Dei'ah veDibur - Information & 

A Window into the Chareidi 

12 Kislev 5772 - December 8, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by











Reports from the American Aguda Convention Held over the weekend November 24-27

This material came in too late for us to include it in last week's edition. However it is certainly still of interest and vital importance.

Aguda Convention Warns about the Danger on the Desk (and in the Pocket)

By Sarah Pascal

Agudath Israel of America's 89th National Convention, in which thousands of Jews participated over the four day period of November 24- 27, confronted the unprecedented challenges of modern technology head on, starting with the overcrowded Thursday night plenary session.

Rabbi Elya Brudny, Maggid Shiur, Mirrer Yeshiva, discussed the difficult times that Klal Yisroel is currently facing; we are confronted with unprecedented tragedies. While we used to hear a scandalous story once every few years, that is no longer the case. "Our homes have been broken in epidemic proportions," said Rabbi Brudny. "This can primarily be attributed to technology. The more advanced and specialized technology becomes, the more pronounced the yerida is.

"We all understand the overwhelming problem," he continued. "The clock can't be turned back; the world operates on these technological advances." He speculated that "maybe, because limud Torah is so strong, and so many are kovei'a ittim that we can now fill up a stadium for a siyum, the Yetzer Hora has been given a license from Hashem to entice Yiddishe kinder."

Rabbi Brudny elaborated on some of the dangers of technology. First of all, technology has created a "global village". Living within a small "village" with the worst elements of society has a dangerous impact on our lives as we read their commentaries on life, and interact with them on a daily basis.

Additionally, said Rabbi Brudny, technology has taken away Klal Yisroel's inherent trait of modesty. Tznius is in our blood. And yet, technology has found a way to bypass this modesty. When one uses technology to sin, there is no embarrassment; it can be done anonymously.

Rabbi Brudny concluded his address by urging the klal to allow their use of technology to be guided by the gedolim.

Rabbi Avrohom Schorr, Rov, Congregation Tiferes Yaakov, was next to address the crowd. He began by stating that the gedolim should not be coming to the klal to talk about this. "It should be the tzibbur coming to ask, and say what can we do about this terrible thing? The tzibbur should realize how many people are being lost daily because of technology. The tzibbur should be crying out, 'Help us!'"

"The iPhone and BlackBerry have not only destroyed the kedusha of klal Yisroel," said Rabbi Schorr, "they have destroyed families, and they have destroyed the Shabbos. How can we be mechanech a bochur who has an iPhone full of movies?" he asked. "And it doesn't only touch bochurim. There is no age discrimination; the yetzer hora attacks everyone across the board."

Rabbi Schorr continued by addressing a question that many have been asking. "Some feel that there is no point to begin this milchama, because we can't win anyway." He stated that nonetheless we have an obligation to engage in this battle.

"In Eretz Yisroel," he said, "under the Gerrer Rebbi and other gedolim, there is an embarrassment [to have the Internet and BlackBerrys]. Bnei Torah are embarrassed to walk around with a phone that is not a kosher phone. Why can't this carry over to America?"

Rabbi Schorr urged the klal to create centers that provide computers with filtered Internet for those who need it for work; this way there will no longer be a need for Internet in our homes. The greatest proof that we are ready to join the milchama, he added, is when we do something tangible.

Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon, Mashgiach Ruchani, Beth Medrash Govoha, concluded the plenary session.

"I am very afraid to speak tonight," began the Mashgiach. "If we don't speak strongly enough, people won't accept. If we speak too strongly, it's unacceptable."

The Mashgiach quoted a posuk from the end of Koheles, "Sof davar hakol nishma es Elokim yira; ki ze kol ho'odom." He stressed that we have to be afraid; we have to have Yiras Shomayim, because we will eventually have to give din vecheshbon.

The Mashgiach stated that everything a person does in the privacy of his home — every view, and every screen — will be publicly shown to all. "Are we prepared for that?" he asked. "Nothing is hidden from Hashem, and nothing will be hidden from your friends and family. One wrong press of the button is going to be the greatest shame in your life, a shame that you can't run away from. This Yirah should be sufficient to keep us away from the Internet. Is it worth it?"

There are those who have given up on this battle against technology, said the Mashgiach. "And that is a terrible curse. The worse thing for Klal Yisroel to say is, 'We can't do anything about it, it is too late.'"

The Mashgiach said that we need to engage in a war against destructive, unfiltered, technology. But, he added, "Fight means self- sacrifice. Fight means that we need the courage and strength to sustain losses in order to win the fight. Yes, it may mean that the standards of comfort in our lives will have to drop a little bit. We'll have to forgo certain bargains and deals. We have to weigh the benefits against the losses. That is how a Yid lives." The Mashgiach added that we should have a simcha in this mesiras nefesh, because we are saving ourselves and the future generations.

"I want to mention something which is going to be considered a bit controversial," said the Mashgiach. "The Godol Hador [Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky] gave out a psak: He made a statement that possessing the Internet is yeihoreig ve'al ya'avor." The Mashgiach went on to explain.

"He [Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky] made a comparison: The Chazon Ish said that it is a yeihoreig ve'al ya'avor for girls to join the army, as they are putting themselves into a situation where they will become vulnerable to giluy arayos. A person sitting next to unfiltered Internet is vulnerable to all the aveiros in the world. This wasn't just a loose comparison. This was a deep insight and revelation."

The Mashgiach concluded by saying that technology started out as a temptation, but has grown into an addiction because we have waited too long. Now the challenge is for us to cleanse our hearts to be able to appreciate the simcha shel mitzvah so that Hashem can have simcha from us.

Rabbi Avrohom Lefkowitz, the convention co-chairman, expounded upon the frightening effects of the "Frum blogs". "These blogs," said Rabbi Lefkowitz, "promote rechilus, loshon hora, machlokes, and the worst: devastating destruction of our gedolim. A Washington insider confided to an Orthodox askan: 'You don't know what your blogs are doing to you in Washington. They are destroying the perfect picture of the Jewish community, with the violent responses you write against your leaders.'"

In order to turn the words of the gedolim into practical solutions, Rabbi Yosef Viener, Rov of Congregation Shaar Shomayim in Monsey, and Rabbi Nechemia Gottlieb, director of Technology Awareness Group, addressed a Friday morning session devoted to "Finding Practical Solutions for the Brave New World of Technology."

"The way to win this battle," declared Rabbi Viener, "is not only through his'orerus, but through education. And if one doesn't need the Internet he should get rid of it."

He added that if one feels that he must have the Internet for business, a good filter and an accountability program should be in place. Rabbi Viener said that we should create a peer pressure amongst ourselves, that no one should have unfiltered Internet in their homes. "We have to take care of each other," said Rabbi Viener. "If he is your friend, keep him out of Gehennom."

Rabbi Viener and Rabbi Gottlieb shared heart-rending stories of lives and families that were destroyed by technology. "A bochur can see something on the Internet that can destroy his learning for the next five years," said Rabbi Viener.

Aside from the problem of the Internet attacking the kedusha of Klal Yisroel, added Rabbi Viener, Internet use causes tremendous amounts of wasted time and bitul Torah.

"The key is," he concluded, "that this is not a chumra. The peer pressure should come to a point that someone with unfiltered Internet and phones shouldn't be able to do a shidduch."

Rabbi Gottlieb stated the importance of making kabolos that are sustainable. He stressed how important it is to be aware of the devices that our children's friends have, as this can have an enormous impact on our children. "Children today have too much spending money," he added, "50 dollars is enough for a child to destroy his life."

Rabbi Gottlieb elaborated on the dangers of handheld devices, including smart phones, iPads, and video games. He stressed the need to educate ourselves continuously about the capabilities of the devices that our children use. "We are past the point where we can say, 'Just put on the filter and get on with life.'"

Rabbi Gottlieb shared the phone number of the TAG (Technology Awareness Group) hotline — (267)295-1954 — which answers questions regarding technology, both practical and chinuch related.

Joining our Gedolim in this war against technology is undoubtedly a tremendous challenge. The attendees recognized this challenge; yet were inspired and equipped to follow the Gedolim in their rallying cry of "mi laHashem eilai."


Motzei Shabbos Session Stresses Fidelity To Daas Torah in Response to Contemporary Spiritual Challenges

By Boruch Shubert

An overflow crowd of Torah Jews from diverse backgrounds packed the main ballroom at the Hilton Hotel in East Brunswick, New Jersey, on Motzei Shabbos at the 89th National Convention of Agudath Israel of America, to hear gedolei Torah and communal leaders stress the importance of maintaining fidelity to daas Torah in order for the Orthodox community to successfully withstand the many challenges to ruchniyus emanating from contemporary society. The keynote session of the annual four-day gathering, entitled "Taking Stock at Year 100 — The Timely Message and Timeless Mission of Agudas Yisroel," gave the audience the opportunity to learn about current issues of concern to Torah Jewry and discover how the tzibbur — under the banner of Agudath Israel and its Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah — can properly respond to those issues.


Introductory remarks were offered by Mr. Chaskel Bennett, a member of the organization's Board of Trustees and Chairman of the convention. Mr. Bennett noted that "American Jewry has throughout the decades placed its trust in Agudath Israel and has been amply rewarded."

Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Hayeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha, then delivered a message from the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. Comparing the current 100th anniversary of the Agudah movement to a siyum on a masechta, wherein the one who is celebrating his completion of a portion of Torah learning does not declare that he is "finished," but rather says "hadran alach" — "we will return to you" — Rav Kotler asserted that the completion of 100 years since the founding of Agudath Israel in Europe should be a catalyst for increased Torah- based activism. The Rosh Yeshiva then recalled how his father and predecessor, Rav Shneur Kotler zt"l, had expounded in his last public address (at an Agudath Israel Dinner) that the Ramban explains a posuk in Parshas Re'eh stating "Go after Hashem" to mean that there is a mitzvah to follow daas Torah for one's direction in life, just as the Bnei Yisroel followed the anan, the Divine cloud while traveling in the desert. "Being part of Agudath Israel is like being surrounded by the anan of daas Torah," Rav Kotler avowed.

In this vein, the Rosh Yeshiva recounted how his legendary grandfather, Rav Aharon Kotler zt"l, prepared an entire speech for Rabbi Moshe Sherer z"l, the late President of Agudath Israel, to deliver to a United States government commission that was deliberating whether to approve federal funding of parochial schools. "Although Rabbi Sherer was just one of many speakers," Rav Kotler said, "President Kennedy focused on his words. The result was many years of valuable support for yeshivas," thus demonstrating the beneficial impact of heeding the directives of gedolim.

Rav Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, Rosh Agudath Israel, took note of the unusual amount of tragedies that have befallen the frum community over the past year, and called for everyone to make a cheshbon hanefesh regarding their daily personal behavior. Citing an example of two people sitting in the front seat of a car — one the driver and the other a passenger — the Rebbe said the ultimate question in life is whether the materialistic focus of our body, or the spiritual aspirations of our soul, takes the lead over our actions. "If the neshamah 'drives' the individual, then it will lead him to the derech Hashem," Rav Perlow emphasized. "But if the guf 'drives' the person, he may eventually descend to the depths of depravity."

The Rebbe then pointed out that, while 'it is easy to be a Jew today' due to the widespread accessibility of religious accommodations, "the nisoyon posed by modern technology requires the koach harabim of Agudath Israel" to enable us to contend with such a test.

Speaking in Yiddish, a special guest from Belgium — Rav Aaron Schiff, the recently appointed Rav of Antwerp — referenced the grand Siyum HaShas scheduled to take place in New Jersey next summer. "Agudath Israel is the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshivas Daf Yomi," Rav Schiff declared, going on to praise the organization for being at the forefront of all Torah-related concerns. The Rav then cited a rabbinic teaching that when Avrohom Avinu was cast into a burning oven for refusing to engage in idol worship, he was actually saved by Hashem due to the merit of his grandson Yaakov, who would build a house fortified with Torah. "Agudath Israel similarly built a 'house' of gedolim that has provided Torah leadership for Klal Yisroel," he proclaimed.

Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, son of former Agudath Israel president, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z"l, and a respected mora de'asra in Flatbush, Brooklyn, electrified the crowd by dramatically delineating and decrying the numerous instances of late wherein leading proponents of divergent forms of Orthodoxy have publicly cast aspersions on gedolei Torah and the accepted values of the Torah world. Reading out loud from an article that recently appeared in a major Israeli publication, Rabbi Sherer quoted its writer — an Orthodox author who now considers himself "post-Chareidi" — as shockingly stating that Chareidi roshei yeshiva are guilty of "abuse of rabbinical power." Rabbi Sherer insisted that, in contrast with the American Bill of Rights, constitutional freedoms of press and speech, "The Jewish 'Bill of Rights' is "Anochi Hashem Elokecha." (See also `New Chareidim' and `Post Chareidim' in this issue.)

Rabbi Sherer went on to roundly condemn those private members of the Orthodox community who — under cover of anonymity through Internet comments and phone calls to radio talk shows — routinely criticize the decisions of leading rabbonim. "Our gedolim are not like political candidates who are subject to being bashed by pundits," Rabbi Sherer asserted. "Total subservience to daas Torah is divinely ordained."

Demonstrating that cynicism towards Torah authority is not a new phenomenon, Rabbi Sherer regaled the audience with an incident that his father had related to him when he was a youngster. "My father once visited Rav Aharon Kotler zt"l during the 1950's and tried to show him a newspaper article that opined that 'Agudath Israel is not the same' - - meaning not on the same level of greatness — as in previous years when Rav Chaim Ozer zt"l was leading it," he said. "Rav Aharon became visibly incensed, and he kept saying, 'It is, it is!" Declaring that Agudath Israel continues to maintain its well-respected status in present times, Rabbi Sherer concluded by urging those who are affiliated with the organization to actively involve their children with it from a very young age.

Although he was the evening's final speaker, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel, held the audience's rapt attention with his thoughtful yet passionate comments. Expressing his belief that — just as Agudath Israel is a "hemshech" (continuation) of the ideals of its founders in Katowice in 1912, so too it is incumbent upon today's younger generation to continue the organization's vibrant legacy into the future — Rabbi Zwiebel recounted the decades-old pioneering efforts of a group of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas bochurim, who would befriend Jewish youngsters hanging out in the nearby streets and spend time learning with them in the yeshiva. "When the leader of this group was asked why he bothered to do this, he answered that this act of 'kiruv" was his way of 'taking revenge' for a terrible beating his zeida had suffered from an anti- Semitic Cossack in Europe," Rabbi Zwiebel said. "Yes - every child learning Torah is our act of revenge against those who persecute the Jewish people."

The Agudath Israel leader continued by listing a host of issues that are currently threatening the spiritual and physical well-being of the Torah community, including efforts to legally undermine bris milah and shechitah, society's attempt to redefine marriage, the unjustly lengthy prison sentences of Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, and — as he outlined in full detail by reading a lengthy message from the offending party — the imminent opening of a major missionary center in the heart of Flatbush specifically intended to target frum individuals. "Agudath Israel is our nekamah against all of this," Rabbi Zwiebel affirmed. "Every time we defend authentic Yiddishkeit or accomplish something that helps our community, it's a 'shmeiss', a lash, against the anti-Semites." Rabbi Zwiebel concluded by stating that each person who joins the efforts of Agudath Israel of America is a "mighty warrior entrusted with a sacred task."

The audience was also treated to an informative video presentation highlighting the crucial activities of Agudath Israel of America's latest project, Chayim Aruchim. Through interviews with professionals and lay people, the video depicted how Chayim Aruchim representatives are repeatedly able to use their legal and medical expertise to intervene and prevent the premature termination of life in cases involving Jewish individuals who are critically ill. The video emphasized the vital need for adult members of the Orthodox community to complete an advanced medical directive that can ensure they will receive end-of-life care in accordance with halachic guidelines.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.