Friday, November 01, 2013

Can This be the Wisdom of the Torah?

Document asking Avrechim to pledge allegiance to 'Daas Torah'
As if to underscore my contention that the truly great Torah leaders worthy of the appellation Gedolim belong to a generation no longer of this world - comes what has to be the most stark demonstration  of it. Not that we do not have great Torah leaders today. We do. But they are of a different caliber. I do not mean to God forbid denigrate them or diminish my belief in their high level of Torah knowledge or commitment to Klal Yisroel. I have always maintained that the current rabbinic leaders are totally L’Shma. I did not question or doubt their intent or their dedication one bit. That hasn’t changed. But what is going on now in Israel makes it extremely difficult to keep the faith.

There is a war between 2 factions in the Charedi world. This is not news. The factions are those who support the leadership of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman and those who support Rav Shmuel Auerbach. Both of these rabbinic leaders are of high stature in the Charedi world.  

One could say that when the Charedi world speaks of Daas Torah, they mean the Daas (Wisdom) of a select few rabbinic elders of which Rav Shteinman and Rav Auerbach are two of the more prominent ones. And yet the war between these two leaders rivals some of the greatest religious fights in Jewish history. Wars between Gedolim like Rav Yaakov Emden (the Yaavitz) and Rav Yonason Eibeshitz (the Kresi U’Pleisi). The former called the latter a virtual heretic – accusing him of being a closet Meshichist (follower of Shabsai Tzvi)… and that the Kemeah (amulet) Rav Eibeshitz wore around his neck had Shabsai Tzvi’s name in it.

These kinds of stories can test one’s faith. However it is impossible to judge the past without having been there. History is subjective and who knows what really happened. In our day these kinds of fights are not supposed to happen. Although if they do happen in Israel - one can say about it too – that since we are not directly involved – living in America 7000 miles way – we cannot and should not judge.

The thing is that we are there. Not physically but via a media both secular and religious that reports in detail what is going on. It is difficult if not impossible to explain in any sensible manner what is going on there.

A new Charedi party was created by Rav Shmuel Auerbach and he urged his followers to vote for it as it best represents the interests of the Torah world. That has brought an unbelievabe response. The kind that is usually reserved for people who support the works of Rabbi Natan Slifkin which they see as heretical. From YWN
After days of discussion involving HaGaon HaRav Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita, meetings with the Rosh Yeshiva in which prominent roshei yeshiva took part, the decision has been made that avreichim who aligned themselves with the break-away faction of Degel, the Bnei Torah party, will have to express remorse for not adhering to the word of gedolei yisrael shlita as well as pledging future allegiance.
The document mentions both Rav Sheinman and HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, quoting a majority ruling of the Moetzas Gedolei Yisrael. Those who turned their backs on Degel Hatorah in the election will have an opportunity to admit the error of their ways and pledge future allegiance, to distance from the break-away faction and come back home.
The document is written to address both avreichim and their rabbonim, vowing to refrain from straying at anytime in the future and failure to adhere to this commitment will be tantamount to gezel of yeshiva funds for their continued presence.

From another YWN article:
In line with the reported decision of HaGaon HaRav Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita and HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, many avreichim in kollelim are indeed being compelled to sign a document requesting mechila and pledging future allegiance to gedolei yisrael in Bnei Brak. 
Rav Auerbach is urging his supporters not to sign that document. If they are expelled… they would receive aid from a fund created for them for this purpose.

How far we have fallen from the lofty ideals of the Torah!  Charedi rabbinic leaders are now declaring their own people to be brazen criminals who are in essense stealing funds from their Kollel by being there and then basically throwing them into the streets if they do not repent from their wayward ways of not listening to their Gedolim!

The idea that Daas Torah includes voting for a preferred political candidate is something that has to the best of my knowledge never happened before. Even in Israel. When Rav Shach formed -  Degel HaTorah - his own break away party (from Agudat Yisroel) there were no threats from either side that labeled that those who vote for the other party would be going against Daas Torah or be expelled. There were no documents to be signed pledging allegiance with the threat of expulsion if one did not sign.

There was only disagreement and two parties were formed. Each side knew that the other was L’Shma but had its own interests aside from the common interest to the overall Charedi welfare.

This attitude is not only manifested in this tragic war between Charedi rabbinic leaders, it was manifested in the recent municipal elections in Bet Shemesh too. Charedim there were told that if they don’t vote for the Frum (read: Charedi) candidate for mayor – it was a Chilul HaShem. The Charedim of Bet Shemesh took it from there and bad mouthed anyone who would dare not vote for their candidate.

Their candidate won by about a 1000 votes. But it was later found that there was massive election fraud… which virtually wiped out the 1000 vote margin. And now new elections are being demanded by the losing side. I am not going to comment on whether there should or should not be a new election. That is for the Israeli election commission to decide.

But I suspect that the voter fraud is a direct result of the kind of rhetoric coming out of these rabbinic leaders. They so strongly believe in the righteousness of their views that committing fraud to see their views carried out politically justifies it.

Charedim might argue that they are the extremist exceptions that prove the rule. But… how many times are they going to cry wolf already?  True they were a small minority. And I seriously doubt that they were instructed to do so. But what motivated them? Is there any doubt about the answer to that?

If  I was the Charedi  Gadol HaDor and it were up to me, I would ban – that’s right BAN! (and most of you know how I feel about bans…!) Charedim from holding any political office or forming any political party.  Maybe Satmar’s attitude about this is the right one after all!