Discover more from Rationalist Judaism
Anti-Rationalism and the Charedi Vote
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. On the contrary - it is learning Torah which provides divine protection from our enemies, which protects us from illness, which merits our parnasa.
The divide between the rationalist and anti-rationalist approaches to theology has fascinating ramifications with regard to the electoral system.
Rav Kornfeld is a local charedi rabbinic leader in Ramat Beit Shemesh who is not afraid to openly state the Israeli charedi perspective on such matters. For example, a few elections ago, he went on record in HaModia as stating that American olim are mistaken in believing that they have the right to choose who to vote for; instead, they are obligated to vote for whoever the Charedi-Litvishe-Non-RavShmuelAuerbach camp tell them to vote for. I am very grateful to Rav Elimelech Kornfeld for spelling out the ramifications of the charedi approach with regard to the electoral process. (I say that without any sarcasm; while I disagree with the anti-rationalist approach, I think that it's important for it to be articulated and I greatly appreciate his doing so.)
For this election, Rav Kornfeld gave a speech in his shul, reiterating the contents of a letter that he once printed on the front page of a local newspaper in a previous election, in which he spelled out the charedi anti-rationalist approach with regard to the very nature of the electoral system. In that letter, he explains that it is not in the hands of any politician or party to actually do anything for us, and continues as follows:
"Our national security, our physical and surely spiritual needs are not in the hands of any government... Our present decision in these elections is to show Hashem that we feel that the things that are important to him are important to us, and this will being us continued Siyata Dishmaya. To this end our leaders, Rav Shteinman Shlita and Rav Kanyevsky Shlita have spoken clearly and strongly that we should vote for Gimmel - UTJ..."
In other words, the entire system of voting in politicians who make policies that are implemented is, like all other forms of hishtadlus, is a sham; it's merely a cover, a mask for the workings of Hashem. However, it is very important to show support for the party that espouses Torah values (which he believes to be UTJ, notwithstanding how its MK was forced to resign for corruptly manipulating his power to protect a pedophile), because that will earn us the Divine favor which actually accomplishes everything that happens.
This appears to be an ingenious way of arriving at the same end result - vote for party x - while basing it on a fundamentally different idea about what voting actually accomplishes. However, the more one thinks through its ramifications, the more complications and problems arise.
First of all, it means that rallying votes is only important insofar as it shows Hashem that (charedi) Torah is important to us. But surely one can show Hashem that Torah is important even more powerfully by actually learning Torah! Are the two yeshivah boys who stayed in the Chevron Beis HaMidrash to learn while all their peers spent several hours traveling to and from Bnei Brak not showing Hashem that learning Torah is of supreme value to them?!
Second, it means that if people cheat (from either side), that will have absolutely no effect on the fate of the Jewish People. But why, then, is UTJ searching for people to monitor the voting booths?
Note the slogan on the right - you have to do
even more than you could normally do
Third, it means that it is of absolutely no significance as to whether UTJ actually gets in the government (other than perhaps as indication of whether Hashem is happy with chareidi voting choices.) The only thing that matters is how many people show Hashem their support for UTJ, not whether UTJ actually gets in.
Fourth, it means that if charedim are unsuccessful, then that is also from Hashem (and presumably as a result of their not sufficiently demonstrating their dedication to Him). So why, after Lapid's success in the last election and his resultant policies, was their so much anger towards him? Lapid didn't actually do anything, it was all from Hashem!
Fifth, it means that the followers of Rav Shmuel Auerbach and others, who are of the view that one should not participate in elections at all, are not doing any harm. After all, they are certainly acting out of dedication to Torah and Gedolim. So why is UTJ so upset about them?
Of course, nobody in the charedi world actually acts as though they think this way. When you look at all the vast effort expended to get charedim to vote, and the tremendous passion about who actually gets in the government, obviously charedim feel that the votes and politicians inherently make a difference. It's similar to the anti-rationalist notion that yeshivah students provide protection from rockets, and that parnassah is all in the hands of Hashem and has nothing to do with hishtadlus; people might profess to believe it, but when push comes to shove, nobody really believes it. After all, there is the awkward fact that on Rosh HaShanah, Hashem apparently decrees much more parnassah overall for people who engage in hishtadlus!
I wish people would just make up their minds and be consistent. Either you accept that hishtadlus has genuine significance - in which case, give your kids the education that they need to earn a living and maintain the economy, and stop ruling out army service for your community. Or, decide that hishtadlus has no real significance - in which case, stop with all the political stuff, and don't bother voting, just learn Torah!
(If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.)