Einei HaEdah

A collection of sources to help those who don't want to buy into myths about Modern Orthodoxy, religious anti-Zionism, and other matters. NOTE: This is more of a database than a blog. NOTE #2: I refer to HaRabbanim HaGaonim Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, and Rav Ahron HaLevi Soloveichik, Zichronam L'V'rachah, as "Rav Moshe, "the Rav," and "Rav Ahron."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Da'as Torah & Emunas Chachamim

Bava Basra 12/a: The Insights of the Chachamim

"Rav Avdimi of Cheifa said, 'From the day that the Holy Temple was destroyed, prophecy was removed from the prophets and given to the Chachamim,' [meaning,] even though it was removed from the prophets, it was not removed from the Chachamim."

"The prophecy of the Chachamim, which is via wisdom, was not removed; rather, they know the Truth through the Holy Spirit that is within them ['B'Ru'ach HaKodesh She-B'Kirbam']."

"There are those [Chachamim] who grasp many things with their intellect that are not within the power of the natural intellect to grasp."

The Chasam Sofer:
In Orach Chaim teshuvah 208, he states that the Nevu'ah (prophecy) that was not removed from the Chachamim refers to that Chelek (portion) of prophecy that the Chacham attains through his Chochma. When he is learner of Torah Lishmah, he has intellectual attainments beyond his natural capacities and Hashem helps him arrive at the truth.

The Ran: Heeding the Gedolim

From Derashos HaRan HaShaleim
published by Mossad HaRav Kook * 2003

Drush 11

“Even if the matter is clear to you [“Barur L’cha”]—that the truth is not in accordance with the ruling of the Sanhedrin—even so, heed them…This is similar to the matter of Rabbi Yehoshua with Rabban Gamliel…It is G-d’s Will [ ] that we rely on what the Gedolei HaDor agree on.”

[Comment: One could ask, is he arguing on the Ramban as explained by the Torah Temimah below? I would say, not necessarily. Notice that the Ran uses the words “clear to you” instead of just “clear.” Also, note that the example he cites is the dispute between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabban Gamliel regarding the calculation of the calendar. That was a difference in halachic opinions, not a case where Rabbi Yehoshua had objective incontestable proof. If the Ran wanted to say that there is an objective disproof, he could have cited the case of Rabbi Eliezer and the Akenai Oven, where the Bas Kol said that the Chachamim were wrong.]

Drush 12

Q. Why are we obligated to follow the decisions of the Chachmei HaDor even when they aren’t the Sanhedrin sitting in the Lishkas HaGazis?
A. The commandment to follow after a majority is a general admonition to follow what the majority of the Chachamim agree to vis-à-vis the laws of the Torah.

Sefer HaChinuch: Heeding the Gedolei HaDor

In Tradition 27:4 [Summer 1993], Rav Yonason Sacks has an article on rabbinic authority. He quotes the Mishnas Yavaz to the effect that, according to the Ramban, the Sifri and the Yerushalmi support the view of the Sefer HaChinuch in Mitzvos 495 & 496, viz., that following the Gedolei HaDor is a Chiyyuv D'Oraysa, and defying them, an Issur D'Oraysa.

Rav Hershel Schachter: The Chinuch's View on Following Gedolim

Our obligation to follow the rulings of the Beis Din HaGadol is not limited to the Beis Din HaGadol in the Lishkas HaGazis; it refers to the Gedolei HaDor in each generation, as the Sefer HaChinuch explains in Mitzvah #495. Their being in the Lishkas HaGazis is only a prerequisite for the execution of a Zaken Mamre. The mitzvos of “Lo Sasur” and “V’Asisa Al Pi HaDavar” are not limited to the Beis Din HaGadol in the Lishkas HaGazis; it refers to the Gedolei HaDor in each generation…This is so for the following reason: If a person has a Rebbe Muvhak, he has to follow his Rebbe Muvhak’s teachings. Generally speaking, Gedolei HaDor have the halachic status of Rebbe Muvhak with respect to the rest of us.
[see Nefesh HaRav, by Rav Hershel Schachter, pp.61-62 ]

The Rav, Zatzal: The Purview of the Sages

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, the Rav’s son-in-law and student, and among the greatest living sages of Modern Orthodoxy, has written the following about his rebbe and father-in-law:

“True, he did not, in the long run, hold aloft the banner of the ideology [ ] which maintains that every political question has an essentially halakhic character, and is thus susceptible to the obligatory and exclusive decisions of the gedolei Torah. At first he inclined to this view, and even asserted it with enthusiasm…After [the Holocaust], he abandoned this view, and in the course of decades he accepted and even sharpened the distinction between matters involving mitzvot (divrei mitzvah), which are to be decided by halakhic decision-makers, and other matters (divrei reshut), in which significant weight is attached to the opinions and authority of other leaders, or to private judgment. Nevertheless, although he rejected the decisive reach of rabbinic authority in political matters, he was insistent that such matters be determined from a perspective of refined spirituality and in consonance with Torah values."
[from Leaves of Faith, vol. 1, pp. 227-228].

So indeed, the Rav did limit, to some extent, rabbinic authority in mundane political issues. However, the Rav maintained that rabbinic authority was in full-force in religious issues—apparently, whether those religious issues involved technical halacha or public-policy.

Indeed, as Rav Lichtenstein wrote elsewhere:

“I freely concede that, at times, acknowledged leaders of the Torah world issue pronouncements which anyone with even a trace of modern sensibility finds difficult to fathom, let alone accept…Nevertheless, beyond reservations, I find the alternate view, that gedolei Torah are professional experts whose authority and wisdom can ordinarily be regarded as confined to the area of their technical proficiency, simply inconceivable. Our abiding historical faith in the efficacy of Torah as a pervasive ennobling, informing, and enriching force dictates adoption of the concept of da’at Torah in some form or measure.”
[from his article “Engaging Modernity,” in Legitimization of Modernity, pp.21-22 ]

Elsewhere in that same article, Rav Lichtenstein explains that it would be problematic to adopt a norm or value that was not sanctioned by at least one of the Gedolei HaDor [the Sages of the generation]:

“In the absence of an imprimatur from any Shofet ShebeYamecha [contemporary authority] whatsoever, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to justify adoption of norms and values in defiance of a wall-to-wall phalanx of gedolei Israel. Such action would simply be regarded as error…[T]he ordinary person must base himself upon a Shofet ShebeYamecha…[And] no such course [of action, in defiance of the gedolei Israel,] could be championed in the public sphere.”
[from p.14]

[And I would add that—notwithstanding any lack of authority—there could have been no Modern Orthodox figure with a more refined spirituality, and with a greater command of Torah values, than the Rav. Even in secular endeavors, expertise carries much weight, even if its source is not an authority-figure. The same should be no less true in religious matters, whose import is transcendent and eternal.]

[NOTE: It is true that the Rav would tell people to “speak to the generals” when queried about Israeli land-for-peace issues. As Rav Michael Rosensweig pointed out, this was merely for ascertaining the facts; the course of action (given those facts) was meant to emanate from Da’as Torah. [from ”Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding: The Guidance of Daas Torah,” a Shiur given by Rav Michael Rosensweig and available atwww.torahweb.org/standards.html and http://torahweb.org/video/rros_043006.html]

Rav Michael Rosensweig: The Guidance of Da'as Torah

Excerpts from
”Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding: The Guidance of Daas Torah,”
a Shiur given by Rav Michael Rosensweig and available at

I. What is Da’as Torah? From Whom Do We Receive It?

There are two types of Talmidei Chachamim. One is a superlative transmitter of the Mesorah. The other is on a higher level; he is a person “who does not merely transmit Torah, but who enhances the content of Mesorah itself.” His “insight and direction goes beyond the sources that he can point to; he might be inspired by the sources, in some cases, but, maybe, no clear deductive or compellingly logical argument can always be constructed…” His insight and direction go “beyond source material and textual evidence.” “That special transcendant quality, halachic insight and instinct that transcends knowledge and that transcends even analytical skills, is sometimes referred to as, Da’as Torah.”

II. The Purview of the Chachmei HaMesorah

The notion that actions that are not described explicitly in the Shulchan Aruch are merely matters of public policy and are neutral vis-à-vis halacha is false:
“The fact is that matters of Hashkafa and values are every bit as important, and guidance in those areas, every bit as crucial—and the role of Chachmei HaMesorah is maybe even more crucial in those areas.”

“Guidance in the area of Hashkafa [beyond the ascertaining of facts], what impact [ ] policies are likely to have—these are areas in which the consultation of Da’as Torah, Chachmei HaMesorah, becomes critical.”

“Not all rabbanim are equal…being Mach’ria in [ ] Klal Yisroel issues requires more than skill and proficiency…it remains the prerogative” of Chachmei HaMesorah.

III. Is Da’as Torah Infallible?

“[The] question of infallibility has often been the strawman in the argument against” the concept of Da’as Torah. “Da’as Torah is the basis for powerful convictions, but nothing is infallible—except the Ribbono shel Olam, of course.”

Da’as Torah is “a powerful tool,” not “infallibility.”

Rav Ahron, Zatzal: How Does One Formulate Da’as Torah?

How does one formulate Da’as Torah?

Rav Ahron tells us in one of his seforim.

There are three types of wisdom:
Chochmah: learning from others
Binah: deducing from what you have learned from others
Da’as: common sense and intuitive wisdom

In the wrong order, they lead one to “a spurious Da’as Torah:”
First: Da’as
Then: Chochmah & Binah
Inotherwords, intuition and common sense lead to an approach, and then the approach is justified through rationalizing. [The target is painted around an arrow that has already been shot and landed.]

In the right order, they lead one to “an authentic Da’as Torah:”
First: Chochmah—all of the halachic data and nuances
Then: Binah—deductive wisdom
Lastly: Da’as—exercise of common sense

[from Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind, pp. 108, 110 ]

The Purview of the Sages: Even Completely Mundane Matters?

HaGaon Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Zatzal, stated that even in mundane matters, the Gedolim have gifted insight:

"Their opinions [‘Chavas Da’atam’] are clear and true even in matters where they have no explicit source—and in worldly matters [‘Stam Mili D’Alma’], as well.”

According to this approach, one could argue that it is preferable, and even praiseworthy, to consult them on mundane matters. Rav Alfred Cohen (see below) brings a similar statement from the Meiri's commentary to Pirkei Avot [6:1]: "People benefit from his [viz., the Talmid Chacham’s] wisdom and good counsel, [to know how to proceed] in their material activities." On the other hand, says Rav Cohen, there is another approach: that of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Zatzal, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liady. In chapter 22 of the Iggeres HaKodesh, he writes,“My dear friend....’Remember the days of old, understand the years of every generation’ – has there ever been anything like this since the beginning of time?! Where, in all the books of the scholars ofIsrael, whether the earlier or later ones, have you ever seen such a custom instituted, to ask about a secular question, such as what to do in some mundane matter, even from the greatest of the early wise men of Israel, such as the Tannaim and Amoraim...but rather [people would turn to] actual prophets, such as there used to be, such as Shmuel the Seer, to whom Saul went to ask about the donkeys which his father had lost. But in truth, all matters relating to a person, other than something having to do with Torah or fear of heaven, are not apprehended other than through prophecy, and not by a wise man.”

The Torah Temimah: Does Da'as Torah = Infallibility?

The Torah Temimah on Devarim 17:11 cites a Yerushalmi and a Sifri [in #61 & #62]. This verse tells us, “Do not swerve [‘Lo Sasur’] from the word that they will tell you, neither to the right nor to the left.” [“They” here refers to the authority that one sought out with a question.] The Yerushalmi states that one need only adhere to their words when they tell you that “right” is “right” and “left” is “left.” The Sifri says, “Even if it seems to you [‘Nir'in B’Einecha’] that the ‘left’ that they told you about is actually ‘right’ and that the ‘right’ that they told you about is actually ‘left,’ heed them.” Seemingly, there is a dispute between the Yerushalmi and the Sifri, but the Torah Temimah says there is no dispute. He writes, “Even if your opinion and logic [‘Da’at’cha U’Sevarat’cha’] incline in the opposite direction of their opinion and logic[, ] and it is as obvious to you that you are correct as it is obvious to you that your right-hand is not your left-hand, nevertheless, heed them….But, if they truly said that ‘right’ was ‘left,’ e.g. they permitted Cheilev (forbidden fat) or Arayos (sexual immorality), then it is forbidden to heed them.” Inotherwords, the Sifri refers to an error which is only apparent and is subjectively-determined, but the Yerushalmi refers to an error which is objective and demonstrable. The Torah Temimah ascribes this approach to the Yerushalmi to the Ramban, as well.

It seems to me that this is not at all a forced reading of the Ramban, because (a) I personally heard Rav Hershel Schachter attribute such a view to the Ramban without any qualifications, and (b) the Ramban refers explicitly to the questioner’s inner thoughts [“Mach’sheves HaLev”] prompting his disagreement and how it is “obvious in your (the questioner’s) eyes” [“Pashut B’Einecha”] that the authority is mistaken.

NOTE #1: If you look at Rashi on Devarim 17:11, he seems to have a different version of the Sifri. However, the Sifsei Chachamim there points out that Rashi's meaning and intent is to convey what our version of the Sifri has.

NOTE #2: HaGaon Rav David Tzvi Hoffman, Zatzal, in Melameid L'Ho'il [3:82], brings a citation from the Talmud Bavli [in Horayos 2/B] that agrees with the Yerushalmi that the Torah Temimah cited (see earlier post). However, he assumes that the Sifri disagrees with the Bavli and Yerushalmi on this issue.

Rav Alfred Cohen: Does Da'as Torah = Infallibility?

excerpted from Footnote 42 of Rav Cohen’s article in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Spring 2003, and posted at jlaw.com/Articles/cohen_DaatTorah.pdf"

In Gittin 56b, the Gemara records the famous encounter between R. Yochanan b. Zaccai and the Roman general Vespasian during the siege of Jerusalem in 69 CE. At that time, when Vespasian heard that he had just been chosen as the new Roman emperor, he offered to grant R. Yochanan whatever he asked for. The rabbi requested that the Romans (a)spare the town of Yavneh and its yeshiva, (b) grant clemency for the Nasi Rabban Gamliel and his family, and (c) send for a doctor to heal R. Zadok…The obvious question is asked – why didn't R. Yochanan simply ask for the Bet Mikdash to be spared?! One of the answers tendered by the Gemara is most enlightening: the verse in Isaiah 44 says, "He turns wise men backwards and makes their thinking foolish." In other words, it was the Divine plan that the Temple be destroyed, and therefore Hashem deliberately prevented R. Yochanan from making the wise request which would have saved it from destruction. [W]e should take to heart the essential message that there are times when the Divine Will obscures an individual's wisdom."

Rav Avi Shafran: Does Da'as Torah = Infallibility?http://www.jewishamerica.com/ja/content/amechad/amarch16.cfm
excerpted from "What Da'at Torah Really Means"
by Rabbi Avi Shafran

[This article was written, in part, to disabuse the rejecters of Da'as Torah of the notion that adherents of Da'as Torah equate it with infallibility.]

"Da'at Torah is not some Jewish equivalent to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. Not only can rabbis make mistakes of judgment, there is an entire tractate of the Talmud, Horiut, predicated on the assumption that they can, that even the Sanhedrin is capable of erring, even in halachic matters. What Da'at Torah means, simply put, is that those most imbued with Torah-knowledge and who have internalized a large degree of the perfection of values and refinement of character that the Torah idealizes are thereby rendered particularly, indeed extraordinarily, qualified to offer an authentic Jewish perspective on matters of import to Jews - just as expert doctors are those most qualified (though still fallible, to be sure) to offer medical advice. Jewish tradition refers to Torah leaders as the "eyes of the community." That is because they see things more clearly than the rest of us. Not necessarily perfectly. And there are times when G-d purposefully hides things from even His most accomplished disciples. But more clearly all the same."

Rav Berel Wein: Does Da'as Torah = Infallibility?

"Nevertheless, Daas Torah - the opinions and advice of the sages of Israel in every generation - was and is considered to be the best possible advice on the subject at hand. But it was never considered to be infallibility itself - it was only the best possible advice then available."
[posted at www.rabbiwein.com/print.php?sid=176]

HaGaon Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Zatzal: Emunas Chachamim

excerpted from Michtav MeiEliyahu Vol. I, pp. 59 & 77

“The root of all sin and the beginning of all destruction, Rachmana Litzlan, is non-recognition of our being nullified vis-a-vis our Sages [‘Chesron Hakaras HaHisbatlus L’Umas Raboseinu’], and all of the merits [one has accrued] do not equal the root of all [merit], which is Emunas Chachamim.”

“There is a long path before us [ ] until we are fit to judge the Truth for ourselves; what shall we do in the meantime?...[To help us cope,] Hashem in the multitude of His kindnesses has arranged spiritual guides [‘Morei Derech’] for us, the Sages of blessed memory—the Torah Sages—and all who reflect introspectively upon their words will see the extent to which their vision was clear…From their words we can have our world-views and practical deportment straightened-out [‘L’Kabel Hyshara’]…The Sages of each generation [ ] have merited this kind of straightness [‘Yashrus’] to an immense degree, to the point that their opinions [‘Chavas Da’atam’] are clear and true even in matters where they have no explicit source—and in worldy matters [‘Stam Mili D’Alma’], as well.”

The Seridei Aish, Zatzal: Emunas Chachamim

excerpted from Shailos U'Teshuvos Seridei Aish I:113

“One who does not believe in the Chachamim will violate their precepts light-headedly and with arrogance born of foolishness (“B’Kalus Da’as U’B’Yehirus Shel Sh’tus”), saying--without thinking it through (“B’Zechichus HaDa’as”)--they did not understand. It turns out that a person will not exert himself at all to attain a deep understanding of their words (“L’His’ameik U’L’Ha’amid Divreihem”). Ultimately, it becomes clear that we were in error and not them. Therefore, it is one of the paths of wisdom to believe that they did not err, Chas V’Shalom, but rather, it is only we, of constricted vision and minimal intellectual acumen (“Kitzrei R’os U’Me’utei Da’as”) [who erred].”(He then recommends the aggressive and energetic plumbing of the depths of the words of the Chachamim.)

Rav J. David Bleich: The Purview of the Sages

“[The] desire to promote a lifestyle likely to foster enhanced religious observance and spiritual sensitivity, as well as promotion of physical and social welfare contribute to what in some circles is termed ‘da’at Torah,’ i.e., policy considerations reflected in, and dictated by, the corpus of Torah in its entirety…[F]ormulation of public policy with regard to such matters is properly within the province of masters of Halakhah. It is they who are most sensitive to the need to assure the integrity of Halakhah and it is they who are best able properly to understand and interpret the values and ideals that Halakhah is designed to foster.”
[from Contemporary Halachic Problems IV, p. xvii]

The Chazon Ish, Zatzal: The Purview of the Sages

Those who hold that we need only subjugate ourselves to the generation’s Sages in matters of technical halacha--but need not do so in matters of everyday life--have embraced the view of heretics.
[paraphrased from the article Daas Torah, by Rav Lawrence Kaplan, in Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy, pp.15-16]

Rav Mayer Twersky: The Sages' Scope & Our Two-Tiered Mesorah

excerpted fromhttp://torahweb.org/torah/special/2003/rtwe_wtg.html

The dual focus of Torah law has important repercussions for the methodology of pesak. Any contemplated action or course of action must be evaluated on two levels. We must investigate if it is technically correct and permissible—viz., are any particulars of Torah violated. In addition, we must determine if the proposal is consistent with Torah principles, attitudes, values and concepts. The permissibility or appropriateness of any particular action or initiative can only be determined after such a two-pronged analysis—practical and axiological. This latter concern, which we have dubbed axiological, may alternatively be described as hashkafic or public policy. Phraseology and nomenclature per se are unimportant. It is, however, vitally important that we recognize that the axiological concern is not optional or supererogatory. It is not, in halakhic terminology, merely a middat hasidut or mitsva min ha-muvhar. Instead it is an integral part of our Torah and tradition, and compliance therewith is mandatory. Accordingly, hakhmei ha-mesora transmit and implement both tiers of our mesora - viz., the technical-practical as well as the emotional-axiological. Questions regarding the kashrut of food are submitted to Torah sages; so too are inquiries regarding aspects of kedoshim te-hiyu. Moreover, the axiological questions are oftentimes more subtle and intricate. It can be exceedingly difficult to discern in which situations abstract or broadly formulated concepts are relevant. A profound understanding of Torah coupled with keen insight into reality is necessary to initially recognize and ultimately resolve axiological questions.

Perspectives on Da’as Torah from "The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler"

Excerpts from "The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler," by Rav Yitzchok Dershowitz, pp. 119-120

A Quote from Maran HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler, Zatzal:

"[A]ll matters pertaining to Klal Yisroel are to be determined and decided by Torah. One must know the Din Torah, the law regarding more than [localized areas like] Kashrus and so on. There are principles that pertain to all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch and to the entire Jewish faith, and only the senior Chachmei HaTorah, individuals steeped in Torah learning and imbued with its wisdom and guidance, are capable of finding its guidance and [only they are] authorized to render its decisions, unadulterated by any admixture of other influences."

The Author on the topic of Da'as Torah:

"It in fact requires not only thorough knowledge of all parts of the written and oral Torah: Halocha [ ], Aggoda, [and] Hashkofa[; it also] requires Shimush Talmidei Chachomim-serving/studying the deeds of Gedolim of earlier generations--which provides interpretations and precedents and other forms of direction."

"Daas Torah requires an intimacy and unity with Torah resulting from ceaseless dveikus/absorption in Torah and appreciation and reverence for Torah so that one gets to know, to feel the direction the Torah is pointing to, so that one's thoughts are not befuddled with personal interests or with external, non-Torah-derived thoughts."

Rav Hershel Schachter: The Reliability of the Ba'alei HaMesorah

excerpted from "Why Was the Torah Forced Upon Us?"

[A]ccording to Talmudic tradition (Shabbos 88a), G-d pressured the Jewish people to accept the Torah, and forced it upon them against their wishes. The commentaries on the Talmud all wonder, why it was necessary to force the Torah upon the Jews if they had already enthusiastically expressed their willingness to accept it? The people were prepared to accept both G-d's written Torah, and all the halachos l'Moshe miSinai – transmitted directly from G-d. But the bulk of the Oral Torah is really [ ] halachos which were developed over the centuries with much rabbinic input. This the Jews at Har Sinai were not prepared to accept. This is a human Torah, and all humans can err. Why should they agree to be subservient to the idea of other human beings? And it was this part of the Torah that G-d had to force upon us. Whether we like it or not, G-d expects us to follow the positions set forth by the rabbis in interpreting the Torah. This is the significance of the expression we use (from the Rambam's formulation), that we believe (ani maamin) that the Torah as it is observed today, is an accurate transmission of that Divine Torah which was given to Moshe Rabbeinu. This added phrase, “as it is observed today”, implies exactly this idea – to include all of those halachos where there was rabbinic input. We have “emunas chachomim”. We believe that throughout all the generations there was an invisible Divine assistance given to the rabbis to develop the halacha in a correct fashion. Of course, the application of those “middos” is a science unto itself, which is only mastered by a small handful of qualified individuals in each generation. And the new additional halachos that read “in between the lines” have to “fit in” with “the spirit” of the rest of the Torah, which again can only be fully sensed by those few qualified individuals who have a proper sense of what “the spirit of the law” is!

excerpted from Did the Rabbi Distort the Psak?
Rav Soloveitchik zt"l pointed out on various occasions that when the Rambam speaks of the various heretics, he puts together the "one who denies the (Divine origin of the) Torah shebaal peh, and the one who contradicts its teachers ['Ma'ch'chish Maggideha'-editor's note]." One who imputes ulterior motives to the psakim (halachic decisions) of an honest bona-fide rabbi, and says that Rabbi X was a convert, so that's why he always favors converts, and Rabbi Y didn't like women, so that's why in his decisions he will always put down women, and Rabbi Z is a Zionist, so that's why he will always pasken lehokel in matters regarding Eretz Yisroel, is in violation of this Ikar (principle) of faith. We not only believe that there existed at one time a Torah shebaal peh which was Divinely ordained; but rather we believe that Hashem continues to assist the G-d fearing qualified rabbis so that they should pasken properly. Emmunas chachomim is the foundation of all Orthodox Tradition!

Rav Mayer Twersky: Emunas Chachamim as an Enhancer of Knowledge

Knowledge and Belief
[an excerpt]
Within religious life, knowledge and faith co-exist reciprocally. They nurture each other. Knowledge nurtures faith in that knowledge is the foundation of faith. We believe in Hashem though His essence is beyond human comprehension because of what we do know about Him (as explained above). We know of Hashem’s eternal love of the Jewish people – “He who chose us from amongst all of the nations and gave us His Torah” – and thus we believe in Him even when His will in history is inscrutable. Clearly knowledge fosters and nurtures faith. But faith also fosters and nurtures knowledge. Consider the following example from the world of learning. Tosafos raises a difficulty with Rashi’s explanation, Ra’avad with Rambam’s p’sak. Often, at first glance, the question is so compelling that Rashi or Rambam simply appear to be wrong. If one lacks confidence and trust in Rashi and Rambam, he will be complacently content to think that Rashi failed to notice nuances in the text and Rambam forgot a relevant Gemara. If alternatively one operates with the knowledge that the chachmei haMasorah displayed a profound and remarkable mastery of Torah and benefited from siyata d’shmaya, one will re-think and re-examine the relevant sugyos. The answer for Rashi or Rambam which ultimately emerges will, upon discovery, turn out to be totally natural; the approach of Rashi or Rambam runs out to be as internally consistent and compelling as that of Tosafos or Ra’avad. Without emunas chachamim in Rashi and Rambam, their approaches, brilliant and subtle, would have gone unnoticed. With emunas chachamim, however, our appreciation and knowledge of Rashi and Rambam’s Torah and greatness is enhanced. Thus we see that our belief in Torah and the chachmei haTorah allows us to discern the depth and profundity of Torah, thus adding to our knowledge of Torah.

The Steipler Gaon, Zatzal: Emunas Chachamim

An integral part of Jewish faith is placing one's faith and trust in the nation's Chachamim [Torah-scholars]. It is one of the 48 ways through which Torah is acquired [viz., Emunas Chachamim]. Not everyone is cut out to render rulings in Halacha or answer questions of any other kind in Judaism, so the majority of people must rely on the Gedolei HaDor.
from his introduction to his work, Chayyei Olam

The Rav, Zatzal: The Authority of the Sages

The Rav, Zatzal, discussed the rise of our best and brightest to positions of leadership and authority. In a lengthy discussion of Korach's rebellion, he refers to the Gedolei HaDor [the Sages of the generation] as our spiritual kings:

“The key challenge [of Korach] is ‘why should you raise yourselves above G-d’s assembly,’ i.e., the presumption of Moses and Aaron to authority--to rule, to judge and to lead…Apparently, Korach was unaware of the double aspect of Bechirah…The two aspects of bechirah may be described as the Social Aspect of Kedushah [sanctity], and the Individual Aspect of Kedushah. The Social Aspect of Kedushah--the chosenness of the nation of Israel (bechirat Am Yisrael)--means that each individual Jew possesses Kedushah because he is a member of the Jewish Community…If every Jew derives his Kedushah from membership in Knesset Yisrael [,] Korach’s argument [ ] would seem to be legitimate and morally appealing…However, there is a second aspect to Kedushah, Kedushat haYachid (individual sanctity), and a second source of Kedushah, Bechirat haYachid (individual chosenness). The implication of this concept is that the individual Jew is the direct recipient of Kedushah according to his own unique personal endowments, efforts, and achievements…Korach only understood the Social Aspect of Kedushah…Moses in his rebuttal [ ] refers instead to individual chosenness. In such a context the individual does indeed rise to positions of teaching and authority according to his merits. Thus Moses’ elevation is justified…In the case of Gedolei Yisrael, the community raises them. This is spiritual, not political kingship…[I]t is the Torah role that makes him a leader. Our Torah regards such authority as legitimate.”
from Shiurei HaRav, pp. 40-41
[And see below for another important piece from the Rav about Korach and authority.]

Rav Moshe, Zatzal: The Authority of the Sages

In 1973, Rav Moshe, Zatzal, gave an address. In an article based on this address, published in Rav Feinstein's lifetime, he is reported to have stated the following:“[A] central aspect of the Jewish commitment [is] the authority vested in the Torah leadership of each generation, as an integral part of Torah sheba’al Peh (the Oral Law)…This authority must be granted to the leaders of each generation[;] our obligation is to follow those of our age…One who does not accept the Torah leaders of his generation cannot claim to believe in the Oral Law."
from “A Time for Action,” Jewish Observer, June 1973

Rav Moshe reiterates this imperative in his discussion of Korach: “It’s a big error to think that each individual has to fulfill the words of the Torah according to what he understands and that he has to rely on his understanding; one needs to follow the path of Torah transmitted to us from one Sage to the next, through the Sages in each generation…One who says that he does not need the Sages anymore is an Apikoros (heretic)…”
translated from Darash Moshe (Heb.), Vol. 1, Parashas Korach

Rav Hershel Schachter: Did the Rav Coerce Anyone? And Who is Fit to Disagree with the Rav?

“Rabbenu [viz., Rav Soloveitchik] would regularly say—many times—that he is not saying, ‘Accept my view.’ He would say that with respect to halachic rulings and with respect to political matters…The world regularly uses the expression ‘Da’as Torah’ with the understanding that it’s a definitive decision that no one has the right to judge or argue against, but this was not Rabbenu’s way, as is known and public knowledge to all.
”From Kuntres B’Inyanei P’sak Halacha, by Rav Hershel Schachter, published in Beis Yitzchok #38 (5766)

Comments on Rav Schachter's statement: The Rav’s personal refusal to force anyone to accept his views is inter alia a fulfillment of the dictum in Avos 4:8, “Do not say, ‘Accept my opinion…’” It should be noted that his refusal to bind us is not germane to the question, “Does the Torah bind us to follow the sage’s view?”

And even as the Rav did not force his opinion on anyone, and even as he respected a shul rabbi's right to issue decisions, he did not necessarily agree with their decisions, and may even have opposed them! For example, in note 264 of an article on women's Tefillah groups (see the post on this blog entitled, "Feministic Innovations"), Rav Aryeh A. Frimer and Rav Dov Frimer write that the Rav had told Rav Shlomo Riskin that he was opposed to the establishment of a women’s Tefillah group in the latter’s synagogue. Rav Riskin reports that, opposition notwithstanding, the Rav conveyed confidence in him to assess his community’s needs properly. After Rav Riskin established a women’s Tefillah group in his synagogue, he got word of the Rav’s displeasure! [When asked about this displeasure, the Rav told him that he did not have to disband it. This echoed Rav Moshe Feinstein’s opinion, who told Rav Riskin that L’Chat’chila (ab initio) he would have forbidden its establishment, but that once it was established, it can be maintained (because its dissolution will lead some of the women to join Conservative temples).]

Question related to Rav Schachter's statement: The fact that the Rav did not force his students to accept his opinions did not mean he felt that they were as qualified to opine as he and his peers were! The Rav deplored any blurring of distinctions between “more qualified” and “less qualified.” Can just anyone be taken seriously when they judge or dispute the Rav’s views?

Seemingly not

“I heard from Rabbenu [viz., the Rav], Z”L, when we learned the Gemara in Sanhedrin in yeshiva, that the principle of following the majority in ruling [ ] only applies when the Chachamim who are arguing are at least in the same category of Torah scholarship [“Shayyachim L’Khol HaPachus L’Oso HaSug B’Limmud”]. In the case where they are not in the same league at all, it’s not tenable [“Lo Shayyach”] that we should follow the majority and rule like the weak and inferior ones against the distinguished one [“HaMufla V’HaMetzuyan”].”
[from Nefesh HaRav, by Rav Hershel Schachter, p.44 ]

In a piece on the subject of Korach’s rebellion, the Rav describes the Gedolei HaDor as individuals whom we should recognize as experts and authorities in spiritual matters:

“Korach [ ] would certainly concede that there were specialized fields in which only experts who have studied extensively over many years are entitled to be recognized as authorities…[R]easonable people concede the authority of mathematicians, physicists, and physicians in their areas of expertise, and would not think of challenging them merely on the basis of common sense. Why, then, are so many well-intentioned people ready to question the authority of the Torah scholar, the lamdan, in his area of specialized knowledge?…In our day, we are witnessing a resurgence of strength among those religious groups [who] recognize Torah scholars, Gedole Yisrael, as the legitimate teachers of Israel.”
from Reflections of the Rav, Vol. 1, by Rav Avrohom Beisdin, pp.141 & 148

In a very related piece, Rav Schachter states:

"We sometimes hear from religious people in our own circles that since Rav Soloveitchik has passed away, there is no one around to whom they can refer their shaalos. Many of those people use the passing of the Rav as an excuse to ignore the piskei halacha of contemporary poskim. They elect to make their own halachic decisions, justifying themselves by arguing that everyone in our generation is entitled to express their opinions equally, and all have equal authority. This was Korach's view, who stated that 'the entire nation is holy,' we all learned Torah together, and 'all men were created equal.' The Rav himself spoke out explicitly against such an attitude (See Reflections of the Rav, Volume One, Chapter 13)."
excerpted from "All Men Are Created Equal," posted at

Would the Seridei Aish and Rav Dessler agree with the Torah Temimah, Rav Wein, and Rav Shafran, i.e., would the Seridei Aish and Rav Dessler say that we are mistaken every time we disagree with the Sages if and only if it is based on our own personal assessments?

Or are there two different schools of thought here, where both schools agree that there is an authentic Jewish religious concept known as "Da'as Torah," and both schools agree that Da'at Torah is the best advice possible on questions of both Halacha and public policy, and both schools agree that it takes a world-class Talmid Chacham to issue a p'sak or policy against another world-class Talmid Chacham, but the two schools part company on the issue of inerrancy?

A Second Query

According to those Gedolim who permit embrace of the sheetos that say that Chazal can err in science, would Chazal's scientific errors be a further indication that Da'as Torah is not infallible (as seen in previous posts)? OR, could we say that scientific statements borrowed from the Nochrim and redacted into the Gemara are NOT Da'as Torah in the first place?!? Perhaps we can say that Da'as Torah is the Sage's opinion based on his knowledge and understanding of Kol HaTorah Kulah.

For a reductio ad absurdum example of what I mean--if Rashi had an answer to a math problem, is that answer "Da'as Torah"? I imagine not!

Furthermore, in Emess L'Ya'akov on the Chumash, Bereishis 1:1 [#2], HaGaon Rav Ya'akov Kaminetzky, Zatzal, states that the Rambam is contra-factual when he says that the moon is a Davar Ruchni. Rav Yaakov is bothered by this, however: the Rambam's words are Divrei Elokim Chaim! Rav Ya'akov resolves this difficulty by stating that the first four chapters of the Mishneh Torah are NOT based on Torah; they are based on his intellect alone ["Mi-Da'ato HaRechava...She-Lo MiChochmas HaTorah"]--and as such, are not necessarily Divrei Elokim Chaim.


I'd be puzzled if someone would seek to justify acting in defiance of the Gedolim. Even from the perspective of common sense, it seems problematic. The Gedolim are our best and brightest. If all a person wanted in life was to be physically fit, wouldn’t it be imprudent to disregard the advice of a cadre of Olympic fitness-trainers? Why, then, should spiritual fitness be different?


#1] The Chareidi Gedolim and the Rav

In 5716, 17 Gedolei HaDor [Sages of the generation]--with Rav Moshe, Zatzal, among them--signed letters banning the participation of Orthodox clergymen and synagogues in organizations [such as the Synagogue Council of America] with non-Orthodox clergy and temples. The Rav permitted such participation—unless the purpose was religious and spiritual, e.g., a theological dialogue. Here are his words:

“With regards to our problem within (the Jewish community), however, our spiritual-religious interests, such as Jewish education, synagogues, councils of rabbis, where unity is expressed through spiritual-ideological collectivism as a Torah community, it is my opinion, that Orthodoxy cannot and should not unite with such groups which deny the fundamentals of our Weltanschauung. It is impossible for me to comprehend, for example, how Orthodox Rabbis, who spend their best years in Yeshivoth and absorbed the spirit of the Oral Law and its tradition, for which Rabbi Akiba, Maimonides, Reb Moshe Iserlis, The Gaon of Vilna, Reb Chaim Brisker and other Jewish sages are the pillars upon which their spiritual world rests, can join with spiritual leaders for whom all this is worthless. A rabbinical organization is not a professional fraternity, which fights for the economic interests of the rabbi. It is an ideological entity where members work for one purpose and for one ideal. The fundamental difference in ideology and in observance makes such a unity impossible. From the point of view of the Torah, we find the difference between Orthodoxy and Reform Judaism much greater than that which separated the Pharisees from the Sadducees in the days of the Second Commonwealth, and between the Karaites and traditionalists in the Gaonic era. Has Jewish history ever recorded an instance of a joint Community Council or a joint Rabbinical Council which consisted of Karaites and Torah-true Jews? In internal problems, where the unity of Israel is based upon the concept of Edah (congregation), it is halakhically more advisable and practically wiser not to unite with reform or semi-reform movements. Too much harmony and peace can cause confusion of the minds and will erase outwardly the boundaries between orthodox and other movements.”
for a translation of the Letter of the 11 American Gedolim, see yuweb.addr.com/archives/v62i9/features/rav.html

Rav Soloveitchik’s opinion appeared in Yiddish in Der-Tog Morgen Journal, 11/19/54; reportedly, it was translated from the Yiddish by Rav Louis Bernstein and first appeared in his book, “Challenge and Mission: The Emergence of the English-Speaking Orthodox Rabbinate,” p.59; the article (in English) appears at yuweb.addr.com/archives/v62i9/features/rav.html and many excerpts are discussed by Rav J. David Bleich at http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5759summer/Letters.pdf).

It’s worth noting that, reportedly, the Rav would have preferred that the Synagogue Council of America never came into existence [stated by Rav Walter Wurzburger in his article in Tradition 29:1]:

“Although ideally he [Rav Soloveitchik] would have preferred that these umbrella groups would not have come into existence, his ideological concerns were subordinated to his overriding concern for the welfare of the Jewish people and the security of the State of Israel. He therefore did not object to the participation of Orthodox organizations in the Synagogue Council of America, as long as its functions were limited to representing the total Jewish community to governmental agencies or non-Jewish denominations.”

Clearly, the Rav's objection is not tied to any specific time or issue (e.g., the survival of Orthodoxy in the 1950’s), but rather, is based on transcendant and timeless values. It is only after stating all of this that the Rav makes reference to an ideological battle. [“Let us consider the second part of our question, which deals with the battle waged by Orthodoxy …”] Whether or not the battle is over, the Rav’s words clearly apply to all times and places. To use the Rav’s own metaphor, do the non-Orthodox become less comparable to the Karaites after 1950?

Any attempt to relativize the Rav’s words on this issue must be peremptorily dismissed.

#2] Rav Ahron

"[I]n matters of theology and spirituality—a Jew cannot adapt to the prevailing environment. In matters of ethics and religion a Jew must follow an exclusively Jewish path…At this point we must emphasize that the mandate of religious segregation implied by the name Yisrael applies not only to potential theological and spiritual associations with non-Jews but also to potential religious associations with non-Orthodox and irreligious Jewish groups.”
from The Warmth and the Light, Vol. I, pp.76-77

Loving & Affirming Jews

It's a basic halacha (law) that someone of Jewish-mother born is a Jew regardless of his level of observance. Even Lustiger the Cardinal R"L is halachically (legally) still a Jew.

Furthermore: Both the Chazon Ish, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Ahron HaLevi Soloveichik, Zatzal, stated that we must love the non-observant Jew of our era.

However, let us please avoid validating a belief just because we validate the adherent's identity as a Jew. And please, let us avoid validating a belief just because we love the Jew who adheres to it.


Academic Jewish Studies

Rav David Feinstein: Academic Talmud Study

I heard from Rav David Feinstein that the Gra never changed a peshat in the Gemara without a manuscript that contained that change.

Rav Ahron, Zatzal: Academic Jewish Studies

“A professor who taught Bible in a college once came to my father, of blessed memory, to ask whether the opinions of Bible critics, with his personal refutation, of course, could be source material. My father said, ‘No.’”

“The Rif explains ‘foreign subject matter’ ["seforim chitzonim"-editor] to include commentaries which interpret the Tanach without the oral tradition of Chazal. The Rif says that ‘afilu d’varim tovim shebahem,’ even the proper ideas found in such volumes, may not be read. At first glance, my father’s response would appear to contradict the dictum, ‘Accept the truth from anyone who utters it.’”

“The intention of the Rif in forbidding ‘even the proper ideas of the writings of the heretics’ is with regard to those apikorsim whose endeavor is to undermine the k’dushas haTorah, the holiness of the Torah…Bible and Talmud critics, whose goal by definition is to undermine the k’dushas haTorah, must be ignored…The untruths within such discourse often appear as emes, truth, in deceptive and misleading fashion…As my father explained, the danger of ‘foreign books’ is the writing which appears salutary on one side, but whose essence is the evil side.” [Hence, there is no uttered truth to accept from them.-Editor]
from Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind pp.45-47

I also heard Rav Ahron say in a [tape of a] his first Torah U-Madda shiur [c.1986] that, unlike most negative phenomena in the world, Bible criticism and Talmud criticism have no Nitzotzos of Kedusha.

The Rav, Zatzal: Academic Jewish Studies

In his Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik as Posek of Post-Modern Orthodoxy, in Tradition 29:1 (Fall 1994), Rav Dr. Walter Wurzburger wrote:

The Rav, Zatzal, "object[ed] to the employment of modern historic and textual scholarship to ascertain the meaning of halakha...[T]he Rav completely ignores Bible criticism and eschews the 'positive historical' approach of the 'Science of Judaism.'"

In a shiur, Rav Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff gave over his understanding of the Rav’s, Zatzal, approach to academic Talmud study:

"When it comes to re-creating the Gemara and pasting it up, there I think the Rav was very upset, and he took the point of view [that] it's idiocy to think that we know more than the Noda B'Yehuda, than the Ch'tam Sofer [using these methods]."

The shiur is posted at http://www.yutorah.org/showShiur.cfm?shiurID=709756 and this section starts at around 17 minutes in.

This is a description of the Rav's approach to "new texts" from Rav Hershel Reichman.
The Rav: My Rebbe
An essay on the derekh halimud of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Posted: 11/6/06
"One point that was crucial to the Rav in his studies, was that his emunat chachamim was absolute. His colleagues - the chachmei hamesorah - would not deceive him. They were totally reliable and dedicated to accuracy and truth. Therefore, he was very critical of newly surfaced variant texts and manuscripts. I heard him often say, 'If the chachmei hamoesorah did not have this text, then it's probably wrong.'"

Inter-faith Dialogue & Exploration

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein: Studying Idolatry

“Study of the former [viz., idolatry (Editor)] is proscribed by the pasuk in Leviticus (19:4): ‘Turn ye not unto the idols,’ and a later analogue in Deuteronomy (12:30): ‘And that thou inquire not after their gods, saying: “How used these nations to serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise.”’…With respect to idolatry, the Rambam states categorically that perusal per se is forbidden, evidently irrespective of the result or the concomitant disposition…[In Sefer HaMitzvot, Neg. Comm. #10,] he speaks expansively of the injunction against dealing with all forms of idolatrous material (ideology, lore, art)…”
see Torah and General Culture: Confluence and Conflict in Judaism’s Encounter With Other Cultures, pp. 279-280

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein: The Rav, Zatzal, on Inter-faith Dialogue

Rav Lichtenstein writes:

"I refer, of course, to the Rav's adamant stand against Jewish-Christian theological dialogue...[T]he policy he enunciated--assent to dialogue about moral or social issues but rejection of discussions of faith and dogma--has stood the Orthodox community in good stead."
from his article in Tradition 30:4 (Summer 1996)

Dialogue with Notzrim

May one dialogue with Notzrim about their religion?

This would appear to be a violation of the Rambam in Hilchos Avoda Zara 2:2-3 as well as 2 teshuvos from HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, Zatzal (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:53 & 111). [Rav Moshe only permits the exploration of Avoda Zara to Gedolim who need to answer a shaila. On the other hand, he does allow one to teach ancient myths to students if it's taught Derech Bizui, e.g., "here's a foolish notion they had..."] The first relevant verse, “Do not turn to idols” (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:4) is interpreted by Rashi (Shabbat 149/a, c.v. El MiDa’at’chem) as an interdiction against ANY partaking of man-made culture, but the Magen Avrohom (Orach Chaim 307, #23) states that in common practice, it is limited to the culture of Avoda Zara.

Rav Moshe, Zatzal, on Being Melameid Torah L'Nochrim

Rav Moshe, Zatzal, wrote the following about being Melameid Torah L'Nochrim:

**It is explicit in the Gemara in Chagigah 13/A that it is Ossur
**Tosafos there states that it involves an Issur D'Oraysa of Lifnei Iveir
**It's clear ["Barur"] that it's Ossur to be Melameid Torah to Nochrim
**The Issur only applies when the intention is to be Melameid to the Nochri--not if it happens as an unintended result of being Melameid L'B'nei Brit (e.g., an Orai'ach Nochri HaYosheiv at the Seder)
**The Issur includes Gemara--although there is a way to argue that it does not apply to Tanach
[See Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:132 & Yoreh Deah 3:89-90 ]

The Rav, Zatzal: Inter-Faith Dialogue

excerpted from his article, "Confrontation," and posted at http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/cjrelations/resources/articles/soloveitchik/
originally published in Tradition 6:2

"In light of this analysis, it would be reasonable to state that in any confrontation [between the Jewish community and the majority culture,] we must insist upon four basic conditions in order to safeguard our individuality and freedom of action...Second, the logos, the word, in which the multifarious religious experience is expressed does not lend itself to standardization or universalization. The word of faith reflects the intimate, the private, the paradoxically inexpressible cravings of the individual for and his linking up with his Maker. It reflects the numinous character and the strangeness of the act of faith of a particular community which is totally incomprehensible to the man of a different faith community. Hence, it is important that the religious or theological logos should not be employed as the medium of communication between two faith communities whose modes of expression are as unique as their apocalyptic experiences. The confrontation should occur not at a theological but at a mundane human level. There, all of us speak the universal language of modern man."

Ailu V'Ailu

Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, Zatzal: The Perspective of the Chofetz Chaim, Zatzal
Rav Aharon HaKohen, the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim, wrote the following in 1928:
My father-in-law very much esteemed and loved [“HaMokir U’Mechaveiv M’od”] Rav Kook, and his soul was very pained [“Da’avah M’od”] when he heard about those who sought to persecute him [“Odos HaRedifos Alav”].
From Igros LaRAYaH, #30

Rav Hershel Schachter: The Perspectives of HaGaon Rav David Lifshitz, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Pinchas Hirschprung, Zatzal
HaGaon Rav David Lifshitz, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Pinchas Hirschsprung, Zatzal, wrote approbations ["haskamos"] for one or more of Rav Hershel Schachter's works. Here are translated excerpts:

Rav Lifshitz [haskama to Eretz HaTzvi]
"My friend, the consummate Torah-scholar ['Yedidi, HaRav HaGaon'], Rabbi Hershel Schachter, may he live a long and good life ['Shlita'], informed me of the good news ['Hishmee'ani Tovos B'Baseiro']" that he is publishing a work of Torah-scholarship. "As for me, how dear is HaRav HaGaon Shlita, for I know him from when he was a youth as a distinguished student in in our yeshiva [and] and he showed with great clarity that he was destined for greatness ['Her'ah B'Alil She-No'ad L'Gadlus'], as we understood the case to be [that he would achieve Gadlus], so have we seen..." Rav Lifshitz explains that he did not have time to examine the work in its entirety, but nonetheless, he states, "We can presume that his words will generate joy and wisdom, illuminating the eyes and refreshing the spirit..."

Rav Hirschprung [haskama to B'Ikvei HaTzon]
"Rabbi Hershel Schachter, the distinguished consummate Torah-scholar ['HaGaon HaMuvhak'] sent me his work for an approbation...I was amazed ['Hishtomamti'] at the largesse of the breadth of his knowledge in all aspects of Torah-scholarship and at his many well-predicated novellae."

The Bostoner Rebbe, Shlita, on Reb David Hatuel and his Kehillah
"There are people like David Hatuel who live the life of a tzaddik--'Ve'tzaddik be'emunaso yichyeh.' We must not disregard any group (or individual) because they do not understand the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael the same way we do. We certainly must not disrespect any group that contains such an outstanding Jew as David Hatuel just because their dress, while conforming to the halachas of tznius, is different from ours. The main factor must be the emunah shleimah."

"We must understand that what they are doing is not done for any financial profit or out of the 'kochi ve'otsem yodi' of the founding Zionists, which was not based on any shred of emunah. We must understand our neighbors, their motivations and their goals. When we are told not to judge our friend until we reach his position, it means until we really understand his fundamental outlook and what drives him, and not merely what we think of him."

from "Immeasurable Faith Amidst Unspeakable Tragedy," by the Bostoner Rebbe, Shlita, in Jewish Press, May 2004

The Rav, Zatzal: The Perspectives of Rav Moshe, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Mordechai Gifter, Zatzal
In 1983, the Student Organization of Yeshiva University published a volume of Torah works to honor the Rav, Zatzal, on his 80th birthday. It was entitled, K’vod HaRav. The volume contained works by Torah-scholars from within and without Yeshiva University. Among these works was a teshuvah (responsum) from Rav Moshe, Zatzal, and a chibbur (article) from HaGaon Rav Mordechai Gifter, Zatzal. The following is a translation of what Rav Moshe and Rav Gifter wrote as prefaces to their respective pieces:

Rav Moshe:
“I am writing now (‘Basi B’Zeh‘) to send my blessing to the editors of the Jubilee volume that the students of the great consummate Torah-scholar, our teacher, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, may he live a long and good life (‘HaGaon HaGadol Moreinu HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Shlita‘), arranged in his honor, to mark his 80th birthday. And [I also write] to express my prayer that G-d lengthen the days and years of my great friend, with a good ‘old age, vigorous and fresh they shall be,’ and that he should continue to disseminate Torah publicly and to occupy himself with the needs of the community, for the sake of the honor of G-d and His Torah, and for the splendor (‘Tif’eres’) of our families. With friendship and esteem (’Hukra‘), Moshe Feinstein.”

Rav Gifter:
“Upon the reaching of the age of 80 by the Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, Shlita, I remember his arrival in the United States and his father’s joy--my mentor, HaGaon Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, Zatzal--with a wise son that brings joy to his father…Upon his reaching the age of 80, may G-d strengthen him so that he can continue to disseminate Torah and to develop students who understand the Torah…”

The Rav, Zatzal, and HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler, Zatzal
These passages are from "A Fire In His Soul," which is the biography of the great Oskan B'Tzorchei Tzibbur, Reb Irving Bunim, Z"L, written by his son, Rav Amos, Shlita. Rav Bunim sheds a great a deal of light on the relationship between HaGaonim Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, Zichronom L'Veracha.
["Bunim" here always refers to Reb Irving and "the Rosh Yeshiva" here always refers to Rav Kotler.]

"Bunim saw that the Rosh Yeshiva always distinguished between people and the principles they professed. Bunim never saw him attack another Jew, except for those who negated the Torah. A person's opinion might be at fault, Rabbi Kotler said, but never the person. Rabbi Kotler could disagree vehemently with a fellow gadol's opinion while respecting him for his Torah knowledge and middos."

"[Rav Kotler] differed with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick's approval of secular education and secular Zionism. Still, Rabbi Kotler invited Rabbi Soloveitchik to be honorary chairman of Chinuch Atzmai's first annual dinner. During his speech, Rabbi Soloveitchik spoke in strong support of Chinuch Atzmai (a bold move since his own Mizrachi party supported the mamlachti dati day schools) and praised Rabbi Kotler as the gadol ha-dor. Rabbi Kotler began tugging at Rabbi Soloveitchik's sleeve and, with tears running down his face begged him to stop, saying, 'No, no, dos is nisht emes [that is not true]!'"

[Rav Soloveitchik describing Rav Kotler in his aforementioned speech]
"Something in him speaks, as I would imagine Reb Yoshe Ber Brisker once spoke. Something in him speaks as I would imagine the Chasam Sofer once spoke: indignation, wonderment, anguish and an invoking of one's responsibility. And [ ] I mean not only the erudition of a gadol m'gedolei ha-dor because to be a gadol--scholarship alone is insufficient. The qualities of a gadol, besides Torah, are warmth, exuberance, tolerance, wonderment: "and warm yourself in the light of talmidei chachamim"--to benefit from their light is not enough. Cold light is worthless; there must be searing light so that one burns himself in its proximity. Reb Aharon, the great Rosh Yeshiva, has no cold light in him; it is hot; it kindles. And as you approach him, you, in turn, become enkindled...I would like to request that the entire audience rise and pay homage."

HaGaon Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, Zatzal: The Perspective of the Chazon Ish, Zatzal
“R. Yitzchak Gerstenkorn, the founder of B’nei Brak, told this story: In 5694 (1934), the Rav [i.e., Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook] was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Beit Yosef (Novardok) Yeshiva in B’nei Brak...At the ceremony, which the Chazon Ish also attended, Rav Kook spoke at length...Throughout the Rav’s address, the large crowd sat quietly in their seats--everyone but the Chazon Ish. He remained standing throughout the speech, listening attentively to every word. He only sat down when the Rav finished speaking and took his own seat."

"R. Tzvi Kagan, who was present at the event, added this revealing piece of information: When the Rav’s address began to draw out, people approached the Chazon Ish and suggested that he sit down. The revered rabbi refused, however, saying, ‘The Torah is standing!’”

from An Angel Among Men, by Simcha Raz, p.375; translated by Rav Moshe D. Lichtman

It's worth noting that, in his review of this work, Rav Berel Wein stated, "There is so much about Rav Kook that is misunderstood and misportrayed in the Jewish world, that a book that portrays him accurately is invaluable and necessary. This is such a book."

In a letter from the Chazon Ish to Rav Kook that is seen on p. 374 of this work, we see that the Chazon Ish opened by saying, “HaRav HaRoshi HaGaon Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Hod K’vod Maran Shlita.” (“The Chief Rabbi, the consummate Torah-scholar, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, the glory of the honor of our Master, may he live a long and good life.”)

HaGaon Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook, Zatzal: The Perspective of HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zatzal
“Rav Shlomo Zalman, in his earlier years, enjoyed a warm relationship with Rav Avraham Yitzchak [HaKohen] Kook, the first [Ashkenazi] Chief Rabbi of Israel. He would visit with him, observe his actions, and learn from him. Their relationship was so close, in fact, that Rav Kook officiated at Reb Shlomo Zalman’s wedding… Reb Shlomo Zalman’s respect for Rav Kook was evident from the numerous stories he would tell which highlighted the brilliant and charismatic attributes of the Chief Rabbi… Reb Shlomo Zalman never ceased to speak of him with the very highest admiration.”

“Reb Shlomo Zalman’s classic work Me’orei Esh contains approbations from Rav Abba Yaakov Borochov, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. The approbation which appears first is that of Rav Kook.”

“Considering Reb Shlomo Zalman’s aversion to matters of a political nature, it was startlingly unusual when he intervened in the internal affairs of a particular organization. Needless to say, the Gaon’s advice was always sought and welcomed, but in the area of organization politics, no one had ever succeeded in eliciting his response in the past. The issue at hand was whether to accept a certain candidate for a key position in this Torah organization. Reb Shlomo Zalman had recommended not to accept the nominee. His unprecedented intervention was triggered by the fact that the candidate in question always referred to Rav Kook as simply ‘Kook.’”

“Once the Gaon was riding in a taxi with one of the rabbanim from Kol Torah. His companion began to relate that he had found the explanation of a complex subject under examination at the yeshiva, in a particular book. But when he mentioned the name of the sefer, Reb Shlomo Zalman stopped him and refused to hear the explanation, saying that the book contained denigrating remarks about Rav Kook.”

from “And From Jerusalem, His Word,” by Rav Hanoch Teller, pp.196-198

Feministic Innovations

The Rav, Zatzal: Shul Leadership

It's "Negged HaHalacha" for a woman to be a shul president and it's "Aino Nachon" for a woman to be on the Board of Trustees.
[see Kuntres B’Inyanei P’sak Halacha, by Rav Hershel Schachter, published in Beis Yitzchok #38 (5766)]

The Rav, Zatzal: Women's Tefillah Groups

Rav Moshe Meiselman, a student and nephew of the Rav, and Rav Mayer Twersky, a student and grandson of the Rav, state that the Rav viewed women’s Tefillah groups as impermissible.

Rav Meiselman writes:
“[T]he Rav opposed all non-halakhic forms of worship, and he considered women’s prayer groups as exactly that--a non-halakhic form of worship…There are many reasons that the Rav forbade them and at the same time eschewed the use of the word asur.”
from his article in Tradition 33:1

Rav Twersky writes:
“The foregoing analysis of the Rav’s axiological opposition to women’s tefilla groups illustrates his careful choice of words in expressing his unequivocal opposition. The Rav consistently ruled that these groups were wrong, but did not invoke the term assur. The reason for the Rav’s nuanced formulation is that Hazal in many instances highlighted the difference between technical and axiological infractions…”

from his article in Tradition 32:3 (posted with his subsequent letters at http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2003/rtwe_wtg.html)[cf. Jewish Action, Summer 1997, posted at http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2003/rtwe_JA_women.html, and his Letter to the Editor in Jewish Action, Winter 1997]

[Both Rav Meiselman and Rav Twersky explain that the Rav did not use the term “Ossur” (forbidden) in expressing his opposition to women’s Tefillah groups because the term “Ossur” is for impermissible departures from technical halacha and the women’s Tefillah groups are impermissible departures from Torah values. (See p.21 in Rav Meiselman’s article and p.13 in Rav Twersky’s article.)]

Feministic Ritual Innovations

In 5745, a teshuvah [responsum] was sent to Rabbi Eliezer (Louis) Bernstein (then-president of the Rabbinical Council of America) by five distinguished Roshei Yeshiva of RIETS (the Yeshiva University-affiliated rabbinical school). The teshuvah discussed the halachic status of feministic ritual innovations. It was published in HaDarom #54 in 5745. Rav Hershel Schachter, one of the signatories, includes the teshuvah in his work, B’Ikvei HaTzon, Siman 5. Here is a translation of selected excerpts:“

The following question [ ] has been asked: In some Orthodox synagogues, they have conducted Hakafos especially for women on Simchas Torah, and groupings especially for women for Tefillah, Krias HaTorah (Torah-readings) and Krias HaMegillah. Are these practices (‘Ha-im Davar Zeh‘) permissible or forbidden?""

Response: It would appear that these practices are, for many reasons, impermissible according to Torah law (‘MiTzad HaDin‘)…It is a known matter that the greatest Sages of our generation [ ], Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik and Rav Moshe Feinstein, are both very opposed (‘Mis’nagdim Me’od‘) to all of these practices (‘L’Khol HaInyanim‘).”


Rav J. David Bleich: Women's Tefillah Groups
excerpted from his article in Sh’ma 15/299 [10/18/85]

“[N]o rabbinic authority of any stature has been willing to endorse this innovation…”

“[T]here is no encouragement of women’s prayer groups on the part of knowledgeable rabbis! Such encouragement would be tantamount to lifnei iver—advising a less advantageous mode of action [viz., participating in a women’s prayer group (editor)] when a parallel and much more advantageous course of conduct [viz., prayer in the presence of a minyan (editor)] is readily available.”

“[T]he use of a Torah scroll by women who candidly acknowledge that they do not thereby fulfill the rabbinic requirement [of using a Torah scroll for the public reading] borders on the farcical.”

Torah readings in women’s prayer groups “come dangerously close” to “the category of forbidden ritual innovations proscribed by the Rambam…”

Women's Tefillah Groups: The Rabbanim Frimer Article

Rav Aryeh A. Frimer and Rav Dov I. Frimer report that they conducted numerous interviews with people who discussed the issue of women’s Tefillah groups with the Rav, Zatzal. This is what they found out about the Rav:
*He objected to women’s Tefillah groups
*He did not support women’s Tefillah groups
*He viewed women’s Tefillah groups as wrong
*He held women’s Tefillah groups should not be encouraged
*He recommended that women’s Tefillah groups not be instituted
*He saw women’s Tefillah groups as contra-hashkafic

from Women's Prayer Services - Theory And Practice, 1, by Rav Aryeh A. Frimer & Rav Dov I. Frimer, published in Tradition 32:2 and posted at the following:


P.S. The Rabbanim Frimer document that four rabbanim--Rav Shlomo Goren, Rav Immanuel Jakobovits, Rav Avrohom Shapiro, and Rav Nachum Rabinovich--had a more positive attitude to women’s Tefillah groups than did (e.g.) the Rav and Rav Ahron (see below).

Let us assume arguendo that one or more of those four rabbanim was a bona-fide Gadol B’Yisroel [Sage]. As a result, his disagreement with Maranan V’Rabbanan Soloveitchik would mean that there is a genuine dispute among the Gedolei HaDor. In that case, it seems to me that if, hypothetically, a rav would want to permit women’s Tefillah groups in his synagogue, he would need to be one of the following: (A) a talmid muvhak [very close disciple] of one of those four more-lenient rabbanim, fully entitled to adopt his mentor's leniency, or (B) a master of Halachah great enough to adjudicate between Gedolim and/or disagree with Gedolim

(In note 247, the Rabbanim Frimer add a fascinating historical tidbit: the Rav could not even consider signing the aforementioned Teshuvah to the RCA in 5745 because his declining health prevented him from reviewing it.) In notes 236 and 253, they describe two B’di’eved (ex post facto, less-than-optimal) situations (one at Brandeis) where the Rav issued guidelines for women’s Tefillah groups—despite not being in favor of them. (The Brandeis group openly refused to heed the Rav’s specifically-stated opposition and the other group simply could not be disbanded.) The Rabbanim Frimer describe the one women’s Tefillah group that the Rav ever supported—albeit for a limited time. It was established at the Rav’s own Maimonides school in Brookline, MA. The Rav’s support was short-lived and subsequently withdrawn.

[Another historical tidbit: A certain New York pulpit Rav was apparently unaware that the Rav’s support never extended past the school setting into the synagogue setting, and mistakenly established a women’s Tefillah group in his own synagogue. (See p.43 of Tradition 32:2 and note 249.)]

Rav David Feinstein: Women's Tefillah Groups

Rav David Feinstein objects to women's prayer services on the grounds that they are “a sharp departure from normative Jewish custom.”

from Women's Prayer Services - Theory And Practice, 1, by Rav Aryeh A.& Rav Dov I. Frimer, in Tradition 32:2 (Winter 1998)

Rav Ahron, Zatzal: Women's Tefillah Groups

Rav Ahron objected to women’s Tefillah groups.

see Women's Prayer Services - Theory And Practice, 1, by Rav Aryeh A.& Rav Dov I. Frimer, in Tradition 32:2 (Winter 1998)

Rav Hershel Schachter: Women, Tefillah, and Tzeni'us
excerpted from "On the Matter of Masorah"
Part of our obligation of v'holachto b'drachav, to imitate G-d, i.e. to preserve and maintain those divine attributes that were implanted within us, requires of us to lead private lives; not to be seeking the limelight; not to be loud in speech, in dress, or in action. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is described by the Navi Yehsaya as a "Kel Mistater". He hides from man (see Nefesh Harav pg. 281). This concept is what is called tsnius; to lead a life of tsin'a - as opposed to a life of farhesia (public). Even when we are required to compromise on our middas hatsnius (privacy) and enter the public eye, the halacha tells us that som tasim alecha melech - melech v'lo malka, that women should always try to maintain their privacy. Let the men serve as chazzan for the public prayer, and let the men read from the Torah in public. The motivation to allow women to get aliyot is not because we don't have enough men to do the job. Some women are looking for empowerment. Receiving an aliyah, which was traditionally viewed as an act of compromising on one's privacy, has been looked upon by the amei ha'aretz as an act of empowerment. Pushy individuals try to "grab the omud" and "grab maftir" whenever possible. This attitude is in outright violation of the entire principle of tsnius. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is a Kel Mistater, and always tries to be maalim Himself. Why should we even consider giving someone an aliyah for the sake of empowering that individual if this attitude is totally contradictory to our whole outlook on life? Humility is always very crucial with respect to determining psak halacha. How much more so, when one wants to be mechadeish to reverse an accepted position, we must be sure that the author of the original idea is not formulating his chidush shelo lishma - just to gain popularity or for some other ulterior motive. Rav Moshe in his essay on the topic of the kohanim attending medical school writes that the fact that some "scholar," not particularly known for his strength in psak, published a paper in which he was prepared to permit a centuries-honored prohibition universally-accepted by Klal Yisroel, would itself seem to indicate that the author of the paper probably belonged to that group of individuals who are gaas libam b'hora'ah (arrogantly enjoy deciding questions of Jewish law). To be mechadeish, one must have an extra degree of humility like Rebbe!

Rav Yisroel HaLevi Belsky: Women's Tefillah Groups

"The denial of the unique talents of each gender, and especially the corollary that men and women should share each other's roles, has unfortunately made inroads into the Torah world. Even in our circles, well-meaning groups of women [ ] have expressed interest in formal women's prayer groups. They have not given sufficient thought to their plans."

"Traditionally, the home is dominated by the woman's influence, while the shul is dominated by the man; each one is a specialist in his or her field. One cannot effect a change in the balance of these two institutions without changing both for the worse...Klal Yisroel has survived thousands of years of exile due to the two most precious institutions of the home and the shul. The traditional roles in the home and shul have served us well...[W]e too, should endeavor to preserve the traditional and reliable structure of the home and synagogue. To tamper with the workings of these holy institutions by reallocating the responsibilities of man and wife towards their respective spheres of influence can only be done at the risk of reducing their effectiveness in conveying the values we cherish, God forbid."
excerpted from Rav Belsky's Einei Yisroel: Bereishis, pp.342-343