Monday, November 14, 2005

Cross-Currents aka: "From Russia with Kiruv"

We live in trying times. There are a lot of mixed messages out there. Sometimes, as Marshall McLuhan famously said, "The medium is the message." We orthodox (style) jews have a history of strongly-worded, passionate debates laid out in tapestry format in the talmud.

The talmud famously left no stone unturned in analyzing theological and halachic questions. You could say that that is both the talmud's great strength and great weakness. That is, the talmud gave more time to halachic minutiae than the big theological picture. [Yes, there are aggadata's and purportedly "deep" passages. But just try and read Aaron Feldman's The Juggler and the King and tell me it's deep at all. Then read Feldman's letter throwing Slifkin under the bus and tell me HE's deep at all! ]

However, while one knows what one is reading when he is reading the talmud, in terms of its medium and its message, blogs of orthodox rabbis are an entirely different matter.

The best known Orthodox Rabbi blog is Cross-Currents.
They have Rabbis Yitzchok Adlerstein and Rabbi Yaakov Mencken, a BT turned Rabbi whose second religion is obscurantism, and who "maintains" the blog.

"Maintains" means he gets posts and then either censors them entirely or posts them with comments he thinks are incisive but which in reality demonstrate why little knowledge is so often dangerous. A jack of all trades, Mencken is not regarded as a real torah scholar of any repute, and he has little in the way of secular credentials. Mencken likes to troll in the shallow end of the kiruv pond, where his lack of honesty won't be as readily detected. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop him from frequently spouting off on science and torah subjects, among other things, using his bully pulpit.

Cross-currents also has Rabbi Reinman, whose book debating a Reform Rabbi was banned by gedolim and he lamentably but understandably, gave in to their simple-minded views and Stalinist thuggery. It is arguable that the gedolim were emboldened by this and then went after Slifkin. It's too bad they didn't learn that censorship doesn't work. Just ask Rabbi Berel Wein:

of Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo:

This all has been written about ad nauseum, so what about Mencken?

I'm just irritated by the doublespeak name "Cross-Currents," which seems to imply a cross-pollenation of ideas, when in fact only safe criticisms make it through. The blog is nothing short of a P.R. kiruv effort, as the clear intent of creating a "blog" rather than a website, is to give the impression that Orthodox Rabbis are reasonable people who will address tough questions from all vantagepoints (contrary to the true-life example of Reinman's bowing out of his controversy).
More annoying is that Mencken censors the posts, allowing only those that accept certain first principles that he establishes. The result is that the post being commented on seems more reasonable and worthy of acceptance since the only comments are benign for the most part. "Dumbed down," might be more accurate.

Banning thoughtful, profanity-free comments ought to be banned by an international blog treaty! Seriously, Cross-currents is intentionally misleading readers by posting benign at worst criticisms. Also, if you want to respond to Maureen Dowd's religious alter-ego R. Mencken, you have to put up with his half-wit comebacks. If you want to come back again, you have to see if he'll let it come through. Again, you can be sure he'll take a cheap shot or two.

Thus, Cross-Currents is a Pravda-dox Jewish blog. (While Rav Adlerstein surely has his merits, I'd like to see him for once come out blasting Schroeder like he does the Bible Codes, or at least not having his posts censored.)

Yet, his colleague Mencken uses the Schroeder bunk in his new book which is called
"The Everything Torah Book," but which is really more aptly titled "IwrotethisbookfasterthanIdavenmincha," because of its slapped-together style, fallacy-filled folios, and specious shortcuts.

Really, the book should have been called "Torah for Dummies," as it is styled after the poular series, and because only that demographic would fall for the kiruv clown flights of fancy contained therein. Mencken has really hit the top of his game- kiruv clown juggling - from blogs to books, that is.

But that will be covered in more depth on the next post, where I will expose just how low Kiruv Comrade Mencken will go to m'kariv some fresh meat.

Who here is sick and tired of Cross-Currents and their Pravda-dox Jewish blog? Then STOP commenting there! At a minimum, they should be universally derided as a blog. If they want another website like aish, etc, fine. But don't pretend you allow for informed debate unless you do. That's simple isn't it?