Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Kislev 5761 - December 6, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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Home and Family
Recommended by Whom?
by Miriam Friedman

The following article is being brought as a public service, to open people's eyes, and minds, not to take things for granted...

Names do not reflect any living people.

The first time Sara noticed the ad was on Monday morning, while enjoying her coffee and perusing the Meida Hashovu'a bulletin. Next was on Tuesday in the La'Inyan. On Thursday, in the Bizness k'Halacha flyer and on Friday afternoon, a quick glance at the Tachlis free-bee revealed that it was again being advertised, this time on a full page! A sholom bayis course was being offered for men and women, with a mechitza, of course, every Sunday night, by Rabbi Elisha, graduate of prestigious yeshivos. "The course is recommended by leading rabbonim," the ad read.

This could be the ideal place to go out together with Avrohom, thought Sora excitedly. We'd be going out together, working on sholom bayis together. What could be better?

Sora began to allay the fears of the little pessimist in her head. They wouldn't have claimed recommendation by rabbonim if it wasn't so. And all the ads appeared in the heimishe weeklies.

Avrohom like the idea and agreed. This would be an ideal place to take time out together and to have a mutual subject to discuss.

Sunday night found them in the Kiddush room of a nearby shul together with other couples they knew from the neighborhood. It seemed that many people liked to look at marriage "for better and better."

A short while later, a scholarly looking man with a high forehead and gold framed glasses entered the room. He removed his jacket carefully and hung it over the chair deliberately. Smiling into the microphone, he began the night's lecture.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to share with you the fruits of my many years of research on this topic that is so relevant to all of us. We know that if there is sholom bayis in a house, there is Shechina in the house. If there would be sholom bayis within all Jewish homes, the Shechina would be with us all as a nation."

Sora was busy taking notes and didn't have time to assimilate everything she heard. She regressed to her high school habit of letting her pen fly across the page, with the words flowing straight from the speaker's mouth onto the paper.

She would savor the message later at home, together with Avrohom.

On and on the rabbi spoke. Whenever she didn't quite understand his point, she would draw a big question mark in the margin. To her surprise, even only listening with one ear and writing through the other, she found many quotes she felt uncomfortable with and as she turned page after page, noticed that the margins were full of her question marks. She decided to go over to the speaker after he finished and ask him to clarify some of the more sticky points that didn't sit well with her.

Sora shook her hand to ease the muscle cramp and then looked up to see the audience clapping. The shiur was over. She got up and looked over the mechitza for eye contact with Avrohom. A slight nod in reply to her shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows confirmed that he, too, had certain questions he wished to ask. They made their way forward to the table where there were already several other couples asking for better explanations on points they questioned.

She had this strange feeling about this speaker, a hunch, a sixth sense, and acting as an inobtrusive detective, decided to spy on Rabbi Elisha. Sora was good at sizing people up from external clues that supported her usually accurate feminine intuition. There was the way they dressed, their body language, even the way they pushed their glasses up on their nose or the angle of their eye contact with other people. Glancing around to absorb as much information as possible, Sora stopped short.

Was she seeing right? From Rabbi Elisha's pocket, she saw a book sticking out. It was a very popular non-Jewish book about human relationships. Sora blinked. She wished she was only imagining it, but someone had just jostled this cheap popular book from his pocket and onto the floor and there was no question about it. Her roving eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets as the question marks in her notes suddenly danced before her eyes.

Why, this was all a sham! Could she believe that legitimate rabbonim had actually recommended this Rabbi Elisha, as the ad had stated? Who were they, anyway?! She was determined to get to the bottom of this. She exchanged looks with Avrohom again; the look of consternation was proof that he had spotted the offending book as well.

When their turn came to ask questions, Avrohom got straight to the point.

"Could you tell me exactly which rabbonim are sponsoring this lecture?"

"What do you mean by which ones?"

"Exactly what I asked. The ads stated that your classes have the backing of leading rabbonim. Who are they?"

"Well, ummm, R' M-m-meyer is one." Rabbi Elisha seemed to suddenly be struck by a slight stammer which had not been apparent all evening.

"Who else?" Avrohom prompted insistingly.

"And Harav Almoni!" said Rabbi Elisha triumphantly.

"Oh, really? I happen to know that Harav Almoni has been in America for the past year and a half for medical reasons and he has an unpublished number." Avrohom's voice had turned accusing by now and he glared at the speaker.

"I know that, too," replied Rabbi Elisha, "but he's an old family friend and I'm sure he would approve of me."

"And that's what you call recommendation? It's all based on assumption!"

"You're forgetting R' Meyer!" said Rabbi Elisha, fully on the defensive.

"Wait a minute! Aren't you the Elisha who was kicked out of the Beis Midrash years ago? And you advertise that you are a graduate of Rav Meyer's yeshiva?"

"But R' Meir said that he could take the good and discard the bad..."

"That's all right for R' Meir to say; he has the credentials. But you have no moral right to advertise yourself under his -- or anyone else's -- recommendation, when you, yourself, were rejected and expelled from his yeshiva!"

A dismayed Avrohom turned around to share the shameful revelation with the other members of the audience still present. But it was already too late. The harm had been done. The question marks had already been planted in their conscious minds, and to some extent, their subconscious.

The only thing left to do was warn people about future lectures.

And that is exactly what we are doing, now.

Editor's Note: It is always important to verify the credential of speakers especially when the only advertise themselves as "endorsed by rabbonim" without mentioning any by name. In food establishments there is a well-known distinction between establishments that advertise that they use the products of respected hashgochos and others that actually have an endorsement from a reliable hashgocho: in the former case one can never be sure that all products used have the reliable supervision.

Similarly, some people and organizations claim rabbinical backing merely because they ask questions of a respected rabbinical authority. Needless to say, this is no guarantee that everything that they say or do is approved by rabbonim; anyone can go to them to ask questions. One should ask to see a letter certifying that the person is known by the authority to be reliable, a positive endorsement from a respected rov.


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