Volume 10 Number 28
                       Produced: Sun Nov 28  9:42:51 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Does learning chulin make one a navi?
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Poskim on Aliya
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Rabbinic Authority
         [Freda Birnbaum]
Rabbinic Authority and Leaving Europe (2)
         [Danny Skaist, Avi Weinstein]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 93 13:07:49 -0500
Subject: Does learning chulin make one a navi?

Hayim Hendeles commented on my posting:

> There is a strong undercurrent in this article, as in others, implying
> that those Rabbis who advised to remain in pre-WW2 Europe, were in fact
> wrong. I strongly disagree with this notion.

I'm sorry if there was such an undercurrent -- I thought I had stated it
rather explicitely :-).  My statement was, and I repeat it, "those
rabbis who maintained that the Jews would be safe were tragically
mistaken."  I don't see any way to argue with this statement (note that
this is *not* the same as saying that "the rabbis who advised to remain"
were wrong.  I am merely stating that their opinion was incorrect; I am
not evaluating the rabbis themselves in any way).  Hayim states:

> Right or wrong is not defined by who survived and who didn't survive.
> That is G-d's decision. Right or wrong is defined as what the Torah
> says, which is our responsibility to follow.

But the issue here is not what the Torah says.  The issue here is: were
Jews assured that they would be safe if they remained in Europe?  The
answer to that question is "Yes."  Now the question is, were Jews in
fact safe?  The answer is "No."  I don't think it can be spelled out
more clearly.  As for what might have been if the rabbaim had encouraged
leaving, I don't think anyone is entitled to speculate.  I certainly am
not being so bold to predict what might have been -- perhaps there would
have been a worse tragedy in America or eretz yisrael, or perhaps not --
no one knows.  What we do know is this -- Jews were not safe in Europe,
in spite of the assurances of rabbaim.  On this specific point, I don't
see how anyone can claim the rabbis were not mistaken.  As a former
Catholic, this is all sounding frighteningly like "Papal Infallability"
to me -- I mean, if a rav gave a psak that "2 + 2 = 5," would people
maintain that this is what was emet?  If anyone out there believes that
"if a rav told me 2 + 2 = 5, then I would have to believe that 2 + 2 =
5," then I highly suggest that you get a copy of the latest _Tradition_
and the _Rabbinic Authority_ volume and do some reading.  You'll find
out that there is not *one* authentic picture of rabbinic authority in
Judaism; in fact, there are so many understandings of rabbinic authority
that it is rather difficult to come to any conclusions at all.  In one
of the hespedim for the Rav (R.  Moshe Tendler's, I believe), it was
said that the Rav always believed that one must take into account the
metziut when engaging in talmud torah -- in short, one can't poskin
against reality.  I think this a a good rule-of-thumb.

What is disturbing to me is that talmud torah is the pursuit of emet
above all else.  This is why, if a rav told me "2 + 2 = 5," I would be
obligated not to believe him, but rather to *correct* him.  And if
someone tells me, "those rabbis who said the Jews would be safe in
Europe were correct" -- well, as far as I'm concerned, that statement is
as untrue as "2 + 2 = 5."  Have we become historical revisionists?
Where is the pursuit of emet?  The Jews in Europe were *not* safe
(again, I am not speculating on whether they would have been more or
less safe, physically or spiritually, had they fled).  Just because
someone is qualified to judge issur v'heter does not give them the power
to shape reality.  This is exactly the danger of an extreme daas Torah
approach, in my opinion -- it requires ignoring reality when reality
disagrees with the words of rabbaim.

I never said that the choice to stay was wrong, whether made by a rav or
a stam Jew.  Again, what I said is that from our 50 year perspective, it
is clear that any statement assuring that Jews would come to no harm in
Europe was mistaken.  I never claimed that G-d complained about anyone's
choice to stay or leave -- such speculation is utterly useless.  And
while it is easy to hide behind statements about it being G-d's will
that six million died -- I just don't see what that has to do with the
issue at hand.

> And so it was for those Jews who remained behind based on a Psak Halacha.

I would like an example of any rav giving an actual *psak* that it was
forbidden to leave Europe.  (Did Yosef ask this same question?)  I
maintain that statements regarding staying in Europe were in the realm
of opinion, and not binding as psak halacha.  Whether the givers and
receivers of such statements perceived them as opinion is another
question entirely.  And again, I am not faulting anyone on his/her
*decision* -- each made the best decision he/she could, with limited
information in horrible circumstances.  But, from the perspective of
history, we can state without hesitation that Jews were not safe in
Europe during WWII (this is so understated that it sounds absurd).  Any
prediction that the Jews would be safe, whether by a Jew or an
anti-semite, whether by a gadol or an apikorus -- was just simply wrong.
There can be no debate about this point.

As far as the Joe Abeles' point about the distinction between "opinion"
and "psak," in my experience, psak is usually prefaced by a statement to
that effect or is clear from the context.  If I ask my rav a question, I
will ask for either his opinion or a psak (unless the question is
clearly halachic, such as "can I do X on shabbos?").  If I am not sure
if he is giving his opinion or a psak, I will ask him (for instance,
before the chagim I asked my rav about showering on yom tov -- he gave
me a whole svara about it; in the end, I had to ask -- "was that a psak,
or simply a discussion?" He told me it was a psak.)  Certainly, in the
mail-jewish forum, nothing should be considered psak.

Eitan Fiorino


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 93 20:00:42 -0500
Subject: Poskim on Aliya

I thank Morris Podolak for his reference to RSR Hirsh's teshuva in
Shemesh u'Marpeh, which is, to the best of my knowledge, the first
substantive response to my query as to whether any German, Lithuanian,
or Polish posek issued a specific psak against Aliya. I should point
out, not in disagreement, but as a point of information, that his
grandson, Dr. Isaac Breuer zt"l maintained frequently and forcefully
that had his grandfather lived to witness the Balfour declaration, he
would have changed his course.  Regarding the recent discussions on
historical revisionism, I would like to note a good "Mar'eh Makom",
Rabbi J. J. Schachter's exhaustive treatment of the closing of Volozhin
Yeshiva (in the Journal of Torah u'Madda, I believe vol 2 no 1.), and
the withdrawl from circulation of "My Uncle the Netziv" (a pity, as it
is an excellent book. I heard that Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Shlita was
surprised by this zealotry, noting that as kids in Yerushalayim everyone
read the original, the Torah Temima's Mekor Baruch). There is a quote
there from Rav Schwab Shlita which is particularly extraordinary. It is
interesting to note that his approach to history is consistent with his
hypothesis that Chazal "covered up" 165 years of Jewish History.  BTW,
Eli Turkel just mentioned something about Rav Hutner's deleting a
picture of Rav Kook from one of his seforim. I believe there are two
separate stories here: a) he deleted a haskama from Rav Kook (and the
Dvar Avraham's, which was on the same page) from his Toras HaNazir, and
left Reb Chaim Ozer's; b) he took down a picture of Rav Kook from his
office and replaced it with that of the Chazon Ish.


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 93 00:01 EDT
Subject: Rabbinic Authority

In m-j Vol. 10 Number 24, Hayim Hendeles adds a number of excellent
points to the discussion on rabbinic authority, and also takes issue
with what he feels is the undercurrent in several recent posts on this
subject.  It seems to me that one of the undercurrents in his own
response is that the "daas Torah" approach, as distinct from the
"modern" approach, as so ably clarified by Eitan Fiorino in a recent
post, is the ONLY possible one.  While I agree with Hayim's statement

>Right or wrong is not defined by who survived and who didn't survive.
>That is G-d's decision. Right or wrong is defined as what the Torah
>says, which is our responsibility to follow.

I must take issue with the notion that whatever a Torah sage says on any
subject whatsoever is of equal weight with his Torah material, and with
the next sentence:

>Thus, if a Rabbi said "stay", and the person remained behind to be
>killed by the Nazis, this person has done exactly what G-d told him to
>do (in a figurative sense, Lo sasur m'asher yagidu lecha).  I refuse to
>believe that after he went upstairs to his Final Reckoning, that G-d
>had any complaints for his remaining behind.

I must also conclude that if the person used his own judgment in a NON-
HALAKHIC matter, limiting his following of Torah sages to TORAH matters,
not to practical ones where the Torah sage may have no better knowledge
of the matter than he, that it's a pretty good bet that he also will not
fall short in the "final reckoning".

>And so it was for those Jews who remained behind based on a Psak Halacha.
>Their decision was the RIGHT decision, although it cost the ultimate price.
>Undoubtedly, they will achieve great rewards in the Next World for their
>having made the RIGHT decision.

It has not been demonstrated that those who made other decisions did the
wrong thing, nor that one is obligated to consult halachic authorities
on non-halachic matters.

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>


From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 93 05:01:44 -0500
Subject: Rabbinic Authority and Leaving Europe

>Eitan Fiorino
>of pure psak; that is, one could not answer the question "should I go to
>eretz yisrael" simply by finding an appropriate sugya in shas and a few
>rishonim.  Extra-halachic issues entered the answering of that question --

My grandfather (A"H) was told by a Rebbe in the 1920's to leave Europe
because there would be a holacaust.  When he asked if he should go to
Israel or America, he was told "If you go to Israel, I will have to send
you money. If you go to America, then you can send me money."


From: Avi Weinstein <0003396650@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 93 11:33:44 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority and Leaving Europe

In response to Hayim Hendeles who assumes that those Gedolim who escaped
the perils of Europe and left their communities to die did the "RIGHT"
thing.  It may be possible to say that they did not sin, but that they
were right?!!!

In the Rambam on Hilchot Melachim Chapter 11 Halacha 1.  It is clear
that both the Rambam and the Ra'vad say that Rebbe Akiva was mistaken,
he was wrong, Bar Koziba was not the Mashiach.  It is also true that
Rebbe Akiba accompanied Bar Koziba in battle and did not remain behind
in the Beit Midrash or run off to Cypress.  Once, when Rav Yaakov
Kaminetzky ZTZaL was asked whether Gedolim make mistakes, he answered,
"Of Course" I'll bring you a proof from Moshe Rabbeinu!"  This was
reported to me by his son Rav Nosson Kaminetsky.  If Gedolim can admit
to the errors of Moshe Rabbeinu, and Rabbi Akiva we can also acknowledge
the failability of our Gedolim.

The Torah says in most cases that living is better than the alternative.
If one's advice causes many to perish, there is evidence by the criteria
given by Hashem that they were wrong and, irrespective of how pure the
motive, they bear the responsibility for being wrong.

I really don't know what impact that would have on one's portion in the
world to come, but the statement that "Hungary would be a refuge" was
WRONG!  The Rebbe may have had good reason to mislead his community, or
he may have believed that the Nazis wouldn't reach Hungary but such
speculation at this point is futile.  No one wishes to judge the Belzer
Rebbe as Moshe Koppel eloquently stated, they were extraordinary times
but let's not be idolatrous when it comes to understanding their

As far as the closing of Voloshyn yeshiva, this case is not analogous.
(I always heard it was the NeTZIV, but I could be wrong).  Rav Yosef Ber
had a position, one can agree or disagree, but he understood that the
yeshiva would be closed and was aware of those consequences.

I must admit that I am astounded that one can find the situations in any
way similar.

Avi Weinstein


End of Volume 10 Issue 28