Volume 11 Number 6
                       Produced: Wed Jan  5 19:12:44 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gedolim (2)
         [Anthony Fiorino, Hayim Hendeles]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 93 16:31:41 -0500
Subject: Gedolim

Morris Podolak wrote:

> Now since Rav Schach is himself a gadol by Yosef's test, then he
> must be correct in his view of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  And yet we all
> agree that by Yosef's test the Lubavitcher is a gadol.  It seems the
> test is not completely self consistent.  Or am I missing something?

Yes, you are missing something :-).  I thought the issue of rabbinic
infalibility had been laid to rest here . . . who ever said a gadol can't
be wrong?  Rav Shach can be both a gadol AND wrong about the Lubavitcher

Another possible definition of gadlus is when large numbers of Torah Jews
turn to a particular rav for psak, meaning that questions get passed on to
him from other rabbaim.

I once read somewhere another answer to the question of defining a gadol
-- when an established gadol refers to another person as a gadol, then
that person has achieved gadlus.  A bit circular (plus, I'm not crazy
about the image of gedolim sitting around calling each other gedolim :-) ).

Another question is, does being a gadol mean that one must transcend
communal boudaries?  By these 2 definitions, as well as Yosef's, the
answer is no.  However, if one wants universal consensus on someone's
gadlus, then the answer is yes.  For instance, Rav Moshe was considered a
gadol and a posek across communal boundaries, whereas the Rav was not. 
Rav Shach's gadlus may not cross communal boundaries either.

*    Please note -- the rest of this posting refers to centrists
*    as "we."  Please do not take this as an indication that 
*    mail-jewish is a "centrist-only" operation.  It is merely 
*    a stylistic choice.

It is interesting to me to observe this phenomenon of people sort of
scrambling to fit someone, anyone, into this "trans-communal" gadol
position.  I find this to be most prominent among centrists.  Is it that
we do not trust our own communal and rabbinic structures in this post-Rav
era?  It is very strange -- we seem to be bothered by the pronouncements
of more right wing rabbaim who are not from our community (ie, asking
ourselves if their criticisms of us are perhaps correct); also, with the
exception of the Rav, we are not concerned in the slightest when some of
our fine talmidei chachamim are not even considered in the same league as
the right wing's.  We, as a community, do not feel that we have any
gedolim.  We don't have any loyalty to our rabbaim aside from the Rav.  I
think this is what Rav Aharon Lichtenstein was getting at in his talk on
daas Torah (my notes of which are available in the archives).  Some might
argue it is the truth that none in our community are of the caliber of the
right-wing rashei yeshiva.  I'm not so sure this is completely true.  At
least part of gadlus is non-teleological -- whoever is turned to becomes
a leader (in this case, a certain piety and knowledge is prerequisite), as
opposed to someone waking up one morning and declaring himself a gadol and
posek, then trying to find a community who will listen to him (I have
heard something similar attributed to Rav Moshe from an interview in the
NY Times).

So what is it about our rabbaim that make us doubt them?  Perhaps we feel
that we have "tainted" our own by exposing them to a hashkafa which views
a broad cultural education positively -- is this a communal doubt over our
very way of life, a way of life which certainly has equal validity?  As Rav
Aharon said, in order to articulate an authoritative view, one must have
knowledge -- in order for someone to speak authoritatively to our community
(in areas outside of pure psak halachah; in other words, in order for
someone to articulate a centrist daas Torah) they must know our community
and be from our community.  Do Sefardim feel guilty about not listening to
Rav Shach or the Jewish Observer regarding pronouncments of daas Torah? 
Certainly not; they listen to R. Yosef.  So to for us -- we shouldn't feel
guilty about not adhering to every pronouncement of the Agudas Yisrael.
Do we feel guilty for not going to the Satmar Rebbe for daas Torah? 
Perhaps we should feel similarly about not going to Rav Shach for daas Torah.

I hope that people aren't misperceiving this -- this is not an attack on the
right wing world, and is not a plea for further fragmentation of klal
yisrael.  Communal differences alone do not cause fragmentation -- rather,
it is bad feelings over those differnces which do.  And I think before we
can expect other communities to respect us as a community, we must respect

end of soapbox.

Eitan Fiorino

From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 93 12:27:15 -0800
Subject: Re: Gedolim

As someone else also commented, after reading the malicious and hateful
attack against one of the Gedolei Hador in mail.jewish, I almost feel
myself wishing to have nothing to do with this forum. Clearly dominated
by centrists who have no tolerance for any other viewpoints, I feel
that the few right-wingers like myself have no place in this forum.

[I don't know, I think that I am being quite fair in fully allowing all
sides of this very difficult issue to be discussed. I also think that
many of the posters here have called for tolerance and I don't know that
the "right wing" has shown any more tolerance for other viewpoints than
any other group here. While there is a certain amount of sarcasm here in
your posting that I don't feel is called for, I know that I and am sure
many others read what you write and listen to what you say. I only ask
that everyone here on all sides of whatever issue is being discussed do
the same. Mod.]

Nonetheless, in an attempt to defend the honor of the Torah, I
feel required to respond - if only partially - to the issues raised.

One reader posted the following:

	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.

I submit to this audience that we are all (myself included) acting
hypocritically. When a Gadol whose viewpoints we agree with displays
this alleged antagonistic behavior, we can understand it, ignore it,
and even forgive it. But when a gadol whose opinions we disagree with
displays the same behavior, then it becomes outrageous, unforgivable,
and disgusting.

For (an extreme) example, Moshe Rabbeinu - clearly the human being par
excelance.  Yet, when faced with the incident of Korach, Moshe
essentially said "drop dead!" - certainly the ultimate in "antagonistic
behavior, and transgressing the bounds of civil behavior." Nonetheless,
by the fact that G-d agrees with Moshe is indicative of the fact that
there are times when such antagonism is warranted.

To take a better example, much closer to the situation at hand, look at
Rabbi Soloveitchik zt"l whom we all revere. It was well known that,
sometimes in class, he would mercilessly attack and ridicule his
students whom he felt were not up to par. (Others undoubtedly can give
you a far better and more graphic description then I can.) Clearly, an
outsider looking in, observing the situation, would have stated that
this is a display of (again in the words of the previous poster):
	"clearly antagonistic personality who at times appears to have
	transgressed the bounds of civil behavior."

Yet, I submit to you, that Rabbi Soloveitchik zt"l did exactly
what he did for the benefit of Kllal Ysiroel - and only because
he allowed no tolerance for ignorance, was he able to extract
the utmost from his students. To an outsider looking in, he may
have been "antagonistic", but to an insider he was like a Father.
His *apparently antagonistic* behavior was in reality a reflection
of his love and concern.

Other examples, are the Rishonim who attacked the Rambam. These were
Giants, whose works we study every day. And yet most certainly imposing
a cherem and publically burning the works of the Rambam were

	"clearly antagonistic personality who at times appears
	to have transgressed the bounds of civil behavior."

Should we now remove these Rishonim from our Bateii Midrash
because the mail.jewish readership views these Rishonim
ch"v as unworthy to learn Torah from, based on their apparent
hostile behavior?  After all, we *all agree* that one should not
learn Torah from one whose piety does not preceed his learning! 

Yet, at the time, in the Rishonim's best judgement, this was what was
required. The fact that they later did Tshuva for this
incident in no way detracts from this. It was only a later and more
accurate perceptions of the facts that convinced them that their
earlier actions were unjustified. Had it not been for this new
revelation, they would have been justified in acting as they did.

Likewise, Reb Yaakov Emden's attack on Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz zt"l,
also falls in the same category. Because this so closely followed
the heels of the Shabbsai Tzvi moment which nearly destroyed us,
and because he (albeit mistakenly) perceived what he felt to be
minute indications that this would degenerate into something similiar,
he was forced to attack Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz zt"l as he did in order
to demonstrate a loud and clear message to Kllal Yisroel. 

The greatest of all the Litvishe Rabbanim vehemently attacked
Chassidism when it first appeared, and launched a vigorous attack to
excommunicate these Chassidim.  I daresay, that had he lived at the
time, Rabbi Soloveitchik zt"l himself probably would have stood with
all the other great Litvishe Rabbanim and persecuted the Chassidim!  I
don't think anyone could argue that the behavior displayed by these
giants was anything but
	"clearly antagonistic personality who at times appears
	to have transgressed the bounds of civil behavior."

And yet, unfortunately, this was perceived to be necessary at
the time, in order to prevent a following (which they mistakenly
believed would be another Shabbtai Tzvi'ism).

Are we to condemn countless numbers of our Gedolim throughout
Jewish history, and assume that only mail.jewish posseses the Truth?

(Someone raised the issue of different Gedolim reacting differently,
and implied that their reaction might be an indication of their piety.
This is total nonsense. Witness the clearly antagonistic behavior
exhibited by Pinchas (in the Chumash) where he killed Zimri.
He did not attempt to engage in a civil discussion with Zimri
outlining his grievances - he took a sword and killed him on the spot!
Is this not the ultimate in "antagonistic behavior"? Can we draw
any conclusions about the relative piety of Pinchas vs. Moshe?
Certainly not - although G-d concurred with Pinchas' actions.
Pinchas choose to react in one way, Moshe in another -- but this
is no indication of their piety.)

When it comes to the survival of Kllal Yisroel, then sometimes
extreme behavior is required. Indeed, the Gemara says that any
Talmid Chacham who is not "nokem vnochesh k'nachash, einu Talmid Chacham" -
a clear indication that sometimes, Talmidei Chachamim must 
be prepared to fight, and even viciously if necessary.

The big question is when?

Unfortunately, as I said in an earlier post, this is one of the
problems of living in Golus. Sometimes the difference between
Good and Evil is so slight, and our human judgement is so limited,
the hypersensitive Gedolim are forced to take extreme positions
to prevent the possibility of others being led astray. 
Right or wrong, this is their obligation in this world.

Does the phrase Dan Es Chaveiro l'kaf Zchus not apply to the
Gadol Hador, but only to the lay people like ourselves?
Are we not obligated to at least try and understand them?
Perhaps they see things that we don't, and they perceive things
that others miss. Perhaps their sensitivity forces them to
view things with more caution, and forces them to speak out
when they percieve  even the minutest flaws. Perhaps they are
afraid that the current situation might ultimately degenerate
into something terrible. 

No one, but no one, has the right to criticize the Gadol Hador
before ascertaining the facts, and having giving him the opportunity
to defend his position. Certainly, we can question it, and we
can say we don't understand it, and perhaps we may even be
obligated to ask him our shailos. But to condemn the Gadol Hador
whom we have difficulty understanding without even attempting
to understand where he is coming from and why - CHAS V'SHALOM!

Are there any readers out there who have done this - have
you gone to ask the Gadol Hador this Shaila about the
reasons/justifications that forced him to take such drastic
actions? As long as that hasn't happened, then you are totally
out of place to criticize. And even if that has happened,
are you qualified to judge his answer? Only another one of
the Gedolim is qualified to judge. And that, to my knowledge,
hasn't happened.

Are all the Gedolim guilty of not giving Tochacha when required,
and only mail.jewish is knowledgeable and wise enough to
know when to criticize?

I humbly suggest that all of mail.jewish ought to do Tshuva
for the Bizyon Hatora we have all witnessed!

Hayim Hendeles


End of Volume 11 Issue 6