Monday, March 28, 2022

Making of a godol - mesorah versus gadol --- the authority of Chazon ish

The official view of Orthodox Judaism. There was the revelation of Torah to the Jewish people at Sinai through Moshe Rabbeinu. Torah is no longer in Heaven. Additional elements came from Prophets and the Talmudic Sages (Chazal). This is all filtered to us by Rishonim and Achronim. In other words halacha is a process that took many people many years to develop. Along the way there have been collections such as the Rif, Rosh Tur, and Shulchan Aruch. Basically Halacha is validated by widespread acceptance of the extensive analysis of these sources by contemporary poskim. The above should not be seen as a chidush.

A person who issues rulings based primarily on his personal beliefs or social norms without relying heavily on this Mesorah will generally be ignored or denounced. This has changed in recent years.

When I was a young yeshiva bachor, Rabbi Friefeld once said to me. "People think the Chazon Ish is strange but he liked me." Later the rulings of the Chazon Ish were viewed as chumrahs. Now they are not only main stream - but are considered the only valid view. All this in spite of the fact that Chazon Ish often ignores Mesorah and the widely accepted views of predecessor. He also did not like debating his views with others. His success seems to be the result of having talmidim who are very influential.

My point is that halacha also is dependent on successful PR

Rav Heinemam told me that his rebbe Rav Aharon used to carry a Mishna Berura with him to give greater authority to the Mishna Berura which was not so important prior to WWII.

Similarly Rav Diskin, son in law of Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky told me that Rav Hutner had once said to him "Your shver will have to give a din v'cheshbon for making Rav Moshe the gadol.

The father of a friend of mine was a Rav in California. His aguna cases all went to Rav Moshe. After Rav Moshe was niftar he had a new case but similar to previous cases that he took to Rav Eliyashiv. The response he got was different, "While Rav Moshe was big enough to rely on for his heter but I disagree with him." Rabbi Riskin also claimed he was poskening like Rav Moshe but he wasn't accepted because he is not a gadol.

In recent years there has been cultivated the idea of a gadol whose rulings transcend Mesorah.

Times seem to be changing. I recently asked two of my grandchildren who are very successful members of the yeshiva world. If a beis din of three rabbis from Lakewood or Bnei Brak disagreed with the gadol hador concerning something like vaccination - who do you listen to? Both responded if it is a field that they are familiar then it is three against one.

So on the one hand Chazon Ish is becoming the final authority because he is a gadol but at the same time the concept of gadol seems to be disappearing.


  1. If the issue is how can Gadol hador go against tradition? The answer would be the judge in charge of the day. But who decides who is the judge , if they are not Neviim or sanhedrin?

  2. Chazon Ish - how widely has he become dominant today? Perhaps in certain areas, ie chumras on shiurim - measures, and also on learning not working.
    Perhaps his idea od "chareidi society" has been very successful, especially in Israel. But also the Chofetz chaim.
    On the other hand, people like the Netziv, Ohr sameach , Arukh hashulchan don't have a distinct following,or if they do it is limited - Netziv - Rav Kook would teach his method of learnign as oppsoed to Rav Chaim's; Arukh - was and is apparently the first choice for psak, rather than the MB. Ohr sameyach, even the yeshiva named after him, basically teach his meshech chochmah on the parsha, but don't necessarily follow his psak or shitah , unless to make a nice philosophical/ethical point.

    You missed out the concept of "Daas Torah" which is part of the same process.
    a learned Mo or RZ rosh yeshiva or posek simply won't be taken seriously if he makes a Daas Torah statement. This however, has become diluted in recent years, as even the litvish world has become diluted and diminished in stature.

    Rav Hutner apparently diverged from rav Shach's view on Land for peace in Israel, saying this is a denial of the entire Torah! To have done so in the late 80s -90s was unheard of.

  3. The same argument is also brought by the left MO _ r rackman, rav Goren, r riskin , for solving agunos and mamzerus. Even rav shmuel k and RNG were working on a similar line, that they can continue to develop halacha. Emanuel rackman said halacha had been frozen.
    In every generation, there is a zakein who remembers that in previous generation these chumros didn't exist. The chatam sofer didn't like the chumra against shaving, pointing out that it is only a personal chumra and not halacha. Obviously rackman and riskin don't share the same stature as chatam sofer .

  4. obviously neither did Goren or Rackman
    But there is also a major difference between chumra and essential halacha

  5. It's 100% PR mixed with politics.

  6. There is a role for the major critic(s) of each generation. Rambam was a critic of excess mysticism, and Raavad a critic of rambam'S mishneh Torah , both in style and also some of his halachic claims. Gra a critic of chassidic innovation, and Yaavetz of sabbateanism and acceptance of some practices in the mainstream.

  7. a question I have had for quite a while , which may run in parallel..
    If we have a Rif, why do we need a rambam? If we have a yad, why do we need the rosh (I'm talking sefarim not body parts)?
    And why the Shulchan aruch? Why after the S. A. Do we need the mishneh berura?
    Why can't anyone go back to an earlier version, just like some people prefer Windows 7?

  8. good questions!

    Working backwards Mishna Berura was needed because of the haskala which made the local rabbi unreliable. It is basically a compilation of popular practices so that any talmid chachom could posken himself on matters of prayer and Shabbos. Beforw WWII each community had their owm minhag, After the war it was needed to have a halacha that most people would accept. The Shulchan Aruch was needed because of the Expulsion from Spain. It serve the Sefardic exiles the Remah added the information for the rest of the world and again it was a standard most could accept, Rambam was needed because it deals with all of Judaism and its conceptual organization made it easier to use and study without prior knowledge. . Rif and Rosh were basically summaries of the Talmud with inclusion of post talmudic rulings but required knowledge of the gemora

  9. Torah thought Shabbath 148a
    “Mishnah. A man may borrow pitchers of wine and pitchers of oil from his neighbor, provided he does not say to him, lend [them] [halweni] to me [this is explained in the Gemara]; and similarly a woman [may borrow] loaves from her neighbor. if he does not trust him he leaves his cloak with him [as a pledge] and makes a reckoning with him after the sabbath. in the same way, if the eve of Passover in Jerusalem falls on a sabbath, one leaves his cloak with him [the vendor] and receives his paschal lamb [If one forgot to buy an animal before the Sabbath, he leaves his cloak as a pledge with a vendor on the Sabbath, and takes an animal, but must not actually buy it then, fixing its price.] and makes a reckoning with him after the festival.”

    My theory. Beautiful fascinating. The Sages did a beautiful job of teaching Torah with their rulings and discussions of these rulings. Bnei Brak yeshivos love studying closely Talmud and commentaries on the Talmud. We believe in mystical teachings of Torah of Moses in the Tanakh. Follow KA, Garnel? Wednesday I’m taking a rabbi tests on laws of Shabbath. I hope I pass this time.

  10. very interesting - i left out the Tur. Presumably a similar reason exists.

  11. Good luck. Remember, if you're not sure about an answer, it's forbidden but it's a machlokes.

  12. Why can't a rav riskin pasken like rav Moshe for agunos, if he can for kashrus or kiddushin?
    Also, they used to say that a yachid view is valid, so for example rav Yechiel Weinberg ztl could give leniencies that were not heresy. Today, it seems, this is less and less acceptable. And the argument is brought that halacha has ended so we have to be machmir on everything, either according to rav elyashiv or The CI.
    Fortunately, there are other traditions, sephardi, Yemeni, modern and Torah Im derech eretz, and Dati leumi.

  13. Simple!
    He is not widely accepted as a posek especially for issues involving women

  14. "[Stevie] Riskin opined (!) that the Biblical prohibition on homosexual relations only applies to one who voluntarily chooses homosexuality, but that one who considers himself wired as homosexual and feels that he can only experience intimacy with another man is exempt from the prohibition."

    IMHO, a person who twists the Torah, in such a manner, is not qualified to rule on ANY Torah subject.

  15. he is reported to have made such a a statement - but that has not bene published as a halacha l'maaseh by him. perhaps he was thinking through the obvious statement .

  16. He was being interviewed by a newspaper (Makor Rishon), and he candidly expressed his views. If he didn't really believe what was saying, then he should have kept his mouth shut.

    No qualified Torah scholar would even entertain such a ludicrous position, and surely, would never be caught saying so out loud.

  17. you could (and many actually did) say outrageous things about recognized gedolei hador , by psak they made whcih were at least as outrageous. I will mention the psak, but not the names of the gedolim, so as not to allow any disrespect:

    1) Allowed an eishes ish to essentially become pregnant from zera of an outside man, in order to treat infertility

    2) Allowed, a least in theory, for a woman to become pregnant whilst niddah, again because that was the only time she could conceive.

    So extreme and seemingly absurd positions are not the sole territory of MO lefties, but also from mainstream hareidi gedolei hador.

  18. Torah thought daf hayomi Yevamouth 23a
    “With reference to the Rabbis, we have discovered [the reason for the exclusion of a] slave; whence do they derive [the exclusion of the] heathen? And should you suggest that we might derive it by inference from the slave, those [the texts speaking of the slave and the heathen, supra] were surely needed! [In connection with their own context. They are not available for any deduction.] R. Johanan replied in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Scripture stated, For he will turn away thy son from following Me [Deut. VII, 4]. Thy son born from an Israelitish woman is called thy son [inc thy son or grandson] but thy son who was born from a heathen is not called thy son [inc thy son or grandson] but her son [i.e., he is a heathen like his mother]. Said Rabina: From this it follows [cf. supra n. 5] that the son of your daughter who derives from a heathen is called thy son [v. Kid.. Sonc. ed. p. 345 nn. 5.6]. Does this imply that Rabina is of the opinion that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with a daughter of Israel the child is considered fit [This is a question in dispute, infra 450. [Cf. parallel passage in Kid. 68b where the reading is, the child is a mamzer, a reading to which Tosaf. (s.v. קסבר) gives preference.]! -Though he is admittedly no bastard neither is he considered fit; he is rather regarded [lit., called] as a tainted Israelite [For further notes, v. Kid., Sonc. ed. p. 345ff]. But does not that text [Deut. VII, 4, from which deduction has just been made] occur in connection with the seven nations [Enumerated in Deut. VII, I. How, then, could the same text be applied to other nations]? For he will turn away [Deut. VII, 4, from which deduction has just been made] includes all who turn away. This is satisfactory if we follow R. Simeon who expounds [even where Scripture assigns no reason] his own reasons for Scriptural precepts [v. B.M. 115a;]; whence, however, do the Rabbis [who do not assign reasons for Biblical precepts unless Scripture itself supplies them] derive it according to their view [the text, For he will turn etc. being required as a reason for the precepts enunciated in that context itself]? Who is the Tanna [designated supra as the Rabbis] who disputes the opinion of R. Jose son of R. Judah? It is R. Simeon.”

    My theory. R. Simeon studied Torah from Elijah in the cave and wrote the Zohar. R. Simeon is right. We do assign reasons to Biblical precepts even with only a hint in the Scripture. We can use our human reasoning as does Rabbi Riskin even without a prophet even in our times.

    Bravo Rabbi Riskin. At YU he gave the Torah lecture Sabbath mornings in the Rubin dormitory. I was a freshman. Ooh did I love Rabbi Riskin! He was known then as the genius of Rabbi Soloveitchik.

  19. I can't help it if you don't see any difference between Riskin's ludicrous thesis, and the alleged examples that you gave.
    1. The gedolim backed up their ruling with sound proofs from the Rishonim (and limited it to using non-Jewish donors).
    2. I'm not sure, if you're referring to artificial insemination (which you're going to have to explain why you would be machmir), or if you're referring to conception in the normal manner (which I don't believe that any rabbi ever permitted).

  20. They are not the same -

    1) was called terrible names by his opponents, whcih make your quips about R Riskin seem like honors

    2) was threatened with excommunication to the point he had to retract or deny that it was ever meant to be halacha l'maaseh

  21. Can you give some examples of how the CI for example, transcends mesorah?
    If that is actually the case, does it make those rules non binding?

  22. I don't know what you're talking about (2).
    What was the psak?

  23. it is described in here

  24. You misunderstood and misquoted the psak.
    RSZA did NOT allow for a woman to become impregnated by her husband whilst niddah, if that was the only time she could conceive.
    He proposed a legal workaround, by which a woman could theoretically avoid being Halachically declared a Niddah. This would then permit them to be together, since she is NOT Halachically considered a Niddah.

  25. Workaround - that's the right word.
    but others considered her to still be niddah

  26. Riskin is also proposing a workaround where toevah feiglach are no longer really liable for their toevalach. It's like diminished responsibility in western legal systems.

  27. Riskin has a thesis, but it's not a psak. Thesis is up for debate. He wrote books on how to free agunos, but has not necessarily implemented them. I don't think he has a new ibd for agunos. Similarly no idh (de haan) din for mishkav zachar.

  28. “Making of a godol - mesorah versus gadol” The Bible plainly gives the woman the upper hand in contested divorce cases where she wants the divorce and he not. “If a man seduces a virgin for whom the bride-price has not been paid אשר לא ארשה, and lies with her, he must make her his wife by payment of a bride-price מהר ימהרנה לו לאשה. If her father refuses מאן ימאן to give her to him, he must still weigh out silver in accordance with the bride-price for virgins כמהר הבתולת.” (Exodus 22:15-16). “If a man comes upon a virgin נערה בתולה who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekels of] silver, and she shall be his wife. Because he has violated her אשר ענה, he can never have the right to divorce her לא יוכל שלחה כל ימיו.” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

    My theory. Dowry custom part of marriage before Sinai among ancient peoples, as in the rape of Dinah. “Ask me a bride-price ever so high הרבו עלי מאד מהר, as well as gifts, and I will pay you what you tell me; only give me the maiden for a wife.” (Genesis 34:12).

    Very different Islam custom of honor killings and in Israel of selling Islam girls from the Hebron area Islam men in the Negev, etc In the Bible women have the upper hand in matters of money: minimum 50 shekels of silver for a virgin, in contested divorces where she wants the divorce and he not, in NYS contested divorces she wins custody and money.

    We can debate what is Torah and what is purely our Sages. Many times our Sages give a ruling that is Torah with only a hint in Scripture. I’m having another Rabbi test Sunday on the laws of marriage. I hope I pass this time. I think I passed Wednesday my test on the laws of the Sabbath. Excellent questions: must know the Talmud discussions. Rabbi Riskin is a gadol.

  29. "Your shver will have to give a din v'cheshbon for making Rav Moshe the gadol."

    Was this after the psak about a. I. D.?
    Rav hutner became close to satmar later on in life - is that why?

  30. It's all about politics and PR. Imagine the role Artscroll and Feldheim have played in promoting certain "Gedolim" and certain viewpoints to the exclusion of others. What would be the influence of Rav Avigdor Miller if certain publishing houses hadn't widely spread his writings and statements?
    If the Chazon Ish is a dominant figure, is that because he actually was or because some in his community decided he should be and waged a campaign to present it as an obvious truth?

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  32. The CI was a major posek, and oustanding in his generation - whether he was "promoted" is a different matter. Rabbi Miller was promoted , perhaps his english language skills that he picked up in the MO world helped him in the Hareidi world who at that time were not as developed in mastery of English as they are now.
    But there were other great poskim too, eg Rav Herzog. The story goes that Rav Aharon wished to give him a hesped, but the extremists threatened him , especially since it was due to be at Heichal Shlomo.

  33. Nope, i've run out of guesses

  34. Here is another reason why the Chatam Sofer was not "Chareidi"

    Chasam Sofer1

    was once asked to provide proof

    from Chazal that it is appropriate for every community

    to construct an eruv to prevent people from carrying

    items in violation of Shabbos. Chasam Sofer responded

    that such a matter does not even require proof since it is

    a simple and logical conclusion to draw. He then proceeded to cite a number of reasons why it is obligatory

    for one to construct an eruv. One reason is that we are

    instructed to assure that children do not become accustomed to violating Shabbos. In fact, it is prohibited to

    accustom children to violate Shabbos even if the violation is only Rabbinic. Accordingly, every thinking person will arrive at the conclusion that it is impossible to

    prevent a child from carrying on Shabbos and the only

    option to deal with this potential hazard is to construct

    an eruv so that when the children carry items outside it

    will not be in violation of Shabbos.

  35. Nowadays eruv is opposed wherever they try to put one up.

  36. there was a London eruv controversy 25 years ago, and the chareidim were mevazeh Dayan ehrentreu

  37. Wow and so you generalize from a single case without context!

  38. Manhattan, same story

    It's usually the same dividing line, more or less. Very interesting - I love the Chatam Sofer.

  39. Nope!
    Eruv is an old issue as is clearly stated in Mishneh Berurah
    Chofetz Chaim was against Eruv but he was on the Eruv committee of Radin
    Rav Moshe WAS AGAINST some but was supportive of others
    Most opposition to eruv comes from secular Jews who don't want the neighborhood becoming frum
    As stated before another false dichotomy

  40. I cited Chatam sofer , who I can hopefully say was greater than the above mentioned gedolim, without being crucified.

  41. It's not false dichotomy to say chatam sofer is not typically hareidi in his rulings and positions.
    Regarding modernism/reform he was absolutely opposed to all change. Within his scholarship and internal halachic analysis, he had, understood and practiced with balance, and with uncompromising emes.

  42. AFAIK, Gedolei Yisralel were never opposed to Eiruvin, per se.

    Rhetorically speaking, how could they even have the audacity to disagree with an entire Tractate of Talmud; which is almost exclusively devoted to the subject?

    However, depending on the facts on the ground, the Gedolim sometimes disagreed as to if, when, and where an Eiruv can be implemented.

    This is not to be misconstrued that the particular Gadol “was against Eiruv”. It’s just that he understood the Halachos of Eituvin, as being impossible to implement in this particular case.

  43. At the time, I was told in Lubavitch that the Rebbe opposed Eruvs because kids could get used to an eruv in one country, then travel to another city or country where there is not an eruv, and violate shabbes.
    It's not so convincing. When i was a kid we always knew that outside England, the cars drive on the wrong side of the road, so we had to look the other way first.

  44. Wow authoritative hearsay evidence!

  45. Wow who do you think you are?
    Who wants to crucify you?
    Is there a Second Coming?

  46. DT: nonsenses!

    OK, so you think that he wasn't opposed to Reform.
    and that his halacha was not balanced or emes...

  47. don't need to be Yashke in order to get crucified

  48. nope, you have run out of zig-zag room

    he was opposed to Reform absolutely, never gave any legitimacy to any of their "takkanos".

    Perhaps you don't agree with all his halacha?

  49. Colloquial meaning

    2. VERB
    To crucify someone means to criticize or punish them severely.
    She'll crucify me if she finds you still here. [VERB noun]
    She was crucified by the critics for her performance. [VERB noun]

  50. You expect a doctoral thesis in this small comment box? 😆

  51. Torah thought daf hayomi Yevamoth 24b
    “Mishnah. If a man is suspected of [intercourse] [נטען lit., spoken against having to be a defendant. Rt. טען to plead, sue] with a slave who was later emancipated, or with a heathen who subsequently became a proselyte, lo, he must not marry her [since such a marriage might confirm the rumor]. If, however, he did marry her they need not be parted [lit., they do not take out of his hand]. If a man is suspected of intercourse [נטען lit., spoken against having to be a defendant. Rt. טען to plead, sue] with a married woman [lit., the wife of a man] who, [in consequence,] was taken away from her husband [lit., and they (i.e., Beth din) took her out from under his hand. He was ordered to divorce her.], he must let her go even though he had married her [because the woman is Biblically forbidden to both husband and seducer. (V. Sot. 27b)].”

    My theory. The Mishnah gives a tough rule: If a man is suspected of intercourse [נטען lit., spoken against having to be a defendant. Rt. טען to plead, sue] with a married woman [lit., the wife of a man] who, [in consequence,] was taken away from her husband [lit., and they (i.e., Beth din) took her out from under his hand. He was ordered to divorce her.], he must let her go even though he had married her [because the woman is Biblically forbidden to both husband and seducer. (V. Sot. 27b)].”

    The Gamara has a lenient view: “The law is in accordance with the view of Rab [That no rumor or suspicion is to be relied upon in forbidding a wife to her husband. Only the evidence of witnesses may be acted upon.], and the law is in accordance with the view of Rabbi [Cf. supra p. 150, n. 7}.”
    Beautiful fascinating.

    Allow me my letter today to the NYS Court of Appeals:
    2I hear nothing from my UPS mailings to John P. Asiello: a)February 9, 20222: motion, notice of motion, affidavit of service b)February 11, 2022, letter, affidavit of service c)February 17, 2022, letter, affidavit of service d)February 23, 2022, letter, affidavit of service e)February 28, 2022, letter, affidavit of service
    3My SCOTUS docket #'s: 18--7160 denied and rehearing denied, 18--9390 denied and rehearing denied, 20--6525 denied and rehearing denied, 20--7892 denied and rehearing denied, 20--8096 denied and rehearing denied, and 20--6561 denied and rehearing denied. I must say that I like that SCOTUS puts on public view my petitions and documents.


    Chasam Sofer : Criticizing Gedolim when they deviate from what is viewed as the accepted halacha


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