Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman will be remembered by me for one reason. It was under his tenure that I first heard the idiom ‘being taken to the woodshed’. I suppose it originated from a time where a misbehaved child was taken by his father to an actual woodshed for a hard spanking. In modern times it has come to mean being severely reprimanded for publicly being critical of your superior’s policies.
One may recall the reason Stockman’s boss, President Ronald Reagan, “took him to the woodshed.” It was because of an interview published in Atlantic Monthly that he gave during his first year in office. Therein he retreated from his support of ‘supply side economics’ and publicly berated it. He coined the term ‘trickle down economics’ and used it in place of ‘supply side’. Needless to say, his influence in that office waned and eventually (4 years later) he resigned.
This phrase came back to me with a vengeance yesterday when an over hour long video presentation by Jonathan Rosenblum became unavailable to the public. It was initially uploaded to Vimeo for anyone who wished to view it; or link to it; or embed it into a website or blog. And suddenly it left the public domain to be made viewable only by a password.
I have tried to find out why it was removed from a source in the Agudah world. But I have as of yet received no reply to my request. So even though I can’t be certain of it, I have little choice but to conclude the obvious. Jonathan was taken to the woodshed. I surmise that he was reprimanded by his Hashkafic peers and/or superiors for contradicting the message they were trying to send.
So much for honest disagreement in the Charedi world. Now I am not saying that Jonathan – or more accurately those who had rights to that video were ordered to restrict it to the public. But they were certainly persuaded that it was counter the wishes and goals of the Agudah Moetzes or other like minded Charedi rabbinic leaders.
That conclusion is not too hard to reach after reading the recent news about how the American Moetzes acceded to the request of the Israeli Moetzes to follow up their prayer rally last Sunday with one of their own.
As an aside, I must ask why the Charedi rabbinic leadership in this country waited to be asked. Had they wanted to hold a prayer rally on their own, they would not have phrased their announcement as acceding to a request. Is it possible that even they in their heart of hearts believe this is going too far… and that it is only because of their respect for the Israeli Charedi leaders that they are doing it?
The prayer rally in Israel last Sunday as most people know was characterized as a plea to God to rescind the terrible decree to draft Charedim issued by the Israel government… calling it Shmad – the destruction of Torah study and Mitzvah observance. Even though they must know that this is at best a gross exaggeration and in my view completely false – they continue to characterize it this way. And that was the theme of that prayer rally.
Jonathan pointedly said that all that rhetoric was just posturing and the reality is that Charedi rabbinic leadership is actually quite happy with the way the draft law was being crafted. This is in direct contradiction to the message the Charedi world is trying to send to its flock (and anyone else who will listen). You can’t hold prayer rallies protesting Shmad when there isn’t any.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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