Sunday, October 26, 2008

Response to Email: The Words of the Prophets are Written on the Hospital Walls (and Study Halls)

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel...

I received a personal email from a very close friend regarding my post on the Autistics. After stripping it of all personal content, I wish to present my response on-line.

He began by pasting this portion of the original post:

All of today's wigs are forbidden, not because of their being used for takrovet avodah zarah (which they confirm was and is a real Halachic issue) but because they do more to hinder the realization of tznius as opposed to enforcing it.

His comment was:

I think you treat the autistics too much like prophets. Even prophets can not tell us about Halachik issues based on their prophecy. Just because you find support for your ideas in their words is not reason to promote this kind of faith communication. I don't think this promotes the type of serious discussion of the issues that you are aiming for.
My response:

>>I think you treat the autistics too much like prophets.

The term "too much" that you inserted in this comment is superfluous. Your comment would be more accurately expressive if you would have said: I think you treat the autistics like prophets. Clearly, the issue is whether or not one is justified in treating them as prophets at any level. If the answer is "no", then any amount of advocacy is already "too much". If the answer is "yes", then there is no basis to assert that it is being done "too much". Arguably, it is not being done firmly enough!

To deal with the comment, my response is that I honestly don't know how we are to view these communications. I know that numerous rabbanim are against performing the FCs for the very reason that we shouldn't meddle with "Heavenly" forces (like אוב וידעוני and מעונן ומנחש) but not because they are without substance. Still, we have the renowned gemara in Bava Basra (12b) which says that "from the day of the destruction of the temple, prophecy was taken from the prophets and given to idiots (mentally impaired people) and children" to contend with and their claim is that they were sent to this world in this mentally impaired state to deliver these messages. And so, it may not be within our bounds to ignore them either.

As an associate of mine commented: למיחש בעי .

>> Even prophets can not tell us about Halachik issues based on their prophecy.

They themselves say that their purpose is to give us mussar and urge us to do teshuva. Not to pasken shailos. Therefore, I would say that these issues are not to be viewed as Halacha L'Maaseh but as general rebukes as to what is wrong with our society. Still and all, they do claim that a woman will not be allowed to greet Mashiach with a sheitel. Maybe they will be right!


>>Just because you find support for your ideas in their words…

I would prefer you do not use the term "your ideas" which intimates that I am expressing new ideas and making things up that have not already been expressed for centuries. The accurate term is "your hashkafos" meaning the widely accepted and long standing hashkafos of the chareidi world that I subscribe to. All I am doing is trying to get more subscribers.

>>… is not reason to promote this kind of faith communication.

I am in no way promoting the "faith communication". I am promoting the "your ideas" (or "hashkafos") that they are being supportive of.

>>I don't think this promotes the type of serious discussion of the issues that you are aiming for.

As you and I both agree, it lends support. It does not need to be taken further than that.

Let me repeat that my ultimate goal is to get more subscribers to what I - and the chareidi society in general - consider to be the authentic Torah based hashkafos. This alliance will not cause any subscribers to cancel their subscription and it does have the potential to bring in a few more. So -what is there to lose?

Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting.

Chezkel

6 comments:

joshwaxman said...

"They themselves say that their purpose is to give us mussar and urge us to do teshuva. Not to pasken shailos."

You mean like saying that one is forbidden to eat pizza and Coca Cola?
http://www.dani18.com/index.php?show=PEREK87H

Also, many of the things they have "conveyed" are sinat chinam and motzi shem ra about Gedolom, and about Jewish communities around the world. E.g., They have said nasty things about kollel wives, who go out to work. This is nastiness and self-smugness, not mussar.

Do you endorse this autistic statement, for example, from Ben Golden?
"Many work in offices, even frum offices, where adultery is common practice, where Tznius is forgotten almost completely. And this money is supposed to support Torah. And every bochur is looking for such a girl."

Ben Golden's father has said to me that Ben Golden is a pikeach, not an idiot. The gemara in Bava Batra is talking about a raving lunatic on the street corner, who does not know really what he is saying, but Hashem is putting an idea into the lunatic's head, which he expresses. See the example offered there. And see the example of the child giving prophecy. This is not the same as someone declaring calmly: "I have the status of a lunatic, so here is a prophecy from on high." And if some child did the same thing, calmly, I do not believe that you would feel obligated to listen to the "prophetic" words of the child.

Know also that there have been facilitated communications from Christian autistics, with messages of love from Jesus. If the methodology is accurate (which it is not), then you would need to contend with that as well.

Kol Tuv,
Josh

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Know also that there have been facilitated communications from Christian autistics, with messages of love from Jesus. If the methodology is accurate (which it is not), then you would need to contend with that as well.

Not defending this medium, just questioning the cogency of your counter-point:
Can't they can get messages from their god (lower case) and we from our G-d (upper case)?

Although it does raise the question of how on Earth we can verify that these kids are getting authentic messages from the right places and not ones from the "other side". If no gadol is willing to put his full reputation behind the authenticity of these messages, I wouldn't even be חושש for them.

joshwaxman said...

yes, someone suggested the sitra achara as the source for such messages as well. and good point about how we can distinguish.

(if Jesus, wouldn't he be honest in the Olam haEmes. Would he still try to mislead people? I don't know if the correct girsa in Gittin 57a about the sinners of Israel is really a reference to Jesus, but if so, he is not engaged in misleading people.)

i have seen enough video evidence to see the distinction between *real* facilitated communication and what these folks do. In this latter case, the facilitator, holding the autistic's hand, quickly points to letters on the Ouija board, dragging the autistic's hand, often to the appropriate letter even when the autistic is looking in the other direction or has his eyes closed. (In typical facilitated communication, if the facilitator holds the hand, it is as a support, but the autistic jerks the hand to the appropriate key and presses it. Looking at the contrast, it is just silly what the Jewish FC folks are doing.) These Jewish autistics claim that they can answer the question even when they have not heard it, because they can read the facilitator's mind.

These and other facts make me discard any theories of sitra achara. There is an obligation to be a thinking human being, and an honest analysis of the metzius is that the facilitator is the one coming up with the messages, deliberately or else unwittingly. And that is why chareidi autistics / facilitators come up with chareidi messages, Buddhist autistics and facilitators come up with Buddhist messages, and Christian autistics and facilitators come up with Christian messages. This is also why you can find contradictions in instructions between different autistics. The facilitators involved have different hashkafos.

Also worthy of note is that they suppress the non-facilitated communications with the autistics, because it would "confuse" people. See here:
http://parsha.blogspot.com/2007/11/further-proof-that-messianic.html

In reality, it is likely because they are saying things at odds with what the facilitator is saying.

My *guess* -- though I admit have no evidence of this -- is that many of these rabbanim who are saying that it is real but stay away because of Tamim Tihyeh issues are really taking a politically safe approach. They do not necessarily really believe it is real. But if it is possible to contain it in a way which will reduce machlokes, all the better. I know from personal experience how bitter it can get if you take a stand against them. It is viewed as an attack, and invites vilification of one who calls it nonsense. If this is indeed the case, then I do not believe it is the correct approach, because there will be people who will just listen to the (convenient) part that facilitated communication is real, and use that to bolster the message.

And again, if you really take the time to read through the autistic messages, you will find many things which are *terrible.* Firstly, false predictions, such that if it is prophecy, it is false prophecy. For example, they predicted the beginning of a major war in Israel on a specific date, at a specific hour and minute. And the time passed with nothing happening. Secondly, attacks on Gedolim who take stances different from them. (E.g. criticizing certain gedolim in Eretz Yisrael who said not to make vocal protests against the gay pride parade, responding by saying nasty things about them and how they are not real gedolim.) Thirdly, making halachic pronouncements. And yes, wigs and other things they discuss are *real* halachic issues, and there are legitimate halachic positions that modern wigs are indeed muttar, or assur. This is something to be decided by halachic authorities, not some yutz who has access to an autistic whose hand he can drag around. They are injecting themselves into a halachic discussion, and claiming that it is not a halachic discussion, because one cannot honestly say that wigs are permitted without making an error. And many other examples.

The worst part of all this, IMHO, is that they are setting themselves up as an alternate focus of Jewish leadership, giving direction and halachic advice, and claiming it is from on high. This then becomes an alternative to the authentic Jewish leadership in these matters, the rabbonim.

Kol Tuv,
Josh

G said...

There is an obligation to be a thinking human being,

You know Josh, if you aren't even going to try and stipulate to certain givens then there is really just no talking to you.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

Not to diminish any of your points above:
(if Jesus, wouldn't he be honest in the Olam haEmes. Would he still try to mislead people? I don't know if the correct girsa in Gittin 57a about the sinners of Israel is really a reference to Jesus, but if so, he is not engaged in misleading people.)

Rav Dessler derives from that very gemara in Gittin you quoted--from Titus' negative reaction to Onkelos' interest in converting-- that the essential personality of a person is not suddenly sanitzed and wiped clean in the afterlife.

On the contrary, suffering the defects in our personalities or experiencing the pleasure of their refinement is the very substance of the existence of the next world.

joshwaxman said...

it's a possible interpretation.

meanwhile, one of the people closely associated with these particular Jewish autistics responded to this particular argument in part by forwarding me a response from the "leader" of the New Age autistic movement, with whom he is in contact, a fellow who was fired for performing "FC" with autistics without the consent of their parents. The claim in that response was that Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc., are not really entirely true, but are reflections of some deeper New Age truth that the autistics have tapped into, and they are casting their words in appropriate terms for their target audience. A very hashkafically problematic position, IMHO.

KT,
Josh