Why Was Rav Moshe Shapira Indicted?
There is a very strange story unfolding at the moment. I don't even begin to understand what's going on. But I do have a slight personal connection that may be relevant.
About two years ago, there were rumors of a pedophile ring operating in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem. Eventually, one person was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years. But it seems that the tragedy was inflated to mass hysteria, Salem-style, leading to false suspicions about lots of people. It's difficult to determine what actually happened - and apparently, even the police had a very hard time figuring it out.
While everyone was up in arms, four men broke into the house of a 70-year old woman that they believed to be involved in the pedophile ring, as well as missionary activity. They severely beat her, breaking her arm and leg.
Today, news outlets are reporting that none other than Rav Moshe Shapira, one of the leading figures in the controversial ban on my books, was indicted for allegedly having told them to do it.
On the other hand, what the media does not reveal is that some months after the beating, Rav Shapira wrote a letter in which he condemned it in the strongest terms.
There are a range of possibilities here. The police presumably suspect that he did indeed authorize it, and the letter was an attempt to wash his hands of responsibility. The defense will be that he did not authorize it, and the assailants are merely trying to absolve themselves of responsibility. It seems that at the very least, Rav Moshe had some sort of connection - otherwise, why would he need to write the letter in the first place, and why would he be named as having ordered it? Another possibility is that he expressed some sort of disapproval of the woman, and his disciples took it too far. I have absolutely no idea what actually happened.
There is also another strange aspect to the story. The victim, about whom there are negative reports (although falling far short of pedophilia and missionizing) was the head of an institute for conversion that was associated with the infamous Leib Tropper. But Rav Moshe Shapira was also involved with Leib Tropper; they were both driving forces in the ban on my book, and Rav Moshe flew out to the US when Tropper made a wedding.
The case currently in the news bears similarities to Rav Moshe's involvement in the ban on my books. Reuven Schmeltzer was the person most involved in the groundwork of the campaign, collecting signatures for the ban. He was overheard saying into his phone, "I am a shaliach of Rav Moshe Shapira, being lochem milchemes Hashem!" Many important people who were opposed to the ban complained to Rav Moshe, and he responded to them that he himself is not involved and he does not have shlichim. But he told other people that he was very much involved and that Schmeltzer was indeed his shliach!
Schmeltzer also published the notorious Tropper-sponsored work Chaim B'Emunasam, which was directed against my books. In Chaim B'Emunasam, Schmeltzer edited the opinions of the Rishonim in order to claim that every word in the Gemara is from Sinai, nobody ever said that Chazal were mistaken in science, and to claim otherwise is heresy. This work bears an extraordinarily effusive approbation from Rav Moshe, who describes Schmeltzer as a "gaon" (!). It doesn't seem like he feels that Schmeltzer misrepresented him as authorizing his campaign.
Most significantly, Schmeltzer's book said that any such heretics, who deny the divine infallibility of certain statements in the Gemara (i.e. me), should be put to death by any means possible. (Thank God, nobody ever physically attacked me, but my wife and I were subjected to a terrifying phone threat.) Now, I truly don't believe that Rav Moshe thinks that someone should kill me. But on the other hand, as we see from the events in Nachlaot, there could well be people who would believe that and even act upon it, and who would claim to be acting on Rav Moshe's authority. As I once wrote in a post entitled "It's Not An Aberration," religious leaders who use or endorse violent language have a responsibility for violent actions that occur as a result.
Again, I must reiterate that I truly have no idea what actually happened in the Nachlaot incident. But I see that establishing whether someone is indeed a shaliach of Rav Moshe is rather difficult - even if you ask Rav Moshe himself.
UPDATE: I discovered that there is actually a video of Rav Moshe telling his followers to break into her home and destroy it. You can watch it at this link.