Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rabbi Shlomo Miller – Zealous Proponent of Halacha?

Another sad day in Klal Yisroel.

Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu Miller, the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Avreichim in Toronto is a Charedi Posek and Dayan of wide repute in the Charedi world. He is so well regarded that he was chosen by Lakewood Yeshiva (BMG) to serve as head of their own Beis Din. He is supposedly known as a zealous proponent of Halacha. I would normally look at an individual with such credentials with great respect and awe. But I can’t. He has crossed the line far too many times.

He has just done it again and in the process has banged full force another nail into the coffin of Achdus.

But then again he isn’t interested in Achdus. He is only interested in his own myopic definition of Torah Judaism. A view that is unfortunately not exclusively his own. Rabbi Miller’s worldview epitomizes the worst of right wing rejectionist extremism.

As I indicated he has done it before – more than once. He doesn’t stop with words. He acts on his belief with zealous determination even if will destroy the good reputation of others. I believe that he is out to destroy modern Orthodoxy in any incarnation. Including those versions that are widely accepted by large swaths of his own Charedi world. For example there are many moderate Charedim that believe in Torah Im Derech Eretz at least in a practical sense as shown by the many Charedim who attend universities like Touro.

First he was quick to jump on the band-wagon that called Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s works heresy. He also decided to bash a unique project of a modern Orthodox rabbi in Toronto called ‘Torah in Motion’. But bashing it - and the rabbi who founded it - was not enough. He tried to enlist the aid of all other rabbis in his city to boycott the project as well. Thankfully he has failed and to the best of my knowledge ‘Torah in Motion’ is a huge success.

But now - as if all that was not enough – he has taken his venomous rejectionist fervor one step further. He has viciously attacked one of the brightest minds in the Torah world, Rabbi Michael Broyde. Rabbi Broyde is one of the Dayanim of the RCA’s Beth Din of America. I recall speaking to RCA Av Beis Din Rabbi Gedalia Schwartz about him and he was full of praise about the Torah knowledge, high intellect, and most importantly the Ehrlichkeit of this great man. That’s why he was asked to serve as a Dayan on that court.

Rabbi Miller has a different view of Rabbi Broyde. He has practically called him a Reform rabbi because of an article he wrote about hair covering for married women.

Just to be clear I have no problem with his actual disagreement. There are in fact others who have taken Rabbi Broyde to task on this issue. That was certainly their right and I support their right to do so - as I’m sure Rabbi Broyde does. But I do not support smearing others because of disagreement the way Rabbi Miller does.

Rabbi Broyde tried to find a way to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus – to judge favorably those religious women in Orthodoxy that do not cover their hair. That was his stated purpose in doing the Halachic research.

Whether Rabbi Broyde succeeded in doing that or not is not the issue. That he tried to do it shows him to be a compassionate human being who cares mightily about his fellow Jew.

What Rabbi Miller does is unworthy of anyone who calls himself a rabbinic leader in Israel. And it is particularly egregious to lie about it. Rabbi Miller accuses Rabbi Broyde of permitting a married woman to uncover her hair. Rabbi Broyde clearly stated that this was not his intent - modestly referring to himself as a rabbi of little stature. But that did not stop Rabbi Miller from saying so.

But it doesn’t stop there. Rabbi Miller calls Rabbi Broyde’s discourse a lengthy diatribe that is full of nothingness and that it is of evil spirit. He compares it to responsa written by someone named Aharon Chariner nicknamed ‘Acher’ presumably after the heretic of Tannaic times. He cites the Chasam Sofer as lashing out at Acher as the progenitor of the Reform Movement.

How odd it is that this Kanoi is so zealous in defending this Halacha when he is so cavalier about telling people they can cheat on their income tax returns. When confronted about it – he supposedly said that he was only trying to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus to some of his religious constituency who do it in confluence with vast numbers of people who cheat on their taxes in the general public.

I would have to ask him – is your Limud Zechus on violating the law of the land with its potential for Chilul HaShem less problematic than Rabbi Broyde’s Limud Zechus? Is a modestly dressed married woman walking around in public with her hair uncovered a greater Chilul HaShem than getting caught cheating on your tax return?

I would call someone who has done all these things undeserving of a reputation as a zealous proponent of Halacha - let alone a rabbinic leader in Klal Yisroel. Far from it. I would however call such a person a destroyer of Achdus whose words and actions can bring disaster upon all of Klal Yisroel.