The Asifa: An Overwhelming Success

Any assassin worth his salt knows this very well: If you shoot a king you must kill him (Emerson). Fail and you’ll only make him stronger. That’s the scene these past couple of weeks in Haredi circles.

When the Internet Asifa began to make it’s way through the public consciousness, it stirred up quite a hornet’s nest. After a while it became clear that this was the hill the “usual suspects” had decided to die over. Why, you may ask?  An Haredi gathering for Haredi men to promote Haredi ideals, why should non-Haredim care? More on this later.

As the Asifa gathered momentum, opponents were not idle. They were galvanized, energized, at the opportunity to engage in the ever-entertaining sport of Haredi bashing. Not content to narrowly define the battle as a showdown over the internet, they expanded it to include every aspect of Haredi life that did not meet with their approval, which is basically all of it.

No bullet would be left in the chamber, no arrow in the quiver during this engagement. Charges ranging from the banal (Haredim are stuck in the past) to the concerned (It won’t work), from the sublime (What about the great Torah learning on the internet!) to the absurd (It’s all a scam) were hurled night and day with incredible passion bordering on hysterics. People whose opinions were neither solicited nor desired offered it with the authority of the Sanhedrin.

Nor did they rest post-Asifa. Having failed to prevent the people from going, the rhetoric grew even louder and shriller. Jumping on an admittedly (and regrettably) lackluster program, the pundits prophesied doom, predicting everything from the masses ignoring the message of the Asifa to the end of Daas Torah.

Surveying the Haredi landscape, I am happy to report that, once again, the online punditry has missed the mark. The response to the Asifa has been truly overwhelming. In the past two weeks we have seen many follow-up asifas in diverse places such as Flatbush (this Sunday) and Monroe, Boro Park and Lakewood as well as out of town. Many more are planned. We have seen homes get rid of the internet, businesses install filters and a general awareness that the time has come to get this right.

Organizations dedicated to helping people secure their computers and other devices (at no charge), have reported thousands and thousands of people installing filters, blocking browsers and generally enthusiastic about complying with internet guidelines.

What makes this so remarkable is that even the Rabbonim and Gedolim behind the Asifa did not expect such a positive, quick and decisive reaction on the part of the tzibbur. The attraction of the internet is well known, this is precisely the challenge it poses! To see people self-censor, people who are quite reluctant to surrender control over any aspect of their lives, is truly a Kiddush Hashem. The organizers of the Asifa embarked on their endeavor expecting a great deal of internal push-back, little of which has materialized. While there are those that have had more difficulty complying than others, the message of the Asifa has been received. The Internet is no longer the Wild West. It needs to be safeguarded and controlled, just like any dangerous substance.

Few have stayed unaffected or apathetic. Those who never had or needed the internet were encouraged to keep it that way. Those who had filters were encouraged to get better and stronger ones while cutting down on recreational use. Many who had put off installing proper filters have now gotten it done. And those who refuse to safeguard their own and their families’ spiritual future now feel guilty about it, which can lead to tikkunim in the future (and also explains their lashing out).

There are two big takeaways from this saga:

1) That such a benign event, a gathering by Haredi Jews and for Haredi Jews, should arouse such passion and emotion on the part of outsiders is quite telling. It reinforces that, despite our failings, we are doing our job. The job of the Am Hanivchar is to be a light onto the nations. Sometimes that light illuminates and sometimes it burns, depending on the attitude of those affected by it. Be that as it may, the light is strong and vibrant.

2) The echo chamber of the internet is precisely that, an echo chamber. A Martian reading blogs on Mars in preparation for coming here, would be completely clueless once he arrived. The discussion online is not only unrelated to reality, it is often precisely the opposite. They make Baghdad Bob proud. And like an echo chamber, the sound builds off itself to project immense power but that’s all it is, a projection. They present the facts as they want them to be rather than as they are.

The process continues and so do the attacks. That is the nature of things in this world. Good will always engender a response, will always have obstacles placed in it’s path. It has been and will always be that way. Those with the understanding and the courage to resist the easy path and do the right thing will one day be amply rewarded by the one whose will we are attempting to do, Hashem Yisborach.


Rabbi Zwiebel Is Right

I intend to write a longer piece about the terrible abuse situation that is blighting the Haredi community at this time. However for the time being, I would like to focus on Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel’s comments (I haven’t seen the article, just the relevant passages, quoted here and here) with regard to this situation and the role bloggers have played in it.

Before I do so, let’s get this out of the way:

1) Abuse is the closest thing to retzicha, spiritually and often physically. I have no words strong enough to condemn abusers, nor to comfort the victims. May Hashem give these Yiddeshe Kinder endless strength and bracha in every aspect of their lives.

2) Those who cover up for known abusers are beneath contempt.

3) Aval Asheimim Anachnu. The Haredi community has failed our kids on this issue, period. It NEEDS to, and WILL, get this fixed, hopefully very soon. However:

4) The Aguda position is that accusations must reach the standard of “Raglayim Le’dovor” (reasonable suspicion) even before the authorities are consulted. This is the Psa’k Halacha of Rav Elyashiv and for good reason. A false accusation alone is enough to destroy a person and his family forever. That cannot be allowed to happen. We cannot protect victims by creating more of them. It is the way of justice and mercy (as well as the the Jewish way, going back to Avraham Avinu) that “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“. (I know this appears to create a conflict with dina dimalchusa, which greater people than me will have to square away).

5) NO ONE, no community, can claim the moral high ground on this issue, both regarding the abuse itself and the subsequent cover-ups. This scandal has affected Modern Orthodox, The Catholic Church, The public school system etc.

Now, on to Rabbi Zwiebel’s comments:

I don’t write off the bloggers as leitzanim and reshaim, because they will be judged, as we all will, after 120 years for their motivations and techniques. I’m not a condemner, by nature. “I do believe that among them there are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain. I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they’ve created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously. A case in point is abuse and molestation issues.

The question is, if the fact that they’ve created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, it’s rechilus, lashon hara, and bittulzman.That’s a high price to pay. “Then there is the damage wrought to the hierarchy of Klal Yisrael. We’ve always been a talmid chacham-centered nation, and it’s dangerous to ruin the fabric of Klal Yisrael by denigrating the ideal of daas Torah and by allowing personal attacks on gedolei Torah.”

Critics have zeroed in on the “bittul zman” reference to accuse Rabbi Zwiebel of somehow equating wasting time to the imperative of saving lives (which is clearly what stopping this abuse is). This is grossly misleading and severe selective editing.

Rabbi Zwiebel’s point is clear. While giving them credit for bringing this vital issue to the forefront, he puts forth the valid contention that as a whole, bloggers have done more harm than good. As evidence he cites, Lashon Hara, Rechilus and only then, Bittul Zman. Let’s not forget, that although in modern society gossip is par for the course, to Jews it is deadly. It is the reason for the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash and KILLS, according to Chazal, the three people involved: the speaker, the listener and the one it was said about. Obviously, in bringing to light the issues of abuse, Lashon Hara does not apply, (and R”Z was referring to blogs in general when he mentioned this, not with regard to abuse) but abuse is hardly the sole topic for most bloggers. Cynicism, vitriol, disrespect, negativity and yes, lashon hara and rechilus about all areas of Haredi life are what keeps most of these blogs alive and kicking.

Then there is his final point, conveniently overlooked, that bloggers evince a single-minded determination to undermine the pillars of Haredi society with their constant barrages against Haredi leadership and practice. This is not confined to bona fide haters such as the Successful Bigot and his ilk, but is unfortunately the bread and butter of much of the discourse online.

To put it another way, the entire blog enterprise is “noach lo shelo nivra mishenivra” (better had it not been created). It’s admittedly good work on this issue can be classified as a Mitzvah Habah Be’avera. The good they have done in the area of abuse does not excuse the destruction they have wrought in many other areas. Indeed, it just highlights the tremendous responsibility they bear for turning what could’ve been a force for good into the cesspool it is now.

An entity whose raison d’etre is tearing down without ever building up, carpet bombing without a shred of concern for direct or collateral damage, cannot legitimize its existence with an occasional act of goodness, even when that good is great. This is indisputable. Al Capone set up soup kitchens. Meyer Lansky played a vital role in securing the US homeland during WWII. The Red Army liberated Auschwitz. Nonetheless, they are widely and correctly understood to represent the worst in mankind. You can hardly fault Blacks for detesting the institution of slavery, even though it is only through slavery that they enjoy the American Dream instead of being stuck in some African wasteland.

What makes the ire over Rabbi Zwiebel’s comments particularly ironic is that bloggers, more than anyone else, specialize in dismissing entire lives of greatness and success based on a single instance of failure. They are the ones who operate using the standards they now condemn. Sholom Rubashkin is constantly (and falsely) denigrated throughout the blogosphere as a criminal and a thief without any regard for the tremendous good works he did for most of his life in basically supporting an entire town. Indeed, they reduce the tremendous accomplishments of rabbis and leaders to nil because of their (real or perceived) inadequacies on a given issue. Now they complain when they are judged by the majority of their work instead of the few bright spots.

Rabbi Zwiebel is correct in taking the long view of blogs and what he sees is rightfully distasteful and damaging. Bloggers will vehemently dispute these conclusions with all types of rationalizations, but the honest ones among them will quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) admit it: they have no problem with the utter destruction of the Haredi world. As a leader of a prominent Haredi organization, it falls to Rabbi Zwiebel to make the public case for what most Haredim (those who are aware of blogs) make in private. The blogoshpere is not kosher, no matter the chazer fiissel they insist on showing the world.

Same Old, Same Old: Today’s Oiber Chachamim With The Same Gripes As Yesteryear’s Oiber Chachamim

Ask the ever-so-gentle-and-thoughtful Haredi critics why they criticize Rabbis. Do they dispute the idea of leadership in Klal Yisroel? They’ll respond, ears red with righteous indignation, “Of course not! It’s today’s Rabbonin that we have a problem with”. “You know, the ones who think Judaism is all about prohibitions and bans”. “There’s a “negative attitude” prevalent in Rabbanic circles today, which is contrary to the Derachea Darkei Noam we saw in previous generations”, etc. etc.. In fact, they may say something like this:

Even worse than these are the teachers and rabbis, who know nothing of governance or circumspect judgment, or how to lighten the burden of the masses. All of their efforts are devoted to multiplying customs and prohibitions, and stringencies upon stringencies, which have no source in the Torah or tradition. Instead, these customs come from foreign sources, or the practices of old women, or foolish men . . .  If I would enumerate them all, there’s be no respite.

As for the Haredi community in general, the following is a good sample of their thinking:

Another illness which has spread among all the people is to rush to marry their boys and girls, even babies, and by multiplying the size of their families, they invite problems, physical illness, and oppressions, and they shorten their life spans. Before a boy knows how to earn a dime, he finds he has ten mouths to feed. All his days are nothing but problems, and pressures which never cease constricting him – and in his middle age he lives to see the same problems also in his own sons and daughters!

Want to know when this was written? In 1846 by the oiber chacham of his time, Adam HaKohen.

Folks, there is nothing new under the sun. The critics of Haredim today are the ideological descendents of the critics of yesteryear. They predict our demise today with the same certainty and conviction they did then, and for the same reasons. While, now as then, Haredim have much to improve on, reports of our demise have been and will always be, premature Be”h. Haredism is strong and getting stronger, contrary to what you may read online and hear from people who wish it were otherwise, B”H.

Rabbi Reisman Post-Asifa “Don’t Be Naive”

A transcript from a shiur delivered by Rav Yisroel Reisman Shlita, May 24 2012 regarding the Citi Field Asifa. (h/t YWN)

I would like to talk to you about something that is very much on my mind. It is not a Dvar Torah. It is just to share with you a thought.

This past Sunday there was an internet Asifa in Citifield. The Asifa was an awesome Maimud an awesome gathering. It also had a rather disappointing program. 2 things, an awesome Maimud and a disappointing program. What did each individual walk away with? I have found that the Bnei Torah, the Lakewood crowd walked away with an awesome gathering. They walked away uplifted, they walked away with an understanding that you need filters, and you need good filters. I think that it is fair to say from the little anecdotal information I have that the overwhelming majority of homes in Lakewood that have the internet, the overwhelming majority are filtered.

It seems to me to my great pain and sorrow that in Flatbush people walked away talking only about the disappointing program. There was disappointments with the program, the fact that the English that was promised was not delivered, practical Eitzos that were promised were not delivered, and whatever other complaints there are. Is that what we should focus on? Is it?

People in our neighborhood are often fond of complaining that Chasiddim are naive, they don’t know the ways of the world. I have to tell you that when it comes to the internet it is the Flatbush crowd that is naive, that is foolish. There are children 10, 11, 12, 13 year olds are on the internet seeing things. Even though they go to Minyan on time even though they get Alephs in Yeshiva, right now all is fine and there are no suspicions. But they are there, I know they are there.

It has been a troubling week for me. Since that Asifa I have been getting phone calls some of them from 12 year olds about people that are on the internet. It is very hard. They are telling me to do something about it but don’t say “I called.” It is awful! I am shocked! The overwhelming majority of houses in Flatbush have no filter at all. Can you imagine how naive people are to think that their children are not watching things that they shouldn’t watch on the internet?

It is silliness and foolishness and it is something that we have to change. At least those of you who are listening today don’t be foolish. You are best off getting a Jnet type of server. Even if you get that server you will need to get a filter because if someone plugs something into the USB port and gets WiFi it will not go through the Jnet server. If you have a filter it will still work. The K-9 filter is free, you can download it. It just takes a little bit of time.

There are choices that have to be made. Maybe you need advice on how to do it. Don’t be a fool, don’t be a Nar. It is the Yeitzer Hora that is a normal Yeitzer Hora that people have and what are we doing? Putting on the table for ourselves for our children? How foolish are we? How Naarish are we? Everybody else is wrong except that individual in the street of Flatbush. If he had run the program it would have been great. Or if it would have been the other one he knew exactly what it should be. I don’t argue with the disappointment in the program, I do argue with what you come away with.

The question of the week is a question that I have today. It is a question that I would like you to reflect upon. A son in law called me and his father in law is a Mispallel. He himself is in a Kollel, not in Brooklyn. He was here for Shabbos a few weeks ago. On Motzoei Shabbos he went on his in laws computer to take care of whatever personal things he had to take care of. Accidentally he discovered that his father in law is visiting websites that are pure shmutz. He discovered it, he went into the history and found out that his father in law is visiting websites that are pure filth. He calls me what to do. Of course I can talk to the father in law but the son in law said don’t tell him that I spoke to you. What do I do?

I can get up this Shabbos in front of the crowd including this person and say someone’s son in law called me that the father in law is watching shmutz and it is on the history and he knows it. I beg you to do something about it. I can say that. Am I being Mivayeish this person B’rabbim? I have a feeling that not only one person will blush. I have a feeling that 3 or 4 might blush. It might make Machlokes. What do I do? I don’t know.

I only hope that this particular father in law reads the printed version of this Shiur or is listening to it live. Wake up! Don’t be fools, don’t be naive. It takes very little for a child to get on the internet. I know that filters are not perfect. A child who is at risk or a teenager will get around it. But save the simple children. The simple 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 year olds. If you put on a filter they won’t go around it. They fall into the filth. It is not something that they are eagerly going for. But after they do it for a little bit of time it becomes regular.

Be smart. Be Mikabeil the Torah. Be Mikabeil the advice of Gedolei Yisrael no matter how you think they are naive. You are naive. Be Mikabeil their advice. Take the filter and don’t listen to people who say that even with a filter bang, bang , bang. It is true. You need more than a filter. But start with that.

It causes me a lot of pain. It causes me a lot of Tzar. I hope that these few words will somehow help the situation.

With that I would like to wish everybody a Gevaldige Shabbos, a Simchas Yom Tov, a Kabbalas Hatorah, and hopefully we should continue to grow to move upwards in our Avodas Hashem.


No need for any comments, his words speak for themselves.

Parody Of A Farce

I could take up some of your precious time pointing out the endless innuendo, contradictions and hysterics in Dovid Teitelbaum’s latest screed. However I do not have the time for that now. Something much more important, a matter of life and death has come to my attention which I need to talk about NOW!

The Camp Scam: How tens of thousands of young boys and girls have been conned out of their precious money by a scam “rabbi”

“A fool says what everyone else thinks. An idiot thinks what everyone else says” – Der velt

“Someone’s got to say what everyone else on the internet is saying” – Really courageous guy

This post is a follow-up to my previous posts:

10,000 questions about the “camp”

How I really love the camp with all my heart and soul

My position of NEVER accusing without providing detailed evidence for all to see

36 reasons why camps suck

The original purpose of this blog was to offer nice Divrei Torah for you to tell your kids by the Shabbos table. You know how “Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere”. That type of stuff. However I have come to most reluctant realization that there is no way I can speak about Hashem without condemning all the conniving charlatans who are behind this dreadful “camp scam”. What one has to do with the other? Freg nisht. I just cannot let this slide anymore.

My personal Rebbe, the great gaon and tzaddik, has commanded me to bring this matter to the attention of the world. He told me to give over in his name that this is the worst thing to happen to Klal Yisroel, since, I don’t know, the Golden Calf. However, I will not be posting his name for privacy reasons, I will only post the names of scoundrels. Unless someone legitimately tries to dispute any of my allegations, I will keep all my evidence private. Yes, you read this right. Unless someone tries to legitimately dispute the evidence I will show no one, I will assume that my evidence is accurate – and show no one. Stop laughing at me.

It’s truly a depressing story, but the upside is that all the thousand rabbonim that have visited this camp either a) didn’t visit b) didn’t have a clue about this camp that they so vehemently promoted. Either way, you can feel good about our clueless rabbonim.

I would’ve been happy to sell this expose to any takers, however they said no, mentioning some narishkeit about hearsay and sources (don’t exactly know what they wanted). So I’ll have to publish it myself. I really can also put up ads on my site to make me rich, but I’ll stay poor so that no one can accuse me of being being bought off by the camp directors to post this expose of them. Again you’re laughing, stop it.

You should also know that I am the ONLY one who has reams and reams of the frightful evidence. I thought about doing this post anonymously, but then it wouldn’t have the credibility I’ve earned with my previous unsourced attacks and would also cause a greater chillul hashem then I’m about to do. Are those tears in your eyes?

If I sound obsessed or something, it’s because I’m frustrated, frustrated that I’m screaming and screaming and no one is giving me the time of day. I get tens of thousands of phone calls from rabbonim, rebbes and roshei yeshiva, menhalim, mechanchim, accountants, lawyers, doctors and janitors all aghast at the camp they have been pushing. No, I won’t tell you their names, not even one. The camp mafia will kill them and their families (unlike me, who for some reason they haven”t ordered a hit on. Yes, it’s sort of depressing, what am I chopped liver??).  I cannot believe how Klal Yisroel is turning to ME to take care of it’s problems (actually, it’s kinda cool ;)). This camp situation is THE problem in Yiddishkiet today, not Torah and stuff like that. Our HOLY COMMUNITY is being debased by these camp guys, as you can see by the comments on my blog. Nasty blog comments prove that the situation is nasty which caused the nasty comments in the first place.

Do you think I enjoy all this attention? Of course not!! My first post was actually about chinuch and mentschlichkiet but since it has been over a month (do you believe it, a month! What tales so long to create perfect human beings??) and my orders recommendations have not been carried out to the letter, due to the interference of the super villains, therefore I will now attack and destroy them all. (Yes, I can do that, even though they’re super villains, their mafia cannot close ME down. Still not sure why they’re ignoring me though)

A caveat: In exposing this terrible scam, In addition to not providing any of the evidence I have, I will also not tell you who I am referring to (hint: check my previous posts). You can ask the victims of this con and they’ll tell you, although I’m not sure who the conners were and who the conees are but there were conners and conees and I will expose the truth. You look confused. Is it anything I said?

Really, I had no intention of being involved with this, when I first hocked a cheinek I had no idea what I was talking about. However that led to all the super-secret evidence coming my way, bit by bit, making be the new Bob Woodward ( I get shivers just thinking about it. Isn’t this spy stuff cool?). Some of my information I got from reliable sites such as The Onion and, others were from anonymous emails (they seemed to come from Nigeria, anybody have an idea how the Nigerians know about this?). Some facts I put together from my blog stats (I don’t know what that means, just sounds important) and other facts I got through leaked information. (The plumbers, remember? Watergate?) Many people helped me along the way but their names are not important. All you have to do is trust me. Again with the laughing.

As soon as I saw the brochure for this “camp” I KNEW something was horribly wrong.

1 Too good to be true. A camp that offers a “great time” and a “wonderful summer”? Can’t be. Whoever had a wonderful summer? Haven”t they heard of rainy days? The first sign of scandal.

2 They promise color war. Everyone knows that color war is just another way to suck in gullible campers. Then they promise a color war breakout for the ages, another lure to bait the fish (as I point out, camps in the 1920’s never had people jumping out of helicopters to announce color wars, suspicious indeed).

3 Details withheld: Just “you’ll have a great time”. No daily calenders, no minute by minute program, it MUST be a scam!

4 The booklet of stories and testimonials of campers describing what a good time they had. Who ever heard of using testimonials in an ad campaign??

5 Not associated with any known camp. Not aguda, not rayim, not shalvah. even though all the rabbonim of those camps promote this camp, but it has IT’S OWN NAME! How suspicious is that!

6 The director of the camp’s name (I said before I won’t name names, but I’ll link to a post where I do. Also in case you missed it, his name IS the link) is left off the brochure so people shouldn’t be put off by the lashon hora and rumors flying around his name (mostly started by me, but who’s checking?).

7 No verifiable references or testimonials. I mean it did say hundreds of specific names (unlike me who keeps my sources to myself) on posters all over the world, but how do you know that all the names aren’t forged? It’s not like you can call them or whatnot. You can call them and they would’ve protested if their names were forged? Surely they wouldn’t visit the camp if their names were forged? You’re forgetting it’s a mafia, a mafia I tell you (although they won’t get me, ha ha)! Sort of like that international Jewish conspiracy I read in some book, I forget it’s name protocols of the zaides or something.

8 Using photos unrelated to the topic: what does a photo of a happy boy have to do with you ponying up cash for a camp? Very suspicious.

So now let me tell you what’s REALLY going on. This camp is not really a camp, it’s a money making scam, cooked up by the director of this camp as well as the handyman who lives there all year. Basically they just want to take money money money from campers and their families. Now they do provide a camp so that’s not where the scam is. The scam is in the TRIP MONEY (shhh). Yes, the trip money is a surcharge they charged every naive camper for trips they had NO intention of going on. Even though they ended up not charging the trip fee and going on the trip regardless, that was only because something or the other happened, don’t ask me what.

Having realized that they botched up, the director and the handyman are not giving up. They intend on getting all campers to pay for the trips that they took last year by hook or by crook. To achieve that goal they put out a booklet, (which was printed before they cancelled the fee, but they knew they would have to cancel it) which pushes, pulls threatens and makes you quake in your boots (real scary pictures) if you don’t pay the fee. It does mention in big letters that the fee is optional, but not in REALLY BIG letters, just normal big ones. Thieves.

You may be tempted to explain the above as just a camp trying to arrange a nice trip for it’s campers, but don’t be fooled. It is a horrible, terrible, no good, money grubbing scam. If anyone has a different explanation, feel free to share it with me, but don’t use names, especially the name and organization that I used. This is not about people, but about a poor, perhaps well-intentioned but misguided camp. Who are evil, horrible, mean, nasty and call me names.

And don’t try to pin this all on this director or the above mentioned organization (even though that’s what I did). All the rabbonim who support this camp (even though they are naive, were duped and their signature forged and I have the greatest respect for them) should have their feet held to the fire. And all those who don’t want to read this article, sign them up anyway, what a surprise it will be for them. Wait, are you calling ME childish!

In summation: I do believe that all the rabbonim who promote this camp are sincere about it, although they have known exactly what type of scam they are getting into. I don’t know how this makes sense, ask them. Despite how this is not about me at all, you should just know what bad stuff I’ve gone through ever since I began calling people names in public and making baseless charges. Sheesh, are these guys sensitive! Call them thieves or whatever and they really get mean! Now they’re calling ME names, how DARE they!! Anyway this is the my last post on this subject after by previous two final posts and until my next final post. So long. And remember people, ALWAYS RESPECT RABBONIM!

Da’as Torah: What It Is and What It’s Not

Rabbi Maryles has a recent post where he calls into question the legitimacy of the Haredi view of “Daas Torah”. His understanding is that Haredim view their rabbis as infallible and he wonders how that can be so, given that they have clearly erred in the past. He cites personal experiences in which rabbis based their advice on the erroneous circumstances presented to them and therefore cannot accept that their rulings must be correct, considering that they may be based on subjective and biased information.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is reported to have once told an atheist that “the G-d you don’t believe in I don’t believe in either”. In that vein, the “Daas Torah” that Harry rejects, Haredim reject as well. That rabbis can err? Of course, Moshe Rabbeinu erred! That they rule based on the information they receive, which is often incomplete and inaccurate? That’s not news either. Daas Torah, to the Haredi Jew means something else entirely.

Let us step back for a moment to lay the groundwork for this topic. There are two aspects to Daas Torah: 1) How Haredim relate to those we believe possess it. 2) How Haredim relate to the guidance and direction of Daas Torah. [An important caveat: the following does not apply to every person who carries the title of Rebbe, Rosh Yeshiva or Rav in Haredi circles. It applies to exceptional individuals, few and far between, who are recognized as Gedolei Yisroel possessing Daas Torah. How that determination is achieved is a subject for another day.]

The Haredi Relationship To Gedolei Yisroel.

Haredim relate to Gedolim with the utmost respect, reverence, love and awe. This approach is nothing new. It’s source hearkens back to the Talmud and continues forward through the codes and responsa. It was Chazal who taught us that “The fear of your teacher should be as the fear of G-d”, That “one cannot cleave to the consuming fire of G-d’s presence and should therefore cling to Sages and their students”. It is Chazal who require us to help our Rabbis before our parents, being that our debt of gratitude is greater to them. The sources are numerous and varied, practiced and perfected by all streams of Torah Jewry throughout the millennia.

How Haredim relate to the guidance and direction of Daas Torah

Now we get to the burr in many an Haredi critics’ saddle. Contrary to persistent myth, Haredim do not believe their rabbis to be infallible, not even the greatest. We are not part of the Catholic Church and our rabbis are not popes. We also do not believe that we may not harbor opinions of our own, both before and after Daas Torah has spoken.

What we do believe is that it is our obligation to subordinate our personal opinions, beliefs and desires to the guidance and dictates of Gedolei Yisroel, even when we KNOW they are wrong. This is our tradition and there are many sources for it. An early source is the Midrash (beginning of Ruth) which chastises the Jews of the time for “Judging their Judges” even while admitting that their Judges were worthy of their criticism!

This approach is explained in great detail in the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 496). He explicitly enjoins us that we ought listen to our leaders in every generation , even when they are mistaken. Why? “To prevent the destruction of our faith and nation entirely” (paraphrased, see his enlightening words in their entirety. He makes it clear that he is elaborating on the spirit of the law, although some understand his words as relating to the letter of the law as well (Lo Sosur).)

To the Haredi Jew, a Gadol is akin to the captain of a Navy ship. As commander, he is the ultimate arbiter of behavior aboard his vessel, his word law, his order sacrosanct. Prior to issuing a decision, he may consult subordinates, choose to hear opposing views or accept lobbying on the behalf of one position or another. But once the die has been cast and the order given, it must be completely and totally obeyed, even if it is unquestionably wrong. Anything less is mutiny, often punishable in the most severe manner. And it must be so. Were a captain’s order subject to dissent, he would no longer be captain, his crew would die a death of a thousand opinions and chaos would reign. There is always recourse to appeal to the captain to reconsider, but so long that he doesn’t, his decision stands as is.

However, the captain analogy only goes so far. Although the captain may have risen to his high rank due to many years of hard work and commitment and while he may exhibit great leadership qualities and sterling character traits, his decisions are the product of a frail human mind. Gedolei Yisroel on the other hand, are believed to posses an additional dimension, an aspect of Divine guidance absent from normal human consciousness.

Once again, we turn to the Sages of the Ages, Chazal. R” Meir is one of the first to highlight this phenomenon stating that one “who learns Torah for it’s own sake, is privileged to receive”, among many other things, the ability to help others with “advice and salvation” (nehenen mimenu eitzah vetoshiyah). Granted the ability to peek behind the curtain of Heaven, Chazal tell us that “A Tzaddik can decree and G-d will fulfill, while G-d can decree and a Tzaddik can nullify”. They urge us to avail ourselves of the prayers of a Chochom  when there is a sick person in our households r”l, because those prayers have special potency.

As with all matters spiritual, indeed matters temporal as well, the abilities and limitations,  freedom and constraints, indeed the very nature of this Divine gift is hazy and unclear. But it exists and is possessed by the bnei aliyah (men of stature) G-d has bestowed upon each and every generation. (Yoma 38b.)

It is with all of the above in mind that Haredim approach our Gedolim. As with leaders of any substantive entity,  the questions that make it to the top are the ones not easily decided, often the ones with opposing views of equal legitimacy. We bring these dilemmas and complexities to them knowing that they are human, and therefore endeavor to equip them with whatever we can to aid their decision making process. Nothing less than the Urim Vetumim itself filtered its response through the prism of the question it was asked (see pilegesh bigivah), we would be foolish not to take that into account.

Gedolim, for their part, do not seek to “rule the peasantry” from on high. Most of their decisions are a result of extensive research and consultation with all manners of experts, advisers and laymen. At some point, however, deliberations must conclude and a decision reached. Constant “inner struggle” may work for academics and writers but the real world demands that one side be chosen, often reduced to the lesser of two evils.

It is at that point that “Daas Torah” comes into being. Whatever we thought, think and will think now plays second fiddle to our duty to adhere to the Divinely-inspired guidance we have been given. Even when said guidance leads to less than desirable results, we are comforted by the dictum of Chazal, “Stiras Zekeinim Binyan” (The destruction of the Elders is in itself an act of building). It is only through the acceptance of the supremacy of our Sages and leaders that the ship of Judaism has survived the rough waters of exile and Haredim are honored to continue this hallowed tradition.

Links For 6/1/12 How to Criticize Haredim, More Internet Woes, Innocent Until Proven Guilty and more.

Three In Rockland Charged With Welfare Fraud

Those Haredi thieves………. or maybe not.

Op-Ed: Respect haredi life while offering criticism

Attention Bloggers: Wanna give this a try? Nah, gotta feed the Sitemeter

Prosecutors Drop False Assault Charges Against Queens Man

Accusers are ALWAYS right………Except when they’re not

Plugging Your Technology-Obsessed Kids Back Into Reality

Repeat after me (with ears stuffed up) Internet Good, Asifa Bad. We were ALWAYS at war with Eurasia

Orthodox Communities Struggle with LGBT Acceptance

Ya think they mean Haredim?

Satmar Rebbe’s Ultimatum: Turn in Smartphone or Get Out

It will never work. It Will Never Work! IT WILL NEVER WORK I SAY!!!!

Rabbi Fink: If I Were An Haredi Woman I Would Not Be Happy

It always brings a smile to my face to behold the reaction of my non-Jewish customers when our conversation turns toward our kids. Upon hearing that my children have no access to any form of media (i.e. TV, movies, radio, video games, Ipods, Iphones, internet, computers etc.), you can almost hear a loud crack as their jaws drop to the floor. It usually takes me another twenty minutes to convince them that, no, my children do not feel deprived and yes, they are quite happy with their lives, thank you very much. After all that, they still leave shaking their heads in wonder and full of rachmanus (pity), pure rachmanus, for my poor, bored children.

Which brings us to one of Rabbi Eli Fink’s latest articles. In it he takes issue with Chaya, and with the  exuberant joy and pleasure she find in her Chassidic lifestyle. He finds her story to be subjective and not necessarily representative of her community as a whole. As a rule, he is correct, one person’s experience cannot be extrapolated to reflect the society in which they live. Societal temperature can be taken with data alone, not through anecdotal and biased experiences. Had he stopped there, we would not object. But he continues and falls head first into the twin traps of moral arrogance and circular reasoning all neatly wrapped together with a nice bow of projection.

Rabbi Fink’s problem with Chasidism’s (really Orthodoxy’s) treatment of women? In a word, Feminism. To him, feminism, the idea of gender equality, that whatever one gender can do the other should be able to do as well, is sacrosanct. It is natural, undeniable and settled morality. Hence, he takes us for a ride. Come along.

Since Rabbi Fink believes that feminism rocks, therefore everyone believes that feminism rocks, that women should be able to do whatever men do. It follows that all women, including Haredi women, also believe that they should be able to what men do. Therefore, since Haredi women can’t do all that men can do, then ipso facto one can surmise that many of them are unhappy. You still with me?

See how easy that was? Never mind that feminism is rejected by as many women that accept it, if not more. Never mind that using Rabbi Fink’s logic, it is adherents to feminist ideology who should (and often are) miserable, considering that after 50+ years of feminist agitation, it is still a man’s world, by a mile. Disregarding the misery and suffering wrought by the social engineering of feminism, his article can be termed sheer fallacy for one simple reason: You cannot project your values on others and then use those values as a yardstick to divine their feelings.

Charedi girls are raised quite lovingly and competently with a totally different set of values. In their worldview, what they strive for and the goals they seek are as easy (or as difficult) to attain as it is for men. Were Rabbi Fink in charge it might be different, but as it stands Chassidic women, by and large, could care less about feminism. While there are surely some to whom the ways of feminism hold sway and may therefore feel chained in a Chasidic lifestyle, there are also many girls born to feminist families who feel their femininity undermined by the constant comparisons to men. Exceptions just prove the rule.

Were we to adopt the thought process of Rabbi Fink, then we Orthodox Jews would feel deep, heartfelt pity for our secular brethren, not to mention non-Jews. Surely they can’t be happy without the restful spirituality of Shabbos?? Rabbi Fink would be the first to condemn such holier-than-thou arrogance. An American boy without video games is a bored soul, therefore a pity on the millions of sub-Saharan teenagers with their Nintendo-deficient lifestyle.

The truth is, I hesitate to be too hard on Rabbi Fink, he is after all, not a happy man. How could he be, being that he doesn’t wear a Shtreimal on Shabbos!

The Twilight Zone

The much beloved Israeli pastime of Haredi-bashing is in mid-season form and gearing up for what promises to be a hard-hitting playoffs.

Hence this gem from the Jerusalem Post: Grasping at straws to defend Haredi isolationism

The writer doesn’t add much to the conversation except for the following hilarious lines:

There is a lot of good in the haredi world. Aside from the plethora of well-known volunteer and educational organizations that Rosenblum and others have listed, most haredi men and women do wonderful things for others on a daily basis. (ea-HAP)

How truly charitable. Is that true, do Haredim do a lot of good? And on a daily basis? Wow! You see, that secular society “does a lot of good” even on a “daily basis” is a given, but you really should know that Haredim ALSO do good! Three cheers for the Haredim, the also-do-gooders!!

If only we were more like the real, original do-gooders, the chilonim. You know the ones whose society features a daily parade of murderers, gangsters, mobsters, rapists, kidnappers, armed robbers, adulterers, drug dealers, violent racists, drunk drivers,  abortionists, deadbeat dads, pregnant teenagers, 50% divorce rate, single parents, suicide, corrupt and rotten pop culture, lack of identity & finding the Holocaust hilarious teens, violence in schools, etc. etc.

Haredim may not have all of the above, but they are worse, you see, because they don’t work (a canard) and they don”t serve in the army. But they ALSO do good, don’t forget.

Charles Manson sends his regards and wants you to know that he thinks Albert Schweitzer ALSO did good on a daily basis.

In Response To R’ Harry Maryles #2

Harry has another post, from an anonymous contributor, reacting to a comment of mine. Here is my response:

First I would like to commend the OP for both the substance and tone of his comment. I welcome any debate when it is free of animosity and rancor.

As to your post, I am an amateur student of history, who also had, and knew well, multiple relatives from Der Alter Heim. I was friendly with many survivors, including a talmid muvak of the Mir and Kaminentz. To the best of my knowledge, your understanding of Litivsh history is inaccurate and furthermore, fails to place it in the correct context.

In a nutshell, up until the days of the enlightenment (starting approx. late 18th century) Litvish Jewry was what we call today Charedi in every way (except Kollel, which I will discuss later). They looked, spoke, acted and lived as we do. Then,  Haskala came along and caused tremendous damage among Frum Jews throughout the globe. The country hardest hit was Germany leading to great Tzadik RSR”H and his community.

In the Lita, the damage was almost as severe. Most Litvish Jews at the turn of the 20th century were not religious. The “gass” (street) was frei, the communal organization were controlled by maskilim and the overall ruach was tilted strongly to the ways of enlightenment over those of the Torah. As told to me by an old Litivishe Yid, the decision was made to accommodate the prevailing winds in matters that were not of supreme importance i.e. modes of dress. That was the only way the shrinking community of shlomei emunei yisroel could survive. As it were, yeshiva bochurim has tremendous difficulty finding a shidduch, nobody wanted the “bench-kvetchers”. Had they kept the out-dated livush and similar stuff, the result would have been catastrophic. So a CHANGE was made, biles breiera, reluctantly. To claim this bidieved as a new mesora is inaccurate and was specifically denied to me by a number of Litvishe Jews from Der Heim.

The proof of this is that EVERY litvishe rov and rosh yeshiva in Der Heim had a beard and a long coat, levush we would call today “Chasidic”. For the MO to claim they are following the litvishe derech is simply untrue (unless their Rabbis intend on wearing a kolpik, as the Netziv did).

Now, on to your post:

Are you really suggesting that the absence of Chardei blogs criticizing MO is a sign of respect for that approach? In the schools, camps, and communities that I have been a part of it is common practice to put down MO as a matter of course. The followers of that hashkafa are considered inferior and “less frum” whether they are condescendingly called Young Israel members, YU students or Mizrachiniks.

I never denied that we consider MO hashkafa to be less frum, we do. I apologize if that is hurtful and it does not reflect on MO INDIVIDUALS, but as an hashkafa they are too far to the left. In this we are not unique. I would imagine that Harry considers some hashkafas beyond the pale, actually I don’t have to imagine, he has specifically said so about Satmar. So what is good for the goose etc.

However we do NOT spend any time bringing this up, not in private and surely not in public for all the world to see. Hence the lack of anti-MO blogs. Hamodia, Yated and most other charedi media do not hock MO. What is said at a shmuz is no different than the anti-charedi shmuzin given by the MO and are confined to their listeners. They are also quite rare. In my 15 years in yeshiva, I never heard a shmuz about MO, we tend to focus on what we need to do to improve on ourselves.

My request was not for the MO to love us, just refrain from attacking us, non-stop, in public. That comments reveal Charedi “disdain” toward MO is not the point, what I said was that we don’t initiate public attacks, and we don’t. Why is it so hard for MO media to reciprocate? The asifa was not directed against MO in any way, any perceived hurt was clearly inadvertent, but the long knives are out, nonetheless.

In those days yeshiva bachurim were encouraged to develop “breidkait” (to have a real breadth of both intellect and personality). They were supposed to be as sophisticated as the world around them but steeped in torah and mitzvos. That is why in all the great yehsivos – including those run by Rav Aharon Kotler – the talmidim were clean shaven and wore gray hats.

As I’ve previously noted, this is gross revisionism of history. Any “breidtkeit” that was encouraged (which I highly doubt it was, on a general scale, based on the information I’ve seen and heard) was to keep the curious mind from drifting into the Haskala camp. It was a war (and we were losing) so certain battles were lost to win the war. R Aron Kotler himself forbade secular studies which is practiced (albeit half-heartedly) in Lakewood until today.

Are you not aware why Volozhin closed down? It was to prevent the introduction of secular subjects by the Russian Government. Take a look at the Bais Halevy’s tearful drasha at that time.( I imagine you’ll counter with the story about his son, which was not the reason, see my uncle the Netziv for details).

R’ Asher Arieli gives over that R’ Baruch Ber once said that his success in Torah was due to the fact that he NEVER looked in a secular newspaper. Rav Hutner did have more liberal views regarding college and the like. However he and his talmidim are/were charedi and are as far removed from the MO way of life as any other charedi. Pachad Yitzchak came to be as a result of R”H SECULAR education? Wait till the Chaim Berliners hear about this. BTW, R Aaron Schecter is one of the leading figures behind the Asifa in Flatbush.

As to learning full time, you are right it was clearly an Horaas Shah of R’ Aaron Kotler’s and was not done so at all in Europe. However you are wrong to consider this a matter of basic hashkafa rather than one of a more practical nature. Did R’ Aaron attempt to introduce a greater chashivus for Torah then in Der Heim? Not at all! His hope was to recapture some of the chashivus and scholarship that was lost and for that he felt, kollelim were needed. Whether it should still be that way is another story.

When the Netziv – the great Rosh Yeshiva of Volohzin – wanted to bring in his son as his successor the bachurim revolted and he withdraw his candidacy. Did those talmidim not recognize the gadlus of the Netziv; of course they did but he respected their opinions as well and appointed someone else. Can one even begin to imagine a modern day scenario – where yeshivas are simply passed over b’yeruhsa – playing out in a similar fashion?

One of the problems I have with bloggers and commentators is the license they take to comment and criticize on matters on which they have incomplete knowledge.

Yes it does happen today and often. have you followed at all what has just concluded in Telshe? Rav Gifter installed his son and he was replaced. In Satmar the Beirach Moshe wanted R’ Zalman to succeed him and said so, but today we have two Satmar Rebbe’s.

In addition the Netziv himself got his postition b’yerusha as an einekel of R’ Chaim Voloziner. He brought in his son-in-law R’ Refoel Shapiro and his grandson R’ Chaim Brisker as well. RJB”S ZT”L inherited his position from his father along with many MO R”Y (R TY Kook, R’ Ahron Lichtenstein), so it’s hardly a charedi phenomenon.

Finally whether it is noting the fact that we are all makpid on Cholov Yosrael and have total separation of men and women at weddings , while Rav Aharon allowed regular milk to be served in Lakewood (as described by Rabbi Yosef Tendler) and Rav Moshe’s own children’s wedding had mixed seating,

Again, it was a matter of priorities. By the chasunos of Rav Moshe’s einiklach was the seating mixed as well? Did R”M become Frum in his old age? Gedolei Yisroel have always known which battles to fight and which to put off for another time. The fact that we have been able to move the frontlines further and further toward the ways of the Torah is something that Gedolei Yosroel encouraged and would make them all proud. Do we occasionally go overboard? Sure, but in the eyes of Gedolim, MO has left the pool area entirely.

I also love how MO is suddenly embracing RM”F. Should we remind them of all the pesakim of his they ignored. Does the Synagogue Council of America ring a bell? You’ve also touched only a small bit of what MO has changed. See Shmiras Einayim, Tznius, Supremacy of Torah, Avodas Hashem and much more.

Bottom line, regardless what you may think of it, MO is a new hashkafa. Why they feel the need rewrite history instead of embracing the modernity they so treasure is beyond me.