Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Charedi Master Plan

A few weeks ago, the "Days of Rage" swept across Israel, with thousands of charedi demonstrators shutting down highways in protest of the arrest of those who hadn't reported for draft deferments. In the aftermath, popular belief was the demonstrators represented a narrow faction called Peleg, led by Rav Shmuel Auerbach. In a post entitled "Was the Charedi Day of Rage Charedi?" I explored whether it could nevertheless be described as a charedi phenomenon, and I argued that it could. Rabbi Avraham Edelstein, on the other hand, claimed that these people cannot even be described as Orthodox, let alone charedim.

Well, here is some more information that has come in.

First of all, there is a dovetailing of efforts with the Badatz Eidah Charedis. When the young men were released from prison, they received an official welcoming reception at the homes of two people: Rav Shmuel Auerbach, and also Rav Yitzchak Weiss, Gaavad of the Badatz.

Second, there is an astonishing audio recording of a talk on the topic given by Rav Yitzchak Berkovits, head of the Jerusalem Kollel. Rav Berkovits, formerly of Aish HaTorah, is a very fine Torah scholar who is known for his great love of Am Yisrael and who is generally considered to be one of the more moderate figures in the charedi world. (I am reasonably sure, for example, that he has no problem with prehistoric dinosaurs or with Chazal having relied on the science of their era.) His kollel is an important mainstream Anglo-charedi institution which trains and places many rabbis in positions of leadership around the world.

In his talk, Rav Berkovits describes the entire situation as a legitimate dispute between Gedolei Torah. Chas v'shalom, he stresses, to disparage either Rav Shmuel Auerbach or the demonstrators! (Although, he later adds, it might be necessary to lie and pretend that one is opposed to their actions, for kiruv purposes.) The question is, as he describes it, are there merely haphazard and uncoordinated anti-Torah efforts, in which case rioting is unwarranted? Or is there a Master Plan (sic) by the Zionists to take over and destroy charedi society? If the latter, he says, then it is necessary to avoid even reporting for an army exemption, and one must take to the streets in violent protest. Because "nothing crucial has ever been accomplished by peaceful means and negotiation; it's either violence or political manipulation." He dismisses the problems caused to the general public as an insignificant inconvenience which is more than justified by the goal.

Rav Berkovitz does express a sort of sympathetic excuse for the anti-Torah Zionists. From their perspective, he says, they believe that there is a charedi Master Plan to take over their world, and they are afraid. It's a pity, he says, that there is no such charedi Master Plan! We should make a plan to take over the country! (UPDATE: One of his talmidim clarified to me that he certainly did not mean that everyone should be made charedi; rather, he simply meant that everyone should become shomer Torah u'mitzvot.)

Let's not discuss the fact that Rav Berkovits takes it as a given that yeshivah students should not serve in the army (which is normative belief in the charedi world) and that there is no legitimate reason for others to be opposed to that. Let's also not discuss his claim that violence or political manipulation is the only way to achieve anything. Instead, I would like to address his basic premise, which he states emphatically, that there is an underlying inexcusable desire to destroy charedi society, with which the only question is as to whether it actually takes the form of a Master Plan. This is the same siege mentality that was expressed in the last elections in Beit Shemesh, where local Anglo-charedi rabbanim spoke about the need to be vigilant against the "war on Torah."

The reason why this is so preposterous, is that as Jonathan Rosenblum has written on numerous occasions in Mishpacha magazine, there is a very real problem with charedi society. And the problem is that there is no Charedi Master Plan!

Rosenblum was not bemoaning, as Rav Berkovits does, the lack of a Master Plan to take over secular society. Instead, he was bemoaning, as do all sensible people, the lack of a Master Plan regarding how charedi society and the State of Israel as a whole is going to survive when a third of the population does not and cannot work in a professional career. (See my post "Rosenblum: We All Need Charedim To Get Academic Education And Professional Employment".) As he pithily asks, who will fund the IDF? Who will fund charedi society? How will the economy of the State of Israel survive?

Rav Berkovits seems to be saying that if you are deeply concerned about such things, and you want the situation to change, then you are part of the terrible War on Charedim. And if you actually try to strategize and implement change, then this should be countered with violent protest. This is what he teaches to his audience of trainee rabbis, getting ready to lead pulpits around the world. It's very distressing.


UPDATE: A certain Rosh Yeshivah just called me, up in arms over this post. He insisted that Rav Berkovitz is completely out of touch with the mainstream charedi world on these matters, which views the entire Peleg faction as being utterly illegitimate in their views and methods.

UPDATE #2: A number of talmidim of Rav Berkovitz have contacted me, greatly upset about this post. They did not respond to the substance of the post, but they said that it gives a misleading impression about who Rav Berkovitz is. I invite the readers to hear his other shiurim at http://www.thejerusalemkollel.com/online_classes.php. (Regarding the propriety of publicizing shiurim that rabbonim give to private audiences, see this post: Reporting Rabbis Badly.)

See also these posts:
On Being Mevazeh the Gedolim
The Angst of Anglo-Charedi Converts


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81 comments:

  1. > Although, he later adds, it might be necessary to lie and pretend that one is opposed to their actions, for kiruv purposes.

    As soon as someone says something like this, you can safely ignore anything else they might say. Once he admits that he has no qualms about lying to people in order to manipulate them, you can't trust anything he says.

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  2. For a long time I had wondered how others do not pick up on some of the stories you do, considering the sources you cite. However after reading this, I now understand it fully. You are happy to comment, criticise and lambaste anyone and everyone without a first-hand experience of the context and personality being cited, nor of the audience the presentation was made in-front of, nor to the intended message being delivered. Rav Berkowitz is someone who can be heard constantly encouraging depth of thought when attempting to understand other peoples positions, and applying this pedagogic skill to the current situation was the motivation behind this particular talk. It is such a pity that you don't share the same need to think before you formulate your opinions, and it is an even greater disgrace that you fail to do so before your ridiculous attempt to discredit a global organisation responsible for providing quality Torah education to thousands across the world. Surely someone who presents themselves as supportive of a radical change to the Chareidi society and shift from their insular, sheltered way of life, should consider carefully before ridiculing one of the serious contenders fighting for that change. This is revealing of your underlying need to bash, smash and hurt everyone and anyone that might help promote your blog for the betterment of your own selfish interests. I very rarely would consider commenting on an article such as this, and really hope that those reading this comment will appreciate that this post is merely reflective of the lies, and misappropriate use of quotations and citations common throughout much of this authors work.

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    1. Mr Unknown - you're doing a fair bit of bashing yourself. I see much more bile in your comment than in R. Slifkin's post. I heard the talk and it was every bit as bad as R. Slifkin described it. These weren't off the cuff remarks - they reflect a deep-seated worldview that the wider public deserves to be made aware of.

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    2. Unknown, you are happy to comment, criticise and lambaste anyone and everyone without a first-hand experience of the context and personality being cited, nor of the audience the presentation was made in-front of, nor to the intended message being delivered. Rav Slifkin is someone who can be heard constantly encouraging depth of thought when attempting to understand other peoples positions, and applying this pedagogic skill to the current situation was the motivation behind this particular blog post. It is such a pity that you don't share the same need to think before you formulate your opinions, and it is an even greater disgrace that you fail to do so before your ridiculous attempt to discredit an author responsible for providing quality Torah education to thousands across the world. This is revealing of your underlying need to bash, smash and hurt everyone and anyone that might help promote your comments for the betterment of your own selfish interests. I very rarely would consider commenting on a blog comment such as this, and really hope that those reading this comment will appreciate that your comment is merely reflective of the lies, and misappropriate use of quotations and citations common throughout much of your work.

      Delete
    3. "Rav Berkowitz is someone who can be heard constantly encouraging depth of thought when attempting to understand other peoples positions, and applying this pedagogic skill to the current situation was the motivation behind this particular talk."

      Can we apply that skill to understanding why people want charedim to serve in the army, or are we just going to dismiss them as Torah-haters?

      Delete
  3. That picture reminds me of pictures of Republican Legistlators, no diversity, whatsoever, I just see white men. Anyone see anyone of Mizrachi origin?

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    1. Yes I am mizrachi and i learnt there as were many of my counterparts. It has some of the most open minded, friendly and brilliant people at the Kollel

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  4. I am a talmid of Rav Berkowitz. Happy to discuss the substance of the post. Perhaps you should have contacted those talmidim before writing a post displaying your ignorance of the context and goal of this particular talk.

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    1. You are proud to state you are a talmid of his, but not brave enough to state your name for the record in defending him? What did he teach you then?

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    2. Oh come on. The rabbi spoke very carefully for almost forty five minutes. His views are perfectly clear. That those views are highly distasteful is something his talmidim can either choose to come to terms with or not. Laying into the messenger may be therapeutic, but it doesn't take the discussion forward.

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    3. Anonymous, perhaps you should have contacted R. Slifkin before writing a comment displaying your ignorance of the context and goal of this particular post.

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    4. "I am a talmid of Rav Berkowitz. Happy to discuss the substance of the post."

      I'd be happy to post a guest post in response. However, you have to put your name to it.

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    5. Happy to discuss privately my understanding. The point I was making was that this is something that should have been done before writing a post like this. Offering to post a guest post seems like a "baiting" to provide subsequent material to stoke the flames of upset which you have clearly been so successful at igniting over your years of writing. I did provide my e-mail address (for personal contact only - not for public posting) should you wish to contact me to hear my point of view.

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    6. Oh for goodness' sake. I'm not baiting. I'd be very happy to find out that I've completely misunderstood what he was saying; I've always liked Rav Berkovitz and I was very disappointed by this shiur. (But I think that a 40-minute lecture cannot really be misunderstood.) If you feel that his views have been misrepresented, then you have a responsibility to correct the misunderstanding. The obvious conclusion is that you aren't very confident in whatever explanation you have.

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    7. IMHO let him write anonymously. I think his arguments will stand or fall (or be be-felled) on their own worth or lack thereof. And we don't have to be left with him claiming he has good arguments in his back pocket.

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    8. He can write as many comments as he wants under a pseudonym. For a guest post, he has to write his name.

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    9. It is not a question of "completely misunderstanding" what was said. The details of context that might be helpful in understanding the nuances in the "lecture" begin with an appreciation that it was not a lecture in the first place. Often Rav Berkowitz offers a question and answer session allowing members of the Kollel to discuss sometimes controversial ideas in a private environment - an important opportunity, I am sure you will agree. Experiencing and sharing in the thought process of someone with his experience and breadth of knowledge is a crucial element in the rabbinic training the Kollel offers. Often a question/or questioner will challenge Rav Berkowitz to explain a point of view generally opposing Western values or more centrist Orthodox sympathies, which are being popularly espoused by otherwise credible sources.
      Whilst it is generally difficult to "completely misunderstand" a 40 minute presentation, when the first few minutes in which the question was formulated are cut from the recording there is much room for serious misrepresentation of values. This, in addition to the fact that the follow up questions are inaudible, and are being submitted by people who "outside" listeners are unfamiliar with, limit the scope of total understanding.
      The question in this case was challenging Rav Berkowitz to provide a rationale behind the position of Rav Aurbach - an extremely respected Torah authority. It was implicit in this talk and explicit in countless others that Rav Berkowitz himself does not support the behaviour of violence in the streets.
      For those familiar with Rav Berkovitzs and his teachings, as well as his reputation, a post such as yours will be rejected out of hand for they appreciate this talk in the manner it was intended. I do not intend to insult you personally nor to stoke further machlokes but as you said, I felt I do have some degree of responsibility to correct misunderstanding. I hope that this reply is taken in the manner it is intended.

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    10. That R. Shmuel Auerbach is "respected" is hardly cause to excuse his thuggish campaign of destruction. And that is exactly why R. Berkowitz's talk was so dangerous.

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    11. "The question in this case was challenging Rav Berkowitz to provide a rationale behind the position of Rav Aurbach - an extremely respected Torah authority. It was implicit in this talk and explicit in countless others that Rav Berkowitz himself does not support the behaviour of violence in the streets."

      But it was EXPLICIT that he considers it Rishus to castigate R. Shmuel Auerbach and his followers. And it was EXPLICIT that he considers there to be a widespread and terrible desire by non-charedim to eradicate chareidi society. And it was EXPLICIT that, suppose this was actually to be a master plan, then violent protest is the only way to deal with it.

      I think that you are so uncomfortable with what was said, that you are trying to whitewash it. Alternatively, you are comfortable with it, and you are just lying for kiruv.

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  5. In their (understandable) zeal to defend their rebbe's honor, Rav Berkovitz' talmidim are unfortunately achieving precisely the opposite, by not responding at all to the substance of the post and instead claiming vaguely that it is "out of context" and attacking the blog writer. This does not reflect well on them.

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  6. It's amazing. You've got two stellar figures in chinnuch, R Edelstein and R. Berkovitz. R. Edelstein claims that R. Berkovitz is supporting a viewpoint that is outside of Orthodoxy; R. Berkovitz claims that R, Edelstein is expressing rishus. And yet people are focusing their grievances upon me!

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    1. Maybe R. Berkowitz thinks R. Edelstein is only saying what he is saying for kiruv purposes and they privately share the same view?
      People have grievances against you because you drum up conflict by taking their positions way too seriously.

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  7. Rabbi Berkowitz has a name as a sensitive teacher and a moderating voice in a climate of extremism. It is no wonder that many young people who aspire towards an honest, reasonable and respectable haredi ethos turn to him for guidance and see him as their mentor. Indeed, many of his lectures available on line would indicate that he is not a radical.

    Yet it is precisely for this reason that his lecture on the current haredi crisis is so worrying. One who listens to the entire lecture will witness an otherwise moderate voice teaching a future generation of rabbis that one must respect the disgraced hooligans who have besmirched the name of haredi Jews on a universal level, honour the voices that promote irrational and violent behaviour in a democratic country, and resort to double talk if not sheer hypocrisy when teaching Judaism to newcomers.

    The suggestion that the only way forward for haredi Jews in Israel is through violence and terror (political or otherwise), is blatantly wrong and dangerously provocative. [If that were the case it would preferable for Benei Torah to emigrate to ‘friendlier’ countries rather than remain in the Holy Land and embrace corruption and become political monsters]. The suggestion that the yeshivah boys who took to the streets - wreaking untold havoc, wrestling with policewomen and spitting at law enforcers – deserve respect and tolerance is tantamount to tacit approval for and complicity with the criminal rioters. Whilst there may be problems in the attitude of the State of Israel towards haredim, the suggestion that the State wishes to destroy haredi Judaism, when in reality haredim are thriving (with the assistance of the State), is ill-advised rhetoric at best and, in the current climate, adds fuel to the lamentable strife, animosity and hatred which is destroying our nation.

    All of these suggestions, with which with which Rabbi Berkowitz clearly sympathises, are antithetical in the extreme to Torah teachings. It is sad that Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, and some of his disciples in Ponivezh and elsewhere have confused hooliganism with martyrdom, and elevated the rioters on a pedestal of religious prominence. It is sadder still, that rather than issuing an unequivocal condemnation of the entire Peleg ethos, otherwise moderate Rabbi Berkowitz has severely blurred the demarcation lines between the sacred and the demonic, between good and evil.

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    1. Another Concerned RabbiNovember 13, 2017 at 5:41 AM

      This is perfectly stated. To add one point: The idea that the "The Torah/Yeshiva world is in danger of being destroyed" (brought as a possible reality that Peleg people use to legitimize illegitimate and non-Halachic behaviour) is pure propganda. After WW2, the Torah world was in danger of being destroyed. Today,when there are more young men learning Torah in the Mir Yeshiva than there were in all of Israel in 1967, the Torah world isn't in any danger of being destroyed. Made a little smaller, maybe. But that is going to happen not because of any "social engineering" the army or secular politicians may be attempting. It will be because of economics, and distortions of Torah- which never endure.

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  8. Kudos to Rabbi Auerbach and his followers for having the guts to stand up for an unpopular ideology and risk imprisonment. I am an American and live in the US and lived through the Vietnam protests. So long as the Peleg people engage in non - violent civil disobedience they have my support. I agree with the notion that the Israeli government is using the military for social engineering. the U.S. learned that the best military is a highly motivated,volunteer service and not people forced in by draft. Particularly in todays day and age of modern technological warfare where battles are fought with tank and jet drones and where where boots on the ground are becoming less and less required, we have to wonder what is really motivating the push to draft yeshiva students. I also have to wonder if some of the more violent protests are not being instigated by agent provocateurs in order to besmirch the religious community.

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    1. Not only do they not abjure violence, but R. Berkowitz himself says at 23:25 that "the crucial things that had to change were done in violent demonstrations". He comes to praise violence, not to bury it.

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    2. R. Berkowitz continues at 23:50 "People were moser nefesh and they were throwing stones". It is worth meditating on how obscene a statement that is.

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    3. There's absolutely no need to besmirch the uo community

      They do an excellent job all by themselves.

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    4. REMEMBER KENT STATE wrote above: "Particularly in todays day and age of modern technological warfare where battles are fought with tank and jet drones and where where boots on the ground are becoming less and less required"

      Dear Mr. Kent State, I have no idea in which fields (if any) you have expertise but it clearly isn't military affairs.

      Did you notice that Israel's incursions into Gaza require a significant infantry commitment to be effective, that lots of border police and infantry (active and reserve) are required for operations to address proactively and reactively, terrorism in the territories and Jerusalem and that the likely coming offensive by Israel into Lebanon (and perhaps Syria) to disrupt the growing Iran/Hezbollah threat will require lots of infantry to clear villages and screen tanks (BTW, in an era of plentiful anti-tank guided missiles, tanks can't move securely and effectively without a screen of infantry)?

      It seems that for the next several decades Israel will require lots of fit and courageous young men to put themselves "Between their loved home and the war's desolation (from the national anthem of the United States)". If one segment of Israel's society demands to be exempt from those risks and hardship, yet to receive massive subsidies and also have the right to scold and coerce the behavior of the majority there will be inevitable tensions and bitterness.

      Marc Hess

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  9. The Chareidi master ideology is based on a line from Doctor Who: If you are not a Dalek, you are an enemy of the Daleks.

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  10. 1) There is no doubt that there are people on the extreme Left who despise charedim and want to "give it to them." I personally once spoke to a high-ranking government official who told me that the law must "punish" people who don't serve in the army by barring them from gaining employment.

    I was shocked. No American government official would ever talk like that. Because you don't do what I want, I will "punish" you by barring you from making a living? Who do you think you are?

    Is the extreme left the majority? No, not at all. But it definitely exists and is overrepresented among the elite.

    2) I wouldn't worry too much about the future. One way or another things will work out. Reality has a way of imposing itself. Better to solve the problem sooner than later, but if one day there is simply not enough money in the coffers to provide the welfare charedim want, they will have to change whether they want to or not.

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    1. I was shocked. No American government official would ever talk like that. Because you don't do what I want, I will "punish" you by barring you from making a living? Who do you think you are?

      Yehuda, you are incorrect. The US no longer has a draft but you must still register for a possible future draft. Below find the penalty for not registering. In general, people don't like it when they or their kids are drafted and risk their lives while others skirt around the obligation.

      Penalties for Failing to Register

      Failing to register or comply with the Military Selective Service Act is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison term of up to five years, or a combination of both. Also, a person who knowingly counsels, aids, or abets another to fail to comply with the Act is subject to the same penalties.

      If a man fails to register, or provides Selective Service with evidence that he is exempt from the registration requirement, after receiving Selective Service reminder and/or compliance mailings, his name is referred to the Department of Justice for possible investigation and prosecution for his failure to register as required by the Act. For clarification, if a man is exempt from registering with the Selective Service System, his name is not forwarded to the Department of Justice. The federal law stipulates that names are to be submitted to the Department of Justice annually.

      The more immediate penalty is if a man fails to register before turning 26 years old, even if he is not tried or prosecuted, he may find that some doors are permanently closed.

      NOTE: Some states have added additional penalties for those who fail to register. See STATE LEGISLATION.

      Registration is the Goal

      Selective Service wants young men to register. It does not want them to be prosecuted or denied benefits. If a draft is ever needed, it must be as fair as possible, and that fairness depends on having as many eligible men as possible registered. In the event of a draft, for every man who fails to register, another man would be required to take his place in service to his country.

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    2. David,

      My point wasn't about whether there should be a penalty or not. My point was the official's language. I have never heard an American politician use the word "punish" the way this Israeli official did.

      There's a penalty for not buying medical insurance in America now. I can't imagine Obama, however, saying, "We will punish you for not getting insurance." It's a dictatorial way of thinking and expressing yourself.

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    3. I'm sorry that I don't see the difference. A prison term of up to 5 years is a punishment. It is intended to motivate you to register which is what people who feel that burden-sharing is important want. As I mentioned, it is not all surprising that someone who's children risk their lives are upset that those who avoid doing so (and full disclosure: I'm an American who did not volunteer for the IDF, so I claim no moral high ground here).

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    4. I'm talking about the mindset -- how the government sees (and should see) itself vis-à-vis the people who elected them as their representatives.

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  11. It does seem that he was playing devil's advocate. But that is not always a good idea. Sometimes, "aveira le'shma" is really just an "aveira".

    About "mainstream Chareidi society" - I was recently at an event where my personal connection Chareidi society, the principal of the school my kids went to, a Bnei Brak rabbi, a graduate of Chevron, called these people "hooligans", "shallow", destroying Torah. He compared them to people leaving observance altogether.

    He did not try to understand them or make any excuses for them. Rishus is rishus.

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  12. I found the pushback from talmidim asking for more open clarifications of the positions (and who the actual manhigim are) to be of particular interest. I wonder how the response of "we are not at that level" resonated.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  13. I have no knowledge of Rav Berkowitz himself, but the contact I have had with Aish haTorah here in the US suggests they have a problem with prehistoric dinosaurs and Chazal's knowledge of science.

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  14. Your first 'extra piece of news' is hardly news. R Shmuel has obviously taken Peleg in the direction of the eida charedis who've encouraged demonstrations for decades, so it's not all a surprise that the Gaavad honoured them. Wasn't even sure why you bothered mentioning it.

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  15. There are those who believe that there is a "master plan" for the Chareidim. That the army is a push for social engineering. The question, apart from this post, is if this is true. And it is an impossible question to answer fully, IMHO.
    Pushing people to be gainfully employed so their own social structure does not collapse can be viewed a social engineering.
    Forcing people to get vaccines or deny them entry into schools can be seen as social engineering.
    I do not really know what is not social engineering, as forcing a person to wear a gartle by the amud or deny them the opportunity to lead when they are C'V in availus can also be considered social engineering.
    There are, I think, many misconceptions on both sides. I have issues myself fully understanding them. The E'Y of now, the modern anti-religious Zionist (if there really are any) is different from the early parts of the century. Israel is already established. I do not think that there is a notion of "destroy Torah", more like "leave me alone and don't make me defend, support and take care of you and then call me evil. The Chareidim benefit from the state. The mindset is "If I wasn't learning, you wouldn't be here, and Hashem wouldn't defend you". Hmmm G-d defends the Evil Zionists because people learn in E'Y? Really? Gah. Never mind. . If they don't want the state, it's crazy that there are so many frum people in government. I don't think most peoples understanding on any side is complete.
    Regarding lying to people and condoning violence for political motives, that is ridiculous. I DO NOT KNOW Rav Berkowitz. I do know that when someone who is viewed as a moderate that says things that promote violence, to say "but if you only knew who he was, how much good he's done" is a natural reaction. But not always a smart one. Great leaders do say things that are sometimes wrong. And sometimes taken out of context (the advent of soundbites has ruined many peoples careers). But to jump on R' Slifkin for pointing out something that is
    1. Immediately dangerous to people (as violence is) and
    2. Long term dangerous to people (as violence as a reaction in a society that is supposed to be a light unto he nations should be anathema)
    is not justified. Because someone has to point out when we go off the rails, as we sometimes all do. Here's to keeping on track, or as one might say "on the derech"!

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  16. Most Charedim are trained to respect a Talmid Chochom, no matter what he does. Unless he repudiates Torah and Emuna, we are careful with criticism of him. That is why they are careful bot to condemn Rabbi Auerbach personally, even though the Peleg are considered a rowdy bunch of hooligans.

    I suspect that Rabbi Berkowitz is a typical American, starry eyed and unable to understand what Sheker really is. He is taken in by propaganda because he can't imagine religious people cynically lying in public. Americans have this strange belief system and childlike naivete (Geprge Washington never said a lie etc.) and they are generally easily fooled.

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    1. There is a lot of truth to this (without expressing any opinion on the underlying issues.) Not just charedim - the American public has hitherto been very naïve, generally, in believing in their media, polls, "science" etc. A lot of that is crumbling, though, if not demolished already. It is sad, in a way, but the institutions in which Americans put their faith did it to themselves. In retrospect, it was too much too ask of people with vested interests in things to actually be honest. It is simply not within the human DNA.

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  17. "I am reasonably sure, for example, that he has no problem with prehistoric dinosaurs or with Chazal having relied on the science of their era.)"

    Rav Berkovitz represented Aish Hatorah in a din Torah on a similar matter, so this is a safe assumption at least regarding dinosaurs...From an email discussion from R. Ari Kahn around 2005, that was then circulated on the internet, reflecting Aish's approach that "non-Yeshivish" ideas were permissible for those who needed them, whether BT or FFB:

    "Many years ago in my capacity of educational director of Alyenu (Aish’s outreach arm) I hired Dr. Gerald (Yaakov – as he prefers to be called) Shroeder. When I first heard his material. I was impressed with the novel approach. He then delivered a lecture to senior staff including myself, and Rav Motty Berger and Rav Shmuel Veffer. In order to protect Aish from the type of attack it is experiencing now I introduced Dr Shroeder to Rav Yitzchak Berkovitz, and then Rav Noach Weinberg, neither had objections to his basic approach. Later when his first book came out we gave a copy to Rav Yaakov Weinberg, and then arranged a meeting, I was there together with Rav Yaakov Weinberg and Dr. Shroeder, anticipating that one day people will claim that Rav Yaakov Weinberg never could have approved his approach I came
    armed with a tape recorder. Somewhere in my house I have a tape of the meeting.

    Rav Yakov’s first concern was that the science was valid – while he was extremely well read and conversant in science Rav Yakov was humble enough to feel that he could not judge the book scientifically, and wanted to know that the science was indeed acceptable. Dr Shoreder assured him that the book went through scientific peer review at Bantam books. Rav Yakov was satisfied. Rav Yakov then gave some guidelines and advice. A major point was never to teach his approach in yeshiva – but if yeshiva guys with questions came to Aish he should teach them. Rav Yakov felt that teaching this approach while valid, would be counter productive for yeshiva students because it would hurt their emunas chachamim. Secular people on the other hand he felt should be taught this material.

    A number of years later some of the more zealous elements in Israel decided that they did not like Dr Shroeder’s approach and soon a din torah was setup. Presiding was Rav Moshe Shternbuch, representing Aish was Rav Yitzchak Berkovitz –charges of kefira were hurled, ultimately Rav Berkovitz asked Rav Shternbuch which ikkar in emunah was being denied, Rav Shtenbuch was silent and then turned to the petitioners – who also could not articulate the exact kefira. In the end Rav Shternbuch who did not like it at all had to admit that this was not kefira – even though he did not like it at all..."

    (Subsequently, R. Shternbuch wrote a letter on the subject which is posted on this website)

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    1. I would LOVE to hear that taped conversation. If you have any way of finding and sharing it, please do post a link here.

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    2. Please describe a bit what you mean when you write that Rabbi Weinberg was "extremely well read and conversant in science." What did he read? In what subjects was he conversant? Did he take courses in science? Did he converse with teachers of science regularly?

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    3. I'm quoting from R. Ari Kahan's email; I also would be interested in hearing the tape of R. Yaakov Weinberg.

      Someone above said that Aish in the US would have a problem with R. Slifkin's positions. I don't know if they have since changed, but you can see letter to the NYT in 2005 :

      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/12/opinion/clearing-the-record-on-censorship-745553.html

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    4. Shades of Gray, you presented an interesting first-hand account of Rav Yaakov Weinberg's attitude towards Dr. Shroeder's book(s) attempting to reconcile the torah's version of Creation with scientific facts. You mentioned that his first book (Genesis and the Big Bang) was reviewed by Rav Weinberg who needed assurance only that the science was correct. The assurance came in the form of a statement that the Bantam Press publisher had put the manuscript through a scientific review before accepting it. Now, publishers don't ordinarily invest in such a process in the same manner as a scientific journal which has a reputation to uphold. In any case, Dr. Shroeder's thesis in that book was that the Creation 'days' were measured from a 'divine' reference frame moving at a velocity sufficiently close to the speed of light that a difference would not be currently measurable. That is the only way of using the Special Theory of Relativity to make the 6 millennia of biblical reckoning of the age of the universe equivalent to the 13.8 billion years of scientific reckoning. This is a rather odd ad-hoc position that postulates a specific reference frame for the 'divine' reckoning just a very, very tiny bit slower than the speed of light.

      Dr. Shroeder's subsequent book, "The Science of god" is more sophisticated - using General Relativity arguments, but hardly compatible with the evident meaning of the words in the biblical creation story. His time reckoning of day1 = 8 billion years and each subsequent 'day' being a factor of 2 shorter than the previous 'day' gives a total of 15.75 billion years for the age of the universe. 15 billion years used to be cited, but more recent measurements give it as 13.8 billion. That day 1, according to the book, lasted until our galaxy was formed some 7.5 billion years ago. How does that correspond to the creation of light, when the solar system and the earth were first formed some 4.5 billion years ago? Such questions can be raised about the other seminal events that are said to demark the remaining days. It is, once more, an ad-hoc attempt to squeeze the creation story to fit science.

      Y. Aharon

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    5. Y. Aharon, I cannot speak for the scientific calculations that Dr. Schroeder presents in his books and I was similarly skeptical about his squeezing in his theory into the biblical text.

      However, after learning a little more and working over the matter, I am satisfied that his approach is viable (I don't know if it is right, of course). Dr. Shroeder very specifically bases his approach on the opinion of the Ramban.

      Both the Ramban and the Rambam explicitly state that the account of Creation in the Torah is not literal. While the Rambam holds that nothing in the account is literal, the Ramban holds that one thing is literal: that there were 6 days of 24 hours each. On the other hand the Ramban also states that these 6 days encompass all of history.

      This latter statement appears to contradict the first statement. The simple meaning of the Ramban, in my opinion, is that the 6 days of creation somehow correspond to future events in history. But Dr. Shroeder's interpretation is more literal. The 6 days (of 24 hours each) are from one point of view, and those six days encompass all of history from another point of view.

      The key, though, in terms of answering your question, is that according to Ramban the simple reading of the details of creation are not literal (i.e. you cannot say that "light" was created first or that the sun created on the 4th day).

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    6. Schroeder misinterprets science, Torah, Ramban, Rambam etc: and makes up novel translations. Not a problem because it is ok to deceive for kiruv.

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    7. ACJA, I don't think science is a text that one can misinterpret. The science can be correct or incorrect or speculative, weakly evidenced, uncertain, etc. How does Schroeder misinterpret the Ramban?

      I don't know if I agree with his interpretation, and you don't need to agree either, but what is your basis for accusing him of deliberately deceiving people?

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    8. Genesis refers to the creation of grasses, plants and trees on the third day, before the luminaries and well before animals. The scientific evidence, on the other hand, shows that plant life appeared billions of years after the luminaries, and that trees only first appeared after fish and insects.
      Schroeder argues that plant life only began to appear on the third day, in terms of bacteria and algae, and mostly appeared later in creation. He cites Ramban (to Genesis 1:12) as stating that “there was no special day assigned for the command of creating vegetation,” and uses this to justify explaining how most vegetation appeared much later in history, understanding Ramban to mean that the creation of plant life “occurred over an extended period not limited to that day.” Yet a careful study of the full text of Ramban reveals that he means something quite different. He is explaining why the creation of plants, on the same day as the appearance of the dry land, receives its own statement of “And God said, Let there be…,” whereas other such creations deserving such statements also receive their own distinct day on which they were created. Ramban’s answer is that plants are not an independent creation, but rather an outgrowth of the land; i.e., they are not significantly different from the land, and therefore were created on the same day. When Ramban says that there was no “special day assigned,” this does not mean that there was no *particular* day when it happened—it means that there was no day assigned that was distinct from the appearance of the earth.

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    9. Another problem is that Genesis describes birds as having been created on the fifth day, prior to terrestrial creatures, whereas the fossil record shows otherwise. In response to this difficulty, Schroeder claims that the creation of flying creatures on the fifth day refers to winged insects, which indeed preceded terrestrial animals. Yet the text speaks of kol ohf kanaf, “every winged flying creature.” Even though the phrase can include winged insects, it certainly does not exclusively refer to them. Flying insects, when referred to in exclusion to birds, are called sheretz ha-ohf. The phrase kol ohf kanaf may well include flying insects but it certainly also (and primarily) refers to birds. These are described here as being created before terrestrial animals.
      In any case, explaining that the verse refers to flying insects simply raises a further problem: terrestrial insects are described in the Torah as being created later, on the sixth day, and yet science maintains that they preceded the winged insects.

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    10. @Benignuman - It is too long to explain in these comments. Check out these two sequences http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-science-of-god-schroeder-part-1.html and here http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-science-of-god-schroeder-part-1.html

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    11. Rabbi Slifkin, in reading the Ramban on the early parts of Bereishis it is important to keep in mind that he holds that the details of the various days cannot be understood from a literal reading of the text: והתשובה, מפני שמעשה בראשית – סוד עמוק, אינו מובן מן המקראות, ולא יוודע על בוריו אלא מפי הקבלה עד משה רבינו מפי הגבורה, ויודעיו חייבין להסתיר אותו. לכך אמר רבי יצחק שאין להתחלת התורה צורך ב"בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא", והסיפור במה שנברא ביום ראשון ומה נעשה ביום שני ושאר הימים, והאריכות ביצירת אדם וחוה, וחטאם ועונשם, וסיפור גן עדן וגירוש אדם ממנו, כי כל זה לא יובן בינה שלימה מן הכתובים. וכל שכן ספור דור המבול והפלגה, שאין הצורך בהם גדול

      You are right, and Dr. Shroeder is wrong, about the interpretation of the Ramban on Genesis 1:12, but very idea that every "let there be" statement requires its own day fits with the concept of the specific descriptions of the days not following the actual creation of those items but some kind of conceptual pattern that is part of the secrets of Maaseh Bereishis. Otherwise, the simple answer would be that this was just the order it was done in (and there wouldn't be enough days if every mammar got its own day).

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  18. R' Slifkin - think that it might be helpful if you explained whether you disagree with R' Berkowitz about his point that there is a "plan" to change Chareidi society, or if you instead think that there is some effort to integrate Chareidim but that such effort is necessary (which seems to be the point of Jonathan Rosenblum). Unless you are of the opinion that Chareidim leaving kollelim en masse to pursue a higher education and meaningfully join the workforce is not an existential threat to Chareidi society as it looks today, I'm not sure what your issue with R' Berkowitz's stance is.

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    1. I don't think the burden is on Rabbi Slifkin to prove the non-existence of an anti-chareidi master plan. Rather the burden falls on those who stir up violence to oppose it.

      There isn't, as R. Slifkin points out, any such plan. There are massive subsidies and army exemptions the at all SUPPORT chareidi society. And as R. Slifkin also pointed out, this causes undue burdens and resentment on the rest of Israeli society. And as he also pointed out its fundamentally unsustainable so there really SHOULD be a Master Plan to fix this absurd situation but alas there isn't yet. Even the Yesh Atid party's contains protection for Talmidim and for UO society.

      But go ahead, riot, continue to bite the hand that feeds you. I'm sure your gedolim are right. R. Berkovits certainly sounds very sure of his position. And Truth be damned.

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    2. Ari, this reasoning is circular. Of course ,if you define Charedi society as needing to remain exactly as it is today, then *any* change is an 'existential' threat. But if you do define it that way, then you would also be forced to say that the Chazon Ish was an existential threat to pre-Charedi Litvish society and in fact destroyed Litvish society since that society has changed their way of life to the present non-work, all-learn, women-earn.

      Of course we don't say that because the Charedi revolution was intended to preserve was as deemed essential and adapt to a new circumstance.

      If so, the question is whether the changes are motivated by a specific desire to remove people from their religious commitment or by practical considerations for the country as a whole.

      In fact in America, there are swaths of people who identify with Charedi ideals, but also work. You also have all of the Chasidic groups who work and even do Sherut Leumi but remain distinct (at least Gerrer used to do Sherut Leumi. Not sure if that has changed in the current political climate).

      It is not necessary to "leave Kollelim en masse". For example, here is a program that even Lakewood people utilize. http://view2.fdu.edu/academics/petrocelli-college/academic-units/bais-yeshiva-program/about-the-program/

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  19. The "war on Torah" is a lot like the Democrats invention "The War on Women." Both of them a complete sham.

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    1. I would have said the "War" on Xmas, but whatever.......

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    2. you really don't believe that conservatives, let alone Hareidim aren't try to erase women from positions of power or the public sphere. I guess all those efforts to prevent women from knowing about preventive health care, bans against photos, sitting next to women on airplanes, not being able to drive in certain Chassidic communities and oh yeah getting an advanced education are just to protect their "daughter of the King" status.

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    3. Lol and all this time I thought the Democrats were talking about Republicans waging a phony War on Women, but you corrected me. Hillary was talking about haredim and their religious agenda that the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats don't care about and have never even heard of. Now I know.

      Man not everything is about us religious Jews.

      War on Women? Fake.
      War on Torah? Fake.

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  20. Talmid Anonymous - maybe you can help me with a point that I have trouble reconciling with the Rabbi's talk. On the one hand, he emphasizes that the Peleg controversy is a machlokes with two perfectly legitimate world views. Rav Shmuel is a Gadol following a tradition of civil and sometimes even violent opposition with a purpose to accomplish holy things - the preservation of true Torah Judaism. Therefore, we have no right to condemn Peleg and their tactics even if we find them unsavory.

    But why then does he categorically state that no one in the Jerusalem Kollel is allowed to participate in the Peleg protests? If a talmid is a follower of the Gadol Rav Shmuel, they wouldn't he be obligated to participate? Wouldn't he be a shame faced coward to sit at home while his brothers are moser nefesh? האחים יצאו למלחמה ואתם תשבו פה?

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    1. At 22:36 someone in the audience asks your question.

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    2. RYB answers, "at this point i want you to prepare yourselves for another cause .... And you don't get sidetracked ...."

      i think this means that even if joining Peleg's hafganot is a qualifying mitzva it has to be juggled with a person's other mitzvas.

      When choosing 1 of 2 mitzvas vying for ones attention we have rules which 1 choose. For example Rambam Talmud Torah 3:3/4 superfluous words וחוזר לתורתו are interpreted as prohibiting interrupting learning for another mitzva if the expense is not resuming the learning appropriately. Also mitzva hafganot are a communal mitzva & are subject to the same rules as the communal mitzvahs of attending weddings & funerals - that once כל צרכו is in attendance one must continue learning. I imagine this is the case with Peleg's hafganot.

      Again this is only on the assumption that RSA is right. But RYB doesn't commit himself to rule either way.

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  21. I don't understand Rav Berkowitz. He is saying to his talmidim that they should understand both sides of the argument because there are Gedolim on both sides. But doesn't Daas Torah require the followers of Rav Chaim to genuinely believe that Rav Auerbach is a Zaken Mamrei as per Rav Chaim's own words? If Rav Berkowitz's talmidim are part of Rav Chaim's camp (which he acknowledges that most are) wouldn't they also have to believe that Rav Auerbach is a Zaken Mamrei and his followers are empty people? (or something like that; I don't remember the exact quote)
    Yitz

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    1. Excellent question, I was also wondering that. It seems that this is an American charedi perspective in which it is forbidden to take sides.

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    2. The זקן ממרא statement was (at most) said in private, at a tense time. It was hardly a pesak for generations. I think most Charedim in EY know this.
      In most of the anti Peleg chatter, Rav Auerbach is not mentioned. They prefer to claim that his 'followers' are not really, they use his name when convenient.

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  22. Interesting that Rav Berkovitz would say that nothing is accomplished without violence or political manipulation. That sounds like pretty strong support for the need for a State, an Army, and the economic wherewithal to keep it going.

    And had it not been coming from Rav Berkovitz, it would also sound like an argument against thinking that kollel learning makes any practical contribution to effecting change. Otherwise, why the need to turn to violence or political coercion?

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    1. "That sounds like pretty strong support for the need for a State, an Army, and the economic wherewithal to keep it going."

      I am pretty sure that Rabbi Berkowitz supports the existence of all of those things (he probably does not support how they came to be and how they are run).

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    2. You mean he supports them in an ideal theoretical abstract way, but not in a real sense e.g. all citizens should have to go fight and therefore will have to meet each other and religious people will have to interact with secular people / it has to be the army for all not just suitable for haredim/ no women etc.

      I.e. he likes that there is security in Israel, but doesn't want to dirty his hands providing it?

      And he likes having a welfare state, but he wants him and his cronies to be able to get benefits endlessly but they shouldn't have to work and pay taxes like the rest of us?

      Yes. He's a big supporter.
      With friends like these.....

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    3. No. That was not what I meant. I believe he supports most charedim (i.e. anyone other than the truly studious minority; the masmidim) serving in the Army in charedi units. He believes in the vast majority working and paying taxes. He supports these things in concrete real world ways (he was instrumental in setting up charedi colleges). He knows, however, that any reform in charedi society has to come from within (or at least appear like it is coming from within) and believes that if it comes from without, it is immediately suspect.

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    4. It is suspect to others, or to him? I know a Rav like that in RBS - has plenty of criticisms of charedi society, but God forbid anyone else should have those criticisms, or want to change things in the slightest way differently from how he wants to, or he declares them to be a Torah-hating enemy!

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    5. Suspect to Charedi world as a whole. I think (and I am getting more speculative here) he personally would only find it suspect if it came from a previously known anti-charedi source (e.g. Yair Lapid).

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  23. The Orthodox religious probably want a theocracy in Israel. Already Orthodoxy has a tremendous political influence.

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  24. R Berkowitz's claim that only violence (or political manipulation) are effective would seem to me to ignore the history and efficacy of nonviolent resistance. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_resistance See also the entry on civil disobedience.
    (I think that passively blocking traffic is included in that but throwing stones is assuredly not.)

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    1. Please see my comments to the next post, The War Against Children. Rabbi Berkovits spoke very specifically about the history of the Haredi world in the State of Israel, though this was not reflected in Rabbi Slifkin's summary that you are apparently relying on. See there for an extensive analysis of this entire post (some comments are still pending moderation.)

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  25. JK,

    Israel is not like many other countries. Its politicians are much more stubborn and not directly responsible to voters.

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  26. When I think about it some more, I believe the worst thing is that even when it comes to issues of metsius, one has to honor the opinion of a talmid chacham who doesn't have even the slightest clue what he' talking about.

    Polio vaccinations are a hoax, for instance.
    So, because a Rosh Yeshiva believes this, we must respect that opinion, according to Rabbi Berkovits?

    If not, then how is this mahlokess about whether or not there is a political conspiracy to destroy the Torah world and whether these types of demonstrations are effective (rather than a Chillul HASHEM) any different?

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  27. Many years ago, R. Berkowitz gave a talk against Rav Kook and religious Zionism. Rav Sholom Gold issued a strong response, in which he intersperses the recording of Rav Berkowitz with his rejoinder:

    http://www.rabbisholomgold.com/media/media/audio/In%20Defence%20of%20Religious%20Zionism%201.mp3

    http://www.rabbisholomgold.com/media/media/audio/In%20Defence%20of%20Religious%20Zionism%202.mp3

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