Friday, January 4, 2008

Shabbat Ideas - January 4, 2008

It is Friday, I am back to work and sorry to miss a few weeks but I needed it. Anyway I am very happy and hopeful about the future so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for January 4, 2008:

Obama did it! I was hopeful, but now I am pumped.
Huckabee is unelectable and the Jews won’t like him either
Here comes Bloomberg
Lantos is sick but resolute
JVoices Ends Strike and a Tree Fell in the Forest…no one heard but the Forward
Funny piece on the strike.

I have been out of the loop for a while as a Jewish blogger and thought I might even retire from this world of “ego and swagger” but it is times like these that remind me why I blog in the first place. Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote a piece that was picked up the j. in Nor Cal. In this op-ed he decries the entire Internet but specifically blogs and Jewish blogs in particular.

It is not surprising to see Rabbi Shafran go off the handle about blogging. It is true many Jewish bloggers do violate Jewish values in their posts. No question. However why is the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America so upset about blogs? Because he can’t control them.

This has very little to do about values and very much to do about power dynamics. Radical Orthodoxy is out to stop divergent views. Anyone who reads the likes of Kvetcher, Failed Messiah or even DovBear knows that alternative views within the Orthodox community are frowned upon.

But this isn't the core argument. Rabbi Shafran is out to stop one particular group of bloggers. Here is a jewel from his piece:
Many blogs have become showcases for carefully concocted stews of truth and falsehood well stirred and generously seasoned with gall and spleen. The Jewish sites among them like to malign guilty and innocent people alike — extra points for Orthodox Jews and triple score for rabbis.

I am sure Rabbi Shafran is attacking those in the community who have had the guts to stand up and point the finger at those who are sexually molesting little boys at Yeshiva. He goes on:
Truth may be “an absolute defense” in American libel law, but not in Jewish law; true statements are precisely the focus of the prohibition of lashon hora. It might strike some as strange, but the Torah teaches us that the evil of such speech is inherent, not a function of falsehood.

Where is the gall and spleen directed at the Baltimore Jewish Times? That newspaper has a long and well researched section on rabbinic malfeasance in the region? Much of their discovery was started by bloggers.

The thing that gets to me here is that not only is this a power play, it is fueled by fear. Studies upon studies say that young people are interested in using the Internet as a way to connect to other people and traditions in new exciting ways. This is luddite mentality only serves to hurt the Radical Orthodox movements.

Outside of pointing the finger without providing a source (so to save face not to violate any sort of Jewish value) Rabbi Shafran is perpetuating the same things he says he is against. The blogs are simply a bunch of soap boxes. There are millions of them and most are awful. Most people know that they are just a bunch of crazies with Internet connections...but they are people to be respected.

Just like those who would walk across the park to avoid the wack on the soap box, most people stay away from the wacks with the keyboards.

Shabbat Shalom

No comments: