Sunday, January 1, 2012

It is time to reclaim our inheritance from the extremists

Guest post by Sarah Yehudit Schneider

A Teaching based on R. Tsadok HaKohen
Tsidkat HaTsadik #231
R. Yanai was journeying on the road when a man approached him and, with great enthusiasm, invited R. Yannai to his home for a meal. R. Yannai accepted the invitation.  In the course of the meal R. Yannai probed the man’s literacy.  Was there knowledge of Talmud?  No. Medresh? No. Mishna? No. Scripture? No. As the meal concluded R. Yannai asked his host to recite the Grace after Meals for them.  The man declined and deferred to R. Yannai. R. Yannai then asked the man if he could repeat the words that R. Yannai would speak.  The man said he could and would. R. Yannai then (rudely) spoke the following sentence for him to repeat: “A dog has eaten of Yannai’s bread.”

The man grabbed R. Yannai by his collar and accused R. Yannai of theft: “You have stolen my inheritance, and are withholding it from me.” R. Yannai was shocked: “What inheritance is that,” he responded.  The man answered that he had once passed by a school where children were memorizing scripture and the verse they were reciting was: “Moshe conveyed the Torah to us—an inheritance to the congregation of Yaakov.”   The man challenged R. Yannai: “It does not say ‘congregation of Yannai’ but ‘congregation of Yaakov.’”

R. Yannai asked the man: “What earned you the merit of sharing a meal with me?” The man answered: “Never in my life have I repeated lashon hara, and never have I ever seen people quarrelling without making peace between them.”[Vayikra Rabba 9:3]

And so it is time to reclaim our inheritance from the extremists who are stealing it from us, distorting it beyond recognition, and using it as a club.  Who are unilaterally decreeing that whole branches of our rich, complex, and paradoxical tradition are no longer daas Torah. We need to speak up and repossess our inheritance from the zealots like the man in this story. “You are stealing our inheritance.  It is ours as much as yours…and WE are the (no longer silent) majority. It is ‘the inheritance of the entire congregation of Yaakov…NOT the congregation of zealots.’”

R. Tsadok uses this teaching to show how every Jew is a gadol in some area of Torah and an ignoramous in others. R. Yannai was a gadol in Talmud and an ignoramous is derekh eretz. His host, the opposite.

We cannot wait for leaders to speak up. We don’t have those kinds of leaders today. The people themselves have to take the lead, claim their truth, and speak it to the world. We cannot allow our precious inheritance to be hijacked and publicly degraded.

Thank you R. Eidensohn and R. Adlerstein for starting the process and providing the forum.
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  1. R. Yanai was journeying on the road when a man approached him and, with great enthusiasm, invited R. Yannai to his home for a meal. R. Yannai accepted the invitation.
    Sorry for being such a stickler, but my understanding of narrative of the midrash is a bit different:
    R. Yanai was journeying on the road, and saw someone who gave the impression of being a Torah scholar. R. Yannai courteously invited the man to his home for a meal. The man accepted R. Yanai's invitation...

  2. In the Conservative synagogue I grew up in there was this one man who showed up every Thursday morning for Shacharit.
    He did not put on tefillin because no one every taught him as a boy and he was too proud to let anyone teach him now.
    Despite being a Levi he would not take an aliyah because no one ever taught him the berachos (or even any Hebrew) and he was too proud to let anyone teach him now.
    But whenever a Jew died, aa a member of the Chevra Kadisha he would go out at some early hour of the morning to ensure that the grave was ready as soon as possible for the body. And in Canada that sometimes means going out with heavy machinery in the dark in -20 degree Celsius temperature and standing out there for an hour or two as the ground warmer slowly softens the frozen earth so the backhoe can dig the hole. Didn't matter if it was snowing, raining and both, he never missed getting the grave ready. Never.
    Some people earn their olam haba is different ways than we're used to. Who are we to judge when it's the Ribono Shel Olam who makes the final choice on who's righteous?

  3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 1, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    "Sarah Yehudit Schneider said...We cannot wait for leaders to speak up. We don’t have those kinds of leaders today. The people themselves have to take the lead, claim their truth, and speak it to the world. We cannot allow our precious inheritance to be hijacked and publicly degraded."

    Hi, and thanks for a good post. But you make a big mistake because every single last Charedi and Chasidic Jew in particular DOES have a living, dynamic leader to turn to. It is the nature of that society.

    Your approach would let them off the hook. There are always very calculating, savvy, shrewd and tough leaders in Charedi and Chadisic life. Every dynasty and yeshiva has its bosses. Until such time as those leaders come forth and ORDER their Chasidim and Talmidim to stop anti-social behvior against outsiders not like them it will go on.

    The leaders are using their followers out on the streets as pagans. This is very much like a full-blown chess game. For example in some Chasidic courts the Rebbetzins are all powerful as well as in many Bais Yaakovs and girls schools headed by powerful Rebbetzins and they, just like you as a woman, must and should be appealed to because it is their children, husbands, brothers, fathers and relatives who will be hurt and jailed for acts of violence and abuse.

    So please do not stop asking for the Charedi and Chasisic leadership to step forth. Rabbis Adlerstein and Eidensohn are sincere and respected authors and and writers in the Orthodox world but they do not command legions of Chasidim or Bochurim and Yungerleit who live by the commands of the slightest words and hints from their Rebbes and Rosh Yeshivas.

    Keep your eye on the ball, and don't let the Charedi and Chasidic leaders off the hook until such time as they both reign in their disciples and even more start to change the methods they teach the kids in their yeshivas, chedorim and bais yaakovs about DERECH ERETZ and AHAVAS YISROEL!

  4. "R. Yannai was a gadol in Talmud and an ignoramous is derekh eretz. His host, the opposite".
    I'm not a big expert on R. Tsadok, but one of the things I was taught, was that when someones quotes a source you should look up the source in context.

    So I looked up R. Tsadok in Tsidkat HaTsadik (#231), and I was disturbed to see that Ms. Schneider has misread R. Tsadok, and put her own ideas into the mouth of R. Tsadok.

    It should be obvious that R. Tsadok never said the above idea, maligning R. Yanai as an ignoramous in derekh eretz!

    R. Tsadok merely pointed out that every Jew has a certain unique share in the Torah, and that even someone who has accessed a large part of the Torah, may not have accessed the particular portion unique to the lesser learned person.

    I add that R. Tsadok's words are rounded out by his own comments in Pri Tsadik (Shemos 2: p.6, col. 2)
    that this was precisely this unlearned man's unique portion in the Torah, as confirmed by Chazal, ie. that the Torah is an inheritance to the ENTIRE congregation of Yaakov!

  5. It's interesting to note the unlearned man's reaction to the seeming "putdown" by R. Yanai.

    He demanded from R. Yanai a share in his inheritance! He meant to say to R. Yanai, instead of putting me down as an ignoramous, I demand that you teach me Torah!

    He didn't react the way many people would today, ie. if this is way rabbis act, then I'm out of here... and goes "off the derech"...

    Where do we find today the "Am Ha'aretz" of old!

  6. Do the "moderate" haredim actually believe differently from how the fanatics act?

    a) Is mixed seating in public permitted, according to followers of R' Elyashiv shlita, or RMF ztl?

    b) Are secular Jews, who form the machinery of the zionist enterprise to be respected under halacha, or are they worse than goyim, who must be exploited into financing yeshivot etc?

    c) When the choice comes between a haredi maniac who demonstrates and physically assaults a secular or modern orthodox, whose side shoudl a moderate haredi take? The NK types, or the goyim (MO< seculars, Zionists, nazis etc?)

    An honest response to these questions will reveal what can be done, and what cannot.

  7. "the "Am Ha'aretz" of old!"

    is sitting in his house, strictly shomer Shabbos but afraid to step foot in a shul.

    Why? It is because he is not rich and therefore cannot be a "mensch" and give $50,000 a year.

    He doesn't need to launder the money he earns from counterfeiting via the rabbi or the shul.

    His wife is Jewish so he does not have to be the "frummer" than thou because his children's Jewishness depends upon him giving the appearance of a "tzaddik".

    He isn't a child molester so he is not lurking in the corners of the restroom for little boys.

    Maybe he got upset when the rabbi protected a molester from the police.

    Maybe he got upset when an intermarried Kohen got an aliyah.

    Maybe he got upset when he found out that all of the yeshiva scholarships went to the children of men married to non Jews.

    Maybe he got upset when he found out that the rabbi was laundering drug money.

    Maybe he got upset because there were Gentiles cooking (mamash on a gas stove for a Saturday night wedding) in the kitchen of the shul on Shabbat under the supervision of a mashgiach from a nationally recognized hashgacha.

    He is not welcome in the shul, or he doesn't feel comfortable in the shul so he is home, hiding in his house praying by himself that his children will grow up safe and whole and that they will somehow meet others like themselves to marry.

    I personally know many many men who fit the above description. Some are quite wealthy, some are barely eating. Some are quite learned and some can barely read Hebrew.

    All are truly Jewish k'halacha, married to halachically Jewish women and are sincerely religious. And all are home on Shabbat.

  8. To Am HaAretz: I actually just used the Soncino translation of the midrash, and spruced up the language a bit. But Soncino translated the midrash as "R. Jannai was once walking in the road, when a man of exceeding effusiveness approached him and said to him: ‘Would you, Rabbi, care to accept my hospitality?’"

    And second, it is true that R. Tsadok does not actually use the words am ha'aretz in relation to R. Yannai but he does say that "even if a person's chelek in Torah is very great, he doesn't know *clum* about the other person't chelek, even though it is much smaller than his. Not knowing *clum* is basically the simple definition of am haaretz. And calling another Jew who showed you honor and respect a dog to his face, betrays a complete lack of appreciation for that man's chelek, and a complete absence of derekh eretz. Just pshat as far as I can tell.

  9. From this weeks issue of העדה -דורות 1612-92 with the approval of rav sternbach
    1)orot has 2 schools 1 for boys and 1 for girls... They were asked by the rabbis of beit shemesh to put the boys school near the חרדי neighborhoods . They refused.
    2) the incident with nama margolis happened 3 months ago and only now reached the TV. Then there was no mention of spitting
    3)the demonstration was paid for by the new israel fund.
    4)only a few hundred came . They announsed the reason was the חרדים were blocking the roads( a lie)
    5) there is much more in the 16 page article...perhaps i will write more.

  10. The Haredi man in the news clip admits that Naama was spitted on and said to the reporter that it was the right thing to do. And to call 8 years old child "זונה מופקרת" (promiscuous slut) it is OK in your eyes?

  11. Who cares when grown men menace little girls? It's inexcusable 3 months ago as well as now.

  12. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 2, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    Welcome Jersey Girl, right on, and well said!

  13. Naturei Karta freaks that request boys schools to be nearby are suspiciousJanuary 3, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    Wait let me try to process this. They requested a boys school be placed next to the haredi neighborhoods? And why would the Sikrikim so desperately want a boys school next to them, do pray tell?

  14. Tziki- Do you mean that they asked them NOT to put it...? And who were these Rabbonim- from the Yehiva's kehilla, or Eidahnik's who hold they're apikorsim anyway?


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