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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The manipulation of Gedolim

Harry has posted regarding the new banning of "Making of a Godol." He describes the total manipulation of Rav Elyashiv by the unscrupulous people that surround him. This sort of thing is not new. Part of the problem is that certain people believe that gedolim are impervious to manipulation. This is not true! It is unfortunate but with the advent of modern forms of media, such manipulation has become more common than other times in Jewish history. This is to the point where you can often not trust letters that you see in the newspapers signed by gedolim.

In a remarkable letter, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank Zt"l writes to his mechutan Rav Chaim Hirschensohn Zt"l about what was happening in Yerushalaim in the 1920s. I believe it teaches us a lot about what is happening in today's day and age (hat tip Rael):

“Published in R. Hayyim Hirschensohn, Malki Ba-Kodesh IV (St. Louis: Moinester Printing Co., 5679 – 5682), Letter 10 (dated 18 Adar Sheni, 5681, 1921), p43-44 [See Porush, pp236-237.]

Because of the tremendous halachik stature of the Gaon R Zevi Pesah Frank (later Rav of Jerusalem), it would be worthwhile to cite the passage in its entirety, to serve as a corrective to much of the revisionist history concerning the Kook-Sonnenfeld dispute, which unfortunately passes in Orthodox circles today as authoritative:

'As I wind up my letter, I should let his honor know a bit of the affairs of the town [Jerusalem], though it is not my way to write such things, for we could not write enough. However ... directed us to inform his Honor. According to ... his Honor has the ability to correct things. Having heard that it will of benefit, I find myself obligated to uncover the mystery enveloping the conduct of our city.

The Gaon, our Master RAY Hakohen Kook (may he live) was accepted here at Rav by the majority of the Holy Community here. It is well known that the members of Kollel Ungarin are envious of our Russian and Polish brethren. Especially, so that the proceeds earmarked to the Hungarians should increase, it is not good for them that the Chief Rabbi of the Holy City be other than Hungarian. So what did the members of Kollel Ungarin do? A few of them gathered together ... At their head the old lad ... He propagandized to found Vaad Ashkenazi (Ashkenazic Council). Now this old lad is a great expert in arranging elections from all, revealed only to him. The entire electrocal process is invisible. It is difficult to describe in writing his diligence in this matter. He puts together a list of a large committee, also a steering committee. On the surface, all is lovely. On the inside, all is rotten, for from the ranks of the Hungarians and Galicians he picks ... youngsters and from the other kollelim, when he sees an old man or imbecile who won't understand his tricks, he brings him into the Vaad. So the result of the invisible election is that he is the Secretary and young fellow... the Chairman. They write and sign tens of thousands of letters to America and the entire world in the name of all the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem ... that Rav Hayyim Sonnenfeld is the Rav here, when all see and know that R. Hayyim Sonnenfeld was never, and will not be, the Rav, for he is an old, frail man for whom it is not possible to get involved in the affairs of the town. But this old lad uses him and his name as a pawn to destroy an entire city. He and his gang of empty fellows publicly, brazenly insult the Gaon Kook (may he live). The old lad got together with young writers who frequent the home of the ancient Rav Yishak Yeruham Diskin (may his light shine), for this old man is undre the influence of young secretaries... They manipulate him whether way they please and obtain his signature for all their antics. In my estimation, he is not guilt at all for he cannot see writing, and signing is also difficult for him The secretaries made for him a stamp of his signature which is an exact replica and they write and sign whatever they please. Woe to a generation whose leaders are such lads, little foxes.

About six weeks ago, I spoke with Rav Hayyim Sonnenfeld, and at one point, I asked him if it right that he signs himself as the Rav of the Ashkenazim in our Holy City?... He answered me that the truth is, he himself does not sign so, but they made for him a stamp and wrote this on it.

The Gaon, Our Master RAY Kook (may he live) is the Rav here. All the largest institutions are under his presidency. He is the Rav of the city and carries the burden of the community. They placed new, inexperienced people to carry the load of the community ... These sycophants and insolent fellows stroke these old men to their advantage.

I wrote these things hurriedly, without order, as it does not fit my temperament to take care of such things. The upshot is, if his Honor can publicize the truth that the aforementioned elder sages – without disparaging them – are not communal leaders and one cannot pay attention to their signature. The affairs of the Jerusalem community, general and specific, temporal and spiritual are neither the domain of the elder sages nor their followers, who as a rule are simple folks who have put on a cloack of hypocrisy, announcing that they are zealots of the Lord. They use the names of the elders sages to blind peoples eyes, while anyone discerning sees that their aim is not truth, They employ smut sheets to stir up controversy in Israel.

His honor should let me know if any benefit may come of my words, which are but a drop of the sea of what should be known... '