Thursday, December 1, 2011

Agudah Follow-Up

I. Who Should be Issuing a Retraction/ Clarification?

Following my earlier post about Rabbi Sherer's mention of my article at the Agudah Convention, in which he failed to read out an important phrase when quoting from my article, a number of people wrote to the Agudah to register their protest. The Agudah responded by pointing out that the phrase which Rabbi Sherer had omitted was only parenthetical. The Agudah also claimed that it is in fact I who owes Rabbi Sherer an apology, for calling his speech “despicable in its dishonesty.”

In fact, I had already retracted that, but I will reiterate: I apologize for referring to Rabbi Sherer's speech as "despicable in its dishonesty." I had not realized that the Jerusalem Post had put my phrase in parentheses.

And now it is Rabbi Sherer's turn to issue a clarification. The Agudah claimed that Rabbi Sherer's omission "did not in any way change the meaning of the sentence." I think that it is not Rabbi Sherer's prerogative to make that judgment. Someone put it very well: Rabbi Sherer was reading directly from the article. If a Rabbi is going to verbally attack a person publicly for a statement that the person supposedly made, then the statement should be quoted in full - especially since what was in parenthesis would have been in the author's favor.

There is another important point to be made. There is not a single reader of my blog who is under a mistaken impression as to what I wrote or what Rabbi Sherer saw and said. On the other hand, there are plenty of attendees of the Agudah conference who, as a result of Rabbi Sherer's speech, think that I wrote something quite different from what I actually wrote. I have already issued a retraction and have clarified matters. It's time for Rabbi Sherer to do the same.

Rabbi Sherer should also clarify that what I wrote was one of several reasons that I gave for becoming post-Charedi, and not - as he implied - the sole reason.

II. On Anonymity

Agudah spokesmen also pointed out that Rabbi Sherer had taken pains not to mention me by name. It doesn't really make a difference to me either way, but this seems absurd. If Rabbi Sherer had not wanted me to be identified, he could simply have read out the part of the article that deals with the reasons for being post-Charedi. It did not add anything to his speech for him to read out the part of the article in which I describe how three of my books were banned seven years ago. But it did mean that everybody knew exactly who he was talking about!

III. On Context

A standard reply that the Agudah sent out to letters of protest included the following:
What is more, Rabbi Slifkin’s attitude toward Gedolim – which was Rabbi Sherer’s focus (although he took pains not to mention Rabbi Slifkin’s name) – is well evident in other writings of Rabbi Slifkin. For example: “How are [Gedolim] suited,” he wrote on March 23 of last year “for leadership positions? The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is… exposed as hopelessly wrong.”

Strong words, indeed. I was curious to see in which context I had written them, and I was especially curious about the ellipsis (that's the "..." in the quote). So I googled it and discovered the original post. I saw that the ellipsis served to replace a single word: "thereby." And what was the "thereby" to which I referred? It was to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky having signed a letter attesting to the innocence of the monster Elior Chen, and subsequently defending his signature on the grounds that he signs whatever his rabbis sign. As I wrote in the original post:
"I have always tried to write respectfully about the Gedolim, even when disagreeing with them strongly. But now I am honestly not sure if one should be respectful about the signing of this letter, especially when it is defended on the grounds that other rabbis signed it. The best limmud zechus I can think of is that, due to their intense dedication to staying in the Beis HaMidrash, the Gedolim are simply naive about the world and/or easily manipulated. But if that is the case, and it results in them signing letters such as this, then how are they suited for leadership positions? The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is thereby exposed as hopelessly wrong. And even with this limmud zechus, one has to wonder how a Rav could attest with certainty to the innocence of someone who has been indicted for such terrible crimes, with one child suffering permanent brain damage and in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, merely because other rabbis say that he is innocent. With the publication of the letter supporting Elior Chen, is there any way to justify the system of leadership in the charedi world?"

Technically speaking, the Agudah did not distort what I had written. However, I think that it would have been more appropriate if, when quoting that sentence, they would have revealed a little more about the context in which I wrote it. Especially when the entire topic here is one of reporting people's positions accurately. So, for example, they could have written, "he wrote on March 23 of last year, in the context of Rav Kanievsky defending Elior Chen." Surely that is at least as relevant as the date!

(I subsequently engaged in a bizarre and fruitless discussion with the Agudah as to how it was justified or understandable for Rav Kanievesky to attest to the innocence of Elior Chen on the grounds that "other rabbis did so," and how this fits in to the notion of Daas Torah. But it was presumably forbidden to even ask this question, since according to Rabbi Sherer, we may not ask the Gedolim to explain their Daas Torah decision.)

48 comments:

  1. Without including the all-important "thereby," which specifically referred to the context in which you make your claim about the charedi leadership, I believe that the Agudah significantly distorted your position. You suggest, before making your claim about the charedi leadership, that the gedolim may have signed a letter attesting to the innocence of a monster like Elior Chen "due to their intense dedication to staying in the Beis HaMidrash," which made them "simply naive about the world and/or easily manipulated." You then posit that if your hypothesis about the reason the gedolim signed the letter is correct, "[t]he fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is thereby exposed as hopelessly wrong." Thus, your statement about the viability of charedi leadership is connected to your hypothesis about what might have led them to sign the letter pertaining to Elior Chen. You never wrote, as the Agudah claims, a blanket statement that "'[t]he fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is… exposed as hopelessly wrong.'” The Agudah, therefore, should apologize for citing your comments out of context.

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  2. I don't mean to get too personal, but I need to ask, why are you even bothering to engage with them? Clearly, you realize at this point that they operate by a different set of rules than you do, and they will forever treat you like the disrespectful shnook they think you are. You're not going to get their respect, and I doubt that at this point you really care that much for it anyway, so why bother?

    To be honest, I can relate to your position. I myself have had numerous lengthy back-and-forth email discussions with various chareidi rabbonim trying to get them to concede to the absurdity (or in worse cases, the wrongness) of some of their colleague's statements and positions, and it always resulted in one of two extremely unsatisfying conclusions: Either they'd just obstinately maintain their rightness of their position, refusing to see logic (or insisting on their own twisted version of it), or the conversation would reach a point where I strongly suspected that they agreed with the point I was making, but refused to allow themselves to acknowledge it since it went against their official party line.

    After enough of these engagements I asked myself what I was hoping to gain from these encounters, and I really couldn't find a satisfactory answer. After all, I didn't really care about their approach to life, an approach which I clearly didn't subscribe to, so why did it matter so much to me to have them admit to their world's inconsistencies and hypocrisies? I had no good answer.

    What is it you hope to gain by engaging with them?

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  3. From my experience with Aguda i can confidently say they are lunatics and you should not worry about what they say.

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  4. The Hedyot – Surely Rabbi Slifkin can speak for himself in answering you, but seeing that he has not yet, I would venture to guess that the reason Rabbi Slifkin engaged with the Agudah in this case was to clear his name and clarify his position because his words were selectively quoted and thereby distorted in a public speech made on behalf of the Agudah. I don’t see anywhere in this case where Rabbi Slifkin is trying to gain their respect outside of demanding that what he says and writes not be misrepresented. And I would doubt that he has any illusions as to how they view him.

    Secondly, I don’t see Rabbi Slifkin engaging anyone who hasn’t already engaged him. Rabbi Slifkin’s writing an article detailing problems and issues with all Charedi leadership and organizations, in the context of explaining the motivations of people becoming Post-Charedi, was not specifically aimed at the Agudah any more than it specifically aimed at Lakewood Yeshiva, Torah Vodaath, Chaim Berlin, Brisk, the Mir, the OU, Ponevitz, the Eidah Chareidis, and every other Charedi yeshiva, Charedi organization or Charedi leader. But the Agudah very clearly engaged Rabbi Slifkin by publically misrepresenting his words.

    I have not seen Rabbi Slifkin “engage” anyone who has not “engaged” him in some way by publically criticizing, misquoting, misrepresenting, condemning, banning, or otherwise publically demeaning him.

    That is quite different than your examples of engaging Charedi rabbis who simply see things differently than you, and wont admit to problems within Charedi leadership, lifestyle or outlook.

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  5. A friend of mine, who attended Rabbi Sherrer's lecture, and was as appalled as many of us, gave this cogent analysis of what might have driven R. Sherrer to froth at that mouth as he did:


    - The Agudah was established in Europe as a reaction to Zionism, both religious and secular.

    - With secular Zionism on the decline, religious Zionism so fragmented it no longer poses an ideological threat, and the Charedi population exploding, Agudah has lost its raison d’etre

    - The right wing, Lakewood-based Chareidi wing has lost its allegiance to Agudah. The really RW gedolim do not attend the convention (e.g. R. Elya Ber Wachtfogel)

    - YU has turned to the right – Torah Umada is no longer a competing ideology. There is nothing at YU for Agudah to rail against

    - Agudah needs an enemy to survive, as well as burnish its RW credentials with the Lakewood crowd. If RNS did not exist, Agudah would have had to create him. Paradoxicaly, RNS’ influence has increased by an order of magnitude due to Agudah’s attention drawn to him. This is also in Agudah’s interest – the stronger the “enemy” the more Agudah is “needed”. Sherer really whipped up the crowd – exactly what is needed to get more people to pay their membership dues.

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  6. Rabbi Slifkin, I must respectfully agree with The Hedyot here in wondering why you bother to respond to these people, who have proven their intellectual dishonesty over and over again. Anyone listening carefully can see how these people distort the truth, and those not willing to listen carefully are certainly not going to listen to you. I think it's better not to dignify these people with a response - I would rather see you focus on doing what you do so well, and what drives these people so crazy to begin with - writing about Torah and science in a way that serves as a shining example of how a Jew can be loyal to both Torah and a truthful discovery of science at the same time.

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  7. One of the nice things about halacha is that there are certain principles that, if you memorize them, help you in difficult situations, for example:
    K'bolo kach polto
    So if there's a list of such things out there, add this one:
    Having Daas Torah means never having to say sorry.

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  8. I think this scenario makes clear the fact that the Agudah (aka Agudath Israel of America) is first and foremost a political organization. And as politicians, although they stand there, straight-faced, with a panel of rabbis sitting at the dais, ultimately they act as politicians do – by distorting the truth to promote their agenda.

    And the unsuspecting masses see only the dais of chashuv rabbanim, and the literature and promotional materials they put out, and think that they are supporting a vital Torah organization which is first and foremost a spiritual organization. When in reality, they are a political organization, which uses popular rabbis to promote their agenda, and as politicians they will distort and misrepresent the truth in order to enhance their image and aid their survival.

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  9. Agudah equals agenda.
    A negative agenda, that is.

    Compare this to Chabad.
    They love yidden. They don't knock yidden. They don't knock anything.

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  10. He more or less called you out by name. They consider you pasul and don't fear antagonizing you or those who are sympathetic to ideas that you teach. Mishpacha and Rabbi Adlerstein got a lighter slap on the wrist. I took it to be a warning. As if they were saying "We are not yet at war. Be careful or we will be".

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  11. There's a third point to be made. Rabbi Sherer, by (mis)quoting you, was setting up a strawman to attack. In an email discussion that I had yesterday with "the Agudah" he explained that what Rabbi Sherer was referring to when he exclaimed "Rachmana Litzlan" was the total undermining of the entire concept of Daas Torah and Gedoley Yisroel by Rabbi Slifkin. This, I think (and Rabbi Slifkin, please correct me if I'm wrong) is a misrepresentation of Rabbi Slifkin's view. While Rabbi Slifkin has serious misgivings with the current form and approach of Daas Torah, I don't think he disagrees entirely with the notion of a need for leadership, or that our leaders have to be very knowledgable in Torah. To leave out the parenthetical statement, was to mislead the audience into thinking that Rabbi Slifkin considers the whole concept of Rabbinic leadership to be invalid.

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  12. > according to Rabbi Sherer, we may not ask the Gedolim to explain their Daas Torah decision.)

    Does he realize how dangerous it is to give someone free reign to impose their will on others? Even if we grant that a true Gadol is infallible and so saintly he would never abuse his position, giving them leave to issue directives without explanations opens the door for charlatans to make whatever proclamations they want in the name of Gedolim.

    The Hedyot said...
    > why bother?

    Not to convince the Agudah that they’re wrong. That’s not going to happen. To convince people who might benefit from a rationalist and moderate approach to Orthodoxy that Agudah is wrong and R’ Slifkin’s approach is valid.

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  13. Have you made the content of the "bizarre and fruitless discussion" public? If not, I hope you will. These discussions are important. Besides being important historical records, they could help influence poeple's thinking in a positive direction.

    There is precedent in Jewish literature for skepticism toward those who are considered leaders of thew Jewish people. From Likutei Eitzot:

    "Today publicity and fame go to false figures...There are false leaders, and when people follow their guidance
    they absorb false ideologies and mistaken beliefs."

    "There are people who impose themselves as leaders and rulers over our poor, bereft nation not because they have been appointed by Heaven but purely through their own arrogance and
    assertiveness.... They can attain so much power that they can even exact penalties from those who do not wish to bow to their rule. But the correct phrase for this is not `exacting penalties' but `causing damage,' because ultimately they are a destructive force in the
    world."

    "There are leaders who go by the name of rabbi but whose learning has been picked up from the `superficialities' and `waste' of Torah. They are unable to control even themselves, let alone
    other people. But they still have pretensions to greatness and seek to lead and guide the whole world. You should be very careful to accord them no recognition whatsoever so as not to add in any way to their power or authority. They themselves can be forgiven for what they do: they are
    no more than the victims of a strong lust for power. It is the people who give them credibility and power and who are prepared to accord them the title of rabbi who will have a heavy penalty to pay."

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  14. > I would venture to guess that the reason Rabbi Slifkin engaged with the Agudah in this case was to clear his name and clarify his position because his words were selectively quoted and thereby distorted in a public speech made on behalf of the Agudah.

    This is true. It's definitely a valid point. The thing is though that the Agudah distorts and wages a smear campaign against just about every person and group who is hashkafically to the left of them, from secular all the way across the Jewish spectrum to even right-wing Modern Orthodoxy, and none of these groups typically bother to respond. They realize that there's nothing to be achieved by engaging with these rabbis so why bother trying?

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  15. Heydot: why bother trying? For the same reason it was worth trying in the Barcelona Disputations. Truth matters. The future of the Jewish people matters.

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  16. and none of these groups typically bother to respond.

    Hedyot - They don't respond because it is as you yourself said - towards a GROUP. A group has strength in it's numbers. And when it is one GROUP attacking another GROUP it is a level playing field. When the Agudah as a group singles out a person and misquotes and misrepresents that person's words, it is an attack on an individual. And it is only right for that individual to want to set the record straight and clear their personal name.

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  17. "According to Rabbi Sherer, we may not ask the Gedolim to explain their Daas Torah decision"

    1) According to the write-up in the Yated of the Agudah Convention five years ago, R. Matisyahu Salomon said that that one may discuss Gedolim's decisons(he did not appear to specify the forum, though):

    "Rabbi Salomon took pains to declare that we have no complaint against anyone asking questions about our convictions, or even disagreeing — agreeably — with stances we have seen fit to take. But, he explained, when it is done with cynicism and derision, when vulgar language and sentiments are used to denigrate rabbonim, manhigim and talmidei chachomim, "we must rise to their defense."

    2) While R. Sherer is reacting to what he feels is inappropriate discussion of Gedolim's views in public forums which I can understand to an extent, we would do well to keep in mind R. Alfred Cohen's postscript to his article on Daat Torah in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society(available online):

    "In a personal comment, however, I find it distressing that some of our leaders often do not appear to have much faith in the Jewish people. Some of the pronouncements or actions taken in the name of Daat Torah bespeak a suspicion that the Jewish community in America today, even the yeshiva-trained, observance-committed multitudes, have to be kept within very narrow parameters, or else they will lose their commitment. Issues are portrayed in black and white, with no shadings. History is revised, books are censored, historic figures are idealized to the point of caricature, blanket prohibitions are issued – all seemingly out of fear that "if we give an inch, they will take a mile." It is painful to see that great scholars, even Roshei Yeshiva, whose opinions may be a little different, are not included in plenary councils of Torah leaders. There seems to be an urgency to portray Jewish thinking as monolithic and beyond challenge. Dissent comes close to being viewed as heresy.

    And yet, on the whole, the Orthodox Jewish community today is blessed with many fine and committed people, who are not ignorant either of the Torah or of secular matters. I think they could handle serious discussions of communal issues, or appreciate in-depth explanations of certain aspects of current h a s h k a f a. Most importantly, I think it is time we remembered that Judaism has never demanded a unitary view; dissent and open discussion have always characterized Jewish scholarship. Disagreeing with someone is not heresy, nor even rejection of Daat Torah. There are many who seek to be enlightened. They are not challenging Daat Torah – they just want to understand it better, so as to incorporate and integrate the thinking of Torah greats into their own approach to Jewish belief and practice."

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  18. G*3

    >Does he realize how dangerous it is to give someone free reign to impose their will on others?

    No. In his way of thinking the Gedolim are not like you or me, and they don't make mistakes, so there is no danger at all. They are also not like him, because while you and I do not totally subsume ourselves to Daas Torah, he thinks he does.

    >Even if we grant that a true Gadol is infallible and so saintly he would never abuse his position, giving them leave to issue directives without explanations opens the door for charlatans to make whatever proclamations they want in the name of Gedolim.

    In his way of thinking it's not only chutzpah, but false, to suggest that a Gadol is not carefully controlling his own message, and he is more experienced, savvy and smarter than everyone in the room with him. As a fallback he probably accepts the validity of the Chasam Sofer's incredible statement to his son that the halacha is what he says it is, even if he makes a mistake, because he is divinely chosen in his generation by God.

    But more than that, what you see as Askanim with an agenda, he sees as people like himself, the second tier rabbonim, the insiders who have access to the Gedolim and are meshamesh them. Not that he is an Askan to any gadol in particular, but just as he trusts himself and believes himself to be a good guy, etc. This is what R. Chaim Kanievsky said: "If my rabbis sign, I sign too."

    So the answer to all the above is that it doesn't apply to Daas Torah at all. It is the only form of leadership in the history of the world that is Divinely Ordained, and God doesn't make mistakes.

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  19. Like a child, an apology with new demands.I write this for the many who called for Rabbi Slifken to apologize for irresponsibly rushing to judgment in condemning Rabbi sherer's speech as “despicable in its dishonesty.” It is indeed gratifying to see that our words were heeded.
    Rabbi Sherer is entitled to his views and opinions just as you all are. Any conversation about the substance or merit of his speech was immediately lost when you all (led by your fearless leader) "en mass" attacked the messenger and not the substance of his message. Because of Rabbi slifkens irrational rush to judgment, compounded only by those minions who blindly followed his request too send a protest email, the opportunity to have an open and honest dialogue/debate was made impossible. All of the posters here who continue to trip over themselves calling the Agudah and associates all sorts of names and insults, are simply hyping themselves up with feel good rhetoric. Boo hoo, we Agudah supporters are crest fallen that you don't like us. We will thrive and endure just the same.You on the other hand are guilty of stifeling debate on the very issues that seem important to you. I only came to this site because I had to see for myslef how the otherside of Klal Yisroel conduct themselves when their man is under fire. I am sad to report that as expected, you guys are no better than those YOU attack and malign for their opposing views.
    I will be leaving this site, knowing full well that Klal Yisroel is still in Galus and you guys despite your self righteousness, aren't helping us get out anytime soon. Sinas Chinum is alive and well right here.

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  20. "As a fallback he probably accepts the validity of the Chasam Sofer's incredible statement to his son that the halacha is what he says it is, even if he makes a mistake, because he is divinely chosen in his generation by God."

    Where is this Chasam Sofer?

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  21. Now if 'Bob' and 'James' disappear as well, we will know it was all one person using different (Goyish) names.

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  22. As a child growing up my parents taught me that along with an apology there needs to be a feeling of remorse and humility. Why not be dignified and simply apologize without qualifying it with your having to have the last word and making demands. It is clearly incumbent upon you to now do the right thing and remove the first post with all it's "despicable" vitriol.

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  23. Yeedle,

    I dont know what you mean when you say:

    "Now if 'Bob' and 'James' disappear as well, we will know it was all one person using different (Goyish) names."

    Why do drag me into this? I haven't yet commented on this post and my sole comments on this topic in previous posts were to defend RNS.

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  24. R' Sherrer's speech had its share of oddities.

    1) He listed "post-charedism" as yet another threat to the Torah world along with Reform, Conservative and Secular Zionism. In that statement alone, Sherer sidestepped Agudah's historical opposition to Religious Zionism. Why did he censor his own organizations history? Is he implicitly admitting that Agudah was wrong in opposing Jewish sovereignty pre-1948? What about Daas Torah?

    2) He relates an anecdote concerning Rav Gedalia Schorr. Had Rav Schorr listened to Daas Torah the anecdote wouldn't have occured. R' Kotler told him not to leave Europe and that there would not be a war...

    3) The speech, thirty minutes long, contained very few words of Torah. And whatever vertelach it did contain were on a fifth grade level.

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  25. Geeeez.. I wouldn't want to be hanging from a rope and waiting for the Agudah or individual elements of it to apologize!

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  26. I sent Agudah a letter in response to R' Sherer's speech (I clipped off the first few lines as they just served to express my ire):

    "I believe Rav Slifkin is owed an apology, a public apology, both from Agudas Yisrael and from Rav Sherer. It is clear to me that Rav Sherer, and Agudas Yisrael by extension, had an imagined axe to grind with Rav Slifkin and recast the tone and meaning of Rav Slifkin's article in quite a different mode by twisting his words, misquoting selections from the article, and selectively quoting parts out of context while omitting salient points.

    It makes no difference to me that Rav Sherer quoted Rav Slifkin anonymously, for in reality Rav Sherer's anonymous attribution wasn't very anonymous at all: by mentioning that the author had "three of my books banned", it wouldn't take much thought for many to work out who the author of this article was. Rav Sherer did not need to quote these opening lines - they had little bearing on his point.

    I would like Agudas Yisrael to answer the question of why this speech was allowed to be presented in this way. Setting Rav Slifkin up as a straw man in this way to beat up for a point was completely unnecessary, dishonest, and underhanded. Rav Sherer could have made his point in more measured tones without leaning on (and butchering) Rav Slifkin's article to support it. By making a distorted, misquoted, and twisted version of Rav Slifkin's article the basis for his point, Rav Sherer actually undermined himself. Was Rav Sherer's point about daas Torah being unquestionable and impregnable, in reality, so weak that he needed to use a twisted, misquoted and distorted version of Rav Slifkin's article as a basis? Apparently so.

    I await Agudas Yisrael's response."

    -Avraham Y. Lawrence

    This was Agudah's response:
    Dear Mr. Lawrence,

    Thank you for your inquiry.

    Rabbi Sherer did not misquote Rabbi Slifkin. He omitted a parenthetical phrase (literally in parentheses, as it appeared in the Jerusalem Post; Rabbi Slifkin claims that he had set it off by commas) that did not in any way change the meaning of the sentence you reference. To his credit, Rabbi Slifkin has acknowledged that the omitted phrase was parenthetical.

    What is more, Rabbi Slifkin’s attitude toward Gedolim – which was Rabbi Sherer’s focus – is well evident in other writings of Rabbi Slifkin.

    For example: “How are [Gedolim] suited,” he wrote on March 23 of last year “for leadership positions? The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is… exposed as hopelessly wrong.”

    Considering that Rabbi Slifkin called Rabbi Sherer’s speech “despicable in its dishonesty,” I agree that an apology was called for. But from Rabbi Slifkin to Rabbi Sherer. As it happens, a perfunctory such apology has in fact been proffered.

    Sincerely,

    Rabbi Avi Shafran
    Director of Public Affairs
    Agudath Israel of America

    Apparently, after reading this post, the responses from Agudah on this subject are somewhat canned, regardless of how the complaint is posed to them. I'm debating whether to pursue this...

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  27. I am a first time poster but an avid reader, and think that Rabbi Sherers speach was totally off mark, especially with the applause from the audience.

    I would really appreciate it if someone could explain why a statement in parenthasis is allowed to be missed out and mislead. Sorry for being on the slow side.

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  28. RNS wrote: "Technically speaking, the Agudah did not distort what I had written."

    Does this mean that as long as you use an ellipsis for any omission, it is not technically a distortion? You could have a person say almost anything that way! (Just replace "not" with an ellipsis for example!)

    Such practices are crooked and are a chillul Hashem.

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  29. James, I apologize. I didn't remember offhand all the names used by the pro-agudist.

    The Bald Guy, I did have a long back and forth with Rabbi Shafran, but he requested I keep it "personal and confidential". All I can say is, (and I already said it) Rabbi Slifkin has been set up as a strawman to attack, and they realized this.

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  30. See the following excerpt from Rabbi Wein’s article last week about the perils of anti-rationalist rabbinic “leadership” that essentially wants to rely on nissim and foster division rather than addressing the major issues that confront us at this stage of history. In my opinion, Rabbi Wein’s reference to the current Jewish leadership’s inability to separate from the losing battles of the past applies equally to current attempts to discredit scientific approaches.

    Google “Berel Wein Disconnect” for full article.

    THE DISCONNECT
    Rabbi Berel Wein

    4 Kislev 5772 / 30 November 2011

    Jerusalem Post, Friday, November 25, 2011

    I think that one of the more difficult situations that exists in the Jewish world of today, especially, in my humble opinion, in the Diaspora, is the widening disconnect between the vast bulk of the population and the rabbinic leadership. While there are many rabbinic pronouncements on the minutiae of Jewish law, customs and observance there is very little that is said and heard about the major problems that face the Jewish world – the security of the Jewish state, the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education, the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society, children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions, growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction, an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage, growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.

    Rather than address these terribly difficult issues, Jewish leadership is engaged in fighting over – again - the battles that destroyed the Jewish world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whether we like it or not, whether it is theologically acceptable to us or not, the State of Israel is a reality where six million Jews live. The predictions by many Jewish leaders made in the 1950s that the state would not survive for twenty, thirty or fifty years have all proven to have been incorrect.

    We have no choice but to support the state with all of our might, prayers, talents and resources. So why don’t we hear that call from our leadership, whether it be from any grouping of the Jewish people? The disconnect from reality is truly astounding!

    The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.


    We should demand more from those that claim the ability and knowledge to lead us. Connection to the true large problems that face us is and should be a basic requirement of leadership and serious opinion.

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  31. "Where is this Chasam Sofer?"

    Obviously he does not say this himself! But this is what he reportedly told his son, with the important modification that he did not say "even if I made a mistake." It is I who made a mistake. Rather, his belief is that God will prevent him from making a mistake. Otherwise the substance is substantially how I said it.

    The paragraph beginning ושמעתי.

    http://goo.gl/GJ3wu

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  32. Rabbi Slifkin knows perfectly well he will get no apology. It was rhetorical. He was addressing his followers but making sure Agudah could hear. The motivation is simple. It's war. The price though is a loss of allies who are more moderate in philosophy and/or attitude.

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  33. I wrote to the Agudah, and here is their reply (I think that each one of its three points is completely and demonstrably wrong):

    "Dear Mr. Voletz,

    "From my perspective of the haredi world, kollel is not an "Charedi insistence" at all, even if kollel study has become much more prevalent in recent decades than during the post-war period. Whether that fact is to be celebrated or, as you see it, bemoaned, is a longer discussion than an e-mail should be asked to handle.

    "I don't agree that Rabbi Slifkin was "hounded out of the Charedi community." Some of his books were strongly criticized by some Gedolim -- who took great pains to insist that they were not condemning him as a person. He chose to take those Gedolim's theological opinions personally, and opted to take whatever path he took.

    "As to Rabbi Sherer's speech, he in no way misquoted Rabbi Slifkin. He omitted a parenthetical phrase (literally in parentheses, as it appeared in the Jerusalem Post; Rabbi Slifkin claims that he had set it off by commas) that did not in any way change the meaning of the sentence you reference. To his credit, Rabbi Slifkin has acknowledged that the omitted phrase was parenthetical.

    "Sincerely,

    "Rabbi Avi Shafran
    Director of Public Affairs
    Agudath Israel of America"

    This is what I wrote back:

    "Dear Rabbi Shafran,
    Thank you very much for taking time to write a detailed reply.
    However, I disagree with all three points:
    (a) Kollel is a "Charedi insistence". The vast majority of young men enter kollel and those who don't are looked down upon.
    (b) R. Slifkin was attacked personally. His works were attacked as kefirah, which makes him a kofer.
    (c) R. Sherer's omission was important. It was extremely significant to R. Slifkin's point, and changed the import of the sentence from one that many Charedim would accept to one that most would reject. Furthermore, he mentioned only one of R. Slifkin's reasons for leaving Charedism, and not the first two.
    Sincerely,
    Tom Voletz"

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  34. "Someone put it very well: Rabbi Sherer was reading directly from the article".

    IMO, I'd venture to say he wasn't. One giveaway is where you clearly see him reading from his notes and never adjusting them. Then, sometime after he finished "qouting" he picks up a page and removes it. That shows that he was reading from some pages of his own. Otherwise, he def. would have had a copy or some seperate piece of paper for the article he read from. Besides, do you really think he brought along a whole seperate page (or the article itself) just to read from it a few lines? Either way, this does not absolve him from being motzi laz.

    I apologize for not being able to cite which second it occured; my time is more valuable than listening to the clip all over again (I even regret hearing it the first time).

    On another note, Natan, I would love for you to repond: first off I'll have you know that i did not read that article which he [tried to] read from so forgive me if you explained yourself already. So, I ask, what do you actually mean that you are now post-chareidism? I certainly hope it's not what I think it means.

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  35. Besides, do you really think he brought along a whole seperate page (or the article itself) just to read from it a few lines?

    I know for a fact that he had the entire article in front of him. He told people that he blacked out my name, so that nobody should know who he was referring to (!)

    So, I ask, what do you actually mean that you are now post-chareidism?

    Why not read the article to find out?

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  36. "I know for a fact that he had the entire article in front of him. He told people that he blacked out my name, so that nobody should know who he was referring to (!)"

    Then in my sincere opinion, that's a lie. Nikarin kahn divrei sheker by two evident flaws: (1) how then would you explain the course of action I pointed out? And, (2) if he blacked out your name to conceal your identity, why did he undoubtedly give it away by adding "three of his books were banned"? Why did he have to refer to the source of the article altogether if he went through "great pains" in concealing your identity? Do you think a single person who heard or saw this speech did not (or does not by now) know that he was refering to you? Motzi laz is a dangerous aveirah even by a member of ANY Agudah.

    "Why not read the article to find out?"

    Simple answer: never saw the magazine and don't have the need to read it either. So with all due respect, I won't either go tracking it down. If you don't feel like answering here, I understand. Though I hope you can grant me the courtesy of at least a yes/no answer to ease my conscience: do you mean what I think you mean when you say you are now post-chareidism? You don' need to be an astrophysicist to guess what I think it means.

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  37. You can read my article at http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/11/making-of-post-haredim.html

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  38. I read it, thanks for the link. Nichamtani bni, nichamtni.

    "someone who is disillusioned with Haredism is “post-haredi.”"

    I don't make a new sect when needing to categorize myself, I like to keep it simple and traditional: I'm Chareidi (שמעו דבר ה' החרדים אל דברו), and others who submit them selves to non-Torah basis in the name of Torah are dillisional. On them I say "ויסעו מחרדה". Seriously.

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  39. Yeedle-
    Same here. I will not post R' Shafran's replies out of deference to his request. But I can see rather quickly that there is a lot of groupthink going on.

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  40. Benav-
    I asked Agudah in a separate letter why R' Adlerstein was just gently chided ("yedidi") for writing essentially the same thing on CC, and why R' Sherer could not use R' Wein's article as a jumping-off point - after all, R' Wein writes virtually along the same lines!
    There is little question in my mind that R' Slifkin was set up to be strung up as a punching bag.

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  41. O

    "Then in my sincere opinion, that's a lie. Nikarin kahn divrei sheker by two evident flaws: (1) how then would you explain the course of action I pointed out? And, (2) if he blacked out your name to conceal your identity, why did he undoubtedly give it away by adding "three of his books were banned"? Why did he have to refer to the source of the article altogether if he went through "great pains" in concealing your identity? Do you think a single person who heard or saw this speech did not (or does not by now) know that he was refering to you? Motzi laz is a dangerous aveirah even by a member of ANY Agudah. "

    you are right with all of these things. That's why it is a completely absurd claim on the part of Rabbi Sherer's defenders from within the Agudah hierarchy, who are the ones who made the claim that he specifically didn't mention the name to be a mentch and even blacked it out so that no one who saw his paper would see the name.

    Call it a lie - that's the Agudah's official mouths lying.

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  42. I asked Agudah in a separate letter why R' Adlerstein was just gently chided ("yedidi") for writing essentially the same thing on CC, and why R' Sherer could not use R' Wein's article as a jumping-off point - after all, R' Wein writes virtually along the same lines!
    There is little question in my mind that R' Slifkin was set up to be strung up as a punching bag.


    How do these people sleep at night? I mean, how do they rationalize to themselves doing stuff like this? They need the job? They have to feed their kids? They're "just following orders"??

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  43. I personally didn't think R Sherer distorted what you wrote by omitting the parentheses. I thought he still captured the essence of what you were saying there. (Although he did obviously distort matters by saying there was 1 reason for something you gave 3 reasons for).

    But this by the aguda is quite clearly a distortion of epic proportions which is extremely dishonest (in regards to elior chen). They completely changed what you wrote by carefully editing it and removing the context!

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  44. Yeedle said...
    "Rabbi Sherer, by (mis)quoting you, was setting up a strawman to attack. In an email discussion that I had yesterday with "the Agudah" he explained that what Rabbi Sherer was referring to when he exclaimed "Rachmana Litzlan" was the total undermining of the entire concept of Daas Torah and Gedoley Yisroel by Rabbi Slifkin. This, I think (and Rabbi Slifkin, please correct me if I'm wrong) is a misrepresentation of Rabbi Slifkin's view. While Rabbi Slifkin has serious misgivings with the current form and approach of Daas Torah, I don't think he disagrees entirely with the notion of a need for leadership, or that our leaders have to be very knowledgable in Torah. To leave out the parenthetical statement, was to mislead the audience into thinking that Rabbi Slifkin considers the whole concept of Rabbinic leadership to be invalid."
    December 1, 2011 6:18 PM


    Rabbi Slifkin, did Yeedle read you correctly? You've pointed out various important instances where chareidi leadership leaves so much to be desired. Do you find other instances where chareidi leadership fills an important or even unique function?

    thank you

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  45. i think there's an important difference between if and/or when Rabbi Slifkin misquotes and if and/or when Rabbi Sherer does so.

    Rabbi Sherer spoke to an audience of X number of people, with whom he left a certain impression. There is no immediate way for him to call them all back and say 'i misinformed you'. Everyone was back home the next day. His job is to get it right the first time.

    Rabbi Slifkin made his comments right here. Then he accepted criticism and retracted [to whatever extent] in front of the *same* audience who read his original comments. He also made dissenting views available here even at the risk of some readers being won to the other side. His original comments were less responsible to be fair because he could immediately admit an error. Rabbi Sherer doesn't have this option.

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  46. Nosson, I very much am in line with your views on Chazal and science, even being charedi myself. I fail to understand why and where people get off saying that we must believe as an ikar that Chazal's science was sacrosanct.

    [As an aside, I do think one of your articles, the Rashi corpealist one was a big, big stretch on your part and totally not your usual rational self.]

    But I have to tell you that you should not involve yourself in internal charedi affairs, esp. in not being charedi anymore.

    To criticize Rav Chaim Kanievsky publicy in an article is something that you should never do.

    Any average charedi knows you can't trust the public letters unless you heard from the gadol himself. Everyone knows there are manipulations going on and I have no answer as to why the rabbanim seomtimes sign strange things when and if they do and it's not a forgery.

    But you can't question RCK's amazing knowledge of Torah and people ask him shaylos as a posek in halacha and hashkafa. That's daas Torah. Plain and simple.

    Daas Torah today is used to ask shaylos but all the public pronouncement stuff today and bans is all not reliable and they don't mean much to most charedim.

    Do your own thing without always looking back at the charedim and you'll stay out of added turmoil you don't need.

    Stay away from resentment and bitterness and just do your own thing.

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  47. Peace? Sure. Capitulation? No thanks.December 6, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Peace, are you going to tell that to your own rabbanim who do not stay away from the affairs of all other Jews, but rather comment on them, try to interfere with them (e.g., gerut) and condemn them all the time?

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