Sunday, January 30, 2005

Let The Masses Be Heard

I received from a friend this e-mail that seems to be circulating. Even though I am hesitant to put it up, particularly given my business considerations, I have decided to do so with a slightly edited version. I am also concerned about giving out personal information over the web, but since it only directs readers to the phone book I figure there is no harm in that.

The recent ban on Rabbi Slifkin's books has far-reaching repercussions that need to be expressed. When a matter of this nature is brought to the attention of a rosh yeshiva, the voices he hears most loudly and frequently are those of the people who have the time and desire (and sometimes chutzpah) to place themselves directly in his path. They call him at all hours and show up at his yeshiva and other functions he attends, all to press the issue and the viewpoint that they advocate.

The antagonists of Rabbi Slifkin have the time, ability and chutzpah to make their voices heard. All of the others who are affected by this ban must now make their voices heard.

The ban has caused immense pain among many. You, the reader, might be a rebbe or teacher who has been instructing students for years and trying to strengthen their faith in traditional Judaism. You have just been told that the views you were taught and are teaching is heresy. The hundreds of students who have passed through your classrom were taught kefirah by you. I can only imagine the distress you must be feeling. Were you and your rebbeim spreading lies? Have you, instead of increasing belief, been distancing students from Jewish belief? Is this not causing you to question the sacrifices you have made to teach students and whether you are fit to teach? I can only imagine the pain you must be going through.

Kiruv workers, NCSY advisors, friendly professionals who speak with non-observant colleagues, etc. Have you been spreading heretical beliefs? Have you, in your attempts to bring others closer to Judaism, actually been feeding them views that are counter to our tradition? In this group, I include myself and I feel the pain. Those who banned these books have just declared that I have been spreading heresy, and that hurts. They have just declared that I, and everyone I have influenced, are outside the pale of Orthodox Judaism. If they are right, then I am guilty of very serious offenses that make me shudder. If they are wrong, or never intended it this way, then I am even more hurt.

They have effectively announced that Rav Aryeh Kaplan and all of the many Jews who were influenced by him are heretics. Everyone who had some contact with him surely feels pain over this. Was Rav Kaplan really a heretic? All those college students who became frum because of him, are they really closet heretics? Is the frum community really so infected by this heresy? Baalei tshuvah, in particular, must be extremely hurt by this declaration that, in truth, they have never become truly frum.

They have disqualified just about every member of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists. Should the group be disbanded? Every member of AOJS, and every Jew who respects the doctors and scientists who dedicate their lives to Torah and science, should be hurt by this.

Every shul rabbi who has discussed this topic has infected his congregants with heresy. Can that damage ever be undone? Has the rabbi unwittingly harmed the souls of the people who were placed in his charge? The distress many are going through is unimaginable.

It is likely that the roshei yeshiva have not yet heard from people who have been hurt by the ban. Shouldn't they hear from us how much pain and confusion people are suffering? If we want to balance out the personal influence that those with louder voices have on the roshei yeshiva, we need to voice our pain. Let the roshei yeshiva know that we have been hurt. With one fell swoop, thousands of Bnei Torah who have dedicated their lives to Yahadus have been written off. We, our rabbeim and our students have been pushed michutz lamachaneh. Let us call up Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rav Matisyahu Salomon and the others, and, with all the tremendous respect that they deserve, express from our hearts how much we have been hurt. Let us pour out our souls, cry over the phone, share our grief over the position in which we have suddenly been placed. Let us express the enormous pain that this ban has caused and beg either for clarifications or at least sympathy.

I ask every reader to forward this message along to anyone to whom you think this may be relevant. Each one who signed the ban against Rav Slifkin should be called until you personally get through to him and express your personal pain. Be respectful. Be humble. Be honest. And be persistent. Keep calling until you get through to him. Leave specific messages and keep calling until you speak directly with the rosh yeshiva and relay to him your personal pain. He needs to hear it from each and every one of us.

I do not think it is appropriate to post phone numbers in this venue. However, try the phone book

Rav Malkiel Kotler is listed in Lakewood, NJ under the name A M Kotler
Rav Matisyahu Salomon is listed in Lakewood, NJ under the name M Salomon
Rav Elyah Wachtfogel is listed in Fallsburg, NY under the name Eli Wachtfogel
Rav Chaim Stein is listed in Wickliffe, OH under the name Chaim Stein
Rav Dovid Feinstein can be reached at his yeshiva, listed in NY, NY as Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem
Rav Meyer Hershkowitz is listed in Stamford, CT as Meyer Hershkowitz
Rav Raphael Schorr is listed in Monsey, NY as Raphael Schorr
UPDATE: To clarify, this is not a call to harrass these eminent scholars. If you want to speak with them and express your thoughts and questions, call them on the phone. But do not harrass them or treat them disrespectfully.

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