Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rav Elyashiv’s Psak? No Way!

Rafi Goldmeier has a post on his blog, Life in Israel, today that reaffirms my belief that one should never believe anything one reads in the name of Rav Elyashiv. Rafi picked up a story from a Hebrew website, Kikar HaShabbat. Therein the following story is told:

An avreich went to Rav Elyashiv and described to him a situation that he had recently been involved in. He had been travelling on a mehadrin bus there was a woman who sat herself down in the front section of the bus, against the rules of the mehadrin arrangement.

He says he approached her and politely asked her to move to the back and respect the desires of the other passengers. She refused to move.

Thinking he was fighting the holy fight, he got very rude, started screaming at her in front of the whole bus full of passengers, said very rude and demeaning things.

Now he wants to know, after a few days of reflection, if he behaved properly or if he should apologize to her for his behavior.

The Psak
Rav Elyashiv supposedly answered that he has no reason to apologize, as she was wrong and she should have moved to the back and not disrupted the mehadrin arrangement.

The avreich persisted and suggested that perhaps she was handicapped and was unable to move to the back despite being screamed at, and maybe he does need to apologize?

Rav Elyashiv, again supposedly, responded that he has no need to apologize as he acted properly.

The Proof
Rav Elyashiv proved his words quoting from the story in the gemara of the amora (article says it was Shmuel but I don't think so) who encountered a woman in the street who was dressed immodestly and he ripped it off her. He is praised even though in the end it was discovered the woman was not even Jewish. Rav Elyashiv said from that we learn that one can shame someone who goes against "Dat Yehudit" in the matters of tzniyus.

I simply do not believe that Rav Elyashiv paskin’d that way. First of all, how does a woman sitting in the front of a Mehadrin bus constitute Daas Yehudis? Daas Yehudis is based on the prevaling religious stringencies women place upon themselves in matters of Erva. An example of this is best shown in the Halachic requirement for married women to cover their hair.

Daas Moshe is the mandatory biblical (according to most Poskim) requirement of covering most of the hair. Daas Yehudis is the Chumra women have taken upon themselves to cover all of their hair – which is at most a D’Rabbanan – a rabbinic decree. Both Daas Moshe and Daas Yehudis are mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. How Mehadrin buses fit into Daas Yehudis is a mystery to me. Only a certain segment of Orthodox women approve of this custom. Many don’t care one way or the other, and some actually hate going to the back of the bus.

But more importantly, it is highly unlikely that Rav Elyashiv would ever condone yelling at a woman in these circumstances. I’m sure he is sensitive to the Chilul HaShem it makes. Acting the way that Avreich did can only chase secular Jews further away from Judaism and make them even bigger enemies of Torah than they already are.

It is far more likely that Rav Elyashiv would have not acted this way. I cannot ever imagine him doing what this Avreich did. He would have more than likely done what Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach did in a similar situation.

Although it was not a Mehadrin bus that Rav Shlomo Zalman was on, a secular woman got on that was not dressed according to Orthodox Tznius standards and sat down next to him. Instead of yelling at her, he stood up as though the next stop was his (it wasn’t) and then got off. He then walked the rest of the way. Why? Because he did not want to embarrass the woman who sat next to him.

I would add that another consideration he might have had was that he did not want to cause a Chilul HaShem. That might have been the result if he had started haranguing this woman about sitting down next to him. Not only did he not harangue her. He did not even mention a word to her about it. He just casually stood up and got off the bus at the next stop.

This is what a Gadol does. Rav Elyashiv is a Gadol. I’m sure he would have done something similar. To now say that he paskin’d that an Avreich did the right thing by harassing this woman can therefore not possibly be the truth.

I don’t know who is lying here, but somebody sure is.