Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Differences Between Charedi and Dati-Leumi Rabbanim


Even if you don't live in Bet Shemesh, the municipal elections are extremely instructive. For example, they bring out the differences between charedi and dati-leumi (national-religious) rabbis.

Here is a letter by local Charedi rabbonim in support of incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbol (click to enlarge):


And here is a letter by local Dati-Leumi rabbanim in support of challenger Eli Cohen (click to enlarge):


Note the striking differences:

1) Authority.

The dati-leumi rabbanim "call upon" people to "work for" the election of Eli Cohen.

The chareidi rabbonim, on the other hand, say that it is an "obligation" to vote for Abutbol, and that it is "forbidden to separate from the community." They add that those who do so are in the category of "blessed is the one who fulfills this Torah" - with the unspoken but obvious inference that those who do not, are in the category of "cursed is the one who does not fulfill this Torah."

This is consistent with how one of the signatories, Rabbi Elimelech Kornfeld, said in an interview with HaModia that people have no right to choose who to vote for - they must follow (charedi) rabbinic opinion. Abutbol himself, at a recent community meeting, told the audience that his answers to their questions don't matter - they should vote for him because the Gedolim said so.

(I must add that one of the signatories to this letter later clarified that he doesn't think that people are actually obligated to vote for Abutbol, if they strongly feel otherwise. Personally, I think that this makes thing worse - why did he sign something that he doesn't agree with?)

In the ultimate example of this, Rav Chaim Kanievsky stated that anyone who does not vote for the charedi party is chayyav sekilah - liable for being stoned to death!

We see that charedi rabbonim use their position to exert maximal power and control over their followers. Dati-leumi rabbanim have more respect for their followers.

2) Positive vs. Negative.

The dati-leumi rabbanim speak only about the positive importance of voting for Eli Cohen.

The charedi-rabbanim speak about the negatives of voting for anyone opposing Abutbol - "chas v'shalom to vote for someone who is not Charedi or for a party that the Rabbonim do not approve of."

3) The Nature of Torah Values.

I don't think that it's reading too much into things to say that the Jewish values that are stressed by the charedi rabbonim in this letter are exclusively bein adam l'Makom - religious matters between man and God.

The dati-leumi rabbanim, on the other hand, not only speak about the importance of Shabbat and religious life, but also stress how Eli Cohen will be fulfilling the mitzvah of Ve'ahavta lereyacha kamocha.

This difference in values is consistent with the candidates' respective campaigns. Eli Cohen's campaign has been clean. Abutbol's campaign has centered upon character assassination, hate-mongering, and even physical violence. The Chadash newspaper, which is the mayor's mouthpiece, charged Eli Cohen five times the normal price for printing an ad - but then did not print the ad! (A criminal complaint is pending.) And see this post at "Life In Israel:" How Can They Support This?

For the charedi rabbonim, "Torah values" only refers to bein adam l'Makom; bein adam l'chavero can be sacrificed in support of that. For the dati-leumi rabbanim, bein adam l'chavero is of at least equal importance.

4) Sectorial vs. Community-Wide Concerns

The charedi rabbonim stress how Abutbol, and the charedi party, are the best for furthering charedi concerns and the interests of the charedi community.

In contrast, the dati-leumi rabbanim write about how Cohen is the best for all the residents of the city, from charedi through non-religious.

In fact, tonight I attended a rally of dati-leumi rabbanim in support of Eli Cohen (see picture at right). The constant theme was about how it is not a matter of Eli Cohen being the best person for the dati-leumi community, but about him being the best mayor for everyone. Eli himself spoke mostly about how he wants to make the city better for charedim. While Moshe Montag of the Charedi "Chen" party reportedly stated that he wants to take away the plot of land for Lemaan Achai, the non-charedi charity organization, the dati-leumi rabbanim stressed that they have no interest in advancing their own community concerns over those of charedim or chilonim. One rav spoke in dismay about how a charedi friend of his assumes that if Eli Cohen wins, there will be "payback" and subsequent favoring of the dati-leumi sector. The dati-leumi rabbanim just don't think in those terms! Unlike the charedi rabbanim, they are interested in the welfare of all Jews in the city, not just those of their own constituencies. (I plan to write a post with further discussion of this point.)

As I said, the Bet Shemesh elections are instructive for Jewish society in general.

23 comments:

  1. Kol Hakovod for what you wrote tonight. I am impressed in your wording and your caringness.

    Thanks for writing it and seeing the light. :)

    Keep up the great work!!!
    Reuven

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  2. The only thing that I'll quibble with is that in a democracy, the candidates will pander and stoop down to what the voters want to hear.

    In the Charedi community, it is often the case that people want to be told what to do. Uncertainty is difficult; it is much easier to hand over he decision to someone else. Daas Torah is not necessarily something forced onto people; it is something that gives them both an anchor and a crutch. If I have a difficult life decision to make, it is a lot easier to avoid the anxiety, wavering and second-guessing that inevitably accompanies such a decision, when I can shift the responsibility to someone via Daas Torah.

    So I would qualify this statement: "We see that charedi rabbonim use their position to exert maximal power and control over their followers. Dati-leumi rabbanim have more respect for their followers." This is a two-way street. The Charedi followers are often looking for the black/white, yes/no, good/evil direction while Dati-leumi "followers" are not and are also not willing to accept this.

    The same comment applies to this: "The charedi rabbonim stress how Abutbol, and the charedi party, are the best for furthering charedi concerns and the interests of the charedi community.

    In contrast, the dati-leumi rabbanim write about how Cohen is the best for all the residents of the city, from charedi through non-religious."


    Part of this is probably due to the fact that the Dati-leumi voters are more steeped in a "good government" ideal than the Charedi voters. It sounds better to vote for such a candidate than one who is very explicit about his sectarianism. Nevertheless, if whoever in power wishes to be re-elected, he will need to favor interests that are most likely to help him get re-elected in cases where there really is a zero-sum game (improving trash disposal is clearly not one of those things).

    So I agree with >90% of what you say here, and if I had a vote it would be with Eli Cohen, but we do need to be careful about making the issue as black and white as your opponents do in a different way.

    And despite everything above, if a posek really does "pasken" seriously that voting the wrong way makes someone Chayav S'kilah, I agree that he will have to answer for that one day.

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  3. "Torah values" only refers to bein adam l'Makom

    Actually, it very much has to do with "bein adam l'chavero" - because the whole point of invoking the "Makom" is to get your "chaver" to do whatever you say!

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  4. Very instructive indeed. Enjoyably written blog post. Thanks.

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  5. To put it somewhat simpler, these charedim are bullies.

    And as everyone knows the only thing to do with bullies is to stand up to them. There is no mollifying a bully that only enrages him and causes him to bully further.

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  6. "For the dati-leumi rabbanim, bein adam l'chavero is of at least equal importance."

    But chas vechalila that someone should see bein adam le'chavero as more important.

    Hillel Hazaken clearly didn't know what he was talking about when he spoke to the convert.

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  7. So why do you still identify yourself as Chareidi and not as Dati?

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  8. I am somewhat of an outside observer, since I don't know all the infighting between those saying to vote Eitz and those saying to vote Gimmel (two charedi parties in their own right)--but Rav Chaim Kanievsky is being quoted to sway people to vote for one of the two parties in question (the concern being that the other side also has big Rabbonim saying to vote their way).

    On the other hand, maybe what I'm saying is totally irrelevant to the topic of Rabbi Slifkin's post.

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  9. So why do you still identify yourself as Chareidi and not as Dati?

    I don't!

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  10. So why do you still identify yourself as Chareidi and not as Dati?

    I don't!

    "Sh", you must be confusing this blog's author with Nosson Slifkin.

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  11. They are bullies plus they are kind of stupid and they assume that you are even more stupid. One gets to a point where he can't force himself to follow people like this. It is so obviously self-serving. Not the first in history to use the masses for their own purpose and try to convince everyone it's a holy war.

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  12. there is a rational reason for charedim to listen to their rabbis when it comes to voting

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-09-07/news/gotham-s-crusaders-shomrim-jewish-neighborhood-patrol/3/

    Off the record, Brooklyn political players acknowledge another factor: The Shomrim have juice.

    "There's no getting around the fact that this community has an enormous amount of power in Brooklyn politics," says one elected official who didn't wish to be identified for fear of alienating constituents. "They're the most disciplined voting bloc there is—people vote for who their rabbis tell them to vote for. That gives them a power totally out of proportion to their actual size. You can't run for office without kissing those rings."

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  13. Jews, stop being pygmies-use your brains.

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  14. there is a rational reason for charedim to listen to their rabbis when it comes to voting

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-09-07/news/gotham-s-crusaders-shomrim-jewish-neighborhood-patrol/3/

    Off the record, Brooklyn political players acknowledge another factor: The Shomrim have juice.

    "There's no getting around the fact that this community has an enormous amount of power in Brooklyn politics," says one elected official who didn't wish to be identified for fear of alienating constituents. "They're the most disciplined voting bloc there is—people vote for who their rabbis tell them to vote for. That gives them a power totally out of proportion to their actual size. You can't run for office without kissing those rings."


    As a minority, you increase your power via bloc voting. If you are a majority, the calculus is different.

    In addition, this power can cut both ways. Until they were embarrassed recently by bad publicity, the prosecutors in Brooklyn were not properly investigating abuse because of the political influence.

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  15. Just wondering, where does it say that there is a chiyuv skilah for causing a Chillul Hashem?

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  16. When's election day in Beit Shemesh?

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  17. I was always under the impression that in Israel, the Rabbi or candidate who bangs on the podium or table the loudest and the most often as well as screams the loudest, wins the argument. How do the 2 candidates stack up on these crucial issues?

    Libby Ba'Mizrach

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  18. "Just wondering, where does it say that there is a chiyuv skilah for causing a Chillul Hashem?"

    R. Chaim was asked this question as well(see Matzav article linked here):

    "When Rav Shlomo asked his father about the fact that this is not written explicitly anywhere in Chazal, Rav Chaim replied that “we are talking about chillul Sheim Shomayim and this is worse than one who desecrates the Shabbos, even though it is not written explicitly.”

    http://matzav.com/maran-rav-chaim-kanievsky-those-who-are-mevazeh-gedolim-are-deserving-of-sekilah

    In “Chareidim L’kol Davar”(Mishpacha June 4, 2008), Yonason Rosenblum writes:

    "Even though pikuach nefesh overrides all but three cardinal transgressions, both Rabbi Elazar Menachem Schach and Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky, z”l, told Rabbi Moshe Sherer, in response to a query he had put to them, that rule does not apply where there is likelihood of chilul Hashem."

    Regarding some harsh rabbinic statements in general, perhaps they also need to be understood from a background of people fighting for their survival. As R. Adlerstein wrote on Cross Currents:

    “A question arose about John Chrysostom, the fourth century Church Father who put the charge of deicide on the map, and whose vitriol against Jews was surpassed by none, and embraced for centuries thereafter, including by the Nazis. Chrysostom remains a Saint in the Church, and many Jews get unhinged by the mention of his name. The priest, however, was completely unfazed by the question, and calmly related that in the fourth century the Church was fighing for survival, and felt very pressured by Judaism, and therefore used language and methods that contemporary Christians completely reject. Essentially, he said, “that’s the way we once behaved, regrettably. We’ve moved on since then.” What’s good for the goose is good for the gandz. Mutatis mutandis, the disparaging remarks – if in fact directed against Yeshu – must be understood in the context of struggle between mainstream Judaism and early Jewish-Christians.”(Feldman’s Folly (Part One)”, Cross Currents, July 27th, 2007)

    In a different vein, R. Torczyner wrote(Rebbetzin's Husband, June 2013):

    "However, I don't think it's fair to criticize Israeli Chareidim for the violence of their speech. We are talking about people who are being forced to radically change their lives or face starvation, aside from feeling that they are under ideological siege by a powerful majority. If it was fair for Jews in Gaza facing Disengagement to sharply criticize those who evacuated them - and the term "rasha" is hardly the worst term they used at the time - then it is fair for Chareidim to use such language now. Being wrong does not mean they cannot be upset...But when it comes to their livelihood and the existence of their community in the form they desire - This isn't about ideological debate, or delivering tochachah with a positive tone. These are people who feel their lives are being threatened. "

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  19. Rav Chaim K.'s comment about being chayav skilah for voting for another party was referring specifically about voting for Eitz which is a chareidi party as well. It has to do with the split between the followers of Rav Shteinman and Rav Shmuel O. Rav Kanievsky feels that voting for Eitz is a slap in the face of Rav Shteinman.

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  20. It has to do with the split between the followers of Rav Shteinman and Rav Shmuel O. Rav Kanievsky feels that voting for Eitz is a slap in the face of Rav Shteinman.

    Thanks for the clarification. I was scratching my head about this today as I looked at the political hand bills strewn about the streets of Har Nof. So "eitz" thinks that gimmel isn't frum enough - is that it?

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  21. Yitz Waxman wrote, "So "eitz" thinks that gimmel isn't frum enough - is that it?"

    My impression from reading some of the Eitz literature is that the Gimmel representatives have shown signs of conceding on going to the army, trying to arrange job training programs for charedim (in fields not related to Torah or chinuch), etc.

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  22. That was the same line of thinking for voting for Ariel Sharon, and look where that got us.

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  23. Who and what are ''Eits'',please?

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