Volume 39 Number 23
                 Produced: Tue May 13  6:34:54 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Making of a Gadol (6)
         [Ben Katz, David Eisen, Shimon Lebowitz, David E Cohen,
chips@eskimo.com, Allen Gerstl]
Making of a Gadol & Open Orthodoxy
         [Bill Bernstein]
Making of a Godol (2)
         [Eli Turkel, Judy and Paul Shaviv]


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Fri, 09 May 2003 10:10:44 -0500
Subject: Re: Making of a Gadol

>From: Joseph Rosen <rosenjoseph1@...>
>I don't understand why the people on this list seem so motivated to find
>ways to read this book, even going so far to post where it can be seen
>on the internet. The gadol ha-dor together with many other gedolim have
>given a pesak halakhah that the book is pasul. They used extremely sharp
>language.  People on this list are acting like the gedolim are some sort
>of primitives that can be ignored and their words can be laughed
>off. "After all, we are modern people, we know better, we don't respond
>like those old fashioned, out of touch rabbis in Jerusalem and Bnei
>Brak" - that is what people on this list are thinking. Have any other
>poskim ruled that it iis permissible to read the book? When I say poskim
>I mean poskim who would not be afraid to dispute the gadol ha-dor in an
>issue of Hilkhot Shabbat or Kashrut. The author reported that Rabbi
>Sternbuch permitted it, but R. Sternbuch contradicts this. Where is the
>Kavod ha-Torah? Why is a clear pesak halakhah signed by some 20 gedolim
>being ignored? All who care about Yiddishkeit must remove this book from
>their possession, or explain why they know more than these gedolim.

         There were "gedolim" who sought to ban the Rambam's works as
well.  The Rashba (certainly a godol) sought to ban all allegorical
interpretation of Scripture in 1305; thankfully he did not succeed.
Many gedolim ban the Steinsaltz gemara.  Banning things don't work and
are a bad idea.  If you are correct, prove it and teach by example.

From: David Eisen <davide@...>
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 14:35:59 +0200
Subject: Re: Making of a Gadol

I find it compelling that to the best of my knowledge, none of the
signatories of the Herem are directly affiliated with any of the great
Lithuanian Yeshivot discussed in Making of a Godol. Why did none of the
Rashei Yeshiva of Brisk, Slabodka, Kaminetz or Telz elect not to support
the condemnation of the book? To my mind, these Torah giants are most
qualified to ascertain the historical veracity of the information
contained in the book, and IMHO, their silence is deafening.

David Eisen

From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
Date: Fri, 09 May 2003 15:08:54 +0200
Subject: Re: Making of a Gadol

I think that in general, the majority of readers of this list have their
own rabbis and poskim that they follow or ask, and not necessarily "
*the* gadol hador" (whichever gadol that might be, according to one
poster or another).

I also would wager that many of the readership do not consider there
even to be a problem here requiring that they ask the shaila. Since the
very need to get permission to read the book evolves from those rabbis
whose opinion was not asked, they (the readers, or attmpting to be such)
have no problem other than the lack of stock at the book store.

Shimon (who much respects Rav Nosson - I wish I had a copy)
Shimon Lebowitz                           mailto:<shimonl@...>
Jerusalem, Israel            PGP: http://www.poboxes.com/shimonpgp

From: David E Cohen <ddcohen@...>
Date: Fri, 09 May 2003 09:36:54 -0400
Subject: Making of a Gadol

Many of the same rabbis also signed a declaration a few years ago
stating that the Internet is forbidden.  Evidently, most of us who are
still reading this list are from the pool of people who do not attribute
much halakhic weight to such pronouncements.

Why am I ignoring their pesak?  Well, quite simply, I didn't ask them
for one.  They are not the beis din of my city, and they are certainly
not Beis Din haGadol.  I have the right to follow the many other gedolim
(by which I mean great Torah scholars, not exclusively those who belong
to a particular council in which membership requires being of a certain
philosophical bent) who have absolutely no problem with reading this

I mean no disrespect to the members of the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah or
the Eidah Chareidis, all of whom are much greater Torah scholars than I
can ever hope to be.  My point is simply that they do not have an
exclusive claim to the status of "gedolim," and I do not believe that I
am bound to follow their views on every issue.


From: <chips@...>
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 17:36:13 -0700
Subject: Re: Making of a Gadol

I have not read nor have any plans to read this book in question.  But I
reject any notion that a Rabbi or group of Rabbis, no matter who they
are can determine for me what I can read or watch outside the realm of
halacha.  So, if they were to posken that a play is pornographic that
would only apply to the play. I will not accept their declaring that it
is ossur for me to attend a performance of the play.  This would not
apply if I asked a Rabbi if I could watch a movie and he said I could
not. In that case I am asking for a psak outside halacha and take it
upon myself to accept his advice as a ruling.

If this puts me outside the realm of Religious Orthodoxy, then let me
know if you plan to come to Seattle and I'll make sure that there is no
`non-mevushal` handled by me.

From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 21:46:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Making of a Gadol

The above listmember's posting [Joseph Rosen, quote is in first reply in
this issue above. Mod.] is obviously heartfelt. I respectfully disagree.

Please see the previous posting by Marc Shapiro in which he outlines the
events as told to him by Rav Nathan Kamenetsky, the author of Making of
a Godol found in Mail Jewish Volume 38 Number 03 Sun Dec 15 22 2002. It
would appear therefore that Rav Elyashiv decided to not promulgate the
issur although he had at first signed it, once he received a letter from
Rav Kamenetsky protesting about not having had his side heard.  So at
least from the point of view of Rav Elyashiv there was no issur. (Kol
Ha-kavod to Rav Elyashiv in then standing up to the resulting political
pressure.)  Rav Kamenetsky voluntarily halted distribution of the book
pending a review by English speaking talmidei chachamim although nothing
has been heard since of that review, AFAIU.

Many who greatly respect the chareidi gedolei torah at the same time
resent censorship that appears to be based on chareidi askanim
[political insiders] attempting to impose their rewriting of history to
accord with their current political norms (which is remarkably similar
to the left of centre liberals in North America attempting to rewrite
school textbooks to be politically correct).

Those who would wish to defy the so-called ban on Making of a Godol are
thus, I believe, not defying those gedolim but they are defying attempts
by askanim to impose poltical correctness.




From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 10:23:34 -0500
Subject: Making of a Gadol & Open Orthodoxy

I'm glad this got posted as it is definitely representative of current
strains within Orthodoxy and can maybe serve as a springboard for good

One of the issues I see in current Orthodox practice is something
someone mentioned to me once: that certain institutions today have more
power than they ever did in Europe and some have considerably less.  In
the first category is the Rosh Yeshiva and in the second is the "shtot
rov" or LOR, as we call him.  My impression was that it was very unusual
for a RY or outside posek to even express an opinion on what the local
rov did.  Today I get the impression that the LOR is often constrained
by others.  My LOR, when I mentioned the ban on this book commented,
"they banned it?  Where can I get a copy?"  The opinions of people, even
big-name ones, given out in popular media on what are basically hashkafa
issues are not binding on the general Jewish population.  It is a part
of the current Orthodox scene, as far as I know, that renders certain
books and authors "posul."

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Sun, 11 May 2003 18:03:48 GMT
Subject: Making of a Godol

> In "The Making of a Godol," there are many stories about Reb Aharon
> Kotler z"l which are meant as negative stories in the second sense.
>    I should have said "first sense" instead of "second sense"--i.e.
> there are many stories about Reb Aharon whose only function seems to
> highlight his faults of character.

Having read portions of the book I did not find that the author wishes
to highlight faults in RAK. Rather he mentions that most bochurim at
that time read secular literature etc.

R. Aharaon Lichtenstein in his recent book (of old speeches) mentions
that the daughters of R. Aaaron Kotler, R. Hutner and other gedolim went
to college and eben got PhDs. Similarly a daughter of R. Moshe Feinstein
went to college etc. He is not trying to denigrate anyone but on the
contrary to point out that the recent trend against college even for
women is indeed recent. That these facts may disturb some people people
does not justify hiding the facts.

In terms of the cherem, those that issued them are not my poskim and I
don't feel bound to listen. Many of them don't read English and never
gave the author a chance to defend himself. Some rabbis seem to feel
that if gedolim are previous generations acted differently than the
answer is to hide those facts from the general population rather than
acknowledge that things have changed over the years.

Prof. Eli Turkel,  <turkel@...> on 05/11/2003
Department of Mathematics, Tel Aviv University

From: Judy and Paul Shaviv <shaviv@...>
Date: Sun, 11 May 2003 09:50:28 -0400
Subject: Making of a Godol

I have now (as of yesterday's long Shabbat afternoon!) read both
published volumes (ie - Vol 1, part 1, and Volume 1, part 2) of 'Making
of a Godol'. (Before anyone emails me, I was able to borrow them from
someone else, and I don't know where to obtain copies!).

There is good news and bad news regarding these books. The good news is
that they contain a huge mass of information (much of it anecdotal - see
below) of events and personalities around the Volozhin Yeshivah, the
Mussar movement, and personalities who later became pioneer Rabbanim of
the US (and Toronto) Orthodox communities. As widely publicised -
particularly through the Herem - this includes a very brave attempt to
write an honest history of these great scholars and their personalities.
>From this, as in all good biography, it may be noted that they emerge as
much clearer personalities. For anyone who would like to regard great
Torah personalities (or any other leaders) as flawless in every way, the
book will be deeply disturbing. For anyone who likes to appreciate the
development of leaders and communities of scholars, and who understands
that greatness is often (always?) complex, the book will be ... well,
also somewhat disappointing.

Because the bad news is that this book is one of the worst written and
organised books that I have ever seen. It is a standing advertisement
for the need for secular education and training, and it is a very bad
advert for the often-proposed idea that 'you can learn everything in
Yeshivah'.  The author - who should be admired and saluted for his
industry and his good intentions - could have written a hugely better
book had he had the benefit of a university education in history or even
in English, or, frankly, in almost any discipline.  The core of the book
is the 'narrative' - perhaps 300 lines in almost 2,000 pages! The rest
of the book are footnotes, lengthy 'Excurses', and footnotes to the
excurses.  A huge amount of the material is anecdotal, little is
documented, and it is an unwieldy, disorganised, digressive mass of
material.  It is an interesting (although almost certainly unintended)
commentary on the reliability (= value) of anecdotal "history" in the
Orthodox world, as hundreds and hundreds of pages are devoted to trying
to reconcile (or make sense of) conflicting anecdotes recorded by the
author from different sources. Did the incident happen on Shabbos
Hagadol or Shabbos Shuvah? Could this have happened in x town or in y
town? How could this have happened in z Bes Hamidrash when according to
someone else at that time Reb Q. was studying in W ?.  Equally, there is
little effort to independenttly verify events from external, historical
sources. Although here and there there are personal insights of the
author (sometimes very acute), there is (as yet in the published
volumes) absolutely no attempt at analysis or of trying to discern (or
help the reader discern) patterns. Just one huge mass of reported

In this, the author is way behind, for example, the 4-volume history of
the Mussar movement published by another Haredi author, Dov Katz; or, in
a different way (and I am aware that this is making comparisons across
an unbridgeable divide) the strenuous attempts by the Haredi autodidact
Shaul Deutsch to minutely check and document every fact and story in his
(incomplete) biography of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l.  Neither
approach the level of expertise of Marc Shapiro's biography of
R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg z'l.

So - to those anxious to download the book from wherever it has been
posted - don't get too excited. Had the book not been "banned", it would
not have been read by any except a tiny group of people.  I hope that
the author will co-operate with a trained writer on the following
volumes, and perhaps even consider re-writing these; it will produce a
fascinating, pioneering study - more readable, and a quarter of the
length of the present work!

Paul Shaviv - Toronto

PS: Apropos Dov Katz - if anyone knows where I can obtain the
never-reprinted fifth volume of his work, entitled 'Pulmus Ha-Mussar', I
would be very greatful./ My copy disappeared about twenty years ago!


End of Volume 39 Issue 23