Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Shevat 5762 - January 16, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opposition To Initiatives For Religious-Secular Dialogue and to the Idea Of a Covenant Stressing Common Values
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Strong protests have been voiced and unequivocal dissociation has been expressed in all chareidi circles, from initiatives to hold "dialogues" and to identify "common values" that chareidim and secular Israelis share. All chareidi groups have likewise distanced themselves from a recently publicized "Joint Covenant," that is totally opposed to our community's outlook. Speaking about the dialogues, HaRav Eliashiv said, "There is nothing to be gained from dialogue, while the negative influences are certain -- people should not participate in such meetings."

Over the last year, a number of secular and National- Religious groups, particularly an organization calling itself Tzav Piyus (Conciliation Order [a play on the better known term, Tzav Giyus (Conscription Order)], have been arranging meetings between chareidi and secular women and between chareidi and secular men, to which they have been especially trying to attract chareidim with social influence, such as educators and those involved in the written and spoken media. The attempts were made in the name of "dialogue" and "communication", although they really represent an attempt to violate the chareidi community's unique character, to remove the barriers that separate those who fear Heaven from those who throw off the yoke of Torah's authority, and to undermine the principle of separation that the gedolim of the past generation set down as being of crucial importance to the chareidi community's ability to survive, unaffected by outside, alien influences.

Rabbonim and communal activists made it clear that such initiatives are firmly opposed by daas Torah. The gedolim have expressed their opposition to these ideas, which attempt to introduce the false notion that there can be mingling between the upholders of Torah and those who profane it, as though it were a question of there being two equally valid sides in a dispute, who can still find "common ground" between them by holding meetings that have an extremely deleterious effect upon those who participate in them.

HaRav Eliashiv expressed his displeasure at the recent initiatives and said, "Dialogue has no purpose and the damage it does is certainly greater. We will not influence the secularists to change their ways in this manner, while simply hearing their views, and the way they talk, influences us negatively. Even if there were some remote possibility of having some positive impact on them, since the damage is clear and the negative influence is certain, people should not take part in such meetings."

There is also a letter from HaRav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz, which is also signed by HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, and a letter from HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, on the subject.

Publicizing the views of the gedolim will hopefully bring an end to the meetings between chareidim and secularists, since those who organized them have up to now misled innocent people into thinking that they had the backing of rabbonim for their initiatives.

Another item concerning the search for "common ground" that has recently been in the news, is the publication of a "Joint Covenant," that was issued by a group calling itself The Forum For National Responsibility, whose members hail from right across Israel's political and social spectrum, secular and religious Jews, and left and right wingers, among them anti-religious figures, as well as the leader of the Reform Movement in Israel. No Arabs are on the Forum, since it only purports to represent "Zionist Jews."

Both the efforts at dialogue and the so-called Covenant between secular and religious appear to be backed by the Avichai Foundation, founded originally by Sanford (Zalman) Bernstein z"l, founder of the large Wall Street firm that bears his name who later became a baal teshuvoh associated with the modern Orthodox community in the United States. Mr. Bernstein left a significant portion of his huge fortune to this foundation.

Newspapers carried reports of the group's major initiative, a "Covenant" between all the citizens of the State of Israel, rightists and leftists, religious and irreligious. The document is entitled The Kinneret Covenant, to commemorate its having been put together in talks that were held five months ago in a hotel in Tiveria.

The reports say that the covenant "is supposed to represent fresh, firm and solid common ground for Jews in Israel; a resounding answer to the eternal question, `What are we doing here? What vision do all of us share?' emphasizing what unites us and what is common to all of us, to refresh and rejuvenate the foundation for our renewed presence here as a single nation." The planners hope that their covenant will be "just the first step on a great and lengthy path, that will sweep the entire population along, on the way to attaining social cohesion, stressing unifying factors and playing down divisions and factionalism."

The Covenant is a declaration of ideological principles that claims, amongst other things that the Jewish people's devotion to its heritage and its Torah are the factors that "gave rise to Zionism." It also declares that the State's "Jewish character" finds expression in "its Hebrew language" as well as "in its symbols and its anthem," and in an educational system that inculcates a range of subjects like "general education and pan-human values, loyalty to the State and love of the land and its scenery," along with other topics. At the end of the list, mention is made of the link "with Israel's heritage and with the Book of Books."

Unfortunately, the entire document is written in the heretical spirit of "with my strength and the might of my hand," that typified the State's founders and their present day heirs.

According to reports in the newspapers, the religious camp made "a colossal concession" in agreeing that the covenant should contain no mention of faith, or of Heaven's Name -- this in response to the secular camp's strong opposition. Moreover, the secular participants demanded recognition of their "spiritual" contribution and the covenant accordingly contains a paragraph stating that, "We, irreligious, traditional and religious [Jews], acknowledge each other's contributions to the Jewish nation's physical and spiritual existence."

Throughout, the covenant stresses nationalistic ideas and humanistic principles, and secular pluralism and democracy, couched in the kind of problematic phrasing -- such as, "full equality of rights, without any differentiation on the basis of religion," and "freedom of religion and conscience" -- that serves as ammunition in the hands of liberal-secular groups and high court judges in their incessant attempts to impose an atmosphere of secular spiritual abandon on the Jewish people in Israel.

Following the covenant's publication, the chareidi community declared clearly that it does not view itself as a partner to the understandings expressed therein.

Rabbonim and chareidi activists said that our community strongly opposes the Zionist and National ideal in any shape or form and that it cannot find any "common tongue" with groups that represent irreligious and heretical outlooks, due to our belief that it is precisely the uprooting of Torah and the profanation of all that is holy that puts us in both physical and spiritual danger. There should be no illusions about building "bridges" and finding "common ground" between outlooks that are diametrically opposed and can never meet. The very attempt to hold discussions are eloquent testimony to the lack of minimal understanding on the part of the secular groups who initiated the idea, of the vast chasm, that cannot be bridged, dividing Jews who fear Heaven from those who abandon Torah's yoke.

Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz

Zichron Meir

Bnei Brak

BS'D, the twenty-sixth of Teves 5762

One of the foundations of observing Torah and mitzvos is the extreme caution that the Jew is obligated to exercise to keep clear of anything forbidden. While this applies in every area of Torah and mitzvos, it is especially important regarding mitzvos of the heart, in ideology and outlook, concerning which Chazal said, " `And you shall not stray after your hearts...' (Bamidbor 15, 39) this refers to heresy" (Brochos 12) , and "Heresy is different [i.e. more dangerous] because of its attraction" (Avodoh Zora 27) and in respect to which one must maintain superior and very, very great distance and vigilance, keeping far away and making sure that one doesn't hear any ideas or views that are alien to the mitzvos of the holy Torah, whatsoever.

Everything of this nature that one hears has a definite influence upon one's heart, sullying the purity of one's soul, even though a person may not feel it. The damage is tremendous and it cannot be undone. Nobody can say that he is assured of immunity and that it won't harm him.

We have heard that there are some who have lately been arranging meetings between chareidi women and teachers and secular women and teachers, so that they can exchange views, with the aim of fostering closeness and conciliation. The organizers speak in the virtuous name of peace and coexistence, saying that they wish to increase brotherly love among the nation's various factions. There are some chareidi teachers who have stumbled and have taken part in such meetings, thinking that they may succeed in drawing others closer and in having a beneficial influence, however, this is opposed to daas Torah. As long as there is even a slight possibility that they may have to hear, to discuss and to argue with them about their views and how they live, it is absolutely forbidden, especially since the secular participants have no intention of drawing closer to Torah and mitzvah observance.

The truth is that all this is part of the yetzer hora's ploy, so as to influence us negatively. There are no grounds whatsoever to permit taking part in such meetings. The way to draw our errant brothers closer is to come and learn with them, to point out the path of Torah and mitzvos to them and to show them the light contained therein, that will lead them back to the path of good.

Today we are witness to the blessed influence of all who engage in outreach in this way but [one must] not chas vesholom exchange opinions and the like. Plainly, anyone who takes part in such meetings is influenced negatively and this in turn has an effect on the upbringing of their own family. Women and teachers who participate in these meetings are risking their domestic harmony and their children's education and are not fit to educate Jewish daughters.

Torah can only be upheld in our times if we separate ourselves completely from the population at large, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and keep completely away from their talk and conversation, esconsing ourselves within the Torah strongholds and the yeshivos, fortifying ourselves in Torah and fear of Heaven. Therefore, whoever is able, must do whatever he can in order to cancel this phenomenon, which is a grave and serious breach.

. . . Who writes on behalf of the holiness of Yisroel,

Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz

I also affirm these truthful words,

Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman

The Foolishness Of Those Who Are Enticed To Supposedly Find A Common Language With Those Who Dwell In Darkness

By HaRav Shmuel Auerbach

HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, rosh yeshiva of Maalos Hatorah, addressed a gathering of avreichim last week and warned against the ideas of conciliation and dialogue. Here are his remarks, which were prepared from the notes of one of the listeners, and reviewed by the Rosh Yeshiva.

In his introduction to the book of Shemos, which we have recently started reading, the Ramban explains that while the book of Bereishis deals with the creation, and tells us about all the deeds of the ovos, which were a type of creation for [later events that would befall] their descendants, the book of Shemos comes to tell us about the first exile and the redemption from it.

The Ramban explains that the exile did not end until "they returned to the level of their forefathers" and therefore, when we left Egypt, even though we were leaving the place where we had been enslaved, we were still classed as exiles. It was only when we came to Har Sinai and erected the Mishkon, whereupon Hashem brought His presence to rest upon the nation, that they returned to their ancestors' level.

The departure from "the iron crucible" (Devorim 4, 20) of Egypt represented the birth of Klal Yisroel and brought us a large measure of perpetual freedom, without "still remaining the servants of Achashverosh" (Megilloh 14). However, this everlasting freedom depends upon us and on [how we use] our free will, in the same way as the Egyptian exile itself depended to a large extent upon our free will.

In the past we have mentioned the Vilna Gaon's comment that the inner comprehension of the redemption from Egypt hinges upon Yaakov Ovinu's not having chosen to settle there, despite all the advantages it would afford him, with his son the king etc. He only went down to Egypt under Divine compulsion and he [therefore] lived there in perpetual freedom. This was the inner preparation of the entire nation's redemption from Egypt.

Neither did the tribe of Levi choose this exile, even while they lived in Egypt, even when it seemed that they stood to benefit from drawing closer to the Egyptians -- and they remained free men [even] in Egypt. Just as there is a bone in the body that remains alive [after the body expires] and there is also the concept of havlo degarmei, a vitality within the bones, that is a preparation for techiyas hameisim, the members of sheivet Levi also constituted the living spirit within Klal Yisroel that was the inner preparation for the entire nation's redemption.

How important it is for us to contemplate this "perpetual freedom," which affects us and which obligates us at every moment. This is the purpose of remembering the departure from Egypt each day and night. We always have the free will to choose to merit living a life of perpetual freedom, to the extent that we ally ourselves with the tribe of Levi -- the Rambam's words, "and not only the tribe of Levi, but anyone..." (end of Hilchos Shemittah Veyovel) are well known.

In actual fact, all the various spiritual attainments belong to the entire nation, even those which were concentrated in a particular group, which the tribe of Levi, or others, merited. The actual attainments themselves are common property, as the Chovos Halevovos writes, that the extra mitzvos that were given to the cohanim are really for anyone who receives any benefit or station from Hashem yisborach, whether material or spiritual. Gratitude obligates such a person to accept additional mitzvos upon himself. The main virtue of such added mitzvos is the enhancement of one's service of Hashem, with greater power and resolve, with a willing heart and with joy.

How foolish are those who allow themselves to be enticed by those who pursue them into approaching, joining and becoming conciliated R'l, with those who are [wallowing] in the darkness of exile. Abandoning or weakening one's identification with the unique qualities of sheivet Levi -- "and not only sheivet Levi . . . " -- represents a departure chas vesholom from perpetual freedom. We are dutybound to protect ourselves and to flee far away and to warn those in positions of authority about those under them. [It is true that] a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness, even a little, but only if it is pure light and not the sort that is "light and darkness working together." It can only be done by strengthening the power of the light.

We are commanded to distance ourselves from every shadow of alien influence and closeness. We must remember what Amolek did to us, [that they] "cooled you off" (Devorim 25, 18) etc. Moving nearer and trying to find some supposed "common language" between those who fear Hashem, who "hate evil," and others who dwell in the darkness, may Hashem protect us, represents the beginning of this cooling off, whose final results are unforeseeable -- may Hashem save us.

It is incumbent upon us to strengthen ourselves with the force of holy power, for all that remains to us is this holy Torah that is our heritage and to distance ourselves from all foreign influences that do not originate within the vineyard of Yisroel. In this merit, may Hashem grant the fulfillment of, "And all the land will be filled the knowledge of Hashem" (Yeshaya 11, 9) and may Hashem's glory be revealed swiftly, omein.


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