Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"...I accuse the very great rabbis, the leaders of our people, because of internal strife..."

February 16, 1923 - Rosh Chodesh Adar 5683 Edition


The following article appeared eighty seven years ago, February 16, 1923, in "Dos Yiddish Licht", founded by the saintly Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz zt"l for the purpose of strengthening the observance of mitzvos, and to arouse the public concerning kashrut of foods, which at that time was very neglected, and sadly is not any better in our day and age.

The author was the great gaon and tzaddik, the "Shlucha D'Rachmona" of his generation, the "architect" of true Torah values in America, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz zt"l, the founder of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Torah U'Mesorah.

(Translated from the Yiddish above)

"And if I say: I will not make mention of him nor speak anymore in his name then there is in my heart a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I weary myself to hold it in, but cannot" (Jeremiah. 20:9)

I use the above prophetic words as a preface to my article concerning kashrus, because this article will not bring honor to me. On the contrary, I will be attacked with ridicule from all sides. But what can I do? A fire is burning within me, and within a thousand Jews like me... A fire, which cannot be extinguished.

The kashrus question has recently been discussed in the Yiddish press, but only one side of the question, viz. concerning the unscrupulous butchers who sell treifos without a hechsher or with a false one. The press has remained silent, however, concerning the second side of the question, about the treifos being sold under rabbinical supervision and under rabbinical signs in butcher shops.

The press is silent about this problem, perhaps because of the honor of the rabbis, or, perhaps, because of other reasons. The honor of the rabbis is dear to me too. But, the honor of the Torah which is lying in the garbage, and the honor of the truth, which is trodden under foot, are dearer to me. Where there is chillul Hashem we do not impart honor to a rabbi, I, therefore come forward with an accusation.

I Accuse!

I accuse many rabbis, who grant hechsherim, who knowingly or otherwise, or out of neglect, permit non-kosher meat to be sold under their stamp of approval both wholesale and retail; the seller is an unscrupulous person with Torah sanction.

I accuse many rabbis, who although they themselves have no part in the hechsherim, nevertheless, know about them and still remain silent. There is a sort of mutual reciprocal agreement to keep quiet about each other's false hechserim. Perhaps it is because they wish to avoid chillul Hashem. They forget, however, that where there is chillul Hashem we do not impart honor to a rabbi.

I accuse the very great rabbis, the leaders of our people, because of internal strife. These disputes are not for the sake of Heaven; if one says that something is prohibited the other must say it is permissible, if one says something is contaminated the other must say it is pure. It is impossible to bring order to the chaotic kashrus situation, especially the chicken and meat markets.

I accuse
the rabbis because of whose negligence; the laws of chalav akum have virtually been forgotten. I know that there various heterim for this, but they apply only when it is impossible to get chalav Yisrael. In our situation, however, with a little effort, order could be brought to this chaos, and "if one can be good, why should he be bad?"

I accuse our Orthodoxy, for sleeping the sleep of Choni Ha'maagil, who slept seventy years. They are completely unaware of what is happening around them and how our strongest ramparts are being smashed by our internal foes. They are unaware that all our holy traditions are being trampled underfoot, that our three thousand year old heritage has all but completely disappeared. Yet, Orthodoxy sleeps, but how much longer?

Do you know that all of the fortresses of Judaism, which have heretofore protected us from destruction, the only one left is kashrus, that other mitzvos are observed very laxly even in Orthodox homes? And now kashrus too is being smashed, yet we sleep, but how much longer?

Don't you see what has become of your youth? Don't you know that Jewish children have become tramps, gamblers, gangsters, candidates for the electric chair, and all kinds of "ISTS", only because they have been raised on neveilos and treifos, yet you sleep, but how much longer?

Don't you know that going to the mikvah every day to purify yourself will be to no avail? Not even all the waters in the world can help, not with sheretz tamei (a carcass of a creeping thing) in your hand, but inside of you! And when you daven every morning and evening, or when you learn your daily shiur, don't you know that the breath that emanates from your mouth is the breath of sin because it reeks of neveilos and treifos!? Yet you sleep, but how much longer?

When you wash your hands for bread, or when you make Kiddush on Shabbos, and your table is bedecked with all sorts of delicacies, and you say with each bite, in honor of the Shabbos, you are angering Hashem when you break bread. Yet you sleep, but how much longer?

I know that you will reply, "Jacob is small and poor" But look what Jacob's brother on East Broadway has accomplished, how he erected a fortress through the poor laborers, a fortress against Judaism, because he has united forces. Yet you sleep and do nothing, but how much longer?

Gentlemen! Do a little soul searching and see how far you have strayed; remember that our parents have sacrificed their lives for kiddush Hashem; they allowed themselves to be burned in order to uphold our holy Torah, whereas you are not required to make any sacrifices; with but a handful you can save the situation. Yet you sleep, but how much longer?

Fellow Jews, have you no fear for the great and terrible Day of Judgment? In that day you will no longer be able to come up with excuses or with a shrug of the shoulder.

And I ask you "how much longer?" And I say, "you sleepers, awaken from your slumber!"

Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz