By Yochanan Gordon
The Torah on all levels is explicit regarding the importance of sound leadership within Klal Yisrael. We are constantly invoking the merit of our forefathers, Moshe Rabbenu and other selfless leaders that overtime acted as a conduit between G-d and the Jewish people. Following the narrative of the Egyptian exile and Moshe Rabbenu’s role in ultimately redeeming us from there we come to see just how reliant we are on our leaders.
The Gemara admonishes, “Those fools who stand before the Sefer Torah but don’t erect themselves when a Tzaddik is in their midst.” When the Torah tells us to cleave to G-d, the Gemara asks, “Is it possible to cleave to G-d, who is a consuming fire?” The Gemara interprets, “Cleave to Talmidei Chachamim and it’s as if you have become one with me.”
There was once an incident where the Baal Shem Tov witnessed a Jew desecrate Shabbos. It affected him so deeply that he ran to his room and began sobbing. After he had settled down, he began thinking through his entire life to see if he was ever remotely lax in his observance of Shabbos – which he had no recollection of. Knowing full well that everything in this world is divinely ordained, he would not rest until he discovered what had caused him to see such blatant disregard for the holy day. It then dawned upon him that he once saw someone denigrate the honor of a Torah scholar and did not stand up for the honor of the Talmid Chacham. He surmised, based on the fact that the Zohar calls Talmidei Chachomim by the term Shabbos; on some level he desecrated the honor of Shabbos.
Unfortunately, wherever we turn we see blatant disregard for the leaders that G-d in his mercy has put in our midst. The Gemara in Bava Basra says, “G-d saw that the righteous are scarce saw he stood up and planted them in every generation.” The most unfortunate part of this is that the greatest disregard for our leaders is coming from people who view themselves as being closest and most reverent to them.
Many of you are aware of the letter that circulated earlier this week which originated in the holy city of Bnei Brak. Supposedly someone from within the inner circle of Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, approached the sage with a question regarding the halachik status of people who go against the ruling of the Gedolei Yisrael and possess a smartphone. The letter in part states that anyone who possesses an iPhone is according to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, invalid to bear testimony. Consequently, aif someone was married off or divorced through witnesses who use internet accessible devices should get remarried. Furthermore, if a woman immersed in a mikvah which was cleared for halachik use by someone who uses these devices, could not rely on that immersion and she must immerse again to become pure. The consequences of this psak are staggering and could cause anyone who holds dear the words of our sages, to fear for the spiritual safety of themselves and their families.
Many of course are aware that Rav Chaim and other Gedolim both who are among us and recently departed have been hijacked by people who look to persuade them into supporting their personal agendas. This has caused a mass disregard for psakim and proclamations emanating forth from many of these leaders out of skepticism that these things were never said by these leaders. As support to this assertion, the 5 Towns Jewish Times spoke with Rav Mattisyahu Lessman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s neighbor, confirmed that although Rav Kanievsky has spoken out about the dangers of using these devices, the general tone and substance of the letter has been fabricated by the signee, Aryeh Feinhandler, who Rav Lessman also said is notorious for taking communal matters into his own hands and attributing such rulings in the name of Rav Chaim after manipulating the sage to get the ruling out of him.
While we could breathe a collective sigh of relief regarding the invalidity of the letter – we at the same time could mourn and lament the fact that people have the audacity to abuse the greatest sages of our day and bring about a situation where we no longer have anyone to rely upon to lead us along the path, navigating the vicissitudes of Jewish life in the twenty-first century.
A Chassid once entered a private audience with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe and excused himself while asking the REbbe if he could say over a vort in the name of the late Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoel Teitelbaum. The Rebbe replied that he did not understand the reason for his excusal and insisted that he tell him the vort. The Chassid replied, “They say that the Rebbe are somewhat at odds.” The Rebbes face became quite serious and he replied, “There is nothing between me and the Satmar Rebbe, as for what is said out there in the world, Dassan and Aviram tzumished in mittin.
Knowing the scarcity of true leaders and genuine servants of G-d who are capable of holding us on their shoulders we have to pray that G-d silence these wicked people who have caused thousands to have to question the authenticity of many of these statements and give our leaders the courage to stand up and lead us directly with their own counsel to greet moshiach soon in our days.