Sunday, March 17, 2013

defending HaRav R' Herschel Schachter שליט"א (Guest Post)















(Pitputim Photo)

Dear frum Jews: The Forward does not care if your kids get molested.

This isn’t an exaggeration, a joke or some kind of bombastic Avi Shafran style rhetoric. It's an inescapable and repugnant conclusion. For those of you not keeping track, at a recent Rabbinic conference in London, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the foremost Halachic decisors of the generation, said unequivocally that there is no issue of Mesirah in handing over abusers to the police. Mesirah, he averred, refers to a situation where an illegitimate government is trying to confiscate Jewish property. It has nothing to do with reporting abusers to the police. After covering Weberman and Finkelstein so assiduously, after publishing the demonstrations of Judy Brown, the Forward should’ve been delighted. "Yeshiva Rabbi Bluntly Warns Sex Abuse Reports Are Required”-- That’s the headline you should’ve opened up to on Friday morning. A premier posek, not a professional controversy hound like Yosef Blau, not a fourth rate YCT rabbi struggling with Rashi script, said almost exactly what you’d want him to say. Certainly, if the Forward cared about your kids, this’d be newsworthy. Think your Boro Park rabbis knows the laws of Mesirah? Nope. Not anymore. Think that its ok to cover for someone on unsere team? Turns out, you’re going against Halachah. Think your punctiliousness with shemirath eynayim will save you from your shemirath yadayim issue? Turns out, it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately for him, Rabbi Schachter added some caveats. He didn’t stop with this powerful denunciation of the major problem plaguing Orthodox Jewry today. He noted that Federal Prisons are fair and accommodating of Orthodox Jews. And then he said that state prisons can sometimes be hefker. They might put you with a “schvartze," - pause -  a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.


There are two possibilities here. Larry Cohler-Esses says he I felt "I knew this man like I knew some of my own relatives." He must be sure that Rabbi Schachter paused to reemphasize his irrational hatred of people of color and Muslims. I know Rabbi Schachter pretty well too. It seems to be he said an offensive term, one he might’ve been habituated to from his upbringing as a Yiddish speaker. Then he paused, corrected himself, and specified that he meant a member of the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam has a large prisoner contingent. They utilized “bigoted and anti-Semitic rhetoric” the ADL’s words, not mine that “has included statements calling whites "blue eyed devils" and Jews "bloodsuckers" that controlled the slave trade, the government, the media, Hollywood and various Black individuals and organizations.” Schachter might not be right to be too concerned about the future cellmates of the Webermans and Lanners of the world. He certainly should’ve avoided the outdated and offensive term schvartze - a word that, while not laden with the hate of a racial epithet, is equivalent to “Negro” in its anachronism. This would all be a major issue if he wasn’t in the middle of solving the major crisis of Orthodox Jewry today.

Sadly for the Forward, he was. He was giving Halachic sanction to people who speak out about abuse. He was doing more to end it from the inside than the Forward could do with a million Judy Brown stories. He digressed, opined, added in colorful and misshapen linguistic infelicities. He didn’t do this because of his intense racial or religious bigotry or his love of abusers. He did it because he’s Rabbi Schachter. Rabbinic authority doesn’t come out of thin air. Schachter’s corresponds to what Max Weber called charismatic authority. He is a raconteur, a Yiddish storyteller and king of caveats. If you want a story about R' Velvele Soloveitchik, an obscure teshuvah from the Koziglover Gaonor a scintillating conceptual distinction first proposed by Yerucham Fishel Perlow and then mercilessly plagiarized, Rabbi Schachter is one of the only living people who can give you that. Besides his stand on abuse, Schachter is also a moral voice in other areas. He’s condemned the practice of Metzizah bePeh since it endangers infants. He courageously stood up in public in Ami magazine urging reform of the corrupt system of Batei Din. He lends his weight to an interminable and acrimonious battle on behalf of agunot; a battle that's earned him the ire and opprobrium of vast segments of Haredi Jewry. It's doubly impressive that Schachter’s mastery of vast corpses of Rabbinic literature and his spellbinding storytelling and sense of humor are yoked to a moral vision so idiosyncratic and so obviously based on doing what he thinks is the right thing.


What’s so disturbing about this story is that Rabbi Schachter is being skewered for being Rabbi Schachter. The off the cuff style, exaggerated anecdotes and Yiddishisms that lend him his power and charisma are what keep getting him in trouble. The same Rabbi who uses words like ferd and schvartzer also cries (in this same lecture) about someone coming to observe the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha. He laments his own public position --- “The Ribono Shel Olam is a Kel Mistater.” He breaks down in tears describing his own teacher, Rabbi Soloveitchik, and his impact on him. I’m not saying Rabbi Schachter shouldn’t be more circumspect about his choice of words. Though it’d rob us of his charm, it might be a necessary concession to the constraints of publicity placed on him by virtue of his position. Maybe we will lose these unguarded moments. Maybe a story about Rabbi Belkin or Rabbi Yerucham Gorelick will go down unrecorded because Rabbi Schachter will hesitate to say it. However, if you want abuse to end, and you want to take away the fig leaf of “Halachic” protection deployed by abusers, you might not want to bash Rabbi Schachter. If you want Orthodoxy to wake up to its internal problems and start handing people over to the authorities --- boker tov. This is what that looks like. Of course, if all you want pious nostrums about the word schvartze and long winded stories of the duplicity of the Orthodox about abuse --- Rabbi Schachter isn’t your guy. Ask the ADL and the 
Forward.

34 comments:

moshe moshel said...

Nishkoshe

Anonymous said...

"Schachter’s corresponds to what Max Weber called charismatic authority. He is a raconteur, a Yiddish storyteller and king of caveats. If you want a story about R' Velvele Soloveitchik, an obscure teshuvah from the Koziglover Gaon, or a scintillating conceptual distinction first proposed by Yerucham Fishel Perlow and then mercilessly plagiarized, Rabbi Schachter is one of the only living people who can give you that."

And that's what The Forward will never understand.

Looking West

Fred said...

One of the formemost halachic decisors???

You are dreaming, Balbin.

Not a single heimishe person considers him to bea decisor of anything.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

Fred

Balbin didn't write it, only the photo is from his site

Superintendant Chalmers said...

Hirshel,
Big Yasher Koach

You got it exactly right and did so in a very eloquent manner.

Fred,
You may not like it, but the fact is that you and all your heimishe friends rely on him all the time. Every heimishe person that eats only heimishe hashgachas, newsflash: they rely on OU for virtually all their ingredients. You'd better consider him a decisor or else stop eating.

bochur said...

Definitely talented writing. Well brought out.

Anonymous said...

Very well written.

The saddest part of this all is that the Forward is only relevant because of 'unzere' and our reaction, the frum, especially Mah Yofis'nik community starts the hand-wringing and brow-beating.

The secular Jewish world doesnt care about about the Forward, just we do.

Our fault.

Vohliner chusid said...

He is my great uncle, I know him to well and deserves to be bashed.
You left out the whole part about ”metzitza b'peh"......

מטהר את השרץ said...

his position was not a condemnation on either side, all of you bleeding hearts will never get that
theydon't like that he said 'shvartze'. who cares really - it doesn't make one a racist

Uncertain Hour said...

I urge the guest poster to revise his characterization Rabbi Yosef Blau. I testify that Rabbi Blau regularly proides hands-on assistance to frum (by no means only MO) abuse survivors in the severest distress. He is able to do this because he has earned their trust -- no easy thing! -- over a long period of time.

(I can be reached by e-mail.)

Tzumas Hagidin said...

Fred
"One of the formemost halachic decisors???

You are dreaming, Balbin.

Not a single heimishe person considers him to bea decisor of anything."
stop with your charadie politics, he is a big talmid chochem yerie shomaim and a posek for a lot of Jews who hold the shulchan orech.. whats a difference what Kipa they wear,,

Yanover said...

the whole story is ridiculous. its not news worthy.

And shame on YU for turning against their own.

mig said...

I do not appreciate RS's view on metziza bepeh. For someone who is considered to be a Halachic decisor, his stand on this issue is perplexing to say the least.

TzfaserYid said...

so hirsjel, whats ur saying on parshad berlond (sorry if I am a bit late)??

Ma Rabbi said...

Its the liberals that are making a mountain out of this. So he used the word "schvatze" big deal.
Schvartz means black. Most black people refer to themselves as "blacks."
The Forward is just a scandal sheet looking to make trouble for the Frumma. Jews bending over backwards to be liberal fall for their trap.

dovy in j said...

i think the lesson here is that it is pointless to try to pander to them. they hate us because we are frum - not because of molestors or metzitzah b'peh or rubashkin or whatever. And they hate the MOs as much as they hate the black hatters. RHS learnt that lesson the hard way.

yom tov in der vochen said...

The forward got it from Scotty Rosenberg, who hates jews

Gordon Downey said...

"vast corpses of Rabbinic literature"

nice one

Yochanan said...

Ma Rabbi is right on target with his post!

Paul Mendlowitz said...

R' Hershel:
I would be all too happy to agree with your defense of R' Schechter; However,(isn't there always a however among us circumcized ones?), R' Schechter has taken a definite turn to the Right! He's kissing up to the Agudaniks, and found a way to espouse their view of "raglayim l'dovor"!...Are not all prisons filled with the Others? Once we give pause to "where" the child rapist gets incarcerated, we lose every other meaningful position we espouse...Warren Buffett's adage is all too correct.." it can take a lifetime to build a reputation, but only a few words to destroy your life's work"...or something like that. I took umbrage with Schechter's remarks about the "WHERE" years ago. He should have stopped while he was ahead.
Chag Kasher V'Sameach.

snag said...

Quite a good post. However I think the dig at R. Blau is inappropriate.

The liberals have been after Rav Schachter for some time. They can't be soveil a gadol kamohu who doesn't kowtow to them.

yankel said...

Can we see a Teshuva or shtickel Torah from him before we decide he is the Talmid Chochom of the dor?

guest said...

yes mister yankel oyu can listen to his almost 3,000 shiurim shiurim on the yutorah website, and after you listen to himhaving kol hatorah kulo, on his paws, including derech agav's, you will know what a talmid chochom he is.

i mean it not really that hard.

Newshound said...

Guest
"after you listen to himhaving kol hatorah kulo, on his paws"
its a little Guzma...

russian chusid said...

He’s condemned the practice of Metzizah bePeh since it endangers infants.

TZIG, ARE YOU NOT ASHAMED OF YOURSELF????? 100'S OF LUBAVITCHER MOHELIM WENT TO SIBIR BECAUSE OF THIS PRACTICE, AND YOU ARE COUNTING IT AS A MAILE???

BIST NISHT KEN TZIG, DI BIST A FERD.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

Russian

I didn't write the post.

He says it based on the Brisker tradition that goes back to Reb Chaim

guest said...

mr. newshound, you probably have not listened to many of his shiourim

russian chusid said...

On this B.S. A MARE MOKEM would be good...

Avi said...

While I agree with all of the Rav Schachter points, I take offense to this and similar posts pretending that Rav Schachter is a groundbreaker on this one.

See Agudah's position (posted 2 years ago), which although often critiqued as too stringent, seems AWFULLY similar to this one of Rav Schachter:

http://www.vosizneias.com/87952/2011/07/22/new-york-agdath-israel-clarifies-its-stand-on-reporting-suspicions-of-child-abuse-to-police/

Superintendant Chalmers said...

Mr. yankel,

Rav Schachter has numerous shticklach (and some Tshuvos) printed in his various sfarim, which are readily available. I'm not sure why you're unaware of this.

Fort Wash said...

What kind of rabbinical conference was this? I suspect it was a performance put on by a special interest group determined to show how distant they are from the ultra-orthodox in London. The ultra-othrodox have had their reputation besmirched by a television program and a rumor-inspired campaign against a well known chassidic rabbi. The campaigners against the rabbi have invited input from the YU establishment. I suspect that Rabbi Schachter innocently fell for their tricks, and offered to go and speak. But since the people who paid for the show had poisonous intent, the usual siyata dishmaya he enjoys was lacking.

pitputim said...

Fred said...
One of the formemost halachic decisors???

You are dreaming, Balbin.

Not a single heimishe person considers him to bea decisor of anything.


Dear Heimishe Freddy, your Heimishe Boich Svoros aside, I actually blogged about this topic, twice, and you can actually read what I wrote on my own blog here

https://pitputim.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/raglayim-ledavar-i-e-prima-facie-case-to-answer/

and

https://pitputim.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/more-on-r-schachters-views-mesirah-and-dina-dmalchuso/

So, how about a Heimishe apology from your Heimishe Neshomo that seems to know who the Heimishe Poskim are.

I'll take מ"ור HaGaon R' Schachter any day over your Heimishe types, especially if they are blatant Shakronim like you.

Oh, and by the way, your Heimishe Yidden also eat OU, and guess what, he and Rav Belsky are the ones who decide what you put in your heimishe mouth.

pitputim said...

Wake up people. While the Aguda are STILL creating some new universal layer, a Daas Torah for abuse, R' Schachter is saying nothing of the sort.

In his own words, he doesn't have a long beard, so perhaps his words don't count as much in the long bearded, long pesos world. Make no mistake though. Listen to his thousands of online shiurim and make your mind up. That's what I did.

He is urbane, self-effacing, an Ish HoEmes, and a Posek par excellence.

pitputim said...

Ooooh, he doesn't like Metzitza B'Feh, so that makes him less of a Posek. Do me a favour. Did any of you consider that he Paskens like that because he actually thinks it's the Halocho!

R' Moshe Tendler paskens that we have to spray local anaesthetic beforehand so the kid doesn't have unnecessary pain. Anyone have a problem with that? Where does it say that the kid has to scream and yell? Instead, we stick a cotton wool with wine in it's mouth to help him with pain.

Get real people. Have some respect for those opinions which you might not agree with, but which are Mevusas Al Harerei Kodesh, no less than yours.