Audio Roundup 2017:16

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by Joel Rich
Fine line between genius and insanity- the correlation is well known, the interesting new information in the study is the underlying biology. the interesting question to me has always been how does one separate the pits from the juice (or why was the rogatchover rejected for psak but not the gra (or is it just a matter of time?)

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So, if you’ve read “Thinking Fast/Thinking Slow,” the next book I’d suggest is “The Righteous Mind.” I’d skip the evolutionary parts (perhaps wishful reverse engineering) and focus on the current state. IMHO this is MO’s biggest challenge—how to live in a culture that puts most emphasis on the care and fairness receptors and much less of loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent local lecturer on various Torah topics in West Orange, NJ and supports his Torah listening habits by working as a consulting actuary.


  1. Is the implication that the Rogatchover was pits and the Vilna Gaon was juice?
    The Vilna Gaon was accepted as psak because he had talmidim, Reb Chaim of Volozhin, Beis Volozhin, and Beis Brisk, as well as the perushim of Eretz Yisroel.
    The Rogatchover never had so many influential Talmidim, and many of his writings are lost/unpublished/ just as hard if not harder to decipher than the Gra’s. In fact, in many cases the Rogtachover may have been to brilliant for his many interpreters and opponents in psak.
    Disclaimer: I didn’t listen to Moshe Sokoloff’s shiur.

    • My own impression was pre-biased by R’ Rakeefet’s comments, but my feeling is:

      To jump a bit… The halakhah usually follows a stam mishnah. And a stam mishnah is assumed to be Rav Meir. We also follow Rav Meir when his court legislates (Eiruvin 47a) but not in his interpretations of existing law. At least, not when that interpretation is given under Rav Meir’s name. Why? Eiruvin 13b: ומפני מה לא קבעו הלכה כמותו שלא יכלו חביריו לעמוד על סוף דעתו. We simply can’t understand him.

      When the other Rabbanim could understand and agree, he won them over, it became everyone’s opinion, and stam mishnah. When not…

      Now, with that preface, I want to propose this answer.

      The Gra taught talmidim how to understand his conclusions. There may not be anyone capable of keeping pace, but eventually we can understand and appreciate how he got there. And so, his decisions impacted halakhah.

      The Rogatchover was more like Rav Meir. He never taught anyone how to think the way he would. And so, the rest of us “never reached the end of his thoughts”, and his shitah couldn’t impact halakhah.

    • Another factor…

      The Gra’s unique positions stayed personal during his lifetime. His followers decided to emulate his unique rulings after his passing. We have no idea if he would have approved.

      The Rogatchover didn’t raise a community of followers who would argue about the details in Maaseh Rav in order to preserve their rebbe’s shitah and perspective through action.

  2. In terms of acceptance as a poseik, could be all those factors too. Interesting though talmidim of the Gra were not talmidim by conventional standards of face time and direct transmission through shiurim. Was the hermit-like nature true of the Rogatchover?

    • The Rogatchover was not hermit-like. He was the Rav of Dvinsk and replied to thousands of Shailos from around Europe(not just lomdish shailos a la Shagas Aryeh but day to day piskei-halacha l’maaseh). From 1st hand and 2nd accounts, he could present ideas orally very effectively, as opposed to his writing styles. (I heard, though have never read any sources, that this was the exact opposite of his counterpart in Dvinsk, the Ohs Sameach, who could not communicate orally effectively but wrote very well.) It is interesting to note that the Rogotchover was unafraid to pursue his derech towards piskei-halacha l’ma’aseh, as opposed to Reb Chaim Brisker.

      Another factor may be the post-WWII convergence of psak towards the Mishnah Berurah and away from the rulings of community Rabbanim, other seforim, and minhagim (Rupture and Reconstruction).

      • Interesting. Did he have a yeshiva/talmidim? It reminds me of an old theory of mine about he who has more talmidim wins (a parallel to which I discovered later in evolutionary theory)

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