Wednesday, March 15, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Response To Comments

I feel the need to respond to Halakhically Concerned comments, if only to explain myself and set the record straight. You can read the complete comment here, I'll be putting my responses through the comments:
It's rather startling how ostensibly Torah-observant Jews blow off rather strict Halakhic proscriptions regarding Lashon HaRa, Motzi Shem Rah or, particularly in this case, lo teylech rachil b'Amecha. Attempting to rationalize it by one's motives ("I have nothing against HAFTR or Rambam") is irrelevant to the Halakhic analysis.
I agree that we see a lot of rationalization amongst Jews who try to get around halachic obligations. I haven't done so. My comment about having nothing against HAFTR or Rambam (I have close family that have attended both, and I myself attended one of the institutions and have only the best of memories) was not an attempt at rationalization. MoC took down his post, and said, in part '"[I] have a lot of ill feelings towards HAFTR (for personal reasons) and I have let those feelings run amok." I only wrote the above sentance to inform readers that I feel like I can approach it in a more objective manner, as I have no ill feelings towards either school.
Put rather simply, Torah Jews do not engage in idle gossip. Are parents, students, supporters of institutions proscribed from discussing a merger of these institutions when they may be affected by it - of course not, but those discussions should be conducted carefully and only for a legitimate purpose (which might well be to either support or defeat a proposed merger). Mere by-standers have nothing to add to this discussion and should say nothing.
The assumption in the above paragraph should be obvious, that my discussion of the potential merger is either not being conducted carefully or is not for a legitimate purpose. I take exception to both. I've done much thinking about the merger, both pro and con. The legitimate purpose is to have the best possible result, whether that results in one, two, or three institutions, catering to coed or single sex education.

To an extent, all discussions involve mere bystanders who have nothing to add to the conversation. First, where you draw the line as to who constitutes a "bystander" with "nothing to add"? What you consider a bystander, I may not. Should it be confined to those in the 5T only? What about newly married couples, who, at the very least, won't have children in the school system for 4-5 years? Parents who donate to the schools? Older individuals who want the community to remain in a certain state, but who don't have children directly in the school system?

Even bystanders (who HC erroneously describes as those with nothing to add, as opposed to those not impacted) come up with ideas and present novel concepts. As an alum, I may not have a direct interest, but I can surely conduct an analysis and offer an idea or two. But yes, if we go with HC's definition, he's right. People with nothing to add and no impact should spend their time more productively instead of just spewing.

Perhaps I'm projecting, but I'm not sure HC would make the same comments if the story was in the Nassau Herald, 5T Jewish Times, or another local paper. Blogs are a new medium, one which many are uncomfortable with, but which have the singular ability to reach more people than any medium in recent history. With power comes responsibility, but it should be realized that just because you don't like the result doesn't mean I've abdicated my responsibility.
Even potentially impacted parties should wait to speak until the specifics of the proposed matter are revealed. To put it bluntly, purveyors of gossip are, Halakhically, distributors of a prohibited substance, one which is destructive to our community and personally destructive to the pusher. We all slip in our shmirat haLashon - I'm no holier than thou - but to do so in the face of express warnings about the Halakhic implications and in the wake of the brave and Torah-true decision of another blogger to desist from this conduct, is simply unforgiveable.
Go re-read why MoC pulled down his posts. That doesn't mean that his action is the only "Torah-true" decision (although, if you're bent on nothing being posted about it, I can see why you might say that taking it down is the only Torah-true approach). And the comments here haven't bogged down into Rambam or HAFTR bashing.

HC is both right and wrong. If you come across sensitive information, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it to publish? If the information might damage national security, do you sit on it, or not? There is no black and white answer. The downside (or upside) of all this talk might be the failure of a deal between Rambam and HAFTR. That's not a responsibility to bear lightly.
But specifics are shaped by discussion. The boards of HAFTR and Rambam may well be reading these blogs, listening to reader and teacher feedback, students and parental remarks. From all that, a new, better deal might arise, or a disaster may be averted. Indeed, if parents and others waited until the actual single proposal was on the table, they may miss the opportunity to suggest changes. Once both schools have locked into a choice, they may be unwilling to change.

Much scholarship is based on theory. On situations, cases, and proposals which have yet to arise. Does that mean we ignore it? Or do we analyze it, see the possible ups and downs, prepare a framework for discussion, so that when the actual plan is released, we're not blindsided? I'm all for the former.
All I can say to Romach is, please use your blog to spread useful and productive thought to our community, not gossip.
I don't see it as being gossip. First, analysis in and of itself is not gossip. What the plans are, what the possibilities are, do not fall under gossip either. Let's also remember, both HAFTR and Rambam have sent out emails confirming that some sort of discussion is underway. In addition, the only ones who could have "leaked" the information are those who were entrusted with its secrecy. One could argue they've waived the secrecy by telling the secret (I know, I know, its not a great argument).

In short, there's nothing wrong with discussing the ideas of a possible merger, along with what different possibilites are. That is far different from idle gossip. "X would be a bad idea and here's why" is different than "They're doing X, and I know this because my dog's former owner's son went to Rambam."

I fail to see how this falls under idle gossip, I also fail to see how this falls under loshon hara (granted, I don't know the laws of LH that well. Then again, I don't know how well HC knows it either).