Monday, July 1, 2013

Rabbi Adlerstein calls for less heated rhetoric and a greater understanding of the other side

Cross Currents   [...]  But is it fair to be conclusory about Piron? Should we not ask what kind of cultural ethos he wants to see. Does he want to cut of the peyos of residents of Meah Shearim? Does he want to lower the charedi birthrate so they won’t take over? Or does he want to see charedi soldiers in Tzahal (and DL ones, and secular ones) met with a smile and appreciation? Much more importantly – does it matter so much what Piron (a BT, rav and a ram!) wants? What kind of change is the voting public looking for? Is it fair to assume that they want what Piron wants? Should we not at least ask the question? No, I don’t think Rabbi Grylak is paranoid, but I think he is helping to ease his readership down the path of maximizing rejection of the other side, while paying minimum attention to their legitimate concerns and needs. [Aside: Last week, Hamodia put together an evening of messages on the topic by important speakers around the world. They did stay close to the predictable message, with one important exception. Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky of Silver Spring (a colleague on the editorial board of Klal Perspectives) spoke, among other things of the need to understand what the other sides is saying. He pointed to an Akeidah (Kedoshim #65) who says that women who truly care about their appearance use mirrors that maximize, rather than minimize, their blemishes. That way, they can better attend to them cosmetically. Listening to our critics, with their inflated language, helps us focus on our own faults. You can listen to his presentation by calling  718-650-6050  and selecting option 6.]

Rabbi Grylak asks in large type, “Does a demand for forced social change fit in with the concept of democracy as you know it in the United States?” Unfortunately, he picked the wrong week to ask this question. Rabbi Grylak, meet Justice Kennedy, who led the US Supreme Court in a massive exercise in social engineering last week. Rabbi Grylak also asks, “From a democratic point of view, do you see a possibility for the US government to dictate the nature of education in keeping with the American ethos? Can they do this in Satmar, in Lakewood?” Maybe it is time for another US visit, Rabbi Grylak. Indeed, that is the law of the land. Some may try to operate in violation of the laws mandating general studies instruction (even for home schoolers!), but the laws in fact exist. They uphold the need of a democratic society to assure that children are given both a chance at vocational success as well as share some information about the United States that is meant to bring about some social cohesion.

Like Yair Lapid, what I say I would like to see is not the same as what I would settle for as first steps along the way. Rabbi Grylak’s concession that over-the-top rhetoric by any camp leads to over-the-top reaction by the opposing camp is a good place to start, and I am happy to have been the shliach to make it happen.

And, to illustrate the complexity and nuance of life, I will recall for readers the time some years ago that I joined an Aguda mission to Israel. We spent some time in Knesset; I was chosen to deliver a message from the group at a meeting with MK Chaim Ramon. My piece de resistance was a beautiful appreciation of the role of the beis medrash and learning as the source of strength of the Nation. It was delivered with the apparent approval of the other participants. It was authored by Chaim Nachman Bialik.


  1. Speaking of forced social change, seven scores and ten years ago this last week Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy of Southern states which rose in rebellion as the abolitionists increased in power and influence in the North.
    The Civil War, among other things, meant that the writ of the Emancipation Proclamation would extend to every State. That ended chattel slavery, meant that the war-wrecked slave based economy of the South would not return, and would pose the still incompletely answered question of how the white population of the USA and the descendants of the freed slaves would get along.

    So, Rabbi Grylak, the United States has actually gone pretty far in forcing social change.

    Then there was Prohibition, the Civil Rights Act....

    1. Countries with an actively enforced Constitution (the US may not be such a place now) place limits on what a majority can impose on a minority.

  2. All of R' Alderstein's columns are worth reading. He has a very moderate and intelligent approach to current affairs.

  3. Here's what need to be said: those in a position of weakness need to realize that compromise preserves some of what they wish to protect while arrogant blustering could cause everything to be lost.
    Unless the plan is to bluster until the Chareidi parties are back in government and the old status quo is restored.

  4. Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for maintaining 'normative Toras Hashem'. My question, WHY did we need to wait for Rabbi Adlerstein's call for peaceful dialogue? Where was leadership when harsh rhetoric, mud slinging and name lashing was going on?


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