And Man Made Godolim In His Images
A few years ago, I wrote a post entitled "And Man Made Godolim In His Image." In that post, I discussed an essay by Jonathan Rosenblum, which claimed that the Gedolim secretly agree that the kollel system is deeply problematic and should be radically changed. I argued that it is more likely that Rosenblum was simply re-creating the Gedolim in an image more amenable to his non-charedi background, modern American worldview, and post-charedi sensibilities - as he has done on other occasions.
In a fascinating new post at the Seforim Blog, Dr. Marc Shapiro demonstrates another potent example of the phenomenon of people re-creating Gedolim in a more preferred image. There is a biography of Rav Elyashiv, written in Hebrew, which was "translated and adapted" into English. The English adaptation re-creates Rav Elyashiv to make him into the type of person that would be considered a Gadol by Anglo charedim, as opposed to the type of person that is considered a Gadol by Israeli charedim. For Israelis, portraying Rav Elyashiv as a Gadol means describing how he was completely absorbed in his learning to the negation of all interpersonal relationships, even with his own family. But for Americans, this would not be seen as a sign of greatness at all. Instead, it would be seen, at best, as simply a sign of an introverted personality, and at worst, as a personality defect. And so the English biography cuts out many of these stories, and adds a claim that Rav Elyashiv's family members held back from him because he would care too much.
It's long been known that many "Gadol biographies" are simply hagiographies that seek to inspire rather than present an accurate portrayal. But this is a fascinating example of how different communities can have opposing ideas of how to do that.