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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘rabbanim’

Disappointed But Not Surprised

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I know that this is their view. Nonetheless, it still pains me when I see them saying so in such stark black and white terms. I am referring to the recent statement by the Agudah Moetzes endorsing the views of their Israeli counterparts on the issue of drafting Yeshiva students. They are obviously very opposed.

While I accept that the members of the Moetzes are talmidei hachamim with few peers; and that their views should be respected, I have to say that there are times – like this one – that makes it very difficult for me to do so. Not because I don’t respect their knowledge. Nor do I suspect that their views are anything but l’shem shomayim – for the sake of heaven. I truly believe that they are selfless human beings that have dedicated their lives to doing the will of God and serving Klal Yisroel.

Here is a translation of their most recent proclamation from the Baltimore Jewish Life:

We are deeply dismayed by the efforts in Eretz Yisroel to draft B’nei Yeshiva and remove them from the Beis Medrash, the wellspring of Torah to which they dedicate their days and nights. The perseverance and security of Hashem’s people are rooted in its dedication to Torah study, as Chazal comment on the posuk “Our feet were standing at your gates, Yerushalayim”: “What will enable our feet to stand firm in war? The gates of Yerushalayim, where [Jews] devote themselves to Torah study.”

We appeal to the members of the government in Israel not to take any steps that will in any way negatively affect the B’nei Yeshiva and their study of Torah. For Torah study is “our life and the length of our days,” which will “lead us, upright, forever.” Like I said, this is no surprise. But it bothers me just the same. I understand the issue. They say that Torah study is what saves the world. That without it, the world would cease to exist… and that certainly Torah study is what protects the Jewish people. Granted. But what this statement does not say is that security requires not only Torah study but in the case of Israel – an army. This very simple fact – and it is a fact – was acknowledged in public by Rav Haim Shmulevitz, a Gadol of an earlier generation. I can’t even count anymore the times I’ve quoted this revered sage of the 20th century on this issue. He did not make it up. Nor is there any rabbinic opposition to this fact. It is the truth. It’s called hishtadlus – maximum mental and physical effort. Hishtadlus in this case requires that we do whatever earthly things we can to accomplish the goal of protecting Jewish lives. Which means that we do not rely on miracles. If there were no army, there would be no hishtadlus. It is true that Torah holds up the world. But as R’ Haim said we need not only a spiritual army. We need a physical army as well. If that were not so, there would no such thing as a milchemes mitzvah (a war mandated by God). We would just all sit in a beis hamedrash and study Torah until our enemies were destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. David HaMelech captured Jerusalem not by staying in the beis hamedrash but by going to war.

This statement does not address that issue. Nor does it answer the pain and suffering of families whose sons have been maimed or killed in doing their hishtadlus in battle, while yeshiva students do theirs in relative safety. The idea of “sharing the burden” which is what proponents of drafting Haredim want – is based on this kind of inequity. Why do they not address it? How can they not? How can they just say they are dismayed by a possible draft without addressing this issue?

Nor do they explain why they feel that the status quo ante should remain untouched in any way? I could better understand if they had said that there ought not be a draft for Haredim – if they qualified it with the requirement to root out those who are faking it or just going through the motions because of peer pressure. Or maybe even those who are learning but not quite at the level one would expect of someone who is Torah umnaso (Torah is his job).

Can a Gadol Resign?

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

The Pope’s resignation has generated responses from many in our community about the lessons we can learn from that. Here is the way Professor Lawrence Kaplan put it: “The main reason (the Pope’s resignation) is relevant is that many of our octogenarian and nonagenarian Gedolim might take a lesson from the Pope.”

I think this is an error. The two are not comparable. The Pope has an official position in the Church from which he can resign. A true Gadol has nothing official to resign from. He is a Gadol because of his achievements… and because he has recognition from his peers and community about those achievements. You can’t resign from achievements.

The fact that a Gadol might be a member of an organized group of peers is irrelevant to his actual status as a Gadol. One can be a Gadol without belonging and one can resign from that group if he does belong. But one cannot resign from being a Gadol.

If on the other hand a Gadol becomes demented because of an age related illness (Alzheimers for example) – it will be noticed, and his opinions will no longer be accepted. That does not lessen our responsibility to honor him. It is just a recognition that he is no longer of sound mind… and shailos (halachic questions) should no longer be asked of him.

That in theory is the ideal. But the reality is not like that, I’m afraid.

What I believe happens today is that some elderly Gedolim are so sheltered by their handlers from the public, that if they ever do become demented, no one would know but the handlers. And they’re not going to tell anybody for two reasons: (1) They believe it would dishonor him for people to know that he suffers from dementia, and (2) they can still use him to “Paskin” (rule) for them on their issues by surmising what he would have said had he been in full control of his mental faculties.

The problem with that is twofold as well.These handlers often have their own agendas which color their beliefs about what a Gadol would say… and the fact is that they are lying to the public.

The question arises quite frequently in our day when so many who are considered Gedolim are well into their 90s. Yet people still go to them for advice.

Age alone should not disqualify anyone from being of sound mind. Dementia is an illness common to old age, but not every old person becomes demented. For example those who were privileged to speak directly to Rav Elyashiv even as he entered and passed his 100th year on earth can testify to the man’s soundness of mind… and ability to render a decision. To have asked him to resign from being a Gadol is like asking a man or a woman to resign from their gender.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. Even if a Gadol is of sound mind – he can sometimes be misused and misquoted by his handlers. Access to him may be limited and controlled. Decisions on public policy can be said in his name even if he did not actually say them. Or he can be misled and make public policy decisions based on misinformation.

Should that completely disqualify him? Should he refuse to ever render another decision? I don’t think so. The solution is not to resign from your “Gadlus” but to fire your handlers when you find out they are misleading or misquoting you. Even if their intentions are honorable.

There are those who would say that if a Gadol could be so easily misled and he knows it – he should ‘abdicate’ his role as a Gadol. The truth is that a lot of damage can be caused if he continues dispensing advice or making edicts in these circumstances. One need not look further than Rav Elyashiv’s ban on Rav Nosson Kamenetsky’s book Making of a Gadol.

Others might say that if he continues to function as a Gadol and giving advice knowing that sometimes he is misled – that is too great a flaw in his character to even be considered a Gadol.

But I don’t agree. Gedolim are not perfect. They are human, just like the rest of us. A true Gadol will always try to do the right thing. And the public should not lose out because of occasional errors. Not availing oneself to the mind of a Gadol would be a loss to the world, too. The best way to avoid error is personal contact. Asking a Gadol to stop giving advice is an unnecessary loss of a valuable option.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/can-a-gadol-resign/2013/02/17/

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