Monday, November 28, 2011

Rabbi Sherer at the Agudah Convention

When last we heard from Rabbi Shimshon Sherer of Brooklyn, NY, he was being ridiculed on The Godol Hador for saying that M.O and Y.U Rabbis were the misyavnim of our time. The post, in which the Rabbi's own words were faithfully reproduced,  generated more than 300 comments. By the standards of the Jewish blogosphere in 2005, this was a post heard round the world. For Rabbis and other public figures, the takeaway lesson seemed obvious. To quote Ethics of our Fathers: "Consider three things, and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you, a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all of your deeds written down in a book." Or, to put it less obscurely, watch your mouth, Rabbi, because someone is always listening. [See Harry's post about the famous post here]

Obvious as it may have been, the lesson did not sink in. Instead of complimenting the blogs for exposing Rabbi Sherer's inappropriate remarks, his friends went on the offensive. At the Monsey anti-Internet Asifa in 2006, Rabbi E Waxman told the story of Rabbi Sherer's humiliation as a way of proving how scary-dangerous the Internet is. Instead of being mad at Rabbi Sherer for articulating a hateful statement against other Rabbis, we were supposed to be mad at the blogs for telling everyone about it. Instead of thanking the blogs for making it harder for other Rabbi's to commit the same types of sins, Rabbi Waxman defended the sinners, and declared the blogs their tormentor. It was the old story of blaming the messenger for the message.  Shut down the Internet, Rabbi Waxman seemed to say, otherwise Rabbis won't be able to continue saying stupid and hurtful things.

The other day, Rabbi Sherer took the podium at the annual Agudah Convention and proved that he has learned nothing. The subject of his speech was an op-ed written by Natan Slifkin for the Jerusalem Post.  The problem, according to Rabbi Sherer, was that in defending what he called "Post-Charedism" Rabbi Slifkin said something about Roshei Yeshiva that was less than perfectly deferential.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Sherer entirely misrepresented and blatantly misquoted Rabbi Slifkin's argument.

How's that for irony? After being humiliated by blogs that quoted him accurately, Rabbi Sherer goes to a public forum and inaccurately quotes another Rabbi. After whining about the sin of loshon hara, he takes a microphone and commits the sin of moitzi shem rah. After sending his supporters to criticize the shortcomings of a new form of communication, he conclusively demonstrates that old forms of communication are susceptible to the exact same problems. If there was any justice, Rabbi Waxman would convene an Asifa to rail against Aguda conventions. What a hotbed of loshon hara they are!

All of this should convince you that when Agudah types complain about blogs, their real objection is not to the message itself, but to the fact that they no longer control it.  Consider what this sad episode has taught us:

(1) Criticizing an M.O Rabbi is fine, if its done in the privacy of your own shul; what's not fine is using your blog to share that criticism with a global audience.

(2) Loshon hara, when its spouted from the podium of the Agudah convention is also okay, just as the lohon hara that appears on Torah-true blogs like Cross Currents is okay. What Aguda can't tolerate is blogger loshon hara and not because its loshon hara per se, but because it is anti-Aguda loshon hara, as opposed to pro-Agudah loshon hara.  

I'll leave it to others to criticize Agudah for making an attack on Natan Slifkin the subject of their convention's keynote address when the Jewish people have so many other real problems. 

 Search for more information about the ways we know Agudah isn't to be taken seriously at

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