Lipa – Response to Readers

I asked a local posek who is highly regarded in the chareidi world and he told me that if everything is prohibited and there are no kosher outlets for our youth, then we are driving them to go off the derech. It seems that Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky made the same comment that kids need an outlet. Yet, he also said that he felt obliged to follow the lead of Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman and therefore had to go along with the very last minute ban on the Lipa Concert.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that the complete disappearance of mega-concerts for all times would drive kids off the derech. (Note: I am not advocating or defending, just presenting a thought arguendo.) Kids (and adults) who need outlets need them on a regular basis, not twice a year. Banning music or mp3 players might help push hundreds of kids over the brink, but not banning concerts. (I will admit to harboring questions for decades about the permissibility of attending mass concerts because of the zecher l’churban halacha.) Perhaps they are contemplating a full music ban as the next move, but the way to handle that responsibly is for you to quietly and forcefully relay those impressions to Torah leaders that you know. It is not as satisfying to many people, and lacks the cathartic release of a good zinger in the blogosphere, but it will likely do more good.

I don’t understand why people cannot read between the lines of Rav Shmuel’s shlit”a words. I know very few of the other signatories; Rav Shmuel’s integrity I can swear by. I am obligated – and many of our readers as well – to bend over backwards to judge him favorably. (That is not an opinion, but a halachic requirement!) Rav Shmuel, even as one of the reigning gedolim of America, has his own obligation of kavod haTorah in regard to iconic representatives of Torah learning at its greatest in Israel . He has to discharge this both on a personal level, and to prevent anything that he does to be seen as slighting their honor – even if he disagrees. If you think about it, what he did makes ironic sense to people who can bottle up their rage for a while.

What follows is a guess, nothing more. I have not spoken with Rav Shmuel, neither directly nor indirectly. If I am completely wrong, I hope he will be mochel; my intention is to be mindful of his kavod and that of the Torah. Many leaders of groups – nations and others – must learn the language of diplomacy. This does not mean hypocrisy, but articulating in a manner that will send different messages simultaneously to different people. Rav Shmuel was beset by the kanoim on the one hand, the requirement of kavod haTorah on the other. Think of what he did. He paid the kavod HaTorah debt, and then effectively let the word out that this is not the way he would have preferred to see the matter handled. Why doesn’t anyone get it? He unmasked the kanaim! He essentially told people that when kanaim do this kind of thing, people have to be a bit more astute and probing, and make subtle inquiries, directly or through others, about what their own individual Torah authorities really think. Perhaps he actually meant what everyone is frothing at the mouth about: don’t take Kol Korehs at face value! He said it, not you!

Why did he not stand up to everyone, instead of going along with the group? Why does he not get up and clearly articulate his position? Why does he not publicly reassert the need for gedolim in America to make their own decisions instead of asking all questions thousands of miles away? (I will put money on Rav Elyashiv shlit”a and Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a looking approvingly at such a proposal, just like in the old days of a few years ago.) I do not know. I can think of many reasons, and I’m sure I’m missing many more. There are times you can get up and fight, and times when you lose more in the long run. If I myself can understand such possibilities, I am certainly obligated to give Rav Shmuel the benefit of the doubt. So should many others.

One point of this article seems to be that some producers/musicians may be creating public spectacles which in themselves promote values foreign to Judaism. To me, this suggests there are hashkafah problems within the target audience. Nobody would put on a mega-event that was unlikely to fill up the house. What factors, then, have created the audience for these things, among the very group brought up to resist alien/pop culture the most? This may show the futility of a purely defensive strategy against the lures of our golus.

I’m not sure why. Certainly, there is a gradient of infection. While it may be too late for some, it will not be too late for others, both present and future. I am not saying that this was behind the ban. As I said, despite all the comments that we have printed and those we have not, I do not know what was really behind this. Perhaps in a few weeks we will find out.

I am traveling and cannot remember the name of the rav who gave the psak, but I believe Elbogen quotes a tshuva about chazannim that went MaiAchora HaKotel at the vatican to find musical inspiration; their actions were praised, I believe.

If memory serves me correctly (I should be in bed by now), Rav Ovadya shlit”a completely dismisses this report in his teshuva about non-Jewish music in Yabia Omer.

The people who signed the ban are “Chareidi” Gedolim. If NCSY followed the Hashkafa of Chareidi Gedolim it would not exist.

This is historical revisionism. NCSY had the support and participation of many, many gedolei Yisrael of the charedi world. When I worked as an advisor, the administration was top-heavy with Chaim Berliners, acting with the guidance and blessing of Rav Hutner. Eastern Seaboard region was called “Ner Israel Region” colloquially. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, acting as the head of the Bais Yaakov of Balitmore education committee, issued a ruling about girls participating in NCSY and Bnei Akiva. He banned the latter (not out of any anti-Zionism – while he was alive the school had an Israeli flag and recognized Yom Ha’atzmaut to some extent, or so I was told), but permitted the former to girls who had become observant through it. He once said (in Yiddish), “I am an NCSY’er.” The NCSYers out there will back me up with recollections of a host of black-frocked charedi leaders who visited National Convention.

I understand that you don’t have the inside facts, but you surely know the “Zealots” who are involved, and whose name(s) have been openly mentioned on the Yeshiva World web site. Here is your chance to expose them. Will you take advantage of this opportunity? (Don’t forget that in previous posts you have mentioned that these zealots represent a tremendous danger to Klal Yisroel).

I think I did! Read again. If a Kol Koreh seems bizarre, check it out. Don’t demand instant gratification. It may take a while. Find the most significant bnei Torah you know, and push them for an explanation. They will push others. In time you will learn the truth.

What would you say to those that felt no impact by the Slifkin banning? Yet you were quite horrified by that and the direction things were going. Do you not see this as the next step in that same direction?

Sorry, my friend. I cannot get as exercised over losing some moments of musical entertainment as over the delegitimizing of the works of geonim, rishonim and acharonim, particularly since said works were the lifeline to all the scientifically engaged people I had worked with in decades in kiruv. Besides, the problem you point to is not the here and now, but the “What will they think of next????” You are anticipating, perhaps rightfully so. My solution for the moment was clear. Ignore the work of the kanaim. Pick a responsible Torah authority of the highest caliber, and learn to get his opinion, quietly and discretely. And then follow it, whether it is comfortable or not.

Many kids raised in secular American homes found their way to Yiddishkeit via NCSY and Jewish music including songs which were based upon popular culture songs but “nitharu” with lyrics derived from Tanach or Jewish content. while, I’m sure that some of the kanoim who acted against Lipa might oppose these venues as well (and there is basis to do so) I suspect that the “over the top” nature of current “Big Events” type concerts which include You-Tube music video promotions is more likely the center of their ire.

I suspect that you are very correct.

It doesn’t affect you that the leaders of one part of American Orthodox Jewry willingly bow to the wills of others thousands of miles away (causing $1million of loss) without even investigating the situation or talking to those involved?

How do you know what they investigated and what they offered? Do we have no obligation at all to be dan lekaf zechus? If we can’t do it for the facts we believe we know, can’t we at least do it in the areas where we clearly don’t know? In the worst case scenario, I will admit that such action would indeed cause me great consternation – but only in the case of my personal rabbeim and mentors. I am not so heavily invested in the leaders of other parts of the community, may HKBH give them all long prosperous lives.

[continued below at comment 20]

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37 comments to Lipa – Response to Readers

  • Naftali

    Rabbi Alderstein,

    Can you please explain in halakhic or ideological terms why your “obligation” to give Rav Kaminetsky the benefit of the doubt is greater than any such obligation you may have to others. Would you agree that gedolim have an obligation to speak with the same degree of “moral clarity” that we demand of others?

    Your guidelines of how one should read the pronouncements of gedolim reminds me of the way Russians read Pravda during the Communist era — look between the lines, behind the words, at codes, at what is not being said, etc.

    The fact that this episode caused such anguished questioning of Rabbinic authority (and not, say, issues of agunot, or Orthodox economics) is a sign of the general dumbing down and moral obtuseness of Orthodox Judaism.

  • Saul Mashbaum

    I am very greatly disappointed by this posting by R. Adlerstein. The message he was responding to made significant points cogently; I find the series of excuses, pleas for “dan l’kaf zchut” of people who have inflicted tremendous financial damage on both individuals and chessed institutions, and so on, very unconvincing. If anything, if this is what the extremely able R. Adlerstein is able to muster as a defense of the ban and its signers, I am if anything all the more convinced that a grievous injustice has been perpetuated.

    In my opinion, this extremely ill-considered ban has caused a major chillul Hashem, and one may very seriously question whether “kavod haTorah” has been advanced by those who signed.

    In this sad case, “Richuk k’rovim”, driving frum people away from Torah, strikes again.

    Saul Mashbaum

  • Bob Miller

    What is it that prevents a Kol Koreh from being self-explanatory?

  • Harry Maryles

    Rav Shmuel, even as one of the reigning gedolim of America, has his own obligation of kavod haTorah in regard to iconic representatives of Torah learning at its greatest in Israel

    WADR, I must ask if R. Shmuel went along with R. Elyashiv’s ban on his brother’s book in the same way he did here. Would he have signed a comprable ban here against The Making of a Gadol? I don’t recall him doing that. I’m sure he give’s R.Elyashiv his due deference. But that certianly does not mean he must agree to a ban if he disagree’s with it. He has enough gravitas to do that even as he agrees that R. Elyashiv is greater then him in Torah.

    I too have the utmost respect for R. Shmuel, and I ask this question not to challange his integrity, God forbid. I ask ot only to know of there is any difference between the two scenarios.

  • Dr. E

    –Personally, I find it hard to believe that the complete disappearance of mega-concerts for all times would drive kids off the derech. (Note: I am not advocating or defending, just presenting a thought arguendo.) Kids (and adults) who need outlets need them on a regular basis, not twice a year. Banning music or mp3 players might help push hundreds of kids over the brink, but not banning concerts.

    I don’t understand why people cannot read between the lines of Rav Shmuel’s shlit”a words. I know very few of the other signatories; Rav Shmuel’s integrity I can swear by. I am obligated – and many of our readers as well – to bend over backwards to judge him favorably. (That is not an opinion, but a halachic requirement!) Rav Shmuel, even as one of the reigning gedolim of America, has his own obligation of kavod haTorah in regard to iconic representatives of Torah learning at its greatest in Israel . He has to discharge this both on a personal level, and to prevent anything that he does to be seen as slighting their honor – even if he disagrees. If you think about it, what he did makes ironic sense to people who can bottle up their rage for a while.–

    Rabbi Adlerstein-

    Of course, the disappearance of mega-concerts will not be what drives kids off the derech. What will drive them and what has driven them (and adults) off–i.e., increased cynicism towards leadership–is the way that matters have been handled in recent years. As J. Rosenblum has written about on CC before, bans are not chinuch. Not chinuch for kids and even moreso not chinuch for adults. It’s time to get out of the Kol Koreh business (I would suggest a collective moratorium for 4 years, and then we can re-assess if we were better off now that 4 years ago). That style of leadership/communication just doesn’t work in this case and it hasn’t worked with controversial books, etc. This recent cherem/ban is merely a microcosm of what appears to be a desperate attempt to stay relevant, in response to the increasing religious extremism in Eretz Yisroel.

    As for your encouragement to uncover subtle inference and read between the lines, why should it take pilpul to spin what someone said favorably (and even you admit that you are making an educated guess)? And that is the inevitable reaction to Kol Koreh. Instead of the signators signing on the bottom of a boiler-plate text handed to them by Askanim, I would rather see a real, old-fashioned teshuva with Gemaras, historical reality, and Poskim weighed and articulated–even if it came out to the same maskana.

    In Lipa-gate, there are surely no winners. But, what I can say, that the biggest loser is Kavod HaTorah–and some should have seen that coming. “Eizehu chacham? Ha’roeh es ha-nolad.”

  • Miriam Shear

    R. Alderstein – This was an excellent article and I thank you for setting some of the “history” straight on a few issues. Truly, one of your better written articles (Maybe you should do all of them while traveling and in dire need of sleep!)

    But there are still some unaddressed issues. They are big ones.

    1) Was the banning of this concert really worth the price paid in makloket, loss of kavod l’rabbonim, loshan hara, bitul Torah, etc?

    2) There is alot of money involved here – reportedly approximately $700,000. That’s the annual budget for some small yeshivas or kollels. Let me ask you: Why would any Jewish person want to stick their financial necks out in today’s climate of a kol-koreh-ban-per-week to do such a high-profile mitzvah, knowing that they risk their reputations, investments, and livelihood? The hardships that will be endured by the organizers/promoters of this concert will resonate for a long time.

    3) I would like to direct attention to Yoma 23 a,b. There an incident is recounted where, during a race, one kohane stabs a fellow kohane in the heart with a knife. The father of the dying kohane yells out “The knife is not tamei, he’s still alive!” The father’s concern of the moment is that a knife remain tahor – not his son bleeding to death in his arms. This incident is recorded to relay to us the value system and insensitivity of that generation to the rabid blood-letting. I see a parallel between this gemara and my first 2 points. With a few phone calls and a swish of a pen, today’s gedolim can destroy a person, their reputations, careers, investments – for a greater goal? That is what is highly questionable. That’s why this has touched a major nerve. That is why, as Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky rightly suspects as implied from his comments, that this may have been the proverbial straw that breaks and discards any remaining respect or adherence to kol korehs. Schmeltzer and company is the kapara.

  • bb

    You note (paranthetically) regarding asking question of the local Gedolim that “I will put money on Rav Elyashiv shlit”a and Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a looking approvingly at such a proposal, just like in the old days of a few years ago.” I don’t. If they did, they would have told the “kanaim to speak to the American Gedolim.

  • tzippi

    After all I’ve read about this, I finally feel, “nichamti.” Thank you for helping restore the kavod I feel I should have for the gedolim, especially for Rav Shmuel, shlit”a. I wouldn’t call my self an adult at risk by a longshot, but I think my kids could pick up on my growing cynicism.

    BY Baltimore graduations featured two valedictorians; the limudei kodesh val. carried the Israeli flag and spoke in Hebrew, the general studies val. carried the American flag and spoke in English. Both the national anthem and Hatikvah were sung. (The pledge was said everyday after davening too.) As far as recognizing Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the closest I can remember is the school’s participation in the Association’s walkathon. Though I tend to remember the walkathon around Preakness time, not 5 Iyar.

  • David

    I have a hard time believing that the venerable Rabbis of EY told the Rabbis here to issue this Kol Koreh. Standard operating psak procedure is to let the Morah Dasras of each locality determine their own psak.

  • Steve Brizel

    R Adlerstein is 100% on the mark with respect to his comments re NCSY. The comment that NCSY wouldn’t exist if it followed the hashkafa of Charedi Gdolim represents a particularly pernicious example of revisionism that should be quashed like a proverbial ant. One can only attribute this POV to certain elements who market kiruv as their Chiddush, like to pretend that NCSY does not exist and that it never enjoyed the backing of Charedi Gdolim. PTOH, we all know of many NCSY alumni who know consider themselves Charedi in outlook who unfortunately have a lack of hakaras hatov to the very organization that enabled them to take their first steps as a Ben or Bas Torah. IMO, such a POV cannot be reconciled with the basic source of hakaras hatov-the Pesach Seder-which tells us that there is no statute of limitations on hakaras hatov.

  • G

    I’m sorry but someone who is a true gadol b’Torah and wishes to be considered a manhig yisroel only has a responsibility to God, Klal Yisroel as a whole and himself…in that order.

    Everyone and everything else is beside the point.

  • Yonason Goldson

    I’m certainly in no position to judge the decisions of our gedolim. What I find profoundly disturbing,however, is the effect that these kinds of stories have on many sincere Torah Jews. A number of years ago, I discovered that many acquaintances in the modern Orthodox community roll their eyes whenever they hear the expression “daas Torah.” Whether right or wrong, they claim to have heard the term invoked by their neighbors in the Chareidi community to defend every kind of questionable behavior. To their minds, “daas Torah” is nothing more than a catch phrase for “this is how we justify anything we want to do.”

    Since then, this kind of cynicism toward rabbinic authority has spread to many who consider themselves members of the yeshivishe world. Is it not possible, even likely, that bans of this sort that raise so much confusion among committed b’nei Torah will gradually and inevitably lead to the erosion of emunas chachomim on a massive scale? Is it possible that our gedolim can be unaware of this? Is the law of unintended consequences not a factor that must be taken into account? I wish I had even the beginning of an answer.

  • Ori

    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein: Perhaps he actually meant what everyone is frothing at the mouth about: don’t take Kol Korehs at face value! He said it, not you!

    Ori: May I try to translate this to my terms, to see if I understand?

    The cultural background is that Jewish texts don’t always mean what they appear to mean. For example:

    1. The oral Torah sometimes contradicts the plain meaning of the written Torah. That’s the major reason Halacha and Karaite practice differ.

    2. The Mishna says that when the sages say you need to do something my midnight, you can actually do it until the first light of dawn. The sages said something more restrictive to prevent sins.

    3. The Mishna says you need to “direct your heart” to reading the Shma for it to count. The Talmud explains that this means reading the text as text, instead of proof-reading.

    Do you think Rav Shmuel is trying to convey that a modern Kol Koreh also needs interpretation? It behooves Jews to show respect to the gedolim who signed it, but not necessarily to obey the plain meaning of the words?

    This is extremely foreign to me, and probably to most people outside of Orthodoxy (Heterodox Jews and non-Jews). Our society suffers from a chronic attention deficit and a very low level of common culture. As a result, we place a premium on clear communication. Hinting doesn’t do the job.

    Israeli Charedim, especially those who spent their whole lives either learning Torah or teaching it (which I assume describes most Gedolim), would have different priorities. Having forbidden a lot of modern technology, they wouldn’t be chronically overstimulated like we are. Having less contract with people from other cultures, they would assume a greater level of common culture – as had been the case for most of human history. Naturally, they would assume communication would be understood, and therefore place priorities on things like respect and diplomacy which we would abandon in our search to be understood.

    I expect most people posting here are in the middle. They may live in a fully Orthodox environment, but they are unlikely to work in one. And as hard as it is to believe, 100% of cross-currents.com posters use the Internet ;-). Even if they have studied in Yeshiva or Seminary, the modern emphasis on clear communication, and the expectation for things to be told instead of hinted, probably slipped in.

    Is this it? Or am I missing something that would be blindingly obvious if I was Orthodox myself?

  • lacosta

    >>Sorry, my friend. I cannot get as exercised over losing some moments of musical entertainment as over the delegitimizing of the works of geonim, rishonim and acharonim, particularly since said works were the lifeline to all the scientifically engaged people I had worked with in decades in kiruv.

    — the point should be made that until recently, there was a difference between hareili [israeli haredi] vs haredi judaism. that , within one generation, should disappear. the rightward push is unrelenting, and the open appealing type of haredi judaism is not authentic–and the slifkin pronouncements say so. and the US gdolim must follow the line.
    ones only choice is to leave to other branches of O, already long branded not kosher, that BY DEFINITION have their own gdolim and poskim to follow….

  • Moshe S.

    Ignore the work of the kanaim. Pick a responsible Torah authority of the highest caliber, and learn to get his opinion, quietly and discretely.

    Yet those who you would consider to be “responsible Torah authorities of the highest caliber” themselves do NOT ignore the work of the kannaim, but instead allow the kannaim to use their signatures for their work. Surely the inconsistency here is obvious.

  • Mark

    Tzippy,

    “I wouldn’t call my self an adult at risk by a longshot, but I think my kids could pick up on my growing cynicism.”

    If you’ll pardon me for saying so, that’s a real shame. Much of what’s on blogs is not only unverified, it’s downright false [I say this having been intimately familiar with a number of past issues and knowing how off-base the comments were]. To allow your children to sense your cynicism is to do them a great disservice that will never be undone. Something you might want to consider before allowing your feelings to be known. Rabbi Adlerstein’s point about being Dan L’kaf Zechus is not a chiddush [although he said it better than anyone else I’ve read]. It’s halachah – though few on the blogosphere seem to recall it.

    Steve,
    “One can only attribute this POV to certain elements who market kiruv as their Chiddush, like to pretend that NCSY does not exist and that it never enjoyed the backing of Charedi Gdolim.”

    If I’m not mistaken, the comments RYA was responding to were from commenters who are not Kiruv-related but firmly and proudly MO. Reread them please if you aren’t sure of this. Just as there are Chareidim who write NCSY out of the picture, there are many MO who write the Chareidi influence on NCSY out of the picture for their own reasons.

  • David

    I should add that the figures of the money lost here keeps going up faster than a Palestinian ‘journalist’ reporting on the number of Palestinians killed in the latest Israeli ‘massacre’. The number started out at around $200,000. After being bounced around in the echo chamber of the internet, it has now apparently reached $1,000,000. Do we hear $2,000,000?

  • LOberstein

    If I am not mistaken, the writer who used the term “chareidi gedolim” and to whom I responded lives in Beit Shemesh. As I understand it , there is ,tragically, a wide(ening) gulf between one group of Jews and their fellow Jews in Eretz Yisrael today. In my visits there I have seen how little cross conversation there is. Let me give you a true example that happened in front of a group of people who can all confirm its validity.
    When Effie Eitam was the head of the National Religious Party , he visited Lawrence,NY.Shabbat morning he observed a chareidi Jew walking to shul, he asked his host if the welfare system in America is so generous that beggers can afford to live in Lawrence. His host told him that the individual is a well to do professional. Effie Eitam told a group from Baltimore led by Rabbi moshe Hauer that this was the first time he saw a chareidi Jew who had an education and earned a comfortable living. I kid you not. How distant can one Jew be from another to live in such a different world from another frum Jew?
    That is one of the major reasons I choose not to make aliyah,even though I have several children who have done so. I cannot divide myself and be only a partial Jew, I refuse to be a chareidi or a dati Jew, I am a Jew and if I can’t just be a Jew, then I will not buy into it.

  • nachum klafter, md

    Rabbi Adlerstein:

    You are correct in your analysis of what occurred with this latest ban. I certainly agree that a kol korei against musical entertainment is not comparable to a ban which appears to forbid the shitos of rov ge’onim and rishonim, and many acharonim, (and, perhaps, common sense and the input of our senses).

    Yet, I feel you are ignoring the following: The Mo’etzes and many of its members have allowed their signatures to be abused too many times and then have failed to openly clarify afterwards. What results is that the kannoyim are convinced that all of the members of the Mo’etzes are on their side on every one of their pet projects, and then people like you and me read between the lines, or make phone calls to our inside informants. Rather than leading, manhigim are pressured and then duck for cover. Thus, we see Gedolei Torah who are pressured into bans, who sign haskamos without reading the books, who sign bans without having read books, who retract their haskamos, who qualify their bans, who give verbal clarifications rather than written clarifications which are repeated in a manner that they appear to be contradicting themselves depending on their audience because they don’t write or publish anything themselves, gedolim in Eretz Yisrael who receive individuals from all over the globe and after hearing only side make pronouncements that can be interpreted as a pesak but can also be interpreted as not a pesak, etc., etc. While many of these individuals are honorable and admirable in their 1:1 conduct, their ability to lead kelal yiroel is being hampered by this.

    To say it more simply: For the sake of kevod ha-Torah, leaders are avoiding answering questions directly and giving consistent, clear guidance on issues. The result is not an increase in kevod ha-Torah.

    In my arrogance, I will suggest the following stock responses that every public leader should have at his fingertips

    “I wish you success, but I do not have time to read your book carefully and I do not sign haskamos unless I am thoroghly familiar a book’s contents.” I.e., no haskama, no michtav beracha.

    “I am sorry for your pain but I am prohibited from judging a case unless I hear both sides, and your situation requires a proper din Torah.”

    “I understand that you are disturbed by this phenomenon, but we cannot control the world. Furthermore, I am not going to issue a ban unless I know all of the facts involved including testimony from the principal parties. Plus if these individuals are yorei shamayim, we presume that they have asked their own local rabbonim. If they are not yorei shamayim, then a ban is useless. Take these individuals to a proper Din Torah and I will participate if that is feasible, or I will recommend qualified dayanim.”

    “Judaism does not endorse beliefs in a deceased leader as a possible candidate for the Moshiach. The individuals who hold such beliefs may be wonderful people, but this is not an acceptable belief.”

    “Obvoiusly we all know that Chazal did not have flawless medicine or science, but since I am not a scientist I cannot intelligently comment on which currnent scientific theories are fads and which scientific theories are emes. Stop making a tzimmes out this issue. Don’t you see that we all go to modern doctors and fly in airplanes? Obviously we all believe in moder science!”

    “Be-avonoseinu ha-rabbim, we live in a generation where most Jews have no exposure to Torah. The great majority of them are tinnukim she-nishbu. Every Jewish man who wears a kippah or woman who wears tzanu’ah clothing must see him or herself as an ambassador for HaShem and his Torah, we must try to teach our children to conduct themselves in accordance with this thought.”

    “I’m not a mathematician, so I can’t comment on the statistics involved in the Torah Codes, but what I can say with confidence is that the idea that statisticians will prove Torah Min Ha-Shamayim is just wacky and silly.”

    “Stop asking us to issue new standards for tzeniyus which we have never heard of and which a normal human being with a normal imagination would never conceive of.”

    You get the idea.

    Not everyone is cut out for being harrassed all day and all night by crusaders and opportunists. But is really it impossible to say “no” to kannoyim, or to say “no” to book authors asking for an endorsement, or to say “no” to a hot-headed bar plugta who feels disinfranchised about some issue, or to suggest proper dinnei Torah which follow standard procedures for conflict resolution? For that matter, why is it so hard to implement standard procedures for dinnei Torah in most battei dinim? (I applaud the RCA and the Beis Din of America.)

    The relevant secular terms are “professionalism” and “boundaries”. I really think that a small dose of these could go a long way.

  • Rabbi Chaim Frazer

    A reader wrote: It doesn’t affect you that the leaders of one part of American Orthodox Jewry willingly bow to the wills of others thousands of miles away (causing $1million of loss) without even investigating the situation or talking to those involved?

    Rabbi Adlerstein replied: How do you know what they investigated and what they offered? Do we have no obligation at all to be dan lekaf zechus? If we can’t do it for the facts we believe we know, can’t we at least do it in the areas where we clearly don’t know? In the worst case scenario, I will admit that such action would indeed cause me great consternation – but only in the case of my personal rabbeim and mentors. I am not so heavily invested in the leaders of other parts of the community, may HKBH give them all long prosperous lives.

    My comments: I too believe that we should be dan l’khaf zechut. Since we all know that the Torah has mercy on the money of our fellow Jews, I wait anxiously for news that those who caused $700,000 or more in damage to their fellow Jews have reimbursed them. A touch of chumra would be reassuring here.

    Looking for front and back copies of the cancelled check,

    Rabbi Chaim Frazer

  • Steve Brizel

    Mark-Anyone familiar with NCSY’s growth and role within the OU over the years will tell you that there are as many MO whose mistaken and jaundiced views of kiruv rival that of the Charedi world. Sometimes, all that it takes to correct that impression is first hand exposure to NCSY’s programs.

  • Menachem Lipkin

    Steve and Rabbi Adlerstein:

    With regard to NCSY:

    You are both hearkening back to gedolim and a time that is long gone. I wasn’t revising history when I said that NCSY would not exist. (I guess I could more accurately have said that it couldn’t come into existence today.) And I certainly didn’t say it didn’t have the backing of the Chareidi gedolim of the time. The anecdotes R Adlerstein provided only go to reinforce my point. (An Israeli flag on a Chareidi institution today? Please.)

    I also was a part of NCSY in those days. I remember the “Chaim Berliners” and other Yeshivish people who were around, but even so, that openness doesn’t exist today. NCSY was born out of YU Seminar and was a fully Modern Orthodox institution. That there were bochrim and Rabbis from Chareidi institutions involved and that black frocked Chareidi showed up at conventions says much more about the tolerance of the era and the openness of modern orthodoxy than it does about how today’s Chariei world.

    One of the very things R Adlerstein is struggling with here and in many of his probing and insightful articles is the change that has come about in the Chareidi world since the passing of those like Rav Hutner and Rav Kaminetsky. It’s not revisionism, it’s revising current thinking to fit with modern reality.

  • JoeCool

    In time you will learn the truth.

    Frankly, we already know the truth. We merely want it acknowledged, in public, without fear that we may be within “earshot of the zealots”.

  • Yitzchok Adlerstein

    You note (paranthetically) regarding asking question of the local Gedolim that “I will put money on Rav Elyashiv shlit”a and Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a looking approvingly at such a proposal, just like in the old days of a few years ago.” I don’t. If they did, they would have told the “kanaim to speak to the American Gedolim.

    They did. Repeatedly. One group of American talmidei chachamim kept coming back to them, and arguing that despite the objections of those in Israel, American Jews would not accept anything less, and were turning to them. In time, they overcame the objections of the poskim in Israel. Not everyone in American circles of psak halacha was or is happy with this. BE”H, I hope to write more about this in time – not the lashon hora, but the conceptual basis for insisting that it be American poskim who pasken here, not import piskei halacha from Israel

    Can you please explain in halakhic or ideological terms why your “obligation” to give Rav Kaminetsky the benefit of the doubt is greater than any such obligation you may have to others. Would you agree that gedolim have an obligation to speak with the same degree of “moral clarity” that we demand of others?

    If you by “others” you mean people of lesser accomplishment in Torah, surely. Please review the halachos of betzedek tishpot. A good summary is in Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Asin #3 in the Be’er Mayim Chayim. What emerges is that there is no halachic chiyuv of giving the benefit of the doubt to those you do not personally know, although it is a laudable midah. For people you do know, there is a distinction between ordinary people who sometimes succumb to aveirah, and genuine yirei Hashem. In the case of ordinary people, you must give the benefit of the doubt where there is a real safek about their actions. When the evidence leans heavily against them, you should at least harbor some doubt, rather than convict them in your mind. In the case of the genuine yirei Hashem (which I know Rav Shmuel to be), the chiyuv is to judge favorably even where the evidence to support the opposite conclusion seems strong! This is all halacha, not sermons.

    WADR, I must ask if R. Shmuel went along with R. Elyashiv’s ban on his brother’s book in the same way he did here. Would he have signed a comprable ban here against The Making of a Gadol? I don’t recall him doing that. I’m sure he give’s R.Elyashiv his due deference. But that certianly does not mean he must agree to a ban if he disagree’s with it. He has enough gravitas to do that even as he agrees that R. Elyashiv is greater then him in Torah.
    I too have the utmost respect for R. Shmuel, and I ask this question not to challange his integrity, God forbid. I ask ot only to know of there is any difference between the two scenarios.

    Sure there is a difference. The difference is that if Rav Shmuel went it alone to support his brother, “everyone” would ascribe that to family loyalty and look the other way. They don’t expect you to turn against family. In all other decisions, were Rav Shmuel to do what so many of our commenters – published and unpublished – want him to do, which is courageously stand up and speak the truth, he would be set upon by legions of detractors as parting company with the gedolim of Eretz Yisrael. Please remember that there have been lots of people campaigning for literally decades to reject all the Kamenetskys, largely for being too liberal.

    I have not spoken with him, so the following is once again conjecture, at least as to whether the analysis is what motivates R. Shmuel. What is described is not conjecture, because it has happened to others. Every time you stand up to the rest of the crowd, you gain (in integrity) and you lose. You lose credibility with some subgroup. Sometimes, that is not so tragic. But what if you are R. Shmuel, and you know that you are getting dozens of phone calls a day from parents, and couples, and principals etc., and that the advice you give them is different from what they would get elsewhere, which is why they turn to you in the first place. But they can only turn to you as long as you are still on the A list in the communities that they live. If you compromise your standing with those communities (to the cheers of different communities) you essentially abandon the good that you can do to all those who have been turning to you. If you speak your mind, the hundreds of talmidim you have, whose positions are dependent on your standing in the general yeshivah community, are abandoned without any functioning protector. The kiruv groups which operated under your sanction are left without cover, along with the thousands of people they may be reaching.

    Is it worth it to offset the chilul Hashem you see emerging from your apparent acquiescence in something you are uncomfortable with yourself (and may have fought against and lost in the conversations with your colleagues)? Maybe. But maybe not. Can you see at least the possibility of a limud zechus?

    In time you will learn the truth.
    Frankly, we already know the truth. We merely want it acknowledged, in public, without fear that we may be within “earshot of the zealots”.

    I wish I could help you. I can’t. The zealots are here to stay. I can tell you from experience. I paid the price, and continue to pay it for standing up for the emes as I knew it. Now what are you going to do if they won’t disappear, and they will still wield inordinate power? Start your own religion, c”v? They won’t do away, even if you fight. You can diminish their power by making them irrelevant to you and your children by finding rabbeim who are not so beholden to them, and can speak their minds

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    It really pains me to hear you say that such a ban has “no impact on [your] life.” Like you, this genre of Jewish Music isn’t my cup of tea. Non-Jewish classical music is far more likely to be playing on our home sound system than Jewish Music, although today my oldest insisted on cantorial music, which he happily accompanied at the top of his lungs.

    Read again. I responded to a commenter who questioned why I did stand up publicly when they banned R. Slifkin’s seforim, but I was less inclined to do so here. The current controversy certainly does pain me, least of all because I’m supposed to have answers for my own students, and can’t say that I do yet. That does not deter me from fulfilling a halachic obligation of judging favorably (see above.)

    I don’t understand what you’re saying. According to the maharik, it’s mutar. Acc to the gra, it’s not. It shouldnt matter when they are adopting the style. If the point is that they shouldnt adopt the style to copy goyim, but that is just as true after it’s “on the racks” as before – actually, before the style is mainstream, they are not copying anything distinctively gentile at all, but setting the trend.

    It is likely not mutar according to the Maharik (#88). Look at the original, or the citation in the Bais Yosef in YD 178. The Maharik offers two cases in which non-Jewish clothes should not be worn. One is where these clothes have been rejected by Jews because of some degree of immodesty. Another is when wearing them is a sign of “conceding to their non-Jewish ways.” It is not clear whether this concession is a theological one, or a cultural one. The poskim I’ve spoken to either hold the latter way, or at least see it as a strong possibility

    Ignore the work of the kanaim. Pick a responsible Torah authority of the highest caliber, and learn to get his opinion, quietly and discretely.

    Yet those who you would consider to be “responsible Torah authorities of the highest caliber” themselves do NOT ignore the work of the kannaim, but instead allow the kannaim to use their signatures for their work. Surely the inconsistency here is obvious.
    The inconsistency is there, but not a resolution. If you had a choice between going to a mediocre but consistent physician, or a brilliant one who occasionally behaved in a manner you didn’t like, whom would you consult? Wouldn’t you still go for the excellence, and try to find a way around the behavior you found problematic? Someone wrote about the horror his own very haredi rov experienced when he tried to ask a question of Rav Elyashiv, and found that one of the gatekeepers kept changing the questions and answers. I have heard comparable stories from other important people in the Torah world. (BTW – the problem with gatekeepers with their own agenda is hundreds of years old. It just gets more bad press in the internet age.) So what is the solution? Some people will abandon R Elyashiv, and go to lesser lights. Their choice. I would prefer to hold out, and ask the questions only when the gatekeepers aren’t around. It takes more effort, and more patience. It is still worth the effort.

    I will probably have to take a break for a few days from both answering questions and doing my share of the moderating, since I will be on the road, as threatened. My apologies.

  • Moshe S.

    If you had a choice between going to a mediocre but consistent physician, or a brilliant one who occasionally behaved in a manner you didn’t like, whom would you consult?

    If I had a choice between going to a mediocre but consistent RAV, or a brilliant one who occasionally behaved in a manner I didn’t like, I would certainly consult the former!!!

    Wouldn’t you still go for the excellence, and try to find a way around the behavior you found problematic?

    A doctor’s behavior does not detract from his expertise in medicine. A Rav’s behavior does affect his stature as a Gadol b’Torah.

  • Ori

    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, you’re painting a picture of the Charedi world in which the greatest of Rabbis pander to the zealots. They may object to them, but do so in a subtle manner that zealots are unlikely to understand. How do you expect the historical trend to go? Would it be easier to resist excessive zealotry in the next generation, or harder? What about the one after that?

  • Another G

    (BTW – the problem with gatekeepers with their own agenda is hundreds of years old. It just gets more bad press in the internet age.)

    How is a frum Yid supposed to deal with that knowledge? I myself had a gatekeeper tell me, right in front of Rav Elyashiv that my question (which to me was extremely urgent) wasn’t important enough to have allowed me in to ask my Shayla (I was the last person line to get that day after waiting on line for a few hours). Why was he in the room listening in on my private shaila in the first place? It was embarrassing! Why did it take me yelling at him and almost crying for Rav Elyashiv to tell him to leave me alone? My episode goes back over 20 years. The gatekeeper is highly respected and there was even an article about him not long ago in a popular magazine. I was seething when I saw that – thinking to myself “if they only knew”. This is maddening!!!

  • L Oberstein

    Last night there was a parlor meeting for Chaim Berlin and the host told me that Rabbi Schecter told him that the ban was specifically againt Lipa. Here is my response to that host who dared ask the question.

    “In my opinion, the gedolim like Rabbi Schecter and Rav Shmuel and the Novominsker have to take a stand against kanaim who just want to make trouble. If, as he told you, the ban was caused by the over the top antics of Lipa, then there are better ways to handle it. Everyone I talk to thinks that a few troublemakers are behind these ongoing bans, not necessarily the same troublemakers each time. They are the ones who write the nusach and the gedolim don’t edit the very harsh language. I just can’t imagine Rav Shmuel speaking the way the ban was written.
    Since you are one person who has access to these people, maybe you can help find a way to diminish the ongoing chilul hashem these ill conceived and poorly executed bans cause. Maybe the gedolim are not aware of the damage their collusion in these bans causes.”

  • Noam

    “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke

    Our religion is being hijacked by kannoim. Those who ban concerts, books, thoughts, attack women on buses, throw bleach on people, the list goes on and on. Signing a ban that one doesn’t believe in, or hasn’t adequately investigated is an act of cowardice, laziness or an abdication of responsibility. Trying to use pilpulistic logic to extract a different meaning from the plain written word is an exercise in apologetics that is as equally embarrasing to the signor as it is to the exegeter. Because essentially you are saying that he really didn’t mean what he signed in the name of God and halacha.

    If Gedolim are not standing up to kannoim, they are no longer acting as Gedolim. We are supposed to give up our lives rather than convert to another religion. What about distorting our religion? Is it too much to ask of a Gadol to stand up to a presssuring kannoi and resist distorting our religion?

    The previous discussion assumes that the Gedolim actually didn’t agree with the ban. If they actually did agree with the ban, then what we are seeing is an enlargement of the schism between those chareidim and more moderate chareidim/modern orthodox.

    Edmund Burke was right. If the gedolim are cognizant of what is going on, and care, they need to act. Otherwise the kannoim will rule.

  • G

    In your interview on the Beyond BT blog you mention the following:

    “(The Noviminsker Rebbe) felt that it was important for Torah Jews to correct misconceptions, even if such attempts would convince no one. Kavod HaTorah itself, he said, required that we polish up the luster lost to those who tried to cheapen it.”

    “(The Torah voices we’ve consulted) felt that part of the message that we are trying to convey is that we are confident enough in our emunah and our reasoning to be able to handle criticism and disagreement.”

    –was Rav Shmuel one of these Torah voices?

    I am curious as to how you reconcile these statements with the actions of certain influential individuals, like those of Rav Shmuel in this case, and your explanation/interpretation of them.

    “Is it worth it to offset the chilul Hashem you see emerging from your apparent acquiescence in something you are uncomfortable with yourself (and may have fought against and lost in the conversations with your colleagues)? Maybe. But maybe not. Can you see at least the possibility of a limud zechus?”

    Under average circumstances and in another time perhaps, however both of those criteria are long in the rear view mirror of a community that is careening down both a saddening and frightening road…somebody needs to be bold enough to step on the brakes.

  • YM

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,

    were Rav Shmuel to do what so many of our commenters – published and unpublished – want him to do, which is courageously stand up and speak the truth, he would be set upon by legions of detractors as parting company with the gedolim of Eretz Yisrael. Please remember that there have been lots of people campaigning for literally decades to reject all the Kamenetskys, largely for being too liberal…Every time you stand up to the rest of the crowd, you gain (in integrity) and you lose. You lose credibility with some subgroup. Sometimes, that is not so tragic. But what if you are R. Shmuel, and you know that you are getting dozens of phone calls a day from parents, and couples, and principals etc., and that the advice you give them is different from what they would get elsewhere, which is why they turn to you in the first place. But they can only turn to you as long as you are still on the A list in the communities that they live. If you compromise your standing with those communities (to the cheers of different communities) you essentially abandon the good that you can do to all those who have been turning to you. If you speak your mind, the hundreds of talmidim you have, whose positions are dependent on your standing in the general yeshivah community, are abandoned without any functioning protector. The kiruv groups which operated under your sanction are left without cover, along with the thousands of people they may be reaching. Is it worth it to offset the chilul Hashem you see emerging from your apparent acquiescence in something you are uncomfortable with yourself (and may have fought against and lost in the conversations with your colleagues)? Maybe. But maybe not. Can you see at least the possibility of a limud zechus?

    We know that the seal of Hashem is truth. Did the entire Mo’etzes sign it? If yes, I could understand a member wanting to defer to the decision of the group, but if the signature were individual, the option to not sign was always there. It is extremely disheartening to realize that it is even a possibility that some Gedolim would sign something that they believe to be bad, for political reasons.

  • Toby Katz

    A kol korei should never be published as a ban against a book, a concert or anything like that. It should be published as a call to sensitive people to avoid Book X or Concert Y, and it should state the reasons.

  • ka

    “It is likely not mutar according to the Maharik (#88). Look at the original, or the citation in the Bais Yosef in YD 178. The Maharik offers two cases in which non-Jewish clothes should not be worn. One is where these clothes have been rejected by Jews because of some degree of immodesty. Another is when wearing them is a sign of “conceding to their non-Jewish ways.” It is not clear whether this concession is a theological one, or a cultural one. The poskim I’ve spoken to either hold the latter way, or at least see it as a strong possibility”

    I think you’ve misunderstood the question. They are just as much doing that (or not doing that) when the styles are on the racks as when they are just coming out. The idea here is supposed to be that when something is in style, people wear it because it’s available and happen to enjoy its being in style, but when it first comes out, they wear it to “copy the goyim.” But when it first comes out, they wear it to set trends for others, so if anything, the reverse should be true – they may be copying what they saw when a style is new, but becoming widely available, and not copying them before it’s current (when they are wearing the clothing that is not yet widely worn, and what they wear will BE COPIED by others). In reality, people want to wear what’s new and different that looks good, and the upscale predominately jewish shmatte industry caters to them. So “One of them would demand distinctively Jewish dress; the other permits any dress whose style could just as easily have been invented by Jews for Jews.” the styles are invented by (majority) Jews, for anyone who wants to wear something fashionable, which by definition is going to change regularly. I don’t see how clothing styles that by definition change regularly can be chukas hagoyim because they are new, because that is part of the process…the changes is regular and expected.

    Sometimes women copy particular actresses etc…but I dont think chukas hagoyim is copying particular people.

    The other problem with this analysis is that it doesn’t attend to how styles make it to mainstream. First they appear on runways and become trendy among the most fashion forward. Then styles filter down. (This happens faster than it used to – it used to filter down over years at times to progressively lower cost clothing, now styles are copied very quickly.) Depending on what circles one runs in, the style that appeared yesterday on the runaway might be what “Everyone” is wearing.

  • Sam

    To Clarify this confusion. Moran Harav Eliyashiv has said that his psak was for Eretz Yisrael only and that the Gedolim in america should decide for america.

  • cvmay

    It really pains me to hear you say that such a ban has “no impact on [your] life.”
    Leadership roles assume the knowledge of “Different strokes for different folks” (within the realm of halacha). Jewish(?) music is a spiritual diet for some, while heavy textual studies fills the diet of others. Bans have never resulted in highering ‘kavoad shem shamayin’.

  • Steve Brizel

    Menachem Lipkin-WADR, depending on the region, NCSY regional directors advisors range all the way from YCT to RIETS and Charedi yeshivos. The female regional directors advisors also encompass a range of seminaries and college students who have attended SCW, Touro, Brandeis, Ivy League Schools and Emory.

  • L Oberstein

    To Clarify this confusion. Moran Harav Eliyashiv has said that his psak was for Eretz Yisrael only and that the Gedolim in america should decide for america.

    Comment by Sam

    I don’t think for a moment that Rav Elyashiv ever insisted that he is the only authority in the world.Rather, it is zealots in the Diaspora who feel the local poskim are too liberal or tolerant of diversity or however they phrase it. The bottom line is that they go over the heads of the American Gedolim by insinuating that they are lighweights compared to Rav Elyashiv. Now, it may be that factually Rav Elyashiv is on a higher level than some local poskim, but I do not think that this is what our mesora has historically taught.