A recent controversy has arisen in the Crown Heights community of Brooklyn. After a publication of Shea Hecht’s letter condemning the Shofar as a “cult”, and then a “Kosher Cult” (what?), the Bais Din of Crown Heights issued first a letter of warning, than a decree forbidding attendance at the Shofar program.
Numerous blogs, articles and organizations have already shown that Shea Hecht, the self-proclaimed “expert” in cults from Crown Heights, is nothing more than an amature rabble-rouser (read all about it, here). Shea Hecht himself backtracks on his own accusation, and redefines the Shofar with his own new made-up term – the Shofar is a “Kosher Cult”.
But what about Halacha? What does Jewish Law say?
I am certainly no Rabbi, and in no position to determine whether attending the Shofar program is acceptable under Jewish law. However, I can point out some different perspectives on the issue.
Simcha Frischling, the founder and director of the Call of the Shofar, has always maintained that his programs are guided by the strictest levels of Halacha (see official statement, here). Additionally, if one is to believe the organization’s testimonials page, the first few “blessings” are given by very prominent rabbonim, namely HaRav Michel Twerski and HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, all asserting that the programs are “vigilantly conducted in accordance with Halacha“.
A dissenting opinion would be from the Bais Din of Crown Heights, which issued a statement forbidding the participation in the program. I personally approached the Bais Din to inquire as to why they forbid the program, and they responded that they would prefer not to give any reasons at all. So technically, we have no idea as to why the Bais Din of Crown Heights is against the program, as of yet.
In conclusion, like most things in yiddishkeit, the jury is still hung — some are for, and some are against. Like Rabbi Wichnin (obm) used to say – “If there are no people against you, you are doing something wrong”. Best advice – if you are considering going, it is best to seek the advice of your Rabbi, spiritual-mentor (mashpia) or therapist.
Disclaimer: Truth about Shofar blog is not in anyway affiliated with Call of the Shofar. All opinions are of the authors.