The Silver Lining of the Rubashkin Saga


rubashkin1By Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie

The tragedy that has been unfolding in America with the Rubashkin family has touched the hearts of Jews worldwide. Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, renowned for his acts of chesed, is in a battle for his life. A consortium of government officials, labor unions, and groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), spurred on by sympathetic forces in the news media, have focused their prosecutorial zeal on a man who made mistakes, but who in no way deserves a life sentence, or even twenty-five years in prison (which is a lifetime for a man in his early fifties). There may have been illegalities committed in the operations of Agriprocessors, the firm Reb Sholom managed, but it is clear that the prosecution has crossed all boundaries, raising serious concerns even in the American legal community. Six former Attorneys General of the United States signed a letter that was sent to the sentencing judge, Linda Reade, calling for a lighter sentence that is more in keeping with the offenses for which Mr. Rubashkin was convicted.

In the midst of this heartbreak, a silver lining has emerged. The Rubashkin story has galvanized Jewish leaders and laymen from across the broad spectrum of the Torah world. Groups that often do not cooperate, and live in separate but parallel worlds, have found common purpose.

Who in the past could have imagined a kinus tefillah and hisorerus in Lakewood, New Jersey, on behalf of a Lubavitcher chassid, attended by the roshei hayeshivah, with the participation of thousands of Torah yungeleit, and that the video of that kinus would be viewed by thousands of chassidim?

Who could have imagined a kol korei signed by roshei yeshivos, chassidishe rebbes, poskim, and congregational rabbis representing disparate segments of the Torah world? Who could have imagined Satmar chassidim calling up their Lubavitch counterparts and asking for updates, because the Satmar Rebbe is concerned and wants to be kept informed? Who would have imagined a meeting in the conference room of a chassidishe yeshivah, whose rebbe participated along with representatives of Agudath Israel of America, Young Israel, the OU, Chabad, with additional organizations and individuals on the conference line? Who could have imagined an online petition, signed by tens of thousands of Jews, from all walks of life? Who could have imagined newspaper editorials in Jewish newspapers, from secular to yeshivish and

chassidish, in English and Yiddish, calling upon Jews to daven for a Jew, to sign a petition, or to write a letter to the Justice Department? Who could have imagined a video demanding fairness for Reb Sholom Mordechai e-mailed to 120,000 Jews in just one week? Who could have imagined? But it happened!

And allow us to add, who could have imagined an editor of a yeshivish chareidi weekly newspaper taking a lead public role in support of Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin? Or that this editor and Reb Shalom Mordechai would form a deep friendship, nurtured by a nightly chavrusa in the sefer Chovos HaLevavos over the telephone?

Or that the editor would dedicate stories and ads, week after week in support of the Rubashkin family? Who could have imagined? But Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, editor of Yated Ne’eman, is that editor, and he has done so much more. All segments of the Torah world have found a common cause.

Each brings different strengths and abilities to the table. Communities and individuals, standing shoulder to shoulder, have joined forces in a monumental effort to champion the freedom of a chassid in Iowa. Years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked a profound question about the plague that took the lives of the students of Rabbi Akiva: “What does the Gemara mean when it says lo nahagu kavod zeh bazeh – they did not treat each other with respect? These were the students of Rabbi Akiva, whose central principle, klal gadol, was ahavas Yisrael!” The Rebbe explained that the students had walked down varied paths in their avodas Hashem. One emphasized ahavas Hashem, the love of G-d; the second, yirah, the fear of Hashem; the third, limud haTorah, etc. The Rebbe answered that “their mistake was that they were so focused on their own approach that they could not see the value in the others’ approaches.” This perhaps was true in the past and, sadly, we see this all too often even today. We tend to see each other through our own prism. We may be so fixated on our own perspective that we fail to see the validity of another approach. The Chofetz Chaim ztz”l often said that Klal Yisrael is like the armed forces of a country. Just like the totality of those armed forces is made up of an army, air force, navy, artillery, and intelligence and support services, so too is Klal Yisrael made up of those that focus on Torah, tefillah, kiruv, etc. By combining the different methods utilized in each of these areas, we can be mekadesh sheim Shamayim, and together, bring the ultimate Geulah.

From across the spectrum of Torah Jewry, and even beyond, we have reached out to each other to work together, to stand up against this terrible injustice. We have discovered in the process that much more unites us than separates us. May it be the will of the Ribono shel Olam that this injustice that has brought us closer together, as organizations and individuals, will be the catalyst for a change that will benefit the Klal, and this unity should be a zchus, a merit, for our dear friend and chaver, Reb Sholom Mordechai ben Aharon and Rivka Rubashkin.

 {Originally published in Mishpacha Magazine}

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  1. It may be worthwhile to point out that there is indeed a remez to the fact that Reb Sholom has become the unifying factor of Klall Yisroel:
    The roshei Teivos of SHolom Mordechai Ben Rivka are be’gematria YISROEL (im ha’kollel).
    May we be zoche to kabollas haTorah ke’ish echad be’lev echad and to see a great yeshua for Reb sholom and all of Klall Yisroel bimhera.Amen.

  2. In my opinion this a direct extension of his commitment to Achdus in the community of Postville. In that Zchus he has become a catalyst of national Achdus.

    May both of those Zchusim protect him and may we all rejoice *together* in his Geulah Protis and IYH in our Geulah Klolis

  3. It is sad that it took this to bring these parties to the table. I think it says far worse things for our community, that it can’t stand together on good things like eretz yisrael or harbatzas hatorah, and it takes this to bring the community together.

  4. its certainly beautiful to such achdus between chassidim and litvaks, and all yidden. it really reminds me of postville, where we all davened in one shul, no matter what or who we were. (the shul’s name is achdus yisrael.) May our achdus bring the geula ho’amitis vehashlaima immediately!