Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Emperor has no clothes:Rabbinical infallibility

Outraged wrote demanding I retract my criticism of rabbinic leadership on a previous post Saving-kids:Lashon-harah-high-price-to pay. In one of his many strident criticisms he noted:
I am asking you what it is TODAY that you are criticizing in harsh terms the rabbis on the moetses for currently handling abuse cases wrongly ( i am quite aware that prior to NOW the frum community dealt with these issues internally without ultimately going to the police) I'm not asking for a general repeat of the last 10 years but rather exactly what the moetses is NOW doing that warrants your CURRENT massive criticism of the moetses today. I am not asking about Zweibel now, I am asking only about the moetses. And of course aside from wanting to get to the bottom of what you are mean regarding NOW.

I want to congratulate Outraged for stating two things - 1) That the gedolim and rabbinic leadership have not acted appropriately in the past and have been negligent in protecting our children and communities against child molesters. 2) He wants me to ignore this past and only criticize the present - which I assume he means no further back than a week ago. 

He is outraged that I dared mention past neglect, incompetence and deliberate coverups. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? He is demanding that we do not hold our rabbinic leadership  accountable. Only we the masses are held accountable if we really messed up an important responsibility. Whenever the rabbinic leadership  botch something up - we are to repress awareness of the mistakes or at least no public acknowledgements) and we are not to expect them to apologize and to promise to try better in the future (teshuva).

This is functional infallibility. Gedolim and religious leaders make no errors and when they do err - we are not allowed to talk about it because they are infallible and thus can't make errors! We saw this happening with the infamous Tropper affair. Tropper bought the attention of the gedolim in America. When this spectacle came to a disgusting end - there was complete silence from the gedolim of America. When Rav Sternbuch told me to publicize that Tropper was guilty I was accused by varioius the rabbis of creating a chillul hashem - because since they weren't talking about it - the only way people would hear about it was because I was publicizing the matter!

I recently received a call from a major askan. He was furious at the language I have used. At my lack of respect for the gedolim. He didn't deny the problems that I have raised. I just wasn't supposed to publicly mention my upset. He had the same complaints against me when I publicized the Tropper affair.

When the Tropper affair ended in a multiple collision disaster - I sent a message to one of the most influential gedolim in  America - that he should at least acknowledge what had happened and condemn Tropper - as the RCA had done. The reply I got back was that the scandal was too big and too many major rabbis had been bought -  so it couldn't even be acknowledged that it occurred.

21 comments :

  1. "The reply I got back was that the scandal was too big and too many major rabbis had been bough"

    I like that - the frum version of "too big to fail".

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  2. Orthdox guy in IsraelJune 7, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    I support fully your brave stand to clean up our world...so go ahaead and bring people's attention to the fact that our leaders can, and, in your opinion, should be doing more...but just one thing...don't use my name!

    I'm not ready to take responsibility for starting up with the gedolim. Too many people got hurt that way...

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  3. "Behold thy leaders, O Israel!"

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  4. U'bearta Hara M'kirbecha . Evil leaders who cannot lead should step down and remove themselves from any authority. Their is a saying from the B'asht that it will be Rabbonim that will be holding Mishiach back in the Ikvesa. Their is saying from R E Wasserman in the name if the Gra that might be applicable , that in the Ikvesa the eirav rav/amalek will become the leaders of klal Yisroel.

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  5. Or to adjust the old statement: "Yes, but that's all in the past. What haven't you done for me lately?"
    >Whenever the rabbinic leadership botch something up - we are to repress awareness of the mistakes or at least no public acknowledgements) and we are not to expect them to apologize and to promise to try better in the future
    Rav Eidensohn, I would go a step further. As the Michtav Eliyahu points out, what we think are errors made by "Gedolim" (in his day it was the advice not to decamp from Europe to escape the Nazis but to stay put and daven harder... oops!) are not really errors and if we think they are it's because we are in error. You know, the old line about "And you don't even come up to his toes".
    It seems that we are in a conflict. We want to show complete respect and loyalty to God and Torah but are told that the only way to do this is to show complete respect and loyalty to men who, despite their learning, are not leading our nation very well. What is the solution?

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    1. It is important to remember that in this case that Rabbi Zwiebel - as representative of the Aguda gedolim - has acknowledged inappropriate actions on the part of the gedolim. The gedolim themselves have not

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    2. "As the Michtav Eliyahu points out, what we think are errors made by "Gedolim" (in his day it was the advice not to decamp from Europe to escape the Nazis but to stay put and daven harder... oops!) are not really errors and if we think they are it's because we are in error."

      And what would have prevented Hitler to hasten his plans to invade Palastine? You really think that this could have been so easily averted, or would we be able to visit death camps in the Holy Land?

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Please don't take my lack of quotes on "Palastine" as implying anything.

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  6. Very powerful stuff.

    Believe it or not, R' Daniel, I too have been fighting this battle to "hold our rabbinic leadership accountable" -- but not just the so called Gdoilim. It's EVERYone in a position of religious authority. That includes the sarcasm, arrogance, and overall lack of appropriate sensitivity employed by Dayanim on a Sh"B BD, heads of Kollels who stick their highly non-pshychotherepeutically trained noses into family squabbles... and blog owners with reputations for scholarly acumen and psychological knowledge who see no wrong in letting his commenters bash one another beyond all definitions of Onaas Dvarim.

    The buck must stop somewhere. Why not from below, on such blogs? We're ALL fallible and this becomes a giant weapon when we're in positions of influence over those who are vulnerable.

    Yes, the Emperor, capital E, has no clothes... and so too all the smaller, vigillante emperors, small e. It's time we all stop participating in a "religious" way of life that dishonors those with less power.

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  7. Historically speaking, when is the last time a gadol made an apology. I can think of only a handful of cases. Rabenu Yonah was sorry for opposing the Rambam and it is nowadays accepted that the Ramchal wasn't as bad as people suspected (although maybe he was). The Chofetz Chaim said we should have fought the Communists with brooms. It is tacitly accepted that the fight against the chassidim was wrong (even though it may have been right). The author of Eim Habonim said he made a mistake being anti-Zionist. This sort of thing is uncommon. Are you expecting a new paradigm?

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  8. Actually, the Novominsker Rebbe was quite bold at the Agudah Convention just 2 years ago when he stated clearly that abuse cases were characteristically swept under the rug. I am irritated by the commitment to resolve the problem which crept just a tiny distance and stagnated.

    We should all bear in mind that our complaints about the gedolim, that they are not of the caliber of the previous generation, is really an analysis of ourselves. We are told many times that the leaders are reflections of the level of the populace.

    I have two other problems with the bashing. One is the vehemence of the rhetoric that is disgraceful. It is okay to disagree, but respect should be maintained. I do that often. And I have taken my disagreements directly to the "leaders" to help them understand the subject matter. The other issue is the free for all rejection of anything they say. This becomes obvious in the protests, the vigils, etc. I must recognize this site for maintaining a level of respect for gedolim.

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  9. Great post, R' Eidensohn.

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    1. First off Rabbi Eidensohn responded without answering the heart of my comments in the context of [1] his posting and [2] all my comments to his posting.
      'what is the moetsis doing today that you included them in your excoriation in your previous post' ( ie. we have Rabbi Eidensohn on record insisting the 6 rabbis of the moetsis apologize for past mishandling of molestation and excoriating them for not doing so.)

      Secondly, I asked in previous comment which gedolim authorized you to excoriate the current 6 rabbis of the moetsis regarding what they are currently doing and all you did in your nonresponse was malign the 6 rabbis on the moetsis again for an absent apology and on their past behavior, but didnt respond insofar as their current behavior.

      So Rabbi Eidensohn didnt name which gedolim told him to excoriate the 6 rabbis on the moetsis for apologies he believe are required by them in which they don't believe they need to engage- a chillul hashem according to Rabbi Eidensohn.

      Furthermore Rabbi Eidensohn claims I stated words to this effect:
      {R Eidensohn " 1) That the gedolim and rabbinic leadership have not acted appropriately in the past and have been negligent in protecting our children and communities against child molesters. 2) He wants me to ignore this past and only criticize the present - which I assume he means no further back than a week ago."

      In fact I didn't suggest anything of the sort in my words, and Rabbi Eidensohn's response sidesteps the matter of which I asked.

      Rabbi Eidensohn doesnt explain what current behavior the moetsis is engaged in ( other than a lack of apologizing) that he maintains the gedolim need to change.

      As an additional comment I find it interesting that your comments in general are an excoriation of the American rabbinic leadership in the Agudah which must include Reb Mosh Reb Ahron and Reb Yaakov since molestation was going on in 1980s as well and they must fall under your accusation of their [a] having had the responsibility of protecting our children and [b] they didnt do so. It seems that these 3 therefore fit Rabbi Eidensohns billing for having engaged in a chillul Hashem as well, so I'd like to hear Rabbi Eidensohns explain how these 3 rabbis are excluded from his chillul Hashem charges ( assuming he excludes them from the charges).

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    2. part 2 to the previous response
      And finally Rabbi Eidensohns indictment the 6 moetsis rabbis who didnt apologize for Tropper. We have Rabbi Eidensohn on record as saying he asked one of the foremost gedolim in America ( unnamed, which in a forum like this makes it almost meaningless), quote Rabbi Eidensohn:" he should at least acknowledge what had happened and condemns Tropper - as the RCA had done. The reply I got back was that the scandal was too big and too many major rabbis had been bought - so it couldn't even be acknowledged that it occurred."

      As nuance is everything, Rabbi Eidensohn's quote here is just not credible, and the supposed excuse given by the foremost gadol in questions is so vague it is meaningless as a communication in a forum like this one ( ie. The gadol cant ackowledge the Tropper incident BECAUSE too many OTHER (!! )RABBIS are paid off? We are supposed to believe that the claim of too many other rabbis being paid off with regard to some vague something about Tropper means this gadol declined acknowledging ( not apologizing, only acknowledging)and there is a vast conspiracy of paid off people, yet for what they were paid off is unknown, and the reason why the NONpaid off Gadol in America to whom Rabbi Eidensohn refers is unexplained.

      The words Rabbi Eidensohn has used to describe this interchange are not credible and part of the words are so vague that the reference to the event is silly in a forum like this one.

      It would be better for Rabbi Eidensohn to have just answered my questions.
      Name the gadol who authorizes you to indict the moetseses today and in the past with a chillul Hashem of incorrect handling of prior decades of molestation.
      Name the gadol who authorizes you to indict them for their non request for forgivenness for not having assumed a different behavior in the past.
      What are they not doing today that they should be doing -which is another chillul Hashem.
      These are direct questions that can be answered directly unlike in the Rabbi Eidensohns response.

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  10. d'vray Chachomim b'nachaasJune 8, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    It seems a bit strange to me.
    If Rabbi Sternbuch says something then its "Torah MiSinai"
    If the Moetzes or other gedolim say something they are wrong.
    Who says?
    Who says that you can choose one over the other?
    Maybe Rabbi Sternbuch owes apologies to certain people &/or gedolim?
    ( I myself would never get in betwwen two or more gedolim. Its too dangerous.
    But "l'sheetascha" that you can choose, Why Rav Sternbuch? Maybe the Moetzes is right in spite of the fact that you and others can't fathom the reasoning?)
    Maybe its Ailoo v'ailoo (again you do not have too understand it).
    Its not cast in stone that Horav Hagaon Moreinu Reb Doniel Eidensohn (or any other blogger or non blogger) has to be consulted on all or any issues.
    So, if you want to take issue with a godol's decision even with the backing of your favorite Godol ( who you do not consult on all issues anyway) the least one expect from you is to be respectful to each and every godol, be it a Rov, a Rosh HaYeshiva or anyone else.

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  11. Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,I really admire your style. So well put and formulated!

    It is interesting that the conclusions that you state here could have been arrived at at the time of the Tropper scandal, and you probably arrived at them back then. However, it took additional push (or maybe just the passage of time) that you found it necessary to formulate them like you did now.

    The logic of "silence condones the incident and reveals the opinion" is irrefutable.

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  12. Eh, that's pretty straightforward. The Gadol who was not paid off is presumably Rav Aharon Feldman, the only one whose yeshivah is independently financially secure. The others were all paid off not as part of a "conspiracy" but rather as part of Tropper's way of gaining power. They were wined and dined, and given donations to their yeshivos, in return for giving Tropper power and kavod.

    The idea that R. Eidenson is only allowed to say any of this if he has "authorization" from a gadol is circular, absurd and baseless.

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  13. Infallibility is a very good discussion.

    Prof. Lawrence Kaplan, who I believe posts on this blog occasionally, got into this debate with the Agudah a few years ago - when the JO was still around. He attacked their concept of DaasTorah - particularly the article by R' Hutner om the Shoah. It took JO a few years to respond, but they did so by calling him "evil". I hope that RDE does not share a similar response from extremists.

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  14. Why would RAbbi Eidensohn publish a comment suggesting that Rav Aharon Feldman might be the only rabbi on the moetses who wasnt paid to perform a cover up of Tropper?
    Rabbi Eisensohn has control over his own blog and nonetheless put through this monitored comment on his blog. So which gadol authorized Rabbi Eidensohn to explictly allow disparagement of the other rabbis of the moetsis in America to be disparaged for not issuing a public statement reporting that Tropper indeed did x,y,and z ?
    Which gadol authorized Rabbi Eidensohn to explictly allow disparagement of the other rabbis of the moetsis in America for accepting money ( from whom?) in exchange for the moetses rabbis not issuing a public statement that Tropper indeed did x,y,and z ?

    Which gadol authorized Rabbi Eidensohn to explictly allow the publishing of a comment referring to an, evidently previous payoff from the past regarding something about gaining power" blah blah blah...unexplained...but nonetheless referring to another additional payoff of the rabbis of the moetses to do the wrong thing.

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  15. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    Well said. Outraged holds to the current shitah that public apology for acts affecting the public is for the little people. Also that Attorney Zweibel can do all the the apologizing necessary. Also, that the the statute of limitations for apologies is very short.

    So let me try and give him some material to mull about current malfeasance. Why doesn't R. Aaron Shechter finally comply with the directive of R. Moshe Feinstein and pay back R. Shlomo Carlebach salary and reinstate him into his position. Why doesn't R. Malkiel Kotler publicly defend the family of the child victimized by Kolko in
    Lakewood and publicly welcome them back and defend them. Why doesn't
    the Novominsker Rebbe follow up his clever words at an Agudah convention by doing something about child molestation besides shedding crocodile tears. Why doesn't the Moetzes assert publicly what it believes in private, that Yehudah Kolko is not to be trusted around children. Why doesn't the Moetzes publicly declare that it is ossur to corrupt the justice system with electoral bribes to keep frum molesters out of jail. (after all l'halachah, bnei noach are obliged to have courts. We can surmise that those courts and their laws should condemn and penalize giluy arayos. Many molesters are guilty of just that, in some cases d'oraysah, even for bnei noach.

    Why doesn't R. Reuven Feinstein honor the legacy of his father by clarifying how he fell short in dealing with Tropper and suggesting takkanot to prevent him and others from falling prey to such bribery in the future. I could go on and on. But Outraged, tell me of one example where the crew who leads the moetzes has emulated Yehudah, Dovid Hamalech and other tzadikim and neveim who publicly admitted they were wrong.

    Outraged, you seem to be bothered that R. Eidensohn relies on R. Moshe Sternbuch as his posek. Get a life. I am no fan of the anti-Zionism of the Eidah. But R. Sternbuch is a talmud chacham, frum, possessed of seichel and as far as I know, a man of integrity. So what are you saying, you get to decide who one can turn to for psak.

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