Monday, December 15, 2008

Riskin and The Christians

When idols fall, the vibrations continue, they go on and on, and we never know when the last of the repercussions have died out, or if the echos will be even louder. That's how I feel about Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. For those of us who became religious in the mid-1960's, (pre-dating the term BT,) he was legend, perfection.

Four years ago, before Disengagement, I wrote about his worship of Democracy, which he used to defend Disengagement. Yes, a bit later, he relented and opposed it. For those of us who never had a single solitary doubt that it was immoral, illegal and against the principles of Judaism, Riskin's indecisiveness was incomprehensible. I will republish my essay at the end of this.

Now Ellen Horowitz has revealed that Riskin has gone beyond the norms of the Torah Judaism I thought he believed in. He is working with Christians in an interfaith endeavor - Ohr Torah Stone's Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation.

Here in Shiloh, our Chief Rabbi, HaRav Elchanan Bin-Nun, does not allow Christian groups into our synagogue and told me that he wants restrictions on the Christian groups visiting Tel Shiloh. Synagogues are not to be used for non-Jewish prayers, and Christian groups shouldn't enter at all.

Riskin's embrace of Christians is the opposite. Here's the article I wrote about him four years ago:

The Battle of the Religions

Musings #79
October 23, 2004
The 8rd of Cheshvan

"The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal, that you can gather votes like box-tops is... the ultimate indignity to the demo-cratic process."- Adlai Stevenson

The Battle of the Religions

The Greeks, led by their King, Antiochus tried to destroy Judaism, then the Christians, in many guises including the Crusaders and then the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. Later the Nazis were more concerned with murdering anyone with Jewish ancestors, while in the same century the Communists tried to wipe out all religions, especially Judaism.

But in modern time Judaism has an even more dangerous enemy: DEMOCRACY!

I have to finish this musing quickly. The words were rattling so noisily in my brain, that they were crowding out the shacharit prayers, and I have less than an hour before leaving for boker limud nashim, where I study King David’s T’hilim and his son, King Solomon’s Kohelet. Democracy, the ultimate philosophical hevel, norishkeit.

In recent weeks, as political and spiritual leaders are being “polled” as to their opinions/instructions concerning Arik Sharon’s “disengagement” from yishuv Ha’Aretz, “settling” the Land of Israel, the Land that G-d sent Abraham and all Jews to in this week’s parsha, portion of the Bible, Lech Lecha.

This is a moment of truth between man and G-d, between those considered leaders and the One G-d, HaKodesh Baruch Hu. Some, like HaRav Ovadia Yosef, have publicly stated that we are to oppose Sharon’s plan. But another rabbi, who had been saying confused things, causing many to publicly argue and debate what he means, finally said that “democracy” must rule. Yes, Rabbi Shlomo, “Stevie Wonder,” Riskin stated that as important as Eretz Yisrael is, “Israel is a democracy.” (quoted from The Jerusalem Post, Friday October 22, 2004.)

The same rabbi, who inspired so many of us in the 1960’s, the rabbi who was not embarrassed to be an Orthodox Jew, to doven with a mechitza to posken that the only hair covering for a married female must be 100% obvious, a hat or scarf, not a wig. He was, for us, the epitome of a proud Jew.

Today Rabbi Riskin publicly stated that Judaism is secondary to democracy. I am saddened to write this, but Stevie Wonder is no longer wonderful. He worships democracy as his primary religion. G-d’s rulings, G-d’s Torah, G-d’s mitzvot, go second to votes in the Keneset.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein in the same issue of The Jerusalem Post said that “…the government is framing the disengagement in a way that would translate halachically as pikuach nefesh…” so it must be considered as not violating halacha. That brings us to the Adlai Stevenson quotation and the Kohelet shiur I’m rushing to get to.

Rabbis Riskin and Lichtenstein are basing their decisions on norishkeit, not Yiddishkeit. Hevel, vanities, democracy, advertising. Let’s return to our roots and not repeat—ain chadash mitachat lashemesh—there’s nothing new under the sun. Let’s not repeat the sin of the spies. The “people” worshipped democracy; ten spies verses two.

That fatal mistake has been made too many times. Now we must prove to G-d and man that we have learned our lesson. We must follow Joshua and Calev and redeem Our Land.

Batya Medad, Shiloh

10 comments:

Hadassa DeYoung said...

Shalom!
Perhaps INN could stop publishing his articles? I see that R. Riskin has decided to cozy up to the Xtians after being disillusioned about the Arabs, but only after one of them tried to explode himself and the grocery store in Efrat.
That "pikuah nefesh" argument was weak four years ago. From the Negev to the Golan how many Jews have died as a result of the expulsion? Unfortunately all of the "orange" predictions have proven to be correct.
Hadassa

Batya said...

Hadassa, thanks
I'm more afraid that a7 will pull mine than boycott Riskin's. I was expecting a storm of comments, but this has passed under radar so far. Or maybe people just don't read my blog?
Liberalism and Democracy are false gods. Why is it so hard to get people to understand?

Ben Greenfield said...

The tone you use in addressing Rav Riskin and Rav Lichtenstein is unkind and inappropriate, regardless of any arguments you want to make.

You can disagree with them, you can argue rationally and reasonably with them, but when addressing Torah leaders of any stripe - especially Rav Aharon, who many revere as a Gadol haDor - you must do it with conscious respect for their Keter Torah.

Batya said...

Ibn A, sorry, you're right.

Hadassa DeYoung said...

Shalom!
I just saw seven comments that I hadn't seen before on the INN page. It can take up to two days for comments to appear. Ellen from Brooklyn thinks that R. Riskin opposed the expulsion. I hope that someone corrects her. We still have an interface problem with INN blogs.
Hadassa

Batya said...

Yes Hadassa, a7 is slow. I guess the comment post approver only works rarely.

but re: Rav Riskin. Just before Disengagement he did oppose it and speak at that demo mentioned in the a7 comment. I spoke there, too. When I saw him I almost fainted and kept muttering: "What's that guy doing here?"
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2005/08/text-of-speech-i-gave-at-new-york-anti.html
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2005/07/musings-away-4.html

Hadassa DeYoung said...

Shalom!
Bibi also pulled out of the coalition and opposed the expulsion when it was too late for his actions to have any effect. And there must be others also.
What is R. Riskin saying now about the planned expulsions? What are his views on Hevron, Migron, Gav HaHar etc.? Is R. Riskin hiding behind democracy again?
And judging by at least one talkback some people don't understand that Tora scholars voting on a issue is not democracy and not the same as the entire people voting. How does that posuk go "After a majority one should not stray"? I don't remember the source.
Hadassa
Hadassa

Batya said...

Yes, Hadassa, a lot of games were played and still are.
Disengagement was bad from day one, as you agree, and all those politicians, public figures and rabbis who didn't scream against it from day one are at fault. The fact that Riskin and Lichtenstein revealed indecision and support made them lose my respect completely.

Hadassa DeYoung said...

Shalom!
Something I forgot earlier: was "Stevie Wonder" really a nickname given to R. Riskin, and if so, how did he get it?
Hadassa

Batya said...

Actually it was his nickname and probably predates the performer. It's from his English name which he went by earlier in his career. When Rabbi Riskin was starting off, he took a small congregation which wasn't strictly Orthodox. In the 1960's many of the OU's member synagogues had mixed seating.
This small congregation was in an apartment in Lincoln Square Towers. (I guess he was needed mostly on Shabbat.) Rabbi Riskin agreed to a 6 month trial, during which he dovened on his own and then led services for them. He told them that he would only extend the contract if they agreed to a mechitza.
Nobody, but him, expected them to agree to such a drastic change. Well, the rest is history. Rabbi Riskin's charisma and uncompromising loyalty to Torah Law was legendary.
That's why this business has me so saddened.