Sunday, April 03, 2005

Rabbi Leff on Daas Torah

I asked R' Leff a question about Daas Torah relating to the Israeli elections before the last elections. Here is part of the question:

"...isn't it possible that the Gedolim are making a mistake? After all the torah has a parsha of Par Helem Davar shel Tzibur and in fact the gemara relates that the later Chachamim thought the R' Yochanan Ben Zacai had made a mistake when he just asked for Yavne, and they quoted a Pasuk "meishiv chachamim achor". In fact, just about all the gedolim in pre-WWII Europe were against people leaving and moving to America. Yet, in hindsight, it is clear that their opinion was wrong, those people who left (like my grandparents) survived and most of those who stayed perished. In short, could we not say that maybe today as well, the Gedolim are making a mistake in their view and a party like Herut, etc. is correct?"

You can listen to his answer here (it is only 3 minutes and a large part of it is reading my question). He says that even when the chachamim make a mistake we need to listen to them, this is hashem's will (this is how he understands "meishiv chachamim achor"). He implies that this is how we should view the Holocaust as well.

If you think about it he is most probably alive because his grandparents disregarded the Daas Torah and left Europe and moved to America. How does that fit in with what was the will of Hashem?

1 comment:

Shmuel said...

It doesn't fit in with the will of Hashem. It's pure stupidity. It's just plain wrong.
Look, the gedolim are among the most fallible groups of people ever. You pointed out, very well, the glaring problem with "Daas Torah" in this century, that when the chips were down they couldn't even see 10 years down the road. When Hitler was screaming he was going to kill every Jew he could find, they simply ignored him ("Noch a mishigeneh" they probably thought). In a short span of no more than 13 years or so, from his rise as the leader of Germany until his death, he took down 6 MILLION Jews and erased, probably forever, European Jewry, which had been around for at least 1600 years.
Visionary, weren't they? And if you had asked them if going to treife America was a good idea, they would have said no, your nishama will get ruined there.
But at least you would have lived. And maybe your children and grandchildren would get back on the beaten path. It's hard to have hope when you're dead. I never knew we were Catholics, who so worry about another's soul that they burn him at the stake so he shouldn't err further.

At all events, many, many other rabbis, of every religious stream in Orthodoxy, proved them wrong: you can indeed live a religious life in the United States. Now we have so many yeshivas and kollelim in metropolitan centers it would astound those naysayers.

And the "gedolim" through the ages were wrong on the following issues as well:
1. Rambam: Heretic? Burn his books or not? The Ashkenazim said yes and it wasn't long before their Talmuds were burnt in Europe. Then they realized the error of their ways and did tshuvah. Too late, sorry. Now he's so kosher that you become a Rosh Yeshiva if you can dream up a creative pshat for one of his shvere statements (forget about it being based in reality, or that Rambam explicitly doesn't agree as per his tshuvos. We're LEARNING here.)
2. The Beis Yaakov movement. Everyone knows Jewish education for women was fought by the "gedolim", and Sara Shnirer had to fight them all the way for it. Today, if you can't get a job at a boy's yeshiva, you get one in a girl's yeshiva. Thank G-d for the gedolim!
3. Chasidism. Don't forget that movement is still officially in cherem (or is it?). Those who fought them back then would be amazed to see their disciples sitting around the table at meetings with Chasidim. Who won out? Who had the vision on that one? Can you imagine a world without Chasidim today?
4. Mussar. Rabbi Salanter was opposed in his day. He won out. Was he the gadol, or were his opponents? Someone was right and someone wrong. Who?
5. The Brisker derech of learning. It had its opponents. Were they gedolim? Some were. Were they right? You tell me. Now you can't get a good shidduch until you go to Brisk finishing school (your choice of 7) in Jerusalem.
6. The state of Israel. After 60 years, tell me that the Mizrachi was not vindicated. Tell me that the Litvishe and Chassidic gedolim were correct in their opposition. I'm waiting. Who's sitting in the Knesset, acknowledging the legitimacy of the Zionist state, by (constantly) begging for more money? I'm waiting...
7. Same fight over the Hebrew language. Today there isn't an Israeli yeshiva bachur who doesn't speak and learn in Hebrew. Yet it was fought bitterly. Who won? Is the world crashing down?
8. Today it's Slifkin, the web...it never ends. These rabbis make pronouncements and the Jewish world just walks right by them. Then the rabbis move in lock step, catch up and still want to argue that they're LEADERS?
It's getting tough to type this, between the laughter.
You put your finger on the most obvious problem: we'd all be dead if our parents and grandparents would have actually based their decision-making on the advice received from pre-war "Daas Torah." Funny, so would many of the gedolim today...