Thursday, January 27, 2022

Why was Rav Goren not accepted in the Hareidi world? - Guest Post by KA

 We have to go back to the beginning.  Rav Avraham Goroncik and family moved to Poland to Eretz Yisroel when their son was around 7. He showed enormous intellect, and was memorizing everything he learned.  Rav Avraham placed young Shlomo in yeshivot , where he excelled. He was told at the age of around 12 to learn 7 daf of Gemar which he did. Keeping his feet in a bucket of cold water to stay awake enough to learn.  At Etz Chaim, he became close to rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. Rav Meltzer was very impressed, and as young Shlomo developed he started learning 22  daf of Gemara per day. 

His reputation grew in Yerushalayim, and around the world. Rav Aaron Kotler ztl wanted him as a son in law, but rav Goren said he was a Gurer Hassid and had to ask the rebbe.  He also was close to Rav Kook, who became his master.
He tells in his autobiography that he learned Yerushalmi daily with rav Isser Zalman ztl for 12-13 years (on top of  Bavli).

So he was a genius, ilui. Rav Rakeffet calls  him a Gaon sh'ba gaonim.

He wanted to learn full time, but went to university to study Greek and Philosophy to assist him in learning Yerushalmi.  he married the daughter of the Nazir, rav david haCohen, whom he met in  University. (Joanthan sacks also met his wife, Elaine in Cambridge University).

he was in a circle of Talmidei chachamim in Jerusalem , but was called to become the Rav of the army, to make it kosher for religious as well as secular soldiers. 

So far we see that despite his tremendous ability to learn, he is already outside of the classical Hareidi model, whether gur, hasidic or Misnagdic. 

In the army he had to deal with situations not seen for 2000 years and hence with little halachic matter in the sources. He had to learn sources from a variety of texts, Tanakh, Yerushalmi, Maccabees etc.  And in wartime,  psak is not the same as writing to a psoek who has time to reflect and go through sources. these are urgent pikuach nefesh matters which go on 24/7. 

Now the pattern merges of not only someone aligned to the more modern and Zionist world, but someoen embarking on a role that nobody is familiar with - and making decisions which in peacetime migh not be so easy to make.

But even so, some people still respected his great learning and stature.  According to biographer Shalom Freedman, in 1960 Rav Shach asked R Goren to set up a kollel together with him.  Rav Goren declined because he was still busy with the army. 

Meanwhile rav Goren published a commentary on the Yerushalmi, and apparently there are or were more manuscripts on further tractates. 

In the same year,  1960, there was an empty vacancy for the Ashkenazi chief rabbi's position, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe at that time was backing rav Goren.

In fact, the election only took place in 1964, and was between Rav Unterman and Rav Goren.  At this time, there was no major opposition to him. Rav Elyashiv was still there and is famously photographed with both of the candidates. 

It should be clear that something seismic shifted between 1964 and 1972.

In 1967, Rav Goren was in the victorious army that liberated the Kotel. while this was great joy for many Jews around the world,  and which started the modern Teshuva movement , it was also a humiliation for those who cannot accept Jerusalem before the Moshisch arrives.  

In his own writings, Rav Goren speaks of the high esteem he had for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and how they spoke for several hours during his visits to New york, debating the Rambam's position vs that of the Yerushalmi on the ability to build the temple before Moshiach.

In 1968, just one year after blowing the shofar, Rav Goren gets involved in the Langer case,  and gets agreement from Rav Nissim to set up a new BD. This did not transpire. 
We have debated umpteen times the 1972 controversy, so I can only suggest what the different views are regarding the opposition to Shlomo Goren, and then make my own suggestion.

There are several strands of Hareidi reaction to this that we can glean from the old articles written closer to the time.

Rav Moshe ztl  in NY was opposed to both the election, and to the psak.  But he said the psak is not valid because r' Goren took a bribe. The bribe was allegedly making a promise to give the heter , if they gave him the job.

Lubavitcher Rebbe says something a bit kinder, that we cannot have a secular government giving orders or direction to how a posek acts, and that Rav Goren should resign  whether he was right or wrong!  it is a milder criticism than that or Rav Moshe.

In Israel, the reactions were more extreme - he was accused of making a play of halacha, of being megaleh panim, and that his future psak was no longer valid. 
This is from the hareidi side, and not just the bitter enemies, but even Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztl, who generally avoided controversy. 

On the RZ side, they argued that his psak was sound, and that the oppostion was extremism, either anti-rabbanut, or anti-Zionist. 
On the MO side, Rabbi Rackman, backed the psak and said that the Gaon Rav Henkin supports Goren.  The grandson, Rav Yehuda Henkin ztl said that his grandfather used the words "ze lo halakha, ze politika" ie the opposition was political , not halachic. 

This division continues today. For MO and RZ, Rav Goren remains a major gadol and personality, whereas in the Hareidi world, he is a subject of bizayon and hatred.

The Hareidi world has long suppressed independence of thought. it requires conformity.  An example is Rav SZ Auerbach's proposal to give a heter for a woman who could not conceive except during niddah. There was such strong opposition, that he had to retract and say it was not halacha l'maaseh. Had he stuck to his views, he would be outcast and mocked like a another Goren. 

It was not the psak per se that was so bad it was just the right excuse at the right time  a) to make an example of him, and b) to threaten the RZ world of more sanctions.  

Whilst this has given the Hareidi world a false sense of unity , it has also undermined their own authority.  There is a  viable, sustainable world that can follow halacha, make independent decisions, and not be too fussed by noise from Bnei Brak or Meah Shearim.  The RZ world continues, and still relies on Rav Goren's piskei halacha.  This was a victory for Rav Goren, but not in the short term, rather the long term.  Perhaps it was his last victory, and was in the halachic arena and not the military. 

reaction of DE: Bottom line you are constantly claiming opposition was primarily for political or theological reasons. Would you advise  a family member to marry into the Langer family based on Goren's psak?


  1. Would ask the rabbanut.

  2. The same question applies, also to those freed by Dayan Sherman,
    Eg a woman who did nt require a divorce, or presumed mamzerim who benefit from his rulings.

  3. The other question, assumimg we can identify them, even an agunah released by rav Moshe ztl, I may not be comfortable with her offspring (post annulment) mixing with my family. I'm not satmar, but the question applies to all heterim, even of the greatest posek.

  4. According to Yaacov Sasson:
    "The Rav addressed the Langer case in his well-known speech in 1975 on the topic of the Rabbi Rackman’s aguna plan.[24]
    However, if you think that the solution lies in the reformist philosophy, or in an extraneous interpretation of the Halacha, you are badly mistaken. It is self-evident; many problems are unsolvable, you can’t help it. For instance, the problem of these
    two mamzerim in Eretz Yisrael – you can’t help it. All we have is the institution of mamzer. No one can abandon it – neither the Rav HaRoshi, nor the Rosh HaGola. It cannot be abandoned. It is a pasuk in Chumash: “ לא יבא ממזר בקהל
    ה”. It is very tragic; the Midrash already spoke about it, “והנה דמעת העשוקים“, but it’s a reality, it’s a religious reality. If we say to our opponents or to the dissident Jews, “That is our stand” – they will dislike us, they will say that we are inflexible, we are ruthless, we are cruel, but they will respect us. But however, if you try to cooperate with them or even if certain halachic schemes are introduced from within, I don’t know, you would not command love, you would not get their love, and you will certainly lose their respect. That is exactly what happened in Eretz Yisrael! What can we do? This is Toras Moshe and this is surrender. This is קבלת עול מלכות שמים. We surrender. [25]

    The Rav is clearly referring to the Langer case, and he considered Rav Goren’s heter to be illegitimate. He refers to the Langers as “two mamzerim”, and he uses the Langer case as an example of something “unsolvable” and that “you can’t help

    He seems to be using Rav Goren’s heter as an example of “an extraneous interpretation of the Halacha.” And according to the Rav, the more appropriate response would have been to surrender to halacha; that the attempted heter was a futile attempt to coax love out of dissident Jews. I have not seen this speech of the Rav mentioned in the context of the Langer case and I thought it appropriate to
    mention here.

  5. do you have the original transcript of the talk that Rav Soloveitchik gave?

    In any case, he was doing a dressing down of R Rackman, and reminding him of the fury directed towards Rav Goren. Rav Goren was much greater than R Rackman, so by kal v'chomer, Rackman would not survive an onslaught against his annulments.

  6. Rav Hershel Shachter:

    What is your opinion about the retroactive cancellation of conversion (bittul gerut),

    such as was done in Israel after a woman practiced as a Jew for 15

    years? Is retroactive cancellation of conversions halakhically


    What do you mean “mevattel” (cancel)? You can’t be mevattel gerus. They just said that the beis din was pasul – we do that all the time. If a Conservative beis din did the conversion, we are “mevattel” it. Why were they mevattel her gerus? They just investigated all of R. Druckman’s conversions because of this case and then they were mevattel

    them. We know this R. Sherman [who was responsible for canceling the

    conversion in the case above]. He was here in Yeshiva for, I think, 2 or

    3 months. He was giving shi’urim in the Kollel a little bit. He

    is a brother-in-law of R. Kook from Rehovot and he’s very sweet. This is

    not him. This doesn’t fit with his personality. Someone else must have

    wound him up and written that teshuvah; it’s a very poorly

    written essay and so repetitive – it must be 25 pages long! Terrible,

    terrible. That’s the way they always write things there? Someone else

    wrote that, he didn’t write that. Shechinah medabberes mi-toch gerono (lit. the Heavenly presence is speaking through his mouth). It’s clear he didn’t write that.

  7. It's putrid politics and circular reasoning. All Gedolim are Chareidi because you have to be a Chareidi to be a Gadol.
    Rav Goren's crime wasn't his controversial psak. His crime was being a Zionist.


    Rav Soloveitchik transcript

    perhaps he is attacking Rav Moshe! eishes ish!

  9. on the other hand, if you're one of the in-crowd you get away with running cover for molesters

  10. the lack of sanity of the Hareidim is demonstrated on their attacks on Rav Ovadiah Yosef at the time. he was photographed shaking hands with rav Goren, so they accused him of being one of the judges on that BD! This kind of derranged reasoning is typical , and shows they are not concerend with the truth, but just in perpetuating their rage - very much liek the Palestinains who have regular "days of rage"


    a more likely reason why they were so against him in Meah Shearim

  12. From rav Bleich's Tradiiton piece in 1973:

    (would Rav Zolti's view support Rav Druckman's covnerts, or Rav Sherman?)

    1. Rabbi Goren argues that there
    is no evidence that a conversion
    ceremony did in fact take place.
    Rabbi ZoIti counters that if a person identifies himself as a Jew,
    conducts himself as a Jew and is
    accepted as such no further evidence is required. It is an established halakhic principle that the
    general conduct and deportment of
    an individual is suffcient presumptive evidence with regard to determination of matters of personal
    status. Thus, for example, deportment manifesting maternal solicitude and filial response between a
    woman and an infant is suffcient
    to establish that a mother-child relationship exists between the two.
    With regard to conversion, Rambam, lssurei Bi'ah 13: 9, declares
    ". . . similarly a proselyte who comports himself according to the ways
    of Israel . . . and performs all the
    commandments is assumed to be
    (bechezkat) a righteous convert."
    TRADITION: A Journal of Orthodox Thought
    Rabbi Goren cites numerous authorities in an effort to establish
    that conduct and deportment are
    insuffcient to establish presumption
    of conversion, particularly when the
    individual concerned is unable to
    identify the rabbis who performed
    the conversion. On the other hand,
    Chazon Ish, Yareh De'ah 158:6-9,
    unequivocally asserts that deport.
    ment as a Jew extending over a
    period of thirty days is suffcient in
    and of itself to establish identity
    as a Jew and requires no further
    evidence or declaration on the part
    of the convert. Rabbi Zolti demonstrates that this is the position of
    Teshuvat R. Akiva Eger, no. 121,
    as well. It is noteworthy that Rabbi
    A. i. Kook, Ezrat Kohen, no. 13,
    expresses an identical view


  14. from the archived Deiah v'dibbur (yated)

    rav Shach is quoted ""Some claim the Chief Rabbi is a lamdon, but what is

    the definition of a lamdon? It is said in the name of

    Rav Yosef Dovber of Brisk that a lamdon is not one who

    knows how to learn, just as a thief is not simply one who

    knows how to steal. One who learns Torah forged with yiras

    Shomayim that comes before his knowledge--he is a

    lamdon. And although he says he wrote an article on

    this topic, those who have seen it say it is merely

    leitzonus, confusion and lies . . ."

    OK, so Zholty read it and disagreed. Why /How is Rav Shach making a judgement on what he has not himself read?

    " A delegation of gedolei
    Torah from the US headed by Maran HaRav Moshe Feinstein
    zt'l met with Israeli President Zalman Shazar while he
    was visiting New York, telling him, "The ruling on the
    brother and sister is an incorrect psak and it is
    impossible to change a psak without collaborating with
    botei din that dealt with the case previously and
    without presenting them with new evidence. A rov cannot be
    appointed through bribery, and there is no greater form of
    bribery than the bribes Goren gave in promising to be
    lenient. This is the greatest form of bribery possible. We
    have heard of instances of monetary bribes in the Rabbinate's
    history, but this is the first time we have encountered an
    instance of bribery by promising votes. This is the greatest
    danger there can be for the Rabbinate and for Israel." "

    When Rav Moshe ztl speaks, we should listen.

    Actually R Goren was collaborating with previous BD from 1968, they were not always receptive. The BDs were largely dissolved, so he was no longer able to reconvene. What happens if a previous BD dies, can nobody in the future change the psak? And in any case, it is assur to sit on a BD when people hate each other.

    regarding bribes - it really depends on how the bribery took place. A Dayan cannot pay money to be appointed. If he is appointed, he is paid a salary. But All dayanim, earn a salary, like it or not. R' Goren made his proposals starting in 1968. He was appointed as chief Rabbi of tel Aviv Around 1970.

    BTW, Rav Herzog was Chief Rabbi in the 1950s, and needed soem help to free agunot, and he approached Rav Elyashiv - the brilliant (then) young illui. Rav Eyashiv found heterim, and in turn was given a job as a Dayan in the Rabbanut. Why then, is there cynicism to the way Rav Goren became Chief Rabbi, when Rav Elyashiv became a dayan in the same way?


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