Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Criticism and derech eretz: On striking the correct balance

Shalom Rabbi Eidensohn,

First of all let me state that I think you are doing an extremely important job of bringing this issue to the public's knowledge. I think your willingness to publish this guest post also further demonstrates that your work is being done lesheim shamayim without any agenda.

At the same time, can’t help but wonder about the appropriateness and halachic permissibility of some of comments you and your esteemed brother have been expressing towards RSK and RNG, especially in the comments section. Calling recognized talmidei chachamim and Torah leaders "idiots and fools" is, in my opinion, not only unnecessary for what you are trying to accomplish but also quite possibly a grave violation of serious halachic prohibitions.

I respectfully submit that the same may be true for your comments on whether or not RSK is a capable posek. First, the fact that some anonymous talmid chacham was not impressed by his halacha sefarim does not impress me. There are many respected and accepted halacha sefarim about which various talmidei chachamim might express negative opinions. This has always been true.

(Parenthetically, I don't think familiarity with the responsa literature or lack thereof are necessarily relevant to being a posek. There are and have been many poskim who paskened mainly from their understanding of the sugya. RMF was a prime example. Conversely, there are unfortunately many young “poskim” today who are familiar with much “response literature and can quote freely from a large range of poskim but are incapable of forming their own intelligent opinions based on deep learning of a sugya. If RSK paskens primarily from his extensive knowledge of Gemara and Rishonim, I don’t see any detriment in that.)

Please note that I am not questioning your right - even obligation - to take up these issues and criticize the rabbis in question. I am only questioning the method of communication.

I would like to point out that your own rav, Rav Sternbuch, who is clearly highly agitated over this episode, nevertheless does not engage in ad hominem attacks or questioning the protagonists’ general qualifications. In fact, I believe that his teshuva is a model for how this discourse should be conducted. Notice the respect he accords RSK and RNG.:

First, he calls them אחד מגדולי ראשי הישיבות עם אחד מהפוסקים שם.

When he proceeds to strongly disagree with their reasoning, he writes במחכ"ת , which basically means, “with all due respect to the honor of their Torah personalities.”

Nowhere does he attack them personally or their personal integrity.

I do not see him comparing them to Rabbi Goren. He invokes the Goren episode as a point of reference to a case of how the gedolim reacted to a mamzer being wrongly permitted. Even if you argue, that he meant to draw a veiled comparison, he left that between the lines, and did not do it blatantly.

To summarize, Rav Sternbuch has skillfully demolished their credibility in this particular case and expressed the full monstrosity of what has happened without uttering a single word about the protagonists!

I realize this is a very difficult situation. Impossible really. RSK is a person who has become renowned for selflessness and for care about all sectors of Klal Yisrael, and his yeshiva has produced legions of talmidei chachamim. This in no way justifies his actions here; but his status as a gadol is already established. If anything, let's stick to impugning what was done, without attempting to fell people who have filled important and positive roles in the Torah world.

Call out the actions that have been taken in the strongest possible terms. Alert your readership to the serious and far-reaching implications. But refrain from offering judgements - especially highly speculative ones – on the people involved.

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