Treading Lightly

I always enjoy Rabbi Shafran’s articles; he is a rare example of intellectual honesty.

But today I was rather shocked to see him publicly berate a frum person, as well as describe his actions in a mocking and nasty tone.

The correctness of his points is irrelevant (I happen to agree with at least some of them). What happened to feeling for another Jew? Was there a need to do this publicly? Rabbi Shafran could have easily sent him a personal message; there was no need for him to shout his criticisms and suggestions from the rooftops.

I was truly stunned to see such a vicious assault on another Jew in what is always such an upstanding paper.

Moshe Beck


Rabbi Shafran responds:

I thank the writers for both their kind and their critical words.

I don’t believe I used a “mocking” or “nasty” tone, and certainly did not launch a “vicious assault” on anyone.

What I did, and felt was important for the klal, was try to use an unfortunate episode as a teaching moment for young aspirants to public service or public spheres, to warn them of the importance of caution and seeking hadrachah.

I have only good feelings for the reporter referenced (and apologize here publicly, as I have done privately, for any pain I caused him), and I believe he was clearly responded to by the president in a puzzling, even offensive, manner.

But my subject was neither Mr. Trump nor the reporter, but rather the issue I highlighted. I used the encounter only as an illustration of the fact that, without the guidance of more experienced people, public presentations by identifiably frum Jews — who, no matter who they are or who they actually represent, will, justifiably or not, be perceived as emblematic of us all — can backfire.

That said, I agree that the incident certainly reminds us as well that even the best-laid plans can be frustrated. But properly making our hishtadlus in all cases nevertheless requires great care, including seeking and taking the counsel of more seasoned others.