Topic:Jewish Studies/Eliashiv discussion
Criticism of Rabbi Elyashiv
What Rabbi Elyashiv rules is not synonymous with how Jews should behave, even though so many Jews seem to think it is. The leader may interpret the law, but the law still governs the leader and places limits on his authority. Chapter 12 of the book of Melachim Aleph (1 Kings) in the Tanakh criticizes leaders who are too restrictive of their people. King Rehoboam is told to "lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke which your father laid on us." He responds by saying, "My father imposed a heavy yoke on you, and I will add to your yoke." This seems to be Rabbi Elyashiv's approach to Judaism. While R. Elyashiv has imposed many stringencies, such as the ban on sheitels from India and the ban on the use of a Sabbath elevator, he has contributed few leniencies. In Rehoboam's time, most of the Israelite tribes ran off in revulsion from Rehoboam and joined forces with the idolatrous King Jeroboam. These people became the Ten Lost Tribes. This is like what is happening in Judaism today, when so many Jews are assimilating themselves out of a dialogue such as this. These people find the Haredi or Orthodox interpretations of the commandments too burdensome for them, and are alienating themselves from the whole of Judaism. Today, one of the greatest threats to the continuity of the Jewish people is that so many modern Jews are living as Gentiles, marrying Gentiles and raising their children non-Jewish. However, a basic premise of Rabbinical Judaism and Devarim (Deuteronomy) is that Jewish precepts are not too difficult. Perhaps fewer Jews would be strangers if Rabbi Elyashiv, in the spirit of Rav Kook, embraced other Jewish movements for what they were and what they could accomplish rather than criticizing them for what they are not going to be and trying to discredit their conversions. The secular and religious, after all, are in the same world together. Islam believes there is no fundamental distinction between the two. However, Rabbi Elyashiv is cutting off so many people simply because their involvement in derech eretz means that they will read the Torah according to one of the other 69 interpretations besides his. If every Jew is like a letter in the Torah, I am concerned that R. Elyashiv is erasing whole passages from our book. May Rabbi Elyashiv live to a hundred and twenty, but I hope he does not spend another 20 years thinking up new ways to restrict Jewish life.