Friday, February 26, 2010

Final Thoughts on "Yosef Greenberg Calls Halacha Unethical. Is It?"

I'm going to let the attempted dialogue with Yosef Greenberg end with this. This is his latest. Its become clear through the lack of substance in his preceding posts that he has no intention of actually engaging on the merits, or of citing verifiable sources.

In his first post, he claimed:
But I want to make it clear, that many, if not most, poskim permit copying software and music etc., even for others.
That should be easy to prove, were it true. Yet he hasn't done so in any of his posts. In that post, he didn't even address any halachik arguments with the exception of dismissing dina d'malchusa dina. His offered explanation was foolish.
(Dina dimachusa is also irrelevant. Do you ever cross the street when the light is red? Jaywalking is a crime.)
In his next post, he dismissed the notion of Chilul Hashem as irrelevant on the grounds that most people would not consider illegal downloading unethical. In both these cases, he dismissed the issue without citing any Halachik sources.

He also claimed that his opinion was:
And my money is on some very mainstream Rabbonim.
No citations. Not even the names of these mainstream rabbonim and many, if not most (according to him) poskim.

In his third post, he cited the Chazon Ish. This was his first and only attempt to cite an actual Halachik source. he wrote:
The Chazon Ish writes something about "our" common sense. One who comes in to a small town that currently has only one older teacher for children, and this newcomer, a young man, offers his services and thereby entirely takes away the livelihood of the other. Our sense would tell us that this man is a rasha. Yet, the Chazon Ish writes that according to the Torah precept of "kinas chachom tarbeh chochmah', it is wholly within his right to do so. (I think he should possibly be encouraged as well.) Therefore, writes the Chazon Ish, we should look to the Torah for proper ethics, NOT what the street decides.
Only problem is, the Chazon Ish says nothing about Dina d'malchusa, intellectual property, copyright, or any related topic. This source also does not prove what Greenberg claims it does about ethics, as I noted in my following post.

In this post, he again claimed:
The Rabbis I refer to are very well known chareidim; gedolim and other dayanim.
He also responded to the isues of "naval birshus haTorah" and "Vasisa Hayashar vehatov" by dismissing them without explanation.
Ever hear of "naval birshus hatorah?
Yes. And how does that apply here? (Answer: Not at all.)
"Vasisa hayashar vehatov?"
Yashar and tov according to you're narrow view. Halachah decides yashar and tov.
Note, he offered no explanation or distinction for why these topics shouldn't be relevant.

He then addressed Chilul Hashem again:
So you'd rather claim the opposite of halachah in order not to make a chillul Hashem? Guess what? It isn't, as shown above...
Again, no sources or citations. Three posts and no sources, citations, or answers offered. Just assertions that although illegal downloading is against the law, it's not against halacha. That's it.

In his fourth, and most recent post, he finally addresses the issue of sources, only to say:
While I did state that these were private conversations, there are some names that I can openly state because I believe stating them would not cause them anguish.

One name, which I know without doubt that he permitted copying is R' Yisroel Ya'akov Fisher, the Av beis din of the Eidah Chareidis. Another name, which I am slightly hesitant of because I am unsure of the exact wording of his heter was R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

It is probable that the reason the paak of these gedolim weren't publicized was because it wasn't much of a question back then, before file-sharing became common.
Two names. Both dead. No citation of anything in writing. Greenberg even admits he is unsure of the parameters of what one of these sources actually held. That's the sort of thing one needs to clarify before making these claims. And, no published sources to back his assertion up. Seriously. This is considered compelling? What happened to the claim that "many, if not most poskim permit copying software and music." That claim is demonstrably false.

Here's one highly relevant source on this topic. Rav Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim IV: 40,19 addresses the issue of copying a Torah tape that was produced for profit. He rules that it is gezel (theft) and forbidden. It is worth reading the entire teshuva. It's obvious that the burden is on those who would like to permit illegal downloading to explain why it's permissible. Yet, throughout this dialogue, I've been the one offering reasons for why it should be forbidden, while Greenberg casually dismisses them without explanation.

In this last post, he once again doesn't address why dina dmalchusa dina shouldn't apply, writing:
Again, dina dimalchusa does apply! Just not here! With regard to other cases it might well apply....
And, he admits he does not know Rav Auerbach or Dayan Fisher's shita on dina d'malchusa, writing:
Right. I did so above, clearly noting select well accepted poskim. I admit that I don't know their view on taxes.
In contrast, my position and it's basis in halacha, has been clear from my very first post. I have articulated a halachik reasoning for why illegal downloading is forbidden. That rationale is dina d'malchusa dina. (Its actually that it is theft. Dina d'malchus is just one underpinning for why it is so. One can say it's theft w/o relying on "dina" also.) I didn't invent the concept. It is mainstream accepted psak that we rely on for very serious issues, as I've noted.

I have also noted that even if one were to deny that principle, there are still many other halachik arguments against illegal downloading, and I've raised some of them. Greenberg hasn't refuted a single one. Sure, he's asserted that they don't apply. He hasn't offered a compelling reason for why they don't apply. Saying something doesn't make it so.

So there you have it. That's the breakdown of the tochen -- or lack thereof -- in his previous posts and the imbalanced dynamic of this dialogue. It's obvious that Greenberg won't or can't argue to the merits. So, I'm done with this conversation.

He did point out one possible error of mine, which I'd like to note. I wrote:
He has acknowledged-- even advocated-- illegally downloading music.
and he challenges this.
Um, where exactly did acknowledge doing that? There you go again, making false accusations.
I went back and reread the posts where I'd gotten that impression, and he did not explicitly write there that he personally has downloaded music illegally. He only makes clear that he believes it to be Halachikly acceptable, that he has familiarity with pirate sites for Jewish music, and, based on a conversation in the comments section there, that he has shared the links for these pirate sites with others. From the context there, I'd understood that he was doing so himself. If that inference is false, I would like to correct the record, so if Greenberg will post that he has not personally downloaded music illegally, I'll post a correction.