Saturday, October 27, 2018

Goodbye God, It's Elections

The 2015 Degel HaTorah rally in Bnei Brak. More amazing photos here
In the charedi community, there is a carefully-crafted non-rationalist worldview about bitachon and hishtadlus. It was relentlessly drilled into me during my years in charedi yeshivos that all hishtadlus is meaningless. God directly controls everything, and the laws of nature have no power. The only reason why the world seems to run according to various laws is that otherwise there would be no free will. Hishtadlus is just a price that we pay to keep that illusion going, but it doesn't actually accomplish anything. And to the extent that we recognize that, it's possible to cut down on the hishtadlus.

Supposedly, this is a major reason why many charedim don't serve in the army or gain a secular education and work for a living. To the extent that you realize that Hashem directly runs everything, you don't need to engage in the sham of hishtadlus.

This, however, is nonsense.

I'm not talking about the worldview itself, per se. Of course, the rationalist worldview, based on Rambam and many others, firmly disagrees with that approach. According to the rationalist Rishonim, the laws of nature are one of God's greatest creations. It's crucially important to respect them and work within them - and it leads one to respect laws in the religious domain, too.

What I am describing as nonsense is the notion that all these charedim actually believe what they think they believe. Because when it comes to elections, bitachon goes out of the window.

According to charedi hashkafa, it shouldn't make the slightest difference whether you put a slip into the box or not. Hashem decides (in fact, has already decided) everything. It doesn't make a difference who wins the election. And yet, the charedi community puts as much energy into campaigning as everyone else - in fact, more so. Their efforts result in a higher turnout than any other community!

Note the slogan on the right - you have to do
even more than you could normally do
Sometimes, aware of this discrepancy, people will try to explain it away. They claim that it's not about getting people to vote, per se; rather, it's about getting people to make a statement about the importance of "Torah" (i.e. charedi political power). But who are they trying to kid? If that was really all they are trying to do, they wouldn't ever either cheat or be worried about others cheating. And if it's all about making a statement about the importance of Torah, surely the best way to do that is to, y'know, actually learn Torah, not run around doing political campaigns!

I wish people would just make up their minds and be consistent. Either you believe that hishtadlus is real - in which case, give your kids the education that they need to earn a living. Or, or decide that it's not - in which case, don't bother voting, just learn Torah!

UPDATE: I should make it clear that this applies to mainstream, but not all, charedim. At both ends of the charedi spectrum, there are those who act otherwise. On the left are charedim who do believe in normal hishtadlus for everything. And on the right are charedim who are against doing hishtadlus for elections and even against voting. They, too, call out the mainstream charedi world for hypocrisy.

See too these posts:
The Hypocrisy of Selective Bitachon
Empty the Yeshivos!
More Emptying of the Yeshivos


  1. Relying on hashgachah only applies to physical issues not spiritual ones. The Chazon Ish said that many gufei Torah are dependent on elections. Therefore, hishtodlus is needed. Spiritual issues include Shabbos bylaws, money for frum schools, religious services such as mikva'os, shul buildings, etc.

    1. What a crock.
      A. It stinks of 'an excuse'
      B. Many yeshiva rely on the army too (for protection), so shouldn't haredim do hishtadlus there too?
      C. It's transparently all about the money.

    2. He actually makes a good point. Please disagree if you can.

      I personally cannot fathom what the issues are. As far as I am concerned, any Charedi candidate is equally likely to represent my interests, so I would vote for any of them. Probably the one most likely to win

    3. This view is universally accepted in the Haredi world and does happen to map quite neatly on to what is most convenient for that community. It does, however, have some interesting implications. For example I once heard a Haredi rav say that the proper response to Soviet persecution that was aimed as making Jews abandon religion was to take up arms and fight. Easy to say in retrospect, of course.

    4. "For example I once heard a Haredi rav say that the proper response to *Soviet* persecution that was aimed as making Jews abandon religion was to take up arms and fight."

      famous misquote. actually it was to fight the *yevsectzia*, and is found in kovetz maamarim in the name of the CC.

    5. I stand by the view I wrote as it is obvious to anyone following what's going on. Regarding the last comment, the statement of the "Hareidi rav" is actually attributed to the Chofetz Chaim who reportedly said the Jews should have fought against Communism with brooms - again due to the spiritual wreckage it caused.

    6. Well some Jews (Rabbonim, Social-Democrats, ex-Bundists etc.) did fight and they were carted off to the Gulag and then what was left was swallowed by the Soviet maelstrom or in-fighting.

    7. IMHO, & WADR, Avraham's comment is spot-on enough for the whole post to be redone or shelved.

  2. Even those who value Torah above all us concede that there are times when other things are more effective. For example stopping learning to say Tehillim for a Choleh

    1. Rav Meir Kahana spoke about how he told his mirrer yeshiva rabbonim that they never said tehillim or did anything for Soviet Jews, but when a few fellow RY were on the plane (in the Jordanian dessert) "they closed their gemarot and said tehillim" several times daily.

  3. I find that most Chareidim aren’t capable of even putting these thoughts together that you’re outlining over here, rather they behave more like Pinocchio and their Gedolim as Geppetto.
    As Zhabotinsky once said “ if only this Am Navon VeChachom had a little more Sechel”.

  4. Certainly the charedi community has real flaws.
    However, obsessive fault finding, real hatred, and smug blogosphere self-righteousness, does no one any good.
    Perhaps we should step back and examine the stated purpose of this blog and what it has turned into.
    Go through the archives and see the amount of posts bashing other Jews and their customs, and on the other hand posts about animals,and legitimate attempts to present rationalist Torah ideas.

    1. I think the blog is still on point but has just moved onto the human animal, the most viscous and sublime of creatures in the animal kingdom.

    2. It's unfortunately all about book banning. Petty or childish as it may seem, retaliation and animosity are part of being human. These things can go on for decades. Years ago Natan was begged to move on. Unfortunately, the battle cry he took on instead, became the single-minded focus of delegitimizing Chareidim and their Rabbis.

    3. Well, the Gedolim must surely have realized that this would be the effect of banning his books, right?

    4. No, I don't think they realized that all the disenfranchised would come out of the Woodworks rallying behind Natan. Truthfully though, for them this is all background noise, as it certainly doesn't effect their authority over "mainstream Chareidim" Natan has created somewhat of a fringe following within the basic framework of Judaism.

    5. Years ago Natan was begged to move on.

      That is usually perceived as disgusting. The wronged must move on and those who did the wronging don't have to apologize and/or make ammends? And if leading rabbis are involved it's that much more terrible.

      I don't envy you if CV you are wronged and those who wrong you tell you to move on while they feel free of the need to apologize.

      Unless the argument is that they were right, in which case "moving on" is a red herring and a farce.

      Which is your real argument?

  5. Modern Chareidism(tm) is built on a paradox so it's no wonder their response to problems is paradoxical. They are built on the "Anything new is forbidden by the Torah!" ideology but the whole movement itself is an innovation. So does anyone wonder why the same guys who say "We don't have to serve in the army because it's our Torah study that really protects Israel" are the first to run when the rockets fall, or the first to abandon their yeshivos and riot in the streets when they think the government is threatening them?

  6. I would take this further and argue that their complete and total utter demonstration lack in bitachon shows they they truly do not believe in God. People who truly believe in God would not act in this appalling way. God fearing people would not cheat and deceive their respective Governments to survive. God can provide without the assistance of theft. If you truly believed in God and had proper bitachon you would not steal.

  7. Possibly, some of the debate between whether God is involved in the world vs. whether he lets the world run by the laws of nature which He created, stems from a misunderstanding of each side. Clearly, we must exercise our free will in order to affect change in the world. At the same time, there is a "Godliness" in everything which doesn't at all take away from our free will or hishtadlus. That Godliness says nothing about God intervening in a way that is supernatural, even though He will occasionally supersede the natural law of the universe.

  8. "It was relentlessly drilled into me during my years in charedi yeshivos that all hishtadlus is meaningless"
    1. Which yeshivos did you go to?
    2. Aren't you using personal experience to make a gross overgeneralization that is patently not true.

  9. Slifkin,garnel,

    and the usual Cast:

    The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

    One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.

  10. So Chareidim don't believe in God, now what? You've caught them in an act of hypocrisy. Now what?

    1. I love my critics, they keep me balanced. Just curious as to why you follow my posts - I'm just a regular nobody. It would probably be interesting to have a discussion with you. (I'm not nearly as nasty in real life as my posts come across as - in real life I try to be tolerant of all people...except those who I disagree with)

    2. My friend, the definition of tolerance is to be kind and accepting toward those whom you disagree with.

      I don't per se follow your comments, so much as I follow R. Slifkin's blog.

    3. I once heard A wise Rabbi say ” why is it that all those who speak in the name of tolerance always have the least amount of it “. I am finally starting to understand his words.

  11. Just because it seems like hypocrisy does not mean it is hypocrisy. There are good, smart people on both sides. Why not get an informed answer from one of these good guys on the Chareidi side as to why they act in a seemingly hypocritical fashion (and post it for all of us to see), and then judge and critique?
    That seems to be a much more intellectually sensible approach than just attacking from one side.

  12. What the Chofetz Chaim
    felt was that they were in in the same as the hellenists or

    scions of Amalek
    therefore one would have to fight them with weapons !

    It would be the case even even assuming that he and those would join him will be killed.

    Nevertheless it was Incumbent just as in the days of say The Maccabees

    In the process they would have weakened at least if not brought down the Bolsheviks with themselves together
    foolish babbling of a old man??more fodder for blogs like this?
    fanatics having faith in foolish spiritual forces?

    So it would have seemed for many years

    According to the British archives Uncovered
    he probably would have been right!
    - at least according to the most famous descendant of Blenhiem Palace

    is it true that rabbis could be wrong ?
    Sure,they were too mild and tolerant So it proves to those who espoused degeneracy and heresy .)

  13. That would be way too dangerous for Rabbi Dr Slifkin. He'd have to carefully choose someone he can actually respond to in public and sound intelligent.

  14. Just thought people on this blog would want to be up to date on what type of poisonus ideas Yosef Mizrachi is still putting out:
    "The chief rabbi in England, he contradict the Torah. He's a very big Kofer and a very big Rasha"
    Yosef Mizrachi, Oct 30 2018, at 56:40

  15. Rabbi Slifkin, I would very much appreciate it if you could post some mareh mekomos for the rationalist view on bitachon/hishtadlus (I happen to be learning through the sugya and would love to see a different approach from the charedi mainstream).

    Thanks in advance.


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