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Jan 28, 2007

another book ban

Another book has been banned this past week. This ban for some reason mostly flew in under the radar, probably because the author is dead.

The Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, was one of the gedolei haposkim of our generation who passed away recently. He wrote a monumental work called the Tzitz Eliezer, after which he was "nicknamed", along with a number of other books. He was 89 when he passed away and was a contemporary with Rav Elyashiv, as they sat on the same beis din together for a long period of time, among many other connections.

His only son served as a Rav (affiliated with the Badat'z) of a neighborhood in Jerusalem until his own death last year.

The Tzitz Eliezer wrote a set of books in 1952 called "Hilchot Medina" - halachos of the State [of Israel], dealing with issues involving Medinat Yisrael and rulership.

The book has been out of print for a long time now and is considered fairly rare. In honor of the completion of the shloshim (30 day mourning) period of Rav Waldenberg's passing, the 3-volume set has recently been reprinted, to the dismay of the family. They feel that the original sefer should remain out of print due to the conflict it effects with their Haredi lifestyle. They do not wish to be portrayed, nor for the Tzitz Eliezer to be portrayed, as anything but Haredi, but this book being reprinted threatens that image.

The Bada"tz has assured the book, possibly at the urging of the family members against it, and has banned it. In addition, they have sent out enforcers to local bookshops in Meah Shearim-Geula and in Bnei Brak to make sure the reprinted books are taken off the shelf.

Let us not forget that in the time of the Rambam they banned his books and even burned them because they did not like his style. Only later were they able to look back objectively and realize he was a gadol b'torah and his books have taken the place they deserve in the Jewish world.

I am not a big fan of book bannings. Unless a book was written with mistakes and has no founding, there is no reason to ban a book. Let the readers decide whether they like and agree with the thoughts presented in the book or not.

Yet now the Badat'z has banned the book of a gadol, because they did not like the way it portrayed him. Rav Waldenberg, as a Rav dealing in practical halacha, felt it important to write a sefer dealing with the halachic issues involved in running a jewish state. Yet that conflicts with the anti-Israel stance of the Badat'z and therefore they ban it.

Does that mean the book is assur to read? Are they objectively banning a book because they say it is mistaken and will lead someone astray? Is it just against their worldview and they have to ban it?

As a simple person, how am I supposed to deal with such bans?

I am a product of the yeshiva world. I spent my whole life until the age of 26 in yeshiva. As a result of that I naturally trust the gedolim. I have a problem when people say, gadol x is influenced by the askanim around him, gadol y never actually said what has been attributed to him, gadol z signs letters that he has no idea what they are about, gadol q bans books without reading them, etc.

I have a hard time believing that these gedolim are so great yet are so easily influenced and have no idea what is going on around them.

I am torn when I see something from a big Rav (gadol) that makes absolutely no sense and then people say he had no idea, or he never really did/said that.

I do not know how to deal with that situation.

Yet here we have a sefer being banned just because it puts some people into a dilemma because it makes it look like the State is something that has halachic consequences.

Do we trust these great Rabbis that there really are problems with the book in question (otherwise they could have simply ignored it) or do we say that they are influenced by subjective motives?

And this is just the latest example. Every letter that gets put up on the walls of Yerushalayim assuring something or somebody in the name of Rav Elyashiv or Rav somebody or other puts me in the same dilemma. Are these bans real and to be taken seriously or does somebody just have an identity crisis?

Do the gedolim really know what is going on or are they really so easily influenced and so quick to sign their names on pieces of paper without actually paying attention what the agenda is?

I am torn with no good answers.

16 comments:

  1. I have noticed that you have a very open outlook on things, despite your yeshivish background. To some extent we all live with tensions regarding our hashkafa and where we fit. Good luck working it out.

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  2. I very often feel the same way. A good example was the big sheitel catastrophe a few years ago. We were praising those women who were buring their wigs in the streets, but waiting only a week longer we found it wasn't a prominent as we thought.
    This is always a major concern for me, and the state of israel issues are only part of it. Why can't we admit to where we are? yes the government stinks, but maybe if the chareidim started to push more and respect it more, they would get more say in knesset (though i admit that's a little hard to swallow).
    A book like this is something i would like to see. What are the halachos surrounding it? What are the issues that we need to know about?
    In truth, my best answer to these situations are to personally ask either my rav, or a gadol and see how they respond. Many of these signs could be for the greater public, but for me it's not an issue. Stuff like that.
    Usually i just wait it out instead.

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  3. The Badatz did not forbid the book. The Badatz received a "teviah" from the Waldenberg family asking for the book not to be published. The Badatz issued a restraining order until the family and the publisher come to a din Torah. You can see the letter at seforim.blogspot.com

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  4. I have heard from a rabbinic source "in the know" that the reason for the issur is the topic of the book and not the financial aspect of who owns the rights to the book. I mentioned in the post that the badat'z assured it at the instigation of the family. I do not deny that. The fact is they assured the book and the reason is the content in conflict with haredi style.

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  5. Isn't that the underlying problem with (the) religion? The worldof the religion, all the rules and all the writings, are deeply intertwined. So much so that when we are faced with serious problems of contradictions, or human personality, or facts, or disagreement, then the whole thing becomes recognizable as a malleable human creation. Then you wonder if you really want to mortgage your whole life and all the choices you make to a world of rules created by human personality and needs.
    Good luck with your dillema. You know where I stand.

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  6. You didn't understand what I wrote. The Badatz issued a temporary injunction until the two sides come to a din torah and the matter is cleared up. This is not an issur.

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  7. "As a simple person, how am I supposed to deal with such bans?"

    ignore them. (but that's easy for me to say.)

    "Let us not forget that in the time of the Rambam they banned his books and even burned them . . ."

    if i remember correctly the denunciations of the rambam's writings led to the talmud being burned by the church.

    "I am torn with no good answers."

    from your perspective there can be no good answers in this specific case. you would like to preserve you unmitigated respect for all gedolim, past and present. but it seems to me that in this case someone is very wrong. either it was the tzitz eliezer for publishing the book to begin with or it is the current gedolim who want to "ban" it. only one side can be tight and they can't both come out of this scenario with unscathed reputations.

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  8. I wouldn't be too bothered. Buy several copies and sell them on eBay!
    I find that when Rabbanim assur books it means that there are much more important things going on in the Jewish world and bookbanning is only a distraction!

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  9. you are right but the issue is not the current ban. I am not really affected by it. The question is larger than the example. This ban is only an example (the most recent) of a situation that looks ridiculous but is in the name of the gedolim, so what do you do? hat is considered honest? what is true daas torah and not ulterior motive?

    Unless the anonymous commenter is right and it is all a money fight. If that gets resolved will they then allow the sefer to be printed? Is the money issue just an excuse to keep the uncomfortable book off the shelves?

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  10. Dan g - what is your opinion? You dont listen to these statements from gedolim? What do you hold then about these issues?

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  11. whats - dan is not religious and oes not listen to the fatwahs of gedolim regarding anything..

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  12. "To some extent we all live with tensions regarding our hashkafa and where we fit. Good luck working it out. "

    I share the above sentiments.

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  13. When a "gadol" who does not understand English bans a book written in English, the only possible conclusion is that he banned the book without reading it.

    Face it. The emperor has no clothes. Liberty, Equality, Senility. . . .

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  14. neander - you are right about that.

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  15. Rav Dovid Feinstein reads English pretty well, I'm sure. As does Rav Moshe Shapiro, Rav Scheinberg, Rav Weintraub.

    So when Gedoim, for very many years already, wrote haskamos to books written in English even though they didn't know how to read it, or even if they did they often did not actually read the book, but rather relied on others, that also should have been problematic to neandershort et al.

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  16. Rafi,

    I think the language here is an important point.

    What I think you misunderstand about secular jews is that we are not defined by "not being religious." Secular jews typically are defined by our pride in a sane judaism.

    You used the word "fatwah" and that is the most perfect explanation. A judaism that is nuanced to the extremest chumarhs may be labelled religious by the members of the group, but outsiders don't necsasarily agree. Some see the haredim as a perverted form of judism, a judaism more focused on bans and chumrahs and faulty logical constructs than a healthy and deep understanding.

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