Monday, November 25, 2019

Should I Or Shouldn't I?

For many years I have been wrestling with the following dilemma: Should I or shouldn't I publish a book about the controversial ban on my Torah-science books?

I have an enormous amount of fascinating material on this. A detailed chronology of events. Correspondence received from hundreds of people - on both sides. Incisive commentaries and articles that were written by various people. And, of course, my own personal perspective on many different aspects of it.

On the minus side, such a book might well arouse no small measure of negative sentiments towards me, with all the potential consequences that that could have. And many people are just plain upset to learn about this sordid story.

On the plus side, I believe that it's an important episode in history with significant instructional value. Not that I think that everything that's true should be written and published - far from it. But this is a story which illustrated very important facts and lessons about Judaism and Orthodox Jewish society that will help people lead their lives in a more informed and beneficial way.

In addition, as those of you who have heard me speak on this topic know, I don't adopt the approach of simply rejecting the Gedolim as being wrong. On the contrary; I basically respect the parameters of the ban and justify it as a social policy, if not a theological position. And I believe that a primary lesson that needs to be learned is that when someone takes a position and you consider it "crazy," it means that you haven't properly understood their position. People might be misguided or mistaken or go about things in the wrong way, but rarely are they "crazy" - if you think otherwise, then you haven't understood where they are coming from.

So, should I or shouldn't I published such a book? And if I were to publish it, should it be for general release, or for direct sales only? I would welcome people's feedback.

On another note: If you're doing your Black Friday shopping at Amazon, please use this link to do so, and then Amazon will make a donation to the Biblical Museum of Natural History! It also works for shopping at Amazon at any other time!

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63 comments:

  1. I think you should publish it. Clarify the story so that everything is out in the sun. Secrets don't benefit anyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ken Weiss agrees, save for one consideration:
      R Natan - did you ask your wife?
      Her response, and that of your family, is the only opinion that is important
      You are dealing with ..... you know who and what you are confronting
      As for the rest of us - we don't have skin in the game

      kwonco@gmail.com

      Delete
  2. I think you should for multiple reasons, among others:
    - it will clarify the way bans are working nowadays
    - it will be a therapy for you

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  3. Not sure whether you should publish, but if you do it would certainly be an interesting read.

    Your ban was a watershed moment for many people, well at least for me. It got me to completely reassess my understanding of the differences between the Haredi and Religious Zionist world, and showed me that the differences were far deeper than I has previously thought.

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  4. R. Nosson Kaminetzky wrote The Anatomy of a Ban concerning the "controversial ban on his books" (to paraphrase your favorite phrase.) He did it to make a record for posterity, for his close friends or students, and for his own personal psyche. He did not publish it or widely disseminate it. I thought that was wise.

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    1. Why did you think that was wise?

      Delete
    2. Because Rav Nosson K z'l and his children and grandchildren are stake holders in the Haredi community.

      Rav Natan S already exited the community so the consequences are not at all the same.

      Delete
    3. I thought that was a tragedy. But it was his decision and his name that was and is besmirched, so I don't want to attack the decision although I don't like it.

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    4. Just Curious - for several reasons. First, because it would have been impossible for him to have been objective. Second, he would have appeared self-centered and narcissistic. Third, it would have fed into the victim mentality complex he was nursing. Fourth, it was never that important or interesting. It was his book (MOAG) people were interested in, not him personally.

      Delete
  5. I think that the information should be published, but not by you. You are obviously too close to the matter and this begs for a dispassionate book by a historian. You, of course, would be consulted, but the book and named author would be s/he.

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    Replies
    1. Totally agree.
      An additional reason:
      If you author/publish it, it will not be critiqued on its substance but rather on the emotional baggage that comes with your name as its author.
      Additional reason:
      It may look vain and obsessed with and self-promotion. Although you'll certainly admit to any mistakes you've made, I doubt you will admit to any character flaws that may have had a role in your reaction to the ban.

      Delete
    2. Also agree. Get an academic to do it!

      Delete
    3. I also agree that such a book would be better written by a historian or sociologist. I hope that you will take all the correspondence and articles and other documents and deposit them with a historical archive, along with your own written account and interpretation of the events. I think that you can stipulate that the archive not be opened until your death or some other date if you want, but I'm not an expert in this. Historian Adam Ferziger (Bar Ilan) might have ideas about how to find a good archive, and may even know a grad student who would want to write the book.

      The downside to this is obviously that the scholar might not write the book you want to be written. And from a scholar's perspective, it certainly doesn't hurt if you write your own book--the historian can just write his or her own in addition.

      Delete
    4. The academic, at best, will write the facts are with RNS, but the rules/criteria are with the charedim, who write the rules, and reserve the rights to change at their will.

      Anyway, the charedi world will use an opposing academic to bolster their case, even if (s)he "rules" for you. They'll never say RMM or RSZA were wrong. Just like they still support RSZA against RNK.

      Delete
  6. Of COURSE you should publish it. It's of great value and I promise to buy a copy. Maybe a few to give out, too.

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  7. After following this blog for almost two years, why do I get the sense that this blog is just about harping on things long past?

    Such a book would surely be interesting but what is your real (subconscious) motive?

    Can we get more rationalism and less anti-anti-rationalism?

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  8. In my opinion, you should absolutely write it. However, should you publish it....or when in your life to publish it? I think that's a decision for the family.

    In any event, it would be a good document for future generations of your family as to what process you went through and why. And it is would be a valuable perspective of an important piece of Jewish history and the views of the protagonist vis-a-vis selected influential antagonists.

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  9. Chusid from Boro ParkNovember 26, 2019 at 12:39 AM

    You should absolutely publish the book about the controversy. It's important for so many reasons, sociologically, historically, and theologically. As many people have said, this is not a story only about Nosson Slifkin, it's about the Charedi world, its workings, and how so many people had to recalibrate their understanding of their place in Judaism and their beliefs.

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  10. The book would be banned. Then you could write a book about that ban. Ad infinitum. ACJA

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  11. Absolutely publish it (though perhaps not through a publishing house like Artscroll or Feldheim...) and disseminate it widely as possible.

    Other than your very valid concern about "negative sentiments towards [you]" (which I do not mean to minimize or dismiss by any means, but in truth you and your family have weathered far worse), what are cogent arguments against publishing it? Who benefits if you don't publish it?

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    Replies
    1. Who benefits if he does publish it?

      Delete
    2. Anybody thinking about or dealing with the subject. Future authors. People being told a book is banned. It is important to be as accurate as possible, and the book could also contain some comment from others.

      People who want to ban books could also learn from it - sometimes how to do it better!

      Delete
  12. Of course, it should be published! I appreciate the humble question. I have mix feelings about this statement, "Not that I think that everything that's true should be written and published - far from it."

    On the minus side, people cannot handle the truth and often feel threatened by it. On the plus side, the truth is the truth no matter the source, even if people don't like it, they need to hear it because it is ultimately good for them. Nevertheless, I think you should publish it. Adds another credit to your scholarly work and it defends your position in a more formal way.

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  13. Why are you going to leave out things that are "true"? To protect people who hurt you and have never apologized?


    Failing to mention the truth must not enable your prosecutors. You must speak out.

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  14. If you publish it with KTAV(or similar)I dont think it will cause too much controversy.

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  15. I wonder how this would affect the museum project.

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  16. Please publish it.
    And yes, I was one of those who had to rethink his (peripheral) position in the Charedi world. I left it and joined Modern Orthodoxy. Never been happier.

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  17. Publish it, it's important to do so

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  18. publish it when you are older and no longer dependent on the response

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  19. Critical judeo-halahic artifact for current and future generations, as Jewish Torah culture continues to slide to the right and become entrenched by haredi demographics and their relative control of the collective mesorah narrative

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  20. I lean towards publishing but only if you place it within the wider context of other book bans (promulgated within Judaism and by other Jews). Providing this wider context may (and this is a big maybe) reduce criticism that this is all "about you." It would also provide for a deeper understanding of the issue of book bans / thought control in religious circles. This might even interest others outside of Jewish circles.

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  21. At the very least, make sure you have backup copies of all your correspondence.

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  22. I think you should not publish it unless someone else is willing to be the author. It would like a revenge book if you do it yourself, wouldn't it ?

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  23. vital for you to do so
    truth must come out and be documented.
    BUT take a unique tack--- reach out to your accusers, see if they have recanted, ask them for their recollection of events etc

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  24. You Should definetly publish it. This is your story and no one will able to write your story better than you.

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  25. "Not that I think that everything that's true should be written and published - far from it."

    This isn't an honest or an academic approach and I'm not sure what value the book might have. Like I've said before: you are a subversive busybody that can wreck havoc. I think the approach of first admitting your mistakes, asking for forgiveness, forgiving everyone yourself and revealing EVERYTHING could make sense. You aren't capable of it though as your prior obituary post has amply illustrated. It was full of typically charedi double-talk, half-truths, exorbitant praise in relation to the support given to you and avoiding controversy when it suited you. Bad, bad, bad. I know that charedi world and modern orthodox world with their respective gedoilim are frauds, in somewhat different ways, but frauds non the less. I will not be counted among the readers of your book if it's published.

    Yakov

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  26. I don't adopt the approach of simply rejecting the Gedolim as being wrong.
    Wow, what a progress! I fear you may even say that Gedolim occasionally may be right.

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  27. It seems that the solution is to have a book published by a third party - like Prof. Marc Shapiro of Scranton.

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  28. Yes, its publishing would be very useful because all this histiory cleares out the current situation in haredim (and in wider sense in Orthodox) world.
    Yuri, Moscow

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  29. Don't do it.

    I am completely on your side on this issue and have defended you many times. By now the controversy has died down and your reputation has mostly been restored. If you publish your side of things now, you will be opening up a whole new can of worms; reawaken the critics who will surely renew their critcism. It just isn't worth it in my view. You don't need the aggravation that will surely cause you and your family

    That being said, I think you ought to actually write that book without distributing it to anyone. Much the same way R' Nosson Kamenetsky did about the experience he had with the ban on his book. That needs to be done for the sake of the truth and for posterity.

    Just my opinion

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    Replies
    1. How is it "For posterity" when Rabbi Kamenetsky ZT"L didn't distribute it to anyone and no one ever sees what's written there?!?

      What a weak point of view. Rabbi Slifkin can decide for himself if he wants to/can endure renewed criticism.

      If I write a diary and then set it on fire, did I also "write for posterity?"

      Delete
    2. I have a copy of R' Kamenetsky's book. It was no difficult to get; it was just not available in stores.

      Delete
    3. Yehoshua, he's not talking about the book itself but the followup book which is called "The Anatomy of a Ban." That was kept secret.

      Delete
    4. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Ban-Nathan-Kamenetsky/dp/9659037910&ved=2ahUKEwjgr5aQi5bmAhUuU98KHU9uAbsQFjAJegQIARAB&usg=AOvVaw2w-HwQ0CcPAuQEVKr1AjqK

      Delete
  30. If my opinion matters, I would suggest either write the book and publish it for general use:

    - it will not cause a damage more than that is already done and/or keep being done
    - there is a right of people to be aware what is going on with their society and their community.

    Half of truth is half of lie. Therefore, concealing the relevant truth is a sort of lying.

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  31. Hello Rabbi Slifkin

    I think you should have it published. For selfish purposes I would love to read it, but I also think your family and those that you inspire also deserve to see/know the full details.

    I think you should carefully consider how to disseminate it. Perhaps consider providing the information to a PHD student for their doctorate. It would provide you some cover, perhaps save time, and also provide some level of independence - especially if he/she was to include other sources as well.

    S

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  32. FWIW, I don't think *you* should. But someone else should analyse the events surrounding the ban and write their own work.

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  33. This post has been included in Nu? What's New in The Jewish Blog World? Check out the company you're with.

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  34. Please publish for general release. You already have blogged that the Haredim, with their inability and refusal to participate in a modern economy, are the single greatest threat to the survival of the State of Israel. Publishing for general release will help to weaken Haredi political power by calling into question their image of authenticity (in this case, their lack of intellectual honesty).

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  35. No, don’t publish it. Rise above the fray, lifnim mishurat hadin, and let rest what’s past. It will leave you a cleaner and better person, while to continue to dwell upon the episode would be unhealthy and unhelpful. Then when you are about 70 or so you should publish it as a historical record of posterity. That’s my two cents.

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  36. " I don't adopt the approach of simply rejecting the Gedolim as being wrong. On the contrary; I basically respect the parameters of the ban and justify it as a social policy,"

    This is the only reason I would not want to see this work published, or if it is, it would need someone to come out and refute it.

    For Jewish society to grow, we have to be able to just simply say, "They were wrong."

    This is the charedi side of you coming out, IMO. Your need to find a way to make their position make sense or justify it somehow. As if it's wrong for us not to.

    Is your stance that it is morally (and/or religiously) wrong to adopt the view that the gedolim were wrong on this issue?
    If not, and you believe that you came to your stance purely intellectually, do you suppose it might otherwise underlie a subconscious motivation to your stance?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I think the story should be told, and it is one that I would want to read and share with others.

    But that being said, I am fully aware of the fact that you may be creating incredible hardships for yourself and your family (and the museum) if you do so. And as such, I could never ask you to do such a thing.

    But if you choose to do so, on your own, with clear understanding of the risks, I will support your effort by buying a copy when it is published.

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  38. Send me a copy, and then I'll tell you if you should publish it. ;-)

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  39. The "Slifkin affair" is amply documented at http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/

    Why stir the pot anymore?

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  40. My opinion is not to publish it. It's old news, it's a distraction from the Zoo Rabbi "day job," and it's perhaps best addressed as an historical incident as part of a larger societal study, perhaps by someone along the lines of Prof. Samuel Heilman. "The ban" could be one well-researched chapter, including an interview and a link to the archive. I would frankly much prefer a positive apologia presenting Rationalist Judaism as Torah-True, and perhaps it could help keep Jews on the derech, both dissatisfied cloistered chareidim who might otherwise go OTD, and science-believing intellectuals who might otherwise go atheist.

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  41. Dear Rabbi Dr. Slifkin,
    Please do the the intellectual and academic worlds a favor; PUBLISH! I am sure that there are myriads of people like me who would buy and appreciate anything and everything you write.
    God bless you and your endeavors to properly educate the thinking torah Jew!
    Solomon Shami
    PHD Candidate (Thanks to you!)

    ReplyDelete

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