On Respecting the Charedi Gedolim
In my previous post, I responded to Rabbi Avi Shafran's claim that I should have accepted the Gedolim's ban on my books. Following my response, I received an email from a prominent person involved with Agudath Israel saying that I "missed the point" of the article, which was that I should have "respected" the Gedolim. I replied as follows:
What is "disrespect"? Issuing personal insults? In my defense against the ban, I was perfectly respectful. The only incidences of such disrespect occurred from the other side - Rabbi Reuven Schmelzer (the Gedolim's "man on the ground") writing to them that I am an "animal" and a "rasha," Rav Moshe Shapiro saying that Rav Hirsch is "not from our Beis HaMidrash" and that his approach can therefore be deemed heretical, Rav Shlomo Miller comparing me to the wicked son of the haggadah and putting me in the category of child abusers, Rav Mattisyahu Salomon's insults of me and my rabbonim at the Siyum HaShas as being "midgets" that are desecrating the emunah for which the Shoah victims died, Rav Aharon Shechter's insults from the pulpit in Teaneck of people who try to grapple with resolving conflicts between Breishis and science, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman issuing slanderous fabrications about my being thrown out of yeshivah, etc., etc.
Unless, by disrespect, you mean the very act of arguing against their positions and disputing their claims to have authority. In other words, you are claiming that I was obligated to meekly accept their condemnation of my approach as being heretical and withdraw my books from publication, and I was not entitled to defend my work and my right to continue publishing it. In which case, my previous post was exactly on point.
Perhaps you'd like to clarify what exactly you mean by "respect." Respect the ban, or respect the Gedolim - and if the latter, respect them as what? Respect them as experts on Talmud (indeed, and I never did otherwise), or as experts on science (surely not)? Respect them as experts on rabbinic perspectives on science? Surely not - they were entirely unfamiliar with the history of rabbinic discussion on these topics and presumed that my sources were forgeries. Respect them as my leaders? But they're not; even though I was charedi back then, my own rabbonim insisted that I defend my works and that the Gedolim are not my leaders. Respect them as paragons of wisdom and professionalism in their leadership responsibilities? Surely not - most of them didn't even read my books, let alone speak with me or my rabbonim, and relied entirely on the most scurrilous zealots for their information about both the content of my books and their effects, and/or issued opinions on matters that were far beyond their areas of expertise, and/or confused their own personal theological approach with being the universal unequivocal approach of traditional Judaism, and issued their supposed wise and learned decision in the form of a hysterical condemnation and ban rather than a reasoned, evidence-based set of arguments. The widespread disrespect that resulted was entirely predictable and entirely on their own shoulders.
And where is their, and your, respect for the rabbonim who actually read my books and actually understand these topics and approved my work and urged me not to back down? Aren't they worthy of respect? And what about the Rambam, Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam, Rav Hirsch, Rav Herzog, and many others whom the Gedolim deemed as presenting approaches that fundamentally pervert Judaism - are they not worthy of respect?
(And for that matter, isn't the modern scientific enterprise, currently saving thousands of our brethren from coronavirus, and for which demonstrating the existence of an age of dinosaurs and the non-existence of spontaneous generation is among the most basic of its achievements, also important to respect? We have seen the lethal consequences of charedim failing to respect the modern scientific enterprise.)
And if you're talking about respect for the general leadership of the chareidi Gedolim, well, has that really been worthy of respect? Whether its leading the chareidi community (and eventually all Israel) to economic ruin by prohibiting secular education and discouraging working for a living, or leading public protests against sharing any responsibility for militarily defending Israel, or not stepping up and implementing responsible leadership regarding child abuse, vaccinations, and coronavirus, or supporting known scoundrels such as Yona Metzger, Leib Tropper, Eliezer Berland, and Elior Chen, or practicing a system of authority which has zero transparency, professionalism, or accountability, the charedi Gedolim have failed to earn respect.
Rabbi Shafran claims that those rated as Gedolei Torah, although theoretically fallible, in practice may never actually even be disputed, let alone criticized. But it's not up to me, or anyone else, to grant respect where it is not earned. Or, to borrow Chazal's phraseology: "Where there is desecration of God's Name, one does not apportion respect to a Rav."
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