Monday, November 13, 2017

Throwing Extremists Out of Orthodoxy

Charedi Soldier  hung in effigy (Arutz Sheva
A step in the right direction. The Jerusalem Post reports that the extremist Charedim behind ‘a vitriolic campaign of incitement and harassment against Haredi IDF officers involved in recruiting Haredi conscripts, as well as against enlisted Haredi soldiers’ - have been found. A Charedi IDF officer hired detectives to find them. They  were sued by him in court. The suit was successful and the court awarded him over 500,000 Shekel.

I said it was a step. But it is a baby step. One that could use a lot of nourishment. One of the more unfortunate circumstances in right wing circles is that even though the majority of their mainstream rabbis don’t approve of that kind of behavior, and have even condemned it, they have not gone far enough. They still consider the people that harbor and inspire these extremists to be a part of their right wing religious community. They have refused to call them out in ways that are similar to the way they have called out the extreme left. 

In part I believe that their justification for a more tolerant view of right wing extremists this is that they are fighting for the same religious principles. Their disagreement is only with their tactics. Which end up becoming a Chilul HaShem. They refuse, however, to take the next step and reject them from Orthodoxy the way they have with the extreme left. 

I realize of course that the problem the right wing leadership has with each extreme is different. They see the extreme left crossing lines of Halacha in the sense of tolerating heretical beliefs and, among other things, advocating inappropriate roles for women in Judaism.

The extreme right is seen as observant of Halacha. They do not tolerate heretical beliefs and do not advocate inappropriate roles for women. Not only that, but they even see their stringent way of life as most admirable.  I have seen more than one article in Charedi publications about the world in which these extremists reside (either physically or spiritually) - painting their way of life in the most glowing of terms. It is almost as if when someone has a beard and peyos and dresses a certain way they are automatically part of our group.

What the right wing leadership seems to fail to acknowledge is that their religiosity extends only in the realm of Bein Adam LaMakom (BALM). Their Bein Adam L’Chavero (BALC) is extremely limited to those people with their own narrow Hashkafos. Those that have a different Hashkafa are rejected by these extremists groups. They consider them unworthy of any respect. Instead they see them worthy their disdain. Even if those others are right wing themselves. Which is why they can harass in the most grievous of ways fellow Charedim that have joined the army. And why they can stage mass protests or a ‘Day of Rage’ at the expense of everyone else.  Including other Charedim. They are zealots in that cause to the point of some of their more violent among them inflicting physical harm on Charedi soldiers. This is a clear violation of BALC.

Violating BALC is a far greater departure from God’s will than BALM since violating BALC includes a violation of BALM as well. And yet the right wing extremists are still considered within the fold. Saying that their behavior is a Chilul HaShem while praising their way of life is a contradiction. True, not all of them are zealots. But they are all of the same opinion about Charedi soldiers or how to address those grievances.

Why is there greater tolerance of right wing extremists over left wing extremists? Despite their strong criticism of the Chilul HaShem they cannot get themselves to reject these people from Ortodoxy itself. Apparently their BALM is just too admirable. Their BALC may be defective. But their BALM is so great that they cannot be rejected. They also look ‘Frum’.  Charedi leaders look at them and see themselves. It is almost as if they are looking in the mirror. How can they expel from Orthodoxy people that are so Medakdek in Shmiras Shabbos, and Kashrus, and matters of Tznius? ...people that are ‘Moser Nefesh’ for that way of life?  They just can’t do it. Besides they are really fighting the same fight albeit in misguided ways.

Right wing leaders lavish praise on BALM and rarely deal with BALC. Chalav Yisroel, Yashan, Tznius, Torah study, rejection of the outside world… these are the virtues most often extolled. Treating a fellow religious Jew whose Hashkafa is different than yours with respect – not so much.

One doesn’t have to look too far to see examples of this. When Satmar had a rally supporting the Charedim in Israel that refused to register for the draft, it included at least one mainstream Charedi Rabbinic leader. When Rav Matisyahu Solomon organized an Assifa (gathering) at Citifield a few years ago he invited Satmar to participate and agreed to whatever demand they made just to have them there.  And yet when it comes to honoring a Talmid Chacham from Yeshiva University… No way.  The ‘Grand Rabbi’ of a minor Chasidic sect can sit on their main dais at the Siyum Hashas held every 7 ½ years right along with members of the Moetzes. But not Rosh Yeshiva form YU. Despite the fact that there are many moderate right wing rabbis that will tell you privately that they don’t agree with this policy.

Therein lies the problem. Rejecting the extremists of the right may not change the facts on the ground. The terrible behavior taking place in Israel by right wing extremists will likely continue.  But so too will the behavior of the extremists on the left. The right wing leadership reacted to the left by throwing them out of Orthodoxy. Isn’t it time for them to do the same thing to the right? Not because it will change anything. But because it is the right thing to do.