THE UOJ ARCHIVES - FEBRUARY 2007.
In light of Mishpacha's recent article about why our kids are leaving the fold, I think this is a worthy and "timeless" repost.
I want to thank Rabbi Eidensohn once again for taking the time to attempt to correct my views on the meaning of Torah-true Judaism.
I do assume dear Rabbi, that the reason I have not heard from you in the past two years since I began my career as a Blogger, is because you do agree with everything else I have written since March 2005. That's quite flattering.
Now that we got that out of the way, I will proceed in a serious manner. For the sake of some of my detractors, I want to be able to demonstrate that I am capable of respecting rabbinic figures in positions of authority, when indeed those rabbis have earned my respect.
It would be foolhardy of me to attempt to match my Torah knowledge with someone of your stature, although I'm confident I am capable of holding my own. I can , however, match Gedolim stories with you, and perhaps tell you a few that you are not aware of. Perhaps.
I have a very diverse audience. There are clergy-people of every faith, a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Superior Court judges, yeshiva-leit, attorneys, bankers, doctors, journalists, an adviser to President Bush, college professors, roshei yeshiva...not to forget leitzonim (clowns), and everyone else, that I am expected to entertain at no charge. They do not come to UOJ for Gedolim stories, they come here for an unorthodox presentation of the ugly, in your face, rude & crude truth! So here goes! (With respect!)
The crux of my post on "Chassid"ism" is not Judaism", is entirely different than your well-intended interpretation of those words. I did not certainly mean to imply, as you seem to infer, that Chassidim are not Jews. I certainly did not say that Kabbalists are not Jews. As, I would never say or even think for a second, that a Reform Jew is not a Jew, or that our totally secular brothers and sisters are not Jews. Our Halacha clearly states that "anyone born to a Jewish mother is a Jew". That includes "Jews For Jesus", members of the "Kabbalah Center", and even members of the "Moon" sect, that were born to a Jewish mother.
But the facts actually speak for themselves. The "Zohar" was not an evolutionary work that began with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai as the "Ari" claimed it was. Of course there are references in the Talmud to kaballah, spirituality, mystical happenings, and aggadata, or stories that were passed down through the ages, I have not said otherwise.
But I am looking for Mesorah, actual references to "Kaballah /Zohar" as a body of work that was incorporated into Judaism at the time of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and there are none.
What we call today Chassidim, are by definition followers of the Besht or Baal Shem Tov. His teachings, perhaps, had purpose at the time. It was able to bring into his sphere of influence a simplified, watered-down Judaism, for "simple" Jews, that were incapable of grasping the learnings of the Talmud. That, I'm certain, was a good thing, supposing that it did not conflict with true Torah values. Serving God by singing was in fact something new to Judaism at that time. I do not have a problem with that form of prayer, provided it also included the traditional prayers of the Jews that were formulated after the destruction of our Bais Hamikdash, by Chazal.
I have no doubt that the great Rav Ahron Kotler embraced many Chassidic Rebbes. Are you therefore implying that because of an embrace out of ahavas Yisroel, his love for a fellow Jew, that implied he endorsed their philosophies? How would you respond to a photo of Rav Ahron Kotler embracing the great gaon Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik? Would you therefore claim he endorsed his great thoughts, philosophies and writings?
After giving a shiur in Tanya, the writings of the Lubavitch Rebbe referred to as the Baal Hatanya, the saintly Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, the founder of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Torah Umesorah, was asked by a student; "Rebbe, are you a Lubavitch Chasid?" (a follower of the Lubavitch movement), his answer was clear and precise , "I am a chasid of the Ribono Shel Olam". (a follower of Hashem)
We need to remember that once we start including additional works of rabbis into our Canon, or the original Torah that was given to us at Sinai, where and when does it end? Would you then claim the works and the writings of the Rambam as significant as the Prophets? How then would you explain that many of the Rambam's writings were burned, and he was excommunicated by many contemporary rabbis for being a heretic?
Would you also then claim dear Rabbi, that the works of the great gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein to be as significant in terms of being able to dispute them, as the Shulchan Aruch? ( The body of law written by R' Yosef Caro accepted by Orthodox Jews as the embodiment of the Torah law)
So there is a huge difference in what is "authentic, original Sinai Judaism" and the add-ons that came later for whatever certain rabbis may have deemed worthwhile at the time.
That leads me to another favorite saying of mine. "There are happenings, doings/actions, successes by people that are timely, and than there are the ones that are timeless!
What the great Rabbi Kotler did for Judaism after the war was "timely", what the saintly Rabbi Mendlowitz did for American Judaism was "timeless".
The era of recruiting every single male into a lifetime of Torah study is over. It was perhaps desperately needed post-war for twenty years or so, perhaps, but certainly that is an idea that is now devastating Jews. Time to bury it quickly before the damage becomes irreparable! Entire families are being destroyed!
The original intent of kollel was for the select precious few that were able to carry forth the Torah to our next generation with the utmost integrity. Kollel is for our select few mitzuyonim or excellent students. Excellence in mind, in middos, and character, with purity of heart and soul. Those people only deserve our communal support, not the other 95% with average, at best, abilities, or for most, just a place to hang out after the wedding.
What Rabbi Mendlowitz did for American Judaism is "timeless"! A day school in every major American city was his dream that was fullfilled under the leadership of one very great man, the college educated, Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky. When Elya Svei and Shea Fishman took over, Torah Umesorah died for all intents and purposes! In its present form, he would have shut it down.
The great visionary Rabbi Mendlowitz strongly felt that Judaism in America can not survive without ample parnassah; was as "timeless" when he lived , as it is today, and will be until the end of time. Make no mistake about it, had he lived longer, there would have been a full-fledged state chartered yeshiva college and a trade school under the auspices of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. Prior to his untimely death, Rav Hutner, at his behest, had handled the application and approval process. This is not story, this is verifiable fact.
DON'T BELIEVE ANYONE THAT SAYS OTHERWISE!
Each child would have been educated and put on a learning path for their individual needs and abilities. There would not have been mass herding of children into educational programs that were unsuited for them. He worked for God, his business was owned by God, and every breathing second of his short life was dedicated to benefit Klal Yisroel and Hashem. He did NOT leave Torah Vodaath to his progeny; there were more qualified people to lead the yeshiva. THIS WAS HASHEM'S YESHIVA, and he was only God's clerk!
What is very telling is what you chose not to disagree with. The Christian concepts of the Rebbe as an intermediary between Jews and God; and Gedolim infallibilty as an integral part of our Mesorah, is something I would want to hear your opinion on.
The evidence however is clear. The Rebbes and "infallible" Rabbis are comitting crimes under the guise of Mesorah. According to them, "one must never question their behavior or decisions, period, leave your brains at the door"! That is something that must never be tolerated under any circumstances. We do not live under the Czars, the Romans, and other hostile governing powers that we must be concerned that ALL of our affairs, whether we know what we're doing or not, must be totally controlled by rabbis. This is what killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, perhaps millions, since we became a People, and came really close to destroying all of Judaism.
I clearly, unequivocally, and respectfully disagree with Rav Hershel Schachter's opinion that "where" a criminal perpertrator is incarcerated, is a consideration that must be addressed before one goes to the police. A crime such as child molestation, that destroys our childrens' well-being, physical as well as emotional, must be reported to the police promptly without any other consideration, certainly without asking a rabbi that probably has an inherent conflict of interest.
The huge philosophical problem that I'm having is the inverse relationship that is taking place in the Torah world. What one must expect and demand; that the more Torah in our society, the more piety and Torah values should be increasing as well. The exact opposite is what's happening! The more Torah being learned, the more Torah centers going up, the more crime in one form or another, is transpiring in these very centers. The Torah is NOT being internalized, it became a subject to study, the very antithesis of what R' Ahron and R' Shraga Feivel had in mind!
Dear Rabbi Eidensohn, you are a very brave man for coming here. The Agudah really thought that I expected them to invite me to speak at their Convention. They are afraid of their own shadows. Yes, I asked for an invitation, challenging them to do the very thing that they did. They devoted the theme of their Convention to this dangerous phenomena called blogging/Internet. Not the avlas/crimes going on with their tacit approval, but a "maaseh Satan" who uncovered them for the criminals/incompetents/ impotent fools that they are. Then, of course, comes the coverup and tortuous twisting of the English language.
So we have a difference of opinion on this and that, Rabbi. You value certain channels of information, stories, that I gave up on a long time ago, when they consistently did not hold up under scrutiny. You use the Internet to communicate your thoughts, kol-hakovod. I would much rather focus on what we do agree on.
The Jewish people are a great People, but we are floundering and destroying ourselves with criminal and frivolous behavior. The "Kabballah Movement" is a fraud, the works of the Zohar are not the learnings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and have perhaps as much value to Jews as the Tanya, the Mesilas Yeshorim and the Michtav M'Eliyahu. They are works that tantalize the mind, and challenge, if studied correctly, the intelligent minds. Mesorah? I don't think so.
Chassidic movements today, regardless of the value it may or may not have had at the time of the Besht, are for the most part today, meaningless to Jews of intellect. The Rebbe today is a fraud capitalizing on the very essence of human weakness. Look around, save some good chesed organizations, the rest of it is like rotten stinking meat. The smartest of the chassidic kids are leaving physically, and much of the rest are trapped, and have left emotionally. But the chassidim are Jews, certainly not ones that we should be proud of.
If this is what the Besht had in mind for his followers, he should be considered as very much the danger that Shabbtai Tzvi was in his reign of ignorance and confusion. I could care less about certain groups that find comfort in ancient myths created by charismatic storytellers. As long as they do not violate the basic tenets of Judaism perhaps there is a value ; I frankly am concerned about people spending their precious time on frivolous acts in the name of Torah.
I do not really have much to add about the behavior of the present-day Rebbes and their chassidim. I have mocked the movement to the point of painting them as ignorant, vile, obscene cartoon characters, except that Mickey Mouse did not claim to be an intermediary to God for his Mouseketeers. That's when people start killing /maiming other people in the name of God and Halacha. Certainly not part of my Mesorah!
Hopefully, other concerned and honest rabbis like yourself, will join together and give us hope that there is a future for Jews that crave for honest rabbis and authentic, Torah-true Judaism.
May you be blessed with kol-tuv; the strength and wisdom of our previous Torah giants, and the desire to continue where they left off . We want to be delivered back to the time when we were surrounded by ehrliche rabbonim and true yirei Hashem that deserve our respect.
Your successes would then be "timeless".