Amen to Ahavat Yisrael

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In a Jerusalem Post opinion piece, Dr. Jonathan Schorsch calls me a “clever fellow” whose “handwringing” over the hatred I’ve encountered aimed at Orthodox Jews is “somewhat posed, if not disingenuous.”

Dr. Schorsch can be easily disabused of his first assertion by perusing my high school scholastic records, or by consulting my wife and children, who can regale him of all manner of dumb things I’ve said and done (but who love me, I hope, all the same).

As to the second charge, I assure him that I am sincerely pained by my observations.

Dr. Schorsch quickly moves to his real point, the contention that Orthodox Jews are themselves the cause of the hatred aimed at them, because they lack sufficient ahavat Yisrael, or love for fellow Jews. He cites personal experiences of Orthodox Jews insulting him and the Orthodox refusal to accept the Jewish legitimacy of non-Orthodox theologies.

The latter has nothing to do with ahavat Yisrael. Loving other Jews doesn’t mean embracing everything they may embrace. The very essence of Orthodox conviction is the rejection of changes to the Jewish religious mandate, like those changes embraced, to one or another degree, by non-Orthodox movements. So there is no crime in, and hence no apology for, Orthodox belief. That, though, should not (and in the vast majority of Orthodox Jews does not) in any way affect how we Orthodox view non-Orthodox Jews. My love for an uncle who was a socialist was in no way compromised by my rejection of his world-view.

Dr. Schorsch, as a committed non-Orthodox Jew, does not likely consider the unabashedly atheistic “Humanistic Judaism” philosophy as a legitimate form of Judaism. And if not, it must trouble him that rabbis of that movement seek to redefine Judaism in atheistic terms. Does he, though, hate Jews who, out of unfamiliarity with the Jewish heritage, pay dues to that group? I would certainly hope not.

How, Dr. Schorsch asks, can anyone possibly not take it personally when his or her theological beliefs are rejected? Simple. All that is needed is good will, and respect for the deep-seated convictions of others.

But some of what Dr. Schorsch recounts is deeply disturbing. If, indeed, Orthodox Jews seized on the fact that his father is a chancellor emeritus of the Jewish Theological Seminary to berate Dr. Schorsch, that was uncouth, indeed downright rude. And if, indeed, one of his woman friends was assaulted by haredim for carrying a sefer Torah, all I can say is that haredi leaders have explicitly condemned and forbidden any such reactions to even intentionally provocative public displays of that sort.

Ahavat Yisrael, though, is very much an Orthodox ideal. It is a mandate my wife and I have instilled (thank G-d, successfully, I think) in our children, and one that I stressed, over nearly two decades in Jewish education, to the hundreds of students I was so fortunate to teach (and learn from).

Dr. Schorsch may think it lacking from the larger Orthodox world, but he is wrong.

For example, take Chai Lifeline, which cares for young Jewish cancer patients and their families, regardless of what prefix the beneficiaries may place before “Jew” in their self-description. Or the famed “Satmar Ladies,” who minister to the needs of all Jewish patients in New York area hospitals. And those are but two of the better known of many such chesed organizations under Orthodox auspices.

Then there is the world of Jewish outreach. The very existence of dozens of groups helping Jews interact with their religious heritage should say it all. The concern of the “givers” in these programs transcends any and all denominational lines. A participant who remains a staunch member of a Reform or Conservative congregation is studied with, invited and cared about as much as any belonging to an Orthodox shul or to none at all. It would be exceedingly odd for Jews to be so determined to share what they treasure with other Jews they don’t care for.

And then there are the many “community kollelim” that exist to engage in Torah study not only in the traditional kollel mode of internal study partnerships, but which pointedly set aside considerable time for members and their wives to interact and study with men and women from the larger local community – again, without regard to denominational affiliations.

Then there are things like the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, which has brought unprecedented focus to the importance of “between Jew and Jew” ideals, and the remarkable “Inspired” films, whose entire existence is born of a desire to encourage Orthodox Jews to care about their non-Orthodox brothers and sisters. That the films have drawn large Orthodox audiences in many cities clearly indicates a concern in the Orthodox community for Jews who are not part of it. As do the themes of ahavat Yisrael that are mainstays of lectures by popular Orthodox speakers like Rabbi Paysach Krohn and Rabbi Yissocher Frand, whose audiences sometimes number in the thousands.

Nor should anyone forget Partners in Torah, the celebrated project of Torah Umesorah that matches up Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish men and women to study Torah by phone. My wife’s partner in Torah lives in Arizona, is intermarried and belongs to a Conservative temple. My Chassidic colleague’s lives in Poughkeepsie and is of a similar background. At my daughter’s recent wedding, her new mother-in-law, who is from Los Angeles and not Orthodox, got to see her own Partner in Torah, from Lakewood, New Jersey, a young woman who made a long trip just to be at the wedding and dance with the Jewish woman she has been studying with for years. It was a festive sight to behold. Scores of Orthodox Jews are studying with equal numbers of non-Orthodox Jews through this wonderful project.

Orthodox organizations, both in America and Israel, offer Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews alike the benefits of an array of projects, services and educational opportunities. On the local level, practically every Jewish community has an Orthodox chesed group, whose goal it is to assist Jews in need – any Jews in need; likewise a chevra kadisha, or burial society, which prepares the Jewish deceased – regardless of his or her affiliation during life – for Jewish burial.

Even a quick look at any of countless articles in the Orthodox media calling on readers to reach out to and care about all their fellow Jews – or a quick listen to Orthodox-produced audiotapes and CDs for children – readily evidences the prominence given to the promotion of good will toward fellow Jews.

So to Dr. Schorsch I say: I hope you will come to realize how embarrassed and pained most Orthodox Jews are by reports like yours of alleged boorish behavior by some Orthodox Jews. And that you will realize that ahavat Yisrael is in fact a deep conviction in the larger Orthodox world.

I hope, too, that you will consider an open invitation to, at your convenience, grace my family’s Sabbath table with the presence of you and yours. I assure you that the experience will be filled only with smiles (and wholly sincere ones), song, friendly conversation, words of Torah and ahavat Yisrael.

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35 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    There are many communities where the Orthodox shul membership is not uniformly Orthodox. The rabbis there often make a practice of not eating at congregants’ homes in general, to avoid accusations that they favor some congregants over others.

  2. Rabbi Avi Shafran says:

    My humble gratification at the broad discussion my essay engendered is rivaled only by my distress at not being able to join in “in real time.” My apologies for that, and a few belated thoughts and clarifications, below:

    I would love to meet Dr. Schorsch, especially as he seems to be someone who is sincerely seeking his place in Klal Yisrael (as all of us should always be doing). I bear him no ill will, chalila, and would happily, as I wrote, have him as a guest for an hour or a Shabbos. I don’t understand, though, why my politely declining an invitation to his home for a Shabbos should be seen as somehow lacking in ahavas Yisrael. My kashrus standards are not up to those of some, and I would never negatively judge someone who didn’t accept an invitation to my home for a meal. I would hope that others who may have less stringent standards than my family’s would give me the same good will consideration.

    That said, I cannot overstress the true need on the part of us Orthodox Jews to be sensitive to the feelings of current or once-non-Orthodox fellow Jews. While that does not necessarily entail accepting every invitation we receive or bending our convictions and beliefs in any way, it does indeed entail doing whatever we can in good conscience do to make other Jews feel good – and, when something cannot be done, declining to do it in a menschlich way.

    Dr. Schorsch and I may indeed be operating within different frames of reference, but I felt he characterized the Orthodox community in a way that, by overgeneralizing, misled readers. Thus my response. I don’t deny that there is rudeness and inconsideration in the Orthodox world (as in every community) and that we must constantly work to uproot it (you should hear me speaking to frum groups!). But to generalize from underdeveloped individuals to the entire community is unfair and, I believe, yields a false image.

    A personal note: My wife and I lived in a very “mixed” Jewish community for 11 years, and we deeply valued the opportunity afforded us to interact with Jews of different affiliations and levels of observance – and to have our children do the same. B”H, those children are grown and are wonderful, frum adults today. They only gained from the exposure to other types of Jews.

    Never once, to the best of my recollection, over those years did I ever, chalila, impugn the motives or integrity of other families different from ours, but never once (again, to the best of my recollection) did I hesitate, when issues arose, to point out what our mesora requires of us. To this day, that is how we live, and I have found that Jews of good will truly appreciate the honesty no less than the love. I hope that Jews of all affiliations and levels of observance will increasingly be able to separate our beliefs (which may sometimes shock or rile them) from our ahavas Yisroel, which does not stop at our Orthodox shul’s threshhold.

  3. Moishe says:

    I did not refer to JS specifically as secular, I believe I referred to him as “Dr. Schorsch, seemingly a serious conservadox type scholar” the secular was meant for the “others” it was not meant for him. no offense meant. The other secular reference was re the movements.
    sounds like Reb Yid is trying to pick a fight here, rereading the above posts, including mine, I’d say theres a lot of respect here on a personal level.
    RY ridiculous assertion that a measure of Ahavat Yisrael is commensurate to one willingness to compromise his standards and comfort levels smacks of true insensitivity for the sincere Frum Yid who would like to truly bridge gaps. That attitude is surely part of the problem.

  4. Reb Yid says:

    hp writes:

    “There are many homes to which I would regretfully dec[l]ine a Shabbat invitation, halachik issues just one of many possible reasons.”

    Please elaborate.

    In terms of Shabbat, I would say that is the best time to “showcase” and absorb the Jewish environment in which someone lives. While I’ve learned a lot in my lifetime from books about Judaism and Jewish life, actually experiencing Shabbat in a variety of venues has just as educational–that’s how you best understand the lives, rhythms, connections and institutions of one’s fellow Jews.

    Not from selected snippets from news articles or from elite edicts of rebbeim or seminary chancellors..

  5. hp says:

    “But if he is unwilling to do so in this case, then one has to question the legitimacy of his advocacy of Ahavat Yisrael.

    I’m not sure why “visiting on Shabbat” should be a yardstick for Ahavat Yisrael. Ahavat Yisrael for any Jew, whether Conservative, Reform, secular, Reconstructionist, or Orthodox is not contingent on a Shabbat visit.

    There are many homes to which I would regretfully decine a Shabbat invitation, halachik issues just one of many possible reasons. This does not impact my love for them as a fellow Jew.

    Let’s not limit our perspective of Ahavat Yisrael to such narrow terms. Ahavat Yisrael is not a political position, it is a Torah concept, and needs support from all segments of our nation.

  6. Reb Yid says:

    To hp:

    My comments on the “secular” title were in response to Moishe’s post of #24–where he makes this assertion several times–not of the original poster. I apologize if that was not clear.

    I don’t know JS in the sense that I haven’t really talked to him one on one. But I do observe his behavior on Shabbat in shul, in the gan/playground with his kids, talking to others, etc. It is entirely possible that once he gets home Shabbat afternoon he jumps into a Ferrari and stops off at McDonald’s before he starts surfing at the beach. But it’s highly unlikely.

    So again I go back to AS being willing to spend Shabbat with JS, as well as vice versa. One of the usual (and understandable problems) when you’re trying to practice Ahavat Israel is that most fervently Orthodox advocates find it difficult to go to non-Orthodox communities/setting on Shabbat (no eruv, the shul is seen as treif, perhaps the kashrut isn’t up to the specs of that individual, etc.) And most of the time I could understand why AS would be unable to spend a Shabbat outside his normal confines.

    But if he is unwilling to do so in this case, then one has to question the legitimacy of his advocacy of Ahavat Yisrael.

  7. hp says:

    Thank you, Reb Yid. Although you do not appear to know Dr. Schorsch well, as you write how he “strikes you” versus from personal knowledge, I appreciate your reply.

    “I’m sure he is Shomer Shabbat, keeps kosher and extremely well versed and knowledgeable about Judaism in its minutia.”

    The question was whether Dr. Schorch is Orthodox, and my meaning (which I did not make clear) was a fealty to halacha as practiced by the Orthodox. If Dr. Schorch self identifies as a “non-Orthodox” Jew, is this a statement on his halachik observance or does he simply choose not to accept a label which in his view might be construed as “political”, notwithstanding his halachik actions which do in fact reflect traditional Orthodox positions?

    “That’s why I think the relationship here should be two ways—not just for JS to visit AS, but also vice versa.”

    The only relevant question for this suggestion is whether Dr. Schorsch does or does not keep halachah, as brought down in the halachik texts and expounded on by Orthodox Rabbis. Being “extremely well versed and knowledgeable about Judaism in its minutia” is not really meaningful without practical application, unlike the world of academia.

    “Halevei that all Jews should be so “secular”.”

    I believe Rabbi Shafran used the term “committed non-Orthodox Jew” for Dr. Schorsch, not secular.

    “Maybe he would have something to learn from JS, who is a member of an Orthodox shul yet does not consider himself to be Orthodox.”

    Again, we need clarity on why Dr. Schorsch does not “consider himself to be Orthodox”. And I am certain that Rabbi Shafran is one who feels he can learn something from everyone. As a side note, I, and I’m sure others, can learn from the respecful manner employed by Rabbi Shafran, even in disagreement.

  8. Bob Miller says:

    JO, the key word was “earn”.

  9. Reb Yid says:

    JS does not strike me as a “secular” Jew. I’m sure he is Shomer Shabbat, keeps kosher and extremely well versed and knowledgeable about Judaism in its minutia. Halevei that all Jews should be so “secular”.

    That’s why I think the relationship here should be two ways–not just for JS to visit AS, but also vice versa.

    AS had a well-known diatribe published years ago in MOMENT magazine against the Conservative movement. He essentially argued that those Conservative Jews who took Judaism seriously ought to join Orthodoxy. Maybe he would have something to learn from JS, who is a member of an Orthodox shul yet does not consider himself to be Orthodox.

  10. Jewish Observer says:

    “Has everyone asking for respect made some effort to earn it?”

    – you don’t consider asking as effort?

  11. Bob Miller says:

    Has everyone asking for respect made some effort to earn it?

  12. Moishe says:

    I don’t understand.
    Dr. Schorsch, seemingly a serious conservadox type scholar and others, have issues with the lack of Ahavat Yisrael among the Chareidim, particularly, vis a vis the more secular Jewish movements. Rabbi Shafran, eloquently points out numerous instances of Extreme Ahavat yisrael among The orthodox.
    So what else is new?
    Dr. Schorsch and others aren’t interested in the numerous Orthodox Kolelim, or the hundreds of Chabad houses that cater to primarily non orthodox Jews and students (how many Orthodox Jews are there in Tulsa Ok. or Salt lake City?)what they really mean is this: that they, as serious though secular Jews, are simply not accepted by the Orthodox Chareidi community, not them, not their Rabbis/Scholars, not their converts, not their Kashrut standards, their places of worship, nothing.
    Rabbi Shafran very correctly points out that personal rude attacks are out of line, (I may add that it goes both ways, and I believe that Orthodox Jews and Rabbis, especially in non orthodox towns and communities are subject to much personal abuse as well, albeit not with the same flair as Frum Jews can dish out) but, as far as respecting and validating another point of view, that is just not an option for a commited Orthodox/Charedi person. Personal respect yes. not for the belief or movement. this, I believe was the way of all Gedolei Yisrael.
    BTW, I really want to second Larry Obersteins comment #14, above re vouchers, it is only the powerful reform/conservative movement and their adherents in the various local federations that have stalled and virtually thrown out any hope for this vital help, if they had ahavat yisrael in the vein that some writers here have expressed they would realize the crushing strain Jewish education places on primarily orthodox households and help not hinder.

  13. JosephW says:

    We agree that a distintion must be made between our attitude toward individual erring Jews, as opposed to unhalachik movements and trends. (This concept is expressed at length in the writings of Rav SR Hirsch.) It is unfortunate that a lot of people cannot appreciate the distinction, and carry over their dismay about a movement into their attitude when interacting with idividual (tinokos shenishbu) Jews.

  14. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If a psak requires distancing certain philosophies as unjudaic, then it is as much a fulfillment of ahavat yisroel, as eating a stew is a fulfillment of kashrut when a Rav rules that it is kosher.”

    The halachic parameters of Ahavas Yisrael are definitely different than the way the concept is expressed based on natural, human feelings. When a psak rules that a group’s philosophy needs to be distanced, whether that of an Orthodox or non-Orthodox group, there often are negative by-products such as bad feelings. Gedolim were, and are willing to accept the consequences, beyond ill feelings, which can come from telling the truth; Rav Ahraon Kotler, as I recall reading, told a donor to his yeshiva that Conservative Judaism was, contrary to his belief, not building Torah in America. Interestingly, years after that incident, Lakewood is involved in activities reaching out to non-Orthodox Jews.

    Although there inevitable will be bad feelings, they can be minimized. As I said above, those on one side of the fence should realize that critiques of philosophies outside Orthodoxy or charedie-Orthodoxy are not meant personally, and that religious Jews engage in Ahavas Yisrael despite such critiques. Charedim, as in any instance of bein adam l’chavero, need to imagine how those being critiqued feel and validate those feelings.

  15. JosephW says:

    Some of the commentors (such as Mr. Mannn) seem to be forgetting that the term “ahavat yisroel” is not some universal, nationalistic, and secular concept, but rather a torah philosophy, based on the pasuk in this week’s parsha. If so, it follows halachik (and “hashkafic”) guidelines, like everything else in the torah, and is not subject to the whims of “enlightened” minds, and especially not the unhalachic mind of a Conservative Jewish leader (still waiting for clarification on the subject of Rabbi Shafran’s essay). The attacks on the Gedolei Hador, Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky and the Chofetz Chaim are particularly ludicrous and obnoxious. Mr. Mann believes he’s a better arbiter on the dictates of the mitzvah of vahavta lreacha komocha than the halachik masters of prewar Jewry. If a psak requires distancing certain philosophies as unjudaic, then it is as much a fulfillment of ahavat yisroel, as eating a stew is a fulfillment of kashrut when a Rav rules that it is kosher. We must ensure that torah terminologies don’t take on secular meaning.

  16. Jewish Observer says:

    “it was inscribed on Rav Chaim Brisker’s gravestone: “Rav Chesed” ”

    – that is what he orderd be incribed. in fact, his commandment was not heeded and they wrote a ganseh megillah citing his chesed among pther virtues.

  17. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Empathizing with others of another perspective without accepting their arguments on an intellectual level, would also help in discussions within Orthodoxy. Last night, for example, I heard a radio interview with an outspoken Jewish academic, who mentioned that there was an imbalance in the relationship between centrists and charedim. For while centrists might invite a charedi rosh yeshivah to speak at their event, the reverse would not be true, at least for more public events.

    One charedi caller answered that charedim can not reciprocate, because inviting a rosh yeshivah of a more modern group would be tantamount to admitting that there is more than one opinion on certain matters. I disagree with his approach, and instead would fully acknowledge an imbalance in the relationship, and that this situation may cause pain to those whose perceive that their leader is not given equal recognition. To the contrary, if a certain group is willing to sacrifice what they see as their “rights”, or put away any slight to their feelings–albeit unintended– in order to at least have a degree of Jewish unity centered around accomplishment in Torah study for one night, such people are deserving of respect and acknowledgment for their nobility, more than any of the other groups.

  18. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If those who make such statements think they are only expressing hate for forms of Judaism deemed unkosher, let me say loudly and clearly that the Jews to whom they are addressed receive them as personal attacks. How could it be otherwise? ”

    “In an effort to get my frum friends and neighbors to understand the pain I feel when I hear Conservative Judaism attacked, I suggest that before they say whatever they are thinking, they substitute “Larry’s mother” for “Conservative Judaism/Jews”. If they are still willing to say whatever it is then so be it.”

    Non-Orthodox Jews should realize that any criticisms of Heterodoxy are meant as a Torah obligation to help other Jews see how a particular ideology has deviated from Torah Judaism, and not as personal attacks. As Rabbi Shafran writes, even those “who [remain] a staunch member of a Reform or Conservative congregation is studied with, invited and cared about as much as any belonging to an Orthodox shul or to none at all.”

    On the other hand, Orthodox Jews should also realize that, practically, people have trouble making the distinction between ideas and people. An Israeli rosh yeshivah(now in America) was interviewed by CBS following Tommy Lapid’s victory, and made a similar point as well.

    Orthodox Jews could benefit from putting themselves in the shoes of other Jews with another perspective, and as the Alter of Kelm writes(Ohr Rasahz in Shemos), this does not come naturally. For example, if the situation was reversed, and Heterodoxy was attacking Orthodoxy and its leadership, some might also have trouble distinguishing between the person and the ideas. Even though we believe that it is nevertheless our obligation to speak out to set the record straight while simultaneously reaching out with kindness to other Jews, we can still understand, at least on the emotional level, where others are coming from.

  19. YM says:

    BTW, I heard once at a shiur that it was inscribed on Rav Chaim Brisker’s gravestone: “Rav Chesed” – In Brisk, he was known most for his acts of chesed.

  20. YM says:

    After reading Dr. Schorsch’s article and this article, I would say he makes some good points. It is so necessary to practice Ahavas Yisroel, and so difficult to do, and so rarely done. It is not about doing chesed for another Jew, or inviting them to your shabbes table. It is about holding your toungue (or keyboard or pen). And that requires very careful, subtle and disciplined thinking. It is frustrating sometimes that the laws against Lashon Horah can become a tool in the hands of someone who holds “see no evil, hear no evil”, but this is our test, no? Speaking effectively is hard, hard work.

    What I am trying to say is that it is hard not to say bad things about other Jews when you think these bad thoughts.

  21. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “but it does point out that the expectations re: the heimish, even of its rabbis, are no higher than of the average citizen…”

    I can see these stories being interpreted by the public both ways, and much depends on how the author writes them. One would have to do a study of gedolim biographies, citing a number of examples, in order to prove the point. I am sensitive, though, towards the actual idea, and I think that authors and public speakers should be as well.

  22. L.Oberstein says:

    “Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was once quoted as saying “How can you say you love me if you don’t know what hurts me?” Saying hard truths about the heterodox movements without hurting the person takes skill, where it is even possible. To simply say they shouldn’t be hurt disproves the claim to love them on its face. ”

    Actually, this was said by a different Chassidic Master, Moshe Leib of Sasov who didn’t originate it. He overherd it in an inn said by one drunken Russian to another.”If you really loved me, you would know where I hurt.”. I recall this because I read it in an article by a leader of the Reform Movement.

    I turned it around and used it to say that if my Reform brothers really loved us they wouldn’t fight against school vouchers while offering us nothing but empty platitudes to deal with our crushing financial burden.

    Shafran and Schorsch are not talking about the same subject. Both are right in their frames of reference. The Agudah still thinks of hetrodox movements as ideological movements worthy of debunking. This is a view nourished by living in exclusively orthodox communities. Schorsch is legiitimately worthy of understanding . especially now, that his father has been forced to take early retirement so that the Jewish Theological Seminary could install someone who would really stand halacha on its head and permit homosexuality. Let’s skip the platitudes, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as I am concerned. I love Conservative jews, I was raised as one and am very sorry that the conservative movement flopped so massively. Millions of Jews are the losers. Forget the triumphalism.Schorsch is a good person and his feelings are real and genuine and as is Shafran.They just have different frames of reference.

  23. Moshe P. Mann says:

    If I may add to Jewish Observer’s remark, the one biography that did recall the gedolim’s struggle to meet basic proper expectations in bein adam laMakom, the Making of a Godol, was banned. Apparently then, Reb Aharon’s struggle from reading Russian literature is ban-worthy, but his struggle from cheating on taxes is praiseworthy. Am I missing something here?

  24. Moshe P. Mann says:

    Rabbi Menken – what ahavas yisrael is there in calling fellow Jews the sitra achara, per Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzenski? And he was referring to the Mizrachi, which refutes the claim that the gedolim viciously attacked Zionism only to keep frum Jews within the fold. Besides, castigating and dehumanizing one’s religious adversaries only exacerbates the problem. See Rabbi Berel Wein’s excellent article “And Further Reconsiderations.”

  25. Jewish Observer says:

    “It is not that we have low expectations of the “heimish” but low expectations of society overall”

    – but it does point out that the expectations re: the heimish, even of its rabbis, are no higher than of the average citizen. The average Jew does not make kiddush on shabbos, but we don’t write it up in Artscroll as a big deal.

  26. Yaakov Menken says:

    Moshe, please remember that at the time, people were leaving observance in order to join the Communist and secular Zionist movements. Sometimes one is allowed to say accurate information, when one’s intention is to make sure that others do not wander from Judaism. It is not right to demand that the observant community operate by higher standards than the Communists or Zionists expect of themselves, when the result of silence would hurt Torah observance. In those cases, saying something can be motivated completely by Ahavat Yisrael — towards the listeners and even towards the person who was leading them away.

    When it comes to taxes, for example, we are *required* to observe the law of the land. The average American might be tempted to take questionable deductions, or, in JO’s example, to acquiesce if a bus driver wants to give free passage to a child. It does require an elevated level of dedication to honesty to not take advantage of even something as small as a bus fare. It is not that we have low expectations of the “heimish” but low expectations of society overall — and thus need reminders that we must do better. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  27. Jewish Observer says:

    “but for mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro he is effusedly complimented for the most basic things such as smiling at people and not cheating on tzxes”

    Yes!! I have noticed this and pointed it out! There are dozens of examples, but one that pops to mind is the Artscroll biography of Rav Pam that lauds him for paying busfare for his kids even though the driver was ready to let it slide. The fact that heimish authors find stories like this remarkable reveals the (correctly) low expectations in these areas.

  28. Moshe P. Mann says:

    Shalhevet, as much as I would like to agree with you, the rov minyan ubinyan of gedolei yisrael believes otherwise. See http://www.jewsagainstzionism.com/rabbi_quotes/index.cfm. In fact, I myself have been labelled apikores for much more benign beliefs.

  29. Shalhevet says:

    “And I have heard some urban legends about how the Chofetz Chaim himself stated that his own rules against speaking lashon hara do not apply to Jews who joined the Communist or Zionist movements. If these urban legends are shown to be true, that would demonstrate that ahavat yisrael is not as pervasive as Rabbi Shafran and I would like it to be.

    Comment by Moshe P. Mann — April 28, 2007 @ 3:26 pm”

    At the time of the Chofetz Chaim, the Jews who joined the Communist and Zionist movements were mostly learned Jews who became apikorsim. The halacha still is that one may technically speak bout apikorsim (for a purpose), just we don’t have very many of those today.

  30. Moshe P. Mann says:

    While Rabbi Shafran is indeed correct about the centrality of ahavat yisrael, the impression one gets from Torah oriented literature is that it is almost optional compared to mitzvos bein adam laMakom. For example, did you ever notice that in the typical gadol biography, the gadol is praised, when it comes to Torah, only for superhuman feats such as learning days on end or knowing all of Shas by his bar mitzvah, but for mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro he is effusedly complimented for the most basic things such as smiling at people and not cheating on tzxes, as if to say that only a tzadik must be makpid on that?

    And I have heard some urban legends about how the Chofetz Chaim himself stated that his own rules against speaking lashon hara do not apply to Jews who joined the Communist or Zionist movements. If these urban legends are shown to be true, that would demonstrate that ahavat yisrael is not as pervasive as Rabbi Shafran and I would like it to be.

  31. hp says:

    R’ Shafran wrote: “Dr. Schorsch, as a committed non-Orthodox Jew…How, Dr. Schorsch asks, can anyone possibly not take it personally when his or her theological beliefs are rejected?”

    Reb Yid wrote: “If JS invited you to stay at his home and daven at his Orthodox shul over Shabbat, would you reciprocate?”

    Can someone knowledgeable please clarify if Dr. Schorsch is or isn’t Orthodox?

    If he is, Rabbi Shafran’s article and his quotes of Dr. Schorsch are really confusing.

    If he is not, and he is indeed a “committed non-Orthodox” Jew, why does he attend an Orthodox shul? Is it for pragmatic or ideological reasons?

    If he is indeed not Orthodox, then it is Reb Yid’s question that is confusing. How is it reasonable for an Orthodox Rabbi to spend Shabbat at a non-Orthodox home, for non-familial reasons of goodwill? Cannot a visit take place on a Wednesday afternoon?

  32. Larry Lennhoff says:

    In an effort to get my frum friends and neighbors to understand the pain I feel when I hear Conservative Judaism attacked, I suggest that before they say whatever they are thinking, they substitute “Larry’s mother” for “Conservative Judaism/Jews”. If they are still willing to say whatever it is then so be it.

    This approach is not useful for serious discussions over the topic, but I find it does reduce the number of unintended ‘drive-by’ insults. Is it really necessary in an Orthodox shul to announce that the title of next week’s shiur is “Zimri – the first Reform Jew”?

    Finally, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was once quoted as saying “How can you say you love me if you don’t know what hurts me?” Saying hard truths about the heterodox movements without hurting the person takes skill, where it is even possible. To simply say they shouldn’t be hurt disproves the claim to love them on its face. Rather you are loving the person you think they ought to be.

  33. Reb Yid says:

    So a question to Avi Shafran:

    If JS invited you to stay at his home and daven at his Orthodox shul over Shabbat, would you reciprocate?

    A side note–I daven at JS’s shul and was present when his son had a Bar Mitzvah. When Ismar Schorsch was invited to give the d’var Torah [and charge to the Bar Mitzvah], he said it was the first time in his life he had been asked to do so in an Orthodox congregation.

  34. Jewish Observer says:

    “Ahavat Yisrael”

    Kudos to Rabbi Shafran for using the sefardic pronunciation

  35. Jacob Haller says:

    Isn’t Dr Schorch’s approach unfortunately similar to the types of attacks launched by Buchanan-types who way too often seek to discredit and demonize all Jews?

    For example, Buchanan and his ilk will dredge up written and verbal anecdotes to support his likely predetermined conclusion and voila; there’s “proof” of a people who harbor interests that undermine the USA or whatever sacred institution he hopes others will rally around.

    And if he gets really emotional he will accuse the Jews of hating all Catholics. How so? Well, how could they disagree tenets without it being an actual personal animosity? A full frontal assault?

    The analogy is of course far from perfect but hopefully something will resonate.

    Regarding that particular subject matter I have found it best to be left ignored. Most attempts to refute them unfortunately fall flat and appear desperate. And, imagine the reaction if PB sarcastically referred to those defenders as “clever”?

    IMO Rabbi Shafran made a good call by defending the charges and accusations, however questionable, and presenting an eloquent defense.