The Weberman Trial: my prediction

The papers and internet are discussing the infamous Satmar Weberman Trial.

Satmar and their ilk are outraged that such an issue should go before a goyishe court. They contend it should only have been dealt with by a Beis Din. Be that what it may, you can bet that if the court will find Weberman guilty they will continue this line and scream that it’s a blood libel.

I believe that Weberman will be found innocent, or guilty of a minor misdemeanour because the onus of proof from the court will ironically be greater than that required by a Beis Din. Weberman’s attorney argued that there was no evidence, no DNA etc. He is right. DNA and body fluids are not required to prove guilt according to Halacha.

My prediction is that they will be hypocritical. They will claim that the court found him not guilty in the main, and they will use this as proof that he “did nothing”. Proof from a goyishe court? Yes, that’s acceptable, but only if they do not find you guilty.

Let Eliyahu decide our questions

The Talmud, when faced with a conundrum that cannot be solved, uses the phrase

יהא מונח עד שיבוא אליהו

Let the issue rest until Eliyahu HaNavi comes (back) and advises us of the Halacha

or

תשבי יתרץ קושיות ואבעיות

ֵEliyahu (HaTishbi) will answer all the questions.

The question is asked: since Moshe Rabbenu was our greatest teacher, why do we wait for Eliyahu (who never died) to answer the questions, surely we should wait for Moshe (who will be resurrected when Mashiach comes) and ask Moshe Rabbenu to Pasken/decide the Halachic conundrums.

Rav Yissacher Shlomo Teichtalהי’’ד

R’ Teichtal הי’’ד

in his celebrated אם הבנים שמחה, explains that to be a Posek, a Halachic decisor, a Rabbi needs to be immersed in the world. A Rosh Yeshivah, for example, who only interacts with the surreal world of his Yeshivah, is not equipped to be a Posek for the masses. All his answers are designed for the שומר נפש, the Yeshivah or Kollel Jew, for whom being יוצא לכל הדעות, acting according to all stringencies, is the norm. Accordingly, since Moshe has not been interacting in our world for thousands of years, he is not suited to be the Posek when the Mashiach comes. Eliyahu HaNovi, however, who did not die, and lives amongst us, so to speak, is more suitable to answer our questions.

It is also for this reason that the משנה ברורה was not considered as acceptable to normative Psak, as the ערוך השלחן. The Chafetz Chaim was considered like the Rosh Yeshivah who lived in his world, and his method of Psak certainly was biased towards accommodating as many opinions as possible. The ערוך השלחן however was also someone who interacted deeply with his community, and for whom the sight of a woman brandishing a chicken to discover whether there was an issue of Kashrus with that chicken, was not unusual. Similarly, although R’ Chaim Soloveitchik ז’ל also known as R’ Chaim Brisker

R’ Chaim Brisker ז’ל

was considered the genius of his generation in terms of learning and innovation, R’ Chaim wasn’t a Posek. When people came to R’ Chaim to ask a question, he referred them to R’ Simcha Zelig Reiger ז’ל,

R’ Simcha Zelig, Av Beis Din of Brisk

the Dayan of Brisk.  (Incidentally, R’ Hershel Jaeger once told me that some descendants of R’ Simcha Zelig live in Melbourne).

Rav Teichtal, takes this one step further. He considers it immaterial that earlier Gedolim, such as the Satmar Rav or R’ Elchanan Wasserman had a negative view of an en masse Aliya to Israel. Rav Teichtal claims that they, like Moshe Rabenu, were not there to witness the changes in the world, and so their Psak, for today, is irrelevant.

R’ Elchanan Wasserman, May God avenge his murder

The latest chumra for Shidduchim

[Hat tip to my ex-room mate at Kerem B’Yavneh]

There will be other developments, no doubt, which include an opaque perspex divider when these seats become part of the norm in parks and gardens. There will also be super bus terminals built around this design in certain neighbourhoods, where the Yetzer Hora is too powerful. I’d insert a smiley in this post, except that it might be misplaced.

The Shidduch Bench (c)

They must be excommunicated

Are there billboard announcements all around Meah Shearim denouncing this Nidetrechtige Oysvoorf? Are we only going to see announcements about the denier level of stockings, or could we perhaps have the Satmar Rebbe’s come out and openly disassociate themselves from this mohammedan brown tongue?

Watch this video (in his polished Ivrit no less-another example of hypocrisy). If it doesn’t bother you, then perhaps you need to take another look at yourself and ask why you are desensitised to such debasement and such a profound חילול השם.

Question: Is there a group in Melbourne’s Adass community who support this guy and his philosophy and approach? Who are they? Here we are on the eve of the great day that Hashem wrought open miracles and allowed us to re-unite Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, and this low life calls it “al-quds”. I’m profoundly sickened by people who harbour such philosophies and spread them around the world in the way that this חזיר does.

«Hat tip to Krakovian Ezra»

Are the Agudah Zionists after all?

In an emotional outburst against Tzipi Livni, MK, Rabbi Yisrael Eichler MK is reported by Arutz Sheva as having stated that

“It is only because of the ultra-Orthodox, here in Israel, that today we are in our beloved homeland of three-thousand years dating back to God’s promise to Abraham that ‘to your seed I shall give the land’,”

What does this mean? Surely the meaning is that as a reward for Limud HaTorah and Shmiras HaMitzvos, Hashem is supporting the continued existence and security of a Jewish State. But what of the three oaths, which are quoted by Satmar, Neturei Karta, Shomrei Emunim and the like? Does it mean that according to United Torah Judaism, these are superseded by the protection of Torah? What then is the view of Satmar et al? Do they contend that irrespective of the amount of Torah in the State of Israel, the “State” entity itself, as opposed to the land, is enough to cause much of the manifest problems we experience? I’ve never understood, then, why they don’t leave the State. It’s one thing to say I don’t take “anything” from the Government of the State, but how does this make any difference. Why are they living there? After all, the Satmar Rebbe chose not to live there. Could they not all go to Williamsburg or Brussels and live the same lives without infuriating Satan by their living and expanding in the State they should not be part of?

So you say it’s forbidden to leave Israel, that’s why they don’t leave. The reality though is that they have left in the past and do leave. Is Torah protecting the State, as per the comment of Rabbi Eichler? Perhaps they contend that their Limud HaTorah only protects their own.

My comments, above, should be seen as largely tongue-in-cheek. The point I am trying to make is what purpose is there in making statements like this, especially in a parliament where some members are anti-religious or ambivalent towards the religious. What is served by such an outburst? Will the Israeli public all of a sudden take their side? I just don’t get it. These type of comments, as well as comments in the past, where Eichler stated

“Reform Jews are worse than our enemies. They are anti-semites who hate Israel”

achieve very little. Okay, I know that Reform is gravely problematic, but anti-semites? I haven’t met a Reform Jew who wants to kill me. They are misguided, certainly.

It is true that there are elements of the Israeli press who actively seek to ridicule Charedim. That phenomenon must be condemned. But it is equally true that the Charedim do themselves no good at all when they exude

  • angry and vitriolic hate
  • physical aggression against those who aren’t up to their standards
  • supremacist invective
  • an “us” versus “them” divide

Perhaps it’s the Chabad upbringing in me and/or the extreme love philosophy of Rav Kook, but I just don’t see how this style of negativity achieves anything, except more ridicule and a lowering of Kavod HaTorah.

I’m probably living in a fool’s paradise. Closeted in Australia, I still see the role of a frum politician as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity not to behave in the same way as those who haven’t benefited from Torah. It is an opportunity to always behave with decorum and speak respectfully. It is an opportunity to reject anti-Torah legislation through powerful speeches laden with an ambience that will trigger the Nefesh Elokis in most parliamentarians (Rav Lau comes to mind).

Do you know why the so-called “slut walk” is planned to take place Rachmono Litzlan in Yerusholayim? It’s not just because the walkers don’t comprehend the Kedusha therein. It’s also because Kedusha has to be radiated. If the proverbial fans of this radiation are seen to be vituperative pariahs on account of spiteful mouths and a lack of support for the physical safety of the country, the Kedusha finds it harder to permeate and is concealed.

There is no point being triumphalist. דברי תורה בנחת נשמעין

Tachanun on Yom Ha’atzmaut

I understand but do not accept the view of Hungarian Satmar, Toldos Aron, Shomer Emunim and similar, that the establishment of a State for Jews is the work of Satan and should be rejected. Such a view, in the opinion of many great sages is not justifiable, and its tenuous reliance on the three oaths is seen as an halachic fiction.

I understand, but do not agree with the view of Chabad and some other Chassidim and Misnagdim, that “it is what it is”. They contend that the establishment of the state wasn’t a necessary event in the development of events leading to the Mashiach. However, given that the State is a reality, they will support the people within the State. Chabad, for example, refrain at all costs from saying the State of Israel. Listen carefully. They will always say Eretz Yisroel, following the practice of the last Rebbe, who I believe only referred to it as the “State of Israel” but once.

I understand and accept the position of those who see the State of Israel as being an eschatological reality created by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and that it will eventually lead to ובא לציון גואל, but who will either

  • not say hallel
  • will say hallel without a bracha
  • will say hallel with a bracha

They do not disagree with the metaphysical importance of the State, but have halachic techno-legal reasons for their particular practice. For example, the Rav didn’t say Hallel and at Kerem B’Yavneh we said Hallel without a Bracha.

I do not understand why people who do not agree that the establishment of a State for Jews is the work of Satan (e.g. Satmar) or who are passively ambivalent about the eschatological significance of a State (e.g. Chabad) not only say Tachanun, but insist on saying Tachanun. It is related that the Chazon Ish, who was saved from the events of the Holocaust by no less than the efforts of Harav Kook ז’ל, insisted on saying Tachanun.

In Melbourne, a number of years ago, when a Bris occurred at the ultra-orthodox Adass Yisrael congregation, Rabbi Beck insisted that Tachanun be said davka because it was Yom Ha’atzmaut and that it would be entirely wrong for someone to come away with the impression that Tachanun might not have been said on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

It is well-known, that Chizkiyahu the great King, in whose generation the Gemora tells us (in Sanhedrin from memory) that Torah study and knowledge was in a high and unprecedented state, failed to materialise the Geula because Chizkiyahu became too haughty and felt that it was unnecessary to utter special praise (Shira) to Hashem and thank him for the miracles that Hashem wrought on Am Yisrael.

Shira, praise and thanksgiving, is the power to see the illumination of the future in the present. It is the power to perceive our existence as a link between the past and the present, and the power to raise everything towards an all-encompassing Geula.

Therefore after crossing the Red Sea, in “Shirat Ha’Yam” – it states: “Az” Yashir. Az– “Then,” past tense, is a reflection on the past, “Yashir” – “will sing praise” in the future tense. There is the joining and encapsulation of the past and the future, thereby giving meaning to the present.

The Torah is also referred to as “shira.” We seek to find Hashem in every nook and cranny and aspect of life—in every corner. This is the approach to Torah that elevates the world. Torah that creates a superficial division between the Yeshivah and the external, real world, is not the ideal.  Yahadus desires to interpret everything, and of course, especially the manifestation of God’s name

It is possible to study Torah as in the days of Chizkiyahu, to the extent that even the children are expert at the laws of tumah and tahara, yet still the Geula is hindered and delayed.

Yeshayahu expected Chizkiyahu to offer praise, and sing shira to elevate the entirety of reality. Chizkiyahu failed and the world was set back in reaching its goal.

One’s individual Torah, despite it’s great value and benefits, is not termed Shira. Only the transcendent Torah that strives to see how everything is bound to Hakadosh Baruch Hu is described as shira.

Those who separate the Torah from the State as if they are two entities are not singing.  This is how Rav Kook explained the criticism of Chizkiyahu. “That in his days briers and thorns covered Eretz Yisra’el,” for Chizkiyahu did not demonstrate how the Torah is also connected to the land.

In justifying Chizkiyahu, some have posited that the miracle of his victory over Sancherev was not as great as the sun standing still (in the days of Yehoshua) and that is why Chizkiyahu didn’t sing Hashem’s praises. Mortals, however, are not qualified to  judge which miracle is greater or more substantial. Judging such things is an expression of haughtiness, and this is what Chazal meant.

Shira dissolves the temporal manifestation of ingratitude, as supplied by the Yetzer Horah.

What is most puzzling to me is that even those who don’t recognise the need to especially sing to Hashem still insist on making this a day like any other and continue saying Tachanun. Yet, on their own days of celebration (e.g. a special day in a Chassidic court), they suspend the saying of Tachanun.

Why?

Lock these vermin out

I’m sorry, there is no other way than to describe them. They are vermin. If this story is accurate, or even mostly accurate, I hope they have video footage. There should be video surveillance cameras installed in every single road in Beth Shemesh where these vermin hang out. Catch them, put them in prison for 5 years, and then lets see where it takes us. Are we going to wait and wait and wait for the never resultant condemnation from their Rabbinic mentors? The lunatics are out of the asylum.

Watch this video of the girl, Natalie Mashiach, recounting her horrible experience.

And, for something different, a Breslover reaction.

Natalie Mashiach, assaulted in Beth Shemesh

The Eda Charedis is imploding

Hat tip to Dovid, reports coming to hand indicate that there have been a series of arrests at 4:30am in Meah Shearim involving the Shamash of the Av Beis Din, R’ Tuvia Weiss. After a long investigation, it would seem that there has been a massive money laundering operation happening through the offices of the Shamash, Amram Shapira. Also arrested were Shmuel Lubatzki who ran the “charity” known as HaVaad HaArtzi as well as Yossele Sheinberger and Ya’acov Eisenbach. The charges are serious and involve many millions. Through their representative, Yitzchak Shlomo Blau, the Eda have sent a message to the Israeli police that all bets are off, and communication lines are now closed.

I expect that there will be a new ferocious round of violence, tyre and rubbish burning and mass demonstrations. Worse, our friends at Satmar, who are philosophically aligned with the Eda, have suggested that Chassidim demonstrate in the USA against the “religious persecution” of minorities. Will they demonstrate in Australia too?

In the meanwhile, one of the two Satmar Rebbes, R’ Zalman Leib?, has condemned the Belzer Rebbe because the latter dared to suggest that violence may not be the way to deal with the issues being faced. In a rambling tirade, lacking  Torah sources or halachic veracity, the Satmar Rebbe basically said that you can’t fight a lack of kedusha (read Tumah) by adding Kedusha elsewhere. He suggested that one had to “confront” the Tumah. He’s right, but he hasn’t explained why confronting can’t be achieved by increasing Kedusha. He seems to think that Kedusha can’t permeate. We know that is simply wrong! We live in times where the most powerful method to deal with the opposite of kedusha is to bring kedusha to it! You can’t mandate Kedusha through fiat. That’s a medieval approach, at best. It doesn’t work in the free world. Period.

Next time you consider Satmar, remember that although they do great things in Chesed, they are aligned with the Eda Charedis in no uncertain fashion.They are implacably against Israel and their world view is one that is increasingly aggressive against anyone who doesn’t allow their spreading tentacles to transform and supplant an existing landscape with their definitions of Tzniyus etc. It’s in our midst too. Today, in East St. Kilda, as I got out of my car, 3 little boys from the Adass offshoot school said “look the Tziyoni is here” after which they quickly scuttled back up their drive way. Who is teaching these kids such disgraceful hate laden invective? Am I also the Tumah that the Satmar Rebbe and the Eda Charedis wants to “attack”? Are the women wearing Sheytels and Tichels and little girls going to School in Bet Shemesh, the Kochos HaTumah?

We are in big trouble. These extremists have gone way too far. The market needs a correction.

Perhaps it’s time to divest from the Edah Charedis?

Read about their duplicity here. Why should we trust let alone use their Hechsher? You are better off supporting OU, StarK or Chof K and the like. Unfortunately, in Israel things have multiple hechsherim. I’d like to see a company like Osem take a stance and say go and find another product to stamp. It won’t happen, though, because it requires principles and not just profits.

Responses to Zealotry

Some definitions:

Extremist:  a person who favours or resorts to immoderate, uncompromising, or fanatical methods or behaviour, especially in being politically radical

Fanatic: refers to persons showing more than ordinary support for, adherence to, or interest in a cause, point of view, or activity.

Zealot: stresses vigorous, aggressive support for or opposition to a plan or ideal and suggests a combative stance.

Taking stance that is “not the norm” can be viewed as extremist. In a community of meat-eaters, a vegetarian who is uncompromising may be seen as adhering to an extremist view. Once a community comprises more vegetarians, they cease to be called fanatics. Their behaviour becomes an acceptable norm, albeit of a minority view. In either case, some vegetarians are more vocal than others. We accept the views of someone who is passionate about their vegetarianism. We don’t have a problem with the existence of vegetarian-only restaurants. There are lines, though. Where does society draw those lines?

  • It would be unacceptable to enter a vegetarian restaurant and demand to eat meat.
  • It would be unacceptable to enter a meat restaurant and demand that they cease serving meat.

Why is it unacceptable? Simply because we recognise the right of free choice: an inalienable right; a God-given right. Free choice is the basis of our existence as humans and is the eco-system through which we are able to rise or fall.

Kosher-style restaurants or take-aways are not kosher. It is forbidden by Halacha to eat food prepared in such establishments. Yet, some people on the fringe, do so. You find yourself in an environment where Kosher-style is presented to you. The food is unacceptable and yet your host insists that you partake. They cannot understand what is wrong. There is no pork. It’s supposedly a kosher fish with side salad. What can be wrong with the dressing? You decline. Your host may well be upset, yet you may not be in a position to adequately explain why you cannot take part. Your host may not be in a position to understand or accept your stance. It would be wrong for your host to become angry. Equally, it would be wrong for you to show anger towards your host. There is a gap between your views and theirs. You may also both be somewhat fanatical in your views. You may not understand each other. You may both even be somewhat fanatical in not accepting or understanding the rationale; but there is still a line. This line is the glue which keeps society together. When that line is crossed, we are in danger of falling apart as a unit. The line is crossed when someone is a zealot. You become a zealot when you take an aggressive or combative stance.

Sometimes, in rare cases, a Jew is commanded to sacrifice their life and not compromise their ideals. This is קידוש ה, the sanctification of God’s name that is wrought through death. It is a form of passive aggression. We aspire, though, to live. In regards sanctifying God’s name through living our lives, the Talmud in Yoma quotes a verse and interprets it as follows:

ואהבת את ה’ אלוקיך you shall love Hashem, your God. [This means]

שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך that the name of Heaven [God] should become beloved through your hands [actions]

Ultimately, your actions need to be ones which cause the name of God to remain/become beloved through the mode of your adherence to Torah and Mitzvos. The Talmud then provides some examples:

  • Your business dealings should be honest and upright
  • You should adhere to righteous Jews and learn from their ways and their Torah
  • You should speak with pleasantness

This list is not exhaustive. Clearly, there are many other things that have the potential to both sully or exalt respect for the practice of Judaism. The resultant potential love of Heaven is induced thereby.

The greater test is to stay an honourable, practicing and believing Jew during one’s life. As incredible as Isaac’s preparedness to allow himself to be sacrificed by his father, Abraham, the test for Abraham, who would have had to live with what he did for the rest of his life, was greater. The test to go on living is usually protracted and far more stressful. Similarly,causing God’s name and Judaism to be loved by one’s actions is greater and more challenging through the mode of one’s life and the way one lives.

I am convinced the events of the last few weeks involving a section of the ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist, community in Israel have caused the name of God and the image of Judaism to be severely tarnished. Halachically,

  • one does not spit at little girls (or anyone for that matter)
  • one does not ask a woman to move to the back of the bus, whether she is dressed according to one’s own acceptable levels of modesty or not.
  • one does not throw stones at people who are not keeping Shabbos
  • one does not yell at people who don’t adhere to a certain standard of dress, even in one’s own backyard
  • one does not compare Jews to Nazis—ever.
  • one does not use the holocaust in an abhorrent pantomime to advance an agenda

To be sure, the anti-Zionist zealots, comprising so-called Sikrikim, Neturei Karta, Toldos Aaron and the others believe that they are “defending” God’s honour. They are, of course, wrong. Their behaviour is nothing short of odious and against Halacha. These zealots  do not act alone. They receive the silent, or “behind closed doors” blessings of their Rabbinic leaders. They will not listen to anyone; we are all Treyf. In their mind, they have a complete mortgage on the truth.

What can we do?

  • We must recognise that there is a sizeable number of “black hats” and “thick stocking” style people, who are also disgusted by this thuggish minority of misguided individuals.
  • We must ask our own Rabbis, yes, each and every one of them, to explicitly make a statement in writing and in sermons to their congregations rejecting the ideology of the zealots as outside the pale of normative Judaism. Statements should be without prevarication. There is no need to speak about anything else. For example, the statement by the RCA is sensibly crafted, whereas the one from the Aguda is disingenuous.
  • There is a group in our own community, constituting a section of Adass Israel Congregation, who fully agree with the philosophy of the zealots. A few days ago, I was accosted in the street, next door to my parents’ house, by a brain-washed boy , who yelled at the top of his lungs “Zionists are Pigs” (in Yiddish). Do not forget that this group of zealots are in our midst. Pockets exist in most Jewish communities around the world.
  • When asking for a statement/response from your Rabbi, it is important to not only include members of the Rabbinic Council of Victoria or the Organisation of Rabbis of Australia. One should also approach the Rabbis of Adass, Beth HaTalmud and other non-affiliated congregations and ask specific questions with no wriggle room. In particular, ask if it is ever appropriate to demand that a woman “move to the back of the bus” even if she is on one of those bus lines where such an pseudo-mechitza is implemented.
  • When a collector comes to your door, ask them the same question. If you don’t like their answers, give them less and someone else more.
  • Avoid apologetics. There is absolutely no justification for this disgraceful anti-halachic behaviour.

Let me end with a story about a true sage, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל. In his neighbourhood of Sha’arei Chesed a lady persisted in driving through the otherwise empty streets on Shabbos. Surrounded by the “holy” ones, he was asked, “Surely you have a Torah obligation to protest against this desecration of Shabbos?”. R’ Shlomo Zalman responded that indeed he did have a responsibility to express his dislike for what was occurring. He advised them, however, that throwing stones, or surrounding/blocking the car and/or yelling “Shabbos” achieved nothing. It only served to further aggravate the situation. “So in what way are you protesting?” they asked. R” Shlomo Zalman was quiet. Over the next few weeks, rather than accosting the women who drove through the neighbourhood, they observed R’ Shlomo Zalman as he walked in the street after Shule and came face to face with the car. A look of genuine pain was seen on his face. The lady noticed this look from R’ Shlomo Zalman’s face over the next few weeks, and apparently decided that she didn’t want to cause any angst to this old and pious man. If you are respectful to people, they will also respect you. Don’t cross lines.

We Jews who also try to keep Halacha to the best of our ability must vehemently reject and ostracise this group of unsound zealots and let them know that we are not with them in any shape or form, and that their corrupt version of Judaism is simply an invalid aberration.

Enough is Enough.

Can the Shtetl survive in the Western World?

The extreme charedim, such as Satmar and their ilk do not support the State of Israel. They do not want to take a cent from the Government. After all, this is not a Government made up of Shomer Shabbos people, and in addition, they consider the State as undermining and stopping the progress of the Geula. So what do they do? They prefer to quietly live amongst non-Jews. They don’t, however, just live in a spread out manner. They prefer homogenous enclaves within the non-Jewish States. As they get bigger, they also want to control those cities. They ask that other don’t ride on their bikes in an immodest manner while passing through their neighbourhoods and they take people to task for offending their principles whilst in what they term their neighbourhood.

How much longer can this last? A recent report suggests that Kiryas Yoel, may well be experiencing some fireworks in the not too distant future. Ironically, they might have been better off in the State of Israel.

Dissident leaders from Kiryas Joel filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing the Satmar Hasidic community’s majority faction of abusing its control over municipal affairs and demanding the 34-year-old village be dissolved.
The 59-page complaint catalogs grievances dating back a decade and depicts a religious faction exercising uncontested power in the secular realm. The case, brought by Goshen attorney Michael Sussman, calls Kiryas Joel a “theocracy” that violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against the establishment of religion.
“Religion is wonderful,” Sussman said at a press conference in his office Monday, seated beside Joseph Waldman, a plaintiff and longtime dissident leader. “But it cannot dominate the state. And that is what is happening in Kiryas Joel.”
The case alleges discrimination against dissidents — estimated in court papers to comprise 40 percent of the village’s roughly 20,000 residents — in various facets of public life, from tax exemptions for synagogues to election improprieties to selective enforcement of village noise ordinances.
Among the most serious allegations is that Kiryas Joel’s Public Safety Department, a quasi-police agency, has acted as enforcers for the main congregation and tolerated acts of violence and intimidation against dissidents by unruly crowds of young supporters of Satmar Grand Rebbe Aron Teitelbaum, the leader of Kiryas Joel’s majority faction.
In one incident in August 2010, a mob of screaming boys — angry about a marriage held in a dissident wedding hall — allegedly hounded relatives of one of the newlyweds as they walked home from a synagogue after midnight. The complaint says the boys punched, kicked and threw bottles and eggs at the family, which included a pregnant woman.
The suit alleges that public safety officers passed by during the harassment and did nothing. Later, when the family members approached their destination, an officer parked nearby allegedly refused to escort them home.
The plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to dissolve the Village of Kiryas Joel, which would effectively remove its leaders, lift its laws and place it under the governance of the surrounding Town of Monroe. The village was incorporated in 1977 as a satellite of the Brooklyn-based Satmar sect.
If the judge won’t do that, the suit asks for the removal of the current village leaders, including the mayor, trustees and administrator.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of a much-publicized attack against a dissident in New Square, a Hasidic community in Rockland County roiled by the same sort of internal rift as the Satmar Hasidim. In that May 22 incident, a 43-year-old man suffered severe burns fighting off a young man who tried to burn down his home.
Sussman, who’s also representing the burn victim, Aron Rottenberg, announced Monday that he had filed a $36 million lawsuit in state court against New Square’s grand rebbe, David Twersky, and the 18-year-old aide suspected of starting the fire.

from here

Don’t they have anything better to do?

Two items on the news caught my eye, and both upset me in their own way.

The first was a visit to Iran, yes, yet again, by members of Neturei Karta. What do they hope to achieve? I cannot understand a mindset that thinks that they are bringing the Geula closer by kissing the neck of Esav. Look at the smirks. Feh.

Grovelling to Sonei Yisrael Yimach Shemom (Photo from Reuters)

The second is another NK protest designed to protect the Satmar enclave of Williamsburg  (why is one guy shockeling?) about a new Shaytel place opening up in Crown Heights. Do they really think that a single person is going to pay attention to this? What will they achieve except some newspaper coverage that might link these clowns to the photoshopping incident. What a Kiddush Hashem. Feh.

This one is just as bad, if not worse.

Radicals protesting in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)

Pushing your own barrow

Rabbi Ralph Genende issued an opinion (hat tip to Ezra May) about Di Tzeitung’s photoshopping of women in an uncelebrated manner.  There is a way to criticise this Satmar newspaper but Rabbi Genende has not simply sought to do that. Rabbi Genende has used this as an opportunity to trumpet modern orthodoxy and contrast it with ultra orthodoxy.

Let’s look at how he made his arguments, and ask some questions.

While modern Orthodoxy has long-championed the greater inclusion of women in Jewish public life, the Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) world still struggles with, if not out rightly rejects.

In what way do Charedim struggle with the inclusion of women? My observation is that each group within the Charedi world has their own halachic interpretation which they pursue.

In what way are the modern Orthodox championing inclusion of women? The Rav forbade the inclusion of women on Synagogue boards and the RCA issued their displeasure with Rabbi Avi Weiss’ attempts to ordain women.

they don’t have the right to impose this on others as the “Torah-true way”

In context, only readers of their paper are ‘forced’ to see this picture through their lenses. Is that not their free choice?

 I do have a problem with their zealotry, their conviction that they have the G-d given right to make women sit at the back of the bus or pressure them to move out of their allotted seats on an El AL plane because they don’t want to sit next to them.

I agree that women on a public bus should not be forced to move, but is this because of a lack of respect for women per se? I would have thought it was all about separation of sexes. I suspect that they would drag a man from the women’s section if he wandered over there.

More to the point, what has this to do with Di Tzeitung’s editorial policy unless one is simply trying to make the facile point that if they are extreme with one thing they must be extreme with others. Is Rabbi Genende implying that all those who choose not to publish pictures of women push women to the back of buses? Clearly that’s not the case.

To airbrush out pictures of women (which is done regularly not only in Di Tzeitung but also in other Chareidi publications) is a distortion of the truth which in Halacha is called gneivat da’at (being deceitful) and midvar sheker tirchak (keep away from falsehood).

How so? It is Gneivas Daas or Sheker if there is an expectation that they do not airbrush woman out of pictures. Is Rabbi Genende seriously suggesting that the readership of these papers is not aware of the editorial policy to do so? Come now.

The readership of the Tzeitung believe that women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for  what they look like”. I am not assured by this because the Tzeitung producers and readers are ‘fine-print’ shmekkers; they often focus on the most stringent minutiae of Halachik practise

So the implication is that anyone who aspires, as policy, to be a so-called בעל נפש must be telling a lie if they miss the fine print?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but how does Rabbi Genende know?

Equally, it is sciolistic to suppose that the difference between Charedim and  modern orthodox relates to the fine print. Is Rabbi Genende aware, for example, that the Rav, as scion of Brisk acted in Psak in a manner which tried to accommodate all opinions!  Is this the difference between Charedim and Modern Orthodox? I think not. Was Rav Hirsch dismissive of the fine print? What about the Sridei Eish?

And I am not assured by their reverence for what women do because this is usually restricted to a very narrow area

Is Rabbi Genende now questioning the appreciation of all Charedim for their wives because their lives are less outward and worldly (in his parlance narrow) than his? What sociological study is he leaning on to support this assertion?

More worrying is the attitude of a large segment of the Chareidi world towards women and modesty in general. A group of Chareidi women and girls in Bet Shemesh have begun to wear Muslim garb covering their whole body (including their heads and faces) with rabbinic approval.

We are all aware of this radical group. We are also all aware that they have also been condemned by Charedim. What license did Rabbi Genende use to define this phenomena as a large segment. Is he engaging in hyperbole to push his own barrow?

 There is an increasing tending in the Orthodox world to separate the sexes at schools, weddings, funerals and shule events. This was not the norm in the Orthodox world in the past.

Rabbi Genende has now moved from Charedi and Modern Orthodox to “Orthodox” in general. Do his claims stack up? Orthodox Schools were always segregated. Even the Rav who allowed it at Maimonides felt that once that community was able, that males and females should learn Torah in separate classes. On weddings, I’m not sure how this practice has increased in vacuo. Is Rabbi Genende also claiming that the level of immodesty has stayed constant during time? It has not. The levels of Tzniyus in clothing has greatly decreased over time. Indeed, the Rav refused to perform a wedding for a Chasan who was not wearing a hat, and did not perform weddings when the Kallah was wearing a plunging neck line  etc. Once when the Rav was caught out performing Siddur Kiddushin for a bride who was immodestly dressed, the story is related that he kept asking for a bigger  and biggur siddur until he was unable to see the Kallah past the siddur! There are also explicit sources which forbid the mingling of genders during funerals, including the Shura.

 While modest, respectful, appropriate behaviour between men and women is what the Torah expects, it does not expect a total separation of the sexes.

Rabbi Genende is entitled to his opinion, but I’m not sure why he thinks he is entitled and they are not entitled to follow a contrary view?

As the wise rabbis of Pirkei Avot advised long ago: “Be careful with your words”.

I agree with this 🙂

Let us in the modern-Orthodox world encourage them to be more inclusive in their ways and views. You need fences for protection but you also need gateways and openings so that you can grow and move freely in Hashem’s varied and colourful world.

I am not sure if Rabbi Genende speaks for modern Orthodoxy, but I don’t see his article as encouragement! Nay, he is playing to his audience; his congregation.

Disclaimer: Let me be clear that I do think that what Di Tzeitung did was careless and gross and lacked an awareness of the world, but I do not agree with using this as a platform to bash and/or push one’s own barrow; something I contend is what Rabbi Genende achieved with his article.

I’m really “proud” to be associated with these Jews

See this. In our own Age newspaper. Who is peddling this stuff to the Age. Feh!

Am I the only one embarrassed? They got this from the infamous failedmessiah who lifted it from Hirshel Tzig’s blog and got the name of the paper slightly wrong.

In the words of one of the blogsters, if someone has a יצר הרע for Hilary Clinton, they have bigger issues than Di Tzeitung.

But wait, there’s more from Matzav

Check this out. One of the Satmer Rebbes, R’ Zalman Leib, organised the purchase of the Divrei Chaim’s alleged Sefer Torah, which was in the hands of other (jewish) Yorshim, for $1,000,000!

Am I alone in thinking this money could have been spent in a more productive manner? Is there a mitzvah to spend money for such a purpose? Perhaps it’s actually אסור given what the alternatives could have been?

Is this why the Geula is delayed?

This never ceases to shake me up. I did a nice wedding last night. There were  a number of members of the local Adass Israel congregation present. Most were the modern/litvish type but a number were your run of the mill hungarian chassidim from Adass. They are unmistakeable because they stare. They stare and stare at you. Their kids stare at you. Only their wives don’t stare, but that’s because you can’t see 🙂

I went outside to have a breather during the main course (and to hear the cricket score) and two young guys, probably abut 25 years of age were standing nearby. I asked them what type of chassidim they were: the first was Satmar and the second was Munkacz. I asked the Satmar guy if he had read any of the rejoinders to ויואל משה the well-known critique of Zionism by the first Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel ז’ל.   He said he had heard of them but hadn’t looked. I asked him why would he not engage in Torah and delve into the item from the point of view of someone who had an alternative view, if only to make sure that one had a rounded perspective. Looking at me uncomfortably, his offsider from Muncaz, who was much more aggressive, decided to chime in and interrupt my comments.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ז'ל

We spoke about a number of things. I told him some stories and then he told me some. He was more widely read than his Satmar friend. Our discussion though was about to face an abrupt end. He acquainted me with a story about “Kook”. I said,

“I beg your pardon, are you referring to Rav Kook”.

At which point he said “who gave him Smicha.” I had a mental blank and could not recall, but I told him that he should read what the Netziv said about him in Volozhin and ask himself why the Aderes chose him for an Eidem. He persisted and said, do you want to hear the story about “Kook” or not. I looked at him and said,

“you can disagree with someone, you can even completely disagree with someone, but don’t ever drop a title from a Rav who so many held and hold in the greatest esteem. This is not Kavod HaTorah. Do I call your Rebbes, “Yoel or Eloozer? God forbid. Don’t you have any simple manners. Can you just talk like a Mench?”

His response: “You either hear it the way I say it or ” … I walked off.

I was sad, very sad. Here you have 2 guys who have been fed a one tracked line all their lives. Fine. It’s their business. They have an intense feeling of Yiras Shomayim which they define as following the path of their Rebbe without deviating even one micrometer.

Rav Kook was consumed by an incredible level of אהבה.  Everyone knows that Rav Kook’s love for the Holy Land of Israel was passionate in the extreme. He saw it bound up with אהבת התורה in a vigorous symbiotic relationship. What many forget, however, is that Rav Kook’s simple love of every Jew was extraordinarily vehement. His love of Yidden stemmed from his acute spiritual sensitivity to Elokus. Rav Kook felt the Tzelem Elokim reflected in every Yid whom he saw. It wasn’t a campaign or some hachlata (decision) or a daily utterance that inspired him. His was an innate automatic attachment to anything exuding spirituality. Rav Kook would have loved those two Mevinim. He would have been Mochel his Kavod. He would never have been offended by them. He would have seen them, and their Rebbes as items of Kedusha. Yet, these miniscule proverbial warts have the temerity to show a level of disrespect that is offensive to me, in the extreme.

Imagine Hakadosh Baruch Hu looking down and observing. The estrangement of so many shpitz yidden from kedusha is astonishing. If they had any semblance of kedusha they could not ever speak in the way they did about an איש אלקי, a Gaon and Tzaddik, Rav Kook z”l? Why should he send Eliyahu HaNovi to come and announce ובה לציון גואל to us? If we continue in this path of שנאה the only way we will be redeemed is through Yisurin God forbid and through בעתה as opposed to אחישנה.

Woe to us. We have no common language of respect.

Is this the Satmar that R’ Yoel z”l envisaged?

For many of you, this post is nothing new. Indeed, for me it should have been nothing new. Nonetheless, the incident shook me up. Yesterday I was about to get into my car in a street which has a sizeable number of Hungarian Haredi residents. From the distance, a boy on a bike called out, “Mr Balbin, Mr Balbin, do you remember me from xxx’s wedding? Do you still do weddings”. I waited till he and various other boys who were riding on their bikes approached. After apologising that I didn’t recognise him because I perform at many weddings and it’s hard for me to remember a single face in a crowd, we continued chatting amiably. There were 6 to 10 boys on their bikes in total. Their ages spanned (what looked to me to be) from 7 to 12 years of age. By now, each boy was staring at me. I asked each what type of chasid he was, expecting a range of responses. It turned out that they were all Satmar. We chatted and I informed them that I wasn’t a fan of Satmar ideology vis a vis the State of Israel and Satmar’s attitude towards people who were not yet frum. I explained that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had effectively paskened that the State of Israel is part of his plans and this is plain for all to see. I added that I don’t (at least I  try not to) “hate” any Jews. I wasn’t quite ready for the outpouring of pre-canned volcanic hate that subsequently erupted, although I hear you saying that I was asking for it by daring to question their views.

Satmar Rebbe ז’ל

I was informed (in rather yelling tones) that

  • the ציונים are Kofrim
  • the ציונים dig up kvaros to build hospitals
  • the ציונים caused the holocaust because they went against the Shalosh Sh’vuos
  • the ציונים should be hated not loved
  • and did I know Lubavitchers think their dead Rebbe is Moshiach (I think they brought this up because I said all Yidden should be loved)

Big deal, I hear you say. Haven’t you ever been to Meah Shearim or Williamsburg or “name a Satmar enclave”? This is Melbourne, though. Melbourne is/was unique. Even the Haredim are more tolerant of each other.

Where else in the world would you find a single Haredi Shule where Satmar, Belz, Viznitz, Slonim, you name it daven together? I always thought that Melbourne was different. I think it was different. It is quickly becoming no different, at least as far as these brainwashed boys is concerned.

I tried to tell them that

  • they should consider loving all Jews because all Jews were created B’Zelem Elokim (to which the response was “except the Zionim”)
  • there are people who question whether there are indeed Jewish graves being dug up, but more importantly there are authoritative Poskim who say that it’s okay to dig up and even if they disagree and their Poskim say that they shouldn’t, it’s no reason to “hate” and “carry on” against Yidden who are acting according to a written Psak Din
  • that the Shalosh Shvuos is widely held to be not L’Halacha but either way, I suggested that they acquaint themselves with the views of those who hold that the Shalosh Shvuos doesn’t apply and to “open their eyes”.

They looked at me like I was from planet mars, and asked me “where do you daven”. I saw this as a leading question. It would lead to the criticising of any Shule/community I davened with, as a means of discrediting anything that I said. This is how the ’thought’ processes worked. I told them that I daven “wherever people let me in”. That threw them off the track.

Perhaps what bothered me most was that the younger the kid, the more yelling took place about the ציונים. I asked myself where were they learning to espouse views with such a hatred and lack of tolerance? Is it at their School? Perhaps these kids are part of the so called new דברי אמונה school which has opened up because the local Haredi Adass school is no longer considered extreme enough. Is this what their Melamdim teach? Even if they hold these views, why are such views being inculcated at an age where they simply do not know enough to make head or tail of weighty issues? Are they being encouraged to speak like this at  home? Perhaps. I do know that at least one of their parents refused to buy a blue and white havdala candle because it’s too much like the colours of ציונים. If a child is with their father in a store and hears that attitude, then of course plenty of unbridled hate must rub off.

Ironically, they asked me “if it wasn’t the ציונים then why did the holocaust happen” to which I answered וידום אהרּן. We were speaking throughout in Yiddish, and it was clear that they didn’t know what I was talking about. I retold them the story of Aaron’s sons, and Aaron’s reaction. I got into my car with their wide eyes following my every move. I couldn’t help but be overcome with genuine sadness. Is this חינוך? Was this the vision of R’ Yoel? Did R’ Yoel envision the creation of robotic, hate-filled, automata?

Have the courage of your convictions

People do not agree. This is a fact of life. There are, and always will be, emotive issues which evoke strong disagreement. Sometimes the disagreement can result in feelings of aggression even hate between antagonists. Jews are no different. If anything, because there are many issues of substance lingering around our Daled Amos, there is perhaps more opportunity, perhaps even propensity, to viscerally agree to disagree.

Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron

Two recent examples of differing approaches to courage and expressing the truth of one’s convictions confronted me this week. The first involved Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, and Rosh Yeshiva and head of the Rabbinic Council for Judea and Samaria. Rav Lior is considered to be a star pupil of Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, z”l, and one of the  brightest among Gush Emunim style adherents of the concept of a greater Israel. Born into a Belzer family and subsequently orphaned, Rav Lior was touted as an Illuy even amongst the Charedi population of the State of Israel. Rav Lior and others gave their Haskama to a book which was considered to be “inciting” by the police and other authorities. Refusing to back down, Rav Lior is now likely to be arrested. Rav Lior claims that the arrest warrant interferes with his right to offer religious approbation to a book related to Torah thoughts and principles.

You can agree or disagree with Rav Lior, but you will never die wondering what his views are on a particular topic. He says it like it is, and his views are like he says. There is no diplomatic licence employed to bury his thoughts or camouflage his principles for fear of a physical or financial backlash. Rav Lior, his supporters and students, do not cower underneath rocks like proverbial green moss, afraid of the consequential glare of sunlight. Rav Lior subscribes to a philosophy that sees the hand of God in the creation of the State of Israel.

Diametrically opposed to his views are those who endorse the position of the late Rebbe of Satmer, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum z”l. Rav Teitelbaum held that the primary (perhaps only) reason for the Holocaust was God’s “retribution” against the actions of zionists who dared transgress the 3 oaths. These views, largely held by the Hungarian charedi population, are considered utterly abhorrent by many. It is simply beyond comprehension to fathom the concept of 6 million Jews murdered, gassed and burned and amongst them תנוקות של בית רבן who were hurled against walls to have their skulls fractured, all because God was angry that they dared defy British anti-semites and seek to re-inhabit ארץ אבותינו. Whatever the case may be, we know where the Satmer Rebbe stood on this issue in the same way that we know the views of people like the Neturei Karta’s  R’ Moshe Beck.

In summary, one will not die wondering what Rav Dov Lior or להבדיל R’ Moshe Beck’s views on issues are. They have the courage of their convictions to openly state their opinions. Fast forward now to the following video of a local identity, the brother of R’ Moshe Beck, Rav A. Z. Beck, the Hungarian Rabbinic leader of a separatist Haredi group in Melbourne.

STOP PRESS:

It seems the video above was removed from youtube. In some sense that says plenty. Those of you who wish to see the video, may download it

What are their views? Do they think Hitler and the SS were sent by Hashem because of the Zionists and their rebellion against the Shalosh Shavuos? Is this the view of that community as a whole? To be sure, there are exceptions, but is this the mainstream view? Do they contend that since most Jews in Melbourne consider themselves Zionist or pro State of Israel that these Jews are all Kofrim (apostates)? Is it permitted to engage in business with regular Jews in Melbourne, or is there some blanket overarching permission when it comes to making money? It is alleged that the Melbourne Rav Beck distanced himself from his brother. To what extent? Is it only the fact that the brother openly states his opinions and demonstrates the courage of his convictions? Is it only because the Monsey brother kissed Ahmadinajad ימח שמו? Is what is said in private also said in public?