Volume 11 Number 24
                       Produced: Wed Jan 12 19:01:14 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Centrist-Haredim dichotomy
         [Hayim Hendeles]
         [Gedalyah Berger]
Rabbinic Authority vs Personal Autonomy
         [Jerome Parness]


From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 94 11:30:38 -0800
Subject: Re: Centrist-Haredim dichotomy

	I take exception to the following statements, which I find insulting:

	>From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...> 
	(I must emphasize the word *proper audience* in the above
	paragraph.  If the audience of mail.jewish consists primarily of
	so-called centrists, this would hardly be the proper audience to
	explain the Chareidi viewpoint.)

I'm afraid my original comments were misunderstood. What I had intended
to say was that only a (qualified) Chareidi can adequately explain the
Chareidi viewpoint.  Asking a Centrist to explain the Chareidi viewpoint
is of limited value.

I don't think it's unreasonable to insist on the accused party's right
to present their case, before the rest of us draw any conclusions.

And in another post, someone else comments:

	While the majority of this list's subscribers may be
	quote-unquote "centrists" (I'm not sure what this term means -
	but for now I'll use it to mean "not-Chareidi") I believe this
	forum exists just so we can exchange ideas.  If you are not
	willing to explain the Chareidi position - how can I possibly be
	influenced to accept it?

This is exactly my point! Like the vast majority of this lists'
subscribers, I have never studied under Rabbi Shach shlit"a, and am not
qualified to present a reasonable "defense" of the Chareidi position.
For that matter, I doubt anyone else who subscribes to this forum is.
Sadly to say, to the best of my knowledge, no qualified students of Rav
Shach subscribe to mail.jewish, and thus we cannot expect a complete and
fair presentation of their position in these pages.

Unfortunately, the nature of this forum lends itself to an inherent
bias.  As open minded as we are, and as tolerant as we are about
opposing viewpoints, Chareidim (in general) do not have access to the
internet, and thus do not have an adequate chance to explain their
position in this forum. Thus, by its very nature, this forum cannot
provide for a fair treatment (i.e. both sides can present their case) of
Chareidi issues.

Don't get me wrong. This is a wonderful forum, and it's probably the
best there is. And I don't know of anything that could be done to
improve this forum. Our moderator is doing a terrific job! (CHEERS!
CHEERS! CHEERS!)  But , at this point in time, let's not fool ourselves
into thinking that it is 100% fair. *We* can exchange ideas, but
unfortunately the vast majority of world Jewry cannot share with us.
Until that great day when all of world Jewry subscribes to mail.jewish
(Boy will our moderator have his hands full when that happens :-) we
will just have to recognize our limitations.

Hayim Hendeles


From: Gedalyah Berger <gberger@...>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 94 15:48:13 -0500
Subject: Re: Gedolim

> ...gedolim big and small...
> mechael kanovsky

Ironic phrase.  I think it captures very succinctly what I've been
feeling watching this discussion/debate continue for the past few weeks.
Most people seem to be working with the assumption that there is this
definable category, "gadol"; in order to gain entrance, one must be a
-look-up-to-and-respect Jew.  As the phrase above suggests, I think
that, as with most things in this world, there is a spectrum; to draw a
line and say that everyone above it acquires this socio-religious title
strikes me as silly.
     There are talmidei chakhamim of varying degrees.  There are ba`alei
middot of varying degrees.  There are posekim of varying degrees.  There
are manhigim of varying degrees.  And so on.  Most importantly, I
believe, greatness in one does not at all necessarily imply greatness in
any other.  Personally, it would not bother me to ask a shaila in Yoreh
De`ah or Orach Chayyim to a rabbi whom I respect as a great talmid
chakham and posek but whose middot I found lacking.  And I certainly
wouldn't say that just because he is a talmid chakham he obviously must
be a ba`al middot too and I am simply too insignificant to have an
opinion.  (No reference to particular rabbanim is intended - really.)
Is that rav a *gadol*?  Who cares?  I don't even really know what that
means.  (I've just seen Mitch Berger's posting in #15 - I think I'm
echoing some of his feelings. (No relation, by the way - although we did
grow up in the same shtiebel in Queens.  Hi *Micha* .))

Gedalyah Berger
Yeshiva College / RIETS


From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 1994 15:25:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Rabbinic Authority vs Personal Autonomy 

   I have been watching the arguments re: the subject of Rabbinic
Authority vs Personal Autonomy unfold with great interest, alarm and
fear for the very important place of this discussion group in the
intellectual life of all of observant jewry who subscribe to this list.
Great interest because I think the arguments put forth delve to the very
nature of Western thought as it confronts Eastern thought and ancient
(in the non-perjorative sense) concepts, an approach that is evident in
much of the writings of the Rav zt"l.  Alarm, because much of the basis
for rational discourse is being lost in retributive emotionalism. Fear,
because this list is an important, I believe, intellectual vent for
those who care deeply about their beliefs. The operative terms here are
intellectual and caring.  One should not obscure the other or inhibit
the expression of the other. Let's all take a deep breath, and get back
to what is the most important thing about this list... the FREE
expression of thoughts, no matter whether you are a balabos, a yeshiva
student, a rosh yeshiva or rebbe, FFB or BT. Let us observe the rules of
derech eretz... "Im ain derech eretz, ain Torah!"  Now to my two cents.

   It strikes me that the entire argument of rabbinic authority and
personal autonomy was already played out at the end of the period of the
Geonim, when an argument arose whether it was possible for a latter day
posek to pasken differently than one of the Geonim.  As is usual in
Halachic arguments, the debate was fierce, but there really were two
sides to the story, each marshalling sound halachic arguments for their
approach.  Reasonable treatments of this period in Halachic History may
be found in the previously mentioned issue of Tradition, Summer, 1993,
and in the third volume of R.  Yisrael Stefansky's monumental work
"Hatakanot B'Yisrael". Another source may be a brand new sefer by R.
Nachman Danzig on the period of the Geonim, published by JTS press,
1993. My point is simply that the debate is not new.  What is new is
that the debate today is no longer whether great Talmidei Hahamin have
the right to disagree with other great or even greater Hahamin, but what
is the role of the observant layperson in the scheme of halachic or
extra-halachic decision making.
   In Europe there was the Kehilla, there was excommunication, there was
the ability to tax, one had to apply to the kehilla to build a shul or
even hold a separate minyan in your house. The social structure of
enforcing jewish societal behavior and belief was paramount in one's
life as a jew. Then came the "enlightenment" which broke down the
intellectual barriers for escape from "religious domination" of the
individual's will, desire and action. Then came the various forces of
political universalism, whether Socialism, Utopianism, Communism, or
Democracy.  These forces allowed the Jew to physically escape the
Kehilla, in a political sense, and jewish society in a social sense.
Along with these political avenues for escape came the Sciences, a
rigorous (one hopes), observational proof oriented reality that allowed
the construction of theoretical edifices that conflicted with religious
views of reality, but more importantly, established modern ground rules
for proofs of reality with which religion has no common language.  For
example, Mystical reality vs Scientific reality - are there angels, 10
s'phirot of the G-dhead?  Modern Western thought can not address these
questions, because there is no objective reality to which scientific
proof methods can be brought.  As far as we have been able to tell,
neither G-d nor the angels have left equivalents of "background cosmic
radiation" for us to discover, in a scientific vein, their presence.
More than any other time in Jewish History (except maybe the period of
the Greeks/Aristotelian Philosophy), the belief in G-d, the divinity of
the Torah, and the halachic process is purely a personal one.  The
modern observant Jew has so many chances to escape to, be seduced by, be
converted to so many "isms" for which rational(?) arguments can be made,
that the personal stance vis a vis halacha has become a monumental tour
de force of belief cum rationalization.
   Indeed, I believe that this dilemma was already realized by R.
Sa'adia Ga'on, the Rambam, R. Yehuda Halevi, and the very first Mishna
in Avot, in the need to tangibilize the sensory experience of Ma'amad
Har Sinai.  This was not simply a Mystical Experience, but a Historical
event, one that the eyes, ears, all the senses of over two million
people experienced and then transmitted as both verbal and written
historical fact - the Scientific proof method that modern man so
desperately needs.  Everything else regarding the development of
Biblical exegesis and the rules of halachic interpretation of the Torah,
and the subsequent transmission of this method can then be rationally
explained and believed.  Without this rational, historical basis,
nothing in Halacha would make sense, and allow me to believe, unless I
was at the spiritual level of an Avraham Avinu.  The need for
rationality is then the tension in religious belief.
   The debate over Rabbinic Authority vs Personal Autonomy, I believe,
is rooted in this tension - the need for rationality in belief by some,
the lack of that need by others. Let me make myself clearer by example:
Hasidut traditionally demands complete subservience of the will and
intellect of the follower to the pronouncements of the Rebbe, whether in
matters halachic or not, for the Rebbe is obviously closer to Hakadosh
Baruch Hu than the Hasid, and therefore knows better about everything.
There is no tension of rationality in this relationship.  There is no
rationality above that of the Rebbe.  Individual autonomy is subservient
to that of the Rebbe because the Rebbe's rationality/spirituality is
greater than that of any of his followers, and, hence, it is incongruous
to speak of individual autonomy.  In Litvishe circles, this was unheard
of until very recently.  One sought the halachic advice of the Rav
Hamekomi (LOR) about halachic problems - kashrut, shabbat, etc. - not
whether it is an auspicious time to go into business.  This was left to
one's own individual thought processes and financial abilities.  The
point here is that today there is a very large gray area in which
different individuals are willing to surrender their rationality to that
of whom they perceive is a higher intellect/spirit.
   Case in point: The establishment of the State of Israel is a
historical fact.  Interpretively, the establishment of this entity is a
priori either the embodiment of evil, the beginnings of ikvot Hamashiah
(may he come speedily, please!), or entirely neutral.  For my father,
alav hashalom, a Holocaust survivor who managed to escape via Shanghai
along with the Mirrer Yeshiva, this event was nothing short of
miraculous.  His interpretive rationality did not need the Rabbanut
Harashit to tell him it was so.  He lived it, he saw it, he felt it.
When the Rabbanut proclaimed Yom Ha'atzmaut a minor religious holiday,
one on which one is to say Hallel, he was rationally/spiritually ready
for this pronouncement.  For him, pronouncements of the evilness of the
State of Israel, and the denial of the halachic basis of Yom Ha'atzmaut
were simply irrational.  One cannot submit to the irrational as long as
one holds that individual rationality is important for one's life, one's
existence.  I submit that Western Man finds it very difficult to do
this, myself included.  We, the Torah- educated, observant,
scientifically trained jews have a difficult time with this.  So we all
draw our own lines in the sand, so to speak, beyond which we cannot
surrender our rationality.  This approach is what is so dangerous to
those who believe that Da'as Torah is corrupted by any form of Western
education.  It is why the Hazon Ish zt"l considered people educated in
western ideas as having their Torah tainted by foreign ideas, and hence,
can't be trusted (I don't have the reference in front of me now, but I
just read it last week. If anyone wishes the reference email me and I'll
get it for you). For each person, the line is drawn somewhere else.
Only a tolerant society can deal with so many shades of lines in the
sand.  Which brings me to the next point.
   The concepts of Elu va'elu divrei elokim hayim (these, and these, are
also the words of the living G-D) are a requisite basis for a tolerant
religious society that understands why the lines in the sand are drawn
in different places.  However, if every line becomes a Milhemet Hashem,
the word of G-d starts here and no where else, than the examples brought
in the previous postings regarding the events surrounding Pinhas become
commonplace, and inappropriately so.  How is it possible to bring the
example of Pinhas, who all the meforshim say that one should not learn
general behavior from what he did, to the modern argument of rabbinic
authority and personal autonomy?  Pinhas' killing of Zimri and lover
were because they were flouting their obviously immoral behavior. No one
of us, whether to the right or to the left, would consider condoning the
act of Zimri!  Not one person who believes in halacha and Torat Moshe
Misinai would consider looking for a halachic argument to justify
Zimri's behavior.  How does one compare such an event with arguments
purporting to believe in "Elu va'elu..."?  As mentioned in earlier
posts, there were always gedolim who disagreed vehemently between them;
some did teshuva for their actions in their disagreements, others went
to their graves unrepentant.  Only history, and its interpretation, will
decide who was right.  Each of us individuallly has to decide is what we
hold to be rational and true sufficiently powerful as to start another
milhemet hashem or not.  Or, is there sufficient latitude in our
interpretations of halacha, events, and beliefs that we can live and let
live. And draw very few lines in the sand.
   A final word that may illustrate this last point.  I grew up in
Lakewood NJ in the 50's, and though there was a general community and
the yeshiva community, there was a huge amount of mixing between the
two. Many of the holocaust survivors were not happy with the local
syangogue, they wanted a shtibbel, and formed one.  Those who came to
this shtibbel were yeshivleit, holocaust survivors and American born
jews.  They ran the gammut from hasidische, mizrachi, no affiliation,
who knows.  Every Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, my mother, may she live 'til 120
yrs, would make a cholent kiddush in our home.  Everyone knew that when
Mrs. Parness made kiddush, no one ate luch when he came home.  My mother
never covered her hair, yet no one questioned her kashrut.  The same is
not true today.  I daresay that there are very few, if any, Lakewood
yeshivaleit who would eat in my mother's home.  Have the standards
gotten better? Or have they just gotten narrower?
   Shabbat Shalom or Good Shabbos, whichever you prefer.

Jerome Parness MD PhD         Internet: <parness@...>
Depts of Anesthesia & Pharmacology   Voice: (908) 235-4824
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School  FAX: (908) 235-4073
Piscataway, NJ 08854


End of Volume 11 Issue 24