Friday, April 26, 2013

Rav Steinman, Amalek, and Satmar

HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman
I don’t know who this “Rov” is. But it is beyond belief that anyone could suggest even the remotest suggestion that Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, a Zaken – an elder sage and rabbinic leader could even remotely be compared to Amalek.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Amalek is a nation that is so evil, that the Torah commands us to wipe them off the face of the planet - killing every man, woman, and child… and to erase the remotest memory of this people.  The theological reasons for this are beyond the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that this command cannot be carried out today.

There is no other nation in the history of the world where that commandment applied. Not ancient Egypt whose rulers enslaved us; and not even Nazi Germany (…although some believe that Hitler was born of the seed of Amalek).  

I don’ think I need to say how vile this comparison is. And yet someone made it. It was reported in Matzav. They also reported that it was condemned by Gilo Chief Rabbi and Posek for the Jerusalem Religious Council, Rav Eliyahu Schlesinger. I don’t know him or his Hashkafos, but I absolutely share his sentiments about this.

The article mentions that nonagenarian Rav Steinman is the Gadol HaDor… that he was ‘crowned’ as such by Rav Chaim Kanievsky. I am not in any position to make that kind of judgment. My own Hashkafos have led me to both agree and disagree with him at times. I have my own views about who is and isn’t a Gadol and who might best qualify for the title of Gadol HaDor. But that is beside the point. He is an undeniably a rabbinic leader in our day and is widely respected both in and out of his Charedi circle.

There is no doubt in my mind that he is a man of great moral character who would never sell out an ideal for any reason. He has proven himself that way in cases where Ashkenazi educators in his own Charedi sphere were harshly criticized by him for discrimination tactics against Sephardim in their schools. He is a man deserving of all of our respect and even admiration for taking an unpopular but principled stand in cases like this.

The Matzav article does not identify who made these unbelievable comments about R’ Steinman. But I think we can narrow it down somewhat by the actual quote: 
“Who is to blame? Their leaders,” said the rov. “In Bnei Brak sits and instigator and inciter and some ignorant and empty people come along and make him gadol hador. Who made him gadol hador? Several journalists. He is an instigator and an inciter. He maintains ‘asher karcha,’ just like Amaleik. There are some erliche roshei yeshivoswho want to fight against conscription of yeshiva bochurim. They stand by and are silenced, so they are quiet. They threaten them. He is a real ‘asher karcha,’ he is a spark of true Amaleik, and he is yet a gadol hador as well… If they would not take money [from the government], the decree would not have been enacted.” 
This quote is taken somewhat out of context so it is hard to know exactly what R’ Steinman is specifically being blamed for. But it is obviously a reference to the current situation with drafting Charedim in Israel into the army.

This individual somehow faults Rav Steinman for the ‘evil decree’. Which is kind of strange because I’m pretty sure R’ Steinman is opposed to it… unless he means that R’ Steinman approved of the concept of Nachal Charedi in at least a limited form. But that doesn’t really make any difference. It is the last line in that quote that narrows it down:
If they would not take money [from the government], the decree would not have been enacted. 
One can debate the validity of that statement or even side with it in principle. But that too is beside the point. The point is that we know who the rejectionists are. There are Charedi groups who do not take any money from the government. Aside from the Israeli Briskers (who I tend to doubt said anything like this against R’ Steinman) it is basically the Meah Shearim crowd. They are mostly made of the Chasidim of Toldos Aharon, Neturei Karta, and Eida HaCharedis types who reject the very existence of Israel and continually call for its dismantling.

They all follow the philosophy of the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum who in a published statement called the founding spiritual leader of Religious Zionism, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, an Ish Tzar V’Oyev  - a man (causing) anguish and an enemy! (Book of Esther - 7:6). This is how the biblical Esther described the evil Haman. In fact her very next words are Haman HaRa HaZeh - this evil (man) Haman! The Satmar Rebbe had no problem comparing Rav Kook, to Haman. And just like Hitler was seen in our era as a descendant of Amalek, so do many commentators see Haman as a descendant of Amalek.

It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out where this condemnation of R’ Steinman came from. I doubt it was from one of the two Satmar Rebbes themselves. Rav Schlesinger is quoted in Matzav saying: 
I am confident that the rov who spoke out does not represent the opinion of [those he is associated with] 
So it is likely some lower level Rov in the rejectionist community of ‘Greater Satmar’. Someone who follows the Satmar Rebbe’s philosophy about the State of Israel.

I don’t know why Matzav did not identify who made this statement. (Well… maybe I do.) But it should not be left to the imagination. This fellow has to be exposed and severely condemned. Perhaps even put into some sort of Cherem. There is no excuse for what he did. And there is equally no excuse for Matzav to hide his identity. By doing so, they enable further such comments and thereby are complicit in them.

The Jewish Worker blog has posted the image of a Pashekevil (wall poster) where it is clear that the individual who said these vile things (and more) about R' Steinman is one of the Dayanim (sitting judges) on the Eida HaCharedis. His  is Rabbi Yehoshua Rosenberger. According to blog owner Marty Bluke, the Lithuanian Charedi world is threatening a boycott of food products that carry the Eida Hechsher if they do not withdraw those statements.

I have advocated boycotting their products in the past. Many times for other reasons. Even though many people agreed with me, the point was made that it would be a virtual impossibilty to do so. The Eida Hechsher is on far too many products to boycott. Well... maybe so. But now the Charedi world is threatening one for another - completely valid reason. If that happens, then there is indeed some justice in he world. In any case my message to the Charedi leaders calling for this boycott is... welcome aboard!