Volume 10 Number 89
                       Produced: Mon Dec 27 16:29:38 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Rabbinic Authority
         [Arnold Lustiger]
Rabbinic Authority and Rav Shach
         [Shaya Karlinsky]


From: <alustig@...> (Arnold Lustiger)
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 93 18:01:31 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

Before I start this post, I want to ask public mehila (pardon) from R. 
Karlinsky for an earlier post: Had I known he was a Rosh Yeshiva, I would 
not have addressed him as "Shaya", and I would have worded my post 
differently (it is most impertinent to sound authoritative when disagreeing 
with a Rosh Yeshiva). Our moderator tells me that he is considering asking 
for a short descriptive line after our signature (e.g. Arnie Lustiger, 
Polymer Scientist, Exxon Research and Engineering), something I would 
wholeheartedly support to eliminate any future similar paux pas.

Now to the post. Larry Weisberg writes:

>I would like to relate to some of the comments made by Arnold Lustiger
>and hopefully put his mind at ease (while not being accused of blasphemy).
>(Not an easy task...)

As it turns out, his comments gave me more anxiety. Here's why:

>Well, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) just because someone knows a lot of Torah,
>even to the extent of being a "giant in Torah learning," does not mean that
>he is a Gadol HaDor.  I don't personally subscribe to the concept of DaAs
>Torah;  that is I don't feel compelled to listen to A (or maybe THE) Gadol
>HaDor in non-halachic matters.  However, even if I were to subscribe to that
>Shitah (view, outlook), mere knowledge of a lot of Torah is not enough to
>define a Gadol Hador.

>So, even though Arnie doesn't state this explicitly, he implies that since
>Rabbi's X & Y are "undeniably" Torah giants, they are therefore Gedolei
>HaDor.  IMHO, a Gadol HaDor must know a LOT of Torah.  But that is not
>enough.  He must act responsibly, using things like Cherem as last resorts.
>Additionally, for the person to be a Gadol HaDor, to the extent that I
>should feel compelled to listen to him, *I, Larry Weisberg* must FEEL that he
>is a Gadol HaDor.  It does me no good to listen to my LOR repeating that
>Rabbi X is A (or The) Gadol Hador.  If, for whatever objective or subjective
>reasons, I don't view X as a Gadol, then for me, he is not a Gadol.  (This
>point is, in a way, so obvious that it should not need to be said.  However,
>it still may be startling to read, until you think about it and realize
>that nobody can MAKE you believe anything.)

If gadlus is a meritocracy, as I maintain, then the criteria for gadlus
are very objective. If gadlus is subjective, and we pick and choose our
gedolei hador simply because their hashkafot fit into ours, we end up
with chaos. In a perverse way, this is what the Jewish Observer is
guilty of in their pseudo hesped of the Rav: belittling gedolim because
of a preconceived notion of what their opinions should be. It is the
height of arrogance for me to judge what acting "responsibly" means for
someone light years ahead of me in the understanding of halacha, ethics
and morality, i.e. in the very knowledge which defines "acting

>You might say that this is a very dangerous thing to say.  I agree.
>But I think it is true.  I actually think the other extreme is much
>more dangerous.  If you fall into the Daas Torah "trap" then you never
>need to think.  Just follow your GHOC (Gadol Hador of Choosing) and
>listen to him blindly.  Life would be a lot easier, but I don't think
>that that is what G-D wants.  We are expected, in the final analysis,
>to think for ourselves.

The alternative is worse: a hashkafat olam (world view) with little to
no relationship with Torah. If, for example, Zionism were universally
held to be illegitimate by unanimous consent of gedolim, it would
clearly be wrong to be Zionist. The fact that R. Soloveitchik zt'l, R.
Kook zt'l were in fact Zionist makes Zionism a legitimate option for the
rest of us. Without them, no Orthodox Jew could legitimately identify in
this way.

>Let me quote something I heard, and I have no reason to assume it is
>not true.  A certain student, from a "Black Hat"/Right Wing Yeshiva
>background, was in Israel for a year at a Hesder Yeshiva.  He once
>asked to speak with the Rosh Yeshiva, and told him that he was having
>trouble dealing with much the same problem as Arnie.  The student
>thought that the concept of Hesder was a very logical and noble one,
>yet Rav Schach (the Gadol Hador) says that Yeshivot Hesder have
>minimized the image of greatness in Torah and the yearning to be a
>godol in Torah, etc.  How should he deal with this?  The Rosh Yeshiva
>supposedly responded that maybe Rav Schach was not the Gadol Hador.
>(Gasp, horrors....)  I think the point is that if "Gadol Hador" X says
>things which you, as an intelligent, thinking person, CANNOT accept as
>valid, then YOU can make the choice to believe that X is not a Gadol

I don't know if this story is true or apocryphal: in any case I
disagree. I may be able to choose whether or not to follow the specific
opinion of a certain gadol: I cannot "make the choice to believe that X
is not a gadol hador". The previous Satmar Rebbe was a gadol hador, no
matter how much you or I are uncomfortable with that fact. Yet, if no
one had the right to disagree with him, it would have been prohibited
for the Degel Hatorah party to have joined the previous Israeli

>Arnie continues:
>  >                                            With the petira of R.
>  > Soloveitchik zt'l, there are few legitimate advocates to buck the "da'as
>  > Torah" trend against secular studies and Zionism.
>First of all, though Rav Soloveitchik is no longer alive, it does not
>mean that we must ignore his opinions.  Even if you feel that Daas
>Torah makes a Gadol's opinion binding and even if you feel that Rav
>Schach falls into the category of such a Gadol Hador, all is not lost,
>Arnie.  I think that you will agree (though not everyone would), that
>the Rav was at least as much of a Gadol Hador as Rav Schach.
>That being the case, who says that you must follow Rav Schach in cases
>where there are Gedolei Hador who disagree. (Not to mention other
>Gedolim, such as Rav Lichtenstein who are still alive).

As evident by my statements above, I certainly agree with the above
opinion.  The problem is that Centrist Orthodoxy has not yet produced a
universally recognized gadol hador, such as R. Soloveitchik. It is
certainly possible that R. Lichtenstein indeed is the closest to this
level: the problem is that his "gadlus" is not universally recognized.
Now remember, in my opinion gadlus is a meritocracy, and those who are
indeed gedolim eventually rise to receive their recognition. It was R.
Shach who stood up before the recently murdered hesder Yeshiva student
during his visit to Ponevezh because of his potential as a future
"gadol" (something, incidentally, R. Shach would not have done had he
followed Larry's subjective definition of gadlus).  I believe that age
has alot to do with this recognition: R. Shach, R. Elya, R.  Yosef were
only thus universally recognized in the last 15 years. Therefore R.
Ahron would not be counted in this informal group for quite a while.

Unless and until these gedolim are produced/ recognized, those of us who
believe in religious Zionism and the necessity for secular studies will
find ourselves increasingly on the defensive. We cannot forever point to
past gedolim with similar hashkafot (especially since these gedolim were
schooled in pre-war Eastern Europe): if Torah is a living experience and
our institutions are viable, we must constantly produce new generations
with people of such stature.

Only in this way can a centrist Orthodox weltanschaung have lasting

Arnie Lustiger

P.S. I sure hope Larry is not a Rosh Yeshiva!


From: Shaya Karlinsky <HCUWK@...>
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1993 20:17 IST
Subject: Rabbinic Authority and Rav Shach

     My posting in MJ 10/54 about Rabbinic Authority and Gedolim (which
was a follow-up to many other significant postings) brought a lot of
important responses.  Since it appears to be the feeling of many that
this is a VERY important issue, I would like to continue the discussion
and reply to some of those responses. (After reading Avi's intro to my
posting, I will try to keep it relatively brief. :-) I don't want it
sitting in the queue TOO long!)
     Since my posting was quite strong in questioning the veracity of
some of the views attributed to Rav Shach; and there were a number of
replies challenging what I wrote, I would like to start with that.
     Arnold Lustiger and Marc Shapiro quoted from Rav Shach's sefer,
with articles/letters from 1984 and 1988 about Hesder Yeshivot and
Secular Studies. (I have never read/learned the sefer, and I will rely
on their translations which sound accurate.) IMHO the difference between
the way his opinion was originally presented by Arnold and the quoted
words are subtle but significant.  As in all Torah study - and letters
and articles of great Torah Scholars are divrei Torah, and should be
studied as such - they must be examined carefully and understood

     As a source that:
>R. Shach has all but prohibited secular high school education
     Arnold (and Marc) quoted Rav Shach 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".
     While these are very strong words, this is not quite the same as
_prohibiting_ secular high school education to the general (Torah)
public.  I think in fact that my original explanation of Rav Shach's
opposition to Maarava is verified by the language of the letter.

     As a source that:
>R. Shach ... dismisses the learning in Hesder Yeshivos as literally
     Arnold (and Marc) quoted
>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
>gadol 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?"
     This is not at all the same as saying their learning is worthless.
While I personally disagree with the sweeping generalities, this was
written to a population which Rav Shach wants to ensure sends its sons
to the "traditional" Yeshivot.  (Do we see a consistency with his letter
about Maarava?  And of course one can examine the accuracy of the
"facts/statistics" Rav Shach mentions in support of his thesis and see
if they check out.)  There is certainly an "agenda" there - rebuilding
the Torah world destroyed in the Holocaust, hopefully producing people
of great stature.  In Rav Shach's learned opinion, this is the way to do
it.  He is taking responsibility for this "agenda," with its possible
negative side- effects (so poignantly described by Arnold). There are
other Gedolei Torah who may see things in a different way, and who may
have different approaches.  One who has trouble with Rav Shach's
approach should seek these scholars out and follow their derech.  It
shouldn't bother us TOO much if we have a different derech than Rav
Shach, as long as that derech is one that is solidly based on Torah, on
Halacha, on first hand sources as verified by recognized Torah scholars.

     (A case could be made that EVEN if Rav Shach was 100% correct in
what he wrote, that doesn't OBVIATE THE NEED for Hesder Yeshivot (or
High School secular education).  But that would lead us into the
discussion of whether Hesder is 'lcatchila' (ideal) or 'bdieved'
(loosely translated as "necessitated by circumstances").  I am sure
there are strong opinons out there on both sides!)

     In MJ 10/74, Larry Weisberg seems to have made a leap from talking
about how to relate to pronouncements of a gadol hador; to talking about
how to relate to the pronouncements of Rav Shach as THE gadol hador.  While
I am in agreement with much of what Larry wrote until that point, I have to
take issue with his parenthetical insertion specifically becuase of that
>(I think that you can't have your cake and eat it, too.  Either
>you accept blindly that Rav Schach is the Gadol Hador and accept
>EVERYTHING he says or not.  You can't say he is the Gadol, but then pick
>and choose, either to not agree with certain things or to deny the fact
>that he said them.)
     But what if we don't he say he is THE gadol hador, rather A gadol
hador?  I would like to know when in Jewish History, beginning from the
time of Yossi ben Yoezer and Yossi ben Yochanan (Avot, Ch. 1, Mishna 4)
when zugot (pairs) began, that there was one universally accepted
authority binding on the entire Jewish (Torah) community?
     THAT is where one could have a serious "beef" with Yated Ne'eman,
JO, et al: The (apparent) delegitimization of a range of approaches to
Torah, to Avodat Hashem, to life, is not -IMHO- a true Torah way.  Rav
Shamshon Refael Hirsch on the pasuk in Mishle "Dracheha Darchei Noam..."
points out that the paths of Torah are described in the plural, because
Torah contains within it more than one path.  The only justification for
the approach of Y.N. and JO that I see is that they are not really
writing to the public at large, but are basically "preaching to the
converted."  (This of course doesn't justify factual inaccuracies,
bizayon Hatorah, etc., if and when they occur...)
     So, in answer to Larry Weisberg (MJ 10/74) asking me to "post Rav
Shach's response" to the sources I said would refute the position he was
quoted as having taken on Hesder and Secular studies, I apologize for
not having gone to speak to him.  I dind't bother him, because I do not
have sources to unequivocally refute the positions he has _actually_
taken.  But that is because these are issues that require 1) analyzing
the situation and 2) applying an interpretation of the sources to that

Shaya Karlinsky
Yeshivat Darche Noam / Shapell's
POB 35209 - Jerusalem, ISRAEL


End of Volume 10 Issue 89