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.


  1. A very good example of non-thinking:

    Parroting things that you heard from Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn without actually knowing what you are talking about since you are not really from that world and have not experienced them firsthand. Maybe you should let Rabbi Eidensohn speak for himself if he wishes. He is quite capable of doing so.

  2. Lost in this is a simple point. Yes, you live in a community, you follow the Rav's psak. But there are community issues and personal issues. Once upon a time people asked shailohs and then they got a teshuvah. Now it seems more and more that we are getting teshuvos without anyone ever having asked a question about the issue in the first place.
    Then there's the same issue on a macro level. You live in a community, you follow the Rav's psak. But nowadays we have "the Godol" who doesn't live anywhere near your community, might not even live on the same continent but a psak he issues, even if your community never asked the shailoh and already has established standards on it, overrides your Rav and community.
    Are people not allowed to question that?

  3. Nat,
    Joe is a deep thinker who is often invited on this blog to give a guest appearance. You have decided that what he says is "non-thinking" and since Joe is not really from that world and have not experienced them firsthand" he has no right to talk. Where did you find this rule? Am I not permitted to talk about politics because I am not from that world?

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  5. You can talk about it but don't expect to be taken seriously....

  6. But, Joe, a very great, genuine poseik was asked about the "pseudo gadol's" opinion and has not given an opinion after 39 days.

  7. You have decided that what he says is "non-thinking" and since Joe is not really from that world and have not experienced them firsthand

    Dear Honorable Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn:

    He is saying something else. He is saying Mr. Orlow does not know what he is talking about. He did not say that he has no right to talk. He gives him the right to talk. Nat is saying that ironically, Mr. Orlow is engaging in non-thinking behavior - precisely what you - through him - is accusing the "Torah world" of.

    Do you agree or disagree?

  8. Eilu Elohecha Yisroel...

    Al da vadai ka'bachina...

  9. There is nothing for him to say. Everyone knows the "pseudo gadol's" opinion legitimizing adultery is as worthless as this broadcast from an "Orthodox rabbi" legitimizing prostitution ( ). Why should a genuine poseik bother giving an answer that would imply there was ever anything to consider?

  10. Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer says “Eilu Elohecha Yisroel” and references to Rabbi Sternbuch Friday speech quoting

    “In our generation we see the growing hate of religion among the heads of government and judicial system in Eretz Yisrael. Their entire mission is to bring us pain and hound us, and they are literally like Amalek whose entire mission in their wars was just to bring pain to Hashem’s nation and they are the ‘zecher Amalek’ in our generation.”

    Yes, Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer angers me, same as today’s Jerusalem Post editorial angers me: “Unfortunately, fundamentalist prejudices are guiding more than a single ministry. Despite the prime minister’s assertion that every person is created in the image of God, for the likes of Litzman and Deri, this does not apply to every Jew.”

    Is Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer implying that Rabbi Strenbuch is teaching idolatry with his quote of the sinners of the golden calf ??? Clearly Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer hates Rabbi Strenbuch.

    Is the editorial of the Jerusalem Post implying that Lizman and Deri don’t hold from “Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed; For in His image Did God make man.” (Genesis 9:6)??? Clearly the editor of the Jerusalem Post hates Lizman and Deri.

    I agree with Rabbi Sternbuch that there is hatred of religion in Israel among certain political leaders and in the judicial system. When I was in the USA I saw little of hatred of religion among the non-Orthodox.

  11. Abraham was not from the elite leadership in Ur Kasdim. So he couldn't challenge Nimrod? Moshe was a shepherd in Midian, so what basis did he have to challenge the Egyptian ruling class? David was a shepherd and family outcast, so how could he presume to usurp King Saul, the Anointed One? We know the answers to those questions. Every generation has a maverick who puts the generation back on an even keel. Rav Yisrael Salanter started the Mussar movement, and although it was opposed by some, only those Yeshivas that adopted it have survived. I've lived most of his life in close contact with those in the Torah World, and still do, and had many questions that Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn has answered. What's unthinking about choosing to follow him? I specifically wrote the article, which Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn kindly serialized in three posts, in a style imitating journalists for those who are outside the Torah World.

    I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I'm 100% sure Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn would run an article from someone totally inside the Torah World. Go for it!

  12. I don't know who you're referring to. RNG is not even a psuedo-gadol and RSK never paskened.

  13. Rav Dovid Feinstein is big enough for me

  14. Outside the Torah world? That world? That is Torah? What is Rabbi Feinstein doing these forty days? A woman is living with somebody not her husband and he says nothing. And guess what! If you are really in that "Torah world" you will not complain about Rav Dovid, but you will attack me for saying this. I make it clear. I am not from this Torah world. Regarding them, I make it clear, "I am a metsora."

  15. Politically IncorrectMarch 21, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    Is he big enough to take a stance?

  16. Politically IncorrectMarch 21, 2016 at 10:04 AM

    "Eilu Elohecha Yisroel"


  17. As Honesty asked: Your point being?

    The fact that Rav Dovid Feinstein, was asked by the one seeking agreement with his view reminds me of an incident told to me by a Modern Orthodox rabbi who visited Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky, z'tl, in the hospital. He asked Reb Yaakov a question to generally permit something on Shabbos that he knew Reb Yaakov had said was ok in a hardship situation. He said Reb Yaakov turned his head and did not respond to it. The MO Rabbi knew his answer from that silence. So too we know Reb Dovid's answer from his silence to Reb Yaakov's son.

  18. Some people revere this man as their Moreh Derech.

  19. Very many, not just some.

  20. Politically IncorrectMarch 22, 2016 at 2:33 AM

    Why, you decided he lacks capability?

    A moreh derech is an idol????

  21. Nu, is he still big enough for you? You are aware that he did pasken the "heter" worthless, right?


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