When is it proper not to tell the truth?
Luke Ford quotes Professor Marc Shapiro:
…"If you read my blogs, you’ll see that I am a relentless exposer of the fraudulence not just in the chareidi world but in the Modern Orthodox world. It all needs to be exposed. But that doesn’t mean that every simple person needs to know… As Rav Kook says, if they come into our world and try to affect us with their fraudulent stories, it needs to be exposed. But if they want to live by these bubbemeisers (old wives tales), that’s a way of life. I’m like Rabbi Slifkin in this regard. Only if it threatens to interfere in the wider community. And for the intellectuals. Anyone can go on the internet and find books by me and others.
"The son of the first Lubavitcher rebbe, Moshe, converted to Christianity. Any Chabadnik who’s intellectually honest knows this. Do I need to go to the simple Chabad person and start telling him this? They just can’t grasp this. I don’t believe in universal enlightenment. Universities used to be places for elites… In America, they got the idea that everyone needs a university education."
"It’s hard to know what lashon hara (gossip) is. You don’t really know what lashon hara is. I have read many letters of gedolim and they are full of negative comments about other rabbis, which you would say is lashon hara. As anyone knows, they badmouth them all the time. If you asked the rav, he would say it is not lashon hara. The Torah says you have to expose chanafim (hypocrites, flatterers).
"We are supposed to expose hypocrisy. I would say that if you asked all these rabbonim who say terrible things about other ones and were great talmidei chachamim, if you asked them, they would say it is not lashon hara, but he’s a fraud and I have to expose him. It could be that he’s not a fraud and that it’s just a personal dispute.
"I don’t think it’s lashon hara to talk about a dispute that the whole world knew about and it was in all the newspapers… If a certain rav did a bad thing. There’s a rav, not a gadol of the first calibre but of the second calibre, but he had a child out of wedlock when he was about 17 and in yeshiva. About 20 years ago, one of the Israeli newspapers exposed him and published the birth certificate. I think that’s a terrible breach of privacy. He made a mistake when he was young. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. I would never expose something like that. If I knew about it, I would probably choose not to write about him because how could you write about him and not talk about it?
"If there was a case like this where he abandoned the girl and wanted nothing to do with them and then he became a big scholar, a Talmud Chacham, a posek, I don’t think that’s lashon hara. This would be an example of exposing the hypocrites."
"I try to balance Jewish values with secular values. As a secular historian, you go into a grave and dig up the body if you need to. They dug up Zachary Taylor’s body to see if he was poisoned. I would have no problem as a secular historian if I was writing about a figure like Einstein, but among gedolim, I do not do that. I can honestly say that I’ve never had to make that choice with Rabbi Yaakov Jechiel Weinberg. I would rather not write about somebody than have to cover something like that up… Certain great rabbinic figures, I would treat differently than other figures. If that is not in correspondence with historical [analysis], what are they going to do? Take my tenure away? Life is not only about historical craft."
I find this troubling. Shapiro has no way to know what will be historically or communally significant years from now. His job as a historian should be to tell the truth. At the same time, his job is to put that truth in context.
If someone is still living – that rosh yeshiva who fathered a child out of wedlock at 17, for example – there is room not to write about it unless there is something very important about that story that needs to be made public.
But there is little if any room for doing the same for current gedolim or other leaders and there is certainly no room for this type of coverup if these leaders have passed on.
The difference between a truth seeker and an ideologue is that a truth seeker draws conclusions based on the evidence he has; the ideologue draws his conclusion and then finds the evidence to support it.
A professional historian should be a truth seeker.
I think we would all be much better off if we followed the truth seeker model and relied on historians like Shapiro to give context to that truth.
Yes, some of our dreams and closely held beliefs may be shattered as a result, but I believe the people we become and the Judaism we follow will grow stronger and clearer as a result.
That rosh yeshiva who fathered the child out of wedlock at 17? I know of another rosh yeshiva who did the same – except his wife / live in girlfriend was not Jewish. In fact, she was an African American Christian. This guy was a Chabad hasid, and the Rebbe sent Rabbi Hodokov to fetch the guy and bring him to the Rebbe. The Rebbe convinced the future rosh yeshiva to abandon his wife and child and return to Chabad. I'm told he never saw that child again. He married a Chabad woman who is to this day extremely racist as are her children. These children – now married adults – may not–even realize where their mother's racism comes from.
Should I report the story in full? Should I give his name?
I choose not to do it. For years I did not tell or write the story. But there is a purpose to telling it even in this edited form. Chabad is inherently racist. Its theology demonizes blacks (more on this in another post soon) and it calls for complete abandonment of non-Jewish children fathered by Jewish men.
I know a Chabad rabbi who, before he was Orthodox fathered a child with his non-Jewish wife. The rabbi has been a Chabad hasid for 20 or more years and by rabbinical advice (I believe from the Rebbe) has no contact with his first (non-Jewish) child.
Fathering children means accepting responsibility for those children. Children need financial security, protection and parental love.
Instead, based on a Chabad hasidic teaching, Chabad rabbis are known to tell fathers of non-Jewish children to pray for those children's deaths.
(To PC this up, sometimes these rabbis say to pray that the non-Jewish children choose on their own to convert to Orthodox Judaism. To their credit, most Chabad rabbis wisely avoid the subject altogether.)
It takes a certain type of cultlike personality to abandon your small child on the orders of a rabbi. Of course, it's that same type of cultlike personality that allows Chabad to send rabbis to tiny outposts all over the world.
Perhaps a professional historian should explore all this and put it in context for us. The two rabbis I mention may not be gedloim, but their lives shed much light on Chabad today.
[Hat Tips: Joel Katz, Yisroel by the Bay.]