Monday, October 23, 2006

How to Review a Book

In "And From Jerusalem His Word"(Pages 203-204), there is a quote from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zt'l :

I prefer to concede on almost anything to avoid a machlokes. When I read any sort of criticism, I always look to see if the writer first praises the work and its author and then comments on or criticizes a specific aspect or detail. If he does, I know that the criticism is genuine and therefore permissible. But if the piece opens with criticism and attacks the author or his book, then it is sheer machlokes and thus forbidden. Only when a person knows the value and importance of his fellow man can he criticize him without descending into controversy.

Last week, when I referred to the above elsewhere on the internet, someone mentioned that this was said in reference to Rav Avroham Yitzchak Kook Zt'l. However, while Rav Shlomo Zalman was extremely careful about Rav Kook's honor, as is well known, the above quote was a general one and does not appear to be related to this topic.

I think that the above-mentioned thoughts of Rav Shlomo Zalman on criticizing was related to being dan lechaf zecus(judging favorably), which involves seeing and evaluating the entire person or situation:

From the Other Side of the Story, as quoted here:

...A virtuous man was walking with his students and they chanced upon the dead carcass of an animal. The students said, "What a foul odor is coming from this carcass!" the virtuous man said, "How white are its teeth!" (Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar Hacniya, chap 6)

Which was true? Which was more obvious?

Both observations were true. Even though the white teeth were much less obvious and easy to overlook in the face of the offensive, overpowering odor of a dead carcass, the virtuous man found something nice to see and to say. He chose to concentrate on the positive. If this can be said concerning a dead animal, how much more so should we try to find the good in a human being.

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