Friday, March 18, 2016

Reinstating the Old Fashioned Torah Part 3 by Joe Orlow

Part 3

Jack Benny z"l was a comedian. Part of his routine was being notoriously stingy. When confronted on his radio show by an actor playing a thief, he finds himself in a quandary:
Thief: Your money or your life!


Thief: Well....?!

Jack Benny [finally] : I'm thinking, I'm thinking.
Besides nicely illustrating the Torah concept that some value their belongings more than their life, this brings us to the topic of how to teach thinking.

The short answer is you can't, at least not directly. But indirectly we can. External stimuli can lead to introspection. "Ashrai Ha'Ish Asher T'yas'renu Kah". From torment and affliction comes intense delving into the Torah to find answers.

We cry and bemoan the public and vicious breakup of Jewish families in the Torah World. We are in shock and pain as we become aware of Torah World Rabbis permitting Mamzerim to be born rather than risk losing financial support and the loss of personal honor.

We will dip our pens in tears mixed with ashes and begin to write a new future for the Torah.


A Torah life is built on obedience to authority. Children obey parents. Students obey teachers. Community members obey the Torah leaders in their town. Local Torah leaders obey national leaders.

A local Torah leader can be the Rabbi of a Shul; a Rosh Yeshiva; a Dayan on a Bais Din; or a Torah scholar without a community position who people turn to for advice.

Parents and teachers are only to be obeyed if they follow the Torah. A child is not obligated to follow an order from a parent demanding that the child transgress the Torah.

Furthermore, the Torah directs each person to select a Rav to follow. The terminology is "Aseh L'cha Rav", "make for yourself a Rav". That is, a Rav cannot come and demand obedience from someone unless that person chose to submit to him. There are exceptions, however.

When the S'micha from Moshe Rabeinu was still given, a Rav could subpoena someone to appear in his court.

And historically, when Jews lived in all-Jewish communities, a person could come under the jurisdiction of a Rav without choosing him. A Rav selected by the community at large had to be obeyed even by those who may oppose him. The seven Tuvai Ha'Ir, even if they were not Rabbis, had to be obeyed. But even there, people had a choice. Someone could leave the city or region and move elsewhere.

If a Rabbi in America is a true scholar and his peers recognize his scholarship and defer to his decisions, he can become a Gadol, or even Gadol Hador, "The Great One of the Generation"; or perhaps a title limiting his authority to a region is conferred on him, such as, "The Greatest Gadol in America". Under those circumstances, the Gadol can require obedience.

Yet, curiously, some Rabbis claim that all Jews in America must submit to them without these Rabbis having properly earned the title. They assume the title of "Gadol", a "Great One", by dint of a family name, or having a prominent position in an established Yeshiva, by having studied under a true Gadol, or because many people bring them their questions or come to their Shiurim; or simply because they sit on the Eastern wall of the dais at a convention. Still, the scholarship of these men may be lacking and thus they are without the respect of true scholars and are pseudo-Gadolim.

Aa long as pseudo-Gadolim work within the confines of those places where their supporters treat them as a Gadol, their impact on others outside their followers is limited.

But when a pseudo-Gadol overreaches and makes decisions that affect people who disdain him for his sloppy scholarship, the stage is set for a showdown between individuals and the pseudo-Gadol. A free-for-all can ensue.

Those who consider the pseudo-Gadol as a fraud, a Rasha, and maybe even an Apikoros, begin publicly airing the flaws of the pseudo-Gadol. Meanwhile, the pseudo-Gadol's followers hit back and begin demanding respect for the man.

Each side demands to be left alone.

But in truth, the pseudo-Gadol has only himself to blame. He bought into all the hype. He exposed his own vulnerability by going into battle without arming himself with sources and proofs from the Mesorah.

Pronouncements from on high don't fly in the old fashioned Torah world. And a sure sign someone is a phony Gadol is when he clams up or begins double-talking, saying one thing to one person and another thing to another, or contradicting himself.

So don't berate me for jumping in and piling it on when a pseudo-Gadol raises his hand against one of my friends. Don't tell me to let the Gadolim handle it and that I should stay out and just watch from the sidelines.

Rather, let those who criticize me ask themselves why their vocal "Gadol" all of a sudden is scrambling to rise above the fray, when it was he who threw the first punch? Why is he refusing to discuss the issue at hand openly and honestly? I'll take a stab at answering that question: Because the pseudo-Gadol is used to being obeyed unquestioningly, and when someone catches him playing fast and loose with the rules, he freezes like a deer caught in the headlights.

As for me, to do nothing when I discern the Torah being abused eats away at my soul. For self preservation I am compelled not to stand idly by.

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.