Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Isn't It Lashon Hara? Do I Have Noble Motives? And What Do I Hope To Accomplish?

In the last few days there have been an increasing number of criticisms of my posts which criticize (or, as they call it, "bash") various aspects of charedi society. "It's lashon hara!" "You have impure motives - you just hate charedim, because your books were banned!" "You're just preaching to the choir, what can your blog accomplish?!" I've addressed these criticisms in several comments over the years, but I thought it would be useful to have a single post with a thorough response.

"It's Lashon Hara - it's forbidden!"


No, it isn't.

Relating negative facts about others is permitted when it is beneficial. It is extraordinary that the works of the Chafetz Chaim, intended to make the world a better place, have often been used to make the world a worse place. Sometimes it is people not giving over harmful information about a shidduch, sometimes it is people not reporting dangerous behavior in a rabbi, sometimes it is people trying to quell frank  and important discussion about social policies. The Torah's principles of speech are supposed to improve society. 

(See too this post: "When Lashon Hara Is A Mitzvah")

"You have impure motives - you just hate charedim, because your books were banned!" 


The notorious ban on my books was indeed a deeply upsetting experience for myself and my family, more so than you can imagine. I wouldn't wish such a thing on anyone (well, maybe on a few people). But it also had some tremendous long-term benefits for me, which means that I am very grateful that it happened. And it was an immensely educational experience, and one that motivated me to learn about, and teach about, the rationalist-mystic divide, along with both the correct approach to rabbinic authority and its abuses. I don't think that's a bad thing. As it happens, I have a lot of sympathy for the ban on my books, if not for its execution, and I wrote what is probably the best defense of my opponents.

A much bigger impact on my feelings towards charedi society has been made by living in Ramat Beit Shemesh for twenty years, at the forefront of the clash between charedi and non-charedi elements of society, and seeing first-hand the effects of the problems. You don't have to have had your books banned in order to feel strongly about the problems of charedi society - plenty of other people both outside and inside charedi society feel the same way. Even charedi ambassador Jonathan Rosenblum has written about how charedi society is unsustainable and threatens the rest of Israel.

But, for argument's sake, let's say that I have impure motives. So what? What matters is the truth and value of what I write, not my motivations for writing it.

"You're just preaching to the choir, what can your blog accomplish?!"

This blog reaches a wider range of people than is commonly thought, and has effects in all kinds of ways.

First of all, there are people with strong charedi ideology who read my blog because they despise it and just want to know what the "enemy" is saying. Obviously nothing that I write will immediately change their minds. But it does plant seeds, which can sprout later. Some of my closest ideological friends are rabbis who used to despise and denounce me as a heretic, before they gradually came to terms with the fact that what I write is actually true. (I don't hold any hard feelings against them - the Nosson Slifkin of twenty-five years ago would also have despised this blog, because it would have made him feel so uncomfortable.)

Second, there are plenty of people in charedi society who read my blog and like it! They agree that there are problems which need to be exposed and addressed.

Third, even people who are not part of charedi society are connected to it in all kinds of ways. And there is enormous influence from charedi rabbis and educators in non-charedi circles and institutions. It's important for people outside of charedi ideology to understand the reality of it, and its problems, rather than the ideological distortions and fake picture of charedi society presented by its representatives and media outlets. Whether it's a matter of selecting educational institutions for your children, choosing which causes to support, or deciding how to evaluate rabbinic guidance, it's crucial to be informed of the issues.

Over the years, many people have written to tell me about how this blog has helped them in various ways. If you're one of the people who have benefited, or who otherwise see a benefit, please write a comment describing this. (And it would be wonderful if you could show your appreciation by supporting the Biblical Museum of Natural History, which educates tens of thousands of people - including the most insular charedim - about the relationship between Judaism and the natural world, in an entirely non-controversial, positive and universally-appreciated way! Click here to donate.)

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  1. Why I hate this blogApril 22, 2020 at 10:19 AM

    I despise the blog not because your criticize Charedim (plenty of secular Jews do that better than you) but because your criticisms are supposedly based on Torah (Rambam's hashkafah), but you are nothing but a grand distorter of it. Your arrogance is superseded by your ignorance. The Maskilim of old would be very proud of you.

    1. It is easy to throw names at Slifkin. What you didn't do was give one example. That speaks volumes as to the credibility of your accusation.

    2. The "maskilim" that you have such a visceral hatred of included many very frum Jews, including gedolim. So your "insult" is nothing of the sort.

    3. Why I hate this blogApril 22, 2020 at 1:09 PM

      Examples (just recent ones):

      RDNS has been challenged on several points relating to Rambam and completely ignored them:

      (1) His reconciliation of fasting and prayer vs. natural means is at complete odds with Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam.

      (2) He has been asked on how to explain Bitachon according to Rambam and failed to address that - this is an absolutely crucial issue that is squarely at odds with RDNS' expositions.

      (3) RDNS demands proof of efficacy of Torah study, but when presented with Rambam's infallible equation, in Igeres Techiyas HaMeisim, of service of Hashem = good things happen and rebellion = bad things to happen, and that this is true of the nation and of individuals and is not the way things go for non-Jews, he just ignores it.

      (4) RDNS claims that Rambam's view of Torah study is essentially utilitarian vis-a-vis fulfillment of mitzvos, which contradicts numerous statements of Rambam in various places, such as his commentary to Mishnah at the end of Menachos and his introduction to Taharos.

    4. Kudos to "Why I hate this blog" for the clear list. I'm still waiting for the "rationalist judaism" take on a description/definition of bitachon and what are its gdarim.

    5. You despise this blog yet still read it. Why do you spend time on an activity that clearly is detrimental to your mental health?

    6. Writing this blog takes an enormous amount of time. I do not see myself as having any obligation to respond to comments and questions, especially when they are written anonymously, or when I think that it's pointless, such as because the person has a completely different worldview. (Though I do plan to write a post on bitachon one day - probably after I've figured it out.)

    7. RDNS, I don't see how it's possible to be as certain as you are about how much hishtadlut a person must do if you don't have bitachon figured out enough to explain it.

    8. waterman613, if you think you have bitachon figured out, that's pretty good proof that you don't.

    9. I have bitahon figured out. If I eat right and excercise, and I have a heart attack, i have bitahon 5hat it is God's will and therefore all for the best.

    10. Why I hate this blogApril 22, 2020 at 10:50 PM

      For argument's sake, let's say that they have a completely different worldview. So what? What matters is the truth and value of what they write, not the worldview of those writing it.

      Until these issues are addressed, you are teaching and preaching unfounded musings which may be valid in some other religions, but they aren't valid Jewish thought.

      I visit the blog primarily to repeatedly reaffirm my convictions that those Torah scholars who initially supported the essential content of the books vis-a-vis Chazal and science, but ultimately viewed RDNS as a personally deviant (religiously speaking) individual were correct. I think that is tragic for RDNS, but it is more dangerous to allow heretical or near-heretical misrepresentations of Rambam (and Judaism in general) to go without being called out. They should be addressed or conceded.

    11. Rav Slifkin, Have you seen R. Shafran's article yesterday at where I believe he makes an oblique reference to you?

    12. Yechiel
      I don't have it "figured out", but I can tell you what many many of the sources say about it throughout the generations. And what they say about it is not consistent with much of what RDNS says.

      Dovid Kerner
      What you are talking about is emunah. Bitachon is the practical application of emunah, which means just "knowing" that it's all for the best is not bitachon but rather emunah. Bitachon is manifest in one's actions/inactions. So what, according to "rationlist judaism" defines the actions/inactions of a boteach?

    13. @waterman613

      Dovid Hamelech said it best: בטחו בה׳ עזרם ומגנם הוא. That is, Hashem helps and protects, he doesn't do.

    14. Mr. Waterman
      You know what many many sources say do you? Do you have any idea how to "say over" the views of the Rambam, Ramban, and Sefer hachinuch (to list only a few Rishonim) on bitachon? I'm not talking about their endlessly cited "frum" comments, but their far less well known contradictory statements in which they CLEARLY set forth that people can be left to mikrah, or nature? If you have a convincing pshat in that you should write a sefer on it. It'll be a best seller, because I've never seen a good pshat in this.

    15. sammy,

      "in which they CLEARLY set forth that people can be left to mikrah, or nature? If you have a convincing pshat in that you should write a sefer on it. It'll be a best seller, because I've never seen a good pshat in this"

      i'm not sure if your just being contentious, or you really think that these obvious points have not been dealt with in the sources. if you are genuinely interested rather than just trying to score debate points, please feel free to contact me, and i will be glad to discuss it.

    16. Why I hate this blogApril 23, 2020 at 6:09 PM

      Being left to mikreh is only for people who DON'T have bitachon in Hashem! You don't need a Sefer for that; just read the first few paragraphs of Shaar Habitachon by Chovos Halevavos.

    17. Sammy,
      I have spent a number of years learning the sugya of bitachon from sources and not from "endlessly cited 'frum' comments". In fact, it is from their less well known contradictory statements that the true views of the Rshonim become clear.

      The Rambam himself has many contradictions. In his intro to Moreh Nvuchim, the Rambam even mentions that his sefer has contradictions and that they exist because the resolutions of those contradictions are things that he wants you to learn, but for various reasons (and one central yesodi reason) he did not want to say those things explicitly. The lack of understanding (i.e., people's inability to reconcile or even notice many of these contradictions) is why rationalists completely misunderstand the Rambam. It's also why other Rishonim were against people people learning the Moreh; those Rishonim don't mean that the Rambam was wrong but that your understanding of the Rambam will almost certainly be wrong - but they couldn't say it that way because people don't like to believe that they're not able to understand the Rambam, i.e., people will assume that their understanding of the Rambam is correct no matter what they understand. And the Rambam acknowledged in his intro that almost nobody would understand his work (the Moreh).

      And as for what you wrote about "contradictory statements in which they CLEARLY set forth that people can be left to mikrah, or nature", those statements are simply misunderstood. Rationalists like to quote those statements saying that the Rambam holds that we can be "left to mikrah or nature" as you put it. But the fact that those statements are contradicted elsewhere means that you can't take either side at face value and must resolve the contradiction. But rationalists don't want to do that; they would prefer to deal with science/nature and take the statements about "left to mikrah/nature" at face value and ignore the statements that contradict their own world view....

      .... Rationalists prefer to write about doing more hishtadlut and say things like "I do plan to write a post on bitachon one day - probably after I've figured it out." And they don't realize that bitachon and hishtadlut are opposite sides of a single coin. They discuss a topic (hishtadlut) with only half of the facts, and even the half of the facts they have are wrong because they don't know how the other contradicting statements affect the meaning of the statements they're discussing.

    18. To Mr. Amcha
      I never said these haven't been dealt with in the sources; what I actually said was I never saw a good or convincing pshat. I don't see any reason to contact you. Say your pshatim here or not at all.
      To Mr. why I hate this blog
      If you think that answer is obvious then you clearly don't know the stirah in the Ramban I'm referring to. Compare, for example, the unequivocal statements in Exodus 13:16 with those in Genesis 18:19 and Job 36:7.
      To Mr. Waterman
      I'm happy to leave the Guide aside (at least for the moment). I only mentioned it because I would be remiss in leaving it out. That nullifies your first paragraph. Your second paragraph says it's clear that neither side can be taken at face value. Shkoach. That's kind of my point. I have no idea what to make of it, but I doubt that you do either.

    19. Sammy,

      The reason that you "have no idea what to make of it" is clear from your comment to Mr. Amchah in which you wrote "say your pshatim here or not at all." If you think these things can be communicated in a way that will convince a person like you in a short blog comment, you clearly have no idea of the depth of the issue. You seem like you should be aware of this as you yourself wrote to me above "if you have a convincing pshat in that you should write a sefer on it." Or perhaps you think that such a sefer would be fluffled up with fodder so it can be sold for more money but actually be written in a brief blog comment.

      And as for your statement "I'm happy to leave the Guide aside", I am sure that you are. And that does not -as you say- "nullify" my first paragraph. The fact the you don't want to address it does not reduce the value of my words. You can't just ignore a comment because you don't know what to respond.

      And as for my second paragraph that says "it's clear that neither side can be taken at face value," you write "I have no idea what to make of it, but I doubt that you do either." #1 You say that you don't know what to make of it, but in practice you will still accept the "nature" side and prefer to ignore the hashgachah, when in fact you understand none of it (as per my previous comment). #2 You can doubt that I know what to make of it if you'd like, but you're wrong.

    20. Why I hate this blogApril 23, 2020 at 9:46 PM

      There is a big difference between being so protected so as to be above nature and immune to it, such that כי תלך במו אש לא תכוה and being subject to the good and bad that the natural world has to offer. Ramban in Bo means that the ups and downs that seem to be random vicissitudes of life are not random at all for the Jewish people.

    21. Why I hate this blogApril 23, 2020 at 10:13 PM

      My response was based on an initial impression of the sources but it probably needs to be better fine tuned. What is clear, at the very least, is that being subject to randomness is itself not random; Hashem is constantly aware of the vicissitudes experienced by the one subject to them and judges whether he must still be subject to them.

      Thank you for pointing out the contradiction in Ramban; I was indeed unaware of it.

    22. Mr. Waterman
      First paragraph: You can give the gist of the pshat, while omitting the dozens of sources, proofs and elaborations you have undoubtedly worked out over the decades you were learning this sugya. Even better: Mr. Amcha referenced the "sources." Tell me whose pshat you find the most convincing, I'll look it up myself.

      Second paragraph: I think you misunderstood what I wrote. I'm happy to leave the Guide aside because as you mentioned that is a deliberately opaque work and it's hard to convince anyone what he means. Personally, I find the Rambam's comments against the frum side clear enough and if you'd like to argue that out until the end of time, sure, let's have that conversation. You didn't actually say one word of substance on the topic though. My personal preference is to discuss the Ramban and others who write like ordinary Rishonim.

      Third paragraph: Where did I say what I do in practice?
      Last line: You have a very high opinion of your expertise in the subject but haven't said anything of substance that I can discern.

    23. Sammy,

      Here is a gist of a pshat which is literally a microcosm of a detail. Expect to find kushiot in what I’m saying. If you ask me on them then I will probably not answer you because you will ask on whatever I answer and on whatever I answer to that etc. etc. I do not have time to write this book now. You asked for a gist in a blog post.

      When the rishonim talk as if the world runs completely or mostly according to nature, they are speaking only about the way the world *looks* to us but not the way the world is. This is akin to a frum doctor explaining how the body works in medical terms without addressing the neshamah; of course even if every detail of the body would be in functioning order, without the life giving neshamah the person would be dead and begin to rot. And do not ignore that the joining of the neshamah with the body is no small feat - it’s just that most people know very little about it, oversimplify it; it is in fact related to the ma’aseh merkavah. (Note that the root of the word merkavah is מ.ר.כ. as in l’harkiv which means to assemble. The translation of “ma’aseh merkavah” to “Divine Chariot” is incorrect; a chariot is called merkavah only because it’s purpose requires a rider on top of it, making it a sort of assemblage.)

      The Rishonim in “Rambam’s camp” were speaking to Jews who were heavily influenced by the non-Jewish philosophy that was prevalent among the intellectual elite in that time and place. Therefore they needed to put things in terms that would be heard by those who were more scientifically minded. Rambam says so about his Moreh in its introduction.

      But even according to the Rishonim in the “Rambam’s camp”, there is always hashgacah pratit for Am Yisrael and we are never left to the happenstance of nature. That is why the Ramban (Shmot 13:16) writes:
      "אין לאדם חלק בתורת משה רבינו עד שנאמין בכל דברינו ומקרינו שכולם נסים אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם, בין ברבים בין ביחיד. אלא אם יעשה המצות יצליחנו שכרו, ואם יעבור עליהם יכריתנו ענשו, הכל בגזרת עליון כאשר הזכרתי כבר ...."
      Translation: “A person has no portion in the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu until he [lit.we] believes that all our matter and happenings are miracle and there is not in them nature or minhago shel olam, both with [regards to] the multitudes [i.e., community] and with the individual. Rather, if he does mitzvot He [G-d] will succeed his reward and if he will transgress them He [G-d] will execute his punishment, everything according to the supernal decree, as I mentioned already ....”

      The Ramban is not throwing out the Rambam along with all the Rishonim in his "camp”. Rather he is saying how things are and not how they look.

      For a few token supports for what I am saying:

    24. Sammy cont'd:

      Token Support #1:

      G-d says (Dvarim 31:18)
      וְהִסְתַּרְתִּי פָנַי מֵהֶם ... וְאָמַר בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא הֲלֹא עַל כִּי־אֵין אֱלֹהַי בְּקִרְבִּי מְצָאוּנִי הָרָעוֹת הָאֵלֶּה: וְאָנֹכִי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא עַל כָּל־הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה כִּי פָנָה אֶל־אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים:
      Translation: “I will hide My face from them ... and he will say on that day '[It is] because there is no G-d with me that these evil things have found me'. And I will surely hide My face on that day because of all the evil that he [will have] done.”

      Some things to note about the above passage:
      #1) G-d is invisible and undetectable, so what does it mean that He will “hide his face”? It means that what we do see of Him will be hidden. The Divine providence that used to be obvious and which the Torah speaks about in many places will become hidden.
      #2) What is the evil which causes the Divine providence to be hidden. One of them is saying '[It is] because there is no G-d with me that these evil things have found me'. Note that they do NOT say “there is no G-d at all” as an atheist does, but that “there is no G-d WITH me”, just like the rationalist Jews say that we are left to the natural order of things. So G-d hides His Divine providence from them and they do not see it.

      When we don’t follow the Torah, the Divine providence is hidden. And even when we do the mitzvot, if we act as if what befalls us is caused by comes from the natural order of things, Divine providence is hidden.

      I know that rationalists will say that they do believe that these things are from G-d (e.g., Corona), but then they (1) go all out with their physcial hishtadlut, (2) continue to say that many things do follow that natural order and some things have no Divine providence citing empirical observation despite the fact that we are in glut and G-d promised to hide His providence), (3) disparage those people (including talmidey chachamim) who insist that empirical observation does not negate what the Torah says no matter what it looks like.

      Token Support #2:

      In places the Rambam will say things that are consistent with what some call non-rationalists. For example, in Hilchot Shmitah v’Yovel (Ch13, Halachah13) the Rambam famously writes:
      ולא שבט לוי בלבד אלא כל איש ואיש מכל באי העולם אשר נדבה רוחו אותו והבינו מדעו להבדל לעמוד לפני ה' לשרתו ולעובדו לדעה את ה' והלך ישר כמו שעשהו האלקים ופרק מעל צוארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר בקשו בני האדם הרי זה נתקדש קדש קדשים ויהיה ה' חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים ויזכה לו בעה"ז דבר המספיק לו כמו שזכה לכהנים ללוים הרי דוד ע"ה אומר ה' מנת חלקי וכוסי אתה תומיך גורלי בריך רחמנא דסייען:
      Translation in relevant part: “... anyone in the world whose spirit has volunteered him ... to separate and stand before G-d to serve Him ... and casts from upon his neck the yoke of calculations/reckonings of the multitudes that people have sought, he is sanctified holy of holies and G-d will be his portion and inheritance forever and ever and will merit in this world what is sufficient for him like the Kohanim and Leviim ....”

      The Rambam can not write this if he believes that the world runs completely or mostly according to nature. RDNS would like to write this off as mussar, but that is a cop-out answer meant to distract. The question in the end is did the Rambam mean that this is true or not. After all, he *is* writing it in a sefer of *halachah*.

    25. Token Support #3:
      The Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat, Ch19, Halachah14) writes:
      (יד) ויוצאין בקמיע מומחה ואי זה הוא קמיע מומחה זה שריפא לשלשה בני אדם או שעשהו אדם שריפא שלשה בני אדם בקמיעין אחרים ואם יצא בקמיע שאינו מומחה פטור מפני שהוציאו דרך מלבוש...
      Translation in relevant part: “... and [it is permissible to] go out with a kamea [of an] expert [on Shabbat from one domain to another]. And what is an expert kamea? One which healed three people or one made by a person who healed three [separate] people with other kameas ...”

      Rationalists do not want to believe that a kamea can heal. Rambam himself seems to say in other places that written Divine names have no power. But the Rambam hear clearly paskens a halachah in hilchot Shabbat based on the fact that they do heal.

      In conclusion, just like the Torah has pshat and sod (and some things in between), so too does the hashkafah stated by the Rishonim. And at different times and places, and when writing for different purposes, sometimes they will write about things as we see them and sometimes as they really are.

      There are still some kushiot, many of which can be answered. And the kushiot that remain difficult to are much less pressing and leave the Torah far more unified than the kushiot that you will have without this explanation.

    26. Sammy,
      as others have pointed out, this really is not the forum to discuss such a complex, broad, and deep subject. you mention that you would be happy if I would simply give you sources and then you would pursue them on your own.
      Malbim on Tanach is an excellent source since he discusses this subject extensively from both a philosophical and kabalistic perspectives (his terminology). the problem is that I can't refer you to a specific verse, since all of what he writes is intertwined with what he writes elsewhere, such that any given statement taken in isolation is going to be insufficient, if not misleading. if malbim on all of tanach is too broad, you can start with malbim's commentary to tehilim, as there is more on this specific topic in tehilim than in any other single book of tanach. if in the process of studying malbim's commentary to tehilim, you come across specific thoughts or insights that you would like to discuss, my invitation to contact me stands,

    27. Mr. Waterman
      I'll agree not to gribble on your token supports. I specifically referred to the Ramban since I knew you were going to wave the Rambam away as saying he didn't really mean it. [I happen to think he did mean it, and I don't think there's any indication in his introduction that he doesn't.]
      The Ramban distinguishes the "pious" and everyone else: רמב"ן בראשית פרק יח פסוק יט
      והנכון בעיני שהיא ידיעה בו ממש. ירמוז, כי ידיעת השם שהיא השגחתו בעולם השפל, היא לשמור הכללים. וגם בני האדם מונחים בו למקרים עד בא עת פקודתם. אבל בחסידיו ישום אליו לבו לדעת אותו בפרט, להיות שמירתו דבקה בו תמיד, לא תפרד הידיעה והזכירה ממנו כלל.
      Does he also not really mean it? On Iyov 36:7 he's even clearer, saying that a person who is far from God (which he indicates includes most of the world!) will be left to mikrim. But I suppose he didn't mean it either? I can cite the chinuch but if he didn't mean it either then I don't see the point of this discussion.
      To Mr. Amcha
      Uh yeah, "Malbim on Tanach" is too broad ;). Is there a specific place where he addresses the contradictions in the Rishonim I'm referring to? That's all I'm asking about.

    28. Sammy,
      Please don't make straw man arguments. I never said nor implied that he didn't mean it. I said there are two perspectives from which to speak. One perspective is how things appear to us from "down here". The other is how things really are. From one perspective it seems during times of hester panim that we are left to the natural order of the world. From the other perspective G-d is always mashgiach and making sure we get exactly what we need and deserve even though we don't see it. Sometimes the Rishonim right from one perspective, and sometimes from the other.

      So yes, the Ramban does mean it, that the way we see things "down here" בני האדם מונחים בו למקרים, but when בא עת פקודתם then the hashgachah pratit will become obvious even retrospectively.

      You can read the rest of the quote you brought accordingly.

    29. Mr. Waterman
      Is there ANY implication in the words of the Ramban in Genesis/Iyov that he is giving our perspective (or during times of hester panim) vs the ways things truly are? As far as I can tell, you are simply making things up out of thin air. That's nearly the definition of a bad pshat. We read the words of the Rishonim to see what THEY tell US, not to shtup in what WE think. I envy your mehalech halimud because it's so nice and easy to pontificate one's own views instead of having to toil over what the Ramban himself actually means to say.

    30. technical side detail to the comment made at 9:43am- isn't the shoresh of Merkava Resh Kaf Bais? The root means "ride." The Mem is a grammatical construct addition turning the verb into a noun - a chariot is a "thing of riding."

      Sure, grafting is a kind of riding, so l'harkiv means to graft (or "assemble" to use waterman's word), but the core is riding. I wouldn't initially say that a chariot is an "assemblage" of Thing + Rider any more than I would understand that a potato and a pot roast are a cholent. But I'm not a scholar in etymology. Anyone?

      (This does not address the substance of the discussion going on above; I lean rationalist, but I am definitely not up to arguing source nuance.)

    31. Sammy,
      Not so fast. I also don't like when people shtup a pshat into the words. And unlike you, I do NOT envy such a mahalach.

      I can't remember the place that it says that the words of Torah are aniyim b'makom echad v'ashirim b'makom acher, meaning that a full and true understanding is not possible by learning a single quote, but rather one must gather from multiple places. (See Tosafot everywhere in Shas for plenty of examples.)

      Your quote of the Ramban from Breishit 18:19 was a single quote. Given the quote of the Ramban that I gave you from Shmot 13:16 (above) we see that the understanding of your isolated quote is incomplete. And since G-d says that part of the punishment of sin is that he hides himself from us ("haster astir" as I mentioned above) there is nothing shtupped into the pshat I gave you. The Ramban in Shmot in 13:16 is true. And due to the punishment of haster astir the world we see looks like the Ramban in Breishit 18:19, and he even says there that the world looks different to "chassidav" even though they are in galut with everyone else.

    32. sammy,

      "Is there a specific place where he addresses the contradictions in the Rishonim I'm referring to"

      well that's the point. there are a very few, clearly delineated, areas of disagreement between the mainstay rishonim over these issues (mostly having to do with the difference in perspective between the kabalists and the philosophers). most of what is troubling you is not actually a contradiction between the rishonim, but rather a contradiction in the ways that god relates to his creations (as waterman613 has been trying to say). and understanding that is the subject of much of tanach, as can be appreciated if one studies tanach with the commentaries who focus on these issues. the "contradictions in the rishonim parallel the "contradictions" in tanach itself.

      in any case i am loathe to site a specific reference in a public forum, as it can easily be misunderstood, which would be more misleading than simply allowing people who are unjustifiably certain of themselves to make definitive statements statements.

      i would be happy to provide some places to start if you contact me.

    33. Mr. Waterman
      With all due respect, I'm beginning to suspect you're not following the conversation. Earlier you accused me of "in practice accepting the nature side" when I never said anything of the sort. Now you're saying to ME that the Ramban in Bereishis is incomplete because of the Ramban in Shemos. My WHOLE point was that there is a stirah in the Rishonim. I referenced the Ramban in Shemos before you even brought it up! You're obviously not reading my comments or not getting them. This is getting tiresome.
      Now to the point: the fact that there is a stirah doesn't allow you to make something up. You decided the answer is what you said, but until you have an implication of that, you simply don't know. It's speculation at BEST. The Ramban doesn't say it "appears" different to chassidav, the Ramban describes God's "conduct" towards them as different.

    34. Mr. Amcha, I am troubled with a stirah in the Rishonim because the Ramban (for example) makes no reference to the point Mr. Waterman is making. He takes a stirah as carte blanche to say whatever he wants. If there's no shemetz of proof that this is what the Ramban means then I'm reading the peirush of Maharam Waterman613 al HaTorah not the Ramban's.

  2. I am a chareidi anglo living in RBS gimmel. I've been reading this blog for years now. While I disagree with rabbi slifkin about many fundamental issues in judaism I find his take on many issues very compelling. I share many of his concerns (among them - charedim working and integrating in the country). I find his post both informative and edifying. and I know that there are many more open minded chareidim out there like me. Although unlike rabbi slifikn, I believe that we are not headed for a doomsday situation in which the country collapses because the chareidim take over. (these types of predictions are usually wrong. history just doesn't seem to work that way. rbbi slifkin has acknowledged this about other issues but with the chareidim he seems to have a blind spot). Rather I suspect that we will see a gradual incremental process from with in the charedi tzibbur in which a way is found to balance keeping a cheiredi identity (in terms of an attitude towards halacha and centrality of liumd hatorah, etc.) with joining modern society.

    1. Here's another issue to be concerned about - the shocking lack of freedom of thought and expression in the Haredi society.

      Is this not why you feel the need to read the blog in stealth and comment in anonymity?

    2. But 5 blogposts on charedi culpabilit for Coronavirus in April alone? How can you find such obsession informative and edifying? I find it derivative, bland, boring, and, due to the obsessive character, bigoted. And do you really think this is helping the Jews in B'nei Berak? When was the last time you set foot in B'nei Berak, and how much influence do you wield there?

    3. "I find it derivative, bland, boring,..." And yet, here you are, day after day, commenting again and again...

    4. Touche, Sammy. Pathetic all around. My wife agrees with you. So do I, TBH.

    5. Yitz Waxman- "lack of freedom of thought"???? You must be kidding. Haredim are among the very tiny minority of people who have the courage to think for themselves and decide - of their own free will - to defer to Torah scholars' opinions, as opposed to the mindless politically correct groupthink so prevalent today, and to which this blog subscribes.

    6. Yeah, it is super "courageous" to be brought up in a highly conformist, insular, fundamentalist sect which brooks absolutely no dissension, and then quietly keep living that way.

    7. Haredim are among the very tiny minority of people who have the courage to think for themselves and decide - of their own free will - to defer to Torah scholars' opinions

      Black is White.
      War is Peace.
      Individual Thought is Submission to Authority.

    8. Agreed thoroughly with Skeptical Rationalist. The herd mentality and groupthink in the secular public is shocking. Small wonder, with the intolerant abuse heaped by the left upon people who dare to have a different opinion. Good for the charedim - and largely the chassidim among them - who have the courage to be different and think different.

    9. I have to assume that Skeptical Rationalist's comment was a joke or satire. That is how I am being dan l'kaf z'chus for him/her.

      But assuming it was meant seriously: how does not being permitted to read a newspaper, watch television, engage in secular culture, or have positive dealings with one's own government lead to ability to think for oneself? I don't live in such a community, but I am led to understand that "kol koreh" posters are both sources of outrage AND news. If that is not the epitome of being told how to think, I shudder to imagine how it could be more potent.

    10. Avi - I see you didn't understand what I wrote if you are comparing your third statement to the first two. Yes - individual thought can be either submission to authority or non-submission to authority. That's the whole idea! The person who thinks for himself DECIDES HIMSELF whether the right thing is to submit or non submit, and doesn't just go along with what the present trend is...

    11. That's the whole idea! The person who thinks for himself DECIDES HIMSELF whether the right thing is to submit or non submit, and doesn't just go along with what the present trend is.

      You think Charedim, who practically define themselves by their submission to a "gadol", are not following group-think when they choose to follow everyone else?

      There are no words.

      Or to sum up your view: "I'm going to assert my independence by turning off my brain!"

    12. "...they choose to follow everyone else". Everyone else? What is the proportion of Haredi Jews to the rest of the world's population? To the rest of the population of educated Westerners (W. European, USA)?
      There are hundreds of thousands of baaley teshuva (including me), a huge proportion of which come from academia, who after examining the case for Haredi Judaism with the utmost rationality (true rationality, not groupthink "rationality") defied their families, friends, social milieu, to reject secularism and become frum Jews. They "turned off their brains"? They "were told how to think"?
      Western society has become just another herd mentality, abandoning any pretence of deciding for itself what values are true. How is it that basic values that were once regarded as sacrosanct are now abandoned for the latest trendy ideas - whether in all the various aspects of sexual morality, down to even stupid fashions such as tattoos.
      People today just accept things such as lgbtq, single motherhood, women serving in combat units, just because this is what you are supposed to accept in order to be politically correct, without actually engaging their brains to think about the issues, and ask themselves if they are so good, how is it that the vast majority of the world's population have excoriated them for millenia.

    13. Skeptical, you make an argument both good and straw.

      Kinda good, but limited argument:
      Sure, people can choose to become frum, for whatever reasons; THOSE people select to join the community. But people who grew up in a community do not choose. And I include myself up to a point in that - I remain part of the Modern Orthodox community in part because that's what I grew up with.

      Straw argument:
      Indoctrination comes in all forms. Going along with the liberal herd and accepting the latest in gender identity whatchamacallit without analyzing might mean that there are ppl in THAT community who do not question. But overall, MORE dissent and questioning happens in an environment where differing opinions are heard.

  3. Just an interesting thought experiment RNS
    If it turns out that the scientific community in Israel was wrong all along, and social distancing (including Minyanim and Yeshivot) did not change anything, will you apologize for your attacks on RCK? And will you question "how a rational person can rely on medical experts if they were wrong and an ordinary person on the street knew more"?

    1. Nope. We have to follow medical experts, even if they turn out to be wrong. (Just as we follow the majority of the Beis Din, even if they were mistaken on things.)

    2. But so far, while the worst predictions thankfully did not come true, it does seem clear that social distancing etc. worked. That's why Israel as a whole did very well, but Bnei Brak and Jerusalem did relatively badly.

    3. You didn't actually read the piece, it seems.

    4. And for those who follow the psak of RCK? Also, according to the article the spread in Bnei Brak was probably due to other factors, such as overcrowding.

    5. And as I recall you asking regarding those who followed RCK: "what use is it to follow his psak if it turns out the average person on the street was right?", are you saying that wouldn't apply to following the advice of one's local M.D?

    6. So now your critique of RCK is that he didn't follow the halacha?
      Up until this week, your critique was that his instructions would certainly lead to increased deaths--not do "relatively badly". You really cannot admit any error in your judgement of Daas Torah. Fascinating.

    7. There is reason to believe that the medical establishment are generally correct, and were broadly correct here too. There is no such reason to believe that with RCK.

    8. Yeah, Dovid, "only" many hundreds of people in Bnei Brak went to hospital and "only" a few died! That proves that Rav Chaim must have been correct to order that the yeshivos stay open, even though the doctors were urging them to be closed! Is that seriously what you are arguing?!

    9. You are referring to the work of one statistician who collected his statistics in the early part of the pandemic. We don't know when cases will trend towards zero, and we don't yet know how fatal it is compared to other viruses.

      Even if he turns out to be right about the statistics, that doesn't make him an "ordinary man on the street".

    10. RDNS: "We have to follow medical experts, even if they turn out to be wrong. (Just as we follow the majority of the Beis Din, even if they were mistaken on things.)" And, may I add: just as we follow the Torah experts who know vastly more Torah than we do, even if you think they are wrong. How many people know more Torah than Rav Chaim Kanayevsky and Rav Gershon Eidelstein? (And if you want to say that it only applies to the Beis Din, I never heard a beis din's pask on these issues.)

    11. @anonymous (why are you anonymous???)

      You write:

      "If it turns out that the scientific community in Israel was wrong all along, and social distancing (including Minyanim and Yeshivot) did not change anything, will you apologize for your attacks on RCK?".

      Rav Asher Weiss's video shiur this week for Tazri'a-Metzorah seems to contradict your highly hypothetical question (see time 4:15 in the video There he says (I translate):

      "The only reason our situation in Israel is better [than the rest of the world] is because we began using isolation before them by quarantining ourselves in our homes."

      In this same video he appeals to his listeners not to become overly lax with the loosening of the quarantining.

      I assume you recognize the Torah authority and medical knowledge of one of our generation's foremost poskim (he is the Posek for Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital).

    12. "And, may I add: just as we follow the Torah experts who know vastly more Torah than we do, even if you think they are wrong. How many people know more Torah than Rav Chaim Kanayevsky and Rav Gershon Eidelstein?" You're making a number of mistakes here. "Torah" is too vague a term. It has numerous different parts and different approaches. Plus, there's such a thing as sphere of authority.

    13. RNS:if the rational approach subscribes to following an expert because he is mostly correct, then why not listen to every statement by RCK regarding Torah and halacha? (or whoever you consider to be the greatest dl gadol) Presumably he is more likely to have a correct view... It would be irrelevant if we are halachically obligated to listen, it is just a more rational way of living one's life.

    14. And, may I add: just as we follow the Torah experts who know vastly more Torah than we do, even if you think they are wrong.

      The issue is that you want to have your cake and eat it, too. You want to say that secular (scientific) knowledge is not a part of Torah, so should not be taught in Yeshivot. You also want to say that "Torah experts" should be listened to for questions that involve secular knowledge.

      I don't go to a electrician for enginetrouble, and I don't go to a master mechanic to check my circuit breaker.

      Either Torah encompasses science, and should be taught in all Yeshivot, or it does not, and its SMEs should be ignored when science questions arise.

    15. "RNS:if the rational approach subscribes to following an expert because he is mostly correct, then why not listen to every statement by RCK regarding Torah and halacha? (or whoever you consider to be the greatest dl gadol) Presumably he is more likely to have a correct view... It would be irrelevant if we are halachically obligated to listen, it is just a more rational way of living one's life."

      Well, for many issues, the "biggest rabbi" is not necessarily the greatest expert. But, for argument's sake, let's say that he is. Nevertheless, at least from a rationalist perspective, halacha doesn't work that way. There is no objective metaphysical "correct" answer. Any rabbi who sufficiently understands the topic is entitled to make his own ruling.

    16. The problem is that truth has entirely disappeared from public discourse. No one believes a word in the media anymore. And the current climate of "Man Flattened by Steamroller Dies from Coronavirus", plus daily reports of 90 year old unhealthy men all dying "from coronavirus", just makes it worse. Doctors may indeed more know about medicine, but don't ever sacrifice your common sense, especially given what we know about mass hysteria, upon the altar of "authority."

    17. I agree with DF. Maimonides said to question tradition, even medical tradition. On the other hand, we do not want to not listen to doctors (Nachmanides).

      Small question for Rabbi Slifkin: What do you mean by "There is no objective metaphysical "correct" answer. Any rabbi who sufficiently understands the topic is entitled to make his own ruling." Could you expound on that? Thanks in advance.

    18. RDNS, you are sounding more and more like Conservative and Reform because when you run into something you have no answer to, you sidestep the issue. For example, *you* said that we should follow the medical advice of the more medically knowledgable. I responded that likewise we should follow the halachic advice of the more halachically (I used the word Torah) knowledgable. So you respond with: "Torah is too vague a term," and "there's such thing as sphere of authority," and leave everything hanging as if your evasion is a win for you.

      I know that you won't address it, so I will.

      #1 You say "'Torah' is too vague a term". Well, not in this context. In any part of Torah both Rav Chaim Kanaevsky and Rav Gershon Eidelstein will run circles around you and any Rav you would like to go by. And while you might think that you have them bested when it comes to the machshavah/hashkafah/philosophy of the (or some of the) Rishonim, you are wrong - they still know more and better than you no matter how much time you've spent learning them. So while "Torah" can be a vague term (e.g.: sh'b'al peh or sh'bichtav? lamdut or psak?), it is not vague at all in this context because my statement is true with any way you want to interpret the word Torah.

      #2 "There's such a thing as sphere of authority," and that was the end of your comment. What was you're point. Are you implying that you are outside their sphere of authority. If so, I hope that you are taking the psak/advice of someone whose "sphere of authority" is comparatively authoritative. But I doubt it. And I guess it doesn't matter because you used the mere mention of "sphere of authority" as a sidestep and not as point of discussion to further what was being discussed.

      You also wrote (in response to "Anonymous") "halacha doesn't work that way. There is no objective metaphysical 'correct' answer." That is something a Conservative or Reform Jew would say so that they can say whatever they want. The truth is that while there may be no *single* answer to a given issue, not every answer is accepted by the Torah. If the Torah accepts all answers, then who needs the Torah?!

      You also wrote (in response to "Anonymous") "Any rabbi who sufficiently understands the topic is entitled to make his own ruling." (#1) That's true so long as gdolim have not spoken out against the ruling. But even great Torah minds often defer their opinions (even when their psak has been rendered publicized) when those significantly greater than them in Torah come out against them. For example, Rav Yaakov Emden with many many proofs to matir pilagshim would not pasken so because no other gadol would agree to. Rav Bic recanted on the topic of taking a train/bus to shul in certain circumstances because other gdolim came out against him. Rav Matisyahu Salomon recanted on his support for public discussion on a particular topic because other gdolim came out against him. One needs to have some humility....

      .... I'll say to you: Halachah doesn't work that way. It's not like you cross a certain line and then you know enough to pasken regardless of what anyone else says. You think that just because one has smichah or attained some other "level" then he can pasken on anything and everything. That's not how halachah works.

      I've seen you occassionally admit when someone has a good point against you. I know you can do it. But when that point hurts your crusade for rationalism and defiance of Kdushah too much, you side step the issue with a comment ambiguous enough that you can pretend it's a winning punch for you.

    19. I meant we do not want to agree with Ramban that we should not listen to doctors.

    20. @waterman

      "just as we follow the Torah experts who know vastly more Torah than we do, even if you think they are wrong. How many people know more Torah than Rav Chaim Kanayevsky and Rav Gershon Eidelstein?"

      when you say "we follow" who is the "we" you're talking about? it sounds like it's the same "we" that are blindly confident when they ask "How many people know more Torah than Rav Chaim Kanayevsky and Rav Gershon Eidelstein?" Umm. Who on earth are you to say that these rabbis know more Torah than other rabbis? Is it because your rebbe told you so, or because you have a picture of them hanging up in your house!? Quite brazen, biased, and ignorant, to say the least.

      Also, the whole notion of "we follow the Torah experts ... even if you think they are wrong". what is your source for this? and do you believe that the source you quote for me is a unanimous view? and furthermore, is the source you intend on bringing something that pertains to the current scenario, or was it something that was originally meant to be applied to beit din?

      And also what do you mean by "more Torah"?
      And how would it be possible to apply certain parts of the Torah to modern day issues if one doesn't have any familiarity to the modern day issues because they clearly lock themselves away from it? Please don't answer with something about the Chazon Ish knwoing more neurology than the top meurologist in the world.

    21. That's true so long as gdolim have not spoken out against the ruling.

      That may be what "gdolim" [sic] will tell you, but that has no basis in Halachah. Judaism hasn't had a formal mode of Hora'ah since the end of the Talmudic era.

    22. "In any part of Torah both Rav Chaim Kanaevsky and Rav Gershon Eidelstein will run circles around you and any Rav you would like to go by. And while you might think that you have them bested when it comes to the machshavah/ hashkafah/ philosophy of the (or some of the) Rishonim, you are wrong - they still know more and better than you no matter how much time you've spent learning them."

      What do you think they would say if you asked them what's pshat in Pesachim 94b - and if you asked them what the Rishonim say about it?

      ""There's such a thing as sphere of authority," and that was the end of your comment. What was you're point."

      There is no rabbi, no matter how great, whose opinion is binding on all Israel. See Igros Moshe about the young Rabbi who wants to move to Bnei Brak and was worried about arguing with the Chazon Ish.

  4. There seems to be a pattern on this blog. First, Alarmist , doomsday predictions of utter collapse and disaster in the chareidi community. And/Or, a complete breakdown of the Israeli economic system or its security because of the lack of productivity of chareidim. And then, when it doesn't materialize as predicted, write posts like this one to shift the conversation to side issues and distract. Never admit to a fundamental misreading of the facts on the ground.

    1. The charedi community *is* a disaster already.

    2. Oh, I guess you think RDNS has never made any predictions. Odd.

    3. Dovid, are you seriously claiming that RCK was correct to order that the yeshivos stay open and that Torah protects?

    4. No. You are changing the conversation to protect RDNS and distract from his failed prediction that RCK's Daas Torah would cause disproportionate deaths in Bnei Brak. This was RDNS's own standard that would prove his point and fortunately it failed miserably.
      And typically, he refuses to admit it.

    5. Oh, I guess you think RDNS has never made any predictions. Odd.

      Nachum wrote nothing at all that would even imply that. Your ability to reason in a logical manner is simple nonexistent.

    6. There were disproportionate infections and deaths in Bnei Brak in proportion to its population.

    7. I assumed someone replying to my comment would, you know, actually be addressing my comment. My bad.

    8. @Avraham:
      Credible source, please? (About the deaths in particular)

    9. avraham,

      that is simply not true. there is a slight disproportional increase in illness per capita, but because the death rate from illness has been below average, so far there is no per capita increase in deaths. obviously this is based on what has happened so far. the future, as they say, is notoriously hard to predict.

    10. @Kornreich

      I must admit I don't always agree with RNS. But one thing that I do respect him greatly for is when on a number of occasions he has written follow-up posts apologizing if he made an error in a previous article. So I'm not sure the "distraction" pattern you are theorizing about for this blog is iron clad.

      I am not disagreeing with you when you say RNS made "predictions of utter collapse and disaster in the chareidi community". But can you refer to specific instances (not just the specific article, but the words he used) when he said this. Your choice of words "utter collapse" may be referring to the following comment of RNS:

      "...the charedi community is facing complete and utter collapse. The global economic costs of coronavirus are going to be serious; for the charedi community, they will be catastrophic..." [March 19, 2020, "Understanding the charedi response to coronavirus]

      If this is the "utter collapse" you are indeed referring to, saying that it "doesn't materialize as predicted" would be very premature, seeing that economic costs take a very long time to be recognized; not a mere month. Furthermore, in that same article, RNS does say shortly after "The charedi community is going to need bailing out, big time", which in of itself demonstrates that his prediction is contingent on no outside help.
      But indeed if the "utter collapse" you are referring to is another statement of his, please just let me know.

      Lastly, it's a basic tenet in Tanakh/Torah that the predictions of the Neviim were never absolute and that they were subject to change if the people change their actions. Classic examples are Yonah and Yirmiyahu [specifically in chapter 28]. The reason I'm bringing this up is because I just want to know at what point the referred predictions of RNS happened, and specifically if they happened before the change in response that the haredi leadership made in their policy towards covid-19, or alternatively if they happened before the government changed the restriction policies on certain haredi sectors.

      I hope this qualifies as someone "actually addressing your comment" and I look forward to your response.

    11. @Dovid Kornreich RNS is not a prophet. What did you expect? even if his predictions were a little inaccurate — so what. That is not the point. His 'ought to' predictions are insignificant. What is important is the message he's trying to convey. To close yeshivos until the coronavirus pandemic passes away. To inform Jews about COVID-19 and to help mitigate the drastic effects it could have if people ignore it.

    12. Thank you N8ZL for mentioning the follow-up posts apologizing. You make a good point.

    13. You make an interesting point in that, not all prophecy comes true if people change their behavior. This is both logical and sound.

    14. @N8ZL:
      Rabbi Slifkin has been railing about Chareidim with their long-term kollel, lack of economic productivity, and avoidance of army service for a very long time. His predictions of this society's collapse go as far back as 2013--hardly a mere month.
      So I'm asking you: at one point can we stop the count-down to this "ticking time bomb" RDNS has been referring to and determine if it exploded or not? 5 years? It's already been 5 years? Ten years? Do you think RDNS will actually give it up when in another three years from now the bomb didn't explode? Please, don't be so naive...

      This coronavirus reaction is a much cleaner example of RDNS' false predictions and a subsequent refusal to acknowledge his failure.
      He said Daas Torah caused a greater number of people in Bnei Brak to DIE as if it was fact. When it was pointed out that it wasn't fact, he basically said "don't worry, it takes time for people to die". When it is being pointed out now that this greater number gratefully did not in fact didn't die, he cleverly co-opted the deaths in the US and UK and cynically argued that if the Gedolim didn't save you from coronavirus, they won't save you from economic ruin.
      See the sham?

    15. @Dovid Kornreich

      You sound like Bnei Yisroel telling Yirmiyahu and Yeshayahu that they are alarmist and annoying because they wouldn't shut up about the impending invasion and Galus.

    16. This is the silliest thing I've ever seen. As everyone knows, the projection given to the Knesset of enormous fatality rates in Bnei Brak, by the head of Maccabi, was mistaken. So what? The point was and is that the advice to keep yeshivos open, claiming that "Torah protects", was terrible, and had devastating consequences. Does anyone dispute that??

    17. @fed up:
      The very point of contention is that there were no such devastating consequences in Bnei Brak.
      The high infection rate there does not mean anything if you can't confirm that there was also DISPROPORTIONATE severe illness and death. If there was, you can be sure as anything that RDNS would be linking to it constantly--but he hasn't. Why do you think he hasn't?

      Instead, RDNS has to try to save face point to the high death rate in the US and UK--and they weren't following RCK's instructions. Can there be any bigger bait and switch than this?

      The claim that Daas Torah led to dire consequences in Bnei Brak is a sham. RDNS has egg on his face on a serious issue--but of course this won't stop him from using this non-incident to bash Daas Torah in the future.
      Rabbi Slifkin is brazenly trading in lies and none of his fan boys like "fed up" here are willing to be critical of him and admit it.
      The minute I get a serious admission instead of dismissals by "fed up" and Turk Hill et al., I'll stop hammering at this and be on my way.

    18. Yes, there were devastating consequences in Bnei Brak. The highest infection rate in the country. The highest hospitalization rate in the country. I don't know the statistics about fatalities, but there were certainly several.
      I'm amazed that you are still defending RCK's initial ruling. There can't be many people like you. Even RCK backtracked. Certainly plenty of charedim believe that Daas Torah led to dire consequences. In fact, I'm not quite sure how you can possibly argue that keeping yeshivos going and claiming that Torah protects *doesn't* lead to a higher rate of coronavirus infections. Is Toras Moshe open?

    19. Agree with Fed Up. Even if nobody dies, having the highest or second highest infection rate is still bad. I'm not going to waste time explain why "being sick is not good." Im Yirtzeh Hashem nobody dies. Perhaps the rate of not-death in Bnei Brak is simply because there is such a high number of young people, so the numbers skew that way. I don't know. Is being able to say "See! Nobody died! We didn't have to listen to the official recommendations!" worth the agmas nefesh and physical debility of 2 months (or 3 or 4) wondering and waiting who will survive, caring for the sick, oh yes, and actually BEING SICK?

    20. @Kornreich

      I was under the impression that the utter collapse you were referring to was concerning the current situation, since the above article was referring to criticisms of RNS in the last few days. Thank you for clarifying.
      I would argue that the massive chilul Hashem that the charedi society has demonstrated in relation to covid-19 is in of itself a fulfillment of the collapse that RNS has been speaking of over the last number of years. I'd imagine you'd disagree, but feel free to share your thoughts.

      "He said Daas Torah caused a greater number of people in Bnei Brak to DIE as if it was fact... he basically said "don't worry, it takes time for people to die". ... he cleverly co-opted the deaths in the US and UK and cynically argued that if the Gedolim didn't save you from coronavirus, they won't save you from economic ruin."

      I am not going to comment until I'm shown where he said this. I'm not even arguing with you and saying he didn't say this. I just want to see it before commenting blindly; that's the way normal dialogue goes. I'm pretty sure my previous comment asked you for sources for the specific instance in which he said the comments you are quoting him for. If I took the time to bring sources for you, please do the same.
      And then please address the points I made in relation to Yonah and Yirmiyahu (btw, those are books of Tanakh). If you continue to sidestep the issue, the very same accusation you are launching against RNS, then the sham is on your end.

      Looking forward,


      The guys who arguing with is like "nailing jelly to a wall"

    21. @Dovid Kornreich
      Again, RDNS is never claimed to be a prophet. He only makes educated guesses. We hope he is wrong. And if he turns out to be mistaken, this does not mean, as RCK wrongly suggested, to open up yeshivahs.

      If you haven't heard already, RDNS has been dispelling the myths about "Torah protection." for example, the ancient Israelites thought that the copper snake on a pole, the caduceus, was a magical artifice; onlookers would be healed if they looked at the snake. This was not its purpose. The copper snake was meant to instil proper behaviour, a reminder to act properly. Similarly, the Torah does not heal or protect people from coronavirus but reminds people, by mitzvot, of G-d and the necessity to improve themselves and society. Daas Torah will not protect you from coronavirus. The doctors will.

    22. @Dovid Kornreich

      I would add that in all the posts (thus far) I have never seen Rabbi Slifkin act disrespectful or distastefully toward the Chareidi society in any way. Yes, he does has a motive, to help people.

    23. "Yes, there were devastating consequences in Bnei Brak."

      Well, if you keep repeating it without evidence, I guess you must be right.
      Funny though, how Rabbi Slifkin has never provided a link to any credible source indicating there was disproportionate severe illness and death in Bnei Brak which would have vindicated his attack on RCK's Daas Torah.
      Funny how he had to resort to co-opting the deaths in the US and UK and pretend that RCK's instructions were responsible.

    24. Gentlemen, there is little point arguing with Dovid Kornreich - this is a guy who once posted a condemnation of me by Rav Leff, and then when Rav Leff issued a retraction, Kornreich failed to write a corrective post, and instead commented that he suspected it to be a hoax! But for those who are interested in the raw numbers about Bnei Brak - see

    25. RDNS,
      i checked out the kikar posting that you refrenced abouve. there is not a word in it about the mortality rate in BB. certainly nothing that contradicts the information released by the misrad habriut re the first 100 or so patients to die of corona.

    26. Getting sick with Covid-19, even if you survive, is a very serious business, with long-term damage. But if for some reason you want to work out the actual mortality rate in Bnei Brak, it's easy enough - Misrad HaBriyut releases regular reports on Telegram, which state (A) the total number infected in each city, (B) the number still infected, (C) and the number who have recovered. A-(B+C) is the number who have died.

    27. There's also this useful visualization, though it hasn't been updated in a while:

    28. By the way, here is the explanation of how the initial projection for Bnei Brak was mistaken:

      "the Haaretz website later Thursday reported that the Health Ministry had revised the numbers with Maccabi and discovered that the figure was erroneous.

      "While indeed some 35% of the virus tests in Bnei Brak had been positive, those who were tested had mostly been people with symptoms of the illness, and cannot be seen as a representative sample of the city’s population.

      "Therefore, the report said, while the true number of virus patients in Bnei Brak was significantly higher than in most of the country, it was likely far from the one cited by Saar, and could be ten times lower."

    29. I still don't see a link to any credible source indicating there was disproportionate severe illness and death in Bnei Brak which would have vindicated his attack on RCK's Daas Torah.

      Just to remind people and provide evidence for N8ZL, Rabbi Sifkin wrote the following here:

      "It's a shocking thing for believers in Daas Torah to accept. It's not just that Torah turns out not to protect against coronavirus. It's that the mouthpieces of Torah, the living embodiments of Torah, the guiding lights of the community, gave utterly disastrous guidance, with fatal consequences. As I pointed out in my post "The Death Of Daas Torah," what is "Daas Torah" worth, when the average non-charedi, non ben-Torah, was correct, and Daas Torah was wrong, in a life-and-death matter?!"

      When challenged on the assertion in the comments there by:
      Yoni2 April 3, 2020 at 12:02 PM
      And yet the official death count in Israel stands at 36. Is this accurate? If so how come with 75,000 infections in one city (your number) the death rate is so low?"

      Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin responded:
      "It takes a while for the infections to kill people.

      I commented there:
      It's one thing to warn that people might die if they followed Daas Torah, and the ideology might then prove to be disastrous to follow. Then at least there is nothing really at stake if nobody dies. People make mistaken predictions all the time based on the probable factors.
      But Rabbi Slifkin has ALREADY proclaimed the death of Daas Torah. He has already triumphantly declared it is worthless to follow because of the lives it has cost.
      That's no longer a dire warning or a prediction--it is a declaration of the complete rectitude his views.

      If it turns out that mass Chareidi death in Israel will not result from Daas Torah instructions, he will deservedly have egg all over his face.

      Subsequently, when the anticipated high numbers of deaths didn't materialize in Bnei Brak, Rabbi Slifkin changed tactics in the post prior to this one.
      Instead of owning up to his mistake, he decides to pretend he was actually vindicated by pointing to the deaths in the US and UK!

      "As we have seen, the charedi community unfortunately was initially slack in taking heed of warnings about coronavirus. Rav Chaim Kanievsky and others made tragically mistaken claims of "Torah will protect us." But once reality hit their communities, and hundreds of fine frum Jews in Israel, the UK and the US started to fall very sick and die, they started to take things much more seriously.

      So he is blaming those deaths in the US and UK on RCK's advice-- even though Rabbi Slifkin himself admitted in an earlier that the American Moetzes was NOT on board with RCK's guidance about the response to coronavirus. See:

      Rabbi Slifkin remains exposed as a sham and fraud, but none of his fans wants to admit it.

    30. @Kornreich

      Thanks for taking the time to quote. It really helps to put things in perspective.
      I really see your points and I think they definitely deserve discussion. No doubt.

      I will do it in two parts:

      PART 1

      The first article that you are citing does not contain any "predictions" per se, and rather concerns matters that were currently occurring or occurred in the past. Your understanding of his words seem to conclude that he was making a prediction here when no prediction was made. And I don't blame you. You thought that when he said "fatal consequences", it means "people will 100% die". But you're not fully on the mark there.
      If someone contracts coronavirus, can they die? I think you're smart enough to answer yes; so indeed, coronavirus is fatal. The reason that people didn't die is because of intervention, not the intervention of tefilos and limud hatorah (which should always be done) but the intervention of medical professionals that are specialized in saving lives. And also, the intervention of the lockdown of certain haredi sectors, the first major one of which was Bnei Brak which commenced a few days AFTER the Slifkin article you cited.
      So far, in your above comments you have not attempted to disagree that Bnei Brak's percentage of illnesses is significantly higher than other parts of the country, you are only zeroing in on actual deaths. In essence, RNS holds that the ruling of RCK led to the increased cases of covid infections, and it was the scientists and government that had to clean up the mess before it led to death.
      Hence your rationale of "If it turns out that mass Chareidi death in Israel will not result from Daas Torah instructions..." (and the other multiple times you use the same logic) is lacking.

    31. @Kornreich

      PART 2

      You cited RNS' response of "it takes a while for it to kill people".
      Listen, this was not a smart rebuttal by RNS. I myself don't claim that RNS is always right. I am not a slifkin-junkie who follows everything he says, nor do I find the contents of a lot of the articles on the blog scholarly enough as I'd prefer. What I get out of the blog is a mere introduction to certain issues, of which I do my own analysis and study of, plus a lot of the people commenting on the thread have very intelligent points to add.
      So I don't really need to defend RNS' answer here, because I do think it was a poor one. His answer, IMHO, should have been similar to what I said (and I do believe he said something similar somewhere else; I can look for it): the reason why the death rate is so low despite so many cases of covid is in no way a vindication of RCK's psak, it's an indication of the greatness of Israeli innovation, medicine, and health ministry , as difficult as that may be for certain jews to accept.

      While we are on the topic of your quotes on that article. Earlier on that thread you wrote:
      "...the failure of Daas Torah on the presumption that it has cost people's actual lives. Look at the title of this post!"
      The title of his post was not referring to the deaths form covid; it was referring to the death of daas torah. Another misunderstanding on your end.
      You then rush to say that "Rabbi Slifkin is EFFECTIVELY rooting for Jews to die."
      No, he was addressing the question of why the then-current number of death percentages were low. Another misunderstanding. And nice try with the “effectively”.
      Your failure to comprehend these simple comments caused you spiral into a hate-filled tirade where you launch some seriously vicious comments, that RNS has a "soul-sucking hatred for Chareidim" and is guilty of "sinas Yisroel", "deep malice and obsessive denigration of Chareidim and their leadership" and that he was attempting "to gain on a personal level from many Chareidim dying". Yikes. Talk about rash! If only you davened harder in the bracha of "chonein ha'daat" you wouldn't need to correct all your sinful accusations in the bracha of "chanun ha'marbeh lisloach"!

      And your final quote of the article about the UK and the US... Wow! I feel like I'm dealing with a Xtian missionary who quotes half a verse here and half a verse there to create some foolish theory.
      The paragraph you cited is clearly talking about previous events where the charedi community worldwide was "initially" slack ("initially" = past events). RNS is intimating there that PRIOR to "the American Moetzes was NOT on board with RCK's guidance" charedim were getting sick and dying throughout the world. sheesh! He is not sidestepping anything.

      Have a good shabbos and chodesh tov! And if you see this only after, then shavua tov to you!

      Looking forward

  5. One productive move that can be made in the charedi world is to to strengthen the hand of Rav Edelshtein vis a vis the lishkah of Rav Kanievsky.

    1. With all due respect, R' Edelstein is 97 (!) years old, and five years older than R' Kanievsky. Aren't there any gedolim who are, oh, eighty years old?

    2. Make no mistake. Rav Edelstein is not my Rav. But, in the context of those who will follow one or the other, better to strengthen Rav Edelstein, who seems to be a more positive force. Of course, if masses of charedim were to go for a much better option, all the better.

  6. Please read sefer chafetz chaim - 'productive information' has to be absolutely known facts, not simply what you read in JPost etc.. It also has to be directed at the specific individuals - as any antisemite can read your blog I don't think you fulfill either of these. That's just for a start, read the whole thing, it might help you.

    1. @Unknown

      please quote source

    2. Firstly, hilchot loshon hara 10th chapter, explains most of it. and yes, it is a halachic sefer as is made abundantly clear in the introduction and footnotes, unless dr slifkin feels like arguing on the chafetz chaim.

      Seocondly, the mashal dr slifkin is looking for is knowing shidduch information. Then going to the center of town and telling everyone in the hope that the people that need the info will get it. Also, you "know" the information from reading in a biased newspaper that quote anonymous source.

      He cannot control who reads this blog - therefore, I must conclude he doesn't care if "accidentally" he spreads sinat chinam. He is like the extremists who put up poster in my town with pictures of soldiers as pigs. They also put on their posters quotes from the chafetz chaim that "support" what they do. The chafetz chaim must be so proud of all of us for caring so much.

  7. "But, for argument's sake, let's say that I have impure motives. So what? What matters is the truth and value of what I write, not my motivations for writing it."

    That is one of the most arrogant statements have read in a long time.

    Do you not think that the truth and value of you write is not impacted by your motivations?

    Are you superhuman to rise above your motivations when you assess the quality and accuracy of sources you use and your conclusions?

    In any event you don't address the point that this blog has moved from discussing 'Rational Judaism' to chareidi bashing. At least be honest about that.

    1. Of course a person's motivations and biases affect his ability to reach truth. That's just as true of me as of everyone. Nevertheless, what I write should be judged on its own merits.

    2. "Are you superhuman to rise above your motivations when you assess the quality and accuracy of sources you use and your conclusions?"

      This is exactly what he claimed NOT to be.
      His whole point in what you quoted is that everyone has motivations.

      His critics don't get to dismiss the content of his posts on the basis of what they imagine his motivations to be as some kind of grand overarching explanation to whatever he writes and then arrogantly profess themselves to be completely free of their own biases and purely objective.
      The truth remains the truth regardless of if Rabbi Slifkin writes it with bad or good intentions. (Or doesn't write it at all). If something he has written is accused of being a distortion of the facts, the claim that it's a distortion requires evidence to back it up. Regardless of whether that claimed distortion is in reality due to a bias or any other imagined motivation. Either it's true or it isn't.

  8. In my eyes, Rav Slifkin is a brave jew, who cares about others. He is respectfull of gedolim, and yet honest to his beliefs. this blog has influenced me in so many fields. I thank you,

  9. Dear NS,

    I wouldn't usually but since you asked for feedback here is my tuppence worth.
    As someone who went though the system and still identifies as Charedi I find the content on your blog thought-provoking and engaging. You raise awareness about matters that must be addressed.

    The reason many love to hate you, even among those who believe you were unfairly treated, is because you are always on the attack which forces Charedim to go on the defence. Your feud reflects in nearly all your writing and it is a challenge to ignore
    the subtext and the anger between the lines and merely focus on what is actually being said. Your writing style can be so patronising and sententious at times and the tone sardonic and antagonistic. As others have noted there's an arrogance but I think it is probably a cover for the deep (justified) bitterness that festers underneath. Time heals and writing styles develop.

    I urge you to continue your fight but if you were serious about making a significant difference to Israeli
    society and changing people's lives for the better, it would be best to emulate the tone and style of the articles written in "Tzarich Iyun". The criticism is harsh but with enough tact
    that it may not be repelled immediately.

    Best wishes & Hatzlacha

  10. You did not engage with the biggest criticism: your sectarianism.

    You see, the Corona problem isn't "Charedim". The problem is specific Charedi sub-groups, who, because they are sectarians, in the words of the Neturei Karta anthem, make it a point of faith not to comply with the requirements of the state and wider society. The answer is assuredly not more broad brush sectarianism. The answer is surely to recognise and empower those Charedim who are saving lives.

    Moving on to your chosen point, you again reveal how the label rationalist is a convenient figleaf for "fact shy polemicist". How do you know how many Charedim read this blog? That's right, you don't.

    In fact, judging by the commentators, you draw in an audience mainly based in the UK, with a sprinkling in the US and Canada. Some of these people are armchair fascists (one explicitly embraced that self description) , with a ghoulish sectarian delight in brutalising Arabs. One such (Jewish) frequent commentator leans so far right he is an actual "profiteering landlord" anti-Semite. It is fair to say the commentators are overwhelmingly Jewish. But Charedi?

    A few anecdotes about people who are Anglo-charedi and occasionally speak about your blog to you doesn't even prove those *individuals* are regular readers.

    If I can make a wider suggestion about why your audience has now been reduced to this pathetic group of sycophants and obsessed fantasists from Chu"l. It was you, Rabbi Slifkin, who introduced me to the unique coprophagia of lagomorphs. If you want to attract a wider audience, stop marking the Jewish calendar with your obsessive, endless cyclical rut of reposts of reposts of what you consider your greatest hits. The kezayis article was great 5 years ago, but, like the olive itself, it hasn't changed with age. Nobody cares about your ancient vendetta with Rabbi Meiselman. Move on. Stop avoiding the overwhelming evidence against Torah MiSinai if you want to claim to be rational, just because even your sectarian identity will be challenged by it - it's getting embarrassing now.

    1. The reason he has so few chareidi posters like me, also from the UK like yourself, is because the comments are moderated and chareidi posts like mine which RNS cant answer are not published. I do post elsewhere and RNS reads my posts there and that makes him uncomfortable to post my posts here.

    2. Nonsense. I virtually never prevent critical comments from being posted. As you can see on this thread!

    3. @newcomer,

      Literally no one in the world finds anything about you uncomfortable. Annoyingly vapid, maybe. Uncomfortable, no.

    4. I dont know how you can say this without hardly ever seeing my posts here. I dont find you coming elsewhere where I post regularly where many do find my posts that, never being able to answer them. Anyway why must your site be moderated. Others manage without.
      I should add something which you are unaware of. I have never seen your books and very likely would not even understand them.I dont think there is anything wrong with them. But BTs are not supposed to read them. I would include Dessler as well. If someone want to be a BT, he has to have what I term emuna that what he is being taught is correct. Not that he should decide. R Akiva also told someone that when he taught him the alphabet. Your books give him doubts like Desslers do.There is no way one can prove the torah is correct otherwise there would be no b'chira.

    5. I ought to add that I post mainly against chareidim though not your type of superficial posts, but real criticism of them. No chareidi site would ever post them and I have to thank RHM for allowing me to. Chareidim are of the opinion that they can never do any wrong, although they hardly keep any mitsvot properly and that includes the main serious ones. It is not that the rabbis dont know they do wrong but they are blinded by the fact that since other rabbis do it and have done it cant be wrong. The way they put it, so we will go to gehenom with them together. This is the most terrible thing today in chareidi society not wanting to do the right thing and would rather not know about it.

    6. @The Hat

      "The problem is specific Charedi sub-groups, who... make it a point of faith not to comply with the requirements of the state and wider society"

      Are you implying that R Kanievsky or R Edelstein are part of a charedi subgroup? How on earth can you focus on "recognise and empower those Charedim who are saving lives." when the very rabbis they idolize as their leaders are the ones leading everyone astray?

  11. I once used to read your posts, and for some reason ever since covid 19 lokldowns i have more time on my hands so i read them some more. I am not saving that what you write is incorrect. However, writing so Much about charedi acountability in the coronavirus crisis comes off as obsessive. The exact reason my wife and I chose not to live in beit shemesh was because of this matter-I don't want to have a constant desire to critisize charedim. I found that so many DL people from beit shemesh has such a tendency. I don't critisize them, and I don't judge them for doing so. However, i pray to hashem to atone for my own shortcomings, and I also pray that our charedi bretheren will make their respective cheshbon nefesh. I found the need to publicly critisize them unproductive. A. Because they wont listen to me. B. Because it causes unneccesary anger to dwell in my heart. I once heard from a wise old man that his secret to living a long and healthy life was due to his life long strive to be calm and content and not angry, even when it was warrented.

  12. I generally agree to the core concerns that RNS writes about. However, if there is anything that the responses here demonstrate its that there is definitely a "tone issue."

    A tone doesn't need to be and can't be demonstrated. It is a judgment call, perceived in error or otherwise.

  13. Very important that someone is sounding the alarm and exposing the deep ideological flaws in the charedi society, and NS should be thanked for it.

    However i feel that two things are sorely missing from your attitude.

    One is, i dont get a feel that your criticizm comes from ahavat yisrael. Is there anything that you genuanely love about the charedy society? Why not speak about it? If there really is nothing you love about good and frum jews who still identify as caredim, well, check your ahavat yisrael.

    Two is complete lack of criticism of the DL society to which you now belong. While DL is truly admirable when it comes to working for a living and serving in the army, it is failing quite badly at tzniut. And that is not a minor problem. In fact, it FEEDS many of the charedi problems, as many jews choose to be charedi rather than dl precisely because of the tzniut. Its also one of the reasons charedim are seen as the "true jews", is because regarding tzniut they really hit the nail on the head - truly modest dress and no intermingling (talking about the normal caredim, not the ones with burkas).

    Perhaps you would do well to apply your rationalist mind as well as your hopefully compassionate heart to understand why tzniut is truly a cornerstone of everything that is decent and use your influence to try to fix what needs to be fixed in the dl society.

    1. "No intermingling" is not actually necessary or halachic, it is extremism. I do not believe your assessment of this situation is at all correct. People do not look at DL vs Haredi and say "Well, I want to live an ordinary lifestyle with an education and a job, but that lady's skirt is too short and I want to avoid all women, so I think I'll join this extremist sect and have 13 children."

    2. ONE , if i dont think that you have any good things to teach me, does it mean i don't have ahavat israel. nonsense.
      TWO , what tzenuis are you talking about. the average bnai brak sheitel can co-star in the best hollywood film. nearly every baal tshuva can tell you how surprised they are when told that charedi women actually cover there hair with the middle age halachic hoax

    3. It would be kinda random to have a post of "here are some things I love about people I no longer have a common lifestyle with," wouldn't it? What would trigger such a commentary? Do we see such things in any other forum?

      More importantly, if the house is burning, and someone is standing in the doorway not letting people out, stopping to compliment his suit is not really a useful exercise. Perhaps this is a little extreme (I don't think that RNS feels that Israeli society is burning down), but a point needs to be made. The criticism has a reason - disagree with the criticism and come up with a plan to keep Israeli/Chareidi society afloat, but don't handwave away the criticism out of a desire for balance.

  14. This blog has been so incredibly helpful for me. I grew up chareidi, and probably wouldn't be frum right now if not for Rabbi Slifkin.

  15. I can say without reservation that Rabbi Slifkin's published works, this blog, his speeches/shiurim and museum have collectively had a major affect on my own religious growth- for the better.

    Growing up in a MO community in the United States with full-time religious schooling K-12 I still found a real lack of tackling foundational issues of bitachon & emunah in those educational institutions. In fact, exposure to some approaches, especially in the kiruv world, actively turned me off from some aspects. It took until I read Sacred Monsters after my LOR quoted it in a speech that I found his approach fascinating and appealing. I think the rationalist approach is in many ways the most difficult approach to Orthodox Judaism but makes more sense to me than any other I've encountered, and thanks to Rabbi Slifkin's writings instead of letting certain doubts fester I have more intellectually honest ways to deal with them.

    A stark recognition of problems in charedi society and terrible leadership vs. signs of dealing with the issues is an important part of viewing the Orthodox world through clear eyes. Rabbi Slifkin still has a foot in both worlds so I don't see why he shouldn't have a focus on those issues.

    1. Yes, I agree with you that the rational approach is the most compelling one. That said, we should respect everyone's beliefs and opinions, even Chareidi. In all the posts (thus far) I have never seen Rabbi Slifkin act disrespectful or distastefully toward the Chareidi society in any way. Yes, he does has a motive, to help people.

    2. I couldn't agree more. I had a very similar situation as you. I went through middle of the road orthodox upbringing and had extremely serious doubts about Judaism. I still do, but much less thanks to Rabbi Slifkin. He was the only Orthodox Jewish rabbi I could find who actually addresses the very serious questions posed to Judaism's authenticity. I don't know if I would still be religious if not for his works.

    3. To Unknown and Seth I: I can't say that I share the your experience but I used to enjoy Chabad and Yosef Mizrachi lectures. One time I was reading a Chabad article about the nature of G-d. The essay talked about how we needed to help G-d. Once would had been enough but it repeatedly stressed the point. I thought: does an all-powerful being really need our help?

      Another time I was surfing the google and stumbled upon's article addressing the flood. In the essay, the Drazin proposed that it was possible that the flood was a natural event. His essays generally seemed more reasonable than Chabad's deity needing help. After studying much with Drazin, Slifkin, and many others, I made the switch. Interestingly enough, Rabbi Goodman wrote that most secular Jews do believe in G-d, just not in religion. Personally, I think if Jews, even Chareidi Jews, were more open-minded about these issues, the majority of Israelis would be religious and we would usher in the Messianic age. Plus, I don't think rationalism dilutes religion at all but is a good source to combat atheism (if necessary).

      In regards to your doubt, don't stress it. Dennis Prager said he never meant a religious Jew who didn't express any doubt. Meanwhile, atheists never doubt their atheism, they're not intellectually honest enough to admit it!

    4. @Turk Hill, thank you for your warm response. I appreciate your open mindedness, encouragement and understanding. Faith takes work and I won't give up!

  16. I have read every blog by RDNS on the Chareidi response to the coronavirus. I find his arguments articulate and compelling. I thank him for educating me -- and hopefully others -- about this vital issue that affects Am Yisrael so deeply. It is my hope that he continues in this vein, boldly spreading the truth and exposing hypocrisy.

    1. Yes, I think his views are compelling and helpful, even to Chareidi Jews.

  17. RDNS, are you an expert on hilchot lashon hara or do you show your blog posts to a competent posek of hilchot lashon hara before publishing them? I was just wondering which one of those two options are true since you are so certain that they are not lashon hara.

    1. @waterman

      did you ask a competent posek's opinion if you are allowed to be reading this website, and did you show him your remarks before you posted them? I was just wondering which one of those two options are true since you are so certain your comment bears any weight on this thread

    2. Speaking badly about others (especially Talmidey Chachamim) is a serious halachic issue. That's why it needs a hora'ah.

      About reading this website - yes. Regarding posting comment (assuming it does not have halachic issues such as lashon hara) and whether or not one thinks it bears weight I don't think requires a hora'ah. But if you think otherwise, I 'd be happy to hear the explanation.

      But I know you were only teasing because you have no real answer for my comment that you replied to.

    3. "Regarding posting comment (assuming it does not have halachic issues such as lashon hara)"

      Wait. Are you yourself an expert on hilchot lashona hara? (the same question you asked RNS). My apologies if you are.
      If you're not, then how are you to know if some of the stuff you've written throughout all your comments on this article (and previous ones), either directed at RNS or other bloggers here, don't contain some lashon hara? I mean, isn't lashon hara a "serious halachic issue"?

      "But I know you were only teasing because you have no real answer for my comment that you replied to."
      Duh. That's because you weren't asking it to me.
      The point was to convey the same sentiment you were sharing when you asked your question to RDNS.

  18. As an American reading this blog I have found it informative. While I benefited far more from The Challenge of Creation, the blogs do occasionally touch on some important topics. I personally don't know exactly what is going on in Israel so I don't care much for those posts. I am more interested in a rational approach to Judaism. There are very very few people out there that actually attempt this, and then do it well. RNS is one of the best in my humble opinion.

    Some people have mentioned the tone, and I do get a sense of anger and frustration in RNSs writing. I feel as though there is something deeper that is driving this. Especially since there are plenty of other topics to write about aside from Chareidim. No one is perfect!

    1. @Unknown, if you like Rational Judaism try Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin's blog (not advertising). He is devoted to rational religion and I think you would enjoy his posts as much as me. Both his and Rabbi Slifkin's approach are sound rational and good. Both like to focus on science which is the way I think also.

      I would add that it is also important to read R. Slifkin's post about Israel and the Chareidi response (or lack of) to coronavirus because it helps give you a better understanding of the situation.

      I do not think Rabbi Slifkin holds any contempt for the Chareidi community, even after the ban of his books. I think his aim is only to help inform them about the coronavirus and what they should do to help the economy in general. Why do some readers take issue with this is beyond me.

    2. Thank for your reply. I will check out that blog as well.

      I agree, I don't think he actually does. It just seems like the tone is somewhat combatant and mixed with a little anger. I try very hard not to read tone, as it is always difficult, so I don't think much of it. I just focus on the substance.
      The only other thing I might add is that I wish the articles perceived tone (as I somewhat see it) about chareidim were more of an Us vs. The Problem and not Modox vs Chareidim. It's always better to work as a team. And besides no one has all the answers!

    3. Your welcome! As for the tone thing, I never noticed it. but I will reread and see if I take note. In any event, I agree with you that its better if we have unity. An old proverb says one stick may break, but many are more durable.

  19. Of the three claims you present, the Lashon Hora thing is just an attempt to muzzle dissent, which you are right to reject. And undoubtedly you are not merely preaching to the choir. However, it IS clear that you ARE motivated by a personal vendetta. You acknowledge this, but argue that your motivations are irrelevant.

    I don't think so. שנאה מקלקלת את השורה. Because you cannot be objective, it causes you to believe your story is somehow unique. In fact though, your story is merely one of countless similar such stories. "Bans", which are all but meaningless to begin with, have been pronounced on books before you and books after you. In your case, its actually been to your benefit, as it enables you - for some reason you apparently find helpful, though no one can understand why - to eternally play the victim card. It also causes you to misrepresent the facts, rush to judgments later proven faulty, and fall prey to blurring the line between opinion and name-calling. An editor would be helpful for you, but probably not economically feasible. The most practical advice is probably what the sages said "be deliberate in judgment." These flaws are nothing that cant be fixed, they just need to be recognized (not necessarily publicly.)

  20. Let me say it crystal clear for all to hear. I am a Chassidish (Charedi) guy from Borough Park, children in the ultra Charedi System. This blog is a life saver, as it reminds me there are still sane Jews alive.

    I check in to to this blog constantly.

    It provides me with an alternative thought out approach to Judaism I would have otherwise no idea existed, Which would make me want to develop my own silent cynical approach of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Unfortunately I see this all around me, a kind of silent religious pessimism that people develop when they realize the 'map' they were taught of the world, doesn't work and isn't accurate to stave off tragedy. Try talking religion to these people and if they trust you, they'll quietly tell you (to keep the B*** **** to yourself)

    I particular enjoy RNS thought out approaches and ideological ideas sourced in Rishoinim...

    1. If more Charedi Jew were like you, Moishe, Charedi Jews would be improving society as G-d desires.

    2. I too am a Chasishe Yungerman from Borough Park and developed and strong interest in science and rationality from a young age and struggled to reconcile science with what a was leaning in yeshiva. Needless to say that RNS's books and this site were very helpful in staying in the system.

      For years I felt totally alone. I see Chasidim complaining about the "system" all the time but have not yet found any Chasidim literate in science. this bothers me for a long time.. I would like to have a group of Chasidim interested in science and how it relates with religion it would be very helpful. feel free to email me at

  21. Full disclosure: I like Rabbi Slifkin.

    On the topic of the "tone" thing, I generally do not hear a negative, hateful tone in his works. What I hear? Excitement, interest... and in these posts, I hear desperation. To be super-charitable, one can say that these posts come from a deep Ahavas Yisrael that leads to a tearful, yet desparate need to point out how his fellow Jews are hurting themselves. To be more even-handed (and less "sycophantic" to use the lashon of one of the cheerful, pleasant writers above), let's say desperate about the state of the economy of the State of Israel for the future? Desperate for the state of health that people should not hurt themselves - and for the jaded - that infections should not fester in one community because it will inevitably spread to others.

    R' Slifkin: Apologies if I put too many words in your mouth.

  22. "It's Lashon Hara - it's forbidden!"
    כל ספרי המוסר מרעישים העולם על עון לשון הרע, ואני מרעיש העולם להיפוך עון גדול מזה, וגם הוא מצוי יותר, והוא מניעת עצמו מלדבר במקום שנצרך להציל עשוק מיד עושקו וכו' לענין ממון הוא בכלל השבת אבידה וכו' וכן בעניני שידוך, והוא יודע שהוא איש רע ובליעל ורע להתחתן עמו - כולן בכלל השבת גופו וממונו.
    Pischei Teshuva, Orach Chaim 156:
    Cited in Tzitz Eliezer 16:4.

  23. I also would like to add on the other topic, of effect of RNS' influence on my life, that while I think my frumkeit would not have been much different, I am happy that I can feel so much better about it and feel so much more comfortable with Torah and midrash. Yes, I understand that not having an answer to a question doesn't mean that there is a "flaw" in the Torah Chas VeShalom. Similarly, RNS' stuff did not "fix" the Torah. But c'mon, eino domeh having faith that someone has an answer to a question to ACTUALLY HAVING ANSWERS!

    1. but what if the answer that makes you feel so much better is in fact false? what if you are able to accept the answer and feel good about it only because of lack of insight in to how god "thinks" about these issues?
      for better or worse, the readers and commentators on this blog as well as the proprietor are universally ignorant of torah even in it's breadth, and certainly in it's depth. they can perhaps be excused for that as we live in a generation of ignorance. what is harder to excuse is standing by one's opinion regarding how to understand tanach, chazal, rambam, etc. when the closest thing that we have to experts, decry that opinion as foolish and ignorant (not to mention, false).

      there were originally a minority of scholars that legitimized the opinions expressed in NS's books, but that was before he began to espouse spinoza's understanding of rambam and similar rishonim.

      it may be more pleasant to visit a physician who will always tell you that you are hale and hardy, but it is more beneficial to visit one who will tell you the truth, even when it is less emotionally satisfying. the approach of jewish scholarship to understanding tanach, chazal, rambam, etc. lacks the easy answers that this blog puts forth (eg. difficult chazal? no problem, relative to us sophisticates, they were simply uninformed. difficult verse in tanach? no problem, god was restricted by the nature of the primitives to whom he revealed himself, contradiction in rambam? no problem, rambam contradicts himself all over the place, because he wrote different things for different audiences). but if one is seeking understanding that is true, rather than just easy and "feels good", it behooves one to put in the hard work of true scholarship. and sometimes it is better to remain with an unsatisfying question rather than accept a satisfying but false answer.

    2. Not a bad question.

      Before I answer, I would like to point out that it's kinda arrogant and dismissive to point out that everyone on this blog knows nothing. There are rabbanim and scholars as well as nonordained people who post all the time. I am constantly impressed by the depth and breadth of the discussions here - halachic and hashkafic. Just because the conclusions do not fit with your worldview does not mean that they are wrong.

      OK to respond to your question:
      1) Who says the answers are wrong? Your worldview is that they are. The worldview of the followers of writings of Rambam down to Rav Soloveitchik believe otherwise.

      2) So what if they are wrong? If the answers engender a more willing engagement in Yahadus, a greater love and appreciation for Torah - both the text and the Law - and help put down legitimate questions against the religion, why not accept them? Aiii, you will say, but Truth? So part two of this answer must be that something completely false would not push one closer to Torah, and something completely True should not push someone away.

      3) I might not want a doctor who says that everything is fine, but I do want a doctor who listens to the context. Stomach pains for one person might be constipation, for another might be appendicitis, and for another might be a way to deal with the death of a parent from whom the patient was estranged for twenty years. To someone who does not know science, saying "what do scientists know" might be an acceptable answer, and poof, a literal understanding of the text of Bereishis is totally fine. But to someone who does know science, who knows the rigors that science requires, who understands that modern though was made by building idea upon discovery upon idea upon discovery, and therefore cannot simply dismiss one or two or five centuries worth of thought, a simple answer is not only unhelpful, it is also insulting. More on this in a separate comment.

    3. It is my observation that anyone who really cares about, believes in, and rallies around any kind of conflict between Religion and Science typically does not understand one of the two sides.

      In all fairness, this "war" was started by athiests who used science - much of which had been discovered by religious people, as they were the educated ones - as a tool to support their theology. But moving on...

      On the Religious side, people dismiss scientific evidence as spotty or flawed, when they clearly know nothing about the vast preponderance of evidence (multiple techniques for dating the Earth and the Universe, a wide an diverse fossil record including early microscopic life as well as early humans, clear evidence for animals and plants to be related to each other in ways that make geographic and historical sense, etc.). They claim that Science will find something else tomorrow to uproot what it says today, completely missing the point of the scientific method and the history of how yes, sometimes that sort of thing does happen, but usually the new discoveries help refine older understandings, not uproot them.

      On the Science-ist side, people dismiss religions (particularly Abrahamic religions - one doesn't hear about antipagan mocking so much today despite Hinduism still being around and New Age Paganism being surprisingly a Thing) as having a simplistic understanding, including believing in an "old man with a beard in the sky" and complex ritualistic instructions that mean nothing beyond conformity when they clearly know nothing about the complex philosophical concepts that have developed around these (such as Hashem's true incorporeality but dibrah Torah b'lashon b'nei adam, ta'amei hamitzvos both mystical and rational [and not only historically relevant but also psychologically relevant for a modern practitioner] and the sheer overwhelming scope of the Gemara, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, etc.] They claim that moralistic behaviors are put in by people for no reason other than power and abuse yet they miss the understanding that modesty and humility have their own benefits.

      As someone who IS educated in science as well as religion, I am not satisfied by anything less than an answer that respects both.

    4. One additional response:
      By belittling the answers, you demonstrate that you clearly have not tried to understand them. Also, you kinda build up a strawman argument. Kinda. Maybe a straw child...

      Saying that Chazal did not know quantum mechanics, molecular biology, or organic chemistry is really not a bizayon. It really is not. Saying that Chazal were well educated in the science of THEIR DAY is ALREADY saying that they were on the top of their game. Saying that they knew science of the 20th and 21st centuries but didn't act on it and instead chose to hide their knowledge - now THAT is a bizayon.

      Saying that Hashem could not reveal solid-state physics to a group of former slaves in the desert because they would not understand it is not kefirah. It really is not. Chazal already came up with the idea of dibrah Torah b'lashon b'nei adam. Could you imagine what would happen if people who thought the heavenly bodies were put for human use were told the truth about the Universe, both cosmic and microscopic??

      Saying that people change their minds as they age and have new experiences or that authors have specific target audiences in mind is not a heretical way of thinking. It really is not. The famous example of Rambam's speaking to different audiences, being that of korbanos, comes to mind. In one book, he talks about how Hashem reluctantly accepted the idea of sacrifices in order to wean the early Israelites off of it. Yet in another book, he has chapter upon chapter lovingly devoted to the details of those sacrifices. Should we believe that his "true" feelings were that korbanos are awesome and ideal but nebich those with a problem with it should be thrown a bone? Should we believe that he really believes that tefilla is a superior way to approach G-d, and nebich korbanos were utilized as a stepping stone to get there but since we have them we should understand them fully because after all the instructions are still Retzon Hashem? Should we believe he changed his mind? Should we believe he wrote for different audiences l'chatchilah? Any and all of these answers, to me, preserves my respect for the Rambam: his knowledge, his writing skill, his honesty, and his leadership.

      You claim that the answers given by Rationalists are pat and easy. Yet they are arrived at after extensive thought and analysis, taking history, philosophy, and human psychology into account. Instead of dismissing the answers, (to quote someone on this very page) "it behooves one to put in the hard work of true scholarship" and actually try to understand them.

    5. Oh my goodness. What a breath of fresh air!!

      So many questions... Since we barely hear such sane balanced comments on here. Where are you from??

    6. If you are talking to me, thank you. I grew up in a YU based MO community. I do have relatives across the spectrum (as, I would presume, most of us do).

      I grew up in the Ir Hakedosha…

      Teaneck :P

  24. I enjoy RNS' blog. I started writing comments here in November, but I have been a committed reader longer than that. It is nice to have a Jewish community of rationalists. More importantly, Slifkin's work is not aimed to mock or even harm charedi. The rabbi only expressing a certain view that the charedi community should be reasonable in a time of crisis. It is not "lashon hara" to try and do so. Especially when Jews need to hear the dangers of coronavirus. Whether you and others agree with everything that Rabbi Slifkin writes is insignificant. What is significant is that Rabbi Slifkin writes thought-provoking articles that make us think. Who can ask for anything more!

  25. Regarding the criticism of tone: I don't hear it.
    I don't hear arrogance, I don't hear condescension.
    I hear deeply felt, honest pain at the potential suffering of fellow Jews, and of the lack of Emmes in their leaders.

  26. great, great blog. very interesting. one thing i wish? switch to disqus commenting. will generate many more comments, more readers, i think.

  27. It is parshas Tazria-Metzora, which gives us a great opportunity to refocus on the importance of proper speech. This post is perfectly timed.

    Rabbi Slifkin, perhaps we could have a rationlist exposition on some of the Rambam's very important statements about lashon hara/tzaraas? The piece in Tumas Tzaraas 16:10 is particularly masterful, and I would be interested in hearing your take on it (as well as end of Deos).

    Overall, while I enjoy this blog and have grown from it, I also wish we could hear more of your rationalist analysis of Torah rather than social commentary. Though I know that it is easier and far less time-consuming to do the latter, the former is far more edifying and would, in my opinion, make those who are "part of the choir" much happier.

    1. g,

      I agree. There isn't enough intellectual discussion on this blog. There is a lot more to learn out there. The anti-charedi posts, as important as they are, get boring after a while.

      Thanks for pointing out the Rambam's concluding remarks to Hilkhot Tzaraat.
      It's interesting because, from a rational perspective it seems Lashon Hara was prohibited as a method to ensure societal unity and peace, which is Rambam's concluding remark to the Hilkhot Deyot you cited:
      וְזוֹ הִיא הַדֵּעָה הַנְּכוֹנָה שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּתְקַיֵּם בָּהּ יִשּׁוּב הָאָרֶץ וּמַשָּׂאָם וּמַתָּנָם שֶׁל בְּנֵי אָדָם זֶה עִם זֶה
      (I believe that statement wasn't only on the final two halakhot of "lo tikom" and "lo titor" but on the whole perek, which discusses Lashon Hara for the first 6 halakhot)
      But Rambam's final words in Hilkhot Tzaraat take an entirely different angle on Lashona Hara, one that is not a rational approach as it links a metaphysical lesion to the speaking of Lashon Hara.
      (It's examples like these that convince me that Rambam isn't entirely "rational" per se, which I'm not alone on)

      I would say that Rambam's approach in Deyot concerns the current era, where there is no Temple, and is therefore rational and logical. His ideas in Hilkhot Tzaraat (and Hilkhot Taharah in general) are applicable to a Temple era, where God's presence is manifest on earth, and therefore more "miraculous", a.k.a. irrational, interventions can be employed in order to deter us from Lashon Hara.

      What are your thoughts?

      RNS, feel free to weigh in

    2. N8ZL,

      There is no contradiction. In Deos, he is explaining one reason why lashon hara is so destructive to society (rationlistic); in Tumas Tzaraas, he is also expanding upon other destructive societal elements that go along with the disunity (foolish talk leads to heresy, for example), which are also rationalistic in their nature.

      The reason that beautiful prose is surprising is because of the supernatural role he assigns to tzaraas of the items/houses (note the deafening exclusion of the body), which seems decidedly not rationalistic. In a word, though the goals of this miraculous occurrence are very rationalistic (to alert the evildoer to the error of his ways), the means to achieve them are not.

      Importantly, see Rambam in the Moreh (3:47) as well. Even in that more rationalistic and philosophical work, he stands by what he wrote in the Mishneh Torah.

      I would love to see RDNS address this (Rambam also indicates the Sotah process is supernatural in the Moreh there), either here or a larger piece.

      I reiterate here that I (and many other Rambam enthusiasts, I am sure) would very much enjoy seeing RDNS writing on these type of topics more often.

    3. Agreed, I don't see a contradiction either. Your words summarize it concisely by distinguishing goals from means.
      I was trying to intimate that in today's current era, there is only a rational aspect to Lashon Hara, for we don't have those miraculous warnings.
      And I believe the Rambam was hinting at that when, after discussing the step-by-step progression of these miraculous warnings, he then says the metzora's isolation was intended "שֶׁלֹּא יִתְעַסֵּק בְּשִׂיחַת הָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁהוּא הַלֵּיצָנוּת וְלָשׁוֹן הָרַע". And (after the bit about Miriam) he gives instruction for someone nowadays, where there's no Temple, how to avoid being led astray into the sin of Lashon Hara:
      לְפִיכָךְ רָאוּי לְמִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְכַוֵּן אָרְחוֹתָיו לְהִתְרַחֵק מִישִׁיבָתָן וּמִלְּדַבֵּר עִמָּהֶן כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִתָּפֵס אָדָם בְּרֶשֶׁת רְשָׁעִים וְסִכְלוּתָם

      I did not note the deafening exclusion of the body. I thought the body was included when it said "מִשְׁתַּנֶּה עוֹרוֹ וְיִצְטָרֵעַ וְיִהְיֶה מֻבְדָּל וּמְפֻרְסָם לְבַדּוֹ"
      Where you referring to another halakha?

  28. It comes down, for this specific issue, to whether NS presents a positivist positions or a negative one, and in what proportion. Does he gives a complete, accurate, systemic, traditional, and sustainable version of Judaism. Or does he spend his time being nasty against apparent GEDOLIM, a lifestyle, a system, a community, and followers.

    So which is it? Who cares to do that analysis.

    I for one just need to see the former. Show me your coherent visions to the criteria set above.

    All else is juvenile distraction.

  29. I would like to echo many of the comments above. It is a pleasant breath of fresh air to hear someone critically examining the issues in chareidi society. While I do agree that the tone is a bit harsh, that is a judgement call. And also, with the many issues in that society, its almost impossible not to sound harsh. The very fact that there alia always such a backlash when something hits particularly close to home just shows that R' Slifkin is not just "preaching to the choir".

    What I do really like, is that R' Slifkin almost never censors commentss that harshly criticise him, even when those comments are definitely slander.

    What I would like to see more of are those posts that examine the actual rationalist side of Judaism. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming book! Also, I would like to see more engagement with those posts that do ask legitimate questions or comments that are not malicious.

    All in all, keep up the good work, and I'm really looking forward to future constructive, rational, posts!

    1. Exactly. Staying dispassionate and ignoring the situations when these things are happening mass scale within framework of his belief system, in his backyard, would be less human.

  30. Perhaps it comes down to this:
    Chaim Stern asked, regarding NS,
    "Does he gives a complete, accurate, systemic, traditional, and sustainable version of Judaism?"
    ". . . does he spend his time being nasty against apparent GEDOLIM, a lifestyle, a system, a community, and followers?"

    False dichotomy.
    It's one or the other. (Can't it be somewhere in between?)

    I'll say it here and shout to the rooftops that NS absolutely does not satisfy the criterion of "a complete, accurate, systemic, traditional, and sustainable version of Judaism."

    However, are you kidding?
    Who DOES meet that criterion?
    Does ANYONE come even close?
    HAS anyone in history come even close?

    Why can't we say that NS, like all of us, is a flawed person and, unlike many of us, writes things that are often -- although not always -- worth reading?

    And that his criticisms of the haredi world can be judged on their merits, irrespective of whether he meets the impossibly high standards you expect and irrespective of whether he fails to also address the flaws of the DL world as well?

    1. Also, I'm not sure that it's RNS's goal to provide a complete...version of Judaism. Rationalism exists within Orthodoxy. The goal here is highlight the distinctions between rationalism and mysticism/ irrationalism/ fundamentalism/ whatever the other side is. This involves, as well as yes, putting forth the advantages of the Rationalist side, pointing out the flaws in the other side.

    2. How can you rationally believe that many humans lived in excess of 200 years, as is described in the book of Bereishis? If you are prepared to go along with that, but draw the line at the suggestion that an elephant that can jump, then isn't the claim to rationalism a little arbitrary?

      We're all irrational, but some of us are more reconciled to this state then others.

    3. @David argues like a Leftist. The "ideal" is there, cannot be reached, so let's just do whatever we can to get to some sub-optimal. And a seventh grader.


      What is the belief pattern of a Rationalist, and from what tradition does that come. Why is being a Charedi wrong. It's not that complicated.

    4. Hat, speak for yourself. I don’t think the early biblical figures lived pass a hundred. Calculate the numbers and see for yourself.

    5. Turk Hill: Genesis Chapter 5. The apology for posting without making a minimal effort to verify whether or not you you are spouting drivel will doubbtless not be forthcoming, but I wish you well nevertheless.

    6. @The Hat

      So if Breishit chapter 5 says they lived past 900 then I guess they really did...?
      Tell me, were Bnei Yisrael in Mitzrayim for 430 years?
      Be careful how you answer, lest you too become guilty of "spouting drivel"

    7. Some commentators say that the years leading up to the food were actually months, so 930 years equals 77 age, which is reasonable.

    8. While not answering the multicentury lifespan question raised by Mr. Hat at 8:15, I will say that a passuk and a comment by a Rishon are two VASTLY different scales of issue. One can be a Rationalist to the point of saying that Tosfos didn't know elephant biology yet be uncomfortable going against the literal meaning of the Word of God. Those who do not get this distinction are indeed simply manifesting the problem.

      Which problem, you may ask? The problem of equating the Sages - and not just Chazal, but all Big Rabbis (TM) including Rishonim, Acharonim, and modern Gedolim - with God. And that is kinda heretical in and of itself, doncha' think?

      (This is not to say that there ARE those who interpret the lengthy life spans recorded as teaching us something conceptual rather than strictly historical. I cannot recall if RNS discusses it in his books.)

      Yes, everybody does draw his/her own line somewhere, but some people don't draw anything and others scribble all over everything.

  31. As I understand, the opinions of the Chofetz Chaim was to help people in the world achieve Utopia(which is there so such thing, but is another matter) or at least better the world. There are no such thing as the Laws of Lashon Hara and just again opinions. That being said, I see no wrong or ill will on the part of Rabbi Slifkin. He should ignore the people that give him a hard time.

    1. Unknown,

      No, the "opinions" of the Chofetz Chaim were NOT to "help people in the world achieve Utopia" - there is no utopia in this world because of the sin of Adam HaRishon. So until Mashiach or maybe even until olam haba there can be no utopia.

      And your statement that "there are no such thing as the Laws of Lashon Hara - just opinions", is patently ridiculous and false and shows that you either never read/learned the sefer Chofetz Chaim or at least you did not understand it at all. In that book, R' Yisrael Meir Kagan cleary spells out the many mitzvot (mostly d'orayta) one transgresses when speaking lashon hara. It could not be clearer.

    2. The ideal of a better world is rooted in the concept of a utopia. Personally I do not believe in such a place or concept. Insofar as the Mashiach is concerned while it maybe a type of utopia, it will be a religious matter how beautiful it is, it will still be a dictatorship. Olam Haba is an ideal but we as people now like the people in the Torah and the Tanach dealt with their realty of when they were alive...Olam Haba was seemingly not that big of a concern...until Kabbalah and Hasidut made a big deal out of it. Now, I have read Chofetz Chaim and I came to the conclusion that it is a good book and has lofty ideal of what people should strive to act...but it is not Halakah as no new Halakah can be made as their is no Sanhedrin/\.

    3. The CC was bothered by things going on in his community. He therefore wrote a book about LH in order to get people to behave better. He takes things from pre-existing sources, notes the needs of his environment and his time, adds his own special sauce to the formula, and then puts out an advice book (aka "self-help" for community cohesion) that is trying to keep things from his opinion of falling apart. There's nothing impeachable about the message that he is trying to send - people should speak in ways that help them get along with each other, and it is rooted in how people think about other people.

      It's a book. It's a good book. You can use the advice in it to make yourself a better person. (Saying that it did NOT come down from a mountain engraved in two or more sets of granite shouldn't diminish that unless you are complete idiot or a compliant sheep.)

    4. Unknown and Chaim Stern,

      The Chafetz Chaim is a halachic authority. If he says that one who speaks a certain way is transgressing this or that mitzvah, you think he doesn't really mean it? He literally lists all the d'oraita prohibitions that one transgresses when speaking lashon hara.

      How can you read the sefer and not see that?

    5. I never wrote that he was not an halachic authority. that is a person well versed ,etc in halakah. I wrote that they are not laws and are opinions based on earlier sources. They are not new halakah as most people like the view the CC. How you did not get that boggles the mind. There can be no new halakah as there is no sanhendrin. The way most Jews view the CC is that if I say almost anything about anyone...even if it is a warning or so and so is bad...they will run away thinking it is Lashon Hara, etc. You know this to be true. I will give you an example...once while I was renting a place, my landlord threatned me times with this pistol. When I told people to be very careful about this person...almost all the people in my community automatically said it is Lashon Hara?! And did nothing to help. The common Jew has totally got the CC ass backwards. Not all, but many. They could not envision a Jew as a Rasha,liar and so on. Hey all Jews have the spark of the divine in them, so how could a Jew do bad things? You might think this extreme, but I assure you it is all too common. The CC meant to try and make people better and remind them that words are powerful. He and some others understood that...but it failed for the common folk.

  32. Thanks for this blog Rav Natan.

    Sorry if this question is a little off topic, but I’m genuinely trying to figure out how Daas Torah works - how are people supposed to know what the opinion of Daas Torah is on any topic?
    Normally when a Posek makes a ruling, he publishes a detailed Tshuva, often several pages long, typically in response to a very specific question from an individual. For example, open Igrot Moshe or look at the Pskei Halacha from both chief rabbis that have been published in recent days. A Psak Halach typically defines the parameters of the pasak, exactly who the Psak is intended for, whether there are different Minhagim in different communities, and sources for the Psak, including often a response to counter-opinions.

    When Rav Kanyevskey's grandson asks him a question, and the Rav mumbles a response, without quoting any details of the parameters of the ruling, or even indicating that he fully understood the scope of the question, why does anyone think that the statement is binding.
    Did Rav Moshe, Rav Ovadia, or Rav Shlomo Zalman ever make verbal rulings that they expected to be followed universally.
    I understand that Rav Kanyevsky is one of the greatest Torah minds alive today, but if he felt that Yeshivot should be opened or closed in response to a life threatening situation, at the very least I would expect to see a written ruling which goes through the logic behind his decision, addresses the major concerns, and stipulates any limitations to the ruling.

    I honestly do not understand how the whole system works, can anyone explain. Did Gedolim of previous years make general verbal statements which were automatically seen as binding on all of Am Yisrael?

    1. No, that's not how it works at all.

      It basically works like this:
      There are a few very fundamental things that the religion requires.
      There is some stare decisis (latin) for existing case law. There is a law-process followed for evolving law. Evolving is the key.
      Communities DO THINGS. There is a major self-selection process that happens.
      Rabbis (and others) WRITE BOOKS talking about what they WANT THINGS TO BE.
      An evolution process will select some of those texts to be followed, some not. Some books will become popular, and some not.
      Communities continue their selection-process, through a mass-media acculturation process that is widely distributed throughout the community. Rabbis may or may not like it. Some communities will be better aligned to rabbis and some not; it is inconsequential.

      This process takes place over a long period of time.

    2. It basically works like this:

      What follows that quote has nothing to do with Da'as Torah.

  33. I understand now that Sweden made no restrictions due to Corona, and their stats on infections/ hospitalizations/ deaths are no worse than anyone else's. (Please correct this if you know this to be untrue.)

    If this is true: is it possible that R' CK delayed his instruction to shut down yeshivas because he received conflicting advice from experts, a few of whom were advocates of this "Swedish model"?


    1. Yep, the only trouble was that the need to perform extended regression analysis of different epidemiological models performed by RCK's askanim meant they had to spend an extra five minutes on the toilet causing unprecedented levels of bitul Torah and, as a result, literally thousands of sparks remain not in a pot.

    2. And if it IS possible that R'CK delayed his instructions to shut down yeshivas due to legitimate conflicting opinions from experts, wouldn't it be EXTREMELY unfair to portray him as a doddering old man, cut off from reality, and guilty of negligence in causing hospitalizations and deaths?

      Did you ascertain that this was not the case before you made these accusations/ insinuations?


    3. To echo the previous comment, there was absolutely nothing complex about RCK's decision. Which of course is the problem, the stupidity and naivety of making life-altering decisions in half a second without any knowledge or context is surpassed only by those who follow these "decisions"

    4. You are mistaken about Sweden.
      Sweden has a similar population to Israel, but the death toll has been more than 10 times higher, there have been 191 deaths in Israel, and 2,021 in Sweden (and the death rate is still increasing day by day). Sweden said that this is deliberate, they would rather see a high death toll now, but less damage to the economy which would be caused by a shutdown.

      So Sweden was probably not a good model to follow, but if Rav Chaim was getting advice from advocates of the Swedish model, he should at least have published a Tshuva explaining why in this case the economy is more important than human life.

    5. I would like to see a teshuva as well.

      But lack of a teshuva does NOT prove that R'RK's delayed decision to close yeshivas was rooted in negligence, and therefore caused deaths.

      The burden of proof to show that his delayed decision was NOT based on conflicting expert opinion is on the ACCUSERS. If they have no such indications, then it is extremely irresponsible and unfair to broadcast these accusations to the world on the internet, not to mention a case of gross motsi shem ra.

      Are there any such indications? Or is it all just surmise based on stereotypes about how chareidim act, how old men think, anecdotes/ hearsay, etc.


    6. "but if Rav Chaim was getting advice from advocates of the Swedish model,"

      LOL, yeah right. Keep dreaming. As if that's even remotely close to the reality of what goes on.

    7. @Anonymous

      Why don't you watch the video where his grandkid asks him if they should close the yeshivas, and within a second the response is no.
      Are you claiming within one second RCK compared and contrasted the different infection models?

    8. I didn't understand this statement:

      "The burden of proof to show that his delayed decision was NOT based on conflicting expert opinion is on the ACCUSERS."

      If you think that a string of different medical experts spoke to Rav Chaim before he made the ruling to keep Yeshivot open, why did he wait until his grandson approached him before making the ruling? Are there no videos or pictures of him discussing the issue with these medical experts? Do we have the name of these experts?
      Normally it is almost impossible to disprove any claim - but given that very few people have access to Rav Chaim, it should be extremely easy to find a list of all the medical experts that spoke to him before the infamous video of his grandson telling him that there is a Megafa, and Rav Chaim looked like this was the first he heard about it.

      Again, if a Gadol makes a Psak which potentially could cost thousands of lives, and then retracts it 2 weeks later, and then retracts the retraction 2 weeks after that, I think that he at least owes a written statement explaining the original logic behind the Psak, why that did not hold 2 weeks later, and what changed 2 weeks after that.

    9. How does a quick answer to a grandkid prove that R' CK had not consulted experts beforehand?? (You don't really believe that you can tell from his face whether he'd heard of it before, do you?)

      What percentage of R' CK's conversations are made public? Is this percentage so overwhelmingly high that we can tell from it which conversations he did NOT have?

      Retractions and changed decisions could just as likely be due to consulting experts as not.

      This is my point: it is possible that he did due diligence. Until we have evidence to the contrary, we should not announce to the world that he negligently caused deaths.

      Why is this so controversial? Isn't this the same way you would handle things if it was your friend or neighbor that was in a similar situation?


    10. No, Andy, it is not possible.
      Please see the linked video. Note the great enthusiasm from the crowd. Note that when we finally see him, that Rav Chaim has to be directed to greet those sitting next to him and his general state of confusion. Note that he is not expected to speak, not even to give a brocha, let alone a dvar Torah. Instead something is read in his name.

  34. Kornreich groupieApril 24, 2020 at 1:10 AM

    But I hate your message no matter how truthful and no matter how adherent to halacha it is, so won't you just please internalize these insults and false accusations of malice/evil/averah in your writings, consider them de facto forbidden on the basis of these false accusations, and stop posting them?!

  35. Good blog written by a good and honest man. Interesting materials, great monographs. However, it was way better prior to the opening of the museum when the posts were more numerous and focused on Judaism.

    Charedi problem is intractable - there is no solution to it in the current political system. All over the world secular parties find it easier to compromise with the religious extremists then with each other. This strengthens the extremists and they become indespensible. For example, a secular Awami League banned all sectarian parties after the independence of Bangladesh, but just in a few years they were allowed to run and became part of the government with Bangladesh being officially renamed an Islamic Republic, while the Nationalist party remained in opposition. When the pendulum swung, the Nationalists and the Islamists formed the government while the Awami Leauge went into opposition. This is a familiar pattern in Israel ever since the independence. Democracy and sectarian parties are a disaster for any nation and bring incesant strife, national treason and eventual collapse of civilization. Only a totalitarian fascist state which unites the nation in a collective effort to achieve the national goals and tackle the national problems that require a united effort is a solution. Only such a state can eliminate crime, terrorism, treason, parasitism and poverty. Writing about Israel's social problems weather it's charedim, high cost of housing or security is a waist of time. Democracy is a corrupt system controlled by the few and powerful that is designed to deceive the people and is a complete disaster that cannot have a solution for the problems of which it itself is the source. A kzais monograph and insights into Rambam are interesting, charedi malfeasance is not.


  36. i am a Chasidishe Yid from New York and Rabbi Slifkin has had a huge influence on me. I thought i was alone in being interested in science but found Rabbi Slifkin's books and this site and it helped me tremendously to know that you can be a proud Erliche Yid and still respect science and facts


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