Monday, April 8, 2019

Two Sides of the "The Case of the 50 Expelled Bochurim"

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for
There is a story on all the blogs that has many in the Torah world up in arms.  A Mesivta, somewhere in Lakewood, has allegedly thrown out fifty bochurim for having left the Yeshiva to attend the Skulener Rebbe’s levaya in Brooklyn this past Wednesday.  The Yeshiva’s decision has received condemnation from nearly every circle.
The point of this article is to clarify and remove some of the misinformation that is out there.  Hopefully, this will lead to greater Kiddush Hashem and not Chillul Hashem.
  • This Yeshiva is unique in that they have a policy of strict learning. They do not have any Bain haZmanim.  The Zman continues until the day before Pesach.
  • The Yeshiva is very “old school” and will be very strict if rules are not kept.
  • The Yeshiva is open about its strict policies of expulsion if the rules are not adhered to.
  • The Rosh Yeshiva is not by any means, anti-Chasidish. He himself has a chassidish background.  He was also a Talmid of Rav Paller, Rav Beryl Soloveitchik, and Rav Aharon Kotler.
  • The Rosh Yeshiva himself was very close to the Skulener Rebbe zt”l.
  • The Rosh Yeshiva himself fasted taanaisim when he heard that the Skulener Rebbe was ill.
  • The Rosh Yeshiva spoke on Tuesday night about his Rebbe, Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l’s position of not attending a levaya if it is out of town. He cited a Yerushalmi (Psachim 3:7) that the parameters of being mevatel Talmud Torah and going to a levaya (See Kesuvos 17a) are only if it is in town.
  • When Rav Elya Svei zt”l passed away, the Rosh Yeshiva forbade the high school bochurim from attending the levaya when it was out of town.
The Rosh Yeshiva has expelled students in the past for similar infractions.  Some have been allowed back in after they had learned their lesson.  Others were to find other Yeshivos.
There are efforts being made by Gedolei Torah to reach out to the Rosh Yeshiva to allow the Talmidim back in.  The Rosh Yeshiva had already stated that anyone that had davened and fasted for the Skulener Rebbe to have a refuah shleimah should come.
The author can be  reached at


Rabbi Hoffman:
I appreciate your effort to try to calm down the situation. However if your intention is to help get the Chilul Hashem reduced, I believe you would be more successful if you write the other side of the story as well and then conclude that it was an unfortunate misunderstanding with no real bad intent from either side. So let me fill you in on the parts that you omitted, perhaps intentionally.
1) By Reb Shmuel Birnbaum ZT”L’s Levaya that was NOT in town, the Yeshiva officially attended the Levaya and they even provided buses. Therefore it was NOT clear that the Yeshiva’s policy is to apply the Psak of Reb Aron across the board. When this was conveyed to the Choshuve Rosh Yeshiva he said he didn’t recall that the Yeshiva went, although all the boys and the Rabbaim do remember. Obviously at his advanced age he is excused for not remembering, but it doesn’t chance the facts.

2) Being that the Rosh Yeshiva didn’t clearly state that whoever goes will be expelled or otherwise punished, which is the usual wording used, the Bochurim interpreted it that he wanted to give over his position that holds the Bochurim should not go and the Yeshiva will not officially attend, but he cannot Assur any individual from attending. When this was explained to the Rosh Yeshiva, he said the parents should’ve called him to ask permission and he would’ve evaluated it on a case by case basis. Practically speaking that was not feasible. The Rosh Yeshiva to my knowledge doesn’t own a cell phone, nor does he even have a click on his home phone, so it would be impossible for 70 parents to get through between 10 pm and 12 pm. I would assume everyone agrees that it would be disrespectful to call a Rosh Yeshiva after 12.

3) Most of the boys went with permission from their parents, many of which are serious Bnei Torah and Rabbonim. So obviously these adults made a judgment call in favor of attending. These parents “were/are” familiar with this particular Yeshiva and the Rosh Yeshiva and despite that they didn’t think they were doing something wrong. I respectfully cannot understand why you would think that so many parents Bnei Torah “got it wrong”. And even if you would say they despite the incredible odds of 70 to 1 they were still wrong, at least it shows that it wasn’t clear cut and there was room for error. What ever happened to being Dan L’Kaf Zechus ?

4) After everything is said and done, what Chinuch lesson are the boys to learn from this for their life ? Apparently the Rosh Yeshiva holds that being under the spell of his authority under all circumstances even when its questionable is such an important lesson, even more important than showing humbleness and ability to compromise and forgive.

5) Unfortunately this fiasco likely caused some of these boys, their parents and many others in the Yeshiva world to lose respect for a real Tzaddik and very Ehriche person, their esteemed Rosh Yeshiva Shlita.
Hopefully there can be an exit strategy for the mess and the Rosh Yeshiva’s dignity can be restored. You appear to be a smart Rabbi and maybe you can come up with the solution. 

But in summary I believe the way out is not to pick sides, but rather to convey to the world that an unfortunate misunderstanding occurred [on both sides] and hopefully the Rosh Yeshiva can accept that as well and just move on after Pesach with an hischadshus. 

By him taking apart each boy and admitting first those who davened for the Rebbe and so forth, he is just keeping the issue alive way longer than it should. 

Hopefully he can show true Torah values to being able to forgive and move on and K’Vod Shomayim will be restored.

Dear Rabbi Hoffman, no matter how much you try to defend this RY and melamed zechus on him and his decisions, the damage was done, and the true colors of the yeshiva and it’s leader was shown by the yeshiva itself to the public by publicly expelling 50 of it’s bochurim (so no lashon harah here, it’s something they publicly did, and in their eyes they were right). It’s nice to be melamed zechus, but personally I feel you missed the boat here, your points of clarifications about what the yeshiva is and how strict their rules are, who the RY is and who his rebbeim were and how close he was with the Skulner Rebbe and how many times he fasted, or whether it’s a matter of halacha if they should have went or not, within the city or not, all these thing are all irrelevant!! What’s clear is the yeshiva and the RY and his policies and rules show it’s all just about him and his rules and how to enforce them, it’s not about the bochurim and their needs and what’s important to them. I don’t care who he is or who his rabbies were, I don’t care how many hours he learns, it’s not just about learning 24/7/365, it’s about the right chinuch too, if he thinks it’s the right chinuch to play god all day and okay to toy with people’s children because of his extreme rules and punishments and can decide when to throw them out on the street because they didn’t listen to him then he is not a real true mechanech and should step down of his high horse. Once upon a time when the Jewish nation had it’s glory or Torah a true Rosh Yeshiva was considered second to Hashem, את ה’ אלקיך תירא לרבות תלמידי חכמים, a real rebbe was considered like an angel of Hashem אם דומה הרב למלאך ה’ צבאות יבקשו תורה מפיהו, חגיגה טו ע”ב. a true rebbe treated his students mamash like his own children, כל המלמד בן חבירו תורה כאילו ילדו. Is there any rebbi or rosh yeshiva today who can say that about themselves?? How you expect your students to treat you like god or like an angel or even like a father if you don’t act like one? If this RY’s own child didn’t obey his rules at home or did something he was told not to do, would he throw him out of his home on the street for good because he broke the rules at home? of course not. their own children they can’t control, but they have the right to decide when and how to control intimidate and punish other people’s children at free will no questions asked, because when it comes to other people’s children they become god over night and every thing they say is so called “daas torah”, god forbid do otherwise than they declare on you otherwise you will be treated like garbage thrown on the street. that’s exactly what happened here and it’s far far far away from the true derech hatorah how to teach and mechanech. Unfortunately schools and yeshivos today are not there for the kids and their true growth, they are there for nothing but themselves, their control, their kovod, their name and prestige and of course living off mosdos money where the big chunk of it goes to the ones on the top and their families. Every year new yeshivos and mesivtos open up by the dozen, every joe shmoe who learned in kollel for five years and decides to open a yeshiva can do it at free will, he turns from a pashut kollel guy to god overnight, set his own rules and do whatever he likes with other people’s kids. it’s a shame. if people had some common sense they would put an end to all this kovod grabbing and work on forming a parents body and a committee for every school and yeshiva to make final and important decisions, after all the students are our children, we pay tuition, it’s time for the parents to set the rules straight.


Anonymous said...

What do you expect from a litvak (if he has chasidish background it's even worse שנה ופירש the biggest misnagdim descend from chasidim...)
You know the saying "every litvak has a tzelem in heart" all they can think of is how to increase their own כבוד התוירה with every מסכת they learn the become a bigger בעל גאוה
Never ever does it occur to them what would be the רצון השם in this scenario.
Sorry for the bluntness the truth hurts

Anonymous said...

For the record I spoke to someone who was in the Yeshiva by R Shmuel Birenbaum's levaya. The busses were not arranged by the Rosh Yeshiva or with his permission he was very upset about it. When the Rosh Yeshiva's father in law was nifter who was a well known & respected gadol, the Levaya was in Lakewood only 10 minute walk from the Yeshiva & the Rosh Yeshiva only allowed the talmidim to go for an hour bein hasdorim

Anonymous said...

I agree with Pilpel, but I don't think I read the word Chesed once. PS you can always learn that Gemorah later but you only get one chance to go to a Levaya. I can't imagine what they would do to a Bochur who went to the movies with a girl.