Friday, May 16, 2014

Rabbis: Be Careful with Your Words!

Rabbi Nissan Kaplan
He didn’t mean it. It was indeed hyperbole as I suspected. Rabbi Nissan Kaplan actually clarified his comments. The clarification can be heard here.

He explained that in no way did he mean that we are allowed to kill anyone. Not a religious Jew and not an irreligious Jew. His whole point was to show that the Torah world objects to the new government policy about drafting Charedim into the military. He thought this was self evident and was surprised by the reaction.

I’m happy to hear him say that. Had he put Charedi opposition to the draft this way in the first place, he would have been following in the footsteps of the Mir predecessor Roshei Yeshiva.  There is quite a difference between saying you are opposed to the government’s decisions and referring to them as Amalek; deserving of annihilation ...and that only thing preventing us from doing so is a technicality.

I have no problem with people being opposed to things the government is doing. It is their right in a democracy to do so. But one does not have the right to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater when there is no fire. Even if the purpose is to make a larger point. It is irresponsible. And it can lead to tragedy. Ask the family of Yitzhak Rabin.

The problem is that he did not realize he was doing that. He thought what he was doing was just fine. And is shocked to find out that he was misunderstood. Furthermore he blames what happened on people lying about about what he said (Motzie Laz). The problem is that no one lied. The words he said were recorded for everyone to hear. You cannot deny what you said if has been recorded for the world to hear.

I’m glad that he clarified his position. But I am not happy that he blames others for ‘misunderstanding’ him. He came up with his clarification very quickly. The news broke yesterday and the apology came today. My guess is that he was informed that his views were being spread online and elsewhere. It is very possible that he was reprimanded by the Rosh Hayeshiva and told to do so. I don’t know. But it is truly a shame that a man in such a position of power and influence doesn’t have the courage to admit his mistakes and instead blames others for his misfortune.

Chachamim Hizharu B’Dvarav - Rabbis, be careful with your words the Talmud tells us. Rabbi Kaplan is a Talmud Chacham.  I guess he missed that part.

Even when the hyperbole is explained as being such, I find it reprehensible to refer to any Jew as Amalek.  I also find it reprehensible to always categorize policies you don’t like as automatically being sourced in anti religious attitudes of the government.

I know the Charedi world feels the government has hurt them with the draft. But that doesn’t mean their motives were anti-religious. You can’t always blame everything  you don’t like on nefarious motives just because the government is composed mostly of non observant Jews.  A little intellectual honesty would be nice. Being Dan L’Kaf Zechus would be nice too. When one makes these kinds of hyperbolic  statements about government officials all the time, eventually it sticks. So that even when they do something clearly beneficial for you, and you acknowledge it as such - you will assign ulterior motives to them.

A commentor mentioned in the previous post that my past statements about the R’ Chaim Shumelvitz’s of the Charedi world no longer apply. That everyone has been radicalized. I suspect that might increasingly be so. Fortunately, however, there are Charedim that do not like hearing that. They are the ones I call moderate. They exists. They are intellectually honest. And they do not paint everything they disagree with about the government as evil. They know the government isn’t evil.

Just yesterday I received an e-mail from one such individual. He described himself as a card carrying Charedi. But one who often finds himself at odds with his the opinion of his rabbinic leaders. He thanked me for my blog and the way I present the issues here. (This is not the first letter like this I have received. I have received many like this.) He also linked to an interview in the 5 Towns Jewish Times about the Israeli army that demonstrates quite clearly that they are not out to ‘get’ Charedim.

What it shows instead is that if you are Charedi – the army is out to see you thrive in your own skin while serving your country. The interviewee is American Ben Torah by the name of Nesanel Sliverman. While studying Torah in Israel he decided to join Nachal Charedi.  He goes on to describe the length of the army’s commitment to this. After reading this, is there any sane person that can say that this is the army of Amalek?