Friday, September 3, 2021

How to Avoid Teshuva for Negligent Homicide

It's Elul, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are approaching, it's the season of teshuvah. And Mishpacha magazine's special Rosh HaShanah edition has a feature cover story which seeks to whitewash negligent homicide.

"No Other Answer," which you can read online here, is a puff-piece for Toldos Aharon. It's about how the Rebbe of Toldos Aharon, Rav Dovid Kahn, responded to the Meron tragedy. He lives in a "tunnel of emunah, focused on deep, otherworldy levels and realms of the Oneness of Hashem and perfection of His every action." And his message about Meron is that "there is no place here for understanding... We can’t understand Hashem’s decrees, but our job isn’t to figure it out..."

No other answer? No understanding of what happened? Our job isn't to figure it out??

Our job is most certainly to figure it out, and fortunately the answer is blindingly obvious. Of course, we can't understand the ultimate mystery of why God lets bad things happen to good people, nor why providence selects some people and not others. But we certainly know why a lot of people died in Meron! It's not some kind of mystery; people warned for years that it was a disaster waiting to happen. As mankind has learned from numerous tragedies, you can't safely arrange an event for many thousands of people without complicated safety protocols, which is why many countries (including Israel) have very strict such protocols. But at Meron, a combination of askanim, rabbis, rebbes and charedi MKs made sure that all these safety protocols would either be politically overruled or ignored.

It's particularly obtuse and/or evil for Toldos Aharon to speak about it being an incomprehensible divine decree. After all, this particular tragedy happened in a passageway which Toldos Aharon built illegally. And the police have already questioned two "operations officers” for Toldos Aharon on suspicion of negligent homicide. It remains to be seen precisely how the blame will be shared, but it is absolutely clear that the blame is on people who bypassed the normal safety measures!

Imagine. A homeowner builds a balcony without a maakeh (protective fence). Then he crowds it with visitors, and one falls off and dies. And the homeowner says, "Oy, it's an incomprehensible act of God! We have to have faith! There is no other explanation!" Are we going to praise such a person as a magnificent baal emunah?!

Mishpacha knows better than this. As I noted previously, the publisher wrote an editorial a while back in which he acknowledged some of the primary factors for the Meron tragedy:

...Unless chareidim recognize the vital role of the public sector, and learn to cooperate with the relevant government entities, they cannot consider themselves free of guilt. Our tzibbur has been blessed with an abundance of organizations staffed by experienced people with very good intentions, but when an event reaches dimensions such as Lag B’Omer in Meron, our existing manpower and infrastructure are far from sufficient...

We also cannot accept violations of the law that affect the public or public areas, in favor of personal or communal interest. We cannot allow ourselves to become the no-man’s-land of the state, in which everyone who wants to stick his hand in the pot can manage his affairs as he wishes, without considering the consequences. We must not, as a tzibbur, absolve ourselves of all responsibility as we shift the blame elsewhere.

So why does Mishpacha give Toldos Aharon a PR opportunity to do exactly that, and to whitewash the human responsibility? The reason is presumably that they are happy to publish an inspirational cover story for their Rosh HaShanah edition. Alas, doing so is sending exactly the wrong message about teshuvah. It's not about feeling inspired; it's about owning up to one's sins. And negligent homicide resulting in 45 deaths is a pretty serious one.

Over the last year, a disproportionate amount of charedim have died due to charedi separatism - believing that they do not need to conform to the laws of wider, secular society. This includes the deaths in Meron, Karlin-Stolin, and the disproportionate number of deaths in the charedi community from Covid. Mishpacha, and everyone else, needs to be making sure that the message is learned.


(Thanks to my friend Rabbi Scott Kahn of the Orthodox Conundrums group for pointing this out. 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.)

24 comments:

  1. Rav Avigdor Miller (a very chareidy man himself) makes this exact point in a recent toras avigdor:
    https://torasavigdor.org/parshas-shoftim-4-learning-the-lessons-2/

    one quote:
    But among the lessons, the most important one was that you haveto watch out for fire precautions. Yoreh, Hashem is teaching, chatoim baderech, the sinners who don’t think about what could happen because of their negligence. Hashem wants you to learn to be more careful with safety precautions. Not just when you’re chopping wood in the forest; in modern times too! In that club there were exit doors that were locked and other hazards, and many changes were made because of this story, many new regulations. If the goyimin Boston can learn these lessons, surely we have to.

    Sammy Kahan

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    Replies
    1. "a recent toras avigdor".....

      Delete
    2. Lol, Boston has Harvard, MIT, the Berklee College of Music, etc., etc., etc. Common-sense safety regulations are the least that we can learn from the "goyim in Boston".

      Delete
    3. Weaver, he's specifically referring to an infamous fire in a nightclub in Boston during World War II. The place was a firetrap and exits were locked, and a lot of regulations to prevent such things resulted from that.

      (The club was owned by a Jew well-connected to both politics and the Mob. He went to jail for it.)

      Delete
  2. How to avoid Teshuvah for negligent homicide? Most never have to consider it, though attempting to shame someone is explicitly considered רציחה, probably very heinous when done publicly on a blog, wouldn't you say?

    In any event, a better question would be "How does one avoid Teshuvah for lying in public", and you've given us the answer - keep digging in your heels, sticking your fingers in your ears, and shutting your eyes. And the biggest lie of all is calling this blog "Rationalist" Judaism. HAH!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seriously?!

      "probably very heinous when done publicly on a blog, wouldn't you say?" - You know as well as anyone else that this is not the case when done in this context and for this purposes.

      "In any event, a better question would be "How does one avoid Teshuvah for lying in public" - Now YOU are slandering someone in public - without substantiating your ridicules claims.

      "And the biggest lie of all is calling this blog "Rationalist" Judaism" - I'm sure you don't expect anyone to take this seriously, but this is even beneath you...!

      Again - It seems look you're just trying to release some negative energy - in which case I'm' sure RNS is glad to be of service :-)

      Delete
    2. ...and yet despite your self proclaimed hatred for this site, you can't help yourself but come back and post every time

      Maybe you should pray over Rosh Hashona for more self control.

      Delete
    3. Not sure what "self proclaimed hatred" you're talking about, but is it similar to yours for me? And yet whaddayknow, here you are again, reacting to my comment yet again.

      I believe in יתמו חטאים and not חוטאים. The blog itself is not the problem, its the irrationality of the posts on it. I do believe the host has the capacity to improve it, he just has to be able to move off preconceived notions and prejudices. Not so easy. One has to have a lot of guts to admit he was wrong.

      Delete
  3. Rabbi Dr Natan Slifkin - think back to any of the myriad times in your life when you've shaken your head in amazement to see people continuously justify events, one after another, that demonstrate the falsity of their belief. The suicide bombings after the "peace process" would be one example. No matter what happened, it was explained away. You were amazed that people could be so married to their beliefs so as to be literally blind to all facts to the contrary.

    That's you right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can't just throw out huge allegations and attacks without explaining and elaborating how you get to your obnoxious conclusions and what you mean by them...
      Otherwise you're just coming across as an arrogant ignorant hater blinded by hubris and sanctimonious self-righteous egoistic delusions.

      Delete
  4. Your analogy of maakeh provides great grounds for discussion. After all, Rashi on that posuk, based on the gemara in Shabbos, apparently disagrees with your premise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just reviewed the Rashi to which you’re referring (D’varim 22:8, d”h ki yipol hanofeil), and it says literally nothing to contradict R’ Slifkin’s premise.

      Delete
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Prophecy_Fails - better to double down than to question the prophet?
    kvct

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  6. Yay! Back to rationalist Judaism!
    I have a hard time understanding why people think there is contradiction between these kinds of things. Of course we must take precautions, and even up to the point that those who can and don't are held accountable for their inaction. But that doesn't mean that we know why this person/these people died. Nothing happens without Hashem wanting it to happen, and nothing happens without Hashem having a complete plan which directly affects all the parties involved. So yes, there is a place to improve over here, and that message must be addressed. But at the same time, do we know what the Cheshbonos are? No! We aren't God. As Yidden, our mantra is that there is another set of Cheshbonos besides the human, scientific affairs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Hashen wants (tolerates would be a better word) *everything* to happen, then surely it becomes redundant to ever have to state this, e.g. after a bit of bad news.

      Delete
    2. We always have to state this: The world is designed to make us forget this. Every second of our physical lives screams at us that our existence is running by itself. So we, as Jews, reiterate over and over and over again that no, it is all Hashem. It seems like nature, it seems like we understand somewhat why things happened, but no - it's not all what we think. It's Hashem running the world in a very specific way, governed by His laws of Schar V'Onesh. (If it seems redundant, please teach me your secret that I can be holding on your level...)
      Unless I'm misunderstanding you - are you denying that Hashem has everything planned to the very last detail? Or are you agreeing but claiming to understand all of the details? Our mantra from day one is that whatever seems like another power - be it Avoda Zara, be it Teva, be it the very consequences of our own actions - it is all really Hashem.
      My point is simply that I'd love for someone to explain to me why there is a contradiction here: of course we are liable to take precautions, to the point that this must be stressed to all the guilty parties. But at the same time it is not wrong to continue to reiterate that there are higher Cheshbonos going on and nothing happens without His specific will, as we tend to lose sight of that. As Klal Yisroel, this is literally what we stand for, that all is Hashem!

      Delete
    3. Why take precautions if every detail has already been planned?

      Delete
    4. Hishtadlus!
      Is this news?
      Btw, may I add, that I believe that the Chareidi attitude of not caring comes from this very point. They live in the 'real' world where man actually doesn't control anything and we find them lax in areas of hishtadlus. Though they are wrong, it does come from a good place.
      But the point of Hishtadlus is exactly this, that we pretend that we are in charge, as per the way the world looks, but we still proclaim that it isn't us; it's Hashem. In a world of no hishtadlus, no science, no faux power, it wouldn't be so hard to attribute everything back to Hkb'H.
      Again, isn't this the manta of Klal Yisroel? That there is a seeming power to be other than Hashem, but we live by the real truth that it is all Hashem. Therefore by definition we tread on two waters: 1) the waters of Hishtadlus, where we act the role of owners, we play by the rules of science, and if we don't, we actually won't be helped by Hashem - which leads to the question, who said God is doing anything? It seems to be working fine on its own! If we're careful we avoid disasters. If not disasters happen. If we go to work we make money, if we don't we starve. Which is where step two comes in, 2) really Hashem is in charge, only He is, and He is 100% in control and we realize this despite what our senses tell us. Isn't this what we are all about?
      What am I missing in this discussion? We must promote hishtadlus because we will be held responsible if we are careless in this area, and I love that RNS is advocating this, he has what to offer, as I said, I think the Chareidim are too lax in this point. But at the same time we can learn from the Chareidim to be more mindful of the way the world really works, and so we also keep on stressing that it is all Hkb'H.
      Am I missing something here?

      Delete
    5. RNS, am I missing something?

      Delete
  7. Did you spend tons of time focusing almost exclusively on faults of others prior to your books being banned, or was that the starting part for this lovely character trait?

    ReplyDelete
  8. The takeaway I got from the article is that he's severely depressed and I did not understand why they would write that article...

    ReplyDelete
  9. A person dosen´t have to get banned to notice the obvious flaws of the community.
    its important to read this so that we get a RATIONAL perspective of the orthodox ways and avoid making the same mistakes, otherwise, why do you read this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree there is a benefit to it, but in moderation. There are so many positive things to learn from out there. When someone spends so much energy looking for and analyzing other people's faults, it's nauseating

      Delete
  10. TA: "our job is not to figure out"
    You mean it's not immodest dress, internet usage, wigs or improper wigs?

    ReplyDelete

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