Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Courage of His Convictions

Wow! Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn is a prominent and very opinionated Charedi author. For those who don’t know who he is, he has published (among other things) two volumes of indices for the Teshuvos of perhaps the two seminal Poskim of the 2Oth century. The Chafetz Chaim and Rav Moshe Feinstein.  I own both volumes.

This was no mean feat. And the Torah world is far better off because of the work Rabbi Eidensohn has put into his Seforim. Looking up a Teshuva is now a lot easier than it ever was. Rabbi Eidensohn has another distinction. He is very close to another world class Posek, Rav Moshe Sternbuch.  

Why do I bring all of this up? Because Rabbi Eidensohn has been in the forefront of fighting sex abuse. And he is not shy about expressing his opinion. He has done so again today on his blog (Yes he has a blog) called Daas Torah.

Last week’s Mishpacha Magazine featured an interview with Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Executive Director of Agudah. In that interview he said some amazing things. Things that are never heard at Agudah conventions. He actually gave credit to bloggers for changing the approach of Orthodoxy to sex abuse. Here is how he put it:
I don't write off the bloggers as leitzanim and reshaim, because they will be judged, as we all will, after 120 years for their motivations and techniques. I'm not a condemner, by nature. "I do believe that among them there are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain. I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they've created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously. A case in point is abuse and molestation issues. 
This is quite an admission. I do not recall a single speaker at any Agudah convention saying anything remotely close to that. All I heard was how condemnable they were and much Chutzpah they had to tell the Gedolim what they should be doing.

Rabbi Zweibel’s comments are a very pleasant and welcome surprise. But that isn’t all he said. In what seems to be a nod to all the criticism Agudah leaders have about bloggers, he also said the following:
The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, it's rechilus, lashon hara, and bittulzman.That's a high price to pay. "Then there is the damage wrought to the hierarchy of Klal Yisrael. We've always been a talmid chacham-centered nation, and it's dangerous to ruin the fabric of Klal Yisrael by denigrating the ideal of daas Torah and by allowing personal attacks on gedolei Torah."
First let me say, that I am also one who thinks that some bloggers go too far in this direction. I prefer a more respectful approach since I believe that the Rabbanim on the Agudah Moetzes do work tirelessly for the community. And they do so L’Shma. Anyone who says otherwise simply does not know them. I do happen to know some of them personally and others by their reputations. And all I see is good intentions. So all the name calling is simply just plain wrong. That is why when I disagree with an Agudah proclamation I do so as respectfully as I can.

But one can also be Dan L’Kaf Zechus for those bloggers strong language. It comes from their passionate beliefs that victims have been giver very short shrift in the past.  So it is hard to fault them when they see the pain of a victim that has not gotten any justice.

But what motivated me to comment on this issue was the response Rabb Eidensohn had. He is by any definition, Charedi. The above credentials certainly testify to that. Here is his latest post in response to Rabbi Zweibel:
(Rabbi Zweibel is) a good man with true generosity of spirit. An intelligent and idealistic man who has  devoted his life to help the Jewish people by working with gedolei Yisroel. A humble man who cares deeply about others.
Unfortunately what he says is one of the must incredible and disgusting perversions of Yiddishkeit that I have ever read. It shows not the slightest awareness of the halachic issues or the horrible consequences of abuse. He is totally clueless as to what a chilul hashem his words are as well lacking any understanding of why the Aguda's handling of this issue - including the actions of their gedolim - is so incredibly shameful. And despite the egregious errors of judgment that he unwitting reveals about the Aguda's gedolim he concludes "that the process of decision-making through the Moetzes is as close to perfect as can be."
Like I said, Wow! I must say that when it comes to passion, Rabbi Eidensohn is no slouch. He understands what is at stake here. What is at stake is what many victims advocates already know. That Agudah seems to focus on Rechilus and Lashon Hara as a high price to pay for saving kids! He calls this attitude a Chilul HaShem!

Here is yet another respected Charedi Rav that sees the Agudah Moetzes losing their credibility. I have often said that I know several others like him who have asked me not to reveal their names. Just today one of them told me exactly these words in reaction to the fallout from the Asifa:  The Gedolim will never regain their respect like it was.

He wasn’t talking about my respect or the respect of other Orthodox Jews. He was talking about respect from Charedim. I think he’s right. And Rabbi Eidensohn seems to confirm it. That took some courage. On this issue - my hat is off to him.

Updated: 6/7/12