Why I find it hard to mourn for Rav Shmuel Auerbach z”l, even though he was a great scholar

When any human being passes away, it’s sad. When a great scholar like Rav Shmuel Auerbach passes away it’s even sadder, as the Torah he dedicated his life to mastering leaves the world too. Ha’Rav Auerbach was a great sage who dedicated his life to learning and teaching Torah. Indeed, on the dedication I featured yesterday written by Rav Yoni Rosensweig on the IsraelB online community I run, I highlighted Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s greatness in learning.

When the son of a previous Gadol Hador, the son of the Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, passes away there is an added dimension of grief, as the Torah he grew up with also departs this world.

From listening to the radio and the hespedim yesterday whilst I was working, it was also obvious that he cared for others – orphans, widows and those unable to defend themselves. Certainly from how they described him on an individual level, Rav Shmuel Auerbach had a side of righteousness to him and dedicated considerable time and energy to relieving others from their pain, anguish and loneliness.

But, those of us who live in Yerushalayim know that there was another side to Rav Auerbach – The politics and his views about the State of Israel. After Rav Elyashiv died, the camp split into two: Ha’Rav Steinman led the moderates who by in large supposed at least in theory the institutions of the State and national service in some type of form and Ha’Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s camp which was more extreme and militant against the state.

Rav Auerbach led the, ‘Peleg Yerushalyimi’ sect who were responsible for violence and public unrest, creating considerable disturbance and chilul hashem.  Indeed pictures of the, ‘Peleg Yerushalmi’ sect beating up and spitting on Israeli soldiers and stopping ambulances with their sirens on, even reached the New York Times.

His views about the State, the army etc were extreme and created a considerable amount of tension and upset in Israeli society, resulting in even more polarization and antagonism. Even in the hespedim yesterday about Rav Shmuel Auerbach, they spoke about how he supported yeshiva students going to prison, rather than enlisting to go to the army.

Due to his extreme views, Rav Auerbach was alienated within the mainstream Charedi sector – Being criticized and opposed by their main leaders, including Rav Steinman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Edelstein and the others. We see that he was a lonely figure in the Charedi sector, by the relatively subdued response to his death.

I see a sense tragedy in this – Not by the way his extreme views were opposed. Obviously, I also totally agree that due to his views he should have been ostracized. The tragedy is that he was the son of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who was known for his love and tolerance for all Jews and support for the the army, the State and its institutions.

When Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Wosner and Rav Steinman passed away, even though on a personal level I had no connection with them or their communities,I did feel a sense of loss in an indirect way.

For some reason, despite Rav Shmuel Auerbach being the son of the Gadol Hador of the previous generation, Ha’Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and an outstanding scholar, I just didn’t feel that same sense of loss, due to his political views and approach to our State.

I hope that the next generation of our Torah leaders in Israel, particularly in the Charedi community, follow the path of Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s father, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as the Torah’s ways are supposed to those of love,peace and harmony.

We must stamp out the extremism and fundamentalism here in order for the State of Israel to be the country it deserves to be and can become with the right leaders and role models.

About the Author
Benjy Singer works in social media, content writing and editing. He runs a popular online community, IsraelB.org, which is a very useful resource, especially for Olim. A graduate of the LSE, UCL and Yeshivat Har Etzion, Benjy enjoys writing, teaching and connecting people.
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