The Jewish Week reports the “breaking news” that R. Hershel Schachter has once again made irresponsible and controversial statements. From a YouTube clip taken at Yeshiva Hakotel R. Schachter was to have said:
First you have to know what the army is going to do. If the army is going to destroy Gush Katif, there’s no mitzvah to destroy Eretz Yisrael…If the army is going to give away Yerushalyim [Jerusalem], then I would tell everyone to resign from the army – I’d tell them to shoot the Rosh Hamemshalah [Prime Minister],” which prompted laughter from his audience…No one should go to the army if they [the army] are doing aveirus [sins]…We’re talking if the army is seeing to it that the country is secure, if they’re doing the right thing. I’m not sure if the army is doing the right thing…we have to look into that.
This is not the first time R. Schachter has made controversial or irresponsible statements, but rather one in a pattern of such remarks which leads us to the question of the viability of his Rabbinic leadership.
Here are some examples off the top of my head:
- The Jewish Week article reported that on a prior occasion R. Shachter said that “Jews and non-Jews ‘have different genes, DNA and instincts.'”
- Commenting on the first Edah conference in 1999, R. Schachter in a Parasha Shiur on Yitro questioned, “who gave them the right to speak” since “each one is a bigger am haaretz than the next” and heretics for not believing in “the spirit of the law“. The audio file was posted on YUTorah.org and promptly removed. However we managed to save a copy here (file is in real audio format, relevant part starts at 14:20).
- In 2004, R. Schachter offended many by comparing women to parrots and monkeys.
- Regarding the infamous Negiah.org – an Orthodox Union abstinence website which blatantly misrepresented Rabbinic law and equated rape victims with vegetarians – R. Schachter endorsed:
I have reviewed all the articles herein and I found them to be very powerful and fitting. It is quite appropriate to publicize words such as these in a style such as this – words that are straightforward for the sake of people with less background and words of encouragement that are agreeable and in a clean language for the sake of Observant Jews.
- At a 2006 medical ethics conference on brain death, R. Schachter argued against brain death as halakhic death such that removing a living heart organ donation is murder. However, once the patient has been “killed” we can still accept such transplants since the “donors” are dead anyway. R. Kenny Brander, sensing the audience’s shock at his rebbe’s remarks, quicky changed the topic to the intellectual and academic freedom offered by YU.
- A few days later, YU’s Commentator published an interview in which R. Schachter denounced YU’s curriculum, suggesting that certain “offensive” classes be taught in the first place.
In some instances R. Schachter stood by his remarks, other times students engaged in damage control. Here R. Schachter personally apologized:
Statements I made informally have been publicly excerpted this week. I deeply regret such statements and apologize for them. They were uttered spontaneously, off the cuff, and were not meant seriously. And, they do not, God forbid, represent my views. Jewish law demands respect for representatives of the Jewish government and the state of Israel.
Whether or not R. Schachter’s comments were meant seriously would have to be determined by watching the video itself – though it is currently unavailable. However, we should consider whether or not someone in R. Schachter’s assumed position has the luxury of making such remarks in the first place. The Torah is replete with warnings about careless speech especially from Rabbis. According to M. Avot 1:11, sages are supposed to be careful with their words lest they cause a desecration of God’s name. Rambam writes in Yesodei Hatorah 5:11 that the greater the status of the Rabbi – for example one for whom people sing songs – the greater the desecration of God’s name when he acts in an unbecoming manner.
The Jewish Week also reports a common theme among his apologists:
His defenders say he is naive, not mean-spirited, in part because he has little dealing with the community at large, cloistered within the study halls of Yeshiva. They say he speaks casually in class, unaware of the larger ramifications of his remarks.
But even this anonymous defense seems to contradict R. Schachter’s reputation as a religious authority. A necessary requirement of being a posek is through the interaction with the Jewish community. This is the primary difference between Rav and Rosh Yeshiva. The Rav is involved in the community and presumably will work with the community based on its needs. The Rosh Yeshiva’s cloistered life leads to precisely such “naive” errors in judgment.
In the ebony tower of the Yeshiva, Roshei Yeshiva are particularly susceptible to hubris. Not only are they rarely if ever challenged in a shiur or lecture, it is considered disrespectful to do so. Roshei Yeshiva have no obligation to defend their assumptions or positions, but rather it is the responsibility of the student to absorb and regurgitate as if the words came from Sinai itself. In this environment, such statements routinely pass not only as normal, but are to be interpreted as the authentic outlook of Judaism. In other words, this is an unsurprising consequence of a world without honest debate or the need for justification and accountability.
But thanks to the internet statements said in the privacy of the classroom are now publicized worldwide, thus exposing the rest of the world to the actual hashkafa of the Rabbis. Given that shiurim and lectures are not private confidential conversations, one should assume a “gadol batorah” would heed the warning of Kohelet 10:20, “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.” In other words, for Torah the assumption of privacy is not an excuse for carelessness – certainly not for an assumed leader.
Rabbis are human and as such are prone to making mistakes and even saying the occasional boneheaded remark. I’ve been known to make several myself – quite a few of which are on this blog, and I’ve also defended and clarified positions based on feedback and counter arguments. To be sure, I’ve never claimed to be nor have I ever been mistaken for being a gadol. But on the other hand R. Schachter has long advocated an exclusive halakhic system where only an arbitrarilly select few are “entitled to an opinion.” Given R. Schachter’s halakhic writings one would presume he is – or at least considers himself to be – among them. As such, perhaps we should expect R. Schachter to hold himself to a higher standard.
But since the status of a gadol is determined more by social consensus than aptitude, the real question is for those who perpetually venerate R. Schachter as an indisputable authority worthy of special status. If after all these years R. Schachter is still this out of touch with the “outside world,” then can he truly be a representative to the Orthodox world at large?
Realistically speaking, those who have committed themselves to R. Schachter are likely to continue praising his greatness and issuing apologetics and justification as needed. But for those who have not made such a personal investment, the question of what qualifies someone a gadol should be strongly reconsidered.
Update: Here are some more examples:
- Senior YU Rabbi Says He Didn’t Try To Stop Child Sex Abuse At YU’s High School Because He Could Not Be Sure Allegations Met Halakhic Threshold For Truth
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Rabbi Yuter – I realize that you are upset, but I think that if you’ll re-read the Jewish Week article you linked to you will find that R. Schachter’s alleged remarks about the relative DNA of Jews and non-Jews were not made in the comments at Yeshivat HaKotel, but rather even prior to his comments on the reading of the ketuba.
I also must say, I find your linking R. Schachter’s words to the Christian New Testament unworthy of the tone of debate I’ve come to expect on this blog.
I too strongly disagree with R. Schachter’s views on the permissibility of accepting organs from patients he himself views as having been murdered for those very organs. But it’s a justifiable opinion which he’s entitled to hold. It does not call in to question ” the viability of his Rabbinic leadership.” And, unless you’ve actually spoken with him about it, I don’t see how you can claim to know what R. Brander was thinking. To me, it sounded more like he was trying to explain how R. Schachter and R. Tendler could have such diametrically opposed views and still represent the YU derech in Torah.
I fail to see what in his statements would be out of character for a charedi gadol. These comments are quite tame compared to what we routinely hear from, say, R’ Ovadiah Yosef. Those of us who weren’t of an essentially charedi bent always looked elsewhere for leadership, didn’t we?
I was considering whether to post on my own blog about this topic. On the one hand, I think that there is misjudgment at play here. On the other hand, blogging about it brings further attention, and unfortunately most readers are not skilled enough to fully understand the issues.
I originally was going to comment about whether the genes bit was related to this particular incident, but I see you clarified that. Here is my off-the-cuff reaction: The genes bit was misunderstood way back when it was reported, and there was some incredible ignorance of the substance of his remarks in the analyses of them. (E.g. an op ed telling Rav Schachter that he should be aware that all mankind was created betzelem elokim, when Rav Schachter said *exactly* that, and was basing himself on pirkei avot and the distinction between chaviv adom shenivra betzelem, as opposed to yisrael who are called banim lamakom; he extended this distinction which led to the spiritual DNA idea, which was misunderstood. And e.g. how people did not know of the halachic concept of maaseh kof in terms of the monkeys concept, and miscast the meaning of the statement in articles.) Of course, these misunderstandings by the media form the basis of background for any new incident, and the ignorance in interpreting those statements are not reanalyzed each time. Thus, this latest article cited those two previous media-created controversies.
The “defense” of Rav Schachter in that article seemed unfair to me, and seemed more of an indictment. Perhaps some folk did “defend” him by saying he was naive, cloistered, clueless, but that he did not mean it meanly. But that is not how others defended him — at least not how I have, and would.
Rav Schachter is certainly on the ball. He is not naive. You or I might disagree with him, but he is not naive.
What he is, though, is *funny*. He is entertaining, and he compacts a whole lot of otherwise dry and voluminous material into a relatively short shiur, but manages to keep (some) students awake for it, and engaged. This is an important trait in an educator.
Incorporating humor into lectures is important, and has Talmudic precedent. Sometimes, humor can misfire. The most recent one was a very dumb comment, but I know I have made dumb comments myself. (Indeed, all this might be a very dumb comment.) But that is what happens sometimes when one tries to be entertaining in many speeches, and one speaks off the cuff. The monkey/parrot comment was also an engaging way of presenting the idea of maaseh kof. (I have another example of such mishearing/misunderstanding of a joke which fits into this pattern, but will not mention it here.)
However, one new factor is Youtube, and the Internet, and YUTorah, which brings shiurim, which were addressed to a small group who you know could receive/understand the comment, to a much larger group of people, many of whom are either PC-sensitive or will misunderstand it. This is the same problem inherent in translating the Torah, or translating the Talmud.
In light of the new reality in the Internet age, there seems to be at least different approaches one can take:
1) Ban recording devices.
2) Deliver every shiur as if it were being said to a wide audience, and worry about how every single statement might be taken and understood or misinterpreted by that wider audience. The result would be paralysis and much more boring shiurim — both in terms of avoiding controversial positions as well as avoiding all off-the-cuff humor.
3) Deliver it normally, and if people take it the wrong way, or if you make an error, correct the record or correct yourself.
4) Deliberately provoke by repeatedly making provocational statements.
I don’t think that choice (3) is necessarily the wrong approach, if one wants to be an effective educator and educate a lot of talmidim. Of course, Rav Schachter has other roles as well, and taking approach (3) might interfere with fulfilling those other roles.
is it significant that the song being sung is about a melekh ?
there was also that “Amalek” incident
First I’d like to apologize for anyone whose comments did not go through. The current system apparently works only 30% of the time or so, though registering with Typekey is still fine. I’m not trying to censor anyone and will respond in greater detail when I have a chance.
“But when dealing with students, especially many who will become future Rabbis/Talmidim and thus will refer back to him as an authority, in my opinion, there is no such leeway for off the cuff remarks.”
Perhaps by this particular remark, which Rav Schachter himself admitted should not have been said, and which apparently bothered one of the attendees enough to compel him to post it online. But the fact that everyone laughed strongly suggests (to me) that they correctly interpreted it as a joke. The problem by the monkey and parrot was not interpretation by students, but by outside people, who were *already* offended by the fact that Rav Schachter was against women reading the ketuba, and who did not have this background. The same for the spiritual DNA. Having listened to that shiur, I think it was clear to the people in the shiur based on context that this was a melitza based on a contrast set up in Pirkei Avot, not intended to argue for physical genetic superiority of the Jewish race. The people in the shiur would not make the mistake. People only exposed to the soundbite, after having it interpreted by someone who did not understand the shiur, would make that error.
Specifically, it was Steven I. Weiss on protocols, a while back. See this post:
which was a followup to this:
But the *talmidim* would not make that mistake.
I remember hearing how Rabbi Tendler was very annoyed at how the New York Times misinterpreted him in terms of copepods. He told the reporter they were visible to the naked eye, but that you could see them better. He used a microscope that had 10X, 50X, and 100X magnification (or something like that — I made up the specific numbers) and then used the 10X magnification setting. But the reporter reported how one could see them under a microscope with 100X setting.
“think of this post as a serious question regarding ase lecha rav – what compels a person to revere a particular Rabbi, how is such reverence expressed or imposed on other people, and to what extent is someone’s reverence an excuse for abdicating critical thought or a motivation for cognitive dissonance.”
That is a very interesting question, and quite worthy of serious thought. Unfortunately, it has very little to do with you original post, which seems to me to be grasping at straws to make the unfortunate comment which R. Schachter has rightly apologized for part of some larger pattern of failings on his part.
I listened to the Yitro shiur you saved (thank you for that) and I’m not sure what was so terrible about his remarks. He made the point that it doesn’t make sense for someone who can’t figure out when to stop saying kaddish to go around claiming to be a rabbinic authority on anything. Sounds reasonable to me. R. Schachter was also just caught on tape saying that if a woman knows the halacha, she’s entitled to pasken.
I hope this is not disrespectful to say, but I get the impression that the Yuter Rabbis have it in for R. Schachter in a way that goes beyond a difference in derech ha’psak.
Josh – Thanks again for the comments. Sometimes students can be discriminating between jokes and knowing how to put things in proper context, other times they don’t.
Dov – I hear the concerns and normally I’m not nearly as vocal about such as my father. In fact, I do realize how this post was actually out of the ordinary for this blog. (A more typical post should be forthcoming). The singling out here and now is for a few reasons aside from the immediate relevance. RHS occupies an unusual position of on one hand assuming a mantle of a “gadol” in the Charedi definition, but for the Modern Orthodox world. There are obvious differences between them of which people should be aware.
What was offensive about his comments regarding the Edah conference is that he claims that only certain people with a cognizance of “the spirit of the law” have “a right to speak” – and similar sentiments are explained elsewhere. Ignoring for the moment the theological underpinnings of this statement, if only a select few have this “right to speak,” then one should expect they do so with extreme precision and care.
Dov – Thanks for the comment, and I apologize again for the comment getting rejected.
Regarding your points:
1. Thank you for the correction about DNA comment. It’s corrected and added to the other section of past comments.
2. The issue about New Testament study is itself a defensible position. My point in including it here, based on the linked post, is that RHS has often benefited from Academic Freedom, yet advocates censoring classes from the curriculum. In other words, not even allowing for a discussion or a rebuttal of contrary ideas. In contrast, R. Tendler used to say in shiur that YU *should* teach subjects like Bible Criticism since in that would allow the Rabbis the opportunity to respond. When presented with threatening or contradictory ideas, we could either confront, address, and reject on merits, or we can suppress. The ethos of suppression is a theme of my criticism since it permeates the culture to the area of religious discussions as well.
3. Having been at the Medical Ethics conference, there was a sense of revolt from the mixed audience at hearing that if someone believes that an action was murder we could simply brush it off afterwards and take the heart. R. Brander made his comments immediately following RHS remarks, well before R. Tendler spoke.
The comments about the government are one in a long line of missteps. Statements which might be acceptable in a shiur setting – because of the nature of the shiur – are often careless outside of it. Students who are in his shiur are conditions to have a reflexive acceptance of whomever is lecturing with an implied religious ethic against critical evaluation.
Let’s even take the current statement over serving in the army. That too is a defensible – albeit controversial – position, provided someone can present a coherent argument and defend it against rebuttals. However, I’ve been in enough of his and other shiurim where Rabbis frequently make such off the cuff remarks intended for a limited audience i.e. thinking that it’s private or safer environment when positions are not to be challenged and thus no obligation for rational justifications.
I fully realize that it’s difficult for a posek to speak to many audiences at once and wrote about that in the Perils of Pesak post. But when dealing with students, especially many who will become future Rabbis/Talmidim and thus will refer back to him as an authority, in my opinion, there is no such leeway for off the cuff remarks. If RHS realizes the implicit effect his words will have then it is at worst duplicitous. If he doesn’t realize how his students perceive his words, or he doesn’t attempt to clarify and correct then that is a serious pedagogic flaw or simply another instance of “naivet?.”
Anyone can defend a positions based on the merits, assuming of course there is the freedom to do so. But that being the case, individuals should then be free to accept whichever positions make the most sense to them, or in the words of Rambam, “mi shehada’at noteh” (Introduction to Mishna Torah) and decide for themselves who is really a gadol.
If you like, think of this post as a serious question regarding ase lecha rav – what compels a person to revere a particular Rabbi, how is such reverence expressed or imposed on other people, and to what extent is someone’s reverence an excuse for abdicating critical thought or a motivation for cognitive dissonance.
Or for the short version, people should be aware and honest of what they believe and why regardless of what they choose. This in of itself is contrary to the prevalent theory of gedolim, or an “unmaking” of the entire system.
Shlomo – If R. Schachter is mimicking the Chareidi arguments then we ought to dispel the classification that RHS is an appropriate leader for “Modern Orthodoxy” – despite his YU affiliation.
Josh – I appreciate your comments, especially coming from an actual talmid of RHS. On this point I’m also reminding of something R. Tendler said in shiur that he was reluctant to speak Torah to reporters for fear of misunderstanding what he said. In fact he also complained that reporters consistently misquoted him in just about all areas.
I did reference in the post the ethos against assuming words won’t get out, but I also realize the pedagogic need for teaching differently to different audiences and what is appropriate for one audience is not appropriate for another. But to do this on a global level, Rambam’s instructions are essential in that one needs to know where everyone else is and anticipate how his words may be interpreted. Take the “spiritual DNA” comment for example. The same idea could be expressed in any number of different ways and great care must be taken to anticipate what possible reactions might be (within reason at least – people hear what they want to hear regardless).
Given the cited admonitions for against such speech I would offer another suggestion based on my post in terms of changing the model of rhetoric. Make whatever statement you like to whatever audience, but be prepared to defend them not just to prove your right, but with the intent of *convincing* other people on their terms – wherever possible. This however requires a very mindset than “rabbi paskens, people listen” which is the prevalent Yeshiva model.
“The singling out here and now is for a few reasons aside from the immediate relevance.”
“What was offensive about his comments regarding the Edah conference is that he claims that only certain people with a cognizance of “the spirit of the law” have “a right to speak””
I don’t understand. As far as I can see, R. Schachter’s claim is that in order for your halachic opinion to carry any weight you need to have a certain level of learning and yirat shamaim, and that some questions demand a higher level of these than others. I don’t think anybody disagrees with this.
The only question is who fits the bill.
After reading your post I was pretty put off by your seeming to go out of your way to find RHS that could be interpreted as offensive by social liberals. Then I read the comments, and saw you make your point in a much more reasoned and reasonable way – and may even agree with some of it.
I’m far from a fan of gedolim and the veneration of roshei yeshiva, but I do have lots of respect for RHS. For one thing, early in his career he realized that his sharp comments at times offended people and therefore stepped back from the pulpit. I know there are two versions to the story of his disassociation with KAJ of Paramus, but he did not again take a pulpit. That is admirable.
As for the specific quotes, Josh and others have already shown how many were (intentionally) misunderstood. RHS didn’t compare women to monkeys, he just pointed out that reading the ketubah aloud is a meaningless act devoid of significance. Regarding the still live negiah.org, you are offended because the site advocates abstinence rather than safe sex, but I daresay your position is defensible from a strictly halachic viewpoint. And Edah certainly hosted (among others) people aptly described as ‘amei ha’aretz. Etc. Most of these quotes have to be taken far out context to be offensive, and it is no secret that the Jewish Week is an expert in doing just that.
Josh, R Tendler has made many outrageous comments as well (much more outrageous than this one), I don’t see you criticizing him. There seems to be a focus you have on RHS that seems out of place.
Dov – You’re comment and question of “who fits the bill” is an interesting one, as well as the corollary questions of how does one make those decisions and of course, who gets to be that judge. This however makes for a circular discussion in that if people have a right to make a decision for themselves whom to follow, as in “ase lecha Rav,” then the very fact that people listen to them gives them the right to speak, not unlike the source for RHS’s own authority. If we follow the system of “gedolim” as constructed, then if people have the autonomy to treat RHS as a gadol, then by the same principle other people should have the same autonomy to choose their own gedolim, thereby giving them “the right to speak.”
Regardless, in today’s day and age there is no “real” smikha in the sense that there is no uber-rabbi status recognized by the halakhic system such that someone has more of an innate “right” than anyone else to speak, or conversely suppress speech.
By no means am I suggesting that all Rabbis are qualified or competent (regardless of denomination). But if you consider someone’s opinions to be incorrect, wrong, or harmful then it is your responsibility to demonstrate why they are wrong. If you can present a pattern of incompetence *then* you disregard them out of hand i.e. you *prove* why they’re not part of the discussion and do so on the merits of arguments and sources.
To simply claim without reason or evidence that someone is incorrect because they lack the right to speak assumes a halakhic system based on Weberian charismatic authority. The dangers of Spirit of the Law in this sort of rhetoric is that it assumes that a spiritually endowed individual has the ability to intuit the “true” will of God, independent of what any text says. This is overtly contrary to Torah, and as linked in the post, is an idea not of Torah origin. (In fact RHS said himself in the audio file, “all other religions have a spirit of the law” and then deduced that Judaism must have it as well).
Shmilda – Thanks for your comments. I realize that given more time I could have done a better job, but alas, I’m out of practice in writing higher quality quicker. In truth I’ve covered some of these ideas elsewhere on the site in different contexts, but it might be time for a formal revision (including a long lost paper I once did on Da’as Torah). It just takes more time, energy, and focus than I have to give right now, unless of course someone out there wants to sponsor me? :-)
Shaya – First, the flaws of one Rabbi in no way mitigate the flaws of another. R. Tendler has indeed had his share of remarks and he has been duly criticized for those as well. One difference is that many of R. Tendler’s critics are actually his students (myself included when warranted) and I think you will find fewer apologists for him. Also, R. Tendler never set himself up as a gadol and will at least have a discussion to prove his point.
This is an important attitudinal difference and approach to Torah. RHS wanted to suppress Edah in denying a right to speak, R. Tendler said in shiur that he actually *wanted* to speak there to provide an alternate view. Naturally Edah didn’t quite welcome him, which isn’t surprising of as I’ve explained regarding pluralism, but it does show how the two approach discourse and the role of the rabbinic persona in Torah.
I’ll have to recheck it. I thought he said that all other law codes have a spirit of the law, not that all other religions.
“This is overtly contrary to Torah, and as linked in the post, is an idea not of Torah origin. (In fact RHS said himself in the audio file, “all other religions have a spirit of the law” and then deduced that Judaism must have it as well).”
I just listened again to the shiur, and he says what I thought he said. Namely:
“This is overtly contrary to Torah, and as linked in the post, is an idea not of Torah origin. (In fact RHS said himself in the audio file, “all other religions have a spirit of the law” and then deduced that Judaism must have it as well).”
It is easy to mishear, because Rav Schachter speaks quickly. But perhaps it demonstrates the general ease at which one can accidentally take something out of context or slightly misquoted and run with it. But listen from 14 minutes and 30 seconds into the audio.
This is just the logical grounding of his idea. But then he proceeds to develop it out of Torah sources. You might disagree with his development of it, but he does proceed to develop this out of Bava Metziah, midrashim, derashot on vaAhavta et hashem elokecha and on sheal avicha veyagedcha, on ki dovim dodecha miyayin. He says at one point “That is what the Talmud says… sheal avicha veyagedcha –
they will be able to tell you what the spirit of the law is.” So it does not seem that he is drawing it in its entirety from other religions (rather not at all), or even more accurately, entirely from comparisons with other legal systems.
BTW, are you against the field of comparative religion in general? That is somewhat surprising. ;)
The quote from Rav Schachter should not have been a requote of you, but rather:
“They don’t believe there is a spirit of the law. This law is different from all other laws. The Torah hakedosha is different. Every other law has a spirit of the law, except das (?) Torah doesn’t have any neshama. It only has a guf. A dead guf. Only dead letters. It doesn’t have any spirit. Mah nishtana ha-law hazeh mikol ha-laws, that this law doesn’t have a spirit of the law? Of course it has a spirit of the law. But those am aratzim don’t know what the spirit of the law is, you have to ask – sheal avicha veyegedcha….”
All the best,
Side point: You once wrote a paper on da’as torah? I’m sure it would be a very interesting read.
Shmilda – Yeah, in my second semester at YU (must have been Spring 1997) for a writing class. I might get around to revising it given the perpetual questions of rabbinic authority. It would have to be done carefully to avoid a pointless flamewar.
might be of interest in regards to “gadol” concept.
Someone mentioned ROY so I will quote R’ Rakefet-Rothkoff regarding this incident:
To understand RHS you have to understand ROY. They ahve exactly the same personality. naar hayiti vegam zakanti. they have both at the same time. they are zekeinim behochma but they have the that youthful ???? part of being young is that you say whats on your mind. they are the same. if you see their track record you see how insightful that is.
I think he is correct. To better understand ROY, in the context of the world and culture in which he lives, see this post on Mail-Jewish by Shoshana Boublil:
I think what you have shown more than anything else is that Gary Rosenblatt has a vandetta against Rav Schachter, and has a long history of taking his words out of context. Lets go through the history:
1) the “amalek” thing. Rav Schachter makes a comment on a Friday night in YU about chutzpa etc. typifying Amalek, and that this problem exists in our community today. Someone who was present at the shiur decides that Rav Schachter was referring to Edah and extends his words to mean that Rav Schachter says that Edah is Amalek (even though Rav Schachter did NOT say either one of those things), and calls Gary Rosenblat. Rosenblat happily prints the story, even though it is based on inaccurate and unsubstantiated heresay
2) the “DNA” thing – the complete audio is at http://www.torahweb.org/audioFrameset.html?audio=rsch_050204 – while describing being Am Hanivchar Rav Schachter loosely uses “DNA” as a way of describing that Jews are different. If you listen to the shiur, there is no reason to think he means in a biological sense. However, Rosenblat is again happy to take his words out of context
3) the “monkeys” thing – see the editor’s note at http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2004/parsha/rsch_dvorim2.html Once again, Rosenblat takes a quote out of context and attacks.
4) the comment about “shooting” – in America we all say to each other all the time “I am going to kill you” and other such similar phrases when we don’t seriously mean it. Rav Schachter used a common coloquialism, those present laughed as he obviously didn’t mean it literally, but once again Rosenbalt is happy to have an oportunity to attack. Rav Schachter himself apologized realizing that it could be easily misunderstood and he shouldn’t have said it.
In short – in the world of Gary Rosenblat and his buddies, not only is there no room for being dan Rav Schachter lekaf zechus when something can be understood two different ways, but every opportunity is taken to twist his words to mean the worst thing possible. See the Chafetz Chaim’s writings on the requirement to dan ALL Jews lkaf zechus, and to dan talmedei chachamim lekaf zechus even it looks MORE LIKELY that they DID do something wrong.
I am dumbfounded by the antagonism directed towards R. Schacter on this matter.
We are under seige, and we have a clear halachic duty to save ourselves and our brethren.
If there was more direct and honest speech such as his, Connie Rice would not be forcing these on us at this time:
Yahoo news report today, March 30, 2008:
The agreement includes:
_removing 50 travel barriers in and around Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Ramallah.
_dismantling of one permanent roadblock.
_deploying 700 Jordanian-trained Palestinian police in Jenin and allowing them to take delivery of armored vehicles.
_raising the the number of Palestinian businessmen allowed into Israel to 1,500 from 1,000.
_increasing the number of work permits for Palestinian laborers by 5,000 from its current number of 18,500.
_building new housing for Palestinians in 25 villages.
_connecting Palestinian villages to the Israeli power grid.
_Israeli support for large-scale economic development programs and encouragement of foreign investment.
Anonymous – I agree that people often make such colloquialisms, but the point of my post is that “gedolim” don’t have that luxury given that most people do in fact take those words much more seriously. Or need I remind you that it’s only been about 14.5 years or so since Rabin was shot.
Elisheva – If you want to argue against the government, there are plenty of reasons and positions one can take. I am by no means saying that anyone, gedolim included, do not have a right to speak out against the government. What I am saying is that there are ways to do so both in terms of content and forum. Israel is a particularly sensitive subject with the “right position” largely confusing individual’s religious sensibilities and socio-political and economic realities. RHS is entitled to his opinion, but then he should be willing to argue and defend it. Potshots at the government or flippantly inciting insubordination is not becoming of a “gadol” – especially one who is not living in Israel.
Concerning the Amalek incident … I was there… it was a Shabbos in YU with speakers Rav Schachter, R’ Lamm and R’ Simon. They spoke in that order after Shabbat night dinner.
I don’t remember every word of the speech (it was a decade ago at least) but I do remember that Rav Schachter most certainly compared Edah to Amalek. And you’d have to be naive (which Rav Schachter is not) to not be able to see where THAT could go. I know of at least one other person – a good friend of yours Josh – who was there who had the same impression I did.
I also remember that R’ Lamm then spoke counter to R’ Schachter’s point.
Josh, if you want, I’ll confirm this to you privately under my own name.
Anonymous, I don’t know if you were at the meal or not. I can tell you that R’ Schachter said it and that many there that night had the same interpretation as I. If the laughter is enough to tell he was joking about the Prime Minister, then what does it mean that few thought he was joking about the comparison to Amalek? Rather then deny what he said, it would be far better for you to get him to retract.
I also saw him once appear to refuse to shake the hand of R’ Avi Weiss in the YU beit midrash on one Purim (before YCT) but I do admit it is technically possible he did not see the outstretched hand to him.
Those are what I witnessed. I’ve heard of one other recurrent thing he did in shiur that you didn’t mention that has so-far had even more real impact then all the rest.
Lets be honest: R’ Schachter thinks that those who now self-identify as ‘Open Orthodox’ are not Orthodox. You don’t speak like he has for over a decade about people you have respectful disagreement with. Hence his statements against those who led Edah and his actions now concerning YCT.
After R’ Avi Weiss, RHS is second-most responsible for there now being a YCT.
It is reasonable to assume he wants a schism within MO, almost down the middle, and for the ‘Open Orthodox’ to be considered outside the pale (assuming the Open Orthodox do not capitulate to his world view).
And if you are against schism then actions that lead to it should be far more troubling then the words accompanying those actions.
Regarding the issue of using the organs of those “killed” for those very organs, I’ve just seen that Rav Ahron Soloveichik held the identical view. And I’ve never heard anyone describe him as morally insensitive.
I was shocked, but such are the facts.
I think it’s horrendous that you take words and expressions totally out of context.