Friday, August 12, 2016

In My Defense…

Rabbi Shaya Karlinksy - one of my many critics that I respect
I’ve had a rough week. A lot of people I respect (and some that I don’t) have been bashing me all week – in private and in public. In e-mails,on Facebook, and on other blogs. Some have bashed me for not checking my facts well enough – relying too much on one source. Some have bashed me for always bashing Charedim. Some bashed me for always criticizing Open Orthodoxy or YCT. Some have bashed me for criticizing those both to my left and my right instead of writing more positive stuff about my own ‘middle’.  And some have accused me of being something I am not: Charedi or left wing Modern Orthodox - depending on which side of that aisle they are complaining from.

Among others, those who offered such criticism are: Rabbi Micha Berger, head of the Aishdas Society (Arervim/Avodah), Rabbi Dr. Daniel Eidensohn, editor of Yad Yisroel, Yad Moshe, and the blog Daas Torah,  Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, head of Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell's, Rabbi Y’Soscher Katz, Talmud Chair of YCT, and Evanston Jew (ej) one of the more erudite and knowledgeable people commenting on my blog. (Interestingly, ej is about the furthest thing from being Charedi as anyone can be. And yet he is their biggest defender.)

This was surely a blow to my ego. The only solace I can take from this (if any) is the fact that they cannot all be right.

The irony of my critics is that even though they come from people with a wide variety of Hashkafos, some of them seem to be saying the same thing. That my entire purpose is to trash everyone to my right or to my left… leaving my Hashkafa to stand alone in triumph… and that I do so being fast and loose with the facts – since I don’t do any due diligence.

This has once again caused me to reflect on what I do here. Are they right? Is my blog all about bashing? I suppose some do see it that way. I do a lot of criticism here. But is criticizing the same as bashing them? Do I have some kind of subconscious hatred of those unlike me that includes a desire to destroy them? 

That seems to be what some are saying… that I am a ‘nice guy’ or that I might put it in gentle terms, but at the end of the day I am a basher or worse, a hater.

That is such a superficial way of looking at what I do here, I am surprised that so many intelligent people feel that way.

Let me be clear (again - since I have said this many times). I do not bash. Criticsim is not bashing. My criticsm of wrong doing is to make a statement to the world that bad behavior on the part of any visibly religious Jew is wrong and to be condemned. Or to better the lives of Orthodox Jews by making a few changes that would not affect their Hashkafos. Or to define what are and are not acceptable Hashkafos and considered within the bounds of Orthodoxy (based on my understanding of what that is).

One may ask, who am I to determine what is good or bad; right or wrong? The answer is that I am someone with an opinion. One that is based on sincerely held beliefs.  That doesn’t mean - nor do I expect that everyone has to agree with me. But it should mean that what I do is out of my sincere beliefs – and in no way meant to destroy or hate.

It is meant to build up. One can dispute my right to criticize those outside of my Hashkafic sphere. But I strongly disagree. My Hashkafa is only one segment of the larger group to which I belong: Orthodox Jewry. Any individual or group that claims to be Orthodox in an way -  IS part of my group. Orthodox Jewry is judged on the whole. Not on its individual segments. My attempts at betterment for one segment is an attempt at bettering part of the whole. It is not and never was an attempt to discredit the right or the left... unless they veer into extremism. 

If a Jew sins in a public way, it is one of us that has sinned. It doesn’t matter if he or she is Charedi or MO. It is his identity as an observant Jew that matters.

Why are there more stories like that about Charedim than MO? Because those are the stories most reported in the media. Is it possible that there are an equal number of MO Jews sinning in public, but that the media focuses on Charedim? It’s possible. But I can only talk about what I know. And what I know is what I read in a variety of Jewish and secular media outlets – both print and electronic.

Why don’t I do more positive pieces (which I have done but admittedly are rare)? It’s because there aren’t too many of them reported in the media. This blog is driven by what is reported in the media – both Jewish and secular.

I do occasionally make mistakes and comment on reports later shown to be untrue. I acknowledge that I don’t do the kind of research that would reduce the number of posts I’ve written in error. I have said many times before, that I simply do not have the time to do enough research to prevent those errors. I write a new post every day. If I were to spend more time doing that kind of research, I would be doing nothing else but spending time on this blog. I do have a life beyond that.

I enjoy what I do here, but once it becomes a burden (one for which I do not get paid) I will stop doing it. I should add that I do research most of the stories I write about. I try to read more than one source before I criticize anything. I will also admit that occasionally I will rely only on only one source. Especially when it is something like a recorded interview. I know that is not enough. But that is the best I can do in my situation as I just described it.

Despite this ‘handicap’, I believe the vast majority of my criticism is based on the truth of the underlying facts of the story as reported. In those instances where I am shown to be in error, I always correct them and apologize. If the majority – or even a significant minority of my critiques end up being based on error, I would have to re-think this entire enterprise. As it stands now, however, that is far from the case.

Why don’t I dwell more on why I live my Hashkafa instead of complaining how others live theirs? Well, I have done that. Once I have done it, I don’t see the need to do it again. (Those that have not read those posts can glean from those critical posts what I believe; and what I am complaining about; and why.) And it’s not that I ‘complain’ how others live their lives. I complain about why they don’t do the things that can better their lives WITHOUT giving up their basic Hashakafos. Others can disagree and tell me to leave them alone. I can't do that. If I see a way out for them, I am going to suggest it.

As for my critiques of the left, there too it is not to bash them but to keep them acceptable to the mainstream of Orthodoxy.

I don’t really think I will convince my critics. They will continue to say that I am a basher. A lightweight with very little substance to my arguments. And that the explanation of my motives doesn’t answer their accusations. But I just felt the need to defend myself here… if not to their satisfaction, then to my own.