Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Irreconcilable Differences?

If  only this image was more common...
The following two perspectives are, I believe, a relatively decent illustration of the differing mindsets of  the right wing Charedi; and the moderate Charedi and  non Charedi. Although the two sides do not address each other’s points directly, I think reading them together illustrates the focus of each segment.

One was posted as a comment buried in over 340 comments to Mondays post. The other was sent to me by e-mail. I do not know the identity of the first writer. But I do believe he presents a more or less accurate description of Charedi ideology and how that impacts their view of the State of Israel.

The second perspective was written by someone whose identity is known to me, but for personal reasons has asked to remain anonymous. I believe he sums up the non Charedi mainstream perspective quite nicely. The differences are clear. Are they irreconcilable? I leave it to the reader to decide. Their words follow.

The Right Wing Charedi View

Yated publisher Pinchos Lipshutz
Champion of the Charedi cause
There seems to be a lack of understanding of the chareidi ideology vis a vis the State of Israel. Put simply it goes like this.

1) The state was not created B'ruach HaTorah. Most of it's inhabitants do not uphold the bris between Hashem and the Jewish People. Therefore we have no Divine promise of protection in the land. Our only hope is to have as many people as possible being moser nefesh for Torah and to try to help people do Tshuva. If the Jewish people would all be Shomer Torah and Mitzvos we would be redeemed and Mashiach would tell us how we should proceed (i.e. whether to fight or not, when to build the beis hamikdash etc.).

2) The yeshivos hakedoshos, where learning/a relationship with Hashem is all that matters, are the only thing keeping us alive, literally and spiritually, and to give the government any say at all over who should stay and who should leave and when, would be a tragedy - and worth dying to prevent.

Brisk Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dovid Soloveitchik
3) The fact that chareidim benefit from the protection of the army is true, but they only need the army because the state was started in a way opposing Hashem's will and by people looking to destroy the entire concept of Am Hanivchar by creating a new Europe in the middle east. So, chareidim do oppose the draft for all citizens, assuming that they would all become shomer torah umitsvos instead. As far as religious soldiers, it would be better if they could just learn, if they cannot, then why not go to the army (as long as they dont have to give up Torah values)?

4) Halevai that the Jews would've listened to the Rabbis generations ago who were against any secular state in Israel especially knowing that the Arabs would constantly attack us. (The Satmar ideology would argue against ANY kind of Jewish state, but that Hashkafa was never accepted publicly by the leaders of that or any subsequent generation) 

If the State had been started with the blessings of the Torah leaders and was run fully according to Halacha, then we wouldn't have the issues that we do now. It is sad that anyone gets killed in battle ever, especially Jews in the holy land, but that can never justify a non Torah government from being legitimate. True, chareidim are involved in the government but that is only to be able to protect the community as much as possible.

5) Chareidim love all Jews, yet they feel that allegiance to Hashem as a people must come first.

6) The last and most crucial point. Judaism as we know it only has relevance because of our ability to receive it and transmit it. If we had not trusted in our leaders - especially when we disagreed or were unsure then Judaism would look totally different today. After all, we don't need leaders if we only listen to them when we agree. Rav Shteinman may not be your "Leader" but if he is ours, we feel obligated by the Torah to listen and pray that Hashem means what he says when he says to listen to the shoftim of the generation left or right.

Whether or not any of us agree with these points on principle, it is important to understand that they are not simply based on " Wanting other people to die so we don't have to". That would be as stupid as saying that the all of secularism boils down to "Wanting to give into every base pleasure at any moment and living a totally meaningless life" or that Zionism is "A way to live like a gentile while feeling very Jewish". Nothing is so simple. We do a disservice to ourselves when we tell ourselves (and others) that it is.

The Moderate Charedi and Non Charedi View

From Lock-Step to Guiding Steps: The Changing Responsibilities of the American Chareidi Community to Their Israeli Chareidi Brethren and The Entire Klal

The moderate Rabbi Berel Wein
1) I think it is important to focus on the hypocrisy/troubling reality, where someone like Jonathan Rosenblum genuinely embraces the Chief Rabbi of South Africa – Rabbi Warren Goldstein (his values, derech eretz focus, importance of work etc) but where such a Torah outlook is discounted at best and dismissed as worst by many in Israel

2) A seminal recently released book by Rabbi Berel Wein and Rabbi Warren Goldstein entitled “TheLegacy: Teachings for Life from the Great Lithuanian Rabbis” which basically makes the case that the absence of certain “Meta Torah Values” (which are not necessarily prescribed in Shulchan Aruch) make’s ones “Torah life” a non-Torah life. These include Derech Eretz, Honesty and Integrity etc.
South Africa Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
3) The current developments in Israel should finally be that momentous wake-up call to the Chareidi American community where many still suffer from “how-I-yearn-to-be--like-my-Chareidi-brothers-in-Israel’ syndrome.  In other words, if only I did not have to involve myself in the gashmeous of work and just sit in learning all day for the rest of my life. 

The reality is that that system has failed in recent years and is simply unsustainable. Unsustainable financially, psychologically, family-wise and nationally. It’s time for communal efforts not to sustain the unsustainable. But rather to send money for Chareidi colleges of higher learning, Chareidi think tanks etc

4) And most importantly, if you do make Aliyah, don’t throw your American hashkafa away at JFK. It will cost you and Israeli society dearly. As it has, over all these wasted years.

5) We all know how more common it is that when a secular Israeli leaves Israel and finds him/herself in a religious community in Chutz La’Aretz – that that is where he or she is most likely to look at Judaism seriously. And why is that? Host of reasons – not least for many – the big brother Israeli Chareidi outlook and societal disengagement is the major turnoff to even consider an invitation to a shabbos table

6) For many a visiting American Chareidi Jew to Jerusalem, he or she is initially struck by the beauty of Measharim, the frumme kids with the payos running around, the sounds of Torah bellowing through the windows. And then typically he or she returns to the U.S. with a superficial understanding of how idealic Chareidi society is. Blinders finally need to come off. 

I would bet you that if you were to take a typical American Chareidi Jew and put him in  one of these Chareidi ghettos – he would not last 30 minutes.  After reality sinks he – he would at best not be able to relate to this Torah living. How ever more so for many secular Israeli’s – who see this every day and find it impossible to relate to such a community – never mind consider an invitation to join.

A few more points:

Myth/Argument: Israel is a different makom and so what applies/happens/works in Chutz l’Aretz does not mean made for Israel.
Reality: Israel certainly is a different makom. But Torah is universal. And we should all yearn to practice the right Torah (with all its many strands). It would be one thing if all in religious community in Israel had it all right. But that is not the reality. Yes there are vast differences in histories, societal make-up. But all the more reason to take a step back from the boiling pot of all in Israel and see virtues in other communities where they seem to have got some things, more right.

Myth/Argument: Chareidi American leaders telling Israel x,y is like saying the Gedolim have made mistakes
Reality: We are one nation. If we cannot utilize the collective resources, knowledge of all we are fools. We need to differentiate Halacha from hashkafa. Many of these Gedolim are surrounded by minders who make ill-informed decisions and present personal and other agendas as facts and figures to those that are trying to make informed decisions.

Just by one example of American Chareidi Society making a vast impact: Raising money in American Chareidi community to build colleges/training schools for Chareidi adults in Israel. 1) It helps Chareidim, 2) Tremendous Kiddish Hashem 3) Nurtures a better Israeli society – when non-Chareidim see tangible evidence of Chareidi society engaging and helping in very constructive way.

In summary

These turbulent times can be the time were the American Chareidi Community rises to the challenge to really help their Chareidi brethren in Israel, Israel society as a whole and the entire of Klal of Israel. 

The stark choice is theirs.

This could be the community’s finest hour. Will the collective take the mantle of leadership at this most necessitated hour? There are so many ways that a strong and balanced Chareidi communities outside Israel can play to positively impact the Israeli Chareidi society and the entire Klal.

See this new international development from Chief Rabbi of South Africa. Note the Torah of this Chief Rabbi and this community. Tolerance, respect, warmth etc.