Don’t Be So Quick To Dismiss Critical Thinking and An Orderly Environment

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23 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Karlinsky,

    Going forward, what can be done practically to improve the process of information flow to and from any major poskim who have been abused and manipulated by their entourage or others? Who really has the ability to make this happen?
    Sometimes I wonder if anyone short of Mashiach has the clout to bang heads and get this done.

    Also, what can be done for communities subject to violence and intimidation because of leaders (their own or others) who talk peace but wage war or wink at it?

  2. Dovid Kasten says:

    While I’ve grown weary of defending the mainstream Chareidi’s way of life, and i would rather not respond, i feel that it is only right to explain the “other” side.
    Rabbi Karlinsky starts off, “While I do not live in Beit Shemesh”. The way i see it is that this is the end of his article.
    The idea that having a well functioning city is important is obvious to all. My neighbors and i always wished the Ethiopian cleaner a good morning every day of the week. And our street was always clean. The garbage was collected. The Abutbol administration added 10 times the amount of bus lines from what was previously. Things functioned just fine. The fact that they couldn’t do more was based on the fact that there was no money for extra’s due to the fact that poor old city residents and Avreichim are entitled by law to a huge discount on Arnona. Things were aesthetically fine, allowing one to focus on the main reason he moved to Eretz Yisroel.

    Regarding what you wrote about ילמדנו רבינו and the viciousness of the elections, you state well. While no Jew should ignore the instructions of the Rabbanim, one should ask after the fact of the reason behind the decision, a sort of Na’aseh V’nishmah. Your Talmidim can seek out plenty of amazing Rabbanim in Bet Shemesh who can speak with them about their decision.
    Regarding the “verbal terrorism”. Of course it’s wrong. Everyone has the things that they lose themselves over and elections seems to be the one that many Israeli Chareidim get triggered by. Welcome to a different culture.
    Maybe these two last things can be the good that American’s can bring to Eretz Yisroel to augment their already amazing lifestyle and focus on Ruchnius!

  3. yechiel says:

    dovid, this is an excellent summation of the actual situation in beit shemesh. thank you

  4. Allan Katz says:

    David Kasten writes ” one should ask after the fact of the reason behind the decision, a sort of Na’aseh V’nishmah. ” Rav Adlerstein quoted the Meshech Hochmah saying that Na’aseh V’Nishmah does not apply to human interactions. As stated we need the voice of the man in the street to be heard in the process of decision making, not after the fact. There is a pasuk which basically says that whenever there is chilul Hashem we don’t show kavod to the Rav. Unfortunately the concept of Kidush Hashem and Chilul Hashem no longer exists. IMHO amonst the causes are a sectoral attitude to politics and seeing the situation as a war – us against them , the good guys against the evil guys . IMHo the positive about BeiT Shemesh is that we see people taking responsibility for themselves and being guided by concepts like Kiddush Hashem and Derech Eretz. In fact – the Beit Shemesh vote was a Kiddush Hashem – I doubt if politicians and their Rabbis see it this way

  5. Dovid Wernicker says:

    Dovid Kasten…if Rav Karlinsky’a saying he doesn’t live in Bet Shemesh should be the end of the discussion, does that also mean no rabbis and askanim from outside the city should have a say in the situation?

  6. Natan Slifkin says:

    “Things functioned just fine.” This claim by Dovid Kasten cannot be allowed to go unanswered. The welfare department was virtually non-functional – The courts ordered the director to be fired, because Abutbul had appointed someone who didn’t satisfy the legal requirements, and most social workers had quit. And the Handasa (engineering/planning) department has been virtually frozen, due to the key people being indicted for corruption. Countless other examples could be brought, but these are the two most blatant and irrefutable.

  7. Devora says:

    I am amazed that Mr.Kastens posting comments on a fourth article concerning bet shemesh, yet he has not bothered to answer the questions from previous commenters. Is he truly interested in discussion or just wants to voice his opinions without listening to others?
    Some readers may have missed previous statements this person made and some questions people asked him that he refused to answer. To summarize:
    A. He said people should not have voted for Dr. Bloch if they cared about ruchniyus and said that since her kitchen isn’t kosher enough for him, people shouldn’t have voted for her. Furthermore he said since the choice was Abutbol who is someone charedi and “like you” the charedi Olim should have voted for him.
    When readers explained that they voted for Bloch to improve ruchniyus and pointed out that in Jerusalem many rabbis supported a datileumi candidate over the charedi who looked like them and in other cities rabbis said voting for a nonreligious woman was fine, he changed the entire argument and said that the reason to vote Abutbol was because rabbis said to.
    So then naturally people asked why he wrote an entire rant about his disappointment in his neighbors that only mentioned ruchniyus and how Bloch wasn’t “like” them and didn’t mention the rabbis ordering people who to vote for, but he refused to answer that question.
    B. Since he made the “rabbis ordered you to vote for x so a good Jew must vote for x” argument, readers then asked him if the rabbis actually investigated what was best for the city by meeting Bloch and her supporters and hearing from the many people who were concerned about Abutbols administrative failures. He refused to answer….because he knows they didn’t. And he knows the Torah expects a rabbi to hear BOTH sides before judging. Furthermore, he was asked if the rabbis telling people who to vote for stood to gain from one candidate winning over the other….again, he refused to answer…likely because he knows the answer is yes and he knows that the Torah expects a judge to be impartial or recuse himself.
    C. A last question readers would like an answer to: at the rally for Abutbol when Rav Kanievsky was brought to RBSA, Dr. Bloch was identified in public by a rabbi as being a “chiloni” woman- meaning she is not religious. I would very much like to know if Mr. Kasten was there and heard this lie. If he wasn’t there, I would ask him to speak to people who were because that is the fact of what happened. And I really would like a simple yes or no answer to this last question: is that OK in his book? Was a rabbi (who we are supposed to blindly listen to about who to vote for) allow to lie in public and announce that a religious woman is not religious???

  8. Dan Perlstein from RBS G says:

    Rabbi thank you for your post. The people screaming and threatening their neighbors who planned to vote for the “wrong” candidate do not simply come from a different “culture”, which is a pathetic defense. They are people who may be generally good, but displayed disgusting nasty behavior. If that is Israeli charedi “culture” I will throw out my black hat and be dati.

  9. dr. bill says:

    if the loss of critical thinking meant that people followed rabbinic edicts on non-halakhic edicts without question, I would say dai lo tzorah be’shato. unfortunately, it rears its ugly head in many halakhic areas as well. various shittot illustrate. I list just two undeniable examples of the many that exist. the size of one olive is five olives; alot hashachar when the point of misheyakir has passed for all sighted individuals. i would not criticize as strongly except for the level of acceptance such shittot receive with limited to no questioning. we are violating our description in the torah as an am navon.

  10. Avi says:

    does that also mean no rabbis and askanim from outside the city should have a say in the situation?

    It’s especially troubling that David thinks he should have stopped there when the thrust of the letter is about how people should behave. It’s as if mussar from outside his camp is automatically invalid. Sort of the opposite of איזהו חכם הלומד מכל אדם.

  11. Shaya Karlinsky says:

    Dovid Kasten: Since I don’t live in Beit Shemesh, I leave it to the residents who have lived their over the past two to ten years to decide whether things were functioning properly. Many seem to have a different perspective than yours, including the dozens of students from whom I heard. Even your own perspecitve and arguments about the reasons for charedim being required to vote for the charedi candidate seem to have undergone significant modification from your first article.
    Unfortunately, positing that my not living in Beit Shemesh should have been the end of the aricle demonstrated that you completely missed the points I was trying to bring out. (At least the ones you did not acknowledge were correct.) It had nothing to do with the candidates or even the actual electon. It was all about process and communal behavior. ילמדנו רבינו does not mean “one should ask after the fact of the reason behind the decision”. It means “explain to me your reasoning, Rabbi. I want to UNDERSTAND.” Saying that my “Talmidim can seek out plenty of amazing Rabbanim in Bet Shemesh who can speak with them about their decision” has to happen BEFORE the elections, not afterwards. Then an intelligent dialogue could have been opened about the claims made in your comments above. The process of how the camaign was waged on the ground was accurately reflected in your first article. THAT was the problem

  12. Ari Heitner says:

    HaRav Karlinsky: as one half of one of the 120 alumni couples (my wife went to MRC), I think there is a clear cultural gap. Israeli Chareidi society, and broadly speaking all Israeli society, is much more authoritative, and much more inclined to expect that one should simply trust those in authority. An example: several years ago, a friend was driving home from Ein Kerem, and encountered a police roadblock. Nothing to do but sit and fume and wait; no explanation was offered by the police – just do as we say. My friend envied the luck of the car he saw go down the road right before the police set up the roadblock. Turned out that some Arab hooligans had poured motor oil all over the (steep, winding) road. The car that sneaked through had slid off into the ditch. Anglos think we’re entitled to transparency, hand-holding and explanations, and the Israelis respond by giving us funny looks. Which planet exactly did we fall off of?

    But this is our city, and we do have the זכות to build it in our image. It’s too small to be noticed much by national press, and what mention there is usually just reflects the bias of the writer. We need a nonpartisan information source dedicated to balanced communication, and we need to build it ourselves or it won’t happen. Rav Karlinsky, I am happy to put you in touch with the Rabbonim in Rama Aleph who presumably have the clout to both explain to the Chareidi members of City Council how important improved communication is, and make sure that the relevant information is in fact forthcoming.

    Rabbi Slifkin: pursuant to the above, I of course (like I think 98% of people here) had no idea of the issues to which you’re referring. I was more inclined to R’Dovid Kasten’s camp – I say “hi” to the street sweeper every morning and observe that Nahal Revivim looks extremely nice. I try to make a point of stopping to make a bracha and smell the roses, and I remember the November weather in Toronto un-fondly. Our building is in the midst of getting organized for building additions, and there hasn’t seemed to be any problem with the Engineering Department which affects us.

    While I will reserve final judgement until I hear both sides of the story – see previous note about the press’s biases – can you please share the sources whatever information you have?

  13. Dr. E says:

    Dovid: Great kasha. Could it be that the over-arching concept of Daas Torah as utilized by the Chareidi world is not bound by time and space? As such, they might be exempt from the geographic limitation posed by Reb Dovid Kasten to Rabbi Karlinsky.

  14. Bena says:

    Again, for anyone who thought everything in BS was fine, it is fine that you went ahead and voted for the old mayor who you thought was fine.
    Where the argument begins is whether it was also fine for people who were aware of problems and failures to vote for who they thought was the better candidate.
    According to Mr Kasten, it was not. CC have him a forum to highlight that view.
    Originally he said his neighbors were bad because the choice was Abutbol/ruchniyus or Bloch/gashmiyus and because Bloch has a kitchen that isn’t kosher enough for him. Later the argument was because the rabbis said so.
    But the commenter above laid it out quite well….this was never about respecting or understanding other people’s choices. It was always about an us versus them, defend everything charedim and rabbis do… I think we all know why he won’t answer the questions people keep asking.
    Sadly this online discussion has illustrated why it is so difficult for Charedim to get along with others. Bloch was willing to not use her picture to respect the feelings of Charedim; her opponents cared so little about the feelings of others that they called her a mechalel Shabbes in public (yes that actually happened they said she wants the busses to run on Shabbes and is chiloni). Even sadder, many Charedim are OK with that because that is the “culture”…

  15. Moe says:

    I do live in Bet Shemesh and although I do not know Dovid Kasten, I think I can answer the questions people are asking.
    Many Charedim thought things in Bet Shemesh were fine (most things were fine even if there were some problems…there are problems in every city. You don’t throw out a school principal and elect a new one every time some problems come up).
    As a general value, Charedim think the city is likely to be more welcoming to them if a charedi mayor is in charge (in contrast, a non charedi person is more likely to help movie theaters open). Obviously the fact that people voted for Bloch- who is not interested in building more charedi neighborhoods -is a vote against further religious growth in the city. And the obvious point is that the Gedolim recognized this and instructed people to vote for Abutbol. (That they made other decisions in other cities is not relevant).
    Regarding meeting Bloch – no, the rabbinic authorities didn’t have to meet her. They knew what Abutbol stands for and supported him and didn’t need to take a chance on a religious woman who does not have charedi values.
    And what does Rav Kanievsky stand to gain from Abutbol winning? That is just silly.
    Finally, as to whether or not it was OK to say that Bloch was not religious…the rabbi in question was probably not speaking literally and the crowd understood that. Is it something I would say, as a charedi person, about another person who presents herself as religious? No I would not say that. But let’s not pretend one comment which was likely just said without thought, negates the whole charedi position on the election.
    Mr. Kasten’s views on the election are very mainstream. Where we differ is that he is perhaps having trouble understanding the nonmainstream points of view. I do understand why my neighbors chose to vote for Bloch. And I respect their right to vote for who they think will be the better mayor. And while I do respect the right of charedim to also express their disappointment about how their neighbors voted, at the very least they should try to understand their motivations and be open to the possibility that they had a valid reason which is not as simple as “they moved to Israel for ruchniyus but voted for gashmiyus ” because they wanted the street a bit cleaner. I think the strong reactions to the original piece came about because people were offended to be so misjudged.

  16. David says:

    I always find it a bit comical that people who choose to subscribe to mainstream Chareidi lifestyles, mainly expressed by educational tracks, are shocked and even confused when faced with a very mainstream Chareidi concept – Daas Torah. Daas Torah is primarily expressed on non-halachic settings, and voting is the classic example. So according to mainstream chareidi – if you voted for Aliza Bloch, you broke halacha. plain and simple. you have no say to go against Daas Torah.

  17. Dovid Kasten says:

    @Rabbi [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]: The title of the article is “Don’t Be So Quick To Dismiss Critical Thinking and An Orderly Environment”. Rabbi Karlinsky states regarding an orderly environment that, “The physical environment in which one lives impacts our spiritual dimension.” To this i responded that Bet Shemesh was doing quite fine in that regard. The municipality is not there to chase after your kid when they throw their wrapper on the floor. There may have been other issues, such as the welfare department or the building committee, but that is not what this article is about, so there is no need to address them here. Also, every municipal government must make a choice on what to focus on and what to push off. Baruch Hashem, the previous Mayor was extremely successful in many important projects, such as RBS Gimmel (thousands of apartments, in a time where there is so little progress being done), Road 38 and 10 (saving 10’s of minutes for many thousands of commuters each day), many shopping venues (3 Malls), and other such things. There are always going to be issues with any government regarding where different people suggest he focus his energies. I personally would rather the focus be chosen by one with a Torah weltanschauung then a Secular one. I hope you do too.

    @@Rabbi Karlinsky2: My first letter that was written was done in the heat of the moment and based on the shock that came when the results were not vastly in favor of the candidate who should be the natural choice.
    Regarding understanding before doing. With all due respect, you seem to state that a Jew should always understand before doing something. Does the same apply to your children? Your 2 year old must understand why they should not run into the street before they stop doing so?
    Why is an extremely complex and potentially damaging decision like choosing a candidate for Mayor not the same? Please explain.
    [BTW- If one wants a real explanation they must study the history of Israel and Bet Shemesh, knowledge of current events, a deep understanding of the psychology of humans in general and Israeli’s in particular, the way the Israeli Government works and many more things. I’m all for that and i try to understand these things as well, but when one doesn’t have the head for all this it’s probably better to just listen to a Rav.]

  18. Natan Slifkin says:

    Ari, if you search Google News for בית שמש רווחה, you will find the stories about how the Court ruled that the person appointed by Abutbul to run the Welfare Department did not meet the basic criteria, and how the welfare budget for Beit Shemesh was partially frozen due to the failures in how it was run, and how Aliza Bloch just managed to get the budget unfrozen. The corruption investigation against the engineering department was in various news outlets, and I can attest from my own personal dealings that due to the corruption and incompetence, the department has been largely frozen. But the crucial point here, I think, is that you were not aware of any of this. I suspect that this is because, living on Nachal Revivim, your news source is the Chadash newspaper, which acts as a charedi PR outlet, and never reports on anything bad about Abutbul or anything good about his opponents. If you’re not on the Beit Shemesh Facebook groups, and you don’t read the non-Charedi press, and you don’t speak to people widely outside of your immediate community, then you’re not likely to hear of these problems.

  19. Yossi says:


    You seem like a well meaning person; I believe that your intentions were sincere, and your disappointment was real.

    However, the way you presented your argument was somewhere between disappointing and shocking.

    You came across, and made frum Judaism come across, as judgemental, critical, harsh, and somewhat mindless. As I was reading your replies, I cringed at the way you doubled down about Aliza Bloch and some other things.

    I beg you-keep in mind as you write when representing frum and charedi Judaism- we don’t claim infallibility, can admit that we make mistakes, can admit that someone else doesn’t have to see R Chaim Kanievsky as their Daas Torah if they see someone else that way, and we can and must be kind, generous, caring, and not openly hostile or uncaring.

    When you tell thousands of people they’ve disappointed you because they’ve lost their way and forgot why they moved to Israel, that is a shocking accusation. It is very possibly also אונאת דברים and חושד בכשרים.

    So if you can walk some of it back, that would probably be a good thing to do.

    Said with care and concern for you and all our brothers and sisters everywhere,

  20. Eli says:

    Mr Kasten:
    1. Are you really seriously going to treat a mature electorate the same way you would a child? If so, you are so far gone, I have nothing to say….
    2. You say that RBS Gimmel was a success – a number of commenters here on CC who live there would take issue with that. They say it has been hopelessly underdeveloped, both in terms of ruchnius and gashmius. They have a right to have their point of view respected without being insulted by condescending letters you write to CC.
    3. Why do you assume that Dr Bloch, a religious woman,(even if you wrongly contest that fact) will have a secular weltanschauung. That is insulting to her.

  21. Shira K says:

    Moe, thank you for answering the questions that people asked Dovid Kasten that he refused to answer. Just to be clear, you have said the following:
    1- Most Charedim thought things in Bet Shemesh were fine, while Charedim who voted for Bloch knew about the problems in the welfare department and the other difficulties and were the informed voters.
    So we are left with the impression that Mr. Kasten and those like him either didn’t know about problems, or didn’t care.
    2- The rabbis who told people to vote for Abutbol did not meet Bloch or her supporters, nor did they meet with people to hear about problems/failures asscoiated with Abutbol.
    So again, we are left with the impression that those rabbis did not know, or did not care about problems.
    3- The rabbis and askanim both in town and out of town had nothing to gain from an Abutbol win. They just told people to vote for Abutbol out of the goodness of the hearts. None of them thought Abutbol might be more inclined to support granting money to schools/cultural events/people associated with their shuls or communities, while Bloch would be less inclined to do so. None of the outsiders had discussed any political deal-making about supporting “their” candidates in one city versus “their” candidate in another city. It was ALL about what was best for the residents of Bet Shemesh.
    If the choice was so obvious, why did Abutbol even need help campaigning? The city is majority Charedi, so why wouldn’t all the charedim just vote for him?
    4- It was OK to publically embarass a religious woman by saying a lie that she isn’t religious because…the crowd wouldn’t take it literally? Really? So it’s sort-of-kosher. Moe, think that one over again. There’s nothing you can say to defend this. I’m sure Mr. Kasten knows it was a bad thing to do, and that’s why he won’t answer, because he won’t criticize anyone who wears a black hat. Please don’t defend such a terrible thing!!!

    Lastly, I would like to comment on the numbers and the win.
    Abutbol won over the non-religious candidate ELi Cohen five years ago, and the split was something like 51-49. That’s a pathetic show for any sitting mayor, let alone one who was religious and up against a non-religious candidate in a majority-religious town. This time, Abutbol lost. Is it possible that a fair reading is that Abutbol simply wasn’t a very good mayor? I would like the Abutbol supporters to come straight out and say the truth: Abutbol wasn’t a good mayor, but too bad, Charedim have to vote for him anyway because you getting a good mayor is not important. At least that’s honest.

  22. Dovid Kasten says:

    @Yossi: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As you write, even Chareidim are not angels and can make mistakes. Still, though, i must say that although i might not have chosen the right words, i stick with what i wrote. You thought that i make Chareidim look, “judgemental (sic), critical, harsh, and somewhat mindless”. What can i say? We are dealing with an election that can change the face of the city from a Torah one to one that is not. We better be judgmental. We are critical of those who don’t run their lives according to the Torah AND TRY TO IMPOSE THEIR VIEWS ON US. Mindless? I would not call those who toil all day trying to understand everything they are learning, very intelligent people who have the depth of thinking of some of the greatest minds, but decide to listen to Daas Torah, mindless. Sorry. Not at all.
    Perhaps it was a drop harsh, but I felt this needs to be said. These people are literally joining the millions of Jews who end up destroying themselves and their brothers (us) because they either do not look to the Torah for answers to issues or look to other sources for solutions.
    I did not write the letter because I do wish to be, “kind, generous, caring”, and not uncaring.
    I am sorry if I hurt anyones feelings, and this was not my point. But to say I was Choshed Bichsheirim when people told me straight out their reasons for not voting for Abutbol, seems unfair. Just read the hateful responses that flow through the comment section. Look at how much Loshon Horah was believed by the masses against people who are acting in good faith. In America and in Judaism we believe one is innocent until proven guilty, but many forgot this small fact and accuse the Chareidi politicians of everything under the sun.

  23. Cohen NB says:

    Shira K,
    Many did believe that Cohen In 2013 would have been a better municipal Technocrat.
    They however ,unlike others ,were [& are] unwilling to vote for their own narrow self-interest only

    au contrarie

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