Saturday, July 06, 2013

Barry's Latest: A Response To ‘Misguided Mesorah’ | The 5 Towns Jewish Times

Note: I do not agree with all of the positions taken by Barry below, but I am happy to discuss them.


A Response To ‘Misguided Mesorah’ | The 5 Towns Jewish Times

A Response To ‘Misguided Mesorah’

By Barry Jacobson
In the June 21 issue of the 5TJT, Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg (“Misguided Mesorah”) takes me to task for my article “The Mesorah of Chesed” (June 14), where I criticized the divisive manner in which the chareidi world has been battling Zionism. Here is my rebuttal to Rabbi Ginzberg.
As I mentioned in my second article (“Kindness and Zealotry,” June 21, page 29) and in private to many, I regret using strong language against Rav Shach, z’l. It was a mistake, which also undermined my credibility. But let me be totally honest about my thought process. Because Rav Shach had come out against so many things and people that were dear to me, including the hesder yeshivas, the kibbutzim, Rav Goren, Rabbi Leo Levi and his books, Rav Steinsaltz and his Gemaras, Rabbi Soloveitchik from YU, President Herzog, and the Entebbe raid (some say he even opposed the ArtScroll Gemaras but was persuaded to retract), it took effort to convince myself, after reexamining the situation, that Rav Shach, despite his acerbic attacks, was indeed a manhig whose intentions were totally l’shem Shamayim.
Attacks on the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I do register a complaint to Rabbi Ginzberg, though, as to why he was not bothered by attacks on the Lubavitcher Rebbe or Rabbi Soloveitchik, or others not from his camp. We can’t have a system of “my gadol is greater than your gadol.” Rather, we must insist on menschlichkeit all around. Will Rabbi Ginzberg defend the ongoing chassidic schism being fought in secular courts, in which Hamodia referred to the protagonists as gedolim? Would he defend Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s public insult to Rav Stav, which led to a physical beating, and which forced the RCA to issue a strong condemnation of Rav Ovadiah?
Reb Moshe Feinstein lived less than 10 miles from the Lubavitcher Rebbe for 30 years, never had a problem with him, and, on the contrary, referred to him in the most laudatory tones. Why would somebody who had never met him, and was 6,000 miles away, be a good choice to judge?
Finally, I note that in Y.D. 243:7, it states that a talmid chacham who starts up with people improperly, causing others to denigrate him, those people are not considered mevazeh talmidei chachamim. The Vilna Gaon, gloss 17, cites Yoma 86, which tells us that a chillul Hashem is when a talmid chacham does not speak nicely, so that briyos (simple people on the street) get upset. I am not a talmid chacham but a simple person on the street who can’t stand this fighting. I am sure Rabbi Ginzberg would agree that respectful disagreement is the best approach, and that otherwise, things degenerate rapidly.
Part of the reason for my strong language is that I had close personal ties to the Rebbe. My father, z’l, who never had any formal yeshiva education, became close with his emissary, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht, z’l, in Chicago, and attended his shiurim and monthly farbrengens. Rabbi Hecht arranged with my parents to speak personally to the Rebbe a number of times about important questions. If not for the Rebbe, perhaps my parents wouldn’t have paid for yeshiva education past a certain age. My brothers and I also had yechidus with the Rebbe before our bar mitzvahs to receive berachos and say over our pshetlach.
When my rebbe, Rabbi Wehl—himself a big kannai—found out that I had gone to the Rebbe, he remarked that it was a big inyan to have received a berachah from a gadol ha’dor before one’s bar mitzvah. Another HANC rebbe, Rabbi Wahrman, who knows kol haTorah kula, expressed extreme displeasure with those who were mevazeh the Lubavitcher Rebbe, including Rav Shach.
Can Rabbi Ginzberg understand that to be told that Rav Shach ordered people not to make a shivah call on the Rebbe’s family might elicit a visceral reaction from me? I am not defending everything Chabad does, some of which is highly questionable, but I look to the root, which is that they sorely miss their Rebbe and haven’t been able to cope, because he had no replacement. Rachmanus is called for, more than anything else.
The Satmar shittah. Rabbi Ginzberg states that the Satmar shittah is a valid viewpoint. While that may be true academically, it is not true in practice. To make an analogy, we know there are two minhagim for how to wind tefillin. It is perfectly OK to give a shiur claiming that one is more correct and the other has less basis. But it is not acceptable to scream that a group that does it a certain way are haters of Torah and evil people, and to make a rally in Manhattan against them, such that people get into a frenzy and attack them physically with chairs in shul. That crosses the line into sinas chinam. When it comes to anti-Zionism, it is nearly impossible to conduct a dispassionate academic debate, simply because we all benefit from those who labored tirelessly, and even had to pay the ultimate sacrifice. As one rav told me this past Shabbos, if you hold of the medinah, then say the tefillah and serve. If you don’t hold of it, then don’t say the tefillah and don’t serve. But it is the height of hypocrisy to say, “I don’t hold of the medinah”—and then send your children to yeshiva and seminary in Israel. And does anybody truly believe we would be better off giving the country over to the Arabs and moving back to Poland and Germany?
Anti-chareidi bias? Rabbi Ginzberg takes it that I have a bias against chareidim, as evidenced by his question whether I’m equally upset when they are called parasites, or knowing that Ben-Gurion ate on Yom Kippur. But it is the type of wild behavior we have sometimes seen (and as written about in these pages by 5TJT columnist Shmuel Katz) on the part of chareidim, such as destroying other people’s flags and dumping heavy rocks on erev Shabbos to block the streets, that was exactly the reason for my harsh tone directed at the chareidi leaders. As Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg commented, good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things, but to get good people to do bad things requires religion. (Note: He is an atheist, but as Jews we must strive to show religion is a positive and civilizing force by our actions.)
Let me assure Rabbi Ginzberg that I have no bias against chareidim. I learned in chareidi yeshivos; Reb Shmuel Berenbaum was at my chasunah. I was a ben bayis for years by the mechutan of Reb Shmuel Kaminetsky. But more than that, I named my own child for an important chareidi leader, the founding president of Agudath Israel of America. My son Akiva Moshe Elimelech is named for my wife’s grandfather Yaakov (=Akiva), Reb Moshe Feinstein, and Elimelech (Mike) Tress. Why did I choose Mike Tress, to whom I am not related and whom I never met? For one main reason: His biography describes how he was a wealthy executive in the Esquire Shoe Polish company, and owned many shares of stock. During the war, the Vaad Hatzalah badly needed funds. Mike sold off stock time after time and donated until he was literally destitute. So poor, that in later years he could not afford to pay for his own medical treatment. Eventually, Esquire was sold to Revlon, and Mike’s stock would have been worth millions. Because he gave up every penny he had to save Jewish lives, and his ahavas Yisrael clearly exceeded all bounds, this was a person I wanted my children to emulate. And where was my son’s b’ris held? In the Lakewood Kollel of Boston. (Amazingly, at the b’ris I met Mike Tress’s grandson Rabbi Elimelech Pichey, but that is a story for another time.)
The roots of violence. Rabbi Ginzberg misunderstands my words that verbal violence leads to physical violence. I never meant that chareidi leaders tell their followers to beat up soldiers. What I meant was that if they were preaching ahavas Yisrael, these beatings would never occur. They clearly are preaching something else. While it is admirable that the leaders want to stand up for the Ribbono shel Olam’s kavod, He would prefer they stand up for shalom. As we find by sotah, G‑d lets His name be erased in order to make shalom between a man and his wife. How much more so in all Klal Yisrael. In my opinion, this hatred is as harmful as when they burned the Rambam’s sefarim 800 years ago.
Ahavah and menschlichkeit. That Rav Shach cried over the Israeli soldiers is nice to hear. But the fact that Rabbi Ginzberg has to even mention it, like it is a chiddush, demonstrates that even he knows deep down the intense anti-Zionism of that world. One reader commented that a leader should be leading in public, not in private. Another reader asked me to inquire whether, notwithstanding Rabbi Ginzberg’s possible halachic objection to Hallel, or the tefillah, or whatever, does he or his yeshiva do anything at all on Yom HaAtzmaut to differentiate it from any other day, as he might do on one of his kids’ or grandkids’ birthdays?
Dealing with anti-Torah factions. One of Rabbi Ginzberg’s most difficult questions I have left for last: How can we support people who seemed to be completely anti-Torah and may have actively fought against any expression of religion? What we need to know is that the job of a leader is to advocate for Klal Yisrael, not to condemn. Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem, “V’atah im tisa chatasam, v’im ayin mecheini na misifrecha asher kasavta.” The people had just done the worst possible sin, but Moshe demanded forgiveness, or else he wanted no part in the Torah. Never does a leader have a right to speak ill of our beloved brethren, and especially when it is the vast majority. His job is to be melamed z’chus.
And the reason for the behavior of the Zionists is not difficult to fathom. After 2,000 years of unimaginable torture and bloodshed throughout galus, with expulsions, inquisitions, crusades, Chmielnickis, Cantonist children who were taken from their parents, and finally the Holocaust, many Jews were furious at the Ribbono shel Olam and wanted no part of the religion. The Gemara (Bava Basra 16) tells us that if one chas v’shalom curses Hashem out of tzaar, it is not held against him. This is the entire lesson of Sefer Iyov. Rabbi Berel Wein explains that this suffering was also the reason why Jews embraced Communism so ardently. They finally thought, here is a movement which states all people are equal. Music to their ears. While they were sincere, the corrupt leaders were not, and they exploited the people even worse than before.
Making shalom. I conclude with the following story of how peace was brought between opposing sides. There was a certain singer with a lot of ahavas Yisrael who had a shul on West 79th Street, and whom I will simply call Reb Shlomo (I won’t mention his full name, as I don’t want to get into any more trouble with the yeshivishe velt than I already am). The following story is related about him in the book Holy Brother. He once was on a plane and saw a stewardess who, in moments of free time, was davening and saying Tehillim, but was very upset. Shlomo asked her what was the matter. She told him that she was a recent convert and was engaged to a nice boy who was a baal teshuvah, but his father refused to give consent, because he said she was not good enough.
She complained that this father was completely nonobservant, didn’t keep anything; but she—who was trying her best—was not a good enough Jew in his eyes. Her own father had now become angry that his daughter was being treated this way, and was also opposed to the marriage. Shlomo said he would see if he could arrange a meeting with everybody to find out what was going on, and to convince the boy’s father that this girl was worthy.
He persuaded the families to meet in his hotel room. When the father of the boy saw the father of the girl, he stared for a minute, and asked waveringly, “Yankel?” The girl’s father replied, “Hershel?” And they embraced. Before the war, they had been chavrusas in yeshiva. They were so close, they had vowed to make a shidduch together. But during the war they lost contact, and because of their experiences, each had become so angry with the Ribbono shel Olam that they disavowed any connection to the religion. One of them refused to give his children any Jewish education; the other one didn’t even tell his kids they were Jewish! Reb Shlomo was beaming. Now the time had come to keep the vow. v
The author can be reached at


  1. The self-identified description by Barry calling himself Chareidi is utterly laughable. Barry has been posting on The Yeshiva World and the YWN Coffee Room under the nom de plume monker of "Pahuteh Yid" for years. And one constant recurring theme of his has been his constant bashing of anything and everything Chareidi.

  2. Just a quick correction of some typos:

    Moniker of "Pashuteh Yid".

  3. 1. And you know this how?

    2. Is there an official list of parameters that define who is or isn't "Charedi?" Is it not possible for someone who is "Charedi" to criticize "his own?"

  4. 1. Ask him.

    2. Someone *constantly* knocking Chareidim and all aspects of their way of life, and that constitutes about 90% of his very extensive comments over quit a few years, can hardly describe himself a member of the group his so opposes.

  5. Dear David,

    I hope to write a piece, possibly even this coming edition, being melamed zchus on Rav Shach, same as I did for Zionists. While I have some major hashkafic differences with Chareidi thought, I will state that the level of learning in Chareidi yeshivos is far higher than in modern ones, no contest. Also, the yiras shamayim and midos are in many cases outstanding. This is why I sent my kids there. If I want that kind of atmosphere, I don't have a choice. But that doesn't mean there aren't serious problems. The fact that, for example, secular studies is so deemphasized, so we see a constant stream of poor meshulachim suffering in heat and bitter cold because they have no training is horrendous. We need to be proud of what the Chareidi world has accomplished, and build on it to iron out the problems. While daf yomi is a tremendous unifying force, antizionism is a tremendously divisive force. I personally can't fit into any label at this point.

    Hope this clarifies.

    Kol Tuv,


  6. Dear Barry,

    While you're at it, please also write a melamed zchus for Pinchos. You know, that zealot who killed a Jew.

    Well, at least try to find a limud zchus for him. Maybe something along the lines that his Limud Torah was above average. Even if he isn't exactly know for his secular studies prowess.

    But, still, that killing was a tremendous divisive force.

  7. If you look at the Chazon Ish, he explains that when there were open nissim and everybody could see the RBSH's hashgacha, people were allowed to use force, when necessary. But since in the last 2,000 years, the RBSH's face has been hidden, we must only use avosos shel ahava at this time. No physical or verbal violence.

  8. The Chazon Ish? That Hareidi extremist you bring a raya from? I mean the Chazon Ish wrote to HaRav Wassermann in 5695, “Zionism, which was clothed in idealism and spirituality has drawn in its wake heretical education and other non-Jewish ways and idolatrous vanities, and those who enter into their company at first, later start worshiping their idols, which touch on all aspects of life” (Kovetz Igros, 111).

    In his book Maasei Ish, HaRav Tzvi Yabrov quotes HaRav Moshe Sheinfeld in a piercing letter written in 5721 (1961). “I had the privilege of frequently spending time under the wing of our holy rabbi, the Chazon Ish, and from him I acquired my worldview that Mizrachi poses a greater danger than Mapai!” he wrote.

    Another tremendously divisive antizionist.

  9. 1. I personally heard Rav Steinman Shlita say that there is a difference between one who doesn't wash Mayim Achronim since he's not Makpid on everything, and one who develops a Shita whereby washing Mayim Acharonim is no longer necessary. Rav Stav clearly belongs to the latter category. If you would investigate a bit I think you would find that it would be very dangerous to have such a person as a Chief Rabbi. Nobody attacked him publicly when he went about his business in his own organization, but running for the Chief Rabbinate is another story altogether. Is there NOTHING for which we should fight, must be always "turn the other cheeck"
    2. In 1948 the day after the signing of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, the large headline of one Charedi newspaper (HaModia I think, but not sure), was "She'Hecheyanu, etc." The Charedim, at least some, initially greeted the state with open arms as you would like to do. And then ... various events in the early years of the state convinced the Rabbis of the time that the state was truly out to eradicate religion (I don't think the early leaders denied this fact). Would you have fought against National Service for girls at that time? There was a VERY real possibility that every Charedi girl at the age of 18 would be taken from her house and placed in some non-religious framework for 2 years. Even today Israel is the only Western state that conscripts girls. Was this worth fighting for? Now, you may say, things have changed, and people have changed. Today is not the 1950s. This is easy to say sitting in a comfortable life in the Five Towns. But at least grant others a little closer to the reality a different perspective. Let me ask you: what would you do if a pornographic theater open 24 hours was opened next to your house/on your block. Would you protest? Perhaps letter writing, etc. OK, that didn't work. What now? Is that worth protesting? Is it worth protesting Strongly? So where does one draw the line: Chillul Shabbos is OK but pornography not? Who is to determine where the line is drawn?
    I have a few more questions if you would be interested in the dialog

  10. David:

    Being unpleasant (at the very least, perhaps even nasty) to Barry, if anything, confirms his concern and proves his point.


    1. Not a good example. What about Yekkes who did (following RT) develop a shittah that MA is no longer necessary? I am not saying Rabbi Stav is the best candidate for CR, but the fact that his shittah is different is not sufficient reason to physically or verbally attack him. Divrei chachamim b'nachas nishma'im.

    2. I believe your interpretation of history is flawed. The positive attitude lasted in mainstream Charedi perspectives until the early '70's. At least until the petirah of the Ponovezher Rav.

    But, be that as it may, the battle over Sherut Leumi took place in 1952. One of the flaws in the Charedi system is our lack of historical perspective. The rhetoric would have you believe that the SL, Yaldei Teheran, the Kastner affair, all happened within the last year - at least within the last decade! That it is still a battle, perhaps even a war, to build and maintain Torah institutions. This is not the case. No one is looking anymore to shmad anybody. The rhetoric is only useful to incite strife. And it is impeding the Geulah.

  11. Apparently Yosef Gavriel conviently forgot the likes of Tommy Lapid, who are from the past decade, and his powerful Shiuni Party that was an integral part of the Israeli government and did seek to shmad us.

  12. What exactly did T. Lapid do to shmad Charedim?

  13. Regarding Goren, Rav Shach was joined by:

    Rav Elyashiv
    Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
    Rav Chaim Shmulevitz
    Rav Yechezkel Abramsky
    Gerrer Rebbe
    Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro
    Rav Y.M. Feinstein

  14. Regarding Steinsaltz, Rav Shach was joined by:

    Rav Elyashiv
    Tzitz Eliezer
    Rav Shteinman
    Rav Chaim Kanievsky
    Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz
    Rav Chaim Kreiswirth
    Rav Scheinberg
    Rav Nissim Karelitz
    Rav Vosner

    Check it out:

  15. I agree that the issues concerning Rabbi Goren and Rabbi Steinzaltz should not have been included in the list of grievances.

  16. “Why would somebody who had never met him, and was 6,000 miles away, be a good choice to judge?”

    Maybe because he investigated?

    Rav Ovadia Yosef was asked the following:

    כאשר השיב הרב יוסף לשאלות בסיום השיעור השבועי שלו בבית-הכנסת ברוכוב בשכונת הבוכרים בירושלים
    אחד השואלים ביקש לדעת מדוע אין הרב יוסף מגן על כבודו של הרבי מלובביץ’ מפני התקפותיו של הרב שך

    Check out his answer here: – page 110

  17. "We can’t have a system of “my gadol is greater than your gadol.”"

    But we need criteria to define who is a gadol in the first place:

  18. "We can’t have a system of “my gadol is greater than your gadol.”"

    But we need criteria to define who is a gadol in the first place:

  19. Unfortunately these are wise words wasted.
    A system of thinking has been created in which only those who are 100% in sync with the values it promotes are good. 1% discrepancy is the same as 100% - one is evil, wicked, beyond the pale, etc. It is a system that holds that any criticism of it, no matter how well meant or valid, is a vile attack that needs to be repulsed.
    It is a system that has revised history to create the illusion that it has always existed and was, until recently the only valid expression of that culture.
    So you cannot disagree with it. You are automatically disqualified. You cannot criticize it. Such criticism is invalid. You cannot live differently than it and expect to be respected by it because it is the only respectful way to live.
    Is there even a point to further discussion?

  20. RYGB's criteria for who is a Gadol would seemingly preclude many members of the Moetzes "Gedolei" HaTorah.

  21. To Barry
    I agree with every word that you say, but I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish. If you have such complaints against Chareidism, then become modern orthodox, where these issues dont exist. If you cant bring yourself to do that, then remain Chareidi. Are you trying to change the Chareidi mindset, thinking that your persuasive arguments will do so (that would be insane)

  22. the fact ismost gedolim of our last generation held of the lubavitcher rebbe as a tremendous talmid chacham reb moshe feinstien refered to him in highest terms as is evidenced by letters and he backed up the rebbe on his shitos like thepsak the rebbe gave out its forbidden to move away from crown hights mihu yehudi and even came once to to 770 to meet him rabbi pinchas hirshprung a talmid muvhak of rabbi meir Shapirowho obviously did not grow up chabad was so impressed from the rebbes knowledge that he said therebbes knowledge surpaased even the pre war polish geonim Menachem zemba and his rebbe rabbi shapiro