Monday, January 09, 2006

The State of the Union: Torah Jewry at Risk

I appreciate Rav Joey Fried's lengthy post describing the state of affairs WRT to Rav Shlomo Miller. It was quite enlightening perspective as to what is goiing on in Toronto.

I do not know what to think at this point. On the one hand my profound respect for Rabbi Bechofffer nudges me to be a bit less dismissive of RSM.. On the other hand, I cannot ignore what I believe to be the case which was so well buttressed by R. Joey.

One thing seems certain. The controversy is far from over. Just when you think it is safe to go out in the street again along comes a "major name" in the Torah world and tries to kick me and those who think like me back into the nether world of K'fira.

I don't know where all this is going to lead. Despite my great disagreement with Ner Yisroel Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, whose perspective mirrors that of Rabbi Miller's, I agree with him about one thing. This entire event has done an incredible amount of damage to Kavod HaTorah.

The question remains, whose fault is it and what can be done to correct things? I don’t have any answers but I do have some observations.

The current climate in Klal Yisroel is one of stridency, extremes, and polarization. The more the Torah world grows in numbers the more divided we seem to get. We have devolved into groups with unique agendas that do not necessarily benefit Klal Yisroel as a whole but in some instances at least, are designed to protect turf. And that's the best one can say about it. In some cases the motivations are personal advancement at the expense of others.

The malaise I speak of is not limited to one group. It involves Modern Orthodox extremists on the left, Religious Zionist extremists, Chasidic extremists the worst of which is Neturei Karta, Kachniks, Messianist Lubavitchers, and the world of RW Yeshivos which I usually refer to as Charedim.

Since I believe that the Charedi system holds the key to our future for many reasons, which I do not really want to get into here, I will concentrate on this group.

There is something inherently wrong with a system that is increasingly becoming isolated and encourages its adherents to go to great lengths to insure that isolation. While at the same time undergoing a process I call Chasidization: the idea that a Gadol or Rosh Yeshiva, has taken on the Aura of Chasidic Rebbe. There is virtually no difference anymore.

Daas Torah is now seen as whatever a Gadol or group of Gedolim say it is, no matter what the subject. A defacto degree of infallibility has been vested in them by their flock. And they do little to discourage it. In fact the opposite is true. The motto of Agudah could be stated as the following: “What ever the Gedolim say is our view and no member can disagree”. They have become the final arbiter of the word of God on any and all subjects. No longer can anyone question any pronouncements no matter the subject... whether it be politcal, Hashkafic, or seemingly insignificant. Evidence to the contrary is dismissed as are serious counter claims. Those who do disagree, risk losing their Olam HaBa. This is their fervent belief.

Ruach HaKodesh is vested in these people by their adherents making it impossible to question their pronouncements. This phenomenon is quite illustrative with respect to Rabbi Miller as Reb Joey shows us. Rabbi Miller’s defenders are near apoplectic in his defense as though it were God himself being attacked by those of us who disagree with him.

So there you have it. The goal of the Chadredi world was to preserve Torah learning and combat the assimilationist trends that pull Jews away from Torah observance. They have succeeded. They have insured Jewish survival. But at what cost? If the price of survival is to give up our intellect, retreat from the world and live in caves, than I don’t think Judaism can ultimately survive.

One thing is certain. God promised us we would survive and be worthy of redemption, so there must be an answer. I just don’t see it.

The proverbial pendulum seems to be swinging ever more rightward toward oblivion.