Friday, July 13, 2012
לא קל לי לכתוב את הדברים האלה. בכלל לא קל. שנים הייתי משוכנע שלמרות מגרעותיה עדיף שלמדינת ישראל תהיה רבנות ממוסדת. הייתי משוכנע שבנושאים המעצבים את אופיה היהודי של החברה היהודית בארץ עדיף שיהיה סטנדרד בסיסי ומשותף. במיוחד בנושאים רגישים כמו גיור ואישות, עניינים שמרקם החברה כולה תלוי בהם, חשוב שיהיה מוסד אחראי שיבטיח שיתנהלו כהלכה (תרתי משמע). אני עדיין מאמין שאין מקום לא לגיור שלא כהלכה ולא לגיטין שלא כהלכה בארץ ישראל (או בכל מקום אחר, אבל זה כבר דיון נפרד). אולם, אחרי שעות רבות של מחשבה, אחרי שחוסר הממלכתיות השתלט על כמעט כל חלקה של הממסד הרבני בארץ, אחרי זוועות ביטול הגיורים שהרב דרוקמן שליט"א וביטולי גיטין בעשרות ובמאות (מהלכים שאין להם אח ורע בתולדות תורתנו הקדושה מאז ניתנה), אחרי שכל הממסד הפך ללא יותר מפרה חולבת וכדור פוליטי ואין סיכוי לערוך לה רפורמה...
ומה יבוא במקום הרבנות? מה יבטיח את בסטנדרט ההלכתי הבסיסי והחיוני שישמור על לכידות החברה ? ברוב התחומים, אני סבור שהפרטה מבוקרת תקדם את חזון התורה. תחרות, כפי שטוען פרופ' פטר ברגר, תאלץ את נציגי התורה להתייחס בכבוד ובכובד ראש לבריות וגם יביא לידי פעילות איכותית. זה יכול יפה לעבוד בכשרות כפי שזה עובד בעריכת חופות נוסח צוה"ר. זה כבר עובד מצויין בדיני תורה בבתי הדין השונים לממונות הקיימים בארץ (דוגמת בית הדין של ארץ חמדה). אותו דבר נכון לגבי גיטין וגם לגיור. יש כבר את מערך הגיור במשרד רוה"מ והגיור הצה"לי. אינני טוען שצריך לפתוח את השוק לגמרי בנושאים רגישים כאלה הדורשים מומחיות ורגישות. אולם שבירת המונופול והקמת עוד גורמים המתעסקים בנושאים אלה ישפר את המצב בלי
ספק. יותר גרוע מהמצב הנוכחי אולי יכול להיות, אבל מי רוצה להגיע לזה?
לשם שמם הטוב של גדולי התורה ששירתו ברבנות בעבר, ובראשם הראי"ה קוק זצ"ל,; למען קידום התורה והבאת יהודי ארץ ישראל לאהבת ה' ואהבת התורה, צריך להחליף דיסקט ולוותר על חזון הרבנות הראשית. הרב סולובייצי'ק זצ"ל צדק. רבנות במתכונת זו לא מסוגלת להיות חופשית ולא לקדש שם שמים..
Sunday, July 08, 2012
I have avoided writing about the Plesner Report, and the general call for Haredim to serve in the Army and enter the work force. I thought there was little more for me to add. I think I was wrong.
Herewith, then, are my thoughts.
לולא תורתך שעשועי, אז אבדתי בעוניי. I believe profoundly in the importance, centrality and supremacy of Torah Study for all Jews. Here, too, I have spent my life trying to learn and disseminate Torah in every way I could, especially through those media that were somewhat more unusual, and for which I am apparently uniquely suited. Here, too, I have tried to instill my children with an uncompromising commitment to תלמוד תורה and to serving as sources for תלמוד תורה in the many and varied venues in which they live and operate. The Jewish People's existence is predicated upon Torah knowledge and Torah observance. Our license to occupy Eretz Yisrael is conditioned upon these two, as well.
I believe that everyone should serve their country (whether in the Army or in National Service). That is how I have lived my life and that is how I have raised my family. I was too old to be drafted, so I spent ten years as a uniformed volunteer in the Israel Police (מתמי"ד). My wife volunteered at the local פינה חמה for soldiers. All of my children have either served in the Army or in שירות לאומי. Giving to the nation is an essential part of Judaism. Not serving is selfish and actively hurtful.
I believe that the Torah demands that people work for a living to support their families. Indeed, I believe that the Torah aligns with the position of R. Tam, as cited in מחזור ויטרי (no. 425 and a few other places). On the משנה in Avot that טוב תלמוד תורה עם דרך ארץ, R. Tam says:
עם דרך ארץ. שעוסק בתורה פרק. ופרק בדרך ארץ. בפרגמטיא. ושאר שכר. ויש תימה דאלמא דרך ארץ עיקר. דהכי נמי דייקי' בכתובות פרק האשה כי האי גוונא דיקא נמי דקתני יחלקו יורשי הבעל עם יורשי האב. הכא נמי מדתלי תלמוד תורה עם דרך ארץ. אלמא דרך ארץ עיקר. מיהו יש לדחות ששניהן שוין. מדקתני אבתר הכי שיגיעת
שניהן כו'. וכדתנן לקמן אם אין תורה אין דרך ארץ. כו'
The passage assumes that, prima facie, earning a living is of greater import than Talmud Torah. The actual conclusion is that they are of equal worth.
I believe, that qualitative Talmud Torah emerges more from those who appreciate the limitations of Time. The person who knows that he has only a certain amount of Time for study will make that Time count. He will have the ability to discipline himself to concentrate and analyze, to enrich himself spiritually and make that Time infuse itself throughout his day. Concentrated study, intense involvement, also prompts greater insight and חידוש. It's not a coincidence that great Haredi Rashe Yeshiva have admitted that RIETS graduates have a better track record for ongoing learning, i.e. outside of the Bet Midrash, than their graduates.
In addition, I believe that the present Haredi regime wherein everyone must learn and noone can work is at odds, not only with R. Tam, but with Hazal. I refer to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4, 5):
לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי ...להגיד גדולתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא שאדם טובע כמה מטבעות בחותם אחד וכולן דומין זה לזה ומלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא טבע כל אדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון ואין אחד מהן דומה לחבירו
Not everyone is meant to be a גדול בתורה, though each Jew has his unique mission. To force those not qualified, by social and religious pressure, into such a procrustean bed (to be supported by others) is absolutely unacceptable. Moreover, it is a fact that the price that is exacted from the Yeshiva community itself is horrific. The poverty, malnutrition, physical and mental abuse, divorce, and abandonment of religion that are daily occurrences are, to a significant degree, a result of this policy. [Let me just add that, at its height, there were never more than 300 students in Volozhin. The graduates of Volozhin revolutionized and electrified Talmud Study and Halakhic decision-making. They provided the leadership of the יישוב in Eretz Yisrael. The same can't be said, בעוו"ה, of the products of the present system.]
Nevertheless, despite sharp ideological and halakhic differences with the Haredi World, I acknowledge that we have much in common. We both grew out of the same religious world, have many of the same heroes, learn by the same method, learn with the same שטים and are inspired by the same stories and memories. As Rav Aharon Lichtenstein שליט"א is wont to comment, the Modern Orthodox World has much to learn in the realm of religious intensity, חסד, and אמונה תמימה from the Haredi Community. As our sector seeks spirituality, it is finding its sustenance in Ger and Breslav, Izbitz and Mussar. We are all, hopefully, devoted to עבודת השם in its broadest sense.
So, I support the measured efforts of the Plesner Commission. I believe it is best for both the Haredi community, and the Israeli polity, for Haredi Men to serve in the Army or שירות לאומי (with appropriate conditions for their observance) and then to be able to work to support their families. Those who are promising תלמידי חכמים, should receive the same type of consideration as academic stars do in the Army.
I am convinced that this process, if respectfully undertaken, will allow Haredim to join the Dati sector of society in exposing the broader community to Torah and Mitzvot. The potential קידוש השם is so massive that I dare not dream of where it might lead.
I am convinced that instilling Haredi men and women with the tools to cope with the world will strengthen their adherence to the values of Haredi Orthodoxy, as evidenced by the so-called 'New Haredim' led by Haim Zicherman and others. In addition, as the religious population grows, the Haredim will be forced to take responsibility for a larger share of running the country. There will be no one else upon whom to rely.
I believe that we are at a critical moment in Jewish History, and in the history of the State of Israel. I believe that there is a broad population, both Haredi and non-Haredi, that is open to the kind of gradualist program offered by the Plesner Commission.
I pray to הקב"ה that the radical secular anti-semitic, anti religionists and the Haredi rejectionists do not make unholy common cause to prevent its implementation.
Saturday, July 07, 2012
In considering the way that American Olim, especially rabbis and educators, should impact on Israeli society, I find myself thinking a lot about Peter Berger. Prima facie, one might wonder what an Austrian, Liberal, Lutheran sociologist of religion has to do with deepening the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Upon further reflection, the connection will become both clear and compelling.
Berger, the author of some of the most seminal works in Sociology and the Sociology of Religion, has the distinction of being one of the few scholars I know who were willing to admit they erred. Berger, earlier in his career, was of the opinion that religion and religious faith were in decline; that a wave of triumphal secularism would sweep over Western Society. The upsurge in religious affiliation, spiritual searching and various forms of Fundamentalism (which is not always a negative thing) led him to admit that he’d been wrong and that the world was actually in a process of desecularization. In the past few years, he’s dedicated himself to gauging the character and long-term implications of this intensification of religion and spiritual quest; this longing for God.
This brings us to Berger’s relevance for Israeli Judaism. On more than one occasion, Berger has argued that the success of religion in the present era (I eschew the term post-modern) is tied to a free market model. In other words, coercive religious affiliation and obedience simply don’t work in a society that is predicated upon radical free choice and initiative. Thus, if people thirst for faith, if they search for God, it is up to religion to make itself accessible and attractive to the searchers. (Berger is a fan of Rational Choice Theory in Microeconomics.) Coercion, established bureaucracies and time-worn slogans will not attract sensitive, God hungry searchers. On the contrary, these will drive them away.
I believe that Berger is essentially correct, though I am not necessarily happy with this state of affairs. Judaism is not a commodity that can be marketed and then donned and doffed like an article of clothing. Its point of departure is that it makes demands of man, whether he likes it or not. Of course, man possesses freedom of choice, and he may decide not to respond to God’s demands. However, he remains a commanded being, whether he obeys or not (and, we believe, will pay whatever consequences for his refusal God will deem appropriate). [Rav Yehuda Amital זצ"ל addressed this precise point in a memorable serious of talks, בין התחברות למחוייבות.]
Nevertheless, the cultural atmosphere that presently characterizes Israeli Jewry (and to an even greater extent, that of North America and Europe) militates against a priori religious demands, especially if these are not framed in terms that are, at least, reasonable or comprehensible to their putative audience.
In other words, the Torah has to be cast and presented in terms that will command the respect, assent (and, hopefully, consent) of other Jews. This insight is not mine. Over 900 years ago, Maimonides pointed out that the Torah itself demands it.
Consider. In the Book of Deuteronomy (4, 6), the Torah declares: וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם כִּי הִוא חָכְמַתְכֶם וּבִינַתְכֶם לְעֵינֵי הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן אֵת כָּל הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה וְאָמְרוּ רַק עַם חָכָם וְנָבוֹן הַגּוֹי הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה: ‘Safeguard and keep [these rules], since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, 'This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people.' On two occasions (Guide III, 31 and מבוא לפרק חלק, ד"ה הכת הראשונה) Rambam points out that the Divine wisdom that inheres to the Torah must be expressed in terms that will lead any intelligent person, not only Jews, to be moved and amazed thereby. This does not in any way justify misrepresenting the Torah, ח"ו, or of doing violence to its integrity by subordinating it to an external (and possibly alien) system of values.
It does mean that we believe that the Torah can, and must be made accessible in such a way that thoughtful, cultured people will see its beauty, its sophistication and the fact that it provides the spiritual succor that they seek. It means that the Torah has nothing to fear from other cultures, and can hold its own in defending its integrity in the lists of cultural encounter and confrontation. The obverse of this conviction is that we can address the challenges that post-modern society and culture pose to us, and instill that capacity in the Orthodox community. In an Internet age, we can no longer allow ourselves the luxury of thinking that Orthodoxy can shut itself off from the world and be safe. If we do not address the world head on, those who seek Torah will be lost and those whose lack of sophistication renders them incapable of dealing with doubt and questions; who innocently accept everything in writing on the internet as true, these too will be lost. [See the Introduction Rambam’s Letter on Astrology.]
All of this brings me back to the unique contribution that American Olim, generally, and Rabbis (in particular), can contribute to deepen the relationship of Israel’s Jews to God, to Torah, to Mitzvot, to Jewish Historical Experience.
Briefly stated, and I have asserted this more than once, the representatives of Judaism in Israel lack the tools to achieve either of the above goals. Far too many, barely have a High School education. This, far too often, stunts their ability to teach, to pasken, to debate, and to pastor. Ironically, lack of a sophisticated awareness of the nuances of contemporary culture (and of the Western cultural heritage) also prevents them from critically engaging the latter, which not infrequently leads them to surrender to values that do not jibe with Jewish tradition. And if this is true of rabbis, consider what the lack of such tools means for the average Jew.
It is precisely these skills, this background, this nuanced ability and inner conviction which the Rav זצ"ל demanded of his students and his students’ students. These are abilities and talents that even the most yeshivish YU musmakh possesses. Happily, Eretz Yisrael is blessed with a greater population of such potential leaders (some rabbinic and most laypersons). They have a God given mission to integrate into Israeli society, to take responsibility to create a voice for Torah vis-à-vis both the broader community and the Orthodox community. These Olim, men and women, have the capacity to elicit the response: ‘וְאָמְרוּ רַק עַם חָכָם וְנָבוֹן הַגּוֹי הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה.’
They do not have the luxury of not heeding this call of destiny.