Rabbi Zwiebel Is Right

I intend to write a longer piece about the terrible abuse situation that is blighting the Haredi community at this time. However for the time being, I would like to focus on Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel’s comments (I haven’t seen the article, just the relevant passages, quoted here and here) with regard to this situation and the role bloggers have played in it.

Before I do so, let’s get this out of the way:

1) Abuse is the closest thing to retzicha, spiritually and often physically. I have no words strong enough to condemn abusers, nor to comfort the victims. May Hashem give these Yiddeshe Kinder endless strength and bracha in every aspect of their lives.

2) Those who cover up for known abusers are beneath contempt.

3) Aval Asheimim Anachnu. The Haredi community has failed our kids on this issue, period. It NEEDS to, and WILL, get this fixed, hopefully very soon. However:

4) The Aguda position is that accusations must reach the standard of “Raglayim Le’dovor” (reasonable suspicion) even before the authorities are consulted. This is the Psa’k Halacha of Rav Elyashiv and for good reason. A false accusation alone is enough to destroy a person and his family forever. That cannot be allowed to happen. We cannot protect victims by creating more of them. It is the way of justice and mercy (as well as the the Jewish way, going back to Avraham Avinu) that “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“. (I know this appears to create a conflict with dina dimalchusa, which greater people than me will have to square away).

5) NO ONE, no community, can claim the moral high ground on this issue, both regarding the abuse itself and the subsequent cover-ups. This scandal has affected Modern Orthodox, The Catholic Church, The public school system etc.

Now, on to Rabbi Zwiebel’s comments:

I don’t write off the bloggers as leitzanim and reshaim, because they will be judged, as we all will, after 120 years for their motivations and techniques. I’m not a condemner, by nature. “I do believe that among them there are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain. I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they’ve created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously. A case in point is abuse and molestation issues.

The question is, if the fact that they’ve created some degree of change is worth the cost. At the very least, it’s rechilus, lashon hara, and bittulzman.That’s a high price to pay. “Then there is the damage wrought to the hierarchy of Klal Yisrael. We’ve always been a talmid chacham-centered nation, and it’s dangerous to ruin the fabric of Klal Yisrael by denigrating the ideal of daas Torah and by allowing personal attacks on gedolei Torah.”

Critics have zeroed in on the “bittul zman” reference to accuse Rabbi Zwiebel of somehow equating wasting time to the imperative of saving lives (which is clearly what stopping this abuse is). This is grossly misleading and severe selective editing.

Rabbi Zwiebel’s point is clear. While giving them credit for bringing this vital issue to the forefront, he puts forth the valid contention that as a whole, bloggers have done more harm than good. As evidence he cites, Lashon Hara, Rechilus and only then, Bittul Zman. Let’s not forget, that although in modern society gossip is par for the course, to Jews it is deadly. It is the reason for the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash and KILLS, according to Chazal, the three people involved: the speaker, the listener and the one it was said about. Obviously, in bringing to light the issues of abuse, Lashon Hara does not apply, (and R”Z was referring to blogs in general when he mentioned this, not with regard to abuse) but abuse is hardly the sole topic for most bloggers. Cynicism, vitriol, disrespect, negativity and yes, lashon hara and rechilus about all areas of Haredi life are what keeps most of these blogs alive and kicking.

Then there is his final point, conveniently overlooked, that bloggers evince a single-minded determination to undermine the pillars of Haredi society with their constant barrages against Haredi leadership and practice. This is not confined to bona fide haters such as the Successful Bigot and his ilk, but is unfortunately the bread and butter of much of the discourse online.

To put it another way, the entire blog enterprise is “noach lo shelo nivra mishenivra” (better had it not been created). It’s admittedly good work on this issue can be classified as a Mitzvah Habah Be’avera. The good they have done in the area of abuse does not excuse the destruction they have wrought in many other areas. Indeed, it just highlights the tremendous responsibility they bear for turning what could’ve been a force for good into the cesspool it is now.

An entity whose raison d’etre is tearing down without ever building up, carpet bombing without a shred of concern for direct or collateral damage, cannot legitimize its existence with an occasional act of goodness, even when that good is great. This is indisputable. Al Capone set up soup kitchens. Meyer Lansky played a vital role in securing the US homeland during WWII. The Red Army liberated Auschwitz. Nonetheless, they are widely and correctly understood to represent the worst in mankind. You can hardly fault Blacks for detesting the institution of slavery, even though it is only through slavery that they enjoy the American Dream instead of being stuck in some African wasteland.

What makes the ire over Rabbi Zwiebel’s comments particularly ironic is that bloggers, more than anyone else, specialize in dismissing entire lives of greatness and success based on a single instance of failure. They are the ones who operate using the standards they now condemn. Sholom Rubashkin is constantly (and falsely) denigrated throughout the blogosphere as a criminal and a thief without any regard for the tremendous good works he did for most of his life in basically supporting an entire town. Indeed, they reduce the tremendous accomplishments of rabbis and leaders to nil because of their (real or perceived) inadequacies on a given issue. Now they complain when they are judged by the majority of their work instead of the few bright spots.

Rabbi Zwiebel is correct in taking the long view of blogs and what he sees is rightfully distasteful and damaging. Bloggers will vehemently dispute these conclusions with all types of rationalizations, but the honest ones among them will quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) admit it: they have no problem with the utter destruction of the Haredi world. As a leader of a prominent Haredi organization, it falls to Rabbi Zwiebel to make the public case for what most Haredim (those who are aware of blogs) make in private. The blogoshpere is not kosher, no matter the chazer fiissel they insist on showing the world.

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39 thoughts on “Rabbi Zwiebel Is Right

  1. While I agree with the bulk of this post and the destruction that bloggers brought to emunah and tmimus and kedushas yisroel, I must disagree with your assessment of the stance of Haredim regarding molestation: While innocent should not suffer; there is NOTHING public that shows how victims are protected, where Rabbonim or leaders have successfully referred to a single pedphile to the authorities. The lack of one example known to the public where a pedophile has been exposed, brings this close to the pasha of egla arufa where we cannopt say “klum boh leyodeynooh…venossnooh leviyoh” and on! It looks more that “mechapim al bas achoyysoy” (whatever that is)takes precedence over the needs of a yeled shovur.

    • The fact that it’s not public does not mean it hasn’t happened. I personally know of a number of such stories.

      The media looks to highlight the bad and the bad only. Trust them as much as you trust their reporting on Israel

  2. When there is known pedophiles to lots of people who were protected by heads of institutions and yet there is no one known to the public int he other direction that speaks volumes. The Torah is for “lemaan yishmeooh veyirooh” and tells us to be machriz them on the yom tovim! and here we have not one case known to the public?

    • The “public” i.e. the media won’t publish when rabbis do the right thing because it doesn’t fit the preferred narrative. Again, does the NYT have credibility with you?

      As for the public, the public I know is aware of quite a few names. I will not mention them because they have families, no need to embarrass them further one the perpetrator is being properly dealt with.

      • The public is aware by quite a “few” names thanks to thje??? (bloggers!)….What have the leaders and Rabbonim done to assure the public that they are protecting the VICTIMS? How do the vistims know that the Rabbonim (and NOT the bloggers) are protecting them?

  3. You don’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
    It is well documented that attempts to handle these problems plaguing your community were dealt with poorly allowing abuse to continue and pedophiles to continue their work unmolested (forgive the pun).
    If there are any Chareidi children who were being abused and are now safe from it, it is NOT because of Rav Zweibl and his bosses but despite their best efforts.

    • A canard. Other than the individual people who actively cover up, who as I said are beneath contampt, the community as a whole is guilty of failing to take the actions neccessary. To accuse an entire community of participating in this cover up is untrue and counterproductive.

      As for “your” community, well garnel, YOUR community is not free of this either, take a look at Rabbi Druckman’s recent apology. No one has the moral high ground here.

      • A community that lives and dies by its leaders’ decisions must share in their glory and failure.
        Until very recently people in your community were going to their rabbonim and what was the result? Cover-ups, defaming of the victims, etc. When various blogs first started revealing what suffering children were going through the first response from the leadership wasn’t “Look tone it down but we’ll deal with it” but rather “We have to shut those blogs down!”
        And now having admitted that those blogs were onto something we are told that the issue has been dealt with. All you need to go to the police is permission from a rabbi, possibly the same rabbi who swept the issue under the carpet before. Talk about giving the fox the keys to the hen house!
        As as for my community, yes look at Rav Druckman’s apology. Have we seen anything comparable from your side?

  4. Wow.

    Your nicely written piece is full of distortions….nothing to be proud of. Let me just cite several examples:

    1) “He was talking about blogging in general” — No he wasn’t. He made a statement to the effect that bloggers’ work in the area of abuse might be ‘yatza s’charo b’hefsedo’. Specifically, “The question is, if the fact that they created a degree of change is worth the cost.” IOW, changing our reactions and behavior towards the abuse and destruction of children, may not be worth the cost of blogging. And you defend this?

    2) “A single instance of failure” — Surely you jest, or are completely unaware of the path of destruction the ‘gedolim’ have wrought over decades with respect to child abuse in the community, and it’s cover up over all those years.

    Generally, Mr. Haredi, I must comment on the puzzling perspective you display regarding Judaism. You quote Judge Blackstone, but fail to reconcile such an attitude with Bamidbar 35:33-34. And it’s already too clear: abuse was covered up for ‘chofer’…..not to protect the innocent. And also, how you non-chalantly claim that a person is to be judged by the preponderance of his deeds.
    Perhaps in shamayim, that is precisely how one is judged. But where has there EVER in our religion been an affirmative defense of, “Hey, I’m basically a good guy”. Maybe you should read through Shmos 21:14.

    The cat is out of the bag. Rabbis have spent decades participating in one of the biggest cover ups of child abuse ever, rivaling that of the Catholic church. Thank G-d for some normal, decent, poshute yidden….who took the reins from these ‘gedolim’, and addressed a cancerous malignancy head-on. Zwiebel even called it, “putting the issue on the front burner”. The rabbis, the gedolim, couldn’t find their way to doing that. your average Joe on the street knew better than they did…..or maybe just had the courage of the conviction of a true yid.

    Nothing to be proud of, certainly not on their end.

    • Daniel,

      1)You are simply misreading his statements. what he means about “worth the cost” is referring to the entire blogging enterprise. In other words, is it worth have a blogosphere in general, with all the bad associated with it, in order to accomplish what they’ve accomplished with this specific issue. As I compared in the OP, was the Red Army a worthwhile creation because it liberated the camps? The answer to both? NO.

      To me this is 100% clear what he meant. That you choose to misinterpret his words so that you can get outrageously outraged is your prerogative but says nothing about Rabbi Zwiebel.

      2) Again, I was referring to all the other “single instances” that bloggers regularly use to destroy peoples reputations. BTW, if this has been going on for as many years as you claim then you realize that you are attacking R’ Moshe Feinstein, R’ Yakov Kamenetsky etc. since they were the gedolim at the time? You are also attacking the Rav considering that MO also had it’s coverups at the time.

      You misrepresent my position. I’ve made it clear that “kofer” in this situation is unacceptable. As for Blackstone, see the article I quoted to see that it IS the Torah way. I was also referring to the need for reasonable suspicion, which you conflate with those who have already passed that test.

      As for judging people on this world:
      1) Dan lekaf zechus
      2) a talmid chacham who has sinned at night is assumed to have done teshuva
      3) al taden, do not judge your friend until you you arrive at his place (avos) which the mefarshim explain to mean that you should NEVER judge anyone, considering that you will NEVER arrive at his place.

      Besides, you miss the gist of my point. If we operate under the assumption that failure in one area is enough to disqualify, then blogs are abject failures, due to their nefarious actions in many areas.

      As for your final comment, balderdash.
      1) MO rabbis have as well, as have priests, teachers and pretty much every community. Get off your high horse.
      2) Rabbis in general have not engaged in coverups “for decades” a very few have and should be run out of town. The majority’s failure is one of inaction, and a grave failure it is.

      By continuing to make outlandish, false and sweeping condemnations you undermine your own professed cause because to the Haredi on the street you appear to be nothing more than the usual anti-Haredi crank. Not saying that you are, but that is what we see when there is no balance no perspective, no strategy, by those supposedly trying to better this situation.

      Advocates need to decide: do you want to help the children or do you want to destroy the Haredi community? If it’s the former, you will succeed. The latter? You will fail, utterly.

          • Have you acquitted him already?
            He’s been indicted and evidence has been requested by the court. The rabbis are obstructing the process of determining his guilt or innocence.
            If you hold that one cannot cooperate with the authorities until a person has already been tried and convicted, then by circular logic one can never cooperate with the authorities.
            Is that the position you are trying to defend?

              • You’re not answering my question.
                Let me rephrase it.
                In your opinion, what justifies withholding evidence from this court proceeding?
                The accusation has already been made, so any argument about not accusing innocent people doesn’t hold water. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and if the justice system is not allowed to take its course, no one can ever be proven guilty. Or exonerated.
                I never said I didn’t care about the possibility of Weberman’s innocence. You are making assumptions and putting words in my mouth.

  5. Since Zweibel is correct, and blogs are a bastion of lashon hara and bitul zman, this ought to be your last post,right?

    Oh, that’s right I forgot – the rulings rendered at the asifa and Zweibel’s opinion don’t apply to you. You can use the internet and blog all you want. Just like the Agudah, your incredible hypocracy simply means that nobody- not even hard-core chareidim- will take you seriously.

      • You know, you’ve been beating around the bush on this question so much that I’m getting dizzy. I looked at BK 83a. Your concrete argument for blogging, when it should be completely assur for you as you tell it, is an allusion at best. Are you “breeding a dog on a leash”???

        Come clean, my friend, come clean. Spell it out.

      • wasn’t me – I am actually asking genuinely, for informational purposes.
        but wondering why he gets a response and I don’t.
        what does it say on Bava Kama 83a?

      • Classic – Gemara talking about learning Chachma Yevanis. Story that everyone who learned Chachma Yevanis died except rabbi shimon ben gamliel and his brother (they learned yevanis and didn’t die), The gemara says that since they were close to the King so he could do it (for shalom).

        Sounds to me like HAP is saying that he has super secret permission from rabbanim to defend hareidim and that it is muttar for him.

        the hypocrisy continues, but now with pretty lame excuses

        I justify looking at salacious material on the internet because it is for shalom bayis

        • Thx for the clarification.

          So HAP, why are we hiding behind allusions to unrelated gemaras, dodging the issue, etc.

          Just spit it out, plain as day – what justification do you have, in light of all you’ve written about Daas Torah, internet, bloggers, etc, in blogging on the internet?

    • This is not a pircha; he is entitled to use the medium of those who are mevazeh torah to destroy them from their own medium. AS a kabbalistic phrase “mineh ubey abah lishodot bey nargah”.

  6. I am getting very tired of people lumping “the bloggers” into one unit. There are so very many different blogs out there just in the Jewish sphere, that don’t even remotely deal with issues or topics that have any link to R’ Zweibel’s triumvirate of evil. This kind of myopic thinking is getting ridiculous and laughable. Like thundering about and excoriating the “evil, poisonous Internet”, as if you can distill “the internet” and its uses to something concrete and finite.
    Blogs accomplish many, many different things; God knows, there are millions of them!! How can anyone on earth lump them all together???

      • Wow. How disingenuous of you!
        So the entire blogosphere can be boiled down to :
        1. Blogs that incite
        2. Blogs that share recipes and other inane items
        You need to get out more …

  7. You are hoisting yourself by your own petard by bringing up the Rubashkin case. Oh, his case is different, b/c he did a lot of good, while, yes, admittedly, he is a criminal. But he’s different than Lansky and Capone who… also did good deeds in their lifetime… but were also criminals…

    Hmm…

    • Rubashkin was a man with thirty years of good deeds who may have commited bank fraud. Bloggers have 10-15 years of churban who may commit a good deed.

      Sure, that makes him a Lansky.

      I would be happy to debate you but you clearly don’t get the point I was making.

      • No, I did. I’m just removing the moral judgement.
        Both guys did good things, both did bad. Obviously, one may have been more “bad” than the other. Doesn’t make one a saint and one a sinner.
        Yes, there were some blogs tearing down SMR because of an ‘indiscretion’, w/o mentioning the good the guy did. But it wasn’t EVERY blog. I think that the hagiography and pedestal-raising got way, way too out of hand, and that’s what bothered most people.
        Ditto for Martin Grossman. World of good in prison. Minor ‘indiscretion’ back in his crazy younger days…

  8. Didn’t Rav Elyashiv recently give a psak that people should go directly to the police instead of to the Rabbi?

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