The ‘anti Jewish’ News and Rabbi Telsner

It’s not just the anti-Jewish News otherwise known as the AJN that is guilty of poor journalism. I won’t expand on that.

What I will say is the following (and these are my personal views)

  1. Rabbi Telsner is highly versed in Torah
  2. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have worked tirelessly often behind the scenes to help anyone in a rut
  3. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have a home which supports people who don’t have a place to sleep or eat, any time any day
  4. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have no car, and walk by foot to perform outstanding pastoral care at all times of the day and night
  5. Rabbi Telsner was born to be either a Rosh Yeshivah or Rosh Kollel, I am not sure why he didn’t go down those lines.
  6. Rabbi Telsner is NOT the Rabbi of the Shule. He was appointed as a Dayan (Judge). I don’t know the Beth Din, but that’s the title.
  7. There are many Shules at the Yeshivah Centre. In fact the main one probably has one of the smaller attendances. His approach isn’t followed uniformly by any stretch.
  8. Rabbi Telsner is an emotional man, He cares.
  9. Rabbi Telsner cries at the drop of a hat when he talks about things affecting the community, Jewry, or about his father in law
  10. Rabbi Telsner is not a diplomat
  11. Rabbi Telsner is not a politician
  12. Rabbi Telsner is not a singing and dancing pulpit Rabbi.
  13. Rabbi Telsner gives a good shiur but is not what one would call an orator of note.
  14. Rabbi Telsner is prone to old-fashioned responses to halachic issues. The Responsa literature makes him look mild* in comparison. The AJN wouldn’t know what Responsa are. That’s too Jewish for the AJN.
  15. Rabbi Telsner is fully devoted to Torah and Mitzvos. The notion of a Chilul Hashem made him resign. I have no doubt whatsoever. He put himself second, and the Yeshivah first.
  16. Rabbi Telsner is a Meshichist who believes that the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory is the only person who can redeem Jews as the Messiah
  17. Rabbi Telsner hasn’t got a bad bone in his body. He sometimes shoots back too quickly before an extra moment of contemplation would be better advised. I suffer from the same.
  18. Rabbi Telsner protects the rights of women with vigour.
  19. Rabbi Telsner cares about Jews and Judaism with enormous passion
  20. Rabbi Telsner over-worried that some people might succeed in destroying the Yeshiva Centre. Those people cannot and will not. They do have their legitimate issues, and those will and should be dealt with. Some may have already. Others need to be. The centre will flourish once more. There is no doubt whatsoever.
  21. Rabbi Telsner is often misunderstood because he is goaded by those who know he can be goaded
  22. I have goaded Rabbi Telsner on Halachic issues and he has yelled and screamed at me in Shule. I don’t get offended. I’m not thin-skinned and I know where he comes from. He screams Torah, but some take it as insults.
  23. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have done more than plenty of good. I doubt many Rabbis in Melbourne have the open home that they do. He doesn’t quote Plato or fancy poets: his is the Torah only way. It’s an approach. It may not be everyone’s approach, but I’d be embarrassed if my Rabbi quoted more poets and philosophers than he did real Torah.
  24. There is, to my knowledge, zero evidence that has been tendered that Rabbi Telsner sent Malka Leifer away (as the AJN wrote). The courts may decide how that happened, but I don’t believe Rabbi Telsner opined that she should be sent away. The AJN of course knows better.
  25. Rabbi Telsner has always supported women’s activities and shiurim and ensured they are accorded respect through their own functions at Yeshivah mirroring ones which in the past were just the domain of males.
  26. It is not a sin to hold a view that same gender preference is something that may be addressed (successfully or otherwise). There are a few respected experts in the field who do have such a view under particular conditions and have a PhD and peer-reviewed papers in the area, including people who see them. One can disagree with such approaches, but one can’t condemn a person for subscribing to such  (unless they are Fascists or Communists who condemn discourse and dialogue and want to shut up everyone’s mouth). Only a fool thinks that advances in Science and Medicine are frozen in 2015.
  27. Rabbi Telsner should have a special Kiddush thanking him for the many fantastic things that he has achieved, and for putting himself second when he could easily have revealed some troubling things in context.
  • On the matter of the sharpness of Rabbinic tongues, check this out from a great of the greats, Rav Yaakov Emden. He would have been sacked in a minute!

    “One time I heard a learned chazzan who wanted to show off the great precision with which he led the prayers. When he reached the blessing of ‘Hashkiveinu’ he said ‘shemor tzei’atecha‘ (meaning ‘your excrement’ instead of ‘your travels’). I said to him, ‘You watch over what comes out of your mouth, and ‘go back and cover your excrement’ [Devarim 23:14].

Rabbi Telsner resigns

He has made a few mistakes, and it makes interesting reading seeing the different reports from the Age Newspaper versus the Sun. They obviously have different sources whispering in their ears. The anti-Jewish News will have the story just in time to splash on the front page and triumphantly blow its horn as the harbinger of morality (sic).

The Yeshivah Centre is undergoing change, no doubt. However, I’m not going to say any thing on the Rabbi Telsner issue because if I do, some will certainly misunderstand my words and it will make no different how I state them.

I am sure Rabbi Telsner has learned from this, and will contribute in a way using the gifts God gave him.

Rabbi Telsner is a card carrying Meshichist, as is his brother in law, R’ Chaim Tzvi Groner. There is no place in a Shule for screaming signs that no longer belong. There is no Mesora for placards in Shules, and it’s also a failure of Maimonides 13 principles of faith which clearly imply that we believe in Mashiach coming. Mashiach is a term for someone God chooses, it is not a euphemism for one and only one holy person in the Garden of Eden. Denying God this choice is in my opinion Kefirah. Meshichisten will not, cannot, and do not believe it is remotely possible for God to decide whomsoever He chooses from the physically living. That is pretty close to Kefirah. It is also a pseudo Kefirah for them to even entertain that there may well be someone else chosen because they won’t appear as a loyal Lubavitcher.

As for me, as I have said many times I couldn’t care less who it is. Eliyahu HaNavi will tell us.

Yeshivah has lurched to the right. It needs to bounce back to the centre and concentrate on quality education. It cannot afford to be a front for a Mesivta. There is obviously a need for a Mesivta. Let them find premises and build themselves on certain backers finances. The School itself needs to stress the qualities unique in Chabad, and there are many. Let the students be known for being fine examples of the Midos that are imparted by this philosophy. By all means it needs to stay a Chabad school, but one grounded in the realities of Melbourne. Failing that it should stop marketing itself as a community school.

Ironically, the School failed dismally to effectively educate Russian immigrants, years ago, and no longer does it serve many who are not religious. That’s their raison detre!

Too many New Yorkers have infiltrated and married in and tried to turn it into a fancier version of Oholei Torah in Brooklyn. Bad mistake. This is not New York.

I think it’s also time to pull down the rather pointless Yechi sign at the back of the Shule. Those who feel the need to scream this message to the world can bounce on the corner of the street, or wear a yarmulka (which they can’t then wear in a bathroom) wave yellow flags, wear cheap badges and all manner of paraphernalia not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch.

It does turn people off, and I include people from outside the Yeshivah centre. Those who really want to experience that type of experience can just go down the road to Dudu Leider’s Israeli Chabad house. They will love it. I’m told they chant Yechi more times than Shma Yisroel, over there, by a factor of 100.


Is the main Chabad Shule in Melbourne moving to the right?

Several months ago, I performed at a wedding in Melbourne, where the father of the חתן was Rabbi Chaim Rapoport. I originally met Rabbi Rapoport when he was a member of the Chabad Kollel. Subsequently, I have read a number of articles authored by him in a well-known learned blog. One is immediately impressed by both the quality of his writing and the material he presents. Rabbi Rapoport  is clearly a scholar and has tackled difficult issues, such as Homosexuality with both erudition and compassion. He is also an accomplished “defender” of Chabad having written a book in response to Rabbi Berger’s critique of Chabad Meshichism, and, more recently, a series of responses to the controversial book by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman.

Rabbi Rapoport is also respected outside Chabad, as reflected by his status and place in Chief Rabbi Sacks’ cabinet, with responsibility for Jewish Ethics. This is a fairly unique position, as Chabad scholars tend, in my opinion, to be more respected inside Chabad and marketed to the outside world as opposed to being also respected outside Chabad with minimal Chabad marketing or “control”. Rabbi Rapoport is by no means at all comparable to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the latter having been effectively ostracised by Chabad over actions he took which went beyond those of even a left-leaning, card-carrying, member of Chabad.

It might be said, then, that Rabbi Rapoport’s personal status and place as a Chabad Chasid with a less fettered mind, results in him not being seen as a “pure” paragon of the official party line. Equally, there are those who strongly assert that he represents authentic Chabad, unfettered by a Meshichism born out of the passing of the last Rebbe. I am convinced that Rabbi Rapoport is a very committed Chabad Chasid. What perhaps sets him apart, and worries some quarters, is that he is not a propounder of the classic Meshichist line: the last Rebbe ז’ל is Moshiach waiting to be revealed. Rather, Rabbi Rapoport contends that the LR might be the Mashiach, and if he is, he’d be happy to see him in that role. Rabbi Rapoport perhaps controversially contends that most Chabadniks are not Meshichisten and that Chabad receives bad press as a result of a lunatic fringe, a minority of whom go further than identifying Mashiach.

With this background in mind, it would seem there should be no so-called control over what Rabbi Rapoport might speak about should he be invited to do so in the main Chabad Shule in Melbourne or indeed at any other official Chabad activities in Melbourne in private houses and elsewhere. My very firm advice is that this was not the case. Rabbi Rapoport was fettered. He was advised in clear language not to speak about certain controversial (read Mashiach) topics. Remarkably, a person of this stature didn’t feature prominently in the official activities of Melbourne Chabad despite him spending a week of Sheva Brachos in Melbourne.

Why was this the case? Is the main Chabad Shule and leadership at ease with a sign at the back of the shule stating the LR is Mashiach but uncomfortable with a Chabadnik who may well argue that the LR might be Mashiach?

Fast forward. Another prominent Chabadnik, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Wolpe  was in Melbourne last Shabbos. Rabbi Wolpe is a big Talmid Chacham but known for his very extreme Meshichist ideology and his uncompromising attitude to the return of any territories beyond the Green Line. There are many Chabad institutions who are wary of allowing him to occupy a pulpit because of the unpredictability of what he will say. In point of fact, Rabbi Wolpe roused the anger of the LR himself when he published a Meshichist treatise against the express wishes of his Rebbe.

I came across his writing, more recently, when researching the question of Indian Sheytels (wigs) for women, and whether they ought to be considered Avoda Zara (benefitting from Idol worship). I was struck by two things when I read Rabbi Wolpe’s response to this question.

  1. Rabbi Wolpe claimed in his introduction defending the use of Hindu Sheytels, that it is impossible that the Sheytels were from Avoda Zara because the LR would have detected this as women passed by the LR as he handed out “dollars”
  2. Rabbi Wolpe then justified his view on Halachic grounds

I came away with the view that point number 1, was his starting point, and point number 2, was the halachic-justification. I always thought that a Posek or Talmid Chacham should be involved in point number 2, first, and do so with a clear and uncluttered mind.

Rabbi Wolpe is a founder of SOS Israel. He published a radical responsa saying that it was forbidden for Israelis to study from text books which did not extend Israel beyond the green line! Rabbi Wolpe has also written polemics against Rav Schach and his views. The wikipedia article is a good summary.

Contrast the two speakers: Rabbi Wolpe is considered an extreme Meshichist, and nobody within Chabad or outside of Chabad would deny that. Rabbi Rapoport represents a more moderate Chabad. Rabbi Wolpe was apparently not fettered in any way. He could speak about any topic that he wished. The main Chabad shule did not issue him with any advice in this regard. Rabbi Rapoport, however, was muzzled somewhat.

Does this issue show that the new leadership of Chabad in Melbourne, have deftly transformed Chabad to be more Meshichist than when Rabbi Groner ז’ל was directing policy?

%d bloggers like this: