Thursday, February 04, 2016

Kavod HaTorah? A Misplaced Rebuke

Rav Uren Reich, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva of Woodlake Village (YWN) 
I am sometimes surprised by some of the prominent Charedim that read my blog and express approval. I have heard many times that even though they don’t agree with everything I say, they agree with most of it.

Just yesterday I received a short note telling me how much one prominent Charedi Rav respects my blog. I was truly humbled by his words. And it was not the first time I have been humbled that way by prominent members of the Charedi world. Names that are widely recognized.  Occasionally I get a heartfelt message from someone like that about an issue that I touched upon. Some of those are worthy of publishing so that as many people will get that message as possible.

I received a message like that yesterday which I want to share.  It speaks to an issue that I often address. It was generated by a response to the recent speech by mega philanthropist, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz where he rebuked the educational system in Lakewood for rejecting students for reasons of elitism. R’ Shlomo Yehuda’s words were very strong. They were based on the gut wrenching cries he received from parents whose sons or daughters had not been accepted – and hung out to dry without recourse! 

While there are many reasons why a child will not be accepted to a school, many of them legitimate (like an actual lack of space – or a special needs child that a school does not have the means to address) there is no question in my mind that an elitist attitude is a major contributor to the problem. 

That was made obvious to me recently by an invitation to a Lakewood Beis Yaakov banquet someone showed me.  It promoted itself by referring to its ‘carefully selected student body’  from the ‘finest families in Lakewood’. This invitation was sent out at about the same time R’ Shlomo Yehuda made that speech. If that doesn’t demonstrate the kind of elitism that exists there, then I don’t know what would. How many children are not accepted to that school because they are not from the ‘finest families in Lakewood’?!

What’s worse is when a prominent Charedi Rosh Hayeshiva feels he must ‘kill the messenger’ by way of strong rebuke - in the name of Kavod HaTorah. How dare anyone point out a problem that makes Lakewood Ir HaKodesh look bad? Even if it were true, which he claimed it isn’t! People  - even if they are sincere -who speak with rhetoric like this about the Charedi world are no better than the common blogger who smears Charedim on a daily basis.

While he recognized R’ Shlomo for all his charitable work in the Charedi world, and recognized that his motives were pure - spoken forcefully with pain in his heart, Rav Uren Reich Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva of Woodlake Village nevertheless called it a Chilul Hashem! We do not advertise our problems to the world so that they can bash us. 

I listened to recording of it forwarded to me by the above mentioned Charedi individual. An individual who otherwise places Lakewood in very high esteem. His words were heartfelt as well. Is his reaction a Chilul HaShem too? Or is it the Kiddush HaShem I believe it to be- because one must first recognize a  problem in order to address it. And sometimes it takes a public rebuke so that those responsible won’t be able to ignore it. His sentiments – which I share  follow: 

I received this yesterday, and listened to the whole thing.  Nice guy, such a shame.

This shiur highlights one issue only.  Kavod.  That’s the overriding matter that we face today.  No one dare utter a word of question, no one can point out a failure, mistake, or imperfection.  That’s the same mentality that led to a self-driven heter to fabricate in order to ban the Making of a Gadol.

I’m sickened by the current mentality of straw men, images, only chitzoniyus to admire, to deify, to view as something other than human.  I peruse the galleries of photos that fall into my inbox, with photo shoots of the latest Rebbe who traveled, went on vacation, recited tashlich, davened on Hoshanah Raboh, burned the chometz, recited birchas ilanos, danced at a wedding, etc.  

There are some instances of bekeshes containing some really good Jews on their inside, but we will never know.  These figureheads have armies of gabo’im surrounding them so that no one can approach them with anything mundane and human.  

Nothing like the stories we were nurtured with about poshute Yidden, the mesiras nefesh of tzaddikim who sought to bring true Yir’as Hashem to the masses.  Nothing like the tzaddikim of yesteryear who did more for their following than just public performances.  

Kavod?!  That’s all it is?!  Someone finally said the truth, pointed out where Lakewood has failed, drew attention to the inconsistency of this with its identity as the Ir Hatorah, and all they can protest is about kavod?!

I am grossly disappointed.  The recovering alcoholic lives by the 12 steps of AA.  Step 10 includes the phrase, “and when we wrong, promptly admitted it”.

There is no doubt that the problem there, as well as in other communities is complex.  Highlighting one factor is a great step forward.  Don’t kill the messenger just because someone points out the fatal flaw of chasing after kavod.  This mecho’oh stuff is not just smelly, but indicates a serious resistance to confront issues.  It’s a disgrace.