Yated Ne’eman recently published a screed against Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. You can read the article over at Yeshiva World. By now many bloggers have weighed in with various comments, so I’ll keep my comments brief.
In case anyone wasn’t sure, I do not agree with the content of Yated’s critique, nor do I agree with their Jewish philosophy in general. I was happy to see the article though, because it proves to me that Chovevei has survived its infancy and has made enough of an impact nationally that it must be reckoned with by the Orthodox world. That’s quite an achievement, regardless of whether you applaud or decry it.
In the spirit of respectful disagreement I’m not going to critique the Yated’s critique, nor will I try to disprove or refute their arguments. What I am going to do is air my disappointment.
My feelings towards the Chareidi community are conflicted and complex, but I always felt that I could at least rely on Chareidim to be serious learners. And that’s why I’m so disappointed. The article I read was just filled with poor logic. I’m not talking about making good deductions from debatable premises. I’m talking about using kindergarten logic!
Here’s a quick example:
Rabbi Berman also writes, “When [certain rabbanim] favored Orthodoxyworking [sic] alongside Reform in common community organizations, they saw the divine command of ahavat Yisrael as applying to all Jews.”
He is clearly insinuating that Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and all of the Roshei Yeshiva who unequivocally prohibited collaboration with these movements were lacking in the requisite Ahavas Yisroel! He also implies that Rabbi Soloveitchik’s love of his fellow Jews was incomplete. Does Rabbi Berman really believe that he and his sympathizers have a monopoly on Ahavas Yisroel?
Is it even possible to clearly insinuate something? Isn’t that oxymoronic? But beyond the diction problems that litter the article, the logic is missing. Rabbi Berman’s claim that working with Jews of the Reform community is a fulfillment of the mitzvah to love Jews is turned into an attack on rabbanim both dead and living! Surely one could understand Rabbi Berman’s comments in a way that did not cast aspersions on anyone at all!
Here’s another example:
YCT seems to have unlimited resources, does not charge tuition and even gives financial stipends to its students. It is obviously being funded by those who seek to be called Orthodox, but who are interested in halacha conforming to their pre-conceived notions of what is right and not the opposite.
Reading this, one would think that YCT has thousands of students who are supported by wealty patrons who are seeking a hechsher for whatever chazer-treif they are involved in. The truth is that Chovevei accepts no more than twenty students per year, and stipends are often not even sufficient to cover housing costs in New York City. Is the situation different in a Chareidi yeshiva? I’m no expert, but it was my understanding that Chareidi yeshivot and kollels also offered salaries to smicha students. As for the donors, they include such notable and honorable persons as Howard Jonas, Dov Zakheim, and Charles Feldman, and serve on the boards of organizations including Yeshiva University, Yad Vashem, Ohr Torah Stone Institute, and the Bet-Din of America.
I’ll tell you what really broke it for me though. All the above, egregious as it is, might be forgivable, given how passionately the Yated feels about YCT. Consider how they frame their decision to run the article:
It was with great reservation and heartache that we undertook to expose to our readers to [sic] the terribly destructive conduct of YCT. It is a responsibility that we undertook with great trepidation. As a Torah newspaper we hesitate to expose and pain our readership by enumerating the terribly distressing things contained within this article.
No, what’s unforgivable, what’s so damaging to credibility, what makes all the indifferent editing, haphazard grammar, fuzzy logic and regrettable diction pale in comparison is this:
Nevertheless, after watching YCT develop and spread with barely a peep of public outcry from the Modern / Centrist Orthodox establishment we felt compelled by the injunction of our sages, that state, “Bemakom she’ein ish, hishtadel lihiyos ish: In a place where there are no leaders; strive to be a leader (Avos 2-6).”
How can you write a piece like this and then get the one piece of actual Torah you cite wrong? The actual quote, as I thought every Orthodox Jew knew is “Uve’makom she’ein anashim hishtadel lihiyot ish!” One thing is certain, just because you try to be an ish, a leader, doesn’t mean that you succeed. Come on! Get the basics right! How are you not ashamed! How dare you disrespect your audience like that? What a failure! Do you take us for fools? Exactly how many people laid eyes on this article before it was published? How serious could your reservations truly have been if you let such a glaring error through? The Yated isn’t a blog, and its making a serious charge. Is it too much to ask that you at least quote correctly from Pirkei Avot?
What have I learned? Only this: whatever the Yated is on about, it is not about defending truth, or Torah, and it is not about macholoket l’shem shamayim – a dispute for the sake of Heaven. Truly, it’s a pity that such a beautiful community that is so devoted to avodat Hashem has such a disgraceful mouthpiece.