The Charedi Master Plan
A few weeks ago, the "Days of Rage" swept across Israel, with thousands of charedi demonstrators shutting down highways in protest of the arrest of those who hadn't reported for draft deferments. In the aftermath, popular belief was the demonstrators represented a narrow faction called Peleg, led by Rav Shmuel Auerbach. In a post entitled "Was the Charedi Day of Rage Charedi?" I explored whether it could nevertheless be described as a charedi phenomenon, and I argued that it could. Rabbi Avraham Edelstein, on the other hand, claimed that these people cannot even be described as Orthodox, let alone charedim.
Well, here is some more information that has come in.
First of all, there is a dovetailing of efforts with the Badatz Eidah Charedis. When the young men were released from prison, they received an official welcoming reception at the homes of two people: Rav Shmuel Auerbach, and also Rav Yitzchak Weiss, Gaavad of the Badatz.
Second, there is an astonishing audio recording of a talk on the topic given by Rav Yitzchak Berkovits, head of the Jerusalem Kollel. Rav Berkovits, formerly of Aish HaTorah, is a very fine Torah scholar who is known for his great love of Am Yisrael and who is generally considered to be one of the more moderate figures in the charedi world. (I am reasonably sure, for example, that he has no problem with prehistoric dinosaurs or with Chazal having relied on the science of their era.) His kollel is an important mainstream Anglo-charedi institution which trains and places many rabbis in positions of leadership around the world.
In his talk, Rav Berkovits describes the entire situation as a legitimate dispute between Gedolei Torah. Chas v'shalom, he stresses, to disparage either Rav Shmuel Auerbach or the demonstrators! (Although, he later adds, it might be necessary to lie and pretend that one is opposed to their actions, for kiruv purposes.) The question is, as he describes it, are there merely haphazard and uncoordinated anti-Torah efforts, in which case rioting is unwarranted? Or is there a Master Plan (sic) by the Zionists to take over and destroy charedi society? If the latter, he says, then it is necessary to avoid even reporting for an army exemption, and one must take to the streets in violent protest. Because "nothing crucial has ever been accomplished by peaceful means and negotiation; it's either violence or political manipulation." He dismisses the problems caused to the general public as an insignificant inconvenience which is more than justified by the goal.
Rav Berkovitz does express a sort of sympathetic excuse for the anti-Torah Zionists. From their perspective, he says, they believe that there is a charedi Master Plan to take over their world, and they are afraid. It's a pity, he says, that there is no such charedi Master Plan! We should make a plan to take over the country! (UPDATE: One of his talmidim clarified to me that he certainly did not mean that everyone should be made charedi; rather, he simply meant that everyone should become shomer Torah u'mitzvot.)
Let's not discuss the fact that Rav Berkovits takes it as a given that yeshivah students should not serve in the army (which is normative belief in the charedi world) and that there is no legitimate reason for others to be opposed to that. Let's also not discuss his claim that violence or political manipulation is the only way to achieve anything. Instead, I would like to address his basic premise, which he states emphatically, that there is an underlying inexcusable desire to destroy charedi society, with which the only question is as to whether it actually takes the form of a Master Plan. This is the same siege mentality that was expressed in the last elections in Beit Shemesh, where local Anglo-charedi rabbanim spoke about the need to be vigilant against the "war on Torah."
The reason why this is so preposterous, is that as Jonathan Rosenblum has written on numerous occasions in Mishpacha magazine, there is a very real problem with charedi society. And the problem is that there is no Charedi Master Plan!
Rosenblum was not bemoaning, as Rav Berkovits does, the lack of a Master Plan to take over secular society. Instead, he was bemoaning, as do all sensible people, the lack of a Master Plan regarding how charedi society and the State of Israel as a whole is going to survive when a third of the population does not and cannot work in a professional career. (See my post "Rosenblum: We All Need Charedim To Get Academic Education And Professional Employment".) As he pithily asks, who will fund the IDF? Who will fund charedi society? How will the economy of the State of Israel survive?
Rav Berkovits seems to be saying that if you are deeply concerned about such things, and you want the situation to change, then you are part of the terrible War on Charedim. And if you actually try to strategize and implement change, then this should be countered with violent protest. This is what he teaches to his audience of trainee rabbis, getting ready to lead pulpits around the world. It's very distressing.
UPDATE: A certain Rosh Yeshivah just called me, up in arms over this post. He insisted that Rav Berkovitz is completely out of touch with the mainstream charedi world on these matters, which views the entire Peleg faction as being utterly illegitimate in their views and methods.
UPDATE #2: A number of talmidim of Rav Berkovitz have contacted me, greatly upset about this post. They did not respond to the substance of the post, but they said that it gives a misleading impression about who Rav Berkovitz is. I invite the readers to hear his other shiurim at http://www.thejerusalemkollel.com/online_classes.php. (Regarding the propriety of publicizing shiurim that rabbonim give to private audiences, see this post: Reporting Rabbis Badly.)
See also these posts:
On Being Mevazeh the Gedolim
The Angst of Anglo-Charedi Converts
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