he and his secretary, Rev. Norbert Hoffman both used the Hebrew term!) It was an amazing thing to hear – because what it means is that even they understand that a Jews’ primary focus is not “thinking about religion,” but “doing religion,” and that we should be more concerned with mitzvot and maasim tovim than philosophy and theology!
Academy alum Leora Balinsky (’13), who is studying at Migdal Oz, joined the mission for a few days because her father, Rabbi Michael Balinsky also participated. Leora was a student in Rabbi Matanky’s honors girls Gemara class last year, the highest level of girls’ Talmud in the school.