Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking at the Good and Seeing only the Bad

Shmarya Rosenberg who’s blog Failed Messiah is widely read is also someone who is also widely criticzed by many Orthodox Jews, especially Charedi ones and even more so - Chabad. They see him as a basher of Orthodoxy

While I understand much of that criticism and agree that he tends to focus mostly on finding negatives in Orthodoxy - I think he gets a bad rap from the Frum community. There is a reason for this animus. He was once a Lubavitcher himself but became bitterly disillusioned with them because of some personal experiences.

I am not here to say whether he was right or wrong in his reaction to those experiences. But I do believe that it shapes his attitude. That is what made him so strongly reject Chabad and so angry with the Orthodox world. I can easily understand how someone who was so disappointed by religious Jews could end up with so much anger against them.

I personally believe that this is the reason for his focus on the negatives of Orthodox Judaism. That said it does not make his criticisms wrong. I often find myself agreeing with him. That of course will not come as a surprise to my critics. They see me in the same light. But I would simply answer that one cannot deny the truth no matter how unflattering it might be or what the source of that truth is. At the same time I think sometimes his hatred blinds him. This is the case with a piece he wrote yesterday criticizing both ZAKA and Chabad.

Shmarya excerpted an entire article from a website called It is a Meshichist website but that is irrelevant to the point.

They describe what ZAKA and Chabad Shiluchim did in Haiti. ZAKA had completed another mission in Mexico and proceeded immediately to Port-au-Prince:

The ZAKA international rescue unit delegation in Haiti pulled eight students alive from the collapsed university building, 38 hours after the building collapsed…

Ahead of Shabbos, Chabad envoys worked hard to prepare kosher food and a proper Shabbos meal for Jewish aid workers already on the devastated island.

Chabad's emissary to the Dominican Republic, Shimon Pelman, said he arrived in Haiti in order to identify and assist Jewish residents and rescue workers, in order to provide them with challah and wine for Shabbat.

Why did Shmarya bring this up? Not to praise Ceaser but to bury him! Instead of saying what a Kiddush HaShem ZAKA did he said exactly the opposite.

He pointed out that ZAKA rescue workers took a prayer break in their rescue work on Shabbos morning. For Chabad he had the following criticism:

Chabad's primary purpose* in Haiti was to bring ZAKA and a handful of other Jews wine and halla for the Sabbath.

Based on this Shmarya then ‘analyzed’ Judaism’s faults.

How sad that he used analytical microscope to find something negative to say about a group of Jews who had just risked their lives to save eight human beings – all of them non Jews, if I understand correctly.

After their mission in Mexico ZAKA could have gone home and nobody would have noticed. Israel was already there making a Kiddush HaShem. But instead of flying home to join their families in Israel for Shabbos these dedicated humanitarian Charedi Jews went to a version of ‘hell’ to do what they could to save human life. Do people like this deserve the kind of criticism they got from Shmarya?

Can anyone imagine telling a first responder on 9/11 who had just saved 8 lives that he could have saved more if only he hadn’t said a prayer before running into a collapsing building? Unfortunately Shmarya’s criticism is grossly misplaced here.

He may have a point about Chabad passing out Challah and wine to the handfull of Jews in the group instead of digging in directly in the life saving efforts. But even that isn't fair. At least they were there helping some people in some way. What was Shmarya doing? Sitting comfortably in his living room looking for something to criticize about a group of heroes and their Judaism.

Come on Shmarya. You can do better than that.