EVENTS Learning in the Memory of Rabbi Laras

larasBy Daniel Reichel

A year after his death, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras was remembered with a day of study devoted to his memory.

With personal memories and lessons of Torah several Italian rabbis honored the figure of Laras in an event organized on Sunday at the central synagogue of Milan.

Opening the event coordinated by Laras’ student, Vittorio Bendaud, was the lesson of rav Alfonso Arbib, the Chief Rabbi of Milan and President of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly.

Describing the instrumental value of commandments through Maimonide’s Mishna Torah and Shulchan Arukh, rav Arbib recalled how respect for the commandments represents not only respect for God and for others, but also for oneself. “If I curse someone who is not present, I am not so much hurting this person but myself; I am doing something despicable to myself. Mitzvots are needed to repair oneself, to improve oneself”.

Rabbi Elia Richetti spoke about the concept of Tikkun Olam but also recalled the commitment of Laras to interfaith dialogue: “He saw that making Judaism known was the real essence of his mission. His Judaism was open to the other, he carried out dialogue with absolute respect for the interlocutor, but he was also very faithful to his Jewish identity”.

A teacher at the Jewish School of Milan, Sara Ascoli, spoke of “the great humanity of Laras, an element perhaps less known to most people”, while another of his students, David Sciunnach, president of the Rabbinical Tribunal of Central and Northern Italy (a role he inherited from Laras) recalled his friendship with Gershom Sholem, and their the exchange of letters about Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah.

The role of rav Laras as a teacher for the younger rabbis was discussed by rav Giuseppe Momigliano, Chief Rabbi of Genoa. “He knew, for example, when to reproach and when not to”.

In the afternoon, rav Roberto Della Rocca, director of the Culture and Education Area of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, spoke about “Mashìach ben Yosèf and Mashìach ben Davìd in the thought of rav Kook” while rav Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome, gave a lecture on matrilineage in Judaism.