Green Cheese versus Hominid Lupines
I must admit that I was very surprised at the extent and nature of the negative feedback on J. Remus Bloch's article on Hominid-Lupine Transmogrification (which I have since taken down). In some cases, people had not read Rabbi Bleich's article, and did not realize that the exact same phrases were used. In some cases it can be attributed to people being the disciples of Rabbi Bleich, or to their drawing their personal self-esteem from the institutions that Rabbi Bleich represents. But in other cases it is apparently their objective judgment that such a satire is wrong.
To my further surprise, I discovered that the negative reception was not so much due to the two or three phrases that I added in to the article (which I inserted due to certain factors pertaining to Rabbi Bleich's unique style, as guessed correctly by some commentators but incorrectly by others). Instead, it was largely due to the overall nature of the article: replacing the discussion about spontaneous generation with equivalent discussion regarding werewolves.
This may be because people reject the idea of ever using satire to criticize an article by a Torah scholar, even in Purim week. In general, I am sympathetic to that viewpoint, and I try to err on the side of caution, despite my enormous emotional drive to succumb to it. That is why, for example, I have never and would never satirize Rav Aharon Feldman's essay that purports to explain why my approach is heretical. I made an exception in this case due to the aforementioned certain factors pertaining to Rabbi Bleich's unique style that were guessed correctly by some commentators but incorrectly by others. Still, it was not a wise choice, and I regret it.
But in at least some, if not most, cases, the charge here runs something like this: The article was inappropriate mockery because it made out as though Rabbi Bleich proposes something ridiculous. Whereas defending spontaneous generation, or claiming that Chazal did not really believe in it, is much less ridiculous than defending the existence of werewolves, or claiming that the Rishonim did not really believe in them.
Now, even if that were true, I am far from convinced that it would mean that to parody it in such a way is wrong. I think that this would only be the case if defending spontaneous generation, or claiming that Chazal did not really believe in it, was not ridiculous at all.
But in any case, a primary purpose of the article was to illustrate that belief in werewolves, or claiming that the Rishonim did not believe in them, is in fact not any more ridiculous than defending the existence of spontaneous generation or claiming that Chazal did not really believe in it.
I would not have made belief in Santa Claus the subject of such a satire. In his article, Rabbi Bleich brought up the hypothetical example of Chazal believing that the moon is made of green cheese, and wrote about how Rav Glasner would never attribute "specious reasoning" to Chazal. Those were inappropriate distractions that were entirely misleading, since I never made any such claim, and there is no equivalence whatsoever to spontaneous generation. But werewolves are perfectly analogous.
It's true that belief in werewolves is generally considered to be more ridiculous than belief in spontaneous generation. But that's only because werewolves are the subject of B-movies and teen fiction, whereas spontaneous generation is discussed in an academic context. A primary point of the J. Remus Bloch article was to demonstrate that there is nothing inherently more ridiculous either in positing the existence of werewolves, or in claiming that the Rishonim did not really believe in them. If anything, werewolves are less refuted by modern biology than is spontaneous generation. And belief in werewolves in antiquity was almost as widespread as belief in spontaneous generation.
In fact, I was considering removing any humorous aspects, and submitting such an article on werewolves to Tradition - claiming that there is no scientific reason to reject their existence, and that the Rishonim never believed in them anyway. And dressing it up in lots of high-falutin' terminology. And plenty of condescension to those who would disagree. What would be the grounds for rejecting such an article, if Rabbi Bleich's article on spontaneous generation was printed?
(For further reading, I highly recommend Darren Oldridge, Strange Histories, in which there is a chapter about the medieval belief in werewolves.)