The Strange Charedi Judaism Of Aish HaTorah

In his second lecture on Rav Elazar Shach, Dr. Marc B. Shapiro says: "His antipathy to kiruv (outreach) has nothing to do with his feelings for Chabad. What does it mean to do kiruv? It means to leave the yeshiva. If it was just the losers, the ones who couldn’t take it, that would be one thing, but it has become an ideal. The best and the brightest go out to do kiruv. The gadolim in America agree that that is a positive thing. From Rav Shach’s perspective, it is a foreign ideal. There is no notion of kiruv. The notion is to sit and learn Torah. If someone comes into our beit midrash, then we can help him, but we don’t send our best and our brightest out there to be with the tumah (impurity) of America.

"Go to the Aish HaTorah website (Aish.com). Look at what they’re discussing there — sports, entertainment, TV stars. From Rav Shach’s perspective, you are taking yeshiva bochurim (students) and you’re putting them in the midst of tumah.

"There’s a lot of truth to what he’s saying. It’s Aish HaTorah that honors intermarried people at their dinners (such as Larry King). It’s the authoring of books with non-Jews. It’s some rabbi talking about how excited he was to meet some actor… For Rav Shach, this is incomprehensible. Ohr Somayach is very different. They don’t go for this sort of stuff.

"Aish HaTorah, if you go to their website, they have a whole thing about the state of Israel and Zionism. They are supposed to be a charedi organization. So either they believe this stuff, which is pasul (forbidden) for Rav Shach, or they don’t believe it, and they’re just saying it to get money and to attract the non-religious, that is even worse for Rav Shach.

"The Slifkin business. When the gedolim in Israel found out what these kiruv institutes were teaching, which, in their mind, was no less than heresy…"

"I don’t think the Lubavitcher Rebbe was close to anyone. He was a king. People like that live lonely lives. It is true that Reb Moshe respected the Rebbe and the Rebbe respected Reb Moshe. The Rebbe sent people to get semicha from Reb Moshe. There’s a famous responsa from Reb Moshe to the Rebbe explaining why he doesn’t wear Rabbenu Tam tefillin.

"Reb Moshe always protected the Rebbe when there were others in the Lithuanian world who wanted to attack him.

"The Rav had no real contact with the Rebbe. They had no contact once they came to the United States."

"Charedi kiruv only got going in the 1980s. Before that, the charedim had no interest in kiruv. That’s why Shlomo Carlebach had to leave Lakewood. He wanted to do kiruv and Rav Aharon Kotler had no interest in that.

"Now there are charedi kollels all over the country and a prime focus of these kollels is kiruv. You even have charedi spokesmen talk about how kiruv is vital.

"One rosh yeshiva acknowledged to me that all this learning with lay people is taking away from the purpose of the kollel."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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