Monday, May 30, 2022

Chasam Sofer : Criticizing Gedolim when they deviate from what is viewed as the accepted halacha

 update - finished the English translation

Concerning the ongoing discussion whether it is proper to question and criticize gedolim when they deviate from what is viewed as the accepted halacha. I just received the following from a well known posek and dayan.
Rabbi Eidensohn,

I believe the attached story with the חת"ס, (who's Yahrtzeit is today), gives people like us the authority to question, attack, and condemn the (mis)deeds of those supposed Gedolim.

If you feel it could be a תועלת in the ongoing מערכה to protect the last vestige of קדושת ישראל please publicize it as you see fit.

יישר כוכחם
 Summary of the Chasam Sofer:
The Chasam Sofer is saying that the Mesora is from father to son ( as does the Ramban). That there is an inherent rejection - even of gedolim - who deviate from that Mesora.

He is saying the saying thing as the Shach. If a Rabbi, gadol or rosh yeshiva wants to deviate from the accepted Mesorah learned from father to son - he has the obligation to explain himself.

Thus the Chasam Sofer is saying that the preservation of the Jewish people is the brazenness to reject anyone - including gedolim - who go against what is understood to be the Mesorah. This mechanism was chosen by G-d to preserve the Jewish people. That is why he chose the most brazen of nations to receive the Torah.

Obviously the Chasam Sofer knew the criticism of him was wrong - but he was happy to see that the mechanism of criticizing deviation from the mesorah was in place - even if it went against a gadol such as the Chasam Sofer.
The following is from  חוט המשולש
 page 64-65

Once when my grandfather [the Chasam Sofer] was visiting the community of Yergin a distinguished person pressured him to be a guest in his home. He agreed. It was a very nice dwelling. However not many days later he learned that his host was spreading lashon harah and  slander against him concerning his piety. The Chasam Sofer asked his shamash about this but the shamash did not want to describe with his mouth the disgusting things he had heard said about him. The Chasam Sofer was forced to order the shamash to tell what he knew. The shamash had no choice but to reveal what their host had said about him. After hearing the nature of the slander the Chasam Sofer requested that the Rav of the community make the host to take an oath and to confess that he had said bad things about the Chasam Sofer. Surprisingly the host readily admitted that he had said bad things about the Chasam Sofer and was not the slightest bit embarrassed about admitting this. The Chasam Sofer then asked him what was the basis of his saying derogatory comments about him? The host replied that he had been behind the Chasam Sofer's door on Shabbos day when the Chasam Sofer had sat down to have his meal and he noticed that the Chasam Sofer had not made kiddush (My grandfather had the custom of making kiddush on bread in the morning and then at the seuda of the day he just made a beracha on wine - which is the actual din of kiddush during the day). The host demanded to know - what type of Jew eats a meal on Shabbos without making kiddush?

The Chasam Sofer was astonished and thought to himself - what sin have I done to warrant this punishment of lashon harah and slander in my old age. It then occurred to him that by being a guest in the rich man's house he had violated the statement of Chazal that a talmid chachom is not to dwell with even a pious ignoramous. But that explanation still did not satisfy him because he didn't understand how he forgot about this warning of Chazal at this time?

But as he thought about the matter he suddenly became very happy that this degrading event had happened to him. He had always been bothered by the possibility that false and corrupt leaders would arise over the Jewish people and they would lead the people astray from Yiddishkeit and that eventually that would lead to the destruction of the Jewish people. He realized that by this incident G-d was showing him that he was mistaken.

G-d in fact had given the Torah to the most  brazen of the nation. He thought to himself, "Here I am an elderly rabbi the head of a large community - nevertheless this Jew had no problem speaking very disgraceful things about me when he thought I had done something wrong. This Jew had seen from his ancestors that they made kiddush during the day meal - and he thought that I didn't. Therefore I see that those faithful to G-d do not pay attention to their leaders to do something they view as wrong. That is because the true  foundation of their faith is what the children receive from their parents. This is in fact what the Ramban said. The Jewish people - even if they themselves are not prophets - they are the offspring  of prophets.

**) כשהי׳ זקיני זצ׳׳ל בעיירות קטנוה הללו הי׳ דרכו לדור בבית נכרי ופעם :א' כשבא לישב איזה זמן ביערגן הפציר בו איש נכבד שישכין שכינתו בביתו ואחר ההפצרה נענע לו ראשו והי׳ לו שמה דירה נאה׳ לא עברו ימים הרבה והקול נשמע שבעל הבית הוצא לישנא בישא ומלשין מאוד על זקיני זצ״ל ר״ל והדבר מגיע לאזני זקיני ז״ל שהבעה"ב מלשין עליו ושאל למשמשו אודות זה, אבל הוא לא רצה להוציא דבר מגונה כזו מפיו על רבו וגזר עליו זקיני ז"ל להגיד אשר נודע לו, ובהכרח סיפר מה שבעל האכסניא אזמר עליו וזקיני ציוה לקרוא רב העיר והשביע את האיש בפניו לאמור אם אמת הדבר שאמר עליו דברים מגונים האלה והוא הודה ולא בוש ושאלו מה זה ראיה ממני עד שאני נהשד בעיניך על זה ואמר יען ראה מאחורי הדלת בש״ק לסעודת צהריים ישב אל השולחן ולא קידש היום (דרך זקיני הי׳ לעשות קידוש בפת שחרית ובסעודת צהריים בירך על כוס יין שהוא עיקר קדושא רבא) ואיזה יהודי אוכל בלא קידוש?  כן השיבוהרהר זקיני זצ״ל מה חטא עד שעלתה לו לימי זקנותו שיוציאו עליו לשנא בישא ושיאמרו עליו כן ונפל בדעתו אולי משום שעבר על דחז״ל ע״ה חסיד אסור לת״ח לדור בשכונתו׳ ועדיין לא נח דעתו איך נעלמה ממנו הלכח זו לשעתא ולמה לא הזכרהו ה׳ עלי׳ ואח״כ נתן שמחה בלבו על שאירע לו כן כי תמיד הי׳ מצטער בחשבו הלא יעמדו לישראל מנהיגי אליל רועים אינם נאמנים ואם כן יהיו המנהיגי׳ אזי ח״ו לא יזכר שם ישראל עוד כי חעם יוסיפו אשמה להיות רעים והטאים אבל עתה הראני ה׳ שטעיתי והקב"ה נתן התורת לעזין שבאומות וראה אני רב זקן ויושב בישיבה בקהלה גדולה ואפ״ה אמר האי איש עלי דבר מגונה מאוד מפני שהוא ראה מאבותיו שעושין קידוש בצהריים ואני לא עשיתי כן א״כ הנאמנים לה׳ לא ישגיחו על מנהיגיהם להרע כי העיקר ושורש אמונת אומן מה שקבלו הבנים מאבותיהם כמ״ש הרמב״ן והנח להם לישראל כי בני נביאים המה:


  1. Kalonymus HaQatanMay 30, 2022 at 5:22 PM

    The holy Chatam Sofer had to scrutinize every new halachic or minhagic chiddush, as he was fighting a war against reform, and the remnants of Sabbateanism.

    I know that he opposed the chumras of Chabad against men shaving - the question is whether one can genralise to say he oppsoed all new chumras as well - or is that cherry picking? A good subject for a PhD at YU or Bar Ilan University :)

  2. no, itis a valid point


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