Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"G-d does miracles even for the irreligious" - Criticism of the views of the Satmar Rebbe

One of the major theological controversies in recent years has been the validity of the Satmar Rebbe's claim that the Six Day War victory was ma'aseh Satan and whether miracles only happen to frum people. [There is of course Rav Moshe's teshuva (Y.D. 4:8.2) regarding the miracle of Entebbe which clearly disagrees with the Satmar. ] But there is a little known or  remembered event that happened shortly after the Six Day War which clearly defined the basis of dispute. This is the version I heard from Rabbi Gavriel Beer - a life long Aguda askan - who was there.

As is well known by now, the mood leading up to the Six Days War was very gloomy. Many in Israeli and in the Diaspora were anticipating a war which would be very costly in life - both for the soldiers and civilian population. The more optimistic view was that Israel would take a harsh beating but would survive. There is no need to mention the pessimistic view.

But when the guns were silent after the incredibly short war in June 1967, Israelis discovered that not only had they survived but they had soundly thrashed the massive armies of the surrounding Arab countries and in addition had acquired the West Bank - which included the Old City of Jerusalem and the location of the Temple. Everyone seemed to say it was an open miracle. There was one major dissenting voice - the Satmar Rebbe - who insisted that it was not only not a miracle but the victory was in fact the work of Satan. He emphatically stated that miracles don't happen for the Zionist  - especially to support the theological crime known as the State of Israel.

Several months later at the annual Aguda Convention, this astounding event was the central topic of discussion  Speaker after speaker spoke on the topic and the gedolim were clearly divided on whether to agree or disagree with the Satmar position. One of those who publicly agreed with the Satmar view was Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky.

At the Melava Malka that weekend, the keynote speaker was Rav Itchie Meyer Levin - the Gerrer Rebbe's son-in-law. He of course spoke about the topic. After some introductory comments he made the following observation. "Not so long ago the Jewish people suffered the horrible loss of 6  million Jews in the Holocaust. When we went to the gedolim for an explanation we were told that we must be silent and accept this because it was G-d's will. Now we were just faced with another possible holocaust in the Land of Israel but the Jews were saved this time. We hear gedolim who say that these millions who were saved were saved by Satan. How is that when it comes to the death of Jews it is G-d's work but when it comes to rescuing them from death it is Satan? It can't be."

In response, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky quickly wrote a note which he sent to be read from the podium. It said, "I want to publicly retract my previous statement supporting the view of the Satmar Rebbe and say that now I agree fully with what Rabbi Levin just stated." 

Rabbi Beer noted that this was Rav Yaakov's greatness. His only concern was truth and he wasn't afraid to publically admit that he had erred.

======================
Igros Moshe(Y.D. 4:8.2):Concerning the matter of the Jews who were hijacked in Uganda and then were saved by [Israeli] soldiers who went to Uganda. It is reasonable that this should be considered an open miracle. That is because in the normal course of events it would not be possible that such a thing be successful. Whatever is done in the world is only by the hand of G‑d – whether it is for the good or whether it is – G‑d forbid - ! the opposite. He causes the blow and the cure. He caused that these Jews be captured. But He also caused that they were rescued by means of giving these soldiers special courage and motivation so that they were able to save the captives. He also arranged circumstances so the soldiers in fact were successful. Nevertheless the reasons that G‑d did a miracle through sinners are hidden from us. Furthermore it is prohibited for any man to be “wise” and raise question against G‑d’s actions. Rather it is necessary for us to be innocent and accepting whatever G‑d does as it explicity says in the Torah (Devarim 18:13)

32 comments :

  1. For completeness, one should take note of something the Brisker Rov once said about such miracles (he died before the 1967 war, but he was talking about similar miracles before.)

    He gave a moshol about a mother who tells her child not run into the street. Once, when the child refused to listen, she gave him a sharp potsch in the face. Then, the child refused to listen, but this time, R"L, he was hit by a car and injured. Did the mother potsch the child then? Of course not, she lovingly held him, accompanied him to the hospital, and did everything she could to help him recover.

    The mother's reaction was DESPITE the child being insolent, not because of it. Only a fool would say that the mother was approving the child's running into the street. Rather, anyone with an ounce of sechel understands that it was the mother's great love which caused her to overlook the misbehavior and lovingly help her child in his hour of need.

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  2. Can you summarize what Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote about Entebbe?

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  3. I'll post a summary later today. But he basically acknowledges that there is problem understanding how miracles can be done through irreligious but they do happen.

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  4. The Chief Rabbi of Mexico Rav Milevsky who gave a shiur for a while in a Toronto yeshiva once agreed to give a shiur at the request of the bochurim on the 3 way machlokes between the Agudah, the Satmar Rov and Rav Kook.

    The only condition? No tape recorders allowed.

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  5. At one extreme is the Satmar rov. At the other exteme, is Rav Goren. Whilst many Haredim dismissed R' Goren, his greatness was legend, such that R' Shach asked him to set up Kollel together around 1960!

    In the six day war of '67, one morning R' Goren woke up late, and the army unit he was with had left him behind. He drove singlehandedly to Hevron, which was still under arab control. What happened next is quite amazing: the arabs leaders including the mayor of Hebron surrendered to R' Goren, who arrived there alone in an army jeep!!

    This is probably the first time since Joshua's conquest of Eretz Yisrael that a major city has surrendered to a single Israelite, no blood shed or shots fired!

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  6. "Speaker after speaker spoke on the topic and the gedolim were clearly divided on whether to agree or disagree with the Satmar position. One of those who publicly agreed with the Satmar view was Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky."

    In other words, it was a disagreement amongst Gedolim, with each side having proponents. Although the Satmar Rebbe is most famous for that position, it was held by other Gedolim too, as you stated.

    "But he basically acknowledges that there is problem understanding how miracles can be done through irreligious but they do happen."

    In other words, Rav Moshe agree that al pi pashtus miracles cannot be done through the irreligious. Do state otherwise, you first need to go through loops to explain how that could be. So, therefore, the Satmar Rebbe's position would be the pashut understanding of the world.

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  7. In Tanach miracles and prophecy were done for unworthy people.

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  8. Facts on the ground are quite different: Let's turn the time clock back to 1968, at Agudahs Yisroel's main convention. Reb Itzche Meyer Levine z"tl, the world leader of Agudas Yisroel and the main mouthpiece of Torah Jewry was in attendance. One of his most riveting and passionate statements were made at that time leaving an indelible impression on all participants and echoing into the present day.
    The year was 1968, and the most popular topic in the Jewish World was "Israel's 6 Day War Victory", and how to explain this victory in a theological way. As expected the foremost topic of discussion/debate at the convention was: Is Israel's War Victory a miracle or not?
    Numerous speeches were given by prominent Torah leaders and Rabbanim and it appeared that the assembled delegates were going to adopt a resolution accepting the Satmar Rebbe's view. The rebbe's view was that the victory of the State of Israel in the Six-Day War was an act of Satan to test the Jewish People's dedication to hashem and his torah. At that moment , Rabbi Itzche Meyer Levine, a long time, loyal Agudaist who had also been a member of the Polish parliament, asked for the microphone and strongly stated: How is it that when tragedy strikes, when calamity falls, we explain with certainty that it is Yad Hashem punishing us. Yet when something good happens, when three and a half million Jewish lives are saved, we say it is not the hand of G-d, but of Satan? Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt"l told the chairman of the conference that the final notes of the proceedings should reflect Rabbi Levine's remarks *. (as recorded from the convention)Facts on the ground are quite different: Let's turn the time clock back to 1968, at Agudahs Yisroel's main convention. Reb Itzche Meyer Levine z"tl, the world leader of Agudas Yisroel and the main mouthpiece of Torah Jewry was in attendance. One of his most riveting and passionate statements were made at that time leaving an indelible impression on all participants and echoing into the present day.
    The year was 1968, and the most popular topic in the Jewish World was "Israel's 6 Day War Victory", and how to explain this victory in a theological way. As expected the foremost topic of discussion/debate at the convention was: Is Israel's War Victory a miracle or not?
    Numerous speeches were given by prominent Torah leaders and Rabbanim and it appeared that the assembled delegates were going to adopt a resolution accepting the Satmar Rebbe's view. The rebbe's view was that the victory of the State of Israel in the Six-Day War was an act of Satan to test the Jewish People's dedication to hashem and his torah. At that moment , Rabbi Itzche Meyer Levine, a long time, loyal Agudaist who had also been a member of the Polish parliament, asked for the microphone and strongly stated: How is it that when tragedy strikes, when calamity falls, we explain with certainty that it is Yad Hashem punishing us. Yet when something good happens, when three and a half million Jewish lives are saved, we say it is not the hand of G-d, but of Satan? Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt"l told the chairman of the conference that the final notes of the proceedings should reflect Rabbi Levine's remarks *. (as recorded from the convention)

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  9. This interesting discussion will depend on one's Hashkafah, and also the rules of the "game" that one adheres to.

    Is it that we can challenge Gedolim with pure sevarah and logic? Or can we only go by what other Gedolim say, when they use their own sevarah?

    And what if experience shows one Gadol to be totally wrong?

    In the Tanach, ther eis a story of Yeshoshafat hamelech. he was a righteous man, who brought Torah back to the people. He ordained Judges, and Kohanim, to teach and practice Torah righteously. But he failed to remove the high places. He succeeded in wars, and became rich and successful.
    He made a pact of friendship with the King of Israel, who was an open idolater. For this he was punished.

    It reminds me very much of the view of the Brisker Rav - who forbade any association with the zionist enterprise.

    A prophet warned Yehoshafat not to associate with the King of Israel. Is the Daas of gedolim of the same level of the Neviim? What of those Gedolim, who opposed Satmar?

    Was zionism in fact idolatry? I dont think so. The extreme secular were atheists. But midstream were traditional. Some believed in G-d, some even saw G-d's hand in this process.

    Ben Gurion discussed with the Hazon Ish halachic issues regarding drafting religious people into the army. R' Goren made it possible for the army to be kosher, and shomer Torah.

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    1. The feeling in my neck of the woods is that Zionism is political.Our concern is for Achienu Bnei Eretz Yisroel and their defense.We care very much for our brothers and sisters but also because Eretz Yisroel is the Torah center of the universe.In shul they say a prayer for Eretz Yisroel and TZHAL,but when I was a kid there was a prayer for the medina .Times are changing.People are more educated.

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  10. Thank you for the illuminating Rav Moshe teshuva, which cites, Devarim 18:13: תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה עִם יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ

    1976 was my Ohr Somayach year in Yerushalayim, and on July 4, I vividly recall sitting in the shiur of Rav Bulman, ztl, which was "interrupted" by the sound of shofros. We finished the shiur, and we learned that our tefillos had been answered. I recall attending one tefilla rally, within Mea Shearim itself, as thousands poured our hearts out, pleading for the rescue of the hostages. The rescue was a stunning event, and being a peripheral eyewitness to history, I can understand Rav Moshe's words.

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  11. בונים בחול ואחר כך מקדישים

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  12. It is interesting that Rav Moshe zt"l, in his teshuva above, calls the soldiers who did the Entebee rescue "sinners".

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  13. At a conference attended by R. Tendler, R. Shear Yahsuv Cohen, and R. YM Lau at Lander College some years ago, R. Herschel Schachter got up and said that "we do not believe in the Satmar position on the Six Day War," and that such a belief was akin to idolatry.
    See Prof. Schapiro's recent Seforim blog post. Some Rabbanim just keep trying to see how far v'asisa kchol asher yorucha can be extended. Right is left and vice versa is to easy. It is real gadlus to say that Hashem is Satan...

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  14. "sinners" = non frum people, presumably they were not shomer shabbat.

    Yonathan Netanyahu, who was killed in the operation, was actually the grandson of a rabbi. I guess at some point his father became non frum.

    So here is another question: is it possible that the opposition to zionism were somehow wrong? A navi is tested by whether his words come true. the rabbis who staunchly opposed the set up of Jewish control in Israel, promsied their follwoers that they would be saved in Europe , since they opposed the "idolatry". This was proven wrong. If you can test a navi by his predictions, why are rabbis immune, when they chose to step in the shoes of a navi?

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    1. Eddie.I think the problem is that "Zionism " means ten different things to ten different people.I remember telling a rebbe that I belonged to Betar as did other relatives.He was from Poland.He was astonished when I told him that the entire club was Shomer Shabbos.I didn't understand what the surprise was.I think the Zionists were often Marxist in nature and anti-religious and that is what they objected to.

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  15. I was actually thinking of the title of this post.

    Miracles perhaps happen through the non-religious - however, perhaps they are done for all of Klal Yisrael, in order to come back to the Emet of Torah.
    A few years ago I had a business meeting with such a secular type, who had been a fighter or high ranking officer in the early wars. His view was "it is impossible to destroy us" - ie our strength is in our right hand. This was the consistent view of the rasha, Moshe Dayan. The religious person, who sees G-d's "hand" in history, sees that any success we have comes from Hashem, and not ourselves, and this is precisely why commemorations such as Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim were given a a religious dimension.
    After the first Gulf war, when scud missiles were fired at Israel, but did not kill a single person (one person suffocated from wrongly using a gas mask), I heard form HaGaon R' Haim David HaLevy z'tl, that it was important to recognize the miracles of that war , since denial of such would be a terrible sin. He instituted a Hallel for this - but deliberately said it on the Rosh Chodesh , so as not to cause any problems in the Rabbinic world!

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  16. One of the team who carried out the Operation in Entebbe, was the Religious MK, Effie Eitam.

    Eitam, is a BT, who got semicha. His father was big in the Kibbutz movement, and he acted as a driver for the Hazon Ish. The Hazon Ish gave him a blessing that his son would become a great man.

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  17. Eddie... What are you smoking ? Your stories are complete delusions...the CI never had a driver ,bibis zadie ,goren etc...

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  18. tziki, are u nuts?

    Netanyahu's paternal grandfather was Rabbi Natan Mileikowsky. This is incontrovertible. (Btw, R' Shach's son Ephraim did a Zionist switch, and he has a couple of chiloni kids).

    As for Goren, this is recorded history. I suppose you would also deny that he blew the shofar at he Kotel.

    As for the Hazon Ish story, I heard it from Eitam himself. Are you saying the Hazon Ish never sat in a car? That is the most incredible story of all!

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  19. this reminds me of gan yeldim...the sotmar rebbe writes a 223 page response and you all say your feeli.gs...
    eveey idea mentioned here on rhis blog is mentuoned and refuted by rabnu yoel ztl...

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  20. Another view on what the Satmar Rav's opinion is on the issue (much different than what is presented here):

    http://www.baismedrash.com/2011/01/the-satmar-rebbes-position-on-the-six-day-war/

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  21. Orech...very impessive link...todah

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  22. secular scientific miracle, of Biblical proportions

    http://discovermagazine.com/2011/sep/17-brain-see-said-blind-man-artifical-retina

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  23. Yosh:: No matter how long the sefer written by Reb Yoel zt"l, there are refuters & disagrees. Face the fact.

    tziki:: Your problem is a major one, LACK of knowledge of preceding events or a void of factual info. Learn the facts and you will be startled at connections that you thought never existed.

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  24. caren...there are refuters and denyers but no one answers logically...

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  25. Yosh:
    Check out sefarim of Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, Rav Yisraeli, ZT"L, may not have been sefarim that are readily available to you.

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  26. if you bring a source i will look , but its hard to beleive they answer the sater rebbi
    these were the only 2 rabbis that suported goren in the mamzer case...but its hard to beleive they answer the sater rebbi
    these were the only 2 rabbis that suported goren in the mamzer case...

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  27. All of the Gedolei Yisroel were against Goren in the mamzer case.

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  28. The link posted above...

    http://www.baismedrash.com/2011/01/the-satmar-rebbes-position-on-the-six-day-war/

    ...shows clearly that the Satmar Rav himself denied ever saying that the 6-day-war victory was an act of the Satan, or that it was a miracle of any kind - Satanic or otherwise. He writes clearly that he believes the victory was NOT from the Satan but in the merit of the righteous Jews in EY.

    It is about time this fabrication that the Zionist camp has spread far and wide was laid to rest.

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