Letter From the Slonimer Rebbe, Shlit”a
Anyone who has studied Nesivos Shalom, or knows Slonimer chassidim, would not associate them with extremes of zealotry. This has added to the confusion about the Emannuel tragedy, especially the negative media coverage. On the other hand, given the legacy of the Nesivos Shalom, one of the first things that comes to mind is taking chinuch seriously. The following letter from the Rebbe reinforces some of the positive images, and adds a personal touch. It certainly proclaims that pushing the tension between secular authority and Torah was not on the agenda, but once raised, allows for little compromise. There is no more nor any less essential conflict today than there was for the last 62 years. Smart people realized that the best modus vivendi is often to avoid bringing a conflict to a head. I think there are smarter people in Slonim than there are on the High Court.
Thanks to Doron Beckerman for the quick translation from the Hebrew:
Nation of Hashem, Be Strong and Let Us Gather Strength
To our beloved, dear community, Hashem is upon them, may they live. Be strong and may your hearts gather courage, all those who hope to Hashem.
During these difficult days that our congregation, may Hashem guard and protect them, is enduring – His advice is faith, and this is Hashem in whom we place our hope, we will rejoice and be jubilant in His salvation.
Know this: Had I thought that the court justices believe what they say, that the school in Emanuel is founded on racial discrimination, it seems to me that I would act differently.
However, since I have no speck of a doubt that they know the truth, that all their words are based on falsehood. If so, this is nothing but a struggle between faith and heresy, between the force of holiness and the force of impurity of the Other (evil) Side, – a struggle that we always knew would erupt at the End of Days.
And in a struggle over sanctification of Hashem’s Name – even if they will place us before a firing squad – we will not yield nor compromise a hairsbreadth!
Hashem is our King and we are His servants until our final breath.
And I call to all believers in Israel:
Please join us in this exalted struggle, the struggle that has been awaited and anticipated for generations, “when will it come to my hand, that I should be able to fulfill it”.
I’m sorry Rabbi Adlerstein, I have a very different view of this letter. I see the extremism and intransigence that was at the heart of this whole issue. He has taken, what could have been, what should have been, a minor intra-communal educational issue and blown it out of all proportion to the point where it is now a case of “Yeihareig V’Al Yaavor”. This is symbolic of the growing fanaticism that is ripping the Jews of the Holy Land apart.
Yasher Koach to R Adlerstein and R Beckerman for bringing the above quoted language and the perspective of Slonimer Chasidus to bear on this issue.
This letter really moved me. I believe it says it all in a nutshell.
A} What ever happened to דן את כל האדם לכף זחות?
B} Why is it impossible for any religious leader to think there may actually be some de facto discrimination going on here, maybe not in policy but in practice? It is more likely than not only judging by the mainstream belief in Haredi Jewry that the rigorousness of the Ashkenazi tradition’s learning it such that it is “better” than the Sephardic tradition in some ethereal sense, but also from the behavior of rabbeim in yeshivot for younger boys of whom many seem to have a penchant for telling racist jokes, which inevitably allows these beliefs to be held by the students to carry on later in life into action.
Menahem, ever heard of arkesa de mesana?
Even if I agreed entirely with the Slonimer chassidim respecting the court case, the apocalyptic language and demonization of opponents shown here would outweigh any positive. This is the rhetoric of civil war and violence. It seems to be only a matter of time until someone is killed by stoning or beating. If the Chareidim have any true friends, here, in Israel or elsewhere, those friends should be warning them in the severest terms to cool off the rhetoric while there’s still time to prevent a bloody escalation.
The demonization of the other side and the explicit adoption of language about choosing death, not metaphorically, but sincerely, is noteworthy.
I shudder to think what consequences might follow from such rhetoric.
I have no doubt that his sincerity is real and in his mind the reasons for his chassidim’s behavior is religious versus racial. And in all probability, his chassidim are, in fact, primarily motivated by religious values rather than racial discrimination. That said, the judge found that they also violated laws against discrimination, perhaps driven by, but hardly excused, by their higher purpose. Thus, as to the facts, both the judge and the rebbe may be correct.
In the end, a state funded school obeys the laws of the state. When religious values conflict, it is not dinai nefashot. Just return the money and build your own school. Then the state will only have the issue of teaching a curriculum required for all children to enforce. That issue is next and will make this fight pale in comparison. That is why the media is so insistent that no one back down. Sadly, that issue of curriculum was beginning to be addressed, albeit slowly. Now, Heaven forbid, it too will receive a ya’harog vea’al ya’avor imprimatur.
The Rebbe has just basically called Judge Levy a heretic. That is a strong charge against an observant Jew who just days earlier was defending kollel stipends.
Tal, not that I agree that this is such a case, but it should never have gotten to the point where someone would even think of invoking such an edict. Were the original separation handled with Kovod and sensitivity than all these tragic consequences could have been avoided.
The level of distrust is apparant. I understand taht one of the judges is himself observant. Of course the man in charge of deling with compensation for Guh Katif was also observant. How can this issue be cooled down and sanity reign if the Rebbe is talking about being put before a firing squad? The same soldiers who were beat up on the Turkish flotilla will now be assigned to slaughter chassidim just because they won’t send their daughers to a Bais Yaakov that doesn’t follow Rav Vosner’s standards of dress code!! Ben Gurion no longer runs the country and the relgious are no viewed as dying out. You think the rebbe shows wisdom, I think he is fanning the flames of destruction.
“In the end, a state funded school obeys the laws of the state. When religious values conflict, it is not dinai nefashot. Just return the money and build your own school.”
That is exactly what the parents tried to do, and even that was denied them by the court.
Sorry, I’m not impressed by this letter. I don’t agree at all with Badatz and it’s a shanda the way the secular media is presenting this as a clear-cut case of discrmination and racism.
The Slonimer Rebbe could have diffused the situation by issuing something far more diplomatic, a statement showing sensitivity to the many Sefaradim in Israel who feel – justifiably – that they have been mistreated by the Ashkenazi establishment. It is no secret that Ashkenazi charedi schools do not like accepting Sefardim. The Rebbe could have issued a statement to the effect of, “To acheinu haSefaradim: We regret the implication that the measure taken to separate the Beit Yaakov in Emanuel into two tracks was due to our disdain for the Sephardic community. The school’s intent was merely to preserve the unique customs of the Slonimer Chasidim by educating the children in the time-honored tradition conveyed to us by our ancestor. We have the utmost love and respect for all Yidden, of all backgrounds, and would never want to hurt or insult any of acheinu Benei Yisrael…” Something like that would have been a great help to everyone involved.
How does A separate from B for some higher purpose without this seeming to show disdain for B? This can be a real challenge, not only in the context under discussion.
Some people will always take another’s separation as a hostile act. This is even a part of the “rationale” for attacks on our valid claim to be the Chosen People.
I realize I am coming late to this discussion, which is no longer active, but it is important to respond to the very strange attacks on the Slonimer Rebber posted by the comenters here.
I say they are very strange since his letter is criticized on religious grounds, and the secular judge is supported at the same time in the name of his religion which he himself believes is less important than his unsupported opinions on moral behavior.
It is worth noting that the Slonlimer Rebbe is definitely far more religious than Edmond Levy, as he wears a long black coat and a long white beard, while Levy makes do with a kippa.
The preceding sentence is of course a non sequitur, unless we take religious trappings to be a sign of religious commitment. Those who assert Levy is observant since he wears a kippa, will undoubtedly agree that the Rebbe is far more observant if only because of his black hat.
Edmond Levy is not religious. He does not consider the Torah binding. He does not believe in a fundamental right to religious practice or religious education (see Emmanuel decision), and he believes that in case of a conflict between religious belief and twisted law, everyone must capitulate to him. His stated position makes him a heretic, his external trappings not withstanding.
One of the above posters takes the Rebbe to task for calling Levy a heretic even though he defended kollel stipends. Does that poster believe that Levy let his religious beliefs override his legal opinions? If so, how can his decisions be respected? And since he decide on defending kollel stipends either for legal reasons or to counterbalance his Emmanuel decision, how can it reflect on his religiosity? A charge of heresy is hardly an extreme claim here, and definitely the kollel stipend decision in no way suggests otherwise.
Another commenter was concerned about dan l’caf zchus. Does someone who denies the authority of the Torah deserve this courtesy? But more to the point, we do not judge favorably when all indications are otherwise. Levy had ample opportunity to explain why he thought there was racial discrimination, and he did not. He had plenty of options to avoid this whole showdown without in any way changing the law, but he did not. How can we judge favorable? If he believed what he said, he would have defended it. If he did not want a fight, there would not have been one. He really did not leave us any options to suggest that he acted in good faith here.
This commenter then wondered why the Rebbe could not understand that there might be de facto segregation. The Rebbe is not American, and not bound to American law or ideals. De facto segregation is not against our religion (neither is intentional segregation, though that at least has is a more widely recognized moral issue), and is not against Israeli law. Even if it was against the law, That carries no inherent moral weight from a religious perspective. But I can ask you in return – why is it so hard for you to see that there might be an anti-religious bias in this decision?
A number of commenters are scared by the demonizing, apocalyptic language of the letter. Criticism is not demonizing, and support of passive resistance is hardly apocalyptic. Free speech is a far more fundamental right in democracy than multiculturalism, and it is strange to argue against the use of free speech in the name of supporting multiculturalism. Passively standing up for one’s belief’s is not something which is generally seen as a failure of democracy.
Levy could have simply said there was no proof of racial discrimination, and dismissed the case. He chose instead to fan the flames.
He could have closed the case after the offending wall was removed, and he chose to fan the flames.
He could have followed the law which does not allow him to take cases against individual citizens, and ended the story, but he chose to fan the flames.
He could have respected the beliefs of the parents even when sentencing them, and lowered the rhetoric. He chose to fan the flames.
When the Rebbe encourages his followers in their passive resistance, he is accused of fanning the flames.
The Bagatz has been earning distrust at every opportunity. But for many here it is the Rebbe who is distrusted, even though this is the first thing they ever heard from him. The distrust is evident, but what is the source of this severe distrust?
I would like to clarify in my above comment, that there is no question the Slonimer Rebbe is far more religious then Levy, and it is quite out of place to attack him for not being sufficiently religious, using Levy’s religiousity as the basis for defending him.
My point about dress is that we do not look at the Rebbe’s dress to determine his level of religious commitment, and Levy’s dress cannot make him more religious then what we see from his statements in this regard.
Simcha Younger, as the One refered to by:
“One of the above posters takes the Rebbe to task for calling Levy a heretic even though he defended kollel stipends. Does that poster believe that Levy let his religious beliefs override his legal opinions? If so, how can his decisions be respected? And since he decide on defending kollel stipends either for legal reasons or to counterbalance his Emmanuel decision, how can it reflect on his religiosity?”
Let me explain. Judges, like poskim, have a law that must be applied to a circumstance. Judge levy’s religious beliefs are reflected NOT in his somehow subverting the law but in his evaluation of circumstance, judging the value of Torah learning to be of enough merit to allow Torah students to be treated differently under the law wrt stipends.
on your other point about the judge’s and the rebbe’s garb. Neither is judged religious by their garb. their garb only provides a hint of their religious orientation. Their actions and beliefs define their respective religious personalities. It is the Tocho not the Baro that is defining.
Simcha Younger: “That [de facto segregation] carries no inherent moral weight from a religious perspective.” True, but it carries practical weight because Jews are bound by the law of the land as long as it does not contradict Torah law. Since there is no Torah or rabbinically ordained law to segregate, and the State of Israel does not condone segregation (unless it’s carried out by the state), we, simple, mortal Jews cannot practice segregation in the State of Israel. And guess what, it’s not so hard. You even get rewarded by not segregating and for being a mensch.
“Free speech is a far more fundamental right in democracy than multiculturalism, and it is strange to argue against the use of free speech in the name of supporting multiculturalism. Passively standing up for one’s belief’s is not something which is generally seen as a failure of democracy.”
So you are arguing that the Slonimer Rebbe was exercising his right to free speech and upholding his democratic rights. The Rebbe would be astonished if you told him that.