Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Rules of the Blog: Lessons from the Second Temple

Let’s talk about some rules I’m now initiating in this space, which will become more relevant as the blog, so I hope, grows. 

According to the Talmud, God allowed the first Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Babylonians because the Jews at the time engaged in sexual immortality, idol worship, and murder. That temple lays in ruins for one Biblical lifetime — 70 years. The second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and has lain in ruins for 1,939 years, seemingly a reflection of the greater depravity of the Jews who lived in the first century CE. What did their depravity consist of? 
Again according to the Talmud, it was a baseless, narrow, interpersonal hatred that pervaded society — a sin equal in gravity to the three cardinal sins that beset Jewish culture centuries earlier. That’s not my statement, it’s the Talmud’s. Powerful, isn’t it? Maybe that hatred was more widespread than the sins characteristic of the first Temple era, hence the longer duration of the current “Roman” exile.
I mention this because the Internet in general and blogs in particular often seem inundated with nastiness. The reason for this is that the Internet is largely unedited whereas as traditional journalistic media have layers of editorial supervision. This is just one reason it’s arguable that we were better off before the Internet was invented.
Which is all by way of introducing some general rules for commenters and for myself.

I’ve noticed in the comments box writers who are thoughtful, civilized and highly critical of what I write — especially when the subject turns to Darwinian evolutionary theory. That’s as it should be. I warmly welcome them. Others commenters descend to viciousness and personal attacks, whether against me or other people. That’s not acceptable and so I am alerting you now that that kind of stuff will be deleted — assuming I catch it.
Yes, it depresses me to have such sentiments permanently recorded in connection with my name. More than that, a fellow blogger here at Beliefnet whom I tremendously respect, Rod Dreher, reminds me of the effect on readers and other commenters created by the atmosphere generated by nasty comments. It makes everyone uncomfortable and generally impedes healthy discussion of ideas.
Discussion of ideas, not of personalities, is what I’m trying to encourage here. Strong, indeed all-out attacks on ideas, including my own, are terrific. The more the better. But I won’t tolerate personal nastiness. And I will hold anonymous commenters to a higher standard than those who use a real name. I hold in particular contempt writers who attack other people while hiding behind a shield of that kind of anonymity which the Internet, among its other lamentable cultural influences, has made us all take for granted.
That’s not to say that communication should never be private. Of course it can and should. If you ever want to communicate with me privately, about anything, you can do so at the email address given on the Discovery Institute website.
Finally, I ask you to hold me to my own standards. An attack on ideas held by a person is not an attack on that person himself. Criticizing a book or an article is not a criticism of the person who wrote it. But if I slip into a genuinely ad hominem mode, and I hope I never do, please let me know.
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Brian Beckman

posted April 29, 2009 at 12:34 am

The parshah of Metzora, just finished last week, relates precisely to the topic of Lashon HaRa, the evil tongue, descending into nastiness, personal attacks, backbiting, even frontbiting. Not only is it a logical mistake — change of subject from “whatever we’re talking about” to “whomever is doing the talking,” and therefore strictly irrelevant and distracting, but Lashon HaRa is profoundly evil and akin to murder — murder of the spirit.
In Metzora, we see that God punishes the children of Israel for the sin of lashon hara with sores, boils, and afflictions mistranslated as “leprosy” but of an amazing variety requiring extremetly careful priestly diagnosis and treatments, many of which require the sinner to stay outside the camp for a week presumably to think in solitude about his mistakes.
The proof that the quarantine is spiritual and not physical is that if the offender’s sores cover his entire body, he is pure and allowed in the sanctuary. The proof that the sores are punishment for lashon hara is etymological — tzara’at: (mistranslated as “leprosy”) coming out of evil; metzora — to make evil come out, lashon hara — ra being the particular evil in all three utterances.

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yossi shalom

posted April 30, 2009 at 1:14 pm

I was wondering how long it would take- and it turns out to be less than a full month, since this blog was ‘introduced’ on April 2 (April 1 would have been a more symbolic date):I knew it would only be a matter of time before the controlling authority (emphasis upon ‘controlling’) of this blog found a convenient opportunity to crack down on dissent and any challenge to his smug pontificating.
Just like what happens these days in fundamentalist Christian seminaries and haredi Yeshivas, where critical questioning is not permitted. This consubstantial mindset, for lack of a better term, has been dubbed “evangelodoxy.”
A knowledgeable, life-long Jew is more credible than a Jochanan-come-lately convert; a Zionist is more credible than a non-Zionist, etc. It is all about character and behavior (medos), when it comes to religion and matters Judaic: you can talk the talk ONLY if you also walk the walk. An individual lacking such integrity, ipso facto, is not credible as a source of information. And yet it is just such discussion of personalities which is what Klinghoffer now seeks to outlaw, in his newly prolmulgated ‘rules of the blog’ a.k.a. “fairness doctrine.”
A shande (disgrace) and a charpa (dishonor)!
N.B. Rabbi Hirschfield, in his blog, has never had to issue such an directive. What does that tell you?

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David Klinghoffer

posted April 30, 2009 at 1:35 pm

What does it tell me, Yossi? It tells me that there’s more nastiness from the left than from the right, so a blogger from a conservative perspective will have to deal with more personal attacks from those who disagree with him than a blogger from a more liberal perspective will likely have to do. Your comment nicely illustrates what I mean.

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posted April 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm

See also Leviticus 19:14–“you shall not curse the deaf.” Obviously, the deaf person won’t know he is being cursed, but harm is still being done to other people who hear, as well as to the person uttering the curse.

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David Klinghoffer

posted April 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Great point, Marian. Thank you.

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yossi shalom

posted April 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Nice try in deflecting the issue, but no cigar.
You jump to the conclusion that because I take issue with your dictat, I represent a ‘liberal’ perspective? In other words, in your book, any one who might be a life-long, FFB (Modern) Orthodox Zionist automatically qualifies as a “lefty” because (s)he does not agree with your ultra-conservative bent? Nonsense!
The issue is bona-fides, pure and simple. And that involves the
‘personality’/ medos/ yichus question – and because that is not your strong suit, you wish to disallow it.
BTW, Have you apologized to Christopher Buckley for the lashon ha-ra you committed against him in a prior post?

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