The Death of Daas Torah
"If one merits it, the Torah is an elixir of life; if one does not merit it, the Torah becomes a potion of death" - Talmud, Yoma 72b
It was only 24 hours ago that I wrote about the problem of street minyanim. And now, in a stunning turn of events, Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Gershon Edelstein ruled that it is forbidden to davven in a street minyan or to hold yeshivah studies), and moreover that anyone who states that they have bitachon and makes light of medical directives is a rodef and one must report them to the authorities.
The reversal was inevitable. Coronavirus is sweeping through charedi communities like - well, like the plague. Although charedim form only 10% of the population in Israel, they are fully 50% of coronavirus cases. Bnei Brak has the highest per capita rate of infection in all Israel.
In part, this is not their fault - it's a result of their living in more crowded communities. But it's also because of the so-called rabbinic leadership in the chareidi world by Rav Chaim Kanievksy, Rav Gershon Edelstein and others. When everyone was shouting at charedim to close the shuls and yeshivos, Rav Chaim Kanievsky was enthusiastically quoted by Roshei Yeshivah as saying that closing the yeshivos is more dangerous than coronavirus, since yeshivos actually protect against it.
This may be the first time in history that someone widely seen as a Gadol B'Torah has effectively described himself as a rodef.
Now there will immediately be people protesting that one cannot blame Rav Chaim - he simply wasn't aware of the recent gravity of the situation. But everyone else was! Frankly, I couldn't care less whether Rav Chaim is personally responsible or not. The problem is not Rav Chaim, per se; it's with an entire society that considers him to be a "leader," and promotes him as such.
We all know about how, prior to the Holocaust, various rabbinic leaders urged their followers to stay in Europe. But this is something happening right now, for all to see. Everyone else was warning that the charedi approach would lead to death, but they didn't have "Daas Torah," so their opinion didn't count. Until Daas Torah suddenly came to the shocking realization that they were actually correct.
As Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ztz"l said - if there is no Daas, then there is no Daas Torah. And as Rav Eliezer Melamed, shlita, said - "I don't consider (charedi Gedolim) to be Gedolei Torah... Gadlut beTorah 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."
What is "Daas Torah" worth, when the average non-charedi, non ben-Torah, was correct, and Daas Torah was wrong, in a life-and-death matter?!
(Take a live online tour of the Biblical Museum of Natural History this Pesach! See www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/live for details.)