Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The "Da'as" in Da'as Torah

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein delivered an important address recently on the topic of Daas Torah. I didn't have time to translate it into English myself, so I asked my friend Joseph Faith to translate it for the readers of this website, which he kindly agreed to do. You can download it at this link. I strongly recommend it!


  1. Thank you so much! I've been trying to muddle through this in Hebrew and not getting very far.

  2. 3. 'Da’at Torah' does not obligate us on a normative level, but it is extremely worthwhile to
    rely on it, and someone who declines to do so is a fool.
    so lemaaseh imho this approach puts a greater burden on "gedolim" and on those who seek their advice - one is a fool not to rely, yet the effort required by both as described later on is much greater. not disagreeing, just noting the inherent difficulty if one doesn't limit the areas where seeking daat torah is recommended.
    Joel Rich

  3. Thanks for the translation. The address seems to make a lot of sense, but its credibility appears to be undermined about two-thirds of the way in when it suggests that Talmidei Chachomim who want to be gedolim, should as a general rule, be reading, psychology books, history, and literature(!).

    By the way, on page 15, the phrase reading "and that this is a path that a man must
    choose, which has Torah but no 'da’at', as opposed to the other path, which has 'da’at' but
    lacks Torah
    " should actually have been translated "and a person must choose between this path which Torah but no 'da'at' and the other path which has 'da'at' but lacks Torah". IOW, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein was not suggesting that it's better to choose a path of da'as without Torah than the path of Torah without da'as. What he was saying is that it can't be that those are the only two choices.

    BTW, the original is available here: http://www.y-or.co.il/blog/2012/01/05/%D7%94%D7%A8%D7%91-%D7%90%D7%94%D7%A8%D7%9F-%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%9B%D7%98%D7%A0%D7%A9%D7%98%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9F-%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8-%D7%9E%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%A3-%D7%99%D7%A1%D7%95%D7%93%D7%99-%D7%95%D7%97/

  4. If I may, I recomend starting by reading the "Conclusion" of this erudite drasha

    "To conclude, and to avoid any doubt, let us stress that the fact that we recoil from 'Da’at
    Torah' in its contemporary context,
    does not pose the slightest conflict with the important
    principle of 'emunat chachamim'
    . Indeed, 'emunat chachamim' is required; the sole
    remaining question is how we know both 'what' and 'who' to believe in."

  5. This is just a beautiful paragraph. (Again from the "Conclusion")

    "A leader is someone who can bring a society from one point to another. In order to be
    successful he must remember that he cannot ask of his society more than they are capable of.
    In a time of emergency, a leader can ask exceptional things of his 'flock', as Churchill did in
    1940. However, as routine set in after the war, Churchill once again became a regular
    politician. Setting the bar in the heavens, a goal which is too difficult to reach, which is not
    achievable, which cannot be carried out in practice, often reflects the fact that a leader has
    become overly distant from the society he leads."

  6. Kudos to Joseph Faith, you did a great service in translating this speech. And thank you Rabbi Slivkin.

    (as an aside, a friend of mine studied in Yeshivat Har Etziyon many years ago. He would (half jokingly) say that when he spoke to Rav Lichtenstien he would request that the Rosh haYeshiva would respond in Hebrew because, my American friend, understood his Hebrew much better than his English [He has a PhD in English from Harvard]. In other words, if this speech was in English, then Joseph Faith may have been needed to translate it into layman's English so my 20 year old son could understand it. :) )

  7. 'Indeed, 'emunat chachamim' is required; the sole
    remaining question is how we know both 'what' and 'who' to believe in.

    Rambam explains that 'emunas chachomim' is the emunah OF the chachomim as opposed to the emunah of the uneducated masses. There is nobody that we are required to believe, we just have to learn Torah to acquire their concepts of emunah. This explanation makes the most sense to me. I'm totally unconcerned about this whole issue of 'Gdoilim'.

  8. Carol, where does the Rambam say this?

  9. Very intersting adress. 2 points:

    1) I found it interesting that RAL writes that he wouldn't dare say something if he hadn't heard it from his Rebbi. I wonder what percentage of rationalists ascribe to this at all. I mean, if it's true, it's true, no?

    2) Despite RAL's protestations at the beginning of his address, I think it's quite clear that on Pg 17 he is attacking Rav Shach rather bluntly. I've always found R Shach's neom shefanim ve'chazarim interseting. In general, I think a different angle on Rav Shach can found in the article in Makor Rishon, by his son Dr. Ephraim. It's called ""My Father Was A Super Liberal" (hebrew). There's a bit more humanity to Rav Shach than commonly ascribed.

  10. Lenny, I couldn't find that Rambam. I'm sure that I saw it, but until I find it I have to take back my words.

  11. Here is a quote from the article
    "According to the 'Da’at Torah' outlook, every Jewish person, who is a part of the Torah
    system, is obligated to absolutely obey those who stand at its helm - the gedolim."

    Does observant Jews have free choice or are they robots, having to obey every thing their rabbi tells them???


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