Thursday, April 07, 2005

Clarification/Explanation of R' Shachters view on the Godol Hador

I would like to clarify/explain R' Shachter's remarks about the godol hador because I think people have misunderstood what he meant.

RHS was defining Godol Hador in a pure halachic sense. This is part of the gadlus of RHS (following in the footsteps of the Rav), the ability to take things that are seemingly not halachic and to show that it really is a halachic concept and to explain the system of how it works. For more on this see the first piece in Nefesh Harav. RHS said that based on Tosafos Berachos 31b we see that there is such a halachic concept of godol hador. RHS understood that it is based on the well known halacha of rebbe muvhak and that is how it works. Today the term has been borrowed and is not used in it's pure halachic sense.

There hasn't been a halachic godol hador for well over a thousand years, probably not since the time of R' Akiva. The Rambam was certainly one of the greatest poskim ever and yet even in his lifetime many (if not most) of world jewry did not follow many of his psakim. It has been like this throughout the galus. Every community/country has had it's Gedolim/Poskim who they followed. There hasn't been 1 posek who everyone followed. How many people paskened like the Gra when he was alive? A very very small minority. R' Chaim Ozer represented the Lithuanian/Poland yeshiva world. He didn't represent the Hasidim, they followed their Rebbeim, he didn't represent the Hungarians they had their poskim. As RHS said this is the way it has always been.

Based on the above, it is clear that R' Elyashiv is not the godol hador in the halachic sense, he is the posek for the Lithuanian/Ashkenazi community in Israel and is a tremendous Gadol B'Torah. That however, does not make him "the Godol Hador" in a halachic sense.

I think it is safe to say that there won't be a godol hador in the halachic sense until Moshiach comes, there are too many different approaches to halacha now. You have the chassidish approach, the sefardim, and even among the misnagdim you have those that follow the Mishna Berura's approach (see Dr. Chaim Soloveitchik's article Rupture and reconstruction) and those who follow the Gra/Brisker approach. One posek cannot encompass all of this.

What comes out of all this is that a person needs to have a Rav/Rebbe who is qualified to have an opinion and follow that persons psakim. The fact that there are other poskim who disagree shouldn't bother you. Every posek needs to take things into account, if R' Elyashiv disagrees with their opinion they need to think maybe they are wrong, but if they think things through and believe that they are right then they are obligated to state their opinion and follow it.


grend123 said...

I posted a comment back on GH's blog about this:

RHS has an interesting theory of psak as something semuchim do, and therefore once a samuch has given a psak it is halacha (excepting perhaps another samuch disagreeing) because the semuchim ARE the torah sheba'al peh, and what they say IS the tradition, by definition. That's what semicha meant - one was authorized as the carrier of the mesorah and so whatever a samuch paskened was psak. It is noteworthy that Shmuel never recieved semicha (theres a story about it); this might be part of the reason why he could not argue with Eli, who did presumably have semicha. B'zman Hazeh with no semuchim, Rav Shachter has said repeatedly b'sheim RYBS that a psak halacha has the status of a maareh makom and needs to be sourced - and the psak is only as good as the sources, which presumably eventually trace back to the TSBP of a samuch. (Possibly this is related to Tosafos' idea of anan shlichusaihu d'kadmonim - that we are the shluchim of the semuchim of the past). The entire question of moreh halacha l'fnei rabbo may be academic if there is no moreh halacha anymore today (presumably it still exists as a value of what is
proper, but possibly not as a halacha)

I think we are saying similar things - semicha might be related to GH status since only a samuch MUST be accepted by everyone. But then again, the term GH doesn't exist in the Gemara anyways (am I wrong?) and it's hard to think of a period post-Tanach where one existed.

bluke said...

In issur v'heter when a Rav paskens on a question of Nidda, basar
b'chalav, etc. he is saying that if the facts are like this then the
halacha is like this, the psak is not on the specific case. A Beis Din
paskens on a specific case. I think this rule applies even when there
are semuchim.

Shmuel was only 2 years old so he couldnot have yet received semicha
to argue on Eli.

The din of moreh halacha bifnei rabo applies today, it is brought down
in shulchan aruch.

While the term godol hador doesn't appear in the Gemara, the Gemara
does say about R' Akiva that lo hiniach cmoso baaretz, relating to the
fact that they were (I think) mekadesh the chodesh outside of Israel.

grend123 said...

Correct, you have a point about beis din vs. psak. I am not very familiar with the Shmuel story... pardon me for obviously getting the details wrong.

I am aware that moreh halacha still exists; my question was if it's the "same" din, or sort of a zecher or "d'rabbanan" maybe since we don't have real psak without semuchim. I don't know the answer, but that wouldn't preclude it being in the SA.

As for Rabbi Akiva, that was in the very specific case of Rosh Chodesh, and the issue was less that he was davka the only great person or the greatest person, and more that there was simply no one in Eretz Yisrael of stature to do what he did. In other words, there might have been a number of people in the Golah who could have done it, just none others in EY. I don't see how that related to Godol Hador status at all.