Monday, January 24, 2005

The Battle of the Bans

I've been following the controversy about the banning of Rabbi Slifkin's book and Gil Student's call for a counterban (all relevant material is available at Hirhurim) with a mixture of outrage, bewilderment and bemusement (mostly the latter). I've spent most of my adult life involved in trying to advance a responsible form of modern Orthodoxy. That has often put me on a collision course with various Haredi polemicists. In retrospect, though, I think that a lot of the time I spent in these polemics was a waste. The time could have been put to better use by learning, teaching and (in a positiv way) disseminating my own ideas and those in which I believe.

Apparently, that was the Rambam's position, too. In a letter to his student, R. Yosef b. Yehudah, he admonishes him NOT to get involved in controversies with those who disagree with him (i.e. the Rambam). It's a waste of time, said Maimonides, who then set out a carefully crafted curriculum for R. Yosef to follow. [The text is in the seconf volume of Y. Shailat's Iggerot HaRambam. Unfortunately, I don't have the volume in front of me.]

So, in the matter of R. Slifkin, I suggest that those who support him should read him and push others to do so. To take on the hotheads who would like to crucify him woulkd be a waste of time and of little effect (ibid zeman u-mi'ut ha-to'elet).

5 comments:

dilbert said...

agreed me'ah achuz. But we are Jews, and what Jew can resist a good arguement?

The Hedyot said...

The "hotheads" and proponents of these positions are taking over Judaism. Does that concern you? Ten years ago they were a fringe. Now they are a much stronger force. In another 10 years they might have enough power to advance even worse things. Ignore them, and it'll happen in five.

Jeffrey said...

The hotheads have been making the lives of Jews miserable since time immemorial. R. Zekharia b. Avqilos was responsible for the destruction of the Temple! The only way to fight them is to aggressively reach out to the non-hot heads and show them that the louder one speaks, the dumber one is. The hotheads themselves will never be won over.

Cosmic X said...

I must admit that I am upset about this controversy. I have one request to all involved: Please be careful in how you express yourself. Be careful that your efforts to defend a particular rabbi will not disparage another rabbi. Remember what Chazal said about "mevazeh talmid chacham".

Jeffrey said...

I agree with your caveat.