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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘charedim’

Israel as ‘Golus by Jews’? We Never Had it Better!

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Rabbi Sholom Gold wrote a letter to the editor of Hamodia. It was not printed there, but it is reprinted here with permission.

To the Editor, Hamodia

There is what seems to be “a statement of authentic Torah-true hashkafah” that appears occasionally in Hamodia (the most recent on the 4th of Adar II) and in other publications, that I believe must be examined very closely and dispassionately. The pronouncement raises extremely serious problems of a religious nature.

The Hamodia article quoted a rav who said, “The most difficult golus to endure is a golus suffered from other Jews and therefore we plead for a final redemption from this terrible golus.” I experienced a great deal of personal anguish just writing that sentence. First of all, it’s absolutely false. We are not in Czarist Russia, Inquisitionist Spain, Crusader-ravished Rhineland, Cossack-scorched Poland, nor fascist Nazi Germany, nor assimilation-ridden America. Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is experiencing the most magnificent era in 2,000 years.

Rav Avraham Pam movingly put the present period in time in its proper Jewish-Torah perspective. He said that a rule in Jewish history is that following every period of suffering comes an era of Hashem embracing His people, comforting them, and pouring out His goodness, just as a father whose son has suffered will embrace him and console him. Rav Pam highlights four such historic episodes. The fourth one, Rav Pam said, was, that following the worst horror of all, the Shoah, Hashem embraced us with “hakomas Medinas Yisroel” (precisely his words).

Hashem does not embrace His people by casting them into the worst golus of all. To say that, is a denial of Hashem’s goodness, an ugly rejection of His benevolence, and shameful ingratitude.

Three months after the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, Rav Dessler wrote that he who does not see the dramatic change and the complete reversal of the fate of the Jewish people, “min hakatzeh al Hakatzeh, “from one extreme of six million slaughtered to the other extreme of the settling of our people in their own medina in our Holy Land” is blind. “Woe to one who will come to the Day of Judgment still blind and not having been able to see something so real.” (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 3, page 352)

Rav Dessler wrote this at a time that the infant state was locked in a struggle for its very existence. No one then could predict the outcome, yet he rejoiced. He did not predict that the State wouldn’t last for ten years.

The plain facts are that the greatest growth of Klal Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel in just about every conceivable area has been mind-boggling. Little Israel whose air force ranks after the United States, Russia and China. Way up there with the biggest. An army whose might is so clearly the result of the efforts of “He who gives you the strength to be mighty.” Agricultural accomplishments of global proportions. Israel is a world agricultural power. It staggers the imagination. (Google Israel – Agriculture and read Wikipedia.) It would help if you have a TaNach handy to see the prophecies fulfilled before your very eyes. Focus on Yechezkel chapters 36, 37 and 38.

For me, every visit to my local fruit and vegetable store is a powerful religions experience. In the middle 50s I learned in Ponovitz and subsisted on tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon. Today, in my local store I am overwhelmed by the dazzling amounts of produce. If this is golus then I can’t begin to imagine what geulah is. I once said that every rabbi is zocheh to one good line in his career. Mine is, “If you want to speak to G-d go to the Kotel, but if you want to see Him, go to Shuk Machaneh Yehudah.”

Images of ‘the Other’

Monday, September 30th, 2013
Once again I find myself on a plane flying back from yet another wonderful Yom Tov experience in Israel. As I have said in the past, the community in Ramat Bet Shemesh where I spend time with my family is physically and spiritually beautiful… and so are all the people I encountered there.
But I was disappointed at the way the Charedim there see Chilonim (secular Israelis).  And by the same token I am aware of the fact that many Chilonim have an entirely negative attitude about Charedim. A young Charedi teenager I spoke to told me that whenever he passes though a secuar neighborhood, he gets stares and whispers. This young man would not hurt a fly. All he is interested in is studying Torah in his Yeshiva.
Why is this the case?
Images of ‘the other’ are heavily biased by what the media report about them. When the secular media report on the vile actions of extremist Charedim – that is how all Charedim are perceived.  They don’t know about the relatively peaceful nature of the vast majority of Charedim. They only see what the media reports. They see screaming, rabbinic leaders and politicians. They see rock throwers spitters.  The media does not report  about the peaceful lives and good deeds of this community because that isn’t news. Rock throwing and spitting is. Even if it is only done by the few, that is how the Charedim are seen as a whole.
I am reminded of a story I read in one of the Charedi magazines. I do not recall the details but a Charedi woman saw a void in how patients are treated and filled it with tons of Chesed. She does so without discrimination – giving of herself to anyone in need regardless of how religious or secular they are
One time when she was serving a Chiloni woman , she was thanked and then was asked a ‘favor’: “Would she mind telling her people to stop throwing rocks at her?”
The Charedi woman took umbrage at that since she had never thrown so much as a pebble at anyone in her life.  I can understand why she felt that way. But she should have asked herself, why do they hate us so much? And what can be done to change attitudes?
In my view, the problem is that the two communities do not interact with each other. They therefore have no clue what the other side is really like. Their perceptions are driven by a secular media whose job it is to present hard news and not fluff pieces…. And by the rhetoric of by which the Cheredi media characterizes the Chiloni world. Each side rejects thee other and will have nothing to do with each other.
Jonathan Rosenblum had an article in the Sukkos edition of Mishpacha Magazine wherein he tried to make this point. He quoted a Drasha that explains each of the Daled Minim (Lulav and Esrog etc.) as the four segments of Jewry, The Esrog represents those Jews who have both Torah and Mitzvos; The Lulav –those with Torah alone, The Hadassim – Mitzvos alone; and the Aravos – those with neither Torah nor Mitzvos. While this is certainly an oversimplification of reality – one might say that the Aravos apply to the Chiloni world. But God tells us to combine all four Minim for the Mitzvah to be properly fulfilled.
The point is that all segments of the Klal are needed to fulfill the Mitzvah of The Daled Minim.  And this should be the attitude of us all. We all need each other. We ought to interact with each other and get to what we all are really like. We can discuss the issue that divide us and hopefully come to a resolution that will be acceptable to all. But even if we don’t we will have accomplished a very big step toward Achdus.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

The Internet, Halacha, and Olam HaBah

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It’s simply not possible. I don’t believe it. Nonetheless it is being reported as fact. Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel, has linked to the Hebrew language website B’Chadrei Charedim that quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s response to a question about smart-phones.

There is a Gemarah in Brachos that tells us that a man will lose his portion in Olam HaBah if he walks regularly behind a woman down a river. Rav Kanievsky was asked if this applies to someone who has in his possession an I-phone or the internet. His one word answer according to Chadrei was ‘ B’Vadai’ – absolutely! Anyone who uses an I-phone or the internet is in a category of losing his Olam HaBah – his heavenly reward in the world to come!

If this is true, then yet again, I think we all ought to all just go over to MacDonald’s and have a cheeseburger… or violate any other Miztvah in the Torah we want to violate. Why bother observing Halacha if you’ve lost your Olam Habah?

I happen to know Gedolei Torah and Roshei Yeshiva  who use I-phones and the internet. Are they all doomed?

Once again we have what appears to be a huge dis-connect between what a great Torah sage supposedly said – and reality. Either Rav Kanievsky does not know the extent of internet use among a great number of devoutly observant Jews, or this is a gross distortion or mischaracterization of his views. I think that both things are true. I don’t believe he said it and meant it to be interpreted as simply as that one word answer indicates.

I would not be surprised if this is yet another instance of Kanoim – religious zealots twisting the views of a elderly rabbinic leader to fit their agenda. I’m sure his position is far more nuanced than the one word answer (B’Vadai) he supposedly gave to a simple question.

The Agenda is obvious. There are people who are eager to destroy other Jews in a fit of self righteousness. They do not have these devices and do not want anyone else to have them either. So they make sure to twist the words of Gedolei Yisroel to assure it.

They may think they are doing the right thing. But they are by far doing far much more harm than good. They may in fact be responsible for pushing more religious Jews out of observance than saving them from using the internet.

By putting people who have smart-phones into a category of losing their Olam Habah, it is not too difficult to see many frustrated Frum people who have so often been put upon with comments like this say, ‘the heck with it!’ I may as well live a life of ease and not worry about violating Halacha. I won’t make to Olam HaBah anyway.

The Gemarah upon which this one word response attributed to Rav Kanievsky was based upon does not forbid the incidental following of a woman down a river. The loss of Olam Habah  that the Gemarah speaks of is only to those who purposely do so with lascivious thoughts and the intent to sin in that regard. And even then only if it is done on a regular basis.

I would add that even if someone regularly does things like that and has some sort of sexual addiction, he can get help… and do Teshuva. I find it very difficult to believe that the Gemarah’s intent is that someone loses his Olam HaBah permanently if he does that. It is also known that the Gemarah sometimes exaggerates to make a point. Which may be the case here.

If there is any comparison to be made between following a woman down a river and the world of the 21st century and the internet – it is in the area of purposely viewing pornography on it. The problem is not the internet. It is the websites one frequents… if those websites are pornographic. That is the comparison that Rav Kanievsky no doubt meant – if he said anything at all.  Accidentally accessing a pornographic website is not a cause for losing one’s Olam Habah.

But the Kanoim who publish stories like this do not want to be confused with the nuances of truth. They want convey the message that I-phones and any other device that can access the internet is so evil that one should not even touch it! For if they do, their Olam HaBah is at stake.

Will Observant Judaism of the Future Look Like Satmar?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

A friend of mine (by way of the internet – I never met him personally) once told me never to predict the future based on linear projections. That was a very wise observation.

One of the things that many people seem to believe is that the exponential rate of growth of the Charedi community is so vastly greater than the growth of any other segment – that ultimately the future will be theirs. Meaning that the rest of Orthodoxy will either be absorbed by them, or will become so small in comparison that it will become either irrelevant, or extinct altogether.

I am one of those people. The Charedim have won. By their growth and sheer determination they are the wave of the future. But I have a modified version of that prediction. Moderate Charedim will populate the the new mainstream majority. It will also contain those I have called RWMO (right wing Modern Orthodox). And evolve into a sociological demographic I call the New Centrists. Rabbi Berel Wein was first made note of this phenomenon. And it is already in progress.

In brief  what is happening is that both communities have adopted modalities of the other. So that even if our Hashkafos are somewhat different, our lifestyles are not. Moderate Charedim and RWMO are both generally are well educated in Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol. Both generally have solid careers where many are professionals.

We are both Koveiah Itim (establish fixed times for Torah study); Daven in the same Shuls; send our children to similar – and occasionally the same schools; are very often good friends, trust each other’s Kashrus; and our families  interact socially each other. It is not that uncommon to find a Chavrusa  beween a moderate Charedi and a RWMO learning together at night in a community Kollel. Our differing Hashkafos are not a divisive issue socially. The extremes on both the right and left may continue to exist, but in my view will at best be marginalized.

Nothing new here.  I have mentioned all this before. Many times. But what I have not mentioned in this context is another demographic that is perhaps the fastest growing demographic of all. One that has absolutely nothing to do with the above phenomenon.  The exponential growth of Satmar and like minded Chasidim. Does that mean that I believe that Satmar is the wave of the future… that eventually they will overtake the rest of Orthodoxy by their sheer population size?  Based on linear projections, one might say that will indeed happen. But I don’t think so, despite their continuing and phenomenally rapid growth.

Currently Satmar Chasidim live in their own world and prefer to keep it that way. The same is true of other Chasidic sects like Skvere.  They will not ‘assimilate’ into any new grouping.  Their values are not the same as the New Centrists at all. They live in a world apart from the rest of observant Jewry.

They are not well educated in Limudei Chol. And although they do work, they generally do not work as professionals. They do not attend colleges and universities. They work at jobs that often do not pay a living wage. Certainly not for a family of 12 or 13 is which is a very common family size. So a great many of them live in poverty…. isolated from the rest of the world.

While it is true that there are some very wealthy Satmar type Chasidim in trades like the diamond industry, construction, and other businesses (like the wildly successful B&H) – they are the exception and not the rule.  Most Satmar Chasidim barely eke out a living and more often than not have to be aided by free loan societies.

There is an article in the Forward by a Frimet Goldberger. She was raised in the world of Satmar. Ms. Goldberger describes  Satmar Chasidim as not only living isolated lives, but as living very religiously demanding lives. More than any other religious demographic. Lives that are stricter now than at any time in the history of Satmar. They have taken upon themselves Chumros that that did not even exist during the life of their founding Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum. And he was pretty Machmir  requiring the rejection of the outside world in its totality.

His purpose was to insulate his Chasidim form the slightest taint of non Jewish culture.  His method was to not only live in a tightly knit neighborhood  - but to be as different from the rest of the world as possible. That would make it virtually impossible to see any commonlaity and thereby assimilate.  That – combined with their extreme Tznius measures makes them culturally incompatible with -  not only the secular world, but even   the moderate Charedi world. Not to mention the Modern Orthodox world.

Here is how Ms. Goldbeger describes it:

(The Satmar Rebbe) had railed against married women growing their hair underneath the turbans and wigs. After his death, most Hasidic women finally adhered to this rule – many out of fear of the severe ramifications of defiance. It is now the acceptable practice in Satmar to expel children from school if their mothers do not shave their heads. The Satmar Rebbe also decried the thin stockings and uncovered sheitels worn in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Now, most Satmar women wear thick, seamed stockings.

The latest Chumra is the blurring out faces of little girls in their photos. Which did not exist when the Satmar Rebbe was alive. She calls such radicalization alarming and not to be ignored.

In my view, all of these factors are the reason that we should not project a victory for the Satmar way of life. This lifestyle is not the wave of the future. Despite their rapid exponential growth. Insuring the isolation that has kept this demographic together and intact, is no longer possible. The internet has just about assured that. Especially now that one can access it in the palm of one hand.  Bans of technological advances like I-phones no matter how harsh the consequences simply are probably honored more in the breach than in adherence.

I am not saying that young people will drop out in significant numbers. Although going OTD  is a growing problem for them like it is for every other religious demographic. But I do think that they will gradually see what the rest of the even Frum world has to offer and many will seek it out. The poverty and strictures particular to this community will accelerate that process. They will see that it is possible to be religious and not be as isolated as they have been in the past. Modernity will catch up to them. Their increasing poverty that their current lifestyle practically guarantees them will motivate many of them to try another way.

They will see a growing new Centrism and realize that there other legitimate ways to practice Judaism. I am not saying that they will all eventually become new Centrists. Although not likley – it is not out of the realm of possibility once they start seeking to better their lives materially. More likely is a scenario to create their own version of a centrist society – rebelling against that part of their culture that keeps them poor – by seeking a better education and pulling back a bit on their radically different appearances… like the insistence that all their married women must save their heads.

I can’t predict the future. But what I think I can predict is that this demographic is not the wave of the future as they are currently constructed.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Whose Values Do They Represent?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

I don’t see how anyone can claim that they are extremists who are an exception to the rule – amounting to only a small handful of Haredim. I am talking about people who are constantly degrading the values of those they disagree with by acting in truly disgusting ways.

It has happened again. From Israel Hayom:

Shear Yashuv residents inflamed to find haredi tourists bathing in a memorial fountain near the town, which was dedicated to 73 IDF soldiers who lost their lives in a terrible 1997 helicopter accident • Haredi tourists: “Memorials constitute idolatry.”

This kind of thing happens so frequently and in so many different places, it cannot possibly be attributed to a bunch of extremists that are not representative of Haredi values. And yet every time something like this gets reported in the media, there is always a Haredi apologist out there somewhere telling us we shouldn’t judge all Haredim by the actions of a few.

I of course agree with that in principle. And as I have said many times, most Haredim don’t do these kinds of things. Certainly not moderate Haredim but even right wing Haredim. They realize it is a Chilul HaShem. However – as I’ve said many times – the behavior though not approved of actually occurs precisely because of the Haredi values exemplified by the above response of those Chareid tourists.

Is there anyone who thinks that the sentiment expressed by them isn’t believed by them? It expresses a value of the majority of Haredi community.

I don’t know that the majority of the Haredi world actually considers such memorials to be idolatry. But I think it’s safe to say that they do completely characterize such memorials at the very least as un-Jewish. And something we ought not recognize in any way. The only difference between those Haredi bathers and the media apologists is that the apologists realize that disrespecting the memorial will be seen by the entire rest of the world as disrespecting the dead being memorialized.

So Rebbeim in Yeshivos advise their students never do anything that will be seen to dishonor lost loved ones in public. That would be considered a Chilul HaShem.

But those tourists probably think it is a Chilul HaShem – NOT to stand up for the truth. They therefore acted the way they did  with pride – having no problem desecrating that memorial by bathing in it.

The idea of showing one face to the public and another one internally was illustrated recently when a  Rosh Yeshiva or Rebbe described what he tells his students about how to act when sirens sound on Yom HaZikaron. He said when the sirens sound while they are in the confines of the Yeshiva, they are to be ignored. When they are out in public, they should stand silently along with the rest of the country. Why? Because it is not a Jewish way to memorialize the dead. Doing so in private therefore has no meaning to them. In public, however, they are to ‘play along’.

One may ask, what’s so terrible about that? What’s wrong with teaching students about the proper Jewish way to mourn the dead? There is of course nothing wrong and everything right about that.

What is wrong here is that it is more than about teaching proper Jewish thought.They aren’t just teaching their students how to properly mourn the dead. They are teaching them that Israel is run by a bunch of Apikurism (heretics) who ‘ape the Goyim’. Students are taught to disrespect everything about the government of Israel and Israeli society. Israel is constantly being vilified to Haredi students by their Haredi teachers.

The smarter ones also realize that there should be no public displays of disrespect to the Israeli populace. For example in how they mourn their dead. That would be a Chilul HaShem. Nonetheless the lesson constantly taught and heard over and over again by students is that Israel is evil and if not for the Chilul HaShem it is indeed correct to dishonor the ‘Goyishe way’ in which Israel does everything. Including the way in which the dead are memorialized.

There are of course some Mechanchim who do not make those caveats to their students. Especially in places like Meah Shearim. Is it any wonder then that there are Haredim who feel free to desecrate a memorial in the way these Haredim did? They are merely expressing their true Hashkafos – oblivious to the Chilul HaShem – thinking that it is a Kiddush HaShem!

That is why when these bathing tourists were asked about it, they responded the way they did. It is the same kind of thinking had by Haredim who held a barbecue in a public park this past Yom HaZikaron while the rest of Israel was somberly mourning soldiers killed in action. ‘It’s not the Jewish way to mourn this way – and by golly we’re going to teach these ‘evil’- or at best ignorant Jews by example what we really think of it!’

It’s the same kind of thinking that goes on when a woman get’s spat upon because the spitter does not approve of the way she dresses. This too happened recently in the city of Ashdod recently. From Ynet:

A, a 15-year-old girl and her mother complained that a haredi man asked the girl not to walk by a yeshiva located in the city center, and even spat on her because of the way she was dressed.

The girl was walking along the street Monday, as she does everyday, to pick up her 6-year-old little sister from kindergarten. At a distance of a kilometer and a half away from her home, the girl – who wore a tank top and a skirt – was approached by a haredi man who yelled at her: “Walk behind the parking lot’s wall”

At first, A., did not understand what he was talking about, and asked the man “Why?” to which he replied “Because you’re immodest, there are people studying Torah here.”

A., who did not want to confront the man picked up her pace and defiantly told him “I’m not going to,” to which he answered “Why are you so stubborn?” and then spat on her.

This is becoming so common it almost as though it were the norm in Haredi circles. I can understand why a Haredi man concerned with the Kedusha of his Yeshiva would be upset at a woman wearing a tank top passing by. And even though I would disagree with him doing it since she has the right to dress as any she chooses in public – I would understand if he politely asked if she would in the future dress more modestly around the Yeshiva.

But when he demands it and then spits on her when she doesn’t comply, that is a Chilul HaShem even though in his own mind he thinks it is a Kiddush HaShem . As would all the spitters, screamers, and haters all over the world who would act the same way under similar circumstances.

As if that weren’t enough let us not forget about the bus ‘bombers’. No… not the Islamist  suicide bombers. The Haredi ones in Bet Shemesh who yesterday smashed the windsheild of a bus and broke other windows with a hammer after after a woman refused to sit apart from men. They later attacked two other buses by ‘bombing’ them with stones and breaking their windows.

So the next time you hear a Haredi spokesman say that these people do not represent them, I would take that with a huge grain of salt.

Update
The woman who was asked to move to the back of the bus was interviewed by a religious radio station in Israel. She described the situation as follows. As a new immigrant unfamiliar with sex segregated buses in her new community she sat down at the front of the bus with her young children and all the packages she was carrying.

She was then immediately but politely asked to move to the back by one of the Haredi women who came up to her. At first she refused because of all the packages and her children. She was offered help with all that and she then agreed to move. The bus driver became irate when he saw this and decided to call the police. That is apparently when all hell broke loose.

In my view, this changes little except the precipitating event caused by the bus driver. The bus driver may have been foolish and impetuous in making that call when the situations seemed to be taking care of itself.

But the rioting Haredim that responded by damaging that bus and other buses nearby is what ought to be focused on here. This is not a civilized response to a grievance against what a bus driver did. And although the bus driver should have perhaps not exacerbated the situation, clearly he too acted out of his indignation at what he thought was wrong.

If one will say that I too am being apologetic, I would only ask that you compare how the bus driver reacted to what he saw as an injustice – to how these Haredim reacted to what they saw as an injustice. Had those Haredim reacted in a similarly civilized manner, there would be no story. And no Chilul HaShem.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

In Defense of MK Rabbi Dov Lipman

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

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.

Stop the Vilification

Monday, June 10th, 2013

I must give credit to Mishpacha Magazine Editor and Chief, Rabbi Moshe Grylak. He was honest in an editorial describing an experience that in my view ought to be had by every Charedi in Israel . While it is unfortunately highly unlikely that this would ever happen to all Charedim – It did happen to Rabbi Grylak and he tried to convey its message to his readers.

He was ‘reminded’ that secular Israelis do not hate Chardim at all. And that some of the finest and most highly motivated secular youth are in uniform.  He said that he had always thought this but had to be reminded of it because of the current ‘anti- Charedi’ climate in Israel.

Rabbi Grylak spared no words of praise for the young IDF cadets he hosted in his Har Nof neighborhood last Shabbos. These young men will upon graduation serve as officers in combat units. The questions they asked about Charedi values were sincere and were not meant as challenges.  He actually thanks them in the very title of his editorial, ‘Thanks for Restoring My Sense of Proportion’.

It’s nice to see an article that praises these secular youth accompanied by the realization that secular Jews do not really hate Charedim.

I have been saying this for years.  But I do not live in Rabbi Grylak’s world. One that sees evil lurking in the hearts of virtually every secular Jew.  I live in a world where I know that is not true. Rabbi Grylak’s world is guided by rabbinic leaders and Charedi politicians that rarely if ever see any good in the secular Israeli. The rhetoric one hears from those corners reinforces that negative stereotype.In my view the reason those leaders promote this negative stereotypes is that they rarely if ever have any real connection to the outside world. They know of it only by what their Askanim (community activists) tell them. Or by what the Charedi politicians tell them. Or the way the Charedi newspapers report about them.

Charedi rabbinic leaders discourage – if not outright forbid – reading any secular newspaper that might give them a different perspective. The argument there is that they are all a bunch of anti religious publications with an agenda to hurt the Charedi world. I can’t count the number of times I have heard a Charedi journalist say about almost any secular news source that they are anti-Frum.

Fortunately every once in awhile something like this happens that gives lie to all the negative spin about secular Israelis.

I wish I could say that an article like this signals a change in the way Charedim perceive the motives behind the current move by the Kenesset to equalize the draft and the push to require Yeshivos to have a core curriculum. But alas, that is not the case.

Rabbi Grylak continues to insist that those who are pushing these things in the Knesset are anti Charedi… out to ultimately destroy them. In other words he separates these wonderful ‘cream of the crop’ young IDF cadets from the secular media and the secular politicians.  He still ascribes completely nefarious motives and agendas to them.

The strident rhetoric about the government and media being anti Charedi will therefore continue. They characterize Yair Lapid as a hater of Charedim out to destroy them. And their words for the 2 Orthodox rabbis in his Yesh Atid party are hardly any less condemning.

No matter how many times Lapid says he does not want to destroy Charedi Judaism, this is how they see him. They see him as disingenuous with an ulterior motive to destroy the Charedi way of life.

One of the things they point to is the fact the Lapid has recommended that draft dodging Charedim be put in jail. This – they say – is proof of his anti Charedi agenda.

They completely ignore what I consider a seminal moment in Israel when during a speech at Kiryat Ono, Yair Lapid repudiated his father’s atheist views and conceded that Charedim have ‘won’. He said that the founding fathers were wrong to completely secularize Israel and marginalize the Charedi world. He then challenged them to participate in the great Israeli enterprise as full partners with the secular wolrd. His candidacy was based on that… and included those two Charedi rabbis. His platform was about Charedim ‘sharing the burden’. And his party won big – far beyond anyone’s predictions gaining 19 Kenesset seats.

Rabbi Grylak and other Charedim see the term ‘sharing the burden’ differently. They see it as ‘code’ for destroying the Charedi world as we know it – using Laipd’s suggestion that Charedim be jailed as proof of that.

On the very next page in Mishpacha Magazine Jonathan Rosenblum  minces no words attacking Lapid in an op-ed describing him in the most unflattering of terms. The title of his op-ed asks whether Lapid is Schizo! And he goes on to accuse him faking concern by telling Charedi youth to ignore their rabbinic leaders and avoid jail by registering for the draft.

Why does he consider a plea to Charedi to avoid the consequences of dodging the draft to be disingenuous and anti Charedi?  Because Charedim live by what their Gedolim say. Asking them to ignore them is to undermine their very essence. He goes on to say some other unflattering things about Lapid.

I don’t understand why Jonathan took this turn. He originally had some nice things to say about Lapid because of his Kiryat Ono speech.  Now Lapid is all of a sudden a lying Rasha? Maybe it’s the jail thing. Maybe he sees threatening jail time for Charedi draft dodgers as the ultimate anti Charedi move.

I do not see it that way. I am willing to bet that jail time would apply to anyone who dodges the draft. If it happens to be the case that Charedim will have the largest numbers of draft dodgers – it will be because of some of their leadership’s directive to not register. Proposing legislation that draft dodgers be jailed is not anti Charedi. It is anti draft dodger!

If on the other hand this law would apply only to Charedim, I would have to then concede that it is anti Charedi – and I would oppose it with the same vigor as Charedim do now. But I cannot believe that is the case.

Charedi journalists and columnists would do well to step back and see whether their suspicions and accusations about an anti Charedi agenda have any real merit.  I don’t think it does. No matter what kind of criticsm one might have against him – I do not see Yesh Atid Kenesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman serving on any party that is anti Charedi. I think this former student of Merkaz HaTorah and Ner Israel Musmach probably knows better than anyone that Lapid is not anti Charedi. At worst Lapid may not understand the fealty Charedim have to their rabbinic leaders. But that does not make him anti Charedi.

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter’s editorial in Ami Magazine suggests that Charedim should try and better convey the reason why they consider Torah study so valuable. I have no problem with that and think that is a good idea. But that still does not justify a 100% exemption from army service.
Charedi journalists must realize that the war they fight does not exist. It is one sided. Secular politicians like Yair Lapid do not see Charedim as the enemy.  They see them as a constituency that under-serves the country; and as being unprepared for good jobs. They do not want to destroy them. They want to help them. Charedim may very well disagree and not want this kind of ‘help’. But it would benefit everyone if Charedim would stop vilifying them. That might just lead to compromises that everyone could live with.

A Haredi Thawing? Oops, Never Mind

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Once again I am disappointed. A few months ago in a moment of reflective candor – Mishpacha Magazine Editor in Chief, Rabbi Moshe Grylak, put aside the rancor that so often characterizes the Haredi response to the kinds of issues now before them and actually had a good word or two to say about the recent elections in Israel. He praised the fact that there are a record number of observant Jews now serving in the Knesset. Formerly anti-religious parties now went out of their way to court Kipa wearing rabbis as part of their lists.

Although still firmly in the camp that opposes current attempts by the government to equalize the burden of army service by subjecting Haredim to the draft and that also opposes the installation of a core secular studies curriculum, he definitely seemed to be thawing out a bit. At least as far as the cold harsh rhetoric is concerned.

I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he was taken out to the proverbial “woodshed” by a rabbinic leader. But in his latest entry in the war of words against sharing the burden and altering even slightly the ‘no secular studies’ policy in their schools, he has returned to the harsh almost vitriolic rhetoric of the past.

Here are some selected excerpts from Rabbi Grylak’s editorial atoning (without using that word) for the terrible mistake of thinking something good may come of this new Knesset:

[O]ur gedolim agree that the current situation calls for intense public prayer…

From its inception, Torah study has always met with difficulties, malicious decrees, persecution and plotting…

Due to this age-old animosity, Torah study has faced countless threats throughout history. The peoples who would rather be left to sleep in peace among their abominations will do anything to silence the voice of Torah. Ever since the Roman decrees against Torah study, burning of Torah scrolls and deadly persecution of Torah Sages have run like a red thread through the chronicles of Torah life, encompassing the entire Jewish people…

When liberal-minded rulers in Europe first proclaimed emancipation for the Jews and granted them various civil rights, leaders in the world of Torah and [H]assidus saw this as an incipient disaster, leading to assimilation and the loss of a large portion of Jewry, another form of Holocaust. We have been witness to this sad reality from then to the present day.

The same secret applies to the survival of Torah in Eretz Yisrael. (emphasis mine)

Those who plot against the Torah world today are motivated by the same animosity that has long stirred in the hearts of the nations. They can’t enjoy their Western liberalism and self-centered individualism in peace, because the presence of Torah gets in the way of a new permissive society unfettered by Judaism. So, sensing where their values have led them, they can only justify themselves by striking out at those who won’t let them sleep in peace.

I think Rabbi Grylak has satisfied his attempt at teshuva (repentance). He echoes the harsh rhetoric of his rabbinic leaders. What happened to the nice words he said about all the Kipa wearers?

Shhhhhhh… don’t mention it. He made a mistake! He’s sorry! He corrected it! Don’t embarrass him. Leave him alone.

Well, I’m not going to leave him alone. I am going to praise his first thoughts and question his recanting them. In the first instance he spoke from heart. In the second instance he reverted to the harsh words of his rabbis. Rabbis that are still fighting ghosts. Ghosts that Rabbi Grylak says are still here motivating the “Torah haters” they are fighting.

There is one paragraph in that editorial that is very telling:

We should be grateful to Ben Gurion for making army service obligatory on anyone who leaves yeshivah for the workforce. In this convoluted way, young men have remained in yeshivah for decades, thus realizing the dream of the Chazon Ish and Rav Aharon Kotler, who saw it as their obligation to rebuild the decimated Torah world following the war. As a result, a generation of talmidei [h]achamim has emerged that has immeasurably changed the face of Haredi society.

It seems to me that this is a clear admission that the main reason the Torah world has grown to its current size is not because these young men were motivated by a love of Torah study, but by a fear of being drafted.

Is he then not saying that this growth is artificial? That not everyone in a Yeshiva or Kollel would be there if they had a choice? That perhaps they could be more productive for Klal Yisroel and in the eyes of God and man if they developed and used their innate talents for Klal Yisroel instead of burying them for the sake of avoiding a draft?

Not that I think that Rav Aharon Kotler’s goal of rebuilding the glorious Yeshiva world – decimated in the Holocaust – is a bad idea. I think it was a good idea. An important idea. A necessary idea. He deserves all the credit he has gotten for it. I actually support the concept of Yeshivos like Lakewood and Mir. I want to see them flourish. Not because of artificially inflated numbers due to draft dodgers. But because of a genuine love of Torah study that generates the kind of greatness seen in the Yeshivos of Europe.

Rav Aharon Kotler’s goal of restoring the great Yeshivos of Europe has more than surpassed his goals – looking at it in sheer numerical terms. Instead of Yeshivos that have the elite of Torah scholars studying in them (as was the case in Europe) the vast majority of male Haredim are now studying in them. This is not what European Yeshivos were about. They were not about quantity. They were about quality. We do have quality now. But I suggest that the same ratio of greatness in Torah that existed then exists now – camouflaged by the geometrically greater numbers that are in Yeshivos now – learning at mediocre levels.

If the draft was suddenly abolished, I wonder how many Haredim would stay in the beis medrash? My guess is that it would probably be a lot since they are indoctrinated to do that. But I think we might just see a significant drop off that would auger well for Haredim as a whole in many ways – not the least of which is financially.

The questions that remain are the following. What is really being gained by continuing to force Haredim to stay in the beis medrash full time via a draft that exempts Haredim? Is this the best use of our young people? Is the poverty class of semi motivated people that this situation has created really what God wants of His people?

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