Thursday, May 13, 2010

Going the Extra Mile

I am both gratified and disappointed. I am gratified that HaGoan Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Mir - perhaps the largest Charedi Yeshiva in Israel - has forbidden his students to participate in any of the frequent Charedi protests that happen in Israel these days. Rafi’s Life in Israel blog has a photo of a notice posted in Mir Yeshiva which explicitly forbids Mir Yeshiva students being found anywhere near a protest.

But I am disappointed he didn’t say more. I have repeatedly said that lukewarm condemnations of these protests do more harm than good. And this kind of notice – although very strong - has a similar effect. In fact it doesn’t condemn the protests or the protestors at all. It just tells the student to stay away from them. This can easily lead one to think that the protests themselves are just fine but as a precaution to avoid trouble his students should stay away.

My guess is that Rav Nosson Tzvi does not think that these protests are OK. But it is just a guess based on what I believe to be his Hashkafa. I believe he does see such protests as a Chilul HaShem. Not the the Kiddush HaShem the protestors think they are. But since he does not explain why he forbids participation he leaves open the possibility for interpretation. I wish he had said that not only does he forbid participation, but that those who are participating are making a Chilul HaShem. He didn’t do that.

It seems to me that that is a major part of the problem. It gives cover to those who do it and those who cheer them on. It gives the students license to support them quietly as upholding Torah values even as they condemn the violence that results.

In essence then Rav Nosson Tzvi though well intended has not taken – what is in my view - the essential required extra step of fully condemning those protests a Chilul HaShem. He has not labeled the protestors Reshaim. He leaves open the possibility and even the likelihood that some sort of apologetics will come forth in the Charedi world.

The Torah world needs now more than ever to come down hard on these people. Not just one Rosh HaYeshiva – but all Roshei Yeshiva and all Poskim – especially those who are considered Gedolei HaDor. It may go unheeded in the world of Meah Shearim but it would unify an approach that will help in ostracizing them from the rest of the Torah world. But these leaders just aren’t doing it. They are not going the extra mile. Why?!

Update: There is more worth reading on this subject on my other blog.