Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Is Voting for UTJ - Voting for Sin?

Rav Shmuel Auerbach: How far has he fallen from the tree!
I do not think I can overstate my bewilderment at Rav Shmuel Auerbach. At 84 years of age, he is considered by many in the Charedi world to be one of its primary rabbinic leaders. While at the same time considered to be one of its most divisive. I am bewildered for a number of reasons. Primary among them is that he is the son of one of my heroes, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ZTL. 

Rav Shlomo Zalman was a man that was accessible to all and to the best of my knowledge stayed far away from politics. I don’t think I ever heard a negative word from him about anyone of any Hashkafa. Or even about those who were not religious at all. He was Mechabed Es HaBriyos. He honored all of God’s creations and went out of his way to nice to all people under all circumstances.  

It is rather well known that Rav Aharon Lichtenstien used to ask Rav Shlomo Zalman his own Shailos (questions in Halacha). Think about that for a moment.  Rav Lichtenstein is a Gadol in his own right. His Hashkafos lean heavily towards Religious Zionism. He is a man that received a PhD in literature from Harvard and is considered an expert on the works of John Milton. He is the Rosh HaYeshiva of Gush Etzion - a Hesder Yeshiva on the West Bank of the Jordan River. His mentor and father in law was Rav Soloveitchik - a PhD in Philosophy and head of the Modern Orthodox Yeshiva University. Surely Rav Lichtenstein’s Hashkafos are different than Rav  Shlomo Zalman’s who lived his entire life in Israel and whose worldview was decidedly Charedi. But it made no difference to either of them.  They respected each other.

Rav Shmuel's father: Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ZTL
Contrast Rav Shlomo Zalman with is son, Rav Shmuel. I cannot imagine someone as stridently divisive as Rav Shlomo Zalman’s son. I cannot imagine Rav Lichtenstein asking Rav Shmuel his Shailos. What I can imagine is rhetoric that is probably causing Rav Shmuel’s  father to turn over in his grave. Rhetoric that may very well be singularly responsible for a growing rift in the Charedi world that may never heal.

His latest pronouncement along these lines is that voting for UTJ (the Charedi parties) is voting for sin. I kid you not. Now I’m sure that many in the religious Zionist camp would agree with not voting for the Charedim. They might consider it sinful too. But not for the same reasons. The fight is about how to react to the draft of Yeshiva students. UTJ which is lead by centenarian Rav Ahaon Leib Shteiman has taken a more conciliatory approach. Even though Rav Shtienman condemns the drafting of Torah students, his view is to try and work within the system as much as possible and avoid conflict. 

Rav Shumel believes that it must be rejected and publicly protested. So the fight is over tactics. Not over results. The fight in the Charedi world is so strong that it comes to blows. Recall that a supporter of Rav Shmuel physically attacked Rav Shteinman last year! While it was generally conceded that the man who attacked him was unstable, there is no doubt about what generated the attack. It was his support for Rav Shmuel.

Rav Shmuel has been virtually condemned by people like Rav Chaim Kanievsky for his views in opposition to Rav Shteinman.  One may recall that Rav Shmuel bolted UTJ to start his own party (Bnei Torah). To which Rav Kanievsky responded by declaring that any Avreich (Kollel member) supporting Rav Shmuel would lose their Kollel stipend.

Not only does Rav Shmuel say that voting for the Charedi parties is voting for sin, he now seems to endorse Eli Yishai’s party, Yachad. That is the one that allowed right wing right wing extremist Baruch Marzel to join its list. Baruch Marzel makes Rabbi Meir Kahane (of whom he claims to be the political heir) look like a pacifist by comparison.

This is acceptable to Rav Shmuel? Can anyone in their wildest dreams picture Rav Shlomo Zalman doing any of this?

There may be some critics of the Charedi world reveling in this experiencing joy in their fall. But I am not one of them. They may see it as the beginning of the end of Charedism. I hope not. I sympathize with those in the Charedi world who are watching this happen while standing helplessly by. It is a sad thing to see. To those who are happy about this, I say  B’Nefol Oivecha Al Tismach – do not rejoice in your enemy’s downfall (Mishlei 24:17). Besides  - Charedim should in no way be looked at as the enemy. They are our brothers! And they are hurting.

The Charedi world has much to offer us. There is a lot we can learn from them. There is no segment of Klal Yisroel that dedicates as much time to Torah study as they do. Yiras HaShem – fear of God is in their DNA. Their willingness to sacrifice their material welfare in order to study Torah full time is legendary –as are their acts of charity and kindness.

Yes, there are exceptions. Yes they have their portion of extremists… as do other segments of Jewry.

And yes, I have my criticisms of them. Especially in Israel. But they are meant to tweak them into a better version of themselves. Not to God forbid destroy them. But it seems that is happening  anyway. And it comes from within. Not from without. What a shame that a son could so tarnish the legacy of his father this way.