As first reported on Failed Messiah and other blogs (which have since removed the posts for reasons unknown), a Rav at the heiliger Mir Yeshivah recently gave a class in which he claimed Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlit"a, called for an armed revolt against the Israeli government for its daring to consider drafting Chareidi boys into the army.
The reaction to the speech was swift and fierce. How could a "Gadol" say such a thing? How could a maggid shiur repeat it with obvious approval?
And then it turned out not to be true. Rav Shteinman never said such a thing, at least not to this Rav. He had made pretty much the entire thing up and had to issue an apology. Sorry, it's all a mistake, I shouldn't have done this, let's move on and why are you all still paying attention to me? I said I was sorry.
There are a few reasons why the issue cannot simply be left alone. Let's point them out:
1) Even if this Rav was simply sharing his feelings, why did he feel he needed to state them in the name of Rav Shteinman? Did he feel that doing that would give a needed legitimacy to his statements? Perhaps make them more acceptable to his students?
2) Did it occur to him that there is already a credibility issue when it comes to statements from "the Gedolim"? As Rav Eliashiv, zt"l, noted years ago, "If you didn't hear it from my mouth, don't assume I said it." Have we reached the point that, unless they're caught on video, any statement, any official teshuvah, can be safely ignored since we didn't hear it directly from "the Gadol" in question?
3) Did Rav Shteinman, in fact, say something to this effect? Well it's not impossible. Since the current government took power we have heard all sorts of name calling out of the Chareidi community. Words which should be used with great caution, like "Nazi" and "Cossack", are tossed around like candies at a bar mitzvah. Is it so hard to think that Rav Shteinman might have muttered something like "Well they're just like Amalek and I wish the same thing would happen to them!"? And if he did then is this Rav actually doing us a service by letting us know?
It's almost getting to repetitive to write about this. Yes, we all know the Chareidi community is upset about the draft. We also all know that it's for all the wrong reasons, such as a fanatical aversion to any hakaras hatov to the State of Israel which has bankrolled their existence for 66 years and a distaste for any serious interactions with their fellow Jews in which they are not in control. It is still upsetting to consider that men who claim to be serious learners, who spend days trying to understand all the implications of a single word in the Gemara, can carelessly throw out such insults and then be genuinely flummoxed when those insults invite an angry response.
At least the secular community has shown tremendous patience in response to the extended temper tantrum they've been witnessing. Let us hope and pray that this patience doesn't run out soon.