Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Gedolim are not infallible - and this should be obvious but unfortunately is not

This is a continuation of the issue that was raised by my translation of the Divrei Chaim (Y.D. #105) in which  the Divrei Chaim asserts that gedolim were possibly mislead by someone he regards as a heretic. An objection was raised to my translation because of the concern for asserting that gedolim  might  have been deceived. Ben Torah said the Divrei Chaim means that the heretic misrepresented the gedolim and falsely claimed support from them. However the Divrei Chaim says he was a deceiver - not a liar and he didn't know what was presented to the gedolim.

Regarding the possibility of deceiving gedolim and the fact that they are not infallible - this should be obvious. In fact this was stated by the spokesman for the Aguda - Rabbi Shafran available on Wikipedia and other places

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesman for the American Hareidi organization Agudath Israel of America, explains the concept as follows:

Da'at Torah is not some Jewish equivalent to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. Not only can rabbis make mistakes of judgment, there is an entire tractate of the Talmud, Horiut, predicated on the assumption that they can, that even the Sanhedrin is capable of erring, even in halachic matters.

What Da'at Torah means, simply put, is that those most imbued with Torah-knowledge and who have internalized a large degree of the perfection of values and refinement of character that the Torah idealizes are thereby rendered particularly, indeed extraordinarily, qualified to offer an authentic Jewish perspective on matters of import to Jews - just as expert doctors are those most qualified (though still fallible, to be sure) to offer medical advice.[1]

Rabbi Bechhofer has written a fascinating article regarding the deception of gedolim concerning a forgery of the Yerushalmi.

available here
The Talmud Yerushalmi on Kodashim

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, Editor Or Shmuel, Rosh Kollel, Frumi Noble Night Kollel of Hebrew Theological College.

It seems clear from the Rishonim that they had access to the Talmud Yerushalmi on Seder Kodashim, In the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states explicitly that on the first five sedarim, both the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi are extant. During the course of time, however, the Yerushalmi on the entire seder of Kodashim was lost, and for several hundred years no manuscript on this seder was known to exist. (See the introduction of Rabbi Mordechai Zev Segal of Lvov to the Zhitomer [1866] edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi.)

In the year 1907, however, a mysterious person suddenly appeared in Hungary, calling himself Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Algazi-Friedlander. Rabbi Algazi-Friedlander j published what he claimed to be the Yerushalmi on tractates Chullin and Bechoros, thus instigating a battle royal amongst the Gedolei Hador. A personal account of this chapter in the history of the Talmud was written by Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Greenwald of Columbus, Ohio, and printed in the Sefer Hayovel of HaPardes (1953), Here is a synopsis of the story,



    The popular ultra-orthodox blog, Vos Iz Neias, was the target of a recent ban issued by 36 prominent rabbis from Brooklyn, Lakewood, Philadelphia and Europe, including such names as Rabbi Aaron Moshe Schechter, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn and Rabbi Yerucham Olshin, of the Lakewood Yeshiva.

    VIN’s major competition, Yeshiva World News, which follows a similar format, was not mentioned in the ban.

    Rumors circulated around the blogosphere about the agenda of the signing rabbis. The 5 Towns Jewish Times speculated that the ban occurred because the site reprinted a series of articles accusing Assemblyman Vito Lopez, chair of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn, of misusing funds. Lopez has close ties to many chasidic rabbis, especially in the Satmar community.

  2. The oddity of the kol koreh is who did not sign. Rabbonim who did not sign from the Litvish world include Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Aaron Feldman, and Rav Yisroel Belsky or anyone else from Torah Vodaas. On the Chasidish side, I am less familiar with the names, but it seems to me that none of the Rebbes of the larger chasidish groups signed. Somone knowledgeable with that world told me that the most respected figure who signed was Rav Chatzkel Roth, Av Bes Din of Satmar under R. Yoelish but forced out of influence in the Satmar world after the death of R. Yoelish.

    In sum, I am puzzled by all those who did not sign. I am also surprised by the full contingent of Lakewood rabbonim who signed including Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rav Matisyahu Solomon, and Rav Schustal.

    I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can offer any insight into this pattern.

  3. Answer to Yerachmiel's query:

    Maybe because Pinny Lipshitz got them to sign? (His influence is in Lakewood, not in Torah v'Das)

  4. Yeshivah world?!Is the jewish week dreaming!?it's like comparing fox news with msnbc.Or yated and the foward.They are bulding castles in the air.I wish the ftj would have just "speculated",they made it that it was the real deception strory,and that's that(with all the deatails like who printed out cpoies etc..).They also didn't have the honesty to mention their ties with vin.

  5. Oh?so first it was lopez and satmar.Now it's pinny?and just don't forget , his paper is not read/banned in many of those kehilos whose chasidic rabbonim signed.

  6. This point about "infallibility" of Gedolim, and the idea that the Gedolim cannot err, is a straw-man. No one, repeat:no one of serious personage, makes such a claim. Can someone please point out the most authoritative claim that has been made that contemporary Gedolim are "infallible"? I don't believe any serious such claim has been advanced.

    That being said, when a Godol (or Gedolim) do err, who are we street peddlers, peasants, and commoners to point it out. Perhaps it is we who err, when we allege the Gedolim have erred. Indeed, it is far far more probable that we are in error, than the Gedolim on an issue we think they are the ones in error.

    What that means, is that if there is a disagreement between the Gedolim and us commoners about an issue -- even one we seriously, righteously, and with 100% certainty feel we are in the right and the Gedolim are completely and utterly wrong... it is in all likelihood us who are wrong. So we accept the decision of the Gedolim despite our (even deep) reservations.

  7. A second (minor) point.

    DT wrote: "Ben Torah said the Divrei Chaim means that the heretic misrepresented the gedolim and falsely claimed support from them. However the Divrei Chaim says he was a deceiver - not a liar and he didn't know what was presented to the gedolim."

    The Divrei Chaim specifically writes (from your quotation):

    "I don’t believe that such a statement would be issued by our gedolim."

    The Divrei Chaim also writes:

    "And this that he [the deceiver] claims that contemporary gedolim have written..."

    So the Divrei Chaim is clearly stating that the deceiver did not receive support from the Gedolim. (Although the deceiver may have indeed "claimed" support from them.)

    As far as the semantics of the Divrei Chaim calling the deceiver a deceiver rather than calling him a liar, I don't know what the original Hebrew word in the DC you translated was, but perhaps it can be read as "attempted deceiver" or alternatively can be understood as implying the deceiver deceived the public or others with his false claims of support from the Gedolim?

  8. Rav Shafran says one thing but the post that you brought in from the Chazon Eish seems to imply something else. He is not the first one to imply this. We know that al pi Kabbala tamidei chachamim have a nitzos of Moshe rabbeinu. Would this not imply some sort of ex Cathedra? Also does this also apply to a Ravs position on communal matters as well as psak on issues of Kashrut, shabbos or dinei mamonot?

  9. The problem is that at the "street" level, here's what people say:
    A: Are the gedolim really completely infallible?
    B: Of course not. Only the Ribono Shel Olam is completely infallible.
    A: So it is possible that your Gadol made a mistake when he said X or Y?
    B; Chas v'shalom you should say that!

  10. The DC you mentioned in both posts makes the claim that Gedolim are still covered by Ruah Hakodesh, and in agreement with G-d's Will. That is prety much "infallible" , however much you deny it in this post.
    The only get -out is that when there is an error, someone can claim it was caused by Hashem, for His own reasons.
    There is a common characteristic amongst followers of the Daas Torah doctrine: "of course nobody is infallible, except for the people who I choose as Rav."

    Thus Chassidim will not accept their rebbe's ever erred; mitnagdim will never accept their Poskim erred; Dati Leumi will never criticize anything Rav Kook or a later Chief Rabbi said etc, and Sephardim, with the eminent exception of Chaim Amsellem shlita, will not criticize their own leaders.
    But , each of these groups will allow for the others as having erred.

  11. Please eddie mk amsallem doesn't criticize his leaders.They are not his leaders.He's made that clear,that r' meir mazuz is his rav.And when r' mazuz withdraw his support.He went to the secular media.

  12. Exactly,garnel.Even the sanhedrin can err,even the kohen gadol,even moshe rabbinu.The question is who's the judge,the "street" objects if someone like you says they were fooled,they erred etc...,based on your modern"secular haskafah.

  13. Eddie,what do you mean missnagdim nevr accept their poskim erred?You simply don't know the halachic world.Litvishe poskim argue all the time on r' moshe(zt"l)'s pesakim ,on r' shlomo zalman(zt"l)'s pesakim,and lehavdil ben chaim l'chaim on rav elyashiv(shlitah)'s pesakim.p.s.Eddie,what's going on you can only give a sign of respect to mk amsallem?No sign of repect to the rabbinim you mentioned.

  14. C,
    you say that Litvishe Rabbonim always argue on their Gedolim,
    are there any examples, where someone has broken away from the Psak of Rav Elyashiv for example? I don't mean to discuss in Yeshiva, and then finally accept it, but to refute it? And I mean only during Rav Elyashiv's reign as Posek hador - obviously not from when he was in the Rabbanut - which was opposed by majority Haredi rabbis.

    Then, please give an example of Litvishe rabbis opposing a Daas Torah of Rav Shach, during his period as Gadol Hador. I am not aware of any. Thus for example, for 20 years, Rav Shach was opposed ot settlements and said that Land must be traded for peace, and this was the official misnagdic line. As soon as Rabin came to power started negotiating with the PLO, Rav Shach did an about face, and all of his followers stepped in line.

  15. You have no idea about rav shach zt"l.He opposed the shetachim settlers.In fact,he strongly opposed the immannuel one.He only approved kiryat sefer(and beitar),after he cleared up that it would always be part of israel.His shittah was unchanged till today.That's why degel hatorah mk's just recently opposed the referdum on the giving up of land for peace,recently passed in knesset.The litvak's still support land for real peace.The problem is fake peace.That's what rav shach zt"l opposed.And the litvaks oppose till today.Yitzchak pindros,degel's deputy maor in jerusalem, made the whole shittah clear in a ny times article.


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