Monday, January 17, 2005

Issues of the Slifkin Controversy

The Slifkin controversy has generated much heated debate in the blogosphere, most notably at Hirhurim, and the intensity of the arguments seems to have distracted many people from what the core issues about this debacle are. In my humble opinion, it is not a problem that some rabbis want to consider certain views apikorsus. And it's even not so objectionable that they'd like to censor those views. To my unlearned eye, the problems seem to be:
  • The views expressed by R' Slifkin are not new ideas. They are sourced in rishonim, achronim, and various rabbinic writings that have always been accepted as part of the fold (even if not universally accepted). No doubt there are ideas in Judaism that are considered heretical, but to say that these views are unquestionably of that nature is ridiculous.

  • R' Slifkin has (or had) rabbinic support for saying what he did. It's ironic that so many of those people faithfully trotting out the chareidi party line of "We must trust the judgment of the gedolim" seem to have forgotten another truism of chareidi ideology: "You have to find yourself a rebbe and go by what he says." Nosson Slifkin did that. Now you want to nail him to the wall for it?!

  • The rabbis who did support R' Slifkin are now silent (for the most part). Either they are being cowed into silence, which is a serious enough problem in itself, or they just don't have the backbone to stand up against the tide and stand by their man in his moment of trouble, which is a whole different problem. Either way, the absence of unqualified support for R'Slifkin is very troubling.

  • There was no due process in this whole affair. Those issuing the ban did not treat R' Slifkin with the least bit of fairness. They didn't let him present his side of the issue, they deigned not to meet with him when he made attempts to do so, and they seemed to have based their rulings on incomplete and distorted information. This manner of going about the issues has been documented in the past (e.g. Making of a Gadol) and the fact that it continues to happen speaks volumes about the way this community learns from their past mistakes. In my opinion these figures should be sued for slander, libel, or whatever the proper legal term is. If this type of incident occurred in the non-frum world I have no doubt that the victims would do just that.

  • The ban was really engineered by various zealots in the community and is motivated more by sectarian sociological concerns than a deep and true commitment to torah principles. That they succeeded in their campaign is an indicator of how extremist viewpoints and ideologies are gaining greater power in the mainstream frum community. I elaborated on this in my previous post.
These are the truly disturbing problems of this fiasco. Not whether saying X or Y is actually kefira or not. Or whether the Left is treating the Right with a double standard. Or if it is actually kefira or just "close to kefira" (whatever that means). The real problem is what this all says about frum society, and frum society's leaders.

Some may not like this, but in my opinion, if something is rightfully deemed problematic, let them ban it. I don't think it'll do any good, and it displays a pathetic understanding of how people in today's society function, but if they want to behave like that, let them do so (after properly investigating if the charge is justified and after giving the defendant opportunity to privately make amends) and see how much good it'll do them and their cause.

Did I miss anything? Anyone else have suggestions about what they feel are the core problems this issue reveals?


Tamara said...

I received an e-mail this morning from Innernet, and there was a note before the article stating that all articles by the Zoo Rabbi had been removed from their archive. Uggghhhh!

Has it come down to this?

Anonymous said...

Dear R' Nosson,

I wanted to let you know that after reading your book, I've informed the Arachim staff not to use the argument of the camel, hare & hyrax in our seminars or lectures. I think that you've done a very important work, and we should be very careful with the facts that we offer.
After all, EMET (the Ultimate Truth) is the Divine signature (or better: fingerprint) of G-D!

Zvi Inbal