Thursday, August 27, 2020

Yated's New Low

Over the years, I've seen some pretty bad behavior in the name of frumkeit. But this one hit me so hard that my hands are literally shaking as I write this.

There's a letter in this week's US edition of the Yated Ne'eman, in the "Questions and Answers" column.

It's signed by Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin.

But I never wrote it! 

A person at Yated fabricated a letter and put my name on it.

The guilty party at Yated is a (former) old friend of mine, who writes the "Questions and Answers" section, with the assistance of other rabbis. I've been discussing/ arguing with him over the last few weeks about the topic of paying someone to learn Torah and transferring the reward to the nominee of one's choice. So he decided to compose a letter to the Yated, purporting to present my position in a way that he deemed fit, and to sign my name to it!

Although he no doubt sincerely intended to present my position accurately, he did not actually do so. Most egregiously, he fabricated a statement from me accusing organizations that fundraise in this way of having a "lack of integrity" in going against the Rishonim. But I never said that going against the Rishonim displays a lack of integrity. My argument was that according to traditional Judaism, such a merit-transfer mechanism just doesn't work.

I was stunned that this person thought that it was ethically acceptable to fabricate a letter in my name, assuming that I would want to have a letter printed and creating the content for it. I wrote a furious email to him, and he replied that he does it all the time and doesn't see anything halachically wrong with it!

What makes it especially ironic is that several months ago, when this rabbi reported a position of Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg ztz"l that seemed rather unethical, with regard to a son being told to disregard his father's dying wish, I wrote a post in which I suggested that perhaps this rabbi had "processed" Rav Zalman Nechemiah's words (or the question that was posed to him) in a way that did not accurately reflect the truth. The rabbi was very upset by this accusation, and insisted that he reported Rav Zalman Nechemiah's position accurately. Well, now that I have first-hand experience with this rabbi misrepresenting my own position and fabricating words in my name, I see that there is no reason to consider him at all reliable, both in how he reports the questions that he receives to the Rabbonim, and in how he presents their responses.

If you're thinking, "Well, he's clearly a bad person," then you're mistaken. He is a really, really nice, sweet, sincere, temimusdikke person, who has the best of intentions, and who even wants to get the charedi world to respect me (he may have wanted to show that I am "kosher" by having my name printed in the Yated, complete with honorific). But he's a product of a sector of Orthodox society in which there is a severe lack of professionalism. This is coupled with a serious deficiency in intellectual honesty (defined as "honesty in the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of ideas"), along with a problem of arrogance regarding the Truth and value of one's own interpretation of one's cause. That's why Dr. Marc Shapiro was able to compile an entire book full of examples of rabbis censoring and misrepresenting the positions of rabbis from earlier generations that they claim to respect. And that's how they see no problem in telling a person, whose dying father had asked him to donate from his estate to conservation and not to a kollel, to instead give it to a kollel.

With regard to the response that the rabbi gives to "my question," in the names of Rav Azriel Auerbach and Rav Goldberg, it is deeply problematic. The response notes that the Rokeach says that such a merit-transfer works, on the (very difficult) grounds that Hashem knows that if the deceased were still alive, he would have given the charity. And they proceed to say that this "is the accepted halacha... Once the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama, the two amudei hora'ah, have ruled, then you can pile up Rishonim from here to the moon and it is of absolutely no consequence. The accepted halacha determines the belief and practice of Klal Yisroel, and therefore the deceased most definitely receive reward for tzedakah given in their name."

It's rather bizarre that the notion of Judaism being based on broad ancient traditions is so casually thrown out of the window. But there's another fundamental problem here. What on earth does "halacha" have to do with this? This isn't a halachic matter! The question of whether one can transfer the reward for a mitzvah to somebody else is one of metaphysical reality, not legal practice! You can't pasken whether the world is flat or spherical, you can't pasken where the sun goes at night, you can't pasken whether or not demons exist, you can't pasken how Hashem decides to run His relationships, and you can't pasken whether or not reward for mitzvos is something that is potentially transferable! 

Furthermore, the Rokeach, difficult as his position is, does not even go remotely as far as they are taking him. He is justifying the ancient custom to give charity on behalf of the dead for Yom Kippur, which he relates to the concept of atonement. But, as several authorities point out, charity is only being mentioned here as being pledged on Yom Kippur (Rokeach explicitly says that it is not done on Chag, and Rama states that it relates to the particular status of Yom Kippur), as a way to save a person from punishment, not as a way to actively provide reward to someone in the next world. Furthermore, it is specifically charity that is mentioned, not any other mitzvah such as learning Torah; it's the exception that proves the rule. (And note that the Rokeach says that it helps "ketzas", which the translation given in the Yated somewhat inaccurately renders as it "does provide some benefit.")

The Rokeach/ Shulchan Aruch/ Rama do not say that you give charity at any time and transfer the reward to anyone you choose. And they do not say that you can give money to a yeshivah and transfer the merit for that Torah study to the person of your choice. And in any case, the actual truth of what happens is an independent metaphysical reality, not something that can be "paskened"!

I'd love to write to Yated to point this out. But I won't. Because I'm not interested in writing any letter to a publication that sees nothing wrong in fabricating letters that they attribute to people. (And the irony is that the actual letters that I really did write to the Yated over the years were not printed!)


(My study of this topic can be downloaded at http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2014/02/what-can-one-do-for-someone-who-has.html, and is being printed in an expanded version in my forthcoming book Rationalism vs. Mysticism. If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.  )

82 comments:

  1. why complain? keep on corresponding and you could become the writer of the editorials at yated!

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    1. Unlikely, considering they most likely view him very negatively.

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    2. In a way, he already is the writer of the editorials at yated. Or at least his name is.

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  2. 1) You seem to have committed a similar academic malpractice of a mirror image of the sort that Dr Shapiro has written about, with repesct to the Rambam. You appear to have used him as a ventriloquist's dummy for your own (contrived) take on "dibra Torah blashon bnei Adam" as to why the Torah is written in the anthropological context of the late bronze age. You cannot back up any quote from the Rambam to show he understood dibra Torah in this way. The quotes from various living Rabbis who share your view do not establish in any way substitute for a quote from the Rambam himself.

    2) You won't spell out why you consider the Rokeach's position is difficult, and "sigh" in the comments section when others do point out that it is significant. Let me spell it out for you. There is no moral difference between the notion that you can be spared from punishment because of the deeds of another (punishment, after all, is just negative reward) to being rewarded for the deeds of another. Your underlying lomdus isn't shared by the Rokeach.

    3) Can you explain why the scapegoat works in Jewish theology? Or why Rabbi Tzadok's fasting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbi_Zadok) was undertaken? Or why the sin of the Golden Calf, or the sin of the Meraglim or indeed the sin of Adam and Eve is a sin of all the descendants? Clearly there is a strand of theology in Judaism in which zechus is a communal as well as a private matter.

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    1. 1) In my book I was extremely precise about how Rambam employed Dibra Torah. According to Rambam, this does not mean that the Torah uses anthropomorphic descriptions of God simply because this is the way that people speak about God; rather, it is because this is the way that many people *think* of God. The corporeal description of God given in the Torah is based upon the intellectual framework of the masses. Rambam further explains that various laws in the Torah are based upon false but prevalent beliefs; the punishment for cursing someone, for example, is based upon the popular but false belief that cursing someone actually has an effect.

      2) Rokeach's position is difficult for the reasons I spelled out in my essay. I'm not going to copy-and-paste long portions from my essay in every post. As I wrote: how is it relevant that the deceased would have given more charity if he were still alive? A person who has passed away would certainly have done more good (and bad) deeds if he was still alive, but surely a person is judged based on what they have done in this lifetime, not on what they would have done in further lifetimes. And how does the person giving charity today have any bearing on that?

      3) Sure, there are a lot of things in Jewish theology that are hard to understand. That doesn't mean that there is no reason not to posit something that doesn't make sense!

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    2. 1) I refer to your blog-post of 14th of August where you claim 'As Rambam puts it, "the Torah spoke in the language of man" - i.e. the people that first received the Torah.' - which is not something the Rambam appears to actually do, given that you have, at the third time of asking, failed to adduce anything in support of the notion. I invite you to retract this unsupported attribution of your own views to someone else.

      3) Ignoring evidence you don't agree with is irrational.

      This isn't a case where the opposing theology is "difficult" or "doesn't make sense". Even Margaret Thatcher felt that the family was a significant moral unit "there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families."

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    3. "or indeed the sin of Adam and Eve is a sin of all the descendant"

      Nothing could be further from the truth. First, this is problematic since the concept of “original sin” is not Jewish but Christian theology. The idea was invented by Augustine, a Christian. Unfortunately, and this is tragic, many Christian ideas, which are alien to Judaism, crept into Judaism. Secondly, this is contrary to Jewish teachings that stated that G-d is good and that His creations are good (Genesis 1).

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    4. Turk Hill, I assume The Hat is referring to the punishment meted out to Adam and Eve (labor/painful childbirth) was communal and continues to exist.

      Rabbi Slifkin, I have no idea why you would not contact Yated. They may not even know this is going on. And if they do, it being brought to their attention explicity may make them think twice about continuing with this immoral and unprofessional practice.

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    5. Mr Hill, I never mentioned the doctrine of original sin. I have earned the punishment of the tedium of refuting your doctrine that humans can never sin entirely by virtue of my own sins.

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    6. To Hat, you may not have been alluding to “original sin” but what you wrote, that the sin of Adam and Eve is upon all descendants, sounded a lot like “original sin.” It is true that people often pay for other people's sins. But it is not that they are inherently corrupted, as Augustine insisted.

      To Shannon's point, I do not that a just G-d would punish humanity to miserable childbirth. Genesis, which is the beginning of the Torah, teaches that to be successful, people need to work hard with "the sweat of their brows." Nothing comes easy. When Moses secured the freedom for the Jews in Egypt and when Gandhi protested with nonviolence to win independence, it was a long and steep road to freedom.

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    7. The hat, it is clear you haven't studied the rambam. He explicitly states those words in yesodai hatora and the view is also obvious from moreh nevuchim. Perhaps try to read them or do a little basic research before posting embarrassing comments online.

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    8. There's something insufferable about this laziness.

      Well informed people know that Yesodei Hatora is split into chapters and halachos, and moreh is also organised similarly. And yet you just wave airily in the general direction of the Rambam's most likely words, while taking on the pretensions of a real scholar.

      Your not going to give me a more precise quote showing that "dibra torah" doctrine means the Torah was framed in the language of the Sinai generation, because that quote does not exist. The Rambam never said it. I know that, because I took 45 minutes to follow up all Rabbi Slifkin's sources, and found them not to say what he says they do. The Rational Emperor, unfortunately, appears to have no clothes.

      And no rationalism. Real rational people will draw their own conclusions from the anthropological specificity of the Torah.

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    9. Turk: your point about Mr. Hat's comment being reminiscent of Original Sin is spot on.

      But he clarified what he meant.

      Indeed, isn't it as Shannon said, that the pains of childbirth ARE a punishment for Chava's sin? The Midrash has a list of ten punishments, IIRC, up to and including death, but also including "sweat of the brow" and "b'etzev teildi banim." So, while there is an opinion that humanity was always a mortal being, there definitely is an acceptable, traditional viewpoint that there is some punishment (including working for a living and even dying) that affects all humanity because of Adam and Chava sinning.

      Now, how to reconcile that sort of thing with Yechezkel, with opinions that everyone was gonna die anyway, and with more modern understandings of a "just God" is another thing entirely. Certainly a valuable pursuit, but not something that undermines the midrashic understanding that lies at the heart of Mr. Hat's point.

      (which I just spent forever supporting even though I would prefer to disagree with it...)

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    10. Hat, Rambam agreed with Rabbi Ishmael that “the Torah (which is intended for humans) speaks in human language.”

      Yosef R, Yes, I agree. However, we should not take these midrashic stories so literally. With that said, there is much wisdom in Midrashim.

      (I think that "sweat of the brow" and childbirth are not punishments but natural paths to success. As they say, "No pain, no gain."

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    11. I want to add a point that Maimonides brought up that I did not add in my previous reply, that if G-d created the world, as Genesis 1 states, which is "very good," in which every human need is met or already taken into consideration, then how could we say that childbirth, which is a natural process for all living beings, is a form of punishment? I know that you agree with me, but I thought I'd ask this question anyway, even if for Shannon. Shabbat Shalom.

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    12. Mr Hill, please go back, read what I wrote, and then for the second time please comment on what I actually wrote not your preferred talking tangential point about what I didn't write. Rabbi Slifkin believes the Torah talks about cows rather than Chryslers because the Torah was written not in the language of all generations, but in the language of Sinai. There is nothing in the Rambam anywhere to support this far fetched take on 'dibra torah.'

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    13. Miss Hat, Rabbi Ishmael said, “the Torah speaks in human language,” meaning that the Torah was written for people at Sinai. However, Ibn Ezra and Maimonides felt that the Torah was written in language used by all people.

      I still hold the view of Rabbi Slifkin. Unless you can prove otherwise. Obviously, parts of the Torah was written for the Sinai generation. This is why there are the anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms in the Bible, because they were written “in human language,” but it was the language of the stupid masses and not scientist and philosophers. Indeed, Rambam said that to better understand the Torah, one needed to understand science and philosophy. When one understand these tow very important concepts, one comes to the realization that G-d is one and has no body. Thus, dismissing the anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms as figuratively.

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    14. The Hat, is there a difference if Rambam says dibra Torah is spoken in the language of the ignorant multitude vs the language of the people at Sinai? What would that difference be?

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  3. This sounds like a scene out of a TV show, that classic socially inept person who doesn't understand what's normal.
    Why wouldn't you write to yated and demand a retraction though?

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  4. I would think you need to send them a lawyer's letter demanding a retraction and am apology.8

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  5. "the exception proves the rule" NB the word 'prove' means tests not substantiates... so the literal maening of the phrase is that the exception TESTS the rule.

    I'm not sure how that helps in the argument...
    Just thought I'd point it out.

    as to the idea of someone writing letters in your name... aarrrrrgg !!!

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    1. Actually, R Slikfin is using this correctly. The original phrase meant that when someone states an exception, you can infer that in other cases the rule is otherwise. So if I tell you: you can't park in front of that building on Tuesdays, you can infer that parking on other days is permitted.

      The last word on exceptions
      Dear Cecil:

      I hate to have to correct Cecil Adams, but the business about “the exception proves the rule” in the latest Straight Dope seems way wide of the mark. The proverb’s meaning must be expounded not in the context of natural or psychological law but of civil law. Alan Bliss, in A Dictionary of Words and Phrases in Current English, has the following to say about the origin of this phrase: “Exception probat regulam [Lat.], the exception proves the rule. A legal maxim of which the complete text is: exceptio probat [or (con)firmat] regulam in casibus non exceptis — `the fact that certain exceptions are made (in a legal document) confirms that the rule is valid in all other cases.'”

      The application is this. Suppose a law is stated in such a way as to include an exception, e.g., “Parking is prohibited on this street from 7 AM to 7 PM, Sundays and holidays excepted.” The explicit mention of the exception means that NO other exceptions are to be inferred. Thus we should take the Latin verb probare in the maxim to have the sense of “to increase the force of.”

      — Hugh Miller, Chicago

      Hmm. It grieves me to say this, but you’re right. While the interpretation I gave, namely that the exception tests the rule, has a long history (it dates back at least to 1893), I’ll concede that your take on it is the original sense of the proverb.

      That said, your example could use a little work. We need something that better conveys the import of this ancient maxim. I have just the thing — an illustration from the Roman orator Cicero, sometimes cited as the source of the legal doctrine in question.

      Cicero was defending one Bilbo. (No relation to Frodo.) Bilbo was a non-Roman who was accused of having been illegally granted Roman citizenship. The prosecutor argued that treaties with some non-Roman peoples explicitly prohibited them from becoming Roman citizens. The treaty with Bilbo’s homeboys had no such clause, but the prosecutor suggested one should be inferred.

      Nonsense, said Cicero. “Quod si exceptio facit ne liceat, ubi non sit exceptum …” Oops, I keep forgetting how rusty folks are on subjunctives. Cicero said, if you prohibit something in certain cases, you imply that the rest of the time it’s permitted. To put it another way, the explicit statement of an exception proves that a rule to the contrary prevails otherwise.

      You can see where an argument like this would come in handy in traffic court. What’s more, it’s basically what Kyle Gann was arguing in his letter, although his “psychological” angle obscured matters a bit. Accordingly I withdraw my more abrupt comments.

      Still, whatever the original significance of the proverb, we should recognize that its many latter-day interpretations have taken on a life of their own....

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  6. Outrageous. The people who get their news from such media are all the poorer for it.

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  7. You really should sue them if they wont issue a retraction. In civil court.

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    1. ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם, ולא לפני ערכאות
      It is forbidden, and probably theft, for Rabbi Slifkin to sue them in civil court. They are not obligated to pay him any money, so any judgement awarded would be theft.

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  8. We do know that “Torah lo b’shomayim” and when Hashem gave the Torah to kllal yisroel it means that he also gave halachic authority to them and he will do whatever they pasken here, so although I agree with you that there is no mention anywhere that a person can transfer merits to others, I disagree regarding your point that Halacha is irrelevant

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  9. I concur with those recommending legal action.

    Publishing content with an attribution knowingly and deliberately forged by the publisher should be a criminal act. The author and his publisher should be subject to a very public and very expensive lawsuit, as an example and warning to all the other media outlets that are (almost certainly) doing the same thing to other people.

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    1. I agree with you. File a suit and see what happens.

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    2. I disagree. But he should apologize. I would not take legal action. But I would ask him to make a retraction or at the very least issue an apology. I cannot comprehend why someone would even want to do this.

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  10. "But he's a product of a sector of Orthodox society in which there is a severe lack of professionalism. This is coupled with a serious deficiency in intellectual honesty (defined as "honesty in the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of ideas"), along with a problem of arrogance regarding the Truth and value of one's own interpretation of one's cause."

    This is a very serious slander of the entire chareidi community. I don't agree with it, but either way, this example doesn't show a general societal lack of professionalism and honesty, except with this particular individual. Do you think secular newspapers don't contain serious falsehoods or misrepresentations? That the J Post, or even the NYT would never print something like this? Obviously, they would, and have.

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    1. You want more examples? I can give an endless list.
      Non-charedi newspapers are (theoretically and frequently) open to admitting mistakes. But Daas Torah is never wrong.

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    2. Seeing as you spent most of your adult life battling with charedi society, I have no doubt that you have accumulated an endless list of its faults. This is less of an indictment of charedi society than of yourself, as your entire approach to it is as with an enemy (I'll admit, not entirely your fault). I live in (American) charedi society and I could compile endless lists of its virtues, especially compared to secular society.

      I don't think this is example of daas Torah, Yated frequently prints corrections like any other paper, and I'm sure if you contact them they will retract.

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    3. How about you deal with the example listed above with regards to your own, da'ati le'umi, behaviour?

      Human nature is human nature, and you're just as fallible as the next man in a white shirt with a longer beard.

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    4. Rabbi Slifkin,

      The more I live, the more I see your sentiment to echo truth. It's not to say ALL charedim are like that, but that there is a cultural issue found amongst charedim to look at reality as though it was a living midrash.

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    5. How are newspapers 'da'as torah'?
      Newspapers are unprofessional, because the brightest and best are learning in Beis Hamedrash, not writing in newspapers and suchlike.

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    6. Non-charedi newspapers are (theoretically and frequently) open to admitting mistakes

      You're not serious about that are you? the NYT is unbiased? Haaretz is objective? the Guarniad and the BBC are honest about Israel? You gotta be joking.

      Cute to see that you used to daven in the Vine. I also did quite often.

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    7. Never said that they are unbiased or objective.

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    8. Never said that they are unbiased or objective.

      I guess given the context I should acknowledge my mistake!

      :-)

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  11. Civil, not criminal act. Apologies for the pedantry.

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  12. Is it parody? It’s quite common to print satirical pieces in which a comment is attributed satirically to the person they want to lampoon. So it would depend the forum and format in which the letter was printed. If it appeared in general “letters to the editor”; or if the writer gave commentary tending to create the impression that the letter was genuine, then it is probably actionable under Israeli law if you want to take that route (I wouldn’t). However, if it appeared as part of an opinion column, especially together with other similar letters; or if a reasonable person of average intelligence would realize it was only satire, then you have no tainah. To the contrary, if the latter is true, it is you who has harmed his credibility, not the Yated.

    We can’t know unless we know these details.

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    1. I don't think it was a satirical piece. Besides, writing a letter in someone's name is not right. Especially when you misrepresent their view. He should apologize. I would not take legal action. But I would ask him to issue an apology or at the very least a retraction. I cannot comprehend why someone would even want to do this.

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    2. If we haven’t seen it, we can’t judge it. It’s not uncommon at all for writer X to make up quotes or statements from Y, intending them satirically to represent Y’s thinking, as X sees it. RNS has done exactly the same thing himself, as you’ll see if you go back to older pieces. So again, it all depends how the article was written. If no indication of satire is given, then shame on the Yated. If it’s clear that it was meant satirically, then shame on RNS.

      It would be nice to see a scanned copy of the actual page.

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    3. I think you should drive over to Yated
      And ask for a copy

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  13. For those advising legal action, at least in the US, this would probably only be actionable if it harmed R Slifkin's reputation. It also takes a lot of money to pursue these things with likely no payoff. https://www.virginiadefamationlawyer.com/fabricated-quotations-actionable-if-harmful-to-reputation/

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  14. Who wrote the column and the fake letter?

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  15. Rav Natan - Can you post the email where your old friend replied he does it all the time and doesn't see anything halachically wrong with it? It would be of great benefit to everyone to have undeniable proof that there are things published in the name of rabbi's on a regular basis that are not written or approved by them.

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  16. WOW - this should not be allowed to continue.
    Even though you consider the person to be your friend and a good man, his behaviour is outrageous. You cannot put words into someone's mouth and consider it kosher. M'dvar sheker tirchok. Out this person.

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  17. "You can't pasken whether the world is flat or spherical, you can't pasken where the sun goes at night, you can't pasken whether or not demons exist, you can't pasken how Hashem decides to run His relationships, and you can't pasken whether or not reward for mitzvos is something that is potentially transferable!"

    I haven't heard such sweet sounding words in a long time. My faith in frum sanity is restored (for now).

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  18. Rabbi Slifkin, you write "you can't pasken how Hashem decides to run His relationships", however I'm not sure this is true.

    In as much as one fulfilling mitzvos has _some_ metaphysical affect (at the very least being Yotzei), how we pasken would affect how Hashem runs his relationships. For example, the machlokes of the correct day of Yom Kippur, or any machlokes with regards to Korbanos, and the tanur of Achanai - the way we Pasken could theoretically change, and with it Hashem is "bound", as it were, to follow the halacha (minimally with respects to being Yotzei or any other metaphysical result).

    How else would you explain lo ba'shamayim he?

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    1. Correct day of Yom Kippur (a) is different because hachodesh hazeh *lachem* (b) the machlokes in the mishna Yoma was never about what the metzius was astronomically and (c) the correct day of Yom Kippur is not a physically observable attribute of a day. (b) applies to a machlokes in Korbanos, and (c) applies to Rabbi Elazar's oven (leaving aside the claimed distortions affecting the walls of the beis hamedrash and the stream of water, which would indeed have been physically observable phenomenon, but did not actually happen).

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    2. The Hat, my point is simply that any halacha decided by the Sanhedrin/Anshei knesses hagdolah etc. was completely up to those individuals and how they understood the halacha and voted. This dictates "how Hashem runs His relationships" in as much as they determine what we need to do. This is in built to the halachic system. There is no doubt the Sanhedrin had such a capability and it is possible that this carries on today when a Beis din today decides to matir an agunah, for example. They decide the halachic reality. This woman will not be an eishes ish etc.

      The remaining question is whether consensus of modern Rabbonim can also alter metaphysical reality with respects to the deceased, but for Rabbi Slifkin to say that "you can't pasken how Hashem decides to run His relationships", is I think, a very disturbing opinion to hold. It is against what we learn from the pasuk "kchol Asher yorucha", that the Sanhedrin dictate the halacha, see Rambam sefer hamitzvos 174, and Rabbi Slifkin leaving this statement unmodified, could leave one with a very incorrect understanding.

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    3. I'm obviously not referring to what the halachah is, nor the consequences of people not following the decided halacha.

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  19. Rabbi Slifkin, I’m with you on this issue, but that’s not what I’d like to speak about here.
    What interests me is your understanding of the Rokeach you cite on Hilchos Yom Kippur. I didn’t learn your essay, but from what transpires in the article, one of your arguments is that it’s especially done on Yom Kippur BECAUSE of the special status of this day, which would allow for more, and given you brought this first it seems to be rather important in your argumentary. The problem is this is all based on wrong premises.
    Now I know you based this on the Rema in תרכא, but if you look carefully, what he says there is based on the Mordechi and NOT the Rokeach.
    What the Rokeach really means by ‘’only on Yom Kippur’’ is to explain the custom in Germany, which differs from all surrounding areas (France, Italy, and Eastern Europe which incorporated many of the French customs) on this point. And that’s why he says ‘’THEY have ]something[ to stand on’’, ‘’they’’ being the German Jews.
    In all Europe they were giving money for the deceased on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeres, the eighth day of Passover and the secund day of Shavuos. These three last days have in common that the portion of Torah read on them is the same and mentions ''איש כמתנת ידו'' which drew people to give money. Everyone knows this minhag nowadays by the name ‘’Yizkor’’(even though in Israel the link with the Torah portion was lost).
    But in Germany, while they were also giving ‘’מתנת יד’’ on the three last days to various institutions (see Maharil in סדר הקריאה בפסח יג, where he describes the ceremony, and the Rokeach himself mentions it in all those halachos, see for example in רכג), only on Yom Kippur did they give on behalf of the dead. This can already be seen in our versions of Machzor Vitry, which are German copies, where in Hilchos Yom Kippur, after the sentence ‘’… and ]then] we give money in public on behalf of the living and the deceased…’’, comes the sentence ‘’WE DO NOT GIVE MONEY FOR THE DEAD IN GERMANY EXCEPT FOR ON THIS DAY.’’ This minhag is also still extant in the few remaining Western Ashkenazi synagogues across the globe.
    Knowing this, we can now establish that the Rokeach’s implicit question is not: we should only do it on Yom Kippur, but why does it work at all? To which he offers his admittedly timid explanation, but rather: why do we not do like everyone on Yom Tov also, since I understand why it works? To which he answers that the passuk seems to imply this is the only time to do it in public, regardless of it working or not.
    My conclusion would thus be that according to the Rokeach it works, but only Tzedakah or Tefillah, and only on the terms he defines. But only on Yom Kippur is it befitting to do it in public, probably because we should not occupy ourselves too much with the dead.

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    1. The specific Yom Kippur angle is meniyas simchas hamoed. I think there would be no objection on a weekday yortzeit for example.

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    2. @The Hat:
      Sorry you're wrong. Meni'as Simchas Haregel is of course discussed in Poskim related to this (and that's why in Poland Yizkor was shifted from Shemini Atzeres to Simchas Torah), but the Rokeach obviously didn't see anything problematic, otherwise that's what he would have said, before expressing his strong opposition to the wrong french customs, like he does in many places. Here, to the contrary, he seems apologetic about it.

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    3. Yekkes (meaning KAJ Bennet Avenue and those that follow them) do not say Yizkor.
      However, with the advent of (good) intermarriage among the general Jewish community, they deferred to requests and do say Yizkor now.

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    4. @MiMedinat HaYam: I don't really know what you mean. If it is to say they do not say it on yom tov, then that's what I wrote. But if you mean they do not say it even on Yom Kipppur, then it's strange, given that it's clearly mentioned in Maharil (ה' שחרית דיום כפור י''ד), and see also between here: https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43202&st=&pgnum=303&hilite= and here: https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43135&st=&pgnum=457&hilite=

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  20. RNS
    I think you are oversimplifying this issue.
    See Shulchon Oruch Yoreh Deah 246 1 where the remoh says one can share his reward of learning with someone who supports him. The Remah then carries on to say that after one has finished learning he cannot sell his reward any longer.It would appear from this that if he hasn't started learning he is actually selling his reward. Furthermore the source of the Remah is Rabeinu Yerucham and he clearly states that the one learning will lose his reward! He clearly understood that there is a transaction taking place.
    You mention in your Essay the Maharam Elashker where he clearly states that the reward the one providing the funds would get is simply for helping to do the Mitzvah but he is not sharing the actual reward and he would certainly not lose his reward according to this understanding.
    It also appears that R Akiva Eiger (ibid) felt this way. He mentions Rabeinu Yerucham that the learner would lose his reward but he then refers us to Maharam Elashker I assume to say he argues.R akiva Eiger then mentions the אש דת which says that one can even sell his reward after he finishing his learning although to a lesser degree.

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    1. There's two separate issues here. One is the question of whether someone who supports a Torah scholars receives the reward of learning Torah or the reward of supporting a Torah scholar. The second issue is whether the reward (whatever it is) can go to a third party. Which the Rama certainly doesn't allow for, but which is claimed today.

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    2. RNS
      1)According the Rabeinu Yerucham and Remoh there is clearly a transaction taking place. A transaction can be done for someone else (Zochin)so I am not convinced one cannot do it on behalf of someone else according to this.The fact that people didn't do this doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't work.After all these customs evolve.
      2)According to Maharam Elashker it is reward for supporting a Scholar it would certainly also work due to the fact that on can give Charity on behalf of the deceased see Shulchan Oruch Y'D 249 16 that supporting Teenagers to Learn Torah is a very high form of charity, to Which the Remoh says it can be done on behalf of the deceased.

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  21. If halacha permits this act, then halacha is not a good guide for ethics or good law. What else does halacha not prohibit or even allow that would be considered unethical today or bad laws ?

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    1. This question, of course, is directly related to the "Naval B'Rishus HaTorah" comment of the Ramban, and is a real theological question on it's own. I have head a shiur from Rabbi Yisroel Reisman on this topic once, with him offering examples of what Halacha allows as opposed to what people think is ethical. In the yeshiva world, this is often grouped with the notion that 'morality is was the Torah says is moral, not what you think is moral', and this idea itself often conflicts with the responsibility to act "L'fnim Mishuras Hadin" - beyond the letter of the law (if you can't trust your own moral compass, how can you know how and when to act beyond the letter of the law?).

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    2. @Y

      L'fnim Mishuras Hadin means within the bounds of the law. I understand how the English phrase got attached because they have the same connotation, even though the translation of the Hebrew is opposite that of the English.

      The idea is that one places boundaries such that he is sure not to overstep the law.

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    3. @Avi

      Thank you for your answer.

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  22. Don't we learn from a number of places that Halacha dictates reality? (E.g., Yerushalmi on the Sanhedrin adding an Adar having an effect on human biology.)

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    1. Nope. We learn from lots and lots of lots of places that Halacha does NOT dictate reality. The ONLY source that might indicate otherwise is the Yerushalmi, and that can easily be interpreted differently.

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    2. It may not dictate physical reality, but how can you know that it does not dictate spiritual reality?

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    3. “The ONLY source that might indicate otherwise is the Yerushalmi, and that can easily be interpreted differently.“

      Is the Yerushalmi’s sole dissent on reality perception a valid argument against its judgement? How do we know that Yerushalmi’s sole dissent is wrong? We don’t because it’s an opinion and not something open to inscrutable verification. If it “can be easily interpreted differently” that’s one hell of a way to determine truth.

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    4. It indicates that the popular interpretation of the Yerushalmi is very unlikely to be correct.

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    5. 1. Where do we learn from that Halacha does NOT dictate reality?

      2. I definitely remember more than that Yerushalmi. E.g., some discussion that came up recently in Shabbos — I need to look it up though.

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  23. This is obviously not right and cannot be justified. But how can you justify the campaign of lies and slander against a successful kiruv rabbi which appears on this website?

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  24. Congratulations on finally getting a letter published in the Yated!

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  25. Most newspapers require a contact address and phone so they can call the writer to verify s/he actually wrote and sent in the letter in question. I myself have written into and heard from NPR, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and other, less glamorous publications. Perhaps you might want to write the Yated editor and offer this as a learning experience?

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  26. "and he replied that he does it all the time and doesn't see anything halachically wrong with it!"

    This is completely insane. How does he not know this? How does his publication not know this is completely out of bounds of any sort of integrity?

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  27. Poskening reality...no wonder God laughs at them!

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  28. Rabbi Slifkin:
    You mustn't let this go. Demand a public retraction and apology, with legal action as Plan B. If you don't, for whatever reason, don't be surprised if the next incident is somehow even much, much worse.

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  29. There's a joke I heard once:
    -Do Sheidim exist?
    -They used to, but then the Rambam paskened that they don't

    (If memory serves, I may have heard this from talmidim of Prof' R' Yitzchak Twersky :-) )

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