Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Stopping the Zealots who Destroy Judaism

As if in response to the criticism of Rabbi Shlomo Miller’s scathing attack against another Talmid Chacham - there is yet another ‘Sholmo’ in the news involved in a similar incident. Only this ‘Shlomo’ is at the receiving end of rabbinic wrath rather than at the giving end. This ‘Shlomo’ is the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Shlomo Amar (pictured).

In an almost identical fashion to the letter written by Rabbi Miller against Rabbi Broyde - a Pashkevil (poster) in Israel proclaims Rabbi Amar to be a hypocrite and a heretic. And this poster boasts the name of Rav Elyashiv as signing on to it.

The issue here is the hot topic of conversions. Rabbis in service to the Israeli army (IDF) are accused of the wholesale conversion of people that do not follow Halacha to Judaism . Rabbi Amar is apparently fighting to have IDF conversions legitimized.

I am not sufficiently conversant with the particular arguments being made by Rav Amar. Suffice it to say that he is not exactly an ignoramus on the subject. He is certainly operating from a framework of Halacha. I’m also sure that one can argue with his position on this issue. And as is the case with Rabbi Miller, I do not question their right to do so. I do not even question their passion and their battle to get their way.

I am completely convinced that both sides are sincere and are working L’Shem Shomayim. Conversion is indeed a serious issue that can affect the future status of the Jewish people as actual Jews. So I understand the passion. What I do not understand is the disgusting rhetoric Rav Elyashiv has supposedly affixed his signature to . Here is an excerpt from a Ynet article:

Two manifestos by leading Lithuanian rabbis, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and members of the haredi Beis Din Tzedek (Court of Righteous Law), were attached to the pashkevils."We cannot keep silent" declare the protesters – as they promise more escalation: "Prepare for protest rallies in front of the homes of these heretical 'rabbis' who lampoon God's torah as only the reform Jewry aspires to."

The pashkevil claims that Rabbi Amar's actions are "insolent and uproot the halacha in a way that hasn't been seen in Israel for dozens of years." The announcement's authors claim that the real meaning of approving the IDF conversions is "taking non-Jews and declaring that they are Jewish, leading to public assimilation.

Why are they calling Rav Amar a heretic? Is this an argument against how he sees the Halacha? Let them take apart his logic! But to simply call him a heretic is an outrage. I do not always see eye to eye with Rav Amar on various issues. But I understand that he is a major Talmid Chacham and do not understand how anyone – even if they are as high in stature as R’ Elyashiv - can allow his name to be placed on any document that besmirches another Gadol – no matter how much he disagrees or how serious the issue is.

Charedi leadership does not consider the conversions valid? Fine. That is their right. Say so and say why. But to call Rabbi Amar an Apikores just because he disagrees is to debase one’s own stature. This is not the way great people should act towards each other.

Quite frankly I am skeptical that Rav Elyashiv actually had anything to do with that Pashkevil. Unlike Rabbi Miller who can be completely faulted for his words since his handwritten message is evidence that he said it, there was no hand written message here at all. Which makes the entire thing questionable. Did he actually sign on to this document or not?

There has been much talk about these kinds of posters recently. Many Charedi religious figures that I know who might even agree with the position taken by the authors of this poster on this and many other issues have told me that these posters are worthless and should never be believed. Seeing a Gadol’s name at the bottom of it is no indication that he actually had anything to do with it.

I think that’s right.

The assumption must be – no matter how you feel on the subject at hand - that all such posters are complete garbage written by zealots and should be treated accordingly.

What I do not understand is why these very Gedolim whose names are so frequently and illegitimately used do not come out full force condemning every single pashkevil out there no matter what it says– even if they fully agree with it - unless there is a handwritten photocopy of something they wrote and signed themselves. They should put a stop to it right now – if for no other reason that such slimy language undermines their very authority as rabbinic leaders.

If there was ever a time for a Ksav Yad – a hand written proclamation condemning every single poster out there as an illegitimate means of communication - that time is now. If I were a Gadol of stature like Rav Elyashiv or Rav Kanievsky - I would call a news conference for that very purpose and surround myself with as many other Gedolim I could find so as to make sure all are in concert with the words being spoken. There would be TV cameras rolling tape and recording every word I say.

It is the only way to stop this constant Bizayon HaTorah going on in the holy land.

Never again should anything be posted on any wall by anyone proclaiming they are the words of Gedolim unless there has a Ksav Yad. And no one should sign onto it except for the Gadol who actually said it. If they agree let them write their own poster and sign that! This idea of signing something without reading it just because a bigger Gadol signed it has to stop as well.
Update: (1/6/11 - 12:33PM CST) Apparently Rabbi Amar's supporters are not taking this lying down. They have come up with a Pashkevil of their own. It is available at Gidon Shaviv's blog - Mostly Kosher.