Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Tammuz 5763 - July 2, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Leitzonus Against Us and For Us

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

Part II

In the first part, Rabbi Grossman explained how devastating leitzonus can be. He says that of all the means the anti-religious have used against Torah observance, leitzonus may well have been the most dreadfully effective. The person using it need not explain his ideas and merely destroys the truth. Leitzonus is not grappling with a problem but evading it. It prevents direct argument and obviates any necessity of choosing an alternative ideology. It is an effective distraction and places a smooth shield before man when he is faced with truth and scathing rebuke. It was one of the main destructive tools of Korach.

Yet by the same token, leitzonus is often the only effective reply when faced with outside attacks. Our leaders have not hesitated to use it when indicated.


Anyone who reflects on Jewish history will see how the Torah- observant have used this weapon of leitzonus of avodoh zora many times to fight against those who wished to wreak havoc on our religion. The use of that destructive, "non- conventional weapon" that derives its strength from leitzonus is particularly effective when there is a need to fight against those parties that want us to recognize their opinions as tenable. Mockery altogether destroys what they say without making them a debatable position for the Torah-loyal, as if they had reasonable grounds to debate. (See, for instance, Karaina DeIgarta by HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, the Steipler Rov zt'l, what leitzonus of avodoh zora he wrote against the person who attempted to permit mamzeirim).


In the past generation Torah-observant journalists used leitzonus as a weapon against the despicable followers of the Enlightenment Movement who attempted to uproot every sacred value of our nation. One incident where sarcasm was used was against the writer Yehoshua Leib Gordon shr'y who, with his poisonous pen, wrote Kutzo Shel Yud (Meticulous Observance), in which he tried to arouse the reader's pity for a fictitious agunah whose get was disqualified by a rov who refused to consider her pleas and tears.

In another venomous poem, called Barvazim Avusim (Stuffed Ducks) he pictured a rov ruling a duck bought by a poor widow to be treif, not to be eaten for her yom tov meal, merely because he found a hole in the esophagus. The unfortunate widow could not even eat her scanty meal. The poem, written in a virulently satirical style full of bitter mockery, showed off Gordon's writing talent and spread throughout Jewish society, degrading rabbonim and the followers of halocho.

R' Yaakov Lipshitz zt'l who was the secretary of HaRav Yitzchok Elchonon, in his Zichron Yaakov (II, 40), tells about a novel reaction to Gordon's attack that was then printed in the papers. A rov realized that the satiric idea insinuated in Barvazim Avusim was remarkably similar to the leitzonus of Korach, who told how Moshe and Aharon burdened the Jews unbearably and prevented them from enjoying the crop that they worked so hard for and their livestock that they had painstakingly cared for. Korach spoke about a widow's sheep, while Gordon decided to emphasize "the cruelty of the rabbonim and their turning a deaf ear to the plight of others" by a similar story with only one minor change: instead of the widow slaughtering a sheep as in Korach's story, she slaughtered a duck.

This rov therefore decided to publish in HaLevonon (a chareidi newspaper of the time) a sequel to Gordon's poem entitled Maskil La'anos Livnei Korach Mizmor Shir (a takeoff on the opening of many chapters of Tehillim). In his poem he proved that Gordon did not even use his own original material, and had no "copyright" on the satire he published. Gordon only reused the imaginary story that Korach had used long ago.

The new poem concluded with the following verses that depict Gordon as Korach's faithful disciple: "Their father Korach spoke about sheep / His firstborn spoke about stuffed ducks / Earth! Earth! See what is happening / Open your mouth and let him also be swallowed in your midst [as Korach was]."

It should be pointed out that the episode did not end with the response published in HaLevonon, although it was a perfectly suitable rebuttal. What developed after the satiric response had placed Gordon and the other Enlightenment writers in a ludicrous light, is also relevant to us.

The Enlightenment writers started a thunderous assault against the HaLevonon. R' Yaakov Lipshitz writes: "The poem Livnei Korach Mizmor bitterly infuriated Gordon and his group of writers. In HaMeilitz and HaCarmel (Enlightenment- oriented newspapers) the writers all bitterly complained that the clique of matzdikei horabim (suggesting a clandestine association) had attacked the Enlightenment Movement, "The HaLevonon should be called a publication of pasquinades (satiric writings), `A rag taken from washrooms,' and similar elegant expressions well fitting those pure-minded people who want to reform Yiddishkeit."

R' Lipshitz wonders where the sacred principles of "tolerance" and "freedom of speech," of which the Enlightenment spoke so often, had suddenly disappeared. "These reformers, who dared ridicule the nation's spiritual leaders and undermine our religion, Rachmono litzlan, disgracing all holy values and belittling all the giants who upheld the Torah and supported it, using unrefined satire and frightening others that they too might be slandered, somehow consider their own articles to be a source of enlightenment. However, intelligent articles that protect the Torah and its supporters they label as pasquinade! The Enlightenment's primary foundation is tolerance, but in the name of tolerance its writers gripe about those who defend our religion and call them `Cossacks of HaKodosh Boruch Hu' and `Heaven's lawyers.' In the name of permissiveness they devastate our religion, but permit themselves to be the Enlightenment Movement's inquisitors when they besmirch gedolei Torah and kedoshei Yisroel. They permit themselves to use terrorizing means just like real inquisitors.

"These people permit themselves to slander us, abuse us, and the like, because of their `enlightened perspectives' and `aspiration for religious reforms.' But the uprising of rabbonim and the chareidim to protect our holy religion by using means available to all is considered by them a reason to claim that they are being oppressed! The chareidi slaves have emerged from their holes and dare defend Judaism through journalistic means. . . . So they call for all the enlightened to fight . . . .

"Gordon is using all sorts of ways to slander the HaLevonon and to attain a governmental prohibition against it. His colleagues and group of writers have cruelly derided the HaLevonon and its writers. They have threatened to denounce them as a secret society, called matzdikei horabim . . . This is the height of that tolerance for which the enlightened pride themselves, and for whose lack they criticize the chareidim. They are Jesuits, who attempt to persuade others to adopt their views through the use of force. They seemingly follow the banner of tolerance and ideological freedom, but when they see the chareidim strengthening themselves to guard their views and influence the masses -- not by force, choliloh, but through publications and debate -- [the Enlightened] suddenly forget their tolerance. They overlook freedom of belief and speech and instead adopt the sharp sword of slander."


There is truly nothing new under the sun. "Freedom of self- expression" was always a value intended for the exclusive use of the anti-religious. It was used selectively while excluding the chareidim from expressing their views or making a decent response. All of the "openness" and "pluralism" about which they speak suddenly disappears the moment they see they are being answered.

This paradoxical intellectual hypocrisy was discussed by Maran HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky zt'l in an article published in his youth. In the article (reprinted in his collected essays, page 95) he describes how the openness of the anti-religious vanishes when a Torah-observant Jew brings a proof for his stand from the Torah or its accepted commentaries -- a great contrast to the veneration they give to any ignorant contemporary writer.

"Try to sit together with an intellectual and discuss current events. If he disagrees with you over any point and you bring proof for your view from a holy book -- even if it was from the earliest rishonim -- he will pay no attention to you and will continue to disagree. But if you are wise and cite proof for your position from a modern writer, or a well- known daily newspaper, he will immediately drop his opinion when faced with theirs, and you will win."

HaRav Abramsky zt'l then described sarcastically a meeting he had with a self-styled intellectual. "Among the many and varied events that I have experienced during my life, one particular incident lingers in my memory. It has not been forgotten by me with the passing of time, like the vast majority of other incidents. In 1905, when young people had overwhelming influence on themselves and the rest of the nation, a young man visited me. From his countenance [and] the waves of his hair. . . I discerned that he believed himself to be as wise as Karl Marx himself. In order to show him friendship I entered into a discussion with him. He immediately began skipping from one subject to another, from constitutions to republics, and from republics to other endless matters, like a collection of unfinished or incomplete excerpts. I began to get a strong feeling of dizziness, like the one mechutonim feel the day after a wedding because of the noise of the dancing and the music.

"In the middle of the conversation I just happened to mention a Talmudic adage. I did not even finish what I was trying to say; at my very mention of the word `gemora' my guest jumped from his place as if a snake had bit him and he turned burning hot and red. If there is no mazal for Yisroel with regard to non- Jews, there is mazal for Yisroel with regard to themselves. Was it not the hand of Hashem that located this `pleasant' meeting in my house? As a witness to the real character of the person I was talking to (revealed when he became angry), I can tell you that if it had happened in his own house he would have torn me into pieces like a fish. . . or would have forcibly thrown me out with a kick in the back and then smashed my bones to pieces."

This is the real character of those who profess openness and preach tolerance. The adherents of the Enlightenment Movement, writes HaRav Abramsky, made a selective, one-way use of the principle of freedom of speech. "They shut their ears against hearing clearly. Only what they themselves wrote did they tell the masses. What others wrote they did not print, electing to throw it in the editor's waste basket forever. They denied freedom of speech to anyone who did not think like them, and in that way they spread their poison to everything holy and precious to us."

There is nothing new under the sun. The dangerous weapon of leitzonus was always employed by the anti-religious, throughout history. The Torah-observant answered them with leitzonus for avodoh zora, which effectively exposed their shame. This fitting reaction on our part was, they considered, illegitimate the moment that it was used by the Torah- loyal.

The reason for this phenomenon is that their tolerance is one- way. Secular openness shuts its ears to Torah values, and what they call freedom of self-expression is, they consider, a private possession, not to be shared with others.

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