A non Chabad response to Rabbi Kennard

I was sent this, presumably from Rabbi Kennard’s facebook page. I will take the liberty of interspersing what I think answers might be.

Rabbi James Kennard Rabbi Schochet introduces his second piece by making clear that he was asked to become involved “at the behest of the Chabad Leadership of Australia” (as stated on his FB page and on collide.com).

This raises three questions:

1. If the Chabad leadership of Australia wanted a response to my first piece, why could they not find any Chabad rabbi in the whole country to write it? Why was no-one as suitable for this task as someone on the other side of the world?

I would have thought the answer to this question was obvious. Each Chabad Rabbi has their constituency and is dependent on it. Most/many would not seek to become actively involved in a debate on such a topic as it may cause heat and/or discussion in their constituency. They would see their roles as Rabbi Kennard has noted, as bringing Moshiach, and would not see debating this topic as helping to do so. On the other hand, some, presumably younger? or perhaps more likely to want to defend the Chabad brand, sought out a well-known Rabbi, Davka, who is not on these shores in the (ill-advised in my opinion) hope that he could “argue the case with Rabbi Kennard and defend the brand”.

2. If Rabbi Schochet’s piece was written at the behest of the Chabad Leadership, will they agree to what was written in response to their request? In particular, are they of the opinion that Chabad rabbis are uniquely dedicated to their shuls, in a way that non-Chabad rabbis are not?

No doubt they have opinions or even a single opinion on this, however, I don’t expect them to comment as they will feel it won’t achieve anything in practice (B’Poel, as they put it). They will likely exercise their right to silence and not respond (further directly or indirectly through an agent). Followers of the disagreement will  make up their own minds about the lack of response and what that means to them, in practice.

3. Of course there is another possibility. I have been informed that Rabbi Schochet’s article was not written at the behest of the Chabad Leadership in Australia. That would render questions 1 and 2 above moot. However, that would imply that Rabbi Schochet’s statement was incorrect. Since he accused me, repeatedly of “peddling lies” and repeating “falsehoods”, it couldn’t be that his article was factually inaccurate. Or could it?

I don’t expect Rabbi Schochet or anyone will tell you whether he was were asked, cajoled, encouraged, and/or by whom. Accordingly, my advice is to continue to focus on the important issue of pluralism within Orthodoxy, something I wholeheartedly support, and the advantages of alternative approaches for certain congregations. And yes, I repeat, I support the presumption of different approaches/diversity.

A clear response from either the Chabad Leadership, or from Rabbi Schochet, will clear the matter up.

As I said before, I can’t see that happening.

I’d move on.

How can Rabonim be more respected?

At the door of Rabbi Kennards comments (and he wasn’t engaging in a debate with Rabbi Shochet, by the way), is the feeling that Rabonim are undervalued. Rabbi Kennard is certainly not undervalued, although I must admit to misgivings that he seems to have timed some of his Shiurim at the same time as Rabbi Sprung on Shabbos, and given the clientele I’m not sure that this has helped Rabbi Sprung’s position.

In my opinion, one of the outcomes of being non judgemental and displaying extreme Ahavas Yisroel, is the tendency to become an event organiser who portrays and executes feel good sessions. Certainly people need to feel good. Certainly people need to feel that they are Tzelem Eloki, and there is little doubt in my mind that they will not feel that acutely or even moderately (except through general mentchichkeit) through the Litvish/Misnagdish approaches, where they are, in the end, “not there” and really not valued (unless they have oodles of money to donate).

The key to respect is two words: Limud HaTorah. As much as one tries to enfranchise Jews in the experiential, one must remain grounded. There is so much, and such varied material in Chochmas HaTorah that our youth, young adults, and young marrieds that they have not been exposed to, it is critical that there is a renaissance in that arena. To be fair, Rabbi Kennard must not sleep. His contribution is outstanding and welcome.

At the same time, I know of countless Rabonim who do not engage in the basics of Limmud HaTorah. Sure, they are of the view that Tanya and Chassidus will open doors. They may, but they need a solid foundations. I am often astounded at the lack of basic knowledge many so called frum people have in common Yahadus. I stress common. The Ramash, for sure, never advocated the abrogation of Nigleh. Chassidus was the crème de la crème.

We can argue what you start from, but I would suggest חנוך על פי דרכו

If Rabonim were less functionaries and portrayed more real Chochma, there would never be the current scourge of

  • Trey functions at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah
  • “Kosher Style” functions at a wedding or Bar Mitzah
  • Tendentious reliance on private hasghochas at such affairs

The RCV should get serious and set a basic set of benchmarks. Pre-packaged Shiurim are definitely not the answer either, as beautifully produced as they are. Nobody looks at Aleph Beis, and knows to point in a simple Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Want it spicy? Add Sheorim Metzuyonim Bahalacho.

Where are the sessions of 

“What does Judaism say about”

When I have guests, I get some great questions. I had a couple once who saw me come home from Shule wearing my Zeyda’s Gartel. I will cherish that all my life. They asked what it was. One could give the more esoteric answer of separating the top and the bottom, but the belt achieves that too. It would be better to start from the Gemora in Shabbos (I think) that introduces this custom, and explain how it is manifest, and eventually show that it is as dear to me as their grandmothers’s Gefilte fish.

If Children do not see their parents refer Rabonim for their Keser Torah as opposed to slap on the back “you are a great guy and we love you” solely, I fear we won’t achieve the respectful Mechallel Shabbos who ran with embarrassment and hid when he was smoking on Shabbos and saw the Rabbi in the distance. 

The answer certainly isn’t in Beis HaTalmud, except for Yechidim. We need a charter in the RCV to adhere to. That charter should be debated and set, and private, and it, rather than the card a particular Rabbi is wearing, should be the secret to success,

I heard a drosha on Shabbos. It was nice, but I felt the use if secular writers on their own, to support a notion, was disingenuous. There were explicit Chazal that said these things well before, and they also expanded on them.

Let’s not be embarrassed about Chochmas HaTorah and it’s Kiyyum Hamitzvos. It is this which comprises the ultimate Mitzvah of והלכת בדרכיו and it is this which will see us in utopia כהרף עין.

Let’s not bicker. Lets contribute, as one.