Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Unmitigated Chutzpah of the Daas Torah Defenders

It caused a public uproar and a political storm. It made all the newspapers in Israel, religious and secular. It even made it to the New York Times. 

I'm referring to the backlash to coronavirus czar Roni Gamzu, who had publicly criticized Rav Chaim Kanievsky after the latter was reported as giving a blanket statement that yeshiva students should not be tested for coronavirus. The charedi MKs and press were outraged - how dare Gamzu criticize Rav Chaim's leadership?! A planned visit by Gamzu to Bnei Brak was cancelled by the Bnei Brak municipality.

In a previous post, I discussed the nonsense of claiming that Gamzu is under any obligation to respect such decisions by Rav Chaim. But meanwhile, Mishpachah magazine claimed to have done an investigation and discovered that Rav Chaim had actually said no such thing. Instead, he had given a much more limited statement, that yeshivah students who had already been in isolation for two weeks need not be tested again. Accordingly, Gamzu apologized.

Aha! Charedim and Charedi-admiring non-charedim alike were jubilant, and expressed their great disdain for Gamzu and the non-charedi press for having believed the false report. "How dared they be so negligent in not checking their facts? How could they criticize such an important religious leader based on false reports?"

You must be joking.

Let's get a few things straight. It was the CHAREDI PRESS who first reported that Rav Chaim had issued the blanket instruction and who continued to report it. The report originated with Kikar Shabbos, and was happily picked up by other charedi news outlets. See the front page of Rav Aharon Shechter's newspaper Lehovin shown here, which reports that Rav Chaim said that yeshivos should not have their students be tested for coronavirus and should not rush to quarantine them, and ON THE VERY SAME PAGE slams the "intolerable chutzpah" of Gamzu for criticizing this absolutely authoritative guidance! (On the next page, Lehovin insists that "Listening to the Sar HaTorah, or other authentic da’as Torah, will never bring negative ramifications to its adherents." Yeah, tell that to the people in Bnei Brak who died of coronavirus - or to the Jews who died in the Holocaust because their Gedolim told them to stay in Europe.)

Why on earth should Gamzu be expected to disbelieve a report about Rav Chaim that is being spread by Rav Chaim's very own dedicated followers, who insist that everyone must accept it?! 

Furthermore, it's not as though there was any reason to doubt that it was true. After all, this is the same Rav Chaim who, at the beginning of the pandemic, urged that the Health Ministry be disregarded and the yeshivos not be closed, because "yeshivos protect from coronavirus"! In fact, compared to that terrible guidance (which is on video), his latest alleged guidance was much less serious!

In addition, it's not as though there's any practical way to find out what Rav Chaim really thinks about anything, short of meeting with him (which busy people should not have to do). With the utterly unprofessional and entirely broken system of leadership in the Charedi world, crucial decisions are made on the basis of "he said that he heard that Rav Chaim said a two-word response to a question about which the circumstances are not clear." There's no publicly available minutes of the meeting, no detailed written shailah and teshuvah. And they dare to criticize someone for getting it wrong?

For that matter, how is anyone so sure that the original report was indeed wrong? Maybe the Mishpacha magazine "revelation" was a cover-up? 

Such a thing has happened before. When Elior Chen, the worst abuser in the history of Israel, was arrested, a letter was publicized from the Gedolim (including Rav Chaim Kanievsky) attesting to his innocence. Naturally, this resulted in a public uproar, especially from the families of the victims. Kikar Shabbos reached out to the families and associates of the Gedolim who had signed, and these people expressed surprise and denied that such a letter existed; when they were shown it, they said that it must be fraudulent. Aha, the Gedolim had been framed! Alas, no. A neighbor of mine who had seen the letter and was horrified, wrote to Rav Chaim and asked why he attested to the innocence of such a terrible person, who was subsequently sentenced to 24 years in prison. Rav Chaim did not deny having signed the letter; he responded to my friend that he signed it because "his rabbis" signed it.

So if people can mistakenly/ falsely deny that Rav Chaim had defended Elior Chen, they can equally be mistaken or misrepresenting things when they deny that Rav Chaim had told yeshivos not to have their students tested. Not to mention that the fact of Rav Chaim having defended Elior Chen, and having defended his defense on the grounds that he was just following others, demonstrates all too tragically clearly how worthless his guidance is. 

The strange thing is, it's not as though I'm saying something that only a charedi-hating person would say. There's many, many people at all strata of charedi society who know all this perfectly well. They are entirely familiar with the fact that Rav Chaim is very sheltered, very old, very out of things, and completely manipulated by his horrible grandson Yanky and others who control him like a puppet. In fact, I would venture to guess that most of the movers-and-shakers in charedi society know this. 

So why do many of them express outrage when people criticize rulings uttered in the name of Rav Chaim, when they themselves know that "the emperor has no clothes"? I'm not sure. Perhaps they are embarrassed when others call attention to it. Or perhaps they want to maintain the illusion of the wisdom and authority of Daas Torah for situations when they want to take advantage of it.

Whatever the explanation, the facts are clear. Rav Chaim Kanievsky is an incredible masmid - extraordinarily, single-mindedly dedicated to Torah. At the same time, his directives regarding people, events and public policy are worthless. They sometimes go against all reason or are entirely corrupted (as with Elior Chen). Don't be surprised, and certainly don't be outraged, when his directives are criticized - especially when it's by someone like Gamzu, whose job entails caring about the wellbeing of others, and who, unlike Rav Chaim, is actually held accountable for getting things wrong.

(If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.) 

80 comments:

  1. "Rav Chaim Kanievsky is an incredible masmid - extraordinarily, single-mindedly dedicated to Torah. At the same time, his directives regarding people, events and public policy are worthless.an incredible masmid - extraordinarily, single-mindedly dedicated to Torah. At the same time, his directives regarding people, events and public policy are worthless."

    The diehard charedim believe that his hasmodah alone implicitly means that all his directives are pure daas Torah and must be correct

    ReplyDelete
  2. I havent read the whole lehovin article (Cant say im a subscriber lol) but from the picture you showed it seems that the caveat that it was for students who were already tested and quarantined is included in the piece.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The picture is unclear. Here is a full link. https://mcusercontent.com/d6e86fd0dbcaf132b2f35537e/files/44229b41-bdb9-44ab-a644-e1651bc1770e/Main_Lehovin_Parshas_Ki_Savo_50_Sept_2_2020.01.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lehovin is absolute trash. They got very upset at Aharon Granot for helping off-the-derech chareidi girls in the Army (i.e, making sure they don't starve and helping them get apartments). They claim that this help causes frum girls to go to the army, and is yeharag veal yaavor to help them!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Do you think Gamzu was correct in apologizing? Or was it a cowardly backtracking as when the close-downs about to be enacted on chareidi towns were downgraded to curfews to placate four chareidi mayors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think he's learned that he has to pat the children on the head until their next tantrum, for the good of the country.

      Delete
    2. You hit the nail on the head. The problem is that it ISN'T good for the country. There is a reason that most of the red-zone corona cities / towns are Haredi (or Arab): because they DO NOT pay attention to rules. They think they know more than the experts. Here's a little secret for the inhabitants of such cities. If you are living in a densely populated area you have a higher chance of contracting and spreading CORONA. All the more reason to pay attention to the rules as formulated by the experts: doctors, health officials, biologists etc. and NOT Rabbis who are NOT EXPERTS.

      Delete
    3. Well, yeah. What would be good for the country would be to simply ignore these people and crack down on things. But Gamzu doesn't have that power, so he struggles along.

      Delete
  6. Rant.

    Instead of ranting try actually doing something. Try education, if you want to effect change, you need to provide this information to those who need it - not preach to your choir. For example: submit an article to the Yated under a pseudo name and actually write it respectfully not combatively as many of your posts and articles tend to be. Write as if you actually understand their position (do you?).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um, this *is* doing something.

      Delete
    2. Not the tone issue again! Where does the essay sound "combatively?"

      Delete
    3. Yated never publishes such letters, no matter s how much respectfully they are.

      Delete
  7. I take offense at the lenient approach this site takes at degrading Torah Scholars

    "or to the Jews who died in the Holocaust because their Gedolim told them to stay in Europe"

    Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveichik and Rabbi Avogdor Miller said that its a complete lie. Rav Soloveichik said that this myth started by someone who wasn't even a shomer mitzvos. It was an agenda driven statement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "But Rav Wolpin does concede that many Torah Sages in Eastern
      Europe weighed the (definite) spiritual threats to Orthodox Jews in the yishuv against the (potential) physical threats of staying put in Europe. They concluded (incorrectly) that any physical threat to European Jews would also engulf the Jews of Palestine. 'In the 1930s,' notes Rav Wolpin, 'Poland seemed no less safe than Palestine.'"

      http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%209%20Bobker.pdf

      Delete
    2. Actually, Rav Soloveitchik, when asked about the idea of Da'at Torah when it was being pushed in the 1970's, responded, "After the Holocaust you can talk about Da'as Torah"?

      There's plenty of evidence that plenty of gedolim told people not to worry. Which is not a knock on them at all- if only they'd be honest about it.

      Delete
    3. Yonatan, Even if they did not tell Jews to stay in Europe, it does not help your case that they claim, that, "canceling yeshiva is more dangerous than coronavirus."

      Delete
    4. There are records that show its true. There's even film in one or two cases. But sure, if R' Avigdor Miller, who never missed an opportunity to disparage anyone who wasn't just like him, said it's not true...

      Delete
    5. Eh. The claim seems pretty credible: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/satmar-rebbe-1

      Delete
    6. When and where did the rav say this? Is it documented somewhere?

      Delete
    7. Congrats, you have just proved you are gullible. Also, Rabbi Avigdor Miller was a terrible person.

      Delete
    8. "Despite the fact that R. Ozer recognized almost immediately the threat of Hitler, during WWII he was not as prescient. As late as March 1940, he was encouraging Jews to remain in Vilna. See Eliezer Rabinowitz, R. Hayim Ozer’s Prophesy for Vilna has Been Fulfilled,” Morgen Journal, May 8, 1940."
      https://seforimblog.com/2020/09/romm-press-haggadah-art-controversial-books-and-other-bibliographical-historica/

      Delete
    9. A major part of the Rav's biography is the fact that the Holocaust caused him to make a definite break with the charedi world. That they had rejected Zionism, which could have saved Jews, that they counseled against public demonstrations, etc. This is all well known.

      Of course, you say "Yoshe Ber," which is confusing and/or telling. Perhaps you're referring to the son of the Brisker Rav.

      Delete
    10. Nachum, for those of us who don't feel comfortable referring to RYSB as "the Rav," what do you suggest we call him?

      Delete
    11. Yitz,

      I strongly object to your truly disgusting remark about Rav Miller, ztvk"l. You should not, especially in Elul, be engaged in such vitriolic libel.

      Delete
    12. No one knows the future, not now and not then. Most jews from all across the politico-religious spectrum believed they would be fine in Europe, some other (including chareidi rabbis) decided to flee, but it could have turned out either way, for all they knew. The Nazis themselves didn't think of the Endlösung till well inside the war.
      Of course the Zionists had always wanted to leave, but it was more for ideological reasons. And after the war, they of course took advantage of the events to theorize on the difference between ''Galuth ideology'' and ''Sabras ideology'', a disgusting theory which has long been debunked. That's how we end with rabbis being criticized from taking decisions based on the case at hand.

      Of course Daas Torah on political events and public policy is also long debunked, at least since Rabbi Akiva's hanling of Bar Kochba's revolt, which also ended in disaster. And he was a lot more politically acute than RCK!
      Rabbis usually are political leaders, but never prophets.

      Delete
    13. RYSB is fine for these purposes, I suppose. But if you're going to things to him he never said, then it's going to get confusing. For all we know, he could be talking about the Beit HaLevi. :-)

      Delete
  8. An off-topic question regarding a Yair P from the screenshot. It looks like this is a post in Facebook or similar social network. How did he dare when Rav Chaim, according to the letter that was distributed with his signature, explicitly forbade usage of Internet in any way for any purpose?

    BTW as far as I know the case of Elior Chen is completely fabricated by the police. Yet I bet neither Rav Chaim nor other "gdolim" checked my the facts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "As far as you know"? How would you know that? Are you a police investigator?

      I've never even heard this claim.

      Delete
  9. Note: I deleted comments that tried to sidetrack the discussion to other issues regarding coronavirus (and also the comment that tried to sidetrack it to Trump/Pence). Stick to the point.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Even though Gamzu did nothing wrong, he was politically correct to apologize, and given that the situation now is finding ways to encourage people to follow directives, apologizing makes more sense than further antagonizing people.
    Gamzu should appoint a Haredi and Arab associate or co-directors who should be responsible for all communication with those communities, as people are normally more receptive to hear advice from someone who dresses and talks like them.

    HOWEVER the criticism of Rav Chaim was accurate, even after the clarification. Rav Chaim was originally reported as having given very bad medical advice that could put at risk thousands of lives. The correction was that he in fact gave different bad medical advice that would put fewer lives at risk.

    The only answer Rav Chaim should give when asked a medical question, such as whether to get tested for a deadly virus is "Follow the directives of your doctor and the Ministry of Health"

    As Rav Chaim did not direct people to follow the directives of the Ministry of Health, a Charedi representative of the Ministry should have contacted him and got him to issue a clarification.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disagree. As leader of his community, Rav Chaim can and should make value judgement about when and when not to follow the Ministry of Health. To decide when these guidelines are consistent or conflict with the Torah is absolutely within Rav Chaim's expertise and authority.

      Delete
    2. Mr. happygoluckypersonage,
      Accepting your premise, is there a shred of evidence that RCK investigates the details of the metzius beyond the one or two sentence description shouted to him (by people who know very little themselves)? There are videos of people screaming, "What to do about blank regarding Corona?" "What?" "What's maran's view on blank regarding CORONA?" "What is that?" "There is a virus going around..." "Psak." Mimah nafshoch: If he already discussed the issue deeply with experts, why is he asking what it is, and why are they telling him, and if he didn't he certainly doesn't know enough on the spot to answer! Do we know who is on the panel of medical professionals advising RCK?

      Delete
    3. "Mimah nafshoch: If he already discussed the issue deeply with experts, why is he asking what it is... and if he didn't, he certainly doesn't know enough on the spot to answer!"

      You hit the nail on the head!

      Delete
    4. Whether to get tested for a deadly disease is a medical question, not a Halachic question.

      Unless Rav Chaim claims to have expert knowledge on the spread of highly contagious diseases (which based on his earlier comments, he doesn't seem to have), then he should not be giving medical advice against the experts, at least not unless he consulted with doctors or scientists with expert knowledge in this field.

      Delete
    5. Isnt Rav Chaim in isolation, under his grandson's? You can't ask him questions.
      Only his grandson can ask, and only his grandson can respond. If he wants to.
      2. If you have an opportunity to ask, you have to be creative, and not ask open ended questions, but rather questions that can be answered with cute two word answers.
      I doubt RCK is that naïve that he doesn't know those video cameras aren't going on the internet. Assuming he even knows what an internet is.

      Delete
    6. @Shlomo and is there evidence that the Ministry of Health deeply investigates halachic issues before issuing pronouncements that affect such issues (such as recommending closing yeshivas and chadorim)? I would agree that newspapers and Youtube clips are not good sources for Rav Chaim's position. Just like you wouldn't rely on those for your personal halachic questions.

      @Michael it is a halachic question in Rav Chaim's opinion. You are free to disagree, just like anybody is free to disagree with world-renowned experts on any subject matter. Besides for the fact that one can just as well say that the doctors shouldn't be issuing guidance on Torah issues (shutting down chadorim and yeshivas).

      Delete
    7. Mr. personage,
      You completely sidestepped my argument.
      I haven't heard anyone say that the Ministry of Health is issuing halachik rulings (qua halachik rulings), but rather as health guidelines (as their name suggests!) which heavily impacts the halachah. (I assume we all agree that the non-Jewish docs whose opinions we "rechon with" in SA siman 618 aren't issuing "halachik rulings.") Perhaps we can debate how to view their recommendations, after careful scrutiny and investigation of their methods. But, as I argued above (and this is my entire point), that is not at all what RCK seems to be doing. You use a little false argumentation when you say "I would agree that newspapers and Youtube clips are not good sources for Rav Chaim's position." I'm not looking to youtube clips for his POSITION, but as a means for evaluating how he REACHES his positions, whatever they may be. Hence, assuming an authoritative psak does issue from RCK, I wonder how it can be taken seriously, when the evidence shows that he and his court are NOT having serious in-depth conversations with experts. I'm sure all of this is obvious to you and your response is mostly rhetoric; I'm explaining this for anyone who wasn't really following the back and forth.

      Delete
    8. Um, yes. It may surprise you to learn this, but the government has halachic experts it consults on all matters of law. Plus it has a whole Ministry of Religion, two Chief Rabbis, the Rabbinate Council, and hundreds of city rabbis across the country to consult. Then there are religious Knesset members- well over a quarter of Knesset members define as religious, and probably another quarter or so are religious as well- who are perfectly capable of looking out for the interests of religious people, and indeed have a mandate to. Finally, the government is full of religious people at all sorts of levels.

      And that's people employed by the government. There are then hundreds- thousands- of rabbis out there who are both very knowledgeable of halakhah and of current affairs and science who are capable of deciding such issues.

      In that list, a corrupt shnook grandson (because that's who we're talking about here) ranks very, very low in terms of who I'd trust my religion to.

      Delete
    9. @Shlomo, and I haven't heard that R' Chaim is issuing health rulings, rather Torah guidelines which heavily impact health (don't shut down chadorim/yeshivos, even during a pandemic). He is well within his authority to do this.

      As for your speculation of how R' Chaim decides halachic issues, I don't consider a Youtube clip to very insightful. My assumption is that R' Chaim has learned the sugyos well, and thought about similar shailos (under what circumstances can yeshivas be shut down) many times before this particular shaila was asked. You, on the other hand, assume that this is first time he ever heard of such a shaila, and are questioning how he could answer it so quickly, seemingly without investigation. Similarly, one could be bothered how a mathematician could solve an integral in a matter of seconds, without first going through a lengthy analytical proof.

      Delete
    10. Mr. Personage,
      Something isn't computing here. RCK is issuing a directive that depends greatly on the medical facts on the ground. Your assumption about his having learned the sugyos well is utterly irrelevant. I'm STIPULATING that RCK has the entirety of halachik literature instantly on his fingertips, there is zero disagreement there. However, the question is regarding the NOVEL coronavirus, the metzius of which is completely out of his field of knowledge. I assume it is the first time he got a shailah about the novel coronavirus, because well, yeah, it's novel, and he asked what it is. Your comparison to the mathematician is incoherent.
      I even agree that - in theory - it is well within his rights to issue directives about this, if he does the proper research and
      has an understanding of the medical profession. My sole point is that there is strong indication that he does not.

      Delete
    11. @Shlomo you are correct that something isn't computing. RCK isn't a doctor, nevertheless he is allowed, and is in fact supposed to issue halachic rulings on medical matters. The fact that the virus is called NOVEL doesn't make a difference here, it is a plague. Plagues aren't a new issue to the Torah world, they have been around for a long long time (called "mageifah" or "dever" in the literature), and many have been FAR deadlier than this. Obviously, the halachic matter of a plague is totally within RCK's field of knowledge. The comparison to mathematics is completely coherent, you are like somebody perplexed that a mathematician can quickly solve a "novel" problem.

      Delete
    12. @happygoluckypersonageSeptember - yes "there evidence that the Ministry of Health deeply investigates halachic issues before issuing pronouncements", they regularly consult with the Chief Rabbis, that is one of the reasons that we have chief Rabbis in this country, to give Halachic advice to the government.

      When Litzmin was Minister of Health he made a point of consulting Rabbi Lau before issuing new guidelines, as opposed to his own Rav - the Gerrer Rebbe, as he recognized the Rav lay (and Rav Yosef) are appointed as Posek for the Government.

      I know first hand that Rabbi Lau is in regular contact with several government ministries and is consulted on a wide variety of issues.

      Delete
    13. Forget it, personage. This is nuts. If you don't understand that paskening on refuah questions depends on knowing the metzius (as, btw, the SA clearly rules, that we listen to what the doctors tell us) then by definition there isn't room for a rational discussion here.

      Delete
    14. @Shlomo, sometimes psak requires knowing very specific details. And sometimes it doesn't. You would probably very astonished to hear that rabbis routinely pasken that women in labor can go to the hospital on Shabbos, without first investigating the specific details of each individual woman, her medical history, etc.

      Delete
    15. Another ridiculous comparison. The MM says giving birth is a less than one in a thousand danger which is enough to be mechalel Shabbos. Unless someone can make a convincing case that the metzius of a birthing woman outside a hospital has changed from those days, that is the din. I pray that your explanations are not actually what RCK is thinking, otherwise our problems are worse than anyone suspects.

      Delete
    16. Ah, so you have backtracked from your claim that every psak requires knowing the very specific metzius. A single MM is enough to pasken for every single woman, for all eternity, without further investigation. In that case, I have no problem believing that RCK was confident paskening the halacha with what he knew, without further investigation. If he told you his source(s), would you be satisfied?

      Delete
    17. " My assumption is that R' Chaim has learned the sugyos well, and thought about similar shailos (under what circumstances can yeshivas be shut down) many times before this particular shaila was asked. "
      Your assumption goes against what RCK has said repeatedly: (to paraphrase) "These are off-the-cuff responses, not to be taken practically- go ask your Rav if you want a real answer."

      Delete
    18. "Obviously, the halachic matter of a plague is totally within RCK's field of knowledge. "

      According to RCK's son (and others whose Charedi credentials are unimpeachable), his father has no field of knowledge outside of Torah.

      Delete
    19. @Ephraim my feeling is that this was more than an off the cuff remark, as he apparently stuck to his position subsequently. But you might be right. As for his field of knowledge, you are playing word games, the halachic issue of a plague is of course a Torah issue.

      Delete
  11. JShalet, you are banned from commenting. And I urge you to get professional help for your obsession.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would love to know what he wrote!

      Delete
    2. Turk Hill, you seemed to miss my comment above: Note: I deleted comments that tried to sidetrack the discussion to other issues regarding coronavirus (and also the comment that tried to sidetrack it to Trump/Pence). Stick to the point.

      Delete
    3. @RNS Thank you for clarifying. I will try to stay more on-topic.

      Delete
  12. If a Gadol can make such basic mistakes about clearly defined issues of medical and sicence, who's to say they won''t make as glaring mistakes when it comes to practical halachah? Why should we listen to them at all??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fortunately, there are many gedolim- the real ones- who do indeed research all matters they discuss as best they can.

      But they're not in the "velt," so they're not considered gedolim.

      Delete
    2. "Why should we listen to them at all??"
      The question doesn't make sense. You can't listen to someone who isn't talking to you. The Gaon RCK hasn't talked to you & hasn't ordered or advised anybody to do anything. He's on record as saying that his answers are not to be accepted as practical advice. RCK is a prolific author who hasn't published שו"ת. Such volumes are published by other hands-
      -from the introduction to a volume of so called responsa of RCK:
      יש לציין שמרן שליט"א מבקש תמיד שלא יסמכו על תשובותיו למעשה, כי עונה רק מקופיא
      From the intro to שערי שיח:
      שכל התשובת שקבלנו מרבינו שליט"א ..אין להורות מהם הלכה למעשה כלל אלא להגדיל תורה ולהוסיף לקח ופלפול
      And from RCK's own handwriting:
      שלא יסמכו ע"ז למעשה בלי לשאול רב

      RCK's own son says that the Gaon has no conceptions outside of Torah. Torah is his only frame of reference. Another RY lauded RCK as having no knowledge outside of Torah.
      And this week, Yediot reported from the streets of Bnei Brak that most (many?) people are not planning to heed the so called psak not to get tested for Covid.

      To summarize: your question is irrelevant when it comes to RCK. Instead ask your question in regards to a real posek who actually believes in the practical application of their decisions. Like Rav Schachter or Rav Asher Weiss...

      Delete
    3. "The Gaon RCK hasn't talked to you & hasn't ordered or advised anybody to do anything. He's on record as saying that his answers are not to be accepted as practical advice." Watch the videos. He says no such thing. They ask him what to do with the Yeshivos and he answers. He doesn't say: go ask someone else.

      Delete
    4. I've seen the videos. The responses he gives orally are similar to his brief written responses- with the "exception" that they are briefer. Their concision makes the Rogochover look downright prolix. Given that RCK is on record disclaiming his "responsa" as being non-practical, I see no reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt in this case. (It's also clear that the published "responsa", that comes with these disclaimers, includes orally transmitted "decisions" as well.)

      I could agree with you 100% & it wouldn't matter. The responses of RCK are not psak. That's fact. The only debate is whether RCK intends them to be psak. You know enough that relying on HaGaon RCK violates the first halacha in Avot: הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין & that would be true even if you're correct that RCK is actually giving a practical psak. The scandal is why nobody is speaking up against this charade. And why outside the Yeshivot there's widespread negligence. Torah protects? Okay- keep the Yeshivot open. But why are the boys, safely sequestered in the Yeshiva allowed to leave for בין הזמנים where they can get infected, once they're been cleared by their isolation? (It's not like they're "nebuch" stuck in a cave with little to eat or drink.) But indoor minyanim without full implementation of precautions? Mass weddings? Friday night tishim? Meron & Uman? All these things protect? Where's the condemnation?

      Delete
  13. Critiques of the haredi world are legitimate. But, when one only critiques that world and not other parts of the religious or non-religious worlds then it is difficult to escape the feeling that the critic is as fanatically partisan as some are among the haredim.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I find that Lehovin page quite strange. Did they suddenly become defenders of Reb Chaim? They have been fighting Reb Chaim all the years, they 'disagree' with him on how to run Israeli CHaredi affairs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, they called him senile Inna frontpage article years back, just like this very blog. I wish I could find the issue.

      Delete
  15. Can we take a moment to point out the ridiculousness of transliterating the word "לְהָבִין" as "lehovin"?

    Why do frummies (and English-language frummie publishers) consider it so important to emphasize the minor (and effectively meaningless) phonologic difference between kamatz and patach, but ignore the inarguably more significant distinction between kamatz and cholam?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You seem to think that 'frummies' somehow 'know' that the Israeli pronunciation is correct, but they are pushing an agenda by pronouncing the kamatz like that. I used to think so about chassidim when I was a child. But it is not like that, this is our natural accent, and nobody even thinks anything of it. When we hear others davening and learning in an Israeli accent, especially in Chutz La'aretz, it sounds strange to our ears.
      It is natural and organic, not contrived or born of a shita.

      Delete
    2. No, wite, no English speaker pronounces a kamatz like an "o."

      Delete
  16. I think if it had been a cholam they would have written it ''lehoivin''.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Calling Lehovin "Rav Aharon Shechter's paper" is unfair and is doing the same thing you accuse RCK's followers of doing - attributing their own beliefs to their gadol. Anyone who has seen RAS lately can tell you that he is also "very old, very out of things".

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm afraid you misunderstand me. I too daven/lein with a traditional Ashkenazi havarah but, as Nachum points out, that havarah does not pronounce the kamatz as "o". (Incidentally, "parshas sazria" is a perfectly accurate Ashkenazic rendering of those words.)

    My issue is not with the supremacy of one havarah over another, but rather with accuracy in transliteration. If anything, the Ashkenazi kamatz should be represented as "aw" (as is done well, for example, by the transliteration of kaddish at the end of the Artscroll siddur) but, for some reason, that always turns out to look cumbersome. I suppose that is why "O" gets used instead (though in English phonology, effectively the only time the letter "O" makes the "aw" sound is when followed by an "R").


    But if one had to choose between representing the kamatz as "A" (like a patach) or "O" (like a cholam), the better choice is indisputably "A", since equating kamatz with patach will not change the meaning of a word, whereas equating kamatz with cholam certainly can.

    ReplyDelete
  19. In light of that, I'm afraid you are mistaken when you argue that representing kamatz as "O" is not "born of a shita": the desire by "frummie" publications to davka distinguish the Ashkenazi kamatz from patach in explicit contradistinction to modern Hebrew (even at the expense of accurate transliteration, pronunciation, and possibly even word meaning) is, I believe, very deliberately done "b'shitah". The reverse is equally true, by the way: see Natan vs. Nosson Slifkin.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Just Curious:''Incidentally, "parshas sazria" is a perfectly accurate Ashkenazic rendering of those words''. No. ''Parshas Sazria'' is wrong even according to ashkenazi havara, because ''Parshas'' doesn't end with אהוי. Indeed, I never heard anyone pronunce it that way. However, in the verse, it does read: ''ishâh ki sazria' '', because ki ends with a י.
    And I would very much like to understand why it disturbs you when a kamatz is written ''o'' but not when it is completely erased, as in ''parshas'' for ''פָּרָשַׁת''.

    ‘’equating kamatz with patach will not change the meaning of a word, whereas equating kamatz with cholam certainly can’’. Wrong again, there are many words where it does make a difference. For example, ‘’נִמְסָר - it is (or is being) transmitted’’, but ‘’נִמְסַר – it was (or has been) transmitted’’. And in case of a kamatz katan, it is actually closer to the cholam than to the patach. No, ideally, the kâmâts should be transliterated differently than both pâthach and cholâm. And ‘’frummies’’ do it because they use ‘’a’’,’’o’’,’’oi’’ (I personally prefer the ‘’a’’,’’â’’,’’o’’, which is closer to what proto-ashkenazi pronunciation must have been like).

    ‘’the desire by "frummie" publications to davka distinguish the Ashkenazi kamatz from patach in explicit contradistinction to modern Hebrew’’. Actually, it is modern Hebrew that departed from traditional pronunciation, not only Ashkenazi, for political reasons. And traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation DOES differentiate between pâthach and kâmâts. So the shitâh they are following is the respect of their tradition. What’s wrong with that?

    ‘’ The reverse is equally true, by the way: see Natan vs. Nosson Slifkin’’. Indeed, but are you suggesting the name Nosson was also a shitâh? Maybe we should ask rabbi Slifkin himself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, you make very good points. Of course you are correct that "פָּרָשַׁת" should best be rendered as "parashas", but since no Ashkenazim actually pronounce it that way I was willing to let that slide :)

      Regarding your point that "פָּרָשַׁת" fails to end with a mater lectionis (אהוי), it took me a moment to understand what you were getting at, but I think understand now, and it is absolutely fascinating (and I never thought about it before). Your point, if I understand it correctly, is that the tav in "תַזְרִיעַ" takes a dagesh kal after "פָּרָשַׁת" but not after "כִּי", making the name of the parashah "parashas tazria" even though the word in the pasuk is "sazria"! Absolutely fascinating. I assume now that this is what Nachum was getting at when he mentioned "parshas sazria" above. Thank you for teaching me this.

      I agree with you that, ideally, the Ashkenazi kamatz should be transliterated differently than both patach and cholam but including diacritics in a transliteration system meant for lay people is not "user friendly".

      I further agree that the kamatz katan is far more similar to the cholam than is the "regular" kamatz; it is ridiculous that the enormous majority of Ahskenazim do not distinguish between kamatz katan and kamatz gadol.

      Re: your pointing out that "the shitâh they are following is the respect of their tradition" (which is, incidentally, my tradition), I think you have misunderstood me: I am not arguing that there not be a distinction between kamatz and patach in Ashkenazi transliteration, only that using the letter "O" to do so is a bad way to go about it! (Because they use "O" for both kamatz and cholam; I have never seen a transliteration system that actually uses "oi" to represent cholam, and the vast majority of Ashkenazim do not pronounce it as such.)

      I really found your comment really incredibly interesting. Thank you again for teaching me!

      Delete
    2. Re: R' Slifkin's name, I'm reasonably certain that his previous spelling of "Nosson" simply reflected the imprecise transliteration conventions (why the double "ss"? Is that consonant geminated or something?) of the "frummie" world of which he was then a part, but that his change to "Natan" was indeed made "b'shitah".

      Delete
    3. I'm not sure you understood me correctly: Of course the word, in Ashkenazis, is "Sazria." But it was never pronounced that way. It was always written "Tazria." And that's far from the only example: We don't speak of "Parshas Bemidbar" but "Bamidbar" nor "Parshas HaDevarim" but "Devarim." (We *do* say "Parshas Shemos" and not "Shaymos," for some reason.) When it suddenly begins to appear as "Sazria," you have to worry if there's another agenda here, just as for komatz.

      (By the way, English vowels each have multiple values. One of those of the a is very close to Ashkenazic kamatx, certainly much closer than any value of o.)

      Natan Slifkin was always that. I know someone who knew him as a kid. The "Nosson" was for the books.

      Delete
    4. @Just Curious : ‘’the tav in "תַזְרִיעַ" takes a dagesh kal after "פָּרָשַׁת" but not after "כִּי"’’,yes, that’s what I meant, sorry if it wasn’t sufficiently clear, I just assumed you were aware of the rule.

      ‘’Because they use "O" for both kamatz and cholam; I have never seen a transliteration system that actually uses "oi" to represent cholam’’. I am aware that most people use ‘’a’’ and ‘’o’’ like you do, I’ve seen some (admittedly very few) uses of ‘’o’’ and ‘’oi’’, but I never ever saw ‘’o’’ and ‘’o’’. Just try to google ‘’torah’’, ‘’toiroh’’ and ‘’toroh’’.

      ‘’the vast majority of Ashkenazim do not pronounce it as such’’. I’ve never been in the US and I’’l assume you’re accurately describing the reality over there, but in Europe and Israel (for those who still use Ashkenazi accent), it’s the overwhelming majority, and, sadly, all other usages are swiftly disappearing.

      @Nachum: The names of the sections do not read like in the verse, but as standalones, and it has nothing to do with Ashkenazi or Israeli accent. Shemos is an exception, probably because people actually believed it to be a word, and Devarim is another, probably because saying ‘’pârâshas hadevârim’’ is too close to having an actual meaning as a sentence. That’s how I see things but obviously it is just my opinion and you’re entitled to disagree.

      As for English vowels, yes, I can confirm it’s very complicated for foreigners like me to get all these different ways of reading them and when they apply.

      Delete
    5. Jew well, I guess the fundamental problem I have is that most transliteration systems that I've encountered are inconsistent and non-systematic (as you point out), but if there is one thing that "frummie" transliterations strive mightily to do it is to distinguish kamatz from patach, b/c ch"v it should be thought to sound like modern Hebrew!

      I think Nachum summed my entire argument in this one line: "English vowels each have multiple values. One of those of the a is very close to Ashkenazic kamatz, certainly much closer than any value of o." 

      Re: pronunciation of cholam as "oi", the only Ashkenazim I know who do so are native Yiddish speakers, i.e., olds folks and Chasidim (at least in the shuls in which I have davened in the US).

      I'm not sure I understand the problem you guys have w/ calling the parashah "sh'mos" (or "shemos")... are you saying that technically the "standalone" name of the parashah should "sheimos" (or "shaymos") b/c the name of the parashah is not in smichut form, though the word in the context of the pasuk is ("sh'mos b'nei yisrael...")?

      Delete
  21. Nachum, perhaps you too were unaware that it seems the reason that we do indeed universally say/write "parshas tazria" is for the "dikdukishe" reason "Jew well" taught us above.

    In fact, I cracked open an Artscroll chumash last night and, lo and behold, while they do indeed transliterate "parshas ki seitzei" and "parshas ki savo", they also hold "parshas tazria"! If there's one thing we Ashkenazim are good at, it's accurately distinguishing tav from sav!

    In the same vein, I can think of only one (common) instance in which we say "sorah" rather than "torah"... Anyone?

    ReplyDelete
  22. The ancient Incas believed that their kings were gods. Being considered gods, it was believed they could not die. So after death their bodies were mummified to prevent decay, and the mummies were accompanied by priests who would interpret the "royal orders" the mummies supposedly still issued. In fact, there existed rival political camps, and each camp had a band of priests carrying a different royal mummy which supposedly issued orders to support that camp's policies.

    Why am I telling this gruesome story of a far-off ancient culture? Because it's basically how the charedi world works right now. You become a gadol when all the other prominent scholars of your generation have died, which means you are around 90 years old, isolated, with failing senses, and perhaps senile. The actual leadership is done not by you, but by the askanim who feed you questions and adapt your answers for the masses. You are essentially a royal mummy being used to feed answers to a specific political camp. Nobody would ever think to listen to the askanim themselves, but if the policy of the askanim comes in the name of the holy royal mummy, nobody has the authority to disregard it.

    If this sounds dysfunctional, yes, it most definitely is...

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

The Charedi Opposition to Women's Names

My home town of Beit Shemesh is back in the news, for yet another extraordinary case of charedi intolerance. The Yisrael HaYom website ran a...