Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Kahane stood for the idea of not accepting the status quo, of not swallowing "the wisdom” of being quiet and waiting for the great people who will maybe, perhaps, be able to do something behind the scenes if they are given enough kovod and endless time....

Why They hated Rav Kahane: Some truths are too Harsh

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of having my article “No, Rabbi Kahane was not a Racist” published in the Jewish press.  In that article, I argued that not only was Rav Meir Kahane הי"ד not a racist, but certainly the leaders of Otzma Yehudit, whose platform is far milder than some of the more controversial things Rav Kahane said, are not racist, the Supreme Court of Israel notwithstanding.  I received several comments which I would like to respond to.  In particular, some asked me to explain why I thought it was important to defend Rav Kahane’s reputation, given that the vast majority of the Jewish world, both left and right, religious and secular, rejected him and his views.

I want to begin by referencing an insight of Dr. AJ Heschel (probably not a Kahane fan) in “A Passion for Truth,” his treatment of the holy Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (and, lehavdil Søren Kierkegaard).  In introducing him, he said that the extreme, total and unforgiving passion for truth by the Kotzker was too much for almost everyone, who could not live with that standard of absolute rejection of anything not absolutely true, given the weaknesses and foibles of most humans.  Because of this, the Kotzker could not tolerate most people and they could not tolerate him, and he ended up spending many years towards the end of his life locked up in a room in solitude.  Nevertheless remains a vital and important influence in this:  anyone who studied his teachings, and heard of his stories in any serious way, will never be able to allow his ego to grow too large – the memory of the Kotzker and what an authentic man of truth he was serves as instant needle to prick the balloon of any overblown sense of self, and make one realize what a flawed, incomplete and pitiful creature one really is.

That quote has stayed with me and haunted me often throughout the years.

I start with this as a way of talking about what Rav Kahane meant to me and continues to mean for so many people.  He was fearless and extreme; he seemed to care not a whit what people thought of him. He was deeply insightful, and he spoke and stood for many truths that so many deep down agreed with, but were afraid to say openly. (This has been amply documented). And while they were either afraid to stand with him, or felt that pragmatically the time was not right for his message, they appreciate that – like a lighthouse – he was there shining the light of truth, which may have been too powerful for others.  He was there to remind us that political correctness and social veneer was hiding a large deep and dangerous reality – that liberal Judaism and the secular Zionists and the intellectual elites were, literally, spiritually killing many  more Jews than Hitler ימ"ו ever did (a fate arguably worse than death) and that we lemmings are too nice and polite and genteel to protest or do anything about it.

He initially gained fame by starting the Jewish Defense League and defending Jews who no one stood up for. But his main contribution was not that Jews should defend themselves -- he was far from the only one who advocated this (Jabotinsky, the partisans, Abba Kovner, Menachem Begin and many others come to mind). His main ideology – his Raayon HaYehudi – was that Jews should have pride in who they are, and stand up for themselves and unabashedly stand for Torah values and our rights.  That the time of cowering before the Goyim was over.  That we should no longer be held back worrying about “it’s a Shanda – what will the goyim/elitists/intellectuals/opinion-makers/establishment politicians/etc. say!”.   It is time that we were no longer afraid to stand up for who we are, without apologies.   And that message is crucially important.

His first – and probably most important – book, “Never Again,” was most understood. I remember hearing a mussar schmooze from one of my Rabbeim in my yeshiva days. In which he exclaimed, “Never Again is Apikorsus!”  Who are we to think that we can shout that!  Our fate is in the hands of the Ribbon Shel Olam – Does Kahane think he could have prevented the Holocaust?”   

Of course, this just proved that said Rebbi, LIKE VIRTUALLY ALL of Kahane’s critics, didn’t bother actually listening to him or reading his words, but rejected the soundbite out of hand as מוקצה מחמת מיאוס.    He said no such thing in the book.   What he argued was that the AMERICAN Jewish establishment, with rare exception, was guilty of doing virtually nothing to get Roosevelt to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz, to allow the St. Louis and Sturma to come in, or to otherwise help save what could be saved. Too enamored of the Rasha Stephen Wise and his cohort who assisted Roosevelt in doing virtually nothing for the Jews.  Too frightened of being seen as worried about their own parochial interests, at the expense of the larger war effort. Too worried about “What the goyim would say.”

Kahane stood for the idea of not accepting the status quo, of not swallowing "the wisdom” of being quiet and waiting for the great people who will maybe, perhaps, be able to do something behind the scenes if they are given enough kovod and endless time.

And so it was with his “Why Be Jewish,” an incredibly effective reflection on the question of why should a typical American Jew Bernie should not chase after Bridget, given the Judaism that most Reform/Conservative/secular and many Orthodox young Jews are presented with. (It included the best chapter title ever – “Artists, Intellectuals, and Imbeciles”).

Kahane stood for the idea of not accepting the status quo, of not swallowing "the wisdom” of being quiet and waiting for the great people who will maybe perhaps be able to do something behind the scenes if they are given enough kovod and endless time.  He knew that Jews needed to be defended – NOW.  He knew that the time to save the remnant of Soviet Jewry was NOW, not in another thirty years when nothing would be left.  He knew that Israel had to stand up for itself – NOW.

Kahane was not a rabble-rouser who was just interested in making trouble, (although unfortunately, he did attract followers who were that type whom he was not always able to keep in line.)  He was a deeply devout Jew, a serious Talmid Chochom, who loved other Jews with every fiber of his being, perhaps to a fault, and could not stand what was being done to them, most often by their fellow Jews.  He hated how the leaders of reform and conservative and some orthodox were ripping out the neshama of young Jews.  He hated what the Israeli government had done to Yemenite Jews, and Yaldei Teheran and so many Sephardic Jews – his real connection and understanding of their pain was a great source of his political base in Israel.  Kahane was about waking up the sleeping Jews, and asking “Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews.”   He wanted to get us out of our apathy and laziness and irresponsibility and stand up for other Jews.

Later, in Israel, he became consumed with the Arab question, and wrote “They Must Go”, in which he detailed his plan to bring about a transfer of the Arab population out of Israel, while paying them compensation, except for those who were willing to become a loyal minority (more than had been offered to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had been forcibly evicted from Arab countries in 1948).   

Was he right about the need to get rid of all Arabs in Israel?   I don’t know.  As I write this, three pleasant Arab women are cleaning my house downstairs.  We talk to each other and exchange pleasantries.   I am not worried that they will do anything to my family or me. I know, and they know, that they have it good in Israel compared to any of the neighboring countries.  They are not like the Arabs of East Jerusalem and towns in Yehuda and Shomron, whom I would be very wary of allowing in my home, raised and fed as they are on hatred and incitement.   I do agree with the stated position of Otzma, who stand for the banishing of all Arabs who are proven disloyal enemies of Israel but allowing those who desire to live in peace to stay, although they do pose some degree of danger.

Many, many in Israel saw him as a voice of truth, of standing up to the pie in the sky starry-eyed dreamers who gave us Oslo and peace plans that brought intifadas, and who gave back the Har Habayit to the waqf for NOTHING, and who were too busy worrying about what the goyim in the UN will say to allow Israeli soldiers to defend themselves and us properly.   Many say that if we had listened to him, then many of today’s problems would have been obviated.

Why was he so rejected?   Why did the Knesset routinely walk out on him?  Partially because they hated him for pointing out the truth.  Even more so, because it was easier to pursue the ultimately successful course of ostracizing him to the point that he would be disqualified from the Knesset on the pretext that he was a racist.   He was predicted to get up to 10 seats in the next election; they joined forces to take him out of the game.

I do want to publicize what he once told me personally on one of the very few times that I had the privilege of speaking with him.  I attended a talk that he gave for yeshiva bachurim in Yerushalayim.  After his very stirring remarks, I came to him and asked, “Everything you say sounds true and persuasive, but as far as I know, none of the Gedolim agree with you or your Derech – is that not a problem?”

He said, “First of all, many of them do agree with me privately, but for one reason or another will not say so publicly.”  (see list cited above).  “But more importantly, it is true that we have Gedolim today, but we do not have Manhigim.   They speak out, but only reactively, never with a proactive approach to anything outside the limited concerns of the frum community.  Given that they refuse to lead, במקום שאין אנשים, השתדל להיות איש (When there is no man who will stand up, you be that man - Avos 2:5) .  That is why I do what I do.”

In summary, he was a unique and great person.   He was a fearless leader who taught true pride in Judaism, the Torah, and the Jewish people.   He believed, as I do with all my heart, that we are living in a new time when the old excesses of the Golus are over, and it is time for the Jewish people to proudly assert themselves.  In Israel, they continue to slander him and his supporters – what the Supreme Court did to Dr. Ben Ari, while allowing rabid haters of Jews to sit in the Knesset is unconscionable – but the truth will ultimately prevail.

In closing, I was given great hope by a Bris Mila that took place recently, after Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva Achiad Ettinger was killed by a terrorist a week ago outside Shiloh.  After fatally stabbing IDF Sgt. Gal Keidan at the Ariel Junction, the accursed degenerate grabbed Keidan’s gun and opened fire at passing vehicles, hitting Rabbi Ettinger. Rather than fleeing, the father of 12 turned his car around, and pursued the terrorist. When Rav Achiad saw the cretin pointing his gun at more innocents, including a pregnant woman, Rav Achiad drew his gun and started shooting at the villain, who turned and shot and Rav Achiad Ettinger, instead of the woman.

The next day Rav Achiad succumbed to his wounds and died. The same day the pregnant woman who he saved gave birth to a baby boy. The other day was the Brit of the baby, and the sandak was Rav Achiad’s son. He was also given the honor of naming the new baby after his father who was murdered while saving the baby. You can watch the bris at https://tinyurl.com/achiad-brit

I found it particularly moving when he read the verse from Yechezkel 16:6
וָאֶעֱבֹר עָלַיִךְ וָאֶרְאֵךְ מִתְבּוֹסֶסֶת בְּדָמָיִךְ וָאֹמַר לָךְ בְּדָמַיִךְ חֲיִי וָאֹמַר לָךְ בְּדָמַיִךְ חֲיִי

And I passed by you and saw you downtrodden with your blood, and I said to you, 'With your blood, live,' and I said to you, 'With your blood, live.'

The blood of the martyr with the blood of the covenant.

מִי כְּעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל גּוֹי אֶחָד בָּאָרֶץ

“Who compares to the nation of Israel ...the unique nation of the world” 
(Shabbat Mincha prayer)

Am Yisrael Chai!!