By Larry Gordon
Editor’s Note. My dear friend Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg’s eloquent and cogent assault (see his cover article in this week’s issue) on those who see positive aspects in some of the changes the new Israeli government is trying to implement—including those in the yeshiva and chareidi communities—misses the primary point of the current situation.
There is no direct or intentional attack on Torah taking place in Eretz Yisrael, nor is one emanating as he suggests from either Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid or MK Dov Lipman, who is a member of that party who recently appeared here in New York. Lapid’s cavalier attitude toward religious observance is not, in my estimation, just a personal tragedy for him but is also reflective of a great proportion of Israelis who lead an almost zealously avowed secular lifestyle. In other words, we cannot assign total blame on him for subscribing to what he believes (or does not believe, as the case may be).
Dov Lipman on that level is not Yair Lapid. To say that they are the same or that they agree on all points or issues is a display of intellectual dishonesty. Benjamin Netanyahu is talking this week about instituting a settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria once again so as to draw Palestinian leadership to the negotiating table. Moshe Feiglin is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud government. I don’t think anyone is going to suggest that Feiglin and Netanyahu are on the same page on this issue because they are in the same party.
So on one side of the equation, the already highly taxed Israeli citizenship simply cannot afford to continue carrying the burden of 65,000 full-time yeshiva attendees and their families, a number of people totaling in the hundreds of thousands. In addition to that and on the other side of the equation, many young families are suffering both emotionally and materially because of the stigma attached to the idea of combining Torah study with some secular studies or studying to learn a trade or profession. Young men and women in families want the opportunity to lead a Torah lifestyle while also working hard to support their own children without relying on subsidies and handouts.
Additionally unfair as well as inaccurate is this imagery being paraded out there that young men will be dragged kicking and screaming from yeshiva and forced to serve in the army. We’ve addressed that issue in previous articles here on the subject. It’s just not so.
Certainly our mesorah is a beautiful and important thing to cherish. Though the piece seems to intimate otherwise, I too take very seriously the traditions handed down by my parents and grandparents, who endured a great deal to make what we have today possible. To suggest that our interest in Dov Lipman’s innovative ideas are covered and even spoken of here in a supportive way or is just done for the sake of the thrill of being different or departing from the way things have always been done is an unfair simplification of what is going on in Israel today.
Young and not-so-young people are interested and anxious to come to grips with a reality that reconciles creating a beautiful Torah and halachic environment for themselves that incorporates our great mesorah of our gedolim while living and being productive in the modern world Hashem has given us. In significantly increasing numbers, they are no longer interested in acting without knowing all the facts or in mantras that demand adherence to a system that may not work for them.
On the matter of Rav J.B. Soloveitchik and the writer’s once witnessing the Rav’s reference to doing things—or not doing some things—in one instance because he did not see it being done in his father’s home, I sought clarification from one of the Rav’s talmidim, Rabbi Kenneth Hain of Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence.
Rabbi Hain said that he felt it was not right to use Rav Soloveitchik as a source for never acting in any way other than the mesorah of his father. “How was it that he broke from the whole Brisker world and embraced Religious Zionism and became the leader of Mizrachi?” Rabbi Hain asked. “How was it that he publicly gave a Gemara shiur to women to encourage their study of the Talmud despite the view of his father and uncles?”
That our great future is steeped in the traditions of our past is without question. There also appears to be a need, however, to keep our eyes and minds open in a changing world. v