Friday, October 28, 2011

The Perspicacity of Our Leaders - A Heart Wrenching Case Study.

I am not a historian and I don’t usually write about history but I cannot contain myself from writing about this very disturbing and terrible story. It is an indictment; I believe one of many indictments, of Da’at Torah (Da’as Taireh J) and demonstrate clearly how wrong and distorted the thinking of the leaders of the Agudah and the other parties further right of them is. This goes for the leaders of the Agudah back to its formation in the early 1900’s and for the current “Gedolim” and their sycophants. It also points to how wrong what I believe are the fantasy worlds our brethren live in who believe that the supernatural and its supposed powers are part of religion and denying it is considered Kefirah. The “hardening of hearts” of these leaders, similar to the one of Pharaoh and Sichon, as understood by Rambam in the 6th chapter of Hilchot Teshuvah , is unfortunately seen today every time one reads about one of the shenanigans of these leaders or reads one of their hate filled diatribes, distorting reality.

When I heard about the recent passing of Professor Mendel Piekarz I decided to buy several of his books. Over the years I had read articles he wrote and now I had the urge to read more. I just finished the first book – Ideological Trends of Hasidim in Poland during the Interwar Period and the Holocaust (Hebrew) - which was published in 1990 (shows how up to date I am with History) and I am extremely shaken. It is a fact- filled report and analysis based on the writings of the religious Jewish Polish leaders of the inter-war generation, how they ignored the signs of the impending catastrophe and how the majority refused to even acknowledge it when the sword was clearly unsheathed and upon their neck. It reminds me of the letter Rambam wrote to the sages of Montpellier (see page 480 in Rav Shailat’s letters) where he blames the destruction of the Temple on the Jews turning to the supernatural instead of diplomacy and defense. Much of this is generally known and much has been written about this (see Hakirah )   including the episode I focus on in this post, but it must be retold again and again to remind us that all we have is our sechel, our own intelligence, and the supposed supernatural powers and “De’ah” of our “Gedolim” is pure hogwash and probably falls under the rubric of idolatry.
The Belzer rebbe, Rav Aharon Rokeach, managed to escape from Poland to Hungary through the efforts of many of his worldwide followers who expended every possible effort to save him from the extermination camps.  This was at the beginning of 1944, a few months before the Nazis invaded Hungary.  His plan however was to go on to Palestine, using highly-rationed Jewish Agency certificates to enter Palestine, provided by the hated Zionists, those same people whom he blamed for the holocaust because of their lack of religiosity and their courage taking matters into their hand in Israel, thus upsetting the higher spheres from whence all power emanates. The Belzer Rebbe’s brother, Rav Mordechai Rokeach of Bilgoray (the father of the current Belzer rebbe), who was 22 years younger and his brother’s spokesman made a farewell speech in Budapest which was printed in the Haderech journal on February 7th 1944. I have attached below a copy of pertinent pages of a copy of the original publication which I want to discuss.

After a somewhat convoluted exposition of his view of what caused the destruction of Polish Jewry, basically a veiled indictment of the Zionist movement, R. Mordechai addresses his brother and his own planned escape from Europe. Here is the translation beginning 3 lines from the bottom of the first page.

“I have some more to say to you, to address your thoughts and illuminate your eyes, regarding that which I heard many of you say that you are afraid and shudder with fear, saying that our leaving is difficult for you. You are further worried wondering whether possibly my brother the Tzaddik who sees the future, knows of danger looming over this country and is therefore running away to go to Eretz Israel, the land God blessed by saying “I will bring peace to the land”.   He is going to a place of peace and rest and we, God forbid he leaves to our despair. What will become of us? Who will protect us? Who will save us? Who will pray and advocate for us? I therefore feel obligated to tell you the truth dear friends, the sages of Hungary, that as one who is close and near my great brother I know that he is not running away, leaving in a rush as if wanting to flee from here but rather is going because he has a strong wish to go to Eretz Israel, the land that is ten times holier than anywhere else. I personally know that this has been his greatest wish for some time, the great aspiration of his pure soul is to go to the city of God, so that he can awaken God’s pity and goodwill for the nation so that they no longer suffer saving the remainder [of the nation] and see to it that their enemies are destroyed. This is alluded to in the verse (Breishit 49:14) “He [Issachar] saw that the homestead was goodly, that the land was delightful, and he put his shoulder to the load, became a toiling serf.” Rashi explains that Issachar became a toiling serf to his brethren by legislating for them Torah laws. I wonder what Rashi meant with this? I believe that he is saying that the Tzaddik [Issachar] sees that this country and its inhabitants will have peace, for the homestead is goodly and only good will befall our brethren the inhabitants of this land. Seeing that, the Tzaddik now sees the land, the one he always thrived to move to because it is delightful, for it is where the ultimate [divine] delight is present, the land of milk and honey is sweet and delightful both physically and spiritually and it also is the place he spoke about going to in earlier times when he was still home.”   

In retrospect this speech is pathetic, so pathetic that this section was completely left out when the post-war hagiographers recounted the “miraculous” escape of the Belzer rebbe from Europe (see Bezalel Landau and Natan Orenter’s “The Holy Rabbi of Belz… pages 141 159). Did he really mean it when he said that the Hungarian Jews were safe? Was he that stupid? The Rebbe and his brother by this time had lost all their family having left them behind while they fled. How could he in good faith claim that his brother could see the future, that he had any perspicacity when he had stopped many of his followers from leaving Poland between the wars because of his anti-Zionist stance? 

Several months after this episode, the Stropkover Rebetzin reacted to this speech in a heart wrenching way. One of the Sonder Commandos  at Auschwitz took notes of his experiences and hid them around the ovens. They were discovered after the war and one of them related the following: (My translation from Hebrew which is a translation of the original Yiddish)

“At the end of May 1944 a transport of Jews from Kasho (Kosice) arrived. Amongst the various Jews was the old Rebetzin of Stropkov, an 85 year old Jewess. She declared: I see the end of the Hungarian Jews has arrived. The government had given the opportunity for the great part of the Jewish Community to escape. The people asked the advice of the Admorim (the Rebbes) and they always calmed the people. The Rebbe of Belz said that Hungary will be spared and only suffer fear. The bitter moment has arrived, when the Jews could no longer save themselves. True [the future] was hidden from them [the Rebbes] by divine decree, but they saved themselves running away at the last moment to Eretz Israel. They saved themselves while leaving their flock to be slaughtered.  Ribbono Shel Olam! At the last moments of my life I beg You, forgive them for the great Chilul Hashem [they caused].”   

Are we ever going to learn? 


  1. He obtained passage, they were stuck behind. Exactly what should the rebbe have told them: "Panic! Panic! You're all going to die!"?

  2. R. Micha,

    He should have kept quiet and not lied about his brother's Nevuah. But even more painful is that he and his acolytes were responsible for so many staying behind. I have a problem with the cynicism this shows.

  3. I am not saying I agree with the decision. Just that there is a difference between seeing it as evil, and it being a plausible, well-intentioned, error. (Which is still a problem for Dasteirehniks.)

    The rebbe saw his job as keeping everyone as calm as possible. He made a calculation, I agree with you that it was probably wrong, that no one would succeed in saving themselves if they had more warning. So might as well be happy as long as possible. Or at least, that no one who wouldn't try anyway. Or at the very least -- the difference in people who don't try to save themselves because they don't know they have to is offset by those who still have the will to resist when the reality of the situation became apparent.

  4. ה אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר-- אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם יְהוָה, מִבְטַחוֹ;
    וְלֹא-פָנָה אֶל-רְהָבִים, וְשָׂטֵי כָזָב.

    that is all I was saying - I see we are not that far apart R. Micha- Good Shabbos.

  5. Hard to ignore the similarity between this and the "prophecies" of נביאי שקר in Tanakh - always telling the people exactly what they wanted to hear, comforting them instead of confronting them with reality.

  6. R' Maroof:

    The same can be said about the Navi Sheker who was the former Chief Rabbi of Israel who famously said "היה לא תהיה" about the hitnatkut. The same can be said about Nir Ben Artzi, the famous tractor driver.

  7. Interesting post. You seem to exclude non aguda leaders from this mindset of the Aguda "Gedolim".

    Why do the Non Aguda leaders fail to more forcefully disassociate themselves from this magical thinking that has brought about such tragedy?

  8. Moshe,

    This is only a theological problem for Agudistim who believe in Das Teireh and for Chassidim who believe in the ruach haqodesh of a rebbe. Dati Leumi leaders aren't expected to be consistently correct.

    In any case, I would agree what the hitqatnut (more accurate name than "hitnatqut") is a theological problem for followers of R ZY Kook for other reasons. Not because of the declaration, but because RZYK taught that from here on in, Israel would only grow and flourish.

    I might point out that his father's version of the same idea, the whole Israel as the dawn of the geulah, face a similar but far larger dilemma a couple weeks after R' AY Kook's death with Krystalnacht. Here RAYK was talking "the geulah is dawning" and the greatest iqvesa demishicha hadn't yet even begun. So how does that leave Zionism connected to messianism in R' Kook's thought?

    I dunno. I should point out that many fine rabbanim -- R' Reines, R YB Soloveitchik, R' Aharon Soloveitchik, R' Aharon Lichtenstein, R' Ovadiah Yosef -- have Religious Zionist ideologies that do not insist on any eschatological import.

  9. RJS,

    i was addressing a particular subset of magical thinking that was developed with slightly different presentation in Lita and among Hasidim, and that is the infallibility of their leaders. In Lita they saw the infallibility because they held that greatness in learning automatically translates to worldly matters. The Kedusha of the Torah permeates their minds and they can do the impossible - be humanly infallible. Hasidim on the other hand believed that their Rebbes are holy souls who knew the heavens visiting them and residing there while physically appearing to be on earth. They therefore knew the future and could change it through their intimacy with HKBH Kevayochol.

    This nonsense has migrated nowadays and both theoologies have merged and there is little distinction between litvaks and Hasidim. they both believe that both apply to their respective leaders.

    Of course all this is the result of the misconceptions developed over time based on magical and mystical thinking.

  10. This is my first post and I wish to say I am both honored and humbled knowing that scholars and rabbeim of the highest caliber will be reading my words. As many of us might remember earlier this year a leader of a California religious cult predicted the date of the Christian rapture and the end of the world as we know it. Apparently his power of persuasion was strong enough to have many, many people take up the cause. Of course, much to the chagrin and detriment of said leader and his followers, many of whom quit their jobs, sold their homes, and divested themselves of all of their possessions, the predicted day came and went…and the sun rose the next morning as usual.

    Over the years I have heard many, many shiurim on the meaning of historical events, and how they point to “the flowering of our redemption” and predict the long awaited arrival of our Moshiach. And while I do not wish to denigrate the very real and heartfelt desires and hopes of our people, whenever I am asked my opinion on these matters I respond by saying “I do not engage in eschatological speculation.” How many times I have been chastised for this espousal I do not care to say. It is as if we are obligated to look at events and gaze into our crystal ball, and anyone who does not “see the handwriting on the walls”, are either blind, or not really Jewish.

    I submit that the same distorted way of thinking and zealous religious attitude that gives rise to the belief in magic, amulets, red strings and the falsity of science, also gives rise to eschatological theories and predictions which have no basis in reality.

    I am continually guarding myself against these absurdities while constantly praying my children will not become victims of such nefarious distortions.

    1. Call it what it is -- full-blown unmitigated idolatry.

    2. I'm inclined to agree, with the caveat that I have no first-hand familiarity with the facts.

      Beyond that, could you explain a bit about your notion of 'idolatry'? What elohim aherim do you see in this specific case? What do you see in this case to be the specific avoda of these elohim?


  11. "RZYK taught that from here on in, Israel would only grow and flourish."

    Granted I was only in Yerushalayim during the last four years of Rav Tzvi Yehudah's life - but I still have to say I never heard this from him. To the best of my knowledge, he did not promise any such thing. What he did say constantly was that we had to work as if that were the case. And he did say quite assuredly that on the overall scale, Medinat Yisrael would not fall. But I do not recall any such guarantees that wouldn't or couldn't be oscillation on the vertical scale, so to speak. Maybe R. Micha or someone else can point me to a source for that. As for rabi Rav Mordechai Eliyahu's statement - I do not know what he meant or had in mind. But, as pointed out, we were never taught to hold our hachamim as being infallible or prophetic, necessarily.

  12. Mordechai

    Can you say on what Halachic basis, R Tzvi Yehuda would make predictions about Medinat Yisrael's eternal existence?

    To make such a claim about the future, a person would have to be a proven Navi. Was there any reason to define RZY in such terms?

  13. RJS, how can you ask for a halachic basis for a non-halachic question? Rav Tzvi Yehudah was, as far as I recall, thinking in the same vein that Rav Herzog did (based on a Tanhuma, primarily) when he (Rav Herzog) stated there wouldn't be another galut. They are entitled, as talmidei hachamim, to say they believe that to be the case. One might even argue that they are obligated to teach their understanding of Hashem's Torah, no matter how different or unpopular. They just can't expect or demand that others agree with them, or act on their words. I think your assertion that one has to be a proven navi is silly. We all try to make intelligent predictions and anticipations in order to plan our lives for tomorrow and for years down the road. We do this based on our best understanding of the information available. We even act, and take calculated risks, based on that anticipation or prediction. Sometimes we are wrong. But that doesn't mean we are morally culpable unless we acted irrationally or irresponsibly, and insisted that we must be right with no chance of error. I don't believe Rav Tzvi Yehudah acted that way. He advocated for what he believed to be the case on a public and historic scale. He clearly stated that most people are not qualified in 'hilchot tzibur'; but those few who are have to speak up. That is all any talmid hacham can do. Again, if anything he was following Rav Herzog's precedent, as well as his father's.

  14. RAYK and RZYK said that the geulah was coming kezerichas hashemesh. RAYK said this not knowing about the Holocaust, which makes this notion really difficult. RAYK also saw the dawn of the messianic era in the idealism of the youth of his era. Secular Zionism was to give way to Judaism, not to the nonidealism of the post-Zionist.

    RZYK repositioned the dawn to starting at 1948. This eliminated the problem of the Holocaust, but didn't address the other problems of messianic Zionism's "zerichat hashemesh" / "reishit tzemichat ge'ulateinu" hashkafah. And one that produced R' Eliyahu's belief that a reduction of Israel's size was theologically impossible.

    I did hear some embellish the metaphor by speaking of the sun going behind a cloud. But not denying that the Kooks' use of the metaphor altogether.

  15. R. Micha, no one denies the imagery used. And you may be right that Rav AY Kook didn't/couldn't anticipate a post-Zionist glitch to what he envisioned. On the other hand, all my years in the yeshiva and its general circle (over 10 years), I never heard Rav Tzvi Yehudah or others speak in simplistic, linear terms. Remember, these people were and are involved in all areas of national life. They were well aware that real life entails lots of complicating factors. But that doesn't negate, necessarily, a larger encompassing vision whose overall direction may still hold true over the long course of time.

    As for rabi Rav Mordechai Eliyahu's (in)famous statement - I don't know what to think of it. In simple terms, he was obviously mistaken. What he really said and had in mind, I don't know.

    What I do know is none of these people taught us to see them as infallible. And so when Rav Amital, for instance, called for a reconsideration of Rav Kook's perspective many from the yeshiva disagreed - but no one called it a heresy or lack of fealty to Torah. Of course, today Rav Tzvi Yehudah's students disagree over matters of ideology and applied halachah. I see that as a sign of health, and understand it to be how he educated his students based on what I saw in the yeshiva over the years.

    By the way, I believe the phrase 'reishit tzmihat geulateinu' was worked out by Rav Herzog and S.Y. Agnon; not Rav Kook. Personally I don't see that its wrong. Hazal used birth pangs as a metaphor for the geulah. Sometimes protracted and painful, no?

    In any case the issue here was about 'infallibility' and giving bad advice or instruction to one's followers. I think Rav Tzvi Yehudah taught a lot more independence than the sad example of the Belzer. And it certainly was not a heresy to question him.

  16. Mordechai,

    Predictions which are not based in scientific knowledge, should be of great Halachic interest and caution. Our attitude such predictions, determine whether we are "whole hearted with Hashem" or on the way to idolatry or mysticism.

    This is clear from the Torah,Dvarim 18 which sharply contrasts the two possible attitudes toward predictions unfounded in science. It is precisely these attitudes of superstition and mysticism which David's cite of Rambam points to as he wrote to the sages of Montpellier (see page 480 in Rav Shailat’s letters) where he blames the destruction of the Temple on the Jews turning to the supernatural instead of diplomacy and defense.

    10. There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11. or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido'a sorcerer, or a necromancer. 12 . For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations, the Lord, your God is driving them out from before you. 13. Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God. 14. For these nations, which you are to possess, hearken to diviners of [auspicious] times and soothsayers, but as for you, the Lord, your God, has not given you [things] like these. 15. A prophet from among you, from your brothers, like me, the Lord, your God will set up for you you shall hearken to him. 19. And it will be, that whoever does not hearken to My words that he speaks in My name, I will exact [it] of him. 20. But the prophet who intentionally speaks a word in My name, which I did not command him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. 21. Now if you say to yourself, "How will we know the word that the Lord did not speak?" If the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not occur and does not come about, that is the thing the Lord did not speak. The prophet has spoken it wantonly; you shall not be afraid of him.

    We have been witnessing a steady erosion of our "wholeheartedness with Hashem" in recent years. Perhaps the most extreme example is the recent controversy with R Nir BenArtzi's predictions recently. It is clear that these predictions of R Ben Artzi were leading an entire community on precisely the path of superstition the Torah warns us against. See these videos from R Ben Artzis Yeshiva.

    In a video of a shiur delivered ( by Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi erev Shabbos Parshas Ki Sovo, the Rav warns Turkey of the impending disaster that will occur. biography

    We would all do well to carefully consider the words of R Aviner, in reaction to the "predictions" and their severe implications for R Ben Artzi and his community.

  17. To Rabbi Sacks:
    1. I think there is a difference between avoda zara and emunas chachamim.
    2. The Rambam was objurgating superstition such as astrology and omens, not emunas chachamim.
    3. Tamim Tihyeh and emunas chachamim might not be mutually exclusive.

  18. Barzilai, we must be very vigilant about all claims of “abilities” to predict the future. The post above cites clear examples from the Holocaust of our very lives being in danger, if we abandon our minds in favor of an untempered "Emunat Chachamim". We should be exceedingly skeptical, as we see even by Moshe Rabbenu himself. The burden of proof is upon the Chacham to demonstrate that his claims to prediction capacity is not Avoda Zara.

    הלכות יסודי התורה פרק ח

    א משה רבנו--לא האמינו בו ישראל, מפני האותות שעשה: שהמאמין על פי האותות--יש בליבו דופי, שאפשר שייעשה האות בלאט וכישוף. אלא כל האותות שעשה במדבר, לפי הצורך עשאן--לא להביא ראיה על הנבואה: צרך להשקיע את המצריים, קרע את הים והצלילם בו. צרכנו למזון, הוריד לנו את המן. צמאו, בקע להם את האבן. כפרו בו עדת קורח, בלעה אותם הארץ. וכן, שאר כל האותות.

    ב ובמה האמינו בו, במעמד הר סיניי: שעינינו ראו, ולא זר, ואוזנינו שמעו, ולא אחר

    Clearly Emunat Chachamim has distinct limits. If even in the case of Moshe Rabbenu himself, we were required to have rational criterea for Emunah in his Nvua- how much more so a Chacham today?

  19. Thank you for your response, Rabbi Sacks. The next Rambam states that נמצאת אומר שכל נביא
    שיעמוד אחר משה רבינו אין אנו מאמינים בו מפני האות לבדו כדי שנאמר אם יעשה אות נשמע לו לכל מה שיאמר. אלא מפני המצוה שצוה משה בתורה ואמר אם נתן אות אליו תשמעון. כמו שצונו לחתוך הדבר על פי שנים עדים ואע"פ שאין אנו יודעין אם העידו אמת אם שקר. כך מצוה לשמוע מזה הנביא אע"פ שאין אנו יודעים אם האות אמת או בכישוף ולט
    the Torah requires that we accept the words of a navi that correctly predicts the future or performs a miracle, no less than we accept the words of two witnesses.

    But all of this is unimportant. My point was that to call Chasidishe trust in Rebbes a form of "Avoda Zara" is shameful, pace my Rosh Yeshiva's son in law Zatzal. Avoda Zara worships a false god, or an angel as if it were autonomous. Chasidim, even extreme chasidus, venerate a Rebbe because of his kedusha and prishus as a servant of the Ribono shel Olam. If they sin through a childish fantasy of what being a sincere Eved Hashem can elevate a person, then it's not that terrible a sin. Naive, yes. Dofi, or more aptly, Dopey? Maybe. A sin? Avoda Zara? I don't think so.

  20. Barzilai can you please bring us a halachik source to your definition of emunat chachomim. I have a strong suspicion that you haven't the slightest idea of what emunat chachomim is supposed to be. I believe that you are using the term like the rest of the am haaratzim that dont really understand what the true meaning of emunat chachomim represents.

  21. The Sefas Emes (note: a chassidishe source) on parashas Naso defines "emunas chakhamim" as trust that the generations of sages who taught and developed halakhah did so without deviating from the covenant.

    Machzor Vitri (pg 560, commenting on Avos, more authoritative but lacks the element of quoting someone you would think would be a partisan for the other side): באמונת חכמים: שמאמין בדבריהם, ולא כצדוקין ובייתוסין.

    The classical notion of emunas chakhamim is faith in Oral Law via faith in the people upon whom it was "written".

  22. I am truly stung by your criticism. After saying a shiur for lo these twenty five years, beginning when I left my position as Rosh Kollel at YSI, it's good to be reminded of my intellectual inadequacy. But I happen to have a few source references- is that the expression you prefer?- for the term.
    Maharal in his Derech Chaim on Avos 6:5.
    Mesillas Yesharim in Chelkei Ze'hirus, perek 3.
    But all that will mean little to you, as will, no doubt, the Chazon Ish in his Igros 3:92,
    השיטה לעשות את התורה לחלקים שונים: הוראה באיסור והיתר - חלק א', והוראה בשוק החיים - חלק שני, להיות נכנעים להוראת חכמי הדור בחלק הראשון ולהשאיר לחופש בחירתם בחלק השני, היא השיטה הישנה של המינים, בירידת היהודים באשכנז, אשר הדיחו את עם ישראל עד שהתערבו בגויים ולא נשארו לפלטה
    or Rav Dessler, who says
    אמרו לנו חז"ל לשמוע לדברי חכמים אפילו אומרים לנו על שמאל שהיא ימין, ולא לומר חס ושלום, שבודאי טעו מפני שאנכי הקטנטן רואה בחוש את טעותם, אלא החוש שלי בטל ומבוטל הוא כעפרא דארעא כלפי בהירות שכלם וסייעתא דשמיא שלהם... קרוב הוא אשר מה שידמו שהוא חוש אינו אלא דמיון ורעות רוח. זוהי דעת התורה בגדר אמונת חכמים.

    חסרון הכרת ההתבטלות לעומת רבותינו - זהו שורש כל חטאת ותחילת כל חורבן ר"ל, וכל הזכיות לא ישוו לעומת שורש הכל, שהיא - אמונת חכמים

    גדולי דורותינו אשר עסק חייהם להמשיך, כתלמידים נאמנים, בדרכי מחשבתם של חז"ל, זוכים לישרות זו במידה עצומה, עד שחוות דעתם - אפילו בדברים שאין להם מקור מפורש, וגם סתם עצות במילי דעלמא - ברורה ואמיתית "כאשר ישאל איש בדבר אלקים", כאשר רואים בעינינו ת"ל גם בדור הזה.

    You can reinforce your low opinion of my capacities at my website, linked to my name above.

  23. Just to clarify- the Chazon Ish would be the person referred to in your oeuvre as "Karelitz"

  24. Barzilai

    I do not understand why you say that the Rambam's clear statements on the proper way to relate to a Chacham, even one as great as Moshe Rabbenu, are irrelevant.

    Are you saying that the Chazon Ish and R Dessler are greater authorities than Rambam?

    Insofar as discussion of "Emunat Chachamim", if you would like to understand the position of the people you are speaking with, you might want to read R Rabinovich's article entitled "Emunat Chachamim".

    It is to be found in Hakira #5 or in the list at

  25. Barzilai, there is a major diff between asking a chacham for advice and then using your own independent thought to make a decision(using sechel) vs following blindly a chacham's advice. This is especially true when the advice is not based on halacha but on opinion or foolishness(like this post so accurately pointed out). A classic example of not listening to chachomim would be the recommendations of rabbis and rosh hayeshivot for bochrim to waste their lives learning in kolel and to be supported by tzedakah vs going to college and then getting a job. This would be a classic case where rabbis are going against halacha and allowing the end result of chilul hashem and סוף אדם זה שיהא מלסטים את הבריות. This would be an example where you would be obligated not to listen.

  26. Morai veRabosai, I only intended to temper the tenor of this conversation. I am aware of the differences of opinion re Emunas Chachamim, but wanted to point out that the validity of the opinion that one should seek out and follow advice of Torah leaders even in secular matters. Disagree, fine, but to categorize what the Chazon Ish and Rav Dessler consider essential as a form of Avoda Zara, I humbly suggest, is going too far.

    As for the Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi SB, erstwhile of the Aguda, told me that at a Moetzes meeting in the Seventies regarding the Jews of Iran, the Rebbe began crying and said, "Why are they asking for our opinion? We were wrong in Europe." I've always believed that Rebbes exist not because a person wanted Chasidim. Rebbes exist because Chasidim want a Rebbe.

  27. And the jews wanted an עגל.... Or even better, what שמואל said וְאַתֶּם הַיּוֹם מְאַסְתֶּם אֶת-אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר-הוּא מוֹשִׁיעַ לָכֶם מִכָּל-רָעוֹתֵיכֶם וְצָרֹתֵיכֶם, וַתֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ, כִּי-מֶלֶךְ תָּשִׂים עָלֵינוּ; וְעַתָּה, הִתְיַצְּבוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם, וּלְאַלְפֵיכֶם. 

  28. Barzilai

    To prove the validity of a position, you must demonstrate that it logically follows from the essential teachings of Torah.

    As it stands right now, you are basing the validity of your position, on the modern day exponents who are precisely the ones who are in dispute, the Aguda leadership of the last few generations.

    You cannot prove that these modern day positions regarding Emunat Chachamim are valid, by reference to more Aguda leaders while calling classic thinkers such as Rambam irrelevant.

    What is more, if you read the article by R Rabinovch, you will see that the classic sources he cites categorically refute the modern day Aguda position you are defending.

  29. R Sacks-right on point :)

  30. Allow me to emphasize a few points.

    1. David, the Baal Achsaniah here, wrote "In Lita they saw the infallibility because they held that greatness in learning automatically translates to worldly matters. The Kedusha of the Torah permeates their minds and they can do the impossible - be humanly infallible."
    If one takes out the word "infallible" and replaced it with "great wisdom" I don't know why that would be a problem. In secular fields, scholarship does not translate into wisdom. On the contrary, the ivory tower rejects the mundane and quotidian. In the Torah world, which involves every aspect of reality, there are cases of living sifrei Torah that know nothing of the world, but there are plenty of gedolim whose advice and wisdom is priceless, albeit not infallible.

    2. The Rambam I quoted does say that if a person performs wonders, one must abide by his word no less than one paskens on the word of two witnesses. This would certainly be the case where there is no concern that the prediction or wonder is the product of Kishuf.

    3. The Rambam's opinion on any matter validates that opinion, but the Rambam is not G-d. He is neither יחיד ואין יחיד כיחודו nor is he infallible.

    3. The pejorative expressions, and the use of sarcastic dialect (Das Taireh) is, in my opinion, unworthy of this website or its author, whose work I have found extremely valuable and stimulating for quite a long time. I read the intended implication as saying that the people who speak that way are unenlightened, unsophisticated. I find this hurtful, with the voices of Rav Rudderman, Reb Moshe, and Reb Chaim Stein echoing in my mind. If their opinions and hashkafos are not entitled to respectful deference, then we might as well be forthright and just abandon the Torah as we know it and try to reconstruct what we imagine was intended by Moshe Rabbeinu and the Rambam.

  31. Barzilai-the rambam was talking about neviim not rabbis or chachomim. None of the modern era rabbonim have ever met the criteria of a navi. Secondly,why does emunat chachomim(acc to your definition) apply to modern rabbonim and not the ramabam-especially when they contradict the rambam?

  32. Yes, the Rambam is talking about Nevuah. I am partial to Rabbeinu Bahya (and the Ramban he quotes) in Devarim 33:8 who talks of the four levels of superhuman awareness. I would suggest that this phenomenon is of infinite range, and while Nevuah per se no longer pertains, its toldos do.

  33. So how r you bringing proof from a rambam that talks about nevuah and then mix it into a rabbeinu bachaya-which are totally diff philosophies. By the way,where does the ramban or rabbeinu bachya say that we need to follow chachomin on non halachic maters bec of emunat chachomim?

  34. Barzilai,

    I have kept out of the discussion until now satisfied by the debate that is ongoing. You have however wondered why i was sarcastic about the Da'as Torah concept.

    A Chacham as I understand it is one described in the fifth chapter of Hilchot De'ot which seems to be a well rounded individual that encompasses Torah knowledge, Midot, worldly matters (Divrei Chochma)and self sufficient in Parnassah (melacha). It is to such a person that the 6th mitzvat Asseh refers to and is listed at the beginning of Hilchot De'ot. Reading that Mitzvah we see clearly that the purpose of cleaving to a Chacham is to learn from his ways.
    המצווה השישית
    הציווי שנצטווינו להתערב בין החכמים ולהתחבר אתם ולהתמיד ולשבת עמהם ולהשתתף עמהם בכל דרך מדרכי ההשתתפות: במאכל ומשתה ומקח וממכר, כדי שנגיע בכך להדמות למעשיהם ולהאמין בדעות האמתיות מדבריהם.

    Note that the last sentence above refers to בדעות האמתיות namely hashkafa and midot which is the subject of Hilchot De'ot.

    I did not know Rav Rudderman or Rav Moshe Feinstein but I knew other great people from the last generation of the same caliber, both Litvish and Chassidish, and they did not pretend to have Da'as Torah but were great advisors if one needed them to teach how to deal with matters bein adam lamakom and bein adam lachavero. They never pretended they were clairvoyant and in fact deferred to others whom they considered better equipped to deal with political and other such matters.

    Da'as torah is not the same as emunat chachamim or cleaving to chachamim. Da'as Torah is a political tool that was developed between the wars to control the masses from leaving Europe because the leaders felt that it put yiddishkeit at risk. In retrospect the fears were well founded but the proposed cure - staying put was misguided. I do not think that denying Da'as Torah belittles Chachamim only their handlers and the Shualim Ketanim who propagate the lie for power reasons and distort the truth.

    Re the more serious issue of Nevuah - I know of the shitot that there are lower levels of nevuah nowadays. I don't believe Rambam would agree. He takes seriously the Gemara that holds Nevuah stopped during the time of Anshei Knesset Hagedolah and will return before the Yemot Hamashiach. I would be very skeptical and advise all to be careful and not believe in any of the supposed clairvoyants. the fact that they claim knowing the future in itself proves that they are charlatans. No Chacham would do such a thing and if he does he is no Chacham no matter how much Torah he knows.

  35. Reb David, good to hear from you. כצינת שלג ביום קציר. I've always argued that some things that worth believing even if they are not true. I think you might be right- that the rise of the concept was a reaction to the demoralization of Klal Yisrael in the past two centuries. Anything that created a sense of confidence and importance has immediate value.

    You're certainly right about the three gedolim I mentioned- they didn't aver infallibility, and would find the claim laughable. But to differing degrees, they believed that some degree of Siyata Dishmaya is granted to sincere and pious and learned leaders of Klal Yisrael.

    I've seen the shualim ketanim problem, unfortunately; apropos of that issue, I'd like to mention that my father zatzal, who learned by the talmid par excellance of the Rambam- the Rogotchover- said that the Rogotchover once fell off of a ladder in his library and badly hurt himself. He said that he believed it was a punishment for having denigrated anyone and everyone whose only sin was not being the Rambam.

    I think that our discussion was a good survey of the disparate perspectives on this topic, and I thank you for providing this forum and most of the other participants for maintaining its high standards.

  36. Barzilai

    iheard the Rogatchover story in a variaant. My story ended with "ober vos ken ich ton, nor der rambam hot gekent lernen" :-)

  37. My father told me almost exactly the same thing, that he hugged a Rambam, and, turning to and fro he said the other line. But I think my father's version was not "nor der Rambam" but rather "ober der Rambam."

  38. David and Barzilai

    Thank you for an excellent conclusion to the discussion. I particularly enjoyed the story of the Rogatchover.