Back in Elul someone emailed to me a schedule of classes given by the new Mashgiah of RIETS, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger and the one that struck him was the class for smicha students on the writings of Rabbi Haim Cohen, nicknamed the “The Milkman (Helban).”
Back in 2005, he was described in a Haaretz article listing “The 10 leading kabbalists today are young, charismatic people who feel comfortable on the capitalist playing field. ‘Opium for the masses,’ the 21st-century version.”
Rabbi Haim CohenThe search for new attractions gives rise to a need for new names, more concealed tzaddikim, for those in the know. Rabbi Haim Cohen of Givatayim is such a new name, and he is gathering influence. He is an older man, a simple worker in a factory, without a beard, and he is known as “The Milk Man.” His believers speak of a unique quality in his blessings, and of his healing abilities. He organizes tikkunim and purifies himself in the mikveh (ritual bath). Pedigree: None.
In many aspects, he is the wonderworker for the Religious Zionist world. And from the pictures of his audience, he is attaching a wide range of them. His approach is to connect different verses to an esoteric sod. This verse is the secret of that sefirah and gives this power, this verse is the secret of creation from sefer yetzirah, and this verse shows our current task to build the land. He is able to draw forth imperative not explicit in the text such as the whole mission of Mordechai in the Esther story was to rebuild the Temple.
The Helban builds on the writings of his ancestry Rabbi Itamar Cohen of Smyrna’s Midrash Talpiot which offers the same associative method and the same ability to draw conclusions from these association. His thought should not be confused with the grand project of Lurianic exegesis and kavvanot, rather it is of a more popular variety. For his writings and those of his ancestors- see here. If you want to hear his shiur in person- here are the details. Here are weekly audio and visual recordings of his shiurim.
Some of his ideas capture the spirit of segulot. Such as his suggestion to eat Matzah on Rosh Hashanah because matzah has the power of redemption and we can use some of that when we are doing teshuvah. (This should not be confused with the Pri Megadim suggesting to eat matzah the first night of Sukkot because a hekesh).
The Helban receives prognostications, I assume not by tyromancy, that Netanyahu has to bomb Iran now and the Helban offers other unilateral political visions on a regular basis.
My question is not about the effect of this in Israel, but the effect on Centrist Orthodoxy. If this is the teaching for smicha students then we will start hearing this from the pulpits in about 10-12 years. I am expecting the biggest resistance is going to be from those educated in the 1990’s by Rav Schechter and his students. This world of blessings, inner voices, segulot, sodot, and kabbalah creates a new playing field little in harmony with the language of mesorah, practical halakhah, and polemics. The baby-boomer’s who knew Rav Soloveitchik still hear their teacher saying that Jewish thought has to be done by the trained mind, by the intellectual, by the dialectics of mind and heart, universal and particular, individual and community, grandeur and humility. They will not enter into this discussion. But will the late 30’s and early 40 somethings say this is not our mesorah?
I know many who like the new Haredi Neo-Hasidism and several who love it and were instrumental in bring it to RIETS. Will the new generation be one of Neo-Hasidut from the milkman and the authors discussed here? Blessed Are the Cheesemakers!
Here is some Passover Torah about redemption. There are several good pamphlets of his material online as well as some free volumes of his works. Here is his Yamim Noraim volume. Here are soem chapters of his Devarim volume.
Here is a nice 5 minute example of his shiurim from this past Elul.
Here he is cool enough to sign with Ehud Banai
Go watch and read some of his material and then come back.