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Ner Israel Rosh Yeshiva: Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman ‘Wicked’

What I do not understand is the harshness of his condemnation.
Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman speaking at the plenum hall, March 06, 2013.

Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman speaking at the plenum hall, March 06, 2013.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

I recently had the unfortunate experience of listening to Ner Israel Rabbinical College dean Rav Aharon Feldman’s condemnation of Rabbi Dov Lipman. Rabbi Lipman received his rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel in Baltimore, the Yeshiva which R’ Feldman now heads.

I was terribly pained by what I heard since I consider Rabbi Lipman a courageous man – a hero who as a self described Haredi – nevertheless stood up for a little girl from a Dati Leumi/Religious Zionist family in Israel that was spat upon and called a whore by extremist Meah Shearim type residents of Beit Shemesh.

This did not go unnoticed by the media – and more importantly by an upstart politician by the name of Yair Lapid. He asked Rabbi Lipman to join his newly formed party, Yesh Atid. Rabbi Lipman accepted. He is now a member of the Israeli Knesset.

What is Rabbi Lipman’s sin? It is his position on limudei hol (secular studies) for Haredim. He said in an interview that if it were up to him, he would close down any Haredi school that does not offer a basic core curriculum of secular studies.* [It turns out he only said the government should not fund such schools, not necessarily close them down, see below -.ed]

If one listens to Rav Feldman’s recorded words (available below) one can hear the pain in his voice. I can understand why someone so married to the system of Haredi education in Israel might feel pain about this. Many Haredim do not believe in providing secular education of any kind in their schools for their male students beyond 8th grade. Even in elementary schools the only secular education students get is basic arithmetic and Hebrew grammar.

What I do not understand is the harshness of his condemnation. Disagreement? Yes. But condemnation??!

It isn’t only that he was condemned. The words used by R’ Feldman are among the most hurtful a religious Jew educated in a yeshiva could hear. He called Rabbi Lipman a “shana u’porush”! This epithet is usually reserved for people who have learned Torah, understand it, but nevertheless reject its teachings. He also called him a “rasha,” a word usually reserved for people who try to destroy Judaism. As in Haman HaRasha in the Book of Esther.

Coming from a man who heads a Yeshiva that facilitates their students to go to college while attending their school – it is a bit surprising to hear this. But not entirely.

A few years ago, I think it was at a Torah U’Mesorah convention, Rav Feldman was challenged to defend his Yeshiva’s policy of having a secular studies program and having all kinds of relationships with local universities so that Ner Israel students can attend them and get legitimate degrees efficiently.

Rav Feldman defended his yeshiva. But in the process he lamented the fact that Yeshivos in the United States do not have a track that allows exceptional students to skip all secular studies. He pointed to his own grandson in Israel who in high school mastered all of the tosophos (one of the commentaries) in meseches kesuvos (a tractate of talmud) learning them by heart at age 16. He ended by claiming it is therefore unlikely for America to produce someone like his grandson in high school.

Rav Feldman had made Aliyah many years ago and his years in Israel surely influenced him. He has obviously adopted the Israeli Haredi paradigm of high school education as the optimum one. This – even though he presides over a Yeshiva with a reputation of excellence in secular studies, and the fact that he was himself an exceptional student of limudei hol growing up in Baltimore. (I wonder if he now regrets the time ‘wasted’ on limudei hol? I doubt it).

To his credit, Telshe Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav A.C. Levine, responded to him and stood up for secular studies in high school. Telshe, he said, has always had a policy of including secular studies all the way back to its founding in Europe. He then challenged anyone to say that his bachurim (boys) in Telshe were any less talmidei hachamim (Torah scholars) because they studied limudei hol in high school.

I doubt that R’ Feldman would call R’ Levine a “shana u’porush” or “rasha” even though his yeshiva, Telshe, is exactly the paradigm Rabbi Lipman has called for in Israel. This is something I have called for too. (I guess that makes me a rasha too.)

That said, I would not close down yeshivos if they did not offer any secular studies. But I would not necessarily fund them with taxpayer money either. The point is that not only is Rabbi Lipman not a shana u’porush and rasha, he is a man who is consistent in his views that the Haredi educational paradigm must change for the good of the country and the good of the Haredi world in Israel.

Rabbi Lipman is l’shma (he has no ulterior motives). There is no doubt about that in my mind. This is a man of character who is now being vilified for his beliefs. Beliefs based on the very same Torah R’ Feldman believes in. Rabbi Lipman does not want to destroy the Torah community. He wants to save it! Does he deserve to be called a Rasha for that – even if Rav Feldman believes he is wrong? It continues to be difficult for me to understand the level of animosity toward those who suggest even the slightest implementation of secular studies into the Haredi school curriculum.

As if to add insult to injury, the American Agudah has called for a day of prayer – protesting any change in the curriculum of the Haredi schools in Israel; and protesting the proposed budget cuts to the Haredi world. The American Agudah is comprised of many Roshei Yeshiva that have the very same curricula that they protest being added to Haredi schools in Israel!

I can understand that they sympathize with Israeli rabbinic leadership on this issue – even if they do not abide by that standard for themselves. But to pray that their own educational system not be implemented is praying against something they believe in! Would not Rav A.C. Levin not make the same argument for students in Israel that he made for his own students?

One might answer that Israel has its own standards and that asking them to reduce the time they spend on limudei kodesh (holy studies) is ultimately wrong in a world where ‘Torah Only’ is touted as the best way for a Jew to live. As legitimate as limudei chol is, it should never replace Torah study already in place. But if that is true, then Telshe should have as its goal to eventually wean their students entirely off any secular subjects. I do not think that is going to happen.

Rav Feldman says that Rabbi Lipman’s claim that he learned his hashkafos (outlook) in Ner Yisroel from the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Yaakov Weinberg – is false. That R’ Weinberg would have never approved of someone threatening to close down a Haredi school in Israel. I’m sure that’s true. But I also doubt that R’ Feldman’s hashkafos are the same as R’ Weinberg’s.

That Rabbi Lipman advocated not funding certain schools* is just an extension of beliefs learned in a Yeshiva that values secular education. He did not depart from the Torah’s ways and he is not a rasha for trying to implement educational policies based on his hashkafos. I only wish Rav Feldman would recognize that.
Click here for download of audio (From Matzav – approximately 4 minutes)

* While initially it was thought that Rabbi Lipman called for shutting down schools which don’t teach the basic curriculum, Rabbi Lipman has clarified his position in the Baltimore Jewish Life. He was misquoted. Here is what he actually said:

The Israeli government should not fund institutions which don’t teach basic math and English. Yeshivos which don’t do so will not be closed down but they won’t receive government funding. It should be pointed out that there are numerous yeshivos which already take zero government money and continue to flourish.

Not a bit surprising.

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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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11 Responses to “Ner Israel Rosh Yeshiva: Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman ‘Wicked’”

  1. Gideon Yavin says:

    Whether one chooses to study Torah only or a mix with secular is a personal decision. Contrary to the dysinformation published, 80% of the Chareidi community are Baalei Teshuva or Olim Chadashim with Tertiary education. These 80% work and pay taxes. Baalei Teshuva have all served in the Military. They choose to have a portion of their taxes used to finance the education system of their choice. Someone who falsley claims to represent the Chareidi community and the views of his Yeshiva and stirrs up the anti-Orthodox community and the Halachically disadvantaged, to rise up against this group to deprive them of their basic human rights and their democratic rights, can only be described as wicked. What is amazing is the Mr Lipman stood in front of German TV and falsely described his fellow Jews as wicked. There is no greater Chillul Hashem then that. It is only right that, even if you disagree with them and even of you feel that way, measure fo measure he would be labeled the same.

  2. Welldone Gideon,send the best to your mom and Caren an kids

  3. I consider an adult male who attacks and spits on my daughter a "wicked person" so I don't think he described them falsely. He also didn't mention any names. What basic human rights is he depriving them of? No, I don't think measure for measure he should be labeled the same. Where do you get your statistics that 80% of hareidim work and pay taxes?

  4. David Willig says:

    No one is ever banned for Right wing Chareidi positions, while people are banned for attempting to be more realistic position. We have Gresham's law, with counterfeit Judaism driving out honest authentic thinking.

  5. David Willig says:

    No one is ever banned for Right wing Chareidi positions, while people are banned for attempting to be more realistic position. We have Gresham's law, with counterfeit Judaism driving out honest authentic thinking.

  6. David Willig says:

    No one is ever banned for Right wing Chareidi positions, while people are banned for attempting to be more realistic position. We have Gresham's law, with counterfeit Judaism driving out honest authentic thinking.

  7. David Willig says:

    No one is ever banned for Right wing Chareidi positions, while people are banned for attempting to be more realistic position. We have Gresham's law, with counterfeit Judaism driving out honest authentic thinking.

  8. Gideon Yavin says:

    1. I was there and I followed the developments from before they became public. I was in contact with Dov before and I tried to explain to him that his approach is inciting further violence! 2. I am yet to hear who was spat on. I know that your daughter wasn't and the one who was pimped by her mother on international media as the symbol of sinas chinam wasn't. What also came through is that all the people involved are PR professionals who saw an opportunity to make a name for themselves by stirring up Anti-Chareidi hate. 3. The label of Rasha is very appropriate here. There is a derech Halimud that anybody going to a Yeshiva like Ner-Yisrael should know. That is, you don't go on a fishing trip, quoting random opinions out of context, just because the fit your political agenda or ideology. Every concept has to originate from Moshe Rabbeinu, and be passed down from Rosh Yeshiva to Rosh Yeshuiva. A person who is disqualified by the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva that ordained him is a Zero. To go out against the entire Torah community and feed the anti-Torah lobby with fuel to drive Yeshiva bochrim out of Yeshivot and to the Army is the same as the apostates that fed the inquisition etc. A person who misquotes the Rambam (Shehet Yamim Taavod = Mitzvah to work) and the Smag out of context is making a fruit salad just as the Reform Movement did. It is not Torah, it is Avodah Zara.

  9. 1. I was also there before it became public. I sat vigil at night so our school would not be ransacked any further. They had already become violent before Dov Lipman said "boo". Of course if Dov Had not continued his approach, there may have been more violence or the reshaim that attacked and spat on the kids may now have the school because our mayor capitulates to extremist hareidi violence.

    2. I don't believe that an 8 yr old was "pimped" out by her mother to confront a bunch of angry adult males. I believe she was spat on. A classmate of my daughter's had an egg thrown at her. My daughter and the other girls that live in RBS were not allowed to walk to the bus stop by themselves. Under directives of the police they were not allowed to use the closest bus stop to the school (which BTW has a shelter) because the police were scared the girls might be attacked. Instead they had to cross the road and walk up the hill to wait in the sun.

    3. I am grateful to Dov Lipman for helping force these hooligans to back down.

    4. Back up your statement about quoting ramdom opinions out of context. The Yeshiva changed; the current Rosh Yeshiva does not share the opinions of the Rosh Yeshiva who ordained Rabbi Lipman. In fact, the current Rosh Yeshiva apologised for calling Dov a rasha and acknowledged he was acting lesheim shamayim (but he said that Rabbi Lipman is misguided), so now it's just you calling him a rasha.

    5 .He is not against the entire Torah community and never said the yeshivot should be closed down. He said yeshivot ketanot that refuse to teach core secular subjects should not be state funded. Presumably he is doing this so that these children will be able to earn a parnassa when they are adults and will not either accept Tzedaka or steal when they grow up.

  10. Gideon Yavin says:

    Yes. It was all a case of delinquents Vs delinquents. 1. The saga started 3 years earlier when a legally justified objection to the building of the school, by the neighboring residents, who have first rights to the property was squashed using political muscle. Clearly a case of ideology is more important the the Law. ALL The Chareidi Rabbis instructed their followers not to get involved in conflict or intimidation. Lipman was there and not only lied about it, but, as you can see in some of the footage that he published, he led a mixed group right to the local resident's homes, far away from the school, to hurl insults at them and incite them.

  11. I quote Rav Feldman: "Since he is a shogeg I cannot call him a rosha and I retract my statement and apologise for calling him a rosha."

    Since neither you nor I cannot decide of our own accord that he is or isn't a rasha and since Rav Feldman has decided he is NOT a rasha, you should defer to Rav Feldman and acknowledge that he is not a rasha.

    No one says he withdrew the statement to prevent a rift between an MK and the yeshiva (other than you). It is your opinion and that of some others in the hareidi world that Dov Lipman's opinions and efforts are contrary the Torah. Not everyone learned in Torah agrees with that opinion, and it is motzi shem ra to call him a malshin.

    No, the saga was not a sad story. It was a criminal story of law abiding citizens vs. hooligans who consider themselves above the law and don't consider us Jews and therefore feel they have no obligation to us either legally or halachically (a disgusting concept towards goyim and kal vachomer to Jews).

    The neighbouring residents have NO claim to whatsoever to the property irrespective of whether you think this is just or unjust. The school had been zoned to be built there 10 years earlier. The area was not zoned as a hareidi area. This hareidi group's moving into the area does not give them the right to demand resources which have been promised to other communities (who also live in the areas neighbouring the school) and have been waiting patiently and paying taxes for these resources for many years. They behaved like spoiled brats, and in typical Israeli histadrut fashion when the hareidi community's request, made 3 years before the school opened, was rejected (and for good reason), some members of the community decided to use force to get their way. This caused much sinat chinam which you now attribute entirely to Dov Lipman.

    I don't know that "all" the rabbis told their people not to get involved in violence, but their people sure didn't listen. I also noticed that NO hareidi Rabbis came out and condemned their violence and disgusting behaviour. It sickens me that that they invoke Hashem's name to evict my daughter because she is polluting "their pure neighbourhood".

    You have acknowledged that these thugs don't even live near the school. (You wrote, "As you can see in some of the footage he [Dov Lipman] published, he led a mixed group right to the local residents homes, far away from the school.") What about your claim of "neighboring residents, who have first rights to the property"? They aren't neighbouring residents. They're just xenophobic goons who decided that it is a Hareidi area and decided to try to make a land grab.

    I have no respect for them and think they should be behind bars, not protected by their politicians. The reason the police don't arrest more stone throwers and garbage burners and other goons is because it can become a huge political nightmare. But they should all be charged, tried and locked away. I don't know much about the incident, but so what that the group was mixed? It wasn't mixed to bother the hareidim. It was mixed because there were women who wanted to demonstrate against them too. They didn't throw rotten eggs, and faeces all over their homes. I certainly didn't feel any ahavat hinam for them.

    They must have believed there was danger because the police were there every day for quite a while. No, it wasn't dangerous to send the kids to the school. It was dangerous to let them walk around a Jewish neighbourhood unaccompanied, so there were adults accompanying the girls for weeks after the police stopped, and you're right, we didn't let the girls use the stop which was dangerous. That would have been irresponsible.

    You obviously haven't spoken to Naama Margolese or her mother if you don't believe anyone was spat on. Do you deny that she was screamed at and insulted? Is that not enough to get upset at? She didn't offer her services as a media sensation. She was picked on by the sikrikim and then you don't like what happened in the media thereafter. (She probably did private trauma counseling, but you wouldn't know because it's private). It is a pity that the international media got hold of the story, but I don't think it was so bad to have our dirty laundry aired (in Israel). A lot of soul searching has been done on both sides which may not have been performed otherwise.

    Yes taking the law into your own hands is a serious crime. So why didn't the Hareidi rabbanim not come out to oppose these violent, law breaking sikrikim? Instead they made a hafgana in opposition.
    I quote Daniel Edelman (having lightly edited what he wrote):"Brotherly love is a wonderful sentiment, and it should be felt for all Jews, religious or otherwise. But it always amazes me that many twist the story of Kamza and Bar Kamza (Gittin 55-56) as support for the view that the story is about "sinat chinam" resulting in the destruction of the Beit Hamikidash. I recommend you review that Gemara again, and you will see that the story stands for the principle that inaction and scrupulosity on the part of the rabbis even in the face of a tremendous chillul Hashem is what destroyed the Beit Hamikdash.

    "That is, there is more to the story than just one man throwing another out of a party. What the Gemarah then says is that when Bar Kamza saw that the rabbis were sitting there and did nothing about it, he concluded that they must have acceded to the conduct. Bar Kamza, therefore, went to the Roman authorities, saying the Jews were rebelling. The Romans Emperor asked how could he know that there was a rebellion and the response was to send them a sacrifice and see if it will be offered. After the emperor was sent, Bar Kamza made a blemish on it so that it could not be brought as a kosher sacrifice.

    "Then, the Gemarah informs us that some were inclined to offer the sacrifice in any event not to offend the Roman government, but R. Zecharia said that couldn't be done lest people think blemished animals be offered as sacrifices. The Gemarah concludes with the statement of R. Yochanan that: "Through the scrupulousness of R. Zechariya our house has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we exiled from our land."

    "The issue is not there are loonies who are terrorizing you and by extension all of us. The issue is that the Rabbis are doing nothing about it. It is, therefore, not sinat chinam which propels people to challenge the haredi community and especially its rabbinic leadership to action. It's a genine understanding of what caused the churban."

    Yes, the yeshiva has become more hareidi over the years. They still have a secular studies track and arrangements with many universities, so Dov Lipman is espousing exactly what the yeshiva practices. He is in favour of kids learning in yeshivot but learning core secular subjects too.

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