Page 118 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
the next Sabbath. This arrangem en t lasted for a year o r so and
then it was te rm inated by Finkelstein. In a very respectful le tter to
his teacher, Rabbi Finkelstein indicates clearly his need fo r au ­
tonomy. T he le tter is worth quoting at length because it beau ti­
fully illustrates the po in t we are making:
My deep respect fo r you at times prevents me from saying
frankly to you what I feel and so I must resort to writing this
letter. For I do no t think tha t I ough t to continue to work
und e r you. T he work has been o f unquestionable advantage
to me. It is a pleasure to come in contact with a vigorous
mind, and it is stimulating to get new ideas. Yet I feel tha t if I
were to continue to work as we have fo r the past year, my
own growth would be hampered . For it is evident tha t ou r
minds do not work in the same way. . . . I have chosen my
field o f Jewish work, I have plans, I even have ambitions,
ju s t as you have. Being younger they are less developed and
less clear, but I do not want them to be s tun ted .4
When Kaplan received the letter, he was dismayed and called
Finkelstein in for a conference. In his jou rna l he summed up the
meeting as follows: “He (Finkelstein) came to see me today. I
proved to him tha t he was entirely unjustified in assuming tha t I
wanted to do his thinking for him or tha t I expected him to
undertake work uncongenial to him, we par ted friends and d e ­
cided to work jointly on the subject dealt with in the sermon ‘God
the Liberator.”’5
Kaplan served as a pulpit rabbi continuously th roughou t his
long career. His sermons became a model for generations o f
students and for his fellow rabbis. He was no t one to give a book
review or to speak on general topics un re la ted to T o rah . T h e
pulpit served as a forum to expound and develop his ideas on
Judaism always relating and applying them to classical texts and
to the central issues o f the day. His congregants emerged feeling
that a clear statement had been given on the na tu re o f religion
and its relevance to significant issues.
4 Louis Finkelstein to Mordecai Kaplan, April 25, 1921, Kaplan Papers, Recon­
structionist Rabbinical College. The author wishes to thank Rabbi Kaplan for
permission to quote from his private papers.
5 Kaplan Journal, April 27, 1921, vol. II, p. 33.