The Matzav Shmoooze: A Response from Rabbi Rothstein


rabbi-gidon-rothsteinTo the Editor,

A good friend brought to my attention the letter you posted regarding my recent appearance on the Zev Brenner show. It’s a little sad that the writer chose not to even listen at all, because he would have seen that I wasn’t criticizing the frum community, I was pointing out areas of avodas Hashem that many of our communities have lost sight of, have forgotten are the core and essential elements of yiras shamayim and ahavas Hashem. Had he listened, he might have been spurred to think about where he is and isn’t succeeding as a frum Jew.

The discussion was based on my recent book, We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It (published by OU Press/KTAV). The book is not a series of criticisms: it builds a picture of what is core and essential to Yiddishkeit, as Hazal, the rishonim and theacharonim read it, and points out that many of us have lost sight of some of those core principles.  In a second part, the book reviews areas of halachah and hashkafah that show that we are required to make many personalized and individual choices within our construction of a life of avodas Hashem. The book closes with practical recommendations for how we– as individuals, as shuls and yeshivos, and as communities– can build a life more closely in tune with what Kudsha Brich Hu wants of us.  The point is never to be negative, only to show where we can more positively work on ourselves, as individuals and as communities.

This “Proud Yid,” by the way, demonstrates in his letter that he has some work to do on his middos (leaving aside the question of being so proud as to know, without question, that there’s no room for criticism).  He knows that Zev Brenner called me “Dr. Rothstein,” but insistently ignores the fact that Zev consistently referred to me as Rabbi Dr.  This “Proud Yid” has no knowledge of where I received my smicha such that it’s his place to refuse to dignify me with that title. Since proper middos are a core aspect of trying to become more like haKadosh Baruch Hu, trying le-hidamos bi-drachav, I’d say our Proud Yid might want to be more open to the possibility that mikol melamdei hiskalti, that he doesn’t yet know everything.

I encourage him, and other Matzav readers, to listen to the podcast (available at or, better, to read the book, and then contact me with their reactions at— I am not afraid to sign my name to what I write, nor am I afraid of a healthy, respectful interaction over my ideas. I am confident that Matsav readers will find the book enjoyable, interesting, and (I hope) enlightening. They certainly won’t find it another example of someone simply criticizing the frum community, tearing down what is so obviously positive and pride-inducing. Thank you.

Gidon Rothstein

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  1. “This “Proud Yid” has no knowledge of where I received my smicha such that it’s his place to refuse to dignify me with that title.”

    How in the world do you know what this Yid does or does not know? Where have you learnt how to “dan l’kaf chov”?

    Have you forgotten Hazal’s basic dictum of “k’shot l’atzmacha, v’achar kach k’shot l’achairim” – adorn yourself (with the characteristic [you’re preaching about), and THEN adorn others.

    Your attacking, self-righteous, letter makes clear what you may -or may not – have positives to offer us.

    “Since proper middos are a core aspect of trying to become more like haKadosh Baruch Hu, trying le-hidamos bi-drachav, I’d say our Proud Yid might want to be more open to the possibility that mikol melamdei hiskalti, that he doesn’t yet know everything.”

    Again, why don’t you demonstrate how you’ve done this. Thank you.

  2. It would be great if filters could be configured to also filter out the inane commentators on this site.
    To R’Rothstein you would be well advised to look back at some of the other “Shmoozes” on this site– its a relatively low bar to publication.

  3. I thought that that letter from “proud yid” yesterday on Matzav was blatenly ignorant and I was surprised it got printed…. But at least with your follow up, you get some press. Sorry I do not listen to that show and live where it is not broadcast on the radio.

  4. Stick to the news and only the news . cut out the ridiculous comments. For once and for all Matzav take a stand!!!!

  5. Poor poor little man someone didn’t call him rabbi by by voicing this complaint it diminishies his whole letter
    Someone should tell him about Mr Mendlovitz ZTL
    get over yourself

  6. I was also a bit upset at the title of the broadcast but after listening I found that he wasn’t trying to be condescending or overly critical and he actually raised some good points.

  7. It is sad how honest civil disccusion is such a rare skill, as is reading comprehension and openmindedness.

  8. Rabbi Rothstein was on Zev Brenner and wrote a book…

    When a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make noise?

  9. #5 ask him he gave you an e mail address the problem is that few heard the program and actual know what he said yet question him on NO KNOWLEDGE
    #5 i am sure his rabbinical degree is from a good yeshiva but where is yours from

  10. Though I did not read Proud Yid’s comments I did hear Zev Brenner’s broadcast Motzaei Shabbath.
    Though the tittle of Rav Rothstein’s work may be a bit pretentious however How many frum people cannot explain why they observe except for inertia. The hard work to develope spiritually has been an issue for generations. The Chovot Halevavot in his introduction carefully analyzes how inegral spiritual growth is to Judaism.
    Certainly Chassiduth and Mussar movements point out that growth is not limited to how much Judaic textual knowledge one has.
    It is troubling that anyone has an issue with someone calling for investing one’s observance with an active G-D awareness. After all isn’t the whole purpose of Torah and its Mitzvoth connecting creation with Hashem according to His design?

  11. Nussi: Rabbi Dr. Rothstien understood from the purposeful omission of his title by “proud Yid” that it was MEANT as an insult. I dont think Rabbi Dr Rothstien was actually insulted, rather, he was illustrating through the intent of “proud Yid” that he lacked Middos. Mocking Rabbi Dr Rothstien and twisting the dialogue to make it appear as if it’s about Rabbi Dr Rothstiens’s Kavod is an elementary and simplistic way of deflecting the salient truth of Rabbi Rothstein’s point and in fact you basically made his point for him.

    You and proud Yid really don’t have much to say and you both comes across like petulant children. Listening to Rabbi Rothstien it is clear he is highly educated, very well thought out, clear and fair minded. You would do well to learn from him. I found the podcast, and his letter to be very instructive and helpful.

  12. as a defender of R’ Rothstein, I am disappointed in his response resorting to taking umbrage at the fact he wasnt addressed as Rabbi. That focus took away from the rest of what he said and potentially diminishes the value of his book and his very very important message.

    Its unfortunate, because this was a softball he could have knocked out of the park. I suspect he wrote this when he was angry…

  13. #1, #5, #6

    Beware of denigrating a Talmid Chochom – and for G-d’s sake (and your own) – read the book!!

  14. #6 Nussi, get over yourself.
    And for all of you who are upset that Rabbi Rothstein might actually be criticizing the community, you probably would have hated a Navi also.

  15. Getting defensive and resorting to ad hominem was the wrong reaction. The Proud Yid did himself in with his letter, but now so did you.

  16. Dear Rabbi Rothstein,

    We take for granted common courtesy and decency in our community. Please accept my apologies that you have to bear the brunt of these rude and unrefined people. I am refering to the comments made by S,Nussi,Hot air, and Trolly. Clearly, manners were not taught to them.

  17. Unfortunately, most of the comments so far are just one big embarrassment and probably prove you right. I apologise on their behalf.

  18. Regardless of what R Rothstein’s points were, the title is terrible. More so in these days when 90% of communication is done in the headlines and bold print. And I am sure that was the good Rabbi Doctor’s intention. So fooey on his new upteitch.

  19. Sheldon,
    while you may think yourself to be courteous and decent, you fail miserably at reading comprehension #2 seems to be clearly in support of Rabbi Rothstein — I think they were saying that the demeaning shmooze of the P.Yid while offensive, should be viewed to be as silly as much of the rest of the stuff published in that forum … but your decency may provide greater wisdom into #2’s words…I could be wrong.

  20. The following message is basically derived from an article I came across about saying Tachanun during the week. I have edited the contents to make the points that are relevant to this discussion at hand:

    In our world of Orthodox Judaism consisting of incredible chesed, tzedakah, daf yomi, and kiruv/outreach, etc., we would much rather enjoy with pride the success of our frum community achievements which, indeed, are quite awesome.

    We are not comfortable with negativity pointed at us frum people and don’t want to have the personal burden of worrying all the time — am I a good halachic Jew the way Hashem wants?

    Granted, it is counterproductive to worry too much and become neurotic – still a Jew is supposed to worry.

    We see that the greatest Jews worried. And the greater they were, the more they worried. When R. Yochanan ben Zakai was about to die, he was worried — he told his students that he didn’t know how he would be judged by the celestial court (Berachot 28b). R. Yochanan ben Zakai! He may well have leaned this from our forefather Yakov — when it came time to confront Esav, he too worried that he was no longer worthy of G-d’s protection (ibid. 4a).

    What Yakov and R. Yochanan ben Zakai understood better than us is the need for constant introspection. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time but surely you can never really fool yourself. Besides G-d, we are the only ones who really know the true motivation for what we do. We are also the only ones who really know if we could do more. As such, we are in a position to be our most effective critics. This, only if we take the time to worry a little. (Tachanun allows us those daily minutes of introspection and self-criticism that can allow us to be the spiritual leaders that G-d expects us, as Jews, to be.)

    The checks and balances provided by our prophets who criticized the Jews each step of the way is what allowed us to avoid the inevitable decadence of all other vanished civilizations. These civilizations became drunk with their own success and were unwilling to reassess whether they may have gradually veered off the original course that brought them greatness, until it was too late.

    We must also learn to appreciate the need for negativity. Dovid HaMelech was very careful in the order of the phrase “sur mera ve’aseh tov” (remove evil and do good). He was telling us that the way to attain the most positive scenario of doing good is to first find what is bad and remove it.

    To start with we all need to have an open mind and listen to those who offer constructive criticism. We are never too perfect to learn.

    Rabbi Dr. Rothstein is to be applauded for his attempts to show what others don’t even begin to understand or notice what’s missing.

  21. #25,

    Nice quotes from Rabban Yochana Ben Zakai and Yaakov Avinu. True, “ashrei ish mefached tamid”.

    However, why was RBYB”Z crying and not doing teshuva? Why wasn’t he telling his students what was wrong with orthodoxy? He, as well as Yaakov avinu, were not offering “solutions” such as tearing down all that is great, but you, the good Rabbi know precisely what’s wrong and how to fix it?! And fixing it means following your interpretations of Judaism and orthodoxy?

    Does that not smack of arrogance – a characteristic Hashem hates? “Toavas Hashem kol gevah lev”! That’s in the same Tehilim as “mikol melamdei hiskalti”.

    May Hashem save us all from arrogance.

  22. Yolk he may be all the things you say he is but at the end of the day he cares too much about the kovad he thinks he deserves and pointing this out doesn’t make one a child and Sheldon I don’t you to apologize for me I wasn’t rude nor did anything wrong

  23. To clarify, because it’s apparently not clear: I wasn’t mocheh on my kavod at all, I objected to Proud Yid referring to me as Doctor and not Rabbi (when both titles were used). Had he written “some guy named Gidon Rothstein appeared on Zev Brenner” I’d have thought he was discourteous, but I’d have let it pass. By calling me Dr. and not Rabbi, he was implying that I didn’t have the qualifications to write the book that I did. Without reading it.

    That same problem applies to all the commenters who seem to think they know what I am doing. For one small example, anyone who reads the first chapters of the book knows that I am not, not, not, trying to convince anyone of my own interpretation of Judaism. Read the book and you will see how much I worked to arrive at a view of what are the most important parts of Judaism that no one could argue with. Assuming for a second that I succeeded, then the need to adjust our lives to be sure we are living that way would seem, to me, to be obvious.

    I will say that I’ve had many people read the book already, and none have accused me of arrogantly trying to impose my view of Judaism and work from there.

  24. To Nussi,

    You don’t get it. It is not about Kavod. It is about common courtesy and decency. Obviously, you still can’t imagine what appropriate behavior and words are in the established norms of society.

  25. To c:

    Camaflouge? Do you think this a conspiracy?
    Do you think we are the same person?

    You are indeed rather paranoid and may need to seek help.