Support for Rabbi Riskin

I had blogged on this Here

(hat tip nb) Rav Melamed is considered one of the leading Poskim for the Chareidi Leumi group (right wing religious zionists)

 

I’m writing to update you on events surrounding the Israeli Chief Rabbinical Council’s refusal to automatically renew Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s tenure as Chief Rabbi of Efrat. As I wrote last week, Rabbi Riskin has instead been summoned for a hearing, at which the Council will examine his qualifications and credentials for continuing the work to which he has devoted his life since the very establishment of the city.

I am delighted to report that Rabbi Riskin has been blessed with an incredible groundswell of support, which testifies to the meaningful, lasting impact he has had on world Jewry. 

He has been especially touched by the solidarity and encouragement expressed in letters, emails, phone calls, tweets and facebook posts from individuals spanning the globe. 

In addition, prominent members of Knesset and Israeli government ministers, communal and spiritual leaders in Israel and the Diaspora and countless organizations have spoken and written eloquently on his behalf, demonstrating the highest levels of respect he has earned from a broad cross-section of the Jewish world. 

Below is one such article, authored by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, spiritual leader of the community of Har Bracha and a leading figure in the “Chardal” (ultra-Orthodox Zionist) community. In addition to beautifully encapsulating so much of what has been written and said over the past week, the poignancy of his heartfelt advocacy stems precisely from the fact that he holds fundamentally differing views from Rabbi Riskin on many issues. 

I invite you to read and be inspired by Rabbi Melamed’s expression of steadfast support on behalf of our beloved rabbi.

With warmest regards and Shabbat Shalom

David Katz

International Director, Ohr Torah Stone

 Op-Ed: On the Rabbi Riskin Saga:

Don’t Disqualify the Torah Scroll (from Arutz Sheva)

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed 

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is a man who raised himself from poverty to dedicate his life to Torah and more – differences in philosophical or even halakhic approaches should not be used to disqualify one rabbi or another. 

It was recently reported that the Council of the Chief Rabbinate has expressed doubt as to whether to permit Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from staying on as chief municipal rabbi of Efrat despite recently turning 75.

The hearing ordinarily would have been nothing more than a procedural matter. But several members of the council evidently aimed to prevent Rabbi Riskin from continuing in his capacity as a result of their objections.

This, then, is the appropriate time to take a stand and praise Rabbi Riskin, a righteous, wise leader who has done extraordinary things.

Rabbi Riskin was born into a non-religious, poverty-stricken family. But from a young age, of his own free will and with the help of his grandmother, he began making his way toward the Torah and religious observance. Being a prodigy and an outstanding student, he was accepted to Harvard, the most prestigious university in the world, with a full scholarship. By choosing to study there, he would have guaranteed his professional and financial future: no door is closed to Harvard graduates.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, a temptation that few could resist. Yet Rabbi Riskin declined the scholarship and instead made his way to Yeshiva University, which also took notice of his abilities and granted him a full scholarship.

Since then, he has dedicated his life to Torah.

As a young, gifted, and charismatic rabbi, a captivating speaker with the ability to lift up the souls of his audience and draw them near to Torah and religious observance, Rabbi Riskin earned special esteem in the United States. Successful, educated individuals also found meaning in his words of Torah and were privileged to become acquainted with Jewish tradition under his guidance. “There was truthful Torah in his mouth, and he brought many back from sin.” The future that awaited him was that of a leader of the American-Jewish community.

Yet before even turning 40, inspired by pure faith in God and His Torah, he gave up his position in the United States and made a decision to immigrate to Israel.

In so doing, he gave up what had been his main skill in his work: his command of the English language, which had brought him the success he enjoyed in the United States. True, he learned to speak Hebrew excellently. but they say that in English few can parallel his rhetorical skills. Thanks to his vision, abilities, and leadership, he was able to bring many members of his community to Israel in his wake. He established an Israeli city at the heart of whose cultural life are the study of Torah and religious observance, whose residents enjoy a high standard of living and contribute to the economic, scientific, and social development of the State of Israel.

His ‘aliyah’ to Israel was felt by hundreds, even thousands, who followed in his footsteps to new homes in Efrat and throughout Israel, while also benefiting from the enhanced religious life implicit in such a change. Never slowing, Rabbi Riskin successfully established yeshivot and educational institutions for boys and girls in Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. Drawing on incredible sources of energy, he still makes his way to all of these institutions, where he teaches, speaks, illuminates, and imparts to his students the excitement of a life centered on Torah and Judaism.

Yet when he arrived in Israel, he was guaranteed nothing. He came with little more than the shirt on his back.

Western Aliyah to Israel

Unfortunately, though we are not always aware of it, the vast majority of those who have immigrated to Israel in modern times have come from countries where Jews were subject to persecution and poverty. Immigration from Western countries, particularly the United States, is perhaps the most impressive of all.

I therefore have a deep appreciation of Rabbi Riskin as well as all other immigrants from the United States.

A Difference of Approach

There are most definitely different approaches to various issues in Jewish law. This always has been the case in Jewish discourse, whether between the sages of the Mishnah, those of the Gemara, the luminaries of Geonic Babylonia, the scholars of the medieval era, or those of the modern period. Sometimes the differences stem from people’s different characters, as with Shammai and Hillel. Other times they stem from differences in background or intellectual method. Concerning these issues, our sages said (Ḥagigah 3b), “‘Masters of assemblies’ are those scholars who sit, some in this faction and some in that, and occupy themselves with the Torah. Some say it is impure; others say it is pure. Some forbid; others permit. Some declare it invalid; others declare it valid.

Lest a person say, ‘Then how can I study the Torah?’ the verse states that all were ‘given by a single shepherd’: a single God gave them, a single leader said them, from the mouth of the Lord of all creatures, blessed is He, as is stated, ‘God stated all of these things.’ So you, too, make your ears a funnel and develop a discerning heart so that you can hear the words of those who say it is impure and the words of those who say it is pure, the words of those who forbid and the words of those who permit, the words of those who declare it invalid and the words of those who declare it valid.

American Jewry

Rabbi Riskin’s American background plays an important part in his pursuits: American Jews and immigrants from the United States stand at the forefront of the struggle with Western culture and its principles of liberalism and equality, including feminism.

Out of their faithfulness to the Torah, Rabbi Riskin and his colleagues have forged a path to contend with these major and important questions. Among American rabbis, too, there are different approaches: how much to open up and how much to close, what to bring near and what to keep distant.

Sometimes, other rabbis, including myself, prefer other solutions. Sometimes this preference stems from habits of observance to which we are devoted, sometimes from the fact that we believe a certain way is more appropriate. For the most part, these differences of opinion and practice pertain to questions of education and society, rather than to questions of practice per se. Time will tell what advantages and disadvantages each path contains. In any event, we must not seek to delegitimize Rabbi Riskin’s path, which is one of the most important approaches to religious observance in our day. 

A Whole Torah Scroll

If a single letter is missing from a Torah scroll, it is unfit for use, and the same holds true for the pan-Jewish religious world: every true Jewish scholar has a letter in the Torah, and any person who excludes one of these scholars makes his own Torah scroll unfit for use. Any offense against Rabbi Riskin’s service in the rabbinate is equivalent to the obliteration of whole sections of the Torah.

I imagine that it was only out of ignorance that the Council of the Chief Rabbinate entertained doubts with regard to Rabbi Riskin. I am confident that once they have heard a bit of his reverence, erudition, and rectitude, the majority of the members of the rabbinical council will take his side.

If, heaven forbid, they reach a contrary decision, Rabbi Riskin’s dignity will not be harmed. His standing in his community and his institutions will keep rising, and his influence will become even greater. However, the public standing of the Chief Rabbinate as the public representative of the Torah of all Jews will be weakened when it becomes known that the Torah scroll it represents is deficient and unfit.

Policy of the Chief Rabbinate

Some have argued that the Chief Rabbinate should draw a line that all rabbis must follow, and Rabbi Riskin is not following the line that was drawn concerning such issues as conversion.

True, it is desirable that the Rabbinate take a position in pressing matters of public importance-but in order to do so, it must engage in a deep, serious discussion of each of these issues, a discussion of Talmudic, medieval, and modern literature that analyzes the reality of the matter at hand in all its dimensions. In order to expedite such a discussion, rabbis who are active in the given area would have to study various books and articles ahead of time, and then the discussion of every issue would continue for at least a few whole days.

Unfortunately, today no serious discussion is held concerning any important matter, whether in the Rabbinate or in any other religious entity. For instance, when it comes to conversion, Rabbi Ḥaim Amsalem wrote a very respectable book that is deserving of discussion. True, I draw different conclusions from his, but in objecting to what he wrote most of his opponents offer worthless arguments that rely on violence such as is accepted in Haredi circles.

I must add that despite the great value of arriving at a consensual position on every issue, such a position must not come at the expense of rabbinic discretion. Even when the Great Sanhedrin held session, local courts enjoyed a certain degree of authority, because fundamentally this position is not a thin line, but a divinely sanctioned field, a field in whose scope there are different practices and approaches thanks to which the Oral Torah becomes richer and greater.

All the more so today, when there is no Great Sanhedrin that traces its authority directly to Moses, must the Rabbinate not set a rigid line that seeks to disqualify religious perspectives of substance. The lesser the standing and authority of the Chief Rabbinate, the more it must take the various perspectives into consideration in arriving at its position. This is how the rabbis of the Jewish people carried themselves in previous generations.

“One Law Shall There Be for You All”

Aside from anything else, a single law must apply to all. When the Council of the Chief Rabbinate declines to react to profound challenges to its views and its dignity on the part of rabbis belonging to the haredi stream, who violently reject its kashrut supervision and treat the chief rabbis and municipal and neighborhood rabbis with contempt, it must also act tolerantly and fondly toward rabbis such as Rabbi Riskin, who respect the Chief Rabbinate but sometimes take a different track.

In today’s reality, the Rabbinate does not go out of its way immediately to dismiss rabbis who, contrary to the rules of Jewish law, disqualify conversions performed by representatives of the Rabbinate. It continues to recognize kosher supervision services, marriages, and conversions by “rabbis” who have the gall to publicly dismiss commandments of the Torah, such as the duty to settle the Land of Israel and defend the nation of Israel through military service, or deprecate the good that God bestowed on us with the establishment of the state and denigrate those who recite the Psalms of Praise on Independence Day.

In such with today’s reality, the Rabbinate must restrain itself from taking action against a rabbi whose reverence, deeds, and erudition are greater than those Haredi “rabbis” whom it is overly careful not to slight. 

Rabbinic abuse of power

[Hat tip to Benseon]

I agree mostly with the article, although, I reject the notion that it is about Kabbalists per se. They are but one category of people in a position of power/influence/mystique some of whom may be taken in by the God given gift and basically go off the Derech. Almost each time I am in Israel I go to a Mekubal (and no, please don’t ask me who, as he is not interested in seeing more people and keeps very much to himself) who frankly scares me out of my wits. He can literally “see” things in the future. He doesn’t ask for money. He sleeps on the floor and fasts. He works a Bank Clerk, if you can believe it. He has impeccable lineage from a Kabbalistic perspective, being a direct descendants of the Akeidas Yitzchak (R’ Yitzchak Arama). I don’t like to ask him too much, as I am by nature and training a rationalist and try to deal with life as it unfolds. On the occasions where I have succumbed, and especially when my dear wife has “instructed” me to call him, he has been scarily accurate.

Jerusalem – Opinion: Abuse Of Holy Power

 
News Source: Opinion Dr. Haim Shine, Israel Hayom
 
Jerusalem – There is nothing more embarrassing than revered rabbis and kabbalists being suspected of stealing Torah scrolls or bribing police officers. No amount of water can extinguish a fire that rages in God’s vineyard. What will naive, God-fearing Jews say when they see corrupt rabbis striving to retain their positions as leaders of communities, and when the homes of the grandchildren of the righteous become their prisons?
One of the greatest kabbalists of the past generations lived in the Shabazi neighborhood in Tel Aviv for decades. He was known as the “holy cobbler,” and he lived in a small apartment beside his shop. Each night, pious sages would gather there to learn, pray and offer formulas of “tikkun olam” meant to repair a fractured world. They were all poor Jews who supported themselves through menial labor. Each of them had a nickname that reflected his profession — the cobbler, the builder, the painter, the milkman and the street cleaner. They did not have titles of honor and their yards were always filled with hungry cats rather than important businessmen.
During those years, Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi, of blessed memory, lived in Jerusalem. Sharabi, a great kabbalist and founder of Yeshivat Nahar Shalom, a yeshiva for the study of kabbalah in the neighborhood of Nachlaot, was visited by many students eager to learn the secrets of Jewish mysticism. Hundreds paid him a visit each night, and the rabbi patiently blessed each of them. Every cent of the charity donations he received was transferred immediately to the needy, while he himself never took interest in monetary gain. Most of his life was spent in affliction, shunning worldly materials. He viewed the world as a narrow passageway to the world of the afterlife.
Years passed and the ever-growing material world took its toll on rabbis studying and teaching kabbalah, the holy crown of Jewish wisdom. Materialism began to affect rabbis who were viewed as role models — rabbis who were supposed to be modest, humble and devoid of material desires. Jewish mysticism, which transcends the mundane world, was gradually taken over by a few characters who proceeded to transform it into nothing more than a lucrative business venture. Those people purchased palaces, luxury cars and other envy-inspiring items with the money they obtained. A genuine sage told me years ago that a kabbalist has never emerged from a five-room apartment.
 
The unholy alliance between the tycoons looking for something to help them deal with their consciences, rabbis under the influence of material desire and media agents who constantly chase the ratings, created a difficult reality that tarred the image of religious Judaism and the kabbalah. God, as we know, is upright and loathes corruption, even when it is done in the name of heaven.
The common response to the charges of corruption is that it was perpetrated by rabbinical aides, without the knowledge of the rabbi himself. But if a rabbi is unaware of what his aides are doing right under his nose, how can he know what is being done by Jews who seek his advice?
Everyone has the right to approach his trusted rabbi and donate money to him, even if the money constitutes the person’s entire life savings or his or her accumulated pension funds. But the line is crossed when the act involves a desecration of God’s name, something for which there can never be any restitution.
It is important for rabbis, kabbalists and public servants to internalize the significance of being a personal example. It is unfortunate that the splendid image of Judaism is being held captive by a few unholy people who exploit the heritage of our forefathers and abuse their special God-given abilities.