Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Is A Gadol?

Yesterday, Rav Steinman came to speak in Ramat Bet Shemesh. On his previous visit, he spoke about how goyim are murderers and thieves and fools, and about how one should not educate one's children towards earning a living. On this visit, he spoke about how one must vote for the charedi political party and mayor.

Some people in the community announced this event as being an opportunity to hear from "The" (sic) Gadol HaDor. So I thought that it would be valuable to share other people's perspective on who is The, or even A, Gadol HaDor.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed is a prominent leader in the Religious Zionist community. Here is a fascinating extract from an article that he wrote, entitled "Who are the Torah Giants (Gedolei haTorah)?"
"Occasionally, people from the hareidi community question or attack my articles. Even though they are well aware that I strive to follow in the path of Maran Harav Kook zt”l, nevertheless they argue: “Why don’t you accept the authority of the Gedolei haTorah (eminent Torah scholars)?” The simple answer is: I don’t consider them Gedolei haTorah.

"They definitely are important talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) whose fear of sin precedes their wisdom, educate many disciples, and it is a mitzvah to respect them. But they are not Gedolei haTorah.

"Gadlute beTorah (Torah greatness, eminence) necessitates an
all-embracing, fully accountable handling of serious issues facing the
generation, including: the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its
diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious; the
attitude towards mitzvoth of yishuv haaretz (settling the Land) and
the on-going war which has surrounded it for over a century; the
attitude towards science and work, and the contemporary social and
economic questions."

62 comments:

  1. So basically, to sum up, you're Amalek!! Thanks for the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah!

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  2. You're calling a Rosh Yeshivah "Amalek"?

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  3. Funny. I wonder why someones opinion on the practical application of mitzvas yishuv eretz yisroel should factor in to his "godol b'torah" status.

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  4. No, i said youre amalek

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  5. And its funny that youre all of a sudden concerned with people being mevazeh talmidei chachomim berabim!! Convenient no??

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  6. Simple Yid said...
    No, i said youre amalek


    I'm "Amalek" for quoting Rav Steinman, or for quoting Rav Melamed?

    Simple Yid said...
    And its funny that youre all of a sudden concerned with people being mevazeh talmidei chachomim


    I don't think that I have ever said anything remotely as derogatory as calling someone "Amalek".

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  7. The loshen hara definitions being vague, malleable and skewed enough as is, this man is hardly surprised that calling someone an "Amalek" on a public can be construed by the cognitively unhinged as a mitzvah.

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  8. Nice to see you acknowledge that you were indeed mevazeh talmidei chachomim - one way or another! And lets be honest here: Youve done much worse!! Perhaps not explicitly, but implicitly is no better

    And all your ideas and the ways that you twist the words of talmidei chachomim and Torah in general makes you amalek! Why were amalek so bad? They attacked the jews and lost.. We won? Bit extreme that theres a mitzvah to hate and erase their name no?

    Because the cooled down "the bathtub" Then all the other nations attacked us. I somehow dont think you are any better than that! Lets see: You stray people COMPLETELY off the path! And you add in a few gemorahs (out of context) that you found to prove your wonderful ideas and then now you take someone elses views, and show how The Gadol Hador is not actually a gadol based on YOUR understanding (or lack thereof) of R Melamed!!

    So yes! YOU ARE AMALEK! And I hope that theres a chance for teshuva otherwise I suggest you get to know Lapid in this world - because youll be spending alot of time with him in the next! Too extreme?? I think too little

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  9. OK, I think R' Usher Weiss and R' Avigdor Neventzahl qualify by his parameters and their Torah scholarship is incredible. And if I ask them who the Gadol Hador is, I suspect they might say (it is at least quite plausible that they would say) ... Rav Steinman! QED.

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  10. Simple Yid - I suggest that you don't read this blog. It might "cool you off."

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  11. Meir - All that would mean is that they differ with Rav Melamed on the definition of Gadol HaDor, or alternately that they think that Rav Steinman matches his criteria.

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  12. I think teshuva is a little bit harder to do than that slifkin!! But dont worry - im sure you still have plenty of time!! So perhaps youll be ok! Im glad youre not TOO worried about the next world!! Be realistic and open minded! Excellent! Only keep this world in mind! Thats what open minded is!! Worrying about the next world as well - nah, thats narrow minded!!

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  13. Thanks for sharing this. Re: Simple Yid, I've heard the interpretation before (in the Gutnick chumash) that Amalek represents anything that dampens our enthusiasm for Torah and mitzvot.

    But I don't see how how your blog would dampen that enthusiasm. On the contrary, I would that that people disillusioned with the problems with charedi outlook and practice receive great encouragement from this blog, since it confirms that one can be a committed Orthodox Jew, and dedicate one's life to Torah scholarship and education, without accepting many of the problematic ideas and practices common today.

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  14. The issue is not "who is a Godol Ha-dor." The issue is the entire premise of such a thing as a Godol Hador. And if there is such a thing, who says he has to be a professional rabbi? The greatest man in my community is an eye doctor, the next greatest a real estate developer.

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  15. If even the "simple yids" among us are so judgmental and so sure of themselves that they go around pronouncing fellow Jews to be "Amalek" (whose obvious implication is that such a person should be "wiped out") then we're in serious trouble.

    Yes, here we are on a blog, and it all seems perfectly acceptable to mouth off. But words DO have consequences. I recall a certain Israeli Prime Minister who people were happy to casually brand a "rodef"... So no, it's NOT acceptable to call someone Amalek. It's not "clever", and it's not a joke. And even if you believe you're a navi and are capable of making such proclamations, then at least have the wisdom to keep it to yourself.

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  16. simple yid.

    slifkin says he follows rabbi hersh.

    do you diasgree that he is not following hersh.

    please give a detailed accounting of his sins. or how can he do teshuvah

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  17. Re Simple Yid...Your name is very appropriate. Your incessant talk of the next world - it reminds me of my days in Chasidish Chayder (thankfully it was brief) where the Rebbe would attempt to scare his students into doing his will - its juvenile if not simplistic at best.

    Your arguments become less persuasive with your juvenile rhetoric. But as your name suggests your stay in Chasidishah Yeshiva must have been a lengthy one, and you don't know better.

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  18. "Needless to say, someone who does not understand the teachings of Maran Harav Kook zt”l cannot be considered one of the Gedolei haTorah of the generation. He can be an expert and well versed in numerous details from the technical side of halakha and aggadah. But he cannot truly be Gadol baTorah."

    Do you agree?

    If he wants to make this rule for himself, based on his own intuition--kol hakavod. But is he asking the rest of us to follow his intuition? Or is he saying that we should each follow our own intuition on which talmid chochom's teachings are so fundamental that you must know them in order to be a Gadol?

    Andy

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  19. We might note the different terminology (gedolei hatorah used by R' Melamed vs gadol hador) may be reflective of the differing underlying concepts. IIRC the phrase gadol hador has different connotations in different passages even within the Talmud.

    IMHO sometimes you need to get the truth from wherever it comes, even if it requires that you have more than one human as its source.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  20. "... I've heard the interpretation before (in the Gutnick chumash) that Amalek represents anything that dampens our enthusiasm for Torah and mitzvot."

    A rather too loose of a definition perchance, one which is wide open for abuse by the mendacious, the corrupt and the seemingly ever-growing lunatic fringe. Expanded in the wrong direction, "Amalek"... redefined as a vague "dampening of enthusiasm for Torah study"... could be easily construed as obtaining general education, studying the sciences, seeking gainful employment, serving in the armed forces for one's country, spending good amounts of time with one's spouse and children...hey, wait a minute!

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  21. Rabbi Steinman is now a very old man. Everyone should go easy on him.

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    1. If he is so old that people should go easy on him.then he shouldnt be the main leader of an entire sect. Judaism needs leaders with youthful vigor. Rabbis of high age need to weigh the benefit they serve with their wisdom vs the disconnect with the current generation. If the scale tips too much they should step away from the limelight a let somebody better suited to understand the youth take over.

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  22. Response to Meir:

    As accomplished as Rav Asher Weiss and Rav Nebenzahl are, I do not think that they fit Rav Melamed's criteria for who is a Gadol.

    Although he speaks to different groups, Rav Asher deals exclusively with details of halacha -- and very fine deatils at that.

    He does not speak about broad issues, nor does he write about them, nor does he express any kind of vision, nor does he say anything that would have any meaning or relevance to anyone outside of the halachic system.

    Rav Nebenzahl is a great talmid chacham, but he as well does not address issues of hashkafa or broad matters of halacha in a systematic fashion.

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  23. Fishing for ZechusimOctober 18, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    When I come up to Shomayim after 120 and they ask me what Zechusim I have, one of them will be that I was called Amalek by a "Simple Yid".

    Thank you.

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  24. [Fill in most divisive possible comment here regardless of what was posted and wait for responses. Then repeat.]








    Posted by David Ohsie on behalf of Even Simpler Yid, who does not use the internet.

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  25. R. Slifkin,

    Simple Yid is obviously beyond rational discourse. Why do you post his comments?

    Ezra

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    1. Probably, to prove the big bad wolf exists and isnt just fairly tales.would be my guess I guess the benefits outweigh the losses in choosing to post it. And I agree with that logic

      Delete
  26. Simple Yid, your screen name is totally apt, though perhaps you might have expanded to it to "Simple yet Purulent Yid" (if you are allowed to consult a dictionary, you may want to look up purulent, as given your statements, you probably were not educated in secular studies beyond the age of 9 or so).

    Natan, I would disagree with R. Malamed, when he says the Charedi "Gedolim" fear sin. The vast majority of Charedi "Gedolim" don't fear sin at all, and will say and write the most heinous, ignorant, and hate-filled statements, in an attempt to keep themselves, their family and their cronies in power.
    Just to cite a few most recent examples, so called Charedi "Gedolim" recently:

    1. issued a public statement aimed at the British Chief Rabbi, criticizing him for attending Limmud, and advising people not to go,

    2. they issued numerous statements defending a so called Mora D'Assra, who was accused in engaging in massively inappropriate behavior with married women (true, I don't personally know what this person did or did'nt do, but many hugely respected London Rabbis spoke out against this individual and the few who supported him were his relatives or colleagues of his hugely powerful father)

    3. they tell people not to get an education but to stay in learning causing widespread poverty and ignorance among their congregations

    4. an American "Gadol" recently stood up for a a Lakewood community member who was accused of sexually abusing a young teen. The Gadol issued a public statement stating he knew the accused was innocent and the family were only accusing him to cover up for their own sexual abuse of their children. The family was chased out of Lakewood and a few months later, the accused pled guilty in court to the allegations of sexual abuse. There was no public (and likely no private) apology from the "Gadol" to the family.

    I could go on and on all day, but some of us actually work.

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  27. @Simple Yid:

    Please go away. Simple as that.

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  28. Unfortunately the Mizrachi movement was and always has a inferiority complex. This comes in front of both the secular "zionists" and the Haredim.

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  29. Thank you so much for posting this Rav Slifkin. Check out the Ramban on the phrase at the beginning of Shemos of "Vayigdal Moshe". That it’s only after "vayar b'sivlosum" that Moshe could truly be called a gadol. A gadol is someone who sympathizes with the plot of the less fortunate. Torah knowledge makes someone a talmid chachum. Gadlus is defined by caring for others.

    I don't know Eretz Yisrael as well, but in America, an example of one of the gedolei hador is Rav Yakov Horowitz of Monsey, NY. He has dedicated his life to helping abuse victims.

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  30. "Some people in the community announced this event as being an opportunity to hear from "The" (sic) Gadol HaDor."

    I don't think that they meant Gadol Hador as in a Torah Giant of the generation, being that he gives such bad advice. (it seems to me he knows no Torah at all, like a simple yid)

    But rather, I think they meant to say that he has great knowledge of doors, in which he can use to exit.
    o

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  31. So it seems that you are mevazeh a talmid chochom by not calling him "gadol hador".

    The status of a "gadol hador" should generally be undisputed in the dor. Somehow Harav Kook, or the Lubavitcher Rebbe or R. Chaim Ozer or R. Moshe Feinstein did not need campaigns to increase kavod gedolei hador.

    But I fail to understand the nafka mina for rav Melamed. What is the difference in whether you think R Shteinman is a gadol hador if you follow another gadol hador who in this case would clearly disagree with him?

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  32. I love how you let HaRav HaGaon R Simple yids comments through...
    Now, ifonly R Shteinemans people would start commenting on Rationalist Judaism..

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  33. Incidentally, Rav Steinman came to the RBS rally under false pretexts. There is a video showing how he was fed false information about Eli Cohen being chiloni etc. and the pressure placed upon him. A dayan in beis din only paskens after hearing both litigants but rabbonim and gedolim rely on hearsay.

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  34. "1. issued a public statement aimed at the British Chief Rabbi, criticizing him for attending Limmud, and advising people not to go, " GG I don't understand what is particularly heinous about disagreeing with another rabbi on a public policy decision and voicing that disagreement. People are allowed to have differing viewpoints. The real question is, how are they expressed. Gedolei Yisrael should speak b'nachas, with sensitivity. At then end of the day, a true gadol should not necessarily be defined by the conclusions he makes, but rather by the method he takes when approaching a difficult issue, and his subsequent way of implementing his conclusion.

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  35. Firstly, the whole question of who is a Gadol (relative to others) is rather impractical, arrogant and presumptuous. Who am I to decide who a Talmid Chacham is, never mind a Gadol? Am I going to give them all a test on Gemara? Yerushalmi? Shulchan Aruch?

    Secondly, and most importantly, is the question of does Judaism tolerate "THE" one Gadol HaDor who rules for a few years. If Rav M. Gifter or Rav Y.D. Soloveitchik or Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook is my rav, do I have to listen to Rav M. Feinstein on all matters? Pirkei Avot says "Aseh lecha Rav" not "Aseh lecha Gadol" nor "Aseh lecha Posek haDor"!

    Thirdly, Rav Melamed saying only someone who follows Rav Kook can be a gadol is simply ridiculous. Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld disagreed with Rav Kook on many issues, Rav Elyashiv had great respect for Rav Kook but disagreed with him too. Rav Sonnenfeld and Rav Elyashiv are nothing? (What about those who lived before Rav Kook - how do we decide their gadlut?)

    It seems what Rav Melamed is saying is quite simply "Aseh lecha Rav." Each and every Jew can find his own Rav, and these Rabbanim may disagree with each other!

    R' Natan, I am afraid that in attempting to illustrate a Rabbinic hechsher for your choosing to dismiss certain Rabbanim, you are making the very same error of those whom you dispute.

    Rav Melamed is choosing his Rav based on certain criteria - including the Eretz Yisrael criterion - and then with those criteria he dismisses other Rabbanim. Others choose their Rabbanim on different criteria whereby they then dismiss those who do not fit. Should we be playing this game of assessing, judging and dismissing?

    (And of course, does a Rav offer advise on elections and voting? Does he pasken? Should he be quiet?)

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  36. There seems to be much wisdom in what Rav Melamed says. I don't see leadership or vision in the haredi world.

    Btw, Amalek refers to the real, physical enemies of the Jewish nation who wish to wipe us out. By metaphorizing this word one essentially contorts and destroys the true mitzvah. So, we have come full circle-haredim acting like Reform-getting rid of mitzvot.

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  37. A Rav of mine commented wryly, "Nowadays we measure how much a person is a "godol" by the size of his funeral procession."

    Even though Rabbi Slifkin says that the Rambam denies that there is such a thing as ירידת הדורות, I think that we don't have any Rabbanim nowadays whose words are accepted by all sections of religious Jewry--their pronouncements are intended just for their constituency (that doesn't mean we can't learn from them, even if we don't happen to be followers).

    The best we could do is to reassemble a Sanhedrin, and let them decide who'll be the Nasi and Av Beis Din.

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  38. Simple yid is Poshuter.

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  39. Natan, don't waste too much time on droids. They'll come around later or not.

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  40. RBS Resident: Do you have a link to this video of R' Shteinman being lied to?

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  41. I think the simplest answer to the question on who is Gadol- Gadol is the one who is recognized as such by great amount of Torah-observant Jews worldwide. We can see who people are willing to wait for hours on line to ask a question or get a brocha. With all due respect to nowadays national religious Rabbis hardly anyone would qualify.

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    1. How many litvish rabbis in europe had people coming for brachos? I trully believe it was a rare occurrence. Maybe when somebody was desperate for somebody who was sick. The litvish rabbis werent "Chasidisha Rebbes" their movement had a different focus.
      The problem is now the lines between movements have blurred. We are in the middle stage of mixing. Which should be called "Chashivishers" you have chasidim who learn like yeshivish and litvishers with Rebbes like chasidem.

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  42. Rav Melamed is choosing his Rav based on certain criteria - including the Eretz Yisrael criterion - and then with those criteria he dismisses other Rabbanim. Others choose their Rabbanim on different criteria whereby they then dismiss those who do not fit. Should we be playing this game of assessing, judging and dismissing?

    I think that point of R. Melamed's criterion is something like this:

    For someone to have "Gadlute beTorah", they have to wrestle with the hardest problems out there for the Jewish people as a whole, and not just pasken on issues in isolation. For example, if you simply pasken that your community should stay out of the IDF because it is a risk to spiritual life, you've effectively punted on the question on how the nation is to defend itself, since if everyone followed your P'sak, there would be obvious problems. If you want to hold that position and also act with "Gadlute" you would need to define how things should be done and then actually work to achieve it for the whole nation.

    Similar comments with respect to Shmita and Heter Mechira. If you simply pasken "don't eat it" and don't explain how the as a whole nation can survive without it including issues of resistance to food blockades in possible conflicts, then you haven't dealt with the entire issue.

    This doesn't imply that R. Melamed is correct or that one should eat Heter Mechira produce (and I don't know what his position on that is; I just picked and example), but I think that his standard makes some sense.

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  43. Let's be careful not to make too much of comments from people who say things like "Kol Ha'adam Kozev". It helps, of course, to admit it to later with the preface, "Ani Amarti Bchafzi."

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  44. Makk said: "If the scale tips too much they should step away from the limelight and let somebody better suited to understand the youth take over."

    I don't know how this transfer of power is supposed to be done--Rav Steinman and Rav Kanievsky have developed such a reputation that anything they say will be discussed as "da'as Torah", whether they're in the limelight or not.

    By the way, there is graffiti in many places in Meah Shearim/Geula which says "Steinman = Kook", because of Rav Steinman's liberal attitude towards Nachal Charedi, as well as other issues. He's not popular in the Eidah Charedis circle--some expressions that I've heard can make your jaw drop.

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  45. Yitz said...
    Funny. I wonder why someones opinion on the practical application of mitzvas yishuv eretz yisroel should factor in to his "godol b'torah" status.


    Because if you think that a Gadol B'Torah must take on the big issues in Judaism in a comprehensive and practical way, then practical aspects of living in and maintaining the state of Israel for Jews in general are important. Perhaps you could still, for example, be anti-zionist, but then you'd offer and work towards some alternative plan (I don't think that there is one other than the Neturei Karta route which seems absurd and probably evil, but that's what it would take).

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  46. I think the simplest answer to the question on who is Gadol- Gadol is the one who is recognized as such by great amount of Torah-observant Jews worldwide. We can see who people are willing to wait for hours on line to ask a question or get a brocha. With all due respect to nowadays national religious Rabbis hardly anyone would qualify.

    There are some problems with this analysis:

    1) No one will stand on line for something that they can get without standing on line. If I can call, email, text, go during office hours, minyan, etc, then I would not stand on line. This biases your criteria for Rabbis who are older or have other activities that limit their exposure for P'sak without respect to their "Gadlut". Lines are based on both supply and demand.

    2) If you are not Charedi, then the most extreme forms of the concept of deferring your judgement to that of the "Gadol" in all areas (Daas Torah) and the importance of a receiving "Bracha" from a "Gadol" do not exist. If so, then again, no need to wait on line for that Bracha or to validate your choice of place to live, etc.

    3) Extending #2, there is thus less of a need for a hierarchy to begin with. The very concept of the "Greatest Rabbi" becomes less important; you go to who you need to go to when you need to, not to the "great one" who will solve your problem for you. Without the hierarchy, the needs will be spread among a greater number of Rabbis rather than a small number with a large number of surrounding handlers for each.

    A simpler way of putting all this, is that you have longer lines for the outsized personality in streams of Judaism where the outsized personality is of major importance. That doesn't make it correct.

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  47. Here's the video where they tell Rav Steinman to come to Bet Shemesh and falsely describe Eli Cohen as chiloni:

    http://youtu.be/eE_lvFDUC8M

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  48. "Lazar said...
    I think the simplest answer to the question on who is Gadol- Gadol is the one who is recognized as such by great amount of Torah-observant Jews worldwide. We can see who people are willing to wait for hours on line to ask a question or get a brocha. With all due respect to nowadays national religious Rabbis hardly anyone would qualify."

    LOL. By that criteria, Chasiddishe Rebbes are automatically greater Gedolim than Litvaks!

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  49. We really are an orphaned generation in terms of leadership because no one can accept gadlus except through the preconceived notions of their own politics. So no one can accept someone's gadlus in Torah if they disagree with his hashkafa. The Charedi world can't accept anyone who does tick the right hashkafic boxes, nor can R Melamed and co with their own set of boxes. And you lot on this blog can't accept someone as a gadol baTorah if he says things you deem a bit too 'anti-rational' for your liking.
    So we're left with a fragmented, broken people with no unifying ability to recognise Torah greatness. The result - spiritual blindess, demoralising petty religious politics and ever increasing self-imposed intellectual ghettos.
    And yes, I also mean YOU.

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    1. Actually you will probably find even though people on this blog dont agree with certain ideas from some people. They still generally respect the peoole who hold certain views. And I would venture to guess even Rav Slifkin and people on this blog or in the more Modern-RZ even read "Chairedi" rabbinic literature even if they dont aggree with certain ideas.
      But I dont know if thats generally the same for other "sects". ???
      (Im sure their are a few anomalies)

      Delete
  50. simple jew.


    were you the one who said rashi knew had ruach hapkodesh and knew rashi before he knew rashi. or was that some else ?

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  51. Why not consult with "The Making of a Gadol"? :)

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  52. >>LOL. By that criteria, Chasiddishe Rebbes are automatically greater Gedolim than Litvaks!<<

    Not necessarily greater than Litvaks, but the leaders of the Chassidic streams are certainly Gedolim. How would otherwise they could lead hundreds of thousands Torah Jews?

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  53. Anonymous said
    "Needless to say, someone who does not understand the teachings of Maran Harav Kook zt”l cannot be considered one of the Gedolei haTorah of the generation. He can be an expert and well versed in numerous details from the technical side of halakha and aggadah. But he cannot truly be Gadol baTorah."

    In other words, the criterion of Gadol is understanding of teaching of Rav Kook? Then who were Gedolim before Rav Kook? And would you apply the same criterion to understanding of teaching of Lubavicher Rebbe, Satmar Rebbe, Rav Shach, etc (in no particular order)?

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  54. When R Elyashev was niftar and I saw R Kanievsky was referring to R Shteinman as the gadol hador, it made me think that this title of gadol hador has now become a hot potato.

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  55. I did not get to vote for Rabbi Steinman, or Elyashiv or Kanievsky, etc. They don't represent me or my values. When someone says I must follow their decisions because they are the Gedolim, they are simply trying to impose their will on me. I ignore them. My kids are learning math and getting ready for college.

    The Gadol Hador is Rabbi Baruch Hirschfeld. Beloved Rosh Kollel in Cleveland OH. He stays out of politics.

    Come live here, where it's sane.

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  56. The ironic thing about people who throw around accusations of 'Amalek' is that they refuse to serve in an army whןבי every day battleד against the ACTUAL heirs of Amalek, the ones who would kill every Jew מנער ועד זקן טף ונשים.



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  57. Hey Simple Yid, want to cry about it?

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  58. Not necessarily greater than Litvaks, but the leaders of the Chassidic streams are certainly Gedolim. How would otherwise they could lead hundreds of thousands Torah Jews?

    So ... Shabtai Zvi was a Gadol?

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