by Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn
The Unorthodox Jew blogsite end of January has an article beginning, "Make no mistake, Chassidism is not part of authentic Judaism." In the article all Kabbalists are referred to as non-authentic, as Kabbala is not part of the tradition from Sinai. Thus, the Zohar, Ari z"l are not "authentic." He writes, "there is no known link of mesorah or chain of events, going back to that time, from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoi to the Ari z"l." Chassidim, he maintains, are not authentic Jews, because they rely heavily on Kabbala. He writes that since Kabbala was not at Sinai, this would "eliminate the Zohar or Kabbalah from effectively being part of Judaism."
The author of the blog then proceeds to enlighten us that "Chassidim, have their entire canon (or myths) based entirely on the writings of the Zohar, and the rantings of an unlearned bal agalah or horse and buggy driver, known as the Baal Shem Tov or the Besht. The Besht, being the very first Forest Ranger, hanging out with the animals in the forest and talking to the trees, set a precedent for today's rebbes who hang out in their ghettos with their animals . " Also, "The Vilna Gaon called the Besht a heretic and a lunatic, and considered that movement outside of Judaism. Rabbi Aaron Kotler refused to let Chassidim into Lakewood. When he ultimately relented under great pressure, he forbade them to wear their shtreimels in the bais medrash."
I studied in Lakewood under Reb Aharon Kotler. I remember clearly that his son-in-law, a Chosid, who married his adopted daughter, sat up front of the Beit HaMedrash right in front of Reb Aharon (who sat facing everyone else) wearing Hassidic clothes. I remember clearly seeing Reb Aharon welcome his best friend, the Chassidic Rebbe of Kupishnitz, with such love and affection. This is what I saw. I also heard from reliable sources that Reb Aharon was once asked by a student why he so respected the Kupishnitser Rebbe, and treated him so wondrously. Reb Aharon answered that the purity of this rebbe was what the goal of every Jew is. Everyone knows that the entire Agudas Israel founded by the Chofetz Chaim was filled with Hassidic rebbes such as the Gerrer Rebbe who was very close to the Chofetz Chaim and his disciple Reb Elchonon Wasserman. Reb Elchonon was very close with the Slonimer Rebbe and would go on Shabbos Shalosh Seudose to hear his talks.
Reb Aharon did not let Chassidic students in under pressure. Litvishe Yeshivas in Europe such as Kaminets, with Reb Baruch Ber, had Hassidic students. Reb Baruch Ber was careful to respect these students and their rebbes. He once wrote to a rebbe that he wanted more such students, but the rebbe said that these were all that he had of the caliber to learn by Reb Baruch Ber. This is from the recent book on Reb Baruch Ber HaRavv HaDomeh LiMaloch. Reb Baruch Ber would quote his rebbes, not Hassidic rebbes, but he then would say that he did not quote Hassidic rebbes because he never learned from them, but he respected them. This was meant to encourage the Hassidic students not to be bad that they never heard Hassiduce from Reb Baruch Ber.
We now turn to the issue of Kabbala. The UOJ blog considers it outside of authentic Judaism because it didn't come from Sinai. He considers Kabbala a Hassidic abberation. But this is completely wrong. Reb Aharon Kotler once quoted the Vilna Gaon who compared himself with the Shaagas Aryeh. Both knew the entire Torah by heart. But "he and I in niglo. I and him in Kabbalo." The main effort of the Vilna Gaon was Kabbala. He wrote many books on Kabbala and his students were great Kabbalists, such as Reb Chaim Vollozner. The great Kabbalist Reb Menachem Mendel of Shekelov was a Litvak known as "the third generation from the Gro," because he studied Kabbala under a student of the Gro.
Kabbala is mentioned clearly in the Talmud in masechta Chagiga perek Ain Dorshim. The passages in the Sefer Yechezkel about visions are clearly Kabbalistic. Therefore, at Sinai the revealed and hidden law were revealed to Moshe. In Chagiga we find open study of Kabbala, the maaseh merkovo, the maaseh beraishis, and these are quoted by Rambam in Mishneh Torah. In Rambam's time, before him and after him, there were those who studied Kabbala in the style of the ten Sefiroth and other concepts found in Lurian Kabbala. However, in those days all was hidden. Ramban's Kabbala in his commentary on Chumash is not revealed but only hinted. The Lurian Kabbala, following by only a few years the revelation of Reb Moshe Kardevero, was a public revelation of Kabbala, one that has continued to this day. The Ari z"l lived in Tsefas together with the Radvaz and Rabbi Yosef Karo who were the leading Niglo authorities and poskim in the entire world. The entire community was filled with Torah and great scholars who studied niglo and nistor, and nobody considered the Ari z"l to be outside of the pale. The opposite was true. They all wanted to learn his Kabbala, but he resisted with all of his might, because he only wanted Rabbi Chaim Vital and maybe a tiny group, but the pressure was too much and he had to admit others.
All Orthodox Jews embrace Kabbala. The Sefardim and Taimonim have glorious Kabbala traditions, and even simple people read the Zohar. Lithuanians follow the Gro who was a mighty Kabbalist. Hassidim follow the Besht who was a mighty Kabbalist. All of this is authentic Judaism...
Anger at Torah Leadership
by Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
The Internet is filled with anger at Torah leadership. Recently, some prominent Torah scholars have taken to present their opinions about the Internet, and this simply made things hotter. There is a cycle to the situation. Someone does something or says something that offends certain rabbis. The rabbis respond, and this stokes the fires instead of calming things. There are many Torah Jews on the Internet, but it seems at times that the anger is greater than the love and reverence we expect. Why? What is going on?
I have been angry at the Torah community for a generation. A new type of "gadol" took over after the European greats died. A new kind of Torah Judaism is alive in the world. I hate it. I fought it in my seforim, in brochures and letters to the community, even on the radio. I did this not because I rebel against Gedolim, but because I was very close to them, and they were upset but silent, and I will not be silent.
I once opened my mouth full blast in a shul in Jerusalem in front of a close relative of a great Gadol. He was very puzzled and upset, because I was a talmid of his relative. At first he made faces and mumbled and finally his puzzlement changed to a broad smile. A wise man, he did not tell me directly why he now understood. He hinted from a Torah peshat on Chumash that Shimon and Levi did what Yaacov wanted done, even though it was a horrible thing to do. I don't say that this is what I meant, but my point is that he realized I was saying what great people could not. If they would say it the world would come to an end. If I say it, whoever wants to listen, fine, and if not, no damage is done.
What do I hate? Here is a list:
2500 girls aged 25 on a Shadchon's list. Other shadchonim won't take a girl because it is a waste of his time.
A bas talmid chochom is rejected, by the Rosh Yeshiva's "daas Torah" in favor of a rich baal habos. The Shulchan Aruch quotes the gemora that one must sell everything to marry a bas Talmid Chochom.
A girl is taught to marry a great scholar, but the great scholar's rebbe tells him to marry someone rich.
Everyone must be a gadol. Whoever works is a failure. The gemora and Shulchan Aruch say just the opposite.
Everyone must take after marriage and not earn. Rambam, Rabbeinu Yona and Rashi say that if you take you have no Olam Habo.
Parents ready to retire must fork over fortunes to support the "jewel" who learns and doesn't work. "Everyone" must go to kollel, which is against the Shulchan Aruch and destroys many men, their working wives, and children who have no mother. It also destroys the desperate parents who have to pay sometimes by selling their homes.
This spiritual sewage produces no gedolim. But it gets worse and worse.
Learn, don't work, and take government programs. This again is a violation of the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch.
The Talmud says, "A child not taught to earn will be a thief." Do we just say rip off the parents and trust in HaShem? What happens then?
The divorce situation is a disaster, and will surely lead to mamzerut. But there is nobody to talk to about it.
Kashruth for a baal nefesh will end in a few years due to genetic engineering and the absence of mirsas in global food companies. Nobody cares....... ( mirsas is defined as fear of getting caught by inspectors for using non-kosher products -since the vast majority of food and chemical companies do not have mashgichim t'midim- or supervisors on the premises at all-UOJ)
Family and marriage are torn to shreds by "daas Torah."
There are many people out there who don't articulate things this way, but they are getting angrier all of the time.
The Torah world is a can of gasoline, and I want to throw in the match.
Rav Eidensohn has written seforim with haskomos from Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, and Rav Wosner. He learned with Rav Ahron Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and other undisputed gedolei Torah.