Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Iyar 5761 - April 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Ridiculing Our Torah Leaders

by HaRav Mordechai HaMeiri

Part II

In the first part, the author makes clear that his remarks are directed against those committed to the leadership of HaRav Shach shlita. He then gives several examples of HaRav Shach's activities including examples of him standing up to the religious and near-religious efforts to water down the real obligation. In the end, he quotes Rabbenu Yonah about the strictness that cutting oneself off from the community is not advised.

The second argument of Rabbenu Yonah, "they are dissuading the hearts of those weak in their acceptance," is particularly significant today. Every society has its individualists and some although officially belonging, really have only a secondary attachment and ideologically disagree with its way. If they would be the leaders they would surely act differently. Who safeguards that these people will not, choliloh, deviate from the way our mentors, the faithful transmitters of our tradition, have passed down to us? Only the hidden power in a solid alliance, their feeling of belonging to a certain group, is what prevents them from wandering away.

Today when the enemy is not across the border but within homes and disguised as an innocent radio, secular newspaper, or cheap "religious" newspaper, our being part of a strong organization is even much more important. Lately we must even grapple with modern-day spiritual dangers such as CD disks and video tapes, the Internet, and television. Unfortunately also within our camp, among those who had the privilege to recognize the value of toiling over the Torah, secular society's influence has penetrated, and after their sons finish cheder some parents send them to continue in yeshivot tichoniyot (Israeli yeshiva high schools).

Who can ensure that the attraction of the weak to ruchniyus does not cool down, that the gush of ever- present desires does not lure them away, that they are not duped into believing secular and nationalist ideologies? We need to set up deterrents to any decline in their Torah observance or purity of hashkofoh. Actually all mitzvos of our Oral Torah are safeguards that Chazal enacted so that we would not, choliloh, mistakenly act not according to halocho, and also to distance us from society's deluge of desires and widespread bogus teachings. Let us follow the way of our mentors. Surely the only way to do this is through uniting together; only that can save us from spiritual damage.

Rabbenu Yonah rebukes those who separate from the community since they are mocking the community's unity. Through their ridicule they weaken our safeguards since without a united community no safeguards that can withhold the weak from wandering away and from even, Rachmono litzlan, severing off any contact at all, can be effective. Their separating from the community was due to their lack of considering the consequences that indifference and ridicule can cause.

This is the meaning of what Rabbenu Yonah wrote in Sha'arei Teshuvah: all who are not partners in strengthening the tzibbur to unite eventually "cause many to sin." Although in their daily behavior they apparently act like tzaddikim, Rabbenu Yonah teaches us what they really are.

For example: Those who scorn and constantly criticize the Yated Ne'eman are the first ones who pore over all the newspapers handed out for free and advertisements, and also are those primarily influenced by anti-Torah ideologies. Their greatest sin is that because of them others do not value the newspaper, and those weak in spiritual values do not feel a need to subscribe to this newspaper. Instead of Yated Ne'eman, those people subscribe to other newspapers, and the overflowing yetzer to look at television can also take control of them. Who caused all this? That person who derided our newspaper and whose aim was always to find the slightest imperfections, is at blame.

Likewise all those indifferent to Shearis Yisroel, those who do not feel its being at all necessary, weaken people's confidence in this unique kashrus organization that follows faithfully the outlooks that the gedolei Torah who lead them want to imbue within us. Their deriding Shearis Yisroel causes the gedolei Torah to lose their influence over the tzibbur.

Instead of the voice of the gedolei Torah being heard clearly and loudly, and obligating everyone to join ranks, a feeble non-convincing voice is heard. Instead of attracting more people, the opposite happens. Many do not feel they belong to any strong body and therefore behave as their common sense dictates to them. In other words they follow ideas such as those they hear over the radio, in the office, on the bus, and in the cheap newspapers. Whose fault is it? Those who ridicule demanding Shearis Yisroel products (and this does not matter whether their being a private individual or some educational institution) are definitely at fault.

In connection with the above it is only proper to let the public know that the aspiration of Maran the Rosh Yeshiva shlita was for Shearis Yisroel to be self- reliant, supported through a monthly membership fee. In this way it would not be dependent upon the opinion of others. Each month Maran HaRav Shach shlita would send a donation for Shearis Yisroel. Also until lately HaRav Chaim Kanievsky would give a monthly donation for Shearis Yisroel if and when its representatives would visit him.

And what about us? Can we, because of financial benefits and pressure from the family, act as if it is a disgrace to strengthen the mehudar kashrus organization of Shearis Yisroel? This is a kashrus organization that is always ready to hear any criticism, and asks guidance about all the varied kashrus questions from the gedolei hador shlita. All owners of factories, stores, and wedding halls realize that when bnei Torah do not insist on the Shearis Yisroel hechsher they are degrading the explicit demand of the gedolei Torah vehoro'oh, something that directly causes them to also degrade their demands and act as they want.

How can we prefer products that are not of Shearis Yisroel because of considerations that are positively improper for bnei Torah? Why if that product is slightly more expensive or we have not yet become accustomed to its taste, do we childishly buy the product with the other hechsher? We can absolutely find fault with those who do not buy Shearis Yisroel products although even more inexpensive and tastier, and those who refrain from buying Shearis Yisroel products because of indifference, lack of awareness in what they are doing, or to satisfy those guests who do not eat Shearis Yisroel products.

Instead of members of our group demonstrating openly their loyalty to our mentors, and our trust that this is surely the way HaKodosh Boruch Hu wants us to act, we are embarrassed and afraid that some guests will not appreciate our preference. How disgraceful! Whose fault is it that something like this should happen if not those mocking Shearis Yisroel, those cracking jokes about them. Surely about these people the posuk, "Our soul is overfilled with the mockery of the complacent ones, and with the contempt of the proud" (Tehillim 123:4) pertains.

Undoubtedly together with the growth of our buying power, so grows the influence of our gedolei Torah shlita, and so is strengthened Torah and kashrus observance. It is quite natural that factories and businesses will then seek out Shearis Yisroel and Shearis Yisroel can serve its consumers with an even better quality of food products, and also lower prices to satisfy the critics' demands.

What we write refers also to Torah-educational institutions. Although we are unworthy to criticize educational institutions, we cannot remain silent. In a case of chillul Hashem we must disregard the honor of mortals. It is amazing how some institutions can ignore the appeal of Maran shlita in a letter from erev Shabbos parshas Vayeitzei, 5749, that also Torah and educational institutions should buy Shearis Yisroel products. Later in the shmittah year of 5753 in a public manifesto to all yirei Hashem, together with Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlita, they again called upon us to strengthen the Shearis Yisroel kashrus organization.

Also this year before shmittah, the gedolei hador shlita asked bnei Torah to purchase Shearis Yisroel products, but we have the definite feeling that for some reason, various institutions still do not care. It is impossible to understand how can it be that these institutions strictly follow the advice of the gedolei Torah shlita about what way to study Torah or how to analyze what was studied, regarding psak halocho, chinuch, criteria for accepting or dismissing students, and all life-and-death matters, but concerning daas Torah on how to strengthen the Torah and kashrus, they live with the feeling that they have some sort of immunity, as if it does not concern them at all. This causes also their talmidim to learn from them how to ridicule their Torah mentors, chas vesholom, and who knows what the results of such behavior will be. What value does such a chinuch have if its primary component is missing: obedience to the directives of gedolei Torah shlita?

In the times of Rabbenu the Chazon Ish zt'l lived a person popularly considered a talmid chochom but who possessed "original" ideas and ideologies. That person believed that he is obligated to humble himself only before halachic rulings of the gedolim but is not required to follow the safeguards these gedolim told him to take. Maran zt'l wrote him (Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish III:92): "The system of making the Torah into different divisions is the old system of the minim from the time of the decline of Judaism in Germany. Those minim seduced am Yisroel until they mixed with the non- Jews and nothing was left." The Chazon Ish concludes by defining the essence of the sin of those who differentiate between the two matters and what their punishment is.

Another grievance can be voiced against these institution heads. Many parents hand over to them the fate of their children's education. These children are a pikodon in their hands to educate according to the spirit and course that our Torah mentors have outlined. If they do not educate them properly they are not guarding their pikodon properly. This neglect in guarding their pikodon has a direct implication for the generation educated by them. These talmidim mistakenly understand that we must only follow gedolei Torah when it "pays" and not when we get "involved" or when it causes "needless" confrontations. When they encounter difficulties in carrying out the demands of the gedolim it is better to remain inactive.

Instead of proudly waging a respectable campaign for the takonos and gezeiros of our Torah leaders, of their "raising their hearts to go in the way of Hashem" (as the Shulchan Oruch Orach Chaim 1 states, and the Mishnah Berurah there writes at length), they create an atmosphere dictating its being a disgrace to obey the gedolei Torah shlita, to take part in their battles, and to strengthen the ways intended to disseminate their views throughout all levels of the tzibbur.

It is general knowledge how Maran HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik zt'l explained why our errant brothers arrive en masse to pray with us during Yom Kippur. This occurrence is not because of the uniqueness of the day as we usually think is the cause. Our strengthening ourselves more during that day has a direct influence even on those remote from the Torah. The same is true concerning our topic. Our honoring properly the Torah and its gedolim influences also those remote from the Torah, and if we do not honor properly the Torah, is fulfilled through us the posuk, "All that honored her despise her" (Eichah 1:8), Rachmono litzlan.

Her filthiness was on her hems, she took no thought of her end; therefore she came down astonishingly; she has no comforter. O Hashem, behold my affliction for the enemy has magnified itself" (Eichah 1:9). The Alshich HaKodosh explains that the source of all harm is those empty- headed people who have not perfected their behavior, those prone to be seduced by their yetzer. "Filthiness was on her hems" means that the tumah of avodoh zorah started from people on the bottom level of perfectness, the "hems" of society. However, if we initially take the offensive against this dangerous condition we can still change them for the better and prevent this tumah from penetrating our camp. We must do this before the leprosy spreads since before it spreads we can easily protest against it and convert it. But if those who understand what is happening decide to ignore it, do not protest and do not stop the disgraceful happenings, each day the curse is greater than the previous day and the leprosy spreads to many and even to the respectable.

This is what the novi tells us: She took no thought of her end -- meaning they did not want to understand that through inactivity evil can spread greatly. Measure for measure has been fulfilled by us and "She came down astonishingly," that the spiritual decline was not gradual as occurred throughout the generations, that the later generations were somewhat lower than the previous ones, and therefore its present misfortune was also not gradual. "She has no comforter," Knesses Yisroel suffers continuously and has no comfort, Hashem yerachem.

In the same vein as the above, the Bach (beginning of Hilchos Chanukah) writes that the gezeiros of the Greeks not to observe the Torah were a punishment because the Jews in that generation neglected the avodoh of the Beis Hamikdosh. Only after the Chashmonaim endangered their lives for the avodoh were they privileged to have overt miracles.

Rabbenu the Chofetz Chaim (cited in Kovetz Mamarim of Maran HaRav Elchonon Wassermann zt'l Hy'd in discourse Omer Ani Ma'asai LeMelech, par. 8-9, and other places) explains that decrees on our "bodies" and decrees on our "religion" are basically different. Concerning decrees on our bodies the only way to be saved is through teshuvah and tefillah since the aim of all those gezeiros is to prompt us to do teshuvah.

However, the aim of gezeiros against our "religion" is not to prompt us to do teshuvah but, on the contrary, to prevent us from properly following our goal in life. We must realize that this is not a Heavenly gezeiroh but one done through the power of the Satan. The enemy is actually only lies and imagination and the only way to annul these gezeiros is through waging a war against it, though fighting courageously and proudly.

We must act this way also when it seems that we apparently have no hope to succeed. The Chashmonaim fought against the Hellenists although they were "few against many and weak against the strong." Likewise, we must assemble together and fight for our lives and that of our children with mesirus nefesh. We will then retroactively see that all those who fought against us were only "soap bubbles" and we were zocheh to miraculous siyata deShmaya. If on the other hand we sit idly, not doing anything, then, chas vesholom, the gezeiros against the Torah strengthen as a punishment for our inactivity.

Maran HaRav E. M. Shach shlita said on various occasions that the day will come when we will understand why we were forced to conduct an exhausting battle against the Chabad Movement and such. He warned that if we do not understand that we must completely shake ourselves free from them and from those who follow them, and consider them "outside our camp," then, chas vesholom, we will not be able to properly teach Torah to Jewish children. He emphasized that many times in the past complacency was the cause that the Enlightened and secular Jews took over the Jewish communities. Complacency in the topic which we are discussing is a primary cause for the success of bogus ideologies to penetrate within our camp.

Those who understand the above, know that nothing can be accomplished without an arduous, resolute, and persistent campaign. Rabbenu Yeruchom of Mir (in Daas Torah, parshas Noach 8:21, 10:8) writes that the Torah through calling Nimrod the rosho a gibor and the Torah's (Bereishis 32:25) telling us that Yaakov Ovinu wrestled with a man (the Heavenly Minister of Esav) until the day broke, and at the end (v. 29) the Torah's saying, "You have contended with G-d and with men and have prevailed," teaches us the impossibility of achieving anything without battles.

The concept of being neutral is always unacceptable. Either a person helps and takes part in the campaign for building kedushah or, chas vesholom, he takes part in the campaign for those against kedushah. Today it is not hard to understand how true this is. At any rate we learn from R' Yeruchom that the name "Yisroel" is only fitting for those following the path of our forefathers, those prepared to fight even with the Minister of Esav and not to give up until he blesses them.

We all know that one of the ways to awaken Heavenly pity for us is through our mentioning the zechus of Akeidas Yitzchok, and during the yomim noraim the blowing of the shofar is especially helpful for this purpose. The Kli Yakar writes that the secret of blowing the shofar is not as we simply think, that we remind HaKodosh Boruch Hu of the ram of Yitzchok. It is unnecessary to remind Hashem since He never forgets.

The real reason for the blowing of the shofar is that through it we remember the Akeidas Yitzchok and instill within ourselves the desire to go in the way of Avrohom Ovinu who sacrificed himself for his love to Hashem. At least we should decide to donate tzedokoh properly without any excuses and heteirim. Also each person should be especially careful when he says the tefillos for kvod Shomayim, as cited also in the name of R' Yisroel of Salant.

"Shall a shofar be sounded in the city and the people not be frightened" (Amos 3:6). We must be full of fright about fulfilling what Hashem has told us, as Avrohom Ovinu was when he went to sacrifice his son Yitzchok. How can we consider ourselves full of fright to do Hashem's mitzvos if we are unwilling to spend even a little money for ruchniyus?

At the end of the parshah (Bereishis 22:14) it says, "Avrohom called the name of that place Hashem will see, as it is said to this day, in the mount Hashem will appear." The Ollelos Efraim and Ir Giborim explain, "just as a Jew `sees' this great act with his intellectual eye and agrees to go in the way of the Patriarchs, so is he seen by the Shechinah (meaning that in the same degree we are zocheh to spiritual help from Hashem from our enemies), since `behold the eye of Hashem is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in His steadfast love' " (Tehillim 33:18).

Today no one is thinking of asking for a monthly membership fee for Shearis Yisroel, and we are only asking that bnei Torah be aware that they should purchase and demand products of Shearis Yisroel. When many people back a kashrus body it is possible to safeguard against breaches in the wall of kashrus observance. (The setting up of Degel HaTorah itself was to prevent breaches in the wall of Torah observance according to the guidance of our Torah leaders shlita, and that is also the aim of Yated Ne'eman). More people buying only Shearis Yisroel products will bring more financial power allowing the kashrus organization to be more efficient and satisfactory for all. Without such financial assistance how can anyone complain? At the present the organization is working with barely the resources to uphold its current activities and under substandard conditions. Many of those behind this kashrus organization are working with mesirus nefesh, and of course we cannot forget the mesirus nefesh of the rabbonim who are devoting days and nights to solve all the intricate halachic problems that arise.

We will conclude with the appeal of Dovid Hamelech a'h to those of his shevet to return to his kingdom after the failure of the attempted rebellion of his son Avsholom: "All the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Yisroel saying, `The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies and he delivered us out of the hand of the Pelishtim and now he is fled out of the land from Avsholom. And Avsholom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you not speak a word of bringing the king back?' And King Dovid sent to Tzodok and to Evyosor the Cohanim, saying, Speak to the elders of Yehudah, saying, "Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house? Seeing the speech of all Yisroel is already come to the king, to his house. You are my brethren, you are my bones and my flesh; why then are you the last to bring back the king?"'" (II Shmuel 19:10-11).

Let us ask ourselves why should we, the talmidei chachomim, be the last to bring back the king (and who are kings? Rabbonon!) to place them as our heads through, bli neder, accepting on ourselves to help make the influence of the pure Torah penetrate to all levels of the tzibbur. Let us be partners in the campaigns that the gedolei Yisroel are waging for us and the coming generations so that we will be zocheh to see the raising of the Torah's honor.

R' Moshe Blau zt'l said before he was niftar to HaRav Meir Karelitz zt'l that in his private life he sinned, but not in his public life where the responsibility is much greater and more is demanded from us. Let us strengthen ourselves and keep in mind what is written here so that we succeed in our ways, and may we be zocheh that Hashem have pity on us and end all our suffering.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.