Rough and unedited translation of their letter:
To the esteemed Rabbis, judging the arbitration proceedings regarding the Crown Heights Jewish Community, Rabbis; Avraham Boruch Rosenberg, Moishe Havlin, Yosef Hecht, Boruch Boaz Yurkowitz, Binyamin Kuperman.
We are responding to a recently publicized letter that was signed by Rabbi Rosenberg “in the name of the Beth Din”, without identifying the supporting members of the “Beth Din”, we are therefore addressing this letter to each and every member of this Beth Din.
We must preface and emphasize, that one shouldn’t imply from this letter that we accept your authority to judge in these matters, [as we already wrote you in the past the reasons why we feel that many of the issues that you address in your ruling are completely out of the range of the deliberations that took place in front of your court] – nevertheless, since your letter was publicized, we feel obligated as it is our duty to alert you to some of the issues in your letter that we feel are in error, and are full of contradictions, etc., as we will explain forthwith.
Before we address the core issue of your letter, we find your attitude in this letter very strange. You have taken an approach which doesn’t address the subject matter in a transparent way which will be understood by the community and lay to rest all the doubts, but rather you chose an approach of “revealing one bit and concealing two bits”.
This approach repeats itself time and again as you broach the issues that need to be addressed, and instead of clarifying you write: “this matter doesn’t need to be addressed”, or you write, that: “for various reasons we chose not to relate to this matter”, and in some instances you mention certain issues and documents, and you write that you won’t publicize these items or documents, “because Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun Shlita prefers that they not be publicized”!
It would seem that an issue that affects a very large and very important community, on a matter that the Rabbis have been deliberating for four months – would result in some semblance of serious consideration for the needs of the community, so that your ruling should be listened to by the public, and not to take an attitude of withholding very basic and important information from the community.
And now to the issues at hand.
a. In your letter you address many complaints and challenges to the election or Rabbi Braun – but you conveniently ignore one basic argument that was presented to you, and this is the issue of the lack of “Shimush” to the Rabbinate of Rabbi Braun. As we wrote you in our previous letter, there is “it is clear from what we heard from the community of Sydney, that this candidate had no Shimush and no experience in any field of Rabbonus in the Sydney community (i.e. judging on Dinei Torah’s, Kashrus, Mikve, Gittin & Kidushin, etc.), and that he served only as a spiritual leader (a mashpia, teacher, lecturer and orator, etc.). So how can one suggest that we take such a person, from such a small community, one who has no experience in the Rabbinate, and hire him as a Rav anywhere, let alone to appoint as a Rav in such an important community as ours?!”
And it must be emphasized, that the Rebbe’s opinion is clear, that the issue of “Shimush” for the Rabbinate is most fundamental in the qualifications for a candidate to have, if he wants to serve as a Rav of a Jewish community, as the Rebbe clearly said on Shabbos Mishpatim 5747 (in connection with the Rabbinate in Crown Heights!):
“It is so essential to have Shimush Chachamim – as the Gemara states (Sota, 22, a): “even if one has studied, and is well versed (in Torah and Halacha), but he didn’t practice Shimush in front of Talmidei Chachamim, he is an An Haaretz!
“Meaning, “Shimush of Talmidei Chachamim” is not just another advanced level in the Rabbinate, i.e. that there are various levels in the Rabbinate, one who has Smicha just for Issur v’Heter, “Yore Yore”, and then there is one who has an additional Smicha of “Yodin Yodin”, and above him is the one who also has “Shimush of Talmidei Chachamim”, (such is not the case) – rather, if one has no Shimush in front of Talmidei Chachamim he is not a Rav, but he is an Am Haaretz!
And in spite of the Rebbes clearly stated opinion on the necessity of Shimush (as a pre-condition to qualify as a Rav), you chose to completely ignore the challenge on the issue of the lack of Shimush (by Rabbi Braun)! Perhaps you chose to ignore this issue, because in your mind you included it in the category of challenges that “there is no need to address them”, or perhaps your deafening silence on this matter, is due to the fact that you did indeed investigate and you justifiably came to the same conclusion as we did, that Rabbi Braun has no Shimush for the Rabbinate. If such is the case, how do you withhold such important information from the public, and you dare go on to approve such a candidate for the Rabbinate, in spite of his lack of such a major requirement set forth by the Rebbe!
b. When commenting on Rav Zinners letter regarding Rabbi Braun, you write: “after the elections a rumor was spread that this Smicha (from Rav Zinner) isn’t legitimate and/or it is a forgery, etc. And the evidence was based on the fact that the letter wasn’t written on Rav Zinners stationary, and that it wasn’t dated, and the language didn’t compare to other Smichas issued by Rav Zinner” . To which Rav Rosnberg responds: “in fact I spoke to Rav Zinner, and I saw several of his letters that he wrote to the elders of Chabad, from which it is evident that he in fact signed this Smicha and it is indeed not a forgery”.
Seemingly, Rav Rosenberg makes a good case, after all Rav Zinner did admit that he signed this Smicha. However, Rav Rosneberg reveals only part of their conversation, while he fails to disclose significant other parts of his discussion with Rav Zinner.
Rav Rosenberg fails to reveal that in his conversations with Rav Zinner, Rav Zinner told him that he remembers signing a recommendation letter that Rabbi Braun himself drafted, but he was very clear about the fact that it’s not clear to him that the publicized letter is actually the one that he signed. As a result, Rav Zinner requested from Rav Rosenberg two times, that he should ask Rabbi Braun to produce the original letter that he actually signed, for positive identification purposes. And still, till this very day, Rav Rosenberg failed to follow-up on this request!
Therefore it is clear that Rav Zinner never admitted to having signed this publicized letter (not in his conversations with Rav Rosenberg, nor in Rav Zinners letters to us), and he didn’t agree that the letter produced isn’t a forgery. All Rav Zinner admitted to, was that he signed a recommendation letter of support for Rabbi Braun, but he never admitted that he signed this publicized letter. Au contraire, since the original letter was never produced, it would seem that one can deduce that there are differences between the original and the publicized copy, which someone is trying to hide.
Which one is it: If Rav Rosenberg asked Rabbi Braun to produce the original document and Braun refused to produce it, then this reinforces the suspicions that there is indeed reason to believe that there is some forgery or fraud being committed here . And if Rav Rosenberg didn’t follow-up on Rav Zinners request, and he failed to ask Rabbi Braun to produce the original document, then this lack of action on Rav Rosenbergs part, reveals Rav Rosenbergs attitude to this entire matter, and it reflects on the level of investigation conducted on this case by Rav Rosenberg.
c. Rsponding to Rav Zinners claim that he never intended to issue a Smicha to Rav Braun, Rav Rosenberg argues (in article 6), that really it doesn’t matter, but “since the letter of support includes wording of Smicha” and such language is only used “for someone who earned to receive Smicha”, therefore “automatically this letter remains to be a perfect Smicha”.
Although Rav Rosenberg doesn’t explain why this letter remains to be a “perfect Smicha”, he seems to be consistent in his opinion, as he states in footnote 12: “our (Lubavitch) Smichas are not really Smichas, but rather a sort of testimonial that the musmach has the necessary knowledge to get such a certificate”, therefore, when Rav Zinner included in his letter “wording of Smicha” this serves as some sort of testimonial that Rabbi Braun has “the necessary knowledge to receive such a certificate”, therefore this letter “remains to be a perfect Smicha”, since any Smicha is no more than just a testimonial.
Such an interpretation of the letter should suffice only for a very shallow overview. However if you review the content properly, you will realize that this answer doesn’t hold water, for many reasons:
a) The Rebbe clearly states that issuing a Smicha (isn’t just a form of testimony, but that it) is a “passing on of power”, and obviously this power can only be delegated if the Masmich gives it with this intention (see article E), and since Rabbi Braun only asked Rav Zinner for a letter of support and Rav Zinner never had in mind to issue a Smicha, obviously there was no act of “passing on of any power” to Rabbi Braun.
b) Rav Rosenberg himself states (in article 5) that Rav Zinner told him “that the support letter for Rabbi Braun wasn’t written by him, but that he only signed it”, which means that rabbi Braun is the one who wrote the letter and he asked Rav Zinner to sign it.
Understandably when one signs a letter that someone else prepared, especially when he is under the impression that this is not a serious letter but only a letter of support (which will have no practical applications), he won’t scrutinize it seriously before he signs it.
Therefore you cannot deduce that there was any sort of testimonial here by Rav Zinner on Braun’s knowledge.
Go figure: This letter says “I support him .. to prepare Gittin and Kidushin according to Torah law” , there is no doubt that even Rav Rosenberg wont claim that this is some sort of testimonial, and therefore can serve as a Smicha, to organize Gittin and Kiddushin.
d. Rosenberg continues in footnote 14: “another Smicha was submitted to us, and it’s dated one year before the election, and there are strong reasons to conclude that this Smicha on its own should be sufficient. But since this Smicha wasn’t necessary, we preferred not to relate to it for various reasons”. This statement is extremely puzzling:
Being that “there are strong reasons to conclude that this Smicha on its own should be sufficient”, why don’t you take this Smicha seriously? Why not use a clear unchallenged Smicha it as the one which will qualify as a Smicha for Rabbi Braun? Instead you resort to some suspicious questionable document with which you are struggling to kasher it with difficulty, and you try to establish that a letter of support and recommendation, qualifies as a Smicha for Braun, when you have a perfect other Smicha to rely on? Why “did we choose not to relate to this for various reasons?”
The obvious conclusion is that the “various reasons” not to relate to the second Smicha, is because there are some doubts pertaining to this Smicha. So let’s speculate, what could be wrong with this second Smicha? Nobody is claiming that the second Smicha is just a letter of support and not a Smicha, and the date of the Smicha says clearly that it was issued one year before the election, so what may be the problem?
There is only one possible problem with this second document, perhaps there is some forgery or fraud (on the entire document, or that perhaps this Smicha was issued after the election and they changed the date). So the obvious question that begs to be asked is: How can the Dayanim “not relate” to this document to try to establish the accuracy and authenticity of this new Smicha?
Which way is it: If after good research you will conclude that this document is an authentic Smicha, then this would be the most perfect conclusion to this drama, and it would establish an authentic proper Smicha that Braun received before the election! If on the other hand research establishes that there are problems with this second Smicha as well, i.e. that there is some forgery (with the entire document or with the date), then we must conclude that there is a problem here not just with the Smicha, but there is a problem with the trustworthiness of the one who produced this Smicha to the Dayanim of this Beth Din!
If this is true, then it makes no difference if Braun produces new 10 valid Smichas, this man is completely unfit to serve as a Rav, as he is capable of committing forgery and fraud.
e. The Rebbe states his opinion in the Sichos several times, that although the concept of “Semuchin (rite of passage direct from Moshe Rabeinu)” doesn’t exist in our times, nevertheless even nowadays Smichas are connected to the Smichas that were issued “person to person directly up to Moshe Rabeinu”, meaning that there is definitely a special power entrusted to the recipient of the Smicha all the way from Moshe Rabeinu, unlike Rav Rosenbergs stated opinion that Smicha these days is only a testimonial.
So being that the focal point of Rav Rosenberg’s decision is concentrated around the idea that Smicha is only a testimonial , and therefore Rav Zinners letter of support can serve as a valid Smicha, it becomes clear that Lubavitcher Chasidim cannot accept such a Psak.
Therefore it is wondersome that Rav Rosenberg writes that “he signs in the name of the (entire) Beth Din”. Since all the other Dayanim are Lubavitcher Chasidim, how could it be that they don’t mind that things written in their name which are in sharp contrast to the Rebbe’s opinion?!
Even if we would assume that the Dayanim have other reasons why they Pasken this way (even if there is no hint of any other reason), and they agreed to the letter only because they support the final Psak, nevertheless, when you write “in the name of the Beth Din” it includes everything written in this letter, including the statement that Smicha is only a testimonial, so if they remain silent, the community will assume that they agree to this statement also. So in other words we are saying that it is so important to approve Rabbi Braun as Rav in Crown Heights, that you can even agree to an idea ( which is totally against the Rebbe), and cause a tremendous public Chilul Hashem.
The only way this can be rectified, is by having each one of the Dayanim state clearly and publicly; that in spite of Rav Rosenbergs “signature in the name of the (entire) Beth Din”, nevertheless, this detail wasn’t written on our behalf, and that we totally and unequivocally disagree with its content.
f. In addition to Rav Rosenbergs opinion that Smicha is only a testimonial, it seems that even this version of Smicha doesn’t mean such to him.
In footnote 8, Rav Rosenberg writes: “if it would become absolutely clear that Braun still has no Smicha, it would seem that we would lean to invalidate the results of the election”. In other words, according to Rosenberg there still exists a possibility to appoint a Rav even if he had no Smicha! And although he concludes that it “would seem (that we would nullify the elections)” he still implies that it is not an absolute no, and that there still exists a possibility to approve him.
The reason, because Rav Rosenberg doesn’t value Smicha as a necessary and serious matter!
[Incidentally, it is worthy to note another point in Rav Rosenbergs attitude: This Beth Din already established the first condition to qualify a candidate for the Rabbinate, that he must have Smicha. As a result, the candidates were qualified to run by meeting this basic condition, and on this basis the community went out to vote. So how can Rav Rosenberg come now and claim (in article 8) that “this matter is still in the hands of the Dayanim to decide, and that they can still change their mind after the fact, and approve a Rav that has no Smicha?” This approach only highlights Rosenbergs lack of regard for the public and the community].
It is self-evident, that one who completely and emphatically doesn’t believe in a concept, be it what it may, cannot be included, and most definitely not be relied upon, to judge and rule on this concept that he doesn’t believe in.
For example, if a Rav isn’t particular in not using “Chalav Stam”, would anybody suggest to appoint him to supervise and determine the standards of Kashrus of Chalav Yisrael, for those who are particular to drink only Chalav Yisrael, and that he should decide which milk is good to use and which should not be used?!
g. In spite of the fact that all that what we wrote here is simple and abundantly clear, still we are concerned that being that it is difficult for a human being to retract his stated position, especially a “psak din”, no less a psak that was seriously publicized. Therefore there is reason to worry that since in your original psak it was publicized that the candidate for a third Rav must have the approval of one sitting Rav of Crown Heights (Rav Osdoba or Rav Schwei), and the Beth Din will trust these Rabbonim to verify and establish the legitimacy and qualifications of the candidates. It is worrisome that in spite of all of the above, this Beth Din will still lean to rule that Rabbi Braun should serve as the third Rav in compliance with your original psak that it is sufficient that only one Rav of the sitting Rabbonim testifies to his worthiness to serve a s a Rav.
(Obviously this should not be taken as an insult, but this is the nature of humanity, and “Shochad blinds the wise, and derails the words of the righteous”, including those on whom the Torah states that they are Chachomim and Tzadikim).
Therefore we find it necessary to quote the Alter Rebbe (Igros p’ 87): It is well known the saying of our sages that a Talmid Chochom who ruled, (if he said it before the fact then we listen to him) but if he ruled after the fact we don’t listen to him, even if he quotes his teacher we suspect him of lying, how much more so in our case when we are not so much concerned about lying, but rather it’s is a matter that the heart must understand, that your heart should listen and accept our words”.
We would also refer you to Shu”t Chasam Sofer Hachadoshos (Cho”m siman 48 p. 91 col. 2) that “a person is poised by nature to uphold his original words, and there is reason to worry that they will circumvent the proper path”.
Therefore, the only solution to this matter can be if you will submit this issue to a committee of neutral Rabbonim, and let them review all the matters pertaining to the qualifications of the candidate (re: Smicha, Shimush, etc. etc.). And after a thorough investigation, they will publicize their conclusions, in a manner that leaves no doubt in its transparency, to the entire community.