Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Iyar 5766 - May 10, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Our Relationship with the Satmar Approach

The passing of the Satmar Rov zt"l is certainly an appropriate occasion for reflection and clarification of our relationship to that large and very successful community.

We are very happy about their success. They are undoubtedly a community that is part of Am Hashem and their growth is an expansion of the precincts of kedushoh in the world. Overwhelmingly, their families remain committed to Torah and avodas Hashem, and their increase has been remarkable.

Reb Yoelish zt"l, author of Vayo'el Moshe, with his powerful abilities, built a holy community in America virtually from scratch after the destruction in Europe. His successor, HaRav Moshe zt"l, oversaw its consolidation and growth. By all estimates the worldwide Satmar community is over 100,000 strong, kein yirbu, with significant communities in Eretz Yisroel, Europe and America, although the largest communities are in America. As we wrote earlier, it was estimated that the Satmar schools in New York are the fourth-largest school system in the state, only smaller than the public school systems of New York City, Buffalo and Rochester! Some media reports focused on the money of the community, but to our thinking their children are a far greater and more important resource.

Today, Satmar's reputation is of a community that is an important center of Torah, chessed, yiras Shomayim, and strict preservation of all the letter and spirit of the lifestyle of their forefathers, rooted in the Hungarian communities of prewar Europe. As the Steipler wrote in Karainoh De'Igarto (p. 339): "The reason that the Hungarian communities were more successful in Torah and shemiras haTorah than other communities is that they separated themselves from those who do evil and who cause others to turn to bad ways, as is well known."

After the heretics and inciters associated with the Zionist movement managed to take control of many affairs of Klal Yisroel in the world, differences in approach among the gedolim developed in how to fight against those who wanted to undermine the traditional values of Klal Yisroel, and how to survive in the face of the serious threat they presented of destroying all traces of kedushoh in the world. In our opinion this is a machlokes lesheim Shomayim — a difference of opinion both sides of which have full intention to fulfill the will of Heaven — whose destiny is to persist.

The approach of the Satmar community under the leadership of its rabbonim has been different — in practice and tactical theory — from the approach taken by our rabbonim zichronom livrochoh and shlita.

Yet it was always clear that this difference in approach does not express any difference in analysis of the reality and in evaluation of the substance of the situation. We are united in our determined and uncompromising struggle against the nationalist circles, the secular Zionists and other compromising circles that are drawn after them. We both see the situation in the same way, but we differ in what to do about it.

This has been reflected in the way gedolei Yisroel spoke about each other. For example, when HaRav Schneur Kotler zt"l was niftar, the Satmar Rov HaRav Moshe zt"l said that HaRav Schneur was the same as his father, and he specifically mentioned the Chazal that his uncle the Vayo'el Moshe had applied to HaRav Aharon in his hesped of R' Aharon: "The Torah tells us that the praise of Aharon was that he did not stray [from the Divine commandment]."

And we also recall what Maran HaRav Shach said at the passing of the Vayo'el Moshe, when he mentioned that the strong position taken by the Admor zt"l was essential for the entire generation. He said that when there is a strong opponent, it influences even those who do not stand with him, and without that strong stand it becomes that much harder to swim against the mighty opposing flow.

The Torah-true camp can encompass diversity within the acknowledged boundaries. There is a real and actualized possibility of following different streams, under the guidance of gedolei Yisroel. Opposition may be strong and clear, but so may the recognition that both are "the living words of G-d."

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