Thursday, August 03, 2006


Published With Permission


I was thinking about writing the following for a while and, trust me, it has nothing to do with Tuvya. I know what his agenda is. I believe that it is my responsibility as a person committed to truth to air my thoughts. I hope that you will take my comments in the way that they are intended to be delivered. Please bear with me as this may be long.

The work that you have done to fight molesters is commendable. We need change and parents need to step up to the plate. I don't know if it will ever happen, but I am trying.

I am constantly bothered, though, by the following on your blog (this will not be new to you) and would appreciate a heartfelt response in a non-UOJ manner:

Ridicule of chachomim such as Rav Kaduri, The Baal Shem Tov, others and Kabbalah in general. I did not grow up in a world of Chassidus. Viewing the culture from the outside, it is certainly different than what I am accustomed to. However, some time ago I took up a serious study of Chassidus and Kabbalah in general - both from Jewish and historical sources. My thoughts and views have evolved since then. The Baal Shem Tov was a great leader. We do not know whether some of the stories are true or not, but we do know that his main talmid was the Maggid, a Talmid of the Pnei Yehoshua - a man of great organizational ability. He was a "Litvak" and fell for the Baal Shem. Many other learned individuals did as well. The Baal HaTanya was a major Talmid Chocom who compiled the Shulchan Aruch HaRav - a work of great accomplishment. True, the Gra had many issues with Chassidus - a big theological issue was the machlokes on "tzimtzum" with the Gra rejecting the Chassidic view as heretical and refusing to meet the Baal HaTanya. Also, there were chassidim who engaged in activities that were not sanctioned by their leaders. It is important to note that R' Chaim of Volozhin had a much softer attitude towards chassidim though his Nefesh Hachaim answered the philosophical and kabalistic approach offered by the Baal HaTanya.

One of the points of chassidus that you should like is that it was for the common folk - the leaders understood the people. There was a warmth and closeness that they didn't feel previously. Perhaps some of this is overstated by modern day historians, but apparently the common folk welcomed the movement with open arms. One of the fears that the Misnagdim had was that too much faith in one individual would be harmful. Perhaps we have seen this materialize to some degree today both in the chassidic and Yeshiva world. This doesn't de-legitimize the movement though.

Another point is that Kabbalah predated chassidus and stands independently of the movement. Putting aside the mystical element of Kabbalah, the core of kabbalah deals with the inner meaning of life and Yahadus. Pick up the Sefer Tomer Devorah by the Ramak in which he discusses how to emulate Hashem's thirteen midos. The kabbalists, through a deep understanding of the inner workings of the universe and cosmic reality, strived for a more meaningful existence.

How does this relate to the issue of molestation? Kabbalah discusses the soul, the neshama, at length. When I view the destruction of the soul that the molesters cause to the innocent victims, it causes me much pain. Our connection to G-D is through the soul - spirituality - and the molesters rob our innocent children of their spiritual nourishment. It goes without saying that these poor children are robbed of their emotional and physical growth as well.

It hurts when you disparage Rav Kaduri, etc. I was personally blessed by him and it was an unbelievable experience for me. I am not a big "bracha" person at all - believe me - but being in the presence of these great Tzadikim whose lives are pure, elevated and sanctified is very special indeed. We are not talking about Rabbonim who Chas V'Sholom would cover and enable for child molesters.

You have ridiculed other Rabbonim: I have no problem whatsoever publicly exposing any Rabbi who is complicit in covering up crimes against our children. You know that. But printing a list of "A, B and C Rabbonim was in poor taste - some names even made the list because of relatively minor indiscretions.

I do not believe that commenters using names of individuals (obviously phony aliases) should be allowed. While we all enjoy a quick laugh, it causes embarrassment. This is contradictory in nature to your goal of defending the innocent and weakest amongst us.

Rav Elchonon - Too harsh, even if there is some truth. I understand your disappointment and disillusionment. I really do. But think how Hashem would judge Rav Elchonon. This is what I referred to with the Sefer Tomer Devorah. Mah Hu Chanum... The ability of the kabbalists to try and reach almost G-Dly levels is amazing and, I think that it is important to consider that this is our purpose to judge compassionately even as we deal with all this disappointment, etc.

Language, etc.: Inappropriate language and humor should not be allowed. I understand that there is frustration out there and much of it is well-founded, but as mature adults we need to express ourselves a bit differently in a public forum - just as forcefully, but with different language.

I have written the above because I believe that you are very well-meaning and because I feel that I have gotten to know you a bit. It seems that you do your thing, but I really hope you will consider my words. Your blog would be just as effective and hard hitting without all of the extras that I have pointed out. What you have done is incredible, but, in my opinion, wrong is wrong. My points have nothing to do with the molestation issue. I believe that you are right on and have been correct on all your outings and have even shown tremendous restraint with Yeshivas such as Gerer and YOB.

All the best,

Eli Greenwald

I respectfully encourage readers from all walks of life and beliefs to comment on Eli's thoughts.