Rav Steinman: Learning Torah is "Cruelty"
The camp of Rav Shmuel Auerbach maintains that Rav Aharon Steinman is unforgivably weak in his support of the yeshivos and in protesting against the government. The majority of the charedi world disputes Rav Shmuel Auerbach's camp; in fact, Rav Chaim Kanievsky went so far as to call him a zaken mamre (!). However, Rav Auerbach's camp has the potential to run a campaign in which they can describe Rav Steinman in an extremely negative light. For Rav Steinman has said that learning Torah is cruel and wrong!
Can you imagine? Learning Torah is the very greatest mitzvah of all. Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam! In the history of the Jewish people, ever since Sinai, has anyone at all, much less a rabbinic leader, said that learning Torah is cruel and wrong?!
The facts of the case are undisputed. There was a movement to institute an additional learning session for people in kollel on erev Shabbos. Rav Steinman was against it. He said:
"The time before hadlokas neiros is one of the most hectic times in a home the entire week. It is cruel to leave one’s wife alone at the time to take care of the home and the children."
There you have it. Rav Steinman said that learning Torah is cruel and wrong!
Of course, anyone with half a brain can see that it is immensely misleading to portray Rav Steinman's position in this way. He was not talking about learning Torah in general. He was talking about learning Torah in a very specific circumstance - when you have an obligation to help your wife prepare for Shabbos. It would be wrong and hateful incitement for Rav Steinman's opponents to present this as "Rav Steinman Says Learning Torah Is Cruel And Wrong."
Yet this is exactly what the entire charedi world, in Israel and the US, is doing vis-a-vis the Government of Israel. Mishpacha magazine's cover this week bears the headline "Holy Criminals: Can a Jewish state deem Torah study a crime?" But as discussed last week, the Jewish state has done no such thing. It is not remotely a crime in Israel to learn Torah. It is, however, a crime to evade the universal conscription, whether you are secular or religious, and no matter what you are doing with your time (unless you are charedi, in which case most of your community will continue to receive an exemption).
Nobody is threatened with prison because of what they are doing with their time; they are threatened with prison because of what they aren't doing with their time. To present this as "Learning Torah is a Crime" is wrong and hateful incitement, just like claiming that "Rav Steinman Says Learning Torah Is Cruelty."
If you'd like to complain to Mishpacha, please write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. (To make your letter more successful, please try to leave my name out of it.)
And if you've got a strong stomach, watch the video below about the rally, produced by Kikar Shabbat. The accompanying soundtrack and editing highlights the appalling consequences of arranging an event idealizing selfishness. Some people who were at the rally are protesting this video, but it's the inevitable outcome of the values that produce such an event. (As usual, if you are reading this via e-mail subscription, you'll have to go to www.rationalistjudaism.com to see the video.)