Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Giving Opportunity I Declined

Yesterday, sitting in my office, my cellphone rang.
"Rabbi Spolter? (in Hebrew) My name is (don't remember his first name) Teichtal, and I'm the grandson of Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal (the author of Eim Habanim Semeichah). I understand that you give a shiur on my grandfather's book. Do you have time to speak?"
I had a few minutes, and knew exactly what he wanted - which is money. Truth is, we'd had this conversation before. After a few minutes of casual conversation, he came to it. Could I help him by giving him a list of people in Detroit to solicit for his kollel in memory of his grandfather?
Truth is, we had had this conversation before, when I was still a rabbi in Michigan. So I asked him exactly the same question I had asked about five years ago: "Tell me, do the members of your kollel study your grandfather's book?"
He hemmed. He hawed. He mumbled something about how he had skimmed the book himself, but the bottom line was no, they didn't study the book.
Sorry, I told him. If you truly read the book, you'd know that he didn't write the book for me. He wrote the book for you. And your refusal to study his most important work - which he wrote and the very end of his life - is a rather strong rebuttal of his teachings, if you ask me. My connection to Rav Teichtal stems directly from his passion for Eretz Yisrael, so I have no interest in a kollel that utterly rejects one of his last, and most passionate loves.
He tried to argue, telling me that his aunt just wanted a kollel learning in his memory. They wanted to stay out of politics, so they shied away from anything controversial. I wasn't (and am not) buying it. Ignoring Rav Teichtal's great love for the Land of Israel is, in and of itself, a political statement. Pretending that you can memorialize a person by rejecting core elements of his theology is without a doubt political, and as much as I want to identify with and memorialize Rav Teichtal, I'll do that by teaching his Torah, and not by sending money to a kollel that happens to have his name on a sign over the door.
So, if you live in Michigan and get a call asking for money for a Rav Teichtal Kollel, you can rest assured that they didn't get your name from me.