About a hundred years ago, when Agudas Yisroel was first being formed as an organization, many of the Gedolim of the time chose to join. Included in this group was non other than the Gadol Hador, the Chofetz Chaim. Along with the Chofetz Chaim were many other Gedolim who recognized what Klal Yisroel could accomplish if we would put all our forces together in a unified, cohesive fashion.
However, one gadol of note who opted not to join was HaRav Chaim Halevi Soloveitchik zt”l, fondly known to most of us as Rav Chaim Brisker.
Why did he choose not to join such a unique, rare, and positive force?
Here is what he said:
There’s no question that when we put our forces together, we can accomplish tremendous amounts. However, there is an inherent danger of formally establishing an organization or institution. Once something is institutionalized, it becomes an entity of its own. Any entity, by definition, needs to do things to maintain its existence. This very notion of the need to embark on a process to self-persevere may one day take on a life of its own, which may at one point deviate from the Torah.
Thus, while the efforts of such an organization may be quite noble, altruism alone will not suffice to guarantee that said entity cannot become corrupted and veer from its core beliefs, which is the Torah itself.
Rav Chaim said this a hundred years ago, and in his sheer brilliance and astuteness was able to see things that many others could not.
But that was then…
Agudas Yisroel is currently running a fundraiser. Below is the video which they released:
The subliminal message of the video is: You cannot serve Hashem without Agudas Yisroel. We do everything for you. We enable you to serve Hashem. Serving Hashem and serving Agudas Yisroel are one and the same, and are thus inseparable. If you serve Hashem without Agudas Yisroel, you aren’t truly serving Hashem.
But isn’t this message precisely what Rav Chaim feared?
Agudas Yisroel gets millions of dollars from government grants each year. There’s no question that these funds have had an indelible positive affect on our Yeshiva system. These actions are highly effective and noble. But at what cost? Have we created an exchange or substitution that just doesn’t justify itself in the eyes of Hashem and His Torah?
What would the Chofetz Chaim and all the other Gedolim who joined the original Agudas Yisroel say today, knowing that the institution is financially beholden to the government which causes systemic conflicts of interest? What would the Chofetz Chaim say today knowing that the Agudah is deliberately sidestepping their own Rabbonim such as Rav Kotler and Rav Kamenetsky simply because they disagree with regards to how to address a public health issue such as COVID-19, all while pretending that it’s not even happening?