In the latest issue of BaDaD, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet published a letter criticizing my critical review of his book, The Rav. Most of the communication requires no comment. However, I would like to correct one error in his letter.
In the review, I noted that in his biographic introduction, Rakeffet fails to mention the important work done by Marc Shapiro and Seth Farber. Rakeffet responded that I was being sloppy in my criticism since 'In order to cite them I would need a double measure of רוח הקודש, Divine Spirit. Their scholarship was not completed or published when I was writing The Rav.'
Rakeffet, however, is wrong on both points. Shapiro's research was effectively completed in 1995, with the acceptance of his doctorate at Harvard (upon which his book is based). Farber's PhD was submitted in 2000, a year after 'The Rav' was published. However, as Rakeffet himself declares, he was well aware of (and involved in) both projects while he was preparing his book. All he had to do was pick up the phone (or log onto his e-mail) to obtain a copy of Shapiro's PhD, and drafts of Farber's work (which were already extant). No prophetic capacity was required, only responsible scholarship.
Anyone purporting to write a biography of the Rav, or even a biographical introduction, is obliged to avail himself of the best sources at his disposal. The failure to do so, as I wrote, renders the introduction (even in its limited form) 'stunningly inadequate.'
[Update: I noticed tonight that Rakeffet possessed a copy of Shapiro's PhD, but didn't use it for the information it contains about the Rav. Furthermore, his book was completed while Rakeffet was still writing his (though they appeared the same year). My point still holds.]