By now a number of people are aware of a brewing and growing controversy regarding the pull out of the Vishnitzer Rebbe from the Agudath Yisroel sponsored Siyum HaShas. His reason was on account of their decision to allow Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau and Rabbi Yaakov Hillel to speak in an official capacity. He had apparently characterized them as “Zionist Rabbis.”
Agudath Israel of America has been trying to present the Daf Yomi project and the Siyum HaShas as more than just an Agudah project, and this is true. Daf Yomi has become an integral part of Klal Yisroel. In order to demonstrate what Daf Yomi has become and the role it is now playing, Agudah invited Rav Lau to speak as well. Rav Lau is both a holocaust survivor as well as the former chief Rabbi of Israel and current chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv. Agudah had also invited Rav Yaakov Hillel the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas HaMekubalim. From the reactions in shul, it was a move that was welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the American Chareidi world.
The Monsey Vishnitz Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Hager, however, was raised and was brought up with a strong anti-Zionist world-view. Perhaps some may have predicted that he would pull out, but it is difficult to gauge the precise extent of someone’s reaction. Agudah must have certainly considered the possibility of his pulling out, and of the possible repercussions in terms of others pulling out as well. They must have also predicted the possibility of the accompanying lack of achdus that this pulling out will highlight.
Should they then have issued the invite to Rabbi Lau considering all the negative press?
Clearly, the answer is yes and there may be a Gemorah proving this point.
The Talmud Yerushalmi in Kiddushin (page 65) tells us that Kiddush Hashem is greater than Chillul Hashem. The obvious question is: Of course! Why do we need the Gemorah to point this out to us?
The answer to this question is that the Gemorah is referring to a case where both elements of Chillul hashem and Kiddush Hashem are wrapped together in one. This addresses the current situation head on. The invitation was initiated by Agudah to underscore the Kiddush Hashem of the unity of Klal Yisroel. The invitation set in motion a Chilul Hashem. It highlights that we really do have infighting, wrangling and internal strife.
But the Kiddush Hashem outweighs the Chillul Hashem, as we see from the Yerushalmi. To its credit, Agudah is offering a full refund of the cost of the ticket. Apparently, there is such demand for seats at this monumental event that Agudah might have even happily offered a premium for the extra tickets. Which brings to light yet another Kiddush hashem – the overwhelming popularity of this August 1st event.
Agudath Israel should be applauded for three things. Firstly, for conceiving this concept and event 75 years ago. Secondly, for issuing the invites showing the universality of Talmud study and the Daf Yomi Project. And finally, we should applaud Agudath Israel for handling this tuirn of events with remarkable insight, tact, and finesse.