Friday, July 4, 2008

Authority of Gedolim II - Because they are accepted - not because of their knowledge

I asserted in my previous post that being a gadol is the result of being accepted and once accepted the gadol's authority is not from his sources or his reasoning but his authority transcends them because he is a gadol.

The New York Times once printed the following statement from Rav Moshe Feinstein as to how he became the posek hador. "People came and asked me questions and they liked what I said and it was accepted and then more people come and eventually I became widely accepted as a posek." It is important to note that when Rav Moshe was buried in Israel - and had the largest funeral up till that time - he was viewed by most religious Israelis as a tzadik and not as posek hador.

On the other hand Rav Moshe was not automatically accepted in whatever he said. I still recall the ads in the Jewish Press begging people to come to the MTJ dinner to support Rav Moshe's yeshiva. "He is there when you need him - so be there when he needs you." It wasn't too successful.

The absence of gedolim in MO circle's is not because they don't have high level talmidei chachomim - but because the MO rabbis view themselves as authorities based on texts and sevora - not acceptance. The local rabbi - not the transcendent authority - is what is important to them. The MO are not looking for transcendent authorities - and thus they don't have them. [Not because the "narrow minded" Chareidim reject them.] It is similar to a super star in any field. They are not necessarily the most talented in the absolute sense - but they are the ones accepted as super stars. They are the charismatics as Max Weber defines - that are perceived and accepted as the embodiment of the system - at least for some issues.

Rav Soloveitchik was arguably the greatest Torah genius of the 20th century - but the MO were not interested in submitting themselves to him and accepting his judgments - his "Daas Torah". Instead they relied on their local rabbi or on themselves. Rabbi Rakkefet told me that Rav Solveitchik encouraged this independent thinking - because Rav Soloveitchik viewed that the lack of independent thinking among European Jews was a major factor in the great destruction of the Holocaust. As a perhaps over simplistic but valid generalization: amongst the MO all those who have semicha are viewed as equal authorities.

Three examples. Rav Moshe Feinstein discussed how a marriage could be annulled because of erroneous assumptions on the part of the couple about each other. Rabbi Rackman claims he is annulling marriages based on Rav Moshe's precedent. His ruling are widely rejected - "because he is not Rav Moshe." Similarly Rabbi Riskin has made ruling based on Rav Moshe's psakim - which have not been accepted "because he is not Rav Moshe." A certain rav was told by Rav Moshe that certain couples did not need a divorce because Rav Moshe held their marriage was not valid. The children of these couples after remarriage were not considered mamzerim by Rav Eliashiv and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach - even though they disagreed with Rav Moshe's servora - but because they accepted the authority of Rav Moshe. After Rav Moshe was niftar this rav went to Rav Eliashiv had told him that he had another case - exactly the same as Rav Moshe had said did not need a divorce. Rav Eliashiv told him he did not agree with the logic of Rav Moshe's psak and thus would declare the children mamzerim - if this rav followed the precedent he had heard from Rav Moshe. Rav Eliashiv told him to find a rav comparable in stature to Rav Moshe and then he would accept the psak that the children were not mamzerim. Thus it was Rav Moshe's accepted stature - not his logic or sources - which were authoritative. This despite that Rav Moshe Feinstein clearly states in the introduction to the Igros Moshe that his authority comes from the acceptance of his reasoning.

A clear precedent for the above is BM 59b. R' Eliezar HaGadol was clearly the superior talmid chachom of his generation and he was certified by Heaven which announced that the halacha was like him in all places. -Yet his rulings were completely rejected by his peers and he was placed in cherem. Because the authority of a gadol depends upon acceptance - not knowledge of Torah.

Bava Metzia (59b): [Soncino translation] this was the oven of ‘Aknai.1 Why [the oven of] ‘Aknai? — Said Rab Judah in Samuel's name: [It means] that they encompassed it with arguments2 as a snake, and proved it unclean. It has been taught: On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument ,3 but they did not accept them. Said he to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!’ Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place — others affirm, four hundred cubits. ‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,’ they retorted. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!’ Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards — ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,’ they rejoined. Again he urged: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,’ whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have ye to interfere?’ Hence they did not fall, in honour of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘Why do ye dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!’ But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: ‘It is not in heaven.’4 What did he mean by this? — Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.5

R. Nathan met Elijah6 and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do in that hour? — He laughed [with joy], he replied, saying, ‘My sons have defeated Me, My sons have defeated Me.’

13 comments :

  1. Provided what Daattorah is saying is true about Rav Elyashuv and Rav Aurbach not excepting the sevora of Rav Feinstein post mortem, a lot of questions need answering.

    Where is there a source in shas where one can completely seperate one's authority from his sevora?

    The example in Bava Metzia that daat torah brought in does not address this issue. Fine, there is simple pshat that we do not head heavenly signs or bas kols when deturmining psak halacha and torah lo b'shamayim he. Some later authorities discuss whether a bas kol can also be interpreted as finding proof outside the normative tradition of halacha. That being the texts that we normally use etc.. However seperating a gadol's sevora from his authority is a differant kettle of fish.

    My understanding of accepting one's authority in psak even when one dissagrees with it (I am writing in a case between talmidei chachamim) is the humility that perhaps the other chacham has grasped something that we have not. This should not change post mortem.

    In the case of rav Riskin, is it because they felt that he did not posses big enough shoulders and daats to apply rav moshe's psak or is it just because he is not rav moshe? Meaning that Rav Elyashuv did not trust the judgement of the one's reporting to him the situation. This differance is critical because many reputable beitei dinim in the United States have paskined like Rav Moshe on issues from mamzerus to gerus. They continued to do so even after Rav Moshe was niftar.

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  2. This is a request to daas torah. In the comment I made about the precedent analogy that you brought in from Bava Metzia regarding Rav Elyashuv ceising to except Rav Moshe's authority post mortem, I also wanted to point out that if anything this agguda would preclude the possibility of accepting psak just on authority in the first place. From the agguda in Bava Metzia R. Eliezer was very much alive during this debate and R. Joshua still felt it fitting to argue with him. He did so even though R. Eliezer was the known preeminent halachic authority at the time.

    In otherwords according to this analogy Rav Elyashuv should have never mattured these couples and their children on the authority of Rav Moshe alone. This being even in a case where he was cholek with Rav Moshe.

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  3. Garnel IronheartJuly 4, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    First of all, there's a fascinating comment by the Netziv in Ha'amek Davar where the Torah talks about going to the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim for their psak in difficult cases and believing even that left is right and vice versa if the court says so.
    I've seen more than a couple Chareidi essays which use that verse as proof that Daas Torah should be followed even if it doesn't seem to make sense because of that command from the Torah.
    Yet the Netziv on that verse says the opposite. From the mention of the Temple in the subject, he concludes that only when the Temple is standing and the Sanhedrin's working beside it do the Sages have "daas Torah". In the absence of a Temple, they don't.

    The problem today is that the current crop of Gedolim have not so much worked their way to the top (as Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, did) but rather they were annointed to their positions. What's more, it's very clear that unless you belong to a specific part of the Jewish community, you are ineligible to be considered for the position of Gadol. These two facts limit people's appreciation of their authority nowadays. Rav Moshe simply answered questions he was asked. The current crop are ruling that all Jews, irregardless of background or hashkafah, must act like they do or risk losing their "good Jew" status.

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  4. Intersting on many levels.

    I had been taught was the reason R'E hagadol was not accepted was that his intellectual ability was so far above his peers that he could convince them either way - else on what basis is "acceptance" defined (nice demeanor etc. - why?)

    R' Chaim Soloveitchik reportedly asked shailot asking for a yes/no w/o svara because if he got the svara he could question it.


    ==================================
    The absence of gedolim in MO circle's is not because they don't have high level talmidei chachomim - but because the MO rabbis view themselves as authorities based on texts and sevora - not acceptance. The local rabbi - not the transcendent authority - is what is important to them. The MO are not looking for transcendent authorities - and thus they don't have them. [Not because the "narrow minded" Chareidim reject them.]
    ============================


    I agree partially - the MO system (less so now but that's another story) does not require omniscient gedolim (as the charedi system does and therefore requires individuals fill that role) but rather a guide by the side (vs. sage on the stage) to assist local rabbis where they need it.This does not touch on whether chareidim recognize their torah abilities independent of the model employed.

    ===========================

    Rav Soloveitchik was arguably the greatest Torah genius of the 20th century - but the MO were not interested in submitting themselves to him and accepting his judgments - his "Daas Torah". Instead they relied on their local rabbi or on themselves. Rabbi Rakkefet told me that Rav Solveitchik encouraged this independent thinking - because Rav Soloveitchik viewed that the lack of independent thinking among European Jews was a major factor in the great destruction of the Holocaust. As a perhaps over simplistic but valid generalization: amongst the MO all those who have semicha are viewed as equal authorities
    =================================

    imho off base (except the opening :-)) as stated above. You might ask R' AR if he felt that was the main cause, I'd be surprised but who knows

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  5. Garnel Ironheart wrote:

    First of all, there's a fascinating comment by the Netziv in Ha'amek Davar where the Torah talks about going to the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim for their psak in difficult cases and believing even that left is right and vice versa if the court says so.
    I've seen more than a couple Chareidi essays which use that verse as proof that Daas Torah should be followed even if it doesn't seem to make sense because of that command from the Torah.

    Yet the Netziv on that verse says the opposite. From the mention of the Temple in the subject, he concludes that only when the Temple is standing and the Sanhedrin's working beside it do the Sages have "daas Torah". In the absence of a Temple, they don't.


    I responded:
    העמק דבר על דברים פרק יז פסוק יא
    מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך. זו הקבלה איש מפי איש עכ"ל. וגאון פי' בשאלתא הנוספת לפרשת מפשטים בזה"ל. אמר משה לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע כתבת בתורתך וקמת ועלית הרי בזמן שבהמ"ק קיים בזמן שאין בהמ"ק קיים מי ישפוט בין עמך ישראל א"ל בעלי תורה דהכי כתיב עפ"י התורה אשר יורוך כו' עכ"ל מפרש גאון מקרא דלעיל ועשית על פי הדבר אשר יגידו לך מן המקום אשר יבחר ה' שהוא מיותר כמש"כ. שבא ללמדנו דרק על פי הדבר אפילו אינם באים להגיד אלא דבר לחוד ולא תורת הפלפול האיך מוכיחים ההלכה מ"מ קיים הדין עפ"י דבריהם אבל בזמן שאין בהמ"ק קיים אזי דוקא ע"פ התורה אשר יורוך ועי' מש"כ לעיל א' ג'. וכל הדרשות אמת והתורה כפטיש יפוצץ סלע:

    I don’t see that the Netziv says what you claim he says in the name of the She’iltos

    GI wrote:
    The problem today is that the current crop of Gedolim have not so much worked their way to the top (as Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, did) but rather they were annointed to their positions. What's more, it's very clear that unless you belong to a specific part of the Jewish community, you are ineligible to be considered for the position of Gadol. These two facts limit people's appreciation of their authority nowadays. Rav Moshe simply answered questions he was asked. The current crop are ruling that all Jews, irregardless of background or hashkafah, must act like they do or risk losing their "good Jew" status.

    I responded:
    This is totally wrong. You seem to forget that it was Rav Moshe who posuled the Reform and Conservative rabbis. It was he who declared their marriages as not being marriages and their conversions as not being conversions and their divorces as not being divorces. He also declared that any conversions which did not involve acceptances of mitzvos as being invalid – even if done by an Orthodox rabbi. In short the current gedolim are making their rulings against conversion based on Rav Moshe’s teshuvos.

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  6. Garnel IronheartJuly 4, 2008 at 9:05 PM

    What do you mean you don't see it? It's right there at the end of the piece you posted: "At a time when the Beis HaMikdash does not exist, then it shall be specifically according to the Torah they will teach you."
    Which I have understood as: if you pasken, you must show your s'vara. Announcing a decision and, when challenged, citing "Daas Torah" instead of defending your position goes against this.

    As for your second reply, I don't see what it has to do with my statement. I wasn't questioning Rav Moshe's various opinions and I am well aware of who he posuled. My point is that if Rav Moshe was asked a question, he answered it. Nowadays we get declarations on such things as: All "A" is forbidden. All "B" is not allowed. And there is no indication that the people making these announcements only intend it to be for their personal communities. There is a re-definition occuring that says that if you don't hold by the latest chumrah of the week, you are lacking in your Judaism

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  7. I have been looking and I have not seen any examples where rabbanim were against Rav Rackman's psak because they felt that only Rav Moshe himself could matir something. A common example that I think that various authorities have with Rav Rackman is where he charts into new territory scenareos that Rav Moshe did not specifically deal with.

    For example Rav Rackman would matir a woman to remarry in a case where the husband was violent all of the time. He said that it is now known to psychiatrists that violence in males stems latent from adolescence. This would mean that the husband was carrying a hidden defect at the time from the chupa. Rav Rackman went on to say that even though Rav moshe did not matir agunot in these cases he (Rav Rackman)felt that he was uniquely qualified to extend Rav Moshe's shittot into new territory because he was in possession of research that was unavailable in Rav Moshe's time.

    Evidently the other authorities did not think that he (Rav Rackman) was uniquely qualified to establish ground breaking priori to Rav Moshe's shittot. This however does not mean that they would hold that somebody else would not be qualified. Even if they they were not as great as Rav Moshe.

    In all honesty, what posek today can say that they are as great as the Beit Yoseph, the Rema, the Chafitz Chayim, Chazon Eish, Rambam etc...? Yet this is what poskim do. They apply new scenarios to old sevoras. We might even call some of this activity chidushim. So to say that one can make a dichotomy on whether or not one may accept a certain shitta alive or post-mortem would seem questionable.

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  8. Garnel Ironheart said...

    What do you mean you don't see it? It's right there at the end of the piece you posted: "At a time when the Beis HaMikdash does not exist, then it shall be specifically according to the Torah they will teach you."
    Which I have understood as: if you pasken, you must show your s'vara. Announcing a decision and, when challenged, citing "Daas Torah" instead of defending your position goes against this.
    ======================
    GI asserted
    1) The Torah says one must believe the Sanhedrin even if they are wrong i.e., left is right and vice versa.
    2) Chareidim say that means that the Torah teaches that Daas Torah must be followed even it it doesn’t make sense.
    3) Netziv says the opposite. Only when the Temple is standing with the Sanhedrin inside do Sages have “daas Torah” i.e., believe them even if they are wrong. In the absence of the Temple they don’t have daas Torah. So that they don’t have to be believed when they are wrong.

    In fact the Netziv only says that the psak of the Sanhedrin is valid even it they don’t give justification and proof for their psak. However when there is no Temple the psak is only valid if proof is offered.

    1) First of all there is no Sanhedrin without the Temple. Thus the simple reading is that the psak of Sanhedrin is valid even if they don’t bring proof to their psak. While in the absence of a true Sanhedrin – the judicial body must bring proof for their psak.
    2) Whether he is talking about Sanhedrin or some other judicial body – he is not talking about whether they are infallible. Thus in either case they can be challenged. He is not saying that there is infallible Daas Torah only in the Sanhedrin in the Temple.
    3) He notes that he has previously said a contradictory peshat [see verse nine] – that the Sanhedrin decides between the sevora of the two sides and announces which sevora is correct. So that even the Sanhedrin in the Temple requires sevora.

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  9. Bartley Kulp said...

    I have been looking and I have not seen any examples where rabbanim were against Rav Rackman's psak because they felt that only Rav Moshe himself could matir something. A common example that I think that various authorities have with Rav Rackman is where he charts into new territory scenareos that Rav Moshe did not specifically deal
    ----------------------------
    The following quote from Rabbi Jachter states two things 1) only a *great* rabbi in an emergency can apply Rav Moshe's ruling. Never heard Rabbi Rachman described as a *great* rabbi. 2) Rabbi Rachman has extended annulment beyond that which Rav Moshe did.

    Rabbi Jachter AGUNA - Rabbi Jachter http://www.tabc.org/koltorah/AGUNA/aguna59.8.htm wrote:

    Rabbi Rackman's Error

    Rav Moshe in these responsa certainly stretched the halacha to its outer limits and virtually no other halachic authorities have adopted his position (although a great rabbi may choose to issue a ruling in accordance with Rav Moshe's views in case of emergency when it is absolutely impossible to procure a Get from the husband).

    Rabbi Rackman, though, erroneously seeks to apply Rav Moshe's ruling ever further. Rabbi Rackman
    argues that if a husband was abusive to his wifeduring the course of the marriage, this indicates that at the time of the wedding the husband "had the seeds" of an "abuser personality" and since no woman would want to marry an abuser the marriage is, therefore, nullified on the grounds of "Kiddushei Ta'ut".
    This argument has been rejected for quite a number of reasons:

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  10. Bartley Kulp said...

    Where is there a source in shas where one can completely seperate one's authority from his sevora?
    =========================
    Kesef Mishna says that the fact that an amora does not argue with a tanna is because they accepted not to argue.

    There is the concept of mora d'asra - where authority comes because the community accepted the person as rav.

    Kvar horah hazakein - where a psak has become accepted by the Jewish people - even though later poskim might disagree with the sevara.

    takanas which have become accepted but now their justification no longer applies - are still in force unless nullified by another beis din.

    mumchin l'rabbim can posken against the evidence because of a hunch.

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  11. Daas Torah said...
    "The following quote from Rabbi Jachter states two things 1) only a *great* rabbi in an emergency can apply Rav Moshe's ruling. Never heard Rabbi Rachman described as a *great* rabbi. 2) Rabbi Rachman has extended annulment beyond that which Rav Moshe did.

    All of this is more or less saying that it was not felt that Rav Rackman was uniquely qualified to apply complex situations (for scenarios discussed by Rav Moshe) to Rav Moshe's psakim. However this does not imply that only someone with Rav Moshe's stature could paskin this case.

    However in pointing out that Rav Rackman was breaking new halachic grounds in scenareos that were not considered or at least discussed by Rav Moshe in his psakim. Obviously only a Rav Moshe could do that. Or at least a posek hador.

    I still do not know the full scenario of what you posted where Rav Elyashuv did not poskened stringently in a case that was seemingly duplicate to one in which he had previously relied on the authority of Rav Moshe. Was the couple being discussed from chutz l'aretz? This might make the entire difference.

    For example I have been told by people (one chashuv dayan who probably would not want to be quoted in this blog. I will email you the name of my source if you want) That Rav Elyashuv has a no plug policy when poskening certain issues regarding gerus when it was done in chutz láretz he will deem it a suffik with the exception of a few betei dinim in which he is aqcuanted enough with the rabbonim involved. In the same instance he might be more lenient with individuals of the same circumstance if they were from Israel. It is a matter of being able to do reliable research on people from places unfamiliar to him coming in such large numbers. I know that someone like Rav Eisenstein would say chas v'shalom and the rest of the sound bite. This is actually what he told me when I asked him if it was true? I personally would have to hear it from Rav Elyashuv himself.

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  12. I just want to write that when I gave the example of Rav Elyashuv having a no plug policy on certain individuals from chutz l'aretz, this was in no way critisizing him. On the contrary I think that it is probably very prudent and he has a lot of responsibility. With someone of his stature it is his call. I am just saying that I thought that the example that you sighted might have not been as simplistic that you could use it as a proof for a theoretical discussion.

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  13. Garnel IronheartJuly 7, 2008 at 5:29 PM

    > 1) The Torah says one must believe the Sanhedrin even if they are wrong i.e., left is right and vice versa.

    No, the Torah says one must follow their decisions. One can still think they're wrong and one is not a zakein mamre until one actually goes and presents one's dissenting opinion as halachah. One can still teach the opinion of the Sanhedrin and say "I disagree but hey, they're the law!"

    > ) First of all there is no Sanhedrin without the Temple.

    No, they're just limited in what they can do. Eg. no capital punishment.

    > So that even the Sanhedrin in the Temple requires sevora.

    So how much more so today's Gedolim?

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