Thursday, March 08, 2018

It Ain’t Over…

Rav Aharon Leib Steinman and Rav Aharon Schechter (Circus Tent)
The title of this post is how Rabbi Yosef Bechhofer put it – linking to an article (Hebrew) about Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s legacy. It appears his party of darkness, Peleg, is still alive and well in Charedi Jerusalem. Peleg is an organization created primarily for purposes of defying the law requiring Yeshiva students to register for the draft.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I had no issue with Rav Auerbach expressing those views, repugnant though they were to me. Israel respects the rights of free speech. Nor do I have any problem with his creation of a political party to advance his agenda. The only problem I have is in how that political party carried out that agenda. 

As repugnant as his views were, more repugnant were his followers’ methods of resisting the draft. Which resulted in a many a Chilul Hashem. And although there are those that want to be Melamed Zechus (give the benefit of the doubt) to Rav Auerbach by saying that he either didn’t know about it, or couldn’t stop them, I am not buying it and never have.

It appears what Rav Auerbach started will be continued by his successors. If there is any saving grace to this, it is that  the fear Rav Auerbach would be seen as the heir to  Rav Aharon Leib Steinman as the Gadol Hador has been eliminated with his Petrirah (death). That  was a real concern by many in the majority of Israeli Charedim that followed Rav Steinman.

Although they both had the same view about army service by Yeshiva students - Rav Steniman was a man of peace who was far more conciliatory to the law than was Rav Auerbach. As long as Yeshiva students could continue their Torah study unfettered, Rav Steinman was OK with them registering for the draft. Rav Auerbach  rejected this peaceful approach and instead decided to protest even registering for it – even though by doing so, it did more harm than good to his cause.

I am not happy about the determination expressed by officials of Peleg to continue the legacy of their leader. But I suppose it should be expected. The issues are still there. So their protests will continue.

I am not that surprised by this. People do not give up their ideals just because their leaders dies. Often the opposite happens. Fearing they will lose momentum, they double down on achieving their goals. My fear is that these protests will continue to result in a Chilul HaShem. Continuing to make the Torah world look like a group of uncivilized ignoramuses whose refusal to serve in the army symbolizes their cowardice and a lack of virtue. We shall see about that. (Hope I’m wrong.)

What is perhaps more troubling to me is that a major Rosh HaYeshiva in America -  Yeshivas Rabbenu Chaim Belrin’s Rav Aharon Schechter -  seems to be in Rav  Auerbach’s camp. He certainly has that right. But I have to wonder what his reaction is to all the Chilul HaShems Rav Auerbach’s followers have caused? Has he condemned them? Or condoned them?

One thing seems clear. His mourning over the death of Rav Auerbach is much stronger that it was over the death of Rav Steinman. I’m not even sure he really mourned Rav Steinman’s death all that much.

That can be seen on a blog called Circus Tent. There one will find an invitation (in Hebrew) to attend a eulogy for Rav Auerbach in Rav Schechter’s Yeshiva. That is not so unusual and indeed should be expected in a Charedi Yeshiva.  What was not expected was that apparently there was no such eulogy for Rav Aharon Leib Steinman in his Yeshiva. ( least according to Circus Tent.  I will be happy to be proven wrong.) Rav Schechter apparently said very little about it (available in a brief recording there).

I guess to Rav Schechter a man that most of the Charedi world thought of as the Gadol Hador was not worthy of a public eulogy. At least not more than those few words.  Rav Schechter apparently agrees with Peleg. The law requiring Yeshiva  students in Israel to register for the draft in order to study Torah full time is so terrible that it is worth the public Chilul HaShem that protesting it the way they do continues to generate.

What makes a leader of American Jewry believe that Rav Stenman’s peaceful ways were wrong? And that Rav Auerbch’s confrontational ways are right? Why does an American Rosh Yeshiva side with a minority of Charedim that followed Rav Auerbach?  ...a Kanoi that was severely criticized by Charedi leaders of that majority?

What is it about Rav Schechter that makes him feel the better track is the more violent track? The better track is the one that has caused so many Chilul HaShems? That complying with a law that would allow Yeshiva Students to do what they have always done is something to protest because it is not pristine enough for his Hashkafic tastes?

Is this the kind of man that should head an American Yeshiva? (Any Yeshiva?) Is this where Charedi parents in America want to send their children? Is this how those parents want their children to be influenced? Chaim Berlin has a lot of students! So the answer must be yes! Either that or they simply don’t know about Rav Schechter’s views.

My hope it is the latter. I shudder to think that there are mainstream Charedi parents that see the ways of Rav Auerbach rather than the ways of Rav Steinman as the Jewish way to do things. And are happy that their children who are students at Chaim Berlin will someday behave that way.