Sunday, April 21, 2013

All Those Gedolei Torah, And You're Still Scared?

So we have the (alleged?) real reason why today's anti-sharing-military/economic-burden-with-charedim rally was cancelled. And it isn't any of the sensible reasons that I proposed the other day. According to a statement by Agudath Israel spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran to The Jerusalem Post, the cancellation is due to “security concerns in the wake of the terrible terror attack earlier this week in Boston.” The senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis, Shafran told the Post on Friday, “felt that now would not be an appropriate time to gather masses of visibly Jewish Jews into one area for such an [event].”

Surely, Agudath Israel, you can't be serious!

Why can't their Torah protect them?

Yes, I know, the protection of Torah is not automatic. And you have to do hishtadlus, yada yada.

But let's make a comparison.

The Boston attack, as terrible as it was, was the first such attack in over ten years. The odds of another terror attack taking place, for an event organized at very short notice, are absolutely minimal.  And yet a concentrated gathering of the top Gedolim in America, accompanied by the avreichim and bochrim of the kollelim and yeshivos, devoutly immersed in tefillah, nevertheless still isn't good enough to merit Divine protection.

But they are insisting that their Torah is good enough to merit protection against the ongoing, very real, vastly more serious threat of not just one or two terrorists, but many thousands of terrorists inside Israel and entire armies outside of Israel?! And that's (allegedly) why they are protesting against those who would have them take some time off their learning and share the burden of military service?

As I've said before, on more than one occasion: when it really counts, charedim don't really believe that their Torah provides protection. They only believe it insofar as exempting themselves from obligations towards the state - not insofar as actually staking their own safety on it providing the slightest protective effect.

41 comments:

  1. I'm actually disappointed at this point. Firstly because you're British and British sarcasm is certainly far more subtle than what you've written here.
    Secondly, I could retort that we have a principle that we don't show off our special connection with God. Many Chasidic masters didn't perform public miracles so as not to draw attention to themselves. Perhaps what Shafran and his masters are really trying to say is that while they are not worried about any danger due to the protection of Daas Torah they do not wish to show this off to the surrounding gentile society. The dynamics in Israel where the gentiles are mostly Jewish would be quite different.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Do you have to pounce on everything a chareidi says?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think that a statement by the Moetzes Gedolei Torah regarding an event of communal significance counts as "everything a charedi says."

    ReplyDelete
  4. I suspect that Shafran's excuse for cancelling the gathering is a lie. If it were true, why didn't he say it several days ago, when they decided to cancel the event? And I am not aware of any other event in the country that has been cancelled. All sporting events are going ahead as planned even in Boston.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Imagine if every single last one of the two famous American Roshei Yeshiva were taken out in an attack! there's a reason The President and Vice President dont travel together.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Imagine if every single last one of the two famous American Roshei Yeshiva were taken out in an attack! there's a reason The President and Vice President dont travel together.

    http://memegenerator.net/instance/37161199

    ReplyDelete
  7. Natan - It is very unfortunate that the so-called Chareidi world is not savvy in the field of media relations. That aside, what's your point? How can you say that "the chareidim" are guilty of selective bitachon, use dismissive vernacular (yada yada) and just generally discount such a huge number of people? Your title does not invite productive dialogue; it invites vicious attacks. It is juvenile at best and insidious at worst. Have you not made any mistakes in your life? Do you have conclusive sources that tell you that there was an effort on the part of Gedolei Yisrael to arrange such a (doomed) gathering? If not, your attack would be better aimed at the reporters of such nonsense; don't address the "others" who then join your crusade of bad-mouthing Gedolim. The written word is just as dangerous as pictures. Case in point: The New York Post and other less-than-credible sources published a picture of a young man they decided was a suspect in the Boston Marathon attack. He was made miserable until they cleared his name. Why are you pointing at Limud HaTorah and Chareidi leadership to blame them for a crime perpetrated by ill-writen sources?
    What is the goal? If you believe that your interests are those of The Divine, it behooves you to consider the logical conclusion: Let us suppose you are correct. Chareidim are unfair and irrational. All of them. Including the Chareidi Gedolim you reference. Who are the others? What good has come from this piece? How much closer are to the ultimate redemption and the final revelation; Knowledge of God?
    I am genuinely interested in your response. I hope you will share.

    ReplyDelete
  8. How can you say that "the chareidim" are guilty of selective bitachon, use dismissive vernacular (yada yada) and just generally discount such a huge number of people?

    Because it's true?

    Have you not made any mistakes in your life?

    Sure. And when people believe that my mistakes harm others, they call me out on them.

    Do you have conclusive sources that tell you that there was an effort on the part of Gedolei Yisrael to arrange such a (doomed) gathering?

    Of course. Didn't you read my posts?

    Why are you pointing at Limud HaTorah and Chareidi leadership to blame them for a crime perpetrated by ill-writen sources?

    Why are you blaming me for false accusations without first finding out if I am indeed relying on ill-written sources? (And I can't resist pointing out that the Gedolim rely on unreliable sources all the time!)

    What is the goal?

    To straighten people out. More on this in an upcoming post.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Because it's true?

    There is much significance to the difference between: "Here is where you err" and a generally dismissive attitude toward an entire population of presumably decent people.

    Sure. And when people believe that my mistakes harm others, they call me out on them.

    I should have been more specific. If I am to believe as you suggest that the real reason for calling off this gathering was that K'vod HaRabonim felt it was not a good idea, on second thought, why criticize their decision?

    Of course. Didn't you read my posts?

    Es Chata'ai Ani Mazkir HaYom

    Why are you blaming me for false accusations without first finding out if I am indeed relying on ill-written sources? (And I can't resist pointing out that the Gedolim rely on unreliable sources all the time!)

    I did not blame you for false accusations; misdirected accusations. The frequency with which you aim your critique at men who are guilty of not protecting their signatures, is astonishing. True, I took geat pleasure when Rav Sheinberg Z"L would publish rebuttals and clarifications when his name was misused, but you make it sound like the elders of zion are out to attack their own....


    What is the goal?

    To straighten people out. More on this in an upcoming post.

    I look forwrad to that post. In the interim, may I suggest that Kocha D'Heteira Adif does not only apply to chalav Stam and Maros. The overall approach of positivity will effect longer-lasting change. Offense is the best defense; not the other way around. If we are to raise children who fight for what is right then they must become intimately familiar with that "right"; smell a hundred flowers. Know that none is the rose. You'll never know what an actual rose smells like.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There is much significance to the difference between: "Here is where you err" and a generally dismissive attitude toward an entire population of presumably decent people.

    They are decent people. But the societal model is deeply, deeply flawed.

    If I am to believe as you suggest that the real reason for calling off this gathering was that K'vod HaRabonim felt it was not a good idea, on second thought, why criticize their decision?

    For the reasons stated in the post!

    The frequency with which you aim your critique at men who are guilty of not protecting their signatures, is astonishing.

    Your denial of the deeply-held positions of the Gedolim is astonishing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The overall approach of positivity will effect longer-lasting change.

    Perhaps, and it's a personal nisayon for me (which was exacerbated by my personal experiences at the hands of the Gedolim). But effecting change also occurs with calling out problems.

    ReplyDelete
  12. They planned a protest against the policies of the State of Israel but had to cancel it because it's not a good time for so many visibly Jewish people to gather in one place?

    Oh, the irony.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Rabbi Slifkin, the fact that this post brought out some ignorant Charedi commenters to vomit all over their keyboard just means that you hit a nerve. Save your energy, you don't need to respond to them any more than you need to bark back at a yelping poodle.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Rabbi Slifkin - thank you for your responses. I do hope you did not feel compelled to respond; or at least no more than you would feel compelled to respond to a yelping poodle.
    Dan - if I am that poodle then????not sure...But why did you have to get mean?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Many Chasidic masters didn't perform public miracles so as not to draw attention to themselves

    Well, that's one reason...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Firstly because you're British and British sarcasm is certainly far more subtle than what you've written here.

    I wish you wouldn't tar an entire community with the same brush.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Secondly, I could retort that we have a principle that we don't show off our special connection with God.

    I hardly think that anyone, Jew or Gentile, would have been thinking "Wow they are really relying on Divine protection" had they held the rally.

    Many Chasidic masters didn't perform public miracles so as not to draw attention to themselves.

    Is the value of Judaism in its ability to enable its great practitioners to do parlor tricks? I certainly hope not.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Natan Slifkin: "And when people believe that my mistakes harm others, they call me out on them."

    For now the Chareidi population is not big enough that it's absence in the military could cause harm. Actually it was reported that a Chareidi Gadol had said the rally should not be held. I don't know why. Since I don't know why I won't waste my time with speculation. I see what really is the difference between you and your opponents is who you consider to be worthy of Mivatling Daas to.

    ReplyDelete
  19. RNS you've made a logical error by assuming there is a correlation between the probability of an attack and the level of heavenly protection required.
    Although I support your conclusion am not sure if your argument here quite adds up..

    ReplyDelete
  20. "RNS you've made a logical error by assuming there is a correlation between the probability of an attack and the level of heavenly protection required."

    Exlain the logical error, please. Sounds like a classic kal vichomer to me. If bochurim and avreichim are sufficient to protect a large area (Israel) where threats are real, kal vichomer they should be large enough to protect a small area, where the threat is only suspected.

    It's a good catch by R. Slifkin and of course he is right, the problem is that it's all too easy to catch the charedi world in such things, it's not a world built upon emes.

    Cal Vachomer

    ReplyDelete
  21. Avi,

    Here is a perfect example of selective bitachon by the Cgaredi leadership Should we go to the best doctor?, flying in the world's top expert to operate on R' Elyashiv instead of using a local doctor. As I wrote there:

    shouldn't bringing the top surgeon be too much השתדלות and a lack of בטחון? After all, Hashem is doing the healing not the surgeon and once we have done our השתדלות, going to the doctor and having the surgery, why should it matter whether the surgeon is the best in the world or simply Joe surgeon who is competent? As long as we do our השתדלות to avoid requiring a נס, the rest is a גזירה מן השמים. If the גזירה is that the surgery will be successful, then it will be successful even if done by the average surgeon, and if the גזירה is that it won't be successful then it won't help that you have the best surgeon.

    ReplyDelete
  22. bluke:

    I happened to have made you case to a local Rosh Yeshiva, and he answered the following: The Torah says "Shomor et Nafshecha Meode" - the word Meode teaches us that when in comes eminent health concerns we can go above and beyond the normal hishtadlus that we say should be sufficient in matters like parnasah.

    IMHO, then context of that verse is about guarding your soul not your body from sin. But,I am curious to hear people's thoughts on this Rosh Yeshiva's response.

    ReplyDelete
  23. why should it matter whether the surgeon is the best in the world or simply Joe surgeon who is competent?

    A successful surgery by the top surgeon is more in line with following the natural order of the universe than a successful surgery by a mediocre surgeon. You can't do a statistical analysis and conclude that the marginal difference in hishtadlut is not significant. Think of it as more mehudar hishtadlut. It makes no less sense than spending extra money on a prettier etrog.

    ReplyDelete
  24. RNS you've made a logical error by assuming there is a correlation between the probability of an attack and the level of heavenly protection required.

    It was not R. Slifkin, but the quoted statement that implied this: "security concerns in the wake of the terrible terror attack earlier this week in Boston.". If there is no correlation between the probability of the attack and the amount of "Hishtadlus" required to prevent it, then there would be no reason to cancel.

    ReplyDelete
  25. You can't do a statistical analysis and conclude that the marginal difference in hishtadlut is not significant. Think of it as more mehudar hishtadlut. It makes no less sense than spending extra money on a prettier etrog.

    The problem with this reasoning is that then there is no difference between "hishtadlut" and ordinary decision making because you think that your decisions will make a difference. They always will come out to the same result, because you can always add in a litte more "hishtadlut".

    ReplyDelete
  26. @Yitz A successful surgery by the top surgeon is more in line with following the natural order of the universe than a successful surgery by a mediocre surgeon. You can't do a statistical analysis and conclude that the marginal difference in hishtadlut is not significant.

    How is that different from taking a second job for more income? In the natural order of the universe, people with second jobs have more disposable income. Yet, in there are chareidi rabbis who will say that you're wasting your time taking a second job (that could be spent learning) because the first job covered your histadlut requirement. i.e. all the extra income you think you'll realize from the second job will be consumed by unexpected expenses, etc. Any perceived net gain because of the second job would have come your way anyway e.g The boss on you first job would have given you a raise.

    ReplyDelete
  27. David,

    Correct; hishtadlut = normal decision making. It's only a problem if you go against our tradition of "olam ke-minhago noheg", and buy into this idea(Muslim, actually)that God controls all, and nothing we do can alter anything. The Arab philosopher Al Ghazali actually wrote that if a person who was faint from hunger revives after some noursishment, do NOT make the mistake of thinking that the food had anything to do with it; rather it was Allah's will that he feel better at that precise moment. The food was just a coincedence.
    This thinking retarded the Arabs' progress for the last 800 years.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Ezra said...
    David,

    Correct; hishtadlut = normal decision making. It's only a problem if you go against our tradition of "olam ke-minhago noheg", and buy into this idea(Muslim, actually)that God controls all, and nothing we do can alter anything. The Arab philosopher Al Ghazali actually wrote that if a person who was faint from hunger revives after some noursishment, do NOT make the mistake of thinking that the food had anything to do with it; rather it was Allah's will that he feel better at that precise moment. The food was just a coincedence.
    This thinking retarded the Arabs' progress for the last 800 years.


    I don't think that we're disagreeing. Just to make it clear, I personally think that concept of Hishtadlu(t/s) as it is usually described is confused and fairly useless. Usually it is mental "get of out jail free card" when someone realizes that their understanding of God's providence would lead absurd results; you just say "histadlut", discard your mental model, and act like anyone else would.

    What I was arguing was that if you think the concept has some value and coherence, it has to be somehow distinguished from "usual" decision making. If you allow for "extra hishtadlut", then the concept loses all coherence because you know longer can say "only do this much and leave the rest in God's hands". You can always do "extra hishtadlut".

    ReplyDelete
  29. "The dynamics in Israel where the gentiles are mostly Jewish would be quite different."

    Gentile Jews?

    ReplyDelete
  30. It's only a problem if you go against our tradition of "olam ke-minhago noheg", and buy into this idea(Muslim, actually)that God controls all, and nothing we do can alter anything.

    I'm certainly not an expert, but this is to some degree a Jewish idea (perhaps via Islam). Rabbeinu Bachya goes as far as doubting free will, although he realizes the possible impact to people's behavior and attitude of this concept, and so advises acting as if you have free will.

    This thinking retarded the Arabs' progress for the last 800 years

    I'm skeptical that that any kind of "philosophising" bars progress. It is when the thought is suppressed or abandoned due to outside forces that progress stops. And the Calvinists and others also believed in predestination at a later date.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The prevalent (only?) Charedi hashkafa today is that not even a leaf falls without it being a גזירה מן שמים and that השתדלות has no effect, it is just an illusion. השתדלות is just so that we avoid ניסים גלוים (see מכתב מאליהו, חזון איש אמונה ובטחון and others). If so why be upset with Bennet and Lapid? In fact, the Chinuch states exactly this when explaining the mitzva of לא תקם. He says why take revenge on the person who wronged you, it wasn't really him anyway, it was Hashem. The same should apply to Bennet and Lapid. It is not them cutting the Charedi budget it is a גזירה/punishment from Hashem. If anything the leadership should be doing a חשבון הנפש asking why is Hashem suddenly cutting their monetary support?

    What we see is that many in the Charedi world have bitachon up to a point but when the going gets tough many suddenly do a lot of השתדלות.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I'm skeptical that that any kind of "philosophising" bars progress. It is when the thought is suppressed or abandoned due to outside forces that progress stops.

    Philosophical theories, properly applied, can stop progress dead in its tracks.

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3114/muslims-ijtihad

    ReplyDelete
  33. David,

    I think you underestimate the power of ideas. As far as Calvinists, it's true that they held that whether you were "saved" or not was pre-determined, but still they were part of the Protestant Revolution. And it was Protestants - who broke from the Church & got used to taking control of their lives - who became much more productive and innovative than Catholics.
    Getting back to Judaism, I think we always had a balance between pious sentiments & practical thinking.



    ReplyDelete
  34. The post certainly has logic. However, it is not unimpeachable. Consider, that the Agudah leadership may not believe that a demonstration in NY would have any effect on the Israeli government. Then such a demo would be merely a token of solidarity with their Israeli Hareidim cohorts. As such, taking students away from their gemaras to attend such a political event would be considered bitul torah - if not bitul zeman. Then no special protection may be afforded the attendees and those who address the rally. Correspondingly,
    the action of the Israeli government in threatening to draft yeshiva bachurim and kollelniks, or at least remove their governmental economic support, would serve to take those men away from their gemaras. The threatened 'action' by the Agudah would then be in line with that of the Israeli government. So, the Agudah leadership saw the light and withdrew their 'threat'. Of course, it may also be true that Rav Steinman in Israel was against such a demonstration for similar reasons. In any case, the rationale given by the Agudah PR people for the withdrawal is primarily pro forma.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm skeptical that that any kind of "philosophising" bars progress. It is when the thought is suppressed or abandoned due to outside forces that progress stops.


    Philosophical theories, properly applied, can stop progress dead in its tracks.

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3114/muslims-ijtihad


    Undoubtedly, if your idea, for example, is that all books should be burned and then you execute on it, that will retard progress. And any idea can be seized upon by tyrants (and in more modern times, totalitarians) to help them gain control and supress dissent.

    What I'm skeptical of is that some abstract idea like "actions are predetermined" is going to seep into peoples heads and make them stop progressing, by nature of the idea itself. Ideas can be discarded if they don't work, if force is not used to suppress them. And I can be build tyranny on almost any concept taken to the extreme and backed by forced. All I need is good guys and bad guys; insiders and outsiders.

    From your source:

    Muslim scholars also appear to have decided that as all questions had been addressed, there was no longer any need to exercise independent judgment. The result was that exercising independent judgment became no longer permissible.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I think you underestimate the power of ideas.

    We won't agree, but I think the opposite. The power of ideas is what is going prevent people from getting stuck: if some idea is blocking progress there will be others that take over, unless they are barred by force. Of course, this is just a generality.

    As far as Calvinists, it's true that they held that whether you were "saved" or not was pre-determined, but still they were part of the Protestant Revolution. And it was Protestants - who broke from the Church & got used to taking control of their lives - who became much more productive and innovative than Catholics.

    So then this counts against your theory, no? They were productive despite the idea that was supposed to make them unproductive. My limited understanding is that they worked around predestination by coming up with the idea that by your good works, you could prove that you were always one of the predestined elect (a variant of Hishtadlut, I suppose).

    If you asked Al Ghazali, would he have said that one should sit on the couch watching TV, or would he have said, like Rabbeinu Bachya, that one should act with indifference to his theory?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'm glad this event was cancelled. While I will criticize Israeli government policies (and in fact just pointed out that only in Israel do Jews get arrested for praying) I will never, Never, NEVER participate in an anti-Israel demonstration in galut. I still remember the anger I felt when I first say Neturei Karta members waving Palestinian flags at a pro-Israel rally.

    ReplyDelete
  38. David,
    I don't think I made myself clear regarding the Calvinists. We don't disagree greatly.

    As to your question regarding Al Ghazali - I think hewould have said it makes absolutely no difference if you made an effort or not. The reason the Muslims got "stuck" & we did not, is in my opinion, that the Arabs took Al Ghazali at his word, with no counter-balance. In jewsih tradtion, you always had a balance of "on the one hand, x, but on the other hand ..."
    For example, a person should consider himself worthless, and at the same time, the most important thing in the world. It's that sense of balance that has kept Judaism vibrant.

    And, we should point out, it's a lack of such balance that is the most disheartening thing about Chareidim today. Some of their goals are admirable, but they seem totally unbalanced.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Though I may be sympathetic to alot of your writings that i have come across till now, this has gone overboard. Perhaps bigoted is the right word.
    Assuming that was the real reason for cancelling, [though i doubt it was, for the reasons you mentioned] then it is quite different to being already in a certain position to putting yourself in a situation.
    I'm sure you know that too.
    Torah protects.
    But do you put a large community in a position where there might be danger, relying on that protection?
    You know quite well that one is not supposed to.
    Shmuel HaNovi 'needed' a reason why he was going to anoint Dovid - even though he was a massive Talmid Chochom and was carrying out G-d's instruction.
    Either i've misunderstood you, or you've lost it..

    ReplyDelete
  40. >>As I've said before, on more than one occasion: when it really counts, charedim don't really believe that their Torah provides protection.<<

    This has nothing to do with believe or disbelieve. We don't have right to expect Hashem will perform a miracle for us every time we are in danger-- we are required to make reasonable efforts to avoid unnecessary danger.

    ReplyDelete

  41. It does not require a miracle to make things safe in downtown Manhattan. If Torah can't even provide safety in Manhattan, then why claim that it can provide safety in Israel? Soldiers, on the other hand, can provide safety, and it's not considered "relying on a miracle" to have them.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.