Volume 10 Number 98
                       Produced: Wed Dec 29 14:41:18 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Kavod Hatorah, Controversy and MJ (4)
         [Anthony Fiorino, Esther R Posen, Freda Birnbaum, Shimshon
the Rav and the Rosh Yeshiva
         [Israel Botnick]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 93 17:25:16 -0500
Subject: Kavod Hatorah, Controversy and MJ

I must say, I was struck by the contrast in style/tone/content of this Hayim
Hendeles/Marc Shapiro volume of m-j (#93)!  Quite a juxtaposition.

[I do try get a good mix of related articles, sometimes they just seem
to fall in my lap that way. (Although currently I feel that the lap is
very hot :-). ) Mod.]

In a very clear way, we have had illustrated for us a problem inherent in
attempting to assess gedolim.  On the one hand, we have a prominent rav
who is unquestionably a tremendous chacham considered by many a gadol, to
whom many turn for psak, advice, and a definitive exposition of daas
Torah.  On the other hand, we have a clearly antagonistic personality who
at times appears to have transgressed the bounds of civil behavior. 

Faced with this dichotomy of personality, we are have possibilities of
response.  On the one hand, we are commanded to honor Rav Shach as a
function of kavod harav; on the other, we feel obligated to castigate him
for comments we would certainly not tolerate from our coworkers or our
children.  Such castigation is not unprecedented -- it has been reported
that R. Eliezer Silver publicly rebuked Rav Aharon Kotler for the latter's
issuance of an issur against participation in the Synagogue Council (see
R. Rakaffet-Rothkof's _The Silver Era_ and L. Kaplan's "Daas Torah"
article for background).  Hayim raised the issue of R. Emden's slanderous
attacks on R. Eibshitz.  The question at hand is, should those attacks
reduce in our eyes R. Emden's stature?  The theoretical answer is perhaps
"yes" -- we should expect of our rabbeim AT LEAST the same behavior we
expect from people on the street.  Practically, the answer is "no" -- I
have never heard anyone quote a teshuva of R. Emden and precede it with a
disclaimer that his psak carries less weight because he was involved in
this controversy.  Hayim also states that we may not understand what Rav
Shach has done, but that should not, cannot, detract from his gadlus,
because we don't have the purity to assess him.  I will accept this
argument when applied to G-d -- ie, we cannot understand His ways -- but
when applied to a person?  Rav Shach may know several infinities more
Torah than I but, as the saying goes, he puts on his pants one leg at a
time . . .  he is still subject to the same constraints of behavior that
all the rest of us are subject to.  That includes darkei shalom. 

On the other hand, Marc takes Rav Shach to task for various statements and
perhaps crosses the line into disrespect.  His defense is that Rav Shach,
by his behavior, has demonstrated that he is not worthy of Marc's respect.
While I do believe that such a line exists (a line beyond which a person
is no longer worthy of respect), it seems to me worthwhile to err on the
side of caution until it has been authoritatively determined that such a
line has been crossed; does Marc have any personal dealing with Rav Shach
in which he has been insulted or offended?  In the end, Marc sounds as
shrill as the statements attributed to Rav Shach and any impact he hopes to
have on the "non-converted" is minimal.  Perhaps Marc's point would be
underscored by choosing the "derech shalom" instead on engaging in the same
level of anger against which he is protesting.  Aside from this purely
functional aspect of maintaining kavod, this is perhaps a worthwhile
halacha to choose to go "l'chumra" with.  Marc is unhappy with Rav Shach's
attacks on Lubavitch -- but isn't Rav Shach applying the same standard to
Chabad that Marc is applying to him?  If Rav Shach feels that a person or a
movement is heretical, then he should speak out, and in strong terms, as
Marc has spoken out against Rav Shach.  Whether his assessment of Chabad is
correct is another matter entirely.

I once believed there was a simple test for evaluating a Torah Jew.  Early
on in my affiliation with frum Jews, I noticed that people who seemed to
me to be real jerks were accorded great respect because they could quote
from all over shas.  And it occured to me that a good guideline to follow
for me personally to accord respect to a person was: if one could
magically subtract all of that person's Torah learning, would s/he still
be considered a mentsch?  Though I no longer think things are as simple as
this, I still believe this carries weight since, theoretically, talmud
Torah should *improve* one's character.  I am prepared to give Rav Shach
the benefit of the doubt insofar as I do not think he has lost his right to
respect in spite of the fact that I may disagree strongly with some of his
views.  Furthermore, when I have seen rabbaim being critical of Rav Shach,
it has been done with respect -- this behavior I think is appropriate to

These contrasting posts of Hayim and Marc raise another issue -- there are
personality issues which transcend the particulars of any discussion.  I'm
sure we all have noted certain stylistic and personality consistencies in
the postings of many of the mail-jewish "regulars."  Similarly, one can
clearly detect personalities and consistencies among poskim, rishonim,
tannaim, whatever.  Rav Shach clearly has a style which some may find
abrasive; we may disagree with it, but I think it is important to
recognize that the sum of the man is not his style of discourse.  I think
the facts of Jewish history will witness my contention that l'maaseh, klal
yisrael has tended to separate somewhat between the personalities of poskim
and their psak.  However, I also think it is true that were Rav Shach's style
different, more people would turn to him for psak, advice, and daas Torah,
and that by attacking other members of klal yisrael, Rav Shach limits his
effectiveness as a uniting personality.

Eitan Fiorino

From: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen)
Date: 28 Dec 93 19:41:32 GMT
Subject: Re: Kavod Hatorah, Controversy and MJ

Although I have not made a final decision to unsubscribe to MJ, today's
post has certainly made me think seriously whether this is a forum I
would like to be associated with.  Although MJ readers like to think
that the opinions expressed on MJ represent an extremely wide spectrum
of opinion in the orthodox jewish community, often this is a forum that
preaches to its own choir, although there may be a handful of people who
sing a bit off key.

All of us who are on this forum have access to the INTERNET which means
A) We are associated with a university B) We have access to the INTERNET
because of our profession or C) We pay for the access.  Because of
beliefs, associations and lifestyles there seem to be many more YU
educated members of the list than there are Lakewood educated members of
the list.  (Avi, can you supply anything of a breakdown?)

[While I suspect that is correct, it is definitly changing. With
anonymous nature of email, and all the new members, I really don't know
who most of you are. However, I would guess at this point there are as
many Yeshiva-type Rabonim and Ramim on the list as there are YU/Bar Ilan
type Talmud / Judaic Studies faculty. As the cost for access goes down
we are getting more of the Yeshiva world on board. This is a trend I
would like to see continue. Talking about cost of access (in US), I'll
put some of this in an Administrivia, but for READ access, you can
currently get access for just $3 a month. If you are paying more than
$20 a month, you're probably paying too much. Mod.]

There is nothing wrong with this per say except when you conclude that
because noone has eloquently described Rav Shach's objection to
Lubavitch, or the "Yeshiva world's" issues with Rav Solevetchik, no
reasonable arguments exist.  I certainly don't have the ability, and the
people I know that do, don't have the time, to describe them.  Frankly,
in many cases, I would be embarrased to show them the pieces in MJ that
I have found most objectionable.  (If I showed my father, a Rosh Yeshiva
in Torah Vodaath, my husband who is presently learning in Lakewood, or
my father-in-law who is a retired YU physics professor who learns in
Bais Hatalmud, Marc Shaprio's post, they would all probably tell me to
stop reading such nonsense.)

Marc tells us to listen to Rav Auerbach or Rav Yosef rather than Rav
Shach.  I wonder what those gedolim would think of his post.  Are they
some of the Rabbis he consulted before he submitted his post?

This forum is supposed to use logical educated arguments.  I have seen
the discussion degenerate into what we often accuse Chasidim of doing in
defense of their Rebbes.  It has been asserted that Rav Shach is a big
talmud chacham who is misguided in his views.  Has anybody entertained
the fact that this may be precisely what the black hat yeshiva world
felt about Rav Solevetchik.  (Albeit, JO included, although I did not
see the point of their writeup, with far more respect than is exhibited

If this forum is to be a bastion for Centrist Orthodoxy I clearly do not
belong.  If it would like to appeal to the few of us right wingers who
have the time, access and interest to belong it will need to show as
much respect to the "right wing" gedolim as it requests for its own.

[It is not meant to be a bastion for Centrist Orthodoxy. Whether we can
continue to bring together and hold together the wide range of views and
philosophies that are found within the framework of Halakhic Judaism,
needs to be seen. That is my goal for this list, though. Mod.]

Esther Posen

From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 93 13:58 EDT
Subject: Kavod Hatorah, Controversy and MJ

Re the discussion in V10N95, re the tone of the arguments and the
direction of the list:

It seems to me that Avi has been keeping the balance pretty well
so far:

>The two "extreme" positions on this topic have been put forth:

Indeed, one apiece in the same issue!

>[The two positions:]
>Rav Shach is the Gadol Hador and anyone who disagrees with any
>statement of his is an apikoris; and Rav Shach, while one of the
>most knowledgeable people in Torah and Halakha, acts in an
>imperious manner with an outlook on life that is unacceptable
>so one should ignore all of his statement.

Or perhaps simply, One need not treat his opinions as if they
were those of the Gadol HaDor, but those of a very learned person
who is not and never will be MY "LOR".

I must disagree with Elchonon Rappaport however that Marc Shapiro's
comments were excessive.  True, his tone was quite angry, perhaps
appropriately so, but his material was factual, and his opponents may
well consider that some of their own statements are seen by the "other
side" as excessively deferential to authority, to the point where
thinking for oneself or even respect for oneself goes out the window.

I second Eitan Fiorino's motion that the openness of debate on m-j is
worth preserving; I think the "anonymous and democratic nature of email"
on m-j is one of the few places where this kind of debate takes place.

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"

From: Shimshon Young <YOUNGS%<DIALOGVM@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 93 13:10:47 -0500
Subject: Kavod Hatorah, Controversy and MJ

I am sure many will respond to Marc Shapiro's posting on R' Shach, so I
will not go into all of his details.  However, his letter requires a
general response that I believe I can provide.

First, I am not a Rav Shach-nik by any means.  I rejected having my
allegence to his movement for some of the same reason Marc mentions.
In fact I probably agree with most of what he said.

But not how he said it.

We must be very careful when attacking another Jew, especially one who
is considered to be a gadol (or the gadol) by very many Torah Jews.  An
emotional attack, even if correct, cannot be considered l'shem shamayim,
IMHO, and can result in sinat chinam (ChV") and some of the very things
he is accusing R' Shach of.  I would think that the Rabbis that agreed
with him agreed with the substance, not the attacking nature of the

I request that the respondants keep this in mind and try to preserve
shalom during their retorts.  Even though this is an emotional issue,
the response should be intellectual and not emotional if it is to be
truly l'shem shamayim.

    Shimshon Young


From: <icb@...> (Israel Botnick)
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 93 16:53:12 EST
Subject: the Rav and the Rosh Yeshiva

Regarding Rabbi Tendler's statement about Rav Soloveitchik ZT'L
being the greatest Rosh Yeshivah of our generation, Rabbi Tendler
did make this statement but certainly meant no insult to his
father in law Rav Moshe ZT'L (who he had tremendous respect for).
Rabbi Tendler also mentioned the irony that Rav Soloveitchik ZT'L
was called "the Rav" while Rav Moshe ZT'L was called "the Rosh Yeshiva".
Really the opposite is true. Rav Soloveitchik was known for his
brilliant chidushei torah and qualities as a melamed. He was the Rosh
Yeshiva. Rav Moshe, as the greatest posek of our generation was the Rav of
our generation.


End of Volume 10 Issue 98