Tuesday, December 22, 2009

R' Reuven Feinstein's haskoma & the Tropper tapes

It is interesting to note that approximately the same time the Tropper tapes were being recorded that Tropper had Rav Reuven Feinstein write a haskoma for his activities in EJF

Cheshvan 1, 5770
October 19, 2009

My Honorable Friends, Rabbis of the Eternal Jewish Family Organization,

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate and clarify my previous stated opinion that all of the activity of this organization strictly adheres to the Torah's laws as transmitted by both the leading halacha deciders of our time (may they live and be well) as well as those of blessed memory.

The Eternal Jewish Family has my full support, as at the helm of the organization is a halacha committee made up of Torah scholars endowed with a strong fear of heaven who are admirable in both thought and action.

The directors of EJF are of the elite few of our generation who follow the directives of today's Torah leaders. They are willing to listen to their constructive criticism, and even adjust the organization's activities or strategies when instructed.

The mixed seminars for couples that EJF runs follow the strict guidelines and Torah decisions of the previous generation's Torah luminaries, as well as today's leading Rabbinic authorities, our master HaGaon Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlit"a and HaGaon Rabbi Shmuel Vosner shlit"a and our master HaGaon Rabbi Yosef.

May you be blessed to continue sanctifying the great Name of Hashem and strengthening the Glory of Heaven until the final redemption.

Signed in blessing and true friendship,
Reuven Feinstein


  1. What does this say for the concept of "das teireh"? (Litvishe pronounciation exagerated to distinguish from sefer and blog title.)

    One can ask the same to anyone who blames "the askanim" for the pronouncements of gedolim. Das Teireh means that they should be able to read people better than that. And if they can't, then what does that say about their knowledge of the metzi'us in the question itself?


  2. Unless R' Feinstein removed himself completely from Tropper and his organization, he will find that his kaskomos and anything else he writes, will not be worth the paper it is written on.

  3. I think Micha asks a good question. How do we validate daas of the metzius (facts, fact finding) that is a necessary component in halachah l'maaseh and in takkanos and gadarim for a particular generation. I think that evaluating tropper was in fact a less factually complicated issue than the internet.

    Since askanim have become the reality filter for many poskim who live in the arbah ammos of torah is daas torah dependent on their discernment in which askanim they trust and for what?

    In effect Tropper was an Askan posing with a haskamah but manipulating his machshirim.

    Unfortunately askanim don't carry signs that say "I am nogeiah b'davar" because I want my own ban to establish my knaois." Yet over and over bans are issued without even talking to those affected by them. Even Spinoza was given more chance to defend himself than Nosson Kamenetsky.

    So I say, first lets re-establish metzius and then we can have an argument about daas torah.

  4. RYL, my point was more negative than that.

    The ability of a gadol to be misled by askanim and other manipulators is itself a disproof of das Teireh. If das Teireh had the qualities that are claimed for it, they would be able to see through the farce. And certainly not to be fooled a second and third time...

    Now, if you want to argue, as R' Dovid Cohen does, that daas Torah is a din that you must listen to rabbis on communal matters, with no guarantee of their advice being right, my objection wouldn't apply.


  5. I'll let you in on a little secret.

    The Agudah asked EJF's "International Ambassador" Menachem Lubinsky to get up and bash the Conservative Hechsher Tzedek at this past convention. He wouldn't do it because he was afraid he might lose future business from secular Jews. He was actually calling around asking rabbonim in the kashrus field to do his dirty work for him but no one fell for it.

  6. Below is a passage from the Mesilas Yesharim that I think is relevant to the topic being discussed. It appears toward the end of Chapter 23:

    ".... And you can see this quite clearly: the majority of nobles and kings or all people who are in a position of power, whatever their stature, falter and are corrupted by the flattery of their subordinates.
    "Therefore, anyone with eyes in his head should exercise more caution and scrutiny regarding the actions of anyone he seeks as a friend or an advisor or as the custodian of his household, than he exercises in relation to his food and drink. For food and drink can only harm him physically, while friends or custodians can corrupt his soul, his strengths, and his honor...."
    [Translation from the 2004 Feldheim ed., p. 167]

  7. The fact that (almost) all the gedolim of the Litvish camp of ultra Orthodoxy were fed by Tropper and were influenced is a prove of the collective corruption of Daat torah (at least on that camp).

    I would speculate and say that 5o years since the churban of comfortable exile is the reason but the corruption of data torah in Israel indicates that it is not the reason.

    It is interesting that even pre-war rabbis such as Scheinberg and r' Elyashiv succumb to it but other pre-war rabbi r' Sternbuch did not.

    The religious Zionists in Israel seem to hold on to Yiddishkeit while the American Modern orthodox did not.

  8. On a more positive note, let's remember the Spinka Rebbe, who was sentenced today. There we have a leader who admits his human shortcomings and tries to correct them.

    To quote Rashi, Vayiqra 4:22:
    אֲשֶׁר נָשִׂיא יֶחֱטָא -- לשון אשרי, אשרי הדור שהנשיא שלו נותן לב להביא כפרה על שגגתו, קל וחומר שמתחרט על זדונותיו:

    "'That (asher) the prince sins' -- it is a language of merit (ashrei), meritorious is the generation whose prince gives heart to bring an atonment for his accidents, a fortiori, that he regrets his intentional sins!"

    The Spinka Rebbe didn't have others take the fall for him, he didn't pretend what he did was mutar. He acknowledged the error, took all efforts to make it impossible to recurr within Spinka, and then offered those resources to the rest of the O world. In a public announcement to thousands, no less!

    So, Chizki, the cup is half full too!


  9. The problem is not poskim living beyond their means and stretching out their hands. I believe the descriptions of R. Eliyashiv's lifelong modest living standard. For that matter, I think the recipients of Tropper’s largesse also live within their personal means. But many torah institutions do not live within their means. I do not mean extravagance. I mean that the fundamental income producing capacities of their respective communities do not match the costs of the many young men who learn for many years into adulthood. This is the story of the Spinka Rebbe. The District Attorney, at sentencing gave him credit for not doing it for himself. But he supported a Kollel larger than he could afford, a good kollel, I am told.

    Throughout the post WWII period, mosdos have been struggling to fund themselves. No amount of raffles etc can solve the problems when everyone is pretty much tapped out. If one group gets better at raffles it just means fewer dollars for another group. Now one solution is to bravely admit the goals are too ambitious for the available dollars. One hires a Yekke bookkeeper and says, we can only be so much in debt and after that we either violate our repayment obligations or compromise ourselves in what we give up to get contributions from those with whom we don't agree. At the end of the day it means taking seriously what Jonathan Rosenblum wrote about on cross-currents, having more young men earning,

    Askanim engage in a sleight of hand to make the fundamental problem seem soluble. So they cook up schemes that amount to fraud. They make political deals which involve compromises such as the recent Lakewood debacle where the community voted against New Jersey Governor Corzine 75% to 25% even though the hanhallah of BMG endorsed him. Worst of all they bring in money, no questions asked. But of course all roshei yeshivas and heads of mosdos understand that at least it involves taking pictures and making appearances etc. Tropper figured out how to go a little further and get people on committees and appear to be providing haskomos and hashgachah. Unfortunately this trading of prestige for money has become widespread. In effect it is a PR game with fatal consequences. For all practical purposes, community standing and implied endorsements are being sold.

    The scandals will end when mosdos and kehilahs limit themselves to what they can afford. In the current climate there is only competition to have more young men learning longer and to operate more and larger institutions. This is not so different from Americans who kept on buying more expensive houses they could not really afford. Sooner or later there was bound to be fraud and the bubble was bound to burst. Sure enough it did. So now we need both a cheshbon hanefesh and a careful evaluation of economic realities. Or else it is only a matter of time till the next scandal.

  10. Allow me to suggest another problem with the Daas Torah concept, as practiced today:

    It leads to bullying.

    Abuse of power and bullying is the common denominator that runs through the Tropper scandal, the Slifkin campaign, and several other campaigns l'Shem Shomayim that have plagued us.

    At no time, in any of these campaigns, did it promulgators demand that even a modicum of fair play be used.

    Even with Tropper gone, that system whereby power is abused and the vulnerable (those in the minority, those with fewer allies, etc) are bullied remains firmly in place.

  11. Monsey, you don't know what you are talking about.

    Most gedolim did not fall for Tropper. And many who came to take a look at the EJF fresser fests at the 5 star hotels did not come back.

  12. Micha,

    Blaming "the askanim" for the pronouncements of gedolim, is one of the oldest canards by those who wish to deny the legitimacy of the gedolim and wish to explain away their lack of adherence to them.

    The gedolim are more capable that you and I -- as well as most anyone we know -- in determining the truth of the issue prior to making any pronouncement.

  13. Does anyone know how to look up court records in Florida to see what's going on with Guma Aguiar's lawsuit against Tropper?

  14. "The gedolim are more capable that you and I -- as well as most anyone we know -- in determining the truth of the issue prior to making any pronouncement."

    Yosef, the Gedolim are not as independent as you say. They need people like you, worshippers of man.

  15. Moish - That blood libel you repeat is as old as Korach.

  16. I have two questions: First, I thought that character was supposed to be essential in Torah organizations. Shouldn't Tropper's character (which we are assured was no secret to the Rabbis who, if not part of EJF allied themselves with EJF in important matters) have made a difference? Or are we forced we remind ourselves that the Torah tells us that bribery blinds the wise and that flattery is a net to snare the unwary. Then, too, Tropper is a bully. Was that a factor?

    And second, is trying to establish a single, centralized organization for any halachic issue proper before the Moshiach comes to do it? Doesn't it smack of trying to force the redemption?

  17. Yoseph - Prophets must be tested. Are you prepared to validate your earlier statement and face the consequences?

  18. Moish - Do you purport to be more capable in deciding a halachic matter than the gedolim?

  19. such a pleasure to find a blog where the comments are so intelligent i feel i have little to add. yashar koach to r. eidensohn and the "commenter community" here. i think micha is asking important questions. and if archie has evidence of the gedolim not being swayed by tropper, let him bring it. the public evidence to the contrary is...well..public.

  20. "Moish - Do you purport to be more capable in deciding a halachic matter than the gedolim?"

    No. The ability to perceive that Tropper is a crook is not a halachik matter, though.

  21. If some unknown rabbi comes along and says "I'll raise the standards of Geirus", and he comes at a time when each rabbi is doing his own thing, why wouldn't the gedolim support him? Are we faulting them for not checking out what he does in his private life?

  22. There is one problem, while everyone is busy vilifying Tropper - without getting into any details about this topic, a much bigger problem is being overlooked. What is happening to all of the potential Geirim who are working with EJF? Furthermore, until EJF becomes fully transparent as to its functionality, we will NEVER know what it is supposed to be doing. On one hand its leader attempts to annul the Giyur of individuals - whether for their perceived inadequacies on the part of the convert or else problems with the Beis Din which did the Giyur, yet they claim in their mission statement that they do not perform any Giyur? Something is contradictory here. Any ideas?

  23. Joseph & others are correct about the Daas Torah of gedolim when they are indeed true gedolim. In the yeridas hadoros unfortunately we have many poseurs who are masquerading as gedolim when they are not. This is especially true in very recent times since the petirah of Maran Rav Schach ztl.

    And it is true that people that surround Rav Elyashev are manipulating and misquoting him. I have heard this from roshei yeshiva who complain that that circle acts like a "mafia".

  24. I am not blaming the gedolim. To err is human. To make judgment on incomplete information is not only human, but necessary.

    I am pointing out the flaw in thinking that Das Teireh makes them more than human. A gadol is someone who has inborn genius plus a lifetime of learning how to think like a poseiq. It doesn't give him magic insight into fields he doesn't know, fields where the modes of thought are very different than that of halakhah, and that depends on numerous facts.

    Their advice is therefore of value; I mean, we're talking about going to a genius who has ahavas Yisrael and really wants you to succeed. But it can't be taken as anything more than that. A genius who has less daas torah but more daas politics or daas defense or daas psychology or daas profession may be a more useful resource -- depending on the question.


  25. Eternal Jewish Fraud WatchDecember 23, 2009 at 5:17 PM

    Everything is contradictory about EJF because it is Tropper personal fiefdom for devorim assurim and he has a difficult time with his PR effort in churning out the shekorim to make it look legit.

  26. No. The ability to perceive that Tropper is a crook is not a halachik matter, though.

    משה רפאל is asking a critical question. We have certainly had gedolim who, educated solely in the world of Torah have been able to detect that somebody is crooked or has Eisav's hands. Today we clearly have others who know Torah but either can't smell an evil man, or who can but close their eyes to it R"L.

    The widespread corruption in parts of the religious Jewish world suggests that doing crimes for a good cause is all too common, and it's not just since the war, either. I have it from my mother that disgust at Orthodox (especially rabbinic) corruption is part of what drove her father away from religion, and that was almost a century ago. The judge's statement in the Spinka sentencing makes me understand my grandfather OBM better.

    Of course it's easier to be upset about hypocrisy of those who say "it's my way or the highway" while setting in motion a chillul Hashem than to do something about it.

    In a healthy corporation or military organization a debacle such as EJF would result in the organization's trying to find out what had gone wrong.
    Hiring, training, and management personnel and practices would be changed to keep it from happening again. A new logo and a coat of paint wouldn't be enough. It wouldn't be pleasant to go through, and for some it would be really unpleasant. People would be fired and deomoted, and the healthier the organization, the more the rolling heads would be the right ones.
    Tropper was smart enough to pick an issue (as the street thugs do with Shabbat) that it's very hard for a rabbi to dissociate himself from even though having one's cause advanced by evil means is in essence taking a bribe from the organizers of the evil.

    I guess אין כל חדש includes the Troppers of the world, because that Jewish guy who went way off the derech a while back? The one who used to go on about nicely painted tombs full of tumah? He would have a field day with what's going on today.
    We'll see soon how many of today's rabbinical leaders are fitting heirs to Chazal and have the needed wisdom and courage.

  27. "The ability to perceive that Tropper is a crook is not a halachik matter, though."

    Moisha - Incorrect. Yes, it indeed very much is a halachic matter whether someone is a crook.

    "I am not blaming the gedolim. To err is human. To make judgment on incomplete information is not only human, but necessary. I am pointing out the flaw in thinking that Das Teireh makes them more than human."

    Micha - Yes, Gedolim can indeed err. Nevertheless, you cannot point out or determine if and/or when that occurred. You are far more prone to error than any of the Gedolim. When you think or feel that a Gadol HaDor has erred, the great likelihood is you are the one who is erring and the Gadol HaDor is 100% correct.

    Better for the Klal to follow the infrequent errors of the Gedolim, than to follow the non-Gedolim who think the Gedolim are in error. The former will result in the Klal engaging in far less errors than the latter.

  28. seeing the new post that he got $3M, its no wonder that he writes such a letter, an expensive piece of paper!!

  29. Joseph, the Gedolim worked with a crook, and gave him approval and recommendation. Obviously they did not perceive he was a crook. My wife, on the other hand, told me that Tropper is a crook after seeing him once. She did not need any halachic knowledge for that. For me all this is not a problem, but it should bother you, who ascribe such uniquely evelated qualities of judgement to the gedolim.

  30. Lesson learnt from משה רפאל is that we should turn to his wife for sagely religious advice rather than turning to our Chachomim.

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Folks, I think those not in Yeshivishe circles overestimate how much people rely on "Das Teirah", as it were. Most of us know that what rumors come from Rav Elyashiv are somewhat unreliable unless a Rosh Yeshiva/Rov we know asks him directly, precisely because of all of the people who distort what he says. Additionally, a common refrain in the yeshiva world is that in America, there are very few real first rate gedolim. Most often people (with seichel) look to their own Rosh Yeshiva for advice, not simply the "reid" on the street.

    The ideas of "daas Torah" are generally reserved for well known hashkafic approaches to life.

    I think that the Yeshiva world is a lot more aware, clever and not as believing as the blogosphere gives them credit for.

  33. Like I said, משה רפאל, we all ought to turn to your wife (rather than, say, Rav Kanievsky Shlita) for character judgments.

  34. "Additionally, a common refrain in the yeshiva world is that in America, there are very few real first rate gedolim."

    That blood libel has been used time immemorial. It is not a new claim in our generation. The deniers have made this claim for 1,000's of years already.

    "I think that the Yeshiva world is... not as believing as the blogosphere gives them credit for."

    This is a newer blood libel than the previous one.

  35. Joseph,

    People have said it in the past, yes.

    The difference is that today you have "gedolim" who do not follow Shulchan Aruch and act like ohn-mentchen.

  36. Ombudsman: What you are claiming, has been claimed by some about the Gedolim of every previous generation since the Mechaber wrote the Shulchan Aruch.

  37. Joseph,

    Do you have any idea of the history of "das Teireh"? It's not some ancient concept that I need to excuse my lack of adherence to.

    In the gemara, we find "daas Torah" once, in contrast to a deduction the tanna made himself. Nothing resembling our notion.

    It all starts with R' Yisrael Salanter, who identified "thinking as the Torah shapes us to think" as something we should all cultivate in ourselves. This kind of "daas Torah" was something Rav Yisrael required of a poseiq. That pesaq isn't just knowing the right set of facts and applying an algorithm; it comes from an entire gestalt, or to switch languages, it takes a "gefeel".

    Second, Rav Yisrael identified the role of one's own rebbe as having daas Torah so that he can provide guidance not only in halakhah, but in mussar as well. This made the rebbe something more than a poseiq.

    But still, nothing like today's idea, we're still talking about religious authority for religious questions.

    The next step in the evolution was the formation of Agudah and its mo'etzes. The basis of being lead by the mo'etzes was articulated by R' CO Grozhinsky, and quite beautifully by R' JB Soloveitchik in his hespeid for Rav Chaim Ozer. (This is before RJBS defected for Mizrachi.) The notion that communal leadership and Torah leadership must reside in the same person. RJBS's metaphor: the kohein gadol who wears the tzitz, bearing the words "Qodesh Lashem", must be the same kohein gadol who wears the choshen with the names of the shevatim upon it.

    But this is an issue of authority, not accuracy. With the loss of the melukhah, authority remained only in the Sanhedrin, and from their to the rabbanim of our day.

    Also, one gets from "asei lekha rav", having a personal rebbe, to authority of the mo'etzes only when speaking of the Agudah, being a single decision-making entity working communally. Nothing about personal decisionmaking.

    Meanwhile, Chassidus had the notion of hisqashrus to a rebbe. The Baal haTanya objected to people coming to their rabbeim for career advice and whatnot, but by our point in history, this was taken for granted. Chassidim hold that a tzaddiq's advice comes with siyata diShmaya.

    Over the course of the 1930s through the 1960s these three ideas fused. The gedolim are now focused upon, not necessarily one's own rebbe, even in personal matters. The chassidishe's tzadiq's siyata diShmaya is conflated with R' Yisrael Salanter's concept of daas Torah as having a mind that is shaped by ameilus beTorah to be closer to Hashem's ideal. The result is the "das Teireh" of today.

    This "venerable" idea post-dated my own rebbe (who was learning in Grodno with R' Shimon Shkop when the moetzes was formed). It is also experimentally disprovable, and has been shown to be wrong. I don't feel any need to excuse my lack of fealty to it.

    Speaking of R' JB Soloveitchik's defection... According to the Sept 1941 edition of HaPardes, he was the first head of the Moetzes Chakhmei haTorah (as it was called then)!


  38. "That blood libel has been used time immemorial. It is not a new claim in our generation. The deniers have made this claim for 1,000's of years already."

    Joseph, you do not know what a blood libel is. Please check it out and use this kind of expressions only when they apply.

  39. "Folks, I think those not in Yeshivishe circles overestimate how much people rely on "Das Teirah", as it were. ....."

    There is more to consider than what you write. When the Gaza rockets will land in the center of the country, I trust it will become clear.

  40. http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2009/12/13/kollel-is-not-always-forever/

  41. Kman, Daas Torah had a heavy hand in both the Oslo agreements and the "Disengagement".

  42. Micha,

    Other than equivocating the points in my previous comment addressed to you, rather than responding to them, your most recent post is mistaken. Rav Yisroel Salanter and Ravv Chaim Ozer most assuredly were not bringing any innovations with their expounding on our ancient conventions.

    The point is not when the term "Daas Torah" entered our lexicon (which effectively is how you are trying to get around the issue), but rather the fact that what today is often referred to as "Daas Torah" is a concept as ancient as Har Sinai.

    Regardless of what it was called then as opposed to now.

  43. Joseph,

    I am not sure you know what the word "equivocating" means. I doubt when you wrote "equivocating the points in my previous comment addressed to
    you", you meant to say that I was showing how vague your previous concept was.

    I did respond to your point -- das Teirah as you believe it is a mid-20th cent invention. Unlike what you seem to have gotten fro my post, it goes beyond what Rav Yisrael Salanter was talking about when he coined the term, and beyond what R' CO Grozhinsky et al were talking about when the mo'etzes was established.

    Rav Yisrael wrote about how Torah involves an attitude and a "feel" for what's write, not just a collection of facts. Therefore, (1) it is something to cultivate in onself; and (2) it is something one must look for in a poseiq or a mashgiach. Nothing about advice on secular leadership.

    The mo'etzes is abbout communal leadership on communal decisions. Nothing about turning to "the gedolim" rather than consistently turning to one's own rebbe.

    So, for example, when someone goes to a gadol to ask their advice on a career decision:

    Rav Yisrael would say you should instead go to your rebbe, someone who is helping you long-term in your work on middos. Without his daas Torah, your mussar work wouldn't be nearly as effective. But do it in conjunction with someone who knows the industry. Daas Torah doesn't replace knowing the metzi'us; it supplements -- now that I know the details, which would make me more of a yarei Shamayim?

    R' CO Grozhinsky wouldn't even go that far because he didn't have the mussarnik's focus on a rebbe for one's middos. He would probably agree in principle, but never actually said anything about people going to rabbeim -- in his day that was distinctly chassidish.

    The concept of a mo'etzes is based on a community turning to rabbeim for leadership. Without a melekh, the nesi'ut falls to the rabbanim. Nothing about individual decisions. And nothing about them being more correct.

    So again, "das Teireh" (as opposed to the concept from which this blog gets its name) is something created by the post-war yeshivish hamon am. Not just the label, the entire concept. It is not actually articulated by any of the rabbanim people who follow das Teireh consider "the gedolim".

    Is that clear enough? I don't need to blame askanim as an excuse not to follow the idea. The Lithuanian yeshivos the current yeshivishe velt is trying to emulate never had it. Neither did the mussar yeshivos. Why should I?


  44. [part 2]

    BTW, "the gedolim" is also a new concept. Was a time when gedulah was a more-vs-less thing, not a classed society.

    So, with the chassidification of the yeshiva velt, Volozhin's colored suits all went black, and their rashei yeshiva are turned into something more like chassidishe rabbeim. It's not authentic Litvishe mesorah.

    Again, your notion that "The gedolim are more capable that you and I -- as well as most anyone we know -- in determining the truth of the issue prior to making any pronouncement" is not from R' Yisrael Salanter, R' Chaim Ozer Grozhinsky, etc... It's something the masses came up with. I believe this very blog has evidence that R' Shternbuch doesn't believe it.

    You turn to rabbanim for pesaq halakhah (which is binding) and for ethical advice (which is not, but why be stupid and not rely on their da'as?). But this claim that they are less likely to err in general, as old as Sinai? You are VERY mistaken.

    Recall, we got to the topic of daas Torah because Tropper pulled the wool over so many gedolim's eyes again and again -- they didn't see through his lie about the effect of Slifkin's books on his talmidim, used him to handle incoming donations, supported his leadership of EJF. I mean, this guy had serious moral lapses, and they trusted him! Frankly, if I thought that was part of Sinai, something like this would bring me to a crisis of faith!


  45. Let me quote a very strongly worded maqor for what I'm saying about das Teirah (under any name) being a new idea.

    My dear friend...."Remember the days of old, understand the years of every generation" – has there ever been anything like this since the beginning of time?! Where, in all the books of the scholars of Israel, whether the earlier or later ones, have you ever seen such a custom instituted, to ask about a secular question, such as what to do in some mundane matter, even from the greatest of the early wise men of Israel, such as the tannaim and amoraim... but rather [people would turn to] actual prophets, such as there used to be, such as Shmuel the Seer, to whom Saul went to ask about the donkeys which his father had lost. But in truth, all matters relating to a person, other than something having to do with Torah or fear of heaven, are not apprehended other than through prophecy, and not by a wise man. As our rabbis have taught, "Everything is in the hands of heaven other than fear of heaven..."

    And when our rabbis zt"l said that people "derive benefit from him [from a talmid chakham] by advice and sound wisdom," this refers to words of Torah, which is called "sound wisdom".

    Nu? Want to guess who that was?

    It is from the Igeres haQodesh of the Baal haTanya (R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi), ch. 22.

    In the Baal haTanya's day, turning to a tzaddiq for advice where the open question didn't hinge on religion was new even within Chassidus -- and he was against that innovation NO ONE was thinking anything remotely like that in the Litvisher velt.

    Joseph, so much for your "miSinai".



  46. Last, I am not blaming the askanim for why the gedolim's leadership often fails. I blame the non-existence of das Teireh.

    I also blame that non-existence for why so many gedolim can be repeatedly fooled by the same askanim.


  47. Micha,

    It is clear that you have a misunderstanding of what Daas Torah is. Daas Torah is not as you defined it above "that they should be able to read people better than that." ("That" presumably being the ability to read all the unstated faults of a particular individual.) So, no, Daas Torah was not "created by the post-war yeshivish hamon am." Where did you get this funny idea of what is Daas Torah, and how it came about?

    My previous comment that "the gedolim are more capable that you and I" (in response to the content of your first post on this thread) on matters the Gedolim choose to take a stand on, does not imply that a Godol is a "know-it-all."

    You wrote "But this claim that they are less likely to err in general, as old as Sinai? You are VERY mistaken." In fact, I am afraid, it is you who is very much mistaken. Do you purport that you, Micha Berger, are no less likely to err (in general) on matters that the Gedolim take a stand on, than the Gedolim themselves? If your answer is that it depends on the situation, the question to you is how should we (the people) know when to turn to, say, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita for advice, and ignore the differing opinion of Micha Berger; and when we should turn to Micha Berger for advice, and ignore the differing opinion of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita? If we cannot determine in advance of the question who of these two individuals' advice is more likely to be "on the button", I propose we always turn to Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita as his advice is far more likely to be correct. (Obviously we are referring to matters that Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita is willing to answer the question at hand, as he feels his instructions can be useful.)

    You wrote "Recall, we got to the topic of daas Torah because Tropper pulled the wool over so many gedolim's eyes again and again -- they didn't see through his lie about the effect of Slifkin's books on his talmidim, used him to handle incoming donations, supported his leadership of EJF. I mean, this guy had serious moral lapses, and they trusted him!"

    R. Tropper's alleged actions that are currently in the news have nothing to do with his activities at EJF and previously Slifkin. Are you purporting anyone with a moral lapse is disqualified in every other area? (If so, perhaps you are correct, yet how would others be able to predict a moral lapse in "Area A" when they are supporting this individual in "Area B"? See above where I indicate the Gedolim are not "know-it-alls.") As an aside, I never supported EJF; and the effect of Slifkin's books was no lie.

    Nor is the concept of Klal Yisroel having "gedolim" new. Each dor instinctively knew who the gedolei of the dor were (regardless if they used the terminology "gedolim.")

    And the precise color of the clothing of Bnei Torah (i.e. black) was never a matter of "mesorah." Different generations had different uniforms identifying their Bnei Torah.

    So in summation, you have a faulty understanding of what is Daas Torah.

  48. Micha, I like your website aishdas, you should expand it.

    Regarding your postings, how do you understand that which the gemara states, "Afilu sichas chulin shel talmidei chachamim tzrichim limud?"

  49. Joseph,

    You wrote, "The gedolim are more capable that you and I -- as well as most anyone we know -- in determining the truth of the issue prior to making any pronouncement." Is the trustworthiness of a delegate not an issue? "When you think or feel that a Gadol HaDor has erred, the great likelihood is you are the one who is erring and the Gadol HaDor is 100% correct." Well, they weren't 100% correct, time and time again.

    Tropper clearly has control issues, be that in what he did to Slifkin, to the giores whose conversion he tried to annul, the shidduch he scuttled, the money he didn't distribute according to instructions, and now taking advantage of the neediness of a geirus candidate. It's obvious to the person on the street, but not to the gedolim -- for otherwise he would not have been able to manipulate them time and time again. And when not him, the court askanim do so. (And don't tell you me don't believe they do; what, Tropper is the only person with such abilities?)

    Give me a definition of das Teireh that the Baal haTanya didn't explicitly state was never done before. I think that quote is a nail in the coffin.

    But look, your emunah in this newfangled invention was shaken by evidence, be it the thousands who could have escaped Europe down to the case before us. So I doubt something as simple as quoting sources and actually tracing the history factually would shake you.

    But for the rest of the world... Daas Torah doesn't mean a lesser likelihood of being wrong outside of the gadol beTorah's area of expertise. If you find evidence of such errors, it doesn't disprove Torah because the Torah never claimed otherwise. Don't lose your emunah in Torah miSinai and its power to redeem people!


  50. Micha,

    "Well, they weren't 100% correct, time and time again."

    No one ever said they were. (Re-read my comments above.) That is your straw man. Yet, they are far more likely to be 100% correct, than you.

    The issues with R. Tropper are the recent allegations and EJF's attempted proselytization of non-Jews. You can't hold against anyone for not predicting the recent allegations; and the Badatz has long criticized him for the proselytization. The rest of your list (i.e. Slifkin) not only have nothing to do with this, there is no wrong.

    I see you buy every MO/Zionist canard against Chachmei Yisroel, including the one about "the thousands who could have escaped Europe." Where exactly could "the thousands" have escaped to? Which countries doors were opened for the immigration of "thousands" (who sought to escape while the doors were open)?

    If a gadol beTorah takes a stand on an issue, obviously he finds it within his area of expertise to comment upon. So unless another gadol disagrees, the Klal is far better served following his instructions, than the alternatives. Even if ex post facto he turned out to be wrong, so what? Following a non-Gadol beTorah's contradicting advice is less likely to turn out non-harmful, than following the Gadol.

    Your quote from the Baal HaTanya only excludes "to ask about a secular question." To take your example above, where to live is a spiritual (i.e. Torah) matter.

    Neither the concept of Daas Torah nor the lack of Emunas Chachomim on display is a recent innovation. For the rest of us (the keepers of the faith), we will continue to maintain our faith.

  51. kman,

    The word is "sichah", as in "al tarbeh sichah im ha'ishah." When I banter, topics like math, science, philosophy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy come up. When you listen to a talmid chakham talk, you hear things about how he lives, references to ideas from sefarim, etc... With a little talmud, you can glean much about how a talmid chakham lives and thinks. Nothing about accuracy or even advice.


    I am unsurprised I didn't convince you. I gave up last comment. I proved to you that this concept you think is miSinai was not only not held of by the Baal haTanya, he was willing to state that no one else does it either. And I showed you how it did in reality evolve. You hand-wave without any facts. So I know you're unconcerned about the facts, and just want to continue believing.

    Feel free to do so. However, the problem with multiplying required beliefs is the risk of having a full crisis of faith when one of these additions prove false.

    So, then why did I bother replying? Just to note that the words you're objecting to are yours! I quoted your earlier comment "Yes, Gedolim can indeed err. Nevertheless, you cannot point out or determine if and/or when that occurred. You are far more prone to error than any of the Gedolim. When you think or feel that a Gadol HaDor has erred, the great likelihood is you are the one who is erring and the Gadol HaDor is 100% correct." and you objected to my saying "100% correct"! Well, time and time again, they weren't 100% correct. More often than me, certainly. More often than an expert in the given field, though? I don't think so.

    When you argue against your own earlier words, perhaps it is time to realize you're more interested in arguing than in actually dealing with Torah concepts.


  52. "The rest of your list (i.e. Slifkin) not only have nothing to do with this, there is no wrong."

    Of course, no wrong, because, uhh, umm, the gedolim said so. They took a stand, they all took the same stand. Therefore the Klal must follow them. And therefore Slifkin is a threat. In fact, every time the gedolim take a mistaken stand, the truth becomes a threat. But we can ignore that possibility. What is scientific consensus against the words of the gedolim? Note our Midot, how modest we are.

  53. It's worth noting that Joseph is a Johnny-come-lately when compared to (R') Micha on the internet, and is most often seen objecting to Zionists, MO, YU, and other heresies whereas micha [sic] is well known for his positive contributions.

    Also only one of them has the guts to sign his name, and stake his reputation in the community on his posts (and esp. in Micha's case, that's a major decision).

    [posting anonymously since RMB knows me and would probably embarrassed if he knew who I was; every other post of mine is signed]

  54. Micha,

    That's just it. You've proved nothing other than repetitively restate your cherished beliefs. You've taken the Baal HaTanya out of context, as I demonstrated above. This is a habit that you've done more than once in this very conversation. You read into texts things that they do not state, and then extrapolate from it whatever end-point you are seeking to reach.

    You've done so with both the sources as well as my own (and in other conversations others) comments. I've stated (more than once) above that there were times they may have not been 100% correct. Yet, they are closer to that goal than the rest of us.

  55. Reading the Igeres haQodesh of the Baal haTanya (ch. 22.), I must agree with Joseph that it does not support micha's position.

  56. Joseph,

    All you "demonstrated" is that you didn't read the Baal haTanya's letter. You write: "Your quote from the Baal HaTanya only excludes 'to ask about a secular question.' To take your example above, where to live is a spiritual (i.e. Torah) matter."

    What exactly do you think they were asking the Baal haTanya, if not life's decisions? What life decision -- where to live, whether to take a particular shidduch, which job to take, which medical approach to take, etc... -- is not a "spiritual (i.e. Torah) matter"? What do you think he was saying was basis-less, chassidim were coming to him asking hypotheticals? Their math homework, perhaps?

    You didn't demonstrate, ie show the truth, of anything. You did exactly what you just described me of doing in this discussion, "[y]ou've taken the Baal HaTanya out of context, which was bound to happen because you didn't actually hit the books to have a context. "You've proved nothing other than repetitively restate your cherished beliefs" is also quite self descriptive. I cited a magazine article from 1941, an Igeres studied in circles quite distant from my own. I added quite a bit of information to the discussion. I wish I could say I learned anything in exchange, but I already knew the masses' "cherished beliefs".

    As for my own beliefs, I try to live up to Rav Yisrael Salanter's notion of developing and consulting daas Torah. Not because they are so much more likely to be accurate, but because life's decisions should be about how to be the better eved Hashem. Why not take a look at my blog Aspaqlaria and see what I aspire for, rather than guessing at it.

    (In case you're wondering about all the Qitzur posts... Last summer, shortly after the previous major chillul Hashem, I felt a need to do something to increase the role of fiscal ethics in our community. I can't do much, but I figured everyone should be doing their bit. So, every business day I try to post a se'if from one of the Qitzur's simanim that deal with Choshein Mishpat.)


  57. Aaron S.,

    I fail to see how. Can you offer a quote from the Igeres?


  58. For people who don't own a copy, here is the Igeres.

    It's clearly about making a distinction between nevi'im, who get siyata diShamaya (and more), and chakhamim.

    To quote:
    כי באמת כל עניני אדם לבד מדברי תורה וי"ש אינם מושגים רק בנבואה ולא לחכמים לחם כמארז"ל הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים


  59. I too read the Bal Hatanya translated a few posts back. The Bal Hatanya is simply saying that for secular/mundane matters you shouldn't go to a rabbi (or godol).

    But for non-secular/mundane matters, according to the Bal Hatanya you DO go a rabbi/godol to ask how to proceed. So in fact the Bal Hatanya completely agrees and supports the concept of daas Torah!

  60. micha, "What exactly do you think they were asking the Baal haTanya, if not life's decisions? What life decision -- where to live, whether to take a particular shidduch"

    Where to live and whether to take a shidduch are spiritual matters. So if asked the Baal haTanya would provide spiritual advice on these issues.

    "which job to take, which medical approach to take, etc..."

    These examples are more secular/mundane, so the Baal haTanya quoted would apply here. (He would decline to provide advice, as whilst he is a Chachom he is not a Navi.)

  61. Rav Micha, how do you understand the concept of "Histakel B'oraysah ubara alma" (Midrash Bereishis) which implies that if you know Torah, you'll know the world?
    Also, the Ramban (of whom the Chasam Sofer and Rav SR Hirsch consider a primary hashkafic sourse) in his intro to chumash seems to understand that if one knows Torah one can know every chochmah in the world. Wouldn't these sources give some credence to the idea of Daas Torah?
    Thirdly, I think that we must distinguish between asking a godol when all of the facts are present to when we ask him when things are somewhat fuzzy (as often happens when we wait on line with a thousand other people to ask a five second question to a godol who doesn't know us).
    Finally, Reb Joseph, see the Artscroll book "Rabbi Sherer", page 210 in which there is a letter from Rav Hutner zt"l in 1970 in which he writes that there are very few of the shearis hapilaitah left today that can be said that their daas is daas torah.
    If this was true in the generation of Rav Yaakov, Rav Moshe, etc, I think we can certainly say this about our generation today.

  62. kman,

    You're thinking not of medrash, but of the Zohar (Bereishis 134a). In any case, it means that that the world was created to fit the Torah, not the other way around. See the Maharal, Tif'eres Yisrael ch. 6. It isn't that Hashem commanded us to act in "darkhei no'am". Hashem commanded us what He did for His Will alone. He then created the universe such that following His mitzvos will be pleasant.

    The Ramban is saying the wisdom is in there -- but it takes a gift like the one Hashem gave Shelomo to get there. In other words, when a rav deduces general relativity from Chazal's take in a pasuq, we'll talk. But I think it was bedavka Shelomo's supernatural gift that made that knowledge accessible to him.

    I agree with your distinction ab out specific and fuzzy questions. That doesn't mean I think that we go to rabbanim because of a greater likelihood of correctness.

    Which gets us to the Tanya... He accuses people of coming to tzadiqim with secular questions because of an undue interest in their physical being.

    One who talks out with a rav the issues of being a good father and holding down sedarim given this job and that, is one thing. Someone who believes that das Teireh gives the rav more success at knowing which will indeed provide better parnasah, parenting and learning opportunities -- that's new. Goes beyond what is justifiable from the Tanya, and isn't what Rav Yisrael was talking about when he coined the phrase.

    Agriprocessors... They had a bad record at OSHA and IOSHA (Fed and Iowa workplace safety inspection) over 5 years before the union got involved, and the book was thrown at them after the union got the right to go in with or without the employer's okay. Realize that Agri racked up more of a record at IOSHA than Hormell (the makers of SPAM), and Hormell is what, 20 times the staff -- never mind Hormell, and Tyson chicken, 50% more than all of Iowa's meat industries combined!

    At Agri, a 16 year old could be asked to clean machines while they're still running at hour 15 of her shift, and end up paid for only 8. If she isn't injured from being half-asleep with her hands on running equipment. Admittedly, that's combining three of their nefarious practices (child labor, cleaning machines while running, not always paying overtime), but it could have happened within their standard operating procedures.



please use either your real name or a pseudonym.