Op-Ed: Gabbaim Wars

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yweThe headlines describing the rifts between two major Gedolim in the aftermath of this past election have shocked the Torah world, both in Eretz Yisroel as well as in America.

They shouldn’t.

The reason why we should not be shocked is because this dispute is not really between the Gedolim, it is between gabbaim – the men that ostensibly speakand issue statements for our Gedolim. And it is high time that we no longer remain silent about the enormous scandal that is happening in regard to some of the people that surround our Gedolei Torah.

The problem, of course, has been known for years, and has been whispered among Gedolei HaPoskim and Morei Horaah themselves. However, collectively we have all sat on our hands and have allowed this to continue.

Rabbosai, there is corruption in our midst and the time has arrived that we put a stop to it, because now, it has led to remarkable Chilul Shaim Shamayim.

A philanthropist in Flatbush has been donating a large sum of money each month to one of the Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel so that he could personally distribute it to needy Avreichim. He was assured by the Gabbai-Gatekeeper that the Tzedakah would be personally handled by the Gadol himself. Recently, the philanthropist had occasion to meet with the Gadol, and ask him about the families who were receiving the money from him. The Gadol answered, “Funds? What funds?”

It seems that the Gabbai-gatekeeper had been pocketing the funds and did not tell the Rav about it at all. This story, unfortunately, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many of the Gabbaim, or gatekeepers, for a nice donation to their Amutah (a tax-deductible organization) will allow access and rulings to the petitioner.

This op-ed is not an attack on Emunas Chachomim chalila or upon Gedolei Yisroel, Chalila. But Emunas Chachomim does not mean that we have to keep quiet about a problem that is now causing chilul Hashem upon Chilul hashem. The problem of corrupt gatekeepers is not limited to us – it has plagued various societies for thousands of years.

The gatekeepers quickly usher in the wealthy to see the Rav. They receive ample consideration for the special treatment they offer. Those who do not have such funds are kept waiting, sometimes for many hours at a time. The gatekeeper/gabbai explains that it is an atonement for sin to wait patiently for a Gadol BaTorah to become available.

So what happened here exactly? What caused these horrifying headlines pitting Gadol against Gadol and demanding fealty from one and all?

It is a manifestation of the last, desperate death throes of a gatekeeper who may lose his monopoly over access to his particular Gadol. Until now, this gatekeeper/Gabbai wielded extraordinary power. The wealthy and well-connected extended honor not just to the Gadol, but to him as well.

Overcome with an inflated and illusory perception of their own importance and convinced of their own rectitude and decency, these people have invented quotes in the name of the Gadol in order to be assured of their continued hegemony.

So what can be done? How can we ensure that Kal Yisroel be rid of this horrifying aspect of our culture that causes such destruction?

The first step that must be done is that across the board, people must stop giving donations and or tips or presents to the Gabbaim of the Gedolim. Give these much needed funds to a Yeshiva instead or any other worthy Tzedaka, where you know that the money gets to where it is intended.

The second step is that if anyone has had experience with this notion of “Gabbai Abuse” the information should be forwarded to the Gadol at once, and not through a letter or through the gatekeeper who will stop the transfer of this information. It should be done with intelligence and thought.

Finally, the third step is the need for powerful and well-connected people who have an open communication with the Gedolim on an individual level to take it upon themselves to inform the Gadol of what is transpiring around him. Often this can be a very difficult task, particularly when the gatekeeper is a member of the gadol’s own family. It is difficult, yet necessary.

This rift between two of our greatest Gedolim sends tremors throughout the Torah world. It was a rift clearly caused by the jealousy of Gabbaim. This author has it on good authority that the main Gadol involved who ostensibly issued the ultimatum, never said such a thing. All who know him realize that this quote is tremendously out-of-character.

Is there hope? Will these problems ultimately be resolved? We can perhaps take solace in a fascinating Kli Yakar on the first verse in the sixth chapter of the book of Shmos. He writes that the darkest period always precedes the dawn of first light.

May Hashem help us all from the hands of such people, and may we see only geulah and yeshuah bimheirah b’yameinu.

Gershon Leiderman

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. Way to say a lot and not actually say anything. I read this whole long rant and still have no idea what most of it is talking about, so what exactly was the point?

    It does sound like the author was insulted by a gabbai or something, and is using this “op-ed” to strike back…Kind if childish…

  2. Whilst the point being raised is a fair one (i.e. that some of the gabboim are looking out for themselves, and that one should donate DIRECTLY to the institution), this CLEARLY isnt a case of that.

    This is about one Gadol (rightly or wrongly) breaking away from a group to start a new group, and harming the old group in the process.

    Please dont lie and say R’ Auerbach has nothing to do with this new party, he walked into the voting station together with Chaim Epstein, his candidate for mayor. The one who it was known would not win, yet stated in the race to take votes away from Leon, allowing Barkat to win and get Epstein a high position.

  3. The same is true for everyone who just trusts everything on YWN such a article and many such others should have the name of a reliable gadol that it’s coming from them and than still there’s no way to know for sure that it’s not just the opinion of the editors of YWN this probably will not be posted but it’s not meant to be a personal attack on YWN

  4. welcome to the generation of corruption & dishonesty. the situation has gotten to the point that you really cannot trust anyone anymore-even your own family sibling R”L-& thats the saddest part about it. with the generation of corruption were in today, were almost holding by another massive mabul i.e. worldwide tragedy R”L TO DESTROY THE WORLD. its only starting now by obamacare & bringing the USA into destruction like many other countries from greece to japan etc…

    Bottom line: the choice is ours just how bad the situation will get & how tragic it will be R”L

    its still not to late for everyone-myself included-to start doing teshuva together as a nation & beg Hashem forgiveness for the corrupt generation were involved in.

  5. I don’t know who Gershon Leiderman is, but I thank him profusely! I *thought* exactly everything he said for a very long time. And in general about virtually ALL conflicts supposedly between gedolim. But I never had any proof or even hearsay on it. It was always just a strong sense.

  6. Stop kidding yourself and thinking small of our leaders. Of course a Gabbai has the power to add a twist, as it’s only natural, just as it is with every leader in the world, but it’s the leader’s choice who and how much to trust, and the MAIN responsibility lies with the undersigned.

  7. JayMatt19 #2: You can say the same regarding Degel’s break-off “(rightly or wrongly)” from Agudas Yisroel, where it as the new party hurt the old existing party.

  8. I don’t know how much of what Mr. Leiderman says, if anything, is true and I suspect most other readers don’t either. However, my understanding of halacha is that we are not allowed to believe it but just to suspect that there might be truth in it and take appropriate steps to protect ourselves and the public, without letting ourselves to think any less of anyone involved.

  9. My general rule of thumb – anytime I see the word “Askan” in an article or advertisement, I run the other way. For exactly the reasons above!