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A Bizarre Denunciation of a Denunciation of a Denunciation
This Chanukah, I took my family to visit an amusement park, which was hosting a special day for the families of Tzohar rabbis (I am not a Tzohar rabbi, but I was given the free tickets by a supporter). Tzohar is a remarkable organization which, under the leadership of Rav David Stav, seeks to do what the Israel Rabbinate is supposed to do but fails at abysmally. It is a group of passionate Zionist Orthodox rabbis who try to make Judaism meaningful and attractive to the secular majority of Israel.
Most secular Israelis only encounter rabbis when they get married - and they find it a highly unpleasant, bureaucratic mess, which makes many of them prefer to get married in Cyprus instead. Tzohar rabbis, however, teach the secular couples about the beauty of a Jewish marriage - and moreover, they do it for free. I saw hundreds of Tzohar families in the park, and they were the crème de la crème of religious Jewry - full of love for Torah and klal Yisrael and yiras Shamayim rather than yiras bnei adam.
Earlier this year, Rav Ovadiah Yosef launched a blistering denunciation of Tzohar and Rav Stav. He referred to him as a “wicked man,” who is “dangerous to Judaism” and who has “no fear of God at all.” Unsurprisingly, it resulted in verbal and physical harassment of Rav Stav.
The RCA wrote a private letter of support to Rav Stav, which was subsequently leaked to the media. In the letter, they did not attack Rav Ovadiah personally, but they did denounce his words as "terrible," and they quoted the Gemara in Yoma 86a: "Each of us is obligated to make G-d beloved through his or her actions. If a Torah scholar deals kindly with others, people will say, 'Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah! Fortunate is his rabbi who taught him Torah! Woe to those who do not study Torah! This one to whom they have taught Torah, see how beautiful are his ways!' If, however, he is not honest in his dealings and does not speak kindly to others, people will say the opposite: 'Woe to this one who has studied Torah! Woe to his father who taught him Torah! Woe to his rabbi who taught him Torah! This one who has studied Torah, see how crooked are his deeds and how ugly are his ways!'
Enter Ami magazine. Ami is a popular yet very strange publication, perhaps most infamous for its 2012 cover story on antisemitism which depicted the White House draped with swastika flags. In addition, after the conviction of the long-term Satmar pedophile, its cover story - the sole story that it ran on this case - was an interview with the defense attorney! Ami also ran a puff-piece about New Square after the Skvere Rebbe's assistant tried to set a "dissident" family home on fire. This week, there is an absurdly lopsided portrayal of the political situation in Bet Shemesh, and in general Ami is a great example of charedi pravda-style journalism. But it's the editorial regarding the RCA, by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, which really takes the cake.
Rabbi Frankfurter denounces the RCA for its denunciation of Rav Ovadiah's denunciation of Rav Stav. Rabbi Frankfurter denounces Rav Stav (whom he calls "Stav") as a "reformer" and an "anti-Torah activist." He claims that the RCA letter is "unpardonable," and that it highlights the RCA's "departure from halachic standards," because halachah "sanctions, and in fact demands, the reproof of a person who has deviated from the path of Torah and mitzvos."
But doesn't it occur to him that the rabbis of the RCA do not actually believe that Rav Stav has deviated from the path of Torah and mitzvos? Why on earth would they accept Rav Ovadiah's statement to that effect? Especially since Rav Ovadiah is known for issuing pronouncements without being fully appraised of the situation (and if there's anything here to be condemned as a "departure from halachic standards", you have it right there).
The Ami editorial doesn't get any better. It condemns the RCA for its letter of protest regarding the Manhattan rally against Yesh Atid's social engineering, giving the impression that the RCA letter of protest was due to RCA solidarity with Yesh Atid. In fact, the RCA letter of protest was due to the rally being a Satmar-led event that included hate speech against Israel and strengthened Israel's enemies. The editorial also issues the usual canards against Yesh Atid, claiming that any supporter of Yesh Atid hates Torah and wants to "close down" the yeshivos. As usual, it's oblivious to the fact that in the Dati-Leumi world, people love Torah and yeshivos exist, even though people serve in the army and work for a living.
Can't we have a weekly English magazine for Orthodox Jews that doesn't spout offensive nonsense? I'm sure there would be a market for it.