Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Who's the Authority?

Just read the most puzzling statement from the Beis Din of Crown Heights [1]:

'First of all, all restrictions from legal and medical authorities obviously must be adhered to.'

This odd designation is repeated again several paragraphs later: 'At this stage, the Badatz defers all such decisions to the local medical and legal authorities.'

Who are the "legal authorities?" Does he mean their antisemite mayor De Blasio or Governor Cuomo? The NYPD? Or does he mean the Dept. of Health?

Since when does a rabbi exhort his adherents to adhere to all restriction and decisions of "legal authorities" with regards to davening, attending minyan, Torah studies of tinokos shel beis rabban? Not only that, he writes "obviously," as if this extraordinary statement is a given.

And who are the "medical authorities?" The CDC? WHO? Dept of Health?

Surely he knows that there are plenty of medical experts who disagreed with the entire social-distancing policy to begin with. So it seems he refers to just those specific medical experts who were 'authorized' by the government as "medical authorities."

Since when is there such a concept as a "medical authority" in Jewish law, beyond one's own doctor, who doesn't necessarily wield any "authority" to speak of? [2]

So do "legal authorities' and "medical authorities" both refer to government? Does he mean that there is one authority but it's both "legal" and "medical?"

This sounds rather authoritarian and un-Jewish if you ask me.

Is this rabbi abusing his rabbinic authority? Or his he neglecting his rabbinic duties by not adjuring his kehila to acknowledge a higher Authority?

Even stranger is the odd contradiction of items two and three:

2. We have been advised that the former restriction against people from the street attending the so-called 'porch minyanim' is no longer a necessity, provided proper social distancing, etc., is maintained.

3. The Badatz... does not consider itself an authority on medical matters. (The original need for the Badatz to intervene was to prevent the mistaken notion that Tefila B'tzibur or other similar halachic requirements supersede concerns of Pikuach Nefesh.).

Wait a minute... the "legal and medical authorities" never banned porch minyanim. The Beis Din did. In fact, the Beis Din had prohibited everyone from engaging in tefila b'tzibur, not just "people from the street" but even people on their porches who had never left their properties.

Does the Beis Din take no responsibility for fanatically enforcing an authoritarian policy well beyond the actual requirements of these so-called authorities?

Hmm...I don't live in that neighborhood and unfortunately have not been able to communicate with those rabbis since I questioned their abuse of authority last year when 500 healthy children were permanently banned from their neighborhood schools by their own instruction.[3] And in that case too, when questioned, the rabbi cited deference to "authorities" and took no responsibility. Hence my visceral reaction when I just read it in this most recent letter.

So again, I am compelled to wonder: who are these rabbis' 'authorities' and to whom do their loyalties lie? Although I have no way to ask them directly, I humbly recommend Crown Heights residents to clarify these bizarre remarks with the rabbis who wrote them.

[1] Dated 24 Iyar 5780, i.e. yesterday, Monday, May 18th. Image of letter below.
[2] With regards to a patient with a diagnosed condition, a doctor can wield authority in the realm of healing, v'rapo yerape, but not necessarily in the realm of precaution, as the renowned Rabbi Chaim Brisker once commented.
[3] And 10,000 Jewish children were banned from school in their entire state, without a single word of protest from this Beis Din, or any other for that matter! Shomu shomayim. Umsaymim b'tov.


Y Sasportas said...

Legal authorities?? Oh yes like the legal authorities in inquisition era Spain having conversos turn in cryptojews.
Or like the legal authorities in nazi Europe....

Yakov Kirschenbaum said...


Rabbi Green,

Are you messing with the Crown Heights Beis Din , avir she'aba'virim, again??

I suggest you learn (or relearn) the sichah of Shabbos Mishpatim 5747 to see (and internalize) what the Rebbe has to say about this. Here's a link to the some points from that sichah. The sichah itself has a lot more, of course.

I was actually in your shiur for Likuttei Sichos at night in Oholei Torah Mesivta (mini-Zal) in 5758 and I think I remember that we took a break for a day or 2 from the regular Likttei Sichos to learn that Sichah of Mishpatim 5747, due to major disrespect to the CH Beis Din/Rabbonim that was happening at that time.

In the meantime, some of your posts here are completely unbecoming for a chosid like yourself.

Besuros tovos,
Your former student Yakov Kirschenbaum

Yakov Kirschenbaum said...


Some excerpts from the Rebbe's sichah of Shhabos Mishpatim 5747:

"...There is a distinction about Rabbinical authority in the holy community of Crown Heights, where the Rabbonim were selected by every member of the community, all assembling in a holy place - the shul and study hall of my father-in-law, the Nasi of this generation, all of which thereby confers upon them incomparably greater power, and therefore no member of the community can say that he doesn’t hold by them. The Rabbonim were chosen by the vast majority, even if individual people didn’t take part in the process (even if he opposed the elections and did all he could to destroy them, as is very well known - and this is not the place to go into it)....
...It is extremely important for everyone to heed and follow the instructions of a Rav, including those who actively opposed the Rabbinic election. They must submit to the authority of the Rabbonim, particularly since they themselves toiled in the publicizing of the campaign of: "make yourself a Rav." And if it is so important to listen to and heed the words of one’s personal Rav (mashpia), how much more so the Rav who was chosen by the community, the "mighty of the mighty" (Abir Sh’babirim).
As underlined above, it doesn’t matter whether this arrangement pleases them or not. Similarly, their advice was not sought concerning giving the ten commandments and all the 613 Mitzvos and "everything a diligent student will discover" (i.e all Talmudic, Halachic And Kabbalistic literature) even before he and his father or those who raised him and trained him to behave this way, were born. The fact is these Rabbonim were chosen by the vast majority, and will continue to occupy their honorable positions until Moshiach comes."

Rabbi Michoel Green said...

Dear Yakov,
Thanks for reaching out. Nice to hear from you. Amazing that you remember our class all those years ago.
L'gufo shel inyan:
I am not "messing" with anyone, but merely asking valid questions. Rabbonim are NOT inerrant, and we may not ascribe kovod to a rav when there is chilul Hashem. (Berachos 19b; Shulchan aruch YD 242:11)
The rav (or rabbonim) in this case have lots of explaining to do. It is a mortal sin to remain silent when such a public statement seems to assign authority carte blanche to politicians and government officials in today's climate in which suppression of public expressions of yiddishkeit has become the "new normal," Rachmono litzlan.
Sadly, the beis din has rejected (and several times blocked) my emails for the past few months, even before corona, ever since I questioned their judgment of sanctioning the ban of thousands of Jewish children from talmud Torah (over 500 in Crown Heights alone) last year. Unfortunately, they have left me no avenue but to publicize my questions. There is no disrespect intended, but merely standing up to defend tinokos shel beis rabban and the very kyum of am yisroel and the entire world.
If you would be so kind to approach the rov directly on my behalf and arrange a meeting between the two of us and actually the three of us, as my brother would probably wish to attend as well), I would greatly appreciate it!
Please tell him that the topic we'd like to discuss is his apparent embrace of "public health policy" as a halachic imperative.
Happy for it to be a public or private meeting. As he wishes.
Thank you, and I'm happy to discuss this matter with you offline too.
Best wishes for kabolas haTorah bsimcha ubpnimius.

Rabbi Michoel Green said...

Oops. Not sure where your second comment went.
Anyway, with regards to the sicho you quoted, I agree with everything you write.
Of course, I am not from CH and don't necessarily need to accept any one rav's authority, but that's irrelevant here. The Rebbe NEVER endorsed blindly following a rav when a brazen error is made that involves chilul Hashem. That is a din mefurash as I cited above.
There was a prominent rabbi who made bizarre statements that involved serious chilul Hashem back in the eighties and the Rebbe said that the most amazing part of it was that his talmidim and adherents continued to uphold his shocking rhetoric and didn't appeal to him to retract or at least to remain silent. In this case, I am not accusing anyone of anything, but am merely asking questions that DEMAND to be asked, and for which the rabbis owe us an explanation.

Anonymous said...

Hi thanks for taking care of the minyanim in ch, I'm sure you know of the situation but I can't stay quiet there is no one which is taking care of it I asked you if you can please be the one to take care of it I'm sure you know of the new school system in our community called zoom I can't go into all the problems with getting kids devices there is too many I'll give you an example even if you filter an entire device and only allows zoom children still go on different meetings during their breaks and they can end up on meetings with non-jewish parties etc. This is really disastrous many communities around us are just using simple phone we can't wait for people to realize and too much damage will be done I beg you to please help and I'm sure you know the severity of this end of giving children devices! Thank you so much

Anonymous said...

The NYC Dept of Health allowed children who haven't received the MMR to participate in the Chidon! It was "local medical authorities" that deemed to kick them out, and the same Beis Din allowed or even sanctioned this cruel measure! So it makes it difficult for me to trust their authority I dont belive they have any yiras , I wouldn't even feel comfortable eating from their homes ! They BOW down. He is despicable!