Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reversing the Hierarchy

When I was in yeshivah, I was taught very clearly that the hierarchy of rabbinic authority was as follows: At the top were Chazal, then came the Rishonim, then the Acharonim, and finally contemporary Gedolim.

Not only did I really believe this, I also really believed that they believed it. And they also really believed that they really believed it.

Over time, it has become increasingly clear to me that, in fact, this hierarchy is not what people follow. They actually completely reverse it.

In anti-rationalist circles, while Chazal are ostensibly the highest rabbinic authority, any inconvenient sayings of Chazal are simply ignored or are wholesale reinterpreted without any regard as to whether this is really what Chazal meant. (Soon, I will be posting an extraordinary statement from a very prominent Acharon who is explicit about disregarding a halachic position of Chazal in favor of contemporary norms.)

With the Rishonim, despite declarations about Rishonim k'malachim and heated opposition to saying that they didn't know elephant physiology, any inconveniently rationalistic sayings of the Rishonim are ignored, banned from study, and/or openly declared a perversion of the correct approach (but, of course they hasten to add incoherently, it was okay for the Rishonim to pervert the correct approach!). Acharonim trump Rishonim every time.

As for the Acharonim, despite endless stories of their unimaginable greatness in Torah and wisdom, their own "inconvenient" opinions are likewise written out of history. Nobody in the yeshivah world is going to be quoting Chassam Sofer on the science of the Rishonim and the value of secular studies (when taught by an appropriate teacher).

Topping Chazal, the Rishonim, and even the Acharonim, are the Gedolim. They tell us what to think; which views of prominent Rishonim and Acharonim are heretical and should be cast aside; how we to force Chazal's words into an appropriate interpretation.

But in fact, even the Gedolim are not at the top of the ladder. For if any of the Gedolim ever say anything inconvenient, they are simply ignored in favor of other Gedolim who are more cooperative; and if they persist with inconvenient statements, then their Gadol license is revoked. Rav Elyashiv has issued all kinds of piskei halachah that you'll never see on posters or in the Yated.

There was a terrific illustration of this in the comments of "Poshiter Yid" (to whom, despite his amazing anti-rationalist stance, I am actually taking a liking; he's entertaining, eloquent, and not particularly hostile). First he said that the Rambam is "kodesh kedoshim" and that the words of the Rishonim were all given at Sinai, but then when confronted with positions of the Rambam that are different from those acceptable to the Gedolim, he claimed that Rambam was wrong, with the proof being that the Gedolim say differently. Later, he gave a wonderful description of how "the Gedolim guide us and tell us how and what to think," but when faced with a statement from Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky that went against his beliefs, he said that Rav Yaakov must have been under the influence of alchohol when he published it (!)

For anti-rationalists, the Gedolim are much more important than the Rishonim. But even the Gedolim are only respected and followed insofar as their views concord with what the anti-rationalist himself considers legitimate. Amazingly, the hierarchy of rabbinic authority that they loudly claim to be true, is the complete opposite of the one that they actually follow.

55 comments:

  1. I especially get a kick out of the varied reactions from both bochrim and rabbanim when they are forced to confront R' SZ Auerbach's endorsement of heter mechira. I've literally seen a rosh yeshiva simply stare blankly at the question for several minutes before simply waving his hand in the air back and forth in dismissal, without even an explanation!

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  2. Rav Elyashiv has issued all kinds of piskei halachah that you'll never see on posters or in the Yated.

    Please share these with us!

    …and if they persist with inconvenient statements, then their Gadol license is revoked.

    Whose Gadol license was revoked?

    R' SZ Auerbach's endorsement of heter mechira…

    Dawidh – Can you please give us specifics, for those of us not in the know? Thanks.

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  3. The question is, then, who is the ultimate authority in the hierarchy, if even the Gedolim can lose their licence to practise if they maintain inconvenient views? Who decides what is convenient? The "askanim", whoever they are? I think the answer might be more complex, involving evolving social norms, the sort of stuff that Modern Orthodoxy openly admits to in the development of theology and halakha.

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  4. Michapeset - see here: http://seforim.blogspot.com/2007/10/chaim-rapoport-from-maadanei-eretz-to.html

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  5. For example, rav Elyashiv is very very vocal against sheytel. Funny part is that Beis Yaakov (declaratively follows litvish gedolim) will fire a teached who does not wear the sheytel but follows rav Elyashiv and wears a mitpachat.

    Dardai is correct, people follow askanim, not gdolim.

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  6. There are whole bunch of cognitive biases that are applicable here.

    Check out this list and take your pick. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

    I think the Ostrich Effect and Stereotyping are particularly applicable.

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  7. Don't ruin an otherwise excellent post by quoting Poshiter Yid, who is almost certainly parody.

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  8. @Michapeset:

    R' Auerbach z"l dealt with the halachic ramifications of heter mechira in his book "Madanei Eretz", justifying it and claiming that it has the status of "minhag Yisrael". Also notable is the fact that Rav Auerbach himself is said to have relied on the heter and eaten such produce during shmita years.

    There was a very interesting discussion of the Haredi reaction/coverup of his opinion on this issue last shmitta when kovetz of his writings on the subject of shveet were published that omitted any mention of the subject. Here http://seforim.blogspot.com/2007/10/chaim-rapoport-from-maadanei-eretz-to.html is a summary of that controversy.

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  9. a) Can we get a link to the RYK comment?

    b) About these debates: have you trained for debates? Most of the time the key to oral debates is presentation, not content. I would be happy to help you prepare in the event that you actually have one of these - but take it or leave it, you'll HAVE to prepare, or you will look like the loser even though your position is (very obviously, to me at least) correct.

    c) I say go for one with Kornreich. He isn't very good and you can guess what his arguments will be.

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  10. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Your comment "if they persist with inconvenient statements, then their Gadol license is revoked" is a profound sociological statement about the current state of affairs in charedi circles. I think it is very important for you to document this point much more fully.

    In my advocacy work around sex abuse in the frum world in the US I regularly encounter rabbinic timidity which flows from the fear of losing status. In effect, gedolim have no tenure.

    While you have consistently argued from the texts of the mesorah, the explanation for the current malaise is political. Many in the frum public know it but say it in loshon naki with expressions such as "Reb Moshe Feinstein was a REAL godol." Increasingly, the real gedolim are outside the corridors of power.

    That is why I think the most recent ban on the news site Vosizneias will fail. I already see indications that it is being ignored.

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  11. In your list of authorities over time, you forgot the most recent, the Askanim. Askanim are, in fact, greater in authority than Gedolim as they can decide what the answer to a shailoh is before the Gadol has even been asked the question. In addition, they have access to the signature stamps of the Gedolim and the authority to use them at will when issuing bans and pashkevils. Hence all the nutty decrees that have the signatures of the Gedolim who are then, when confronted, forced to support them instead of saying "Well I didn't sign on to this meshugas!"
    In many ways, what is happening in the Chareidi world is exemplified by the way Melakon manipulated John Gill in the Star Trek TOS episode "Patterns of Force". What is needed is a modern day James T Kirk to pull back the curtain and get the Gedolim to speak unfiltered.

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  12. A prime example of this in the area of serious psak halakhah is the Mishnah Berurah itself. Time and again, hundreds of times in fact, the views of the Magen Avraham and other acharonim trump "ikkar ha-din" as it is found in Shas and rishonim. And then the MB itself is declared the "posek acharon" by the Gedolim today, often on the basis of the Chofetz Chaim himself having been the absolute Gadol ha-Dor (one must be a gadol and a "tzadik" in order to pasken, as only the Chofetz Chaim was...).

    For contrast, see how the Arukh ha-Shulchan deals with the Magen Avraham and other acharonim when the don't reflect the mainstream view that existed before them.

    Those Gedolim of the past generation or who live amongst us today, and do not consider the MB to be the "posek acharon" are simply disregarded, and won't be found amongst the inner circle of gedolim who sign all the manifestos.

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  13. It should be pointed out that many rationalists have the hierarchy backwards as well. Specifically extreme Rambamists like R Chait's students and Darda'im seem to give more authority to the Rambam than to the Talmud.
    As for Poshuter Yid, he has got to be kidding. He wrote that the Rambam would daven Ashkenaz - and not the Rambam's girsah in MT? How Haredi would he be? Would he go to the ayin hora lady in Meah Shearim? (yes she has been recommended by Rav Elyashiv) Would he visit Rav Schach's kever? Would he let people ask him to daven for them? Or would he tell them "Lo Levado ra'uy lehispallel?" Would he be a huge machmir or would he reboil up a cold soup on Shabbos? And of course lets pick one. Would he be a leading officer of Aguda or part of Neturei Karta? My guess is that if we had someone as great as the Rambam around neither would exist.
    I hope Poshiter Yid is in this for the laughs.

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  14. It should be pointed out that many rationalists have the hierarchy backwards as well. Specifically extreme Rambamists like R Chait's students

    I wouldn't call them "rationalists." Maybe "hyper-rationalists" or "fundamentalist-rationalist" (but that may be too offensive).

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  15. Koillel Nick:
    The Rambam would not boil up a cold soup on Shabbos, because he is one of the main Rishonim who prohibit bishul achar bishul.

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  16. "fundamentalist-rationalist" (but that may be too offensive)

    Not at all, this is how I think of myself. Excellent post!

    Please note also SZA opinion on using electricty on Shabbos.

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  17. The question is, then, who is the ultimate authority in the hierarchy, if even the Gedolim can lose their licence to practise if they maintain inconvenient views? Who decides what is convenient?
    ==================

    In the end, it is the consent of the ruled (askanim have the same limiting factor)

    IIUC the answer is not an upended priority list but rather (as is the "answer" to academic study of talmud) we don't really care what chazal actually thought, only how they were understood by the baalei mesorah that came after them in every generation.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  18. On electricty on Shabbat, a convenient online reference is in the 1911 Otzar Yisrael available on hebrewbooks.org:

    http://tinyurl.com/37hjdj9

    (the halachic summary is on the next page of the entry).

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  19. No, I am not "in it for the laughs".
    However, I will no longer be participating in this becasue when I asked my former rebbe from yaeshiva if he had heard of R. Slifkin or this website, he said that he is an apikores, and I should stay away. So I am. Goodbye kofrim.

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  20. Dear Rav Natan,
    Very perceptive post. That's how I always understood Rav Yisrael Salanter's famous interpretation of Chazal's statement "Pnei hador k'pnei hakelev" (Sotah 49b). Rav Yisrael explained it to mean that the same way the dog walks ahead of its owner, presenting itself as if it's leading, but truthfully it looks behind it - to its owner - for guidance. Rav Yisrael explained that this analogy refers to the leaders of the 'final' generation who seem to be leading but truthfully are following the whims of the masses. Most people think he was referring to democracy or some political crisis. I always understood it to describe our current socio-political crisis of lack of unified overseeing religious body - to which your Seforim were a symptom of.
    Keep up the good work.
    Rav Gav.

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  21. DLZ,
    רמב"ם הל' שבת ט:ג
    המבשל על האור דבר שהיה מבושל כל צרכו או דבר שאינו צריך בישול כלל פטור

    Rema OC 318:15 seems to side that it is permitted though perhaps only as a tzirruf. But Igros Moshe OC 4:74 that states that the Rema maintains that it is definitely permitted.
    שגדולי הפוסקים סברי דגם בלח אין בשול אחר בשול וכן הוא הכרעת הרמ"א ונוהגין כן דרק שבנצטנן לגמרי מחמיר

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  22. I think the tekufa of Achronim is over. We seem to have now entered the tekufa of the Askonim.

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  23. R' Slifkin: You forgot who's really at the very very top of the hierarchy: The Askonim.

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  24. "I think the tekufa of Achronim is over. We seem to have now entered the tekufa of the Askonim."

    I think we are in the tekufa of Geonim. Every shnook is called Harav hagaon.

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  25. koillel nick -- please see the רמב"ם in הל' שבת א:ג where he clarifies what פטור means:

    וכל מקום שנאמר שהעושה דבר זה פטור הרי זה פטור מן הכרת ומן הסקילה ומן הקרבן אבל אסור לעשות אותו דבר בשבת ואיסורו מדברי סופרים הרחקה מן המלאכה והעושה אותו בזדון מכין אותו מכת מרדות

    Also, Malcolm ;) is not I.

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  26. R.NS: "... the hierarchy of rabbinic authority ..."

    Rabbinic authority, like any legitimate human authority, must be fiduciary authority. Two תנ"ך-hyperlinks into MT ...

    ויאמר לי, עבדי אתה -- ישראל, אשר בך אתפאר

    כי שפתי כוהן ישמרו דעת, ותורה יבקשו מפיהו: כי מלאך ה' צבאות, הוא


    (It seems to me that רמב"ם uses פסוקים to make transparent his claim that he is no more than a fiduciary.)

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  27. I was hoping we would rather be in the tekufa of the kofrim and/or apikorsim.

    G'bye Poshiter. It was fun while it lasted.

    No need to fret folks - I'm sure we'll get another "Poshiter Yid" comin' 'round these parts sooner or later trying to be mekarev the oiylam before his rov tells him to "stay away" because Rabbi Slifkin "is an apikores" and us commenters are "a bunch of kofrim".

    Tekufas HaKofrim - it has a good ring to it.

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  28. Thank you Dawidh and J for the link to the issue you mentioned. Very interesting and very telling on the current state of affairs.

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  29. There is a lot of truth in this posting. It is also important to openly acknowledge that there are all types of "gedolim" besides the ones touted as such by the haredi world.

    Rav Dov Lior from Qiryath Arba, Rav Nachum Rabinowitz from Maale Adumim, Rav David Bar-Hayim from Yerushalayim. The only thing preventing some from acknowledging this is that their hashqafa isn't politically correct.

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  30. I think that the top of the hierarchy is none of the above.

    It is "Me".

    What "I" want to believe. What suits "My" version of orthodox Judaism.

    It then becomes very easy to pick and choose which statements of the Gedolim / Acharonim / Rishonim / Chazal that "I" like best. Even better, is when the "me" is an "askan" (how I loathe what that word has come to mean) can direct Gedolim to "his" views...

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  31. Every community is essentially run by baalabatim\askanim. The chareidi world (even the MO world) is simply a macrocosm of a typical Jewish community. In the end of the day, the Rabbi is employed by the commitee... In some bigger congregations, the Rabbis Shabbat drasha has to be pre-approved by the commitee! The Rabbi is essentially a employee of the community. If the Rabbi oversteps his authority, he is ousted! The Rabbi would never dare mess with the status quo or comfort zone of the community. This would lose him his job.

    This is not only true in all communities but on larger scale as well. A Gadol very seldom paskens against the asakim's preconcieved notion. This would cost him his 'job' as a Gadol. We have seen this with Rav Solevichik and Rav Kook.

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  32. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I think you went most of the way but pulled back from the most shocking implication of your argument: the present system of charedi leadership is halachically corrupt. It renders decisions without attending to both sides; it renders decisions based on personal interests either of their family members, their political constituents, or askanim (who are oskim b'tzorchei gesheft); it renders decisions in ways that confuse the public of the essence of halachah; it routinely subjects the public to financial hardships (e.g., the Elyashiv elevator psak) without consideration for the proper role of such factors in halachah; and it renders decisions because of personal vendettas against other orthodox factions.

    Whether it is done b'shogeg or b'meizid is an interesting question, but immaterial to the question of whether such leaders have forfeited their leadership bonafides.

    As you have documented, the ban on your work was a byproduct of a vendetta by disreputable actors. It was processed without proper consideration of the facts or providing you with an opportunity to defend yourself. It was clearly handled with no regard for the financial and reputational consequences for you.

    The ban against you along with many others was neither simply a mistake, nor a demonstration of kanois. The ban against you was a symptom of corruption.

    The signers of these bans may very well be exceptionally pious individuals. But in assuming public roles they assume public responsibilities to behave like manhigim who behave in the interest of halachah, of mishpat, and of the interests of the klal. Many of these individuals have made major mistakes so often that it forces us to ask questions about the system.

    I also have to wonder what it says that we see no consequential kol korehs about the terrible and widespread problem of child sexual abuse (obviously an authentic halachic issue). Obviously there are also no consequential kol koreh's about geneyvah.

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  33. You write that the Gedolim "tell us" what to think, or how "we" are to interpret words, etc. - nonsense. You dont listen to any of these rabbis, and neither do most of your readers. Neither do tens upon scores of thousands of orthodox Jews. All of these rabbis have only the power one wishes to afford them.
    Thus, you dont have to stop wearing crocks on tisha B'av; using shabbos elevators; eating strawberries; going to the Kosel on shabbos; visiting the Knesset; stop using Glenpappie bourbon; stop using the internet;or whatever other mishigas some rabbi has said you cannot do. And therefore you should not write as though you concede their authority, when in fact, you (rightly) do not.

    I understand that in certain aspects of communal Jewish life you MIGHT - depending on the community, and the degree with which you care about the lowest common denominator - have to kowtow to a view you disagree with. But every man has to do that, not only Jews. It's a part of life. But that is simply called tact, not subservience. Your words seem to imply that you include yourself among the subservient who obviously cannot think or decide for themselves.

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  34. an "askan" (how I loathe what that word has come to mean)

    A tangent about “askonus”:

    The term “askanim” has now come to mean men who are close to Rabbinic leaders and who inform those leaders of community affairs.

    In the “olden days” an “askan” was someone who was extraordinarily involved with the many needs of the community, he was oseik b’tzarchei hatzibur to a much greater degree than most, and hence called “an askan.” In those days, every man was an “askan,” but men who gave of their time and efforts above and beyond all others were called “askanim.” But that was in the “olden days” when the frum world valued men who gave freely of their time and efforts to help the community and individuals in need. Nowadays it is called “chesed” and is left for the women, who as teenagers in high school need to log in a set number of “chesed hours” as part of the curriculum. But chas v’shalom boys should be bitul zman Torah to be oseik b’tzarchei hatzibur. Learning Torah (i.e., learning Gemara) is more important and comes before anything and everything, including being oseik b’tzarchei hatzibur. Yeshiva high school boys do not have to log in “chesed hours” and instead have to go to mishmar at night. And if an old, homebound man in the neighborhood needs help, well sorry, Bikur Cholim has no male volunteers anymore, it’s bitul zman for men and boys now. Only women or high school girls can help.

    I want the askanim of yesteryear back. They knew what it meant to be part of a community and that helping those in need and being oseik b’tzarchei hatzibur is what the Torah teaches. They knew that sitting and studying it instead of practicing it defeats the purpose of learning Torah in the first place. Being oseik b’tzarchei hatzibur was part of the frum and Jewish value system of old, before “kollel” or “Lakewood” were household words. It was the unspoken understanding of what it meant to be a frum Jew and part of a Jewish community. At some point the “bitul zman” drums began beating and “learning only” became what was preached to boys, even to the exclusion of what the Torah asks of Jews in the first place. Those boys became men, and now the men of yesteryear who knew the essential role that “askanus” played within a Torah lifestyle and Jewish community are fading fast. They are the men who are now homebound or in nursing homes and in need of a visit, a smile, or even just a phone call from a yeshiva bochur. But the bochurim are busy, they can’t be bitul zman to stop for a moment to care for the needs of others. Unlike Avraham Aveinu, they are too busy with more important matters – they are learning; learning the very Torah that teaches about caring for others in the first place.

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  35. @Poshiter Yid, your statements that Rashi and the other accepted Rishonim had Ruach Hakodesh confuse me.

    How many times did the Ramban flat out state that Rashi's explanations are wrong? what about the Ramban stating the Ibn Ezra was dead wrong?

    Assuming we agree the Ramban is n accepted Gadol( his works were translated by Artscroll so he must), did the Ramban not posses Ruach Hakodesh? If he did was it different Ruach Hakodesh than the one Rashi possesed?

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  36. Poshiter Yid said.... . . .
    However, I will no longer be participating in this becasue when I asked my former rebbe from yaeshiva if he had heard of R. Slifkin or this website, he said that he is an apikores, and I should stay away. [italic]So I am. Goodbye kofrim.[/italic]

    This is how we should decide whom to listen to? Sad, sad, sad.

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  40. What if part of the problem is an over-abundance of scholarship?

    What I mean to highlight is that a significant portion of the Orthodox world is involved in the field of education or law. Like all fields, there is some level of flux as positions dry up in times of hardship or become necessary in times of growth.

    I think there is an element of this problematic fear by the Rabbonim; particularly from what I see in America.

    While Israel could be different, in America there are so many different divisions and schools. I have personally watched some groups scramble to have adequate funds. For example, there is a certain Beis Midrash in North Hollywood which is both an Aish HaTorah Institution AND a Young Israel institution. I've heard rumors there that the moves were made to consolidate membership and cashflow which had been problematic. Simple things like sustaining kiddush.

    Now...Imagine you're a big rabbi, you're going broke because maintenance is going up constantly, food is going up constantly, and your members are getting fed up that they're not getting the same environment as "the good old days" when your institution was at its apex. Add to this the stress of maintaining your large family.

    Would it really be that far off an idea to say that maybe there is recognition of limited resources and the politics are meant to wrest these into the hands of the most capable?

    Anybody can give Divrei Torah these days. Anybody can write a book. Anybody can get a few friends to vouch that they're smart......

    What happens when the common man's smarts cut into the smart man's pocket?

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  41. Aryeh, nicely stated, but I think there is a key missing element in your analysis.

    The main purpose of the methodology you describe is to implement a revolutionary change under the guise of evolutionary change -- generally because of the need to adapt halacha to a changed societal context.

    The problem today, from my perspective, is that the current generation of Rabbinic leaders demand the subservience, but are not delivering on the adaptation of halacha to a changed societal context.

    It must be a two-way street; or, the methodology you describe so nicely is just artifice.

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  42. "In anti-rationalist circles, ... any inconvenient sayings of Chazal are simply ignored ...

    "For anti-rationalists, the Gedolim are much more important than the Rishonim....

    "I wouldn't call them "rationalists." Maybe "hyper-rationalists" or "fundamentalist-rationalist" .."

    R' Slifkin, I would've thought that by now, you would've told us what stam rationalists hold.

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  43. Malcolm,
    Magid Mishne and Beis Yosef clarifies that here the Rambam means permitted as they explain his understanding of the Gemara like the Rashba and Ran. See also Biur Halacha 318;4 for a quick rundown.

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  44. Rav Gav, you're in good company.
    Me. I've commented at this site before about Sotah's "face of a dog" as a sign of the coming of moshiach.
    A question for Rabbi Slifkin could be: do you see this sad phenomenon as a promising sign that Moshiach is on his way? Or is that too non-rationalist?

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  45. Aryeh,

    Your whole analysis seems to be based on the idea that individual Rabbi's have some kind of authority to give legally binding halachik rulings, based on the "in those days" verse. That's never made any sense to me, as a legal system in which every Tovia, Dan and Howie can make gezirot would be chaos. It would seem to me that that verse only applies to the Sanhedrin, "in those days". Also, reading Rambam's MT, he explicitly states that the only universally binding halachot are those issued by the Sanhedrin, and he further states that every single Beit Din has authority to rule for it's community, but to the extent that I've studied MT I've never seen him attribute any authority at all to individual Rabbi's, he always seems to talk in terms of Beitai Din deciding matters. Further, he limits the authority of the Beit Din to interpreting what the Talmud says and attributes final authority to the Talmud, i.e. everyone has to follow it and no one is allowed to contradict it. I'm not saying this is the only position obviously, but it's the only one that makes sense to me. I've discussed this with a few "Rambamist" Rabbi's and they've confirmed the general gist of what I'm saying, with the caveat that there are allot more details and nuances to it.

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  46. Correction. Rambam wrote pattur and not muttar bec his case is when the food is directly on the fire, and it forbidden miderabannan bec it looks like cooking. Had he forbade bishul achar bishul he would have written chayav.

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  47. I would add to IH’s comment that the current Rabbinic leaders are also implementing revolutionary change but with little or no regard to a changed societal context.

    Also, the (sometimes revolutionary) halachic rulings being rendered by current Rabbinic leaders known as “The Gedolim” are not backed up with sources, proofs, or detailed explanations of any sort, as Rav Moshe Feinstein’s piskei halacha were, but rather with statements that are equal to “Because I said so.” Further, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l stated clearly that his piskei halacha were only to be followed if his explanations made sense as he presented them. Too bad the current Gedolim don’t follow this “mesorah” and say the same.

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  48. Yerachmiel Lopin – your comment on 12/26 11:17 PM was excellent. The only problem is that our current system of Rabbinic Judaism does not uphold democratic values whereby Rabbanim are voted out of office if they have failed miserably in their stated goals and mandates. Our current, undemocratic, and corrupt system of Rabbinic Judaism which has been in place for close to 2,000 years can be exploited by any authorities who assume power and lay claim to their positions, with no checks or balances in place to challenge them. Rabbinic Judaism is not a democracy. And in my not-so-humble opinion, there lies the problem.

    These same issues may very well have been taking place for the past 2,000 years, but there was no internet or blog on which to write about or expose them. Nor was there much, if any, acceptance for challenging authority. Also, for a good few hundred years rabbis were part of a class system, where the rabbis were the upper, learned class. And in class systems, people know their place.

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  49. @James Dean:

    One of the discussions on this blog in the past has been whether (not only Chazal but also) the Nevi'im could state erroneous things as part of their prophecy.

    One can't automatically conclude that Ruach Hakodesh means that whoever receives it is right. Why can't Rashi have written with Ruach Hakodesh, but been wrong sometimes?

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  51. Aryeh, your response is most revealing. Thank you.

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  52. Rabbi Slifkin, nice article as always. But can you stick to a rational definition of "rationalist" please? It can't just be whatever you agree with. The issue you're raising here has nothing to do with rationalism (after all, you quote a Rambam fan) but rather with a particular phenominon of gedolim-itis, or one might say, a chassidification of the misnagdish world. Nothing to do with rationalism.

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  53. "Topping Chazal, the Rishonim, and even the Acharonim, are the Gedolim. They tell us what to think"

    In my experience, they just teach what there is to think, not "tell" me what to think. I don't like characterizing them in that negative way.

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  54. If you insist on saying that the Gedolim "tell us what to think", wouldn't you say that a comment such as the Talmud's "whoever does not believe that the concept of the revival of the dead comes from the Torah has no share in the world to come" is also "telling us what to think."

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