The issue of “Da’as Torah,” the guidance of Torah scholars on a wide variety of religio-political issues, is one of the key boundaries in Orthodox Jewish segmentations. Charedim take it as a broad and fundamental concept, right wing Modern Orthodox accept it as a general rule of thumb and left wing Modern Orthodox reject it entirely. R. Aharon Lichtenstein has voiced his view many times in the past and it falls into what was just described as right wing Modern Orthodox. He recently expanded his treatment in a way that is both compelling and troubling.

Without Da’as, Whence Da’as Torah?

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I. The Middle Path

The issue of “Da’as Torah,” the guidance of Torah scholars on a wide variety of religio-political issues, is one of the key boundaries in Orthodox Jewish segmentations. Charedim take it as a broad and fundamental concept, right wing Modern Orthodox accept it as a general rule of thumb and left wing Modern Orthodox reject it entirely. R. Aharon Lichtenstein has voiced his view many times in the past and it falls into what was just described as right wing Modern Orthodox. He recently expanded his treatment in a way that is both compelling and troubling.

According to R. Lichtenstein, Torah giants have unique wisdom and, while certainly fallible, should be taken very seriously. He has written (link):

These considerations aside, however, even if it were wholly licit to sever all links with contemporary gedolim… such a course would be grossly mistaken… A person, and not only the ordinary layman, needs a gavra rabba [great person], to serve in part as a role-model if possible, and in part as a realization of what Whitehead called “the vision of greatness”; to lift one’s sights and aspirations — extending the bounds of what he strives to achieve, and suffusing him with appreciation and admiration for what he senses he cannot achieve; to guide, on the one hand, and inhibit, on the other. This is not a matter of popular hagiolatry or Carlylean hero-worship. It is a spiritual necessity, all the more so within our tradition, for which an adam gadol [great man] is the embodiment of the mesorah [tradition], and of Torah she-b’al-peh [the Oral Law].

In a talk over this past Chanukah, subsequently written by a disciple and disseminated by R. Lichtenstein’s yeshiva, the great scholar expanded on his views in a strong, perhaps incendiary, way (link – PDF).

II. Common Sense

R. Lichtenstein describes a private conversation he had with his early mentor, R. Yitzchak Hutner. In disparaging an unnamed Torah scholar, R. Hutner quoted the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:15) that a Torah scholar without “da’as” is worse than an impure animal’s carcass. Someone extremely learned in Talmud and codes can still be ignorant if he lacks “da’as,” if he is incapable of properly understanding and interacting with other people. [See also R. Avraham Grodzinski, Toras Avraham, p. 367ff.]

R. Lichtenstein proceeds to define this “da’as” as common sense with a deep understanding of the situation. A Torah scholar must attempt to understand a person, his place and his standing. “Da’as” requires psychological sensitivity and insight into the questioner and knowledge of the reality as it pertains to the question and questioner. It also demands an introspective knowledge of personal limitations.

In the past, R. Lichtenstein laments, we had Torah giants with great sensitivity such as R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky. They understood people and their culture. In contrast, today the Torah giants are intentionally, as a matter of policy, distant from the public. They erect barriers to keep out the goings-on of general society. And they institute self-destructive policies.

III. Two Failures

R. Lichtenstein addresses two specific policies that he finds indicative of poor leadership:

  1. Planned Poverty – With no education or job training, and a requirement to have a large family, the Charedi leadership has set people up for disaster. Where is the wisdom and foresight? Where is the profound sensitivity to the personal anguish these policies cause?
  2. Separatism – A component of the mitzvah to love God is to cause others to love Him. Charedi leaders promote their own communities and in the process alienate, and often harshly insult, outsiders. This, in turn, distances many people from traditional Judaism.

R. Lichtenstein’s strong words are, in my opinion, correct but only the beginning. My views on this subject correspond to his. However, surprisingly missing in this talk is R. Lichtenstein’s characteristic nuance. In past essays, R. Lichtenstein examines the views of those with whom he disagrees in a generous spirit, attempting to understand their rationales and responses. He then evaluates their complete views and explains why he disagrees.

I see none of that here. Why do these Charedi leaders advocate self-imposed poverty? What compels their separatist strategy? Is it really a lack of common sense, or maybe an alternate evaluation of the results or different set of priorities? Presumably, due to the nature of the delivery (a talk and not an essay) or as a rhetorical strategy to express the highly charged atmosphere of the moment, R. Lichtenstein omitted that piece of the analysis. Lacking that, he will only convince those who are already on his side (as I am).

R. Lichtenstein raises important ideological points that are worthy of consideration and, in my opinion, acceptance. I hope that future versions of the discussion, perhaps when the latest furor dies down, add his characteristic nuance so our viewpoint is recorded for posterity in its most compelling form.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

105 comments

  1. typo that will be confusing to some readers: “R. Hutner quoted the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:15) that a Torah scholar with “da’as””

    should be “WITHOUT da’as”

  2. Orthodox Jewish segmentations. Charedim … right wing Modern Orthodox … left wing Modern Orthodox

    Please point us to the definition of these segments as you use them, theologically and sociologically.

    R. Aharon Lichtenstein has voiced his view many times in the past and it falls into what was just described as right wing Modern Orthodox

    This sounds like you equate RWMO with Prof. Brill’s “Centrist Orthodoxy” definition in his 2005 Edah review of RAL’s books:

    […] the shift from Modern Orthodoxy to Centrist Orthodoxy that has occurred over the last thirty years. This transformation involved the transfer of authority to roshei yeshivah from pulpit rabbis, the adoption of a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, an increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.

    In which case, the old Modern Orthodoxy you now call LWMO. Correct?

  3. What does the first part have to do with the second part?
    Oh my mistake I forgot about the gzeira shava of da’as da’as. On second thought maybe we shouldn’t connect das tei’re with da’as, unless you think to apply vshav hakohen uvah hakohen.

  4. Mashal l’mah ha’davar domeh: I think the classical distinguished statesman has a tendency in his later years to be a bit more frank about his views. He has spent the prime of his life injecting nuance into the public discourse, but at a certain point – when his sense of social responsibility is beyond question – I think the gentleman decides that life is too short to beat around the bush. And I think we would all agree that the elder statesman is entitled to this bit of self-indulgence.

    I believe the same generally holds true for Torah giants like Rav Lichtenstein (and others as well).

  5. MiMedinat HaYam

    jerry — but (unfortunately) not his charedi compatriots.

    they really believe their actions are for the better, but without any basis other than rhetoric.

  6. Classically the gedolei yisrael were the most educated Jews, period. The other day I came across Avicenna’s Canon quoted in the Magen Avos. Granted, he read it in Hebrew, but do today’s separatist, cloistered Gedolim educate themselves to the best of their ability, even within our traditions? It was not surprising that the opinions of the greatest scholars, who were also worldy and the most educated, were greatly valued. Obviously this does not go for all times and places, but certainly before modernity the rabbis were more, not less, likely to be educated and worldly than the masses. What the Chareidim have done is ensure that the masses are still, generally, not as educated as the gedolim so it all evens out.

  7. Lawrence Kaplan

    Certainly Rav Lichtenstein is right about the importance of attaching oneself to an Adam Gadol, consulting with him, and seriously cosidering his opinions and recommendations. The real question to my mind is: what if after consulting with gadol and seriously considering the his view on a complex matter one ends up dsagreeing with him? Must one or should one subordinate (be mevatel) one’s daas to the daas of the Gadol? The proponents of Daas Torah would, I believe, nswer yes. I would answer no. Here the analogy with medicine is illuminating. The days are gone when the medical expert presecibed a course of treatment and the patient meekly and unquestioningly followed it. Nowadays, the view is that the sick person should, of course, seriously discuss all options with the appropriate medical expert and take his recommendation with extreme seriousness, but the final decision remains with the patient.

  8. Could it be that R. Lichtenstein thinks there is no nuance in this case? Maybe he thinks that causing mass poverty and turning Judaism into an obscurantist sect are such serious failures that the Gedolim’s “rationale and responses” are irrelevant.

  9. The problem with giving too much consideration to the side which allows children to go hungry is that you end up legitimizing the children going hungry.

    My reading of the situation is that to the extent there is any ‘leadership’, the leaders don’t think in consequentialist terms whatsoever. I don’t think Rav Elyashiv sits down and thinks, “Well, if we deprive subject X from our children, then household income will be Y lower in 25 years time”. Rather it’s , “the holy gedolim before me were moser nefesh to keep the ‘pach shemen’ free of outside influences, and I must continue to do so. As for the consequences, it is up to us to follow what Hashem wants, and Hashem will provide for us”.

  10. “The issue of “Da’as Torah,” the guidance of Torah scholars on a wide variety of religio-political issues, is one of the key boundaries in Orthodox Jewish segmentations. Charedim take it as a broad and fundamental concept, right wing Modern Orthodox accept it as a general rule of thumb and left wing Modern Orthodox reject it entirely.”

    It would be very interesting to explore the evolution of the “da’as torah” concept and the varying degrees of its acceptance. As far as I am aware, the term is one that only began to be used within the last several decades. Who coined it? Why has it become so accepted?

    As a Chabad insider, I am completely unaware of the use of this term within Chabad, not have I come across it in any Chabad texts, including the teaching of the late Rebbe.

    Of course, some may construe it as a Chasidic export, based on the model of a Rebbe as a spiritual guide. But to me the “da’as torah” concept seems to be rather different, it seems to be based on Torah knowledge rather than on a more mystical inspiration or charisma.

    I wonder too, if the “da’as torah” concept or has currency in other chassidic groups.

  11. This topic greatly pains me, because I know Da’as Torah is real, and I know it will never again be applied correctly.

    Da’as Torah is seeing the world through the eyes of Torah. I know from personal experience, in the world of Torah, Sci-fi, and many other fields, that it is entirely possible to look at situations from the framework of one system, and then look at it again from the framework of another system. Not everybody can do it, but you don’t have to be a genius or amazing scholar to do so.

    For example, playing games is great, and entertainment is fun and it can be very useful in this world of ours. However, from the view of da’as Torah, it truly is a waste of time. People should not fool themselves into thinking that they can use modern justifications for entertainment (stress relief, better health, better cognitive functions) to somehow shoehorn this idea into the Torah, which makes it very clear that you should be doing actions which have a direct purpose and continuously improve the world around us. And it doesn’t mean that according to halacha one can not enjoy entertainment. But it does mean that according to Da’as Torah, entertainment is a waste of time and better things could/should be done.

    The loss of this nuance, and the ability of people to separate the two, or to even be able to ask themselves the question of what the Torah’s view on this issue is, is a real loss to the society of Jewish people.

  12. Good for Rav Lichtenstein. This was something that simply needed to be said. Of course, many people have been saying it for a long time, but it is great that someone with real stature finally stepped out and said it publicly.
    Unfortunately, I believe that at this point the only thing that can stop the negative momentum in the Charedi community is for the government to gradually cut off kollel funding. I think that the step that often goes along with this suggestion – forcing them to join the army – is a really bad idea, especially in light of recent developments. Also, all parties would be happier and wealthier if job-training for Charedim was not mandated and was left to the private sector.
    Basically, I think that the responsibility for the whole Charedi mess is evenly divided between the Israeli gedolim of the present and recent past (one of whom was rejected by the Alter of Navordok for da’as-related reasons and went on to use the authority of daas Torah with an iron hand as a post-Holocaust RY) and the socialist, semi-authoritarian Israeli government. Both parties should back off.

  13. In response to Eli Rubin:

    A lot of RWMO (including, I believe, Rav Lichtenstein) like to think that daas Torah is a chasidic export. That is clearly not the case.

    The person who made it a catch-phrase was the Lithuanian RY I referred to above.

  14. mor – You are wrong about where Rav Lichtenstein thinks Daas Torah comes from. In the very piece Gil is quoting, he writes that Daas Torah is a Litvish invention (bottom of page 2).

  15. Lawrence Kaplan

    I love how Avi speaks of nuance and at the same time says that from the standpoint of Daas Torah( whose ? –his?) entertainment is a waste of time.

  16. Lawrence, find me a statement in the gemorah, midrash, torah, tanach etc that says otherwise. As much as we would like it to be otherwise, entertainment for entertainment’s sake is not something the Torah endorses. Celebrations are a different question.

    Daas Torah does not belong to any one person, it’s the position of the culmination of Jewish texts from before Rav Ashi and Ravina. If you can find sources that says pure entertainment is a legitimate activity, then I’ll rescind.

  17. When you read the Talmud and Tanach and Midrashim openly, certain values, moods, or a gestalt of the learning can be perceived by the student that does not fit into a single line or soundbite.

    For the specific case of entertainment, you can look at the context in which music and revelry is discussed in Tanach and Talmud etc. In all places it serves some other purpose, such as celebrating a milestone in life, or service towards Hashem. The person who humors for humor’s sake is looked upon negatively.

    If everytime a person studies they only look at the 4 amot infront of them on the topic they are learning, then ofcourse these views and in general “Daat Torah” will be lost on them, because they are not looking for general attitudes, but only the answer to the question is X halachically allowed or not. But you don’t have to be a scholar to read the texts as with a childlike innocence, and thus get general impressions and views of the Torah (aka Daat Torah), without knowing the details in an argument between beit hillel and beit shamai. Of course, learning the greater meta-halachic issues which give beit Hillel and beit Shamai their various perspectives, can only help one in understanding the Daat Torah as well. So being a great scholar, definitely makes knowing Daat Torah easier.

  18. There is a reason why charedi leaders don’t speak out on issues. Look at Rav Lichtenstein; an Adam Gadol by every measure of the word. But, he has now spoken out on an issue, and his words dont fit neatly into the post’s author’s perception of ‘frumkeit’, so now Rav Lichtenstein is “troubling ‘ , “incendiary”, “lacking nuance”.

    We no longer live Torah centered lives, guided by teaching of Torah leaders, we live perceived sociological status quo of frumfkeit lives guided by men who uphold the status quo. If one of those men speaks out on an unpopular issue, like charedism, he is subject to a gradual dismissal of his opinions, like the one above.
    The moment a Gadol speaks out on an issue against the popular orthodoxies, he is no longer a Gadol. Why should he speak out?

  19. Moshe Shoshan

    avi
    תלמוד בבלי מסכת תענית דף כב עמוד א

    רבי ברוקא חוזאה הוה שכיח בשוקא דבי לפט, הוה שכיח אליהו גביה, אמר ליה: איכא בהאי שוקא בר עלמא דאתי?

    אזל לגבייהו. אמר להו: מאי עובדייכו? – אמרו ליה: אינשי בדוחי אנן, מבדחינן עציבי.

    RAL is quite fond of quoting this gemara in the context of the value of entertainment. comedians are bnei olam haba!

    also the gemara about Raba (?) that he started shiur with milta d’bdichuta.

  20. J. – my bad.

    Zahava – because it is his responsibility. Are you seriously defending Charedi “leaders” who stay silent? They owe it to their kavod?

  21. Moshe, you didn’t quote the last line: . אי נמי, כי חזינן בי תרי דאית להו תיגרא בהדייהו – טרחינן ועבדינן להו שלמא.

    Which says that when they see people in conflict they bring them together in peace. Giving half a quote seems a bit fishy. Would you use the gemora before that to say that Torah values one who does not wear tzizit and is dressed as non-jew? He also was guaranteed a place in the world to come.

    The whole point there is that the clowns, which should be the lowest of people, do a good thing as well, and since they bring peace, they get a portion of the world to come. Also, there is a purpose that people who are sad should be made happy. But people who are happy? They should not be watching clowns. (as implied by that gemora)

    And Raba is making learning Torah more fun.

  22. “context of the value of entertainment. ”

    I’m trying to understand what this means. The greatness of entertainment for entertainment’s sake, or the Torah approved things that can come out of entertainment?

  23. Before debating whether gedolim have daas torah, we need to determine whether the Torah has daas Torah. Does Torah offer instruction to all aspects of life? If the wisdom is not there it is pointless to discuss whether gedolim have access to it.

    I suspect MO usually does not believe Torah posesses daas torah. Kal v’chomer, gedolim do not. Lawrence Kaplan, who has written critically about daas torah- I wonder what he thinks.

  24. Zeh keili v anveihu, mah hu af atah…

    Avoda Zara (3b): “Rav Yehuda says, there are twelve hours in a day. The first three hours God sits and learns the Torah, the second three hours he sits and judges the world. The third three hours God feeds the entire world… the fourth three hour period God plays with the Leviathan as it is written: “the Leviathan which you have created to play with.”

    KT

  25. However I fully agree with R’ Avi on:
    Da’as Torah is seeing the world through the eyes of Torah. I know from personal experience, in the world of Torah, Sci-fi, and many other fields, that it is entirely possible to look at situations from the framework of one system, and then look at it again from the framework of another system. Not everybody can do it, but you don’t have to be a genius or amazing scholar to do so.

    Of course the trick is to be sure you are doing so, it requires humility to seek the insight of others (read Kahneman on thinking fast and slow and you get a sense of the need for another objective opinion).

    IMHO this also goes to the heart of TUM and the GRA on secular studies, IMEVHO you can’t have daas torah on something that you haven’t got daas hateva (my words), or as R’HS has said, if you’re not holding in an area.

    KT

  26. Rav Schechter also has an audio shiur that addresses his view of “da’as Torah” He points out that Torah does offer guidance on all aspects of life but that one must understand metziut as well as Torah to understand what to do. He compared, if I remember correctly, a talmid chacham who knows nothing of business giving business advice to sending someone who was a thorough baki in chulin and yoreh de’ah, but who has never seen a cow, to supervise a slaughterhouse.

    It seems to me that the part of the modern Chareidi view of Da’as Torah that the MO really do not swallow, both on the right and left wings of MO, is the complete disdain for all sources of knowledge outside the beis medrash that might give the Chareidi talmidei chachamim a basis to understand the metziut on which they are offering Torah guidance.

  27. I think Zahava is turning Gil’s “defense” of the “gedolim” on him.

  28. “The moment a Gadol speaks out on an issue against the popular orthodoxies, he is no longer a Gadol. Why should he speak out?”

    Who says a Gadol’s tachlis in life is to be considered a Gadol by the masses?

    The Rambam writes in the Moreh that even though he knows that 10,000 fools will not understand him, he writes for the 1 person who will, not the 10,000 who won’t.

  29. Just began skimming the PDF – most of the basic analysis can be heard here from a recent audio roundup of an old R’AL shiur

    :http://traffic.libsyn.com/kmtt/ral-sichot_03_5772_Dec93-daas-torah-part3.mp3
    Harav Aharon Lichtenstein #3, Da’as Torah – Religious Imperative or Good Advice, Part 3
    Bottom line – Daas Torah is mostly good advice and requires the individual provider to be “holding” in the issues at hand. And can it be uniform? (e.g. is there only one daat torah per issue, per universe?)

  30. zehava: Your implication that I was attacking R. Lichtenstein as being insufficiently frum is ridiculous. Is there anyone, even among those who agree 1000% with everything R. Lichtenstein says, who does not see this sicha as “fighting words”?

  31. gil – ” In past essays, R. Lichtenstein examines the views of those with whom he disagrees in a generous spirit, attempting to understand their rationales and responses.’

    they – generous spirit – are usually (if not all to my recollection – but please correct me) of an halachik nature so its easier to see the other side. here its sociological and the rationales and responses are obvious – no need for nuance when there is none.

    ” Lacking that, he will only convince those who are already on his side (as I am).”
    and if offered a good analysis to your satisfaction he will convince who ? your kidding when you wrote that line?
    remember its a sicha – not a composition for publication or a conference of peers. or take jerry’s view and add to the fact that he is more engaging to the outside world of the yeshiva and the popular press – see his latest book with r’ sabatto as an example.

  32. ruvie: they – generous spirit – are usually (if not all to my recollection – but please correct me) of an halachik nature so its easier to see the other side

    That is not my recollection. I think R. Lichtenstein is fairly consistent in this.

    and if offered a good analysis to your satisfaction he will convince who ? your kidding when you wrote that line?

    It’s not a joke but a common phrase. Like “preaching to the converted”.

    remember its a sicha – not a composition for publication or a conference of peers

    That was precisely my suggestion in the penultimate paragraph.

  33. Avi: the lishna basra is entirely consistent with the lishna kama and is just another spin on it. Of course you could read it your way also, but the point is that Moshe’s reading is entirely plausible (and probably more convincing).

    Your interpretation of the gemara about Rava is just one interpretation, and doesn’t sound right to me. The milsa d’bdichusa also may have had nothing to do with the shiur and was just entertainment (prior to the shiur).

    More importantly, you’re falling into the trap of assuming that something is prohibited unless there is a source to say that it is permissible.

  34. Wanted to point out that part of the firestorm over Wessely’s Divrei Shalom ve-Emes was that he dared to quote the same midrash as R. Hutner, תלמיד חכם שאין בו דעה נבלה טובה ממנו.

  35. I am Hareidi and 100 % reject Da ‘as Torah just like LWMO. So now where do I belong?

  36. Avi,
    In addition to Jerry’s response to you, the reason Moshe didn’t quote the last line is that he was saying over something RAL says. As for why RAL didn’t quote it, well, do you know what “אי נמי” means?

  37. gil – ” penultimate” – who says you do not have a sense of humor? nuanced?

  38. One should read mevakshei panecha to see that Rav Lichtenstein does not fit neatly into the RWMO box. Read the chapter on attitudes toward secular Jews where he talks about how they, and Jews of other movements posess Jewish values that he wishes were present in the orthodox world. He speaks of the importance of cross pollination of people and ideas. Are there any RWMO leaders in America that say anything even close?

  39. Interesting that Rav Lichtenstein was panned by the very meticulous and respectful R. Eitam Henkin for his response to the ‘michtav harabbanim’ on selling property in EY to nachriim. If it had been anyone else I would have thought there was a broader political campaign at work here:
    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/torah/maayan-article.asp?id=583

  40. gil – ” R. Aharon Lichtenstein has voiced his view many times in the past and it falls into what was just described as right wing Modern Orthodox.”

    i wonder if rav aaharon would agree with you on your classification of him as rwmo. funny is that it his students – from har etzion – that usually end up being the most flexible (members of tzohar) and may constitute many in lwmo in israel and usa.

  41. ruvie: i wonder if rav aaharon would agree with you on your classification of him as rwmo.

    I didn’t. I said that his views on Da’as Torah fall into RWMO.

    funny is that it his students – from har etzion – that usually end up being the most flexible (members of tzohar) and may constitute many in lwmo in israel and usa

    He doesn’t demand that students agree with everything he holds.

  42. TO Joel Rich Re: Avoda Zara (3b):

    Thank you, I never saw/heard that before. I rescind what I said about entertainment, and can now feel better about myself 🙂

    I thought I was saying something uncontroversial when I made my comment before. My point about Daat Torah in general stands though.

  43. Haim is absolutely right. We should also add Women’s issues where he takes strong issue with the sort of positions that we hear from YU Rashei Yeshiva, not mention the baal hablog.

  44. “More importantly, you’re falling into the trap of assuming that something is prohibited unless there is a source to say that it is permissible.”

    I fell for no such trap. Most of tanach and chazal have very negative things to say about a latzan, and suggest that with the destruction of the temple, there is no place for pointless merriment at all. Though I’d love to see the full context of RAL’s statement, because I imagine he was using the proof in jest.

    The “אי נמי” from the gemora seems to be showing this “debate” within chazal, rather than (as I previously thought) dismissing the original answer as not sufficient enough.

  45. “I am Hareidi and 100 % reject Da ‘as Torah just like LWMO. So now where do I belong?”

    Nisht tzu Gott un nisht tzu leit. Not this world and not the next. 😉

  46. gil – i would say RAL teaches his students how to think (critically) and not what to think.

    on daat torah its often attributed to ral the following statement: i believe in the concept of daat torah but when i look around i do not see anyone that embodies it. (i probably mangled the phrasing of it).

  47. to haim’s point above – RAL has often said that he regrets that when they planned the community of alon shevut that they did not include less religious people. he believed that all liked minded people living in the same place was not optimal and unfortunate.

  48. Yeedle – he won’t be the first.

  49. mitch morrison

    In his own genteel way, i wonder if Rav Lichtenstein’s seeming shift toward sharper clarity (vs “nuance) is akin to the Seridei Aish’s writings (see Shapiro’s 2-volume set of R. Weinberg’s correspondances). someone recently posed an interesting question: if 50% of Medinat Israel were Chareidim, would there be a state of Israel? (great Torah, but withered military and depleted economy?)

  50. RAL, in his own writings, admits that he walks to his own hashkafic tune, which some view as insufficiently Charedi while others view as insufficiently RZ and MO. The attached link is yet another example of RAL’s Gadlus.Obvioously, RAL subscribes to Daas Torah, but is merely questionning whether anyone is possessed with the same. FWIW, I have heard RHS raise the same issue as well on many occasions.Yet, in his own writings, RAL minces no words on the religious shortcomings of RZ and MO.

    Ruvie wrote and R Gil responded:

    “funny is that it his students – from har etzion – that usually end up being the most flexible (members of tzohar) and may constitute many in lwmo in israel and usa

    He doesn’t demand that students agree with everything he holds”

    I guess the average talmid from Gush is such a Ben Torah that he can disagree with his RY, even though his RY knows far more Torah than he will ever learn in his lifetime.

  51. Steve – I think you just missed the point of everything that RAL was trying to say. I know far less Torah than R. Chaim Kanievsky does, but I’m not being chutzpadick if I think nachriim have the same amount of teeth as us or that dor yesharim testing is a good idea.

  52. S_RAL has been making this point re Daas Torah for years.

  53. Dr. Benny Brown on the recent ‘gilgulim’ and future of the Daas Torah doctrine:
    http://www.idi.org.il/PublicationsCatalog/Documents/PP_89/%D7%9E%D7%9E89%20-%20%D7%9E%D7%9C%D7%90.pdf

  54. Yasher koach for linking to that talk by RAL. There is a time for nuance and a time for clarity. The latter is what is needed now. While RAL takes a nuanced position with regard to the concept of ‘da-as torah’, he clearly decries the situation today where talmidei chachamim, to a significant extent, appear to be lacking in common sense and tend to live in semi-isolation. RAL’s dictum that those ‘gedolei torah’ who are deficient in common sense, knowledge of the world, and empathy have torah without da’at. Such a personality is not only someone to whom one should not address questions, but he is considered a lowly creature. As R’ Gil noted, “them’s fightin words”. Keep it up, RAL, we need a champion to fight the good fight and to resist the possible collapse of Jewish society in Israel and elsewhere.

  55. “I guess the average talmid from Gush is such a Ben Torah that he can disagree with his RY, even though his RY knows far more Torah than he will ever learn in his lifetime.”

    You want the game to be stacked and over before it starts. RAL and his father-in-law did not.

    If there are 100 yeshivos, 100 roshei yeshiva, and 100 students in each one, and of the 100 2 or 3 develop to the point that they are “such a Ben Torah,” then what you are saying is the 97 or 98 do not, and therefore 97% of students are supposed to agree with everything their rosh yeshiva teaches for the rest of their life.

    That this is absurd should hardly need to be pointed out. But this is exactly the implication of your comment.

  56. for those interested in listening to RAL view on daat torah you can download via itunes his 3 part shichot in english aon that topic: go to podcats on itunes and type in kmtt – starts on 11/13/2010 for 30:38 minutes.

    thank s. for responding. you are too kind.

  57. S wrote:

    “You want the game to be stacked and over before it starts. RAL and his father-in-law did not.

    If there are 100 yeshivos, 100 roshei yeshiva, and 100 students in each one, and of the 100 2 or 3 develop to the point that they are “such a Ben Torah,” then what you are saying is the 97 or 98 do not, and therefore 97% of students are supposed to agree with everything their rosh yeshiva teaches for the rest of their life’

    Ain Haci Nami. WADR, see RYBS’s shiurim on Korach and Gerus. merely if you sit in any Adam Gadol’s shiur and get a 50 on a Bchinah and still are granted Smicha does not entitle you to an opinion on any Halachic or Hashkafic subject.

  58. mitch morrison

    Yeedle, thank you for the link.. yes, a dog-eat-dog environment it would be. truth is what we call chareidim is too easy a catch-all. If they were governing, it would rapidly splinter into countless fissures, creating an untenable situation. good article, thank you

  59. In the past, R. Lichtenstein laments, we had Torah giants with great sensitivity such as R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky. They understood people and their culture. In contrast, today the Torah giants are intentionally, as a matter of policy, distant from the public. They erect barriers to keep out the goings-on of general society. And they institute self-destructive policies.

    I’m having a hard time with this one.
    1) I believe RSZA and RYK were first and foremost Roshei Yeshivah. How exactly were they less “distant from the public” than today’s Roshei Yeshivah? (If Rav Lichtenstein had just made the “sensitivity and understanding” point, at least it could be defended by his subjective experience.)
    2) What is Rav Lichtenstein himself, if not a great Rosh Yeshivah? If you will respond that he is the leader of the Gush Etzion community as well, then you can also make that argument for any Chareidi Gadol who has a community–or rather, many communities–regularly come to him for guidance and direction.
    Your typical Gadol is consulted by the chareidi community on every possible issue under the sun–public and private. Both individuals and representatives consult with Gedolim equally.
    SO I really don’t understand how they can be described as “distant from the public”.

    (I myself was able to sit down with Rav Shteinman in his home after Shacharis to discuss my son’s cheder options with him. The experience gave me the distinct impression that 1)he is very accessible to the public–I simply had to call his gabbai the night before and was given no hassle 2) I was given all the time I wanted and was taken seriously even though he doesn’t know me from Adam. 3) I found him to be quite sensitive and understanding, thank you very much.)

  60. R. Lichtenstein is mistaken if he thinks that the charedi gedolim have not given any thought to the matter of education and parnasah. They have, and decided against it. I remember a piece a few years ago by R. Steinman in which he claims that the haredi world wants its people to be poor. I wonder of the baale batim realize that they gedolim want them to be poor (and stupid to, I think, that way they cannot challenge the system)

  61. “I believe RSZA and RYK were first and foremost Roshei Yeshivah. How exactly were they less “distant from the public” than today’s Roshei Yeshivah? ”

    RYK was a shtot rav, too. To use a metaphor, he touched slimy chicken, and spoke to the women who came bearing them. Actually, his stint as a rosh yeshiva wasn’t that long in the scheme of his life. Furthermore, he had the experience of living through troublesome times, the great war, the Soviets, etc. He – like many gedolim of an earlier time – had much worldly experience. I am less of an expert in RSZA so I will not make a pretense of confirming or denying the claim about him.

    I think the point of all this anti-rosh yeshiva stuff is not about particular roshei yeshiva per se, any individual one who could be perfectly in touch with the public. However, as a general rule people who spend most of their time with students in their 20s (who lionize them), and have been doing that most of the time over a period of many decades, simply do not have too much contact with the public. Even roshei yeshiva who do go out to raise money only wind up in contact with another subset of the population.

    Rav Shteinman is probably perfectly nice and accessible. But that doesn’t mean that he has any perspective on the kind of life most of the non-Chareidi (or even American Chareidi) lead. Not only that, at least nowadays, the Gedolim will (or need) never have a leak over their head, an operation they cannot pay for, or a shabbos without food. Even if they would, they choose to, and the insecurity of poverty or other problems is not present when in fact there are legions of people who would be only too happy, and honored, to bail you out. This was certainly not the case in earlier times.

    But also there is the more general issue that since there is more to klal yisrael than the Israeli Chareidi public, it is hard to say how he or similar are leaders for the rest of the communit[ies]. This cannot only be fault of the rest of the Jews for not becoming Chareidi, for being out of touch with them.

  62. In some ways these 2 explanations of the comparison to nveilah make R’AL’s point even stronger!

    שו”ת הרב”ז חלק ג (חושן משפט) סימן לט

    כבוד הרה”ח, זקן ונכבד, מו”ה יהושע אשכנזי נ”י הגר בק’ יעדינעץ (בסרביא)

    נעתרתי לבקשת כה”ר לפרש לו מאמרם ז”ל ב”מדרש רבה”, על הפסוק הראשון, בפרשת ויקרא (א’ – א’) “ויקרא אל משה וידבר ה'”, “מכאן אמרו כל תלמיד חכם שאין בו דעת נבלה טובה הימנו” (ויקרא רבה פ”א – ט”ו). ואני אמרתי, להשיב לו על אתר, כדברים האלה: – גלוי וידוע מה ששנו חכמים (בבא בתרא מ”ט) “מרחיקין את הנבילות מן העיר חמשים אמה”. וכבר מודעת זאת מה שאמרו חז”ל (בבא קמא פ”ז ע”א) “שוטה פגיעתו רעה”. ולפי זה אתי שפיר, כי משה רבינו ע”ה אבי החכמים, ואדון הנביאים, לא יכנס לפנים, עד שהקב”ה קורא לו בלשון חיבה. אבל מי שאין בו דעת, פגיעתו רעה, ויבא בכל עת גם אם לא יקרא, ואין למצוא מנוס ומפלט ממנו. ולא כן בנבילה, בנקל יש להמלט ממנה, על-ידי שמרחיקין אותה מן העיר חמשים אמה. ושפיר אמרו “כל שאין בו דעת נבילה טובה הימנו”.

    עוד יתכן לאמר ע”ד צחות. כי הנה הנבילה נאסרה לישראל, אבל שאר בני אדם יוכלו לאכלה ומותר להם, ככתוב “לגר אשר בשעריך תתננה” וגו’ (ראה, י”ד – כ”א) אולם תלמיד חכם זה שאין בו דיעה, לא יהנו ממנו גם בני איש, כי הוא מבזה תורתו, ויהיה נמאס על כל בני אדם הבאים אתו עמו במגע ומשא לעיפה. ושפיר אמרו: “כל ת”ח שאין בו דעת נבילה טובה הימנו”.
    דור”ש ברגשי ידידות, בצלאל זאב שאפראן

    KT

  63. To Dovid Kornreich

    Rav Shteinman may have been very nice to you – that is not the point. I think Americans who live in American-charedi enclaves in Israel have zero understanding of the plight of real Israeli charedim, since they are all being supported to some degree by their parents.

    I have seen with my own eyes an Israeli-Charedi “daycare.” Around twenty-five babies and toddlers sitting on the floor of the living room and crying hysterically while the one woman who was responsible for them was cooking in the kitchen with a bunch of toddlers clinging on to her. Their mothers (who must, of course, work) have an average of ten siblings each who all have kids of their own, so many cannot leave these kids with family. Nor can they afford normal daycare (maybe the state offers free daycare that they won’t take because it isn’t frum enough – I don’t know). I would rather have lived in Europe without indoor plumbing than endure this kind of insane situation where the husband/father is basically barred from supporting his family even in a modest, “working poor” way.

    I have spent a significant amount of time in the Israeli-Charedi community and I could go on. The people are really suffering. Nobody is claiming that the gedolim lack personal affability or that they are cruel, heartless people. It is just that condemning these families to such miserable lives is a shocking display of a lack of common sense. I have no patience with American kollelniks in Israel who defend the Israel-Charedi lifestyle. Tell your parents and in-laws that you and your wife have decided to be independent and come back to us in a year (I assume that you are in kollel full-time). Because, let me tell you, for Israeli charedim, being independent from parental support is NOT a choice.

    In addition to the insensitivity to poverty, Rav Lichtenstein criticizes the extreme insularity mandated by the gedolim, and the resulting lack of what can only be called “menshlachkeit” in many (although by no means most) of those raised in these communities to those who are not fellow members. (Also, I hate to say it, hours spent neglected on the floor as a toddler can’t really contribute to robust emotional health as an adult.)

  64. I am not sure if the first paragraph is accurate. It is necessary to define exactly what you mean by da’as Torah; you have to follow every psak of a certain rav or groups of rabbonim? Some rabbonim are greater than others in EVERY aspect? Some aspects? The belief that some rabbonim have ruach haKodesh?(something frequently ascribed to some, but I haven’t heard of a contemporary rav claiming to have it themselves)? It seems that RAL is stating that one should find spiritual role models and aspire to be like them. I don’t think the most left of the MO would disagree with that. In matters of psak, I think that the thought is that the best argument is what matters, not who said it. I am not sure that RAL would disagree with that approach. Both he and Rav Amital wanted their students to think for themselves, something rav Nebenzahl also advocated(see thoughts for the month of Elul- story of the frum fighter pilots)

  65. I think that there must be state funding for gans starting at age three, but not earlier. These kids were all under three. Maybe someone who lives in Israel can correct me if I am wrong.

  66. “I think that there must be state funding for gans starting at age three, but not earlier. These kids were all under three. Maybe someone who lives in Israel can correct me if I am wrong.”

    There are Maons in Israel where you can send the child as soon as you want. 6months old or so.

  67. Right. But how much do they cost? Many of these women earn minimum hourly wage or thereabouts since the gedolim didn’t let them get professional training.

  68. “Right. But how much do they cost? Many of these women earn minimum hourly wage or thereabouts since the gedolim didn’t let them get professional training.”

    Don’t know. I just know someone who goes to ulpan who sends their kid to one. Not sure if the Ulpan or city is paying for it. (but they aren’t)

  69. Moshe Shoshan

    Avi

    Childcare for kids under three can be a significant expense, no doubt about it. Some one who is in Ulpan likely has government benefits and or money saved up precisely to cover expenses such as these.

    Though one should not underestimate Chareidi poverty in Isreal, it is important to note that a very significant percent of the income in the chareidi sector is generated illegally by individuals who have declared to the government “Torati umnati”.
    as proof of the wide spread nature of this phenomenon our rav recently reported that in the Ramat BS barber shop that he frequents there is sign which promises discounts to “avreichim that don’t work” apparently this phrase is not at all redundant.

  70. “it is important to note that a very significant percent of the income in the chareidi sector is generated illegally by individuals ”

    All the Charedim that I know personally, have jobs and work for a living, while also going to Kollel during various parts of the day.

  71. legal jobs, that pay taxes and get paychecks.

    Like all things in the news, you only hear about those that are newsworthy.

  72. Moshe Shoshan

    There are a lot of chareidim who work legitimately,they are not “avreichim”. But there are a lot of avriechim out there and a significant percentage work.
    As for your freinds, I have two terms for you “anecdotal evidence” and “selection bias”

  73. I think the reason RAL is able to criticize the ‘DaasTorah’ of the Charedi leaders without nuance on the issues of self-imposed isolation and poverty is not due to those choices directly, but because they are not being realistic or honest about the practicality.

    It’s OK to ‘want people to be poor’ (to believe that an austere life is better for the neshama). It’s not OK to want people to be destitute or starving. It’s OK to advocate separation, but not to set up camp in someone else’s neighborhood and then demand they stay out of your way.

    The Amish, Mennonites, etc. live austere lives, separated from the secular world and with similar attitudes towards gender roles, large families, and modesty. However, these groups also place high value on (extremely) hard work and are able to pay for their society. They are able to produce or barter their goods and services with the outside world for everything they need and do not demand that others fund their lifestyle. They also maintain a very rural lifestyle which supports both a very low cost of living and workable separation with minimal conflict with the secular world.

    For the components of the Chareidi world being criticized the recommended/acceptable work/learning balance is grossly insufficient to fund even a simple Amish-like lifestyle (i.e. the European shtetle). This means that the community needs to be funded either by outside voluntary donations (which is fine if they are solicited above-board) or more problematically, through public funds — i.e. taxation of others — which is a historical anomaly (isn’t everything new forbidden?). It’s even more untenable when the Chareidi community demands modern products and services (medical care, roads and buses, law and order, utilities) without any ability to pay for them themselves.

    Additionally, other than Bnei Brak, the Chareidim have not sufficiently geographically isolated themselves to be able to be able to maintain a truly separate lifestyle (admittedly this is very difficult in a place as small as Israel, especially given historical neighborhoods near places of religious significance). In order to maintain social separation without physical separation the Chareidi community is forced to actively stigmatize all others, especially those living seemingly more pleasant lives. This has led to the vitriolic social conflicts we see today.

    I think it is fair to say, without nuance, that the Chareidi world cannot have its cake and eat it too. It cannot separate itself (socially) from society at large and demand support from said society and it cannot demand a lifestyle that delegitimizes working and expect people to survive without outside funds.

    Note that the problem of economic sustainability is increasingly an issues for all of North American Orthodox Judaism as it is increasingly clear that the community cannot afford all of: (i) private schooling; (ii) (upper)-middle class lifestyle; and (iii) funding their own increasing level of full-time learners. However, for all but the most Ultra-Orthodox there is a possibility of more austerity in lifestyle to pay for the other two. For communities already at or below subsistence levels, something has to give.

  74. With no disrespect to the great scholar RAL is, to be completely honest, it seems to me, we need to admit there is also an element of self-interest in his talk.

    RAL is a proponent of a certain kind of “Da’as Torah” that is at risk. With each injudicious comment from a Rosh Yeshiva, the haskhafa that “Torah giants have unique wisdom and, while certainly fallible, should be taken very seriously” can be legitimately questioned. Thus, making a sharp delineation is in his interest.

  75. It should be noted that there are thousands of Eidah Hachareidis families with 15 kids who don’t take an agora from the government. I don’t know who’s subsidising them but it ain’t the ‘treife medina’. (I dormed in Batei Ungarin for a while and can attest that these people are not missing anything in life at all. The kids are as happy and well adjusted as any chilonim I ran into.)

  76. IH- I f you’re saying Daas Torah can be questioned as soon as you disagree with it, you’re essentialy saying you never believed in it in the first place. Not that you have to, but let’s be honest- you weren’t hanging onto every word from R Elyashiv until he said xxx.

  77. Fotheringay-Phipps

    LK: “The real question to my mind is: what if after consulting with gadol and seriously considering the his view on a complex matter one ends up dsagreeing with him? Must one or should one subordinate (be mevatel) one’s daas to the daas of the Gadol?”

    A lot depends on the nature of the issue, e.g. halacha versus hashkafa, and how much the Torah says about it. Also, on the relative knowledge of the “godol” and the questioner.

    J. “My reading of the situation is that to the extent there is any ‘leadership’, the leaders don’t think in consequentialist terms whatsoever. I don’t think Rav Elyashiv sits down and thinks, “Well, if we deprive subject X from our children, then household income will be Y lower in 25 years time”.”

    A lot depends of the godol. E.g. R’ Elyashiv in particular does not think of himself as a godol and doesn’t seem to give a flip about the consequences of anything he says. He does not pay attention if his words are distorted or misquoted or otherwise misused. He is just a guy that likes to sit and learn and do nothing else.

    Other gedolim have broader leadership views. In particular, chassidic rebbes tend to take their role as leaders of their flock very seriously, and this leads to a broader viewpoint. Roshei yeshiva type people have their roles defined as roshei yeshiva, and this leads to a narrower focus.

  78. FP Phipps- I’m very curiou where you came upon this scoop that R Elyashiv doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions. Have you or anyone you know ever met or heard words from him to that effect? You’ve now taken the leap from bashing his judgement to bashing his character. How nice.

  79. Shaul,
    I will leave it to FP to respond factually to what you say, but since you are new here (based on when I started seeing your name), and FP hasn’t been around much lately, I will just tell you that you are at least somewhat misconstruing him. FP is about as chareidi as they come on this blog.

  80. Fotheringay-Phipps

    Shaul Shapira: “I’m very curiou where you came upon this scoop that R Elyashiv doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions. Have you or anyone you know ever met or heard words from him to that effect?”

    You can read of incidents of this sort in the bio of RYSE: “Hashakdan”. But this is generally well known to people who pay attention to these matters. RYSE is an accidental “godol” and his mindset is not geared along these lines.

    Understand what I’m saying. RYSE is a tremendous TC etc. etc. But he is became that way by a singleminded focus on Torah learning and nothing else. He is naturally oblivious to polical matters, which unfortunately increases his pliability in the hands of his machers.

    Everything you hear or see from RYSE has to be understood in this context.

  81. Fotheringay-Phipps

    To add further: They say the CI did not bother correcting some misinformation being spread in his name because “if I tried to correct all the false things being said in my name I wouldn’t have a minute for learning”. And the CI was far more of a leadership-focused person than RE.

    If you’ll read through Orchos Rabbeinu, you’ll see that this was a constant source of frustration for the Steipler. He would say things in a musing or theoretical or suggestion sense, and his listeners would rush out and declare that the Steipler had asserted such-and-such.

  82. shaul shapira

    MDJ- I’m a new commentor, but longtime reader. I (intentionally)don’t own a computer so it’s often hard for me to get in on the action while it’s happening.

    FP phipps- I think you have to distinguish between not caring what people will say, and not caring about the consequences of your actions. The former is generally a good thing and the latter is generally not. As for the “accidental Gadol” bit, I haven’t read alot about it, but it’s hard to imagine that RYSE is more absentminded than Rav Shach, and he managed just fine. (The speech about the shfanim and chazerim brought what I would call “intended consequences”)

  83. Shaul — my comment was an observation in response to Gil’s disappointment at the uncharacteristic lack of nuance from RAL.

  84. Yannai,
    I found the following statement hillarious:

    “Additionally, other than Bnei Brak, the Chareidim have not sufficiently geographically isolated themselves to be able to be able to maintain a truly separate lifestyle (admittedly this is very difficult in a place as small as Israel, especially given historical neighborhoods near places of religious significance). ”

    Bnei Brak is smack in the middle of Tel Aviv. You cross the street and you are standing in one of the largest hi-tech conference halls/ movie theaters in the country. It’s like it’s own section of Manhatan, completely separated socially but also close by to everything and anything.

    Contrast this with places like Beitar or Beit Shemesh, where you are off in a suburb, completely isolated from big cities or anybody who isn’t in your neighborhood.

    There is no difference between Bnei Brak and Mea Shaarim in it’s “isolation”.

  85. shaul shapira

    IH-Same point there. Just he apparently believes that his rebbeim had it and today’s gedolim- or at least those advocating these policies- never did.
    Personally I think we’re overdoing it here looking for some deep meaning to his ‘lack of nuance’. He’s not the state department and he’s entitled to blow off steam every now and then. If it’s that crucial to know, why doesn’t someone just ask him?

  86. Shaul — agreed.

  87. To S.:

    I hear your point about RAK’s bredth of life experience, but was he a Gadol for those outside the Chareidi community? I don’t think this was RAL nor my point at all.

    To all those who thought I was merely trying to say Rav Shteinman was nice and personable, that’s not what I meant. What I meant was that he took the time to UNDERSTAND my private dilemmas and provided insight and guidance in response to my description of the situation.
    This means anybody who is truly suffering from deprivations of Israeli Chareidi society (or perceives its negative effects) can simply make an appointment and share his or her predicament with the Gedolim.
    SO I simply don’t understand the accusation that current Israeli Gedolim are out-of-touch/insensitive/fail to appreciate to the plight of their community.

  88. Dovid – Then there is a bigger question. They know what suffering they are causing yet still maintain their stance? How many hungry children does Rav Shteinman think a talmid chacham is worth?

  89. avi,

    Sorry, I was referring to the fact that as I learned it (and as Wikipedia tells it) Bnei Brak actually was started as a Chasidish agricultural village a’la the Amish culture I was referring to. Of course it is basically impossible to geographically isolate one’s self in Israel and I have not been to Bnei Brak in decades so I probably don’t have an appreciation for the encroachment that has occurred.

  90. Yannai,

    You might want to look at Bnei Brak on google maps.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=bnei+brak+Israel&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151d4a235bcc7279:0xa32fca178c423987,Bnei+Brak,+Israel&ei=yr0KT8iKDsvE4gSBwO2SCA&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=2&ved=0CDIQ8gEwAQ

    However, when Bnei Brak was founded in 1924, every single settlement and city was established as an agricultural village. Even Tel Aviv. It was the only way to get food from the desolate country.

  91. Exactly what J. said

    Also, don’t you understand that the culture of “simply make an appointment” is part of what Rav Lichtenstein was talking about? If you wanted to ask for guidance from RSZA or Reb Yaakov, you just had to walk up to them on the streets or knock on their doors. Anyone who wants to ask Rav Lichtenstein a question can just walk up to him after shul.

    This is not the case with the contemporary charedi gedolim. If you learn in a kollel that the gadol recognizes and have connections/protectsia, then it would make sense that making an appointment would be easy. I don’t think that one person’s experience proves anything in this regard. In fact, if we are going to use “n”s of 1, I was personally hassled by the gabbai of an unnamed gadol (although once I finally got through to the gadol himself he was pretty gracious – if cryptic), and was hassled out by the gabbai while I was trying to ask follow-up questions.

    To ratchet this up to an “n” of 2, a non-kollelnik, protectsialess, charedi acquaintance who took his son to another gadol to get a bracha when he was bar mitzva was met with minimal eye contact, a mumbled bracha, and a quick return to the sefer that had been open the whole time on the desk. The acquaintance was admiring of the gadol’s “hasmada,” but my personal reaction to this event was that the message given over was “I don’t really care about you.”

    Maybe the explanation has to do with the (I think correct) analysis of a previous commenter, that many of the charedi talmidei chachamim who are currently in leadership roles are sort of resentful of the fact that they have had their greatness thrust upon them and just want to be left alone.

  92. The middle ground between the RZSA/Reb Yaakov/Rav Lichtenstein system and the current charedi system would be the system of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who relied on gabbaim due to the very high volume of demand on his time, but who made sure that everybody and anybody who wanted to could get an appointment (or in later years could come to Sunday dollars), never had (even a closed) sefer on his desk during a meeting, and always made eye contact and made the person feel appreciated/valued. He also always called the shots, and didn’t let his gabbaim manhandle people who came to consult with him.

    If supply and demand of time is a serious issue, then this is the proper way of handling things.

  93. Whether there is or is not Daas Torah which would seem to me to be not used in exactly the same sense by Rav Lichtenstein and the Charedi community, (i.e. Rav Lichtenstein assumes that the epithet “daas Torah” can be applied to a charismatic and able leader whereas the Charedi community applies the term as papal infallibility) is really just semantics. At issue is who can qualify for the mantle however it is defined.

    Could one not posit that Chassidic Rebbes qualify as candidates for issuing “daas Torah” edicts inasmuch as they have strong insights into human psychology and develop cult followings. This leads one to ask: “but which one to follow” as there are a multitude of Rebbes. Pirkei Avot gives us guidance stating “aseh lecha rav”. According to Rav Lichtenstein’s view, one should look for a gavra rabbah to follow for ‘daas Torah” however it is your choice as to whom to follow. According to the charedi view, they choose for you.

    The principle of free choice is sacrosanct in Judaism. Therefore any system of leadership that denies you choosing your gavra rabbah would be flawed from the outset. This would seem to disqualify all the pre-ordained gavrah rabbahs be they the “gedoilim” or the “rebbes”. They would only obtain their legitimacy “from below” and not “from above” proving once again that “lo bashamayim hi” is an established principle.

    So here is the problem; if we are the arbiters and we decide that there is a system of “daas torah”, then how can we disqualify it if we don’t agree with the outcome.

    Perhaps the famous saying of “Be careful what you wish for” is not a Chinese curse but a deeply embedded Jewish principle.

  94. Fotheringay-Phipps

    Shaul Shapira: “I think you have to distinguish between not caring what people will say, and not caring about the consequences of your actions. The former is generally a good thing and the latter is generally not.”

    I agree. It’s not a good thing. But it’s there, nonetheless. That’s why you get a lot of these fiascos.

    To your point, RYSE does not pay much attention to what the consequences of what he says will be. IOW, he will say things to people that he knows have a good chance of being presented to the public in distorted form, and on occasions when his words are presented in distorted form, he is not particularly concerned about rectifying this. His mindset is that he is a private guy sitting and discussing Torah, and if other people take his words and present them to the public, that is not his issue.

    “As for the “accidental Gadol” bit, I haven’t read alot about it, but it’s hard to imagine that RYSE is more absentminded than Rav Shach, and he managed just fine.”

    It’s not about being absent minded. R’ Shach was conscious of his role as Gadol, and he consciously attempted to fill that role. As a result, his words were more thought out in terms of their impact on the masses. When he said something, he was intending for it to be conveyed to the masses. RYSE is not of that mindset. I described him as an accidental godol in the sense that he did not intend or expect to become a gadol, but fell into that role based on his towering intellect and scholarship, and his age.

    [Consider that 30 years ago, RYSE was a fairly obscure person, and he was already over 70. He did not change his mindset much since then. The workd around him changed.]

  95. What will be interesting to see is who succeeds Rav Elyashiv. At least one of the potential candidates (R. Shmuel Auerbach) would definitely assume more of an activist stance, although he is unlikely to assume the mantle of ‘Maran’ due to his lack of popularity amongst many sectors of Bnei Brak and others. Someone like R. Chaim Kanievsky could not perform such a role, for the simple reason that he is as FP described Rav Elyashiv, only more so. I’m not sure what leadership under R. Nissim Karelitz would be like – perhaps we will go back to having numerous Litvish gedolei hador without authority being concentrated in one person.

  96. Fotheringay-Phipps

    “Someone like R. Chaim Kanievsky could not perform such a role, for the simple reason that he is as FP described Rav Elyashiv, only more so.”

    But yet, RE has assumed that role, despite this attitude.

    What really happens is that you get all sorts of handlers and gatekeepers assuming the role.

    In the case of RCK, that might be a bit harder, as he is about as accessible as you can get. But that could change.

  97. R. Chaim Kanievsky is a totally different character to Rav Elyashiv – the latter was a dayan for years, he has interacted with people, is aware (at least somewhat) of what goes on in the world.

    And it’s fairly easy to make someone inaccessible – I’m sure it was easier to get hold of Rav Elyashiv 30 years ago. Once the grandchildren realise that they can make a good living (and amass a not inconsiderable degree of power) by becoming ‘gabbaim’, it’s all downhill from there.

  98. “[Consider that 30 years ago, RYSE was a fairly obscure person, and he was already over 70. He did not change his mindset much since then. The workd around him changed.]”

    Interesting point made by FP about this “accidental gadol” business, I’ve not seen it discussed anywhere else. Seems like there’s something to what he says. Which reveals a great deal about the charedi world, its media king makers, and of course, RE himself. But for another time . . .

  99. Sorry I haven’t responded sooner.
    To J:
    Then there is a bigger question. They know what suffering they are causing yet still maintain their stance? How many hungry children does Rav Shteinman think a talmid chacham is worth?

    I think the old vort about ‘tzaddik ve’ra lo’ is applicable here. I.e. suffering is in the eye of the beholder. Or, the trade off generally is considered to be worth it in the Chareidi value system (which you understandably do not share).
    (And those who truly feel materially lacking to the point where they can’t manage usually find some form of employment, which is becoming more and more socially acceptable on the ground as time goes on.)

    To More On:
    To ratchet this up to an “n” of 2, a non-kollelnik, protectsialess, charedi acquaintance who took his son to another gadol to get a bracha when he was bar mitzva was met with minimal eye contact, a mumbled bracha, and a quick return to the sefer that had been open the whole time on the desk. The acquaintance was admiring of the gadol’s “hasmada,” but my personal reaction to this event was that the message given over was “I don’t really care about you.”

    I didn’t have to present credentials or use protektzia to make my appointment. I could have been anybody.
    But perhaps your experience shows why gabbo’im or limited access to gedolim are necessary. If the home of the gadol is truly a revolving door, with no limits and no set times to receive the public, then what you described here is what one should expect. Every visitor can be an interruption– without a regulatory system.

  100. Both visits were made during DESIGNATED VISITING HOURS. My visit was made when nobody else was there.

  101. Origin of MORON

    irregular from Greek mōros foolish, stupid

  102. If you ask “in what way was I hassled”? I had a very specific halachic question that had more than one part to it. I share two common languages with the gadol I went to ask. Instead of being allowed to ask the question myself, I was forced to submit it to the gabbai – who didn’t strike me as a particularly intelligent individual – and watch as he mangled it and omitted half of it. The gadol smiled and delivered a cryptic answer, which seemed to fit with a footnote that quoted him in a “I heard so and so who heard from so and so” way, but was very open to interpretation. The gabbai tried to drive me out of the room, but I insisted on asking a follow-up question, which was graciously answered, and which cleared up the point.

    The gabbai throughout behaved and spoke in a very boorish and disrespectful way. The whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

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