On the Manipulation of Rabbis

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank on the Manipulation of Rabbis by Zealots

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (1873-1961), a student of Rabbi Eliezer Gordon and Rabbi Shmuel Salant, was Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. He wrote a letter to Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn about events occurring in Jerusalem in the 1920s. The letter was published in Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn, Malki Ba-Kodesh IV (St. Louis: Moinester Printing Co., 5679 5682), Letter 10 (dated 18 Adar Sheni, 5681, 1921), pp. 43-44 [See Porush, pp. 236-237.]

'As I wind up my letter, I should let his honor know a bit of the affairs of the town [Jerusalem], though it is not my way to write such things, for we could not write enough. However ... directed us to inform his Honor. According to ... his Honor has the ability to correct things. Having heard that it will of benefit, I find myself obligated to uncover the mystery enveloping the conduct of our city.

The Gaon, our Master RAY HaKohen Kook (may he live) was accepted here as Rav by the majority of the Holy Community here. It is well known that the members of Kollel Ungarin are envious of our Russian and Polish brethren. Especially, so that the proceeds earmarked to the Hungarians should increase, it is not good for them that the Chief Rabbi of the Holy City be other than Hungarian. So what did the members of Kollel Ungarin do? A few of them gathered together ... At their head the old lad ... He propagandized to found Vaad Ashkenazi (Ashkenazic Council). Now this old lad is a great expert in arranging elections from all, revealed only to him. The entire electoral process is invisible. It is difficult to describe in writing his diligence in this matter. He puts together a list of a large committee, also a steering committee. On the surface, all is lovely. On the inside, all is rotten, for from the ranks of the Hungarians and Galicians he picks... youngsters and from the other kollelim, when he sees an old man or imbecile who won't understand his tricks, he brings him into the Vaad. So the result of the invisible election is that he is the Secretary and young fellow... the Chairman. They write and sign tens of thousands of letters to America and the entire world in the name of all the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem ... that Rav Hayyim Sonnenfeld is the Rav here, when all see and know that R. Hayyim Sonnenfeld was never, and will not be, the Rav, for he is an old, frail man for whom it is not possible to get involved in the affairs of the town. But this old lad uses him and his name as a pawn to destroy an entire city. He and his gang of empty fellows publicly, brazenly insult the Gaon Kook (may he live). The old lad got together with young writers who frequent the home of the ancient Rav Yishak Yeruham Diskin (may his light shine), for this old man is under the influence of young secretaries... They manipulate him whichever way they please and obtain his signature for all their antics. In my estimation, he is not guilty at all for he cannot see writing, and signing is also difficult for him. The secretaries made for him a stamp of his signature which is an exact replica and they write and sign whatever they please. Woe to a generation whose leaders are such lads, little foxes.

About six weeks ago, I spoke with Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld, and at one point, I asked him if it is right that he signs himself as the Rav of the Ashkenazim in our Holy City... He answered me that the truth is, he himself does not sign so, but they made for him a stamp and wrote this on it.

The Gaon, Our Master RAY Kook (may he live) is the Rav here. All the largest institutions are under his presidency. He is the Rav of the city and carries the burden of the community. They placed new, inexperienced people to carry the load of the community... These sycophants and insolent fellows stroke these old men to their advantage.

I wrote these things hurriedly, without order, as it does not fit my temperament to take care of such things. The upshot is, if his Honor can publicize the truth that the aforementioned elder sages without disparaging them are not communal leaders and one cannot pay attention to their signature. The affairs of the Jerusalem community, general and specific, temporal and spiritual are neither the domain of the elder sages nor their followers, who as a rule are simple folks who have put on a cloak of hypocrisy, announcing that they are zealots of the Lord. They use the names of the elder sages to blind people's eyes, while anyone discerning sees that their aim is not truth. They employ smear sheets to stir up controversy in Israel.

His honor should let me know if any benefit may come of my words, which are but a drop of the sea of what should be known... '

Rabbeinu Tam and the Rosh on the Manipulation of Rabbis

Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller (1579-1654, author of Tosfos Yom Tov and Pilpula Charifta), in his work Ma'adnei Yom Tov on the Rosh (under the Rosh in the standard Vilna Edition of the Talmud), Berachot Chap. 4, Rosh siman 14, ot lamed ( s.v. "Vechol divreihem divrei kabalah veyeish lismoch aleihem"). Rabbi Heller discusses the reliability of the Bahag Sefer Halachos Gedolos.
"All of the words of [Bahag] represent received tradition, and may be relied upon." [The Rosh] wrote thus as well in Chapter Eilu Tereifot siman 18. This applies where there is no contradiction [to Bahag's words] in the [Babylonian] Talmud for in Chapter Rabbi Eliezer Demilah [the Rosh] writes in the name of the the Rif that Bahag's words should not be relied on, for they are in error; and furthermore, in Chapter Eilu Megalchin siman 3 [the Rosh] writes in the name of Rabbeinu Tam that we do not rely upon the words of Bahag, because he was blind, and sometimes his students wrote in his name what he did not instruct [them to] and what never [even] occurred to him [i.e., what he did not believe]. Cf. later in our chapter, siman 20.

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