Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Tammuz 5765 - July 20, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








In the Proximity of Maran R' Yitzchok Zeev of Brisk Ztvk'l

Memoirs of Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz

Chapter Eleven

Who is Wise? One Who Foresees the Future

One of the outstanding features of Maran R' Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik of Brisk ztvk'l was his amazing foresight, his ability to gaze into the future and predict things from where he stood.

Maran himself said to me: "I was blessed with a special power to anticipate developments. When someone buries a seed in the ground I can already see, at the time of planting, the tree that will sprout forth from that seed, with its branches and fruits. And if I feel that these fruits will not be good, I try to uproot the plant before it gets a chance to take root, because extirpating a stout, entrenched tree is a difficult feat, sometimes even impossible."

Maran added that in this aspect, he was different from the Chazon Ish ztvk'l. "My way is to uproot the errant root now, when it is still possible for us to do so with our own hands. I don't wait until it becomes a fait accompli, for perhaps that will too difficult or altogether impossible. The Chazon Ish, however, while capable of looking into the future and seeing a possible danger, maintains that if at the present it does no harm, one need not go all-out against it. When the need arises to rip it up, then it must be done. And the truth is that he is capable of uprooting a mighty tree!"

The facts in this article exemplify Maran's power of foreseeing the future.

The Cancelled Signature of the Chief Rabbi

The following story involves the incident known as Yaldei Teheran:

These were all children who came from upright chareidi families in Poland. They were smuggled out of Europe during the Holocaust and taken to Teheran as a stopover. From there, they were brought to Eretz Yisroel by the department of Youth Immigration (Aliyat Noar) under the Jewish Agency. This story comes to teach us how, in his wise prescience, Maran understood that the so-called rescue effort would eventually bear very bitter fruit.

Upon arrival in Eretz Yisroel most of the children were placed in secular kibbutzim, where they were coerced to abandon all religious practices; they were stripped of all outward signs of religion in a most horrendous manner. They were forced to eat treifos, chometz on Pesach, food on Yom Kippur, and made to transgress all kinds of commandments. This was a literal act of shmad. Anyone who is unfamiliar with this infamous chapter in Zionist history is strongly urged to read The Children of Teheran Accuse, by Rabbi Moshe Sheinfeld zt'l.

This affair raised a tremendous furor in religious circles, and many meetings took place in Maran's house to outline tactics on how to deal with the question and to annul this wicked decree.

In one session, it was decided to appeal to the Jews in the Diaspora and awaken them to the terrible things taking place. Among other things, it was suggested to publicize an issur on contributing money to the United Jewish Appeal, so long as its people persisted in their dastardly program of secularizing the children of Teheran.

One of the rabbis actively involved in this chapter told Maran that Chief Rabbi Herzog, who was of course shocked by the dastardly activities, had openly expressed harsh criticism against the Zionist leadership. He was prepared to sign a public outcry forbidding people to contribute to the UJA. This rabbi argued that the signature of a person of his stature would make a much stronger impression upon the public, which would see that even so-called moderate rabbis signed such a prohibition and not only the more extreme rightists of Torah leadership which were dubbed by many as `fanatics.'

Maran, however, was opposed to this. He explained:

"This would not be advantageous for our cause, nor would it contribute to the image of the Chief Rabbinate either.

"After he signed such a paper, tremendous pressure would be exerted upon him from the Histadrut and the Jewish Agency and all of their Who's Who to retract it. They would argue that he was causing great damage to the settlement of the Land. They might go so far as to express remorse over their activities of shmad and even tell stories of how they had already mended their ways. They would make all kinds of promises for further improvements until he would be forced to rescind his signature from the prohibition. And in that case, the damage that would result would be ever-so-much greater than any of the good that could have come from it."

This was Maran's view but the Chief Rabbi, who was truly pained over this affair, publicly expressed his position in a separate Kol Korei forbidding the public to contribute to the UJA so long as it was persevering in its evil activities.

It did not take much time for Maran to be proven right. He had truly foreseen the developments. The outcome was exactly as he had predicted.

The Zionistic heads, led by Rabbi Fishman-Maimon, head of the Mizrachi, came to the Chief Rabbi and told him `facts' about the many steps that had been take to set things aright. And when he demanded that they make more such moves, they argued that they couldn't improve the whole situation all at once. They begged and pleaded with him to withdraw his signature on the premise that it caused untold harm to the settlement of Eretz Yisroel. To be sure, he capitulated and did remove his signature as requested.

Had the Chief Rabbi not signed to begin with, as Maran had wished, there would have been no damage caused, for then the outcry made by those rabbonim close to Maran would have been effective. But since he signed and then retracted his signature, this was interpreted as proof that the situation had been mended and this naturally undermined the power of the gedolim and their clout.

How Maran Succeeded in his Wisdom to Foil the Scheme of the Attorney General

The libel of "Smuggling Two Million Dollars" took place about two years after I was chosen to serve in the Knesset.

One Friday, a news item appeared in all the dailies headed: "The Attorney-General Filed a Request to Remove the Immunity of a Member of Knesset because of the Smuggling of Two Million Dollars."

When I read this item in the newspaper, I had no inkling that I was the object of the request. A short while later, the Secretary of the Knesset, Mr. Rosetti, called me, informing me that the Attorney General, Mr. Chaim Cohen, had filed a request for the removal of my immunity in order to investigate a financial matter and subsequently, on Monday morning, there would be a hearing in the Knesset Committee regarding his request.

I asked Mr. Rosetti what this was all about. He replied that it was referring to the fact which had been publicized in all the newspapers about the smuggling in of two million dollars. [It will be remembered that at the time, the possession of foreign currency was highly regulated.] Sure enough, right before Shabbos, a special issue of Ma'ariv came out in which MK Shlomo Lorincz was specified by name in connection with that affair.

I had no idea what they were talking about. I racked my brain and couldn't dredge up a thing. I had never had any dealings with illegal foreign funds. I was involved in donations for the Zeirei Agudas Yisroel institutions and with Chinuch Atzmai, but I was always very careful that the money did not pass through my hands. I always asked the donors to transfer the money directly to the bank accounts of those institutions which they wished to support.

In the end, I remembered one particular incident involving a philanthropist who had visited Sdeh Chemed with me and given me a donation for the youth village there. The sum had been two thousand and not two million. He had given me a check for three thousand dollars and asked that the difference be given to a family member of his living in Eretz Yisroel.

I began searching through my papers and found the receipt from Bank Discount certifying the deposit of said check to the amount of three thousand dollars in the Sdeh Chemed Kfar Noar account, and I was at ease.

Press Conference

On Motzei Shabbos, I convened a press conference in my home. I told the reporters that the information publicized on Friday referred to me and that the Knesset secretary had informed me that on Monday I would have to appear before a Knesset committee to answer questions and state my position on the matter. Then I showed them the receipt I had from Bank Discount.

They were shocked. I gave each reporter a special printer's cutout of the receipt. In those days before offset printing, it took time to prepare those printer's woodcuts but in order to make sure that the papers could print them already on Sunday, I had taken the trouble to order them express already on Friday.

The newspapers came out the following day, all of them, without a single exception, in my favor. Even those which had always taken advantage of every single opportunity to strike at the chareidi representatives were on my side this time, including Uri Avneri's Olam Hazeh. Simultaneously, they all lashed out strongly against the Attorney-General for his irresponsibility in being so quick to condemn. It was unfair and improper, they insisted, to demand removal of Knesset immunity without examining the charge beforehand, a charge which had proven to be unfounded.

"Under No Circumstances Must you Agree to Waive Your Immunity"

On Sunday, I went to Maran and told him the whole story. I told him that the only thing that I could possibly conceive of was that check for $3,000, and I showed him the receipt. I also told him that all the newspapers had come out in my support.

Maran asked me: "What do you intend to do tomorrow at the Committee hearing?"

I answered that I would surely agree to the lifting of my immunity so that I could prove my innocence in court in the most convincing manner.

Maran said to me, in a most decisive tone, "I am telling you not to agree to that under any circumstances!"

"Why not?" I asked. "I have nothing to be afraid of, since everything is open and shut, black on white. I have a proper receipt and besides, if I don't agree, they will surely suspect me of having something to hide."

"Let me tell you why you mustn't agree to let them remove your immunity," Maran replied, explaining with profound wisdom. "The Attorney-General knows full well that you are innocent. But he would like to see you outside of the Knesset. You disturb them; you interfere with their plans. Here you are, a young, energetic chareidi representative who is willing to go to battle against anything you feel needs fighting. For them, you are a new face; they are not used to your kind and therefore, they have decided to get rid of you."

"But how can they evict me if I am innocent?" I asked innocently.

"In your naivete, you will agree to have your immunity removed, and the Attorney-General will take you to court. The case will drag on for a year, a year-and-a-half and, during all this time, the newspapers will have a field day, day-in- and-day-out, regarding the accusations filed against you. You forget that soon there will be new elections. They will make sure to extend the case past that time and even your own party will refuse to put you on their list of candidates, claiming that you are in the midst of a trial and it will harm the party. Only after the elections are over will they come round to exonerate you and to ask your forgiveness. And thus, they will have effectively rid themselves of an adversary."

To be sure, I took Maran's advice. He asked, "If so, you agree with me that it is the right thing to do."

I thought it was.

"So what will you tell them at the Committee hearing?"

I thought for a moment, then said, "I will tell the members that I refuse to have my immunity removed because this is a false accusation, a libel, and the very act of going into the accusations against me in court is a blow to my honor. There is no logic and justification for me to agree to it when it is clear to me that I am innocent and that it is all a frame- up."

Maran demurred. "That argument will carry no weight. They will exert such tremendous pressure that you will not be able to stand your ground. All the members of the Committee will tell you that you are right, but they will ask you, nevertheless, to agree to waive your immunity so that they can prove your innocence in public, that is, in court."

I thought about it and came up with a different tack. "I will say that my movement, Agudath Israel, is against my removing my immunity because the court hearings will be bad publicity for them. In this way," I explained, "their pressure will not be directed against me, since I am not the only one involved."

Maran was still dissatisfied and argued, "They will ask the Aguda people to agree to a investigation and, I am telling you, they will not be able to withstand the pressure and will capitulate."

"Alright, as you say. So, please advise me what to do."

"I will tell you what to do. Tell them that you went to ask a godol beYisroel, as you always do. He ruled that you are not allowed to agree to such a thing, for the very act of bringing you to court is an affront to chareidi Jewry." Maran added several other things to say at the committee investigation, of which I will tell later.

I told Maran that I would do as he had advised. He repeated his warning, "Promise me that you will only say what I told you. And when they begin exerting pressure on you, say that you have never before disobeyed a ruling of a Torah leader and you will not begin to do so now, either."

Heavy Pressure to Agree to the Removal of Immunity

The hearing of the Knesset committee took place on Monday, as scheduled. It opened with the chairman giving the attorney- general, Chaim Cohen, the floor so that he could explain why he had requested a removal of my immunity.

To everyone's surprise, Chaim Cohen said, "After I presented my request, I learned that I had made a mistake. The sum of foreign currency which I thought had been illegally exchanged was actually transacted altogether legally and properly, as you and I all learned yesterday from the newspapers. I hereby ask the forgiveness of MK Lorincz.

"But at the same time, I do have a request to make of him: in spite of this all, he should agree to having his immunity removed so that we can clarify the matter in court. Thus, everyone will see that there was no crime committed whatsoever. Since I have already filed charges, I fear that if the Knesset committee decides not to remove his immunity, someone might be led to think that Knesset members are covering up for one another. Lorincz has nothing to be afraid of from this step because I will personally tell the court that it was all my mistake, as I have declared here today."

A strong sense of surprise filled the conference room of the Knesset committee. After the Attorney-General had finished his words, I was asked to state my position.

I did exactly as Maran had directed and said: "I refuse to agree to the unjustified request of the Attorney-General. I see in it a terrible frame-up and I have no need to assist him, even in a small measure, to restore his injured reputation through this grave mistake. Being that you, my fellow Knesset Members, are convinced of my honesty, and as you have already heard from the Attorney-General in person that the accusation was completely false, I hereby ask you to repeal your request to have my immunity removed."

I finished saying my piece and a discussion ensued. I was surprised — but truly, not quite so, after having heard Maran's wise analysis and prediction — to hear the Knesset members appeal to me, one after another, asking me to forego my right of immunity. They presented their request on the grounds that this was the first incident in which a request was made to remove immunity; the Attorney-General's argument made sense in that this would do honor to the Knesset if one of its members voluntarily agreed to it and that it would not have to protect its member who would willingly agree to a public court hearing.

The discussion continued thus in the first round, with the religious MKs participating: MK Yitzhak Refael from the Mafdal; MK Rabbi M. Norok and MK Rabbi Itche Meyer Levin zt'l who, as chairman of Agudath Israel, was invited especially to participate in this committee hearing — all in my support. They were firmly opposed to the idea of my willingly agreeing to rescind my immunity and they protested this very insult to my good name.

The first round was over and several of the committee members asked for a recess for consultation.

Then the second round was launched. All the secular spokesmen reiterated their opinion, asking and pleading that I agree.

And here I was in for an additional surprise: The Mizrachi representatives retracted their original position of support. Apparently, during the recess they had changed their minds and now tried to convince me, saying that there was the honor of the Knesset to uphold. Since I was completely innocent I had nothing to fear, they argued, so why shouldn't I honor the institution of the Attorney-General. The pressure exerted upon me by the Mizrachi people was even heavier than that of the others. Before, they had sided with me and now they were strongly convinced that I should capitulate.

This pressure was very tough and they all wanted to know why I was so adamant in my position.

Go Prove You're Not a Dog

When I was allowed to speak, I said: "I am not prepared to waive my immunity and, as to your question why this is so if we all know that I am 100 percent innocent, let me explain. As a chareidi representative, I do not do anything without asking a rabbinic authority. And this is what I did this time, as well. He not only advised me, but ordered me that under no circumstances must I agree to this request since behind it lies a motive of defaming and demeaning the name of chareidi Jewry by putting it in the defendant's seat for no justification whatsoever. And it is this ruling that I am obligated to honor."

I then told the members of the committee a joke in the name of Maran, which perfectly illustrated why I had to refuse:

It was customary in Russia to go out occasionally and shoot down stray dogs that wandered through the streets and presented a public danger. Whenever such a campaign was taking place, a certain Jew would run home and hide behind barred doors.

"Why are you hiding?" his wife would ask. "The campaign is only against mad dogs. You're not a dog and you're not mad."

And the Jew replied, "When those antisemites see me, a Jew with beard and payos, the first thing they will do is shoot to kill. Go then and convince them that I wasn't a mad dog . . . "

I continued to explain to them Maran's words, that they just want to discredit the chareidi representative and to remove him from the Knesset. They intended to stretch the case on and on until past the next Knesset elections and, even if I was completely innocent, so long as it was not fully proven, the newspapers could say whatever they liked and it would be understandable that my party would refuse to put me up as a candidate for the Knesset again, even if the court exonerated me from all blame. And thus, I would find myself outside the Knesset.

"That is their one and only underlying motive," I said, "and that is why Maran forbade me to agree to waive my parliamentary immunity. He said that he wants me to continue being the representative of chareidi Jewry."

"All of you," I said to the committee, "including the Mizrachi representative, are against me. You have a majority. But I refuse to waive my immunity willingly. Know that I declare that if in the end you vote to remove my immunity, I will fight against your decision in the Knesset plenary session. And if there is a majority against me there too, I will do everything in my power, use every means at my disposal, to rouse public opinion. I will publicize in all the papers and the media the Attorney-General's dastardly scheme and the frame-up which was conspired against me and to which you are accomplices. And if you vote against your consciences and against the truth as you know it in your heart, I am certain that you will be ashamed of yourself and regret having done so."

These acute words caused an uproar in the conference room. The Knesset members were horrified. They had not expected such a sharp reaction from me. And truly, had it not been for Maran's exhortation, I would not have been able to react so vehemently.

At this point, another recess was called.

The third round was opened and to my surprise, the committee almost unanimously rejected the Attorney-General's request.

As soon as the hearing was over, I hurried off to Maran. First of all, I told him that everything happened exactly as he had predicted. Had I said that I was personally opposed to waiving my right of immunity, I know that I would never have been able to withstand the pressure.

Similarly, had I refused on the basis of representing Agudath Israel, as Maran said, I would also not have been able to stand my ground, nor as a party would we have been strong enough to defy the pressure.

I then told Maran that I said what he had told me to say, including the story with the mad dogs, and explicitly declared that I would fight to the end. I followed his instructions to the letter and the result was also as Maran had wanted: the Attorney-General's request had been removed from the agenda.

Why Did They Slander Me?

I had a question for Maran: How did such a stupid notion ever occur to the Attorney-General? The sum on that check was a mere three thousand dollars. How did it ever occur to him to pin on me a libel involving something that never existed and to make it seem as if I had smuggled in money or illegally exchanged it?

Maran thought a moment, then answered, "I will tell you exactly what must have happened. You said that the philanthropist who gave the check asked you to give one thousand dollars to a relative of his. If that is the case, it must have been the relative who contrived the whole frame- up."

"But, why?" I asked. "He should have been grateful. Why should he wish to harm me?"

Maran explained, "That person could not conceive that someone would do a good turn to another without profit or benefit. Perhaps he was jealous. He suspected you of exchanging the money on the black market at a much higher price and taking the difference for yourself. That is why he informed on you to the police or wherever he went. And that is how the story reached the ears of the Attorney-General."

I decided to investigate the matter. It was not easy but in the end, I discovered that Maran was right in this, too. I inquired and asked until it became clear to me that it was, indeed, that relative who had informed on me and asked to ascertain if I had exchanged the check in the bank or not, since he was certain that I hadn't.

Even today, at a distance of such a long time, I stand amazed at the great Torah wisdom and the depth of intuitive intelligence which Maran had. It is astounding to see before my very eyes how much wisdom there was here to grasp the plot in its entirety and to gauge in advance what would be the position of the twenty-one members of the Knesset inquiry committee, and how the Mizrachi representatives would knuckle under. Thank G-d, his wise counsel prevailed.

How true is the teaching, "Who is wise? One who foresees future developments."

A Sharp and Penetrating Analysis

Maran was very opposed to one particular member of Poalei Agudath Israel. Upon one occasion, I asked him why he was so against him. Did he know him so well?

Maran replied, "I read an article he wrote in the Yiddishe Tagblatt and saw there certain improper hashkofos. I was able to determine without doubt from what he wrote and from his style that he was a very adamant, forceful person. This I am able to do without ever having met him in person."

He added, "A person who has a faulty outlook and is, besides, a recalcitrant person, can cause a great deal of damage to the chareidi public. Therefore, I continue to censure him and disqualify him in order to prevent him as best as possible from gaining too much power as a leader and activist in our circles."

Years later, the entire Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah decided to remove this man and his faction from the ranks of Agudath Israel when they stood up and challenged the decision of the Moetzes regarding Sheirut Leumi.

A Wise Man is Preferable to a Prophet

In general, I made it a practice to visit Maran three times a week. One time, when I went to him, I noticed an expression of worry upon his face and asked him the reason for it.

"You see well," he said to me. "I will tell you why I am so anxious. Today is erev Rosh Chodesh. I have never, as yet, been late in paying the stipends of the members of my kollel. Somehow, Heaven always came to my rescue and the money arrived two weeks before the appointed time and I was able to pay on Rosh Chodesh. This is the very first time that on erev Rosh Chodesh I do not have the necessary funds. What shall I do tomorrow?"

I asked him what sum he needed. "One thousand liras," he said.

I asked him to let me give him that sum.

Was I so rich that I could part with such a large sum all at once? he asked me.

I told him that indeed, one thousand liras was a huge sum for me, way beyond my means, but I had no problem with giving him one hundred lira of my own money and raising the remaining nine hundred.

At these words, Maran nodded in agreement. I wrote out a check for one thousand lira and handed it over to him.

I was very happy to be so privileged in being able to remove this nagging worry from his heart. This was a Heaven-sent opportunity, I thought. I decided not to raise the remainder from others but to cover it from my own money by spreading it over a long period of time.

At the end of the year, when I received a statement from the bank, I found that I had a surplus of one thousand lira. I made a detailed reckoning of expenses vs. income and arrived at the same result: a surplus of one thousand lira!

I went to the bank and asked to clarify the source of the surplus. I asked them to show me all the checks that had been cashed from my account [Israeli banks do not provide this service automatically] and discovered that the check I had given Maran for one thousand lira had never been cashed.

I went to him directly and told him the story. Maran opened his drawer, took out the check and said, "Here is your check."

"Why didn't you cash it?" I asked.

Maran asked me in return, "You told me that you could only give one hundred lira and that you would raise the remaining nine hundred. How much did you succeed in raising from other sources?"

I told him the truth: I had not solicited any of that sum.

Maran laughed and said, "I knew that this is what would happen and that is why I never deposited the check. I am unable to accept a donation from you that is beyond your means . . . "


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