Monday, December 21, 2009

Via Spokeman R. Malkiel Kotler Recants: Modern Orthodox Jews Aren't Connected with Esev

Last week: Several blogs report that Malkiel Kotler, the most famous of the four Lakewood/BMG Rosh Yeshivas, made a public speech in which he associated Modern Orthodoxy with Esav, and heretical sects like the Saduccess and Karaites
In case you're dumb, or not paying attention, let me reiterate: A Lakewood/BMG Rosh Yeshiva allegedly lumped tens of thousands of Torah observant Jew with Esav/Rome/Christianity etc. This is akin to saying that MO Jews are out of the family, an errant weed, no longer Jews in good-standing. By any measure, it's a pretty damn evil thing to do. Its also the sort of thing rabbinic leaders have, in the past done from time to time, and the sort of thing the blogs screamed about. Only no one from the establishment ever deigned to notice, until...

Two days ago: Reb Malkiel's brother Aharon, namesake of the founder and a principle in the family business (though not quite holy enough to be a styled a full Rosh Yeshiva) distributed a mass email to friends and funders. SEE UPDATE BELOW (Aside: Yes, it was an *email*, as in a message sent via the chazer treif pusul Internet which no one in Lakewood is supposed to touch.) Without knowing what R. Malkiel actually said (no transcripts exist) its hard to categorize his brother's statement. We can't know if R' Aharon is honestly trying to set the record straight, or spinning ala, "When the president said all women are morons, and belong barefoot and pregnant, what he really meant was blah blah blah wonderful people, some of his best friends, etc., his own mother was a woman, and so on and so forth." 

In either case, I think it's clear we've entered a new era when the Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood sends out a PR flack to respond to negative blog reporting. SEE UPDATE BELOW

UPDATE: Don't call it a mass email: My original source has gotten back in touch with me to clarify: "As far as I know, it was an email to one guy." Of course, it may have been sent to several people, and its possible to set up a mass email so that only one name appears in the "To" field, but I take the point, and wish to emphasize the following: I do not know who was intended to be the recipient of this message, nor do I know how many people received it. This may not have been a response to negative blog reporting. 

The full text of the email is provided after the jump.
Sent: 12/18/2009 12:24:14 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Rav Malkiel

Rav Malkiel did say a vort (not his own vort, but from Chazal) on  the parsha as follows: The Sar of Esav constantly changes colors and  nature (which is why he told Yaakov Avinu that his name is irrelevant). In each generation the Sar changes his methods and  efforts. Regardless of the manifestation, the Sar has one common  denominator in each generation; to seek out and conquer the weaker segments of Klal Yisroel (this is the concept of the Gid Hanashe).

Rav Malkiel added to the vort that our only protection against Esav's  efforts is to build our lives in a way that revolves around Hashem's  greatest gift to us - the Torah, and to ensure that our days are filled with devotion to Hashem (Yaakov Ish Tam, steeped in  Torah). Rav Malkiel expressed concern for all Jews (Chareidi and non alike) whose daily lives are not filled with real devotion to Hashem and Torah as being particularly vulnerable to the changing  tactics of the Sar of Esav.He said that "solutions for Jewish continuity" based on an gameplan of analyzing what Esav will do to us are destined to fail - as Esav changes his tactics in every  generation. The only gameplan is avodas Hashem and Torah.

He formally and specifically disavows any implication whatsoever that associates any branch or segment of Orthodox Jewry with Esav.

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