Sunday, March 19, 2006

Incomprehensible and even Inconsiderate

My wife and I attended the Yeshiva University Alumnus Shabbaton. It was fine, well, until the Seuda Shlishit, the third meal eaten on the Shabbat.

Rabbi Meir Goldvicht spoke. Seems he's the nephew of the great Rosh Yeshiva of Kerem B'Yavneh and has left to live in the United States. About two-thirds into his talk, which was too long in any case (and by that I mean that simply he spoke longer than intended by the organizers), he began to justify the Golah (Exile) living over that in Eretz Yisrael.

At first, most of the 450 people there were puzzled as he quoted a figure of 32% of Religious-stream educated kids becoming irreligious and said that it was because we don't know who the teachers are and because since veryone is Jewish, there is no way to protect our children from influences that come from other Jews. In Chutz-LaAretz, since we know who are goyim, we are better defended against bad influences.

Then he went on to say that in Chutz LaAretz, there is "community" which isn't anymore in Israel even though Bnei Yisrael are only considered a community in Israel.

I don't want this to be too arcane for too many people but I must say it just got worse and maybe he began to realize that he was faux-pas-ing something fierce as his thoughts became slightly disjointed. In fact, when we all walked over to Maariv services, he had a bit of a silly grin on his face as he realized that he erred big time. I mean, after all, he was talking to the YU alumni who had made aliyah and specifically left the US so that they could bring up their kids Jewishly as much as possible with all the dangers that do exist, spiritually and physically.

Rabbi Reuven Aberman spoke to him harshly, quoting assimilationist figures of 70% and admittedly, generously, that maybe he (Rav Aberman) just didn't have the intelligence to comprehend what Rabbi Goldvicht was talking about. Many other people, (many? almost everbody), were disturbed, so much that Richard Joel had to get up and speak for 10 minutes just before Havdallah to try to calm things down. He was interrupted twice and was almost at the edge of an abyss.

To make it short, here anyway, I would suggest that Rav Goldvicht not speak again for the rest of the week. He could only make things worse. Joel should ask him to clarify his thoughts in an article for the Commentator. At the most, it should be fun tosee him either explain himself, apologize or simple recant.


P.S. Here's the apology that arrived Sunday evening.

28 comments:

joshnathan said...

He made yerida and now he has to justify it.He has bee nthere for years. Obvious he has strong quilt feelings. We made aliyah a little over 3 years and going back is not an option. There are challenges that one has in Israel bu I still believe it is the right place for all jews to live.

Kol tov

Josh

PS I would be interested in hearing how Rav Goldvicht gets out of this one.

talliskattan said...

Since I'm pretty sure R' Goldwicht doesn't blog, I'll step up to the plate to "justify" his "yeridah," which will hopefully lead you to recant your unfounded indictment and disrespectful tone.
When Rabbi Dr. Lamm originally recruited R' Goldwicht to YU, R' Goldwicht consulted R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zatza"l, with whom he was extremely close. R' Shlomo Zalman told him to go, and every year after that R' Goldwicht would ask R' Shlomo Zalman if the time had come to return home yet. Anyone who has spent any time in R' Goldwicht's shiur or paid a visit to R' Goldwicht's apartment is aware of his strong feelings toward Eretz Yisrael.
While your determination to stay despite the challenges is certainly commendable, I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that, unlike R' Goldwicht, you don't directly touch thousands of peoples' lives on a weekly basis with your shiurim. If and when R' Goldwicht does leave the US, it will be noticed, to put it lightly.
R' Goldwicht will come home when the time comes (and in fact comes home as often as possible, giving shiurim in different cities throughout Eretz Yisrael once every two months or so). Until then, he will continue to strengthen the community at YU and throughout the NY/NJ area despite the obvious sacrifice of living in galut.

YMedad said...

TalisKatan:

The argument is very old: Rambam vs. Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk vs. the Baal Shem Tov, Rav JB Soloveitchik vs. Rav Aaron Lichtenstein. I believe that there is Torah and Torat Eretz Yisrael. Just like there can be no renewed Semicha or true Kiddush HaChodesh outside the borders of EY, so too is it better to try to live in EY than in Galut.

Whether or not, Rav Goldwicht received a heter is not the point. The point is: of all the assemblies to imply that it is better for the community of Jews to live in Galut or EY, the last one should have been musmachim and alumni of YU/RIETS/TI etc. in EY.

I don't doubt his Torah knowledge but his Torah wisdom.

And read his apology in my posting.

talliskattan said...

ymedad:

Sorry, I wasn't clear in my original post that I was responding to joshnathan's indictment and disrespectful tone, not yours. I didn't have a particular opinion regarding your post, and was going to wait until actually speaking with R' Goldwicht so I would have a better idea of what he said before passing judgment.

But to respond to this last comment (still not responding to your actual post), I wouldn't call it a "heter" as much as a "shlichut" -- R' Goldwicht wasn't exactly too keen on leaving Eretz Yisrael.

I'm sorry to see my not specifying that I was responding to joshnathan sparked more disrespectfulness on your part.

YMedad said...

Er, what disrespectfulness?

talliskattan said...

That's the general tone I perceived, based mainly on comments like, "a bit of a silly grin on his face," and, "it should be fun tosee [sic] him either explain himself, apologize or simple [sic] recant (emphasis mine)" from your original post, and, "I don't doubt his Torah knowledge but his Torah wisdom" from your most recent comment.

Sorry if you meant no disrespect in this last comment, but that's certainly how it came across to me given the way you wrote about R' Goldwicht in your original post.

orthomom said...

Tallis, I found YM to be quite rspectful, especially considering he had just heard words from a man, who while is certainly a Talmid Chacham, still mildly denigrated the life choice of a roomful of people. Especially difficult to grasp when we are discussing a life choice as idealistic as making Aliyah.

talliskattan said...

Momof4:

I'm still not sure what R' Goldwicht said at seudah shelishit and will wait until actually hearing what he said in greater detail before passing judgment. Based on what was mentioned in the original post, I would hesitate to say R' Goldwicht "denigrated the life choice of a room full of people," as you put it, even only mildly. Doesn't sound like he was telling them all to pack their bags and hop on the first plane back to America. From what is reported here, he cited a statistic and observed that there is a certain danger in Eretz Yisrael arising from the fact that everyone is Jewish, making it more difficult to screen out bad influences. I don't know what he was referring to when he said there is no community in Israel, Medad doesn't really explain very much in the original post. If I had to guess, I would say he was just trying to point out issues that religious Jews living in Eretz Yisrael need to be aware of, not claiming that living in the Golah is better. But I wasn't there, and based on this alone, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Apparently people were upset by whatever it was that followed, contained in Medad's "it just got worse."

At any rate, you're confounding two things: whether the alumni have a right to be offended and whether Medad's tone is respectful. Saying it will be "fun" to see R' Goldwicht squirm to come up with an explanation for his comments is disrespectful regardless of whether Medad and his fellow alumni felt his comments were critical of their (commendable) life choice.

If respectfulness was as relative as your statement implies, I could be much more vituperative in response to the comments about R' Goldwicht I found offensive and still be considered "to be quite respectful, especially considering I had just heard words from a man who mildly denigrated" a person I admire a great deal.

kafzchut said...

I think everybody here is just missing the point! The fact that Rav Goldwicht said that there are some aspects of the galut that are positive and that are unfortunately lacking in Eretz Yisrael does not mean that he endorses "yerida"!! On the contrary, one should make aliya and try to bring those positive aspects to Eretz Yisrael. Is everything in Eretz Yisrael so perfect that the people living there don't need any mussar anymore!!
In any case, for anybody to suggest that Rav Goldwicht endorses “yerida” is first of all ridiculous (anybody who even remotely knows him, knows that his whole life is geared towards Eretz Yisrael), but furthermore, doing so in an unrespectful way is certainly lacking of kavod hatora.

go2israel said...

To tell you the truth I had to read this over and over again because I didn't believe my eyes --Yerida? You call what Rabbi Goldwicht did a yerida? Do you even know how many lives he has touched? Do you even know how many people he convinced to go to Israel? Do you even know how hard it was and still is for Rabbi Goldwicht to leave Israel and to be here with us? Israel is all he talks about! Anyone that has spent anytime with Rabbi Goldwicht KNOWS how great his love for Eretz Yisrael is. We are happy that he is here and is able to strengthen us- and I am personally hurt by this lack of respect and lack of kavod hatorah. If you would REALLY care about all this, you should call him and speak to him personally instead of writing all these disrespectful remarks behind his back. After just two minutes of talking to him you will realize just how wrong you really are.

YMedad said...

As for myself, I do not doubt his wealth of Torah knowledge and the contribution he makes to his students and others. Until Shabbat, I actually hadn't been aware of him at all. But try to grasp the situation: YU's big week in Israel. Half a dozen major events. A Shabbaton for Alumni with 400 rooms taken, over 650 people present at Seuda Shlishit. Shi'urim for women (Sara Smiles), shi'urim for men. Rav Lamm, Rav Dovid Miller, Rav Sodolovsky, Rav Amshel, et., etc. Musmachim of YU who have made major contributions to Israeli life, regular graduates, etc. Richard Joel is there. Morrie Katz is there. And Rav Goldwicht gets up to discuss community and change and instead of saying "how can we together correct the situation here because EY is the greatest and in the Golah, we're all striving to follow in your footsteps as soon as we can and even though we're on the sir basar we know that what you olim have done is worthy", he launches into a major analysis of why the Golah is basically better. This was his bottom line and that was my there were murmurings and that's why Rabbanim of equal Torah value, I dare say, were extremely angry and made that anger known to Richard Joel (who oactually didn't need the prodding, but it helped) and immediately after Maariv he stopped the dozens of people from converging on Rav Goldwicht and asked that he be considered the lightning rod and that all criticism be directed at him and he asked all the men (we were in schule) to go over to the banquet hall for Havdallah and he would address us all with a mike. He did and made a valiant and mainly successful attempt to defuse the explosive social situation.

Now, you can argue about Rav Goldwicht's Torah worth and you can argue whether you have to make Aliyah and you can argue about the shortcomings of Israeli society, religious and secular. You can argue whether teachers in the Mamlachti Dati system are more capable than a Yeshiva K'tana in Five Towns. What you shouldn't do is lay it out flat: Golah is better because (a) secular Jews in Israel are more dangerous than Goyim in Galut; and (b) there is a better "community" is Golah than in Israel. That was the essence of his last half of a regular Torah U'Mada drush.

joshnathan said...

I stand by what I said. Eretz Yisroel is where one belongs. There is plenty of kiruv work to be done here. I am sorry in certain ways it would be a lot easier to stay in galus. The gemorah brings reasons why one may leave eretz Yisroel but that doesnt make it an ideal thing.

PS When one leaves Eretz Yisroel it is considered yerida even if it is for a noble purpose.

talliskattan said...

joshnathan, I have realized the error of my ways -- clearly you are so much more knowledgeable about life and ideals and so much holier than R' Goldwicht. Would you please be my new rabbi?

I don't recall anyone ever saying that living outside Eretz Yisrael is ideal, and, as a very close talmid of R' Goldwicht, can personally assure you that he would never say that it is. Whatever it is he did say in his speech at seudah shlishit, I am certain he did not say that it is "ideal" to live in America. That would go against everything I've ever heard him say about Eretz Yisrael.

Just keep in mind as you pass judgment on R' Goldwicht that his decision to come to YU was under the counsel of R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zatza"l -- I would imagine he was quite familiar with the gemara you alluded to.

talliskattan said...

In an earlier comment, I wrote: "Based on what was mentioned in the original post, I would hesitate to say R' Goldwicht "denigrated the life choice of a room full of people," as you put it, even only mildly. Doesn't sound like he was telling them all to pack their bags and hop on the first plane back to America. From what is reported here, he cited a statistic and observed that there is a certain danger in Eretz Yisrael arising from the fact that everyone is Jewish, making it more difficult to screen out bad influences. I don't know what he was referring to when he said there is no community in Israel, Medad doesn't really explain very much in the original post. If I had to guess, I would say he was just trying to point out issues that religious Jews living in Eretz Yisrael need to be aware of, not claiming that living in the Golah is better. But I wasn't there, and based on this alone, I don't see what all the fuss is about." Now that I've spoken with R' Goldwicht, it is even clearer that his comments were misinterpreted.

As part of his sicha (which was in Hebrew; perhaps this was the reason some of those present misunderstood him), R' Goldwicht addressed the issue of a surrounding culture, pointing out that in America, Jews are safer from certain dangers simply because they are more aware of the dangers that surround them. The line between US and THEM is very clear, which affords a certain protection from the negative influences of the surrounding culture. In Eretz Yisrael, R' Goldwicht observed, it is not quite so easy to protect one's children from negative influences, as those negative influences are coming from other Jews who look and speak like everyone else. For some reason, pointing out an issue the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael should be aware of was misunderstood by some as justification for living in the Golah, which could not be further from the truth.

He also mentioned communities like Teaneck and Englewood as examples of Jewish communities, which don't exist in Eretz Yisrael. (I can't recall exactly what difference he was trying to illustrate by mentioning them, but I think it was again something to do with the fact that they still have a clear US and THEM.) This was misinterpreted by Medad et al. as the entire concept of community not existing anymore in Eretz Yisrael.

Far from saying the concept of community doesn't exist anymore in Eretz Yisrael, R' Goldwicht was calling on the YU community, in America and in Eretz Yisrael, to come together to address this issue, a very pressing one considering the statistics he cited. For Rabbi Reuven Aberman to come back at him with statistics about assimilation in America is neither here nor there - R' Goldwicht was not suggesting that there is no danger of assimilation in America, nor was he addressing those denominations of American Judaism in which intermarriage is an issue, but was simply raising an issue that religious Jews in Eretz Yisrael cannot ignore.

Anyone who knows R' Goldwicht recognizes that he is truly an inspirational figure, a warm, caring individual who loves every member of Klal Yisrael and every millimeter of Eretz Yisrael. To say he was promoting living in the Golah over living in Eretz Yisrael is disingenuous, to say the least, as he was not even attempting to justify living in the Golah in the first place, but discussing Eretz Yisrael. This is a severe misinterpretation of his words.

To make matters worse, R' Goldwicht's apology was also poorly phrased by whoever translated it and sent it out, suggesting that his original comments contained a negative message which he later retracted, which again could not be further from the truth: he raised an issue that the YU alumni in Eretz Yisrael need to be aware of and combat as a community, and unfortunately his words were misunderstood by some of the alumni present. In no way were his original comments critical of those who made the difficult sacrifice of aliyah. Quite the contrary, they were intended to buttress the community of alumni in Eretz Yisrael, to make them aware of an issue that has caused others in the past to return to America so that they can take care of the issue as a community.

I hope this puts the matter to rest.

joshnathan said...

Taliskattan,
Thank you for the compliment.

kol tov,

PS Who does Rav Goldvicht ask nowadays about his remaining there it has been a number of years since Rav Shlomo Zalman passed away? Maybe he wants me to be his Rabbi as well :-)?

talliskattan said...

joshnathan, he came with the counsel of gedolim and continues to be here on the counsel of gedolim. He has the privilege of being close with many gedolei Torah, so for now you don't have to worry.

Be well

joshnathan said...

talliskattan,
We know why Rav Goldvicht chooses to sty in chut l'eretz what is your excuse :-)?

kol tov

Josh

talliskattan said...

My ISP is in America, but my heart is in Eretz Yisrael :-)

My wife and I will be making aliyah just as soon as I find her.

Kol tuv

YMedad said...

see my response to TallisKatan at the apology posting. to tired from flying in the the US to repeat it here.

IsraelmyHome said...

Medad,
If a person is skinny and someone calls him fat he doesn’t get offended for he knows that he is skinny. However, if a person is fat and someone calls him fat he will surely get offended. When Rav G said that there is a “32% of Religious-stream educated kids becoming irreligious” it was clearly applicable to you. I am therefore sorry to hear that either you, someone in your family, or someone in your community has gone off the derech. So instead of getting all defensive and offended you should listen to his words and try to improve yourself and your community. Furthermore, if you would ever have a conversation with Rav G you’ll quickly come to realize that his love for Eretz Yisrael inexpressible.
BTW, you should stop replying to talliskattan, because he is putting you to shame, he has spoken to Rav G and has heard both sides of the argument. Additionally, you don’t know Rav G from a hole-in-a-wall and you don’t know his opinion on anything, you sound very unintelligent and disrespectful, I find it hard to believe that you are a director of education programming. (I am sorry if I offended you but I cannot stand quiet when you lack Kavod Hatorah)

go2israel said...

As I have said before, I KNOW that Rabbi G has a great love for Eretz Yisrael. I KNOW this because both of my brothers have made aliah due to Rabbi Goldwicht’s influence. But for now I am not signing this blog to prove to you that Rabbi Goldwicht LOVES and would do everything for Eretz Yisrael, because anyone that knows him knows that this is the case. I am signing this blog to tell all of you to take a second and think about this situation. Writing back in forth to one another…do you really think that will change anything? Everyone can have their own opinion on the matte...but what’s the point of fighting? What’s the point of being disrespectful? Whether or not you have the zechut to live in Israel, we all have the same chiuv – that of Ahavat Yisrael! Lets move on – May we all merit to live in Israel and to see the coming of Massiach Bimhera!

YMedad said...

You guys keep missing the mark.

If the event was a conference on Diaspora-Israel relations, okay we hear such stuff. But given YU's ambivalence over the years (I graduated in 1969 after spending a year in Israel with not enough credit points to do so in my class of 68) and the sharpness of Rav G's criticism that went ideological and reflected badly on his own yerida, temporary or otherwise or shlichut, temporary or otherwise, as well as the simple faux pas which was obvious as otherwise he wouldn't have been forced (?) to apologize, methinks you guys are not defending his behavior but his thinking. To you guys, he can do no wrong because he loves EY and tries to instill the ruach of EY. Well, whether or not I am intelligent enough or not to do what I do (as if you are intelligent or not to know how well or not I am capable of foing what I do), I will not get into a "flame" here and I am mochel you for your intended or unintended smirch.

Your enthusaism to protect your Rebbe is acceptable to me. What's important to me is that I know I'm right and even Rav Goldwicht knows he erred. And more importantly, the YU leadership know he goofed.

BSimcha said...

As a graduate of Yeshiva College and a long time talmid of Rav Goldwicht Shlita, my decision to make Aliya almost immediately after my marriage was primarily due to the strong influence Rav Goldwicht has had on my life.

I too was at the Shabbaton and I heard everything Rav Goldwicht had to say. As talis explained, Rav Goldwicht was merely making us aware of the issues that American Jewry are often confronted by, here in Israel. These issues are real issues and I think that even you YMedad would agree that there are challenges, even for religious American Jews living in Israel. This does not mean that Rav Goldwicht was advocating Yerida, rather, as any Rav should, he was giving us advice as to how to confront the issues we face.

To combat these issues Rav Goldwicht expressed that we must make our homes and communities stronger, making the critical point that parents must know what’s going on in their own little community as the Father should be the Rabbi and the Mother should be the President or vice-versa. He suggested that the YU alumni come together in unified, communal events within their cities such as Raanana, Bet Shemesh, and Efrat in a mission to build stronger communities, providing inspiration and strength for one another. This is the message that I and many of my friends heard in his drasha at seuda shlishit. If only you would have listened more carefully instead of getting defensive you would have heard the clear message regardless that it wasn’t repeated three times due to the lack of time.

It is clear to anyone who knows Rav Goldwicht that he would be the last person to advocate yerida, and I thank talis for speaking to his Rebbi and writing his message down, thus clarifying any misunderstanding. I tried writing with respect although it is hard to respond respectfully to someone who is so disrespectful of Rabbeim. I am happy to have heard the words of Rav Goldwicht at seuda shlishit and I hope that after I live in Israel for 30+ years I will still have proper kavod Hatorah to Rabbeim whether I agree with them or not, but especially if I only misunderstood them.

I don’t think Rav Goldwicht erred or that he himself believes that he did. His message was clear and true, as tails explained earlier; the apology sent out was obviously mistranslated, intended as a clarification rather than an unnecessary apology. Additionally, I am sure the YU leadership will continue to use Rav Goldwicht as their connection to Israel and Israeli communities, being their representation of Torat Eretz Yisrael.

I was very disappointed to even see this blog, and thought that it might be better not to respond to it. I hope that following this post the discussion comes to an end. If YMedad doesn’t want to recognize the truth and perhaps apologize to Rav Goldwicht, there is no point of trying to keep on persuading him.

byteacher said...

As a member of Rav Goldwicht's shiur for about 2 years, I can attest to the fact that rav golwicht will probably be the last person to ever promote yeridah, or discourage aliyah. I spoke to him about the "incident", and he said that the people simply didn't understand what he meant. He didn't at all mean to imply that people shouldn't make aliyah. The week before he came, the Maariv daily reported the frightening that one out of every four religious high school students in Israel are thinking of taking off their kipa after graduation. Also, many people come to Rav Goldwicht and ask him about their situation regarding their children "going off". In his speech on Shabbos he was merely trying to give advice on the issue. When he referred to the differences between the religious comminities in Israel to chutz laaretz, he was just saying that the challenges faced in Israel are are not challenges that people in chutz laaretz face. That is not to imply that people in chutz laaretz don't have their own challenges, but he wasn't talking to a chutz laaretz community. All he was doing was trying to give ideas as to how the YU community in Israel and the religious community as a whole in Israel could try to mend the situation.

YMedad said...

Okay, okay. I yield. Rav Goldwicht's talk was misunderstood only by people who get defensive. And Rav Goldwicht's apology about being misunderstood was, er, misconstrued? Is this a conspiracy theory? The murmurings among the tables I was at, the murmurings at Maariv were all from people who have difficulty understanding? Well, if you find comfort in that, fine. I tried commenting on this at the other blog post but it seems that once you are a talmid, that excludes anyone else from comprehending your Rebbe.

This reminds me of way back in 1968, when a few of us demonstrated against the invitation to Lord Caradon, the UK UN Ambassador, to come speak to YU student body (the bloke was the former Sir Hugh Foot, Mandatory District Governor of Nablus in 1938) and demanded Israel's withdrawal already then. Well, the Rav JB Soloveitchik called us in to discuss the matter. I recall his talmidim sneering at us as we walked in, presuming that if we didn't get thrown out for causing damage to the school's reputation, then at the very least we would be undergoing a form a malkot mardut. Less than a half and hour later, we walked out and two days later, the invitation somehow got cancelled. Since then, I've had this appreciation for Rebi'im more than talmidim.

ADDeRabbi said...

wadr to r' goldvicht, and i do respect him, there are a number of factors that have been overlooked both by the commenters and by r' goldvicht himself.

1) yerida is yerida. it may be justified, even commendable or necessary at times, but a spade is a spade.
2)RSZA has been dead for 10 years. he's a grown man, and makes his own decisions.
3)there's a bigger story of his yerida that has to do w/ KBY politics.
4)the most bizarre thing of all is his idea that kids are better off in American school systems. in yu, it's easy to the success of that system. but there's a big, wide world outside of washington heights, or the tri-state area for that matter. and you don't see the failures because they simply disappear.

IsraelmyHome said...

The Chaphetz Chaim writes (quoting the Rambam in the 7th Perek of Dayos) “the Isur of Lashon Harah is talking about the negative aspects of a man. When a man speaks negatively about a person he is Over on the Isur of Lashon Harah even if it will not cause loss to that man.” The Chaphetz Chaim continues “the actual dealing/speaking about the negative aspects of a person is a Isur by itself” So, for all those who think Rav G erred and continue to post and speak about it behind his back you are over the Issur of Lashen Harah.

Now here are the consequences, the Chaphetz Chaim quotes a Tana Debei Rav Yishmael that says “anyone who speaks Lashon Harah his Aveyrah is equivalent to the three big Avirot: Idolatry, Murder, and Adultery.” And he goes on to explain the reasons for each one. He explains that speaking Lashon Harah is even worse then murder because when one kills only one person is dead but when one speaks Lashon Harah he is killing 3 people; the one who tells the story, the on who accepts the story as true, and the one who the story is spoken about. The Chophetz Chaim continues to quote other medrashim and gemarot that state “one who is Over on Lashon Harah is as if he is disobeying the 5 books of Moses and is a Kopher Ba’ikar, chas ve’shalom”

MAY Hashem Have Mercy On Your Souls!

YMedad said...

The Chofetz Chaim is right, of course. Lucky for the Ravad, he wasn't aware of the Chofetz Chaim when he was busy attacking some Rav by the name of Moshe ben Maimon in some very unsavory fashion.