Rabbi Gil Student has a popular J-blog known as Hirhurim. Over the past 18 months, Gil has banned commnent from many different commenters, including me. In my case, I have been banned at least three previous times but, as my IP addresses have changed, those bans have become ineffective, and eventually I resumed leaving comments, only to be banned weeks or months later. Each ban has to do with challenges to Rabbi Student's Judaism – challenges Rabbi Student cannot answer.
This is another case in point. Rabbi Student posted about the Taz and Shabbatai Tsvi. Was the Taz a follower of Shabbatai, Rabbi Student asked? He then answered his own question by pointing to research done by Rabbi Elijah Schochet. Rabbi Schochet concludes there is no information that conclusively proves the Taz followed Shabbatai. Therefore, says Rabbi Schochet (a direct descendant of the Taz), the Taz did not.
I pointed out that, a) the Taz sent his son and son-in-law to investigate Shabbatai, and they came back believers; b) the mission to Shabbatai and its conclusion were very public happenings and were well known throughout Poland at that time; c) there is no record of either man retracting that claim; d) and there is no record of the Taz doing anything to distance himself from the conclusions of his emmisaries. I therefore concluded that the known facts support the idea that the Taz was a Sabbatean believer. Rabbi Student, enraged, wrote "I'm sure we're all glad to get Shmarya['s] official pesak on the history." I responded by challenging him to prove me wrong – if he could. Rabbi Student fell silent.
The next day, Rabbi Student posted on the current controversy over bugs and pre-packaged romaine lettuce. He noted that Rabbi J. David Bleich has pointed out that the a Talmudic passage indicates shepherds used to have much better eyesight than we now have. (Rabbi Bleich is the noted expert on medicine and halakha who, in response to the controversy over metzitza b'peh, announced that the procedure was not dangerous as long as the moshel rinsed his mouth out with schnapps before coming in oral contact with the circumcision wound. The only infectious disease specialist on record supporting this strange notion is a haredi flack with no published papers and no standing in the infectious diesease community.) On that basis, Rabbi Bleich attempts to defend those who call for light boxes and magnification to check romaine lettuce for bugs, things not mandated (or even conceptualized) by the Torah.
I responded, in a thread filled with comments from others attacking the new humrot (stringencies) surrounding bugs and lettuce. I first answered the question, Why did the Star-K not go along with the new humrot?, and then addressed rabbi Bleich's remark about the eyesight of sheperds:
"The only holdout was the star k from all the agencies, why?"
Because the Star-K was paskening according to halakha, not according to the insane humrot concocted by people like yosef. [yosef was advocating special training for every person to check for bugs, just as schochtim and bodkim have to be trained to schecht and check and animal's lungs. Without this "special training," one would not be able to rely on their checking or to eat their salads, etc.]
As for our "worsening eyesight," the Torah permits people to check for bugs who needed glasses but did not have them because glasses did not exist yet. Even so, [Rabbi J. David Bleich] wants us to believe the stories about how far a shepherd could see? Please. Maybe they could see so far because there was little air pollution. Maybe because they were standing on high places looking down. Maybe a dozen other things, including that they really did not see that far.
Go buy your microscopes, get your bug-checking training and throw your sechel out the window.
The result? Rabbi Student banned me without answering the challenge I posed to Rabbi Bleich's reasoning.
Each previous time he banned me, Rabbi Student has announced the ban in response to my comment(s), posting the notice as a comment to his own blog. This time, Rabbi Student did not do so, probably because he has been subjected to much ridicule over these ridiculous bans, and banning me in silence saves him from answering difficult questions about his cowardly behavior.
Rabbi Student is a very public apologist for Orthodox Judaism and a self-identified (left-wing) haredi. As is almost always the case with apologists, they win their debates by slanting the playing field in their own favor. They are cowardly and dishonest. Rabbi Student – and the rabbis he consults with, including those at his old alma mater, Yeshiva University – are no exception.
UPDATE 1: In the comments section below, Rabbi Student responds as follows:
Do you think your being banned this time had anything to do with:
"In my case, I have been banned at least three previous times but, as my IP addresses have changed, those bans have become ineffective, and eventually I resumed leaving comments"
I responded as follows:
1. It took you almost 3 weeks to ban me this time.
2. You did not do so until I posed a challenge you could not answer.
3. If the previous bans were the main reason for this ban, you would have banned me three weeks ago.
But the main point is this: Banning someone whom you cannot answer is cowardly and dishonest. That you do not understand this reflects poorly on you, and it reflects poorly on your teachers – especially the ones that tell you do so.
Rabbi Student replied:
You're complaining that I was too slow to ban you???
No, I did not ban you until someone reminded me by posting that you were banned.
I have no idea what you think your challenge is and whether or not it is unanswerable because I have long tired of reading your questions. Let someone else deal with you.
I'm done defending myself here. Life is too short.
Of course, Rabbi Student is lying. Why? Let me show you:
- The comment "reminding" Rabbi Student that I was banned was left on 1-11-06 at 12:19 p.m.
- My last comment on Hirhurim was left on 1-12-06 at 11:56 p.m. – in other words, 36 hours <B><I>after</I></B> this "reminder." What was the comment about? It is about Rabbi J. David Bleich and the vision of shepherds and is quoted in full above.
- Rabbi Student claims he does not read my comments. Yet on 1-11-06 at 10:10 a.m. Rabbi Student replies directly to my comment on the Taz: "I'm sure we're all glad to get Shmarya['s] official pesak on the history."
Rabbi Student is a liar.
[Here are brief reports of three of the earlier bans: 1, 2, 3. Number three took place during Banned Books Week. Here are the comment threads in question for this newest ban in pdf: Download hirhurim_comments_taz_shabbatai_tsvi_11106.pdf and Download hirhurim_comments_romaine_lettuce_bugs_11206.pdf ]
UPDATE #2: Rabbi Student has posted about the illness of Rav Yitzhak Kaduri, shlit"a, the 104 year old Rosh HaMekkubalim:
Rabbi Kaduri -- Nothing to Fear
It seems the great kabbalist R. Yitzhak Kaduri has been having serious health problems lately. However, he has nothing to fear because the Lubavitcher Rebbe promised him that he would live to see the coming of mashi'ah. Arutz Sheva reported on September 14th of last year:
During a visit in 1990 with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (of blessed memory), Rabbi Kaduri was told by the Rebbe that he would live to see the coming of the Mashiach.
His readers assume sarcasm in the post, and respond with ample sarcasm of thier own. This is understandable because Rabbi Student is an open opponent of Chabad messianism and skeptical of kabbala. In the comment thread, attacks on haredi gedolim, Rav Kaduri, kabbala and the Rebbe flow. Rabbi Student does not ban or edit any of these comments. He simply responds as follows:
This post was not meant to belittle Rav Kaduri or the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Read it and think about it before jumping to conclusions. Or don't.
Rabbi Student was being sarcastic, but he did so in a way that left him the wiggle room to deny it. That is why he did not ban or censor (as of 4:40 pm EST 1-15-06) any of the sarcastic commenters who made fun of "great Torah sages" like the Rebbe and Rav Kaduri, because they are attacking figures he does not really respect. And, much more importantly, those commenters did not post a challenge to Rabbi Student's beliefs that Rabbi Student was unable to answer. Just more proof that the "rabbi" of the J-blogosphere is a dishonest coward.
A video of the visit between Rav Kaduri, shlit"a, and the Rebbe is online here.
For those wishing to pray for Rabbi Kaduri's recovery, his name is Yitzhack ben Tufaha. It is proper to say tehilim (psalms) and to additional mitzvot. For an explanation of this, along with links to online resources, see this post.
UPDATE #3: Rabbi Student is now claiming his post on Rav Kaduri's, shlita, illness was meant to be sarcastic, but the point of his sarcasm was not Rav Kaduri, shlit"a, or the Rebbe – it was those who take their words literally:
To clarify, this post could have been mocking any of three people or groups: Rav Kaduri, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, or those who take these statements way too literally. I think I've already clarified above who was not the intended subject.
In other words, it is an attack on tens of thousands of Jews, made at the expense of an ill man who is at least 104 years old. And that is perfectly fine according to Rabbi Student, because he is not being sarcastic about a gadol (leading rabbi).
What a foolish man.
UPDATE: It seems that this post went over a lot of readers' heads. My point was simply not to take such predictions/prayers/blessings as absolute prophecy.
Note that Rabbi Student has not done any of the following:
- Asked people to pray for Rav Kaduri, shlit"a.
- Expressed any concern for Rav Kaduri's, shlit"a, health.
- In any way mention that he hopes Rav Kaduri, shlit'"a, recovers.
- Mentioned that, in most circles, Rav Kaduri, shlit"a, is very highly regarded.
His original post was taken by the vast majority of his readers to be sarcasm directed at both Rav Kaduri, shlit"a, and the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. His "update" does little to dispel that notion. And, when coupled with the absence of any sympathy or concern for Rav Kaduri's, shlit'a, health, one can only reach the conclusion that Rabbi Student was using the illness of 108-year-old (or more!) man as a point of sarcasm.
[Jeffery R. Woolf wrote: <I>"… I am a bit dismayed by the mocking tone about him. He is a phenomenal [talmid chacham] and a genuine spiritual personality. (Not being an afficionado of Kabbalah, I can't say anything about that side of things). Here in Israel he is regarded as a very special person, whose foray into politics did him no good."</I>]