Monday, January 05, 2009

Rav Kanievsky vs. The Melitzer Rebbe: Flee Ashdod?

Should religious people flee Ashdod and Ashkelon because of the sakanah?

This was what was attributed to Rav Kanievsky a little while back. See here, and the following translation from Dreaming of Moshiach.
A group of highly respected Torah scholars from Ashdod approched Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita last night and asked him for advice whether they should stay or leave the city. The Gaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita told them, "It is best to leave the city for a few days."

The group immediately returned to Ashdod, told others the reply they received from Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita and are hurriedly packing up to leave the city of Ashdod. Also the Belzer and Gerrer yeshivot in Ashdod are temporarily closed.
The rest of her post is nonsense, and this attributed statement might not actually be accurate. We all know how people misattribute statements to Rav Kanievsky.

But anyway, Rabbi Lazer Brody did not take kindly to this. He does not name names, but he does say he would consider it slander if they actually did say it. And implies that these rabbonim, and their followers, lack true emunah and don't deserve the land of Israel:

We are receiving many phone calls from people asking us to verify the hearsay of certain rabbinical figures that are allegedly calling for their followers to leave Ashdod. We certainly don't want to be guilty of slandering any rabbis, but in response, here is a statement of the Melitzer Rebbe Shlit'a, who is now in Ashdod, praying and learning Torah as he always does. The Melitzer Rebbe told me, with full permission to publish: "People can stay put in Ashdod. (Then said jokingly, with a big smile,) I have the key to Ashdod in my pocket; I will be the last one to leave this city. Anyone who remains here and learns Torah will be safe!"

The Melitzer is a true tzaddik with true emuna.

Now is the test of emuna. The Gemara tells us that anyone who isn't willing to sacrifice for the Holy Land of Israel doesn't deserve it.

Hopefully there will be no casualties to people learning Torah or people not learning Torah. And I do not know whether something said "jokingly" can be taken as a real guarantee that nothing will happen. Meanwhile, Rav Kanievsky, if he did pasken this, know that he does not know what will happen, but does know that there is sakanah, and is paskening appropriately for his followers. And if you have emunah (that you will not be harmed), then that is not being willing to sacrifice for the Holy Land, because you don't believe you will be sacrificing. And if you knew you would indeed be sacrificing your own life and/or the life of your child to make a political point (if their physical presence does not really add to the security, as they are civilians and not soldiers), that is not emunah and is not a sacrifice Hashem wants. It is, IMHO, a perversion of Judaism. If you don't know, but are willing to take the risk, and risk the lives of your wife and children, that might be a personal call. But I would consider it slander to impugn any Gadol, or his followers who follow him and ask for his advice, just realizing that this is a significant thing to weigh and that halacha might have something to say about it.

I would add that Rabbi Lazer Brody lives in Ashdod {now corrected from my error of saying Ashkelon}, and is staying there himself.

In terms of the practical advice, we have other news articles about this.

Thus, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman appears to have made a distinction between being there already and returning, and between yeshiva bachurim on the one hand, and kollel members (who are after all being paid for their learning -- perhaps this is a consideration?).

This distinction between being there and traveling there appears borne out in what Rav Kanievsky purportedly said here, in an article about Yeshivot relocating:
Maran Rav Chaim Kanievsky was asked if people are compelled to leave the south due to the danger. The Rav responded that one must do as one sees fit but those who are not in the south should not travel to the danger zone.
He seems to be staying out of paskening whether the people in the area are chayav to leave (because of a Torah commandment to guard your life), but to go into a makom sakana is another issue.

Here, meanwhile, is an excellent article in Vos iz Neias about the decisions being made by various yeshivot and various Rabbonim, including Rav Elyashiv, and dangerous it is in each place. Read it all.

They can learn in other locations, and provide this zechut. And it is indeed a balance, aside from the obvious pikuach nefesh angle. Can you learn as well in exile? Can you learn as well in fear of missiles?

Meanwhile, bluke asks whether the fleeing undermines various claims that learning affords protection. Also linked to, and asked, at DovBear.

Update: As R' Akiva of Mystical Paths writes in a comment on this post, neither the Melitzer Rebbe nor R' Lazer Brody live in buildings with bomb shelters, so they are choosing to stay in Ashdod without a bomb shelter. At Geulah Perspectives is a post saying that someone in Ashdod, at night, does not bother to run to the bomb shelter, but just rolls over and goes back to sleep, because of his emunah. This seems to me like it might be assur; and the implication seems to be that in the daytime, he would bother to run to the bomb shelter.

Also, see at Geulah Perpectives that Rav Kanievsky said to someone that there is no danger in staying in Ashdod. Though that seems at odds with other advice he has given, so it is possible that one should take it with a grain of salt, or else be careful not to extrapolate. E.g. it may matter where in Ashdod, as discussed above, and at the above links.

Update: In his latest, he says that it is not a bomb shelter, but his home is on the ground floor, under thick concrete.


yaak said...


See mark 31:23 of Rabbi Reisman's video that I just linked to for another reason to stay put.
Of course, every situation is different, and the fifth helek of Shulhan Aruch should be applied.

(I believe Rabbi Brody lives in Ashdod - not Ashkelon)

joshwaxman said...

thanks. yes, that was a typo on my part.

Akiva said...

Let me add a piece of info - Rabbi Brody and the Melitzer Rebbe, shlita, both live in older buildings that do NOT have an in-home bunker. Meaning the 35 second warning they receive is not enough to get to a bunker - so they are not only choosing to stay there, they are staying outside of bunkers.

(They do move behind several inner walls away from windows when an alarm goes off.)

joshwaxman said...

the story strikes me as simply reinterpreting his previous remarks so as not to admit that in this particular situation, he was wrong. otherwise, he should have been up front that this was what he meant by shteiging. But an interesting reason to stay put.

wow. though I am not in their place to make such a determination, that makes me think that this course of action is foolhardy, rather than something which should be praised and elevated as "Emunah."
I am certain Eliyahu Hanavi has emunah as well, yet he told Rabbi Yossi (Berachot 3a, here in the Rif) not to pray in a ruin. And a brayta there gives three reasons, one of which is lest it fall on him.

And similarly, we would not say that his prayers would be elevated, such that he should enter into a makom mesukan, as per the reason given in the video.


Akiva said...

Well, I did say they moved into a safer situation (per Homefront orders - be in the safest spot in your home -

R. Brody specifically mentioned that he had moved his bedroom to the other side of the house (which might explain the 'they don't run to shelters at night' as they're already in a somewhat safer sleeping configuration).


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