Sunday, August 14, 2011

Who is Rabbi Avi Shafran? : An interview with Baruch Pelta

 On the Mainline

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An interview with Rabbi Avi Shafran about Moses Mendelssohn, Torah im Derech Eretz, Da'as Torah, Science and Torah and the Slifkin affair.

Here's a guest post consisting of a very interesting interview with Rabbi Avi Shafran conducted by Baruch Pelta. Below is the interview transcript. I will post another post shortly which will give some of the background info regarding the Mendelssohn article published in the Jewish Observer nearly 25 years ago, which may or may not be known to readers (update: see this post for some of that background, as well as links to the relevant articles).

This interview was conducted in Rabbi Shafran’s office at Agudath Israel of America’s Rabbi Moshe Sherer Headquarters on August 28, 2009. Rabbi Avi Shafran is the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. At the time of this interview, Baruch Pelta was an undergraduate student in Judaic Studies at Touro College. He is currently a graduate student in the same subject at Brandeis University. He blogs at Baruch's Thoughts.



    Avi Shafran is at it again. He attacks the bloggers (seemingly all of them) to call them the enemy from within (cf Yeshaya 49:17). He goes so far as to provide the mareh makom for the Novi. The Rishonim learn that posuk is going on the reshoyim who caused the churban Bayis. He accuses the bloggers of cynically using the Kletzky murder to advance their agenda which come to think of it is exactly what Shafran does himself in this terrible piece. He cites non-Jewish writers including "African-Americans", Irishmen, Muslims, etc who he claims are behaving better than fellow Jews.

    Shafran is not just attacking those who called to stop taxpayer funds for Shomrim but also anyone who aired legitimate criticism of the rabbis from his organization who have spent decades shielding child abusers.

    Knowing how calculating Shafran can be, it is probably no coincidence that the title he chose is "Hearing Voices" when the killer is allegedly schizophrenic. The intention seems to be to badmouth Agudah critics as being just as sick as Levi Aron. So just who is the dark cynic, Rabbi Shafran(ovitch)?

  2. Nonsense article.
    Very few rabbis have an inkling about what science is. Those who have actually studied science, end up distorting it out of all proportions.
    Rambam in his day - allowed that Chazal could be mistaken in certain areas including Astronomy and Astrology.
    Even Rambam was not infallible, and some of his written statements have been proven to be false. Examples include his theory of 4 elements (ancient Aristotelian
    concept), and his geocentric view of the solar system.
    Lubavitcher rebbe made some stattements about Einstein's theory or relativity, which allegedly proved that the sun revolves around the earth. Again, this is false, and no Physicist who knows Einstein and astronomy would agree with such a statement. In fact, Rambam himself writes in his Guide that his observations of the planetary movements do not follow the path suggested by his own theory in Sefer Madda! This is pure science - observation and revision of theory based on new evidence.

    Again, same goes with tobacco and its damage to health. Medical science has for 50 years shown that smoking is lethal. The Gedolim that SHafran mentions have largely been in denial about this.
    It is only the Modernish gedolim like Tzitz Eliezer, R' Goren etc who outright forbade smoking completely, without zig zagging and trying to deny any real connection with cancer and other illnesses. Perhaps part of this is due to major Haredi gedolim, including R' Shach and Lubavitcher rebbe having themselves been smokers for some time. To imply that these gedolim had sinned even unwittingly would be detrimental to the myth of Daas torah.

  3. Who is R. Avi Shafran by Baruch Pelta?

    How about: Who is Baruch Pelta?
    Answer: A former Orthodox Jew who now despises Judaism and is now an avowed atheist.

    How much credence do you put into him?

  4. MO, it was just last year that Baruch Pelta blogged here that he davens at a yeshivishe place in Miami. Are you saying he went OTD since then?

  5. Thank you for reposting this Dr. Eidensohn :)

    MO Kvetcher, if you have any questions about the veracity of the interview's representation of Rabbi Shafran's intentions, you can email him at his (public) email address,

  6. >How much credence do you put into him?

    This is totally irrelevant.

    This was an interview, questions and answers. I heard the audio - I have the audio - indeed, I transcribed it, and Rabbi Shafran personally vouched that it is a fair transcription of the interview and approved its posting. The interview is unedited, accurate, and who Pelta was and who he is and who he will be will not change that.

  7. To ask questions in an interview does not require credibility. We can see the text of the question, and we can see the text of Rabbi Shafran's reply to those questions right next to it. The point is what Rabbi Shafran said in response to the questions. That the person asking the questions in the interview ended up going OTD has zero relevance. R. Shafran's answers do not change.

  8. Shrek, that was a quick transition r"l

    I am an ex-baal teshuva (in the most colloquial sense of that term). I decided to slowly but surely begin my journey towards Orthodoxy in 2004; I began to consistently keep Shabbos in 2005. During my time in yeshiva, I was increasingly acculturated into the haredi community, but in 2008, a reconsideration of my worldview led me to identify with Modern Orthodoxy. In 2010, I decided that I no longer believed in God and Judaism.

  9. He is a BT who went back to how he was before he became frum. How exactly does that alter what Shafran says?
    I once heard a vort about atheism - that someone can be an atheist, that doesn't mean G-d ceases to Be! I was much younger then, and didn't find it philosophically strong, But now, with more experience, I realise it is a very important point.

  10. He went from non-religious to religious to Hareidi to MO to nonreligious to atheist.

    Sounds much like that kook Dr. Laura who can't make up her mind what religious she is or isn't, and keeps changing every Monday and Thursday. Much like her opinions on homos keep changing, depending on the weather mostly.

  11. That snake Failed Shmarya also went from (Lubavitch) BT to modern to kofer. What he lacks from Dr. Pelta's intellectualism, he makes up 10 fold with anti-frum venom.

  12. Sounds much like that kook Dr. Laura who can't make up her mind what religious she is or isn't,

    Most BT these days are Weirdos, there are not the spiritual seekers of the 60's and the 70's. Most of the current BT are just unstable individual who find some connection with the extreme version of Judaism. They could be Raelians or Scientologists . It looks that the Conservative and Reform dump their garbage on us.

    Think of all the BTs that Tropper brought into our community, what goes in the mind of people who learned so called "torah" from that menuval ?

    Pelta seems to be a spiritual seeker not a nut job and hopefully will find some day a place of Judaism he can call home.

  13. I hope people will pay attention to the contents of the interview (particularly regarding Rabbi Shafran's views of Rabbi Hirsch, science, and Rabbi Slifkin, respectively) because I think they're interesting. But since some assertions about my life journey have been made, let me just give my two cents about it:

    It's true that I was willing to change my worldview several times since I was a teenager, and did so. If that seems weird, let me note one thing in my defense. I am a mere 24 years old; I felt as a teenager and feel now in my early 20s that no matter how convinced I was personally of something, I should always be open to the hypothetical possibility that I'm wrong or missing information. Until 2010, the possibility that I was wrong about frumkeit seemed about as remote as the possibility that the world was flat. By 2010, the possibility that frumkeit was the emes seemed about as likely as the possibility that the world is flat.

    I grew up Reform. I then decided -- without a frum person or a rabbi mekarving me, incidentally, but due to my reasoning (and probably various emotional factors which I didn't think about at the time, being a teenager) -- to become frum, but I didn't feel ready to take it all on at one time, so I took little steps (2004) until I was (2005). Then I went to yeshivas, where I was acculturated into the haredi world, where I always considered myself on the leftmost fringe theologically (2006-2008). When I went to Touro College, while most of my interactions and davenning continued to be with haredi people, I saw that my hashkafa was better described as "Modern Orthodox" (2008-2010). In 2010, I decided that IMHO frumkeit was wrong, and declared myself an agnostic. It took a couple of weeks of reading books I'd previously been scared of to convince me that atheism was really a better way to describe my worldview.

  14. I've known Baruch for years (we went to yeshiva together) and he is a good friend and certainly not a weirdo. We don't agree on Judaism but I will 100% vouch for his sincerity, integrity, and sanity.

    Really Ze'ev you think most BT's these days are weirdos ? Really ?? I think you can do better than labeling a pretty diverse group of people weirdos. Nice achdut bro keep it up.

  15. "We don't agree on Judaism"

    That's like saying about Hamas that "We don't agree on Israel."

  16. @ Ze'ev:
    "Most BT these days are Weirdos, there are not the spiritual seekers of the 60's and the 70's. Most of the current BT are just unstable individual who find some connection with the extreme version of Judaism."

    Can't generalise.
    Perhaps many of the BT's of the 60s/70s were also (drugged up) weirdos who became rabbis in BT yeshivot?

    Many Bts today come from traditional families, although it depends on where they are coming from.

    In any case, "FFB pride" is somewhat exaggerated, don't you think? Considering the scale of perverse behaviour and in some cases Idolatry.

    The Tropper argument - however loathsome he was - does not really pertain to the BT question. Tropper had semicha from R Zholty and R' Shach. If you claim that his students are tainted, then you imply that his rebbeim are also tainted - which of course is unthinkable.

  17. Troppenstein's monsterAugust 15, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Tropper was primarily a talmid of Rav Scheinberg. Rav Schach would have given him semicha because Tropper's grandfather R' Leib Forer was Rav Schach's rebbe.


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