Tuesday, November 21, 2006

would they have banned the printing press?

I mentioned to my wife that blogs were going to be a topic of discussion at the Agudah convention. Her response – “Would they have banned the printing press?”
Nothing I can add to that.


  1. yehuda12:40 PM

    Assuming the printing press was like blogs that (1)it provided no essential service(2)any idiot had accsess to one(3)it was primaly used for bad despite its intrinsic potential for good; then with major justifacation it would of banned.

  2. Ploney1:52 PM

    yehuda: point 1 is untrue of blogs, and points 2 and 3 are of course true of the printing press.

    Anyone with enough money has access to one, and there are plenty of idiots with money; and the vast majority of printed works were and are not Jewish and/or treif.

  3. Prohibiting writing blogs would just eliminate the kosher ones. But they could certainly prohibit reading the very popular blogs that encourage complaining about and ridicule of Orthodoxy and Yeshiva hashkafa, just as reading sifrei minim was prohibited. (YD 246:4)

  4. M'mah nafshach - either it is already included in the issur of sifrei minim and prohibited, or it is not assur. But that is an academic debate, as the reason Agudah objects to blogs has nothing to do with minus - the quote from an Agudah "leader" which appeared in the press focussed on "daas Torah" being "significantly undermined" and blogs allowing "misguided individuals [to] feel free to spread every bit of recheilus and loshon hora about rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, all with the intended effect of undermining any semblance of Torah authority in our community."

  5. Barzilai,

    Would you accept, in theory, a forum that includes a broader range of opinions than standard "Yeshiva hashkafa"(within reason), but would avoid "complaining and ridicule"?

  6. Baruch,
    You put (within reason) in parenthesis, but it raises troubling questions. What test do we use to determine what is "reasonable"? And who is going to make that determination? And if that determination as to what is "reasonable" is challenged, is that legitimate criticism or an "undermining of...Torah authority"? Not a puzzle I would want to try to tackle!

  7. I would, in theory, enjoy two kinds of forums: either one that limits comments to the informed, who cite evidence for their opinions and refrain from the burlesque and posturing that most blogs encourage, or a more egalitarian (but not vulgar) one where the posts and comments are not mere demagoguery and theatrics, but instead which enable an honest exchange of beliefs, a window onto the vast range of what people honestly consider to be authentic Judaism.

    My experience so far has been mixed. I have learned many things in Torah and Hashkafa that I simply was not aware of; the broad knowledge accessed by the net is remarkable. Also, I have also learned that some people out there find me asinine, silly, and ignorant.

  8. Hey, you were not supposed to add to my remark!
    Yehuda, blogs are just another form of disseminating ideas, just like print. Even without the printing press, people were able to record their opinions by hand -- only the process of copying and spreading it in written form would have taken longer. So really early literature was an oral tradition, i.e. the epic poems of Homer. So even without a written medium, word spreads. How is one to determine who or what is to be silenced?

    That is not to say that everything published or blogged is worth reading. Certainly tht is not the case, but part of being an adult is learning how to filter and discriminate for one's self.

  9. Who is banning blogs? I don't see anyone coming out with a statement saying blogs are assur. The only thing I see is that the Agudah/Rabbonim are concerned with the way blogs are used. L'moshol, lets say when the printing press was developed people started putting out pamphlets and leaflets attacking the Torah and Rabbonim. Don't you think the Rabbonim would get up and talk about how the printing press is being misused. Anyone who jumps the gun and automatically assumes that the Agudah will ban blogs is just letting their anti yeshivish/anti Agudah side come through. You don't like the Agudah and what it stands for-fine that is your perogative but don't accuse them of something they haven't even done yet.

  10. I know that is a thorny point. But one has to define how broad the tent is. Personally, I will be satisfied with boundaries that are a little broader than the Yated and the Jewish Observer--tofasta merubah lo tafasta--but I sm open to hearing "breidt" hashkafos of others.

    On the other hand, if no limits are set at all, some will say that Orthodox hashkafa includes the "Limits of Orthodox Theology", as well as allegorizing everything except for Matan Torah(cv's). So one definitely needs to set limits as to how broad a tent one is comfortable with.

  11. "Anyone who jumps the gun and automatically assumes that the Agudah will ban blogs is just letting their anti yeshivish/anti Agudah side come through."

    I don't have an "anti yeshivish/anti Agudah side", or at least I hope I don't have one. But I do want to include the maximum amount of legitimate opinions in communual discussions, or at least more than is currently allowed.

  12. >>I don't have an "anti yeshivish/anti Agudah side", or at least I hope I don't have one. But I do want to include the maximum amount of legitimate opinions in communual discussions, or at least more than is currently allowed.

    I wasn't referring to you. I don't even know why you thought I was.

  13. CM,

    I didn't think you were, but I wanted to make clear that I am not anti-Agudah b'shittah(I doubt most people are), although I would like to see them have a broader tent.

  14. >>Any evidence that this happened? You did have occasional book bans (hey, even chassidus was once banned), but that was a criticism of content, not a criticism of the medium - a big difference.

    No I don't have any evidence. But my point remains that you are attacking the Agudah for wanting to ban blogs. I don't see any evidence that they are banning blogs, just attacking the way blogs are (mis)used. Isn't that the same as attacking the content, as you yourself stated was done with books.

    Furthermore, I don't see what difference it makes whether the content is "anti halacha" or "anti Da'as Torah". IF one feels it is a problem then you have an obligation to talk about it and the Agudah feels it is a problem You obviously feel differently and you are within your rights to disagree. Personally, I think that soem of the bizayon hatorah that goes on on some blogs is a reason to talk about it.

  15. I agree with CM that I don't think the Agudah is going to ban blogs. The Agudah in the US rarely bans anything. The only thing I can think of was the Reinman/Hirsch book a few years ago.

    Agudah is concerned with diminished Kavod Ha-Torah and blogs are a large role in that, although not the only role.

    I think it is just that some blogs have suggested that Agudah is going to ban blogs and that got the rumor started.

    But to the point, I think Ariella is absolutely correct. Blogs are a medium. However, the difficult thing is that unlike a newspaper or magazine, blog writers do not necessarily have financial or personal reputations at stake. Additionally, I don't allow Haaretz into my house. But it's hard to know in advance which blogs will be similar to Haaretz's editorial page. So how do people who want to filter their reading know which blogs to stay away from?

  16. As to the specific issue at hand there was, of course, tremendous opposition to the printing press from all kinds of authorities. For centuries the press was subject to regulation, censorship and violators could be fined or imprisoned--and obviously in some places this continues.

  17. and books have also been burned, historically. However, today we cdo not view such actions as worthy of emulation.

    Gil, you sure you want to side with the ones who enforce bans?

  18. There cannot be any enforcement of something like this. But parents need to have tools and information at their disposal.

  19. Blogs merely point to an unfulfilled need in the Torah community that is not being met by the current media. It is one thing to say that Daas Torah decisions are limited to a certain purview. However, at least there should be able to be discussion by the public; after all, the discussion is not the final decision.

    The solution, I think is to meet the intellectually independent elemnts in the LW of the Yeshivah world and the RW of MO by finding some forum for high level discourse.

    Either Agudah needs to create a blog to meet bloggers on their own terms, or create a periodical where that can be done.

    The following is from Rabbi Alfred Cohen's article on Daat Torah in "Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society":

    "And yet, on the whole, the Orthodox Jewish community today is blessed with many fine and committed people, who are not ignorant either of the Torah or of secular matters. I think they could handle serious discussions of communal issues, or appreciate in-depth explanations of certain aspects of current hashkafa. Most importantly, I think it is time we remembered that Judaism has never demanded a unitary view; dissent and open discussion have always characterized Jewish scholarship. Disagreeing with someone is not heresy, nor even rejection of Daat Torah . There are many who seek to be enlightened. They are not challenging Daat Torah – they just want to understand it better, so as to incorporate and integrate the thinking of Torah greats into their own approach to Jewish belief and practice"

  20. Bob Milller7:38 PM

    Blogs are attempts at two-way communication, and two-way communication is necessary and unavoidable. The problems blogs unfortunately have as to content reflect attitude problems that exist within today's Jewish public. How do we maintain useful two-way communication while keeping the ruffians from tracking mud through it?

  21. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Your wife did not say it its one of berel weins favroite things to say