Sometimes he’s right on the money and sometimes I think he’s profoundly wrong. But that does not take away from his integrity – which Rabbi Moshe Grylak demonstrated this week in his weekly Mishpacha Magazine editorial. I believe he has got it right.
His subject is the painful war between two factions within the Haredi camp. One side is the extremist camp of Rav Shmuel Auebach! (Oh, how far the apple has fallen from the tree!) The other side is the faction that supports the relatively moderate views of centenarian rabbinic leader Rav Aharon Leib Steinman.
I say ‘relatively’ moderate because he is strongly opposed to things which I support and feel are beneficial to the entire population. From the avowedly secular to the religious of all stripes. Rav Steinman opposes (among other things) changing the current paradigm of learning full time in Yeshivos, eliminating the exemption of all Haredim from the military draft, and installing a core curriculum of secular studies into their schools. He considers current attempts by the government to do so – an evil decree perpetrated by evil people. He prays every day that God rescind the evil decree.
But at the same time he is moderate in the sense that he respects the law and urges all Haredim to follow it and register for the draft. That is of course the rational thing to do, the smart thing to do, and in my view the ethical thing to do.
Rav Auerbach will have none of that. He is telling his supporters to violate the law and not register for the draft.
So intransigent is he on this issue that he has broken away from Degel HaTorah – the mainstream Haredi party guided by the mainstream Haredi rabbinic leaders – and formed his own party called Bnei Torah.
The well publicized response is in the form of Rav Chaim Kanievsky declaring the formation of this party to be Chilul Hashem of major proportions, and a brazen insult to the Gadol HaDor. He forbade any Haredim from supporting this party in any way. As reported here last Friday he has mandated a counter measure to fight this new party. A form was created pledging support to Degel HaTorah to be signed by all Avreichim on pain of expulsion from Kollel if they refuse. Rav Auerbach for his part is urging Avrechim not to sign it.
The fallout of the extremist views and rhetoric coming out of Rav Auerbach’s quarters has spawned a lunatic Avreich from the Rav Auerbach camp to physically attack Rav Steinman.
Here is where Rabbi Grylak’s wisdom on this issue comes in. From his editorial in Mishpacha:
In our bleakest dreams, we never imagined the devastation within our community would be so profound. But what happened last Wednesday morning after Israel’s municipal elections was worse than anything we ever expected to see; holy barriers were breached, a clear warning sign for us to brake, stop, and reflect. It’s time for us to make a thorough, exhaustive moral inventory, and to be brutally honest in our conclusions.
He took the words right out of my mouth. Words I have myself written right here on this blog. Of course when I say them I am accused of Haredi bashing. But Rabbi Grylak is a card carrying Haredi. His feet are firmly implanted there. At the same time he is a man of integrity that sees what is happening and is not afraid to tell it like it is. He questions the very morality of his beloved community.
Not that he thinks his Haredi Hashkafa is immoral. He would vigorously deny it – as would I. The Haredi hashkafa in its purest form is moral. Although I have a different Hashkafa I never questioned that. What is immoral is in how his Hashkafos are currently being carried out.
Rabbi Grylak questions exactly the same thing I question. And comes to the same conclusions. While it is true that it was a lunatic that attacked Rav Steinman, one has to examine what brought him to express his lunacy in this way. Here is how he puts it:
On Wednesday morning, an unthinkable crime took place. Perhaps it was the product of a lengthy vilification campaign in which people were incited to believe evil things about Rav Steinman shlita. The agitators succeeded in planting shameful lies in the hearts of some bnei Torah, feeding them the outrageous accusations (about) Rav Steinman…
They slandered him with the claims that he was prepared to sell out the entire Torah. True, these lies were based on the different approaches of Rav Steinman and Rav Shmuel Auerbach shlita regarding the draft, but from that, the situation deteriorated to the point of slander. Over the last weeks, people have brought me pamphlets and notices discrediting Rav Steinman, with contents so shocking I cannot even repeat them.
I have met several young people who are actually convinced that Rav Steinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky have left the path of Torah!
Rabbi Grylak goes on to blame the Israeli Yated - specifically naming its editor Nati Grossman for fomenting all of this enmity and violence by vilifying anyone that does not agree with extremist views.
Does this sound familiar? I have been saying this over and over again. The kind of violence that is perpetrated by the extremists in places like Bet Shemesh and Meah Shearim does not happen in a vacuum. Their violent behavior may be based on the ‘lunacy’ of those individuals who act out. But their motivation comes from the same kind of rhetoric from their rabbinic leaders and supporters as did the motivation of the lunatic who attacked Rav Shteinman who got his motivation from his leaders.
I think it took a lot of courage for Rabbi Grylak to ‘tell it like it is’. But I have to wonder if it will make any real difference. My guess is that it won’t, unfortunately. In fact if I had to predict what will happen the fight will escalate.
On the one side you have a government that insists on carrying out its current policies with respect to Haredim. and you have a Chiloni and Dati Leumi public that supports them.
On the other side – you have a Haredi public that strongly opposes it and is divided on how to react. Rav Shteinman’s rational approach advocates peaceful compliance and continued prayer asking God to intervene against the ‘evil decree’ Rav Auerbach’s extremist approach advocates massive civil disobedience which is an incitement to violence. Which has already reared its ugly head causing a lunatic Haredi Avreich to physically attack 100 year old rabbinic leaders.
I don’t know how this will end. But from my perspective here in Chicago, I don’t think it will end well.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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