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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Is Haredi Daas Torah the Only Reality?

Rabbi Metzger’s less than honorable reputation was known long before he ran for that position.
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, ZTL

Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, ZTL
Photo Credit: Avi Yair Engel/GPO/FLASH90

It pains me to say this. Unfortunately as time goes on I see that it is more and more the case. The vast majority of Charedim in Israel are clueless. And therefore soldiers of war in the fight against what they see to be the Godless world outside of Torah. They have no clue about what the reality of the outside world is. They live in a world of assumptions dictated to them by a very small group of rabbinic leaders that they view as virtually infallible.

Of course they will deny that these leaders are infallible and readily admit that they can – and have in the past – made mistakes. But that does not shake their devout devotion to every single word they say. So that the world they now live in – difficult as it may be – is the only option they see. It doesn’t matter how convincing an argument might be about reality. When a man who is perceived as a Gadol – let alone the Gadol HaDor – speaks, it may as well be God Himself speaking.

Any arguments to the contrary are seen as an insult to the Gadol, to God, and to His Torah. So, whether it is in matters of belief or matters of lifestyle whatever they say, goes.

This was once again made clear to me after viewing the video below. It is an interview with Machon Shilo head, Rabbi David Bar-Hayim. I don’t really know this man or his politics, but I believe he is right on the money on this issue.

The question was asked about how someone like Rabbi Yona Metzger could have attained the position of Chier Rabbi of the State of Israel. As most people by now know, Rabbi Metzger has been arrested for fraud and theft of millions of shekels.

The fact is that Rabbi Metzger’s less than honorable reputation was known long before he ran for that position. Ample examples of his shenanigans abound. One of which is clearly described in the video.

And yet he won the election because of the kind of loyatly Charedim have to Rav Elyashiv. Rav Elyashiv chose Metzger because he promised to do away with the Chief Rabbinate’s automatic endorsement of the Heter Mechira. (That permits farmers to continue farming their land during the Shemita year – the biblically mandated 7th year sabbatical of Israeli land which is to remain fallow during that year). That rumors persisted about Rabbi Metzger’s character (as per Rabbi Bar-Hayim) was of no concern to Rav Elyashiv. Not that he had any respect for the Rabbinate. He abandoned that institution years ago – resigning as a Dayan (judge) on matters of principle.

His goal was to eliminate that long established legal loophole. He believed that this loophole was completely invalid and wanted to abolish it. Rabbi Metzger was only too happy to comply.

So the respected Dati Leumi candidate, Rav Yaakov Ariel who would have continued the Rabbinate approval of the Heter Mechira – lost. And the results now – ten years later – are a huge embarrassment to the Jewish people.

I am not questioning Rav Elyashiv’s Psak on the Heter Mechira. I am questioning the apparent lack of concern about all other considerations in the choice of a candidate… that his only concern was destroying the Heter Mechira.  There was no thought given to the consequences that may occur if such a man is placed in such a prominent position. Indeed the consequences were disastrous. And yet Rav Elyashiv’s words were considered Daas Torah – and tantamount to the word of God Himself! What is wrong with this picture?!

There are other issues that show how blinded Charedim insist on being to any reality other  than what their Gedolim say. We saw it with the ban on Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s books and the ban on Rabbi Nosson Kamenesky’s books. (Even though I believe that in both instances Rav Elyashiv was misled by Charedi community activists the results are the same. Rav Elyashiv spoke – and people listened!)

No where is this approach more damaging than in the area of sex abuse. One can see this very starkly by what happened to Rabbi S in Lakewood. The idea for example that self policing sex abuse and dealing with it ‘in-house’ has long ago lost any credibility. The damage done to innocent people with such policies in place has been demonstrated time and again.

The reason rabbinic leaders in organizations like the Agudah Moetzes and Lakewood Yeshiva insist on going to rabbis before going to authorities when there are suspicions of abuse is to protect the accused. They know that an individual’s reputation can be damaged for life is he is falsely accused – even if he is exonerated. But thy refuse to recognize that it is rarely the case that children make false accusations.

They also factor in damage to the reputation of the school when things are made public by virtue of reporting it directly to the police.  That’s why they prefer handling things from the inside.

So even though the reality is that credible accusations of abuse are best handled by professionals and much damage has been done in those instances where they were handles ‘in-house’ – nothing will not change in the Charedi world because Daas Torah has spoken.

There are indications that things might be changing. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has a very interesting post in Cross Currents along these lines. Here is what he says:

We fully live the charedi life style, but our hearts are sometimes not so enthusiastic about it, and our minds are increasingly alienated from it. We are victims of repeating memes with which we were bombarded, and then discovering that they are not true.

He then goes on to show that a commonly made claim by rabbinic leaders and politicians in Israel that the government is run by a bunch of evil men – is totally false.

What seems to be happening is that people like Rabbi Adlerstien who are among those making such discoveries – are beginning to speak up and tell the world about the emperor’s clothing. He is not the first one to do that. Just last week Rabbi Berl Wein did the same thing. As have other moderate Charedim in the past – like Rabbi Dovid Landesdman, and Valley Torah High School principal, Rabbi  Avrohom Stulberger in a very eloquent statement about how to handle sex abuse in this video.

I am happy to hear that there are many Charedim that have become disillusioned with some of their memes. They are the ones who will hopefully bring change. My only question is how many of them think this way? And how many still buy into the infallibility of rabbinic statements?  I suppose time will tell. But you probably know which side I’m rooting for.



Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

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 hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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10 Responses to “Is Haredi Daas Torah the Only Reality?”

  1. Good Article talking about Rav David Bar Hayims video !

  2. Miriam Maor says:

    Listening to Rabbonim doesn't mean everything is going to turn out the way you think it should! It means it will turn out the way HASHEM thinks it should! No one human is infallible! It just is another reminder of the reality that we don't yet have, or merit, the Mashiach.

  3. Hadar Israel says:

    "Rabbonim" are NOT the voice of Hashem, they are just people who learnt Torah, and whose HALAKHIC opinions you can follow if you wish and if you don't think, through knowledge of better sources, that they might be wrong; but whose HASHKAFAH you don't have to follow at all!!
    Hashem said CLEARLY who can be His Voice, and that is ONLY THE SANHEDRIN; which is VERY CLEAR to anyone who just doesn't recite every morning, but also UNDERSTANDS IT, the Baraitha of Rabbi Yisma'el about the Thirteen Ways Torah is Expounded.
    The Sanhedrin is THE ONLY ones about whom it is said you won't sway from what they say even if they tell you that right is left and left is right. NOT JUST ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL: for as big of a Talmid Chakham as he might be he is NOT the Sanhedrin!
    It's TIME to abandon such WRONG and GALUTISTIC mindset which has caused INNUMERABLE DISASTERS and DEMAND the SANHEDRIN IN ITS PLACE UP THERE ON HAR MORIAH. Where are all the "ghedolim" who in the '20s and '30s of last century said to the Jews of Europe: "Everything is OK, nothing will happen! Just don't go to Erets Israel because it is forbidden" all while there was still time?? Read what Rabbi Shlomo Issaschar Teichtal teaches about it (and HE WAS THERE! HIding from the Nazis in 1943 Budapest!): http://www.tsel.org/torah/emhabanim-eng/index.html

  4. Ben Packer says:

    a fail to see any disaster. what disaster? heter mechira still exists – is that what you are referring to?

  5. Caryn Lipson says:

    Harry, I watched that video too, – Rabbi Bar-Hayim said that he felt R. Elyashiv never vetted R. Metzger because if would have known about his reputation and not chosen him to run for chief rabbi. It was R. Elyahiv's failure to do his due diligence that lead to this travesty and tragedy, not his overlooking R. Metzger's history.

  6. Caryn Lipson says:

    The tremendous chillul Hashem that results from a rabbi, particularly a chief rabbi, being arrested and convicted for criminal acts

  7. Is what's called Haredi Daas Torah really Haredi Daas Torah?
    Not to the best of my knowledge.

  8. Interesting read Hadar, Todah Rabah !

  9. Miriam, Vilna Gaon says we will not merit the Geula. The Moshiach period is nearing its end and is 2000 years, as we have not already merited it, it will not come through us, it will come by HaShem's appoinment only. However the Teshuva we do will dictate the path and how much suffering we endure, so its still critical that we do our part. See Arie Morgansterns book "The Vilna Gaons Messianic Vision" by Gefen Press for more info.

  10. A scandal in the making: Just imagine, for one minute, you are a convert to orthodox Judaism, after going through rejection, humiliation and ill treatment by the group you want to be part of, you think you have achieved it. And if that was not enough, you had to pay for the conversion at what would be the cost of a down payment of a home, or purchase of a car. So that you can get a recognized "admittance", to the elite Jew club. Then you go to Israel, only to be told by the Rabbis over their your conversion and all the monies and efforts and process you underwent here is not valid. Not on the accepted recognized Teudah. You have do it all over again. Yes, and repay more monies for the administrative paper work to re-write the Teudah. In most circles that would be a scandal, if not fraud at a large scale. But it does'nt stop there. Then you are told, after you had been living and participating as a Jew, since your conversion is not recognized, your children are still not Jewish, they're "goys". Yes, Goyisha Yids, what a oxymoronic statement indeed. And now their status in an Orthodox School or Shul is not in doubt. But wait, was'nt the conversion done by a group of Orthodox Rabbis? Yes, well over 140 on the list, and not accepted in Israel by Israel's Rabbinate. While the monopoly is said to have ended in Israel, The Rabbinate still has a monopoly outside of Israel, and this too must also end. Just in South Florida all conversion processed by the largest board of Rabbis is not recognized by the Rabbinate in Israel, check your Conversion Certificate and I recommend to you if you are a convert, to send your certificate to the Israels Rabbinate so you can check for yourself. Or contact the limited Beit Din that is currently accepted by Israel, to see if they can correct it for free or a small donation. Don't be surprised to be charged again. This is really a scandal. If you need help, leave me your contact inf OJCP@YAHOO.COM

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