Monday, April 14, 2008

Putting Askanim in Their Place

There is a event that occurred back in the days of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld that truly shows his greatness and once again emphasizes the difference between the Gedolim of yesteryear and those of today. It involves a story that almost duplicates one that occured in our time just a few years ago. Most people readily will see the similarity.

Back in the early days of Zionism when pioneers were physically building up the land of Israel there was tremendous animosity to Torah. The early pioneers were mostly socialists and atheists. They tried there level best to eradicate Torah MiTzion.

When it came to setting up schools they did so without offering any Torah education at all. Rav Sonnenfeld was duly alarmed by this and tried to set up an alternative system of Torah schools. But virtually every attempt was thwarted.

R. Sonennefeld was not deterred and eventually succeeded. He hired a certain Dr. Auerbach to set it up. A curriculum was devised that incuded 2 hours per day to secular studies - all with the full approval of R. Sonnenefeld. Aside from the standard religious studies, the curriculum included Arabic, math, history and science. The material studied was of course all Kosher by Charedi standards. Nothing like evolution was taught. One can debate the propriety of that, but that is no my issue here. The point of this story is that secular studies were mandated with the approval of R. Sonnenfeld despite a long standing ban against it.

But then came an Askan. He told R. Sonnenfeld that the science portion of the curriculum was heretical. Alarmed, R. Sonenfeld approached Dr. Auerbach. He was assured that there was absolutely nothing there that was controversial and showed him the texts, which were of course Kosher. R. Sonnenfeld then went to the Askan and told him words to the effect that if he wanted to spread his lies - he should go do so elsewhere.

Shades of Rabbi Natan Slifkin! Oh that today’s Gedolim would do what R. Sonnenfeld did instead of just listening to an Askan, taking his word for it, and then issuing a ban.

The latest ban precipitated by Askanim is the one against concerts. A concert was supposed to take place in Tel Aviv yesterday. It featured performers Mordechai Ben David and Yaakov Shweckey. I assume all went well. But not for lack of some people trying to disrupt it. Askanim once again reared their ugly heads and pressured these performers not to participate.

What kind of pressure? From Rafi’s blog:

MBD (was) directly (threatened) saying if he does not cancel his participation, they will forbid the music stores from selling his albums, they will ban his concerts and any personal appearances before Rabbonim, they will teach children in schools about the horrible stumbling block he took part in.

What about those who attended? Again from Rafi’s blog:

…anybody who shows up to tonights concert will be photographed. His picture will be passed on to the relevant parties, be it Rosh Yeshiva, Seminary head, etc.

And people wonder why I call them Rotzchim?! I wonder how many attendees will now have to pay a heavy price after being photographed… at a religious concert! And will they now carry on their threats against MBD?

Fortunatley there is one Gadol who is not afraid to speak his mind publicly, Rav Ovadia Yosef. He has explicitly - in writing - permitted Yaakov Shweckey to participate.

In a radio interview prior to yesterday’s concert Yaakov Shweckey spoke his mind about these people. Again from Rafi’s blog:

"These people will never be happy. … It is all shtuyot." "If somebody can find a psul in the concert of me and MBD, either he has a problem, or somebody is deceiving him.

I think he’s right!