Wednesday, December 08, 2004

More than just reed cutters in the swamp

An easy way to ignore voices we dont want to hear is to declare them to be illigitimate. This is done on the left and on the right. When the sheitl issue raged, I frequently heard people dismissive of R. Elyashiv and others, labelling it all as "more Chareidi chumras." Even some people in my community who I respect, did not even want to consider that it might be an issue. Same with the cocopeds in the water. With a wave of the hand, they declared that those who were making an issue of it were missing the forest for the trees, and not concentrating on "important issues." In general, those on the left can dismiss the right by alleging that they have misplaced priorities, antiquated(and non-Halachic) social views(by this I mean that they include social priorities that go beyond what is called for by halacha), and live in the 200 year old past.

It is easier for those on the right to be dismissive of the left. Since the left almost by definition is more makel, one can easily question the left's learning, commitment to halacha, commitment to tradition and as one goes even further left, commitment to Judaism itself. However, just because it is easy to ask those questions, doesn't make the answer automatically in the affirmative.

It seems to me that , there is a catch-22 regarding paskening and halacha. The community will only accept a psak from someone they respect, and they only respect those in their community. And if you hold views different than those of the community, then you are not considered a part of the community, and not worthy of respect. This eliminates any possibility of even listening to someone outside of the community. I think this is more of a problem on the right, because the left in general respects the learning of those on the right, although disagreeing on social and hashkafa issues. The right, in general, dismisses the learning and possibly the commitment of those more to the left, and can therefore wave off any possible influence. In the eyes of the right, the left is tainted just by being the left.

How is someone defined as being on the left? affiliation, and views. There is a blog where orthodox rabbis get a capital R, and conservative rabbis get a little r. By these rules, Jackie Mason(who I can't find proof for this, but it seems to be common knowledge) gets a big R, and R. Tony Glickman, who is teaching at YU, would have gotten a little r, until he got another smicha, which allowed him to get the big R. R. Saul Lieberman would have gotten a little r, and the talmidim to whom he gave smicha to also get the little r. A rav in my community would have had a little r, but he got tired of the lack of respect shown to him based only on where he recieved his smicha, so he went and got another smicha from the Rabbanut. From what I can tell, he is not any different because of the experience, only now he gets respect from people who previously did not show him kavod. (Note: this is not to impugn the integrity of the blog owner, who I deeply respect, and is certainly entitled to his opinion. However, it is an example of dismission because of affiliation.)

It seems that anyone espousing a makil view gets labelled as an am ha'aretz, regardless of how learned they might be. Obviously, some might be. Some with a machmir view might not be as learned. But it seems to me that those that are makil are deemed less learned until proven otherwise. I think this is in part what happened with R. Broyde here on the blog. Not only were people disagreeing with him(fine), but the automatic assumption was made that he clearly was not a talmid chacham and knew not of which he wrote. This is not fine. This was a disgusting show of disrespect. This is an example of what is wrong with our communities. We are far too quick to dismiss those with whom we dont agree. We deligitimize those that we dont want to hear. It is a lot harder to deal with what they have to say. But there is truth in many places, you just have to be willing to listen.

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