Sunday, February 01, 2015

There is something very wrong in the Torah World...

See also:


  1. At least it provides a good excuse for people that go of the derech. If this is Torah, what good is it? If veahavta is the foundation, then our Torah is without any foundation.

  2. You also have to consider that these are the people who are telling the chilonim that they should be exempt from serving in the army, because the zchus of Torah protects the nation. Now that the chilonim see this behavior, who would believe that? I believe that this is a watershed moment in history, and the end of the Chareidi philosophy. They have self-destructed. It is not the fault of the bachurim, but of the leaders who infested them with hatred. Hatred of the Medinah, hatred of Chabad, hatred of Yeshiva University and secular studies. Now all this hatred has boomeranged upon themselves. Had they taught ahavas yisroel all these years, it would be a completely different ballgame, and they could have earned the love and respect of the chilonim, and nobody would have asked them to serve in the army. But for 60 years, when they were exempt from serving, they couldn't muster up a tiny bit of gratitude to thank the Medinah, or even stand for the memorial siren, etc. They will now have to be modeh al haemes that their derech was wrong and harmful. Chesed is the ikar, not Torah. Torah is only a vehicle to do chesed, not an end in itself.

    1. Barry -

      1) "Hatred of the Medinah"

      FYI, at Ponevezh the flag of the medinah is flown on Yom Haatzmaut.

      2) You keep on throwing in a Lubavitch angle (I understand that you are Lubavitch influenced), but come on. How does that explain the brawls at 770? Do you chime in then? Do you tell the Lubavitchers it is related to their hatred of Misnagdim?

    2. I am aware that they fly the flag, which is better than nothing, and I think a part of the deal the founder of Povovezh made, or his personal thanks. But be honest, in most chareidi neighborhoods, they will vandalize a flag if you display one. Aside from that one yeshiva, and that one gesture, you'd be hard-pressed to see any hakaras hatov.

      Lubavitch has its problems with the meshichists, and it is also a result of making the ikar tafel and the tafel ikar. The identity of mashiach is irrelevant to a Jew's role in this world. Certainly the Rebbe was rauy to be mashiach, and was an adam gadol ad meod, and also a kind mensch who was meurav im habriyos, and lived bpashtus. He was mechazek a whole generation. But for whatever the reason mashiach hasn't been announced yet. To the best of my knowledge, though, Lubavitch does not have a sinas chinam issue. They have great grief at the passing of their rebbe, and this causes them to act irrational at times.

  3. No different than any royal succession fight in Tanach, except that nobody has gotten killed or has slept with the royal consort. I don't see the problem here. This is entirely faithful to ancient Jewish tradition without the foreign overlay of "Mussar."


  5. I agree that this can be construed as Judaism without mussar. I do not accept that this is "ancient Jewish tradition" - unless it is ancient Jewish tradition in the same sense that sins like Avodah Zarah and Sinas Chiman are ancient Jewish traditions as well. Mussar is authentic Judaism. See the Gra to Mishlei 3:14.

  6. These actions, as terrible as they are, are limited to one Yeshiva (which has a long history of similar problems). I would hesitate to tar the whole Torah world with the same brush.

  7. How does it compare to
    1- The fighting among students in Volozhin between those who wanted R' Chaim Brisker to succeed the Netziv, and those who wanted his son, R' Chaim Berlin? Or
    2- The fights in Telzh over how much time should be taken away from gemara for learning mussar?

    In contrast, the split of Slabodka to create Kamenetz was more amicable.

    But in general, give teens a passion and something to fight about, and in a population as large as Ponovezh, someone is going to pick up the first chair.

    And at least it's milder than pashut peshat (which is provably ahistorical) in Y-mi Shabbos 1:4 (vilna 9a):
    תנא ר' יהושע אונייא תלמידי ב"ש עמדו להן מלמטה והיו הורגין בתלמידי ב"ה. תני ששה מהן עלו והשאר עמדו עליהן בחרבות וברמחים.

    BTW, "Torah without mussar" is an oxymoron, if we keep the "m" lower-case to refer to self-refinement rather than a particular movement focused on it. We should be very clear about how low the Orthodox community/ies have sunk:

    Either we must say that Torah is a tool for holiness, but as a general communal trend (holy individuals aside) we do not use the tool for that which it was designed.

    Or we must admit to ourselves that our communities do not actually promote Torah. (Again, though there are many people capable of bucking the social norm.)

    But let's stop pretending we're "almost there" and just need some minor tweaking.

  8. Reb Micha, Nice analysis, but when you write the Torah is a tool for holiness, I assume you mean menshclachkeit or chesed like I described in this and the previous thread. Saying the Torah is a tool for holiness is exactly where all these problems began. Nobody knows what holiness means, as it is intangible. Therefore fights begin because my rebbe is holier than yours, no mine is holier than yours. Your movement is not holy, because you believe that XYZ is mashiach, or because you believe people should work, or can study secular studies, or celebrate Yom Haatzmaut or what have you. It is this holier-than-thou attitude that lies at the root of the whole problem.

    When you define the Torah as a tool for kindness, it is much easier to see objectively what standards of behavior are expected.

    1. I recently made a poster of what I think Torah is about. You can see it (and hopefully print a copy to hang) here. To provide a translation of the full sentence (and the opening words):
      Blessed shall be the Creator, and exalted shall be the Maker, Who created us in His “Image” and in the likeness of His “Structure”, and planted eternal life within us, so that our greatest desire should be to do good to others, to individuals and to the masses, now and in the future, in imitation of the Creator (as it were).

      Hashem gave us the Torah ("planted eternal life within us = וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו, used in the siddur as a description of giving us the Torah) so that we refine ourselves ("so that our greatest desire should be", "in imitation of the Creator") into being as good a benefactor to others as possible.

      As for my language, it's very influenced by other parts of the intro to Shaarei Yosher. (For which our host gets credit.)

      As for my use of the word "holiness", skipping a line, Rav Shimon writes:
      So too His Will is that we walk in His ways. As it says “and you shall walk in His Ways” (Devarim 28:9)]" – that we, the select of what He made – should constantly hold as our purpose to sanctify our physical and spiritual powers for the good of the many, according to our abilities.
      In my opinion, this whole concept is included in Hashem’s mitzvah “Be holy, [for I am Holy].” The Midrash (Leviticus, Emor, ch. 24) says about this verse: “Can it [truly] be ‘Like Me?’ This is why it continues, ‘for I am Holy’ to teach that My Sanctity is above yours.”

      ... analysis of the medrash elided...
      And so, it appears to my limited thought that this mitzvah includes the entire foundation and root of the purpose of our lives. All of our work and effort should constantly be sanctified to doing good for the community. We should not use any act, movement, or get benefit or enjoyment that doesn’t have in it some element of helping another. And as understood, all holiness is being set apart for an honorable purpose which is that a person straightens his path and strives constantly to make his lifestyle dedicated to the community. Then, anything he does even for himself, for the health of his body and soul he also associates to the mitzvah of being holy, for through this he can also do good for the masses. Through the good he does for himself he can do good for the many who rely on him. ...

      "Qedushah" means commitment. As in the wedding formula, "Hereby, you are mequdeshes to me..." As in the dispute among rishonim whether Yehoshua tells the Jews to prepare for the battle with Yericho or stanctify themselves before the miracles of that battle, when he tells them "hisqadashu".

      This is why the preposition used with \קדש\ (when there is one) is "ל- -- to". As in "qadosh Lashem". (In contrast, taharah is always "mi- -- from".)

      I cannot say whether holiness, being an English word, is supposed to refer to an intangible. But when we use it as a translation of "qadosh" without a prepositional phrase, it means to be committed to that for which Hashem made you.

    2. Dear Reb Micha, sorry I didn't acknowledge or respond to your post earliier. I think we basically agree in substance, but the difference is in how to package the message. In today's day of very short attention spans, if you use the word kedusha, and then need to go into a long explanation which amounts to being a benefactor to others and the community at large, I personally feel that it's better to say straight at the outset, the purpose of Judaism is to be a benefactor for others and the community. Adding an intermediate step can confuse people. But certainly, the sources you provided were very inspiring.

  9. First, IIRC it was a fight between the Netziv and Beis Halevi factions. Not RCB vs. RCB. The yeshiva closed before the Netziv passed away.

    In any event, the differences between the cases you cite and the case today are many and manifold.

    1. Parents back then were not involved in their kids' "choice" of yeshiva - and even if they were, they could only be very dimly aware of any machlokes, if at all. Why are the parents of these students sending their kids to Ponovezh?

    2. Volozhin and Telshe were self-contained small and remote hamlets. This is happening in Bnei Brak! Why aren't R' Chaim Kanievsky, R' Nissim Karelitz, R' Shmuel Wosner - or, for that matter, Yerushalayim not being that far - R' Shmuel Auerbach et al - not going up the hill, and stopping this Chillul Hashem?

    3. In Volozhin and Telshe the Roshei Yeshiva were above the fray. When they saw they could not stop it, the BhL left V and RYLB left T. Here they are "leading their troops into battle!"

    4. In V and T there was no media, no phones to record the mayhem, no authorities responding to alerts and alarms - in short, no blatant CH. Here everyone knows (if they are not dolts) that this is a massive CH.

    5. In V and T there was no assertion made klapei chutz that Torah is so significant that its pursuit outweighs the "sharing of the burden.' Ponovezh is a pretty good talking point against that assertion.

    6. The factions here are called (and evidently call themselves0 "mechablim" vs. "son'im." 'Nuff said.

    7. Last, perhaps least, in V and T there were actual issues - derachim in learning and in mussar. Here?

    1. To deal with your primary point first: Viewed as the tragedy of a lack of grownup or authority figure, I would have to agree. I was only thinking of the incident itself, which was bound to happen once the population of young men in yeshivos gets large enough to perforce include that less mature element.

      As for #1: In R/Dr Shaul Stampfer's original thesis, the reason given for the closing of Volozhin was the usual one about resisting further interference in the curriculum. But in the revised HaYeshivah haLita'it beHitavato, he says it was fighting that ensued after the Netziv tried installing R' Chaim Berlin as his successor which made the gov't nervous about Anarchism. So, you're right that the Netziv was still alive, but it was indeed a fight over his successor.

    2. Stampfer sounds like a yeshiva bochur who wants to say a chiddush... Did he have to say a chaburah?... ;-)

      We have two versions already, R' Chaim Berlin's version and the Torah Temimah's version. Stampfer's source?

    3. The reason why his book (2nd ed) doesn't have the same theory as his PhD Thesis is that in the interum, the Iron Curtain fell and the relevant gov't documents were released. His current version of why the Czarist regime closed down Volozhin is based on the papers that led to and ordered the actual closing.

      Seems more compelling than the guesswork of the people who were victims of the decision.

  10. I fail to see why you ascribe the difficulties of a single yeshiva to "the Torah world" at large. Numerous other yeshivos have had somehwat similar crises of succession, yet none have (to my knowledge) descended to this kind of hooliganism. There have been dinei Torah, breakoffs, etc., yet no violence. On the other hand, certain chassidusen, who do advocate the primacy of chessed over Torah study (as Mr. Jacobson suggests), have, indeed, degenrated into physical fighting and extreme acrimony over such questions. It would seem, therefore, that his indiction of "Torah as an ideal" is unfounded.

    1. I would say the same thing if it was Mir or Chevron. The Torah world cannot allow one of its flagship institutions to descend into such a quagmire and not take responsibility. This is not a peripheral institution.

    2. Granted, but my point is that Mir and Chevron both had arguments over succession, and neither stooped to biryonus. While you are correct that we must be quick to not only condemn but take action to stop this behavior, it is incorrect to present this as characteristic of "the Torah world ", and nakedly biased to tout it as proof of the flaws in the "Torah as an ideal" philosophy.

    3. I do not understand. Doesn't the lack of condemnation and action to stop this behavior indicate that something is very wrong in the Torah world? (Nothing to do with "Torah as an ideal" - that is someone else's issue here, not mine.)

    4. It is not necessarily indicative of an inherent problem, to my thinking, unless the behavior itself is more common. Neglecting to reprove or correct isolated cases of clearly inappropriate action can have other causes, which, while not exculpatory, are at least mitigating. The philosophy at the root of modern-day yeshivos is sound, and even its application, while imperfect, as all human endeavors must be, may not have serious flaws, or at least not ones characterized by the current fiasco in Ponovezh.

    5. The behavior does seem common, but not for now. On the other hand, do tell what non-exculpatory but at least mitigating causes might be!

    6. I await the further examples. Reasons for not getting involved could include foreknowledge that such involvement would not solve the wildness, and would serve only to make the intercedent a target. Realistically, any of the authorities you mentioned could condemn the violence, and nothing would change. As I said, that doesn't excuse their silence, but it goes a ways to explaining it. Moreover, it could convincingly be argued that this falls under the rubric of "pulling at a mad dog's ears".

    7. There have been efforts to resolve this situation for years, so it is not correct to say that no one cares about it.

      It seems that (as usual) some young people are the ones actively involved in these latest incidents. But how many? The whole student body is not involved. It is just a fraction of the them.

      It is definitely a big problem, but let us try to maintain some perspective.

      Remember to factor in media sensationalism here as well.

    8. The demonstrations today are further examples.

      Your reason is more damning than anything I wrote. One has an obligation to try to diminish CH. That in itself would diminish the CH. One of the reasons I post on these subjects is to diminish that same CH to the extremely limited extent that I can. Those with greater scope and influence would certainly be expected to act accordingly. "Me d'lo michu..."


      h/t to Barry!

      עמוד הבית > דעות וטורים אישיים > דעת הקהל
      להפסיק את חרפת ישיבת פוניבז' • טור זעקה
      חז"ל שהורו שתורה מגנא ומצלא, גם קבעו שמחלוקת מביאה חורבן • אין זכות קיום לחרפה ששמה ישיבת פוניבז'
      הרב יצחק סולובייציק 22:54 02/02/2015

      בשעה זו ממש בה אתם קוראים שורות אלו, יושבים להם רבבות מחבלים חדורי שנאה לכם, שכל רצונם לחדור פנימה אל גבולות הארץ, להגיע אליכם הביתה, להעלות אותו באש. לשחוט כל יהודי, לטבוח, לערוף, להרוג ולהשמיד אתכם ואת משפחתכם יען אתם יהודים. זו עובדה שקשה לנו להתרגל לקיומה אבל זו עובדה עד להחריד.

      מולם - בשעות אלו ממש, עומדים רבבות חיילים צעירים המחרפים את נפשם ומסכנים את עצמם מול האויב הנושא שמות רבים: דאעש, חיזבאללה, חמאס, אל קאעידה, ועוד ועוד.

      אנו לא שותפים להגנה על עצמינו, שכן אנו מאמינים בני מאמינים שהתורה בכוחה להגן, ואנו שותפים לשמירה על תושבי ארץ שראל באמצעות לימוד התורה. אחרת שומה גם עלינו להיות שם - על הגבול.

      אך אם אכן כנים אנו, אם מאמינים אנו בדברי חז"ל שהבטיחו לנו שהתורה מגנת, הרי שבאותו מקום עצמו גם אמרו חכמים שדווקא לא! התורה אינה מגנת - לא במקום שיש שנאת חינם ומחלוקת.

      אמרו חכמים במסכת יומא: "מקדש שני, שהיו עוסקים בתורה ומצוות ובגמילות חסדים, מפני מה חרב? - מפני שהייתה בו שנאת חינם, ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חינם כנגד שלוש עבירות: עבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים".

      אפשר ללמוד תורה, להקים ישיבות לאלפים וללמוד תורה יומם ולילה, להקים רשתות של עמותות חסד, ולהחמיר בכל דקדוקי המצוות - אך אם יש שנאת חינם, כל זה לא שווה דבר: החורבן מובטח

      ועוד אמרו חכמים במדרש על דורו של דוד המלך ש"היו עוסקים בתורה אולם משום שהיו בו בעלי מחלוקת ודוברי לשון, היו יוצאים למלחמה ומפסידים לעומת זאת דורו של אחאב שהיה דור חוטא, ניצח משום שלא היו בו בעלי מחלוקת.

      התורה לא רק שאינה מגנת מפני האויב, אלא אנו עלולים במו ידינו לגרום להגנה להתמוטט - לצאת למלחמה ולהפסיד.

      במשך שנות דור מאז אנו חיים על חודה של חרב - פטרנו עצמינו משותפות בהגנה על עצמינו בשל כוחה של התורה. אך היום, כאשר שם שמיים מתחלל בצורה כה פרועה על גבעת אם הישיבות, כאשר היינו לחרפה ומשל ושנינה, אין אלא לשוב ולומר בשמה של אותה תורה המדריכה אותנו: אנו היום מצויים לא רק בסכנה רוחנית כי אם בסכנה בטחונית. כן, בני ישיבות הפכו לסכנה לעם היהודי. פשוטו כמשמעו.

      אם זה מה שמתחולל באם הישיבות, אם זו הדוגמא הניתנת לתלמידים, אין אלא לסגור את הגמרות, לנעול את דלתות הישיבה, ולהפיץ את תלמידי הישיבה לכל רוח, לפני שיביאו עלינו חורבן.

      כבר אמרו חכמים: ברורות: עדיפה ביטול תורה ללא מחלוקת מאשר לימוד תורה עם מחלוקת. עצרו וכבו את האש, אם טרם איחרנו את המועד.

    10. Respectfully, Rav Bechofer, I am not sure that the opposite argument could not be made. Imagine for a moment, if you will, what would happen if, say, Rav Steinman publicly deplored this unacceptable behavior. In all likelihood, thugs being thugs, they would add him to their "hit list", and engage in public degradation of his person and shittos, possibly even escalating their prior level of hooliganism in the spirit of "I'll show him". While Rav Steinman might then be able to say "our hands have not spilt this blood", in the totality of things, would this not be an increase, rather than a decrease of chillul haShem? Perhaps they have judged that private, back-channel protests are, if not more effective, at least less likely to exacerbate the problem?

    11. The same rationale should have exempted the Chachomim at the Kamtza/Bar Kamtza contretemps. But it didn't.

      Truth be told, a Gadol who never signs Kol Korehs, promotes or attends Hafganot of any sort, might have some semblance of your rationalization. But any Gadol who has protested requiring Ashkenazic schools being required to admit Edot Hamizrach, who has protested filling out forms at a Lishkat Giyus, or even has protested Chitutei Shachvei or Nituchei Meisim (remember those causes?) has established that "shveig nisht" and kal vachomer has an obligation to speak out against a CH from within.

      Be that as it may, what you suggest seems to me simple cowardice.

    12. Why don't the two Rosh Yeshivas each condemn the violence of their respective SUPPORTERS?

    13. There is indeed no excusing the rosh yeshivas involved. Had I begun with any respect for them, I would certainly have lost any shred of it by now.

      However, Rav Bechofer, I think the comparison to chitutei shichvei et al does not address my point. When the CH is externally sourced, their disdain for or attacks on one who protests it have no bearing on the original CH. When, however, the desecration is caused by the conflagration of machlokes internally, "farnanderflakeren der machlokes" is not a solution, but an aggravation.

      Regardless, my main point was not to excuse specific leaders. That's their job. I wanted to dispute, on record, Mr. Jacobson's assertion that the ideology of Torah as an end unto itself is the source of these issues.

  11. I just want to know if the guy who threw that shtender and it seems injured someone, had a geshmak maariv afterwards.

    If this is what happened in the glory days of slabodka and telshe when they fought the mussar movement then that was disgusting too.

    The whole think stinks!
    הקנאה התאווה והכבוד מוציאים את האדם מן העולם

  12. והוא רחום יכפר עון ולא ישחית והרבה להשיב אפו ולא יעיר כל חמתו
    and again, with more kavvnah
    והוא רחום יכפר עון ולא ישחית והרבה להשיב אפו ולא יעיר כל חמתו
    and again, and again...

  13. What's wrong is not that hooligans and imbeciles are acting like hooligans and imbeciles, but that yeshiva world "leadership" has nothing to say about it, let alone provide a solution.

    1. Although.... I wonder about what happens when these "hooligans and imbeciles" are married and on the kollel dole... Is that an appropriate use of tzedaqah funds?

      I think the real issue is the emperor has no clothes. The yeshiva world has no leadership. If a gadol tries to say something that would challenge the masses, it will not be propagated by the gabbai or internal communal media, or they will be distorted, and in some cases, outright lie. How many signatures appeared on documents that the rav in question never saw, and it later turns out, doesn't even agree with? The people who allegedly lead the community know they are not empowered to actually do so.

    2. Dear Reb Micha, on this point I disagree with you, and think you are being too charitable. The hooliganism is the result of a faulty philosophy that was put in place by the leaders. Let's say the leaders had a philosophy that one should leave hot coffee by open windowsills. If it falls and injures somebody below, it is disingenuous to claim that we have the highest respect for people and never intended to hurt anybody.

      What happened is the direct result of years of instigation against all kinds of people and movements by the Chareidi leaders. As I wrote in Five Towns Jewish Times a year snd a half ago, when you preach verbal violence, it leads to physical violence. Had the leaders preached ahavas yisrael all these years, this pogrom would not have occurred. It has nothing to do with askanim misleading or altering the communication channels of the leaders. The leaders are on tape and have written sefarim saying exactly what their philosophy is, with no possibility of misinterpretation. When a stock tanks, the CEO is responsible. He can't say my workers were doing shoddy manufacturing and I didn't know. Why didn't you know? That is your job.

  14. Saw this post last week and meant to comment, but now see I've been preempted by others. I agree with Micah Berger, that the situation is not materially different than the mussar brawls of the 19th century. Young men are going to occasionally fight, especially when there is no sporting outlet. With all due respect, RYGB, the distinctions you draw between then and now are distinctions we call in the legal profession a distinction without a difference, or if you prefer, chillukim that aren't michallek.

    Having said that, I totally agree with your headline. The Charedi society has utterly lost its way, and is every bit as attenuated and divorced for Torah and tradition as Reform. Every bit, I exaggerate not. The Reform have grabbed ahold of the social justice tradition of the prophets and discarded everything else, and the Charedim have adopted the ritual aspect of the religion, while rejecting everything else. They are mirror images of one another. it is very sad. Right now conservative Jews and Lakewood style charedisim also parallel each other on the spectrum. There is hope for them, I hope.

    1. I doubt I will convince you in any event, so let the difference of opinion stand. i think the differences are very real and the chilluk is mechallek.