Thursday, October 6, 2016

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: "Sabbah I learned not to speak lashon harah. Even if a goniv was in my house I won't tell the police." The perils of a Chareidi education

I was recently having a conversation with one of my precocious five year old grandchildren about what he had learned in Cheder. He proudly told me that he learned not to speak lashon harah. "Even if a thief was in the house I won't tell the police."

While the Dark Ages of cover-ups in the Chareidi world is behind us, it is clear that the control and censoring of thought and information is still alive and well. In fact it is still a central pillar  of our society and learning what not to think about and what not to know about - starts at an early age.

I am now rereading Dr. Marc Shapiro's book, "Changing the Immutable", and was reminded of Rav Schwab's comment regarding censoring Jewish history to exclude unpleasant information about gedolim and only leave that which is inspirational.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab(Selected Writings (Lakewood, 1988) page 233-234)
There is a vast difference between history and storytelling. History must be truthful, otherwise it does not deserve its name. A book of history must report the bad with the good, the ugly with the beautiful, the difficulties and the victories, the guilt and the virtue. Since it is supposed to be truthful, it cannot spare the righteous if he fails, and it cannot skip the virtues of the villain. For such is truth, all is told the way it happened. Only a נביא mandated by his Divine calling has the ability to report history as it really happened, unbiased and without praise. 
Suppose one of us today would want to write a history of Orthodox Jewish life in pre-holocaust Germany. There is much to report but not everything is complimentary. Not all of the important people were flawless as one would like to believe and not all the mores and lifestyles of this bygone generation were beyond criticism. A historian has not right to take sides. He must report the stark truth and nothing but the truth. Now, if an historian would report truthfully what he witnessed, it would make a lot of people rightfully angry.  He would violate the prohibition against spreading Loshon Horah which does not only apply to the living, but also to those who sleep in the dust and cannot defend themselves any more. 
What ethical purpose is served by preserving a realistic historic picture? Nothing but the satisfaction of curiosity. We should tell ourselves and our children the good memories of the good people, their unshakable faith, their staunch defense of tradition, their life of truth, their impeccable honesty, their boundless charity and their great reverence for Torah and Torah sages. What is gained by pointing out their inadequacies and their contradictions? We want to be inspired by their example and learn from their experience. 
When Noach became intoxicated, his two sons Shem and Japhet, took a blanket and walked into his tent backwards to cover the nakedness of their father. Their desire was to always remember their father as the Tzaddik Tomim in spite of his momentary weakness. Rather than write the history of our forebears, every generation has to put a veil over the human failings of its elders and glorify all the rest which is great and beautiful. That means we have to do without a real history book. We can do without. We do not need realism, we need inspiration from our forefathers in order to pass it on to posterity."

Of course we have more recent examples of removing unpleasant information from discussion. That of course is that deafening silence about the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt heter which is currently causing a couple to be transgressing the horrific sin of adultery. 

We also need not to forget the immortal words of Rav Aaron Feldman, that if he had known that his emails about the perverted heter would become public - he would not have written anything about it. After all he claimed, the degradation of a gadol (resulting from that public discussion) is significantly worse than the crime of adultery which the heter produced.

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