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The Great Disconnect
When people feel let down by their Rabbanim
Following the March for Israel rally, there seems to be a repeat of something that happened 18 years ago following the ban on rationalist approaches to Torah/science. Many people who are on the more open/ worldly/ modern side of the Charedi world are feeling a great disconnect from the rabbinic leadership in that world.
For nearly three hundred thousand Jews, including thousands in the American yeshivish community, going to the march was a no-brainer. 1,200 Jews were butchered. There are 240 Jewish hostages. Israel is facing a tremendous crisis. There’s a war that we need to win. American military and political support is desperately important. What’s the question?!
But which major rabbinic authorities in the charedi world urged people to go? The lay leadership of the Agudah managed to get a tepid letter of support from the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah which was clearly less than passionate, and no Kol Korei was issued. And no less than SIX members of the Moetzes urged people not to go.
What was the reason? “The speakers and participating movements were not aligned with our worldview.” So don’t listen to the speakers! Just fill all the empty space at the back and say Tehillim! Or at the very least, organize your own “Yeshiva March” in Washington! Show that you care, just like you show that you care when there is talk of drafting yeshiva students or teaching secular studies!
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin reported that on his way back from the rally, a yeshiva friend of his said that he felt “hashkafically homeless.” Rabbi Bashevkin observed that this person is not alone. Indeed, a friend of mine who defines himself as part of the American Charedi community told me how he is in despair at the approach of the rabbinic leadership. And I heard that within the Agudah itself, a rift developed between the lay leadership and the rabbinic leadership over this.
What these people need to understand is that there’s more to Orthodox Judaism than the Charedi community. In Israel, there’s the Dati-Leumi community; in the US, there is Centrist and Modern Orthodoxy. There’s even a flagship institution, Yeshiva University. The leading Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Hershel Schechter, urged people to attend the rally and himself attended. Another Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Mordechai Willig, delivered shiurim on the bus on the way to DC.
It can be difficult to switch communities. I remember how hard it was for me. The first time I stopped wearing my black hat, which I had worn since my barmitzva, I felt naked. It was awkward to switch shuls. And if you have kids in school, that raises even greater challenges.
But it can be done. I know of a number of people who made the switch as a result of the ban on my books. They are all very happy that they did so. Sure, there might be a few things that bother them. But they have found Rabbanim that they respect. They have found a worldview that they can connect to.
The same thing can and should and hopefully will happen here. This is a historic time for Klal Yisrael. 90% of our nation understands that it requires genuine achdus. If you are part of that 90%, it’s time to make sure that you have a Rav and a community that feels the same way.
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