Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History II - The Mesorah Strikes Back

Some good news... according to my sources in the Mir, my booklet Chaim Le-Amitam/ Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History, which documents the appalling distortions of the Rishonim and Acharonim in the multi-haskamafied Chaim B'Emunasam, is having an impact. Copies of it have reached Rav Moshe Shapiro's disciples (thanks to supporters who distributed it widely). Apparently, they are tremendously embarrassed by it, and are in consternation as to what to do. They are too scared to present it to Rav Moshe himself. But that doesn't matter, because I will be delivering a copy to his home soon, when I distribute it throughout Bayit Vegan.

Meanwhile, I met Rav Yaakov Hillel at a wedding a few weeks ago, and without telling him who I am, I gave him a copy. I saw him reading it on his way out.

(No, I don't expect either of them to admit how they are responsible for misrepresenting the mesorah and to formally retract their haskamos.)

Reminder: My booklet can be downloaded in both English and Hebrew at this link: http://zootorah.com/controversy/chaim.html

35 comments:

  1. Apparently, (Rav Shapiro's disciples) are tremendously embarrassed by (my book), and are in consternation as to what to do. They are too scared to present it to Rav Moshe himself.

    The thought didn't occur to them to present it Rav Moshe anonymously? Would there be a reason to be scared in that case?

    No, I don't expect either (Rav Shapiro or Rav Hillel) to admit how they are responsible for misrepresenting the mesorah and to formally retract their haskamos.

    Was that parting shot necessary?

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  2. Well why not??? He's supposed to be a Gadol, whose Torah knowledge just magically turns him into a wonderful person with perfect midot. Why shouldn't we expect him to admit his mistakes???

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  3. Well why not??? He's supposed to be a Gadol, whose Torah knowledge just magically turns him into a wonderful person with perfect midot. Why shouldn't we expect him to admit his mistakes???

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  4. Jon, "Why shouldn't we expect him to admit his mistakes???"

    Gedolim do not make mstakes. Haven't you ever read an artscroll biography?

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  5. I am trying to picture you slipping your book through R. Shapiro's door and then doing a runner. Maybe peering from behind a telegraph poll to see if anyone picks it up. Leaving random copies at bus stops and in batei midrash. Perhaps you should go in disguise, for your own safety. Take your Borsalino out storage and get a pair of stick-on peyos! Kol hakavod.

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  6. > But that doesn't matter, because I will be delivering a copy to his home soon

    You do understand that such a move would probably not be the best idea, right?

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  7. Garnel,

    How can it be a bad idea to present the facts in an intellectual controversy. Have we sunk that low?

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  8. Are you sure you wouldn't rather translate the booklet into a series of theses (around 95) and nail them to R. Moshe Shapiro's Door?

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  9. Shouldn't that be "Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History V?"

    But anyway... the author of Chaim Be-emunasam has come to Passaic a few times over the past year to say shiurim. I contemplated giving him a copy of your response, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Need more backbone. Or metzach.

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  10. Yitz - if you're talking about Rav Moshe Shapiro, he's not the author of Chaim B'Emunasam. He wrote a glowing haskamah, and I think the work accurately reflects his approach.

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  11. I had no idea that he was giving lectures there. Pity you didn't give him a copy of it! Can you email me?

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  12. Thank God for the internet and people like Rabbi Slifkin. It may be the only thing preventing us from imploding into a black hole of ignorance and fundamentalism.

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  13. Hassidei HaAdmor MeSlifkaOctober 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    We are everywhere.

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  14. Menachem,

    Indeed, but: don't forget that the Web itself, with the associated increased access of Yossi Haredi to intellectual and sensual threats to the status quo, prompted calls for mind-closing and isolation.

    Seems like it could be a self-perpetuating wedge: the very push for narrowness, infallibility and cloisterdom has the side effect of generating easy targets like Chaim BeEmunasam and public policy statements that some would see as foolish, inviting RNS objections and rebuttals, which push him (and all rationalist-oriented) and the Haredi establishment farther apart.

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  15. Yitz, I hear what you're saying, but as one who lives cheek and jowl with some of the most fanatic Chareidim I can tell you with a high level of certainty that the internet is not their main issue or even a major contributing factor to their behavior.

    But even in more moderate circles minds are being shut down in reaction to more classic modes of information, such as books. The only difference now is that we have the internet as a means to fight back.

    I strongly suspect that the fight against the internet has more to do with access to information and less to do with illicit sites.

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  16. I wouldn't go to R. Shapiro's house personally. That's too "in your face." Rather I would mail him a copy via the Israeli equivalent of FedEx so you can confirm delivery. Include a polite but forthright letter saying that you expect his learned response to your piece, and that you intend to publicize his response as well as your rejoinder, or his lack of response. Keep it above board, and make the challenge real. If R. Shapiro is firm in his endorsement of the book of scholarly grounds, he will have no compunction about competing in the free market of idea.

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  17. Yerachmiel,

    > How can it be a bad idea to present the facts in an intellectual controversy.

    Because Rav Sliffkin is not dealing with intellectuals who are prepared to examine new evidence that contradicts their dogma. His presenting of the material to those rabbonim who gave haskomos to this book will simply inflame greater hatred and force those authorities to invent new sources to further support their shaky position rather than cause them to admit their mistake.

    One more time: never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

    > Have we sunk that low?

    In a word: yes.

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  18. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Garnel: R. Slifkin's pamphlet is not aimed at R. Shmelzer or at those who gave their haskamot, but at readers of his book who may be taken in by his gross distortions. Like most polemical works, R. Slifkin's pamphlet is aimed at the "soft middle."

    Bravo R. Slifkin. It's been a long time since I saw such a thorough demolition job.

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  19. On page 23 of the Eng version, you quote R' Schmelcer's citing R' Yehuda Brill while omitting R' Titzhak Lampronti as regards to killing lice on Shabbos.

    Perhaps I'm wrong, but as I recall, R' Brill never said that it was impossible that Chazal got the science wrong. All he was saying was that it was potentially dangerous to tell that to people, least they come to question other halachos as well. It would be "opening up a can of worms."

    In other words, he was saying that maintaining the integrity of the system as a whole was paramount.

    Perhaps I'm wrong, but I do not believe that R' Brill was rejecting the possibility that Chazal might have erred. He just felt that it would be wrong to publicize that people change traditional halachic practice based on that possibility.

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  20. Rabbi, If the goal of the book was to educate, then ok. If the goal was to convince these gedolim or their attendants, then it was a waste of time. It won't even stop them from banning the next guy. Because it's all about control.

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  21. Kollel nick,

    I think it's very educational to see how they will respond to the arguments in front of them when presented with Rabbi Slifkin's pamphlet. This is instructive not just to me, and to Rabbi Shapiro's students, but probably to the whole Jewish world.

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  22. Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History II – The Mesorah Strikes Back

    Is anyone here good with Photoshop? After reading this heading I saw an image of Rabbi Slifkin holding a blue light saber, which is really Chaim Le’Amitam, but we see only the binded edge (with the words) so it looks like a light saber. Then challenging him you can only see the back of the person, wearing a black hat, black suit and white shirt, who is also holding what appears to be a light saber (in red), but is the book Chaim B’Emunasam (also being held in such a way that we only see the binding with the words). There are no storm troopers because they look silly with black hats on…

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  23. Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History II – The Mesorah Strikes Back

    FYI: ArtScroll’s corporate name is “Mesorah Publications Ltd”. The name of the non-profit company which funds the publishing of the ArtScroll gemaras is called “The Mesorah Heritage Foundation”. It seems “The Mesorah” has already been spoken for and incorporated. Though you might want to look into trademarking it (unless it’s too late).

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  24. The inept ignorant fools that are "running" Judaism today have made me want nothing to do with it anymore.

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  25. Excuses, excuses, "anonymous."

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  26. The inept ignorant fools that are "running" Judaism today have made me want nothing to do with it anymore. - Anonymous

    That's throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are Orthodox leaders who are neither inept nor ignorant and have much to teach. I have my own list, others will have theirs. The main thing is to keep searching and not dispair.

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  27. Y Aharaon,

    Could you kindly reveal your list of non-inept, non ignorant leaders involved in the Orthodox world today?

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  28. after looking at yur book its clear you should go back to yeshiva for a few years. the gemarah says one who works and says he still does not understand dont belive

    so going back to yeshiva for a few years by rebbeim who are trained to teach rishonim properly would help alot

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  29. Well, maybe you can teach me how to learn the Rishonim properly? Why don't you write a response to my booklet. Or ask Rav Elya Ber/ Rav Moshe Shapiro to do so. It should be easy for them, right?

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  30. after reading your book over shabbos, I must say you have tried hard but this wont make the cut, the rambam is clearly not like you, so is the whole sugia of rabuinu tam etc the only thing we have here is back too rav avrohom ben horambam , i just want to tell you that some one showed a meirie to reb moshe fienstien that was not like all the reshonim from a newly disscovered csav yad and he said it must be mesuyaf i belive there may be a teshuva about it ,
    so rabbi shmeltzer saying its mesuyaf is not so hard since it is against the excepted mesorah in klal yisroel for generations

    and even if its not mesuyaf
    rav feldman says from rav elyashiv that we dont pasken like that and for someone to hold like that today is kefirah.

    im thinking of writing a post as a rebbuttle of your kuntres but im not sure if its worth my time. because
    those who think like you will not be swayed as its a emmotionall argument at this point

    as for you, no matter what anyone says at this point i think you will be chozer as you have invested to much in it

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  31. Well, I'm glad to hear that for you it's rational, not emotional. Perhaps you could explain how all the Rishonim that I quoted are actually to be understood. But please note that I only let your comment through because you are new; in general, comments must be written in good English to be posted. I do not want the level of discourse here to be lowered.

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  32. Anonymous, let me offer my incomplete, personal listing of Orthodox leaders who, I believe, have much to offer. I will attempt to be as inclusive as I can while restricting myself to those with whom I have interacted:

    Rabbi Avi Weiss is a charismatic, empathetic, and visionary leader possessing good character traits. Rav Dov Linzer, the head of YCT is both an outstanding talmid chacham and a person of great character and empathy. Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, the head of the Philadelphia yeshiva, is both a talmid chacham and wise. I would call him a moderate Hareidi leader. The same could be said of Rav Yerucham Olshin, one of the rashei yeshiva of Lakewood who is also modest and empathetic (he wasn't a signatory to any of the bans, to my knowledge). Rav Yisroel Belsky is a Hareidi rosh yeshiva (Torah Vodaath) who has much knowledge of secular matters - particularly as pertains to kashrut issues. He hasn't joined, to my knowledge, in the severe criticism of R' Natan Slifkin and has not withdrawn his written approval of the book, " The camel, hare, and hyrax".

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  33. For what it's worth, I still don't think that parting shot (see the first comment in this set of comments) was called for. It is extremely rare that you attempt to prejudice your readers opinions like that.

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  34. Ironically, the reason why I wrote that was to pre-empt a criticism - that I am naive to expect them to retract.

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