Who's In Charge?
by Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz - The Yiddishe Licht - June 8, 1923
לא תתגודדו לא תעשו אגודות אגודות - Tractate Yibamos - folio 14
In regard to the question – “Who's in charge?”, we have paid dearly more than once.
In the very early history of the Jewish nation, when our people were in their developmental period, this question of: “Who is in charge” was the one that hindered our further development, and led to our development as a Jewish people. This was after King Solomon died and his son, Rehoboam, was supposed to become king. Then Jeroboam ben Joash went and tore away ten tribes and founded the Kingdom of Ephraim. And according to the Midrash's explanation, it was not a matter of something different, but about the question of “Who Is In Charge.”
The Midrash intends to say with this, that there was no question of principle, or that he wanted to establish a more democratic government, or that he wanted to convince the people, and also not because he wanted to have a different government. No! All of this was no more than to fling sand in the eyes of the people, and in truth, it was only about “Who Is In Charge”. And the chasing after kavod or power of one person, or at most, from a small group of people.
This cost us dearly.
Here, in the breaking-up; when the Kingdom of Ephraim separated from the Kingdom of Yehuda, the fate of the Jewish people was sealed, to what in reality, hundreds of years later occurred –- to being chased out of our land.
The same question of “Who Is In Charge” has already cost us much here in this land, and if it will not reach a conclusion as quickly as possible, it will, God forbid, cost us dearly here as well. I mean this in regard to the four organizations of rabbis with whom, in this land, we have been smitten. There were times when we did not have even one, and now, blessed be He, we have four. But since we have a rule that the Jews cannot welcome both "Good Rabbis" and "Dangerous Ones", the four organizations perhaps can be accepted as the Good Rabbis,[or] perhaps the four "agudas" are possibly worse for us than nothing, considered like the "Dangerous Rabbis".
And if we want to be entirely honest and without any bias, and examine the reason that led to this, that we should now have four organizations of rabbis instead of one, we absolutely cannot find any serious reason that could have led to this. For American Jewry’s tragic division, when there are no principle oppositions, when there is no real difference of opinions among the four organizations, the question is "Yesodei Hadaas"... the foundation of common sense and knowledge. Is not one of the requirements of our religion, "Yesodei Hadaas" the foundations of common sense, not now found nebach even in the smallest tradition of Klal Yisroel?
It is not a question of Orthodoxy, Conservatism and Reform, which must be divided into more camps. It is no more nor less, regrettably, and regrettably once again, about the question” “Who Is In Charge?”
It is sad that one of our own people should find it necessary to accuse rabbis, and among them four elder sages and greats, and I, with such a humble motive in many ways, would generally consider it a chutzpah.
But I think that such a chutzpah is in the correct place, and it is, in general, not from the category of "az panim l'gehinom" but rather separate from the rule, or as chasidim call it "az l'kedusha", brazenness for the sake of holiness, and according to this chasidic lore, is not only not a sin --- it is a good thing, the brazenness of evil, [displayed by the various rabbis], from which, regrettably, we have so much in this land, and thereby gives me the freedom to criticize the behavior of the rabbis for making four agudas or separate divided organizations.
And I openly accuse the rabbis for their handling of this matter this way, dominated by their own small personal interests. [See the Markevet Hamishna in the foreword of the Rambam]
It is like making two Torahs from one Torah. One builds and one destroys...
And I ask the rabbis: can you take upon yourselves the great responsibility that your small interests might, God forbid, cause the entire Judaism to collapse?
And when sometimes you sit by yourself and think about the destruction of Jewry in this land, does not your conscience plague you, that you alone are mostly guilty of this destruction, at the very least in a large part of it? When all the rabbis would be united, it would be easy to unite the entire Orthodox population and miracles could take place.
Dear friends in New York have a completed plan which would be very simple to implement, and it would result in enough money to give decent subsidies for the rabbis, so they would not find it necessary to work with those things that are against the honor of rabbis, and there would be enough money for ritual slaughterers, so they should not be forced to become lowly creations, and there would still be enough money to support a Talmud Torah and Yeshivas on a grand scale.
But this uniting cannot occur as long as the rabbis are torn into parts, and regrettably, the four organizations are the "Arba Avos Nezikin" and not only destroyers who do damage to all of Yiddishkeit in this land, they are also destroyers who do damage to themselves from a spiritual and territorial standpoint. [See Tosefes Yom Tov Bava Kama Mishna Aleph]
And I give myself permission to ask the rabbis of all sides, will this dire situation remain like this forever? Has not the time arrived for you to put your own personal selfish reckonings to a side, and think about all of Klal Yisroel?
Rabbis! The Jewish people appeal to you! Have pity on the honor of the Torah and the honor of Judaism, most especially on your own honor, the honor of rabbis. Remember how much holiness and respect the title of Rabbi once contained!
Remember that the seat of the Rabbinate is also an inheritance from our holy sages and from the highest heights from the Ribbono Shel Olam Himself with Moshe Rabeinu a"h. Moshe Rabeinu wanted to sacrifice himself for all of Yisroel, and you cannot sacrifice for a foolish fleeting second of kavod, for the respect of the Torah and the entire Judaism?
No, I cannot believe that the spiritual leaders of Judaism have sunk so far! No! And therefore, I appeal to you once more. Do not forget! Do not forget Jewish responsibilities! Do not forget that the present and the future of the Jewish people is in your hands. Do not forget that the eyes of all Klal Yisroel are upon you, and which of you will dare to take on his conscience such a great responsibility?
Rabbis, remember your holy mission, that talmidei chachomim are suppose to bring peace to the world , and see to make peace -- "Hashem oz l'amo yiten, Hashem yivorech es amo b'shalom".