Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Power of Blogs – for Good

It seems that has modified their original post about Lakewood Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Malkiel Kotler’s condemnation of Hamodia and by implication, Dr. Bernard Lander. The revision was to such an extent that it ended up being almost the opposite of what it originally said! This is quite a remarkable turnaround.

The original article which I excerpted in an earlier post - used words like condemnation about a Charedi newspaper which by inference applied to Dr. Lander as well. He was also characterized as a person whose endeavors ‘were not Temimah and not Meshivas Nofesh’.

Those phrases about Hamodia and Dr. Lander are not found anywhere in the revision. And the critique was rather mild and along the lines of ‘These are our Hashkafos but the other’s aren’t necessarily Pasul’. In fact instead of condemning Dr. Lander by inference it actually praised him calling him an Adam Chashuv!

It is almost as though he read both my post and Rabbi Landesman’s on the subject, saw the criticism as legitimate and had the Matzav piece modified accordingly.

Of course I realize that Rav Malkiel does not read blogs. But someone in Lakewood probably monitors what the media - including blogs - say about Beis Medrash Hagadol and either informed Rav Malkiel about it - who then told him to get the Matzav article changed - or did so himself on behalf of the Rosh HaYeshiva.

There is no reference to the original article on Matzav. Just a revised post with no indication that there was any change – as though it had been written that way from the start. It would have been nice if they had issued an explanation about why they changed it.

I have no clue as to whether Rav Malkiel never said the words as harshly as the original piece indicated he did - and this was a spin made for PR reasons. Or whether he was entirely misquoted. I hope it was the latter. Either way, I’m glad to see at least the recognition that the original piece was completely inappropriate – and in my view a Chilul HaShem - to imply about a man like Dr. Lander that both he and those who praise him are condemnable.

This is yet another indication of the power for good that blogs like mine can have. If we see an injustice we trumpet it to the world and ask why? And often that brings a form of Teshuva - which this revised Matzav piece seems to have been.

This is not the first time this has happened here. Back in 2007 I had criticized Jonathan Rosenblum for a rather disparaging article about Rav Aaron Rakeffet who gives Shiurim to senior students in Israel at the Gruss Institue. Jonathan to his great credit saw that post and realized his error. He called Rabbi Rakeffet on Erev Yom Kippur and issued a personal and heartfelt apology and asked him for Mechila.

To my surprise Rabbi Rakeffet mentioned this entire event in one of his Shiurim which was recorded. It can be found at the Yeshiva University website. Here is the link. The relevant part starts at about 9:30.

It also deals with a blog post I did about 3 years ago on the subject of Heterodox Mikvaos. Therein he quotes extensively from that post. It is definitely a worthwhile shiur – even though I am tooting my own horn here.

Be that as it may, it is clear to me that even in the most Charedi of institutions – like BMG – blogs can make a difference for good. Had my blog not dealt with it, the original message by Rav Malkiel as reported on Matzav would probably have stood as it was.

Update: (12:14 PM CDT)

Matzav has posted a recording of Rav Malkiel Kotler's's speech. It is in Yiddish. I listened to it and must note that the truth is closer to the revised Matzav post than it is to the original. Rav Kotler does indeed refer to Dr. Lander as an Adam Chasuv - a worthy individual.

But he nonetheless does not consider his achievements to have any real value in that they are outside the Torah. Rav Kotler's Hashkafa of Torah Only is reflected in his attitude. Anything anyone ever needs in life is contained in the Torah. Hafuch Ba Hafuch Bah - Hakol Bah.

Information learned outside of the Torah is either worthless - or if it has any value at all can be found somewhere somehow in the Torah if one only has the diligence to find it. One shoud not be suprised by that. As to whether Dr. Lander's efforts were positive or negative - he does not elaborate. But I think it is safe to say that he doesn't value it from his perspective.

The bottom line here is that the truth seems to lie somewhere between the two extremes and closer to the second version. He neither condemns nor praises Dr. Lander's accomplishments - but concedes that he was a worthy individual.

This is a far cry from Matzav's first take. They have caused great harm to Lakewood by their initial characterization. I'm not sure whether it was an honest mistake or written to generate controversy. But the latter did happen. I think it owes the public and Lakewood an apology for publishing something like that.

That said, I still have my issues with Lakewood. Those have not gone away. And I remain with my criticisms of some of the other things Rav Malkiel has said. For example about modern Orthodoxy. But it is unfair to criticize him for something he is not guilty of. I therefore offer my apologies to him for taking Matzav at its word. Hopefully they will not let anything like this happen again. If they do their very credibility as a Charedi news source is at stake.