Monday, December 7, 2015

Rav Sternbuch's radio interview - RaP's observations

update with link to program and postscript

Listen to Episode #39

Gut Voch Rabbi Eidensohn:

I heard Rav Shternbuch on the radio tonight (Motzei Shabbos at 11 PM in NYC, and he will be on again) it was advertised in full page glossy ads in both the latest English Mishpacha and Modia magazines and they spoke about the Tamar case mentioning her by name as well as other parts of the case. It was interesting and a privilege to hear Rav Shternbuch speak, it was by phone and sounded like it was pre-recorded. The interviewer Dovid Lichtenstein seems to know some Halacha and tried to lead Rav Shternbuch along, but Rav Shternbuch was the consummate Halachist, very cautious, only responding to hard questions and Shaylos and not responding to speculations or theoretics that the interviewer threw in. Rav Shternbuch made the same points that you have conveyed on your blog and I have to tell you that I think you have done a much better job of conveying Rav Shternbuch's views because Rav Shternbuch speaks with that heavy English accent like an old English gentleman so the words are not always clear especially for an American audience not used to such an accent, so therefore as I say your Blog presents the case and Rav Shternbuch's point of view with greater clarity and with less distractions.

But as I say it was worthwhile listening and even my wife paid attention and listened to the entire interview with me. One needs great familiarity with sources because Rav Shternbuch is not talking as if to babies, it is after all the Rosh Bais Din of the BADATZ so he is brief, concise and to the point, very judicial which I am sure the average layperson is not familiar with. But for me it was a privilege and worthwhile. Surprised you don't know about it. Ask one of Rav Shternbuch's grandsons it seems who was mentioned as organizing it.

The other stuff will just have to play itself out and let's see where all the pieces fall when all the dust settles.

Here is this program with Rav Shternbuch - his voice sounds very old, very English and hard to follow because he is speaking as a Posek and such kind of Rabbanim are very concise and matter of fact about Shaylos, they don't go on and on and on. But the interviewer was gabbing away and trying to "make conversation" with Rav Shternbuch and that sort of trivialized the importance of what Rav Shternbuch was trying to say even though the interviewer David Lichtenstein did speak out in some detail what was going on with the Tamar case and mentioned some background as an introduction.

I see that "Moe Ginsberg" mentions on the post about that ad about the interview that this interviewer David Lichtenstein is on the "liberal side" of the Halachic spectrum which I also thought I picked up on the interview which was a little confusing because Rav Shternbuch was NOT conveying a "liberal" position. For example, the interviewer was trying to get Rav Shternbuch to agree with him that "pre-nups" could be good for Frum couples in America because there is so much divorce going on, and of course Rav Shternbuch objected to that.

So if you get a chance, mention to Rav Shternbuch that he should be more cautious about granting interviews on shows even though the interviewer might agree with Rav Shternbuch on certain points, like the Tamar case, but on the other hand this David Lichtenstein clearly favors pre-nups and he cited all sorts of "Mekoros" to back up his words and agenda, and then Rav Shternbuch answers back and it gets confusing who to believe and what was said and then people may be left with the WRONG impressions that Rav Shternbuch "said" something when he did not, all he did was "speak" with a guy, but did NOT agree with him but was being polite and did not say it strong enough since as a Dayan he speaks in a cold deliberate clinical matter-of-fact way.

But the interviewer stuck in that pre-nups may help to solve the problem of having Agunas, as if he wants to stop the problem of Agunas with pre-nups, and Rav Shternbuch told him that there have always been Agunas and even unmarried women, and that we try to do what we can to help them, each case is different, but if we cannot help them, we just cannot help them. It seems the interviewer had his own agenda and was milking this topic and hoping he could get something out Rav Shternbuch indirectly while siding with the idea that there can be no annulments. It was just an interview with all the risks that comes with it, the person being interviewed is at the mercy of the interviewer, one does not want to be rude and it is hard to know what will come next and how to respond to surprise questions, etc.

The interviewer threw in shaylos about genetically modified fish and was trying to get a "Pesak" from Rav Shternbuch about that, but Rav Shternbuch could not answer clearly because it was a hypothetical question that would come to be "Lema'aseh" in two years and as you know Poskim only answer the immediate Shaylo, they don't Pasken on hypothetical questions about "what might be" or "what could be" or "what will be" in two years time. Rav Shternbuch basically said that it is a Shaylo in Halacha if we go according to the Simanim, or according to the facts, and basically the interviewer was trying to get Rav Shternbuch to say that all genetically changed fish or animals with genes from non-kosher animals should be Assured while Rav Shternbuch answered that while it may be that at some point all Fish may be a problem because of the genetic changes when they add genes from non-kosher fish, but Rav Shternbuch chuckled a bit when he was told it would be a problem in two years time and of course he cannot Pasken on the air as to what would be in two years time.

By the way, the latest Mishpacha has an important interview with Degel HaTorah MK Moshe Gafni and he confirms what I previously posted on your blog that the passing of the latest Israeli budget by a razor thin majority of 61-59 was a victory for removing the dangers of criminalizing those who learn full time. He describes the inner workings of his efforts and the way he has worked as an emissary of Rav Shach, Rav Elyashiv and now Rav Shteinman, and much much more of how a disaster was just averted for the Charedi world in Israel had this fallen through. Very worthwhile article, that even my non-political wife read every word of it and then we had a serious discussion about it which is very unusual because she never focuses on politics, that is my department ;-} Try to get hold of it and post it if you can it is a seminal piece!!!

Be well and have a Freilichen Chanuka!

The point I am making is that while in the case of the written word, like on this Blog, we can see and read in black and white what is being said and there are no distractions, because "oisiyois machkimois" it is not the same when being interviewed or in a live debate, where there are all sorts of other auditory and visual factors that come into play and can swing debates on STYLE and not on content.

The best known example of this in modern times, is the famous Nixon-Kennedy debates, when on radio and on paper it looked like Nixon had for sure won with his better content and grasp of the facts, but that was not so for those who viewed the debate on TV where Nixon came across as having a "five o' clock shadow" and was sweating and looked jowly and scary, while Kennedy looked the more handsome and charming candidate, something that the Nixon team had not bargained on happening and so Kennedy won on STYLE while Nixon won on SUBSTANCE but lost the 1960 USA presidential election to Kennedy in the end by a very slim margin.

CH"V I am not comparing Rav Shternbuch to "Nixon" but even in the glossy ads advertising the radio shows, Rav Shternbuch is wearing a Shtreimel and looks like the old sage that he is, while Dovid Lichtenstein looks like a cool dude and a "regular guy". And who do you think the crowd that reads Mishpacha and Ami identifies with most? Not the Rav Shternbuch types but it's geared for the modernisha Yeshiva crowd, the so-called "FBCs" "Frum But Cool" (that are the big supporters of the Kaminetskys)! And many of these types are the ones who WANT to have pre-nups and all sorts of Heterim for their fragile and shaky marriages that are increasingly breaking up (it is because today we are dealing with the "me-generation" of spoiled brats who have no clue how to be married and the hard work and Mesirus Nefesh that goes into family-building and running a Torah-true home.) So David Lichtenstein knows who he is speaking for and to, and it is NOT to or for the BADATZ Eidah HaCharedis type crowd that we can be sure of!

It's complicated real-life theater on and off the air and online for that matter and you have to be clever to spot to understand what is really going on!

There is a thing called "ambush journalism" and even "frum" journalists can and do indulge in it to some degree as you can see from this David Lichtenstein character, he sets things up HIS way and then invites Choshuva guests, who may be thinking they are going to get another "Kibbud" (honor) to "speak at the Ommud" but what they are in for is "Bizyones" (abuse) instead!! And then this radio or TV host throws things at them, curve balls, and just by doing that he is getting away with Chutzpa. Because he is acting like a "To'en" (advocate) and not an impartial honest broker who just wants to help Rav Shternbuch convey his message.

Thus Rav Shternbuch and others in that position are forced to fight through the static and run through the gauntlets and well-laid traps that types like Dovid Lichtenstein set for them, and then everything gets confusing, and the listeners who are neither Halachists nor Poskim, do not know what to think. The may easily be misled to think Lichtenstein is just as great a "Lamden" as Rav Shternbuch merely because Lichtenstein cited all sorts of "Mekoros" when he was just showing that he has no Sechel and displaying his Divrei Hevel!

CONCLUSION AND WARNING: Therefore, know that not everyone is smart enough or experienced enough to come away and know what is important and what is not. That they should be listening CAREFULLY to Rav Shternbuch and not to the half baked bobba meises of smarty pants radio or TV hosts.

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