Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Cheif Rabbi's Step in the Right Direction

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (Arutz Sheva)
Recognizing the largely secular founders of the modern state of Israel, he pointed out "what was here 80 years ago. They (the pioneers of the modern state) were the emissaries of the Holy One blessed be He, in their merit we sit to study Torah. We have to be grateful to the Holy One blessed be He." 
One might think that the above sentiment excerpted from Arutz Sheva was expressed by a religious Zionist Rabbi and not a Charedi one. Well, in a sense it was. These are the sentiment of Rav Yitzchak Yosef, the Sephardi Chief rabbi of Israel. But he is very much in the Charedi camp in his Hashkafa - albeit from an obvious Sephardi perspective. He expressed those sentiments in the Great Synagogue on Yom Ha’atzmaut earlier today.

While it should not be surprising that the Chief Rabbi of Israel would say words of praise about Israel and its founders. One has to consider this in light of the fact that his views are generally sympathetic to those of the Charedi world. I recall him being very  critical of the Israeli government on certain issues. Criticism which was identical with Ashkenazi Charedi rabbinic leaders.It’s nice to see that his views are more nuanced and that when it comes to realizing the significance of the Zionist builders of the state, he expresses gratitude to them. This is in stark contrast with the view of the Eida HaCharedis and Roshei Yeshiva like Rav Dovid Soloveitchik of Brisk in Israel.

But then again the Charedi world is not monolithic on this issue. Famed Ponevezh Rosh HaYeshiva. R’ Yosek Kahaneman felt the same way. He recognized what the secular Zionists did and expressed his appreciation by flying the flag of the State of Israel over his Yeshiva in Bnei Brak every Yom Ha’atzmaut. That is the case until this day. And on that day, Rav Kahaneman did not say Tahcnun, nor did the Bnei Yeshiva of Ponevezh. I don't know if that is still the case. But I suspect that it is not since R' Shach did say Tachanun on that day even while R' Kahaneman was still in charge. and as we all know, Rav Shach was his successor for many years.

But just as there are Charedim that understand the significance of the State of Israel, there are Charedi that refuse to recognize it at all – as mentioned above. They do whatever they can to show their contempt. From YWN:
According to a Kikar Shabbos report, vandals glued the lock that permit access to the rooftop of the building. It is believed this is not a coincidence but an effort to prevent flying the flag on this Yom HaAtzmaut.
The obstacle was overcome and the flag was raised in keeping with the yeshiva’s tradition.
These are the people that tend to burn Dumpsters and spit on reporters who cover their various protests. There are really 2 kinds of Charedim. And this is reflected in the conflict between the R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman faction and the R’ Shmuel Auerbach faction. The former might very well be in the same camp as R’ Yitzchak Yosef. That is why he has directed Yeshiva students to register for the draft. He is opposed to army service. But he understands that the best way to achieve results is through peaceful means. And I suspect that he, like R’ Yosef, and many other Gedolei Yisroel of the past (like R’ Chaim Shmulevitz) sees the founding of the state in a positive sense. That founders like Herzl were instruments of God for purposes of restoring the land of Israel into Jewish hands.

R’ Shmuel Auerbach, I would suspect falls into the camp that believe that Israel’s founding fathers were pure unadulterated Reshaim… evil people to who giving any kind of respect would be a Chill HaShem. This is what motivated that attack on Poenvezh.

The question is, which of these two approaches will prevail? The Eida haCharedis is a very powerful influence in the Charedi world. But my hope is that the kinds of views expressed by R’ Yosef will prevail and come to dominate the Yeshiva world. That would make the future look a lot brighter. A little respect for those with whom you do not agree can go a long way to reconciling the secular and Dati  Israeli public with the Charedi Yeshiva world… and a big step towards Achdus. Happy Birthday Israel.