Manipulation of elderly Rabbis

Thanks to the Internet we have all witnessed the disgraceful use and abuse of holy Rabbis who sit all day learning and can barely walk or talk while being cajoled to make statements which are blown out of all proportion by those who seek their approbation.These Rabbis often have no idea what they are getting into. They are being used.

We saw this with Rav Elyashiv. We see this with Rav Kanievsky.

Hagaon Rav Kanievsky Shlita One of the Tzadikei HaDor

We saw this with Rav Steinman, although despite his age, the latter has seen through the political chutzpah of many who have tried to manipulate his words.

His words of

Ga’avah, Ga’avah, Ga’avah

Were very powerful and showed he was a compassionate man who understood that those who had come to him were not the real McCoy but haughty people with Hats and  Peyos.

Be very wary when the best someone can do is quote an elderly Rabbi far removed from the world, but someone who can quote every saying of Chazal. As Rav Schachter says:

when you are in Yeshivah, your Posek may be your Rosh Yeshiva.

When you leave the Yeshivah, find a Posek who lives in your world and understands it,  so he can Pasken realistically and not in the world of a Beis Midrash

 

The Goral HaGro, Mekubalim, and advice for the unsure

Life has its ups and downs. Some people cope better than others with the downs while others simply can’t cope with the ups, even though they think they do. Every day presents new challenges and questions, as well as solutions and achievements.

It is common to see advertisements from so-claimed clairvoyants. These are people who seem to have an ability to foresee some future event or reflect on a past event.

The Torah is very explicit in its instructions. We are forbidden to be involved in things involving “foretelling the future” or in the words of the Torah  (Vayikra 19) לא תנחשו ולא תאוננו. I’m not happy with the phrase “foretelling the future” but it will do for this context. Of course, this is also explicit in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah קעט) as a Torah prohibition, quoting the Rambam.

Now the term Goral HaGro, which means the “lottery” of the Vilna Gaon, is almost certainly nothing to do with the Vilna Gaon. There is, to my knowledge, no provable record, of the Gaon ever performing a specific methodology which enabled one to make a future determination. Certainly though the term/technique has continued and is mentioned by those who identify themselves as followers of the Gaon. Fundamentally, on the Pasuk in Vayikra

‘תמים תהיה עם ה’ אלקיך’

Be complete/pure [in the path] with Hashem your God

Rashi says

התהלך עמו בתמימות ותצפה לו ולא תחקור אחר העתידות, אלא כל מה שיבוא עליך קבל בתמימות ואז תהיה עמו ולחלקו

Which plainly means that one should accept one’s lot and not seek to determine the path they will take based on seeking out the future before it happens.

Yet, despite this, we know that “lots” have a place in Judaism. For example, in deciding which of the two animals will be thrown off a cliff on Yom Kippur. Here, the lottery is part of the avoda and is commanded.

The Gemora tells us that when Tanoim were unable to decide what to do, and here I assume that this means not that they could not decide the Halacha, but rather whether one should do X or Y where both X and Y do not contradict a Halacha and cannot be determined via Psak, they asked young children פסוק לי פסוקיך … “Tell us what Pesukim [in the Torah] you are currently learning”. Based on what the children answered, if the Pasuk shed light on whether to pursue X or Y, they chose the one which was hinted at by the Pasuk. It isn’t clear to me whether that could always be determined by the Pasuk, but perhaps depending on the Wisdom of the person asking the children, they were able to derive X vs Y.

Does this Gemora contradict the aforementioned Halacha? It would seem not. There is no attempt to seek out the future through some supernatural (whatever that is) means, but rather, when something can be both X or Y and it is not a matter of Halacha (I presume) the Pasuk sheds light on those deserving and discerning such light.

There have been famous examples of the use of this method: viz, opening a Pasuk from the Tanach and using it when there seems to be no other approach to take. One, is the case of the famed R’ Aryeh Levin, the Tzadik of Yerushalayim and super Talmid of Rav Kook, who used this method to identify the corpses of 12 holy soldiers who were killed during the war of independence in Gush Etzyon. Using a particular format of the Chumash page flipping  eventually a particular verse was chosen. In each case, the verse chosen clearly identified a fallen soldier with a particular body (See “A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin,” pp. 111-117).

Some commentators would term this a נבואה קטנה a minor prophecy (this is the opinion of the Shach ibid). There are other examples of course. R’ Aron Kotler wasn’t sure whether to go to Israel or the USA when escaping the Nazis. Clearly, if R’ Aron wasn’t sure, he must have held that Halacha didn’t have a clear answer for him. I can’t guess what his thoughts were, but one would imagine that on the one hand, there was Israel which involved a Mitzva of going there and building it up versus the USA where there was a Mitzva to build Torah. Both had issues. Israel was under siege and there was a Sakana and the USA would have presented a spiritual Sakana (danger). R’ Moshe Feinstein begged him to come to the USA. Apparently the Pasuk in Chumash was Shmos 4:27 which suggested he (R’ Kotler go to Moshe (Feinstein) in the desert (USA). It’s eery and scary, to say the least, at least for me!

While such devices will “work” for especially holy people it isn’t clear to me that it’s going to work for every Tom, Dick and Mary. Furthermore, knowing if one should use the device or not, is a major question itself. My understanding is that in keeping with  ‘תמים תהיה עם ה’ אלקיך’ one would need to consult a Rabbi of great stature first before embarking on this path.

There was a story reported that Rav Shteinman used this method to decide whether a Shiduch should go ahead when a Groom pressed him incessantly. On the other hand, the Steipler Gaon, suggested we stop using Goral HaGro because we don’t know how to do it exactly and it’s better to be consistent with the Pasuk of Tomim Tihye.

There is another story, and I don’t know if it’s true or a piece of historiography, that the Griz (Rav Chaim Brisker’s younger son and Rav Soloveitchik’s Uncle) once did this Tanach flipping (Goral HaGro) and the Pasuk he landed on was ‘תמים תהיה עם ה’ אלקיך’ !!!

There are a lot of things we don’t understand, and most of these are in the domain of the exalted ones.

I have to admit that for a time, at the behest of my wife, I spoke with a Kabbalist who is not known, does not take money, and has a very good “hit rate” seeing the future. In fact, the first time I called him, I was in Melbourne at 3am, and it was a “cold call” to him in Israel. Please don’t ask me his name, as he doesn’t seek notoriety or attention. He told me things about myself that literally made me convulse. I went to see him in his remote shanty house in the far north of Israel on a subsequent visit, and again he made some remarkable comments. I won’t go into details, but he noted, for example, that we had issues with some trees in our house and he drew the location. He was right. On the other hand, there are a number of things that he told me that one could say he wasn’t right. I asked him how he knew. He said he couldn’t explain it but that he saw things in the future like on Television (i.e. an external screen with events unfolding). There are lots more stories I can tell about him, but this suffices. My wife still wants me to call him when there is a really major extra-halachic issue, but I have quietly stopped doing so.

I spoke with Mori V’Rabi R’ Schachter, and of course I didn’t identify the Mekubal, and he responded that I should not consult and I should be guided by ‘תמים תהיה עם ה’ אלקיך’ alone.

Interestingly, over Pesach, I read a story from R’ Schachter where he retold how the Rav, R’ Soloveitchik set out one day to convince R’ Aron Kotler to change his mind about a particular issue, and went to visit R’ Aron. On the next day, during Shiur, the Talmidim noticed that the Rav had problems with his arm, and was in some pain. They asked him what was wrong. The Rav said that when he was on the way to Rav Aron Kotler, he slipped on the icy snow and fell on his arm and had hurt it. The Talmidim then asked the Rav, but we know that Shluchei Mitzvo Ainom Nizokin (those who are messengers for a Mitzvah are not harmed) and since the Rav felt the issue was important enough to approach R’ Aron Kotler he must have felt that the mission was a Mitzvah, and if so, how could he be hurt. The Rav immediately responded “Nu, that’s perhaps a sign that I was wrong on this particular issue and R’ Aron was right”!

In our days, it is commonplace since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that some of his Chassidim use this technique. They tend, as I understand it, not to do so using Tanach, but rather use letters that had been published in the past in volumes (אגרות קודש). I have heard various incredible stories in this regard, and I’m sure there are plenty of examples (although these won’t be publicised) where there was no clear indication of how to proceed. I know that R’ Schachter limited the definition of the Goral HaGro to Tanach per se and not Gemora, Medrash etc as he felt there was no Mesora/tradition to use anything other than explicit Psukim. Of course, a Pasuk could be quoted in a letter.

Either way, I tend to be of the view that one must first go and speak to an authoritative Rav/Posek before using this technique willy nilly (so to speak).

I probably haven’t elucidated much in this pitput, except to say that I tend to the view that where a matter is one of Halacha, one follows Shulchan Aruch (or asks a Rav if one cannot see the Halacha or it is not clear or a difficult question). For extra-halachic matters, I guess it’s a matter of what your own Rav HaMuvhak advises you in context of your family and circumstance and that may also be “no specific advice!”

As I finished writing this I found this video if the topic interests you, which I had heard driving in my car a few years ago, and which obviously influenced me!

The Gneivas Daas perpetrated on Chachmei Yisrael

I have written about this topic before, in respect of R’ Elyashiv and his minders, aka מתעסקים, and Rabbi Rosen was pointed in the way R’ Ovadya was sheltered from the real world by those who had their agendas.

There is a power struggle amongst the “Litvishe” style Chachmei Yisrael: R’ Yehuda Leib Shteinman and his supporter, the venerable R’ Chaim Kanievsky versus the more outspoken and bombastic R’ Shmuel Auerbach, a son of R’ Shlomo Zalman who is very unlike his father.

R’ Shteinman is elderly and very frail. He was also recently assaulted by an alleged psychotic person who is now being assessed in a mental institution. What disturbed me last night was an article which referred to the following video [Hat tip Benseon]

Watch carefully. R’ Shteinman is fed all manner of lies about the non Charedi candidate for mayor in the hotly divided embarrassment, otherwise known as Beth Shemesh. R’ Shteinman, who is known for having a more sanguine outlook on life and those who are not yet frum, is basically bullied with lies, to condemn Eli Cohen. I found the video most disheartening. There can never be כפייה תדית, that is, the forced charedisation of people whom Hashem provided with free choice. Yet, the agenda is clearly to mistranslate the phrase ’לתקן עולם’ to be one of violent and unremitting pressure designed to “rid” Beth Shemesh of people who happen to choose their own way of life.

Everybody knows that such facile attempts to “convince” people to follow a particular path is but a charade. It’s a charade in the sense that many protagonists act out the charade, and others follow suit simply to remain unbranded. Branding can and will mean ostracisation at least, and the leper-like treatment of their children in the future.

I do not think that we can do much about it, except hope that any fraud in that election is revealed and that fraudsters are imprisoned. We must also interact with those who do live peacefully in Beth Shemesh, and who want nothing of the emigration of Neturei Karta to their city where that emigration denies them basic civil rights.

It is important to bear all this in light of the so-called proclamations issued by the Chachmei Yisroel. They are being fed a litany of lies and untruths. אוי מה היה לנו

On another note:

I  watched a wonderful video of R’ Ovadya’s youngest daughter-in-law, Yehudit Yosef. Again, I was thunderstruck by her description of his powers of concentration as he was learning. Even if there is a touch of hyperbole, I don’t doubt the story of her two year old son.

Alas, I can’t find where I saw it. She was interviewed by a female student and it was broadcast on an Israeli Television station.

Attitudes towards the אומות העולם

R’ Shteinman recently made news because of a speech that he gave which spoke unkindly of the אומות העולם.

R’ Shteinman שליט’’א

A translation of his speech is available. One should read it in context.

The purpose of creation is for the torah! As long as there was no Torah, there were all sorts of no good things, until Avraham came. From Avraham began the spark of what began the Torah, Avraham then Yitzchak and Yaakov, Yosef and the Tribes. but without torah the world could not exist. And it was a great chessed that 26 generations until the torah was given, in the merit of chessed, because they waited for the torah. But without torah there is no world! So the purpose of the world, one must know, is the torah. And today they say there are 8 billion people in the world. And what are they all? murderers and thieves, people without seichel .. but for whom is the purpose of the world? did Hashem create it for these murderers, for those evil people? Only for the tzadikim, those who learn torah, people who learn and keep torah. that is the purpose of the creation. And with parnassa Hashem helps. Most of the time the richest people specifically are not people of such great education. Why? because that is not the main thing. It depends on Hashem supporting all His creations. The mian thing is that a Jew should learn torah…Klal Yisrael are connected to the roah. The gentiles have no connection to the torah. the nations of the world don’t have anything, not security, not good deeds, and whatever klal yisrael has is only with the torah. […]

I’m not in a position to understand these thoughts. I’m not sure if R’ Shteinman realised that his words would be broadcast around the world. If he did not, then that itself is problematic as it implies that one may be too removed. My problem with what he said is:

  1. It was possible to make the comment that people without Torah values have been seen to be involved in all manner of atrocities throughout History. This includes those who are Jewish without Torah and those who are “frum” without (real) Torah. However, given the bad press that frum Jews are getting, it might have been better to appeal to statistics which clearly show that Mentchliche values and proper behaviour in our society go hand in hand with Torah observance. That being said, I’m not sure that’s the best approach to show the beauty of Torah, anyway.
  2. There were and are חסידי אומות העולם. This speech doesn’t logically admit them.
  3. There are ישמעאלים who are non violent and were and are happy to live peacefully. Why wouldn’t they be classed as בני נח?
  4. What is wrong with a בן נח anyway? It’s a halachic category. It has a purpose and a reward. Should it be sneered at? Is the בן נח somehow culpable for being born?
  5. Later in his talk he mentioned the Chayei Adam. The Chayei Adam worked for a living.
  6. I’m not sure how the Rav knows that rich people aren’t bright. Why would he say that anyway? Again, the point that we require a Bracha from Hashem can be made cogently without saying that.

At the risk of being accused of Charedi bashing, similar comments have been made by Sefardi Chachamim and Rabbis from יהודה and שומרון. Let’s segue to today’s news from Yediot.

“If the wife of a Knesset member would have been raped, this whole mess would have been sorted out, but no one cares about us” one of the demonstrators who were arrested told Ynet.

The protesters waved signs reading “South Tel Aviv a refugee camp” and “Infiltrators, leave our home.”

One of the demonstrators who spoke during the rally urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “decide whether we live in Israel or Sudan.”

Smaller protests against the illegal immigration phenomenon were held in Bnei Brak, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Eilat.

Residents of the south Tel Aviv neighborhoods Shapira and Kiryat Shalom held another rally on Chahmei Yisrael Street. They waved signs reading, “Our streets are no longer safe for our children,” “The craziness of our life: Neglect, crime, rape and violence,” “Yesterday it was my daughter, tomorrow it will be your daughter,” and “Yishai was right.”

So one doesn’t have to be an elderly Charedi Gadol to make similar points in a demonstrative manner.

Do Israelis have a right to protest? Of course they do. Can they argue that there are too many immigrants from amongst the אומות העולם? Yes, they can. Every country has limits, and Israel has a right to preserve its raison d’être as a Jewish State. Leftists will counter that the Shoah implies Israel should take any and all refugees. Should they? Perhaps they should deport anyone who breaks the law?

These are weighty issues, and they require very careful language and associated action. There is much more to write, but this isn’t the time.

Let me close with an allied observation about the manner in which we do interact with the אומות העולם.

It is common in non Charedi Schools to sing the National Anthem on chosen days. It is common in non Charedi Schools to have a flag of Australia. It is common in non Charedi Shules to have a prayer devoted to the Government. We know הוי מתפלל לשלמה של מלכות. When a group specifically chooses not to

  • sing the Anthem
  • fly the flag
  • devote a special prayer for the Government

I am puzzled. Why? Does it mean that automatically it provides legitimacy to the more sordid elements of society? Is there a danger that through doing so people will become less Jewish (whatever that means)? You take the money but don’t show gratitude in the accepted way?

It seems to me, that being careful not to להתגרות and aggravate is a Jewish value, as is הכרת הטוב. Can someone explain why the rhetoric and the lack of material acts has become so negative and at times so embarrassing?

Are these lyrics problematic?

Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea:
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare,
In history’s page let every stage
Advance Australia fair,
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.