Sunday, December 20, 2009

Benefit of the Doubt? Not Always

There are some people who in their essence are so inclined to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus - giving others the benefit of the doubt that they end up sacrificing truth in the process. And that can sometimes produce harmful results.

I do not castigate such people at all. They are motivated by the highest ideals of Judaism. But by over focusing on one ideal they lose sight of the reality that surrounds them and the negative repercussions that might result. There is a difference between the requirement to be Dan L'Kaf Zechus and burying your head in the sand. One may not be Dan L'Kaf Zechus if damage to Klal Yisroel will result.

One very good friend of mine is constantly telling me that I am too quick to believe rumor and innuendo. The latest discussion we had on this subject surrounded the recent statements allegedly made by Lakewood Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Malkiel Kotler. Which I wrote about a few days ago.

Therein he was quoted as comparing modern Orthodox Jews to either Esav or Conservative and Reform Jews that needed to be fought. It has yet to be proven that he actually said these things. These comments were made on Shabbos and there are conflicting reports about whether he actually said them or not.

It is my understanding that Lakewood Yeshiva has officially denied that he said them. But there is no doubt in my mind that there are mainstream right wing leaders like Rabbi Kotler that have these kinds of views and proudly state them. Some of these people are Roshei Yeshiva like him. And that is an attitude that they cultivate in their students.

That attitude was most recently demonstrated in in the comments section that dealt with the Mishpacha article on Rav Hershel Shachter and Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik. To say the least not everyone on the right was pleased with the article or that t was even published. Here are a few comments representative of it:

*there is was and only will be one way…….that is the torah!!!!!”MO”is just a term or excuse not to follow the torah.


*Ahavas Yisroel is very important. So is maintaining a true mesorah. It’s time for mishpacha to honor our mesorah and not just Ahavas Yisroel - as important as the latter is. Mishpacha seems to take pride in it’s liberal style “acceptance” of everyone at the expense of possibly having people erroneously follow unsuccessful jewish movements.

If there is such strident opposition to Modern Orthodoxy in the world of the right - pretending it isn't there does not make it go away. And being overly Dan L’Kaf Zechus does not help matters. Based on solely on the requirement to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus … we should never believe anything we don’t see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears.

But that would mean yielding to the worst elements of Torah Judaism just because they scream so loud - even when their screams are not based in truth but in assumptions. Here are some truths about the right wing attitude by the rejectionists to Modern Orthodoxy and its institutions.

*Rav Elchanan Wasserman was considered by many to be one of the biggest Gedolim of the pre World War II era. He is the only person of that stature to have refused and invitation by Dr. Bernard Revel to give a guest Shiur at Yeshiva College.

Why? Because he was so opposed to that Hashkafa that he didn’t want to give even the slightest impression that he approved of it. His spiritual descendants live on and can be seen commenting on They will do their best to insure that this is only the Hashkafa in the Torah world because they think it is only one that is ‘Torah-true’ (a favorite expression of that community).

*The Rav was infamously denied giving a eulogy for Rav Aharon Kotler at his funeral. Can anyone seriously deny that this was based on what the students had heard about Rav Soloveitchik from their own Roshei Yeshiva?

*And let us not forget that infamous Jewish Observer obituary for the Rav by its editor Rabbi Nissin Wolpin. He very clearly stated that members of the Agudah Moetzes reviewed and approved it before he published it. Is being Dan L'Kaf Zechus in the unlikeliest circumstances going to serve the cause of Emes? Or Justice? Will silence help eradicate the extremism shown by commenters at the website.

Those who posted comments there are but a small sampling of those who think along those lines. Are we supposed to sit back and be quiet unless we hear it criticisms like those alleged to have been made by Rav Malkiel Kotler directly from him then we must assume it isn’t true even if there is strong evidence that it is?

That will not benefit anyone. It will not produce shalom nor will it promote Darkei Noam. It will not increase Ahavas HaShem nor Yiras Shamayim. And it certainly will not contribute to Achdus to allow such statements to go unnoticed and unchallenged. What it will do is create a climate where the right wing extremists will continue to harangue against modern Orthodoxy without the slightest defense from anyone.

They will claim that Modern Orthodoxy is evil because that's what their extremist leaders have taught them. Without calling a spade a spade - telling it like it is - the enmity against Modern Orthodoxy from those commenting on will continue and prevent any Achdus from ever taking place. Mishapcha Magazine might as well be spitting in the wind with that article if we don't stand up to these Kanoim and their rabbinic leaders.

Kanoim always have the advantage over the silent majority. Instead of standing back and 'turning the other cheek' by being overly Dan L'Kaf Zechus we ought to be screaming at the top of our lungs about the divisive Hashkafos being taught.

I for one refuse to sit still and I am going to 'hit back'! Thankfully I have a large 'pulpit' - a pulpit of Emes - to speak my mind and no amount of ‘Mussar’ about excessive Dan L’Kaf Zechus is going to stop me from seeking and speaking the truth. Because without it we are doomed.