Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Daas Torah and End-of-Year Notes

The previous post, renamed to "Daas Torah is in the Eye of the Beholder," received over 10,000 views. While the response was mostly positive, many people did not like it, including some near and dear to me. I would like to clarify some aspects of it, and discuss some other things.

1) The target of the post was not Rav Chaim Kanievsky. It was the cultural phenomenon surrounding Rav Chaim Kanievsky, whereby people taking two words of blessing, or a signature, to mean much, much more than Rav Chaim ever intended them to mean. The guilty parties are the media, the tzedakah campaigns, and many of the general public.

2) There was one criticism of Rav Chaim Kanievsky - that he admits to signing letters (in particular, one attesting to the righteousness of the monster Elior Chen) "because his rabbis signed it." I criticized that as a shirking of responsibility and an abuse of authority, and I stand by that criticism. And I will point out that the people who slammed the post (or me) did not respond to that. (Again, however, that was not the main point of the post.)

3) "B-b-b-but Daas Torah!" See Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's superb presentation on this topic, translated into English and downloadable at this link.

4) "B-b-b-but erev Rosh Hashanah!" Things are either right to say or wrong. If wrong, they should never be said. If right, they can be said at any time. The reason was I was particularly motivated to write that post at that time was as stated - that I was terribly upset to hear about someone who, according to what I was told, is going to Rav Chaim for a major medical decision.

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Now, on to something else. At this time of year, there are many appeals for donations to various causes. I was thinking of using this forum to raise funds for my own cause - The Biblical Museum of Natural History - but on reflection, I'm not certain how appropriate it is. When we say that teshuvah, tefillah and tzedaka remove the evil decree, I kindof have the feeling that it is talking about tzedaka for the poor, not for institutions. (I can't explain why I have this feeling, and I would appreciate if others can explain why, or why I am wrong.)

When it comes to giving tzedakah to the poor, one is likewise confronted with an array of causes. Some of them fundraise by offering incentives - that various "Holy Men" will pray for you (or at least will have your name in a book on their table), that you will merit miracles, etc. I have seen advertisements where the entirety of the advertisement is about what you will get, not what you are giving to!

As previously, I would like to recommend Lemaan Achai as a wonderful charity for helping the poor. Their focus is on using an array of professional services and aid to help people attain financial independence. Just take a look at the incredible success stories on their webpage! To quote Rambam: "The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support the poor person by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others." There is no smarter way to give tzedakah!

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As we end the year 5777, my brother-in-law and nephew were honored today in a special ceremony for their incredibly brave and smart actions in Neve Tzuf. But they are not rejoicing in this honor, for although they saved many lives, there were those that they were too late to save. May the coming year be one of health and peace for all.

24 comments:

  1. Almost every p'sak based on considers rulings of previous authorities. Rav Chaim has the full right on signing a paper because he considers the previous signee Gadol Hador etc.

    In his signature, he is adding that he considers the previous signee fit to be Manhig or an authority on the topic to an extent that he doesn't feel the need to investigate further.

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    1. That is NOT what a signature on a letter means.

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    2. "Almost every p'sak based on considers rulings of previous authorities."

      - But will a Posek say "I suspend my intelligence and thought process and rely solely on the words of a previous authority"?

      "Rav Chaim has the full right on signing a paper because he considers the previous signee Gadol Hador etc."

      - Vechozroh hakashya leduchtoh.

      According to you, gh500, RCK is not in trouble for his Chen signature, because he was relying on another Manhig. Presumably, this would be one of the other household name Gedolim. The question now is why did *that* Gadol sign in support of Chen.

      All you have done is switch the target of criticism from RCK to the other Gadol! R Slifkin's point still stands.

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    3. - But will a Posek say "I suspend my intelligence and thought process and rely solely on the words of a previous authority"?

      What suspension of thought? I never saw anyone criticizing rabonom for signing auport for flu vaccines, despite the fact that almost no one has gone through the complex biostats involved in assessing the drug's safety and efficacy. They're simply rightfully relying on someone they consider authority.

      RCK doesn't know what a cellphone is. But he firmly believes that Rav Shteinman is the right one to decide on these issues. Which is what's manifested in the signature.

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    4. Well Rav Chaim adds his signature to anything with Rav Shtienman's signature. He undoubtedly has a far higher opinion of Rav Shtienman than your average person and considers himself an authority in that respect. Why is adding your opnion in that way not valid.

      Most times a doctor prescribes a medicine, they're simply following guidelines. However, they are indeed authorities on which medical sources are authoritative...

      I write this as someone who thinks that the Israeli Gedolim system, where you can only be a Manhig at an advanced age with a mafia of Gabaim surrounding you - together with a the concept of Maran being something like a Sanhedrin HaGadol - is highly nontraditional and terrible.

      Delete
  2. "Things are either right to say or wrong. If wrong, they should never be said. If right, they can be said at any time."

    Surely there are more and less appropriate times to say certain things even where they are true.

    - עֵת לַחֲשׁוֹת וְעֵת לְדַבֵּר

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    Replies
    1. Indeed. What I meant to be addressing is the implied claim that something may be right to say at other times of year but not before Judgment day.

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    2. Sorry, I don't get it. Their claim is that just before Rosh Hashana is the wrong time for this message. Your counterclaim is that if something is right to say it is always right to say, i.e. that there is no such thing as a right or wrong time to say something. I pointed out that this is not the case. That is nkt to say that they are necessarily correct, but that in principle they could be. To answer them you need to explain why the week of Rosh Hashana is not a particularly poor time for such a message.

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    3. I wasn't aware that the mitzvah of "hokhayah tokhiyah" is suspended in the week before Rosh HaShanah.

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    4. Have a great new year, hope it's a successful one.

      Yoni

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    5. Alan, are you saying that the 'mitzvah' of rebuking talimdei chachamim in public blogs that will have no influence on them whatsoever applies even erev R"H? (sarcasm).

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    6. AR, thank you for the sarcastic comment.

      The mitzvah of hocheiach tochiach is not suspended on days of funerals either, but that does not mean that someone's funeral is the best time or place to go telling everyone all the ways not to be like the deceased.

      I am not saying that RNS was wrong, nor that he was right. I am merely pointing out that it is a valid critique to ask someone whether they have considered whether their comments come at the most appropriate time.

      KVT

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    7. The cult of R.Kanevsky is a fraud and before R.H., when people turn to him expecting deliverance, is the perfect time to address it.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for the link to RAL on this topic. I just read the first page. Beautiful and no resemblance so far to what you wrote. Although your current 'correction/apology/(I don't know how to define it)' suggests that at times you intend to show respect and deference to talmidei chachamim, when you feel they deserve it, there can be no denying that these sort of posts 'inspire' many readers to express contempt and scorn for Torah scholars. The comment sections here and on FB have such comments. I have never seen you take issue with any of those comments suggesting that you at least tacitly agree (it is your blog and those comments may be seen by 10,000 readers). With all due respect to your scholarship and erudition, RAL was arguably one of the greatest talmidei chachamim and intellectuals of his time. Yet, before addressing his topic, he devotes 6% of his essay to making it absolutely clear that in no way will any of his words be used to attack or scorn any individual. The theme of the first page continues throughout the rest of the article. That first page is worth reading over and over again before writing any blog.

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  4. If you look in Yored Deah, Siman 249, the Rema clearly distinguishes between helping the poor and institutions. While by Ma'aser, which the Rema is referring to, there is a Machlokes, by Tzedaka it is clear that the Mitzva is to help the poor.
    Dov

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  5. Having read R. Lichtenstein's essay, may I suggest the phrasing of the Torah itself can be read as supporting him. We are told to go to the Kohanim, Leviim and judges "who will be in that day"-- which implies to me that we are directed to go to Torah authorities who are fully cognizant of the culture and concerns of their time, and not insulated from their times.

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    1. That phrase, as well as the following ones, v'asita kechol asher yorucha and lo tasur, are regarding legal disputes. Namely, regarding questions of law, you should go to these authorities and do exactly as they say. Modem daat torah has taken this idea and extended out to all sorts of places where it doesn't belong.

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    2. Just curious which Gedolim (if any) you would call 'fully cognizant'. This is a typical argument of those who have no interest in listening to Gedolim whatsoever.

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    3. Lee, when you use the word Gedolim, you mean specifically charedi Gedolim over the age of 70, right?

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    4. General, do you have examples of Gedolim who are not Charedi, or are under the age of 70?

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    5. General, yes because that's how I would identify a Gadol based on my background. But I would be interested to know who else you would include. (Was the Arizal not a Gadol because he didn't live to 70?)

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  6. English article on medals for Neve Tzuf bravery:

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/235757

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  7. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Yashar Koach on your recommendation. Due to your post a few years ago my family has become repeat donors to lema'an achai.

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  8. I saw this article today on Yeshiva World News about a kollel supported by all the Gedolim. The article then links to a website that you can donate on. I thought people who have a smartphone or use internet are possul for a minyan?

    http://www.nezerhoraah.com/

    ReplyDelete

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Chicken Wars: The Shiur

This Monday in Woodmere....(and also on Tuesday, at Beth Aaron in Teaneck):