Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Shmuel in his generation is like Yiftach in his generation

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I am going to discuss who Yiftach was - as understood by Chazal  -and why this provides us with a lesson in how to properly understand rabbinic leadership through history. In particular I would like to discuss how this helps us to understand how it is possible that R Shmuel Kaminetsky - despite being a gadol - has made some very serious mistakes in seeking to obtain an improper heter for a married woman to remarry without a Get. This has resulted in a couple presently committing adultery - and he is making no effort to correct this or the injustice he committed against Aharon Friedman her first husband.

It is typically understood that the message of Yiftach b'doro k'Shmuel b'doro (Rosh Hashanna 25b) is that even though Yiftach was not as great as Shmuel he still was the leader of the generation, a great talmid chachom and tzadik and a member of the Sanhedrin. It is believed that the leaders of every generation have ruach hakodesh and their views are Daas Torah and needed to be followed (Divrei Chaim, Mishneh Halachos). In short, it is understood to mean that the gedolim in each generation are great men - even though they might not be as great as previous generations - but what they say and do reflects G-d's will and they are basically infallible. 

All of the above is founded on an mistaken understanding of who Yiftach was - and consequently the comparison to Shmuel is incorrect. He is presented in various seforim (Machzor Vitri) as a major talmid chachom, leader of the Sanhedrin, a tzadik and pious man. Unfortunately that view is contrary to the view of Chazal (Taanis 4a) and is found primarily in some of the Rishonim. In fact what  Chazal say the expression of Yiftach b'doro means is that one is to treat the major rabbinic figures with kavod (Rashi Devarim 19:17) - even they are not as great as previous generations - and even though they are not great scholars. 

As a starting point, I want to present an important statement by Rav Dessler which explains why there are disparities between the explicit statement of Chazal and explanations of the same issue by Rishonim.
Michtav M'Eliahyu (4:355). It is important however to distinguish between those explanations which are basically interpretations of the verses and those of Chazal which are the actual meaning of the verses. Given this clear distinction it is puzzling why many Rishonim strive to follow a different understanding than the true explanation given by our Sages? We find such tendencies in the commentary of the Rashbam, Ibn Ezra and other Rishonim. What is the purpose of offering explanations which differ from the definitive true ones? I think the answer is that they offer these alternative explanations for the sake of confused people (i.e., they are apologetics). In other words these Rishonim want to show that there are many different aspects even in the simple understanding of the verses and that it is permissible for a person to create new interpretations according to what makes sense to him. (Of course, any alternative explanations which contradict foundation principles of faith are prohibited)... Such an approach is similar to that of the Rambam who wrote so much for the confused. We see this from the fact that many difficulties that exist in what he wrote could have been explained in a much clearer fashion. However, since he was addressing confused people he provided alternative explanations which they could accept - as long as it didn't contradict the Halacha).
In sum, Chazal's statements are true. Contrary statements are not the full truth but are the best that some readers will be able to accept. The Rishonim felt it was better to give a partially true or relatively true statement that would be believed - than to make statements that would be rejected. A similar statement is found in the Rambam about saying less than the full truth in order to maximize the understanding of ignorant people.
Moreh Nevuchim (Introduction). The seventh reason why an author seems to contradict himself occurs when discussing very deep and profound issues. It is necessary to conceal some aspects of the information and to reveal some. In order to accomplish this concealment it might be necessary in one place to utilize one set of principles and in another context it might be necessary to utilize a different set of fundamental principles - though the principles contradict each other. Obviously, the author should write in such a way that the ignorant masses are totally unaware of the internal contradiction. . 
Our Sages are conveying an important message about our relationship with religious and community leaders in their discussions about the major events in the life of Yiftach - who is one of the Judges. Starting from the beginning, his mother was a prostitute. As a result he was unjustly driven away by his father's other sons to prevent him from having his rightful part of the inheritance from his father. He organized a gang of bums - which Chazal teach us mean that birds of a feather flock to together - and lived the life of one rejected by society. That continued until the Jewish nation was threatened by an outside enemy and it was realized that only the military prowess of the bum Yiftach would save them from being conquered. He was offered the position of leadership of the Nation as an enticement to defend the Nation and he was successful and ruled for 6 years. Amongst his other accomplishments he killed 42,000 of his fellow Jews and sacrificed his daughter as a korbon olah. It is the latter which is out concern.

Yiftach took an oath that if he was successful in battle he would offer as a sacrifice whatever came out first to greet him when he return home. His daughter was the first to greet him. It is absolutely clear with no dissent - that one can not offer a human being as a sacrifice and that his oath was totally worthless. There is a discussion in Bereishis Rabbah (60) as to whether he needed to give the monetary equivalent of the sacrifice. But no one holds that the oath obligated him or even gave him the right to kill his daughter.

So why did he do it? Our Sages say it was because he was ignorant (Medrash Tanchuma, Taanis 4a). In fact Rashi (Taanis 4a) mentions that he became dismembered and the parts buried in different cities -  as punishment for the horrific and ignorant thing that he did.

More important is the question why no one stopped him. Our Sages mentioned that Yiftach should have gone to Pinchus and be told that there was no basis for the oath. But he didn't go because after all he was the leader of the Jewish people. For this prideful act he was punished. (In fact Seder Olam brings that this horrible error required that R Chanina ben Tradyon be burnt to death as atonement). More relevant is the question of why Pinchus (the great man who was a zealot concerned with stopping wrong - even killing wrong doers even though he was endangering his life). Some say that Pinchus is Eliyahu - and he is the foundation of the Mesora since he lived for many years. Given the character of Pinchus - why didn't he stop Yiftach? Again it seems to have been a the result of misplaced pride. He was after all the greatest talmid chachom and the baal mesorah - and therefore Yiftach needed to come to him for guidance. Our Sages say that Pinchus was punished by losing the Divine Spirit. G-d was severely displeased with him.

Thus the meaning of Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his generation is that the leader of our community is not necessarily a great man - nonetheless he is to be respected because of his office. But we also see that not only can inferior leaders such as Yiftach make great errors -but also great leaders such as Pinchas also can err - for such mundane reasons as pride in being a leader.

In summary, We learn from Yiftach and his comparison to Shmuel that while a person who has an exalted position must be respected for that position - he is not infallible and that he can make serious mistakes. A leader such as Yiftach needs to be criticized when he does some wrong - such as sacrificing his daughter in the name of piety. As Daas Sofrim notes, he was an ignoramous who became pious - and we know from Avos that an ignoramous can not be truly pious. But we also see from Tanach that Pinchus also made an incredible error due to his pride of being a great leader. Pinchus also needed to be criticized by those inferior to him. Because no one spoke up Yiftach's daughter suffered a horrible death. 

We as as members of the holy Jewish people have to always remember that all Jews are bound into a collective entity. All Jews are responsible for what all other Jews do. We can not use the excuse that the wrong doer is a great man - a gadol - and who are we to criticize him when he makes a serious mistake. If we don't speak up, we will all suffer - chas v'shalom - from the sins done by our leaders.

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky is responsible for getting Rav Greenblatt to give Tamar Esptein a worthless heter to remarrry without a Get. Rav Kaminetsky refuses to accept responsibility for his actions and insists that it is entirely Rav Greenblatt's responsibility to undo this pervision of Torah and halacha. He refuses to tell the adulterous couple to separate. He refuses to apologize for insulting and shaming Aharon Friedman in his misguided efforts to help Tamar Epstein. 

Consequently it is our responsibility as members of the Jewish people to correct the damage. We can not use the excuse that this issue is only for gedolim. We can not use the inaction and silence of our leaders to allow injustice and corruption. We need to learn from what happened with Yiftach and Pinchus - that one who does not act to correct wrong - causes suffering to others and will he/she will suffer as punishment..


  1. Look in Shabbos Daf kuf yud tes, brochos Daf yud tes, Rambam perek vav Talmud Torah halacah yud alef, nidorim lamed tes.

  2. One should be careful as if one inadvertently embarrasses a talmid chochum the repercussions are enormous. A blog is not an appropriate venue for individuals who are truly concerned about issues. Form a delegation of individuals who are capable and willing to RESPECTFULLY approach those you feel have erred and speak with them.
    Continued Hatzlocah

  3. tmy posts are not accidental

    less confrontational approaches were tries\d but failed. perhaps you will try and talk to him

  4. He denies involvement. What does ng say?

  5. “shmuel in his generation is like yiftach in his generation”
    “Jephthah the Gileadite was an able warrior, who was the son of a prostitute. Jephthah’s father was Gilead; but Gilead also had sons by his wife, and when the wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out. They said to him, You shall have no share in our father’s property, for you are the son of an outsider. So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the Tob country. Men of low character gathered about Jephthah and went out raiding with him. Some time later, the Ammonites went to war against Israel. And when the Ammonites attacked Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah back from the Tob country.” (Judges 11:1-5).
    My theory is that the brothers of Jephthah were Left-wing ignoramus fellows that had their prime interest in money. See, kicking out Jephthah means more money for them. They had a huge desire for money, as much as possible. They were Left-wing ignoramus fellows who agreed with the wicked King of Amon: 13The king of the Ammonites replied to Jephthah’s messengers, When Israel came from Egypt, they seized the land which is mine, from the Arnon to the Jabbok as far as the Jordan. Now, then, restore it peaceably.” (Judges 11:13).
    The brothers of Jephthah were like the Peace Now and similar left wing radicals today. Surely, Israel was strong enough, to fight the wicked Ammonites, but these ignoramuses actually agreed with the King of Amon and this weakened Israel. . Much like the Left, Israel and the US, says we stole the Shomron etc Heaven forbid. Pinchas may have felt that he had little influence over these left-wing ignoramuses, that didn’t even know Chumash and basic laws of vows etc.
    Pinchas was like the Inspector General in NYS and in the USA that is supposed to intervene when officials do inappropriate and unnecessary actions. This is my letter June 28, 2018 to NYS IG, etc:
    “2.I argue that the court does unnecessary and inappropriate actions to rule the 9/10/2013 NYS civil divorce after Susan's lawyer, Popkin, admitted in court papers 3/24/1993 “My client has advised me that she received a “Get” from your client several weeks ago and has since received the certificate (p'tur) of receiving that Get. It is my understanding that because one or both parties are Cohens, the Get is final and irrevocable. They can never remarry, whether or not the separation action is determined becomes immaterial.” After a final and irrevocable Get 2/17/1993, it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to rule on a NYS civil divorce 10 years later. After a final and irrevocable Get 2/17/1993, it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to rule on freezing my TIAA pension 100% early 1994. After a final and irrevocable Get 2/17/1993, it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to rule a QDRO awarding Susan 100% of my TIAA pension in 1997. After a final and irrevocable Get 2/17/1993, it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to rule a QDRO awarding Susan 55% of my TIAA pension in October 1997. After a final and irrevocable Get 2/17/1993, it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to rule the phony/fake 1995 Rigler Order of Separation.”

  6. The individual who feels wronged should approach whomever they are accusing of wrongdoing. It's purpose should be to come to peace Not to perpetuate machlokos Rochmana litzlon.

  7. what is the next step after being ignored?

  8. הצרי אין בגלעד אם רפא אין שם כי מדוע לא עלתה ארכת בת עמי. -ירמיהו ח כב

    פי' רש"י: "הצרי אין בגלעד" - שהצרי בא משם כמו שנאמר עלי גלעד וקחי צרי (לקמן מה) כלומר וכי לא היו להם אנשים צדיקים ממי ללמוד ויטיבו דרכיהם. "ארוכת" - רפואת (אינפלאשטר"א בלע"ז)י

    מלבי"ם: "(תשובת ה'), הצרי", וכי היו שבט יהודה צריכים לרפואתם סמים ותרופות מארץ מרחקים, הלא "הצרי", שבו ירפאו "נמצא בגלעד" ששם מקום הצרי, וכן "הרופא" המסדר איך יקחו את הצרי ואיך ירפאו בו ג"כ "נמצא שם", וא"כ "מדוע לא עלתה ארוכת בת עמי?" ר"ל הלא רפואת העם תלוי בשייטיבו מעשיהם וישובו ללכת בתורת ה' ובקרבם נמצא בין התורה והמצוה שנתתי לפניהם שהוא הצרי, בין הנביאים והחכמים המישרים ומלמדים אותם דרכי ה' שהוא הרופא, ומדוע לא נרפאו? וא"כ הם עצמם אשמים בדבר, שלא אבו להרפא מחלים!. דוק

    ובגמ': כד רגיז רעיא על ענא - עביד לנגדא סמותא. פי' לעז המושכת מנקר עיניה, ונכשלת ונופלת בבורות, והעדר אחריה - כך כשהמקום נפרע משונאי ישראל - ממנה להן פרנסים שאינן מהוגנין. -ב"ק דף נב

  9. בעל הבור ישלם כסף ישיב לבעליו והמת יהיה לו


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