Interlude – On Spirituality outside Halacha 2
I had not intended to discuss any further the strange and confusing ideas of Chaim Clorfene, but due to a number of discussions I have had, and also a second article of his which appears to state more openly his theories, I felt that it was needed, especially since a number of very sincere people I have been having dialogues with have been taken in by some of his distortions of fact. Most of the comments I have seen appear in this article and so I will address them:
Not everything he says there is totally false. Some of his ideas have sources, but there is much that is a problematic. He has written a third article (https://www.chaimclorfene.com/new-blog/2017/11/2/my-last-word-on-the-matter-of-ger) which somewhat clarifies some things, but still leaves some issues in confusion and unanswered.
By his mixing good and bad interpretation of sources he is able to convince people that he knows what he is talking about; and that it is true, new and profound and they should make life changing decisions based on it. Let me go through some of the main ideas and distinguish what is true/false/confused.
First he says:
Exile and Redemption (Galut and Geulah) are opposites
That is not totally true, it is a bit more complicated. While the definition of each seems to preclude the other that is not the truth. Geulah is a process. It is not totally one or the other (until the final Geulah occurs.) This is a part of his creation of false dichotomies which Noahides are very comfortable with from their Christian backgrounds, but which is unknown to Judaism.
For example there is a Midrash that says that Moshiach was born on the day the Temple was destroyed. The commentators say that means that in the very depths of Galus, the Geulah can be found. The beginning of Galus starts the revelation and unfolding of Geulah.
In Kol HaTor the Gra is quoted as having a similar idea, seeing the Geulah as part of a process that occurs during Galus. (I believe this is what the late Rebbe of Lubavitch ZT’L meant when he said we are living in the times of Geulah. There will be a time before Moshiach comes when it will be possible tangibly to actually feel that it is coming, much like the sands going out of the top of an hour glass. Not everyone can see or feel it. He said that because he had felt it. Even though Moshiach could be days or weeks or months or years or even decades away from actually coming.)
We have left the 2600 year era of Galut and have entered the “new heavens and new earth” of Geulah.
This is false on two accounts: 1. Galus started less than 2000 years ago when the Temple was destroyed. No source in Niglah or Nistor (revealed or hidden) says different. As long as the Temple stood Galus had not started. (If you are saying it starts when Jewish autonomy ended, then that is 2200 years ago with the end of the Choshminoim Dynasty. 2. We are FACTUALLY still in Galus. There is no Temple, nor an autonomous Davidic Kingdom. Saying we are not doesn’t change it to fact. There are certain things that need to happen for us to say that Galus has ended and the Geulah Shelamah (complete redemption) has occurred. If he thinks that it is the case I need only ask him who is the Moshiach living amongst us today and ruling in Jerusalem on his throne?
Ger is a prime factor in Geulah.
Ger did not exist in Galut.
It is not surprising that Clorfene does not attempt to bring sources or proofs of these statements for the simple reason that they do not exist. From the Talmud and in niglah and nistor, Geulah depends on tshuvah. His non-Jewish ‘Ger’ theory has no place except in the imagination, as opposed to the importance of the ‘ger tzaedik’ to Geulah, which is well documented in Niglah and Nistar.. And if his ‘Ger’ exists today, it exists in Galus.
These four points add up to the need to surrender one’s will to G-d in order to be worthy of Geulah.
I fail to see anything from what he said, even were it true, that leads to the conclusion he asserts.
However what he says about surrendering our will to G-d is true. That is in fact what our purpose is. The Holy Rebbe of Tzanz said that ‘a person should have no will for anything but to do the will of HaShem.’ (Sounds better in Yiddish J ) That clearly applies to everyone, even the Noahide. As Rebbe Mechele Zlotchover, one of the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov taught it is the ‘I’ that separates us from HaShem.
And one must be willing to love his brother in order to surrender to G-d. Loving one’s brother means getting Ger.
Here he is confusing the issues again. Because the Holy Zohar says: ‘Israel, the Torah and the Holy One Blessed is He are one’, we have been taught in Chassidus that one can see the amount of love a person has for HaShem by his love for his fellow Jew. All he does here is create a new mitzvah (Baal Toseif) and tries to make that the foundation of Judaism and Geulah.
After this Chaim floats some ideas which are erroneous and unfounded and have more in common with new age ideas than Torah:
But in Galut we are stripped of our ability to love. The Jew in exile lacks the ability to love a goy. And the Christian in (spiritual) exile lacks the ability to love himself. I won’t mention Islam or any of the eastern religions because love does not seem to be a factor in them, although the Church of Hinduism talks about it a lot.
Of course we can love even in the Galus, and so can non-Jews. No support in Torah literature exists for what he says, just an assertion. As to relationships with non-Jews, this is also false. Many Jews have warm relations with Noahides. This is clearly the case with many of those Rabbis and groups that he considers ‘anti-Ger’.
Then he says:
In Galut, G-d conceals Himself. In Geulah, G-d is revealed. This is why exile and redemption are opposites.
This sounds good but in fact it is not quite true. The Baal Shem Tov taught that when we are aware of the concealment, then that concealment disappears, and HaShem is no longer hidden. (If something is hidden under a pillow, and you know it, than it is not really hidden.) This occurs at any time and any place, even in the Galus. G-d is unchanging and hence whatever hiddenness there is exists from us and not Him. All this is known from Kabbalah and Chassidus.
The Baal Shem Tov brings a parable about a King who promised his daughter to anyone who could enter his palace. This palace was surrounded by 7 large walls. When the prince got through them all he turned around and saw that, in fact, they were not walls but mirrors that only made them appear as walls. The king was never concealed in the first place.
In Galut, it is as if there is no G-d. Hence, of necessity, religion is born, rabbinic Judaism in this case. All religions are the Church. They are all obsessed with ruling over others, not for the Name of G-d, but so that their will should prevail. Judaism, the best of religions, was born in Babylon in order to preserve the Jewish people in a world where G-d is concealed. The only way to do this was to take away the Jew’s free will. Otherwise, all the Jews except for the Levites would have run to avodah zara and the pit of destruction. Therefore, taking away Jewish free will was correct in Galut.
Here Chaim starts off with a serious distortion of what our rabbis teach and from that ends up attacking Judaism and Jews, and stating totally confusing things. It is taught in the Talmud with reference to the special place the Land of Israel has for the Jewish people and HaShem; ‘he who lives outside of the Land of Israel is as if he had no god; he who lives in the Land of Israel is as if he had a god.’ This is based on the verse which tells us that the eyes of HaShem are on the land of Israel from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. This has nothing to do with the ideas Chaim is trying to proclaim, and does not depend on Galus or Geulah.
He then goes on to attack Judaism, and in so doing makes a number of false statements. Rabbinic Judaism actually started in Judea, and not Babylonia. The Mishnah was from Israel, and many of the Rabbis of the Talmud were also, as is known to anyone who has learned Talmud. Judaism and the Torah are not to ‘preserve’ the Jewish people, although it has certainly helped do that, it is HaShem’s will for us. No more and no less. To think otherwise places you outside of the 4 amos of halacha and would be considered heretical by most religious Jews. The same Talmud that tells us about the ‘ox that gores’ tells us ‘these are those that have no place in the world to come.’
The rest is just incorrect. Jews have free will, and to think that we would worship idols if we didn’t is just not true. I take it he is trying to allude to the Talmud where we are told that HaShem nullified the Yetzer HaRah for idol worship, but not that we have no Yetzer HaRah anymore.
As to his remark about Judaism in the next article on his blog he seems to back off a bit from that negative assessment, but it is still a mass of confusion. I guess my problem is this: Does he believe that Halacha and Judaism are separated from truth, and Torah? Is there any other certain expression of G-d’s will for us outside of Halacha and Torah? If not from the Rabbis, scholars of Torah, how do you know what the Halacha is? Does he deny the Oral Law and it’s primacy?
While I am commenting on his last blog post I need to correct something for those reading who do not know the Orthodox Jewish world. First I have met Rov Ahron in the past before he died. He never was Brisker Rov. The Brisker Rov lives in Jerusalem and runs the Brisker Yeshiva there. However Rov Aharon was a descendant of the Rabbis of Brisk and he had a yeshiva called Brisk, and he also gave a shiur at YU.
As for Brisk, the Rabbis of Brisk were heads of yeshivas and NOT poskim. The Brisker ‘derech’ which Rov Ahron followed was a method of learning Talmud, and it was the method of learning Talmud taught in Brisker Yeshivos. It had nothing to do with deciding what the Halacha is. There is a BIG difference between a Rosh Yeshiva and a Posik.
As to the question he posed, it is simple that unintentional sin applies to a non-Jew raised in an idol worshipping house. That appears apparent from the Rambam. (I wonder how the Ger people feel about what Chaim said here? There is such an uproar about shituff, but outright idol worship is OK???) In any case, this is no chiddush to anyone who has learned Rambam and other sources on the 7 Laws.
As to his further discussion there about mercy, I wonder if he really knows what that means. Is it more merciful to warn someone when they are doing something that places them under a Divine death sentence, or is better to let them fall under Divine wrath when you could have warned them? The Torah would say the former, and that is why there is a mitzvah of warning people when they are doing something that is wrong. Then he says there:
Rav Ahron Soloveichik’s view of the law concerning an unknowing idolater is consistent with his view that there is a Ger Toshav today, thus permitting every righteous Gentile to observe the holy Sabbath.
This is absurd. Shituff is not consistent with Ger Toshiv, but idolatry is?
Back to the blog article I was talking about previously, he goes on to say:
A couple of weeks ago, a blogger attacked me (Chaim) for saying that in Geulah, rabbis will no longer teach us. G-d Himself will teach us.
I think he would find it interesting that I agree with him on this. There are a number of verses in Nach and Midrashim to back it up. However it is a subject of disagreement in the Talmud, and the Rambam explicitly would disagree. I can only say on that, I hope the two of us will be there to see which view is the correct one.
However I would NEVER casually and openly discount a view said by the Rambam in the way he has. The Rambam (and Shmuel in the Talmud which is the source) are far above either of us in knowledge of these things. Judaism teaches us respect for men like them.
The rest of the blog article just continues with his new age interpretations of Judaism.
What I would like to see, is a clear definition of what ‘Ger’ means without the new age blabber of meaningless phrases which at appear times to be self-contradictory. Many non-Jews may not know but what distinguishes the mysticism of Judaism and Kabbalah is that it is a ‘rational’ mysticism.
Before finishing this David Katz posted a blog article (https://nonohide.blogspot.co.il/2017/11/team-katz-n-clorefene.html?m=1) partly about his relationship to Chaim Clorfene and partly an attack on me personally. (I wonder if he found out I was a Levite it would have made a difference?)
I found it interesting and informative. However while I could spend a lot of time countering what was said, that is not my purpose in these articles. My purpose is to examine what texts actually say, and what is and is not within the limits of what is Toras Emes.
I need only make one comment that is that whether one is an amateur or professional has nothing to do with the title one takes (that’s Christianity), whether one knows how much milk needs to fall into a pot to render it forbidden, or how many years one learns how; It is whether or not the person knows the material and what the texts actually say. This is my primary problem with Katz. It has nothing to do with him as a person. It is not that we always disagree in our conclusions from the texts; but that from his explanations of texts it is clear he does not know the material.
I will bring a simple example, and just leave the full proof of this claim to the later articles where I will discuss those sources he claims prove his ideas.
Recently on FB I had a discussion with one of his people about the definition of Ger Toshav as it appears in the Talmud (AZ 64b). I mentioned that there are three views, but one is rejected outright in halachic sources. This fellow went back to Katz and asked him about what I said and he responded that none of the views was ever rejected. I will discuss this passage in the Talmud at length in another article.
However the third view of ‘others’ is ignored in Halacha. I would not expect Katz to be familiar with the responsa of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in HaPardes in 1985 (this was a responsa to support his view of spreading the 7 laws). There the late Rebbe brings this gemara and he excludes the third view. But if Katz was serious in knowing how we look at this from a halachic viewpoint he would have known that the Rosh excludes it. The Rosh is one of the pillars of the Halacha in Shulchan Aruch and particularly for Ashkenazim.
I could go on about all the halachic sources that mention the view of the Chochamim, which is how we rule on this, and occasionally that of Rabbi Meir (first view) but exclude that of the third view. One need only look at note 17 in the Artscroll Talmud to see that.
I will not belabor this point at this time as I will have an article on what a Ger Toshav is and whether it applies today and to what extent. My point is that one’s ability to learn and on what level is to be seen from one thing only: Does the person show he actually knows the relevant texts needed to understand the Halacha or not. I contend that this example is not the exception with regards to issues involving non-Jews, but it is indicative of his lack of knowledge of the sources.
Next up is a discussion of Shituff (barring some response that will require me to respond.)