Raising Our Voices for Children

Excerpts from the passionate message of Harav Naftali Glantz, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Chassidim in Elad, during the Shabbos Shuvah drashah.

As we stand between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when the Melech Hamishpat judges the entire world, my skin crawls in fear and I dread the Divine judgment. Chazal (Chagigah 5) write on the passuk (Koheles 12:14) that every creation of Hashem will be brought to justice for any hidden thing. They say that when Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai would recite this passuk, he would sob. What is the meaning of every hidden thing?

Rav said it means one who kills a louse in front of his friend and his friend is repulsed by it. Shmuel says it is if he spits in front of his friend to make him feel repulsed.

It is unbelievable. What are these things? Minor matters of causing discomfort to a friend. An uncomfortable feeling caused to a friend. For these things as well, we will be judged.

But Morai V’rabbosai, why should we speak about hidden things; why should we focus on things that are defined as only causing discomfort? Let us talk about the overt and well- known things, and which in my definition constitute murder and bloodshed, literally. And there is no one who opens his mouth and calls it out.

I am referring to the various “committees” that crop up like mushrooms after the rain.

We read in the parashah of Eglah Arufah: “And they replied and they said, ‘Our hands did not spill this blood and our eyes did not see.’” Why is there a seeming redundancy — “v’anu v’amru — and they replied and they said?” I saw in the Ibn Ezra that it is like the words in Parashas Bikurim, “V’anisa v’amarta.” He did not expound, allowing anyone who seeks to delve further into these words to do so.

I thought the following: Rashi says on the word “v’anisa,” that it is a form of raising one’s voice, meaning that when the Torah uses the word “aniyah — responding” there is a demand for raising a voice. Perhaps what it says in Eglah Arufah comes to underscore this: that when it relates to spilling blood, it is not enough to just declare quietly; certainly this is the case when the heart is pained and anguished — one must raise his voice clearly and strongly.

We know that the kriah that we recite is always timely, and each year at the beginning of the school year, we read the parashah of Eglah Arufah, where I believe the “aniyah” comes to awaken us to the spilling of innocent blood, the blood of boys and girls, the tears of fathers and mothers, tears of anguish as their children are not accepted into various schools.

I have always wondered: We are told that dinei nefashos, matters of life and death, are only judged by a Sanhedrin Ketanah of 23 people; and in monetary matters it is clearly ruled that the Dayan must act as though he sees Gehinnom open beneath him. And yet, the acceptance and vetting committees are made up of three or four people, closeted in a room, without anyone knowing who they are, what they are talking about, what their nature is. I imagine there are refreshments and confections on the table, and they lightheartedly deal with matters of life and death, meting out life, who will live and who will die, who goes to the right and who goes to the left, who will be allowed to come into the community as a ben Yisrael, and who has the rule of a mamzer or even worse. Who has given them this power? Where did they get the authority to judge these matters?

This week I received an eye-witness account from someone who was sitting on the beach in Herzliya, and beside him, on a beach chair, facing the waves while speaking on his cell phone — kosher l’mehadrin, of course — was a member of one of these vetting committees. He was rendering the fate of a preschooler — a little girl who could barely utter a word or two. Her terrible sin was that her father works for a living, brings a parnassah to his family. Along these lines, I am doubtful if the daughter of Rabi Yochanan Hasandlar or Rabi Yitzchak Nafcha would pass these vetting committees. Have we ever heard of such a thing?

And of course, it is all l’shem Shamayim, in order to preserve the pure flask of oil — and other shallow, trite slogans that have no meaning yet are uttered in an attempt to cover up the fact that these committees are no different to what we admit in Al chet shechatanu lefanecha biv’idas zenus. Enough said.

If we would know that the members of these committees, on days that they have to render the fates of students, fast from morning to night, pour their hearts out in reciting all of Sefer Tehillim, and plead to Hashem that nothing bad should emerge through them, then I [would respect that.] But this fashion of sitting casually — yet with all the pride and arrogance of masters of the land, communicating via conference calls, with one on the beach, while the other is eating supper, and the third is putting his children to sleep, when there is no way they can discuss things with solemnity … I wonder.

Moreover, my father, shlita, who served as the Rosh Yeshivah of Sanz in Netanya for more than 30 years, learned in a school in Rechovot until the age of ten with girls in the same class. Attending the same school, learning in the same venue, was his friend, Harav Alter Eliyahu Rubinstein, zt”l, who served as Av Beis Din in Antwerp. And baruch Hashem, wonder of wonders, they reached great heights and taught many thousands of talmidim.

I myself was raised and educated in Kiryat Sanz in Netanya. In my class there were six boys from the children’s home who came from the most downtrodden families in Netanya, whose families were dysfunctional. The children could not live at home and were taken to the children’s home. And we learned side by side throughout the years. To this day I remember their names and their pained, suffering faces, and again, wonder of wonders, I don’t know of a single person in my class who strayed from the path or whose yiras Shamayim was negatively affected because of them.

I’m not coming to say that today girls and boys should learn together, or that classes and schools should be mixed with children from all kinds of communities. Baruch Hashem, in our generation there are schools for almost each community, and everyone is beloved, everyone is good, so there is no reason to specifically mix them together. But this madness of sorting within the community — who is kosher and who is not, who is worthy of being called a Chassid and who not? Do they have ruach hakodesh that they know what is happening inside the homes? How many are there who outwardly look like yirei Shamayim, and yet inside, regretfully, are very different? On the other hand, how many are there who outwardly appear empty, yet they are [still connected]?

We are not dealing here with high-school girls aged 17 to 18 whose opinions are already firmly set, and it is noticed that there is someone who, chalilah, does not follow the spirit of the school in her behavior and her views, and she can harm others. We are talking about preschools, for girls aged two to four, pure souls who have not sinned, and who are far from acting with the wrong hashkafah. Who is the person who dares to deal with their souls? Who takes on his shoulders the tremendous and complicated responsibility of rendering their fates and those of future generations? Is there someone who knows which of them will be kosher?

I will try to speak a bit of the painful feelings I have, in order to try and arouse an in-depth discussion of how to stop this unbearable madness. How can we restore sanity, before we bring upon ourselves total loss? If we continue along this path, it won’t take long until someone who holds the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam will accuse his friend who holds like the Geonim that he is a mechallel Shabbos in public, and will refuse that his pious daughter should be in the same class with the daughter of a Shabbos desecrator. And one who eats the hechsher of Rav Landau will not dare agree that his daughter should learn together with someone in whose home they eat specifically Eidah Hachareidis. There are countless more examples, and who knows what the end will be?

… I apologize for bringing proof from a non-Jew, but sometimes it is necessary. When the Protestant minister Niemöller of Berlin was interred in a German concentration camp, he had time to think about what he could have done to stop Hitler’s madness, but didn’t do. After the war, he said, “When they came to take the communists, I didn’t say anything; I’m not a communist! Then they came to take the Jews, and I didn’t say anything; I’m not a Jew! When they came to take the members of the unions, I didn’t say anything, because I’m not a member! When they took the Catholics, I also didn’t say anything, because I’m not Catholic! Now they came to take me and there’s no one left to say anything.”

I am aware of the fact that the comparison is dreadful, but when the discrimination was between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, we were pretty quiet, because we are not Sephardic. When it was discrimination only in the high schools, we thought we understood that it was necessary, and were quiet. But then it also spread to the chadarim and then the schools, and then reached the kindergartens — not between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, but among Ashkenazim themselves; not between Litvishe and Chassidish, but among the Litvishe themselves and Chassidim themselves — and we are still quiet. Soon there won’t be anyone left to say anything…

Who can withstand the depths of the judgment, especially in matters relating to man and his fellow man? There is no one who caused pain to another Jew who will get off easily.

Many of those who really and truly intended well for the benefit of a pure chinuch for their children have been forced to rend their clothes in one way or another over those very same children whom they guarded so carefully.

Back to the words “and they replied and they said, ‘Our hands did not spill…’” that it is necessary to raise one’s voice: I don’t know in which fashion. I don’t know if there is a chance to stop the downward slide, and how, if possible, it can be made clear to all that what stands behind these various committees are, like Harav Steinman, shlita, said, gaavah, gaavah and gaavah, and then again, gaavah, and boasting that is determined by the cruel standard of how many each person rejects: the more one rejects, the “better” he is.

But it is impossible to remain silent, and perhaps it is also forbidden.

The Navi Yeshaya tells us clearly at the beginning of the haftarah of Shabbos Shuvah, “Eheyeh ketal l’Yisrael yifrach kashoshanah. Yelchu yonkosav v’yehi kezayis hodo verei’ach lo kalevanon.” In order to achieve that, there is a need for love and generosity. To learn to include even those who are a bit different from us, and perhaps may not think or look just like us. We must take every precaution against harming another Jew, chalilah, and to remember that there is a clear halachah, that while Yom Kippur atones for the sins between man and his Creator, the sins between man and his fellow man are not atoned by Yom Kippur until he apologizes to his friend.

I apologize for the length of my words, which are very clear to anyone who is not sitting on a comfortable chair enjoying refreshments but, rather, standing on the side, listening to the sighs and cries of the parents, observing their hot tears, and who spends days and nights helping them in any way possible, with a listening heart. I will be happy if a way will be found, a golden path, that will prevent these injustices — of course in accordance with the Gedolei Hador, shlita — and may his merit be doubled and tripled in a countless manner.

Harav Naftali Glantz, shlita, is Rav D’kehillas Chassidim in Elad.

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