There is an essential rule in the entertainment business: those who have lots of talent succeed on that talent. Those who have a middling amount succeed on being controversial.
The prime examples of those are Metallica and Madonna. The former, a great hard rock group, have talent and if one follows their career ones sees a band that works hard and plays hard with great success. One does not hear stories about over-the-top shenanigans or stunts, just one album after another, one arena after another.
Madonna, on the other hand, is an example of success with middling talent. Her success has come from constant reinvention, outrageous public displays and a willingness to be controversial because the attention it brings sells records.
I am reminded of this rule every time Rabbi Avi Weiss and friends pop into the Jewish news. Rabbi Weiss, by all accounts a decent fellow, is not a talmid chachami that will be remembers in centuries hence for his scholarship, incisive teshuvos or copious literature spanning the breadth of Torah. He is, in other words, average.
Now there's nothing wrong with that. Many people are average. These people are what run the society we live in. They live full lives, they accomplish many if not all of their goals. They are good children, spouses, and parents. It's just that when the history texts are written in a century or two, they won't be mentioned because nothing they did stood out in a spectacular manner.
However, Rabbi Weiss seems to be determined to break this average label. Again, one can hardly blame him for trying. If you were to take a newly minted rabbi, or doctor or accountant for that matter, and announce "You'll do a great job, your kids will turn out fine but in 100 years no one will remember you existed and everything you did will be forgotten" you'd hardly inspire them to want to get out of bed the next morning.
Once again there are two ways to succeed. One can do it through talent. Great rabbonim like the Rambam, Rav Yosef Karo, and many, many more are virtual members of Jewish society today because of their huge talent and their willingness to work that talent to its maximum potential.
And one can do it through being flashy. Everyone knows who Mordechai Kaplan is because of his willingness to break away from everything that Judaism stands for, not because of any Torah scholarship. Similarily, Solomon Schechter has established a legacy for himself but when one things of him it isn't because of any commentary on the Talmud.
And now Rabbi Weiss seeks to enter history and be remembered for decades, if not centuries down the road. Like those in the middling talent category he too seeks to break out from the ranks of the average by being controversial.
Which, when you strip away the supposed egalitarianism crisis in Orthodoxy and all the politicial correctness it is cloaked in, is why he is doing all this.
After all, one needs only to look at the pattern and the premise becomes clear. First, there was his invention of the Maharat. Groundbreaking! Astonishing! And eventually the furor faded away. There was Sara Hurwitz and no one else. Within the halls of HIR she was a de facto rabbi but outside she was just another woman with some learning behind her.
So then came Yeshivat Maharat which has been such a resounding success that it has about 5 or 6 women enrolled. It's facilities are a rented room in a building somewhere. Doesn't sound terribly inspiring.
Then came the Rabbah controversy which did succeed in pushing Rabbi Weiss and HIR into the spotlight for a while and had the singular effect of causing the RCA to actually set limits on what Modern Orthodoxy will accept. That was a momentous event, and then it too faded when Rabbi Weiss backed down at the thought of no longer being able to call himself Orthodox.
And this here we are, after another period of quiet and Rabbi Weiss has once again found a way to get his name into the newspapers. He'll have a woman lead Kabbahlos Shabbos. That'll get him attention!
The resultant attention has been what he seems to crave. From Cross Currents to Failed Messiah, the story has been in the news.
In the end, Rabbi Weiss will achieve his dream. He will be remembered by Jewish historians albeit not for those reasons which have been traditionally considered the best ones, but like Kaplan and Schechter, for creating another Jewish movement which pretends to be Torah observant but which improvises whenever the Torah says no.