Sunday, May 12, 2013

Will the Real Charedi Please Stand Up?

Typical Charedi Yeshiva Students
Last Thursday, someone by the name of T. Felik wrote an essay on Matzav about Rabbi Lipman that makes Rav Feldman’s initial reaction to him mild by comparison. Since then R’ Feldman apologized for his characterization of R’ Lipman as a Rasha - although retaining his strong views about how terribly wrong he is.

Mr. Felik has followed that up with another article last week... and third one today! In his second article  he excoriatied not only R’ Lipman but the Orthodox blogs as well - accusing us in varying degrees of all kinds of nefarious motives mostly having to do with destroying the Charedi world. He even made an oblique reference to me - attacking me for daring to ask questions about the words of Gedolim.  He accused me of being Mevazeh (denigrating) some noted Charedi Talmidei Chachamim that he mentioned by name. He even put the word  “Orthodox” in quotes in this reference implying that I am not really Orthodox at all!

I will admit that a few years ago I had made a mistake along those lines in one instance and have tried mightily to never do that again. But it was only because of the denigration by that Talmid Chacham of another that I did so. In my zeal to defend the Kavod of one Talmid Chacham I went too far in my criticism of another. For that I apologized...  although standing by my contention that it was still wrong to denigrate another Talmid Chacham in the way that he did.

Since that time the person I defended has dishonored himself with some very foolish and damaging behavior for a Talmid Chacham of his stature. But that has nothing to do with my original defense of him since at the time none of this was known by anyone – including the Talmid Chacham who so viciously attacked him.

That said, I would like to respond directly to Mr. Felik right here since I do not believe that Matzav will give me a guest post on their website:

Mr. Felik, I appreciate your candor and your explanation of the Charedi world view. I think it is important to know exactly what the Hashkafos of the Charedi world are if we are going to have an intelligent conversation about the truths of Judaism.

I agree with you that there is a woefully small Charedi presence on the internet that is overwhelmed with a lot of negativity against it. And as you have admitted, the internet is very influential on public opinion - including the opinion of many Charedim who access it - right or wrong (...which is why you have chosen to post your views on it. I'm sure you consulted with your own Daas Torah before doing so.)

In my humble opinion, I think that the Charedi world - starting with Agudah - should re-think their position about not having a presence on it.

We need to hear more from people like you so that people can make more informed and better decisions about what living a Torah true life really means. 

Of course I do not believe for a minute that you truly represent what the mainstream Charedi world really believes. Based on personal experience and on the writings of many popular Charedi writers, the vast majority of mainstream Charedim view the world not all that differently than I do. (Although there is some disagreement in some key areas.)

The views which you have expressed so angrily are those of the extreme right wing fringes of the Charedi world. I believe that they  represent only a small minority of Charedim. Unfortunately some of the rabbinic leadership occasionally say and do things that seem to corroborate your definition of it making it sound like the mainstream position.

Another thing. Contrary to what you have been saying - this isn't about our obligation to listen to our rabbinic leaders. It is about whether we should listen to YOUR rabbinic leaders. In your view, it is only those leaders that have what you call Daas Torah. I agree that many of them may qualify as possessing it . But they are not the only ones. There are actually Talmdei Chachmim who differ with your rabbis that have Daas Torah too.

Thankfully (as you not so thankfully point out) the internet is changing how the mainstream sees things. In the interests of finding and promoting Emes, I believe that we ought to have more dialogue between us – and that it should include not only writers like Jonathan Rosenblum, but writers like you as well. 

We must be clear in how all of us who claim to be observant - convey who and what we are. You have been very clear about who and what you are and for that, I applaud you. The only question for me is whether you represent mainstream Charedi thinking. As I said, I doubt it. But the only way to really know is by having a greater presence on the internet as that would promote more dialogue between us.

You add that the Frum blogs should consider not publishing comments. That will only serve to decrease our understandings about each other. It is important for all of us to know just what the other side thinks - and how passionate we each are about our views. The only way to dialogue with each other is to know where we stand and how strongly we feel about it. This does not mean that we should allow nasty comments. But we should allow passionate ones.

Interestingly in your third essay you actually promote the idea of an increased internet presence. Are you too now questioning the decision by the Agudah Moetzes to not have a presence on the internet?  Because if you are, I join you in your quest.