shafran1By Rabbi Avi Shafran

Sneering cynicism. Self-glorification in the guise of advocacy. Ostentatious observance cloaking rank jealousy. “Democracy” in the pursuit of evil ends. Haughtiness pretending to the selfless pursuit of justice and truth.

What do all those things bring to mind?

A) The parsha we read on Shabbos.

B) Much of the “Orthodox Jewish” blogosphere.

Both, you say? You win.

Korach is a good example for our times. Good, that is, in the sense that he perfectly exemplifies the similarly “populist” contemporary congregation that breeds under the rocks of Blogistan.

We deserve to be free from our so-called leaders, Korach announced-and, even without the benefit of an instantaneous electronic soapbox, attracted followers to “the cause.” We are perfectly capable, he declared, to their excited panting, of sitting in judgment over those who claim to have been designated to stand at the helm of the Jewish ship. The entire people are holy, after all. All of us heard the voice of Hashem at Har Sinai. All of us are able to see things for ourselves as they really are, not as our “leaders” tell us they are. Moshe and Aharon were “chosen” to lead us? Please. We know better. Surely you do too.

In fact, the Korachites broadcast, we have good reason to suspect some not-so-nice things about our so-called leaders, things that show them to be not only unworthy leaders but uncaring, corrupt, and worse. Have you heard, for instance, about what Moshe, the “chaste” and “modest” man, has been up to in his free time…?

The rabbis, they proclaimed sagely, are just protecting their perks. We don’t need such “leaders” telling us how to conduct our lives and what or whom to respect. We know better than they do, we see more clearly than they. They are the establishment. We, after all, are The People.

And the truly religious ones, too; just ask Mrs. Ohn ben Peles, whose uncovered head we would not countenance. We’re the ones who really care about all Jews, about Jewish values, about Jewish children. Our “leaders,” by contrast, are clueless, if not worse.

Sound familiar? Of course it does.

Yes, there are responsible Orthodox Jewish bloggers, who seek to share community news or ideas and observations with others, and to post informative, not libelous, readers’ comments. Some explore concepts in Jewish thought and law, others focus on Jewish history and society.

The Korach blogs, though, are a separate category. Their anger, snideness, half-truths, and bald lies attract like-minded people like rancid meat draws flies. Together, the bloggerei and their devotees march proudly into what they believe will be a bright, shiny future, one devoid of the old bearded men who so vex them.

They’re not insincere. They believe what they say; that, in fact, is the greater tragedy. Korach, too, was convinced that he was right. Why else would he have summoned all the people to witness the “showdown” with Moshe? Did he think for a moment that what happened was even a possibility? Surely not.

But sincerity is no guarantee of rightness. Evil that recognizes itself is a rare bird.

Perhaps that’s part of the meaning of the strange admonition “Do not be like Korach and his congregation” (Bamidbar, 17:5), which Rav (Sanhedrin, 110a) sees as a warning against fomenting strife among Jews. We don’t find any such warning against being hedonistic “like Lot” or hypocritical “like Esav.” Why a special prohibition here? Might it be because of the natural pull that “populism” propelled by cynicism and slander can exert, and the ease with which even fine people can be swayed by professions of righteousness and sincerity? Because Korach-ism is a particularly easy (forgive me) hole into which one can fall?

The modern-day disparagers of Torah scholars and selfless communal leaders aren’t likely to change (though we must never give up the hope that they will). They may be too certain that they “know the score” and that they can’t possibly be misguided.

But one hopes that those who have ever come across the knights of Blogistan’s defamations and obloquies and found themselves impressed by the apparent sincerity with which they are proffered paid attention when the Torah was read on Shabbos.


{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. But Shabsi Tzvi, took it to a new level. He demanded, “Just follow me as your leader and don’t use your concience and dont use your brain. Just follow me.”

    He used to say “If you question my authority, you’re like Korach V’Eidosoi”.

  2. Shkoyach R’ Avi!!!
    Its so easy to get carried away by those bloggers, and the secular media. Please, we need to hear your clear hashkafa more often.

  3. All true. Blogs are full of lies, hate and disdain. They also have truths. Where is your article blasting those who protect pedophiles. Where is the outpouring of support for the victims.
    Forget the shidduch and tuition crisis. This is the real issue of our time.

  4. I should not even comment, because there is no need to comment, but I just wanted to say thank you. Rabbi Shafran made an important distinction between website, such as Matzav, and other terrible and harmful sites and blogs.

    lets not thrw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Thank you

  5. Good article. Very true, unfortunately.
    Are these people realists, as they claim, or something more sinister? Are the rest of us really just sticking our heads in the sand?!?!

  6. This is too simplistic. Do you mean to say that any blog that is critical of a policy, action, or statement in any way, shape, or form is immediately part of “Korach v’adaso”??

  7. Why is this limited to “orthodox” bloggers?

    Rashi says on vayikach korach, lokach as atzmo. Which is exactly what these bloggers are doing. Removing themselves from the khal which leads to their anti Torah stances.

    It is not limited bloggers, it includes apologist papers and magazines Vdal.

  8. I am a widow in my seventies, a bubby. I was Bais Yaakov educated and raised with a deep and abiding respect for The Gedolim, both Litvish and Chassidish. I had no axe to grind. When The Gedolim came out with a proclamation I was ready to follow it.

    In the last few years I have come to know numerous victims ofmolestation. Seeing them and their suffering, because yes they’re still suffering, I have developed profound feelings of compassion for these individuals. There are manyw of them whose lives are ruined forever. Girls and boys who will never get married Ch V’Sh and lead a normal life that we take for granted. Others who on the surface look like they’re functioning pretty well but are full of pain and sorrow and feeling totally alone.

    Unless you personally meet some of these victims and hear what they went through and how they are trying to cope with going on with their lives, you cannot possibly make statements, rediculous ideas about how they can “get over” their traumas, or sit in judgement of them. Many of these victims have personally tried to approach leaders and have been turned away.

    In my younger years I was active in some organizations and through them I had opportunities to speak to Rav Moishe Feinstein, z’tzl, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, z’tzal, Rav Shneur Kotler, z’tzl, Rav Shach, z’tzl, The Ribnitze Rebbe, z’tzl, The Lubavitche Rebbe, z’tzl, and many other chosheve Gedolim. I spoke to these Gedolim several times and there were times when we spoke about delicate issues. NEVER did I feel that they were anything but totally concerned, caring and completely forthwith in the discussions.

    I am a person who was taught that we daven every day, man and woman, and beg Hakodesh Boruch Hu to give us chochma, bina and daas. And we have bechira. Why do we need these attributes if we are to see things that we read as wrong and we’re supposed to ignore it? We’re supposed to pretend and just blindly follow what we feel is wrong.

    Chillul Hashem? Have you seen the articles in the goyshe and non frum newspapers on this subject. Are they not a chillul Hashem?

    How are the victims and their advocates to get help without being referred to as Korach? How are we to protect our heilige yiddish neshomas by sweeping this problem under the rug?

    Don’t you dare call those of us who care about the victims and are trying to protect our heilige kinderlach from being future victims Korach.

  9. I really cannot believe that after 21 comments I saw only one mentioning that a lot of the blogosphere’s unhappiness stems from a seeming lack of concern regarding child molestation. while I agree most bloggers are angry, spread motzei shem rah, write loshon horah, and are not frum, but what do you expect from heiliger yidden who were nebech r”l molested? often by their own role models. Yes, they are angry and maybe even apikorsisdik but even if it is asur to read their blogs (I do not) maybe you should try to feel their pain. they are upset at what they perceive as failure and all the mouthpieces do is literally add insult to injury.

  10. To those writing about the pain of abused/molested children:

    There is truly no way to fathom the pain of these individuals.

    There are websites such as Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz’s that provide a place for those involved in molestation cases and/or those who have suffered from it to speak out, speak their minds and get real, tangible support.

    The problem with the other kinds of blogs is that they do no lasting service for those who are suffering. They do not offer tangible support, advice, contacts, etc. They have their own agenda, and the very real, very tragic pain of abuse victims simply fits their agenda well.

    Beyond that, they are so quick to report any case of supposed molestation that far too many innocent people have suffered as a result of their willingness to publicize without checking the facts.

    I do not believe that the blogosphere’s unhappiness stems from a seeming lack of concern about child molestation. I believe that the blogosphere has found an easy way to vent its agenda on the backs of those who suffer.