Lost Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan part II

This is continued from my perilous post on Aryeh Kaplan. I may combine both posts into one longer post for posterity.

When Rabbi Leonard Kaplan first showed up to the pulpit in Mason City Iowa, he gave a talk to the sisterhood on the process of his receiving ordination in Israel. I wonder how awkward this was, especially with the head of the sisterhood leading the opening prayer and despite his immense learning, his having to shepherd girl scouts and teach once a week Hebrew school.

Ordination of a “Rabbi in Israel” was the topic discussed by Rabbi Leonard Kaplan at the joint meeting of Adas Israel Sisterhood and Hadassah in the synagogue Thursday. Rabbi Kaplan received his theological training at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, New York and Mirrer Yeshiva in New York and in Jerusalem. He was ordained in Israel with ordination both at the seminary and by the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.

The Opening prayer was given by Mrs. L. IT. Wolf

The girl scout Sabbath was announced at the March services

A purim cantata.. . wil be presented Sunday evening. At 7:30 PM
Mrs. Kaplan was welcomed as a new member.

Rabbi Kaplan was quite active in interfaith events, our reader David Zinner already pointed to one of them. In a church interfaith meeting and potluck meal, which followed a vote by the Episcopalians allowing women to the vestry, Kaplan addressed them with a universal message. Each relgion speaks for God and we should not limit God to our own faith. Back to his mathematical model, knowing only one religion is flat and one dimensional, to truly know God we need the multi-dimensional view. All religions are one part of the infinite depth of God.

Mason City Globe Gazette – • January 17, 1966 – • Page 15
St. John’s Episcopal Church Sunday night became the first Episcopal Church in the state reported as electing two women to its vestry. Elected to the local congregation’s administrative body…

In the general annual meeting which followed a potluck meal, the group heard Rabbi Leonard M Kaplan of Adas Israel Synagogue say:

“ We often spend much effort in making a god out of our particular religion. Shouldn’t we spend just as much effort in making our religion a religion of God?” Rabbi Kaplan called for efforts to appreciate strange and often exotic religions, understanding that each one speaks for God and may even have a message for us.

For many of the world’s people, Rabbi Kaplan said, religion is the most important thing in their lives and understanding them calls for understanding their view of God.

“In a sense, every religion is an open eye upon God, giving us its own flat, one-dimensional view, He said. It is only the totality of them all that can give us a multidimensional view of the Divine and a panorama of infinite depth.…”

Rabbi Kaplan said that many scholars are finding they must study mankind as “a single gigantic organism… spread over the face of the earth.

“If it were God’s purpose in creating this creature that is mankind, to create a being that perceive the divine, then is it not logical that He should have given it many senses?”

“The eye does not hate the ear for not seeing. The ear does not despise the nose for not hearing. The many religions perceive God, each in a different way. But as long as they all look toward God, they are one.“

Here, in this article, he welcomes Sister Mary Josita and her Bible students to the synagogue and explains the Sefer Torah to them.
After explain the Shofar, he quips that the shofar ‘will probably not be the type to be blown by Gabriel at the second coming.” ” G a b r i el would never put the Beatles out of business.” He seems to have done quite a few wedding jointly with Reform and Conservative clergy- here and here. Among his activities, he took the time to write to Dear Abby about cherubs.

DEAR ‘ABBY: You are not likely to find any girl cherubs (or cherubim) since the Hebrew word “cherub” is a noun of masculine gender. According to the Hebrew grammar, a girl cherub would not be a cherub at all, but a “chewbah.” And the plural of “cherubah” is “cheruboth”— not “cherubim,”—which is the plural of “cherub^’
RABBI LEONARD M. KAPLAN , MASON CITY. IA.

It seems that he did not entirely switch to from Leonard to Aryeh in 72-73. As a Rabbinic consultant for the movie Yentl in 1980, he still used the name Leonard in the stories and byline.

“Rabbi Leonard Kaplan,” the writer reports, “enjoyed advising the cast on ritual and its meaning. He showed them how to sway and bend while they pray, explained what it means to study the Talmud and in general helped the cast understand the outlook of a religious Jew
Rabbi Kaplan was not upset by his association with a play which contains nudity as well as a woman dressed as a man ‘It is an abomination,'” he admitted, “‘But so what?

For those looking for a good introduction to Aryeh Kaplan during the years 73-83, when Kaplan lived and struggled in Kensington, I recommend Perle Besserman, Pilgrimage : adventures of a wandering Jew
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Perle describes her journeys to India and Israel interspersed with two in-depth visits to Aryeh Kaplan’s living room world. The underemployed Kaplan gave classes in his home on Shabbat and during the week on the deep inner meaning to reality to a variety of seekers including the variety of modern orthodox psychologists listed in the introduction to Jewish meditation, Jews on return from India, those who also hung around Reb Shlomo Carelbach and Reb Zalman, and those who just crashed on his couch. She called Kaplan’s teachings a form of karma yoga, a path of deeds and the deeds that you do cause a perfection of your soul. The book also contains a rare 1970’s interview with Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook. (h/t for Pilgrimage- R. Yosef Blau circa 1991).

11 responses to “Lost Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan part II

  1. I would be most interested in a biographical sketch of Aryeh Kaplan. It would also help in contextualizing your posts.

  2. Moshe,
    That’s the problem, there is none. There is more than a decade gap between his leaving Mir and moving to Kensington where he translated and taught at home. Until this items were digitized there was nothing really to discuss.

  3. I am still trying to figure out how anyone could have possibly been a follower of R Nachman M’breslov and pro-philosophy at the same time. I’m always amazed by R Kaplan and I often wonder how he would respond to the whole daas torah/slifkin ban/anti internetism etc etc.
    chaval al d’avdin…

  4. Jonathan Feldman

    In ‘Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe, RAK has several positions that would not fit into today’s Daas Torah box, from reconciling the 15 billions years of the universe w/ Torah dating (Ch. 1, The Age of the Universe), to the women’s movement being a tikun for the klalla of Chava ‘vehu imshol bach’ (Ch. 5 Male and Female), the existence of pre-Adam man (Ch. 2, Longevity and Immortality in Judaic Sources). I do not think we need wonder, he clearly did not allow his creative thinking to be limited. I feel reluctant to even post this for fear that his books may be pulled from certain Yeshiva libraries or bookstores if they are not already.The articles published in the book were done so posthumously, one wonders whether RAK purposefully kept them in manuscript form. As an aside, I assume Pearle Besserman is the same Pearle Epstein who published a book called Kabbalah which presents Kabbalah through biographies of the great Kabblists. She talks about having learnt with RAK inthe intro.

  5. I must say that when I saw the teaser, “Amid the Alien Corn,” I thought there was a connection to rural American states and the presidential candidates who descend once a year costumed awkwardly in John Deere caps and workshirts.

    — Mack in Texas

  6. Lawrence Kaplan

    R. Aryeh Kaplan’s position on the age of the earth is well known and often cited. Indeed, he has already been attacked for it by Dovid Kornreich, R. Moshe Meiselman’s acolyte..

    “Amid the Alien Corn” is a neat reference to the figure of Ruth in “Keat’s Ode to a Nightingale.”
    …the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,/ she stood in tears, amid the alien corn;”
    The irony is that Keats represents Ruth in the land of Israel yearning for Moab, while R. Kaplan in Iowa was presumably yearning for Jerusalem.

    “perilous post”???

  7. Gedalya Fleer told me that Aryeh Kaplan went to Louisville Kentucky when he returned from Israel and taught in a day school (Talmud Torah?) I found a teshuva addressed to him from during that time from Rav Moshe

    שו”ת אגרות משה אורח חיים חלק א סימן צח
    בע”ב שרוצים לעשות מנין עבור חינוך הילדים וברור שיבואו במאשינעס /במכוניות/ בשבת י”ג תמוז תשט”ו. מע”כ ידידי הרב מהר”ר אריה משה אלי’ קאפלאן שליט”א.

  8. Ari
    thanks.
    A google search located that he taught elementary school at the Eliahu Academy in Louisville, it was the liberal community school, so he could assume his students would come by car on Shabbat. There was also the Orthodox day school called Talmud Torah.
    He is Rav Aharon on that teshuvah
    http://www.vbm-torah.org/halakha/EducationalProgramming.htm

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