Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director







Opinion & Comment
Chief Rabbi Sacks Must Decide
by Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein

While in Israel the Orthodox communities are organizing for what former MK Moshe Gafni described as "Preparation to launch an all-out war against the de facto recognition of Reform and Conservative," in other Orthodox communities throughout the world, compromises are being sought in the interest of "harmony" among various Jewish factions. In Israel this is properly recognized as an issue that touches on the preservation of Torah itself.

It is the old struggle, already discussed over 140 years ago by HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, between truth and peace. Peace is extremely important and we must sacrifice whatever we have for it, wrote HaRav Hirsch, but the truth is not ours to offer. We cannot win peace at the expense of truth.

It is always important, as the London Beis Din says, to minimize tensions in the community and to encourage unity. We definitely feel that all Jews are our brethren, and are deeply concerned about all aspects of their welfare. One indication of this, certainly from our perspective, is the tremendous effort we invest in trying to communicate the sweetness and goodness of Torah to those who have not had the opportunity to see it for themselves. Our arms and hearts are constantly open to our brothers and sisters.

However, our love and concern for all our fellow Jews does not necessitate that we compromise the principles of Torah. The only reasonable way we have of preserving ourselves and helping others is by guarding the fundamentals of Torah, which has preserved us through our long golus in the face of many difficult obstacles.

The sterility and futility of attempts to foster artificial unity among the Orthodox, Torah-committed Jews and the Reform and Conservative who deny Torah is clearly evident in the American experience. The gedolim all prohibited participation in organizations such as the New York Board of Rabbis and the Synagogue Council of America. The latter eventually just folded up a few years ago, and the former has borne no fruit. It has done nothing at all for American Jewry.

Therefore it behooves us to understand the motives of the lay leadership of the United Synagogue in England in attempting to create a joint platform with the Reform, Liberal and Masorati groups there. The United Synagogue was always the guardian of Orthodox Jewish tradition in England, guided by a beis din manned by gedolei Yisroel including such Torah giants as HaRav Yechezkel Abramski, zt'l. The Chief Rabbi was always the public spokesman for the community according to the rulings of the Beis Din.

It is therefore paradoxical that the lay leadership of the United Synagogue should come to any agreements with heretical groups without even consulting its own Beis Din, which is so clearly against any agreements.

Most upsetting too is the position of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In a letter dated November 16 of this year, Rabbi Sacks made it quite clear that he supports the agreement. He writes: ". . . I welcome the agreement signed by the lay leaders of four communal bodies to promote more harmonious relationships in Anglo-Jewry." Rabbi Sacks used "darkhei shalom" as his answer in Jewish law to justify his position.

It is our opinion and that of many Orthodox leaders in England that I have spoken with, that Mr. Elkan Levy, president of the United Synagogue who actually signed on the agreement, did so in consultation with Rabbi Sacks. Nonetheless, this cannot exempt Mr. Levy from his share of the responsibility. Still, at this time it is certainly Rabbi Sacks who has the authority and the responsibility to stop the agreement.

What is also upsetting is the fact that Rabbi Sacks has taken a public position on a controversial issue which is a matter of Jewish law (as he admits in his letter), without consulting with the London Beis Din which is the final authority on halachic matters for the United Synagogue.

It is beyond the scope of the article to discuss the details of the agreement drafted in London, and it is not really important. The agreement itself legitimizes other forms of "Judaism" which do not recognize the Torah as the word of Hashem and as the only authority, and therefore it is essentially not acceptable. There is absolutely no possibility of any type of dialogue or discussion in this matter.

The bitter experience of the United States should have taught the English some lessons about the destruction that such unwarranted cooperation brings.

As I prepare these lines, it is not clear whether the United Synagogue leadership has retracted its plans. What is clear is that the British rabbinical establishment will not allow any compromise. The plan must be completely scrapped. There can be no religious cooperation or recognition of people who do not accept Torah miSinai as their guiding principle. United Synagogue must decide whether it wants to continue its glorious tradition or to be discredited by the Orthodox community.

I conclude with my brocho of chazak ve'ematz to the London Beis Din and the rabbinical authorities of England who have taken a strong position to preserve true Judaism in Europe. The obligation is now on Rabbi Sacks to cancel the whole agreement and allow the Torah authorities to decide all halachic matters.

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