Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Revenge of the Kannoim

The introduction to this posting was yesterday's "Lag Ba'Omer Critical Analysis Kefira - Extinguished."

I could "fisk" the following article, but it's too sad. What was once a serious critical analysis of the history of Lag Ba'Omer -- the author has now backpedaled on every single research point he raised and is now cowering from the wrath of the kannoim who have made his life a living hell.

If there's one singular aspect of the JBlogosphere we should all respect, it's the pursuit of truth. Whether it's the GodolHador blog looking for answers, DovBear and Hirhurim defending R' Natan Slifkin, or the Holy Hyrax crying out for help to regain and strengthen his emuna -- it is all based on a quest for truth.

Granted, I'm lucky -- I don't have kannoim going after me, trying to out me, trying to destroy my life, calling around the clock, etc., so I should probably go easy on R' Kosman. It's just depressing that after such a fine work of research, that he has to bury it just to keep his family safe and secure from the Kannoim.

Following is a translation of Please Do Not Extinguish -- A Response By Avraham Kosman, which appeared in this past weekend's Makor Rishon Newspaper, 5th Sivan, June 1, 2006.

In response to Chagai Segal's article, Go Ahead and Douse (Diyokan, issue 457 [sections previously translated by Jameel here]) which was publicized based on an interview with me, I would like to clarify the following:

The headlines and subheadlines which appeared in the article: Go Ahead and Douse, Cease-Fire, The Mistake which led to Lag Ba'Omer of Today, According to Him [J@TM: Kosman] a Chain of Typographical Mistakes and Incorrect Masora turned the 18th of Iyar into what it is Today and Erased the Original Intent of Lag Ba'Omer -- a Fast Day, completely contradict my opinion.

I did not intend to extinguish any bonfire or G-d forbid minimize the joy that is customarily celebrated on that day. I personally participate in bonfires with my family [on Lag Ba'Omer] and study the works of R' Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) on that day. We aren't dealing with a "Chain of Typographical Mistakes and Incorrect Masora", but a single transcribal duplication error in the copying of a manuscript of of R' Shimon Bar Yochai.

Concerning the Hilula [yahrtzeit joyous celebration] of Rashbi, one must emphasize that even according to both versions of the writings of Rashbi שמת רשבי or שמחתו [please see original article to understand this] there is reason to celebrate in Meiron on this day, and G-d forbid should one think that the celebration is based on a mistake.

Additionally, as I wrote concerning the Chatam Sofer's opinion [that he does not advocate joyous celebrations on a yahrtzeit] he quotes several halachik reasons -- the main one being the incorrect minimization of Yerushalayim. My intent was not to be posek halacha and poke my head among the Gedolei Yisrael.

Accordingly, the responsa of "Sheim Aryeh" which wrote that under no circumstances should there be a joyous celebration on the day of the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik, since the very concept contradicts the gemara which states one should even fast on a day like that. He continues writing that the only exception for a hilula is based on the one in Meiron on Lag Ba'Omer, on the date of death of the Rashbi. However, after the manuscript of R' Chaim Vital was found it is clear that this is not the case and there is no rejoicing on the day of his death. [huh?]

There are many differences between the old customs of Bavel and those of early Eretz Yisrael. Apparently, the fast commemorating the death of Yehoshua Bin Nun was observed in Eretz Yisrael [on Lag Ba'Omer] as is documented in Eretz Yisrael sources (the piyutim of R' Eliezer HaKalir, R' Pinchas HaCohen and others). In Bavel, the day was commemorated by stopping the ritual customs of mourning and not saying tachanun (as brought down in Sefer Halachot Gedolot, the death of Yehoshua Bin Nun was the 26th of Nissan, which is the custom according to Bavel Jewry) therefore, it's impossible to unequivocally state that the original intent of Lag Ba'Omer was a fast day.

In light of this, the following precise statement must be made concerning Lag Ba'Omer: It is not a holiday (chag) but a day of rejoicing. Of course, I never intended to unseat the minhagim of Israel -- that the custom is to observe this day as one of happiness.

The article then goes on to explain other issues from the previous article; Kosman believes that Kriyat Yam Suf was a miracle, and please ignore his previous scientific explanation; He explains why Rabbi Akiva's students may not have been Bar Kochba's soldiers; and he denounces the Ma'ariv newspaper for using his article as a basis for their own article, "The Bar Kochba Code".

Paraphrasing from the last paragraph:

My intent was a serious academic article with photographic reproductions of the different manuscripts. By agreeing to the original interview, I thought I was lighting a small bonfire in honor of Rashbi and Yerushalayim.

Instead, the dramatic air of the article and headlines/subheadlines became a volatile mixture of gunpowder which rocked the entire religious world. The figurative explosion caused by the article and its media exposure was not something I ever intended.

As a result, I was forced to disconnect all the phone and phone lines in my home. Those wishing to defame me never asked my personal opinion on the matter and spat fire and brimstone at me through their pens and news media, and behind the computer screens a conflagration of flame arose higher and higher.

All I wanted was to honor the Rashbi and Yerushalayim...

Chagai Segal Responds: R' Kosman was given the rare opportunity to proofread the article twice before publication (except for the primary and secondary headlines). R' Kosman expressed satisfaction with the article and the accuracy of the details.

I assume that had R' Kosman anticipated the massive reaction that ensued as a result of the publication of the article, he may have raised additional points and comments.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


westbankmama said...

Jameel - you have to keep in mind that the author writes the body of the article, but the editors write the head and sub-headlines. Even if Chagai Segel says that the author had the chance to proofread the article, it does NOT mean that he saw the headlines. He probably would not have approved of those. The corrections that he makes in the second article (one typo vs. many, for example)are trying to put what he said in the correct perspective. The paper made it sound a lot more controversian than it was - which is what papers do to make long articles more attractive to readers (the same way we choose our blog post titles carefully). Unfortunately people don't know how to read critically anymore, and others go off the deep end and threaten people for having different opinions.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

WBM: The original article was based on an interview. The article was then proofread word for word (twice) and approved by R' Kosman.

Granted, the headline may have been sensationalist, but the entire content and detail of the article was approved.

Segal hit the nail on the head -- had R' Kosman thought this would be explosive, or that the kannoim would go after him, I'm sure he would have done things differently. (or not agreed to be interviewed at all!)

I thought the article (actually, both of them) could have been written alot better, hence my translation is often awkward (the Hebrew originals were far from well written).

However, the second article (followup) made me roll my eyes and groan when he writes, "I go to bonfires with my family on Lag BaOmer and even learn the teachings of the Rashbi"

Give me a break...that is SO lame. Does he also BBQ shishlik AND hotdogs? How else will we know if he observes Lag BaOmer correctly? And if his kids come home earlier than 1:00 AM on Lag BaOmer night and they don't smell of smoke -- we know they are going off the derech faster than you can say "who is a Jew"

David Guttmann said...

This is pathetic. It is because of leaders and scholars putting their own comfort and wellbeing ahead of truth that we are in the state we are now. What happened with Ykov hadin et hahar?

rockofgalilee said...

I think we should start a support group for rabbis who make controversial statements.
There has got to be a way to force intellectual debate fro these guys instead of allowing them to threaten who they want and how they want just because they disagree.

rockofgalilee said...

I would even go as far as to say start bashing and harassing rabbis publicly if they don't respond to an author's response to their ban.

Scraps said...

Oy Hashem. I feel really bad for him. It probably hurt him a lot to write that second article, denying his own words, his own intense research. But if he and his family were being threatened, who can blame him? Not everyone has the strength to handle a situation like that and not back down.

Josh M. said...

Is the article available online?

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I feel bad for him and don't blame him for caving to pressure which I didn't feel myself.

However, it must be said that so long as this cat and mouse game goes on we are collectively in trouble. There are ever more extreme positions to please. Why don't we all just pander to Neturei Karta or Lev Tahor?

Anonymous said...

But the more people who cower,the stronger the kanoim become.-and the more dangerous they become.

YMedad said...

see http://www.makorrishon.net/show.asp?id=12451

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