Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Belz Forgets Budapest

This week saw an extraordinary and tragic confluence of events relating to Belz, who recently threatened to leave Israel over the new draft law.

Last Shabbos, the fifth Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissocher Dov Rokeach, spoke to thousands of his followers during the tisch. He said, “We don’t need the state or the government. We need batei medrashim and yeshivos to continue avodas Hashem and to educate the children in the derech of avodas Hashem and the responsibility of a life of Torah and kiyum mitzvos and anxiously awaiting the redemption by Moshiach.”

Yesterday, hundreds of rabbis gathered in Budapest for a memorial ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry. They stood at the Danube River, where a memorial displays sixty pairs of iron shoes, in commemoration of victims who were forced by Arrow Cross militiamen to stand by the river's edge and take their shoes off before being shot into the river.

Seventy years ago, the fourth Belzer Rebbe, R. Aharon Rokeach, left Budapest, where he had been living after fleeing the Gestapo in Poland. His half-brother Mordechai read out his farewell speech to thousands of Jews. In this speech, he told the gathered crowds that the Rebbe assured them that they will enjoy good and tranquility in Hungary. The Rebbe was able to leave to Palestine, fulfilling a lifelong dream, due to the help of the Zionists, who obtained special travel certificates for him. Two months later, the Nazis arrived in Budapest, and deported all the Jews to Auschwitz.

69 comments:

  1. But on the other hand, he does recommend his followers to work for a living.

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  2. And the Satmar Rebbe was rescued by the Zionist activist, Rudolph Kastner

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  3. Tom Voletz Said it,
    The Zionists could have saved a million charedim, instead they chose to save their own, it's not for nothing that the Chazon Ish called them Eiruv Rav, and today we can see how right he was! Just read Ben Gurion's memoirs, or Herzl's antisemitism, or Ussishkin or Jabotinsky or Read Ben Hecht's book, or open your eyes!!!
    Happy is He who trusts in Hashem, and Not in the people, and certainly not in Zionists!
    This blog posting is sad and disgraceful, if anything it shows that the Rebbe learnt from his predecessor to get the chassidim out of an enemy combatant anti-semitic country which Israel is turning into as far as Torah Jews is concerned

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  4. This sad story is well known and indeed recounted by eyewitnesses who survived the mass deportations of 1944. Just as well known, though fiercely denied by today's Belzer chasidim, is the revisionist history whereby Belz in its publications of the previous Rebbe's drashas, letters, etc. has redacted that portion of the Rebbe's drasha in which he urged all to stay put in Hungary and assured them of their safety. The Belzer Rebbe, Reb Aharon, was surely a holy man; but a man nonetheless and, thus, not infallible. The refusal to acknowledge this fact and its corollary -- that sometimes even a holy person is wrong -- stems from the chareidi world's ever growing need to beatify and canonize its leaders.

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  5. The Belzer Rebbe is right. He does not need a state or a government since the Zionists saved his father from the Nazis. His followers, on the other hand.....

    I am reminded of the old anti-chassidic joke of a young man who got married and received a dowry. He went to his Rebbe and asked what to invest it in. The Rebbe replied invest it in "fert" (horses - this joke goes better in Yiddish). He went out and bought all the horses he could. Then came the Russo-Japanese war and the Czar needed horses and he made a killing. He went to the Rebbe with anice gift and asked him how he knew the Russo-Japanese war was coming. The Rebbe replied, "Russo-Japanese war? What Russo-Japanese war. All I know is that I make my living from fert so why shouldn't you.

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  6. Maybe this posting makes some non-chassid feel good about himself. How sad.

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  7. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "who recently threatened to leave Israel over the new draft law".

    Clearly a bluff, as I can't see which countries would take on a demographic which is mostly content to be unemployed/ without the necessary skills to get into a western country and wishes to spend all day reading Torah. No gentile government (i.e. the rest of the world) would pay for such a luxury, especially in this age of austerity/economic crisis.... unless the plan is to go to be with the penguins in human uninhabited Antarctica , so that could be an alternative. Or the moon. Which makes as much sense as the threat to leave Israel.

    Anon,
    March 25, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    If you think Israel is anti-semitic, then you've clearly led a cloistered life...

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  8. The blind leading the blind

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  9. The Daas Torah lobby dealt with this ages ago. The Gemara Gittin 56b says that R Yochanan didn't answer Vespasian adequately because משיב חכמים אחור
    on the face this means that Daas Torah isn't infallible, but they claim that the Churban had to happen and this was the means. If it has to happen no one will be able to stop it including shrewd politicians.
    REW cites the Gemara that when a shepherd is angry at his flock he blinds the leader.

    But Belz doesn't want complications so they censured it.

    A Kastner relative dreamt that if the Satmar Rebbe didn't get into the train the train wouldn't make it (which almost happened). That's why the zionist train let him on. Then he saved them.

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  10. This is a factually correct but unfair account of the Rebbe's farewell. As has been extensively documented, the Hungarian government was in fact deporting foreign nationals, but was protecting Jews who were Hungarian citizens. The deportations only began once the Nazis occupied Hungary, and then it was over in a matter of months. Thus, when the Rebbe left his flock behind in Hungary, he was in graver danger than they were, especially since it is quite difficult for a high-profile rabbi to hide.
    So what's the criticism, that he was wrong about the Jews of Hungary being safe? That he wasn't a navi? Nobody knew. As a criticism of certain notions of "Daas Torah", this story is effective. As a criticism of his personal conduct, it is not fair.

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  11. The point is not that the fourth Belzer Rebbe was wrong.

    The point is that the fifth Belzer Rebbe does not have hakaras hatov and does not realize that having a state and a government is very valuable.

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  12. The Rebbe was able to leave to Palestine, fulfilling a lifelong dream, due to the help of the Zionists, who obtained special travel certificates for him. Two months later, the Nazis arrived in Budapest, and deported all the Jews to Auschwitz.

    What's the point? Mir Yeshiva left Vilna and went to Japan via Russia and was saved too without any help from Zionists.

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  13. The Zionists could have saved a million charedim, instead they chose to save their own, it's not for nothing that the Chazon Ish called them Eiruv Rav, and today we can see how right he was! Just read Ben Gurion's memoirs, or Herzl's antisemitism, or Ussishkin or Jabotinsky or Read Ben Hecht's book, or open your eyes!!!

    Anonymous, that is a serious and repulsive charge and something better than read-this-or-that would be required. It has been a while, but one has read biographies of Ben Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky and doesn't see how you can make that claim with honesty. It is a known fact, though, that by and large, the Haredi leadership discouraged emigration. Of the Haredi groups which fled, the focus was naturally on their members, as it was with the Zionists. It made practical sense for both in that it's easier to organize people in your immediate community. At least in the beginning, neither side could predict the horrendous evil and scale of the Shoa "operations," one involving such huge number of personnel, computer-aided coordination, a significant portion of Europe's railway stock, the design and building of death factories on modern mass-manufacture principles. All this in the midst of a world war. One should be humbled by this and forgiving of all the victims and potential victims who were caught up in this nightmare machinery. Elie Wiesel's position can still guide us: We do not have the moral right to judge even the kapos in the camps, as the Holocaust was a world on its own.

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  14. This is an illustration of what Rav Berel Wein said in the link that was provided here....so many simply ignore history. Don't think about the Holocaust, don't think about the rise of the state of Israel and the immense sacrifices that went into it. Just pretend these things don't exist and all will be well.
    NO SYSTEM that has an ideology that ignores reality can last for long, no matter how big and powerful it seems at the moment. These things all collapse eventually. Just look at what has been happening in the world in the last 25 years or so.

    Regarding the Anonymous comment about how the "Zionists saved their own". All I know is that most of these Zionists came out of Haredi backgrounds. The majority of the youth that grew up in Poland in the interwar years (Poland had the largest Jewish community in Europe and the most religious Jews) abandoned religious observance even though the large majority grew up in what we would call Haredi families. Why is this? Do the religious leaders of today ever ask themselves this question?
    Why did so many religious youth leave the yeshivot and Hassidic courts and join the Soviet Communist Yevsektsia which hounded religious Jews in the USSR?
    Are anti-religious Jews different in their middot than religious Jews? Is the propaganda coming out of MERETZ people so different in tone than that coming from the anti-Zionist Haredim? Maybe the ideology is different but the behavior and language and denunciations sound the same. Isn't Torah supposed to make those who follow it better?

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  15. Eli Fischer -- the points are many -- as Rabbi Slifkin has already noted in his reply -- the lack of hakaras hatov -- but it goes beyond that -- because the lack of hakars hatov stems from a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the truth -- both the role of Zionists in assisting the Belzer Rebbe to escape and the fact that Reb Aharon was wrong when he advised others not to follow him and flee Hungary. There is nothing wrong with saying he was mistaken -- unless your entire culture is built around the infallibility of the Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva. And that is the culture that has taken hold in chareidi circles.

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  16. In response to Lazar: "What's the point? Mir Yeshiva left Vilna and went to Japan via Russia and was saved too without any help from Zionists."

    I think the point is that some appreciation is in order. Moshe Rabbeinu did not hit the inanimate, lifeless water which saved his life. A modicum of appreciation for those which saved the lives of the Belzer Rebbe and countless others is in order. At the very least, they might say something like, "We owe lives to those who fought to make the State possible, and it has indeed saved countless lives. However, we are quite saddened by the current state of affairs..." In speaking like that they would at least acknowledge an appropriate debt of gratitude, even if they are upset with how things are going now.

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  17. A blog that causes rebbe bashing,misnagged and chossid bashing is not a useful blog.
    Agreeing to disagree is something that is missing in Israel today.
    Had there been more of it ,I'm sure Rabbi Slifkin would have been a much happier man had he not been the victim of so much unwarranted denigration.
    I'm sure that the Belzer Rov can justify his pronouncements.We don't have to agree with him ,but please don't denigrate him.
    There are still people alive whose lives were wrecked by the German invasion of Hungary.Please don't add to their pain by ill considered blog content.

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  18. Moshe Dick writes:
    Whoever "Anonymous" is, his comments are truly repulsive and, to cap his inventions, he does not even dare commenting under his own name! However, being of chassidische stock,allow me to take a different tack on this matter. The problem today are not the rebbes and the roshei yeshiva are not good men, but that modern notion that chareidi (and only chareidi,btw!) leaders are infallible! Obviously a fiction and a modern invention but it is actually a reaction to the modern world. It is all about control. The yeshivos might be empty if the leaders would not control their flock. The chareidi world is terrified that what happened a hundred years ago, when chareidi youth left in droves and embraced communism, atheism, zionism,etc., will happen again and then ,where would they be? So, they literally invented this notion of 'daas torah' that their leaders are infallible and their sayings cannot be disputed.Presto- the flocks are kept in line and their jobs saved!
    Let me add that I do believe that most of the great men,like R'Arele and many others, were holy men but this does not make them infallible. We do not have to leave our brains at the door !

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  19. Elli Fischer: That's all well and good. So...why do they censor the history? That's much worse. At least hindsight is 20/20- if you engage in it!

    David Kavanagh: They claim they have a number of US politicians in their pocket. Certainly there are elements in Congress who have no problem taking in huge numbers of immigrants. Usually those who aren't ideologicaly opposed to working- and the racial/religious angle probably won't help either.

    Yosaif: Hmmm! So maybe God misled the Charedi gedolim in opposing Zionism and modernity. Or maybe the Yetzer Hara did it...

    Lazar: Actually, the Japanese saga was pretty much led by Zionists such as Zerach Warhaftig.

    Anonymous: Can you point me to a reference in Ben-Gurion's memoirs where he says anything like this? Can you even give me the title of his memoirs?

    Not sure what you mean by the others, but Jabotinsky tried to get Jews out of Europe, and he and Ussishkin died before the Holocaust really got underway. Ben Hecht was a great Zionist.

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  20. Anonymous said...

    "The Zionists could have saved a million charedim, instead they chose to save their own, it's not for nothing that the Chazon Ish called them Eiruv Rav, and today we can see how right he was!"

    The Haredim didn't want to leave. The Haredi rabbis of Europe not only were opposed to mass emigration from Europe to EY, they by and large opposed moving even to the US. If you're going to start pointing the finger of blame within the Jewish community, start with the biggest offenders, the Haredi rabbinical establishment. If preventing Jews from leaving Europe to Palestine earns someone the moniker of Erev Rav, the Haredi rabbinical establishment is at the top of the list, right along with the Bund.

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  21. "A Kastner relative dreamt that if the Satmar Rebbe didn't get into the train the train wouldn't make it (which almost happened). That's why the zionist train let him on. Then he saved them."

    Evidence please? Why then did he save Rav Weissmandl? Why then did Rav Weissmandl instruct people to speak out in defense of Kastner during the trial? What about the many many other frum Jews who were on the train?
    Dreams? Didn't the בעל הטורים write that one shouldn't pay attention to dreams which should considered nonsense?
    Are you aware that Kastner kept risking his life by returning to Nazi controlled Hungary after he had already reached safety?

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  22. "It is a known fact, though, that by and large, the Haredi leadership discouraged emigration. "

    "I.. paid a visit to... the late Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel. I was amazed that he recognized me immediately upon entering his room. "Chanan, where have been all these years?" he asked, continuing: "Chanan, listen! There was a great convention of rabbis in Warsaw call by the chief rabbi, Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzensky, and there they opined not to come to Eretz Israel. Chanan, I disobeyed them and thank the Lord, here I am."
    -Rabbi Elchanan Blumenthal, Trials & Challenges

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  23. Nachum,

    Thanks for that information, my gut still says 'bluff & bluster', though. It is strange that the Israeli Haredi leadership would rather be in a secular country, run mostly by Gentiles, than a secular country run 100% by Jews....

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  24. Zerach Warhaftig, who later became Sar HaDatot ( = ReligiousAffairs Minister as a Mizrachi rep in various govts) was a dutch citizen student in telz. When the war started, and he couldn't get back to holland, the dutch consul gave him a visa to curacuo, a dutch territory, and suggested he go to japan to get there, the rest is history, at least as far as some litvish yesivot are concerned.

    As for belzer rebbe, he came to munkatch during WWOne. The Minchas Eluzur ( = the munkatcher rebbe) tolerated him in his town, but when he dudnt leave aftdr the war, there was a big intra chassidic tumult, to put it mildly. To this day, munkatches hate the belzers.

    As for belz chassidim in hungary, they were all polish citizens, not hungarians, so all technical dangers the rebbe faced, all his chassidim faced, as well.

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  25. The constant assertion here of the need for "HaKaras HaTov" blurs boundaries. This is a personal character trait for interpersonal relationships - not a mode of behavior for relating to the government, which is a political entity. Who exactly is the state? The clerk at the post office? Dov Lipman? Are you claiming that your own Middos are more refined than the Belzer Rebbe? Please stop confusing the issue- the Charedi leadership has made a rational and intellectual decision based on their own understanding of whatHashem wants of them.

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  26. As the Brisker Dayan said, there was a gezeira of hester ponim so no one could really know where to be safe.

    What if the Nazis had left Hunagary alone like they did to Sweden & Switzerland but had overrun Eretz Yisroel? It was in fact completely illogical that Rommel's forces suddenly retreated only 12 miles from the Egypt-Palestine border. General Montgomery could not understand it.

    And if the secular Zionists are so pure why is the Mossad & Israeli diplomatic corps under orders to buy or steal any copy of Ben Hecht's book? And they claim the orthodox cover up uncomfortable truths!

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  27. Anonymous comments are not posted. The one above got through accidentally.

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  28. Brisker-
    I don't know where you got the totally eroneous information about Rommel supposedly running away, but I guess that it shouldn't surprise me.....anything goes in reinforcing the party line apparently, even making up false history.
    The German Panzerarmee Afrika under Rommel was stopped at El Alamein in summer 1942. El Alamein is 60 miles WEST of Alexandria and this not just "12 miles from Egypt-Palestine border" but much further west. The Germans didn't even reach the Nile Delta.
    They also didn't "miraculously" run away like you claim. They were DRIVEN away by Montgomery's British Eigth Army in hard fighting with many casualties.

    I am really amazed at the falsehoods being spread. I guess "the ends justify the means"!

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  29. Brisker said...

    "What if the Nazis had left Hunagary alone like they did to Sweden & Switzerland but had overrun Eretz Yisroel? It was in fact completely illogical that Rommel's forces suddenly retreated only 12 miles from the Egypt-Palestine border. General Montgomery could not understand it.

    And if the secular Zionists are so pure why is the Mossad & Israeli diplomatic corps under orders to buy or steal any copy of Ben Hecht's book? And they claim the orthodox cover up uncomfortable truths!"

    The mythology produced in the Haredi world never ceases to amaze me.

    1) Erwin Rommel not only never came within 12 miles of the Egypt-Palestine border (which would have placed him firmly in the Sinai and in possession of the Suez, which he never captured), the Axis forces never even got into Egypt. The closest they even came was in the Siege of Tobruk, in Libya. Rommel failed to capture Tobruk and was thus unable to attack Egypt, much less capture it all and move towards Palestine.

    2) No one is under orders to buy or steal Ben Hecht's book (though I'm sure its publisher wishes the former was true!). You can buy Perfidy in many Israeli book stores which sell it out in the open. I bought mine from a place on King George; in fact it was out on display in the window, in plain sight.

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  30. Moshe Dick writes:
    Maybe the saddest part and main issue with the chareidim is their total invention and/or disregard of real history, preferring to invent stories.
    "Brisker" writes the whopper about Rommel turning back from the Egyptian border. This is pure invention, as anyone with a modicum of knowledge of WWII knows.He was defeated by Montgomery on his way to conquer Egypt. I may add that the victory at El Alamein that did turn Rommel back can be considered "min hashomayim" and that, therefore, G-d wanted israel to remain safe!
    As far as his quote about "hester ponim', indeed, the Holocaust clearly was 'hester ponim' but this does not absolve people from trying their best to remain live. Leaving Europe at that time was the wisest thing and although it was not practical for everyone, to tell individuals NOT to leave was very obviously wrong. Unfortunately, as illustrated by many stories, this is exactly what happened to chareidi jewry. Again, this is not to put the onus- cholilo- on the chareidi leaders for the Holocaust but it does prove that they are not infallible and that,indeed ,they cannot know everything. The irony is that, even according to their leitmotif that gedolim know what is best, clearly this did not happen before the Holocaust. So, who is to say that the present leadership,too, suffers from "hester ponim" on matters of Eretz yisroel, the draft, working,etc?

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  31. The discussion about Rabbinic Leaders discouraging their followers from leaving Europe is interesting, but I suspect it misses an important point. My grandparents in Germany who were not Chassidish and not discouraged by any rabbinc leaders to not leave, spent years trying to get the necessary paperwork to escape. One of my grandfathers who was begging a third cousin in America to sign an affidavit for him was repeatedly rebuffed with things like "why do you want to come here where you do not speak the language and where you will not have a job." "You are better off staying there and sticking it out". Or "I would not sign an affidavit for my own brother" - an affidavit meant you had to take legal responsibility to support the person financially. I have the actual correspondence so I know it to be true. Of Course my grandfather had to be careful what he wrote in the letters because the Gestapo was monitoring the mail, so he could not accurately describe the reality of the situation in the mail though he tried his best to hint at it. So the truth is, even if the Chassidishe Rebbes had told their flocks to flee, it probably would not have made a difference because the entire world had shut its doors to the Jews. Fortunately for me, my parents and grandparents did manage to escape by skin of their teeth. I am not sure though that it is fair to be so judgmental of what people did or said back then, by using hindsight.

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  32. MM: Again, they can least be honest post-facto.

    MMY: Zerach Warhaftig was not Dutch. The Dutch student's name was Nathan Guttmacher, I think. (There was another, but I think Guttmacher took the lead.) Once Warhaftig heard about the possibility, he helped engineer the entire plot for every Jew to get the same deal.

    After the war, he spent decades trying to track down Sugihara, who was going under a slightly different name. He finally found him and made sure he got the recognition he deserved (although never sought or wanted).

    "the Mossad & Israeli diplomatic corps under orders to buy or steal any copy of Ben Hecht's book?"

    That's hilarious. I suppose the Mossad must be pretty incompetent if I myself own two copies and new editions are printed *in Israel* all the time.

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  33. By the way, the picture of the Chassid kissing those shoes is pretty ironic. I wonder if he realizes that a very large percentage of Hungarian Jewry were not Charedi.

    It matters not a whit to me, but I imagine it would to him.

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  34. There's a great lecture by Rav Tamir Granot about the 4th Belzer Rebbe's flight from Hungary and parting message to his hasidim. There's a transcript at
    http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/shoah/06shoah.htm.
    Links to other lectures by Rav Granot in the series are indexed at
    http://www.vbm-torah.org/shoah.html

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  35. the zionists only gave 6% of their certificates to aguda. so they would have not been able to go anyway

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  36. That's hilarious. I suppose the Mossad must be pretty incompetent if I myself own two copies and new editions are printed *in Israel* all the time.

    ......

    he meant under labour, before begin came in

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  37. Moshe Dick writes:
    MM- with great respect, you are missing the main point here. Nobody- at least not I- have any real argument with the Rabbonim of that day discouraging jews from emigrating.It was difficult and life elsewehere was not ideal. You can also add what you wrote, about the difficulties of obtaining papers (by the way-your grandparents did get out, didn't they, in spite of the difficulties?). To me, the main point has always been the insistence- TODAY- that we must follow every word of the "gedolim" because they know better than us. Just read some of the blogs and the articles declaring that the 'gedolim" have a clearer view, see what we don't see,etc. Well ,you know, they do not necessarily know better and the Holocaust is the prime example. They were as blind to the dangers as other jews. Hence, they have no infallibility and, therefore, why must we accept that they are so right today? For all we know, they are as wrong about the draft as they were wrong about the Holocaust. The other example of their fallibity,in my mind, is the state of Israel. Regardless of who the founders were, if the chareidi leaders in europe would have accepted the idea of a medinah, maybe more would have been saved and certainly, present israel would be much more hospitable to chareidim and to religion. As far as I know, I can think only of the gerrer rebbe zz'l who encouraged his followers to British "Palestine" and you know what? he reaped the fruits of that wise approach because, afetr the war, Polish chassidim from everywhere turned to Gur- and thereby Gur became the biggest chassidic court in Israel. Amshinov, Alexander and many other Polish chassidim virtually disappeared in the Holocaust.
    Gedolim are not infallible and they may be as wrong today as they were a hundred years ago.

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  38. The discussion of the battles in Egypt during World War II reminds me of what I read in the diary of Prof. Efraim Urbach who was the chief Rabbinical chaplain of the Jews from Eretz Israel who joined the British Army in World War II (there were some Arabs who joined these units as well). The British were very reluctant to arm the Jews who had volunteered so they put them in support units. Many served in transport units of the British army in Egypt. Since the Mediterranean sea was too dangerous to send shipments through, the British sent supplies to their army in Egypt from England around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to the Red Sea. They were unloaded at a port then and then trucked into the Nile Valley where the main British army bases were located. The army truck drivers were Jews from Eretz Israel and the road signs there in Egypt were in Hebrew!
    Prof Urbach met one of the soldier-drivers who was a haredi fellow with several children and he went months without eating a bite of meat because the British were not very good about supplying kosher food.
    Unfortunately, due to all the wars Israel has had since its founding, the contribution of Jews from Eretz Israel to the struggle of the Second World War has largely been forgotten.

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  39. Nachum I believe this whole point about blaming ultra orthodox rabbis for fleeing and telling their flock to stay behind is indeed a misrepresentation of the history either willfully in order to promote a particular agenda or ideology, or an unintentional result of being blinded by hindsight. My wife's grandfather was an ultra orthodox rabbi in Czechoslovakia. He sent one of his children to Hungary thinking he would be safer there. that child ended up getting killed in Auschwitz while the rest of the family managed to survive by hiding out in Czechoslovakia. At the time that the Holocaust was evolving it was not really possible for the most of the victims to know what the best course of action was. If you want to debate the concepts of Daas Torah and Emunas Chachomim I am not sure it is fair to bring as evidence what people did or did not do or advised others to do under the extraordinary circumstances of the Holocaust. Ultimately from a theological standpoint the Holocaust raises much deeper questions of faith which do indeed need to be addressed. I once asked a survivor why is he still frum and how does he still believe in God. He said he does not blame God for the Holocaust he Blames the Germans.

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  40. I'm just going to reiterate that unfortunately people seem to have missed the point of this post.

    The point is not that the fourth Belzer Rebbe was wrong.

    The point is that the fifth Belzer Rebbe does not realize that having a state and a government is very valuable.

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  41. I can't believe you can write such glib small-minded propaganda.

    One specific "being in the right place at the right time,"and being able to help over 1/2 a century ago, hardly says about the big picture.

    הרבה שלוחים יש למקום, and it wasn't the "state" per se either.

    There's a higher likelihood of throwing the the Israelis into the sea ח"ו, than an american Holocaust.

    I'm not NK and I'm for the state - though, with strong reservations.

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  42. Sorry, the rationale given in the name of the last Belzer Rebbe doesn't compute. He picked an interesting time to fulfill a life-long dream. He fled for his life from Galitzia to Hungary. Instead of remaining in Hungary that he spoke of as safe, he risked international travel in wartime to Palestine. Clearly, he realized that Palestine was safer than Hungary. To judge favorably, I would contend that the cited speech was merely a way to calm down the masses for whom he saw no way out. The mass of Hungarian Jewry could not hide from the Germans in houses or forests. Nor did he realize that Germany was about to take over the country from its ally. The fact remains, however, that the 3 leading Hasidic rebbes of Gur, Belz, and Satmar abandoned their flock and sought personal refuge.

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  43. It's good to be the King (or the Rebbe)
    Mel Brooks 1981

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  44. It is not at all clear that having the modern state of Israel is very valuable. One could argue that having millions of Jews concentrated in one small country surrounded by hostile neighbors who want to nuke it, and are developing or already have that capability is not such a good idea. I can also sympathize to some extent with the Charedim who feel that a culture war is being waged against them. In my opinion the draft law is mostly an attempt at imposing social change on Charedi society from the outside and using the share the burden mantra as a justification. Charedim for the most part do not believe in Zionism and I think it is unfair to force it on them. The current system is equal since people who go to the army have a choice of not going to the army and studying full time in yeshiva instead. A better approach would be to eliminate social welfare programs and eliminate restrictions on employment and education. Instead of penalizing those who opt out of military service, those who do serve should be rewarded with generous incentives.

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  45. The Rebbe is partly correct. We need people in the Batei Midrashos. But if you'll say all Chareidim shouldn't work or serve in the army, that's a problem. In short, the Rebbe's words are true to a point.

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  46. Sorry, Varhaftig writes in his book that the trip to Japan was not his idea. It was the idea of Nosson Gutwirth from Holland. He clearly writes that his Zionist compatriots prevented and stalled his efforts at rescue if it did not include a trip to Israel. He was far from a Charedi apologist.

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  47. Something important is being missed here.
    Is it possible that the current Belzer Rebbe doesn't know the truth about his predecessor and the fate of his flock? is it possible that since he was raised in a cloistered environment, his education limited and controlled to ensure he only learned certain things and only those parts of history that were "relevant" that he simply doesn't know, the way most Satmars don't seem to know, about the important role Zionists played in rescuing some Jews during the war?

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  48. The point is that the fifth Belzer Rebbe does not realize that having a state and a government is very valuable.

    is he stupid.

    or perhaps no material benefits are worth the chillul hashem of a state set up on secular laws and not on toras moshe

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  49. The fact remains, however, that the 3 leading Hasidic rebbes of Gur, Belz, and Satmar abandoned their flock and sought personal refuge.

    .........................


    the fact that they renewed the chassidus to make it greater than ever before, is of course besides the point

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  50. halachik aspects on fleeing or staying, discussed. answer elu ve'elu
    http://www.hakirah.org/vol%209%20bobker.pdf

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  51. Rabbi Slifkin writes:
    "The point is that the fifth Belzer Rebbe does not realize that having a state and a government is very valuable."
    Don't you realize that the Third Reich WAS a government? Don't you realize that every genocide of the European experience was executed by a government? Don't you know that governments were responsible for the murders of nearly a quarter BILLION people in the 20th century alone? Maybe this study, compiled by the University of Hawaii, will inform: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MURDER.HTM
    And don't you know that the Arab countries that have threatened the Jews were all governments? And that their armies were funded by governments?
    Without taxation, the invasion of foreign lands would never be paid for. It is just too expensive (the "war on terror" cost 1.5 trillion dollars!) and- surprise- totally non-fundable without the government-theft techniques of Money Printing and "Borrowing." (Interesting that debt which will never be paid off is referred to as borrowing when done by government, and theft when by an individual.)
    Are you so sure that government is necessary?
    David Friedman

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  52. Moshe Dick write:
    Gh500:you have fallen in the trap that jews in the united states are safer than jews in Israel.That was exactly what German Jews said, after having been exemplary citizens for centuries...Only in Israel do we have the "zechuyos" to prosper!

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  53. Anonymous David Friedman said...
    Rabbi Slifkin writes:
    "The point is that the fifth Belzer Rebbe does not realize that having a state and a government is very valuable."
    Don't you realize that the Third Reich WAS a government?


    I'm going to venture to say that R. Slifkin meant that a Jewish state and government are valuable. This is the thing that the anti-Zionists dispute.

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  54. Y. Aharon said...
    Sorry, the rationale given in the name of the last Belzer Rebbe doesn't compute.


    Y. Aharon, IMO, you need to tread very, very lightly here. This is not an apology or defense of any particular person or group. It is the issue of judging people in the context of the holocaust. The rule of thumb is "don't do it". The survivors themselves tell us that they do not judge, and we don't have even 1/nth of their understanding. This is a larger topic than can fit into a comment.

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  55. David Friedman-
    Although this is not really the topic of this thread, your advocacy of anarchism ("we don't need governments") reminds me of a conversation George Bernard Shaw had with an anarchist in the late 19th century. It went like this:

    Shaw-If there isn't government, who will organize things, build infrastructure and prevent chaos?

    Anarchist-We don't need governments. People are by nature sharing, caring, loving and will work together without any need for a coercive state apparatus.

    Shaw-If that is so, how did these evil governments end up taking power in the first place, if all people are so nice and cooperative?
    ---------------------------------
    David-I am sure that you are aware that the Torah sets out the framework of a government. The closest thing the Am Israel had to your ideal anarchistic society was the time of the Shoftim (Judges) in the TANACH and it is made quite clear that society was descending into chaos and the only solution was to set up a centralized monarchy. That also had problems, but it did work out better for a longer period of time. The problem is not "government" or "states", the problem is human nature.

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  56. Charedim for the most part do not believe in Zionism and I think it is unfair to force it on them.

    MM, March 25, 2014 at 11:28 PM

    Of course, as residents, if not citizens, of the State of Israel, complying with local laws is not only a civil obligation, but a halachic one.

    The other obvious response to this is that the charadim who are anti-zionist can avoid having zionism forced onto them by simply leaving the state which they reject.

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  57. "he meant under labour, before begin came in"

    Even if true: Labor, you see, is a *party.* If Labor is in charge, that's a *government.* It is not the State.

    "I'm for the state - though, with strong reservations"

    How generous of you! Name a "reservation," please.

    "Charedim for the most part do not believe in Zionism and I think it is unfair to force it on them."

    This is nonsense. No one is "forcing" anything; every time a charedi walks on a sidealk or turns on a faucet, he is benefiting from Zionism. If what you're saying is true, and a charedi wants to live in Israel (a mitzva, something the rest of your post neglects), well, he can live in Lebanon or in the desert. He is *choosing* to benefit from Zionism.

    "The current system is equal since people who go to the army have a choice of not going to the army and studying full time in yeshiva instead."

    This is nonsense on stilts. You need to be born part of the "club" to be able to study full time. Only in an Orwellian world is this "equality." And what's so bad about forcing an end to that?

    "the fact that they renewed the chassidus to make it greater than ever before, is of course besides the point"

    It certainly is, especially if that chassidut has no real benefit.

    David Friedman, I'm as libertarian as the next...libertarian, but of course government is necessary, if only for the reason given by Pirkei Avot. There are good governments and bad ones. Israel's is on the balance good, especially if you measure it against the really bad ones.

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  58. Rabbi Slifkin

    "the point is that the fifth Belzer Rebbe does not realize that having a state and a government is very valuable".

    Exactly. Whatever Isreal's faults, internal and external, it is better to have a Jewish state than none at all.

    E.g. -I'd also suggest that commentators take a lot at the state of modern Hungary's politics. There is a odious far right political party called 'Jobbik', which is now the second largest in the Hungarian parliament. If I were a Jew in Hungary right now, I'd leave to Israel tomorrow. Just one example of why Jews need a Jewish state, however imperfect.

    On another note, in response to the comments re the north african theatre in WWII (my family fought & died during that war) & possible 'miracles' there... perhaps the greatest 'miracle' was the fact that the 'British Empire' remained in the conflict at all, isolated as she was. After the fall of France, the debacle at Dunkirk, the daylight bombardment of British cities which were reduced to ash( Coventry,Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Rabbi Slifkin's place of birth Manchester) the fact that the US didn't want to get involved , that the Soviets had just signed a peace agreement... there were plenty in the British establishment who wanted to make peace with Hitler (Arch-appeaser Lord Halifax being one). Churchill said 'no' and in coalition with his ideological foes in the Labour Party determined to see out the conflict and later when the US and Soviet Union finally did join the battle, sent the third reich into welcome oblivion.


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  59. Am Yisroel is a holy entity.
    It includes chilonim,chareidim,zionists and anti-zionists.
    If the blog master would concentrates his considerable talent for rationality, to invoke a desire and to form a movement, to find or create common ground between the many sections of Klal Yisroel ,then his efforts whatever the degree of his success ,would be in my really humble opinion,more beneficial and also do more to bring our ultimate redemption,than having a go at Belz or scoring off against erstwhile antagonists such as Rabbi Meiselman.
    Dear Rabbi Slifkin you have spent enough time in defence against the cruel irrationality of your detractors.
    Now is the time to change course.
    If harmony is achieved even in only one small area ,it will be a far greater than getting Rabbi Meiselman to apologise and admit his error.

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  60. David Ohsie, I do not judge individuals as individuals making extremely difficult decisions when lives are at stake. I do judge designated leaders for their leadership role or lack thereof. Those leaders who disparaged attempts to escape the imminent disaster saying, for example, "these visas are pieces of toilet paper", are blameworthy for their words. This example was attributed to a leading Litvish rosh yeshiva who, himself, later obtained a 'proper' visa and left Europe. My critique is not confined to Hasidic leaders. I see a general failure of religious leadership at the time of greatest need for proper guidance. However, I should temper my earlier comment by noting that in the case of those Rebbe'im, their advisors must have exerted themselves to convince those Rebbes to leave and save themselves and their Hasidus.

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  61. If you read any memoirs of secular Israelis from the 1940's and 1950's, "The rabbis said everything was going to be OK" continually pops up as a complaint. I'm sure the standard charedi response would be that they're just looking for excuses to drop religion, but when there's that much smoke...

    R' Rakeffet tells the story of the time the Satmar Rav came to Israel in the 1950's. A secular policeman came to see him, and he recognized him as the son of one of his chassidim back in Europe. When he asked him what his father would say about his lifestyle, the cop answered, "If my father had listened to you, we wouldn't have been alive today." R' Yoelish began to cry and admitted that the rebbes from that era need to do a lot of teshuva.

    Of course, there's teshuva and there's teshuva...

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  62. I am also wondering if people really listened to rebbes and Roshei Yeshiva back in the day. Of all the old timers I have met they don't strike me as having that kind of mindset. I think the charge that rabbinical leaders held people back is possibly not true and may be a backwards distortion based on what we see a lot now days where people seek Daas Torah for every aspect of everything. I think in the good old days of Europe people were much more independent minded and made there own decisions in these kinds of matters. I really do not believe that Yidden back then for the most part, would take their rabbinical leaders that seriously. And I don't think the leaders back then took themselves that seriously either.People just were not that stupid like they are today. Life was too difficult to be stupid if you wanted to survive, even without the Nazis.

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  63. David Ohsie, I do not judge individuals as individuals making extremely difficult decisions when lives are at stake. I do judge designated leaders for their leadership role or lack thereof.

    Leaders are individuals too, and the circumstances are just too different. Primo Levi wrote that apply the "civilian code" to the holocaust was like applying the theorems of plane geometry to the surface of a sphere. If you haven't already, read "The Drowned and the Saved," especially the "Gray Zone" chapter.

    So my advice stands, although your are of course not bound by it.

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  64. apropos lapid - about 20 years ago, the issue of the role of the belzer rebbe during world war II was heatedly debated on the tv show popolitika by lapid sr against eichler - neither of whom were in politics at the time

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  65. David Ohsie, I disagree. While the holocaust was an extraordinary calamity it did not take divine inspiration and guidance to appreciate what was happening as the events unfurled. The leaders in question could read the papers, listen to the radio, and ask those with connections to governments. I note that those leaders did refer to the latter when it came to their own rescue. Someone who takes it upon himself to direct the lives of others bears responsibility for decisions that effect those lives. Unwise or foolish decisions about those lives are then a subject of divine judgment and proper human critique. What is important, however, is not to denigrate these individuals but to understand their incorrect thinking so that such thinking may be more easily avoided in the future.

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  66. I cant really read all the comments but i can tell you that my granfather Alav Hashalom, was a Belzer Chossid before the war. After the war he totally abandoned Belz but not Challila Torah or being Frum - and the reason - the Rebbe said listen to the Germans but escaped.!!!

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  67. p.s. it is clear as my grandfather was in a camp next to Auschwitz for a while till he escaped with his brothers (parents wives and children being sent the wrong way on arrival and gassed) he said very clearly that they didnt try to escape as the Rebbe told them not to make trouble and do what the germans said. It was only when a Chiloni convinced them that everyone in the camp was going to die and someone had to survive to tell the story (they were at first worried about disbeying the Rebbe then about jews being killed in punishment if they escaped) it was clear that all were to be killed by starvation and exhaustion so after being reduced to bones the brothers each killed a guard and an entire work group escaped !
    This make it clear that and this was certainly the case within Chasidish folk - what the Rebbe said was final! After the war he met my grandmother ina DP camp whose final words to me on her bed in Sharei Tsedek were "you dont know how lucky we are to have a Medina" - How sad those of you are who have no concept of Emmes its as simple as Emmes nothing more nothing less.

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  68. Wow, that is very powerful. Thank you for sharing.

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  69. "Two months later, the Nazis arrived in Budapest, and deported all the Jews to Auschwitz."

    This is a easily verifiable historical falsehood. The Jews in the Budapest ghetto were NOT deported and they survived the war.

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