Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Posts that I Haven't Published - (Updated from March 23)

It looks like the frequency of my posts is tapering down. Coincidentally, so is the traffic on my site-meter though I am not certain which is the cause of which. After all, if the "velt" is not interested in what I write (and can I blame them?) there is really not much point in writing it.

Of course, there are other reasons why I haven't been posting much lately. One is that quality writing requires a lot of time and concentration and there is just too much going on - Purim, Pesach, "work", learning sedarim, family issues (all those birthdays), simchas (including the one I am making), and income taxes - to afford me that kind of unfettered time. Unlike some very prominent bloggers, I do have a life outside of this blog (or at least I would like to). Also, unlike some very prominent bloggers, I do not beg readers to buy my book but I am starting to reconsider this policy.

Another issue is coming up with timely, relevant, and original subject matter that can inspire and interest my readers. Heck, anybody can plug in video clips of Kuni Lemel. Now, it's not that there isn't good subject matter. In fact some important topics are constantly being addressed by my "competitors" now and again (and again, and again, and...) but by the time I can formulate a potent post on the chareidi "spin", the topic is yesterday's news. This says that behind the scenes there are actually quite a few half-written posts on (formerly) hot topics that have never seen the dark of night. Some recent examples:

I was looking forward to Parshat Ki Tisah for months to discuss a very controversial subject but it got past me. I did not take into account that the week of Parshat Ki Tisah is usually the week of Purim and that I live in Yerushlayim. You see, the difference between Yerushalayim and the golus is that in the golus you have 2 days of Yom Tov and 1 day of Purim. Here in Yerushalayim we have 1 day of Yom Tuv and 2 days of Purim. So Purim on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday is rehab and - shoin! - it's already Shabbos.

And what was my topic? The topic, which is little discussed and little understood, is based on the pasuk: כל העבר על הפקדים מבן עשרים שנה ומעלה יתן תרומת ה and the topic is:

What is the Halachic draft age?

This question is not as easy as it looks. I have done a good deal of research on this but not as much as I need to so I am not really prepared to give this subject it's full due (has Hirhurim ever discussed it?). From what I have found so far I have reached the following conclusion:

There is no Halachic draft age.

What do I base this on? Simple. It's not anywhere in Halacha! Go find it. The Rambam does not breathe a word about it. And why not? Didn't he codify all of Shas? Yes he did!

You don't mean...?

Yes, I do. It isn't anywhere in Shas. Not even in the eighth perek of Sotah (I reviewed all 2 1/2 blatt).

But, what about Rashi in Shmos 30:14?

Rashi may not be saying what you think he is.

Stay tuned. I hope to write about it eventually, perhaps when it comes up again in Parshat BaMidbar (that won't be easy because the wedding is on 2 Sivan, IY"H). Incidentally, if anybody is actually reading this and has any source material, I would be very grateful to know about it.

A second recent post that hasn't been published was meant to address some of the discussion that appeared in 2 widely read blogs (here and here) about the Elchanan Bizaglow affair. In my assumed role as defender of the Chareidi position I cannot afford to shy away from addressing these matters. In this case I will address them to Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and Rabbi Harry Maryles who are much more outspoken than I.

Firstly, unlike Harry Maryles and Rabbi Horowitz, my policy is not to formulate judgments about controversial events and individuals unless the incriminating details are verified. This can only come from two sources - an objective observer at the scene or a voluntary confession from the accused.

Consequently, I will (and did) pass judgement on Bernie Madoff because he confessed to his scheme and pleaded guilty in an American court. I will not pass judgement on Yisroel Valis because he did not confess to anything (or, you may say, he does not confess that he confessed) nor were there any objective observers to the incident during or after. I will pass judgment on Naomi Ragen and Miriam Shears for their actions because they supplied a first hand account of their respective incidents. I will not pass judgement on the people who confronted them because they did not supply first hand accounts, nor are the accounts of their actions given by their counterparts objective (nor objectionable, in my opinion).

As far as the Bizaglow incident, beyond the fact that he pleaded guilty in a third world Israeli court, I don't know any other detail to be factual because I have not seen an account; not from him, nor his accuser, nor from anybody who observed the incident. As such, I am hesitant to judge it.

That said, I unfortunately can see the broad outline of the incident as being believable and , assuming it is factual, I, like Rabbi Horowitz, have no inclination to defend his actions. A vilda chaya is a vilda chaya.

Note - Speaking about half-finished posts, I am not done with this one but my writing time is up. I don't know when I will have time to get back and finish this post but I decided to push the Publish button on this anyway.


In the time since I first published this post on March 23, I have done a bit more research. One development is that I need to spell this fellow's name Buzaglo. The second development is that I saw a few other write-ups and one of which, at Yeshiva World News, indeed gave a partial first hand account from the accuser which gives me more leverage to be judgemental. I don't think I need to lend my voice that this is not the proper way to deal with a breech of modest behavior.

Nevertheless, what drew my attention was the title of Emes Ve-Emunah's post which was actually the title of a response written by Rabbi Horowitz in the comments of his own post - Blaming the Victim. It conveys a very deceptive impression that there was no breech of modest behavior. While we may all agree that the response in this case was inappropriate it is wrong and irresponsible to suggest that it wasn't a response to something and that there was no breech of decorum at all. At least 2 commenters on Rabbi Horowitz's post said it straight out and I am thirding the motion:

Nothing, but nothing, occurs in a vacuum.

When somebody gets hurt, in most cases they crossed somebody's red line and in many of these, they knew they were crossing somebody's red line. The problem is that many of us do not respect other people's or a community's red lines. This is exactly what Miriam Shears did and it earned her the distinction of being the only person to ever get in a fight on a bus going to the Kotel for netz. Despite what the good Rabbis think, there is no Tznius Patrol in Har Nof and certainly there is none on the Number 2 netz bus to the Kotel at 4:30 in the morning. It doesn't need one - as long as Mrs. Shears is not in town. And this is exactly what Naomi Ragen did as well. For this, she got the publicity she was looking for.

Crossing a red line is a passive-aggressive action - with the accent on the "aggressive" side. Aggressive actions foment aggressive reactions.

Inapproriate behavior triggers inappropriate responses.

And although, like Rabbis Maryles and Horowitz, I do not condone the reactions, unlike them, I do not either condone the behavior that triggers them.

Whitewashing the "victims" does just that. Making out the "victim" to look "whiter" than he or she actually is serves to make the "aggressor" look blacker than he or she actually is. And I do not accept that. Though this may not be so relevant in the Buzaglo incident, it is very relevant in many other incidents and on a general scale.

So I set out to write a post to discuss what is and isn't a victim and what is and isn't a thug. From a sense of logic and from the point of view of the Torah. But, before I was done, the headlines moved on. It is close to being a finished product and I still may post it, but based on who got more stars on Rabbi Horowitz's comments column and who got less, I do not expect to find many willing readers.

Please tell me if I my expectation is wrong.

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