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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘chareidim’

Haredim, Wake Up and Toughen Up

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

When Jews are attacked in broad daylight in the world’s holiest city, something is horrifically wrong in Israel. Rashi, for example, comments on Yechezkel 39:7 that “Israel’s degradation is a profanation of His Name.” Such a Chilul HaShem recently occurred in Yerushalayim when Arab youths hurled snowballs at two Haredi Jews’ faces and mocked them.

Police who excel at arresting young Jewish women and elderly rabbis were nowhere to be found in this case. If the dereliction of the police is sickening—and that dereliction is ongoing in Yerushalayim and Lod and elsewhere—then sickening too was the defenseless reaction of the victims. The video of the snowball attack brought to mind these verses from Chaim Nachman Bialik’s poem “In the City of Slaughter,” about the 1903 Kishinev pogrom:

…the heirs Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees, Concealed and cowering—the sons of the Maccabees! The seed of saints, the scions of the lions! In December, another group of Arabs in Yerushalayim attacked a Haredi yeshiva student. Before that, thugs in Ashdod beat a Haredi man on Shabbat. This aggression dovetails with a vicious media and political culture which has demonized Haredim in ways that look modeled on the Nazis. Likewise, inciting murder against other religious Jews results in no prosecution, whereas condemning an IDF officer for supporting the destruction of Gush Katif in 2005 results in conviction for “insulting a public servant.”

Haredim need to wake up to these realities and toughen up. As Rav Kook zt”l wrote in Orot:

Israel’s physical restoration is of cardinal importance. Our spiritual emphasis ignored the sanctity of the body, physical health and vigor. Let us remember that the Jew possesses a Divine body no less than a Divine spirit…Our regeneration entails a synthesis of the spiritual and physical, vibrant flesh and blood, sturdy organs and a glowing spirit sustained by firm muscles. The problem is that Haredim remain in Galut when it comes to this restoration. Rabbi David Bar-Hayim notes in this vein, “It’s possible to physically be in Eretz Yisrael but spiritually, psychologically, to be elsewhere. You don’t have to look very hard to understand what I’m referring to.” (See 57:15 here.) It’s urgent that Haredim begin to develop physical strength and preparedness in the tradition of Chushim ben Dan, Yehoshua, Shimshon, David HaMelech, and the Hashmonaim. There is nothing noble and everything disgraceful about being victimized in the same land where these great Jews of action lived.

In terms of specific forms of preparedness, self-protection through firearms is a very remote option for Haredim due to Israel’s highly restrictive gun ownership policies, which extends to the life-endangering disarmament of Jews. (Meanwhile, there are enormous amounts of illegal weapons among the Arab population.) Nevertheless, available means of self-protection and training should be utilized immediately. What Rabbi Meir Kahane Hy”d wrote in 1971 to an American audience in Never Again! has all too much relevance to Israel today:

The Jew, with his persistent image of weakness, unwillingness and inability to fight back is   open to constant physical attacks on the part of non-Jews. A youngster wearing a skull cap and returning from a yeshiva is fair game. Jews walking in a park or playing ball in a playground are open to attacks. Such things must be met in the one way that is most effective—a feeling on the part of the attacker that he stands an excellent chance of being severely beaten himself. Jews must be taught to defend themselves physically. This is the surest deterrent to attacks upon them.

The Future of Judaism

Monday, January 7th, 2013

From time to time, my views are challenged by both those to my right and those to my left. That happened recently in discussions about going ‘Off the Derech’(OTD).

The right constantly challenges me about why I do not discuss what they perceive to be a much larger instance of Going OTD among Modern Orthodox Jews. I am not prepared to concede the point. As many people have pointed out, there have been no studies (at least that I am aware of) that breaks the OTD phenomenon into percentages or numbers of individual groups. But I will concede that it is very possible that the MO community is the one that goes OTD is the larger of the two, at least in terms of percentages.

The Left keeps challenging my contention that I see Charedim to be the wave of the future. Again there are no studies that I am aware of that speaks to this issue.

In answer to the first question, I speak about Charedim because I believe them to be the wave of the future. Their current large numbers and exponential growth over the years would seem to confirm that belief. Lakewood Yeshiva has grown from a few hundred students in the 60s when I was in high school to over 6000 today with plans to accommodate an increase in growth to over 10,000 students.

That Charedi Mechanchim out-number MO Mechanchim is a simple fact of life which is bolstered by the fact that Charedim tend to go into Chinuch a lot more than MO Jews do. Some MO schools hire Charedi teachers in fact for lack of finding enough teachers that are MO.

Charedi family size is clearly larger on the average than that of MO Jews since they are encouraged to have as many children as they can. Nine or ten children per family is not an unusual number for Charedim. Not so for MO. The Charedi rate of growth will no doubt continue along those lines and increase exponentially with every new generation.

The only real question in my mind is what form Charedism will take.

I have expressed my views on this many times –views which were first noted by Rabbi Berl Wein. I firmly believe that Charedim will increasingly take the form of moderate Charedism. That means that Charedim will employ (and in many cases already have employed) many of the modalities of Modern Orthodoxy. Like having professional careers requiring university educations for example. That’s why places like Touro exist and flourish.

I can’t understand why anyone would deny this reality. Is there anyone who thinks that Charedim will suddenly reject the values they have been indoctrinated with and suddenly become adherents of Torah U’Mada?

That Modern Orthodox Jews have a sizable number is also true. But their rate of growth is a fraction of the Charedi rate of growth. The very nature of a more open society that is a hallmark of Modern Orthodoxy creates an environment that is more conducive to assimilation.

Those without a firm grounding in the values of observant Judaism can easily abandon it in college where the pressure to conform to the campus social life is very strong. Especially in those schools with little or no Jewish presence.

Who among MO will fall prey to these negative influences?

I believe that many MO Jews (those who I call MO-Lite of which I think there are a great many) do not provide their children with the kind of grounding that can withstand the pressures of campus life. By opting for the best university they may sacrifice a strong Jewish presence other schools might have – and hope for the best.

On the other hand committed MO Jews on either the right or the left will survive and so will their children. They will opt for YU, Touro, or a university like Penn with a strong Jewish presence.

In the Charedi world where observance and fear of outside influences infecting their Hashkafos is always the primary concern – they do not fall prey as much to assimilation because they fight it tooth and nail… preferring isolation over any exposure at all.

True, Charedim have other problems much of which is caused by that very isolationism. But even if you even leave out the attrition rate of both MO and Charedim, the exponential growth rate of Chareidim over that of Modern Orthodox Jews definitely points to their numbers increasing and comprising the lion’s share of Orthodoxy.

Does the Very Air in Israel Make One Wise?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

“Charedim in Israel are street thugs who use murderous violence to settle issues among themselves!” That is the impression one would get after reading about recent events there.

Of course that is not true. I know many Israeli Charedim. I live among them when I visit Israel. The ones I know are extremely gentle people for whom the word violence does not even enter into their lexicon, let alone that it would ever be used to settle conflict. I have never met any Charedi in my entire over 60 years on this earth that was in the slightest way violent.

The Torah (Genesis 25:27) tells us “Yaakov Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim,” Jacob (In contradistinction to his brother Esav who was a hunter) was a person who “sat in tents.” If anyone can be called “The People of the Book” it is the Charedi world in Israel. Their biggest “sin” if you will – is that they spend as much time in study halls (tents) as they can. Their most “violent” acts are debating interpretations of Gemarah and Halacha with their study partners. I think that is true for the vast majority of Israeli Charedim of the Lithuanian variety. “Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam” (1st Mishna in Peah) does not exactly inspire violence.

So what happened in Jerusalem last week was most definitely an exception to the rule. From Israel Hayom:

“Rabbis’ emissary cruelly attacked in Jerusalem by lawless men who tried to murder him,” the headline of the newspaper HaPeles screamed in red ink after the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Nati Grossman, was attacked last Thursday by two haredi men who stabbed him in the head and fled.

Like I said, this is an exception. The problem is that there have been too may exceptions like this in Israel in the not too distant past. One may recall similar violence surrounding who would be Rav Shach’s successor as Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevitch Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

To say that this is a Chilul HaShem is an understatement. Supporters of two of the Charedi world’s leading Rabbanim, 98 year old Rav Aharon Leib Steinman and Rav Shmuel Auerbach (son of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ZTL) are literally killing each other over who will become the head of Lithuanian Charedi Jewry in Israel. The undisputed head until his death was Rav Elyashiv. But now that leadership is in dispute.

The very idea that violence will solve this issue is so ridiculous that it makes those violent Charedi supporters of these rabbis look like imbeciles. Not to mention the obvious fact that it makes them look like common street thugs.

Can anyone imagine this ever happening in the counterpart Lithuanian Yeshiva type communities in America? When Rav Ahron Kotler died, did Rav Moshe Feinstein’s supporters go around sticking knives into people’s heads who had other candidates in mind? The very thought of something like that happening in the world of Amercian Charedi Judaism is so ridiculous that it is laughable.

There is no such thing as a “candidate” for being a Gadol. That status is earned and is a form of recognition by the masses. One becomes accepted as a Gadol by his works. He has either published major works in Torah, or by creating a new societal paradigm for Torah study as did Rav Aharon Kotler. Or by being a great leader and teacher of Torah who has attracted many thousands of followers as did the Rav. Or any number of ways in which Torah scholarship combined with leadership skills has transformed them into greatness recognized by many people.

There are no elections. There are no committees of rabbis who decide who is or isn’t a Gadol. There are no backroom political deals in smoke filled backrooms to choose a compromise candidate. And certainly they are not chosen by supporters who resort to violence against his competition. Greatness does not work that way. Not in Judaism.

But don’t tell that to supporters of great people in Israel. They think violence in pursuit of their candidate is a God given mandate for them. Kind of like the way their extremist counterparts in places like Meah Shearim act when they want to get their way. I guess they feel about their extremism on religious issues the way Barry Goldwater felt about liberty. Except that I don’t think Barry Goldwater ever supported violence against his political opponents.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/does-the-very-air-in-israel-make-one-wise/2013/01/03/

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