Monday, March 10, 2008

One Final Note On The Lipa Concert

Sometimes it's nice to receive a confirmation of one's words.

A few weeks ago, in this post, I said the following:

In the past, gedolim used to do first-hand research to discover the facts of a situation before they ruled on it. Yes, there were times that they got it right and there were times they got the facts wrong... but at least they tried to get them.

Today, however, it seems that gedolim simply take their cues from neighborhood zealots. They are fed misinformation about a situation causing them to rule on cases that do not exist. I can think of two examples off the top of my head:

a. The concert ban at hand. Chaim, at Life of Rubin, shows how gedolim are fed misinformation to get them to sign onto bans. One person signed only after he told that there would be mixed seating, when, in fact, the concert is separate seating.

b. The ban on Rabbi Slifkin's books. His books were banned by rabannim who, for the most part, had not even read the books. Even three years later, some of his opponents are still seeking to continue the ban (warning: PDF) based on misinformation and distortions of what he said.

We're all familiar the idea of GIGO -- garbage in, garbage out. In order for a posek to make a ruling on an issue, he has to have first-hand knowledge of the facts of the issue. If you're going to ban the circumstances of a concert, at least make sure that the facts are as they've been presented. If you're going to ban a book, at least make sure that the book actually states what you think it states.

This past Shabbos, the rav of my shul spoke and made the *very* same points that I did (and expanded on them a bit). He pointed out that the ban reflected a very severe lack of Ahavas Yisroel on the part of the askanim. After all, had it been their families' monies at stake, would they have pushed for this ban without so much as a phone call? Even if you want to be extremely generous, and state that their actions were l'shem shamayim (for the sake of Heaven -- motivated purely for the religious good), you can still bet that if it were their families monies, they would have at least tried to contact the producers and performers to express their concerns. They certainly wouldn't have had a ban instituted less than three weeks before the performance when the only possible outcome could be an extreme loss of money. The fact that they did this clearly shows a lack of Ahavas Yisroel on their part.

In addition, he also brought up the issue of the ban itself. Since it's apparent that at least some of the signers of the ban didn't have all the facts, he wonders how such a ban could have been signed. When issuing a p'sak (ruling), a rav has to have the facts of the situation. That means that he has to investigate all the details before issuing a ruling. He can't rely on second hand reports from people with axes to grind. Likewise, he pointed out, if you're going to ban a book, you have to make sure that it says what you think it says. You can't rely on a translation from someone who claims that it says something on page X without seeing it for yourself. Now, I should point out that the rav of my shul has been critical of Rabbi Slifkin and his writings -- but at least I know that he's read the books. He's ascertained that they actually say what it is he is critical of. To do anything else, IMHO, is irresponsible.

The Wolf


Commenter Abbi said...

So what was the punchline? How does the community react to such blatant disregard for the halachic process and abject sinat chinam and make sure it doesn't happen again?

-suitepotato- said...

The biggest danger also is wrapped up in the greatest strength. Strange how it works.

On the one hand, the gedolim must always be aware that how they behave and what they do reflects not only on them as a class, not only on rabbis and maggids in general, but on the Torah and Talmud in which they have so much experience and expertise.

One gets the idea that if staring into them for decades gets you a bunch of crazy old men who issue rulings based on hearsay, or reuse bans from some other place entirely and throw a stamp on it, that maybe staring into the Torah is a bad idea.

This is a great and powerful bad thing. Bringing disrepute on Torah scholarship is nothing that the gedolim should ever be guilty of.

On the other hand, once in a while, a gaffe does happen and the response of the people shows the level to which they instinctively understand the danger. Instead of being unquestioning fanatics, they are questioning fanatics. Something is bugging them about this ban for instance, and that shows they see a vast gulf between a proper ban and an improper one. Something doesn't fit their high opinion of how gedolim should conduct business.

This is a good thing. Unfortunately, it is happening way too often. Once in a while tests whether the people are paying attention. Constantly drives the people away from faith.

Anonymous said...

The rabbonim who are considered gedolim are actually ketanim. They are being led around by the nose, by other people. With the Slifkin book affair they put him on the map. After they banned the book everyone went ou to buy it. By now I think the rabbonim are a big joke. The only ones who listen to them are their own followers.

Anonymous said...

ah, for the good old days when "ban" was a deodorant,not an activity for "kanaim" with nothing better to do...

Lion of Zion said...

"This past Shabbos, the rav of my shul spoke and made the *very* same points that I did "

this is a shul in brooklyn?