Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, delivers important mussar messages to kollel members at periodic intervals during the year. His speeches focus on religious and communal issues and are followed by the entire Torah community. Recordings are immediately available at yeshivas and shuls throughout the world.
He recently spoke on Chanukah, in Yiddish, on what is transpiring in Israel. He said, “I don’t know if I should speak up about this. But as far as I am concerned, ‘woe to me if I speak up, and woe to me if I do not speak up.’ Everyone knows that presently, in Israel, there is a great tumult. Different opinions abound. Thank Heaven that within the Torah community, here in America, the machlokes (controversy) has not yet developed. Heaven forbid that the machlokes should develop here in America. That which is transpiring in Israel has never before happened in all of Jewish history, wherein the honor of Torah leaders is nonchalantly being thrown on the ground, stomped on, and dirtied.”
Rabbi Salomon was talking about the furious quarrels raging between the Haredi parties in Israel, between Degel HaTorah and Bnei Torah. A squabble that has led to informing, tale-bearing, shaming Torah scholars, destroying livelihoods, and evil gossip. All detract from confronting the priorities that are harming the Torah community right now and must be addressed immediately. This includes the drafting of yeshiva students and the drastic financial cuts to yeshivas, kollels, family budgets, and stipends.
The battle is between religious political parties in Israel as to which is the heir to the Lithuanian and Yeshivish community leadership of Rabbi Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, zt’l (1894-2001), revered Ponovez rosh yeshiva in Bnei Brak and founder of Degel HaTorah, and his heir, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt’l (1910-2012), preeminent Torah sage in Jerusalem. The Degel HaTorah party is presently led by Rabbi Aharon Shteinman and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. Degel HaTorah presumes to have the Lithuanian and Yeshiva leadership. That leadership is being challenged by the B’nei Torah party, led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, rosh yeshiva Maalot Hatorah in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Shteinman is rosh yeshiva Gaon Yaakov in Bnei Brak. Rabbi Kanievsky is the son of Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, zt’l (1899-1985), Steipler Rav and revered author of Kehilas Yaakov. The Kehilas Yaakov was a brother-in-law of Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, zt’l (1878-1953), revered author of Chazon Ish and leader of the Lithuanian and Yeshivish community. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is the son-in-law of Rabbi Elyashiv. Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach is the son of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l (1919-1998), revered rosh yeshiva Kol Torah in Jerusalem.
In the recent municipal elections, in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and elsewhere, the two parties positioned different candidates vying for mayoral positions. The campaigns were furious, with much dirty infighting. The leaders were quoted as pronouncing those that would vote, or voted, for the other candidates were deserving of the death penalty. Those declarations were not denied or renounced. The machlokes continues unabated after the election.
From within the walls of Beth Medrash Govoha, Rabbi Salomon called for shalom. He stressed that by shalom he is not urging relinquishing principles that are being fought for. Rather, that the battle for principles be fought in peaceful ways, as did previous Gedolim in great controversies throughout the ages, all for “Truth, Peace, and Love of Israel.” The battles between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai were fierce, but they were fought for truth in Torah interpretation and halachic decisions, not for victory alone. As ferocious as the disputes were, they fully respected each other, sat at the same tables, shared meals, and intermarried without hesitation.
Rabbi Salomon’s speech was instantly translated in Hebrew, English, etc., and widely distributed, especially in Israel. Hapeles, the Bnei Torah newspaper in Israel, covered Rabbi Salomon’s speech in its Friday issue and gave it major coverage. The Hebrew Yated Ne’eman newspaper, which represents the Degel Hatorah party, ignored Rabbi Salamon’s address. Degel HaTorah insists that its battle is a holy war and must not be impeded or stopped.
The cry of the Lakewood Mashgiach follows those of other Gedolim who have shouted that the focus must be on the threats to Torah life that are destroying the Torah community, not on inter-organizational arguments to gain honor, money, or prestige.
Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe and avowed anti-Zionist, denounced this political controversy and Haredi community infighting as deplorable. The Satmar Rebbe, in his keynote address to tens of thousands of chassidim at the annual 21st Kislev Celebration in the Crown Heights Armory, decried the petty bickering and wrangling while the Lapid government in Israel seeks to entirely destroy the Haredi Torah community infrastructure. While we stand here fearfully waiting to see whether yeshiva students declining military draft notices will be thrown into prisons or saddled with heavy fines, the two parties, supposedly seeking to glorify Torah, are actually yielding the true battle for Heaven’s glory to Yair Lapid and his acrimoniously anti-yeshiva campaign. If the bitter machlokes does not stop, the Satmar Rebbe sternly warned, both sides will ultimately be imprisoned.
The Day Wallenberg
Saved 30,000 Jews: Dinner December 17
The Wallenberg Heritage Foundation’s first annual dinner will, iy’H, be held in the grand ballroom of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, 83-10 188th Street in Queens, on Tuesday, December 17, 6:00 p.m. Joseph Frager, M.D., respected gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will serve as dinner chairman. Dr. Frager is world renowned as the organizer of the annual Israel Day Parade Concert in Central Park. The dinner will serve as the exciting launch of the Wallenberg Heritage Foundation.
Raoul Wallenberg saved more than 100,000 Jews and was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as the single greatest hero in history, having saved the greatest number of people from extinction. In 1981, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (1928–2008), himself saved by Wallenberg, sponsored the Congressional legislation making Wallenberg an Honorary Citizen of the United States. That legislation was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. He was only the second person to be so honored, after Winston Churchill.
Following the wholesale murder of more than half a million Jews in Hungary’s countryside, the Nazi occupation of Budapest, labeled Operation Margarethe, was commenced on March 19, 1944. On December 24, 1944, Karoly Szabo, an employee of the Swedish Embassy in Budapest, heroically saved 36 kidnapped employees from the Budapest ghetto. This brave act attracted Raoul Wallenberg’s full attention. Wallenberg arranged to meet Szabo’s influential secret friend, Pal Szalai, a high-ranking member of the police force. They met on the night of December 26. This meeting was a preparation to save the Budapest ghetto later, in January 1945.
Szalai provided Wallenberg with clandestine government information. In the second week of January 1945, Wallenberg learned that Adolf Eichmann planned a massacre of the largest Jewish ghetto in Budapest, containing 30,000 souls. The only one who could stop it was the man given the direct responsibility and order to carry the massacre out: the commander of the German troops in Hungary, General Gerhard Schmidhuber. Through Szalai, Wallenberg met Schmidhuber face-to-face and fearlessly warned him that he, Wallenberg, would make sure the general was held personally responsible for the massacre and war crimes, that Schmidhuber would be hanged as a war criminal when the war was over, and that his family would be forever disgraced.
In such a circumstance, there was nothing to stop Schmidhuber from pulling out his revolver, shooting Wallenberg dead, and having Wallenberg’s body tossed out of the window. But Wallenberg’s courage and daring action paid off, and the massacre of the ghetto was stopped at the last minute. Previously, Wallenberg had also warned Eichmann that the Germans would lose the war soon and that he, Eichmann, would be hanged as a war criminal. Eichmann responded with a laugh and told Wallenberg that he would shoot him. Eichmann was ultimately hanged by the State of Israel on May 31, 1962.
The Wallenberg Heritage foundation seeks to establish the brick-and-mortar Wallenberg Heritage Museum, where individual stories of the more than 100,000 Jews he saved will be recorded—in audio and video—and saved for history. By means of the Internet, those records will be available to everyone, all over the world. The 100,000 people whom Wallenberg saved in 1944-1945 have generated upwards of 2,000,000 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Aggressive educational outreach programs will be developed so that Wallenberg’s legacy will be a highlight in school and college curriculums in order to teach the world about Wallenberg and his selfless dedication to saving as many lives as possible. v
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.