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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Of ‘Torah Haters’ and Noah Feldman

Minister Lapid should not be judged by a few offhand comments spoken in angry response to being constantly attacked as a Torah hater.
American author and professor of law at Harvard Law School Noah Feldman.

American author and professor of law at Harvard Law School Noah Feldman.

There are two independent opinion pieces in Mishpacha Magazine that I feel compelled to comment upon. One is by Editor in Chief Moshe Grylak and the other is by Mishpacha’s resident pit-bull, Eytan Kobre.

Moshe Grylak’s editorial is actually a description of a wonderful experience he had spending time with Chilonim (secular Jews) in Israel. He noticed something that many of us already know which has been reported in the Jewish media many times. He noticed that Chilonim actually are not anti Torah. In fact it’s really incorrect to define Chilonim as irreligious. Many of them are fact religious albeit not fully observant. He noticed that when he went to the Kotel on fast day of Tzom Gedalia. What he saw surprised him. From the editorial:

At two a.m.on motzaei Tzom Gedaliah, I was at the Kosel. It was an amazing sight — the Kosel plaza was packed with people as if it were midday. So many had come to recite Selichos, you could hardly move. And the lion’s share of them weren’t even frum, according to our accepted definitions of the term — which brings the accepted definitions into question.

Indeed. This was quite an admission from someone who proudly represents the Charedi perspective. I give Rabbi Grylak credit for his intellectual honesty. This is not the first time I have seen it. I recall an earlier editorial where he praised the fact that the Kenesset now has more traditionally observant Jews than at any time in its history. Even secular parties, he noted, seek religious Jews as members of their party.

However there is one part of his editorial I found to be an unnecessary slam at fellow Jews- many of whom might be found among those he saw at the Kotel that day. And even more outrageously at fellow observant Jews. Here are the offending words in the opening paragraph:

While a gang of Torah-haters who are wielding power in the government (for the time being) have caused much pain and anxiety recently with their relentless persecution of chareidi Jewry…

Torah haters? Why does anyone who challenges the status quo of Charedi life have to be labeled a Torah hater?! Especially when some of those who are making this challenge are not only observant, but in one case a self described Charedi and in another a former Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbis Dov Lipman and Shai Piron are surely not Torah haters. How in good conscience can Rabbi Grylak imply that they are?

Perhaps he did not mean them but their mentor, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. I realize that they blame him for all the pain the Charedi community in Israel is feeling. He is the one who designed the severe budget cuts that impacts on them more than any other segment of Israeli society – and he advocates the future conscription of Charedim into the military.

Even if Rabbi Grylak feels that Lapid is wrong, why assume that he is a Torah hater? Has he not repeatedly said that his goal is not to destroy them but to better their lives? That the Charedi world thinks that his ideas will destroy them doesn’t mean this is his goal. True – Lapid has made some outrageous comments about them. But can you blame him they constantly vilify him – as has Rabbi Grylak right here in his editorial?

Lapid should not be judged by a few offhand comments spoken in angry response to being constantly attacked as a Torah hater. He should be judged by what his stated goals are. Goals that I support… and that Charedim may themselves privately support – that their poverty should be alleviated by being able to go into the workforce better prepared to support their families.

Rabbi Grylak has every right to disagree with them. But he is so terribly wrong for vilifying them. Doesn’t he realize that the very people he praises in his op-ed are those who very likely voted for Yesh Atid… or at least support their goals with respect to Charedim? I think it would be prudent for him to re-think his vilification of themas Torah haters. For the most part they are not. (Although I suppose there may be a few exceptions.) He ought to instead consider their real motives and agree to disagree respectfully. You can certainly win more Chiloni friends and influence more Chiloni people by doing that than by vilifying the people they voted for.

In that same edition of Mishpacha Eytan Kobre has an interesting review of the recent Pew survey on American Jewry. Strangely enough I agreed with some of what he said – which is beside the point I want to make. In what has to be the most out of character way of making his point about the flourishing nature of Orthodox Jewry he quotes Noah Feldman’s salute to Lakewood that was published in Bloomberg.

The point Rabbi Kobre makes is that Feldman who was raised in a Modern Orthodox home and attended Modern Orthodox schools wrote an article that was highly critical of Modern Orthodoxy but sees the future of Judaism in a place like Lakewood.

The problem is that Noah Feldman has a more famous (or should I say infamous) claim to fame. He married a non Jewish woman. She did not convert. His children are not Jewish. This is a man who went off the Derech in the ultimate way by marrying out… someone that Charedim would hardly use to make a point. It’s like quoting the Al Capone about the beauty of following the law. Who knows… Maybe Charedim don’t think marrying out is so bad. At least not so long as they say nice things about them.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

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.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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