The Story of Rabbi Snuffy: Observations on Religiosity

Rabbi Ari Montanari,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Rabbi Ari Montanari
Rabbi Ari Montanari discusses issues between religious politics, and faiths in defense of Judaism. He is a student of Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim and holds ecclesiastical endorsement and semicha as a civil and military Orthodox Jewish lay leader. Ari, is active in the research of Jewish historical sites in Europe. He is also a Jewish War Veteran. His webportal is: www.lionsden.info/ari and http://www.yps.college...

My experiences in religious Judaism have been overly positive. I have always expected religious Jews to be upright and loyal to Torah. Yet, I quickly found out that people are just people. Let me tell you about Rabbi Snuffy. Once upon a time there was Rabbi Snuffy. A tall bearded rabbi who made his mark in a small community. I expected Rabbi Snuffy as all religious Jews to hold a standard of Torah, which creates a more G-dly Jew. Pride, religiosity, pious and Bertha-better-than-you attitudes have no place in religious Judaism, especially in the rabbinute. I’m not as fazed by how holy or religious a Jew can appear. I once was this way in thinking to aspire to such G-dliness by “looking” religious. Again, quickly realizing that the “look” is just the click or the custom we identify with rather than any attributes to holiness per se. Yet, I come across those who use such tactics to create their own worlds and become the “leader” of their pack by being all things to unlearned Jews. Sadly, as much as I love the great kiruv and efforts of place, many of these rabbinical leaders that are doing the good work often are creating their own mini kingdoms. Maybe some may accuse me of lashon hara but my experiences and observations are just that, experiences and observations.

Recently, I had the experience of observing Rabbi Snuffy at his local place that advertises itself as a “Jewish Community Center”. I now believe that this key red flag I missed along the way and was a big fail on my part. It isn’t propagating a Jewish Shul but rather a center for the community. With the emphasis on community it attracts all Jews, which in itself is great. But, the basis of any Jewish community was always the Torah and the synagogue. One would think as a Jewish community grows over time and years, Jews would spiritually develop and synagogues, plural, would also be instituted.

What I witnessed with Rabbi Snuffy was troublesome and was a double standard between the rabbi’s life and how he guided his congregants. It took me awhile to figure out that Rabbi Snuffy lived a typical Torah observant lifestyle and managed this well from his home and his everyday activities. But, after being in the his town, his congregants were not developed nearly in this same manner. Here is a minor example of numerous examples I compiled of what I am referring to. Rabbi Snuffy told me one day he isn’t focused on davening and doesn’t teach i, at least I never saw any teaching. This is primarily because he would rather have Jews attend a kiddish and “fellowship” with peer Jews in community rather than make them “feel” uncomfortable or unqualified because they may be unlearned, or imposed by teaching, guiding or having them become “religious” or observant. After all it is hard to teach a old dog new tricks right? This is evident by the population disparity during the Shabbos davening and kiddish when the JFK’s arrive.  Instead of making things unfriendly to learn, he should assign people to help guide people to learn. The folks hardly could daven and use a siddur. What is the point here? Compromising your Torah for “community” results in minor mitzvah’s and confusing Jews about what is expected of them as a Jew. If we want a community we send Jews to the Federation for all the holiday and culture events they want. But, if we want to restore Yiddishkite to lost Jews and create a Torah observant individual, then we must invest correctly into people. Maybe religious Jews are not their goal after all. But, after witnessing extreme compromising with religious events I was able to see how compromise can destroy the image of a rabbi. This is not uniting the community. This essentially kills off the Jewish faith. He doesn't tell them what is appropriate and what is borderline and what is not appropriate. Though he would argue that nothing violates halacha and maybe so but it certainly doesn't leave a good impression and in that there is halacha we could argue. The typical understand of Rabbi Snuffy's place is that he upholds a chumra of religious observance, the spiritual values he is bound to. And he himself may do just that. But in the community center, what I saw was as “reform” as one could compromise to be. It was a distortion of religiosity that was more interested in the “business” of religion and not in bring Yiddishkite to lost Jews as per the instructions in the Torah.

When I asked the typical questions from my learning yeshivish and religious background, I was marked as combative, confrontational and divisive by Rabbi Snuffy. This is the pride that tears at the lack of unity in Judaism and is no wonder why Moshiach hasn’t arrived.

To me it is not an excuse to claim that lost Jews cannot be revived to Torah. How many Baal Tshuva Jews are building religious Judaism today? Funding and filling minyans around the world? Returning to Torah is the greatest of the greatest mitzvah’s one can be proud to be a part of. A shul that does not daven or shows tshuva growth is one that is just a community center, not a religious synagogue as I have quickly learned. Also, you need to take a stand, even on politics and Torah. If you do not teach Jews, especially those who have no Jewish bearing, they will not understand why and will remain liberal Jews and it means the death of Judaism. See I don’t fear neither monetary loss nor any hatred. I do not care if people do not like me personally. I try to take a stand for Torah, as I understand it. And if the Jews I influence around me do not change and move towards Torah Judaism, then I am not producing the heart of HaShem. I am often straightforward to a fault, but I refuse to let lost Jews wander any more than they have and I refuse to confuse them further by not being straight and sc‎ripturally direct. Meaning, this is what the Torah says you must do.

The story of Rabbi Snuffy is not typical we hope, but in this case we hope all rabbis will see that true tshuvah requires full yiddishkite commitment to the Torah of Hashem and zero compromise.

Taken from Chapter 13 of "The Road Less Traveled" by Rabbi Montanari