Monday, May 23, 2005

Torah Leadership, inherited or earned?

In our generation it seems that Torah leadership is now inherited. Discounting the Hassidic world which has always done this, it seems now that the Yeshivish world is doing this as well. Note, I in no way mean to cast aspersions on any of the Roshei Yeshiva mentioned here, I am merely pointing out a trend.

If we look at many of the yeshivas we see that there is a dynasty.
Lakewood - Founded by R' Aharon Kotler, his descendents have been the Rosh Yeshiva
MTJ - founded by R' Moshe Feinstein, R' Dovid Feinstein is now the Rosh Yeshiva, R' Reuven Feinstein is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island (an offshoot of MTJ).
Philadelphia - the current Rosh yeshiva is R' Shmuel Kamentsky, R' Yaakov Kamenetsky's son.
Mir Yerushalayim - The founder was R' Nasan Tzvi Finkel, the current Rosh Yeshiva is also a Finkel
Brisk Yerushalayim - The founder was the Brisker Rav's son, the current Rosh Yeshiva is the Brisker Rav's grandson.
R' Shmuel Auerbach (R' Shlomo Zalman's son) is the Rosh Yeshiva of Maalos Hatorah.

You may ask, what is bad? The answer is that throughout history we have seen that many/most times sons of great men are not great. In fact this is a gemara. The gemara in נדרים פ"א states the following:
הזהרו בבני עניים שמהם תצא תורה ... ומפני מה אין מצויין ת"ח לצאת ת"ח מבניהן אמר ר יוסף שלא יאמרו תורה ירושה הוא אצלם ר ששת בריה דר אידי אומר כדי שלא יתגדרו על הציבור.

Be careful with the children of the poor because from them will come the talmidei chachamim ... R' Yosef said why is it that talmidei chachamim's son's are rarely talmidei chachamim? So that people will not say that Torah is an inheritance. R' Sheshes the son of R' Idi said so that they will not become haughty and imperious over the people (because they and their ancestors were Talmidei Chachamim).

We see from the gemara that Torah is not an inheritance and being the son of a talmid chacham not only doesn't guarantee that you will be one, but in fact the Gemara states that he probably will not be one.

If we look historically we will see this to be true. Look at the Rishonim, almost of all of their parents were not Rishonim (e.g. Rashi, Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Raavad, Ritva, etc.) and almost none of their children were Rishonim. The same goes for the Acharonim, who ever heard of the Vilna Gaon's son or the Ketzos's son. If we look at the pre-war Gedolim we see the same pattern. Who was the Chafetz Chayim's father, son? R' Aharon Kotler's, R' Yaakov Kamanetsky's, R' Shimon Shkop, etc.?

There have always been exceptions, but that is exactly the point they are exceptions. and they prove the rule.

This ties in to the previous post about kollel only schools. We see from here that this is not the way that things ever were in Klal Yisrael. As the gemara saysהזהרו בבני עניים שמהם תצא תורה, the next generation of Gedolei Torah will not necessarily come from the parents who are learning in Kollel.


A Monsey Yid said...

Interesting post Bluke! I have also wondered about this time and again.
One difference between the chassidshe world and the yeshivishe is that in the chassidshe often even if the son is nothing special the chassidim will still treat him like rebbe. However in the yeshiva world even if one has inherited the throne as Rosh Yeshiva if he can't "learn" them no one will look at him.

A Monsey Yid said...

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Anonymous said... there are many aniyim in kollel, but not all kolleniks are talmidei chachomim...;-)

Anonymous said...

"Look at the Rishonim, almost of all of their parents were not Rishonim (e.g. Rashi, Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Raavad, Ritva, etc.) and almost none of their children were Rishonim. The same goes for the Acharonim, who ever heard of the Vilna Gaon's son or the Ketzos's son."

I agree but this is not really true. For the rishonim, you're including people whose manuscripts survived, there really is no way to tell. but for ex, the rambam learned primarily with his father, and his son and grandson continued. rashis father was a t"c, and many of the ones you list had parents and sons who were leaders. the information we have is limited but it seems to be rare that it wasn't so. when there are manuscripts, as with rosh and tur, we see that it was opposite of what you say.

for achronim, the vilna gaon's son wasn't of the stature of the gra, but who was? We *have* heard of him! Same for many, many others. r akiva eiger & r shlomo eiger, chasam sofer & ksav sofer, r chaim volozhin, chacham tzvi & r yaakov emden, beis halevi and r chaim, r binyomin diskin and r yehoshua leib, etc etc this list can be as long as you like, these are not "exceptions". What is true is that they are rarely more than a few generations before petering out.

I am opposed to these schools, don't get me wrong, but it's not true to say that the phenomenon of t"c sons of t"c is "rare". It's the norm.

a pashut yid said...

I must say, i like this blog. I find it insightful. And not too many talkbacks that its hard to read them all. (I hope i didnt make you feel bad.... )

While Rav Shmuel Aurebach is son of RSZA, RSZA was not RY of Maalos. He was RY of Kol Torah. Same as RYK and RSK. Phily, from what i understand, is a lakewood yeshiva (eg rav elya svei)

You can add rav berel povarsky to the list - RY of ponovezh, as was his father rav dovid.

The Steiplers Gaons son, Rav Chaim, while not a RY, is considered one of the gedolim of our generation.

Rashis sons-in-laws and grandsons (baalei tosafos) had their own little dynasty going for a while.

Perhaps in our generation, with all the problems we face, in order to raise a gadol, we have to be a gadol - in all the aspects of life.

With regards to RNTF of Mir, while he has the same last name of the previous roshei yeshiva - i thought his connection was that he was son in law of rav beinish finkel, previous RY. Also, i thought rav lozor yudel finkel started the yeshiva (son of the alter of slobodka)

bluke said...

I did not express myself well. I meant that the children of great talmidei chachamim usually do not reach the stature of their father. They many not be an am haaretz but they are not the godol hador.

Son-in laws are different because you get to pick your son-in-law and therefore gedolim usually pick the best of ther students to be their son-in law.

With regards to modern day RY's, I meant to say that you see that the children of the last generations gedolim are RY's even in other Yeshivas (where the father was not RY) probably has a lot to do with their last name.

anonymous said...

"I did not express myself well. I meant that the children of great talmidei chachamim usually do not reach the stature of their father. They many not be an am haaretz but they are not the godol hador."

first, historically, this has not been the case. eg rambam's son was the gadol hador. baalei tosfos. etc. rishonim are difficult to follow b/c of records, but for achronim this is not always the case, but often enough to give pause.

second, i think this is due to "Regression to the mean." I.e. tall fathers will have children somewhat shorter than them. brilliant people will have kids a bit less smart than them. when the genes reshuffle, the extremes don't usually show up. Plus, it is difficult for someone who is chad b'dor or more than that, chad b'kama doros, like the gra (no offense to his wife who I know nothing about), to marry someone of equal intelligence!

Third, the comparison base is not fair. You are dealing with one group (gedolim) that has up to ~ 100 people, and one group (hamon am) in the hundreds of thousands/millions, and you are saying that the next gadol is more likely to come from the hamon. Do you think that they are likely to come from any random subsection of the hamon? Of course not! Considering the numbers in the respective groups, talmidei chachomim seem to be overproducing talmidei chachomim, by several orders of magnitude.

"With regards to modern day RY's, I meant to say that you see that the children of the last generations gedolim are RY's even in other Yeshivas (where the father was not RY) probably has a lot to do with their last name."

Eh. Outside of places where the job of RY is officially inherited (eg Lakewood) I doubt this is the case. It's a small advantage. Someone like R Shmuel Auerbach would be acknowledged as a big t"c anyway, regardless of his father. For that matter, one could say that RSZA was acknowledged because *his* father was a reknowned t"c. Ditto for Rav Elyashiv. Yet we see that new talent tends to be recognized. Lately, with so many charedim learning, the talent pool is so large that there's an extra benefit for "last names" because there are so many more people than positions,and that was less true in the past.

Remember, the gemara ALSO says hatorah chozeres al achsanya shelo. you can't say hizaharu b'vnei aniyim is the only memre.

Kin said...

It's not so common that true Torah greatness goes from generation to generation. That said, it occasionaly does. As can be seen in the Finkel family for one. R' Nosson Tzvi (of Slabodka) was great, as was Leizer Yudel. R' Beinish was a first rate Talmid Chacham and magid shiur. Whenever I've heard R' Nosson Tzvi (the current Mirrer RY) speak I've been suitably impressed that he has what it takes to run the show.
I mean look at the Soloveitchiks...Beis HaLevi, R' Chaim, R' Moshe, The after the other.
The fact that Litvishe Yeshivas try to get the RY's son or son-in-law to take over is nothing new, by the way. Most Rabbinic positions in Europe were the same way, which is why the Rebbeim and Roshei Yeshivas went out of their way to make sure their daughters married first rate lamdanim. Like the famous story about R' Gustman. His father in-law was a dayan in Vilna. Before the shidduch was approved R' Chaim Ozer gave R' Gustman a 3 day bechina to make sure he could fill the spot when the time came.
That our day it has become somewhat less effective. With all due respect to R' Malkiel Kotler, he's not anywhere near, nor ever was anywhere near, the top student to come out of Lakewood. The only reason he's the RY is because he's a Kotler.
R' Shmuel Kamanetsky is a first rate RY. R' David Feinstein while not his father is also a great maggid shiur and posek.

Anonymous said...

Another trend which we have left off which seems to be bothersome regarding the yeshiva community--which is concurrent with yet another, more personally soothing trend--is that the Yeshiva community hsa ceased to be Misnagdic in the face of Chassidus, and many Chassidim have come closer to the Yesiva community. Satmar, it seems from talking to them, now do pilpul. True, the original two dynasties or groups--Bresolv and Lubavitch are still pretty much what the used to be, the Hungarian, etc... chassidim learn more and more like hte Litvesh. However, Misnagdim are dead. But then again, any sense of right nad wrong, any passion for a truth is dead among the Litvesh, it seems. Pilpul has become a way of life. Not the only, or even the best path to God's True Torah. Now, reiteration of Torah Shebaal-peh which some Gadol in the past two centuries has not said is scorned as heretical. All questions are shrugged off. Go on the Chabad website....a most passioante denunciation of Misnagidm. After all who are they insulting but some rare individuals and an ancient mistaken approach. Furthermore, it is more common for RY's to dismiss dissenting--so called--opinions simply out of convenience. Every Jew must wake and sleep with Bal tosif and bal tigra on his mind......if a portion of Tora is neglected, it is our fault. The choffetz Chaim says in Torah Ohr that such a portio of torah, we are being mevaze--bizaion mamash-- for neglecting it.
Imagine if we raid hte Geonim, or the Raavad, or the Maharal. Before we mouth off about Gedolim and hteir limitless power, should we not look at hte Maharal and what he said about hte Bais Yosef, and how it was tragic that he was making it so easy for people to trust in blind authority....thereby transfering hte burden, blame nad responsibility as well. All our torah is al mnas laasos....or is it. Look at Rav Saadia Grama, and how his sefer was stopped from the outset.
Why have we accepted as a society that status of Am should hurt us that we are by our own will suh am haaratzim that we can't even run simple pilpul without quoting, my Rosh Yeshiva says this. We fear not Shamayim, but the Ol Shamayim....the Torah. We have lost enough of the Torah. We have failed our function in the upkeep of hte we need to lose more Because some politico-religious elite want us to study this and not this or in some new way that was never the daas torah, or siata dishmaya. Lo tosif v'lo tigra!
Machlokes should not be taken personally....the Torah should be taken personally.
Someone told me..."How could {a certain Yeshiva} deny Rav Eliashiv publicly....that minimizes his authrity...the chutzpah..."
It is very nice to worry about a Gadol's kavod.....but people! Kavod Hatorah! out of kavod for hte tora the whole world should buzz wit honest discussion and questions--not rebelion against gedolim.....honest machlokees between entire talmidei chachamim......anything else is not learning.