By Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg
I read Rabbi Edelstein’s open letter to MK Rabbi Dov Lipman and immediately contacted Rabbi Lipman, who I consider a good friend. I wanted to verify that Rabbi Edelstein had reached out to Rabbi Lipman privately in his attempt to open a line of discourse which he describes as the goal of his open letter. Certainly, before writing a very public letter, one would assume that reaching out privately is an appropriate first step. To my shock, MK Lipman told me that Rabbi Edelstein did not attempt to reach out to him personally.
When I asked Rabbi Lipman if he read the open letter he replied: “Noam, while people are spending their time writing about how much I hate chareidim and want to destroy Torah, I am busy helping chareidim find jobs, helping chareidim receive training for jobs, and building programs in which they can serve the country without having to stop learning Torah and without having to give up any level of their spirituality. I simply don’t have the time to read these columns, especially those that misquote me.”
Is the attempt to build programs in which boys can be in yeshiva while serving in the army or national service really trying to force boys to leave yeshiva? There was criticism in the open letter regarding Lipman’s inaugural address in the Knesset. For those who have not seen it, I recommend watching it and see for yourself how words might have been misconstrued:
In the speech, MK Lipman calls yeshiva boys to understand that they can be Torah scholars and fervently Orthodox while also learning basic general studies and going to work. Why isn’t this the greatest chessed for them? Rabbi Lipman is the voice which is empowering the majority of chareidi boys who cannot study Torah day and night throughout their lives to remain chareidi, to remain within the Torah world, while receiving training to support their families with dignity. The true war against these boys is being waged by those who have misled them into believing that good boys study Torah day and night throughout their lives and boys who haven’t “made it” go to the army or to work.
A recent article in the New York Times confirms what MK Rabbi Lipman has been repeating time and again – and does not agree that the thousands of chareidi boys are going to work as a result of the remarkable guidance of the Torah giants of our time.
The boys who leave yeshiva to go to work are made to feel like they are second class and this makes it difficult for them to remain chareidi. This leads to their failures in remaining committed to Torah and mitzvot in growing numbers. Hopefully, the efforts of MK Lipman and others will empower mainstream chareidim to remain committed to Torah study and adherence to halacha while earning a living.
I decided to do some research to see how Rabbi Lipman spends his time. The personal attacks against him that we have witnessed in the United States make it seem like he spends his time scheming to destroy Torah and distance the name of God.
Just a few minutes of research revealed the following. Among the things which appear in his schedule:
– A few times a week: speeches to secular students who visit the Knesset in which he implores them to respect those who observe Torah and mitzvot and calls for unity.
– Speeches to secular college students including in bars where he shares a similar message.
– Meetings with chareidi rabbis and young men regarding finding jobs, training for jobs, and fighting discrimination against chareidim in the work place.
– Writing laws which relate to core Jewish values such as not mistreating animals and obtaining united support for these laws from chareidi MK’s to secular MK’s.
Is this really someone who is out to destroy Torah and chareidim or perhaps someone who is brave and bold enough to openly address the burning issues of our time in an attempt to save Torah and the chareidi community.
Perhaps it is time for us to stop talking about Rabbi Lipman and to start talking about the issues which he has brought to the fore. Perhaps we should begin to acknowledge that core Torah values support his vision for a life of Torah together with serving the nation and earning a living instead of filling our time with personal attacks. And, even more importantly, it is time to declare that these personal attacks themselves fly in the face of the very Torah values which these authors portray themselves as seeking to defend.
Rabbi Dr. Noam Weinberg is Principal of Judaic Studies, North Shore Hebrew Academy High School.
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