My thoughts on the Slifkin ban.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Give Kavod its due

Last week I decided to explicitly state what my strategy for fighting the ban is. Rather than attacking the kavod of those who signed the ban, use that very kavod to fight against the ban. Halachicly, that is certainly the preferable approach. An aveira l'shmah is assur after Matan Torah, so even if someone felt the only way to combat the tremendous Chillul Hashem of the Slifkin ban is to ridicule Gedolei Yisroel, it would still be assur to do so. If Hashem's Halachic system forbids us from ending a desecration of His name, that is His problem, His responsibility and His call - not ours.

Fortunately, there is no need to attack the honesty and intelligence of the signers of the ban. In fact, if they were Chas V'Shalom as simple-minded and stupid as some of the anti-Ban bloggers portray them, petty arrogance would prevent them from backing down in the face of such harsh ridicule. If you believe they are capable of backing down in such a public matter despite the personal attacks against them, then they truly are perfected individuals. If so, treat them as such. If you don't believe they would back down when doing so would be a tacit admission that those who ridiculed them were correct, then why not save your time and energy for something more productive.

In short, even if ridicule were a Halachicly viable option – which it most certainly isn't, it is hard to find a situation in which it would be the most effective strategy of either ending then ban or healing the damage caused by it. Treating the ban as a deliberate and well thought out policy is a much wiser course of action. Some may fail to see how doing so will at all help us. After all, the psak was already made, and how can anything we do change that? I hope you'll excuse me, but I have reasons not to give a full answer at this point. I'd rather take things one step at a time, so the process unfolds naturally. I will say though that the target at this point in time is not the Gedolim themselves but rather their followers. As long as the Gedolim are being publicly attacked, their followers will instinctively rally to their defense and not even consider the possibility that they were mistaken. However, once an honest and open discussion of the issues involved begins, the followers will start asking very legitimate questions. If a book that quotes from the Moreh Nevuchim and Michtav MeEliyahu should be burned, why not those Seferim as well? If there are differences between R' Slifkin's book and those Seforim, why wasn't the tzibur told about them in the beginning when the ban first came out? If R' Slifkin's books in fact shouldn't be burned, how could so many Gedolim sign a public statement calling on R' Slifkin to do just that?

These are all very legitimate questions, and it would be a sign of great disrespect not to ask them, for that would imply there are no good answers. I believe the reasons these questions haven't been asked yet en masse by the Talmidim of these Gedolim is because to do so when the psak is under public assault would be disloyal. The sooner we end the public ridicule, the quicker honest introspection and analysis can begin. How the Gedolim respond to their own Talmidim dissecting the ban word for word will determine our next course of action. I'm fairly certain of how they will respond and what the next step should be, but for obvious reasons I think it best to wait before sharing them on my blog (email may be another story). I will say that I truly believe the Gedolim here were acting L'Shem Shomayim, and they took what they thought was the best course of action. As much as many of us disagree with the ban, it is worth finding the Chochmah in how they chose to do things the way in which they did, if for no other reason because it lets us see what we are up against.


At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you believe that the Gedolim acted totally L'Shem Sh'mayim AND you also have that great list of questions, why wait for the Talmidai Hagedolim? If you want, I can get you, say, R. Dovid Feinstein's address and you can mail him the list of questions yourself. As a matter of fact, it probably wouldn't be too difficult to get the addresses of all the Gedolim involved. Mail them all the list of questions. I, for one, will be eagerly waiting to see the responses printed here on your blog.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger DarkBlueHat said...

What makes you think I haven't tried that? I didn't get responses but I wasn't expecting any. Why should a Gadol explain things in more detail to a stranger than to his own Talmidim? If enough Talmidim in good standing ask sincere questions though, they'll have to give answers and either retreat somewhat or dig in deeper. Either way it exposes them to a withering counterattack. Gedolim can't ignore their own Talmidim. To do so would cost them far more than they can afford. We need them to keep this issue on the front burner.

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