by Jonathan Rosenblum
August 7, 1998
Seffi Rachlevsky, self-proclaimed expert in Torah thought, has written a big best-seller. True, The Messiah's Donkey is still unpublished, but few doubt that its hot message will find a large audience.
The buzz is not hard to figure out. Rachlevsky has written nothing less than a Jewish Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Three times in a recent Ha'aretz interview, he charges that virtually all Orthodox Jews are educated from birth in three cardinal principles: Non-Jews are not humans; women are quasi-people and radically inferior; and the blood of secular Jews may be shed with impunity.
I must have missed the initiation ceremony.
Rachlevsky's other findings include: 'The vast majority of religious Israelis are messianic ultra-Orthodox'; 'nearly all the more prominent rabbis in Israel gave the command to carry out the sentence [to assassinate prime minister Yitzhak Rabin]'; Rabbis Yitzhak Kadourie and Mordechai Eliahu view Prime Minister Netanyahu as Mashiach ben Yosef because his name is Binyamin; and Netanyahu and Rabbi Kadourie get together to discuss taking revenge against secular pseudo-Jews.
Refuting such incoherent ranting is like arguing with an asylum inmate.
Rachlevsky wildly lumps together the haredi and national-religious worlds under one rubric: 'ultra-Orthodox messianists.' Though his book purports to be about messianism, he ignores the great historical divide between the two movements over
whether the State of Israel represents the 'first flowering of the redemption.'
Irony of ironies, haredim and national-religious alike are all placed under the banner of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, even though his philosophical works are almost unread in haredi yeshivot.
Rachlevsky 'proves' that 'nearly all' rabbis condoned the Rabin assassination from the fact that they did not don sackcloth and rend their garments. If so, then Shimon Peres did, too. Every wacko statement by one rabbi is immediately extrapolated by
Rachlevsky to mainstream opinion.
For his piece de resistance, Seffi transforms Rabbi Kook, who died in 1935, into a rabid hater of secular Jews, whom he viewed 'as worse than Nazis.' That's right - the same Rabbi Kook viewed by disciples and opponents alike as the great
champion of secular Jews.
In Rabbi Kook's dialectical philosophy, the secular builders of the Land played a necessary role in the redemption.
Their nefesh (soul), in his view, was healthier than that of the haredim, who had not yet heard the bells of redemption. Far from secular Jews becoming expendable at the completion of the process of redemption, Rabbi Kook assumed that with the advent of the messiah Klal Yisrael would be bound together in unity.
Besides conspiracies involving hundreds of thousands of religious Jews,
Rachlevsky's febrile imagination has now detected another conspiracy: His publisher - Yediot Aharonot - is delaying publication of his book because of religious pressure.
Rushing to Rachlevsky's banner, Am Hofshi, an association for freedom from thought, placed ads in Ha'aretz, signed by leading academicians and other members of the local intelligentsia, denouncing censorship and demanding that Yediot issue Rachlevsky's diatribe forthwith.
The Am Hofshi ads are emblematic of much of what is wrong with the intellectual life in this country. Every dispute becomes a matter of the parties involved, not the principles. It was enough for the Am Hofshi signatories to know that Rachlevsky's book attacks the religious population to know that it must be published
immediately. No other information was relevant.
Did it ever occur to the enlightened signatories that there is something inherently ridiculous about the charge that a publisher which daily publishes advertisements for any prostitute willing to pay cash on the barrel had fallen prey to an invasion of
religious body-snatchers on whose behalf it is willing to forgo a financial bonanza?
More importantly, did it occur to these academics that a publisher has the right - even the duty - not to foist demonstrable nonsense on the public and to demand some proof for defamatory allegations published under its banner?
Far from subjecting Rachlevsky to stringent standards, Yediot eagerly entered into a contract for his secular call to arms prior to even reading his manuscript. Later, Yediot capitulated to Seffi's refusal to supply supporting footnotes or other
documentation for his claims.
The nefarious Yediot censor turned out to be Yehuda Meltzer, a card-carrying secular leftist, who has himself published numerous controversial works.
As the editor hired by Yediot for the book, Meltzer's sole request of Seffi was that he document his charge that Rabbi Kook viewed secular Jews as worse than Nazis. This he has failed to do over a period of weeks, even as he had time for numerous
interviews touting his revelations and denouncing the censors.
In a July 17 article in Yediot, Meltzer describes how the original manuscript of The Donkey's Messiah was both unreadable and produced wonderment in all outside readers who looked at it. Yet that did not deter Yediot, which has not forgotten why
it's in business.
In Meltzer's words, 'If it's controversial - great; if that sells a lot of books - also great."
Now let's imagine that instead of Seffi Rachlevsky's wild imprecations against all religious Jews in Israel, a yeshiva bochur, who could quote random passages from Durkheim, Marx and Freud, had produced a work identifying the central tenets of modern Israeli society as: Women are objects of pleasure and religious Jews are
And say further that he 'revealed' that the vast majority of secular Jews condone or are actively plotting sterilization of religious Jews to offset their demographic growth.
Would Am Hofshi be demanding immediate publication of such a work, with or without any supporting documentation? Or would it denounce any publisher who dared to bring forth the book for irresponsible incitement and a lack of all standards?
Want to take bets?
Related Topics: Chareidim and Their Critics
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