Monday, November 29, 2021

Insiders and outsiders in the Torah world

From comments I wrote on Avodah in 1999
 I think a rather inaccurate and naive black and white picture is being presented of the nature of information transfer in the Orthodox world. There are those who feel that if we only have Artscroll biographies - then future talmidei chachomim will inevitably repeat the errors of their predecessors. This is contrasted with the narrow minded rosy view of the right wing that halacha requires focusing only on the positive and perhaps even lying c.v.. I once asked one of my sons who was learning at Ponevitch about this issue. He replied, "the rosy stories are presented for the masses. The fact is that anyone who is going somewhere in the Torah world has full access to the stories - but it is kept as Torah Shebaal Peh. It is simply a question of to'eles. For someone who is an outsider and is not immersed in learning - the raw stories are harmful because they will be misunderstood. For the insiders - those who come in contact with the big people - the stories are understood in context." Thus for those historians (and baalei batim) who rely primarily on written material - there is a great disparity of what is learned compared to one who has close relationships to gedolei Torah - who pass down information concerning these issues. It is rather naive to think that someone who has studied world history, Jewish history and American History and regularly reads the New York Times, Jewish Press as well as participating in internet discussion is more sophisticated in understanding the dynamics of Torah and Torah politics than the elite who devote their lives to study at the main yeshivos whether it is Lakewood or Yeshiva University. This filtering of information relates to the problem of the letters published by the Tora UMaddah Journal. Aside from the halachic question of publishing these letters is the question of what information Rav Weinberg wanted publicized. There is no question that the harsh condemnations stated in the letters are stated nowhere else in his large numbers of published letters and tshuvos. Did he not publish them elsewhere because he simply felt that they would not be properly understood in written form or did he conceal them because he was legitimately afraid that he would be condemned for these views? Did he strongly exaggerate his views to Prof. Atlas as a way of empathizing with his correspondent's views or were these in fact his actual personal views that he expressed to anyone he felt he could trust? The bottom line is that the publication of the letters severely damaged his reputation in the Orthodox world where he has been acknowledged as one of the major talmidei chachomim of the 20th century. If the views are accurate then he and his halachic opinions will be discounted or ignored - if they are not accurate then his name has simply been besmirched. So what was gained? Did someone think that there would be a movement of talmidei chachomim to legitimize the harsh statements found in the letters? Did someone fantasize that Rav Weinbergs standing is so absolute that it would influence and bend the whole world in his direction?! 
I am sorry for the upset that my last posting caused but it *is* an accurate statement of the Litvak point of view. (I believe that there is a totally different dynamic in the chassidic world.) Let me mention two solid sources expressing the elitist litvak view. The first is Rav Dessler's famous essay (vol 3 page 355) stating that there should be only two options - full time learning or a low status job. The second is Rav Moshe's (Igros Moshes Y.D. IV 36.15 page 233) adamant refusal to give a baal habayis the status of a ben Torah. Thus in the litvische yeshiva world - those who are not major league talmidei chachomim or on their way to being such are outsiders and deliberately so. This puts tremendous pressure on people to learn - swim or sink. But even someone learning full time in kollel - but not regarded as going somewhere is also an outsider. In contrast I was told (by one of the Bostoner Rebbe's sons) that in the chassidic world being a chasid is itself adequate status. "As long as you cling to the Rebbe it compensates for the fact that you are not a tzadik or talmid chachom". He further stated that the chasid is more likely to learn in a gentlemanly way while the litvak's concern is to defeat his opponent - the result being that the litvak takes his learning much more seriously and personally. [I am aware that there are chasidim who learn like litvaks - but as a generalization it seems to be true] Bottom line. There are insiders and outsiders in the Torah world. (Something which I had thought was obvious to all.) The insiders have access to information which not available to the outsiders. This is related also to the issue of midgets and giants.


  1. 1) Please adjust the formatting. Some of the paragraphs bleed into the sidebar on the right and can't be fully read
    2) Any good community leadership controls its image. Hagiographies and censorship are standard tactics and not unique to the Chareidi community. Do you think any biography of Lenin or Stalin published in the USSR discussed whether or not they beat their wives? However, all this change with the rise of the Internet and the growth of the OTD phenomenon because now you have a growing group of people who were insiders, are now outsiders and have an easy way of spreading the dirt to the rest of the world. There are no secrets anymore and if the response is just to print more hagiographies then all credibility is lost.

  2. Baal habatim who have and give big money are highly respected. But yes, they look down on others, with no kavod Habrius

  3. This explains the massive gaavah of people who think they are insiders.

  4. What were the contents of rav Weinberg _s letters?
    Perhaps it places him more in the YU world?

    Is chassidism a social rebellion against litvish?

    Also, the ohr sameach was not like the separatists you espouse _ he spent his time working with his kehilla, helping couples with marital problems.
    Not work of your talmidei hachamim today (I'm assuming he didn't take money for it).

  5. >The first is Rav Dessler's famous essay (vol 3 page 355) stating that there should be only two options - full time learning or a low status job.

    How nice of the guy.

    > The second is Rav Moshe's (Igros Moshes Y.D. IV 36.15 page 233) adamant refusal to give a baal habayis the status of a ben Torah.

    So all the hard working Chazal weren't true Bnei Torah?

  6. ratherr the insecurity of those who are outsiders

  7. Chofetz Chaim shop. Rashi wine. Rambam doctor. Wow, must rewrite history.

  8. Yes, since we are outsiders of Rav Kanievsky's family who run the show.

  9. The article is highly problematic. You are effectively ruling out a gadol and r'Y. Historically we did not have this situation. Gra had his views, but not everyone was forced to step in line. Chassidim differed, clashed.
    Other gedolim had independent opinions.
    You are trying to destroy that last vestige of judges reaching independent opinions.

  10. R desslers view is not the same as Rav Moshe - whose son in law was a professor of science.
    Also it is a falsehood and goes against real economics. If anyone really trusted desslers view, or had his supposed level of bitachon, they would not complain when the government threatens to cut stipends. In bnei brak they have to deal with reality - they need diamond economy, government help, hi tech help, rich American help etc. As the learning population grows, it requires not millions but billions. Where will that come from?
    At the same time, I agree we have to trust and believe in Hashem, and even when we plan, things don't go according to the plan, and when parnassah does come it is miraculous. Wherever it seems to come.

  11. The "insiders" as you call them, are also temporary - for example, Rav elyashiv had his own court, and insiders. But then Rav shteinman took a different approach, with a different group. R shmuel aurbach had his insiders, but h
    Was short lived.
    Today, the insiders are in bnei brak, and the close advisors, family etc, newspapers are insiders. I hate to deflate your bubble, but other parties who occasionally might visit bnei brak are outsiders. Rav Feldman in America is not quite an insider, as he often rules against, the retracts when he sees Rav Kanievsky disagrees.

    In any case, these matters are all relative. If you are a chassid, it revolves around your rebbe. But even a baal habayit, is not an outsider.
    There was a rabbi who became very famous, and would always talk of being a nobody, . Implication being that he was a somebody.
    These are all manifestations of egotism. The mishnah says sonneh ET harabbanut. Your attitude is the religious analogue of materialism and use of status symbols , eg expensive cars, fashion etc to keep up with the Jones or belittle your neighbors. It is the opposite of what the mishnah in avot teaches.


    How insiders can quickly become outcasts

  13. You are saying that Halacha is a very private affair. And that even written texts don't tell the whole story, and that the general population, including rabbis , dayanim have it all wrong. Only a handful of people have access to the gedolim, so only this handful know what is going on.
    Not convinced at all.

  14. 7. Rabbi Tzadok used to say: Do not make the Torah a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, nor use it as a spade with which to dig. As Hillel used to say: He who makes worldly use of the crown of the Torah shall perish. Thus you may infer that any one who exploits the words of the Torah removes himself from the world of life.


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