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Everybody agrees that slander is a terrible thing. To paraphrase the late great Rabbi Isaac Bernstein it is "halachically indefensible and morally reprehensible". There is no argument about this.

Last week I received an email from a friend. He said "You should go to this site and do something about it" and sent a link. I went there. I am STILL shaking!!

Murder. Simply murderous. Our sages teach us that Lashon Hara is tantamount to murder. It kills three parties - the speaker, listener and subject. It is compared to the three cardinal sins. A person who speaks lashon hara deserves to be thrown to the dogs. There are countless statements of Chazal to this effect.

What shocked me was not what this person wrote. He is angry and bitter and although he is still religious, Yiras Shomayim is clearly not his dominant quality. What was so shocking is to see how many people visit this site and the level of the discourse. He had just posted and he already had well over 100 comments filled with Lashon Hara, foul language and an appalling way of relating to each other. It would make an anti-semite proud.


Sweetest friends - I have failed.

ה' הטוב יכפר בעדי

Rav Ehrman-

I was a student in your yeshiva several years ago, and though we did not have much to do with another, I remember only hearing wonderful things about you. You were definitely one of the favorite rebbeim when I was there.

I am writing in response to your posting about the blog (which I won't name here, out of respect to you) that has caused you such consternation. Like you, I have been been reading it occasionally, and I have even posted a few anonymous comments.

Suffice it to say, I support their cause, and accept their justification of lashon hara l'toeles as legitimate; if I didn't feel that all of the requirements of "l'toeles" were met, then I would be the first one to object. Rabbi Mark Dratch of JSafe wrote a very well-reasoned, halachic article about the topic that I would do no justice in attempting to repeat here, so I will just provide the link and you can decide for yourself if his arguments hold water: http://jsafe.org/pdfs/Lashon%20Hara%20and%20Abuse.pdf

What troubled me most in your critique of the blog is the contention that the site's founder is lacking in Yiras Shamayim. That is an awfully daring leap, Rav Ehrman. It would seem to suggest a belief in the divinity of rabbis, for if criticizing a rabbi is indicative of an absence of fear of God, then rabbis are on par with God. Or at the very least, they reside in some sphere of holiness above that of laymen like myself, and more to the point, above reproach.

That is not a Jewish belief, Rav Ehrman. From my day school education and beyond, I have been taught to question everything, especially my rabbanim. There is nothing more Jewish than testing preconceived notions, and challenging the status quo. Indeed, Jewish history is bursting with examples of everyone (rabbis and laymen) questioning everyone else. Judaism, unlike many other religions, is based on more than simple dogma. Ours is a marketplace of ideas, and the best ones tend to succeed. That is a great source of pride for me, as it should be for all Jews. That you believe rabbis should be shielded from criticism tells me that, and I say this with all due respect, you and I exist on very different planes of thought.

But we are wading a bit too much in the abstract, and so I would like to shift this discussion (or diatribe, rather) to a more concrete example. You contend that rabbis, as a general rule, should be shielded from criticism. I do not, and here is an example of behavior I find very much reproachable. A story posted on the blog in question relates how Rav Bina once told a student whose mother had passed away and whose father had remarried that men who remarry after losing their wives must have never loved the first wife. Forget for a moment the cruel insensitivity of the remark uttered in the presence of a student whose father had just married after losing his wife, the student's mother: it's simply not true, and you of all people, Rav Ehrman, should know that. Your Wikipedia page says that you are a pupil of the Tolner Rebbe. When the first Tolner Rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Twersky (father of the Meor Eynayim), lost his wife and then remarried, was that a sign that Reb Dovid never loved his first wife? The Tolner Rebbe, his wife, his children, and his grandchildren would be rolling in their graves if they had heard such a thing! And especially so if they knew it was uttered in the presence of a boy in that very situation.

Chassidism, of which you are an adherent, centers around the belief that Judaism is about more than rigid, intimidating laws and personalities. It is about love, inclusiveness, and bringing people together. Chassidim invented the concept of "kiruv", which, as you know, derives from the Hebrew word for "close." Yet you toil under the employ of a man so anathema to such a philosophy, a man who humiliates, and berates, and does so all in the name of a higher purpose: chinuch. What a crock. What a shame!

The abuse that I suffered at the hands of Rav Bina is virtually unforgivable. And the inaction of the rabbis who were around for said abuse, rabbis who did nothing to stop it, (you included Rav Ehrman), equally so.

You close your post saying "I have failed". I think you left out a very crucial word: you. You have failed me.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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