Learning from Hillel and Shami

June 3, 2012

A Brooklyn based newspaper, Yated Ne’eman, has recently tried to cast more inclusive sections of Orthodoxy in a negative light.  Instead of understanding Rabbi Zev Farber’s recent Morethodoxy post about the cultural place of women in shul as a tension between two competing values, that of traditional prayer architecture and process on the one hand and that of the desire by the halacha to honor and include all Jews (even women) on the other, Yated saw only one side.

In the Gemara (Shabbat 31a) Hillel and Shamai argue regarding conversions.  Convert after convert comes to both Shami and Hillel and each convert presents themselves as insincere, desiring to convert to only some of the laws of the Torah or to convert for selfish reasons.  Obviously the decision to accept or reject such converts lies again in a tension between two competing halacic values, on one side the need to not dilute the Jewish people and their commitment to Torah, and on the second the Jewish value of embracing others and not mistreating the stranger.  Shami emphasizes the first value over the second in an extreme way, so much so that he chases the would be convert out with a stick, and Hillel emphasizes the second value, so much so that he immediately embraces the seemingly insincere (yes I know what Tosfos says)  convert and converts them all right away.   Which is right?  Both are legitimate Jewish opinions, both the word of God, but only one is the halacha, the path we as Jews are to follow, that of Hillel.  Indeed the Talmud explains that the law is like Hillel due to his embracing, tolerant personality (Talmud Aruvin 13b).

Today Yated is suggesting YCT Rabbonim continue to be excluded from the RCA. In times past their camp suggested the RCA be excluded from Orthodoxy.  Today they suggest YCT’s future talmide chachomim are illegitimate, in years past they (or papers like them) suggested the RCA’s Godol was illegitimate.

When I was growing up in the Charedi world I heard only slander about the RCA and Yeshiva University.  That YU was a, “Rabbi factory” and that their musmachim knew nothing.   I think I was 15 before I realized that “JB” was not a famous criminal but a Gadol Ba’torah, Rabbi Yosef Dov Solovetchik.

Any orthodox person who is over 30 and grew up to the right of modern orthodoxy remembers these things.  But the RCA did not become a new movement as people feared; the RCA saw itself as legitimately orthodox and in the eyes of much of the orthodox world remains so.

Less tolerance for fellow Jews and human beings, a less embracing attitude toward the would-be proselyte, dismissing ways within halacha to include women in traditional tefilah, these things, though perhaps sounding pretty frum, do not make one more of a Torah Jew.  Just ask Hillel.

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An Invitation to Me’ah She’rim for Rabbi Lopatin, and I accept!

July 24, 2009

From Rav Pinchas Lipschutz, Editor of Yated Neeman in the USA:

I invite Lopatin and the rabbi who wrote in The Jerusalem Post to join me for a visit to Meah Shearim. Let’s go visit the stores and places of business of the Reb Aralach – yes they do work – and see how they conduct themselves. Let’s visit their homes and see how they live. Let’s follow them to the Beis Medrash and observe them davening and learning. We’ll go to the rebbe and you can ask him all your questions. We’ll visit Ben Zion Oiring and watch a one-man chesed operation in action. We’ll talk to Uri Zohar and hear what he has to say. We will pay a visit to Rav Dovid Soloveitchik and you can ask him why he publicly referred to the sorry story as a blood libel. We can just stand at Kikar Shabbos and watch how these loving lovely people go about their daily affairs. If, G-d forbid there should be a need for another hafganah we can attend and watch how Yerushalmi yidden peacefully express their pain and how they are treated by the police. And we can stay till the bitter end and watch how the rif-raf comes and destroys the place. And then we can review together what we have seen and determine whether a re-evaluation is in order.

Dear Rav Lipschutz,

With a spirit of achdus and cheshbon hanefesh,I would like to take you up on your invitation to join you for a visit to Meah She’arim. I have been there many times, as I’m sure most of us reading this blog have, and have been there for a tisch at Toldos Ahron – I believe – but it would be different going with you in a spirit of love and appreciation for acheinu beis Yisrael, who are so committed to Torah and Yiddishkeit – as all of us recognize. I would like to organize an Achdus trip to Israel with Modern Orthodox rabbis, Centrist Orthodox rabbis and Yeshiveshe velt rabbonim all going together for the outstanding itinerary you propose for Meah She’arim, and then to continue into the Old City to visit Yeshivat Ateret Kohanim, then to walk on to Yeshivat Hakotel, Eish Hatorha, Yeshivat Porat Yosef, and to end up in Talpiot Mizrach to visit Beit Morasha and in Bakkah to visit the Pardes Institute, led by Rav Daniel Landes, the great grandson of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, zt”l. I would like to invite also Rabbanei Tzohar – perhaps Rav Cherlow and Rav Yehoshua Shapira, as well as leading rabbanim in the Chareidi world in Eretz Yisrael. Together we will show how the greatest Kiddush HaShem is the Achdus of Klal Yisrael and its Torah leadership.

Kol tuv and a gut Shabbos,

Asher Lopatin