This is Banned Books Week. Fittingly, Rabbi Gil Student has written another post on Blogs And Lashon Hara. In it, R. Student lays out Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir’s views on the halakhot involved, especially those involved if (or ever!) an Orthodox rabbi is criticized. I analyzied Rabbi Meir’s position here. Rabbi Meir sent me an e-mail early yesterday expanding and clarifying his views. I responded by asking him for his permission to reprint his e-mail. Rabbi Meir did not respond to that request. Five hours later, R. Student’s post appeared. R. Student had been corresponding with R. Meir. It is on that correspondence that R. Student bases his post.
I have previously noted problems with R. Meir’s approach. In part, R. Meir posits the following:
If we apply the exact same criteria to a politician, we find that
reasonable criticism will generally meet them. Having a bad political
leader can result in great damage to the community, and having timely
knowledge of the abilities and character of candidates is of benefit
because these people typically stand for election at fixed intervals
and the information is of practical use to the community. No one has a
right to a political office, so if someone gets voted out because of an
item revealed in a blog, this is not "undeserved."…
In response to R. Student’s post, I left the following comment on R. Student’s blog:
[A}s long as rabbis are involved in politics, and as long as they issue bans* w/o interviewing the author first, refuse to meet w/the author and then refuse to talk with questioners or the press – there is NO REASON to give them the benefit of the doubt. Rabbis – like Ovadia Yosef and Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, for example – are politicians and should be treated as such.
R. Student censored that comment, even though it follows R. Meir’s guidelines – guidelines R. Student claims to endorse. R. Student has again proved himself to be a base censor, a rabbinic coward who deletes any comment that he is not man enough to answer.
*[This is a reference to the Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, and to a Moment Magazine article R. Student called "probably the best article I’ve seen so far on the subject." That article notes:
It was a September morning in 2004, midway between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when Slifkin’s phone rang.…The voice on the other end belonged to a rabbi from the religious enclave of Bnai Brak, and he was calling to deliver an ultimatum.
He informed Slifkin that four prestigious rabbis had opened his “Torah Universe” series and found three of its four books to contain heresy. …The man on the phone informed Slifkin that he had until the end of the day to retract his books. If he didn’t, the charge would be made public and other prominent rabbis would join the campaign against him.…
Within the next few hours, Slifkin received four faxed letters. Their authors represented both the Israeli and American ultra-Orthodox communities: Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel and Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner were yeshiva leaders in New York, while the others, Rabbi Michael Lefkowitz and Rabbi Elya Weintraub, were among the leaders of the Bnai Brak community. Slifkin spent the rest of that day trying to arrange discussions with each of them, hoping to find out exactly which of his statements had caused such fury. None would agree to discuss the matter with him. Three days later, hours before Kol Nidre, the rabbis’ condemnations were posted on synagogue walls in Slifkin’s neighborhood.
The article later notes that none of the 23 rabbis who signed the ban would speak with the reporter about it.]
UPDATE: Rabbi Student has now banned all comments from me. Why? He claimed my above comment violated this policy:
Important Policy: This blog is intended only for the interchange of ideas for the purpose of Torah study, promoting enlightened public policy and/or the refinement of character. Comments in that spirit are welcome but those that entail denigration of character are not welcome and if they appear will be deleted upon discovery. Since editing is rarely feasible, comments that are deemed inappropriate will be deleted entirely or, if possible, edited.
I pointed out my comment did not violate that policy and I again pointed out that R. Student’s real purpose in deleting the comment was his inability to answer the challenge it posed. I further noted that failing to answer challenges is a pattern demonstrated by his teachers, and that R. Student’s censorship is a sign of that.
For those of you who do not know, R. Student’s teachers are YU’s Rabbi Hershal Schachter and Rabbi Mordechai Willig.
Rabbi Schachter is known for making Rabbi Ovadia Yosef-like public remarks that are often hurtful to whole segments of Jews (like his infamous "monkey" remark that so irritated many women) and then refusing to answer public questions about his remarks or to publicly clarify them. He also refuses to speak with reporters.
Rabbi Willig is best known in non-Orthodox circles for his role in covering up the Lanner child abuse affair that rocked the OU several years ago. Rabbi Willig intimidated witnesses against Rabbi Lanner and behaved in a reprehensible manner. When his role was exposed, and after much pressure built, Rabbi Willig apologized for his actions. He then spent the next several years refusing to help abuse victims or to do anything else concrete to atone for his protection of Rabbi Lanner. Like Rabbi Schachter, Rabbi Willig also refuses to speak with the press.
Neither Rabbi Schachter or Rabbi Willig are fit to lead Jews. It is becoming increasingly clear that this applies to their students as well.