Should I be More Respectful towards Shmuly Yanklowitz?

Update Hoshana Rabba 5776: R. Yanklowitz has reversed his position and I publicly apologize for attacking him on this issue.


This is a question I’ve been pondering seriously for a few days. Admittedly, I have a natural tendency towards sarcasm and cynical writing. That’s where I go. But I’ve been struggling over the last two days, because I thought perhaps those arguing for a more civilized debate had a point.

But I have now rejected that position. Here’s why.

Respectful disagreements should be reserved for purely intellectual or ritualistic arguments. What’s kosher, what’s not, what happened 3,000 years ago at Sinai and what didn’t. Is there only One God or 17 Gods? Is He physical or not? Those that cannot conduct themselves respectfully in those realms, their arguments will be lost, because nobody will pay attention to two people yelling at each other over issues that do not involve life and death, and they will relegate them to two curmudgeons yelling at each other in an alleyway. Respectful debates over purely religious matters will outlast, in books, treatises, and debates. People will read and think about them for centuries.

A teacher of mine implicitly compared me to one of Rebbi Akiva’s students that disrespected his peers and died without having made any influence. But that does not apply here. Why? הכא במאי עסקינן? There, Rebbi Akiva’s students disrespected each other over purely intellectual matters. They all died without any influence. But Shmuly Yanklowitz’s positions are life and death. And he is on the wrong side.

People will die TODAY because they cannot purchase a kidney on the free market. People will die TODAY because they cannot sell their kidney on the free market. People are dying NOW. And Shmuly is egging it on.

If you, dear reader, were on dialysis, and you needed a kidney, would you not purchase one one the free market from a willing seller?

Would Shmuly Yanklowitz, if God forbid Chas Veshalom his remaining kidney malfunctions, want to purchase one on the free mraket if no one donated to him? Or would he rather die for his anti market principles?

When it involves life and death, you throw out diplomacy. With life and death, you go for the jugular and you hold nothing back. That is what I have done and that is what I will do, whenever life and death comes up again with Shmuly.

What’s my evidence? Rashi called the Biryonim, those that wanted war against the Romans during the 2nd Temple Period, אנשים ריקים ופוחזים למלחמה. Empty worthless warmongerers. That was their argument. Even though the Biryonim had a moral position, to get rid of the invaders, Chazal had to delegitimize them because it was a life and death issue.

Shmuly has no moral position, so Kal Vachomer he deserves no respect.

If it were just minimum wage, I wouldn’t scream. If it were just equal-work-equal-pay, I wouldn’t single him out. If it were just Rubashkin’s, I wouldn’t take him into the ring and challenge him publicly. If it were just Pollard, not a word from me. None of that is life or death.

I didn’t even yell at him when he came out against organ sales, when he called that “shameful” in a 2009 article in HaAretz. Even though that is a life and death issue, because many people can make that mistake, and I know what fights to pick. Nobody who said that those Rabbis were shameful for trafficking kidneys was being manipulative. They were simply understandably mistaken.

I DID publicly attack Shmuly when he advocated sending weapons over to Syrian terrorists, because not only is that life and death, it’s MY OWN life and death, because I LIVE HERE. He doesn’t.

But when that artificially sweetened article came out about Shmuly donating his kidney to an orphan was published, that was it.

Shmuly isn’t just another Statist who makes mistakes sometimes about his positions. There are people who are for minimum wage who I still respect, because that mistake, while resulting in an immoral position, is common and understandable. Equal-work-equal-pay I also get, even though it still results in an immoral position, I wouldn’t say anyone who holds those is immoral to his core.

But once you combine no organ sales with a manipulative publicity stunt via donating an organ, if you don’t have the courage to come out and support a free market in organs, I’m coming after you for everything.

Shmuly Yanklowitz embodies everything I am against. He is essentially political, with everything he does. He is a perfect target, and I will use him for publicity just like he uses publicity for himself. If I can get him to publicly support a free market in organs, I have succeeded. I will publicly apologize for everything I have said, take it all down, and become his loyal supporter, even though he still is against sweatshops, for equal-work-equal-pay, and for minimum wage – which by the way all stem from a minimum wage argument and are all the same issue anyway.

So once I was going to attack him on organ donation, everything else came with it.

Support a free market in organ sales Shmuly. And donation. And I will be on your team. And I will beg your forgiveness and God’s.

Actually I’ll make it even easier for you. Publicly admit that maybe you are mistaken about organ trafficking, and say that only people who steal organs and sell them are shameful, but not people who traffic voluntary sales on the black market. Say publicly that you will consider the position, and take back your shameless reproach of those Rabbis, assuming they did not steal or traffic any stolen organs.

Tell us, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, if you needed a kidney God forbid, and you could either purchase one from a willing seller, or die, would you rather die for your principles? Tell us. Answer me. I want to know.

And even if you would rather die, what right do you have to condemn death on others?


2 thoughts on “Should I be More Respectful towards Shmuly Yanklowitz?

  1. Actually according to the Maharal the premise of this piece should be reversed. It was particularly in matters of halakha, especially practical matters, that the famous bat kol declared for Hillel and Shammai that despite both being the words of the Living G*d the halakha would follow Beit Hillel because of their humbling themselves and respecting the opinions of Shammai, citing them first. On the other hand, in the beit midrash in the world of pure argument, he continues, one talmid chacham sharpens another like iron sharpens iron.
    The Maharal is pointing out a powerful counterintuitive idea: seeing one’s truth as partial and making room for seemingly contradictory perspectives to be authentic is not for the realm of the ideal, but essential to the work of actual life (and death). Derech eretz and respectful discourse is not just a piety or a nicety. It is the cornerstone of Torah.

    • Are you saying that Hillel and Shammai argued about issues of life and death? No, they did not. They argued about issues of tumah and tahara, ritualistic concerns, not life and death. Shmuly is advocating for death. I am calling him out for it. Period. Your pilpul is too complicated for me. I see someone calling for the death of others. I say what it is. I’m a simpleton. An Am HaAretz. I am the Tam. I am NOT the Chacham. “What is this?” It’s evil. That’s it. I have no sophistication like you.

      Not the Drash. Not the Sod. Just the simple bare truth. I WANT THE PSHAT.

      I don’t care about the hukim and mishpatim. (I care about them, but only very minorly.) I care about life and death.

      He advocates for people to die rather than buy. I want them to live. That’s how I see it. No PILPUL.

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