Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt

The Eli Yeshiva has been targeted for years by leftwing Israeli rabbi hunters such as TV host Lior Schleien. Ha’aretz is also among the Eli rabbi bashers, and this week a Channel 13 report chock full of undated recordings was added to the long list of yeshiva smears, except that this time the report, which was vicious, caught the eye of President Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, a religious Jew, who couldn’t help himself and scored goyeshe nachas points off the backs of a couple of rabbis.

“These outlier comments are disgusting, do not represent Judaism & I condemn them. Hate speech of all forms is vile and as we increasingly see, leads to deadly attacks. We must fight all forms of hatred,” Greenblatt tweeted, having read Tamar Pileggi’s Times of Israel report about the report, with fresh accusations that, wait for it… “Embracing racism, rabbis at pre-army yeshiva laud Hitler, urge enslaving Arabs.”

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The problem with teaching, writing, singing, painting – any expression of knowledge coupled with carefree presentation – is that it is so easy to cherry pick from them the most outrageous statements, and always out of context. Here’s an illustration:

In Deuteronomy 20:16-18, the Torah commands us:

“As for the towns of these peoples, which the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance, you are not to allow anything that breathes to live. Rather you must destroy them completely — the Hitti, the Emori, the Kena‘ani, the P’rizi, the Hivi and the Y’vusi — as the Lord your God has ordered you; so that they won’t teach you to follow their abominable practices, which they do for their gods, thus causing you to sin against the Lord your God.”

On its face, this is a terrifying passage, suggesting the first thing the Israelites had to do upon entering the land of Canaan was—for all intents and purposes—establish death camps, haul every living thing inside and slaughter them en masse.

It’s only with the help of later passages, as well as our Talmudic tradition, that we understand that this nightmare scenario never took place and, indeed, was not even intended by the Torah.

But if I were to simply cite here the segment from Deuteronomy as-is, how soon before this would generate the headline “Jewish Press Advocates Wholesale Murder of Indigenous Population Based on Torah Commandment.”

Which is why Mishna Avot 1:11 warns:

“Avtalyon says: Wise scholars, be careful with your words lest you be liable for [the punishment of] exile to a place of evil waters, from which students may come to drink and die, resulting in the desecration of the Name of Heaven.”

And two honorable rabbis from the Eli Yeshiva did not heed Avtalyon’s warnings and were not careful to phrase their thoughts so that some shmegegge student couldn’t tape them on his cellphone and smear them and their yeshiva on Channel 13.

Here’s one such example of rabbinic suicide by careless yapping. Maimonides cites the Amora Shmuel to teach us that there will be no difference between the time of the messiah and our time today, other than that the gentiles will stop repressing Jews.

This inspirational note has drawn a whole lot of homiletic commentary about the gentiles finally realizing how important we, the children of God, are to them – and doing everything in their power to benefit us — for their own sakes.

Or as Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel, the head of the Bnei David academy in Eli, was heard to say on tape: “The gentiles will want to be our slaves. Being a slave to a Jew is the best. They’re glad to be slaves, they want to be slaves. Instead of just walking the streets and being stupid and violent and harming each other, once they’re slaves, their lives can begin to take shape.”

Not today – in the days of the messiah. When the gentiles become open to the liberating power of our Torah – for heaven’s sake, not today. Today, when we are all repressed by our enslavement to the human condition, as raw text, this sounds like blatant racism. Which is what dear old Avtalyon warned us!

Rabbi Kashtiel heaps on a whole lot of similar raw notions, trusting that his students understand he does not bear malice towards anyone, even when he uses genetics – ideas which I’m not convinced he has developed fully – he speaks the truth but commits the sin of carelessness with his words of Torah.

Rabbi Giora Redler is the other victim of out-of-context rabbi hunters, as, according to Tamar Pileggi, he “can be heard praising Hilter’s ideology during a lesson about the Holocaust.”

Frankly, Rabbi Redler’s ideas are by far deeper and more interesting, suggesting Hitler was not, as it is popularly accepted, a flash of evil in an otherwise good and virtuous European history.

I am reminded of a little known Torah by the Chassidic teacher Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbich, on the verse (Gen. 31:2) “And Jacob saw Laban’s face and realized it had changed since the days before.”

The Izbicher taught that wherever Jews arrive in the diaspora, they start absorbing all the good qualities of the local people – but when those qualities are integrated into the Jews, they are removed from the gentiles, to the point at the end of the period when the gentiles turn into animals. Having written this in the 1830s and ’40s, the great teacher possibly saw 100 years into the future.

Rabbi Redler explained the inverse notion of the same idea when he said into someone’s tape:

“Let’s just start with whether Hitler was right or not. He was the most correct person there ever was, and was correct in every word he said… he was just on the wrong side. […] The real Holocaust was not when they murdered the Jews, that’s not it. All these excuses — that it was ideological or systematic — are nonsense. Humanism, and the secular culture of ‘We believe in man,’ that’s the Holocaust.”

Or, to combine both views above: Hitler was the fatal conclusion of a humanistic rebellion that began with the enlightenment of the 1600s and continued to separate the people of Europe from their spiritual roots until they bore the satanic culmination of this process, Adolf Hitler.

The difference between yours truly and Israeli leftwinger rabbi poachers is that I love the Torah and that my default position when I hear about a Rabbi being smeared in the media is the good old principle “innocent until proven guilty.” A lot like the future gentiles, who will some day realize they should love Jews, not hate them…

MK Bezalel Smotrich, who must be at least as learned as yours truly, determined to spare Trump’s peace envoy the sin of premature judgment, which his boss suffers on a daily basis, and wrote Greenblatt the following open letter:

“Dear Jason,

“Your recent tweet and aligning with the false campaign against the Eli Mechina was deeply disappointing to me. Since I sincerely greatly respect you, I am confident that if you would have heard the entire lesson and not just the few sentences that were taken out of context by small-minded journalists, you would have understood that there isn’t even the slightest mention of racism.

“As a religious person who says in our prayers “You have chosen us from amongst all the nations,“ and as a Yeshiva graduate, you certainly know that in Judaism there is a much deeper meaning which must be understood and which is the furthest thing from racism and hatred. Judaism is certainly the most loving religion of the world and of mankind that exists.

“You are also familiar with the wonderful Eli Mechina and the generations of students, soldiers and officers who love the nation, the land, the Torah and mankind , that it has produced. If their rabbis were not worthy, their graduates could not have turned out so wonderful.

“I regret that you unintentionally aligned yourself with those who wish to harm this great institution.”

This is the true meaning of the time of the Sefirah: when one good Jew can be tempted into smearing another good Jew in the heat of the moment.

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