Friday, May 02, 2014

A Charedi Grand Slam!

There is No Recognition of Today’s Realities in the Charedi World

R. Elchanan Wasserman, HY'D - victim of the Holocaust
Instead there is a mindset that harkens back to an idyllic Eastern European world of fantasy – a world that is portrayed falsely in fictional stories and hagiographic biographies and by doctored photographs and omission of uncomfortable facts.

An entire talented and vital society is doomed to live in the imagined past and disregard present realities. And if the view of the present is unfortunately shaped by historical and social disconnect and denial, then certainly the longer and equally important view of the future will be distorted and skewed.

The great struggle of most of Orthodoxy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries against Zionism influenced all Orthodox thought and behavior. As late as 1937, with German Jewry already prostrate before Hitler’s madness and Germany already threatening Poland, the mainstream Orthodox rabbinate in Poland publicly objected to the formation of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel on the grounds that the heads of that state would undoubtedly be secular if not even anti-religious.

They were correct in that assessment, but since the Holocaust was then an unimaginable event in their worldview, they continued in their opposition to Jews leaving Poland to settle either in the United States or in Israel. Because of this past mindset, the Holocaust is more unsettling – theologically, at least – to Orthodoxy then perhaps to any other group in the Jewish world.

One of the consequences of confronting it would be to admit that great and holy men can be wrong in their assessment of current events and future occurrences. But much of Orthodoxy is so hagiographic about its present and past leaders that it cannot bring itself to admit that.

Dealing with the modern state of Israel is an even more vexing issue for much of Orthodoxy. The creation of the Jewish state, mainly by secular and nonobservant Jews and by political and military means, was not part of the traditional Jewish view of how the Land of Israel would again fall under Jewish rule.

Since it occurred in the “wrong” way and was being led by the “wrong” people, this too shook the mindset of much of Orthodoxy. One of the great and holy leaders of Orthodox society in Israel stated in 1950 that the state could not last more than fifteen years. Well, it is obvious that in that assessment he was mistaken.

But again, it is too painful to admit he was mistaken and therefore the whole attitude of much of the Orthodox world is one of denial of the fact that the state exists, prospers, and is in fact the world’s largest supporter of Torah and the traditional Jewish religious lifestyle.

It is too painful to admit that our past mindset regarding the state of Israel is no longer relevant. 

The preceding words are not mine. They are the words of Rabbi Berel Wein. If I didn’t know better, I would say he is a regular reader of my blog. For these comments express my views exactly. Views that I express here all the time. But I do know better. Rabbi Wein very likely does not read my blog, or any blogs. He probably never heard of me. Rabbi Wein is a stand alone Jewish thinker par excellence whose head is exactly in the right place. In fact he has just hit a Charedi grand slam.

Rabbi Wein’s column in the Jewish Press (from which these excerpts were taken) is not the only one that is worthy of note. So too is an interview of him in the Times of Israel. Both are well worth reading. 

If only the Charedi leadership would have his perspective (and I suspect that at least in the US, some of them privately do) then instead of growing animosity between religious segments, there would be greater harmony. Instead of continuing divisiveness, there would be greater unity – which is as it should be among observant Jewry. I often say we observant Jews have a have a lot more that unites us than what divides us.

Unfortunately those among the Charedi leadership who do dissent - do not do so publicly. They are afraid of creating divisiveness. I assume they believe that a public dispute among themselves will weaken the respect for Daas Torah. When they appear to be unified on important issues of the day, they must feel that they are serving the cause of Daas Torah. 

But in my view they do a disservice to Klal Yisroel by putting too much emphasis on a unified Daas Torah position at the expense of expressing their own opposing views. If they believe that their views are Emes, then by not expressing them, they prevent the world from knowing it.

And another thing. Rabbi Wein self identifies as Charedi. But many people say that the views he expresses takes him out of that category. 

I guess it depends how one defines Charedi. If it is defined as one who is Chareid L’Dvar HaShem, then he certainly is… as are all observant Jews who have Yiras Shomayim - fear of Heaven.  Recognizing God’s awesome and infinite power; and His demand that we follow His Torah places an awesome responsibility upon us. It is why we serve Him. It is why we are observant. We are commanded to love God with all our heart; with all our soul; and with all our might. And there is a heavenly reward for keeping His law and a heavenly punishment for breaking it. Anyone who takes his Judaism seriously is Charedi, including me.

The problem is that the right wing has co-opted that word for themselves as a political label. And they define it a lot differently than just being Charedi L’Dvar HaShem. They have narrowed the definition to include only those who follow the path the right wing Yeshiva world and the world of Chasidim. So that even the most religious and God fearing Religious Zionist cannot by their definition be Charedi. And that's just plain wrong.

I think Rabbi Wein is exactly right here. I generally do not excerpt so much of an article. But how could I not? I had to because that is what Emes and Emunah is all about.