Sunday, April 01, 2007

Selling Brachos

I wasn’t going to write anything but Divrei Torah for the Seder until Yom Tov. But when opened my Jewish Press this Shabbos there staring me right in the face was an a eight page color brochure from Kupat Ha'ir once again pleading for funds. This time it was Kimcha D’Pischa. They were asking for money to distribute to needy families in Israel for their Pesach needs.

Moes Chitin is a Mitzvah that no one should pass up. This time of year can be very depressing for those who struggle to make ends meet. And for some the pain of being unable to provide is unbearable. This, at a time when everyone elese busily prepares for one tf the most joyous Yom Tovim of the year can cause depression for those who see all this joy and can’t raise there spirits enough to participate in it. Certainly the great Mitzvah of Moes Chitin should have everyones participation. But when an organizatione resorts to selling Brachos in orfder to incrrease their revenue, that is just plain wrong. The ends do not justify the means.

The opening stories at the beginning of this bruchre describes some of the very needy people who are the recipients of the funds they collect. But then after the first couple of pages it switches themes. It is no longer about the needy recipients… but the “needy” benefactors. The pitch is no longer about giving money to the poor because they need it or because of the great Mitvah of Tzedaka. It is about “what’s in it for me?” if I give. That’s the sales pitch. What benefit can I get out of it right now.

It goes from providing for the needy... to the selling of Brachos. Oh they don’t put it that way. They still put it in th context of Tzedaka, but that is in essence what they arw doing. Here is just one typical sales pitch. It isn't even about someone suffering form a serious illness. It describes a thought process of a businessman and suggests that he will get his Bracha virtually on the spot for the right doantion:

“We’re about to sign a huge deal I need a Bracha right now, before we sign. How can I take such a step without Maran’s Bracha?”

Here is what this ad is really saying. Need a Bracha real fast? Give us a donation and we’ll see to it that you get one on the spot. We can do it because we have direct access to Rav Kanieavsky and other Gedolim. And there are other examples of scenarios where a Bracha can be gotten quickly.

Can there be anything more crass then selling brachos of Gedolim? What’s next? A huge auditorium filled with suffering Jews being addressed by the Jewish version of Oral Roberts, a preacher famous for selling faith healing?

As I said before this type off institution doesn’t even begin to address the root cause of the problem of poverty in the world of Charedim in Israel. In fact it even helps to perpetuate it. But that isn’t my problem here. Even if this is the worthiest Tzedaka on earth, the means it uses cannot be justified.

And then there is a second issue.

Rav Kanievsky is a Lithuanian type Gadol. He is not a Chasid. Even if Kupat Ha'ir has his 100% endorsement I’m not sure how involved he really is in this Tzedaka. But if he is as involved as the brochure implies then the Yeshiva world has become just another version of Chasidism. And the first "Rebbe" is Rav Chaim Kanievsky. But even if he isn’t as involved but merely lets it happen because he strongly believes in the cause of this Tzedaka organization, it is not a positive development. The Chasidization of the Yeshiva world has been taking place for some time now. But with the advent of selling Brachos even if it is for the best of reasons we have finally reached the pinnacle of Chasidus: the Gadol as the infallible Chasidic Rebbe, giving out Brachos as an integral part of his day.

Chasidim can now to feel a sense of triumph. Chasidism has won. About the only difference now between the Yeshiva world and the world of Chasidim is the Nusach HaTefilla.