Two rabbis protest the opposition to the March for Israel
The response of the American charedi Gedolei Torah to the March for Israel rally - which ranged from unenthusiastic weak endorsement to outright opposition, with not a single one attending - created a lot of upset. In the rabbinic sector, two voices in particular stand out.
First is a shiur, circulated in an audio recording, from a Rav Beryl Whitman. I do not know anything about him other than that he is apparently a maggid shiur in the Mir. Discussing Rav Aharon Feldman’s infamous letter about why he opposed the rally, he says that while Rav Feldman was intending to be mekadesh Shem Shamayim, it was actually a terrible chillul Hashem. Because attending the march was a no-brainer. Countless Jewish lives are at stake. Avoiding trying to help out of concern about endorsing Christianity or secular Zionism is absurd. And it makes rabbis and the Judaism that they represent look ridiculous.
(It bothered me that at many points he seemed more focused on the problem being the PR catastrophe for charedi Judaism and rabbinic authority rather than it being the innate wrong in not strengthening the rally. But that may itself have been a way for him to get his message across. And at other points he makes it clear that not attending was innately wrong.)
Subsequently, R. Whitman released another recording, very long and repetitive, in which he tries to save himself from the backlash that occurred after his first talk, while still standing by his position and even elaborating upon it. He stresses that he did not mean any disrespect to Rav Feldman chas v’shalom, and that his mesorah is that it’s permitted and even obligatory to ask questions of great Torah scholars in order to understand their ways.
Of course, he’s not actually deferentially asking questions in order to understand; he’s outright disagreeing. It’s unfortunate that he is too uncomfortable to say this outright; the traditional position, as expressed by Rav Moshe Feinstein, is that it’s perfectly acceptable for a rabbi to disagree with another rabbi, even if the latter is a Gadol HaDor like the Chazon Ish. And, as R. Whitman himself notes, Chazal say explicitly that במקום שיש חילול השם אין חולקין כבוד לרב - in places where God's Name is being desecrated, one does not apportion honor to a rabbi.
The other response that has become public is an essay by Rav Ron Yitzchak Eisenman of Ahavas Israel in Passaic, who attended the March. His essay is quite lengthy, but it is very much worthwhile reading. You can download it here:
Despite R. Eisenman’s appearance, and his being a contributor to Mishpacha magazine, he is far from mainstream in the American charedi world. Still, I have no doubt that he is expressing the sentiments of many people in that world. I hope that they are strengthened by his words.
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