Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bringing Meah Shearim to Brooklyn

This piece from the Jewish Star brings to light one of my greatest fears: the attempt by the kanoim to turn Brooklyn into Meah Shearim, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak, pick your chareidi paradise.

I have a hard time accepting the psakim of Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman upon myself. Don't get me wrong - I have the utmost respect for them and their Torah knowledge.

But to me, they're like Rav Ovadiah Yosef - another individual whose knowledge and greatness I respect. The man is a tremendous talmid chacham - see it for yourself by looking at a page of any of his seforim. But I don't follow his psakim. Why not? They're not meant for me or my community - I'm not sefardi, so I don't follow that approach.

The chareidim in Eretz Yisrael live in a different world, a world where "learning a trade is poison," where shaving is an issur d'oraysah, chalav stam is treif, and the list of differences goes on and on. According to many of the statements and psakim of the gedolim there, many of us here are getting a first-class ticket to hell. So while I respect the rabbonim there, I don't believe that they're "our" poskim, the same way that R' Ovadiah is not a posek for the J-Dubs.

I've always believed that there are many factors that go into halacha, including social factors, and there certainly is proof of that all over (shaas hadchak, mipnei darchei shalom, and others). And I think it's reasonable for any posek who's paskining for a tzibur to have some knowledge of that tzibur, their upbringing, their struggles, their beliefs, etc. And maybe some psakim can be made without such knowledge (for example, the law of forgetting a part of davening), but in many instances, the people and the community are a big factor in psak.

And that's what's troubling about the process here - are the gedolim in eretz yisrael fully aware of the issues facing our communities, such as the kids-at-risk and the much larger exposure to the media that golus brings? Are they fully aware of the way many of us live our lives here, struggling for hours to earn a living in a secular world?

-- The impression I've always had is that since Rav Moshe passed away, there hasn't been a pre-eminent American posek hador. It's a big, big problem. And the problem is manifesting itself in this manner - the kanoim are trying to turn New York into Bnei Brak, and it's just plain wrong. That's one reason the whole wig fiasco outside Chaim Berlin rubbed me the wrong way. What's next, asking the city council for separate seating on the B9? Tznius police on Avenue J? Protests outside of Touro College?

Don't get me wrong - the chareidi enclaves in Israel have a lot going for them that we're lacking, but they also have a lot of problems. And all the kanoim will end up doing is importing those problems. Not in my backyard!

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2 Comments:

Anonymous big bro #2 said...

I think the Lipa episode, particularly R' Shmuel Kamenetzky's comments show that the American gedolim probably agree with you, to an extent, but are afraid of looking bad by speaking out against the EY gedolim.

So although it seems like the American rabbonim comply, it's due to lack of guts (to speak out)rather than being in agreement with them.

Either way it's a problem.

4:51 PM  
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