Sunday, January 09, 2011

The End of Emes Ve-Emunah?

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me
gives me strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

These are the lyrics to a popular song sung of a few years ago by Martina McBride about her newborn baby daughter. And these are the words I thought of last Friday after a conversation I had with one of my own daughters. And because of that conversation I was very close to shutting down this blog.

No I am not a hero. Far from it. But I do know how very much my children love me. And I them. The personal attacks against me in two articles on hurt them deeply. They did not want to hear such things about their father.

As I repeatedly say, I can take the heat. That’s because I very strongly believe in what I am doing. The fact that a blog like mine seems to be having an impact is probably what generated those Matzav articles. And in the past that is the kind of thing that encouraged me to continue. But what I did not realize is that when I am attacked, my children feel the blow. And that is something that I cannot allow to continue.

After that conversation I realized that my blog might actually be hurting my children in unexpected ways.

It is not whether they do - or do not - agree with me on issues. Thank God they all have minds of their own. This is how I raised them. They have each chosen paths based on where their own search for Emes has led them. So on many things they agree with me and on some things they don’t. They are each different. And I could not be prouder. But they still hurt when I am attacked on a widely read website like and those who comment on it – even though they were all anonymous.

When my family gets hurt, I stop. And I pay attention. And I thought I might just shut down this blog. It was a long and agonizing decision to think about over Shabbos. Many options crossed my mind. I thought that perhaps I should change my writing style so as not to be so provocative. Or maybe there are certain subjects I shouldn’t touch. And of course there was the nuclear option: shutting down completely.

But then I started thinking about the content and goal of those Matzav pieces and their comments. I thought about the danger of allowing this mentality to win the day. I thought about what it would mean to the future if I let these people succeed at shutting down dissent.

If past is prologue all the good that has come out of the internet by holding up decisions to the light of day would come to an end if blogs like mine succumbed to intimidation. We would revert to a system of closed door - backroom decision making policy that would once again go unchallenged. I thought about all the sex abuse victims who now have a voice and how that has actually begun to change the way sex abuse is being handled.

We are a long way off from a system of leadership that completely factors in all the light shed upon various issues of our day by the open mike of the internet. If I and others like me shut off our mikes, we will be facilitating a return to the closed door policies of the past. I cannot in good conscience contribute to that by withdrawing.

I realize that I am not alone on the internet. But I am one of the few that does not hide behind an alias. I tell it like it is and stand by what I say. I write as honestly as respectfully as I can. By disclosing my identity I believe I have more credibility that those who don’t. But disclosure is a double edged sword. It is because people know who I am that it can hurt my family. That is the last thing I want.

How do I solve this conundrum? I’m not sure. But I am determined to continue blogging in my own unique way and hold up to the light all things which I believe should be.

However, in order to avoid my family being hurt, I am going to change a few things. I will be tightening up moderation of the comments. Personal attacks against anyone – including me - will no longer be allowed at any level. Besmirching of rabbinic leaders – even slightly – will be deleted. People should never take any criticism I may have of the decisions made by any rabbinic leader - as sign of my not respecting them. They are leaders, even if I have strong questions about of some of their decisions.

That I disagree with some of the Hashkafos of the right wing should not be taken in any way as vilifying them. My Hashkafos are shared by rabbinic leaders outside of their circle. Elu VeElu is how our differences should be seen. Advocating one’s preferred approach to Torah does not de-legitimize the approach of others. That there are some who de-legitimize my Hashkafos does not give me or anyone else a right to de-legitimize theirs.

Finally, I will be making one additional change in my own writing style.

I have always had a provocative way of expressing my dissent. And when my ire is raised I have written in ways that make me seem to bash those I criticize. It was never really my intent to do that. But I admit that I have in the past come close and even occasionally crossed that line. When I have been made aware of it - I have apologized.

This was the case in my critique of a letter written by Rav Shlomo Miller. In my zeal to defend the honor of a Talmid Chacham that he attacked, I attacked him back. I was wrong. I pledge to try my best to avoid doing that in the future. And be more careful in my words. I hope my own humanity does not get in the way of that.

What I will not do is pull any punches on the things I feel are important. When I see something terribly wrong, I am going to comment on it with all of the passion I can muster.

Hopefully these changes will result in not ever being ever again attacked for my opinions. Hopefully - even if they disagree with me - Matzav will realize that I am only fighting the good fight for the sake of Emes and the sake of Klal Yisroel. And that we can agree to disagree agreeably.