We read the strange David Hartman interview in Yediot in Hebrew last week and our reaction was, "How sad." When asked whether we meant sad for Hartman, or sad for religion in Israel, we said, "Both."
But now, after reading again the article in English, we judge that there are more points that jump out from the interview, that overall coalesce, sadly, to portray Hartman as a kvetch and a crank.
Ynet titles the interview, 'Religion now more dangerous than Arabs' and explains, "Rabbi David Hartman, teacher and rebel, is celebrating his 80th birthday and cannot believe the kind of Judaism developing around him: 'Instead of creating a new humanity, Religious Zionism leaders are fighting over stones and verses.'"
Hartman should not have been allowed by his children or disciples to be interviewed without any filtering. Hartman misses every opportunity to explain modern Orthodox values and his own views. Instead he complains and carps and criticizes, here, there and everywhere. And most of what he says is raw opinion, confused, conflicting and self-contradictory.
The interviewer, Uri Misgav, did no favor to Hartman either. After asking, "Is anyone even listening to you?" and getting an evasion, he does not pursue the issue. After asking, "So your life work was in a sense a failure?" and getting no list of dozens of achievements, rather than pursuing the question, the interviewer abruptly changes the subject.
So we are sad, mainly for David Hartman. He comes across as a sore loser, a man of sour grapes. He lost his life's battle. The right wing religious Israelis won. And Hartman is hopping mad.
To sum it up wryly, Hartman's mentor (an ours) Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, published a famous self-defining essay, "The Lonely Man of Faith."
In this interview Hartman has clinched his life-persona as, "The Kvetchy Man of Faith."