Friday, September 09, 2005

Uncensored

Cross-Currents is an interesting blog. Despite their very Christian sounding name, the writers on that forum lean very heavily towards right-wing Orthodox perspectives (also known as chareidi, yeshivish, black-hat, ultra-orthodox, etc.). Despite their frequent disclaimers of only being interested in fairness and truth, they have a reputation of censoring comments that might reflect unfavorably on their positions. I’ve had my share of comments disallowed for those very reasons, and it’s always annoyed me.

Well, it seems they’ve done it again. But this time, foreseeing that it might happen, I saved my comment, and am going to rewrite it here.

In the post, Jonathan Rosenblum writes a tirade against Ephraim Zuroff (which explicitly violates their own stated rules of addressing ideas rather than personalities) and among other things expresses his dissatisfaction with the way that Zuroff understands the chareidi approach toward history. He writes that, "Somehow Zuroff links that misuse of the Holocaust to the charedi attitude towards history, which he describes as "purely instrumental, with historical accuracy of no inherent value.""

Well, I’ve got news for you Mr. Rosenblum. That perfectly describes the chareidi attitude towards history. And they’ve even admitted it! In an article in the Yated Ne’eman they explicitly state this unabashedly. Here’s what they had to say on the issue:
A related complaint that is sometimes made is that we leave out information. This is true, but the reason is that in our Torah-based scale of values, the harm or embarrassment that can be caused to someone - perhaps a family member or bystander - rates much higher than the needs of the historical record or journalistic objectivity.
Straight from the horses’s mouth.

15 comments:

Mis-nagid said...

That's nothing. Check out what Rabbi Shimon Schwab said about history:

"What ethical purpose is served by preserving a realistic historic picture? Nothing but the satisfaction of curiosity. We should tell ourselves and our children the good memories of the good people, their unshakeable faith, their staunch defense of tradition, their life of truth, their impeccable honesty, their boundless charity and their great reverence for Torah and Torah sages. What is gained by pointing out their inadequacies and their contradictions? We want to be inspired by their example and learn from their experience.
[...]
That means we have to do without a real history book. We can do without. We do not need realism, we need inspiration from our forefathers in order to pass it on to posterity. And Torah-true "historians" do just that. There are very few Jewish history books on the market written in the spirit of Yiras Shomayim. They had to glean from the few available sacred sources enough material to teach us the important lessons of the past which should guide our actions and illuminate our Hashkofo."


So now you know exactly how much you can trust the mesorah. It's darkly hilarious that frum people defend the mesorah with questions like "how could my parents have fallen for a big lie?" Easy: one small lie at a time, backed by a desire to believe and a disincentive to call bs.

The Hedyot said...

That's a really disturbing piece, especially as R' Schwab is one of the people I figured I could still trust.

Oh well, one more nail in the coffin of my emunas chachomim.

Robert Lindsay said...

Wow, great blog. Very interesting.

And I'm not even Jewish. Though recently I am being accused of "thinking like a Jew", "acting Jewish", "being a de facto Jew", etc. I don't really agree, but, hey, maybe it's compliment, eh? Or is it? Ok to act like a a Jew (whatever that is), but not to be a haredi?

How strange. On one side, they call me a de facto Jew and on the other they call me anti-Semite. Why don't they make up their minds about what I am?

Mis-nagid said...

"That's a really disturbing piece"

It's not disturbing, it's wonderful. He actually puts voice to the reality of how traditions are passed down in an ahistorical manner.

"especially as R' Schwab is one of the people I figured I could still trust."

He was an Orthodox rabbi. Whatever were you thinking?

"Oh well, one more nail in the coffin of my emunas chachomim."

Glad I could help.

The Hedyot said...

>He was an Orthodox rabbi. Whatever were you thinking?

I was thinking that since he was not chareidi, he would be more moderate (and he is in many issues), more reasonable, more honest, and more the type of person I could respect and admire.

The Hedyot said...

Robert, thank you for the compliments. I'm really glad you find my writing enjoyable. My intended audience is obviously people of similar background to me, but hearing that others are interested in the thoughts I share is a most pleasant surprise.

I don't know what the defining characteristic of "being a Jew" or "thinking like a Jew" is, but if they're not talking about a tendency to tip poorly and buy wholesale, it's probably something you can be proud of!

mnuez said...

Straight from the ass's ass.

Oh and snag, maybe you'll start up your blog again. I mean, if you think that it's helping you with the wife not to have one - or you made some sort of deal - then go with it. But otherwise, perhaps you'll return? Eh?


Oh, and on the subject of history, you really couldn't do better than Shachter's TuM article (where, iinm, he quotes that Schwab).

BUT. You might consider the fact that hagiographies do a lot of good along with the harm that they do. The harm that they do is in perpetuating lies. And lies can not be learnt from. The good that they do however is in inspiring us. Just think of TR. (And how he became TR, I mean, not hagios ON TR. - Oh, and snag, he was an American, so you may not have heard of him ;-)

satyaman said...

So they admit that historicity is not the ikkur; They take a didactic approach, where moral inspiration takes precedence over truth. Why can’t they do both? What’s so hard about inspiring people to moral greatness without creating fictions of their ideal world? The lesson: They can not be trusted, and they believe in teaching (subtly or not so subtly) that lying is okay. I just don’t get it!?

Bye the way, related issues are historicity of Purim, Tisha Ba’av, etc

satyaman said...

>>the harm or embarrassment that can be caused to someone - perhaps a family member or bystander - rates much higher than the needs of the historical record or journalistic objectivity>>>

I happen to agree with this aspect of what they do. You have to admit that the press in the US and Western society violate people’s privacy in the most amoral way.

I think the prohibition against speaking Lashon Hara is very important, and it is to Orthodox Judaism’s credit that it takes that prohibition seriously. I am not saying everyone abides by it in the Frum world, but at least, when someone transgresses, you can point out to them Torah sources that they accept that characterize such behavior as repugnant to G,d. In the secular world you can at most point out that such behavior is immature, unprofessional, etc.-People in secular life almost never view lashon hara as immoral, which I believe it is. Our cultures tolerance of such behavior is a disgrace.

I am not condoning lying about scientific or historical truth-that is something completely different and that is what I addressed in my previous post.

The Hedyot said...

Satyaman - 2 points on your comments:

Firstly, I agree that the sensitivity towards the individual is commendable. And if they want to choose to prioritize that over accuracy, that's their prerogative, but don't turn around and claim you're speaking the truth! Say you're speaking with sensitivity, but not truth!

Secondly, I dispute their claim that the motive for their selectivity is due to a sensitivity. I think a much more truthful motive is that these portrayals serve their agenda.

In other words, to pick a silly example, why do they hide the fact that Rabbi X wore a grey hat (or read certain books, or was friends with certain people, or didn't totally subscribe to their worldview)? It's not because they think that his family will be embarrassed about the fact (as they claim here), but really because they're trying to make everyone believe that such things are wrong.

satyaman said...

>> but don't turn around and claim you're speaking the truth! Say you're speaking with sensitivity, but not truth!>>.

Okay, I hear this.

>> Secondly, I dispute their claim that the motive for their selectivity is due to a sensitivity. I think a much more truthful motive is that these portrayals serve their agenda……It's not because they think that his family will be embarrassed about the fact (as they claim here), but really because they're trying to make everyone believe that such things are wrong.>>

-I am not so familiar with Gedoliam biographies, and if what you say is true, then I agree with you.


But in general (outside the point of your post), I hope you agree with me that unfettered discussion of people’s personal lives, as it exists in western society, is morally reprehensible.

satyaman said...

I think I found an example of what you were talking about?-GH had a piece on this here:

http://godolhador.blogspot.com/2005/05/yated-lies-about-gedolim.html

The Hedyot said...

>But in general (outside the point of your post), I hope you agree with me that unfettered discussion of people’s personal lives, as it exists in western society, is morally reprehensible.

I do. Although it's only one of the reasons why I think the media as it is today sucks. But the truth is that this is probably also a reflection of society (which eats this stuff up), and not just the media which is catering to this repugnant desire.

The Hedyot said...

>I think I found an example...

It's just one of hundreds.

Leapa said...

Mis:
R' Schwab's statement is limited to Jewish history involving loshon hora, and contradicted by R' Huttner's stand.