Sunday, August 28, 2016

So Why DO They Only Criticize The Left?

In the previous post, Summer Camps and Summer Camps, I noted how the charedi establishment and its hangers-on tends to only criticize those on the left, no matter how insignificant they are, and never criticizes those on the right, even when they pose a much more severe threat to proper Torah values. The examples discussed from Satmar included their summer camps which incite to hatred and violence, and the anti-Israel rally in New York which was joined by the right flank of the Litvishe world. (There is also a news item about a horrifying children's board game, called Bashert!, in which you win $70 for breaking the trait of haughtiness, and $500 for screaming at a Zionist soldier. Contrary to press reports, however, it seems that this is not from the Satmar community, but rather from Neturei Karta. However, given the activities of the Satmar summer camp, this game appears to be equally representative of the values of that community.)

So what actually is the reason for this incongruity? Several suggestions were offered. These include:
"People enjoy the feeling of righteous indignation that arises when the latest set of blistering accusations against the "other team" is posted. And they vastly prefer to read a condemnation of Open Orthodoxy rather than of Satmar, with whom they feel more cultural comfort."

"The problem is theological. We have a left end to Orthodoxy, a point where it falls off. However, there is an underlying "more is better" ethos that prevents us from having a right end where one can be too Orthodox."

"It's all about having Gedolim. Satmar had the Satmar Rav. Open Orthodoxy doesn't have Gedolim." (I don't think that this is a major factor. First of all, it's not as though the Satmar Rav is around to legitimize their new extremism. Second, people generally just invoke Gedolim to give license to their positions, they don't really base themselves on them.)
To these I would like to add another explanation. Charedi society is built upon trembling in fear - of not appearing frum enough. Everyone is always too afraid to say what they really think about things. So the entire notion of formally protesting those who present themselves as being super-frum, no matter how loathsome their words and actions, is frightening.

49 comments:

  1. I once questioned our Rabbi about a ruling he made about not kashering a dishwasher previously used for non kosher dishes, I said in our former city it was allowed with some caveats. The Rabbi's answer was but this is our city.

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    1. This is a known Halachic machloket, and "this is our city" is a traditional answer to why one picks a particular side of a machloket. This is not an example of being "too frum"

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    2. Kira I disagree, the vibe I was getting was, if the Rabbi paskined correctly he would have had a more powerful less knoledgable rabbi in the local vaad pounce.

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  2. While I agree with most of this, I do have some very different experiences with rabbis of the Satmar community and its "satellites". When posing a question to a "gadol"he is often afraid to say what is on his mind, lest he face criticism from his right. Satmar rabbanim and dayyanim will often be far more lenient in their rulings (once they trust you) as they are impervious to criticism.

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  3. You didn't mention what I wrote:

    "Perhaps the reason that they don't write about the issues in their own communities is because one can reach his own community verbally. The point of the written essays is to reach those not in the "charedi community" who won't hear their hashkafas, but might read their literature.
    I assume this is the same reason that you regularly criticize Charedi publications and institutions on this blog but rarely take Modern Orthodox institutions to task. Most of your readers agree with your posts, which shows that you aren't speaking about the issues that are central to your community.
    I don't blame you though, because I don't think you're writing for them. I think you're writing for the Charedi in Kollel who will never hear your words, because very few charedim are willing to get into these topics anymore, but if he reads your blog, he can see a whole different perspective.
    Is this not correct?"

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  4. I think a lot of this is just about numbers. There's an order of magnitude more Satmar chassidim out there than there are practitioners of Open Orthodoxy. Given how important the story of the improbable triumph of Orthodoxy over the last seventy or so years is to the Chareidi narrative, removing the most successful group from that narrative is going to be problematic.

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  5. Oooooh! I made the quote list!

    Look, deep down there is this dream of the ideal life. We have money from somewhere so we don't have to worry about working. ALl our neighbours are Jewish and frum, we can spend all day learning and not worry about bills and responsibility, and we can lock out the goyishe world and just "do Jewish" all the time. Satmar are living that dream, at least to the rest of the Chareidi world. That's why they escape criticism.

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    1. to some of us "we can lock out the goyishe world and just "do Jewish" all the time" are mutually inconsistent statements, at least if do jewish is understood in its fullest sense.
      KT
      Joel Rich

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  6. The last explanation is the best (so far). Like the time Rabbi Emanuel Feldman was more worried about what the neighbors would think than about what God thinks. http://www.tfdixie.com/special/feldman1.htm

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  7. Not just the charedi world. The RZ world also live in fear if bit being frum enough. Outside of Rabbis Benny Lau, Shai Piron, Lopes Cardozo and Melchior you won't find anyone who dares criticize and act against the racism of the RZ world.
    Interestingly it seems that in the MO world that fear is less and less - I'm thinking of Rabbi Riskin (regarding women rabbis) and the Hakirah article critiquing Rabbi Shachter (also about women rabbis).... a change for the better? We can but hope.

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  8. Isn't your explanation an elaboration of Garnel's?

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  9. IMHO, people criticize the left davka because they feel more cultural affinity with it. Very few MOs have any contact with anyone from the Satmar community. They dress very differently, speak in Yiddish rather than English, etc., etc. However, OOs are MOs who moved somewhat to the left. They dress like MOs, talk like MOs and interact with MOs. The sharpest arguments are within families because the more affinity one feels for a person the more something he does or says can hurt or anger one. Just to give one example, if some guy on the train calls someone a jerk he shrugs it off. If his brother calls him a jerk he becomes very upset. The same goes for The OO/MO dispute.

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  10. R. Slifkin,
    Your last explanation is actually an extension of the first you cite. Orthodox culture is based on being forum. Therefore pseudo-super-frum sects such as Satmar don't pose cultural conflict with the "standard" Orthodoxy and don't cause uncomfortable feelings.

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  11. Rabbi Slifkin - would this explanation accurately portray your blog if we just switch around the words "open orthodoxy" and "Satmar"?

    "People enjoy the feeling of righteous indignation that arises when the latest set of blistering accusations against the "other team" is posted. And they vastly prefer to read a condemnation of Open Orthodoxy rather than of Satmar, with whom they feel more cultural comfort."

    These last two posts are rather hypocritical.

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  12. A difference between "standard" Orthodoxy and Satmar is minor.
    The ideology of the entire Orthodoxy is being a tincan. The only question is what preservative to choose. Hason Ish and his friends chose to take money from the Zionist state to be locked into beith midrash. But that makes them vulnerable from the state. Satmar and other such sects reject the state money. But that causes many of them to go to work and hereby be vulnerable from other directions. Both will not survive in long term.
    But meanwhile Open Orthodoxy rejects the tincan approach and hereby poses immediate challenge to the very Orthodoxy existence.

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  13. I really think there are two simple, complimentary reasons.

    1 - The simple fact is that the Satmar ideology doesn't inherently lead people away from religious observance, meaning shmirat shabbat, kashrut etc. It doesn't lead its adherents to question the rationale behind kiyum mitzvot. So if it's somewhat extreme, it's still within the bounds of keeping people frum.

    2 - It isn't all that easy to distinguish Satmar ideology from the Charedi ideology which the RW YU people worship. Whereas it's fairly easy to distinguish Open Orthodoxy from the MO ideology which the RW YU don't worship.

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  14. I think you too easily discount social dynamics / group dynamics / group psychology. You expect people, even leadership, to go against a tight knit group dynamic - particularly when that dynamic is so separated from the surrounding society/culture. And further, when there's a distinct zealous streak that feels an obligation to defend the perceived status quo against all variations. The expectation may be logical, but it is NOT in line with human social mentality.

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  15. I wonder if another possibility is insecurity. One unspoken reason that the Chareidi community teaches contempt for Religious Zionism and Modern Orthodoxy is their religious model in which anything other than their way of doing things leads to kefirah and a loss of observance. A pious MO or DL is a refutation of that model and invites people in the Chareidi camp to ask why they put up with all the black hat meshugas when the DL/MO over there is just as frum but having much more fun.
    There is probably a similar idea at work with the criticism of OO. Yes, when it comes to ritual they cross lines into non-Orthodoxy but when it comes to chesed they are as/far more frum than many MO/DL/Chareidi communities. Absent demonization a Chareidi could ask "If Judaism is about chesed, why am I sticking around in a community that teaches me to spit on other Jews instead of being part of one that tries to show kindness to them?"

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  16. I think R. Zev Eleff (who is not at all sympathetic to R. Gordimer's efforts) offers an answer in his recent interview on Modern Orthodoxy:
    "In other words, Baptists and Methodists agree that both are Heaven-bound. However, members of each denomination prefer their group’s unique theological path over the other. The three major movements within American Judaism do not function in this way. Each has its own particular standards in conversion (i.e., the ability to create a new Jew), Jewish identity and the halakhic process. Important distinctions in marriage ceremonies and divorce rites have also created massive incongruities; we don’t all agree on who is actually single, married or divorced. Certain essential arenas of pluralism notwithstanding, it is very difficult for Conservative, Orthodox and Reform leaders to agree that members of the other groups are trekking along in parallel and equally agreeable paths."
    http://www.torahmusings.com/2016/08/modern-orthodox-judaism-conversation/

    In other words, the Charedim may be wrong but at least they accept the 13 ikkarim and observe Torah and mitzvos. The Left seems to have deviated from that.

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    1. The problem with this, and with many similar comments above, is that it's not just OO and ikkarim/Torah observance. You can find formal criticism of R. Steinsaltz, R. Riskin, and many others. Yet there is never any format criticism of either theological problems or serious bein adam l'chavero problems on the right.

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    2. R. Slifkin - Because although it may begin from a much purer ideological place, as R. Student noted, in practice, people are people, and they don't like to criticize friends or ideological allies. Once Chareidism has become an a generally accepted movement we don't really like to criticize "our own". Equally, once OO is "their camp", everything they do is fair game.

      R Stefansky

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    3. > "In other words, Baptists and Methodists agree that both are Heaven-bound.

      Have you ever seen this?:

      Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"

      He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"

      He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"

      Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

      from here: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2005/sep/29/comedy.religion

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  17. R' Slifkin, don't you feel it would be an equally fair question to you, why you only criticize the right? If you come up with an honest answer, you can probably use that as a foundation for why the right only criticizes the left.

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    1. There are two answers to that question:
      1) My personal history with the right
      2) The right clearly harms the rest of us, in a variety of serious ways (certainly here in Israel, less so in the US).

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    2. 1. Regarding your personal history, are you saying that you only write about the right because of personal agenda?
      2. That still doesn't explain why you never criticize the left.
      3. After all is said and done, do these authors really deserve criticism for not writing about Satmar, why don't we just appreciate (or disagree) with the things that they do in fact do, and appreciate that for what it is instead of criticizing them for not doing what we (you) want them to do. Unless of course you have an agenda of finding and publicizing any misstep of "the right" then of course its understandable to deliver one sided journalism (bloggerism?)

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    3. 1. Not consciously. But if you wanted to psychoanalyze me, that would be an obvious hypothesis.
      2. Sure it does. Another reason is that while I think that the approach of OO is inconsistent with Orthodoxy, the fact is that they are trying to address problems which are not being satisfactorily addressed by others. Since I don't have better solutions, I'm not in a rush to criticize others.
      3. Satmar is engaged in horrific attacks on Israel and influencing others in that direction. Of course this should be condemned!

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    4. "Clearly harms the rest of us"

      And Satmar believe that were it not for the state, Moshiach would be here by now. That is quite harming, according to their belief.

      People have been saying for 30 years now that chareidim are causing harm. Not much evidence for that though. It's all speculation ignoring the existence of a Higher Power.

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    5. > And Satmar believe that were it not for the state, Moshiach would be here by now.

      Okay. And what's their reason that Moshaich didn't come for the 1878 years between the churban Bayis and the creation of the State of Israel?

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    6. They believe that there was an outpouring of chesed from Hashem after WW2. Had the evil zionists not hijacked it with a secular state with the help of the sitra achra it would have become the Messianic state.

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    7. Rabbi Slifkin -
      1. I have no interest in psychoanalyzing you, I'm just asking what you meant, it really seems like you're saying that you have an agenda.
      2. According to you: Satmar clearly harms the rest of us and therefore must be spoken about - but OO which "is inconsistent with Orthodoxy" (and tries to put Rabbonim into Orthodox shuls) isn't harmful? That's absurd! Satmar is a group that shares commonalities with charedim but is essentially separate. OO is trying to infiltrate your shuls! Do something about it!
      3. You are correct that Satmar should be condemned, but again despite commonalities, they are essentially separate, for example Charedi Litvaks would never go to a Satmar Rabbi for advice. But people who read your blog may end up with a community Rav who is OO - and will influence their daily decisions. This is a huge issue!
      4. This isn't a "new" Satmar opinion, it existed in the times of the Satmar Rav and Rav Ahron Kotler as well. Rav Ahron definitely did his share of speaking up against this issue. Do you expect that every time the Satmar ideology re expresses itself that every Charedi journalist make a write up about it?
      Perhaps instead of focusing on the past these journalists are focusing on the future, and doing what they feel is right to avoid harmful leadership that will affect the future. I understand that as you stated, your focus is on your "personal history", but perhaps you should join the ranks of these charedi journalists, and also write about some of the issues that are affecting our future.
      With this blog you have a platfor to speak about issues that directly affect your readers. I beg you please do it.

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    8. They believe that there was an outpouring of chesed from Hashem after WW2. Had the evil zionists not hijacked it with a secular state with the help of the sitra achra it would have become the Messianic state.

      I don't understand this argument - is Hashem's will subject to hijacking?

      I'm not trying to score points here - can you point me to a source that actually fleshes out this argument?

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    9. Of course Hashem's will is subject to "hijacking" in the sense that He will allow sins to get in the way of some great good that He was about to do.

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  18. I agree that the primary reason is probably the prevailing "frummer is better" or "righter is righter" attitude, combined with - and this is important - the current prioritization of creed over deed, especially when the deed is not a quantifiable mitzvah, such as human decency or sensible morality. I actually once heard from a reliable source that R. Wachtfogel criticized the Agudah for not adopting the "frummer is better" stance vis-a-vis Satmar.

    However, I think many readers missing a fundamental methodo-ideological difference between Satmar and OO, which causes others, for whom the first reason would not suffice, to respectfully disagree with Satmar and malign OO. As I wrote earlier, Satmar claims it is upholding mainstream pre-1948 Orthodox views, and - a point which many seem to overlook, perhaps willfully - they can produce copious support for their position from classic Torah sources, something that OO does not do with the same regularity or fervor.

    R Stefansky

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  19. Rabbi Stefansky, while Satmar leaders may claim that they are continuing the positions advanced by the Satmar rav before the Holocaust, it can't be categorized as mainstream Orthodox. The Satmar rav vilified Agudah leaders for not combating Zionism with sufficient animus. Who was he representing then besides his followers and similarly minded kano'im of the Minhas Elazar variety? This animosity towards other leading Orthodox rabbinic figures - including Rav Moshe Feinstein continued post-war. Anything positive achieved by the Israeli state such as the successful Entebbi rescue mission was dismissed (Entebbe was 'maaseh Satan'). How can you characterize such extremist views as mainstream?

    Y. Aharon

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    1. They [feel they] are representing the mainstream early 20th century opposition to Zionism.
      You are referring primarily to a later schism. In the first half of the 20th century, the majority of "chareidi gedolim" opposed the manner in which the state was being established. However, after its establishment, most if not all, joined the state, and sought to guide its development in the most "Torahdik" manner. Satmar believes it is representing the views of the majority view that opposed the manner of creation of the state pre-1948, by continuing this opposition. That is, even though the Agudah and other Rabbonim eventually joined the state Satmar believes this was an unacceptable concession. That's why they refer to themselves as the only True Jews. (Just to be clear, I am not a fan of the Satmar Rav and I hope it's obvious I don't believe that they are the authentic carriers of this legacy - just that I think it's important to realize that they believe they are).
      The current manifestations of their ideology are certainly not mainstream. However, they ARE based on a mainstream opinion.
      (Btw, I was under the impression that the Satmar Rav was not being serious when he attributes miraculous events to ma'aseh Satan).

      R Stefansky

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    2. "However, they ARE based on a mainstream opinion."

      That's not true. The Satmar position is based on a highly idiosyncratic reading of that גמרא in the end of כתובות. Satmar holds that the oath of שלא יעלו בחומה includes any legal & peaceful immigration of any large group, even if ordered by the nations of the world on the pain of death. It's a position that is at odds with tradition. It is by no means mainstream, and has no support in our מסורה.

      The current Satmar position is that the only miracle of the Six Day War was that Satan seduced all rabbonim (except the Satmar Rebbe) into believing there were miracles. There were many secular Jews, inspired by the events of '67, who became בעלי תשובה. According to Satmar, these בעלי תשובה were phonies since חז"ל said כל הפורש ממינות מית- since they're alive, they can't possibly be בעלי תשובה. (That this חז"ל proves Zionism is not מינות is not even considered.) This too, is not a mainstream position by any means.

      "I was under the impression that the Satmar Rav was not being serious when he attributes miraculous events to ma'aseh Satan"
      Which explains why he wrote a whole book on the subject. It was Purim satire!

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    3. "Highly idiosyncratic"? First of all, even if you were correct that this is what they believe, maligning it as "highly idiosyncratic" without explaining why the words of the gemara cannot sustain such an interpretation - which does seem to fit quite nicely - is really a terrible argument. And it isn't at odds with tradition bec. since the 1st century there has never been such an immigration en masse.
      (I'm curious by the way, when you make such sweeping statements if you have ever read the Satmar Rav's writings, or are simply ignorantly brushing aside opinions you don't like. I too think the Satmar Rav's beliefs are terribly misguided and very dangerous, but I am intellectually honest enough to read what support he brings before disagreeing however vehemently with him.)
      Secondly, they do not believe that "immigration of any large group, even if ordered by the nations of the world on the pain of death" violates the three oaths, only if it involves war with its inhabitants. The war of Independence involved taking land from Arabs who were living there - I am not saying I don't believe that this was pragmatically necessary, morally justified or divinely mandated, just that factually, we did have to fight a war to take the land from its then inhabitants - and as such definitely qualified as עלייה בחומה. - (I'm not saying it was prohibited, just that it did meet the internal criteria for עלייה בחומה) - This point is a very mainstream idea - even R. Kook held so, ( printed in עולת ראיה).

      "The current Satmar position is that the only miracle of the Six Day War was that Satan seduced all rabbonim (except the Satmar Rebbe) into believing there were miracles." I cannot speak for all Satmar, perhaps you can, but I don't know of any non-radical (which you can find in any group) Satmar who ascribe to Satan Seduction Syndrome theories.

      "According to Satmar, these בעלי תשובה were phonies since חז"ל said כל הפורש ממינות מית- since they're alive, they can't possibly be בעלי תשובה. (That this חז"ל proves Zionism is not מינות is not even considered.)"
      Undoubtedly, your understanding of Chazal's statement is unfailingly true throughout all instances of the past 1500 years, and therefore is conclusive evidence. QED

      Once again, to be clear, I am not condoning or even defending anything Satmar does or believes, just hoping for more educated criticisms.
      R Stefansky

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    4. " without explaining why the words of the gemara cannot sustain such an interpretation"
      Read the מפרשים on the גמרא. I have not seen one whose understanding can be reconciled with ויאול משה. Hence, his view is highly idiosyncratic. By definition.

      "And it isn't at odds with tradition bec. since the 1st century there has never been such an immigration en masse."
      Yes there has. Read the Wikipedia entry on Aliyah.

      " if you have ever read the Satmar Rav's writings,"
      I've read all of על הגאולה ועל התמורה and much of ויאול משה.

      "they do not believe that... violates the three oaths"
      I don't know what they believe. I know what the Satmar Rebbe wrote. Basically, he only allows individuals, perhaps small groups to immigrate. The rest of your paragraph is thus irrelevant.

      "we did have to fight a war to take the land from its then inhabitants - and as such definitely qualified as עלייה בחומה"
      Not necessarily. (1) Since we were already in the Land, it could not be considered Aliyah. (2) If we were in possession of the Land legally, by authority of the nations through the San Remo Conference and related treaties, then a legal & defensive war may not necessarily be בחומה. Consider also that the war was mostly fought by Arabs not living in the Mandate.

      "This point is a very mainstream idea"
      That's a bait & switch. I never discussed the 1948 war. Neither was the Satmar Rebbe's position limited to 1948, it includes all the large immigrations before 1948 too.

      "but I don't know of any non-radical (which you can find in any group) Satmar who ascribe to Satan Seduction Syndrome theories."
      It's there in על הגאולה ועל התמורה.

      "Undoubtedly..."
      Sorry, I don't speak snark.

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    5. I apologize for my earlier tone. It was uncalled for.

      R Stefansly

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  20. I am 100% Litvish, but I have to say I admired the Satmar Rov during the strange visit of Naturei Karta to Tehrhan and other odd events. New York's Jewish Presss published large notices signed by the Satmar Rov and Beth Din condemning Naturaei Karta as misguided outcasts. Manchester's Chevra Kadisha announced it cancelled the burial rights of those who went to Tehrhan. Charedi schools refused to accept children of Naturei Karta figures. The Charedi world drew a clear line as to what was tolerable.

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    1. I occasionally look at the NKUSA and so-called "True Torah Jews" sites and they all quote Satmar sources as the basis of their ideology. I am aware that it is said that Satmar strongly opposes NK, but if they indeed have the same ideology, why is there major differences between them? Can anyone answer this question?

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    2. I am curious do you mean litvish or yeshivish? people tend to blur the two.

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    3. But maybe that was just a deflection tactic?

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  21. They are not practicing Judaism..They only believe they are....This is a interesting blog...http://dusiznies.blogspot.com/2014/09/satmar-vs-zionism-part-1.html

    JM

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  22. Re your question of why "they" only criticize the left - there's an old expression: "He may be an SOB, but he's our SOB." There's truth to that. People have a greater tolerance for indiscretion when it's on your own side.

    Just so. The ills of the Charedim, of which there are plenty, are purely internal. They misapply texts, misunderstand others, and put the emphasis on the wrong ones - but it is all Jewish. The left wing, by marked contrast, is all about imitating the goyim. Sure, they find Jewish texts too (as one can for anything) but the agenda is first set by the goyim, and then eagerly parroted by the left wing Jews.

    So, in the eyes of God, is one better than the other? Are centrist Jews, however defined, better than the wings? Don't know. That's God's business, not mine. But that is why religious Jews criticize the left wing excesses while more or less ignoring excesses of the right.

    One other point I would add, though this is more subjective than the above: The self-righteousness, moral preening, and general condescension of the left is rather insufferable. It's not only that their numbers are statistically non-existent, though that too makes everything they say ring hollow. But its also that traditional Jews have been around a long time. Being preached to by leftists who have been around, in Jewish terms, for about five minutes, is comparable to a 17 year old freshman college girl lecturing a 70 year old war-scarred veteran on the morality of good v evil. It's obnoxious, and stupid to boot. Charedim may think of themselves (as all group members do) as the best type of Jew, but they don't come off with the smugness that the left does. I acknowledge that others may feel differently.

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  23. 2. The difference between Satmar and the Notorious Karta is use of violence: the nk sometimes utilize it and for the most part Satmar doesn't. The nk goes on missions to Iran; even Satmar declines to do so.

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  24. A rabbi told me the NK are the spiritual/physical descendants of the students of the Gra.
    True?

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    1. Doesn't everybody claim to be spiritual descendants of the Gra? The חתם סופר? The Rav? Rav Shach? Rav Ovadiah Yosef? etc.. etc..

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  25. Satmar is also violent, maybe not in Israel but definitely in New York. There were numerous incidents of satmar chasidim beating up lubavitchers.

    A side not a friend thinks the charedim rioters based on their behaviour can not be Jewish so they must be descendants of the eiruv rav.

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