Rabbi in video with pope apologizes for singing incident

(JTA) – One of the rabbis who was seen in a viral video dancing and singing during a Vatican meeting with Pope Francis has apologized following criticism on a Orthodox Jewish news website.

Rabbi Dovber Pinson, a Chabad rabbi and the dean of the Iyyun Yeshiva, which teaches Jewish wisdom and Kabbalah, wrote in the letter emailed from the Iyyun Center and addressed to his students and friends that the viral video is “unfortunately clouding the important mission I was there to accomplish.”

Pinson stressed that the meeting on Monday was held in the pope’s private office and dealt in part with ideas of “pure monotheism, hoping to increase the awareness of Oneness of God among all humankind as a true and only Source of all life.” He called the meeting a “kiddush Hashem,” or a sanctification of God’s name.

“It is my deep regret that this video was released at all, (which was accidental) and that the visit was portrayed in such a way,” he wrote.

Following the wide dissemination of the video, haredi Orthodox Jews debated on the Yeshiva World News website whether the group of rabbis should have met with the pope at all. One issue that caused concern was the large cross worn by the pope, representing the trinity and considered to be “idol worship.”

Critics also questioned whether there should have been music and singing during the days of semi-mourning leading up to Lag B’Omer. The rabbi wrote that they began “spontaneously without my foreknowledge or consent,” and that he did not want to embarrass the singers or the pope by cutting it off too quickly. The pope was seen in the video swaying to the music.

The appropriateness of the psalm that was sung also came into question. Psalm 91 appears to extol the virtues of the pope and translates as “With long life I will satisfy him and I will show him my salvation.”

The pontiff held a 45-minute audience with the group, which was led by Rabbi Edgar Gluck, 80, who divides his time between Brooklyn and Poland, where he holds the title of chief rabbi of Galicia.

Yeshiva World News quoted Gluck’s son Zvi, who was part of the delegation, as saying the pontiff pledged to work toward enacting “stronger rules against destroying Jewish cemeteries to build roads or homes.” The group also discussed with the pope the problem of child abuse.

Last year, Gluck and the pope discussed the plight of Jewish cemeteries when Francis visited Krakow for Catholic World Youth Day and, according to Yeshiva World News, the pope invited Gluck to continue the discussion at the Vatican.

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