Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Hear him Wein
Believing in Hashgochoh Protis is a good thing. Were it not for that I might never have listened to the Berel Wein tape I found in the car my neighbor was nice enough to loan me while mine was in the shop. Much of the conversations on the tape centers on the Jewish of Eastern Europe during the last 3 centuries and what they had to endure, including pogroms, induction into the Czar's army and so on. This may not come as a surprise to many of you, but RBW seems to be straddling the fence when he speaks about life in the shtetl, this despite him being a Rav and frum Jew. He almost seems to apologize for the millions who left the fold at the outset of Communism, Socialism and Haskalah, as if they had all the reason in the world to do so after being sold out by the frum establishment all those years. You may have a wayward youth speak that way, or an amateur student of history that has trouble with some his recent findings, but a Rav?!
Once thing's for sure, the man is open and honest about almost everything he talks about, even if it makes him and his co-Religionists look bad. You might even say that he takes his information directly from secular and anti-Religious books and texts. When he speaks about the Cantonisten he goes as far as blaming the Rabbonim, Shochtim and Roshei HaKohol for sending off the kids of the poor when they were required to furnish the army with an amount of kids from their town. Never would you hear that when growing up and hearing that from your sixth grade Rebbe, they made it sound as if kids were grabbed by soldiers who would burst in to people's homes and grab kids from their mother's arms. Which makes you wonder, if Rabbi Wein is part of the Rabbinic establishment - at least the MO eastablishment - why would he condemn the leaders of yesteryear like that?
But wait! there's more. When speaking about the founding of the great Lithuanian Yeshivos and Reb Chaim Volozhiner he keeps on mentioning the fact that the Yeshivos were founded solely for the elite. Yes, he says, the idea was to save Torah SheLo TishtaKach MiYisroel, but it was only for the elite. At the height of enrollment there were only 450 students from all of Lithuania etc., with the average enrollment somewhere around 300 men. Out of hundreds of thousands of young men 300 were allowed in to those hallowed halls. One might say that they succeeded in saving Torah at the expense of the millions who left, and that it was the right to do it. I'm not here arguing that point and if it was right or wrong, the approach just sounds really elitist and not one you can build generations on. Try telling that to your average student today, or to the descendant of Jews who left the fold, I'm sure he'll be happy to know that his GrandPappy was collateral damage...