Monday, May 21, 2012

Umbrella Unity Usifa Uplifts

Last in a series:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

The long awaited Usifa finally arrived last night at CitiField. Over 40,000 Orthodox Jews, ranging from Yeshivish to Chassidic, gathered in a unified, dignified manner to draw awareness, and to find solutions to the onslaught of technology on today's youth.

The vehicular traffic to the stadium was abnormally heavy, as myriads of attendees chartered buses, arranged carpools, or simply drove to the Queens destination. A strong police presense was felt, as hundreds of officers patrolled the vicinity afoot, in squad cars, in addition to several choppers overhead.

The picture perfect weather was far more conducive for ball-playing than listening to speeches, but no one minded the absolute glorious sunshine which bathed the garden-green-grass, a strong contrast to the black and white clad attendees who graced the stands.

Congestion on the vicinity roads probably delayed the procedings, but approximately 7:15 PM the program began with Mincha recited B'rov Am.

Organizers seemingly made an effort to include an international array of speakers, with Jerusalem, Montreal and Antwerp thrown in the mix.

As I assumed, Rabbi Wachsman of Monsey spoke. In fact he spoke several times throughout the evening. I was very impressed with his speech(es), particularly the content and the pathos in delivery. In fact, with the exception of Rav Mattisyahu Salomon (his beautiful British delivery), I can't say that I appreciated any of the other speeches. Now that may be due to the fact that the other speakers spoke primarily in Yiddish, but I sensed that the crowd simply did not react as well to the other talks.

Additionally, Rav Wachsman addressed the media, a topic that was ignored by the others.

I'm sure it was a huge balancing act of the organizers, who should speak? what language? how long? so many difficulties, yet the end result was a huge Kiddush Hashem as a sold-out CitiField is a rarity.

Highlights included Davening together B'Achdus for Mincha and Maariv. [What I haven't been able to figure out, is why there were various break-away minyanim, some even running simultaneously to the main one.] Being Mekabel Ol Malchus Shamayim with thousands of others was also uplifting and the spontaneous singing of V'Taher Libeinu in unison was also a defining moment.

There were no super surprises. Other than the unexpected telephone Psak of Rav Wosner and some rare public appearances of various Rebbes and Roshei Yeshiva, the gathering was mostly predictable.

A really big annoyance was the constant roaring of Jetliners overhead from the nearby airports. Better let the roar come from the appreciative crowd or via the speakers from the "speakers".


  1. If the weather is a siman bracha, you can't argue with that weather!

  2. Aa for breakaway minyanim, at least in the case of mincha, where I was sitting you couldn't hear the sha"tz. PA was not working at that time.

    1. Maariv. From my vantage point I could see several minyanim by the concession stands. I can understand that many chose to Daven Mincha early, as they were afraid they wouldn't get to the Arena for the designated 6:30 start, but why Daven Maariv with 15 others when there was a B'rov Am minyam with some 30,000 people?

    2. Come to think of it, you're right. However, I left early, and people were already davening. I think they were planning on leaving. I guess some people also were chiyuvim, and somehow imagined it would be better to lead a minyan than be part of 10s of thousands.

  3. i was far more inspired by the crowd their behavior and koved rosh than by the speakers.

    I give rabbi Waxman high points in general but thought his remarks to the media were, to put it mildly, not media savvy. I did like his teaching moment to secular Jews very much.

    In general I thought I'd been had. It was marketed as a responsible use of the web asifa and in the end was an absolutist rejectionist asifa.

    I found Rav Dun Sehgahls assertion that the internet is not a useful medium with big nisyonos but a pure and unmitigated destructive force particularly challenging to my emunas chachomim.

    Over the past years one often hears the complaint that askonim have gained too much power at the expense of Gedolim, that they are leading Gedolim by the nose, that the tail is wagging the dog. well the asifa blew that misconception out of the water. By taking as hard a line as they did the Gedolim turned the tables and made liars and fools of the askonim who came up with the tech expo and the "can't live without it" tag line.

    Over on Charedi and Prouds Blog a few posts ago I commented that the Gedolim wer "all in " on this one. that the Asifa would be not a mere anti-internet rally but a referendum on the continued authority of daas Torah. I was right. They gambeled big time and hope that they do not lose with a massive pushback against the hard line taken.

    I myself am struggling with much of what i heard, even from the relatively moderate rabbi wachsman. they may have lost the BOF. OTOH I am no great loss.

    Of late people often

  4. My guess is that the idea was good but spiraled out of control. When the organizers realized they may not fill the stadium, they brought in Satmar etc. But that came at a price - Yiddish was to be the language of choice.

    There was much Achdus, but every gain comes at a price. All in all, Unity abounded - even though I couldn't understand 1/2 of what was being said.

    Assembling 40,000 people and everyone was quiet during the speeches, there was no fighting, was a huge Kiddush Hashem.

  5. This unity was like Degel and Agudah getting back together. Yes it was achdus for the ichud but a pretty narrow achdus between groups that have little of substance sepearting them in the first place. Ah k'nappeh Oiftoo IMO. Especially since the Khasidim for the most part walk away thinking that the English speakers are Goyim Gemuirm with or without filters anyway.

    I was looking forward to something more along the lines of what Bibi Netanyahu did

  6. On a lighter note, SF, you should sue HaModia for trademark infringement: Their lead off headline has four A words in a row!

    On the more serious side, we must make a move to deal with the Internet and the new modernities as RSRH dealt with the emancipation. Just as TIDE was an alternative to TO in the past, it must be so in the future - l'chatchila.

  7. Arthur Ashe Arena Added?

  8. They've been reading my blog too long.

  9. youtube full asifahMay 24, 2012 at 12:43 PM

  10. On Sunday, tens of thousands of yidden from all sectors will come together to Citi Field to take part in the “Kinnus Klal Yisroel” – to hear about the dangers of the internet and technology and how to deal with these issues.

    I too am going, and so are many others. But I also have quite a few friends that never ordered tickets and don’t plan on going, because they have asked, “What is the point? We know about the internet, we’ve long ago heard about the dangers of technology, so why are the gedolim shlepping us to a stadium to hear endless speeches about a topic that is 10 year old news?”

    The truth is, their objections make sense. We aren’t quite sure what the point is. So why are we all going? And for what purpose did the gedolim call for this strange kind of mass gathering that seems to serve no purpose other than to stir up lots of speculation and politics?

    Let me throw in my opinion, just for the fun of it. Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, who by all counts is the driving force behind this asifa, is both a wise and responsible person. He is in a leadership position where he sees – day in and day out – the devastating effects the internet is having on both children and adults. He has stated repeatedly that this is a nissayon of unparalleled dimensions, and that if Chazal would be in this generation they would decree an issur yichud on a computer.

    Therefore, he feels strongly that something must be done. The question is – what can be done? How can a single person, or even a whole signed paper of rabbonim stop something that has grown to be much greater than “a tool for doing business”, and instead has become a part of our everyday (and every minute of our) lives (as evidenced by the fact you are reading this post).

    His thinking is – we will arrange this asifa and that will be our hishtadlus. After that, Hashem will take over. The forces they are trying to fight are too powerful to be fought by humans alone. Therefore, he is arranging this gathering as a way of “handing over the issue” to a Higher power.

    Is this foolish thinking? Many people think it is, and that the problems that we must resign ourselves to the way things are. But the reality is, history has shown that so-called insurmountable problems have been overcome. 80 years ago was the nissayon of keeping Shabbos, 180 years ago was the nissayon of haskala, 100 years ago Zionism, and 40 years ago was a thing called television. None of these are serious problems anymore, even though no one particular person or group was responsible for eradicating them. They “went away by themselves,” – meaning, of course, that Hashem took over.

    So why are we are going to the asifa? We are going with the understanding that while we can’t necessarily solve the problem ourselves, we are willing and ready to submit it to a Higher Authority.


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