Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Gedolim and Leadership

I write this post with a heavy heart.

Over the last decade, the Gedolim of the Charedi world have done many things that, in the opinion of many, did not reflect well on their judgment.

The ban on Making Of A Godol, the ban on my books, the financially devastating ban on the Lipa concert and subsequent abrupt reversal, etc.

While I maintain that serious wrongs were committed in these cases, I tried my best to explain the Gedolims' point of view to people. Hence my essay, "In Defense of my Opponents."

Then came Troppergate, which eclipsed them all. Where the real chillul Hashem was not that this menuval did what he did, but that this man, who was known for decades to be a menuval and manipulator, was given so much power and honor, and even after being publicly exposed was not publicly condemned, because of the millions of dollars that he gave to the yeshivos. And nor was there any investigation into what improprieties (signatures on pashkevillim, false conversions, and who knows what else) were arranged by his money.

But now there is something that makes Troppergate look positively mild.

Rabbi Elior Chen of Beitar was indicted for some of the worst child abuse allegations ever. He fled to Brazil but was extradited back to Israel where he will stand trial. According to prosecution officials, the evidence against Chen is so overwhelming that there is absolutely no doubt that he will be convicted. (UPDATE: He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison.)

But recently, a letter appeared, signed by several of the Gedolim, asserting that they know Elior Chen to be a marbitz Torah and a righteous person and thus innocent of all charges, and asking people to support him!

At first, I did not post about this, because I couldn't bring myself to believe that these signatures of the Gedolim were authentic. As much as I had seen what I believed to be improprieties in the Gedolim affixing their names to things, surely they couldn't do this. I was inclined to agree with all the commentators at the afore-posted link who insisted that the signatures must have been faked. People close to the Gedolim insisted that the letter was not authentic.

But then a neighbor of mine wrote to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, asking him why he signed it. He received the following reply:


על כתב שרבותי חתומים גם אני חותם
"On a letter that my rabbis are signed on to, I also sign."

The implications of this sentence are so appalling that I can't even think of how to write about it in a way that will do justice to it.

I have always tried to write respectfully about the Gedolim, even when disagreeing with them strongly. But now I am honestly not sure if one should be respectful about the signing of this letter, especially when it is defended on the grounds that other rabbis signed it. The best limmud zechus I can think of is that, due to their intense dedication to staying in the Beis HaMidrash, the Gedolim are simply naive about the world and/or easily manipulated. But if that is the case, and it results in them signing letters such as this, then how are they suited for leadership positions? The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is thereby exposed as hopelessly wrong. And even with this limmud zechus, one has to wonder how a Rav could attest with certainty to the innocence of someone who has been indicted for such terrible crimes, with one child suffering permanent brain damage and in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, merely because other rabbis say that he is innocent.

With the publication of the letter supporting Elior Chen, is there any way to justify the system of leadership in the charedi world?

84 comments:

  1. R' Slifkin, bad as this is, the much more practical issue of the emergency room and the graves is far, far worse. There is absolutely no justification, especially halakhically, for what the haredim are doing here, and everyone seems to know it. And the Chillul Hashem is enormous.

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  2. The emergency room is the same idea. Rather than checking things out themselves and talking with experts, the Gedolim seem to rely on second- or third-hand possibly biased information.

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  3. I have seen in numerous places that Elior Chen has no smicha. Have you seen otherwise?

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  4. I wrote about this on my blog (which you comment on far less than I comment on yours... I'm just saying)

    Most people assume that what they know everyone knows. We often forget that we are plugged into a world of information. Television, radio, internet, and everything else that lets us see and hear everything going on in the world today. We also often forget that the Chareidi leadership is deliberately unplugged from such sources of information.

    Really, what do Rav Eliashiv, Rav Shteinman, et al do all day? They sit in their beis medrash and learn. One in a while they meet with some askanim or a public official or two but unlike us they don't check a couple of dozen websites for the latest news from Israel and around the world. They have no clue if the Dow Jones was up or done yesterday. As the line in Fiddler on the Roof went, "If I want to hear bad news, I'll read about Noah and the flood!"

    They are so completely disconnected from the outside world that askanim with agendae can completely influence them into making any decisions they want.

    Look, if someone came to you and told you a certain person was trying to do something bad, what is the first thing you'd do? You'd probably investigate the issue before coming to a decision. Similarly, if a person came to you for a reference, you'd want to know more about this person and conduct some research.

    The Chareidi gedolim clearly do not do this. They listen to what their askanim tell them, accept it as fact because of their trust in these people, and then issue decisions based on the information they were given.

    Or as the old computer saying going: GIGO Garbage in = garbage out.

    When your book was banned, did a single signatory on the book read it before making his decision? No, he trusted what his askanim told him and signed the ban. Well, when Tropper's misdeeds were revealed, what do you think the gedolim were told? The truth, or a heavily edited version of it? Do you think they've heard one iota of the accusations against Chen? I am quite confident that the askanim told each gadol "There's this guy Chen, a real mekubal, and those nassssty chilonim are persecuting him for no reason!" If that's all they know about the guy, why wouldn't they sign a letter supporting him?

    What this says about the leadership is obvious. But to quote Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars, "Who's the more foolish? The fool or the one who follows him?"

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  5. DP, the sad thing is that even if every single one of those second and third hand reports were true, there would *still* be zero halakhic (and kal v'chomer any other) justification for not building the emergency room.

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  6. In the days of the Sanhedrin judges ruled on an issue from least senior to most senior, precisely to avoid this sort of problem. It would be a good idea to adopt the custom that if Rabbi A signs a decree, only rabbis who consider themselves of greater stature than Rabbi A will sign it subsequently.

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  7. Nachum, see http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=171511 for a contrary view.

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  8. Can you provide any proof that the Gedolim of yesteryear (all the way back to Chazal) were more in touch with their communities? How do you know that this is an aberration of just the current generation?

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  9. I believe that things used to be different for several reasons:

    1) The leading sages were probably generally younger/stronger. Only in modern society are people able to live to be old and frail.

    2) The rabbis were more involved with the world, and less cloistered in the Beis HaMidrash. Leading rabbinic figures were community rabbis, not Roshei Yeshivah.

    3) Rabbis probably didn't rule so much on faraway, remote cases. They ruled on cases within their own communities, which they would have known much better.

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  10. Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
    Could you also write about the Ashkelon hospital emergency room in vs. ancient graves? What could possibly be the considerations?
    It seems so backwards - in addition to the life and death problems with the hospital itself, it's as if someone wants to make sure all the rebellious high school children will be sure that a religious life can only be a travesty of morals and common sense.

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  11. "The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is thereby exposed as hopelessly wrong."

    I came to a similar conclusion around 10 years ago, when through 3 decisions by my former (right wing modern orthodox) Rabbi I was totally disillusioned as to the validity of his role as a spiritual leader of anybody, and eventually ended up leaving the Jewish community entirely (for that among other reasons).

    The first was when he advised my parents to send me to Israel for a year to seminary because my parents did not like my boyfriend's yichus and did not want me dating him anymore and went to him for advice. Which would have been very much against my will, and ultimately since I was 18 and downright refused to go, they could not force me. Although they tried very hard after his advice, and the repercussions of those arguments still affect our relationship today.

    The second was when one of my parent's friends in the community was pregnant with 6 fetuses and was told by her doctors that if she didn't have a selective abortion they would ALL die. She went to him for a shayla, and he refused to give her a straight answer about whether it was permissible to have a selective abortion and kept putting her off on this very time-sensitive issue. She eventually gave up on getting a straight answer out of him, and asked another rabbi who told her it was OK, and ultimately gave birth to very health twins.

    The third and final straw for me was when he harbored Baruch Lanner in his home for several months after the Lanner scandal broke and Lanner's wife kicked him out. I was a member of NCSY and my ex boyfriend (the same guy the rabbi advised my parents to send me to Israel to get away from ) was one of the guys physically abused by Lanner.

    I personally know tons of people just like me who are utterly disgusted by the behavior of these so called "leaders" and have turned away from Judaism entirely as a result.

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  12. There's a good write-up about the situation with the graves at http://muqata.blogspot.com/

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  13. Can you provide any proof that the Gedolim of yesteryear (all the way back to Chazal) were more in touch with their communities? How do you know that this is an aberration of just the current generation?

    We have proof of many gedolim throughout the generations having non-Torah professions. Tanaim named "Hakappar" or "Hasandlar" were literally potters and shoemakers. It's not hard to find examples of amoraim mentioning their professional experience in the gemara (e.g. Rav http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abba_Arika#Status_in_life).

    Rashi was a vintner. The Rambam was a physician. The Chofetz Chaim had a grocery store.

    Have their been gedolim throughout time who were exclusively in the beit midrash? Sure. But many, and some of the most respected, also spent their time on other things. If I'm not mistaken, the latter phenomenon is essentially absent in the Chareidi world nowadays.

    ----------------

    There's also an economic argument to be made here. Until very recently, society couldn't afford to have very many people doing anything other than farming. Thanks to the agricultural industrial, and information revolutions, the world (especially the developed world) can now support a huge population with only a few percent of people farming, and more and more people doing white collar work or even no work at all.

    Back in the day, it would have been unthinkable to have entire Jewish communities in which the majority of men spend all or even a great deal of their working years learning full-time. Nowadays, it's possible to use the welfare state and donations from rich Jews to support such communities (at least for a generation or two, before the system collapses under its own demographic weight). If the entire community is learning full-time, naturally its leader will do so.

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  14. How come no one is asking the gedolim to sign a letter to help the family that Chen the monster destroyed what must the husband and children feel like when they see a letter signed by the gedolim. Does anyone care about this husband and his children whose lives were destroyed? Everyone is concerned that they signed for Chen how come no one has come to the support of the family that has been destroyed and gets further destroyed when they read letters signed the gedolim what type of people are those that surround the gedolim don't they read the things they put in front of these people to sign. We live in a crazy world and then you have to wonder how many things the gedolim have actually have said perhaps these people surrounding them are the ones responsible for a lot of crazy thing s that happen.

    Char kosher Vsameach

    Hoping for better times
    Baruch

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  15. Please see my comment here:

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2009/09/dealing-with-inconvenient-sources.html?showComment=1251955529859#c2195440042517368727

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  16. This Elior Chen story is one of the worst and cruelest I have ever heard of in my life: unfathomably evil. (I know one of the child's relatives.)

    Of course the "gedolims'" signatures do not put them in a positive light, which (among other reasons) is why I have long questioned why many people (even in the MO world) consider these people "gedolim."

    What have they accomplished? On which pressing issues of the day do they offer leadership and guidance? They are completely removed from the world and know a great deal of Gemara -- that's it. That makes them gedolim?

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  17. I forgot to add: It's not just the lack of leadership of the "gedolim." It's that they've actually done harm on numerous occasions.

    From what I know of people like Rav Elyashiv, it's hard not to conclude that he's done more harm than good.

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  18. I feel your pain R'Slifkin. More and more I'm appreciating the value of strength of character over lombdus, especially in matters that pertain to how one person treats another.

    I do think many of these "gedolim" are easily manipulated, however, and have gotten into the careless habit of signing their names to things, simply because a trusted colleague or teacher of theirs did likewise. I am not sure they are truly aware of the disastrous consequences that have ensued as a result of such behaviors.

    People can always say that they should know better, as the community has appointed them leaders. I agree with this up to a point, but I also believe that this perspective denies these men the right to make human errors. In a weird way, it's a perspective that validates the unsustainable image of "gadlus" the chareidim have advocates--i.e. that true Torah leaders should be inerrant, virtually prophetic human beings.

    The reality, in my view, is that many of these men are very smart, albeit ivory tower types, that are not truly aware of the ripple effects simple statements they make have on remote sections of the Jewish world. They are very old, and are subject to a certain myopia that accompanies many as they age, regardless of how accomplished they are. They do not appreciate how a careless signature can precipitate a crisis of faith for a person on the other side of the world. The world they grew up in was not like this.

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  19. There’s more to this problem than simply the seemingly clueless so-called “Gedolim”. It’s also an unfortunate mindset found among the ultra-RW. That is, if anything that is not found explicitly forbidden by the Torah or by Chazal then it can’t really be all that bad. Thus pedophilia, stealing from non-jews, and cheating on taxes etc. etc. are really OK.

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  20. I agree that the current system is responsible for perpetuating a denigration of kavod hatorah. I think the community needs to step in and organize better. Perhaps the community needs to take some pressure off the Gedolim, as Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz wrote after the Lipa issue:

    "These individuals live simply and shun luxury. Many are far beyond the age of retirement, and no one could fault them if they chose to retire from a frenetic, public life and spend time with their children and grandchildren. Yet they graciously accept the incredible burden of communal responsibility with sincerity and dignity. We see them night after night participating at multiple weddings and other simchos, fundraising for the mosdos, and being available to listen to the sufferings of people who seek their bracha. We are burning them out, as my chaver Shiya Markowitz wrote in an excellent column that appeared in The Jewish Observer over fifteen years ago"

    (This does not completely explain gedolim's policies of signing on letters, but time considerations seem to be one aspect)

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  21. I find it remarkable how so many people are so reluctant to admit the obvious: The emperor has no clothes. While it is even much worse: The emperor is evil.

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  22. >There’s more to this problem than simply the seemingly clueless so-called “Gedolim”. It’s also an unfortunate mindset found among the ultra-RW. That is, if anything that is not found explicitly forbidden by the Torah or by Chazal then it can’t really be all that bad. Thus pedophilia, stealing from non-jews, and cheating on taxes etc. etc. are really OK.

    It has to be more than that, because reading a John Grisham book, eating a kosher hot dog at a baseball game and wearing a knit yarmulke (or no yarmulke) are also not explicitly forbidden by the Torah, but these and many more behaviors and attitudes certainly aren't regarded as not really that bad. On the contrary. So if you're looking for a method to the madness, it's not that those things you mentioned aren't explicitly forbidden.

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  23. "While it is even much worse: The emperor is evil."

    I am not clear what you mean by this: if your meaning is that the chareidim have nurtured a system that allows evil to, at times, flourish, I would agree with you.

    If you mean to imply that R' Kanievsky is evil, and that he would not have recoiled in horror, had he personally witnessed Chen inducing brain damage in a child, I would disagree.

    Unfortunately, however, one of these Rabbis had to be the first to make a claim that Chen was innocent--whether it was one of the askanim, gedolim, or whoever. What was this decision based on, apart from an assumption that one of their own, a chareidi Jew, could never commit such a crime, (or worse, that he should not be prosecuted by the secular authorities, even if he was guilty)?

    Somebody had to kick this thing off--do we know whom?

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  24. I'm not convinced the letter says he IS innocent. This is the money quote:
    היות שאנחנו מכירים אותו כאיש ישר
    והגון, מחוייבים אנו להוכיח צדקתו

    It says that 'we must prove that he is innocent'. I'm not convinced that they are saying he is innocent now. Regardless, this letter is outrageous. If this guy is strongly suspected of being the worst child abuser in Israel's history - you don't write that about him. It makes me sick.

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  25. R' Slifkin, could you post the full letter and response instead of just posting your interpretation of the request.

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  26. I am thinking of pursuing a research project investigating the pathological implications of living an austere hermitic life style. Physiologically and psychologically our brains are geared for hedonistic pleasures, such as the euphoria we feel after eating and sex. I was involved in a research project that looked at the neural mechanisms underlying the anti-phagic efects of Rimonabant (an anti-canabinoid drug promoted by Pfizer as a weight loss drug). We found that it appetite reducing effect was due to preventing hedonistic circuits in the brain from functioning, presumably making eating less appealing.

    My point is that when one cloisters themselves, and denies pleasurable activities to themselves, they need to find pleasurable stimulation expresses itself in pathological form. Hence priest, who deny themselves sex, express their sexuality so pathologically. Unfortunately I think the same is possibly true of people (I cannot bring myself to call them Rabbis) who spend all their time in the Beit Midrash. The Social pressure to engage in activities and lifestyles which bring them no psychological joy results in aberrant expression of their need for such an outlet.

    I suspect that this is why people like Elior Chen engage in the behaviour they do.

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  27. As for "Gedolim",

    I think it is an oxymoron to suggest that a person who is willing to add their name to a letter about a topic they know little about, and haven't taken adequate care to be accurately informed about, and who is easily manipulated, repeatedly, by the "guardians" sycophants that surround them is really a gadol.

    The Rabbinic leadership, since the time of the Haskala has been fightinhg a loosing battle over their "honour". Before the enlightenment Rabbis were probably the most educated members of their communities, and the person the entire community turned to for advice. While in the Chareidi world it still appears apparent that the "Gadol" is venerated and their advice sort after, it can no longer be said that Rabbis are either the most educated persons in their communities, nor the best informed or positioned for leadership. Having studied talmud back to front and inside out does not prepare you, or inform you, about the realities of modern life. As has amply been demonstrated, that while the Talmud may be full of what was cutting edge knowledge 1500 years age, perhaps even as recently as 200 years ago, as a source of an explanation of reality it is hopelessly inadequate today. I life lived only studying these sources makes you expert in nothing but these sources.

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  28. "On a letter that my rabbis are signed on to, I also sign."

    Assuming these are the Rav's words, either he's admitting that he never looked into the case himself -- or he's saying that even after examining the case, he still stands by his signature because his rabbis signed it.

    This is a prime example of placing one's trust in authority over knowledge.

    It's either: Once you have it on authority, you *needn't bother* acquiring knowledge.

    Or: Place your trust in authority *despite* the knowledge.

    In fairness, I can see the nobility of such an approach -- trust your true friends and mentors even when it *appears* they are wrong. Lehavdil (which way, you decide!), in Harry Potter there's the theme about Harry trusting in Dumbledore about Snape, despite Harry's experience telling him otherwise...

    It's a common theme in stories, but how "noble" does it turn out to be in real life?

    In this case, it results in a terrible chilul Hashem.

    Really, this issue underscores the central theme of this blog -- the divergence of approach (and the potential 'nafka mina's) between those who place a primacy on knowledge & experience vs. those who say that faith & authority trump all.

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  29. I just read the charges against Chen. I think I am physically ill. This is the man Elyashiv, Steinman and Kanievsky are protecting? You know what, I don't care how much Torah you know, what semicha you have, who considers you a gadol, when you read the charges against Chen and side with a child torturer rather than his victims, you are no longer deserving of the title Rabbi or even the honorific Reb.

    What is the point of Orthodox Judaism? Clearly there is no correlation between Torah scholarship and basic human decency. If the "Gedolim" support someone like Chen then maybe I need to turn in my kippa.

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  30. Is there anyone reading this website who can print out this post and drop it off in R' Kanievsky's (or his son's, or anyone else you deem proper) mailbox?

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  31. "I write this post with a heavy heart."

    May your heavy heart cease functioning from its load.

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  32. "I am not clear what you mean by this: if your meaning is that the chareidim have nurtured a system that allows evil to, at times, flourish, I would agree with you.

    If you mean to imply that R' Kanievsky is evil, and that he would not have recoiled in horror, had he personally witnessed Chen inducing brain damage in a child, I would disagree."

    Blaming "the system" or "the askanim" is still one step away of the simplest and most logical explanation.

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  33. R' Slifkin, could you post the full letter and response instead of just posting your interpretation of the request.

    I don't have anything else to post. My neighbor told me that he sent a copy of the letter with the signatures to RCK and asked him if his signature was forged. The response was exactly what I posted, no more and no less.

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  34. David Litman,

    Regarding your third point that's clearly not true. For example, Rambam wrote letters about halachic issues concerning communities very far from him.

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  35. Is this trial by media?
    Surely, every person is innocent until proven guilty - regardless of the severity of the accusation. How can people make their mind up until the courts have tried the case?

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  36. sephardic rationalistMarch 24, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    How come no one has mentioned the fact that almost all haredi neighbrohoods in Jerusalem were built untop of ancient gravesites?

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  37. this is the first sign of a cult.
    a talmid chacham can do no wrong, no matter what evidence you have. we cannot speak against them, we have to accept everything they say, we cannot question anything.
    let's cut our brains out and hand them to rav elyashiv, before we all realize how corrupt he and the rest of them really are!

    time for a real revolution guys...i'm not kidding! the chareidim make up 10% of israel, they have 8 times as many children per generation, and their generations are shorter, so within 35-40 years they have a mathematical certainty of becoming the absolute majority of the country, they have shown that they have the agenda of replacing the government with a theocracy, which will be worse than iran, because iranians go to college and get jobs. if we don't act now in subverting their system from the inside, they will destroy any open minded person. these people believe that it's not enough to just hate anyone not like them, they believe that they have an obligation to force us to do and think like them, even at the pain of death!!

    they're actually selling their psakim, do you really believe that they coincidentally decided to sign that all wild caught fish are forbidden because of worms in the very same week that the israeli tariff was made on wild caught fish? this ruling and this tariff were bought by the fish farming industry!

    Navonim unite! it's almost too late, their taking over! if we sit by and watch, i promise you all that your rights to free thought will be taken away one by one!

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  38. Why didn't your friend (or indeed someone else) seek to be mekayem Lo Samod and rather than ask R' Kanievsky if it's his signature, go into him and show him the charge sheets?

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  39. "I write this post with a heavy heart."

    May your heavy heart cease functioning from its load.

    David March 24, 2010 4:48 AM

    Is this actually better than addressing the issue(s)?

    Such ahavat Israel.
    Such yirat Elokim

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  40. 'Rabbi" Slifkin, i see u biult up quite the following. First of all David Litman of ur three comments only the third may be true, the first two are a thousand percent false, do some research or just read a book.
    Everyone else, why are we listening to the media, we all claim to know the truth but as of now only the rabbi and the kids know the truth everything else that everyone else has written is most probably not true.
    Abandoning Eden-after going to that rabbi and getting the wrong advice, go to a different one, you'll get a different opinion.
    Of course im talking from a biased side, because my father is one of the biggest rabbi's in the world now. I may not agree with certain things but at least i dont gossip and jump to conclusions. The leaders are here for one reason only because at the end of the day we all go to them for advice. Not you and not me, but them. They are here cause WE appointed them. Rabbi Slifkin, you're mad for what reason? Because of the horrible thing that this so called 'rabbi' did or because the gedolim put a chairim out on your book?
    Before pointing our figers to the rabbi's why not point to all the other leaders in the world lets see if they're doing a good job, if they are by all means jump on the band wagon, if they're not why don't You become a leader and change everything. Being a leader is not that easy, i for one would rather sit back and let the others do it. Besides if I was a leader all of a sudden i will become the bad guy. Its true that you'll have a rabbi here and there that does the wrong thing but if they were perfect than they wouldn't be fit for being a rabbi.
    Besides talking as a son of a rabbi, I guarantee You that somewhere along the line of the letter someone either left something out of the letter or all the facts weren't given to the rabbi. As a lot of people here said, the rabbi's in Israel don't read the papers and follow the news they rely on other people. If the other people give the wrong news, who's fault is that?
    As bad as what the rabbi's did or are doing or are saying, what are WE doing here? All we're doing here is spreading hate and talking gossip. There must be a reason why they are rabbi's and sorry to say i'm only talking about the rabbi's that are more famous than the rest.
    By the way the person that wrote that the chofetz chaim owned a grocery store, did you also know that he didnt run it and it was his wife that did? also the rabbi that was named hasandler wasnt necessarily a working man it could've been his father, for e.g., someone gold, does it mean he himself worked in gold or it coulve been his father, (of course i mean in those times).

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  41. I find it amazing that not 1 person thought to ask, where do we know the info about this case from? The media and the police whom have so often lied to make stories or get people in trouble. If this person chen did what he did then he is a monster however whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I am not advocating letting this man free until proven innocent, I am simply saying that the gediolim have heard he is a good guy and are giving character references based on that. Since when does the word of the israeli police, who beat settlers for no reason, take precident over that of frum yidden?
    All this post does is cause more antisemitism. Most of you speak about the charedim as though many non-jews speak about jews. Did you get your terminology from nazi germany? Maybe you want to draw cartoon characters of Jews with big noses and then say "look at the Haredim".
    People, we are about to come out of egypt, make sure you also come out of your own egypt and recognize that we are supposed to act differently from the rest of the word and one of those rules is not listen to lashon hara

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  42. I am not sure what people are questioning here whether it is true that the gedolim signed they didn't dispute. If elior Chen did what he is accused of doing why doesn't anyone ask the husband and father of the children and they will have no question afterwards. How come no one is up in arms and looking to seek help for this family? Why is there is so much concern about a letter that was signed for Chenit is done already. How many people are aware that a family out there was destroyed and could use much moral support and perhaps that my have money difficulties as well. How come no one is talking about this. We know the system is corrupt but we have to do better and not just complain about what wrong was doen but someone go out and help the people that really need the help.

    Chag Kosher Vsameach,
    Baruch

    kol tuv,

    Baruch

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  43. There was Torah before these charedi sages, there will be, I"H, Torah after their authority lapses...and with Rambam's Intro to Mishna in mind - have there REALLY even been "Gedolim" since the days of Ravinna, Rav Ashi? - by 'Gedolim' I mean the term as is popularly used in the Daat Torah camp - not as was intended by Rambam on actual Rabbinic authority;

    "Law, Politics, and Piety in Contemporary Orthodox Debate, in ed., Rela Mintz Geffen & Marsha Bryan Edelman, 'Freedom and Responsibility: Exploring the Challenges of Jewish Continuity '(Hoboken: KTAV, 1998) 161-196.

    "Positivist Rhetoric and its Functions in Haredi Orthodoxy," Jewish Political Studies
    8:1 & 2 (Spring 1996).

    "Legal Positivism and Contemporary Legal Discourse," The Jewish Law Annual 6 (1987), republished in ed., Martin P. Golding, Jewish Law and Legal Theory, (New York: NYU Press, 1993).

    ReplyDelete
  44. As a lot of people here said, the rabbi's in Israel don't read the papers and follow the news they rely on other people. If the other people give the wrong news, who's fault is that?

    "Fault" is irrelevant. We all have responsibilities.

    Decisions and proclamations that are based on falsehood should be ignored, regardless of how the falsehood entered the picture. That's the responsibility of the following public (you and me).

    One of the Torah's rules for "shofetim" (aka posekim) is "midevar sheker tirchak" - "stay far from falsehood." This is an affirmative responsibility of the posek/leader. Leaders who do not follow this rule are violating a Torah law. Regardless of who might be trying to trip them up, that's their responsibility.

    As bad as what the rabbi's did or are doing or are saying, what are WE doing here? All we're doing here is spreading hate and talking gossip. There must be a reason why they are rabbi's

    They're leaders because people follow them. If, in fact, some of their decisions are based on falsehood, warning people of such may be a fulfillment of "Don't stand idly by your friend's blood."

    By the way the person that wrote that the chofetz chaim owned a grocery store, did you also know that he didnt run it and it was his wife that did? also the rabbi that was named hasandler wasnt necessarily a working man it could've been his father, for e.g., someone gold, does it mean he himself worked in gold or it coulve been his father, (of course i mean in those times).

    You can pick nits in my examples all day long, but the thrust of my point is obvious to anyone who's seen even a small amount of gemara (like me). Rabbinic history is full of gedolei hagedolim who were also involved in the world around them.

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  45. R' Slifkin,

    I'm genuinely curious about why you let the disgusting comment on your heart through moderation. I don't see what it adds to the discussion.

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  46. I think it's illuminating to show these once in a while. I get quite a few of them, some much worse.

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  47. (Also, in case people think that it's only the Gedolim who are subjected to vitriolic attacks, comments such as that one show otherwise.)

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  48. Dear Rav Slifkin,
    This is my first time reading your blog but from youe post I can definetly say i am amazed at the forsight of our gedolim for smelling out and seeking a apikorus...dont you know to be much much more careful before coming out against the gadol hador and spewing loshon hora about him?? Your a rat and you will rot, even if all the hearsay is 100% true are you 100% sure writing negativley about the gedolei hador is the best thing...is there any toeles? you will not change the system and you know that. [Most people on these blogs openly don't care about halacha and my kind of post will just be made fun of till no end, but if you claim to be believe in chazal and god how do you defend speaking poor no less of the gedolei hador for thousands of people to read? It is clear the gedolim were right, you may mean well but you do have a shemetz psul

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  49. May God continue to grant you the strength to do your holy and difficult work in good health and peace of mind, and may He grant both your opponents and your proponents the wisdom to behave in a manner befitting His image.

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  50. When we are young, we believe that our parents know everything and are infallible. As we grow up, we see that this is not true.

    It seems to me that the Charedi community is now learning through the internet what the rest of the world takes for granted - that our leaders are not infallible. The Charedi community is growing up.

    But on the other hand, how can you be so sure that Elior Chen is guilty? The media is not the best way to determine whether someone is guilty or innocent. That's why we have courts of law.

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  51. >Jables said...
    > The leaders are here for one reason only because at the end of the day we all go to them for advice.

    There are leaders because that’s the way human society is structured. People become leaders because it gives them power. No doubt many rabbonim feel that they need the power of leadership positions in order to preserve Judaism, and have only the noblest of goals, but it’s still about power, not advice.

    > As a lot of people here said, the rabbi's in Israel don't read the papers and follow the news they rely on other people. If the other people give the wrong news, who's fault is that?

    The rabbi’s fault, for not reading the paper himself. If he doesn’t want to take time from learning to read the paper, that’s fine, but then he shouldn’t be signing his name to something he knows nothing about.

    > also the rabbi that was named hasandler wasnt necessarily a working man it could've been his father, for e.g., someone gold, does it mean he himself worked in gold or it coulve been his father, (of course i mean in those times).

    Last names were a late medieval invention. “In those times” if someone was called “the sandal maker”, it’s because that was his job.

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  52. @M: if you claim to be believe in chazal and god how do you defend speaking poor no less of the gedolei hador for thousands of people to read?

    Because chazal and the gedolim are not God, despite the attempts to make them so.

    @betzalel: The Charedi community is growing up.

    No, unfortunately, it isn't.

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  53. Such ahavat Israel.
    Such yirat Elokim
    Yossi March 24, 2010 10:33 AM


    Where was that comment from you when you saw Natan's hitjob against the Torah and Chachmei Yisroel over here?

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  54. David, it is a legitimate criticism shared by many in the Torah world, not a "hitjob." Or do you believe that any criticism of rabbis, no matter what they do, is by definition unacceptable?

    Tell me, David, do you think that Hashem is pleased with your death curse against Rabbi Slifkin? Do you think that your Gedolim would approve of it? Maybe you should ask your rabbi.

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  55. "But on the other hand, how can you be so sure that Elior Chen is guilty? The media is not the best way to determine whether someone is guilty or innocent. That's why we have courts of law."

    I agree with this. R'Slifkin, apparently you know something more about the details of this case than I do, to be certain of Chen's guilt. I am not so confident, until a verdict has been made, and I think most of us would do well to suspend judgment.

    This is something I advocate on principle, even though disgusting behavior in Chareidi communities is common enough that these people can no longer, as a group, have a chezkas kashrus simply for self-identifying as Chareidi.

    But two things emerge from this case, and similar cases that you mentioned above:

    (1) Our system of choosing leaders must be based on a sound appreciation of their quality of character, not just their hasmadah in Torah study--and by character I don't just mean that they show up to minyan, are particular in kashrus, or put on tefillin, but that they have the strength of character to adopt reasoned stances that go against the party line of their community--including disagreeing with other Rabbinic leaders, past and present. Furthermore I still place greater emphasis on mitzvas bein adam l'chaveiro, as a true test of a leader's qualities. This is something rather difficult to ascertain however, as it is not quantitative. It is easier to say that a person spends 20 hours a day learning, or they went through shas 60 times in their life, ergo their opinion should be consulted on all of life's problems.

    (2) As individuals we must correctly ascertain what is the function of a Jewish leader, particularly a great Jewish leader. Are we ever obligated to set aside reasonable doubts (I say no, but their are views to the contrary). When is it appropriate to publicly criticize our leaders? In my opinion Jews tend to be way too opinionated, and as we see on these blogs, every Tom, Dick, and Harry can berate whomever they wish. On the other hand, the overall sense is that the Chareidim view any public criticism of their leaders, great and small, as nothing more than loshon hara. It's pretty hard for a community to introspect if any semblence of critical thinking is dismissed as loshon hara.

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  56. Chen is definitely a marbitz. I don't know about the Torah, though.

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  57. Michael, I am not issuing a verdict. I am simply observing that, according to the authorities, there is an overwhelming case against him. And note that the letter that the Gedolim signed does not say that Chen is innocent until proven guilty - it says that he is innocent, period.

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  58. The best limmud zechus I can think of is that, due to their intense dedication to staying in the Beis HaMidrash, the Gedolim are simply naive about the world and/or easily manipulated.

    Rabbi Slifkin עמו"ש:

    This manipulation of גדולים makes one recall the well known גמרא in סנהדרין י"ט ע"א, wherein the חכמים of רבי שמעון בן שטח, kow towed, in fear, to ינאי מלכא.

    This גמרא clearly illustrates that if no less than the actual חכמים of רבי שמעון בן שטח could be manipulated, than עאכ"ו, how much more would this apply to a modern day גברא רבה, who is surrounded by a myriad of עסקנים, several with an agenda all their own?

    As you correctly point out, we see this phenomena playing itself out time and time again. It is a further very sad commentary on this דור עקש ופתלתול.

    בברכת כל טוב

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  59. It says that 'we must prove that he is innocent'. I'm not convinced that they are saying he is innocent now.

    היות שאנחנו מכירים אותו כאיש ישר
    והגון, מחוייבים אנו להוכיח צדקתו

    You are not convinced that they are saying he is innocent? That's not what this כתב implies, wherein Elior Chen is fully and prominently credited as an איש ישר והגון. If that's not a claim of innocence, what is?

    The party line is still that no one in the over the top חרדי Establishment, can do any wrong. For those still in a state of chronic denial, who buy this party line, there is some excellent beachfront property in Arizona, which can be gotten for a song and dance.

    בכל טוב

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  60. >There’s more to this problem than simply the seemingly clueless so-called “Gedolim”. It’s also an unfortunate mindset found among the ultra-RW. That is, if anything that is not found explicitly forbidden by the Torah or by Chazal then it can’t really be all that bad. Thus pedophilia, stealing from non-jews, and cheating on taxes etc. etc. are really OK.
    Beg to differ, but pedophilia, stealing from non-Jews, and cheating on taxes, are all clearly forbidden by Chazal.

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  61. It's not so clear that Chazal did asser cheating on one's taxes. have a look at Mishneh Halachos 12:445. You can see part of it here:
    http://docs.google.com/File?id=ddrxfsjn_491qt9kb5hm_b

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  62. Pinchas... just give me a swordMarch 25, 2010 at 7:15 PM

    We certainly shouldn't try this case in the media. That's why we have a court system.

    Of course, if the court system finds our Rav guilty, we will scream about bias, anti-Semitism, mistakes, and how the judge/jury failed to see what a tzaddik he was. (Google "Rubashkin" on the internet)

    No one is perfect and no one is pure evil. Just because a man gives a lot of tzedaka, learns a lot of torah, or is a recognized gadol in the community, doesn't mean that he isn't capable of avairos. There's a Yetzer Hora in all of us, and it's possible that a gadol can have his Yetzer Hora take over once in a while. It's possible that someone who donates millions to Yeshivos can ask a woman inappropriate questions and offer her "bribes". It's possible that a Rebbe can molest his students, and it's possible that Gedolim are misled by their trusty Shamash.

    Can we stop defending these men with claims of "he's such a big tzaddik"? Why is he such a big tzaddik? How do you know for sure??

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  63. It's not so clear that Chazal did asser cheating on one's taxes.

    It's not so clear? Perhaps, you can explain what the גמרא means in סוכה ל' ע"א, when it learns out that taxes may not be withheld from:

    כי ה' אהב משפט שנא גזל בעולה

    Cheating on one's taxes is considered גזל, no matter which way you look at it. And, גזל is still אסור from the תורה.

    כל טוב

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  64. Bewhiskered - I agree with you (morally) completely. I just pointed out that there are contemporary Rabbis, regarded as Poskim by many in the Orthodox community, who, to some degree or another, accept tax evasion. There is a teshuva in Teshuvos VeHanhagos that also doesn't come out against it. R. Chaim Rapoport wrote an article in a recent edition of Or Yisrael which presents several opinions on this matter. To me, and I hope to all 'rationalist Jews', these opinions are an embarrassment.

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  65. I just pointed out that there are contemporary Rabbis, regarded as Poskim by many in the Orthodox community, who, to some degree or another, accept tax evasion.

    J. עמו"ש:

    Based on the גמרא in ב"ק קי"ג ע"א, we find that the only time one may withhold taxes from a non-Jewish government, is in two cases:

    במוכס שאין לו קצבה

    במוכס העומד מאליו

    Each of these מוכסים acts against the law of the land. But, when such a government legally levies a tax, one may not withhold, as the גמרא writes:

    אלא להבריח בו את המכס מי שרי והאמר שמואל דינא דמלכותא דינא

    Based on this גמרא, it would certainly behoove any true תלמיד חכם, that a רב or פוסק could possibly accept tax evasion as being מותר, for, to do so, would literally entail being פורץ גדר.

    In times such as these however, when protecting and enabling child molesters is considered a מצוה, people say a lot of things that are כנגד כל התורה כולה.

    כל טוב

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  66. Correction

    My prior post should have read:

    Based on this גמרא, it would confound any true תלמיד חכם, that a רב or פוסק could possibly accept tax evasion as being מותר.....

    בכל טוב

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  67. the issue is pedophilia...can someone kindly point out to me where in the Torah and/or gemorrah is this overtly forbidden.
    and there are many more examples of where morally or beneficient actions are derived from the non-jewish sources and hence are disregarde as not meaningful just for that reason.

    eg. smoking, dieting, exercising, etc. etc.

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  68. the issue is pedophilia...can someone kindly point out to me where in the Torah and/or gemorrah is this overtly forbidden.

    elemir:

    Well, in addition to משכב זכר, which is forbidden directly from ויקרא כ' י"ג, there would also be קריבות (forbidden physical approaches without penetration) from חז"ל.

    In קידושין פ"ב ע"א, the משנה speaks of bachelors not teaching young boys in ישיבה. The גמרא there, in one of its attempts to discover the reason for this ban on bachelors, states:

    אילימא משום ינוקי

    'You might say, it is because of (having forbidden relations) with a young boy.' (See רש"י there)

    While this is not the final answer of the גמרא (it is because of the boys' mothers who drop them off and pick them up), it is very clear that molesting young boys is considered אסור.

    Perhaps, this will help.

    גוט שבת

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  69. "the issue is pedophilia...can someone kindly point out to me where in the Torah and/or gemorrah is this overtly forbidden."

    See Kiddushin 41a for this,
    האיש מקדש את בתו כשהיא נערה:
    נערה אין קטנה לא
    מסייע ליה לרב דאמר רב יהודה א"ר אסור לאדם שיקדש את בתו כשהיא קטנה עד שתגדיל ותאמר בפלוני אני רוצה:
    "A man may marry off his daughter when she is a naarah":
    {The implication is:} A naarah, yes, but a minor, no. This supports Rav. For Rav Yehuda cited Rav: It is forbidden for a man to marry off his daughter when she is a minor, until she grows and says "I want to be with Ploni."

    add to this the prohibition on premarital intercourse, and there you have it. explicitly.

    and the definition of pedophilia is a psychological disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a sexual preference for prepubescent children.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  70. "Based on the גמרא in ב"ק קי"ג ע"א, we find that the only time one may withhold taxes from a non-Jewish government, is in two cases:"

    but one does not typically pasken based on gemaras. what do the rishonim say on this? how do they understand these exceptions? is it a closed set or indicative of some trait in the law that would allow for other exceptions? are there other gemaras rishonim cite which mitigate, or lend different meaning, to this gemara? what about the klalei horaah, which might indicate that this gemara is not to be relied upon?

    there is a Ran, iirc, about the nature of the govt. where the implications (again, iirc) are that perhaps a democracy rather than a monarchy leads to a different applied halacha.

    i am not saying it is muttar to cheat on taxes. or that it is ethical to do so. but i do think that some of the people who say so are talmidei chachamim, and that this is not a mere issue of ignorance, where we should say "zil gmor"!

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  71. In October I posted about the "Corruption of Chareidi Leadership" ( http://wp.me/pFbfD-1n ). I was not referring to bribe taking but a broken system of decision making where a superannuated geritocratic elite, uninformed about a rapidly changing world is hostage to a coterie of askanim who are in effect pulling the puppet strings.

    The askanim and the signers of the bans are caught in a mutually reinforcing cycle of extremism where rationality has given way to a value system which places a premium on outfrumming and outbanning all others. Un-halachic clique loyalty is disguised as frumkeit.

    This system is rotting from all sorts of dysfunctional patterns. But this is irrelevant as long the insiders can convince themselves it is working.

    Alas there is no realistic possibility of compromise with such a system.

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  72. but one does not typically pasken based on gemaras.....

    joshwaxman עמו"ש:

    My role in life, is not to play the פוסק (there are far better candidates for that category). The purpose of my post was to show the מקור in the גמרא for the particular איסור of falsifying tax returns, which ראשונים and אחרונים would never contest. This particular blog is not the place to cite the vast compendium of opinions of חז"ל that say income tax fraud is אסור (something that in times such as these, we like to forget).

    .....but i do think that some of the people who say so are talmidei chachamim, and that this is not a mere issue of ignorance.....

    How interesting that you write that, because quite a few very well known תלמידי חכמים have permitted child molesters to be at large, endangering innocent children, along with other financial improprieties to which they turn a blind eye. And, you know what they say- שתיקה כהודאה דמיא.

    בכל טוב

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  73. אסור לאדם שיקדש את בתו כשהיא קטנה

    The initial question was, the issue is pedophilia...can someone kindly point out to me where in the Torah and/or gemorrah is this overtly forbidden? The key word here is 'forbidden.'

    Concerning the above ראיה from האיש מקדש, it seems that the adjoining תוספות in ד"ה אסור לאדם states that in the time of תוספות, they married their own daughters off when they were קטנות:

    ועכשיו שאנו נוהגים לקדש בנותינו אפי' קטנות היינו משום שבכל יום ויום הגלות מתגבר עלינו

    It is inconceivable to think that the בעלי תוספות permitted pedophilia.

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  74. "My role in life, is not to play the פוסק (there are far better candidates for that category). The purpose of my post was to show the מקור in the גמרא for the particular איסור of falsifying tax returns, which ראשונים and אחרונים would never contest."

    i do not understand what this statement means. how can you assert the latter without playing the former?

    "This particular blog is not the place to cite the vast compendium of opinions of חז"ל that say income tax fraud is אסור"
    Chazal, or Rishonim and Acharonim? Rishonim and Acharonim interpret the vast compendium of opinions of Chazal.

    And just because someone is a daas yachid does not mean that he is an ignoramus. And if you are implying otherwise, then you *are* taking a stand on the meaning of gemaras. Halacha is not always in line with modern sensibilities.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  75. "How interesting that you write that, because quite a few very well known תלמידי חכמים have permitted child molesters to be at large..."

    ma inyan shmitta eitzel har Sinai? perhaps they are right, as a matter of halacha, but halacha is not all that one should operate by! to show that these people don't know what they are talking about, one does have to play the posek, and engage their arguments. you cannot just say that you don't like the conclusion, and therefore they must be wrong; or alternatively, cite one gemara which they likely did consider in their halachic argument. (indeed, you seem to be saying the same thing in your pedophile argument.)

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  76. And just because someone is a daas yachid does not mean that he is an ignoramus.

    All right, then. In addition to the גמרא in בבא קמא, we find the following words of the רמב"ם in his משנה תורה גזלה ואבדה פ"ה י"א, where evasion of legitimate government taxes is אסור:

    ולא עוד אלא שהוא עובר המבריח ממכס זה מפני שהוא גוזל מנת המלך

    In ש"ע חושן משפט סימן שס"ט סעיף ו, the מחבר uses the same language as the above רמב"ם to say that tax evasion is אסור.

    In אגרות משה חושן משפט סימן פ"ח, we find that the well known רב משה פיינשטיין זצ"ל stated in regard to tax evasion, or cheating the telephone company, or the subway:

    בהברחת מכס.....הנה ודאי צריך תשובה ע"ז ולהזהר שלא לעשות עוד

    These, are simply several of many מקורות in הלכה, which state this. So, exactly who is your דעת יחיד, who says tax evasion is מותר?

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  77. To all, thank you for your responses.

    First off, i realize i made an error in using the term pedophilia, i should have said/used “child abuse”. Pedophilia is of course a condition, not a criminal act.

    But your sources are not quite relevant.

    1. the Talmud, IIRC, clearly talks about sexual acts. child abuse does not require “penetration” type activity to be damaging for the victim.
    2. also, the gemorrah, i believe sets lower age limits of 9 and 3, for this type of sexual activity to be considered ossur. again, we know there is NO age limit for child abuse.
    3. and, society views harassment and abuse even of adults as a crime, having nothing to do directly with overt sexual acts. Does the Talmud consider attempted rape of adult a crime or simply an assault for which monetary damages are assessed?

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  78. Read the letter!. This Chen character is called "a dear man", a "straight and proper man", one who has a "pure heart". So, this straight and proper guy with a pure heart must have been forced to flee the country to Canada and then Brazil to escape the serious charges against him. These are charges laid upon him by the parents of the tortured children, and by his own followers. It is incredible that rabbonim of lesser and greater reputation would lend their names to a letter supporting such a person. It is not an excuse to blame some askanim for this latest embarrassment. As that proverb goes, "Fool me once, you fooled me; fool me twice, me ____".

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  79. יש לי בעיה עם מה שהוא כותב על רב קנייבסקי: לא מצאתי את חתימתם של הרבנים אלישיב, שטיינמן וקנייבסקי על גבי המכתב שמופיע בקישור מ-ynet. אפשר לבוא בטרוניה לאלה של חתמו אבל לא אל אלה שלא חתמו. ובכלל: מה שמופיע בכתב ידו של הרב קנייבסקי כלל לא ברור מה מקורו.

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  80. Tothe person who just left a comment ask the the children and the husband and you will know that this person is a monster. Wake up and smell the coffee.

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  81. Forgive me for the potentially inappropriate comparison, but many of the Gedolim today remind me of the character of Theoden from Lord of the Rings.

    Maybe someone like R. Slifkin can be our Gandalf, breaking the spell of the Askanim / Grima's of the world over the Gedolim.

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  82. dlz

    There are many troubling things in our tradition, stealing from nochrim ( hamevin yavin ) being the least of them.

    See this article:

    David Goldstein, "A Lonely Champion of Tolerance: R. Menachem ha-Meiri's Attitude Towards Non-Jews"

    Luckly, it seems that there is at least one credible Rishon who disagrees ( RamBaN ) and many contemporary MO Rabbis, see this post:

    Mekorot For Paskening Meiri, Saving a Nochri on Shabbat

    Unfortunately, it would seem that most of our "Gedolim" still hold by these anachronistic anti-Nochri practices.

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  83. Rabbi Slifkin,
    With all due respect, what is the point in posting the above entry?
    I understand your agenda to prove that Hazal's scientific statements are innacurate, and I agree with you.
    But it seems your blog is moving dangerously close towards that of The Real Messiah, run by an angry ex-Chabad man who posts anything negative on Judaism, with a special focus on scandals in leadership.
    Your post on R. Kanievsky seems to serve no purpose except for defiling his charachter, one that is known to be par excellance.
    If there is really no toeles stemming from this post, then you risk passing the line of spreading loshon hara about a Rabbi, which the Talmud says the punishment is an automatic loss of Olam Haba.
    Please explain your motives in entries like these.
    Respectfully,
    Aaron

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  84. I appreciate your comment, and I am trying very hard not to slide into the bitterness and rantings that plague so many blogs.
    But I think that it is important for people to be informed about the nature of leadership in the charedi world, and to make their life decisions accordingly. A lot of people make their life decisions regarding parnasah and so on based on the charedi leadership.

    ReplyDelete

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