Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bashing a Gadol

Few people would dispute that my Rebbe, Rav Ahron Soloveichik was a Gadol. He even had his own Gadol card (back when that was popular – is it still?) These were trading cards that had full color pictures of Charedi Gedolim on the front and their ‘stats’ in the back. Much like baseball cards do.

The Rav, however was not included.

What makes this interesting is that Rav Ahron was a Religious Zionist. Much more than his brother the Rav was. The Rav was president of Mizrachi (Religious Zionists). But he did not say Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Rav Ahron did. And he, sang the Hatikvah (with a slight modification - substituting the words ‘Am Kodshi’ for ‘Am Chofshi’) at every Brisk Yeshiva banquet. And he and signed my Semicha which is dated according to the years (of the establishment) of Medinat Yisrael.

I bring this up in the context of the latest controversy. How can they consider Rav Ahron a Gadol in light of that?

One of the indisputable Gedolei HaDor, Rav Ovadia Yosef, has authorized his Sephardi Shas party to join the World Zionist Organization. This has drawn an unbelievably angry response from the Charedi world practically accusing him of joining forces with the devil. And you thought I had Chutzpah. (I wonder if they are going to ask for a recall of his Gadol card. What about Rav Ahron’s card?)

All the old accusations and condemnations by previous generations of Gedolim about Zionism in general and religious Zionism in particular have been resurrected for purposes of bashing this great Gadol. The most recent one is from the Israeli Yated republished at Matzav.com.

The language in that article leaves no room for doubt. Here is an excerpt:

Gedolei Yisroel urged Yated Ne’eman (Israel) to voice strong protest against the decision, which shows disdain for the basic consensus and underlying foundation of chareidi Jewry during the past hundred years. Our rabbonim used unusually harsh terms in describing Shas’ shameful decision, which undermines the foundations of the Torah concept of strictly avoiding the Zionist establishment and its ideology, which steered Am Yisroel off the path of Torah. “A disgusting move that has no parallel,” was how they expressed it.

Yes friends there you have it. The ‘Gedolei Yisroel’ have spoken - urging the Yated to speak out. Of course they didn’t mention any of them by name. But we know who they are, don’t we. And they do not wish to keep secret the hatred they harbor for fellow Jews with whom they disagree. Why are they so harsh? That is the subject of their entire article. Just to excerpt one paragraph:

Gedolei Yisroel have spoken out against Zionism as a denial of the foundations of Yiddishkeit and determined there is no possible dispensation to justify recognizing the nationalist idea or its lexicon. “Zionism, which was clothed in idealism and spirituality,” the Chazon Ish wrote to HaRav Wassermann in 5695 (1935), “has drawn in its wake heretical education and other non-Jewish ways and idolatrous vanities, and those who enter into their company at first, later start worshiping their idols, which touch on all aspects of life” (Kovetz Igros, 111).

It is a matter of public record. A no holds barred attack from the Knesset podium by a member of the Charedi UTJ party, Rabbi Moshe Gafni (pictured above)“ferociously slammed the Mizrahi-haredi movement's association with the Zionist body.” Here is what he said:

What do they have there at the Zionist organization that they need to sit alongside the greatest haters of religion? They have jobs!" he claimed. "Apparently jobs are more important that the dearest thing to the religious Judaism, the dearest thing in the sacred Torah…I'm ashamed today as a haredi Knesset member."

I too am ashamed. Of Rabbi Gafni!

It is one thing to disagree ideologically with your opponents. It is one thing to say that you respectfully disagree with what they believe. It is one thing to believe that joining forces in any way with non Torah movements is against the Torah. But it is quite another to treat those who disagree with you and act on their own beliefs as though they were agents of the devil.

Using Teshuvos from decades ago, in some cases quoting Gedolim of over one hundred years ago – trying to fit them into today’s reality - really makes them look desperate and even ignorant.

First of all there were other Gedolim who vehemently disagreed with those quoted in the Yated article. Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook among them. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer was virtually the undisputed Charedi Gadol HaDor of his era. He considered Rav Kook to be a bigger Gadol then himself.

Secondly the Zionism of then is not the Zionism of now. Quoting Rav Chaim Brisker’s views of one hundred years ago makes about as much sense as quoting Sigmund Freud to explain modern concepts of psychology. I’m sure that Rav Ahron Soloveichik would not have been considered by his grandfather to be among “observant Jews who still fail to recognize the evils of Zionism.”

This is yet another reason why extreme Charedism is destined towards extinction. Oh… they’re looking pretty good now. Their numbers are pretty huge at the moment. Especially in Israel. And they successfully flex their considerable muscle whenever they can. They’re putting up a good fight. But time - and behavior like Rabbi Gafni’s - along with articles like the one in the Yated (Matzav) - can only chase away the masses.

Charedism will survive. But thanks to episodes like this (and other reasons I have written about), not in its present form. Thank God.