Of Fault Lines and Forgery

Many people, myself included, believe that the fallout from Beit Shemesh and Kikar Shabbos will have a longer half-life than others suppose. One item to keep an eye on is the fault line that has surfaced, much as those that sometimes appear on the earth’s surface after an earthquake.

This fault line separates Israeli charedim from many of their American counterparts. Two different narratives developed. Americans could not accept the Israeli one, while Israelis were deaf to the arguments of Americans.

Americans by and large rejected the suggestion that protest was unnecessary, because there is no reason the rest of us should be responsible for the actions of a relatively small number of extremists. Witness the wall-to-wall condemnations of the activities in Beit Shemesh and Yerushalayim. Americans understood what was at stake: if you don’t distance yourself from ugliness, you are considered complicit in it. It didn’t matter to us whether lumping us all together was just or not. The honor of Torah, our relationships with non-Jews and non-religious Jews, our ability to attract baalei teshuvah in the future – all these would be imperiled by our remaining silent. So we spoke up, and couldn’t understand that in Israel, our cousins seemed not to understand.

At the same time, almost everyone in the charedi world in Israel was intent on not having to answer for the sins of the few. They were conscious of the calculated media manipulation, the political machinations of Yair Lapid, and the traitorous conduct of groups like the New Israel Fund, who usually send their dollars to help Palestinian NGO’s bent on destroying Israel from without, and now saw an opportunity to wreak havoc from within. Israeli charedim were not going to become dancing puppets, yanked around by evil puppeteers of the Left. Or so they saw it, and kept their silence, regardless of the costs.

It almost doesn’t matter who was right. After things calm down, the rift between the two communities will remain. They think we can’t understand their realities, because we Americans don’t live there. We think they cannot comprehend the realities of the 21st century, as seen by those who interact with more of the greater world. It really doesn’t make much difference. Point of fact: the divide between the communities is wide enough that we have to give up the pretense that we are all living the same form of Yiddishkeit. Baruch Hashem, there is perfect overlap in fealty to fundamentals of faith, and allegiance to halacha. But in some matters, it is clear that we do not and cannot think the same way.

One of the reasons that Americans could not and did not accept the Israeli response, is that many in the West simply do not believe the protestations of clean hands by the vast majority of Israeli charedim who deplore violence. Many Americans were uneasy with the assertion that the non-violent majority bears no responsibility whatsoever for the Sikrikim et al. Americans are uneasy about aspects of Israeli charedi life, whether they admit it to themselves or not. They are conscious of aspects that support, or lead to, the violence of the crazies. Those include systematized contempt for the “other,” and acceptance of the kana’aim as misguided insiders, rather than people who are chutz le-macheneh. (Chutz le-macheneh to them means people who are really far out, like those who might have something positive to say about Rav Kook.) These factors help assure that the extremists have a community from which to emerge. (Remember: HKBH held all of Klal Yisrael accountable for the actions of Achan in taking a tiny amount of booty [Yehoshua 7:1]. One man sins, and the entire community is guilty? Yes, explains Rav Dessler. Had the community not been somewhat lax in its resistance to plunder a bit, had the community been fiercely determined to adhere to Hashem’s instructions, the intense social pressure and moral climate would have made it impossible for Achan to act independently. For not generating that resolve, they were all held accountable.) Many Americans are ill at ease in accepting the boilerplate defenses coming out of Israel, because they simply do not ring true to American ears.

A recent op-ed in Kikar Ha-Shabbos helps illustrate why. Here is a free translation of what Rabbi Yitzchok Blumenthal writes:

While it is true that it is forbidden to forge a signature, I absolutely maintain that we should not compare forging a signature on a private document like a promissory note with forging one for the purpose of helping the greater community. Forging private notes [even when justified] cannot be allowed because of the damage done thereby to the good and peace of the community. For that very same reason, forgery for the purpose of the peace of the community is appropriate and desirable.

The die has been cast. Many of us will not accept such thinking under any conditions – and we have simply lost the ability to fully relate to those who do think that way We will not relate to and cannot listen to people who can embrace lies and forgery. It will be interesting to watch how the rift between communities plays out in years to come.

[Thanks to Daniel Goldman for pointing out the article in Kikar ha-Shabbos]

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36 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    of course, forgery for the sake of the peace of the community depends on how you define peace/community interests. when the signature of a prominent rav, the rav ha-ir, is forged when, in fact, he does not want to sign, i think that is worse than forging a financial instrument, r. blumenthal’s position notwithstanding. harming a tzibbur can be worse than harming an individual. those aware of the history of chareidim in the old yishuv, know this problem existed over a century ago, even in the times of RSS ztl.

  2. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I think this is an excellent and insightful article that brings out an important point that has generally been ignored. I would like to add that I think that hints of this “fault line” were already very much present in the reactions to the banning of Rabbi Slifkin’s books several years ago, and even farther back than that with books such as Rabbi Yehuda (Leo) Levi’s “Torah Study.” If I’m not very much mistaken, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky wrote a haskama on that book, and Rav Shach put the book in herem. However, I have heard that Rav Shach called Rav Kaminetsky before putting the book in herem to make sure he would not be damaging Rav Kaminetsky’s kavod by putting the book in herem. That kind of courtesy seems to have been missing in the controversy over Rabbi Slifkin’s books, as far as I know. What all this adds up to, in my eyes, is that there have been basic differences in hashgacha between the yeshivish/haredi worlds in the United States and Israel for a long time, but these differences seem to either be getting worse, or perhaps we are missing people with the stature and greatness of Rav Kaminetsky and Rav Shach who could at least impart some semblance of civility and mutual respect to these differences. One thing that makes me very curious is the origin of the fault line discussed by Rabbi Adlerstein. After all, people like Rav Kaminetsky and Rav Shach came from the same world, and studied in the same yeshivas from the same rabbaim. I have heard many tapes of Rav Avigdor Miller in which he makes it clear that he believes a Jewish man should work as well as learn Torah. How have have the Lithuanian yeshivish worlds with the same origin come to diverge so widely in their hashgachas? Where and why did this fault line discussed by Rabbi Adlerstein originate?

  3. Shimon says:

    Call me naive but I see the recent shameful events in Israel as a wonderful opportunity for traditional Torah values to be reasserted.
    While the publicity-hogging Haredi zealots claim to be/are branded as rooted in antiquity/antiquated, their extremism is, in fact, quite modern: their groups of spitters and screamers outside the Beit Shemesh school are, to this British writer, reminiscent of pre-Thatcher trade unionists on the picket line as strike breakers walk past into work.
    The truly traditional Torah viewpoints emphasising tolerance, honesty, kindness, empathy and truth – viewpoints which I saw lived as well as learned during my all too brief year at Ohr Somayach – are being drowned out in the media frenzy, which is whipping up some of the most revolting anti-religious rhetoric imaginable.
    Now, with ‘mainstream’ Haredim such as yourselves and Hamodia publisher Ruth Lichtenstein coming out publicly against the extremists this may be the time when the bulk of the Haredi community can and should start taking action of their own to counter this massive chillul Hashem.
    For too long people outside the Torah world have wondered where the rabbinic/communal leadership was in countering the stone throwers, screamers, spitters, and other thugs. Not just in making a pronouncement or writing an article but actually taking action against these people. And it is this apparent lack of leadership which has only served to compound the chillul Hashem and reinforce, if not widen, the gap between observant and non-observant.
    The dati leumi community has its own problems with extremists – the racist, highly politicised, proto-fascist nationalists who undertake ‘price-tagging’ operations not only against innocent Arabs (a dati friend of mine in Jerusalem was so embarrassed by such an attack which wrecked the car of an Arab neighbour he went out and offered his apologies and some money towards the cost of repairs – the Arab man responded graciously but declined the cash) but also against fellow Jews (as seen in their recent attack on an IDF base).
    So what I see here is an opportunity: for dati leumi and Haredi people to join together, to reassert the beauty and beneficence of their beliefs and practices and isolate the extremists. In so doing, they would find that they have the ability to change things significantly for the good – building bridges across communities, educating the wider world of the reality of Torah which is usually veiled behind the modesty and discretion of its upholders. As the Satmar Rebbe said following the Mercaz HaRav massacre – we learn the same Torah, the same Gemara.
    For example, when a group of zealots congregate outside a school to intimidate children, why not surround them with volunteers reciting tehillim? No engagement, no arguments; just surround them and ignore them. A gang of 20 ne’er-do-wells surrounded by 100 ordinary, decent religious folk cancelling out the hate with David HaMelech’s inspired beauty. Other volunteers could escort the children in/out of the school offering words of comfort and support – one Jew to another. If the zealots don’t change their ways then there are stricter sanctions that could be applied, via local rabbinic authorities to ensure that leading, persistent offenders feel the full weight of communal disapproval.
    Why wait for this to get even worse before something more than hand wringing is done?

  4. Shimon says:

    You didn’t make clear in your article that Blumenthal is referring to forging signatures of gedolim and placing them on signs that are hung up in Jerusalem or in Yated Neeman. I wonder, if it is OK to forge these signatures, who determines when this can be done? Who gave the forge the authority to do this?

  5. Yisrael Asper says:

    It seems another thing that has emerged are members of the Orthodox Hyper Left making the same hay as the media. It’s an intensification of the fault line that already exists between mainstream Orthodoxy and the shaky connection the Hyper left feels towards Orthodoxy. What should have been concentrated on was what to do and what teshuvah to do to prevent the same actions from happening as happened in Bet Shemesh. If it would have been fully acknowledged that the mainstream Chareidim do not support what happened and are not monsters the criticism could have been constructive to make for a better community.

  6. Tzvi says:

    Rabbi Adlerstien, I agree with everything you write in this article except for where the fault line is. From my contacts with family members and from reading VIN and YWN, I would say that a good percentage of American chareidim fall on what you would label the Israeli side of the fault line. A quick perusal of the some articles by other writers on Cross Currents just reinforces my point.

    By the way, a not insignificant percentage of Chardal Jews in Israel don’t disagree with the Israeli Charedi perspective either. And neither do some middle of the road Orthodox Jews in the States.

  7. cvmay says:

    Have your post translated into HEBREW & YIDDISH… and I will personally help to distribute it on the streets of Bet Shemesh, RamatBS, Yerushalayim, etc.

  8. Dr. Yitzchok Levine says:

    You wrote, “It almost doesn’t matter who was right. After things calm down, the rift between the two communities will remain. They think we can’t understand their realities, because we Americans don’t live there. We think they cannot comprehend the realities of the 21st century, as seen by those who interact with more of the greater world. It really doesn’t make much difference. Point of fact: the divide between the communities is wide enough that we have to give up the pretense that we are all living the same form of Yiddishkeit. Baruch Hashem, there is perfect overlap in fealty to fundamentals of faith, and allegiance to halacha. But in some matters, it is clear that we do not and cannot think the same way.

    Given this, namely, that there is a wide divide between the Orthodox community in EY and the one in America, I fail to understand why American Jews turn to Israeli poskim for a psak on issues that are related to life in America. We need American poskim to pasken for Americans. Israeli poskim should pasken for Israelis. Orthodoxy in America is indeed very different from what it is in EY, and this should be taken into account in dealing with situations that are uniquely American.


  9. avf says:

    The problem is that gedolim are diciders for Halachic and communal questions. They are not spokesman’s or public relations for the charedei world. Their is no such thing. They aren’t 21st century savvy .
    Until they are don’t blame the Israeli chareidim for not condemning the nutjob’s every time that their violent.

  10. Larry Yudelson says:

    Important piece. Just one clarification, as someone who followed the Beit Shemesh story from when it first surfaced on blogs and facebook postings. Long before the NIF or Israel television got involved, the dati parents sought support from “non crazy” local Haredi leaders. They did not find it.

  11. concerned says:

    Interesting points, on many of them I agree. But I wonder….it seems almost like the “stories” in the press that got us into this public mess in the first place. There is no real story about women riding in the back of the bus until a reporter makes a story about it.

    Is it possible that this article is more about creating the story of the rift than just describing a rift that is already there?

    I would be in agreement that there is a difference between the American and Israel chareidi cultures but it would seem that caution is in order and we be careful not to do more to create its reality.

    (by the way is there a larger difference between America and Israel than there was between Germany and Poland? All the yekes and poilishe seem to get along pretty well nowadays.)

  12. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    I think this split has been fomenting for a long time. I remember an American, the wife of one of Rav Aharon Kotler’s talmidim, warning me that American Charedim should not marry Israeli Charedim. When my wife pointed out that one of her daughters had done just that, she answered, “That’s why I say it shouldn’t happen!” I have heard stories of American Charedim, moving to Israel and finding it impossible to get children into Israeli schools. The split has been there for a while. It’s only now that we see it so clearly.

  13. Harry Maryles says:

    Could not agree more! I wrote about this issue myself.

    My only quibble is that the fault lines do not exactly fall out in Israeli versus American lines. Witness the statement of Agudah where they gave more ink to the justifiable reasons for the protests and complaints about negative secular media portrayals of Charedim than they did to the condemnation of the Sikrikim.

    I think there are really two Charedi worlds that are not defined geographically but that Israelis fit more into one and Americans fit more into the other. It has to do more with insularity and worldliness. That Israeli Charedim are more insular and Americans are more worldly by definition is why there is any geographical breakdown at all. Unfortunately it has been my experience that many Charedim right here in America have taken the same apologetic tack as the Israeli Charedim.

    [YA – I suppose it would have been more accurate for me to have written that on one side, there is only one POV that can be voiced; here in America, there are thousands of people who are quietly marching to a different drummer, even as some of their neighbors are walking in lock-step with our cousins in Israel.

    As far as the Agudah statement, it would have been fine had it not attempted to do what no press release should attempt: address two issues a the same time. That is always a recipe for failure. Had it not invoked the tzniyus issue, the beginning of the release was a perfectly fine statement of unreserved condemnation of extremist behavior.]

  14. Nachum Boehm says:

    avf: The article about forging signatures is referring specifically to, and justifying, the note that was placed on the cover of Yated banning Mishpacha Magazine, which note was apparently forged with R. Elyashiv’s signature.

  15. Tzei U'lmad says:

    “They are conscious of aspects that support, or lead to, the violence of the crazies. Those include systematized contempt for the “other,””

    Very important piece Rabbi Adlerstein, however I think it takes Americans off the hook (and I have posted so on other threads). The “systematized contempt for the other” is a part of American Charedi experience, although it may be in a more diluted form than in Eretz Yisroel. I would make the observation that in an attempt to fit in and conform to the mores of American Charedi society, many have embraced points of view and intolerant attitudes and rhetoric that would have previously set off alarms in their internal moral compass. We would like to think that this is the result of an embrace of Torah ideals and emunat Chachamim, but I would opine that a lot of it is driven by fear of not being accepted and of being unfavorably judged, and the “alarms” are just being silenced and denied in favor of rather threadbare rationales for just going along and getting along.

  16. Yona says:

    The use of the terms ‘nut job’ or ‘crazy’ as an excuse not to speak up against what are generally not nut jobs or crazy…but are rather fanatics/zealots who are supported, nurtured and encouraged to think the way they do because of SOME Charedi rabbis is just that, an excuse.
    Silence is complicity. Rabbis need to lead and have the courage to speak up.

  17. Nachum Boehm says:

    It’s interesting to read the comments on the Kikar Ha-Shabbos website. The overwhelmingly vast majority are extremely opposed to the contents of the op-ed.

    This gives me hope: There may be more moderates among the Israeli Charedim than we think.

  18. aron feldman says:

    Rabbi Alderstein, This type of underhanded dishonest disgrace is already worming it’s way across the Atlantic. If you recall a few years ago there was a brouhaha about a concert that ultimately was canceled due to a letter signed by American gedolim under false pretences. Just the the record the Rabbi who backed this underhanded bullying has been quoted by you on some previous posts

  19. Yisrael Asper says:

    It is unfortunately not new for a Gadol to find ouit he supposedly banned something. If we want Daas Torah then let us find out what Gedolim really say and let them have their say without fear. Even the Satmar Rebbe was hesitant to rule leniently in a particular case because of the masses. If it is going to be those trying to manipulate them, then forget it. Such Yiddishkeit leaves me cold. There’s a real warmth and sincerity in Israeli Chareidi and Chassidic Judaism that we would do well to learn and emulate to a great degree. We don’t need it obscured and manipulated into the media caricature many seek to portray it as.

  20. shaya says:

    How I see it, there are two ways of being a leader: one, to cultivate ignorance, arrogance, fear of outsiders, making people feel better at the expense of others (the leadership style of authoritarian nationalism), and two, telling the truth, cultivating humility and honest self-criticism, and making peace with others (the authentic Torah leadership style). From what I understand, the Israeli Charedi media doesn’t even mention or acknowledge the negative acts of the zealots, and claims the Charedi community itself is the victim, even saying falsely (for example) that the dati leumi school in Beit Shemesh was in the middle of a Charedi neighborhood!

    To make peace among Jews, and advance Torah in the world, we need leaders (in Torah, in the media, in politics, etc.) who encourage the community to be honest with themselves, and courageous to criticize even those who are “one of us,” and make peace with outsiders generously, “loving peace and pursuing peace, loving all creatures and bringing them closer to Torah” (Avot). As the Chafetz Chaim wrote (in Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatzar) to be a judge one must “have a strong, fearless heart to rescue an exploited or victimized person from the one who oppresses him.” The first step in this is to know who is oppressing whom, and intervene on the oppressed person’s side (rather than minimizing or justifying the oppression). To achieve this we must “learn from every person” (Avot) — humbly listen to and learn from those who have been hurt by the behavior of our religious brethren. Each of us, and particularly our leaders, must “consider the consequences of his actions” (Tamid 32a), by treating outsiders in a way that will create respect and peace and further the cause of Torah in the world.

  21. cohen y says:

    As is typical with tran -atlantic articles we must interacting with different galaxies.
    The shouldering together seems to have gotten stronger in these last few months.

    “(Chutz le-macheneh to them means people who are really far out, like those who might have something positive to say about Rav Kook.)”
    There you go again… I have found him quoted as much by mainstream chareidim as by some chardalniks.

    “recent op-ed in Kikar Ha-Shabbos…..”
    Here I fully concur

  22. M Laster says:

    When looking at the link to the Kikar Shabbos piece, it looks a bit like a joke, as some comments on the piece are arguing.

  23. mb says:

    Your reference to “cousins” was not lost on me.

  24. Shaya Karlinsky says:

    I believe the most corrupt part of the opinion quoted above has been missed.
    Rabbi Blumenthal writes “Forging private (promissory — sk)notes [even when justified] cannot be allowed because of the damage done thereby to the good and peace of the community.”
    Did I misunderstand what I just read? THAT is why one can’t forge a monetary document?? And all along I thought forging private promissory notes was forbidden because it was lying and stealing. What does “when justified” mean? One of the 365 prohibitions in our Torah is “midvar sheker tirchak” — distance yourself from lies. Justifying it, especially when the justifiers have clear financial interests and are looking to control the thoughts and behavior of mature adults — is a very slippery slope. I think we have descended pretty far down that slope .

    [YA – I think he meant the following. Ruvain signs a promissory note to Shimon for $10000. Shimon loses the note; Ruvain denies the obligation. Halachically, Shimon can’t forge a replacement note, even though he will not exact one perutah more than he deserves from Ruvain, the lying scoundrel. R Blumenthal comments on why the halacha is so, even though mi-devar sheker tirchak is dealt with differently in other situations, such as lying to keep peace. The gain to the aggrieved individual is offset by the potential harm to a greater number of people who will be victimized if people can find excuses to forge documents “for cause.” When people want to forge in order to forestall harm to an entire community, however – such as getting them to stop reading heretical material other than Yated – then the peace of the community is well served.]

  25. sima says:

    “The dati leumi community has its own problems with extremists – the racist, highly politicised, proto-fascist nationalists who undertake ‘price-tagging’ operations not only against innocent Arabs”

    BTW for accuracy sake, NO JEW was accused or indicted for these crimes and the latest reports have been that Arabs were responsible for these actions. There are definitely extremists everywhere -= except the CHARDEI world has won the prize for their actions this past month.

  26. cvmay says:

    As our post highschool teens and newlymarrieds spend time in Eretz Yisroel learning in Yeshivos and seminaries, extremist behavior, hashkafa, and anti-state (Zionist) attitudes are taught and cultivated. There is no wonder that the fault line between American and Israeli Charedim is extremely narrow as the years progress.

  27. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I think Rabbi Karlinsky makes the best point of all here. Where are we going when we can justify an outright lie in pursuit of our goals? But there’s another point, also, not a halachic point, but a point of common sense. If we know that people are willing to distort the truth to serve some hashkachic interest, then how in the world should we be expected to believe anything we read or hear? In other worlds, if a whole society is moving towards a point of view that justifies untruth, what credibility does anything flowing from that society have?

  28. David says:

    follow up to Baruch – and if one is allowed to forge the signature of a Gadol, then who is really the Gadol? What then is a Gadol?
    Is a Gadol just a rubberstamp used by askanim to validate anyone’s behavior?
    [I don’t mean to take this thread in a different direction but the clear maskana of Baruch’s argument had to be stated.]

  29. DF says:

    This article directly contradicts itself. In one line we read “Baruch Hashem, there is perfect overlap in fealty to fundamentals of faith, and allegiance to halacha.” But three sentences later we read of a great rift over (in this example) whether or not forgery for the public good is halachically permitted. In other words, there is a gaping chasm between us over the fundamental societal attitudes upon which 90% of halacha is bottomed. What difference does it make then that we all pledge alleigance to halacha, if we cannot agree what the halacha is?

  30. lacosta says:

    the upshot of the ”For that very same reason, forgery for the purpose of the peace of the community is appropriate and desirable ” philosophy is that the haredi definition of Truth may be contextual. we long know that for hagiographic purposes [ artscroll-type biographies] the Truth is that which will lead to better mitzva/morals observance, not that which actually happened, was said, etc. when it might differ with current or future
    haredi modes of living jewishly…. it makes it increasingly difficult for outsiders to then read source material and know if it is True , according to outside definitions of Truth….

  31. Formerly Orthodox says:

    When dealing with Chillul Hashem, it might be appropriate to look outside the Orthodox perspective, so I would like to mention that according to an acquaintance of mine who is a Conservative Jew, people in his community are concerned that the negative effect that ultra-orthodox fanaticism has on Jewish and non-Jewish world opinion could jeopardize the security of Israel. It may be that their fear is justified, because although Torah study protects the Jews, G_d also punishes baseless hatred. It seems to me that the Charedim are only concerned with their own “spiritual level” at the expense of the rest of K’lal Yisroel.

    The comments of Tzei U’lmad about conformism among Orthodox Jews especially resonate with me. It is really noticeable in external factors such as the uniform blackness of dress, but extends to politics, cultural interests, occupations, and more importantly, to a hashkafa which may not always be consonant with traditional Jewish values. Please see my Jan. 11 comments under “Responses to Charedi Spring, Continued”, Jan 3rd, which are relevant to this post as well.

  32. Tzei U'lmad says:

    Dear Formerly Orthodox,
    I read your positive comments about Rabbi Adlerstein in your Responses to Chareidi Spring, Continued and I appreciate being in his company for your praise. I believe his comments and mine have one more thing in common — we identify with the very groups which we may criticize. Something to consider.

  33. Shimon says:

    Sima comments on my observation concerning ‘price-tagging’ dati leumi extremists that “NO JEW was accused or indicted for these crimes”. The absence of arrests is in itself an indictment on the ability of the security services and police to keep track of these extremists.

  34. lacosta says:

    this leaves charedim in the US with a mild dilemma— when looking for daas tora, and if told that there ‘have been no US gdolim since r moshe’ , can they depend on the gdolei hador of eretz yisrael, when in the case of at least one , his great level of kdusha and insulation is such that he knew not what a credit card was ; can the gdolim of societies of no basketballs or bikes/separate sidewalks and burkas — can they speak to a slightly more lenient mode of living? or is everything outside what’s going on in Israel a very bedieved situation?

  35. dovid2 says:

    Shimon: “The absence of arrests is in itself an indictment on the ability of the security services and police to keep track of these extremists.”

    Do you mean to say that you know it for a fact that there were Jewish ‘price-tagging’ perpetrators, only that the Israeli police doesn’t have the will, desire, or ability to capture them? Please elaborate!

  36. micha says:

    I can’t believe this quote is from an Orthodox Jew. Geneivas da’as (literally: theft of information; lying or misleading someone) is a prohibition. It is prohibited more broadly than literal theft!

    What a far cry this attitude is from the gemara’s assumption that Moshe Rabbeinu couldn’t have just outright written the last verses of the Torah, because they describe his death — and thus they couldn’t be true yet.

    A statement about when one is allowed to forge a signature should therefore come with halachic sources, not just hand-waved over like this. But it couldn’t, because the gemara is clear about when one is allowed to outright lie, and when one is allowed to mislead without technically saying the wrong thing. AFAIK, lying is prohibited, no less than eating treif. I find it depressing that people who are maqpidim not to eat fish with anisakis roundworms in it are willing to airbrush women out of pictures without saying in the caption or making it visible that the picture was altered.

    I would think that’s the end of the discussion. But in case someone can turn this into “leshanos es ha’emes” (misleading) rather than outright sheqer (lying)…

    Misrepresenting the
    truth without an outright lie (leshanos) is only mutar in specific circumstances:

    – darkhei shalom, if there is no other way to maintain the peace (Yevamos 65b; CC Rechilus kelel 1:14). In other words, halakhah has a concept of tact.

    Or the three cases on BM 23b-24a:
    – masekhes — downplaying your accomplishments in learning (“Do you know meseschtes X?” “No.”)

    – puria — someone asks you about your sexual activities.
    Rashi: If asked directly, eg: “Did you have relations?” “No.”
    Tosafos: If a man who was absent due to his having seen an emission and needing to go to the miqvah is asked why he wasn’t at the beis medrash, he needn’t answer honestly.

    – ushpiza — lying about a host to prevent the questioner from taking advantage of them
    Rashi: Playing down their largess
    Rambam: Not giving them the correct name of the host

    Bet Shamaai prohibits complimenting a bride to her groom at their wedding in ways that aren’t true; Beis Hillel allows one to say “kallah na’ah vechasudah” — but only because we can assume that she is truly “pleasant and generous” in the eyes of her groom on her wedding day. (Kesuvos 17)

    Unless the pashkevil is about peace, personal modesty or protecting others from being used (an instance of keeping the peace?), I can’t see any way to permit misleading someone with a false signature. Perhaps it is this prioritization of frumkeit (rite-based religiosity) over ehrlachkeit (being refined) that misled the Sikrikim into thinking that outright violence would also be okay in the name of frumkeit.

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