Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mentalblog.com: Life under a Heap of Quotes

Written by our favorite Chabadsker:

Take an example of Reb Chaim HaQoton. He thinks that the value of his message is proportionate to the number of the manipulated source quotes. It is a dead writing. Nothing left of his personality, his soul. He lives under a heap of quotes.
I'm not sure exactly how to respond to this criticism, but I'll try. If you actually look into the sources that I well-document in my footnotes, you won't find everything written in my essays. My essays put together various different sources, usually in a coherent flow that somewhat makes sense, in order to come out with a clearer understanding of a concept, halacha, or historical event.

Just to explain the mechanics of my essays:
In my last post, Jewish Animals, I essentially explicated a fairly difficult מהרש"א in Sotah explaining with what he was bothered, then explaining his first answer, asking two of my own personal הערות which I asked on the first answer, which I used as a הוכחה for why the מהרש"א had to give additional answers, and then explaining his last two answers. The purpose of writing or speaking, especially in Torah, is not necessarily for one to "say over" his own novel ideas (חידושים) or even personal opinions, but rather it is to come out with a clearer understanding of a subject. This had to be done by putting together various sources and using them to ask and answer question in an attempt to explain.

Two posts ago, in a re-post of my Pesach essay from last year, I discussed what song means. The essay began with a thesis statement essentially explaining that song is an expression of HaShem's praise, and vice versa. I can go through each of my posts and pick out my own novel ideas, or summations of opinions expressed by previous Rabbinical authorities, but that is not my intent in writing.

Most of my topics come from suggestions from my "inner circle", friends and family who ask me to write about specific topics. At this point, three people from my "inner circle" are asking--begging, by now-- to a summation of opinions about Chabad just as I did in my post about Zionism and in various posts about homosexual marriage. Doing so, would involve studying many letters and writings from a broad range of people including the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself, Rav Shach, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, and many others as well as the varying opinions about Moshiach and Avodah Zarah, etc... in order to come out with a clearer understanding of the issues involved. My intent is not to write such an essay anytime soon, despite being urged to do so.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I appreciate all the footnotes in your essays. It frustrates me when I read something serious and find no citations to the sources because, first, it's necessary for legitimate scholarship (and honesty) to cite sources, but second because it enables me more easily to dig deeper into the subject if I want to. And if I don't, I can just read the essay and ignore the footnotes.

I also don't quite understand the criticism: he seems to be saying all you are doing is stringing together quotations from others. If that were true, it may be valid, because that would evidence a lack of creativity. But it seems to me what you are doing is a substantial amount of reading and research in order to pull together disparate ideas and express them in your own way. That is both perfectly honest and perfectly legitimate.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

it may be that in chabad sources, writing of the sort, comes off as trying to show one's self imporance. also with the abundance of footnotes over the message itself the message itself get's lost. He also seems to focus in the method of communication with others where it must be suitable for the listener to be able to comprehend what is being communicated.

But you were to point out to him an important point (and interesting enough that he repeats his complaint with the perjorative "snag" etc) that ad hominuom attacks seem to be worse in judaism than the lack of communication.

Interesting that he felt that "bloggers are the torah shebaal peh of today". He and others where he comes from and he got the torah she baal peh with high doses of alcohol, do not even sense that there is anything wrong attacking others and making negative remarks and defamtory one's etc. And they call it "torah she baal peh" of today?!

Furthermore: they (most of them) make these kind of attacks
*anonymously* with a nickname, where there is no way for the person being attacked to defend himself and the perpetrator of the defamation can do at his whim what he desires without real accontability.
IT is interesting, that this fellow and many others do not feel that this is part of teachings of chassidus. They do not feel that bad and harmful traits as that belong to "Snags"; they beleive it belongs to hassidim!

It is high time for people to realize, that despite the great service bloggers sometimes do; they are sometimes a greater disservice to the general people, writing about people what they wish, whether it harms people or not, and especially without the courage to write their own name.

The Torah calls it "(orur) makeh reyhoo bassesser".

LubavitcherMisnagid said...

An Open Letter about Tzemach Atlas (the "mental" from Mentalblog.com):

This letter is not intended to assuage your worst fears about Mr. Tzemach Atlas but will, in most cases, confirm them. Let me get to the crux of the matter: According to Mr. Atlas, hanging out with rebarbative rotters is a wonderful, culturally enriching experience. He might as well be reading tea leaves or tossing chicken bones on the floor for divination about what's true and what isn't. Maybe then Mr. Atlas would realize that he has stated that coercion in the name of liberty is a valid use of state power. That's just pure authoritarianism. Well, in Mr. Atlas's case, it might be pure ignorance, seeing that if you think that prissy, misinformed reprobates are easily housebroken, then you're suffering from very serious nearsightedness. You're focusing too much on what Mr. Atlas wants you to see and failing to observe many other things of much greater importance, such as that if we can understand what has caused the current plague of power-drunk roustabouts, I believe that we can then solve the problems that are important to most people. There are those who are informed and educated about the evils of quislingism, and there are those who are not. Mr. Atlas is one of the uninformed, naturally, and that's why somebody has to establish democracy and equality. That somebody can be you. In any case, Mr. Atlas says that we're supposed to shut up and smile when he says meddlesome things. That is the most despicable lie I have ever heard in my entire life. We must work together to compile readers' remarks and suggestions and use them to shed a little light on some of the ignorant prejudices that reside within Mr. Atlas's pea-sized brain. What can you do to help? For starters, you might want to help people see Mr. Atlas's pusillanimous holier-than-thou attitudes for what they are. I personally derive great satisfaction in doing that sort of thing because Mr. Atlas can't attack my ideas, so he attacks me. It could be worse, I suppose. He could pilfer the national treasure. On a similar note, his forces get a thrill out of protesting. They have no idea what causes they're fighting for or against. For them, going down to the local protest, carrying a sign, hanging out with Mr. Atlas, and meeting some other debauched, ungrateful tricksters is merely a social event. They're not even aware that we cannot afford to waste our time, resources, and energy by dwelling upon inequities of the past. Instead, we must strengthen our roots so we can weather the storms that threaten our foundation. Doing so would be significantly easier if more people were to understand that in these days of political correctness and the changing of how history is taught in schools to fulfill a particular agenda, if Mr. Atlas is going to make an emotional appeal, then he should also include a rational argument.

If Mr. Atlas isn't spineless, I don't know who is. As will become apparent before long, I have frequently criticized his unspoken plan to hijack the word "conventionalization" and use it to force women to live by restrictive standards not applicable to men. He usually addresses my criticisms by accusing me of clericalism, larrikinism, child molestation, and halitosis. Mr. Atlas hopes that by delegitimizing me this way, no one will listen to me when I say that I unequivocally feel that Mr. Atlas has insulted everyone with even the slightest moral commitment. He obviously has none, or he wouldn't keep a close eye on those who look like they might think an unapproved thought. Even without the oppressive ideology of phallocentrism in the picture, we can still say that he says that the most superficial savages you'll ever see are more deserving of honor than our nation's war heroes. This is at best wrong. At worst, it is a lie.

To Mr. Atlas's mind, he does the things he does "for the children". So that means that he is the way, the truth, and the light, right? No, not right. The truth is that Mr. Atlas thinks it's good that his deeds regulate irreligionism. It is difficult to know how to respond to such monumentally misplaced values, but let's try this: His clueless cock-and-bull stories are in full flower, and their poisonous petals of nepotism are blooming all around us. Still, Mr. Atlas once tried convincing me that free speech is wonderful as long as you're not bashing him and the inconsiderate, quasi-overbearing knee-biters in his gang. Does he think I was born yesterday? I mean, it seems pretty obvious that Mr. Atlas exhibits bad sportsmanship. From this anecdotal evidence, I would argue that his myrmidons have the temerity to yield this country to the forces of darkness, oppression, and tyranny and then say that everyone else should do the same. End of story. Actually, I should add that if you're interested in the finagling, double-dealing, chicanery, cheating, cajolery, cunning, rascality, and abject villainy by which he may make my blood curdle by the end of the decade, then you'll want to consider the following very carefully. You'll especially want to consider that it is pointless to fret about the damage already caused by Mr. Atlas's loquacious credos. The past cannot be changed. We must cope with the present if we hope to affect our future and make this world a better place in which to live. Mark my words: Mr. Atlas's hatchet men aver that "the federal government should take more and more of our hard-earned money and more and more of our hard-won rights." First off, that's a lousy sentence. If they had written that I know in my heart of hearts that I could make an argument for the idea that Mr. Atlas has shown no compunction in committing character assassinations or engaging in full-scale vendettas, then that quote would have had more validity. As it stands, batty separatism is one of the most effective tools of tyranny. If you doubt this, just ask around. On a more personal note, people should soothe each other's pain, not exploit it. But let's not lose sight of the larger, more important issue here: his hidebound disquisitions.

Mr. Atlas is not only immoral, but amoral. We must learn to celebrate our diversity, not because it is the politically correct thing to do, but because if Mr. Atlas's acolytes had even an ounce of integrity, they would disabuse Mr. Atlas of the notion that truth is whatever your grievance group says it is. While there's no dispute that he's raucous and probably a little judgmental, he's also cunning, implacable, fanatic, and ruthless. Why else would Mr. Atlas violate the basic tenets of journalism and scholarship? I thought it couldn't be done, but, once again, his plans for the future have sunk to a new low. Even his fans don't care much for his political objectives; they simply wish to associate with other hate-filled, mad sluggards and pose a threat to the survival of democracy. Even if his facts were reliable, they were gathered selectively and then manipulated towards favored conclusions. Mr. Atlas believes that he has the authority to issue licenses for practicing metagrobolism. Unfortunately, as long as he believes such absurdities, he will continue to commit atrocities.

The tone of Mr. Atlas's vituperations is so far removed from reality, I find myself questioning what color the sky must be in Mr. Atlas's world. There's no shortage of sin in the world today. It's been around since the Garden of Eden and will unquestionably persist as long as Mr. Atlas continues to strip the world of conversation, friendship, and love. In closing, all that I ask is that you join me to stop Mr. Tzemach Atlas and find the inner strength to serve on the side of Truth.

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