Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Meaning What He Says

The subject of whether BH Obama is good for the Jews or bad for the Jews has been an ongoing topic of conversation since he first became a serious contender for the presidency of the United States and will continue long after he's turfed out of office in 2012.  Reecently the Cross Currents gang has gone at it with Rav Yonasan Rosenblum and Rav Avi Shafran trading gentle barbs on the subject.  Rav Rosenblum has been insistent that President Obama is bad for the Jews and has brought up copious examples to support his position.  Rav Shafran, a man who would promote the Toronto Maple Leafs as the next Stanley Cup champions if paid enough, has tried to counter with superficial examples
The purpose of this post isn't to try and justify either position.  My opinion is that BH Obama is bad for the Jews, except when he needs their votes.  Given the chance, he would quickly sell Israel up to the river to its enemies but the complexities of the US governmental system, an intrasigence on the part of Israel's enemies to accept anything other than a 110% surrender and that niggling need to get re-elected every so often has prevented him from living out his dream.  But I digress.
The point I wish to make is contained in Rav Shafran's latest post on the subject, one full of the usual double-speak and "aren't I wonderful" content he considers to be standard things to include.  The title, Getting A Second Opinion, is full of wonderful paeans to diverse ways of thinking and need to consult them:
What brings the thought to mind is the reaction some readers had to a column that appeared in this space several weeks ago. In it, I sought to stress the importance of having all the relevant information when taking political positions – using President Obama’s record as an example, pointing out a number of laudable, but largely unrecognized, decisions he has made regarding Israel and religious rights.
Among the large number of responses to the essay I received were some from people (admirers and detractors of Mr. Obama alike) who related that they had indeed been unaware of the information I had cited, and who thanked me for the essay’s message. Others seemed to miss the message but praised or berated me (depending on their personal feelings about the president) for “defending” Mr. Obama.
My intention, though, was not to judge the president one way or the other, only to point out that judgments require – and so often lack – all relevant information. The vehement negative responses, though, reminded me of a different, if related, imperative of reasoned discourse: the willingness to recognize that different people can have different perspectives.
The Gemara teaches that “just as people’s faces all differ, so do their attitudes.” The Kotzker is said to have commented on that truth with a question: “Can you imagine disdaining someone because his face doesn’t resemble yours?”
Sounds great until you scroll down a few lines to find:
Comments are closed.
Yes, Rav Shafran is all for diverse opinions.  He just doesn't want to actually hear about them from you.


Bob Miller said...

There is a potential conflict between:

1. The need to speak the truth openly, and

2. The need to maintain some constructive dialogue between American Orthodox Jews and the US Government.

Spokesmen for American Jewish organizations may be more concerned about 2. than most Jews are. Knowing the specific situations and pressures these organizations face, we can better understand what their spokesmen say in public.

I'm very uneasy about allowing so many postings lately that are barred to reader comments. It's lucky for the truth squad that Rabbi Rosenblum had the standing in that forum to be able to respond with his article.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

As far as i've sseen (but I haven't checked closely) it's only Rav Shafran that routinely refuses comments. The rest of the posts are just heaviliy censored to prevent protests or disagreements from being seen.

Bob Miller said...

I don't see really flaming disputes there, but there is frequently plenty of give and take. If a contributor always wants to bar comments, as is true in this case, he owes it to the readers to get all his facts straight. We've all heard talks from the podium or pulpit where the listeners had no right of reply to controversial statements; it's not pretty.

Anonymous said...

I hope you realize that your attack on Rabbi Miller of the Toronto Kollel is why the Maple Leafs don't have a chance,

Garnel Ironheart said...

On the contrary, the Moshiach can't come until they win the Stanley Cup so it's their fault we're arguing about this in golus in the first place.

SJ said...

>> Yes, Rav Shafran is all for diverse opinions. He just doesn't want to actually hear about them from you.

They're unprepared for the avalanche of skeptics, OTDers, and atheists who would be all too happy to jump on them if they opened up to the free market of ideas.

Bob Miller said...

They are not unprepared; they clearly know how to deal with this type of response. However, they have found ways in most cases to let the more constructive comments through.

This "avalanche" is a curse and not a blessing.