Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Playing The Gedolim Card’

I recently had a wide-ranging discussion with a haredi individual (I’m Modern Orthodox) and he countered just about every one of my statements by claiming “the gedolim don’t agree with that” or “your views go against the gedolim.”


It didn’t matter what the specific issue was – the state of Israel, pictures of women in Orthodox publications, the importance of secular studies, the concept of men going to work to support their families instead of learning Torah full time. The response was always “the gedolim say this” and “the gedolim say that.”

Of course, the rabbis he mentioned as “gedolim” were rabbis with whom he happened to agreed. Any rabbi I mentioned, no matter how learned or widely respected, was dismissed as “too modern” or “a lightweight” or even, in two specific cases, “apikorsim.”

Never mind that, according to the very Torah this gentleman claimed to follow, such disrespect and lashon hara directed toward anyone – let alone rabbis whose Orthodoxy is unchallenged and whose reputations are unimpeachable – are terrible aveirahs. That’s bad enough. But there’s something involved here that goes well beyond his atrocious attitude and behavior.

The truth is, this whole matter of who is a gadol and who isn’t has become a device to stifle debate and silence disagreement. You’ve heard of the expression “playing the race card”? I call this “playing the gedolim card.”

Back in the late 1980s, I was listening to Rabbi Meir Kahane, z”l, on a radio talk show as he bantered with the host and took calls from listeners. I’ll never forget his response when a caller with a Yiddish accent and rather smug tone asked him, “If you’re so right, why do all the gedolim disagree with you?”

To which Rabbi Kahane replied: “Listen, if all the gedolim in the world said one thing and the Satmar Rebbe said another, who would the Satmars follow? And if all the gedolim in the world said one thing and the Lubavitcher Rebbe said another, who would the Lubavitchers follow? And if all the gedolim in the world said one thing and Rav Ovadia Yosef said another, who would the Sephardim follow? So don’t talk to me about ‘gedolim.’ Right now we have no Sanhedrin, and until we do, you’ll follow your rav and I’ll follow my rav, OK?”

The caller, obviously nonplussed, took a deep breath and hung up.

Michoel Bernstein
(Via E-Mail)

Upside-Down Priorites

A teacher in the Palestinian Authority makes NIS 900 ($250) a month; a laborer makes NIS 1,500 ($415) a month.

And the family of a Palestinian who murdered a Jew in Israel and was sentenced to life in prison gets a monthly salary of NIS 12,000 ($3,300).

True peace will never come until these priorities are changed.

Arthur Horn
East Windsor, NJ

No Change Since 1948

The recent Arab Summit was a complete failure. There were no new ideas but rather the same old thinking that if Israel would only retreat to the pre-1967 lines there might be a possibility of some kind of ambiguous peace.

Of course, there is no chance for peace given the attitude and behavior of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have vilified Israel at the UN and other world bodies. They have attempted to take away our history, even usurping the site of our Holy Temple as theirs.

Even Israelis who detest Benjamin Netanyahu realize there is no flexibility on the part of the Palestinians. The Arab Summit is just the latest indication that nothing has changed since 1948 except that Israel is much stronger and the Arab nations are not inclined to go to war for the sake of the Palestinians. But those nations, resigned though they may be to Israel’s military superiority, are still adamantly opposed to a Jewish state in the Middle East

Toby Willig

Foreign Policy Establishment

The operative words in the title of Sarah N. Stern’s March 31 op-ed article, “Why David Friedman Bothers the Foreign Policy Establishment,” are “foreign policy establishment.”

President Harry Truman had his problems with the foreign policy establishment. He wanted to help the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. He also wanted to resolve the Arab-British-Jewish conflict over the Holy Land without bloodshed.

Truman wrote in his memoirs that the men in the State Department thought of themselves as the true masters of U.S. relations with other nations and viewed presidents as temporary interlopers.

But Truman made the United States the first country to give Israel de facto recognition, in defiance of the State Department and against the threat of mass resignation by State Department personnel.

Reuven Solomon
Forest Hills, NY

‘Don’t Worry, Tataleh

Arnold Fine’s “I Remember When” is one of my favorite Jewish Press columns. The March 31 entry really got to me, and I found myself smiling and weeping at the same time as I remembered an incident from about 78 years ago when I was a pre-teen. (I’m 90 now.)

In the column, Mr. Fine described how when a flowerpot was accidentally knocked down five stories and broke, Mama said to little Berel: “Don’t worry, tataleh.”

Those were the exact words my grandmother used when she comforted me after I fell off my bike and tore my pants. I was riding to her house for a quick visit before Hebrew school. The bike was OK, and one knee was only slightly bruised, but I knew how hard my father and mother had to work to buy me clothes and so I cried all the way to my grandmother’s house.

When I showed my grandmother the torn pants, she comforted me, just as Berel’s mother soothed him, with the words “Don’t worry, tataleh.” Then she added, her voice full of warmth and reassurance, “I’ll sew them up for you in no time.” And she did – like new!

I breathed a sigh of relief and was off to Hebrew school, ready for my next challenge.

George Epstein
Los Angeles, CA