A Tribute to Mosaic’s Founding Editor

Meir Soloveichik reflects on Neal Kozodoy and his accomplishments.

  עַל-חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם, הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים–כָּל-הַיּוֹם וְכָל-הַלַּיְלָה

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed guardians by day and by night.—Isaiah 62:6

Long after I was first blessed by Neal Kozodoy’s mentorship, I discovered our most important commonality: he is, like myself, a descendent of the biblical tribe of Levi. Today, at Congregation Shearith Israel, the synagogue we share, our ancestry means that Neal’s family stands in the sanctuary side by side with my own in order to assist in the ministrations of the priestly blessing. I cherish those moments. They recall the sacred tasks that Levites were charged to perform when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. Levites were, in rabbinic Hebrew simultaneously shor’rim and sho’arim, that is they were singers of the Temple’s songs and guardians of its gates. Levites gave voice to the psalms, sounding Israel’s literary genius, and they were stalwart defenders against enemies of its most sacred city.

These two tasks always struck me as sitting in tension with one another. Can literary beauty go hand in hand with the warrior’s fierce determination? Yet Neal Kozodoy, the Levite, has taught me how these two roles can join together in the life’s work of one extraordinary man.

For in the pages of Commentary and Mosaic, Neal has made the Jewish intellectual tradition speak with rare lucidity; and in the process, he has served as one of the greatest defenders of the Jewish people. Some in Jewish history are asked, like David, to take on physical Goliaths. But Neal has taught me that in the realm of ideas, we are called to be warriors as well, bringing our talents to contend with the cultural and philosophical philistines who threaten all that Jewish tradition holds dear. Those with literary gifts must be both shor’rim and sho’arim, eloquent guardians of Jerusalem, by day and by night.

In thanking Neal for making my writing sharper, clearer, and more expressive, I join countless other authors. But as for me, I am even more grateful to him for teaching me the purpose for which I write. When I sit down to compose an essay, I ask, with Neal’s voice in my mind, whether it champions the cause of Jewish excellence, and the flourishing of our people; I ask myself, in other words, whether this is an essay that will meet Neal’s approval, and even make him proud. It is therefore, with enduring gratitude for my mentor, my friend, and my fellow Levite, that I close by citing Moses’ blessing to our ancestors, from Deuteronomy 33:11:

בָּרֵךְ יְהוָה חֵילוֹ, וּפֹעַל יָדָיו תִּרְצֶה

May God continue to bless his warrior, and find favor with all his endeavors.

And may I have the blessing of Neal Kozodoy’s guidance and friendship for many years to come.

This essay was originally published in Mosaic.

Meir Soloveichik reflects on Neal Kozodoy and his accomplishments.

Meir Soloveichik reflects on Neal Kozodoy and his accomplishments.