Thursday, March 06, 2014

The New (Orthodox) World Order

R' Yoel Teitelbaum - The Satmar Rebbe
There has always been a strong difference of opinion about the State of Israel between Charedim and Religious Zionists (RZ)… the former rejecting its validity and the latter seeing it as the ‘beginning of our messianic redemption’. There is a spectrum of opinion that resides between these two extremes. This is where my views lie - leaning more to the RZ view without the messianic component. But whatever the differences were - though very real - they have always been put on the back burner. In other words we all got along quite nicely as a community of Mitzvah observant believers in the Torah. Which is why there is a large middle class of sociological centrists.

I am very sad to say that this seems to be changing. I cannot remember any time in my life that there has been such a clear cut and open difference between 2 factions of religious Jews. The issue of drafting Charedi students in Israel into the army has brought those differences into sharp contrast. And the rhetoric coming out of both sides make it seem like there will never be a reconciliation. The relatively peaceful past between us is history. We are entering a new phase.

I should note that despite the strong Hashkafic differences of opinion between RZ and Charedim, there are RZ rabbis that seem to support the Charedi position. But there are clearly those who do not.

Now as I have said in the past, I do not really have such an issue with our differences. Despite my strong convictions favoring a draft that applies equally to everyone – including Charedim, I understand why they oppose it. The problem I however have is the disgusting and untrue rhetoric about it. And the way they characterize the brave men and women who do serve. Some of whom put their lives on the line for their people – Charedim included.

There will be a prayer rally this Sunday in New York. I will be shocked if even one word of Hakoras HaTov to the government will be spoken. Because if anyone dares to do that - Satmar will walk out! 

Not only is there no Hakoras HaTov (gratitude) there is vilification. Lest anyone think I am exaggerating, one need only hear the words of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik of Brisk. Or some of the other rabbinic leaders in Israel who compare the government of Israel to Czarist Russia where there were strong attempts  to  disabuse Jews of their Judaism.

And we all know how Satmar feels about the State. And how the Eida HaCharedis feels. And the rabbinic leaders of the Meah Sheraim community. And Netrei Karta… all of whom see the Satmar Rebbe as their spiritual guide.  They consider the State to be the work of the  devil as are all the miracles that lead to victory against all odds in virtually all of Israel’s wars with their neighbors. Work of the Devil. 

R' Avrohom Yitzchok Kook
Let us not forget the words of the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum. He implied that Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook was a modern day Haman by using the same words to describe him as Megilas Esther uses to describe Haman!  Rav Kook was not just your every day RZ Rabbi. Even though he was the spiritual guide for Religious Zionism - he was nonetheless considered by many (including the undisputed leader of Lithuanian Jewry at the time, R’ Issar Zalman Meltzer) to be the Gadol HaDor – despite his position on Religious Zionism!

It now seems to be the case that the entire Charedi world has taken on the Satmar view of things. The entire right wing Yeshiva world is joining forces with Satmar this Sunday to promote the false notion that the government of Israel is about to punish Torah study with jail time. This is so far from the truth, that I find it hard to believe they can say it with a straight face, let alone organize a mass protest (technically – a prayer rally) along these lines. 

That this is a lie is well known among Charedi Roshei Yeshiva. That was made clear by Jonathan Rosenblum in that (now unavailable to the public) video.  Even if one grants that Jonathan was misunderstood, I don’t think he would retract that very clear statement. There was no ambiguity in it. They are pretty happy with how the government (via the Shaked committee) crafted the law. They feel that they can basically live with it. And yet the anti Israel rhetoric accusing them of punishing Limud HaTorah is the stated reason for this rally.

How warped the thinking is, was demonstrated by a video (below) made at the prayer rally in Israel last Sunday. From Arutz Sheva
(T)he video features the song "We Get up Early" by Shlomo Cohen. The song features the lyrics "We get up early and they get up early; we get up early to study Torah, they get up early for worthless pursuits." When combined with images from the rally they take on an unmistakable criticism of non-hareidim. 
There are images of Charedi leaders and the crowd saying Tehilim, dancing, littering the streets with flyers - juxtaposed with images of the Israeli Defense Forces… all while playing a song that uses the words from the Hadran – a praiseful passage we say when we complete the study of a Mesechta  (tractate of the Talmud). It compares the rewards of those who study Torah to worthlessness of those who waste their time.

Soldiers in this video are characterized as wasting their time while Charedim are characterized as getting their eternal reward.  To say this is disgusting is one of the greatest understatements of our time.

Of course Torah study is praiseworthy. But not recognizing the value of the army and being ungrateful for their service is disgusting. Characterizing it as worthless is insane!  Yet this is what they are saying.

The truth is that as I watched this video and saw a bunch of Charedim littering the streets with flyers while the song praises them, and then saw the disciplined soldiers whom we know serve their country valiantly sometimes dying for it - condemning them as worthless I thought for a moment that it might be a parody. 

But it isn’t. It was even labeled the official video of the prayer rally. They actually seem to believe that littering the street with flyers promoting their cause is an act worthy of heavenly reward while soldiers that may be put in harm’s way defending their country is a worthless act. Like I said - this is insane! How could they think like that?

If I could arrange a counter prayer rally next Sunday by religious Jews the purpose of which would be to pray for the welfare of the soldiers (instead of cursing the state that will no doubt be theme of day at the Charedi prayer rally) I would do it. Unfortunately I can’t. I don’t think anyone can. And even if they tried, they would never get the kind of turnout the Charedim will. That is the power of Charedi Daas Torah. And they have the numbers. So a counter prayer rally would probably be counterproductive.

This whole thing is so wrong!