Sunday, August 06, 2006

Is Torah scholarship and punctillious performance of Mitzvot enough to make one a leader of Klal Yisrael?

In comments on my post re Rav Elyashiv I was lambasted by many for not accepting his statements about the conduct of this war and the diplomacy around it without question. I was accused of Bizuy Talmidei Chachamim, of Pirud and a host of other transgressions. Let me first state that I meant no disrespect to Harav Elyashiv. He is both a Zaken and Yoshev Be’yeshivah and deserves all the respect we can give him. That does not however make him infallible and above criticism when he wades into areas he has no expertise in. All I know is that we are at war and public pronouncements about submission to the world’s will can only hurt and demoralize. It is especially so when coming from someone who advocates that Bnei Torah have no responsibility to be productive in society and partake in the defense of the land. If they do not want to join the army directly, which to my mind is in itself a disgrace, why not send bachurim bein hazmanim to help the army, bringing supplies, comfort and chizuk to the front lines? Why not help families whose breadwinners are at the front, by trying to fill in their jobs where possible? Why not help fill in positions in the country’s infrastructure while those who were responsible are at the frontline? As long as the Chareidi world refuses to act responsibly, I do not think they have a right to have a say in the conduct of the war or for that matter the nation. If someone should be accused of Pirud, it should be the people whose pronouncements are considered Torah min Hashamayim by the masses. It is not me on my little blog that is doing it. All I am doing is venting and sharing my frustrations with my readers.

Now let us deal with the issue of listening to a great Chacham in Halacha in areas that he has no expertise in.

Can someone who has no knowledge in a subject legislate in that subject? Rambam in Hilchot Sanhedrin 2:1 rules:

א אין מעמידין בסנהדרין, בין בגדולה בין בקטנה--אלא אנשים חכמים ונבונים, מופלאין בחכמת התורה, בעלי דעה מרובה, ויודעין קצת משאר חכמות, כגון רפואות, וחשבון תקופות ומזלות, ואיצטגנינות, ודרכי המעוננים והקוסמים והמכשפים והבלי עבודה זרה וכיוצא באלו, כדי שיהיו יודעין לדון אותם

What I gather from this Halacha is that if I needed to ask a sh’eilah that dealt with medicine, astronomy, hashkafah, I would first verify if that Posek had the necessary knowledge in that area before asking him. כדי שיהיו יודעין לדון אותם.

Does spending a lifetime learning Halacha without theological or philosophical enquiry, make one into a Hashkafic expert? In fact is that the ultimate goal for a person in his Avodat Hashem to strictly learn Torah limiting it to Halacha and Mussar?

The answer here is complex and quite involved. In the last few generations, I believe because of a situation of Eit La’asot la’shem, some Rashei Yeshiva have advocated that as being a goal. Unfortunately that approach has robbed us of real leaders who can interact with a thinking person, a layman who aspires to serve HKBH without staying within the confines of the Beit Hamidrash. Even those Chachamim who would have leadership aspirations, are stifled by the hysterical masses of close-minded zealots. The reason I say it is an Eit La’asot La’shem situation is because the Rishonim, Rambam, Ramban, Rashba and others of their stature saw Limud Hatorah, the part that deals with Halacha and its practice, as a stepping stone to proper speculation and searching for God, Yediat and Ahavat Hashem. These goals cannot be achieved without knowing about the sciences, about the world. As one gets closer to HKBH in that way, using the knowledge acquired from the Torah, the personal growth and service of God generated by following its teachings supplemented by a good understanding of the world and its inhabitants, one starts to know, love and emulate Him and thus becomes a real leader who has to be listened to. That learning Torah on its own is only a tool is made clear by Rambam in Moreh 3:54 –

Our Sages have likewise derived from this passage the above-mentioned lessons, and stated the same theory that has been explained in this chapter, that the simple term hokmah, as a rule, denotes the highest aim of man, the knowledge of God; that those properties which man acquires, makes his peculiar treasure, and considers as his perfection, in reality do not include any perfection: and that the religious acts prescribed in the Law, the various kinds of worship and the moral principles which benefit all people in their social intercourse with each other, do not constitute the ultimate aim of man, nor can they be compared to it, for they are but preparations leading to it. Hear the opinion of our Sages on this subject in their own words. The passage occurs in Breishit Rabah, and runs thus," In one place Scripture says, 'And all things that are desirable (hafazim) are not to be compared to her' (Prov. viii. 11); and in another place, 'And all things that thou desirest (hafazecha) are not to be compared unto her '" (ibid. iii. 15). By" things that are desirable" the performance of Divine precepts and good deeds is to be understood, whilst" things that thou desirest" refer to precious stones and pearls (in other words wealth DG). Both - things that are desirable, and things that you desire -- cannot be compared to wisdom, but" in this let him that glorieth glory, that he understandeth and knoweth me." Consider how concise this saying is, and how perfect its author; how nothing is here omitted of all that we have put forth after lengthy explanations and preliminary remarks.”

Performance of Mitzvot, learning halachot is not the ultimate goal for a person, just like acquiring wealth is not. Note the jarring comparison!

What is the goal of Yediat Hashem? Rambam concludes:

The prophet does not content himself with explaining that the knowledge of God is the highest kind of perfection: for if this only had been his intention, he would have said," But in this let him who glorieth glory, that he understandeth and knoweth me," and would have stopped there; or he would have said," that he understandeth and knoweth me that I am One," or," that I have not any likeness," or," that there is none like me," or a similar phrase. He says, however, that man can only glory in the knowledge of God and in the knowledge of His ways and attributes, which are His actions, as we have shown (1:45) in expounding the passage," Show me now thy ways" (Exod. xxxviii. 13). We are thus told in this passage that the Divine acts which ought to be known, and ought to serve as a guide for our actions, are, hesed," loving-kindness," mishpat," judgment," and zedakah," righteousness."… The prophet thus, in conclusion, says," For in these things I delight, says the Lord," i.e., My object [in saying this) is that you shall practice loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. In a similar manner we have shown (1:45) that the object of the enumeration of God's thirteen attributes is the lesson that we should acquire similar attributes and act accordingly. The object of the above passage is therefore to declare, that the perfection, in which man can truly glory, is attained by him when he has acquired-as far as this is possible for man-the knowledge of God, the knowledge of His Providence, and of the manner in which it influences His creatures in their production and continued existence. Having acquired this knowledge he will then be determined always to seek loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, and thus to imitate the ways of God

The last few sentences describe a leader, a true leader, who leads his people “in their production and continued existence”. If there is such a thing as Da’at Torah, here is the description of a person who has acquired it.

39 comments:

  1. david. kol hakavod.
    zev

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  2. it's just after 830pm here in yerushalayim. katyushas are falling in haifa as i type and god's auditors have it all figured out, again.
    i spent shabbat in ma'alot dafna with my 4 charaidi sons. i heard the rav of the shul here say that itis the learning that is protecting us. he had just attended a meeting with "maran" eliashiv and r' shmuel auerbach and discussed the "matzav". i'm not sure whether he was speaking in his own name or theirs when he referred the the gamara in sota 31a where it says that the torah protects. i had never learned the gamara so it took me a while to learn it and realize that the statement was completely out of context.
    on the other hand the mishna in sota 44a,b in discussing the exemptions to going to war the mishna clearly says that those exemptions apply only in a milchemet reshut (optional war?) but that in a milchemet mitzva (required war) a chatan leaves from his room and a kalla from her chupa. it seems that one of the practical differences is whether if someone is involved in a war does "ha'osek bemitzva "(going to war) exempt one from doing other mitzvot(presumably even the mitzva of learning) the rambam says that is the halacha (melachim 7:4). he defines a milchemet mitzva in melachim 5:1 as follows "the war (to destroy) the seven nations, the war (to destroy) amalek, and "m'ezrat yisrael m'yad tzar sheba alaihem" (to help yisrael when being threatened/attacked).
    when i pointed this out to my learning sons they asked me why i wasn't in the army. i'm 58 and served in tzahal in 1979 as an oleh chadash. i already had 4 children at the time. to these kids r' eliashiv is greater than the rambam in spite of their "belief" in yeridat hadorot.

    hashiva shoftainu kevarishona, veyoatzainu kevatchila...

    your respect for these "gedoilim" is misplaced.

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  3. Zev, you are right in everything you say. Thank you for your chizuk.

    Don't be so upset with your children's opinions. These things tend to work themselves out if not at the first generation, the next.

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  4. wow. it's funny that you said that because on friday night i had a dream that my grandchildren were already grown and happy to have a saba that understands them and has a open house.

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  5. What you are saying is that there is no vision. Be'Lo Chazon, Ifra Am.

    You are correct. The chareidim define themselves more by what they are AGAINST than by what they are for. This is what led one great Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Y. Bloch of Telz to speak in a Yom HaAtzmaut celebration in the 50s saying that if chareidim are going to attract young people, they must offer them something to be FOR, not just against. Unfortunatly, his model has been rejected by the chareidi society.

    We are trully a Dor Yatom.

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  6. beautifully represented.How tough it is Zev to hear this from our children .They have been brainwashed.They are told 'only we the Yeshiva know' -what do parents really know.

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  7. I am officially deleting this blog from the list of blogs which I read. I've enough of his bashing frumkeit.

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  8. reb chaim.
    what you do officially is irrelevant. in boro park they are officially watching "air conditioner" and the earth is officially flat.
    why are you reading any blogs anyway. it is officially bitul torah. ask "maran" if you don't believe me.

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  9. I think you are being somewhat disingenuous. You write that Zev is right in everything he says when he writes that your respective for these "Gedoilim" is misplaced. However, you also write that R. Elyashiv deserves all the respect we can give him. Which one is it? I too suffer from the tension between the recognition that those currently viewed by the masses as Gedolim are not, but are nevertheless worthy of great respect as Talmidei Chachamim.

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  10. maran, Zev is talking from personal experience. It is very hard for a father to watch kids who are treating the supposed 'gedolim" as cult figures. A Talmid Chacham should be respected not worshipped and deified. His comments are in that vein and if you pick up a tinge of bitterness you are probably right. The yeshivot are bringing up a generation of brainwashed zombies who have lost all sense of critical analysis and sechel hayashar.It is not Rav Elyashiv's fault that he is seen as such but of the sycophants who make him into an infallible idol. I am sure he personally, the tzaddik he is would be shocked if he knew how he is perceived. I am therefore not showing any disrespect by being critical about how people view him. Where I do find fault, is his public pronouncements in areas he should not involve himself especially when the timing is off. Again I am not attacking him personally because i am not sure he even knows that his sayings got publicized, I am critical of what got out Bishmo and is considered divrei elokim chaym!

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  11. >Again I am not attacking him personally because i am not sure he even knows that his sayings got publicized

    YES YOU DID ATTACK HIM!!!!!!!

    "the Chilul Hashem and the Chilul Hatorah this man is propagating!"

    Tisha Be'av has been a total waste with such leaders


    Lakewood Yid

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  12. daat y said...
    beautifully represented.How tough it is Zev to hear this from our children .They have been brainwashed.They are told 'only we the Yeshiva know' -what do parents really know.
    **********************************
    it's worse than that. when i offered to learn the mishna and gamara in sota with my sons they weren't interested because obviously i was misinterpreting it. i say obviously because obviously the yeshiva velt doesn't learn it that way. if the so called gedoilim don't know what is going on in their velt then they aren't gedoilim.

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  13. Zev,

    While I feel for you, the question has to be asked, why did you send your children to Charedi schools? The schools do not hide their hashkafa. There are other alternatives.

    If I may ask, how do your sons support themselves? Does someone help support them?

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  14. RAL has a great piece about this (Tradition, Fall 1985):

    Finally, even if we grant that the Rambam's statement does imply a categorical dispensation in purely halachic terms, it remains of little practical significance. We have yet to examine just to whom it applies. A levi [sic] is defined genealogically. Those who are equated with him, however, literally or symbolically, are defined by spiritual qualities; and for these the Rambam sets a very high standard indeed. He present an idealized portrait of a selfless, atemporal, almost ethereal person - one whose spirit and intelligence have led him to divest himself of all worldly concerns and who has devoted himself "to stand before God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God; and he walks aright as the Lord has made him and he has cast off from his neck the yoke of the many considerations which men have sought." To how large a segment of the Torah community - or, a fortiori, of any community - does this lofty typology apply? To two percent? Five Percent? Can anyone... confront a mirror and tell himself that he ought not to go to the army because he is kodesh kodashim, sanctum sanctorum, in the Rambam's terms? Can anyone with even a touch of vanity or a concern for kavod contend this? Lest I be misunderstood, let me state clearly that I have no quarrel with economic aspiration or with normal human foibles per se. again, least of all do I wish to single out b'nei yeshivot for undeserved moral censure. I do feel, however, that those who would single themselves out for saintliness should examine their credentials by the proper standard

    In essence, RAL's point is that it requires a tremendous amount of hubris for a person to say that my learning is so important that I don't need to go to the army and fight, especially when in many other areas the person doesn't show such great faith (as RAL describes). It is very nice for a person to say that they are joining Shevet Levi, but who says that they were accepted?

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  15. Bluke, Beautiful piece. Thank you for the reference. the point is well made and succinct.

    My question to RAL would be if the 2% are also free from military service? I don't thnk so. A Chareidi like R. Gedalya Nadel AH volunteered in Milchemet Hashichrur and in 1967.

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  16. Jewishskeptic8/08/2006 8:42 AM

    I am utterly disgusted by those cowardly parasites,especially those defending them like LY,letting others do the killing & dying for them & claiming it's all l'shem shamayim & that this is traditional J.
    Tell me,you yellow parasites,do your wifes' hearts miss a beat whenever they hear the phone ring?
    Or a knock at the door? Do their hands tremble before they pick up the receiver? Or to soothe the child when it asks for abba.
    According to you it's of the same sacrifice as kvetching over a shveren Maharam Schif...
    I am ashamed to be part of the same nationality as you are.(actually, I think YOU are of the erev rav & oichrei Israel)
    So at least,hang your heads in shame & be silent!

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  17. David g

    I'm still waiting for an answer to my comment at:

    8/07/2006 11:05 AM

    Lakewood Yid

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  18. >In essence, RAL's point is that it requires a tremendous amount of hubris for a person to say that my learning is so important that I don't need to go to the army and fight, especially when in many other areas the person doesn't show such great faith (as RAL describes). It is very nice for a person to say that they are joining Shevet Levi, but who says that they were accepted?

    As far as I know, nobody holds that way.

    From my understanding, the issue is not with military service and fighting, the issue is with the military and the way men and women are treated and live together, and the general "immoral" behaviour that they believe permeates all of the army because of the stories they have heard. From the perspective they have of thier high standards of living, if you enter the army you have a 98% chance of comming out worse of a person than you went in.

    JS, once you learn to recognize human being as a human beings, perhaps you will be given releif from your punishment which results in you feeling so fustrated and angry.

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  19. Irviner, I don't think JS deserves your condescension.When your kid is at the front you will be allowed to comment on Js's anger.
    As far as I am concerned Js is one of the most religious and well informed commenters i have had the pleasure to interact with!

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  20. People say that religious jews live in such and such an area, and throw stones at people who don't dress modestly. True or not, I would say that the act of throwing stones at people, makes them the opposite of religious Jews.

    Calling people, human beings, parasites, or any other "non-human" thing, makes a person in my mind, a non religious person. You can dissagree with whatever you want, but callin them parasites is equal in my mind to calling for thier mass murder.

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  21. >callin them parasites is equal in my mind to calling for thier mass murder

    or a kick in the butt and get them to do something constructive.

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  22. bluke said...
    Zev,

    While I feel for you, the question has to be asked, why did you send your children to Charedi schools? The schools do not hide their hashkafa. There are other alternatives.

    If I may ask, how do your sons support themselves? Does someone help support them
    *****************************
    my children were brought up in flatbush. in reality the choices are really limited. we started them off in mizrachi lebanim but when that fell apart it was all the same...variations of the shtetl. it's even worse now.
    regarding support. i don't ask but "a mama is duch a mama".

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  23. Jewishskeptic said...
    I am utterly disgusted by those cowardly parasites,especially those defending them like LY,letting others do the killing & dying for them & claiming it's all l'shem shamayim & that this is traditional J.
    **********************************
    please accept my apologies in advance for being so crude as to say that it is a circle jerk.

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  24. >or a kick in the butt and get them to do something constructive.

    Please point to me a point in history where calling one group of people who are not your group of people sub human has lead the other group to change thier behavior in a more possitive fashion?

    I think the easiest way to get Charedi to join the Army, is to change the way things are done in the army, not to get those communities to give up thier traditions that probabbly existed before the state of Israel existed.

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  25. However, changes in the army are unlikely to happen because too many jews still think, "Why should we be accomidating for those "parasites"

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  26. From my understanding, the issue is not with military service and fighting, the issue is with the military and the way men and women are treated and live together, and the general "immoral" behaviour that they believe permeates all of the army because of the stories they have heard. From the perspective they have of thier high standards of living, if you enter the army you have a 98% chance of comming out worse of a person than you went in.
    ***************************
    why is their inability to control themselves (in thought/action) an excuse to avoid any sort of responsibility? if there is a problem of tzniut in the army then confront the problem and improve it. don't avoid it. if after all those years of learning bnai torah can't control themselves then there is something wrong with the system.

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  27. >I think the easiest way to get Charedi to join the Army, is to change the way things are done in the army, not to get those communities to give up thier traditions that probabbly existed before the state of Israel existed.

    There was a proposal a while back to do just that and start chareidi battalions. The Rashei Yeshiva went apoplectic! You don't understand the issue Irviner. I am sorry to tell you but you are a very nice sensitive person but rather naive.

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  28. Calling people, human beings, parasites, or any other "non-human" thing, makes a person in my mind, a non religious person. You can dissagree with whatever you want, but callin them parasites is equal in my mind to calling for thier mass murder.
    *********************************
    par·a·site ( P ) Pronunciation Key (pr-st)
    n.
    Biology. An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.

    One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return.
    One who lives off and flatters the rich; a sycophant.
    A professional dinner guest, especially in ancient Greece.
    [Latin parastus, a person who lives by amusing the rich, from Greek parastos, person who eats at someone else's table, parasite : para-, beside; see para-1 + stos, grain, food.]

    if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck the it probably is a duck.
    some parasites a harmless some are dangerous. you do what you have to do when dealing with each type.

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  29. >There was a proposal a while back to do just that and start chareidi battalions. The Rashei Yeshiva went apoplectic! You don't understand the issue Irviner. I am sorry to tell you but you are a very nice sensitive person but rather naive.

    The way I heard it, the Chareidi battalions where not seperated from the rest of the army for leisure time and other off duty activities, and there were no assurances that they would be on seperate bases. All for good reasons, but I think you are also being disengenerous.

    You can call Charedim parasites, and I can call Israeli-Arabs parasites, and I can call Children parasites. That doesn't make it true. Heck, lets start calling people who have retired parasites!

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  30. Just so you know, I am a californian in almost all the stereotypes. (save the surfing, the only surfing I do is on the web) I spent a year in Israel and got to meat people from every segment of the Israeli population. I have heard almost all these arguments from almost all the sides, and can safely say, that each side demonizes the other on a level that is unnaccetable in my eyes.

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  31. Jewishskeptic8/08/2006 2:27 PM

    "please accept my apologies in advance for being so crude as to say that it is a circle jerk."


    At 58 you should stop watching porno.

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  32. Jewishskeptic8/08/2006 2:53 PM

    "You can dissagree with whatever you want, but callin them parasites is equal in my mind to calling for thier mass murder."

    It was not meant in that sense!
    I used it in a general sense of someone taking & not giving back anything in return,not in the biological meaning of the word,though I am not the only one who used this word towards the chareidim.Many datiim do.
    Anyhow,if this offended anyone,I apologize & try to remember not to use it again,especially on this blog.

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  33. sorry. my comment was crude but was not meant to be which is why i apologised in advance. i'm not going to get into what i meant to convey. it was a mistake to express it that way. please my sincere charata.

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  34. >I used it in a general sense of someone taking & not giving back anything in return

    Then you would be better served calling them geriatrics, or children.

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  35. Jewish skeptic8/08/2006 4:34 PM

    "sorry. my comment was crude but was not meant to be which is why i apologised in advance. i'm not going to get into what i meant to convey. it was a mistake to express it that way. please my sincere charata"


    accept

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  36. Irviner Chassid,

    The Roshei Yeshiva have no desire for an accomodation. When the Tal law was being debated which allows someone in yeshiva at the age of I believe 23 to take a year off from learning and decide what they want to do, the RY were very against it and they said that this will cause many people to leave the yeshivas. To me this is a sad commentary on the state of Charedi Jewry. If at the age of 23 we have to force people like babies to stay and learn in yeshiva we have a huge problem. A 23 year old should be old enough to make their own decisions about life and not be forced by law to stay in Yeshiva.

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