Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Weaker Generations

Niskatnu HaDoros - today’s generation is spiritually weaker than the last. Chazal tell us that the further each generation is removed from Sinai is the weaker it is. This is true of the common man. And it is true of Gedolim.

VIN has a post containing an angry sounding message from Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. Here is the pertinent excerpt:

The exact wording of the kol koreh—which itself was partially plagiarized from other protest proclamations—contained a key phrase that banned all concerts of any form, not just the Shmeltzer event. This led to the misconception among many community members that the signatory gedolim agreed with this startling and impactful ban, one with major communal and economic ramifications.

It was this misconception that Rabbi Belsky has forcefully taken head-on, clarifying in no uncertain terms that the ban to which he was a signatory only applied to The Big Event, and in no way banned all types of concerts. In his newly-released public letter, Rabbi Belsky explains that the text of the final proclamation containing his and others' signatures contained wording that he was not shown—specifically, the phrase banning all concerts.

Rabbi Belsky issued his letter to assert that while all the rabbonim did in fact sign the ban, their intention was only to block The Big Event for reasons explained in the letter, not all concerts in general.

I appreciate Rabbi Belsky’s clarification and honesty. Leaving aside the fact that I totally disagree with his ban on that particular concert, at least he admits that there are Askanim – community activists - out there that are deceptive and nothing but liars. And that they will stop at nothing to achieve their ends.

But those who signed the ban are not completely absolved of liability here. The question must be asked, why did they trust the fellow who got them to sign? Was it because he looked Frum? ...because he had a beard? ...or wears a Kapote?

And exactly who are those people who signed? Aside from a few recognizable names, most of those people I never heard of. Did they sign because they relied on the ‘bigger’ names who already signed, as was admittedly the case when Natan Slifkin’s books were banned? Or perhaps they signed because they were given the honor of being included among those more famous names? Was this ultimately about Kavod – chasing honor?

Unsubstantiated speculation? Consider this. A wonderful Talmid Chacham and Rebbe in a Yeshiva confided in me several years ago that a famous Rosh HaYeshiva told him the following: The Nesayon – the heavenly life test - for the previous generation of Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshiva was Kavod. In our day the Nisayon is Arayos - illicit sexual temptations. He told me this at about the time that a few prominent Roshei Yeshiva were caught being involved in infractions of Arayos – in one case involving an Eishes Ish - having had sex with a married woman!

Perhaps that Rosh HaYeshiva is right - considering the number of incidents of sex abuse by such figures in recent times. The guilty plea by a pedophile rabbi a couple of days ago underscores that.

But I don’t think the Kavod chase has been eliminated in our day just because there is an Arayos chase. For some it’s Arayos. But for others it is still about Kavod. Getting onto the Agudah Moeztes is a big plum for these people. One way of doing so, I suppose, is being asked to sign a Kol Korei along with members of that Moetzes. That brings them a step closer. It is considered an honor to be included in such an august group.

Aside from all this, Rav Belsky’s letter also shows who's running the show. Not the Kol Korei signing Rabbanim, but Askanim! With all due respect to Rabbi Belsky’s understandably angry letter, it does little to restore any confidence I have in these Rabbanim.

This did not happen in the previous generation of Gedolim. How many Kol Koreis did Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rav Soloveitchik sign? ...or any other Rav from that era?

The bottom line is this. Today's Gedolim are too quick to sign Kol Koreis! If I were Charedi, I wouldn't trust the next KK any more than I trust a used car salesman, no matter whose signature is on it!