A Grievous Error
Dear Rav *****,
Greetings, I hope you are well. Let me begin by saying that I have admired you for many years. Which is why I was severely disappointed to see that you signed on the letter of condemnation against Rav Eliezer Melamed, shlita.
There is probably no point in my saying that I have found his works and actions to be worthy of great praise, since you undoubtedly feel that they are wrong and dangerous. However, I would like to share with you a perspective that you may not have realized.
Seventeen years ago, several dozen leading rabbinic figures in the charedi world campaigned against my books on Torah and science. They believed my books to be a perversion of Torah and dangerous. And, from the perspective of their worldview, they were absolutely correct! The rationalist approach of Rambam and others to these issues is indeed completely at odds with their perspective, and it certainly poses dangers from any perspective.
However, there was something that they failed to take into consideration. They were so outraged and concerned about my books, and so convinced of the justice of their cause and of their own legitimacy and authority, that they failed to take into account the consequences of their actions.
This is the 21st century. People do not react well to seeing a group of rabbis ganging up to ban a popular rabbi for espousing an approach that resonates with the general public. The backlash was immense. The prestigious rabbis who denounced my books were themselves denounced, as well as despised, ridiculed and scorned. Rav Aharon Feldman, of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, told me that the Gedolim looked like fools. He set out to defend their charges - which, of course, did not convince a single person, and merely undermined his own honor. The rabbis who tried to delegitimize me themselves lost legitimacy, and nowadays even their own followers are embarrassed to discuss it.
Furthermore, the entire incident created an immense crisis of confidence in charedi rabbinic authority. There were thousands of people in the chareidi community who decided that this community was not for them. Many of them upped and left - some to the Centrist/ Modern Orthodox community, while others left Orthodoxy altogether. The entire effort by these charedi Gedolim to bolster rabbinic authority and prevent people straying had the exact opposite effect.
The same will happen here - probably even more so. Rav Melamed is much more popular and respected than I was; over a million copies of his works have been printed. There is absolutely no doubt that he is one of the most successful teachers of Torah in our era. And he has (justly, in my view) earned the respect of many, many talmidei chachamim. What will we be seeing as a result of the campaign to ban his works and delegitimize him?
In my shul today, the Rav spoke about it. He mentioned how he has his personal areas of disagreement with Rav Melamed. Nevertheless, he said, Rav Melamed is a Gadol B'Torah. He slammed the condemnations of Rav Melamed as an absolute disgrace, a bizayon of Torah of the highest order.
I have seen similar reactions from many other dati-leumi rabbanim that I know. And if this is the reaction by rabbis, can you imagine how it looks to the general public? Do you think that families in your community will respect your actions? And how does it look to the wider public? Rabbis fighting and denouncing each other? And all following the lead of Rav Tau - someone is so caught up in his religious zeal and paranoia that he claimed that Chaim Walder was an innocent person who was framed by an anti-religious conspiracy?
It is not too late to try to mitigate some of the disgrace and damage. You could issue a letter of retraction. You could say that while you disagree with Rav Melamed on serious issues, you nevertheless respect him as a Torah scholar and regret attempting to delegitimize him. I know that this is a difficult step to take, but the net gain in respect for the religious community in general and you in particular will be considerable.
NOTE: You can purchase Rav Melamed's works in Hebrew at this link and in English at this link. You can also show your support for Rav Melamed by donating to Yeshivat Har Bracha at this link.
UPDATE: Looks like some of the accusers are already frantically backpedaling. See here.