Monday, December 04, 2006

A question of standards

On Friday, one of the dear readers of this blog, shared an urban legend about the Vilna Gaon. In summary, the story (which I believe is false) claimed the the Gaon had a guy publicly whipped for disagreeing with the philology of Rashi and the Midrash, In the story, the guy showed no disrespect. He wasn't rude. He didn't disparage. He simply disagreed, in the way that the Ramban, Rashbam, Simshon Rephael Hirsch and others often disagree with Rashi or the Midrash. And for that, the Gaon (allegedly) had him whipped. A subsequent commenter thought this behavior reflected poorly on the Gaon, and called him a very bad name. I let the whole conversation remain on my comment threads, unedited.

Was this the right thing to do? My friend Ed (and a few anonos) think I erred greatly. They want me to delete the comment. I say, in response, that the Gaon needs no protection from me. Though I agree that the commenter (also an anon) made a rude remak, I think this rude remark reflects badly, not on the Gaon, but on him. I feel no obligation to protect the commenter from the cosequences of his own ill-considered statement.

Furthermore, I argue, why pretend that rude people don't exsist? We read blogs to get a sense of what other people are thinking. So long as the comment isn't disruptive, why should I paper over the fact that there are rude people in the world? What purpose is served by concealing the fact that one person thinks that the Gaon behaved badly in a story I am, anyway, convinced is false? Besides, no one here is made from sugar. We're all adults. If a comment offends you (and I agree this comment was offensive) you're free to ignore it or to offer a counterargument.

Your thoughts, please?

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