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?

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