Monday, May 9, 2022

Blemished Gedolim II

Shemos Rabbah (1:1) 1. NOW THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL, WHO CAME INTO EGYPT WITH JACOB; EVERY MAN CAME WITH HIS HOUSEHOLD (EX. I, 1): Thus we read: He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. XIII, 24). Ordinarily, if a man's friend says to him: ' So-and-so, smite your son,’ he is ready even to deprive him of his livelihood.Then why ’He that spareth his rod hateth his son’? To teach you that anyone who refrains from chastising his son causes him to fall into evil ways and thus comes to hate him. This is what we find in the case of Ishmael who behaved wickedly before Abraham his father, but he did not chastise him, with the result that he fell into evil ways, so that he despised him and cast him forth empty-handed from his house. What did Ishmael do? When he was fifteen years old, he commenced to bring idols from the street, toyed with them and worshipped them as he had seen others do. So when Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, making sport (Gen. XXI, 9)- (the word mezahek being always used of idolatry as in And they rose up to make merry (Ex. XXXII, 6)4)-she immediately said unto Abraham: Cast out this bondwoman and her son (Gen. XXI, 10) lest my son learn of his ways. Hence And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight on account of his son (ib. 11), because he had become depraved. And God said unto ouse empty-handed without clothes or means of livelihood? But this is to teach you that when Ishmael became depraved he ceased to think about him. What became of him in the end? After he had driven him out, he sat at the cross-roads, and robbed and molested passers-by, as it is said: And he shall be a wild ass of a man: his hand shall be against every man (Gen. XVI, 12).

Another example: Now Isaac loved Esau (ib. XXV, 28); hence because he did not chastise him, he became depraved. As we have learnt3: On that day, Esau the wicked committed five transgressions. He seduced a betrothed maiden, killed a man, denied resurrection, rejected the fundamental principles of religion, and despised his birthright. Moreover, he longed for the death of his father and sought to slay his brother, as it is said: Let the days of mourning for my father be at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob (ib. XXVII, 4I). He caused Jacob to flee from his father's home and he also went to Ishmael to learn of him evil ways and to get more wives, as it is said: So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife (ib. XXVIII, 9).

Similarly, because David did not rebuke or chastise his son Absalom, he fell into evil ways, seeking to slay his father, sleeping with his concubines, and becoming the cause of his wandering bare-footed and weeping, and of the slaughter of many thousands and tens of thousands of Israelites, as well as of other sorrows without end. For it is written: A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son (Ps. III, 1) and is followed by:Lord, how many are mine adversaries become! (ib. 2). Depravity in a man's family is more grievous even than the war of Gog and Magogl; for whereas in reference to the war of Gog and Magog it is written: Why are the nations in an uproar’ (Ps. II, 1), in the case of Absalom it says: ’How many are mine adversaries.’ David treated Adonijah in a similar fashion, neither rebuking nor punishing him, and therefore he became depraved, as it is written: And his father had not grieved him all his life in saying: Why hast thou done so (I Kings I, 6). And he was born after Absalom (ib.). Was not Absalom the son of Maachah, and Adonijah the son of Haggith? Then why ’ And he was born after Absalom’? Only to show us that because Absalom had become corrupt on account of his father's failure to chastise him, while in the case of Adonijah we are told: ’And his father had not grieved him all his life,’ therefore he also became corrupt. On this account does it say: ’And he was born after Absalom.’

’But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes’ (Prov. XIII, 24). This refers to the Holy One, blessed be He; because of His love for Israel, as it is written: I have loved you, saith the Lord (Mal. I, 2), doth He heap4 upon them chastisements. You will find that the three precious gifts which God gave unto Israel were all given after much suffering: The Torah, Eretz Israel, and the Life to Come.


  1. Garnel IronheartMay 9, 2022 at 5:15 PM

    The reason the Torah is superior to all competing "holy" books is because, unique amongst them, it doesn't make its heroes unblemished, god-like heroes. Holiness is achieved despite human foibles and limitations which are overcome. Avraham Avinu isn't born into greatness. He works for it. David HaMelech has to work to become king, even after he's annointed. No other religion presents their leaders this way.
    And then along we come in modern times and do the opposite with hagiographies of "Gedolim" who, even in kindergarter, already knew all of Shas and did Tikkun Chatzos twice (regular and Rabbeinu Tam)

  2. on "Daas Torah"

    Even if there is a power of "Da'as torah", it does not lie with any tom, dick or harry rabbi who gets semicha at a chareidi insititute. Rav Hutner famously said that people shouldn't believe anything attributed to him, unless they heard him say it directly.

    A few logical problems with Daas Torah:

    1) A lot of the masses make claims about a) what daas torah is, and b) who has it. But these masses, are not perfect in torah knowledge or middos and are not free of bias or bribes, or ideology. So even if they vote for a particular leader, their opinions are not reliable.

    2) A gadol cannot self certify that he is free of bribes. Perhaps he thinks he is, but that does not mean he is.

    3) A gadol may think he is the greatest, but nobody is a great as Rabbi Akiva, and it appears that R Akiva was mistaken about bar Kuziva, and the campaign was disasterous, led to genocide and destruction of the Jewish presence in Israel. If Akiva can get involved in something as catastrophic as the b Kochba uprising, then European gedolim of the 20th C can and did get involved in misjudgement of antisemitism, and denial regarding the Holocaust.


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