Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Adar I 5763 - February 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Manning the Watchtower: HaRav Eliashiv's Battle for Torah and Halocho

by Binyomin Y. Rabinowitz

Part IV

Rabbi Weinman reaches into the mountain of documents he has kept over the years and pulls out an item of particular interest. Even before the case of the Langer brother and sister, Rabbi Shlomo Goren's leanings could be seen by the company he kept. "Emor li mi chavereicho ve'omar lecho mi ato." Or perhaps a more apt quote would be, "Bo'u levorech venimtze'u mekalelim." Rabbi Weinman lays down on the table a copy of Chadashot Hashomronim from the beginning of 5732 (1972), when Rabbi Goren was beginning to pave his way to the office of Chief Rabbi of Israel.

On page five appears the following: "The crown jewel on our list is, without a doubt, the signature of a man currently aspiring to be named Chief Rabbi of Israel, General (Res.) HaRav Shlomo Goren. All commentators say HaRav Goren will indeed soon be the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel . . . During the course of his innumerable tours of the liberated territories immediately following the War of 5727 [a.k.a. the Six- Day War] he arrived in Shechem to visit the Samarians. Chief IDF Rabbi General Shlomo Goren arrived at the home of the Kohen Godol [sic] on the 27 of Tammuz 5727 (1967) and wrote as follows: `Blessings to the Samarian community on the occasion of their liberation by Israel, with admiration for devotion to faith and your place of holy worship in Shechem . . . May you multiply upon the face of the earth . . . Blessed are those who uphold the words of this Torah . . . "

If any doubt remains that Goren, whose guiding lights were lying and deceit, would continue to make similar remarks, the article reads, "This signature represents a declaration of sorts of the distinguished rabbi's warm relations with the Samarians. It is unlikely that he would voice such an opinion openly, particularly in our times."

Although Goren made every effort to demonstrate to the secular public that he was willing to make far-reaching concessions that were inconsistent with daas Torah, his conduct, particularly his penchant for publicity, drew cutting articles by leading journalists.

"Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren's revelations on the disappeared Dakar submarine shocked many at Navy Headquarters," wrote Yaakov Erez under the headline "HaRav Shelo Kavash et Yitzro (The Rabbi Who was Unable to Control Himself)."

"The announcement that the Chief Rabbi plans to release his entire investigation of the Dakar submarine has troubled and disappointed many top-ranking IDF figures. Recently Chief Navy Commander Admiral Zeev Almog asked Chief IDF Rabbi Shlomo Goren to avoid publicizing the report in detail in the Chief Rabbinate organ, but he did not comply. The report will soon be released in full, and will reveal not only his efforts for the agunot of the Dakar's missing [crew members], but also various details that top-ranking navy commanders have asked not to present to the public at this stage for humanitarian--not security--reasons . . . "

Erez adds that the IDF Spokesman managed to persuade journalists and newspaper editorial desks to avoid publishing the details, including those Goren released for publication. "It appears the reasons given that persuaded those in charge of the media were not a consideration Chief Rabbi Goren took into account. In this area the rabbi ruled on matters not under his charge. Perhaps the Chief Rabbi could not resist the temptation and did not conquer his urges [yitzro] . . . ?"

* * *

Goren was constantly guided by his vengefulness and his desire for publicity. He also did all in his power to subject everyone to his opinions and manias. On his first Independence Day as Chief Rabbi he imposed his own views on the State, although they contradicted the Chief Rabbinate's accepted position.

During this period R' Chaim Eliezer Harshtik served as chazzan at the Beit Knesset Hagodol in Tel Aviv. According to Chief Rabbinate regulations, on Independence Day Hallel is recited without a brocho. (The chareidi public, of course, does not recite Hallel at all on the 5th of Iyar.) But on this occasion, based on a new ruling Goren issued, the beis knesses directorship told R' Harshtik to recite a brocho. He refused, saying he followed the Chief Rabbinate's regulations, in place since the State's founding. As a result he was dismissed from his post.

"R' Chaim Harshtik contacted me, asking to consult me on the matter," recalls Rabbi Weinman. "I spoke with HaRav Eliashiv, shlita, and told him about the case. Maran, who viewed this as a continuation of Goren's attempts to impose his opinions, asked me to handle the matter by filing a petition in the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court headed by av beis din the late Rav S. Werner."

In his petition Rabbi Weinman reviewed the course of events in detail, writing, "The claimant [R' Harshtik] refused to comply with their demand, which conflicted with his convictions and conscience, seeing it as an attempt to force him to commit a transgression . . . Since the claimant insisted on his right to refuse coercion to transgress the religion by pronouncing Sheim Shomayim in vain, he was removed and dismissed from his place at the teivoh by the defendants, in the middle of the prayer, and the directorship chairman took his place . . . The defendants were not content with this grave act, and on the 8th of Iyar sent the claimant a notice which, among other points, cancelled the agreement between them and the claimant and notified him he would be temporarily suspended from his post . . . "

There was no need for numerous hearings in the beis din. Within one month a ruling was handed down: "In light of the declaration by the chazzan who acted in innocence and due only to halachic motivations, with no intention to harm anyone, and in light of the declaration before us by the beis knesses directorship, the beis din finds that the chazzan's suspension was unjustified and view the dispute to be finished."

Following this incident the Steipler, zt'l, gave R' Harshtik the honor of leading the services at Beis Knesses Lederman.

Brewing Storm

As we saw in the previous parts of this series, HaRav Eliashiv recognized the danger Goren posed to halocho, years before he became widely known for his "heteirim." During this later period as well, following Goren's appointment to the office of Chief Rabbi of Israel, HaRav Eliashiv continued to man the helm when the Chazani Affair brought another tempest to Eretz Yisroel.

Although Goren was not personally involved in the case, it was clearly tied to Mafdal figures who extended their patronage to Goren, giving him their seal of approval in all of his dubious endeavors.

The affair began toward the end of 5731 (1971). During this period the government was trying to draft all girls not inducted into the army into the National Service program. Mafdal ministers demanded enlistment for National Service (sherut leumi) be on a strictly voluntary basis. Meanwhile other ministers insisted on drafting all girls into military service. At the end of the meetings it was decided to set up a ministerial committee to investigate questions surrounding the issue, and since the National Service program involved welfare and assistance work, then Assistance Minister Michael Chazani was included on the committee.

News of the government's intentions and of the ministerial committee triggered a major storm among shlomei emunei Yisroel. The horo'oh by gedolei Yisroel against National Service had been well known for years as an absolute prohibition. At the behest of gedolei Yisroel, chareidi activists began to meet to devise ways of thwarting the committee's endeavors. Rabbi Weinman, under directives by HaRav Eliashiv, took steps nobody had considered previously.

He sent a letter asking the Rabbinate beis din in Jerusalem to summon Chazani to din Torah and to forbid him from participating in committee meetings. In order to circumvent claims of judicial standing, the petition was filed in the name of the late Rav Yitzchok Rosental, then serving as assistant to Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Tzvi Frank, zt'l, one of the leading signatories among maranan verabonon against National Service.

During the Zaidman Affair one year earlier, Rabbi Weinman had filed a petition to prevent Religious Affairs Minister Zerach Warhaftig from authorizing Zaidman's so-called conversion. Seeing that Rabbi Weinman did not hesitate from turning to the Rabbinate botei din to force public figures not to carry out various endeavors, Warhaftig issued a directive through the Ministry's legal consultant instructing all Rabbinate botei din not to accept or handle any public petitions against government ministers. Despite the directive, at first the Jerusalem beis din accepted the case. Chazani announced his intentions to appear in beis din, writing, "In principle I will appear bli neder before beis din by the final date of the summons after I formulate a clear explanation of our efforts to postpone the proposals to implement the law and the necessity that led us to do so." However, later the Ministry's legal consultant notified the beis din that the matter of the petition was not under its jurisdiction, and therefore Chazani would not appear in beis din.

The Question of Beis Din Authority

At the beginning of 5732 (late 1971) the beis din handed down a decision saying it saw no expediency in trying the case. Rabbi Weinman responded by filing an appeal to Beit Hadin HaRabboni Hagodol, claiming the question of jurisdiction over the government and government ministers' acts or failure to act was not pertinent to the case since the petition had been filed against Chazani as an individual. Rabbi Weinman wrote that the aim of the petition was to prevent Chazani from committing wrong, by having the beis din forbid him from engaging in the matter of National Service, since all gedolei Yisroel had unequivocally prohibited participation in the program.

"Since the beis din can summon any Jew to din Torah, even without authority granted by government laws but with the authority granted by the Shulchan Oruch, it has acted as such in the present case," wrote Rabbi Weinman. In conclusion he claimed the case should be tried in the regional beis din. At this point then Attorney General Meir Shamgar (and later High Court President) stepped into the picture, swiftly sending Chazani a letter reading, "It has come to my attention that Rav Yitzchok Rosental filed an appeal to Beit Hadin HaRabboni Hagodol against the above- mentioned decision of the regional Rabbinate beis din . . . My opinion is that the regional Rabbinate beis din was not authorized to hear the petition brought before it, nor does Beit Hadin HaRabboni Hagodol have the authority to hear the case itself."

Then Shamgar penned the key sentence of his letter: "Both Beit Hadin HaRabboni HaEzori and Beit Hadin HaRabboni Hagodol are bodies that apply authority vested in them by the law of the State of Israel . . . and I have not found that the law vests Rabbinate batei din with the authority to hear the matter of the petition filed by Rav Rosental. The petition in question deals with your activity as a government minister--and with your areas of responsibility in public affairs as a minister--and in this regard you are not subject, under the law, to [obligations imposed by] the Rabbinate batei din . . . In conclusion, my opinion is that Beit Hadin HaRabboni Hagodol cannot accommodate Rav Rosental's petition."

Loud and Clear

In Teves 5732 (December 1971) the Rabbinate beis din issued a clear, unequivocal decision that set an important precedent in the world of dayanus regarding the status of Rabbinate botei din and the range of their authority. The ruling handed down by the dayanim, including HaRav Eliashiv, read, "The matter needs no explication, for every Jew, whatever his status or duties, according to din Torah must comply with every summons to appear for litigation before the beis din and to obey all the beis din regulations . . . (see Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin, Chapters 2 and 5, and Hilchos Melochim, Chap. 3). Rabbinical courts are granted their jurisdiction by the power of the Torah and its laws. Through the power of this authority, Rabbinate botei din in Eretz Yisroel, like the practice of botei din in Am Yisroel in the Diaspora throughout the generations, have always heard cases applying to each and every Jew on every possible matter. The authority legally vested [by the State] in the botei din . . . allows it to enforce the decisions of the beis din on every Jew, even those who are not willing to obey din Torah as they have been commanded since the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai. Therefore any claim of a lack of authority within the confines of the law does not apply when the problem is under the authority of the power of the Torah for a Jew who keeps Torah and mitzvos . . . Thus we rule that the regional beis din hear the claim filed to it, and both parties can be relied upon to heed any decision the beis din renders in accordance with the Torah."

The beis din's decision caused an uproar in the media. To Chazani it was clear the matter of the committee should drop from the public agenda, and indeed shortly thereafter the entire matter of the committee and the possibility of legislating a National Service law vanished from the political horizon, thus eliminating the need to hear the case in beis din.

"A Gaon in Halocho Who Lives on Chanan Street-- The Secret of Success

At the conclusion of our conversations with Rabbi Weinman, we asked him how it came about that he had the merit to forge such a close bond with Maran HaRav Eliashiv. After his marriage, explained Rabbi Weinman, he brought a halachic question to his rebbe, HaRav A. Mishkovsky, who was not only one of the first leaders of the Torah and yeshiva world in Eretz Yisroel, but also moro de'asra of Kfar Chassidim. "From this day onward take all of your halachic questions to a gaon in halocho who lives on Chanan Street in Jerusalem," HaRav Mishkovsky told him.

Rabbi Weinman explained that since he was not living in Jerusalem at the time, he had never heard of HaRav Eliashiv. But he followed his rebbe's advice. Gradually a bond formed, growing over the years, and Rabbi Weinman relied on HaRav Eliashiv implicitly during the Chazani Affair, followed by the Helen Zaidman conversion case, the case of the dismissal of R' Chaim Harshtik, and then during the scandal involving the Langer brother and sister, Rabbi Weinman and Rav Goldschmidt would come to Maran's home for almost daily consultations. Over the years he also sent HaRav Eliashiv numerous halachic questions, both in his own name and in the name of avreichim, some of which have since been printed.

Asked why thirty years ago the High Court--in sharp contradiction to its rulings in recent years-- accommodated his efforts to besmirch Goren's deeds and ploys, Rabbi Weinman said that HaRav Goldschmidt definitely played an important role, because of the great esteem in which the High Court judges held him after seeing how he worked when he sat on a special bench that addressed issues of beis din authority on questions brought before the High Court judges. When the judges saw HaRav Goldschmidt's integrity and resolve and then later learned he played a significant role in the battles waged in the above cases, they related to the petitions to the court in a more positive light.

In conclusion Rabbi Weinman revealed that the secret to his success in all of the battles he fought under the directives of gedolei Yisroel was very simple: "Kol hanotel etzo min hazekeinim eino nichshal."


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