Tuesday, December 28, 2010

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

I'm in the Italian Alps for three days giving some lectures, so my internet access is sporadic. I hope to be able to write an Alps-specific post tomorrow! Meanwhile, here is a guest post from the Brooklyn Wolf (it also appears with comments on his blog):

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

There are many that have said that the recent bans promulgated by the Gedolim (i.e. Rabbi Slifkin, the Lipa concert, The Making of a Gadol and now Vos Iz Neias among others) have caused the stature of the Gedolim to become far less relevant and important today. To some extent, that is true -- the mishandling of some of these bans has exposed the flaws in the process of some of their recent halachic rulings and has damaged the reputation of the Gedolim among the general populace.

Nonetheless, as evidenced by what happened with some of the cases mentioned above, the Gedolim still can be said to have enormous power. They can bring pressure to bear on people and events which can lead to loss of money, public embarrassment and communal shunning. The ability to bring such pressure to bear is an enormous power -- one that must be wielded with extreme care. I would think that if one has the ability to wreck a person's life, that ability should only be wielded with extreme care and great trepidation. The power to do such is a great power -- and, as Uncle Ben reminded Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility.

Do the Gedolim have a responsibility to us? I believe they do. Any leader has a responsibility to the people that he or she leads. If a Gadol (or anyone else for that matter) is going to assume the power to greatly affect the lives of others, then he must be responsible to make sure that that power is used wisely and appropriately. There must be safeguards, checks and balances to make sure that the power is being used properly -- and those wielding the power must be responsible to make sure that those safeguards, checks and balances are in place.

Sadly, today, there are no such checks and balances. We have recently seen how the current edifice of halachic decision making is flawed and that the leaders (perhaps unintentionally, but still disasterously) have shirked their responsibilities. Those responsibilities include the following:


The responsibility to adequately investigate the facts and circumstances before making a ruling.

If a Gadol is going to issue a ruling that will impact a person (and all the more so if the impact is going to cause a severe loss of money or prestige), he has a responsibility to independently investigate the circumstances surrounding the case. This includes contacting the people affected and giving them a chance to adequately respond.

We saw this responsibility cast aside numerous times. The Gedolim who signed on the ban against Lipa's concert were told that there was going to be mixed dancing (among other misinformation) at the event. At no point did any of the Gedolim who signed on the ban even so much as pick up a phone and call Lipa or one of the event organizers to determine if this was true (it wasn't -- there wasn't even going to be mixed seating). The same thing occurred with Rabbi Slifkin -- he was phoned (not by any of the Gedolim who signed on the ban against his books) and told that he had hours to retract his books and was not given any real chance to respond. In addition, the ban against his books was signed, in many cases, by those who did not even read the book.

Another aspect of this responsibility is the responsibility to not simply rely on the signature of another Gadol when deciding whether or not to sign on to a halachic decision of considerable importance, scope and effect. If Gadol X signs on a document, I should have the right to assume that Gadol X has actually looked into the matter and came to the decision himself. If, however, Gadol X is signing on the document only because Gadol Y signed, then what is really the value of the signature? To say that he trusts Gadol Y? We already knew that he probably did. In the end, you get documents where twenty or thirty Gedolim sign, but only one or two probably actually gave any real, serious thought to the decision at hand. If so, is it really twenty or thirty Gedolim issuing a decision? No it's not -- it's merely one or two making the decision. In the end, however, I believe that if a Gadol is going to sign on a document, they have an absolute responsibility to investigate the matter for themselves. If I'm to be told to obey a document because Gadol X signed, I have the right to be assured that Gadol X actually did his due diligence to investigate the case -- and not rely on the word of a third party -- even that of a fellow Gadol.

A Gadol has, in my humble opinion, an absolute responsibility to do his utmost to ascertain the facts of a situation before issuing a ruling on it. It's not reasonable to expect a Gadol to get every fact correct every time -- they are only human and sometimes mistakes will be made -- but they must do their absolute best to make sure they have the facts of the situation before issuing a ruling. If the Gedolim are going to fail in their responsibility to investigate the facts (including all sides), then how can we have a responsibility to listen to their words?

The responsibility to avoid even the appearance of manipulation by those with agendas.

If a Gadol's ruling is to have any meaning, it must be clear that it is a fair ruling. If people perceive that the ruling was manipulated or engineered by those who have a particular axe to grind or agenda to push, many people will simply ignore the ruling.

I find it extremely ironic that a Dayan (judge) in a Bais Din must take great pains to figuratively bend over backwards to avoid even the appearance of manipulation or favoritism in a court case involving a lousy five dollars, but when it comes to public policy that affect wide swaths of the community on a far grander scale, no such impartiality is enforced. It will all too well known that many of the now-infamous halachic decisions that have been handed down lately (including, according to several reports, the recent ban on Vos Iz Neias) were engineered by parties with a particular political, monetary or ideological grudges against others. It is, in my humble opinion, the absolute responsibility of a Gadol to make sure that his decisions are not only arrived at in a fair manner without undue influence, but that they also don't even have the appearance of manipulation by insiders or outsiders. If a simple five-dollar case in Bais Din requires this, I would think that it's a no-brainer that major halachic and public policy decisions requires the same -- and in this, the Gedolim have failed.

The responsibility to clearly elucidate their rulings including defining the parameters of those rulings, the process of how the question came before them and the process of how they arrived at their decisions.

A Gadol who issues a ruling has a responsibility to make the ruling as transparent as possible. That includes not only clearly defining the parameters of his ruling (i.e. in what circumstances does it apply and under what circumstances does it not apply), but also on what facts and assumptions the ruling relies, how he came to make the ruling in the first place (this is a part of maintaining the appearance of independence from manipulation) and upon which sources he relies to make his rulings. The saying "sunshine is the best disinfectant" is wholly applicable here -- a Gadol who is not being manipulated by others and is making his best effort to issue a correct ruling has no reason to fear being completely transparent about the factors that go into his decision. Allowing people to see how the decision was arrived at will increase people's confidence that the ruling is impartial and correctly arrived at.

The responsibility to ensure that their rulings can be verified by the general public.

Rav Elyashiv has been famously quoted as saying that there are so many rulings being issued in his name that are not, in fact, from him that unless you hear from him directly (or see it in a responsible Torah journal or legitimate sefer) that you can assume it's false.

While I can applaud Rav Elyashiv for his honesty in this matter, I believe that he (and other Gedolim) have absolutely abdicated a fundamental responsibility that accompanies power -- the responsibility to ensure that forgeries are not issued in their name.

This is something that is extremely important. The government takes great pains to try to shut down counterfeiters -- not necessarily because their efforts might devalue the currency (although that can be a factor) but also because counterfeiters, by definition, usurp power that the government alone has -- the power to print currency. Likewise, one of the most carefully guarded objects of rulers of old was their signet rings and seals -- not because they liked to wear rings or have pretty designs made in wax -- but because such objects actually conveyed power to those who wielded them. If you saw an edict sealed with seal of the king, such an edict was extremely likely to be obeyed, whether the king actually endorsed the edict or not. It's not for no reason that the writer of Megillas Esther focuses on the fact that the king gave his ring to Haman -- the one who wielded the ring truly wielded the power. A ruler or leader who does not actively take steps to find, stop and punish those who wrongly usurp their power is no true leader, since it is difficult (if not impossible) to determine which of their edicts are proper and legal.

While the Gedolim may not have signet rings and seals, they have, in my humble opinion, utterly failed at the responsibility to protect the validity of their rulings. By allowing word of their rulings to spread by word of mouth and broadsheet, they allow far too many opportunities for other people to either put their own spin on their rulings or, worse, make up rulings for them out of whole cloth.

I find it utterly incomprehensible that in today's day and age, we still disseminate rabbinical rulings by word of mouth and by posters plastered on walls. Oddly enough, I think that the World Wide Web is an ideal medium for the Gedolim to issue their rulings. If a Gadol had his own website under his firm control, he could post his rulings there -- and people would be able to be reasonably confident that the ruling was, in fact, issued by the Gadol who owns the site. In addition since "space" and "paper" are not true issues on the Web, the Gadol can expand on his ruling as much as necessary to cover some of the other points I made in this post. Even if the Gadol in question did not want to get involved with the Web, there is always the option of having an automated telephone system where people can call and hear a recording of the Gadol saying something to the effect of "yes, I issued this ruling, these are the parameters, this is how I came to the decision, etc. The Gadol, of course, would have to be vigilant in ensuring that only content he approves of goes up on the site or the telephone system (the site/telephone system, in effect, becomes his signet-ring) - but as I mentioned earlier, an essential part of having the power to issue rulings is the responsibility to protect the integrity of those rulings. Failure to do so results in an open invitation to having the very validity of the rulings he issues questioned, disregarded and, ultimately, ignored.

The responsibility to be able to make independent decisions regardless of the personal consequences and free from communal pressure.

This responsibility is perhaps the most important responsibility that a Gadol has and yet, at the same time, the one that may be the hardest for him to make because of the potential personal cost involved.

In the United States, justices to the Supreme Court are appointed and, failing any misconduct on their part, maintain their positions for life. There is an important reason for this lifetime appointment -- the need to maintain an independent judiciary. It is vitally important that, if a decision is to be a correct one (meaning free of political pressures and based strictly upon the law and his or her interpretation of it) then it is important that they not be subject to recall based on those decisions. You may argue with how successful the implementation of this has been (both conservatives and liberals can probably quote numerous cases where they feel that judges ruled based on their political biases rather than the law*), but the principle is sound. When a correct decision needs to be made, it has to be free from political pressure.

This also needs to apply to the Gedolim as well. If a Gadol is going to issue a ruling, it is his responsibility (as I mentioned above) to ensure that the ruling is fair and not manipulated or engineered. However, it also has to be free from personal considerations as well, including those of power and prestige.

Unfortunately, it is all too apparent that in many cases, Gedolim sometimes make decisions because it's the popular decision to make and one that will appease the masses. Jonathan Rosenblum, in an article about a year ago, made the point very clearly. In discussing why there would be no public statement regarding a possible change in communal policy, he says the following:

There is another reason that there will be no such public statements. Any such statement would be met with vicious attacks by the “kenaim,” who would say about the gadol in question precisely what KollelGuy asks me: Who are you? The Chazon Ish did not say what you are saying; Rav Shach did not say it.” Perhaps KollelGuy remembers the attacks on one of the Sages he mentions for his tacit support of Nahal Chareidi. (Even Rav Shach used to say that he was afraid of the stone-throwers.) One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim.
In other words, there are cases where the Gedolim are afraid to make a correct ruling (or public policy decision) because it would mean the possible loss of their positions as Gedolim. Even if you put aside the fact that this causes their rulings to smack of corruption (even if there is, in fact, no corruption in any particular ruling), this undermines the whole point of having Gedolim determine public policy to begin with. Of what value is there to have a Gadol make a determination if there is a possibility that the determination is rooted in his fear of being labeled a "fake Gadol?" Aren't we relying on them to give us true rulings? If their rulings can be influenced by "the street," then how can anyone trust their rulings?

I'll admit that it's not easy to ask any person (Gadol or not) to put their positions on the line when they are faced with making an unpopular ruling. But part of being a true and responsible leader is to take responsibility for your leadership decisions. If the cost of a true ruling is the loss of personal power and prestige (i.e. by being labeled a "fake Gadol") then perhaps that's the price you must pay. If a person is going to accept the awesome responsibility to wield the power to ruin lives, then he must also be willing to take the responsibility to stand up and assure the people that his decision is correct, even if it comes with personal consequences. Failure to do so simply means that the inmates are running the asylum.

If one is going to posit that the Gedolim have the power to make important communal and halachic decisions and that we, the general populace, have a responsibility to follow their decisions, then they have a responsibility to make sure that their rulings are factual, informed, fair, honest, clear, verifiable and free from manipulations, agendas and communal pressure.

The Wolf

* But then again, if both sides feel this way, perhaps it's right after all...

34 comments:

  1. The problem is that the Askanim have created a system that anticipates all of the Wolf's objections and answers them:
    No, the Gedolim don't have to share their thought processes, justify their decisions or consider how people might feel about what they pronounce. After all, if one has "real" emunas Chachamim, why would any of those be necessary? Wolf's wanting such simple and accountable measures would be met with shouts of "Kofer! You have no emunas chachamim!"
    Then there's the modern version of Daas Torah. Why should the Gedolim have to have read Rav Slifkin's books before banning them? They have ruach hakodesh. All their decisions are correct so why question them about evidence? Psha, again: no emunas chachamim.
    Might as well talk to a wall. At least it won't shout "Apikoirus!" at you.

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  2. Great post. I would add on another factor, mandatory retirement ages. The Tchebiner Rav refused to pasken after he was 70 years old. The Chasam Sofer is reputed to have made the same decision. As I have written elsewhere:

    Rabbi Elyashiv is 99 years old. Almost all abilities decline with age and the rate of decline accelerates somewhere around the age of 75. The designation of posek hador implies more than just competence or even impressive competence. It implies competence at the very highest level. Why should we believe that great poskim are immune to the effects of aging? Are there any precedents for poskei hador losing that status or being bypassed because there has been too much decline in capacity? I would argue that a system lacks integrity if its posek hador can retain that status even if he suffers significant impairments. In the chareidi world such impairments are covered up even as they are exploited and manipulated.

    http://wp.me/pFbfD-1n

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  3. I'm going to repeat here the comment I made at WM.

    I would also add one more basic issue to Wolf's excellent elucidation: A true leader has a responsibility to speak out and condemn the moral failings of those in his charge. Any true leader - and especially a torah one - must always live his life with genuine moral conviction.

    Typically, we only hear gedolim speak up regarding sheitels, kashrus, tznius, kefira, and other such typically frum topics of discussion. But when it comes to more serious lapses of ethical conduct, such as financial crimes, sexual abuse, violence, and other truly awful moral indiscretions they hardly speak up. At best, they will give a vague mussar talk about the issue, but you'll never hear of a person condemned and shut out of the community for embezzlement, like you would if they wrote a book saying the world is more than 6,000 years old. You'll never hear a rabbinic leader say to stay away from a certain yeshiva because their administration was busted for fraud like they would say to stay away from a certain restaurant because the hashgacha might not be as strict as they like.

    When leaders can find it worth rallying their troops and applying political pressure to assist a brutal murderer not even directly connected to their community (Grossman), but choose to stay silent when it comes to victims of sexual abuse within their own yeshivas because it might adversely affect them financially (the Markey Bill), it definitively demonstrates a lack of moral clarity.

    The clearly skewed nature of their moral compass is another fundamental reason so many people today feel these is no reason to look to these people as "leaders".

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  4. I think the decay of the rabbinic elite is tied to the increasing narrowness in much of Orthodox ideology, especially in Haredi circles of course.

    Today's "gedolim" (I put the term in quotes because I do not accept it as a valid concept, it is a popular creation) are utterly disconnect from their communities and followers.

    There are several causes of this phenomenon. Once upon a time rabbis convened in yeshiva to learn, get smicha, then adopt a community, either their own or new one. They were ensconced there and typically were the sole halachic authority, and as such were enmeshed in the daily life of the community; aware of its problems and generally alert to its spiritual level. Because of the general ignorance of most Jews, rabbis were needed for practical responses to basic questions. Today there is a feeling that every psak must come from centenarians who have achieved celebrity status through their age, pedigree, and devotion to the beit midrash. Such people, who have extreme physical limitations due to their age, generally have little to no contact with the world outside the beit midrash, and as such are hopelessly out of touch with the community around them. Even those who serve as rashei yeshivoth or once did act as communal rabbis have long since become utterly dependent on a shamash (or several). Not for nothing was there an age limit for the Sanhedrin - lest the elder members become too strict in their rulings.

    Why has Orthodoxy (at least Haredism) changed? I think it has to do with the view that "ken be'shamayim hee" - halacha has less to do with logic than the attainment of whatever level of ruach haqodesh is available in any given generation. The pious few who through a combination of absolute dedication to talmud and longevity have been able to study the nuances of shas and the rishonim that they become endowed with this divine inspiration that puts them on a plane above the mere mortals that are "regular" rabbis. The isolation of such celebrity rabbis and their utter disconnection from the reality outside of their beit midrash only heighten people's belief in their unique ability to discern the unknowable without being nichshal by the distortions inherent in modernity.

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  5. Rav Elyashiv has been famously quoted as saying that there are so many rulings being issued in his name that are not, in fact, from him that unless you hear from him directly (or see it in a responsible Torah journal or legitimate sefer) that you can assume it's false.
    I don't believe he said that! ;)

    Baruch Pelta
    bpelta.blogspot.com

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  6. Now you can answer Hashem's question (according to R' Salanter): "Did you see my Alps?" in the affirmative. Awesome (literally)!

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  7. I propose one last responsibility:

    The responsibility to clarify one's qualifications to wield such power and the limits of that power.

    Rabbi Ploni is held out to be a "Gadol." What qualifies him as a Gadol? Presumably, this means he has a great deal of Torah knowledge. In what areas of Torah? How great is the depth of this knowledge? How does this level of knowledge compare to his contemporaries? How is this level of knowledge validated?

    Presumably, this gadol is a doer of good deeds. What kinds? To whom? How often? Does confirmation bias play a part in people's evaluation of his piety?

    Exactly who is holding him out to be a gadol and over whom does he wield his power? I.E. what jurisdiction is he claiming?

    How many more Gedolim are there? Presumably, bans and such have to be promulgated by a majority or a significant number of gedolim. How do we know how many there are? Are there any gedolim we do not know about who hold contrary views?

    The questions of "who is a gadol" go on and on.

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  8. The signet ring concept is an essential component of Kashrut certifications' power. Each kosher symbol is no stronger than the copyright lawyers that back it up.

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  9. All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Lord Acton

    When there are no external checks and balances, the only restraints on the rulers is the external conscience of healthy peer pressure, or the internal conscience which in Jewish religious circles is called Yirat Shamayim.

    Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

    James Madison in Federalist Papers 51



    Brooklyn Wolf writes: ...the Gedolim may not have signet rings and seals, they have, in my humble opinion, utterly failed at the responsibility to protect the validity of their rulings...

    Unfortunately, it is difficult to value a person's Name and Word more highly than he appears to himself.

    Finally, it is deeply ironic that rabbinic circles which think that the Zionists acted with impious chutzpah and tried to pre-empt the Moshiach's role of kibutz galuyot -- and are critical of Chabad for its Messianic issues -- should behave as if they themselves have the absolute authority of the Melekh HaMoshiach, or at least his duly designated representatives.

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  10. Everyone's talking about what "the problem" is. Well, I'm going to say what "the problem" actually is: you guys don't have anyone else. I'm MO, I grew up MO, lived in an MO community, went to an MO day school, and learned in an MO yeshiva. So when I find out that these leaders aren't leaders, I'm not bothered by it, because I have my own leaders that are, even if they still aren't very good at it.

    But you guys (addressing anyone Haredi and/or Yeshivish now) don't. And if you, or anyone in your communities, try ditching the leaders you have, you'll have nowhere to turn for guidance. And it's fun to pretend that we're all perfectly independent autonomous agents, but in real life we all need guidance. So what the real problem is is that this is an orphaned generation, as they say, on an enormous scale. Until a critical mass of Jews start gathering around a new generation of capable leaders, nothing is going to change.

    What I anticipate happening is a) the more people realize how orphaned this generation is, the more we'll see huge waves of people going OTD. b) When a new group of leaders does crop up, their defining characteristic will be charisma and the ability to play to the crowd. It will NOT be breadth of knowledge, depth of thought, or profundity of wisdom. c) It'll be interesting to see if the new movement that arises (it won't be Haredi or Yeshivish anymore) will be more or less rationalist. On the one hand, the anti-rationalism is turning a ton of people off. On the other hand, populist movements tend to be more of the latter - see Chassidus for a perfect example. My guess is we'll have a Musar revival. In this day and age, I can't think of anything more appropriate. So maybe we do have some bright horizons ahead...

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  11. Garnel Ironheart:
    Daas Torah has no connection whatsoever with Ruach haKodesh. "Daas" means knowledge, not inspiration.

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  12. imho r' j rosenbloom's quote (which shocked me when i originally saw it - not because of its content but because he would say it in writing) speaks volumes about the reality of the gedolim system (and their laity) basher hu sham.

    as for giving reasons for bans/psak - it goes back to trust (remember the r' chaim story - just tell me psak because if u give me reasons I'll pick it apart) and the fact that most questions are not slam dunks but "lev shel torah" which will usually not have an airtight logic.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  13. The Gedolim don't have to be "in touch" with the community. We rely on them strictly for psak halacha, based on books and their own learning along with their chavrusas. Ask a quation, get an answer. That's all we Haredim want. We don't need reason or rationale. If they say it, we do it. It makes no difference if homosexuality and immorality runs rampant in society, the law is the law and it's not going to change based on man's Krumkeit. We don't want our poskim influenced by anything but Torah. If it was possible to lock them in the Beis Medrash we would. You have it upside down. The REAL world is in the Bais Medrash, not the streets of NYC.

    And we don't need advice from James Madison either.

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  14. dlz said...
    Garnel Ironheart:
    Daas Torah has no connection
    whatsoever with Ruach haKodesh. "Daas" means knowledge, not inspiration.

    You are wrong about this. Every time Dass Torah has been explained to me it has been described as some kind of Ruach Hakodesh. Basically, the Torah a person learns causes some kind of supernal influence.

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  15. @Kahane Chai:

    "The Gedolim don't have to be "in touch" with the community."

    -Yes, they do. Determining the application of laws, particularly derabbanan ones, has always been tempered by the posek's awareness of where his community is holding and how his decision will affect them. When to rely on b'diavads, when to push for humrot, when to enact special gezeirot, all require an intimate understanding of what is going on in the community.

    "We rely on them strictly for psak halacha, based on books and their own learning along with their chavrusas. Ask a quation, get an answer. That's all we Haredim want."

    -Halacha isn't and never was so limited. While there are some things that are red lines, there are so many areas where this is not so. No Haredi rabbi would deny this, and I remember R' Moshe Feinstein writing as much in a shu"t in Iggrot Moshe (I don't have the source offhand, I saw in years ago in yeshiva).

    "If they say it, we do it."

    -Who is "they"? If I have a question in halacha, I ask my rav, not someone who happens to be known the world-over just because he is elderly and famous. Who would these "gedolim" be that you refer to as "they"? Everyone has their own rabbanim they hold up, rabbanim that some other group in Orthodoxy does not - and might even disparage. I assure you that most in the Haredi community do not consider Rabbi Kahane z"l to have been a "gadol"; many Haredim have the exact opposite view of him. If you follow the Haredi "gedolim", I find it hard to understand how you rectify that with your apparent enthusiasm for the late Rabbi Kahane's stances. Rabbi Shach certainly opposed many of them, as does R' Ovadia Yosef, who claims land for peace is permissible.

    "It makes no difference if homosexuality and immorality runs rampant in society, the law is the law"

    -No one would mattir homosexuality etc; you're bringing only examples of deorita issurim that there is no argument about and where there is no halachic basis for leniency. But that is certainly not the case for hundreds of other topics in halacha.

    "We don't want our poskim influenced by anything but Torah. If it was possible to lock them in the Beis Medrash we would."

    -Now this is simply baseless. The Rambam was (and even admitted this freely) influenced by Aristotlean thought and Greek and Muslims philosophy. The gemara brings opinions of gentile scholars for scientific matters; rishonim and acharonim even shared thoughts and borrowed ideas from Christian and Muslim religious scholars (ex. the Abarbanel).

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  16. >>>> The Gedolim don't have to be "in touch" with the community.

    Kahane Chai… reading your whole comment, i honestly cannot decide if you are being serious or is this just another parody.

    But, if you are serious, you cannot possibly be more wrong.

    To illustrate how pas-kening for the community used to work, my father told me an anecdote from his town Rav.

    The Rav once told him half-jokingly but with serious insight that when a member of the community brings him a chicken to pasken on, the quality and state of the questioner clothing has an influence on his p’sak. Do you understand???

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  17. First off, I don't know who "the Rav" is.
    Secondly, thats a famous story and it's not attributable to anyone in particular. Weighing the circumstances of an individual is not the same as knowing all the ins and outs and happenings of a community or even the world at large. They dont have to know how Facebook works, about gay parades, women's yearnings for spiritual participation with their nonsense minyans, or any other shtoosim that abound.
    And thirdly, nobody borrowed any ideas from pagans except other pagans. You think the Abarbanel pulled down some Muslim book off his shelf before offering a pshat in Chumash? You're insane. Maybe he found a copy of 1 of their books and used it to light his oven, thats about all. Yidden dont tolerate goyishe opinions on anything, least of all halachic decisions.

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  18. Dlz, you are correct that ruach hakodesh and daas Torah, in their classic forms, are separate. However, today's askanim have merged the two into one.
    Why is a Gadol always right? Because he has Daas Torah. How does having Daas Torah mean he's always right? Because of Ruach HaKodesh.
    That's why there's no retirement age for "Gedolim", as a couple of people suggest. After all, if you're getting the correct answer from Heaven, who cares how old you are? Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, spoke with a clear and firm voice when God wanted him to despite having a natural lithp so why can't He also ensure that the "Gedolim" always get it right?

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  19. Kahane hai is Poshuter. Pshita

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  20. I figured it out. I have the answer as to why this whole approach, along with those of you who subscribe to it is in fact kefirah.

    It's all about your ego. You can't comprehend or deal with the possibility that there are things in life that can't be explained in terms you can understand, or that there are people who can be on a much greater level than yourselves, be it intellectually or spiritually. It really gets under your skin to be told do as I say, not as I do, or do as I say because I say so. Like a father and his children. To do otherwise is a sign of gross disrespect, but that's ok, because it has to make sense to you.
    You see, in the Haredi or yshivish world, we are raised to act according to what our parents and God says just becasue they say it, whether we are 2 years old or 102 years old. For you, when you are old enough to ask why, it means that if you don't get a satisfactory answer, you can then decide, on your own, to do or not do it. That is not bechira, that is kefira. That is where you got mixed up.
    In the Haredi world, we are in fact children who know nothing compared to what our parents and the man and the man with the white beard in shul knows, so we follow their direction, without question because regardless of what we think we have mastered in our puny little heads, they do know better.
    The entire idea of a chok is to teach us just that. We don't need reasons. If they are given to us, fine. Enjoy the story and the reason. If not do it anyway. The reasons are just nice-to-knows, not must-knows. Just like the ben soreh umoreh, where the Gemara says there will never be such a case, but it is in the Torah simply for the process of learning, and thats all. We don't need any other reason.
    For some, like you collectively, that diploma on the wall actually signifies something other than a ticket to a better job. It means you now have the right to use your brain in ways not intended. Just because you can think it means you should think it. Just because you can say it means you should say it. This is not Torah, it is ego. You justify it by saying it is l'shem shamayim, but it isn't at all. You spend more time scoffing at what our Sages have said than at figuring it out and making yourselves fit into their reality in favor of making them fit into yours. Thats not how it works, folks.
    You don't get to challenge the story of creation because you have a PhD in biology. You don't get to challenge the flood story because you have a PhD in geology. In fact, you don't get to challenge it at all. It's not up for debate, and never has been. Naaseh v'nishma means we listen, learn, absorb, follow and do, like nice little programmed androids. For you, that's demeaning. For us, it is a bracha. You have to think about whether making abracha makes sense before making it. We never even consider that it might not make sense, because the Torah says it, therefore of course it makes sense.
    I could go on, but you get the idea. And now so do I. The whys and wherefores are not important to us at all, only the whats and hows. So, while you are all out there debating whether the Avos put on tefilin and kept kosher, we are already doing it. I think that puts us on a much greater level, in all aspects. Because in the end, Hashem isn't going to ask if you understood his Torah, only if you bothered learning it and keeping it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I figured it out. I have the answer as to why this whole approach, along with those of you who subscribe to it is in fact kefirah.

    It's all about your ego. You can't comprehend or deal with the possibility that there are things in life that can't be explained in terms you can understand, or that there are people who can be on a much greater level than yourselves, be it intellectually or spiritually. It really gets under your skin to be told do as I say, not as I do, or do as I say because I say so. Like a father and his children. To do otherwise is a sign of gross disrespect, but that's ok, because it has to make sense to you.
    You see, in the Haredi or yshivish world, we are raised to act according to what our parents and God says just becasue they say it, whether we are 2 years old or 102 years old. For you, when you are old enough to ask why, it means that if you don't get a satisfactory answer, you can then decide, on your own, to do or not do it. That is not bechira, that is kefira. That is where you got mixed up.
    In the Haredi world, we are in fact children who know nothing compared to what our parents and the man and the man with the white beard in shul knows, so we follow their direction, without question because regardless of what we think we have mastered in our puny little heads, they do know better.
    The entire idea of a chok is to teach us just that. We don't need reasons. If they are given to us, fine. Enjoy the story and the reason. If not do it anyway. The reasons are just nice-to-knows, not must-knows. Just like the ben soreh umoreh, where the Gemara says there will never be such a case, but it is in the Torah simply for the process of learning, and thats all. We don't need any other reason.
    CONT...

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  22. ...CONT
    For some, like you collectively, that diploma on the wall actually signifies something other than a ticket to a better job. It means you now have the right to use your brain in ways not intended. Just because you can think it means you should think it. Just because you can say it means you should say it. This is not Torah, it is ego. You justify it by saying it is l'shem shamayim, but it isn't at all. You spend more time scoffing at what our Sages have said than at figuring it out and making yourselves fit into their reality in favor of making them fit into yours. Thats not how it works, folks.
    You don't get to challenge the story of creation because you have a PhD in biology. You don't get to challenge the flood story because you have a PhD in geology. In fact, you don't get to challenge it at all. It's not up for debate, and never has been. Naaseh v'nishma means we listen, learn, absorb, follow and do, like nice little programmed androids. For you, that's demeaning. For us, it is a bracha. You have to think about whether making abracha makes sense before making it. We never even consider that it might not make sense, because the Torah says it, therefore of course it makes sense.
    I could go on, but you get the idea. And now so do I. The whys and wherefores are not important to us at all, only the whats and hows. So, while you are all out there debating whether the Avos put on tefilin and kept kosher, we are already doing it. I think that puts us on a much greater level, in all aspects. Because in the end, Hashem isn't going to ask if you understood his Torah, only if you bothered learning it and keeping it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I heard from a Satmarer friend that Satmarer Rebbe used to say that he is not worried that he would go off the derech, because in his beis midrash there are 200 people that make sure every day that he is not oiver on Vayoel Moishe.

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  24. "Yidden dont tolerate goyishe opinions on anything, least of all halachic decisions."

    Um, dina d'malchusa dina?

    (Kahane, I suggest that you ask your local rabbi to translate that for you, and to explain to you how the real world works.)

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  25. @Kahane Chai:

    "nobody borrowed any ideas from pagans except other pagans."

    -That is utterly inane. As mentioned above the Rambam borrowed heavily from gentiles when he felt their approaches were correct. You don't even both trying to respond to that.

    "You think the Abarbanel pulled down some Muslim book off his shelf before offering a pshat in Chumash?"

    -No, but he did often bring the opinions of Christian scholars and sometimes even agrees with them (over the opinions of other rabbis!-see his commentary to melachim A, perek 8, section 6).

    "You're insane."

    -No, but you very well might be.

    "Yidden dont tolerate goyishe opinions on anything, least of all halachic decisions."

    -Not halacha but philosophy, science, and at times even understanding of the Tanach. I know this must all be very frightening for you, but if you really believe what you have written so you're going to have to burn your Rambam (not to mention a number of other classical Jewish works).

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  26. Yeshivish:
    Daas Torah means a deep understanding of all facets of the Torah, so that it can be brought to bear on the problem in question. Maybe the chassidim understand daas torah your way, but I have never heard such a thing. "Daas" means knowledge, nothing else.

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  27. Dinah d'malchusa dinah" refers to following their laws, like paying taxes on income and real estate. It has nothing to do with hashkafa at all. Using your logic, we should celebrate Xmas, too.

    Smarty pants, just whom do you think YOUR Rav relies on? Himself? Slifkin? No, he relies on the very same Gedolim that I refer to. It's called chain of command, and trust me when I tell you that no Rav worth his salt will override one of the Gedolim. Doesn't happen, and will never happen.

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  28. @Kahane Chai:

    "Smarty pants, just whom do you think YOUR Rav relies on? Himself? Slifkin? No, he relies on the very same Gedolim that I refer to. It's called chain of command, and trust me when I tell you that no Rav worth his salt will override one of the Gedolim. Doesn't happen, and will never happen."

    -You are grossly ignorant of Judaism and totally unaware of the reality. A person has his rav, the person he turns to WHEN HE HAS A QUESTION. Rabbi Kahane was fond of saying "you don't ask on every chicken"; you only go to your rabbi when you don't know something, even if that means disagreeing with things your rabbi has said. If a rav has a question, he asks HIS RAV, not the "gedolim", but his own rav. Besides, who are the "gedolim"? Who is included in this magical list you think has final say for everyone? Is Rav Lior, or are only Haredi rabbis included? Is rav Elyashiv included, or is he too soft on the Tzioynim? Rav Kahane didn't go to some council of "gedolim" for guidance; he followed his own opinions when he had answers, and when he didn't he asked rav Mordechai Eliyahu z"l. If he had relied on the "gedolim" - which most people would have read to mean Rav Shach, Rav Ovadiah Yosef (perhaps, even he is on the gvul), R' Weiss of the Edah and a legion of other Haredi rabbis - Rabbi Kahane would certainly not have endorsed the policies that he did. Rav Shach specifically and explicitly came out against the ideology of "Greater Israel", and said that Jews should not go to live in the settlements. Rav Ovadiah ruled that if a single Jewish life can be saved by surrendering land, it is halachically required to do so. If you say that one must follow the "gedolim", and that any rabbi of worth follows them, you had better drop the Kach line and either vote Gimmel or join the Edah.

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  29. Poshiter Wizard Kahane ChaiDecember 30, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    A Rav has his Rav, and so on and so on, and then ultimately, the Gadol HaDor, whom any of the Rav's in that chain would never contradict.

    If you wanna know who is a gadol, the Wikipedia has a complete list. Just search for Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. If they aren't there, then they are not a gadol. So easy. Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.

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  30. @Poshiter Wizard Kahane Chai

    You forgot Nunya in the name.

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  31. @ Poshiter Wizard Kahane ...
    "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die."

    You even got the quote wrong. But why are you of all people quoting Tennyson? Did you even know you are quoting from Tennyson? Did you know the next line of the poem? "... Into the valley of Death..." I hope you are not leading your own Charge of the Light Brigade ... because you know how those six hundred ended up ...

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  32. If I read these excellent posts and comments as an outside observer, I see an orwellian religion that is opiate for the masses. It's sad and embarassing but true. This system is beoynd all repair.

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  33. I don't think it's embarrassing at all. We happen to like it this way. We like being a bunch of non-thinking drones (as you think we are, anyway) who do as our leaders say without questioning it. Anyone who says it's "shver su zein a Yid" as no idea what he is talking about. It's easy as pie.

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  34. Carol,

    "If I read these excellent posts and comments as an outside observer, I see an orwellian religion that is opiate for the masses. It's sad and embarassing but true. This system is beoynd all repair." [Fri. 21:43 IST]

    If you haven't seen it yet, I think you might like reading, as an "outside observer", the poignant query sent to הרמב"ם from southern France inquiring about astrology. (The reply: "איגרת לחכמי קהל עיר מארשילייא")

    See: Sela, Shlomo: Queries on Astrology Sent from Southern France to Maimonides: Critical Edition of the Hebrew Text, Translation, and Commentary. Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism, Vol. 4 (2004), pp. 89-190.

    Brief excerpts:

    [p. 102]
    ובעוונותינו אין הדורות האלה ראויין לכך שישנה השם תולדות העולם בעבורם. ואם יעברו תחת שבט הכוכבים ומבטם, הלמתים תעשה פלא לחיותם? [...]

    [p. 104]
    על דבר זה הציקתנו רוח בטנינו. ותמהנו מה נשתנה דבר חכמת המזלות משאר החכמות. כי בחכמות הרפואות יש יתרון גדול בעולם אבל בזאת החכמה רב כעס. ולא עוד אלא שאלה החכמים הורסים יסודות האמונה אם ישימו ענין המזלות כיתד שלא תמוט. לפי דבריהם ידמו קצת בני אדם תפלותם לאותן שאמרו רבותי' ז"ל הרי זו תפלת שוא, לפי שאין אדם עושה צדקה ומתפלל על המת שיחיה, ולפי סברתם קצת הנבראים קרואים מתים בחיים. [...]

    [p. 124]
    ואחרי אשר נמתיק בסוד דבריו הנעימים ונשמע מאתו האמת נסמוך עליו מן הכל ונקבל כהלכה למשה מסיני. ויהיו דבריו לששון ולשמחת לבב, ותהי לשון חכמינו מרפא לקיים עולם מלא. ועל מרינו גאונינו החיים והשלום. [...]

    [The query references p. 206-8 in
    זכרון לראשונים וגם לאחרונים, חלק ראשון, ברלין. תרמ"ז.]

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