Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Shevat 5762 - January 30, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Luchos and the Broken Luchos are in The Oron -- Part III: You Need Daas Torah to Start a War

A hesped on Rav Shach ztv"l given on the shloshim by Rav Zvi Friedman shlita

Though a true hesped for Maran HaRav Shach, zt"l, this is a work of hashkofoh in its own right.

The first part of this work discussed the necessity of the chareidi community living and acting alone, without the possibility of being influenced by other communities whose lifestyle is based on principles that are hostile to Torah life. "Once during the Holocaust the Rabbinate [in Israel] organized a prayer meeting together with chareidi groups and, despite the severity of the situation, the Chazon Ish held that the chareidim should not join but should pray only on their own, since the foundation of our existence is absolute segregation."

The second part describe the threat that the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l saw in the Lubavitch movement, of importing foreign values deep into the chareidi community. Fearing that this could be a mortal danger for Judaism, the Rosh Yeshiva courageously "broke the luchos" and set up separate institutions for the bnei Torah world. Yet the principle of isolation only means that we do not see ourselves as sharing values with the secular; we still feel a bond and are concerned about their welfare both physical and spiritual.

We have already explained that someone who sits and learns Torah all day wrapped up in tallis and tefillin of Rashi and Rabbenu Tam is not yet within the category of being "chareidi," even if he does his best to observe rare mitzvos such as pidyon peter chamor. A "chareidi" is someone for whom the secular public is not part of the historical Am Yisroel and he dissociates and segregates himself totally from secular and wishy-washy circles. He feels no connection to their actions and deeds and finds no common ground with them on topics of religion, culture, and so on.

The public which Shas is comprised of, is not "chareidi." In it you will find two brothers with a warm, friendly relationship, the one religious, the other secular. They hug each other at family simchos. Both consider each other legitimate, religion being an important ingredient of life, but not "everything," since there are also "interpersonal" "family" values of "brotherly love." They also do not consider the secular to have the total destruction of religion as their aim, and treat them as precious brothers with whom it is possible to live and get on with according to an agreed arrangement. All in all, they have just deviated slightly from the proper path, it is easy to make them return, and if we are not successful, that is also not the end of the world!

Since this is their outlook and mentality they are incapable of developing means of defending themselves from the influence of the street, so that they are exposed to [all sorts] of influences, the long-term effects of which cannot be known [in advance]. Moreover, it is not just a long-term issue, because the difference between a "chareidi" avreich and one who learns Torah and keeps mitzvos but is not "chareidi" is indeed immense. It is a different level of dedication and depth. In the course of time many of them learned in Yeshivas and adopted the chareidi way of thinking. However, this change of values only affected individuals, and it was not possible to integrate the masses within Torah Judaism with its strict criteria. The Rosh Yeshiva loved them, and attempted with all his might to stem the plague and draw them closer to chareidi Jewry. Then he thought of the idea of setting up a movement for them whose criteria would be less strict and which would be acceptable to the masses. However, the main guidance has to come from the gedolim who lead the chareidi public, who have insight into the enemy's tactics and know how to defend us or even launch a counterattack. It was the Rosh Yeshiva who set up and supported this body, which with siyata deShmaya enjoyed success, and indeed, following the establishment of Shas they drew closer to the chareidi public, and there were very high hopes and expectations [for the future].

However, the disappointments matched the expectations in intensity. At a certain stage Shas joined and bolstered a government led by the extreme left. HaRav Shach was vehemently opposed to this move, for in his opinion it was important to support a right-wing government from the point of view of protecting the interests of Judaism, whereas there was nothing worse than a left-wing government. Shas did not listen to its founding father, and adopted an independent path.

This was how a party suddenly came into being that was a combination of observant and "traditional" Jews, but did not follow the chareidi way. HaRav Shach foresaw the influence the secular would have over Shas, its faintheartedness when confronting secular bodies, its lack of expertise which would lead to many failures and the inevitable deterioration, which is the fate of anyone who does not stick to the chareidi way.

HaRav Shach attempted with his remaining strength to avoid a schism, for was he not after all their "father who had begotten them, had he not made them and established them?" However, stubbornness prevailed over reason and Shas left the chareidi fold. Once again we were faced with a hybrid movement that likes to get on with everybody and with a new danger to the clarity of the pure hashkofoh of the Torah world. Another body for which the isolationist policies of chareidi Jewry would be a thorn in its flesh.

HaRav Shach attempted to ascertain whether this dissociation from the Torah world would lead to any initiatives or any feelings of longing to reunite with the parent movement, but it was to no avail: "And he saw the calf . . . and the dancing" and he concluded that it was "the voice of [blasphemy] of them that sing" (See Rashi). "Moshe was the father of wisdom and knew the wisdom of voices . . . When he saw that they were happy with their corrupt deeds, he became angry and desperate" (Ramban and Sforno).

Here the second breaking of the tablets took place. HaRav Shach zt"l sent his adopted son away, banishing him from the sphere of pure Torah Judaism. It was similar to the test Avrohom faced when he sent away the person who was likely to have a negative effect on Yitzchok. The righteous mother is worried about this and demands wholeheartedly from her husband to make this painful operation in order to save the flask of pure oil. HaKodosh Boruch Hu also agreed with her opinion: "Whatever Soroh shall say, you should obey her." This is the way of Judaism: Yitzchok has to remain totally isolated and to sever all ties with imperfect parties.

Once Shas became liberated from its ties with its chareidi allies, it started enjoying the company of its new friends -- the Israeli left, the government, the Histadrut and in other forums. One of the things Shas attempted to do during that period was to take over total control of the Chinuch Atzmai network, naturally through the power of the secular government. When I tried to speak to one of the senior figures of this party to dissuade him from proceeding with this plan I was given a cold response, the details of which I do not want to repeat here. I am not privy to the secrets of Israeli politics and I don't know why this program did not come to fruition. It seems that the Protector of Yisroel was watching over the remnants of the Jewish nation.

Last Sukkos, Shas held a Hakhel ceremony at the Kosel. This ceremony was originally established by the Torah as an opportunity for further spiritual elevation after the immense elevation of the shmittah year. Amazingly enough, those supporting the heter mechirah caught on to this event, considering themselves the appropriate people to organize the affair, which was, of course, attended by the mayor of Yerushalayim and other secular figures. Corresponding to the melech who read from the Torah, the President of the State received an aliya.

This ceremony itself is not so significant, but it demonstrates the attitude that these are all "good Jews:" as if the rabbonim, the mayor, and the President are all brothers sharing common beliefs. The message emanating from such events is that the Jewish religion has many streams and the traditional and secular Jews are also through and through "kosher" Jews. An additional message is that the institute of the Presidency in the State of Israel is a revival of the kingdom of Torah. The President is a continuation of malchus beis Dovid.

When they heard that Yated Ne'eman intended to object to this event, and to cite the opposition of the gedolim to the false and ridiculous ceremony, one of their senior figures phoned the office of Yated and said, "During this time the unity of Am Yisroel is of paramount importance, and therefore we will hold this ceremony. We don't understand your opposition."

Within a relatively short time they have become diametrically opposed to the hashkofos of chareidi Jewry, and anyone educated in their confused hashkofoh, which accords a "Jewish" value to any secular or "masorati" Jew, is bound to produce rotten fruits in the end, and any G-d- fearing person must shun this way. See what the Beis Halevi writes in Yoreh Deah 158.

Right and Left

Since we have talked about HaRav Shach's position about desirable or undesirable governments, we feel duty bound to say a few more words about this topic. It is well known that the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l supported and even made efforts towards the establishment of a right-wing government under the Likud. We may reasonably assume that this did not stem from a "love of Mordechai" but mainly from the fear of a left- wing government, which he saw as an unprecedented threat to Judaism. I shall explain this according to the way I understand it, but I wish to make it clear that I cannot say with confidence that this was also the reasoning of the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l.

In democratic systems of government around the world, religion is considered to be the private affair of each individual, but it is considered a legitimate cultural aspect of life. The religious person can be treated with more or less respect, depending on the inclinations of the person, but he is essentially considered to be a legitimate and reasonable human being and it would be unthinkable to destroy or fight religion or to prevent people from educating their children in a religious manner as they see fit. This is the accepted attitude.

However, there is another approach according to which religion is totally illegitimate. Just as one cannot grant legitimacy to racism, cruelty and the like, this theory argues, so must religion be destroyed, since it is not a fit culture for human beings. Just like we must take the child of a person who educates his children to crime away from him and educate it in the way of culture, so must we do everything possible to abolish religious education, even against the parents' wishes. In the opinion of these people, any law enacted by a parliament contrary to these principles is null and void, for a democracy is also limited and it has no authority to pass anti-cultural or immoral legislation. Religion, according to them, fits into the "anti-cultural and immoral" category, so that any religious law or one supporting religious education or synagogues, is void ab initio.

This philosophy has its origins in Communism and Marxism and has almost disappeared in our time, but it still has some surviving advocates [amongst them] the extreme Israeli left, which drags the moderate left along with it.

It is in this light that we can understand the phenomenon of the enforced abandonment of religion through lies, financial pressure and so on, which was especially prevalent in the early years of the State. Those responsible for these actions saw nothing morally wrong with them, for they were merely "saving" children from a "backward" education, which had no right to exist. Even today a decent left-wing person would not hesitate to act in a similar manner, for he is confident of serving the interests of "progress."

When the Left is in power, this philosophy is disseminated by all the media, in all educational institutions etc. Constant brainwashing broadcasts the message that being religious is embarrassing and a sign of backwardness. All this encourages the masses to want to discard the yoke of religion, apart from the actual acts of coercion and deceit, which receive the backing of public opinion.

Any achievements on our part resulting from the support of such a government are worthless when compared to the damage caused by a government espousing these views. For example: Shas supported a left-wing government in return for the possibility of opening schools and reaching tens of thousands of children. It sounds like an attractive proposition, but we have to take into account that the numbers of victims of such a government would significantly exceed the above number of children. The poison that would seep through to the public would be likely to affect an [untold] number of generations.

Left-wing governments broadcast anti-religious propaganda on the one hand and elevate the status of the Supreme Court on the other hand to the point where it is accorded supreme, infallible authority. One day this court (which also shares the attitudes of the Left) will decide that boys and girls have to be drafted into the army and the yeshivas and chareidi educational institutions have to be dismantled. Public opinion has been prepared for this over many years, and since this court has absolute power, no one will [be able to] stand in their way.

On the surface it may look like you have gained ten thousand but then they take everything away from you. They don't mind that the cow gets fat, because in the end they intend to decapitate Torah anyway! And you with your naivete were the cause of it all!

We sometimes meet secular men who would recoil from a head- on war against yeshivas and shuls. They have nationalistic views, and religion is considered part of the ancient historical culture of the nation. The Left, on the other hand, are students of Marxism, according to which the concept of a "nation" is a sign of a "backward culture." If a member of the left still has any sentiments left for his homeland, he is embarrassed by them, and he has no qualms about making a "final solution" involving the destruction of Judaism simultaneously with the establishment of a Hebrew- Palestinian State, the common denominator of these two nations being the fact that they are both inhabitants of the Middle East.

Shas claims that it behaves according to its own method, which it calls the "Sephardi approach." However, in such a Kulturkampf the main thing is to understand the enemy's tactics, and it is obvious that Yossi Sarid and Aharon Barak do not act according to the Sephardi approach, but according to a method surely unknown to the architects of Shas. It is therefore clear who will have the upper hand in any confrontation or struggle.

If in the future, there will chas vesholom be a decree in the "new Middle East" of forcibly drafting yeshiva bochurim then the "king" who read from the Torah in the "Hakhel" ceremony will summon Shas leaders to his residence and offer to intervene with our brothers to make sure that they will only be drafted for a month a year and allowed to hear shiurim on Torah and mussar with visits by rabbonim etc.

Can there be any doubt that such a proposition would be greeted with joy? Do they then have the background, the understanding, or the strength to declare that such a situation is one of shmad with everything this entails? Those who feel that "we are all brothers" and that the State and the army are "ours" are bound to have an inferiority complex about not serving in the army and they are very embarrassed about this.

On the other hand, they are confident that our brothers on the Left will keep their promises and not abolish Torah from the Jewish nation chas vesholom, for they are also interested in the Torah not being forgotten amongst the nation especially "after the Holocaust." So, the solution of "one month a year" is just what we want. And what's so bad about it anyway?

Many Shas people will not understand the obvious point that a shortened army service of this kind would be the beginning of the end of the Torah world, and would already put us in a situation of observing the posuk, "Walk about Zion, and go round about her, count the towers thereof, mark well her ramparts . . . that you may tell it to the following generations." We would be able to tell the following generations that here was the Mirrer Yeshiva, here was Chevron and Sfas Emes and Porat Yosef. After the secular parties will carry out their schemes to uproot everything we will only be left with memories.

I wish to relate an incident that took place more than two years ago. The following gedolim were having important discussions together: HaRav Eliashiv, HaRav Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe. The meeting took place in a room next to the Gerrer Beis Hamedrash in Geula, Yerushalayim. For some of the time a small group connected to the subject being discussed stood in the corner of the room, and I was amongst them. The conversation turned to the topic of Ehud Barak's draft decree and the petitions to the High Court of Justice (Bagatz). A member of the above group said that in his opinion the whole thing was a mere "trick" and if we would act in a certain way the situation would be different. When HaRav Eliashiv heard this he reacted angrily: "No!" They want to totally uproot us, but the Shas members are not aware of this and can therefore be easily "bought." After all, they would not be able to express themselves in the way HaRav Zvi Pesach Frank did to Ben Gurion on the topic of national service for girls: "Your sons and daughters are given over to another nation," because according to their philosophy there is only one nation.

There was a rare opportunity before the last elections when they could have brought about a significant postponement in the looming sword of the Bagatz, but they refrained from doing so. I saw how disappointed the gedolim were by this. Similarly, if there will be a proposal, and especially if pressure is brought to bear on them, to incorporate secular studies into the Yeshiva syllabus for parnossoh purposes, if their statements are anything to go by, we cannot assume that there would be any opposition on their part, because they do not understand sufficiently that such studies affect a person's yiras Shomayim.

We have talked at some length about the public danger stemming from a party that does not follow the chareidi way, but no less than this is the danger to the individual: someone who is not totally within the chareidi camp that listens to the gedolim will necessarily become affected by strange philosophies and the whole structure of his emunoh will change totally and lose its quality and depth.

When the Rosh Yeshiva realized that the estrangement from the chareidi camp had become a fait accompli, he founded the Emet (Irgun Marbitzei Torah) organization to unite the Sephardic bnei Torah who share the outlook of the chareidi world, so that the "the camp which is left may be saved" and cause a "revival of the former state of glory [of Sephardi Jewry]."

We have related some of the deeds of HaRav Shach, some of his mighty hand and the great terror, which he wrought in the sight of the whole Jewish nation. That was how he established patterns of leadership to ensure the continuity of Torah.

It says in the Shloh HaKodosh that before undertaking any act a person should imagine that Moshe and the seventy elders can see him, and that way he can judge whether to proceed with the intended action or not. Similarly, we find that Yosef Hatzaddik had a doubt about whether he should do a certain deed or not. All his considerations were clearly in accordance with the Torah, and he could not decide what to do. When the image of his father appeared before him, he knew what he had to do.

If his doubt was due to his not being sure of the Torah's directive for his situation what did this image add to dispel his doubts? We explained that sometimes a person is doubtful and perplexed, but he thinks about what his father or his rov would have done, and that way his doubt becomes resolved. That is what happened to Yosef: as soon as he thought in this manner, he immediately knew what he had to do. This is similar to the thought expressed by the Shloh, except that the image of someone we know naturally obligates us much more.

In our generation of ikvesa diMeshicha we have had the merit of four pillars of the world giving us directions in the path that has to be followed: the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rov, the Steipler and the Avi Ezri. How fortunate we would be if we would conjure up the image of these four giants before undertaking any act. We, members of this last generation, who had the merit of knowing the Steipler and the Avi Ezri, should at least conjure up their image and think about what they would have done and what they would have said.

The Chovos Halevovos already writes that in every generation HaKodosh Boruch Hu conveys His word through the gedolim, through a "teacher of avodas Hashem, and this is ground for a charge by the Creator against His creatures, for there is no generation, which has been without such a guide and no country has ever lacked a person who exhorted his contemporaries to turn to Hashem and His service and taught His Torah" (Shaar Hateshuvoh, ch. 6). If we contemplate all this, we will merit siyata deShmaya and not fail.

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