In some instances there has been emotional and financial carnage in the wake of some of the decisions made by well meaning, but misguided individuals who do not have the necessary insight to properly evaluate life-styles and social/cultural nuances removed from their experiences. Like a baalat teshuva’s divorced daughter who went out with young man she liked and asked her elderly rav if she should continue going out with him. He told her that she could “do better” and she stopped dating him. Years later, she is still mired in her search to “do better.”
Then there is the young kollel couple who are struggling to make ends meet. The wife was just a few credits from obtaining a professional degree when a rav whose shiurim she had started to attend stated that frum girls did not belong in a secular university and she should try to continue her education in a frum environment. This girl missed her exams and did not complete her degree. Shortly after, she married. Now she is working long hours at a dead-end, low paying job, while strangers raise her children – and her retired parents dip into their savings to help pay the bills.
Over the years, I have dealt with experts in various fields – medical, legal, financial – and while many had the professional degrees and awards covering the walls of their office that shout out that he/she “knows their stuff” – mistakes were still made.
And I/my mother/my father/ my children etc. paid the price for their “I know what’s best for you” decisions.
Rabbanim, like the above named experts, are human beings, and thus vulnerable to flawed thought processes, no matter how sincere and erlich they are. As hard as they may try, they cannot totally avoid injecting personal bias into the decisions they make for those who for reasons of infatuation, insecurity, low-self esteem, fear or because they believe that is the true Torah way, gladly hand over the yoke of personal decision making onto them.
The rav who insisted the Anglo couple not speak English to their kids may have been a seventh generation Israeli who has never set foot out of the county nor sees any reason to in the future. What he may not have taken into consideration is that the couple who approached him have a different reality than he does, one that would make knowledge of English an asset, even a necessity, for their children.
From his perspective, what he told the couple is correct – let nothing foreign disturb the purity of the roots they are putting down in Eretz Yisrael. But the fact is- there is a foreign element in this couple’s make-up that should have been considered and factored into the decision. In terms of halacha, it is very laudable to ask a rav for guidance. And when it comes to personal decisions, one should ask around and get opinions from the people they respect or look up to, but at the end of the day, it’s your life, and only you know everything about yourself, and you should be in the driver’s seat, making decisions. That is what being a grown up is all about. If you don’t trust yourself, then you should make it your priority to do what it takes to find out why.
Your life depends on it.