Volume 10 Number 57
                       Produced: Sun Dec 12 16:17:23 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Contemporary Judaism and Sociology
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Rabbinic Authority and Gedolim (2)
         [Arnold Lustiger, Pinchus Laufer]
Rav Shach and Yeshivot Hesder
         [Marc Shapiro]
What is a "gadol?"
         [Michael Kramer]
Yosef in the pit, decreed life and death
         [Bruce Krulwich]


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 93 11:16:48 -0500
Subject: Contemporary Judaism and Sociology

        In MJ 10:54 Rabbi Karlinsky wonders if my description of
contemporary Judaism as marketplace driven is a religious or
sociological observation. Let me clarify beyond doubt that this is of
course a sociological observation, and not by a long shot anywhere near
the ideal, which of course would be a society driven by Avodas Hashem
pure and lofty.

        I have also been approached personally by two local MJers who
have asked me for clarification and contributed personal insight. Let me
sum up their statements and mine in brief:

a) It is not just majority rule that holds sway in Contemporary
Orthodoxy.  Without, in fact, attempting to determine who may consist
the majority, we may continue our analogy and note that just as in a
Democracy a vocal minority receives special priveleges and allotments,
any significant trend among us that cares enough to maintain itself and
promote its ideology will sustain schools and institutions to its
liking. Arnold Lustiger's minority (the segment of the population that
wants Philadelphia style Limudei Kodesh with Ramaz style Limudei Chol)
is, perhaps unfortunately, either too small or not vocal enough to
receive what it wants.

b) "Cares enough": It is, again, perhaps unfortunately, obvious to many
that the segment of Orthodoxy that is interested in emphasizing Limudei
Chol etc.  sends its best and brightest into professions, as opposed as
to Chinuch, which often is left either to those less talented or to the
less secular studies inclined. Thus their values are not imparted in
their schools either at all, or not effectively, to the next generation,
which has ramifications today...

        Concluding with what we began: It is my firm belief that the
level of Observance and the system of Beliefs among most of our
communities is, unfortunately, sociologically determined. We are not
very succesful in America at least, in training our youth to be self
critiquing ("Mussardike") thinking, evaluating individuals, constanly
reckoning Ratzon Hashem and what it should mean in their lives. From
right to left, the peer and social pressure and trends of the society
one is affiliated with, rather, too often are the standard which we live
by. Forums like MJ do have a positive impact, perhaps, in this regard,
by forcing debate in a positive milieu. But, how many Orthodox Jews have
Internet access... :-)

        Chanuka Same'ach!


From: <alustig@...> (Arnold Lustiger)
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 93 11:48:41 -0500
Subject: Rabbinic Authority and Gedolim

In m.j. I wrote:
>>I should also say that their "da'as Torah"  opinions are often so
>>offensive to me, I ask myself how I possibly can even seriously
>>consider them. For example, R. Shach has 1) all but prohibited secular high
>>school education 2) dismisses the learning in Hesder Yeshivos as
>>literally worthless 3) questions the necessity of the Israeli
>>military and 4) in the Steinsaltz controversy conducts a virtual
>>witch hunt. If you doubt that R. Shach holds these opinions binding
>>on everyone, just pick up a copy of Yated Ne'eman.

Shaya Karlinsky responded:
>     Here the problem is unmasked.  The offense you take may not be due
>to their real opinions as much as it is to the way those opinions are
>presented by the media (whether Haredi - as in "Yated Neeman (Y.N.) - or
>secular).  The examples you cited are perfect examples.  And I think the
>source you cite to convince one who doubts that Rav Shach holds the
>(extreme) opinions you attribute to will prove my point.  Please note:
>The "immunity" that gedolim have from accusations of "power grabs" does
>not extend to Y.N. ...  I (and many of my learned colleagues) have
>serious doubts about the CW (conventional wisdom) that everything Y.N.
>writes is with Rav Shach's approval, or that it accurately reflects his
>opinions. As a journalisitic medium, they are prone to all the
>deficiencies of that medium.  (My father would add that the fact they
>consider their motivations "lsheim shamayim" makes it even more
>dangerous.  See the Netziv's famous introduction to Sefer Breishit.)

>     On the first three I must categorically challenge one who claims
>that Rav Shach holds any of the opinions the way they have been phrased.

Unfortunately, my source for R. Shach's statements on 1 and 2 have
somewhat more veracity than Yated Ne'eman. R. Shach published a sefer
called "michtavim uma'amarim" (Writings and Statements). Here are direct
quotes from the sefer (pages 40-41).

"...it is well known that the Mizrachi movement has no connection at all
to the promulgation of Torah (harbotzas Torah), and to the contrary, the
Yeshiva High Schoools and Hesder Yehivas and their ilk have contracted
and minimized the image of greatness in Torah and the yearning to be a
godol in Torah, and if a few [talmidei chachomim] have in fact come out
[of these institutions], that is because thay have continued to study
subsequently in holy yeshivas that do not include any mixture of secular
subjects. But the vast majority of those in Yeshiva high schoool and
hesder Yeshivas have no yearning for this, and is this harbotzas Torah?"

On the Ma'arava high school:

"...a breach has been made in the fence to open an institution for youth
near Jerusalem with the name "Ma'arava", and they have changed many
things from the standard Yeshiva curriculum, and they have added evil to
their evil to allow students to study secular subjects and to occupy
themselves in vanity".

These teshuvot were written in 1984 and 1988 respectively, but are all
published in this compendium. The translations are mine: if there is an
unfair or biased nuance in my translation, please let me know.

With regard to the third objection regarding the Israeli military, Shaya
is correct: my source was in fact Yated Ne'eman, whose "ne'emanut"
(veracity) may very well be open to question.

I thank Shaya for his well thought out and sensitive reply to my post.
But as you can see from the above quotes, the problem I address
regarding secular studies is a very real one. Although sometimes such
controversies are exacerbated by the chareidi media, they are not
necessarily created by them.

Arnie Lustiger

From: <plaufer@...> (Pinchus Laufer)
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 93 11:16:36 -0500
Subject: Rabbinic Authority and Gedolim

Rabbi Karlinsky writes:

> Anyone who has had personal contact with Gedolei Torah in any matter -
>whether it be limud Torah, Halachic issues, or worldly matters -
>cannot but be deeply moved by the uncompromising search for EMES,
>truth, that they have.  

So we now have a criterion for determining who is a "true gadol"!  My
interactions with a few of them makes me agree about the importance of EMES
in their whole being. However, does my personal experience with other
lamdanim in whom I perceive a lack of this overriding concern for EMES
permit me to declare that they are not gedolim?  Who is to judge? What are
the guidelines?   This question is not as trivial as it sounds - most
leaders' followers will perceive their leader as being totally dedicated to
EMES (or Chessed or Ahavat Yisroel - pick your Middah).

I'd appreciate all and any help in elaborating the guidelines.



From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 93 11:16:45 -0500
Subject: Re: Rav Shach and Yeshivot Hesder 

In answer to Rabbi Karlinsky, he is correct that Rav Shach does not view
Hesder yeshivot as literaly worthless. However, he is not correct in his
description of Rav Shach as being at the very least neutral on the
question. Since he asks for a source documenting R.Shach's opposition to
Hesder I will provide it. In Michtavim u-Maamarim vol. 1-2 p. 75 Rav
Shach speaks very negatively about religious Zionists and Hesder
yeshivot and concludes:This is a sharp knife in the soul of the yeshivot
(i. e.  Haredi yeshivot)
					Marc Shapiro


From: Michael Kramer
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1993 15:41:57 -0800 (PST)
Subject: What is a "gadol?"

I hate to admit it, but R. Karlinsky's remarks in MJ 10:54 left me with
more questions than answers.  I agree with those fellow MJers who feel
that the ongoing discussion about gedolim and rabbinic authority is
fundamental and crucial, so perhaps we ought to start defining some
terms and concepts.

First, what is a gadol?  What personal characteristics or achievements
define gedula?

Second, who is a gadol?  I'm not asking for a list but rather for how
one becomes recognized as a gadol.  Who determines if one has achieved
gedula.  At the time when smicha was still in effect, I suppose that was
how gedula might be determined.  But nowadays?

I also had a question about R. Shach.  R. Karlinsky seems to suggest
that R. Shach, like all gedolim, is not involved "political power
grabs."  Is "political power grab" different from setting up political
parties like Shas and Degel Hatorah?  Am I wrong about his being
involved in those plainly political activities?  Please clarify.

Michael Kramer
UC Davis


From: Bruce Krulwich <krulwich@...>
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 93 04:13:36 -0500
Subject: Yosef in the pit, decreed life and death

Hayim Hendeles asked about why Reuven had Yosef thrown into a pit of snakes
and scorpions, and Hayim also said recently:

> Every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we solemnly declare that on this day
> it is decreed who shall live and who shall die. Understand it or not, I
> refuse to believe that any of those who perished during the Holocaust
> were decreed for Life on Rosh Hashana.

I in general would agree with Hayim's comment here, but note that
there's a comment made by the Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh on Reuven and Yosef
that I find hard to fit into this view.  He says (commenting on Reuven's
saving Yosef "miyadam", from their hands, and also the subsequent
comment), as I understand it (big caveat), the following idea (from

Human beings have free will, which gives us the ability to kill people
even if they don't have a divine decree of death against them. (!!)
Animals, however, have no such free will.  Reuven was thus saving Yosef
from death by removing him from his brothers' hands, where he could have
been killed even without a divine decree, and putting him into the hands
of the snakes and scorpions, which couldn't kill him unless there was a
divine decree against him.

The application of this idea to the holocaust is obvious, and is in
contradiction to Hayim's thought above.  Personally, I find this idea
troubling, and would question it had I not seen it from someone on the
level of the Ohr HaChayim.

Any thoughts?

Dov (Bruce) Krulwich


End of Volume 10 Issue 57