Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Another Look at the Memories

The thirtieth anniversary of the last uncontested Satmar Rebbe occured recently. Naturally the Chareidi part of the web has been filled with glowing tributes to a great, religious leader.
Certainly it is considered ill-mannered to speak poorly of the dead but on the other hand, I don't see things the way they do.
I will not comment on the Satmar's learning. He was clearly a genius with great knowledge, strong personal conviction and emunas Hashem.
What I will comment on is the legacy he left behind.
Years ago I read about the conflict he had with Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, over in vitro fertilization. Rav Feinstein permitted it while he forbid it. At one point he dispatched three of his best chasidim to visit Rav Feinstein and order him to change his psak. However his chasidim were given specific instructions to not discuss the subject with the Rav.
The students were more intellectually honest than the teacher though. Upon meeting with Rav Feinstein, they did engage in discussion around the issue and Rav Feinstein was able to rebut all the Satmar's concerns. Convinced that his position had validity they returned to their rebbe and told him so. Apparently the rebbe's response was "See! I told you not to engage in discussions with him!"
Part of the halachic process is the exchange of ideas. If one looks through the corpus of our legal literature, the phrase "It's this way 'cuz I says it is!" does not appear. A posek must bring adequate sources for his position as well as reasoned arguments as to why the opposing position has no validity. Ours is not a dictatorial system but one of undending dialogue and contextual understanding. The Satmar, by attempting to dictate to Rav Feinstein what his position should be despite the latter's superior reasoning, demonstrated the exact opposite.
This is not something that was lost on his followers. Several months ago a Satmar meshulach came to my door for money. While we were talking I asked if he'd ever visited Israel and that I was hoping to live there one day. He replied that the Satmar had said that it is forbidden to do that.
So I went over to my bookshelf and pulled down half a dozen seforim which show that, adraba, it is okay to live there and build up the land. He pushed them aside (gently) and said that all that was in those books is meaningless because the Satmar has paskened and you can't disagree with him.
I'm sorry but I fail to see the deep intelligence or holiness in such a system. Eilu v'eilu is a fundamental part of the halachic process. How can someone who refuses to consider the second eilu as valid because it disagrees with him pasken within that process?
The other legacy the Satmar left behind is one of ingratitude. His hostility to Zionism is well know but what is less known (and probably forbidden knowledge in Williamsburg and Kiras Joel) is that the Satmar himself only survived the Shoah because of the Zionists. Having forbidden his followers to flee Hungary as the Nazis were preparing to exterminate its entire Jewish population, he then did just that with the help of the Zionists who got him to - wait for it - Israel where he lived for a couple of years before decamping to the United States. Having been saved by them, he then spent his life defaming, criticizing and indoctrinating against those same. Zionists. This lack of hakaras hatov is shocking, no less in that it comes from a man who spent his days steeped in Torah. Even more shocking is how his students, the Neturei Karta have chosen to show love and allegiance to those who would attempt to perpetrate a second Holocaust. (Yes, I know Satmar officially disowned them but they still call him their spiritual inspiration)
In all the propaganda regarding the godlus of the Satmar Rebbe, we must all be reminded that there was a dark side that continues to create friction and factionalism within the Jewish community to this day.


Shalmo said...

Garnel JP also believes Zionism is heresy.

Is he a heretic by your standards?

Shalmo said...

Also JP made this post about herectics in Judaism. How much of this do you agree with?


"The Talmudic attitude regarding heretics is negative in the extreme.

First of all, he must be hated. We pray constantly for his complete destruction. When he dies, his relatives celebrate his death (Yoreh De'ah , 345, 5) . He may not read from the Torah in the synagogue or lead communal prayers. If he pours wine, a Jew may not drink it . I think this helps us to understand why it is imperative to identify such people and purge them from the community.

As far as the afterlife is concerned, the Talmud (Rosh haShanah 17a) makes their fate clear: They will be punished in hell forever. The Talmud explains that the fire of hell is sixty times stronger than ordinary fire (Berakoth 57b). This is referred to in Isaiah 66:24 “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have rebelled against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” After being totally ostracized by the Jewish community in this world, they will after death face eternal suffering.

we must hate the heretic: Psalms 139:21-22 “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? And do not I strive with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with utmost hatred; I count them mine enemies.” A Jew will enjoy eternal paradise after death, “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come” Sanhedrin 90a. The heretic, in contrast, will burn in hell forever."

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Shalmo, is it not enough that you're a compulsive liar? Do you have to stir up confrontation between people too?

Did I call the Satmar rebbe a heretic? No. Yet your entire thesis is built around that.

Not Brisk said...

The fact that they weren't able to change R' Moshe's position and the fact that there can be two diifferent intellectualy honest opinions is not mutually exclusive.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Livak to the extreme and we were very upset with the smear campaign against Reb Moishe. Nevertheless your observation about the Talmidim not to speak in learning is flawed.
Dispite all the Lamdus going back and forth the Satmar's problem was really about the brave new world impact on the klall. If he gave those instructions it was to telegraph that point to Reb Moishe.

As an aside there was a story that once Reb Chaim sent a Shaila to , I believe, Reb Yithok Elchonen. He specified that he only wanted the Psak - not reasoning. He said he could always shlag up a lamdus , but that RYE was the Posek Hador and he would follow his Psak.

RaisedInSatmer said...

1- The story about R' Moshe is a bit twisted in your post.

But first I need to set the record straight.

The polemic about IVF, was regarding a married women being injected semen from a man other then her husband and not against IVF.

SR wasn't the only one to disagree; rather in almost all responsa of that time you will find that they are against it.

Aside from the halachaic problems involved, most thought of it, and understandably so, as a dover megunah to begin with.

It was then when a group of rabbis, not SR disciples, decided to go to R' Moshe and try to convince him to change his opinion on these grounds.
When they came to SR with the idea, he asked them what they will do if R' Moshe will start arguing about the halachaic aspect?

The point was that they won't be able to convince him halachaicly and if the conversation would come to that point it would reach a dead end.

It was rather the recognition of his adversary's might in learning that made him question the purpose of the meeting. And as he said, thats what happened. As soon as the shmuess came to learning they were left speechless in front of the Torah Giant. To go argue in hashkafa after being crushed in learning is a bit of a push...

2- I can't vouch for that meshulach as a individual, but I can try to explain to you why in satmar with all their talmidei chachumim they don't seem to think that zionism warrents a illuy v'illuy . It's your right to disagree, but I will try to portray their point of view in a more sensible way.

First of all, SR never said its assur to live in Israel. on the contrary he argues that by supporting the frum jews there we are mekayim mitzvas yishuv eretz yisroel. dont believe me, get a Veyoel Moshe and check it out.

What he did argue was, that the fact that there are so many aveiros done in the holy land makes it dangerous to be there.
Now don't shoot the messenger please, it's a passuk.
ולא תקיא הארץ אתכם בטמאכם אותו

The next polemic regarding whether it's muttar to have a state before moshiach is besides the aforementioned point.

And on this last point, the satmerers argument is the same as yours regarding R' Moshe. That there has not been any real rebuttal of the SR arguments on the halachaic aspect of the existence of the state of Israel.

3- The ingratitude. Nobody ever argued that the Zionist movement arranged for the Kastner train. The only argument was that Kastner himself was a Zionist.

He didn't forbid the population from escaping Hungary once the Nazis rolled in. Rather at the beginning when all there was were basically antisemitic winds and not too much more he advised people to sit out and wait; which he himself did. Once the Nazis rolled in, and started searching for him personally he hid and begin thinking of escape and then he equally advised so to whoever was seeking his advice.

Whether Kastner train was his work or the work of the Orthodox Community in Budapest is a controversy thats unrelated to this discussion. Either way it wasn't the Zionists who rescued him.

Now talking about intellectual honesty, does the fact that my life was saved by one of my ideological opponents warrant me to change my mind?!

If I see in the Torah that he is wrong and I am supposed to announce it does him doing a favor to me change it?!

On a personal level, he was the biggest Baal Chesed of his time. He helped financially his biggest opponents when they needed it yet never compromising his stance. thats a example of a true Oihev hashem and Oihev yisroel combined.

His main argument against all the Israeli wars was the blood spilled of the jewish soldiers, religious or not didn't matter, all that mattered was that yishuv eretz yisroel is not yaharog v'al yavoir. and there is no right to spill jewish blood towards a jewish state.

You should read up a bit more on the persona. and it's best when seen thru the utmost respect his adversaries showed him.

Shalmo said...

Don't make a moron of yourself Garnel

I never said you considered the rebbe a heretic

I simply inquired about whether you consider JP a herectic for his stance on zionism. But whatever

LazerA said...

"RaisedInSatmer" already covered some of this:

1. The version of the story with R' Moshe that I heard was quite different. According to that version, some fellows, on their own initiative, decided to approach R' Moshe to instruct him to change his psak. They informed the Satmar rav of their intention and he questioned them, "And what will you do when he challenges you in learning?" (in other words, "what do you ignoramuses think you are going to to say to R' Moshe that will change his mind?"). These fellows chose to go anyways, and started dictating to R' Moshe that he should change his psak. R' Moshe kicked them out with a comment to the effect of, "What is this? The Mafia?" When these fellows then went to vent their hurt feelings to the Satmar Rav, he laughed at them and told them that they deserved it.

In any event, these kinds of stories are in inherently unreliable. You shouldn't be basing accusations on such material.

2. The Satmar meshulach who told you that he will follow the psak of his rav despite your arguments was quite correct. From your description of the discussion, it doesn't even appear that he denied the legitimacy of these other positions, but ultimately he is going to follow his rebbe's psak. Eilu v'eilu doesn't mean follow every mutually exclusive position; that doesn't even make sense!

LazerA said...

3. I am not familiar with the details of the claim that Zionists (not "the Zionists") were involved in the rescue of the Satmar Rav from the Nazis. This may well be true. I fail to see how it would be relevant. Many Jews were saved by devout Christians. While they (and we) certainly owe them a debt of gratitude, it does not follow that we must now abandon our most basic principles and adopt their beliefs, or even stand by silently as they attempt to recruit others to their ideology. The same is true for being saved by Jews who adhere to improper beliefs.

The Satmar rav sincerely believed that Zionism was a form of heresy and deeply destructive and dangerous. What exactly are you saying he should have done?

I am not aware of any case where the Satmar rav was personally unkind to a Zionist Jew. Are you?

Jonathan Rosenblum once wrote:
The Satmar Rav was well-known as the fiercest critic of Zionism in his day. Someone once challenged him: "Avraham Avinu prayed even for the depraved people of Sdom and Gommorah, so why are you forever castigating your fellow Jews?''
The Satmar Rav replied, "Do you know what Avraham said to the people of Sodom themselves? The Torah only records what he said to the Ribbono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe).''
Then, with tears in his eyes, the Satmar Rav said, "And how do you know what I say to the Ribbono Shel Olam?''

Another story I came across recently, in a comment by Dovid Landesman on
In the 1968 presidential campaign, Hubert Humphrey – the democratic candidate – came to Williamsburg to visit the Satmar rebbe zt”l. He was accompanied by Daniel Moynihan, then a candidate for president of the New York City Councuil, later a US Senator along with a number of the later’s aides [one of whom told me the story]. Humphrey asked the rebbe what were the things he could do as president that would bring the Rebbe satisfaction. The rebbe replied: “Sell jet fighters to Israel!”

The Satmar rav did not hate Zionist Jews; he was deeply opposed to Zionism.

4. Your comment about the Neturei Karta verges on the intellectually dishonest. A few lunatics from the (non-chassidic) Neturei Karta and Satmar community go off the deep end, and are roundly condemned by every single anti-Zionist community (to the degree that their own wives are leaving them, their children cannot get into schools, etc.), and you blame the Satmar rav because they claim him as their inspiration?? So, any dead rabbi whose ideas get misused by a radical group is to blame for their actions? (Where would that leave Rav Soloveitchik?) By the way, the Neturei Karta also rely heavily on the teachings of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (whose anti-Zionist opinions and Austritt philosophy make a pretty comfy fit with the position of the anti-Zionist community). So will you blame Rav Hirsch for their behavior as well?

(BTW, the 4,096 character limit on comments in a pain.)

Shmuel said...

According to your posting, why did the Zionists save the life of their ideological enemy - the Satmar Rebbe?
Why did they not give his seat on the train to another fellow Zionist?