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Daas Torah and End-of-Year Notes
The previous post, renamed to "Daas Torah is in the Eye of the Beholder," received over 10,000 views. While the response was mostly positive, many people did not like it, including some near and dear to me. I would like to clarify some aspects of it, and discuss some other things.
1) The target of the post was not Rav Chaim Kanievsky. It was the cultural phenomenon surrounding Rav Chaim Kanievsky, whereby people taking two words of blessing, or a signature, to mean much, much more than Rav Chaim ever intended them to mean. The guilty parties are the media, the tzedakah campaigns, and many of the general public.
2) There was one criticism of Rav Chaim Kanievsky - that he admits to signing letters (in particular, one attesting to the righteousness of the monster Elior Chen) "because his rabbis signed it." I criticized that as a shirking of responsibility and an abuse of authority, and I stand by that criticism. And I will point out that the people who slammed the post (or me) did not respond to that. (Again, however, that was not the main point of the post.)
3) "B-b-b-but Daas Torah!" See Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's superb presentation on this topic, translated into English and downloadable at this link.
4) "B-b-b-but erev Rosh Hashanah!" Things are either right to say or wrong. If wrong, they should never be said. If right, they can be said at any time. The reason was I was particularly motivated to write that post at that time was as stated - that I was terribly upset to hear about someone who, according to what I was told, is going to Rav Chaim for a major medical decision.
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Now, on to something else. At this time of year, there are many appeals for donations to various causes. I was thinking of using this forum to raise funds for my own cause - The Biblical Museum of Natural History - but on reflection, I'm not certain how appropriate it is. When we say that teshuvah, tefillah and tzedaka remove the evil decree, I kindof have the feeling that it is talking about tzedaka for the poor, not for institutions. (I can't explain why I have this feeling, and I would appreciate if others can explain why, or why I am wrong.)
When it comes to giving tzedakah to the poor, one is likewise confronted with an array of causes. Some of them fundraise by offering incentives - that various "Holy Men" will pray for you (or at least will have your name in a book on their table), that you will merit miracles, etc. I have seen advertisements where the entirety of the advertisement is about what you will get, not what you are giving to!
As previously, I would like to recommend Lemaan Achai as a wonderful charity for helping the poor. Their focus is on using an array of professional services and aid to help people attain financial independence. Just take a look at the incredible success stories on their webpage! To quote Rambam: "The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support the poor person by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others." There is no smarter way to give tzedakah!
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As we end the year 5777, my brother-in-law and nephew were honored today in a special ceremony for their incredibly brave and smart actions in Neve Tzuf. But they are not rejoicing in this honor, for although they saved many lives, there were those that they were too late to save. May the coming year be one of health and peace for all.