Rabbinic Controversy and the Lessons of History

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15 Responses

  1. Ori Pomerantz says:

    This “clean-up” process appears isn’t limited to Halachic disputes. Very few people remember today that John Adams was sure Thomas Jefferson will destroy the US, or that Newton and Leibnitz fought over the invention of calculus.

    The arguments used are often useful, so we remember them. The rancor is not, so we forget it.

  2. Neil Epstein says:

    We’d prefer matzot that were as digestable as this article.

    Chag Sameach!!

  3. Bob Miller says:

    Would we today accept matzos made by mid 19th Century machines and methods?

  4. joel rich says:

    If you were asked whether each of the participants in the original debate acted completely in consonance with halacha at that time as far as both content and method of debate, would your answer be in the negative for any of the rabbis (and in particular for any of the gedolim) involved?

  5. Sammy Finkelman says:

    There was a cover article in the Jewish Observer about this issue (I don’t remember the name of the author or the exact date) but it might have been also by Dr. Meir Hildesheimer becaus ethe author was researching it and planning a book.

  6. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Joel –
    Assuming that the narrative in the article was accurate, I would say that I would find nothing blameworthy in the behavior of the chief gedolim (the Shoel U-Maishiv and R. Shlomo Kluger).

    I would decidedly not say the same about several of the other participants – the usual cast of characters, including the kanaim, the gatekeepers to the gedolim, etc.

    When you look at the people on top, my experience is not to be disappointed – even when not finding perfection. One level down in the pecking order, and I want to run and hide for cover.

    Bob –
    My understanding (based on nothing more than asking around among people who order matzos for large groups) is that in many cases we are buying matzos that use methods no better, and in some cases worse, than the matzos baked then. The machine matzos today are in fact much better – which is not to say that there was any trouble with those in the 19th century.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein said above, “I would decidedly not say the same about several of the other participants – the usual cast of characters, including the kanaim, the gatekeepers to the gedolim, etc.”

    This is not the first discouraging statement I have seen along these lines in this blog. Are we and our Torah leaders then forced to accept this as a “usual” state of affairs inherent in our historic golus (exile) or can we finally see some worthy proposed solutions and even their implementation? The typical boss at work says he doesn’t want to be bothered about problems unless they’re brought with an action plan to solve them. Should we be satisfied with less?

  8. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Bob Miller, are kanaim really a factor of being in exile? Were our ancestors any better in Israel, when the Hashomai kings fought each other of when the Sicarricim killed Jews opposed to the suicidal rebellion against the Romans?

    Maybe kanaim back then had other excuses than Halachic arguments, but does the excuse the kanaim use really matter?

  9. Bob Miller says:

    My point was not that kanaim and the others are only present in exile, but that we should consider taking action to control them even in exile. We’re not as helpless to organize ourselves properly now as some seem to suggest.

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    I agree that it’s possible to control them. The only point I disagree with is that the kanaim are only present in exile.

  11. dovid says:

    Bob Miller: “We’re not as helpless to organize ourselves properly now as some seem to suggest.”
    Ori Pomerantz: “I agree that it’s possible to control them.”

    Bob and Ori:

    You are fooling yourselves. We can’t even agree on who is a kanai. My kanaus might be your leniency. And we might even argue deftly our positions to prove that each one of us is on safe halachic grounds. Ask people around about the fellow who beat up the woman in the bus. The answers you will get will range from: He was he a kanai. No, he was a self-righteous idiot. No, he was a nebach case with mental problems. My opinion? None of the above, he is a rasha who should not walk free among us. I am sure I did not exhaust all the possible answers. If Yochanan ben Zakai could not control the kanaim of his generation, when the masses did listen to the gedolim, what chance do we stand today?

  12. Bob Miller says:

    Dovid, I don’t care about the logic or illogic of trying to establish order under the current trying circumstances. All I know is that it has to be done, and, with G-d’s help and our participation, it will be done. It can start with small practical steps to protect the transmission of information to and from the Gedolei HaDor, including the protection of their physical security.

  13. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” Halacha has a built-in integrity that recovers from the frailties of Man – even the few that exist within great men… It triumphed then, and will triumph again over similar problems that occur from time to time, and doubtless will continue to occur till Moshiach ushers in perfection itself.”

    Related to the integrity of the Halachic system ,is the question of the integrity of the meta-Halachic system(daas Torah community decsions). Another question is whether, over time, there will remain a “center” in the yeshivah/charedi world. What point is spiritual growth of a community, and what should be eschewed as overreactions to problems brought on by our modern world? Another question is what is the proper perspective on the interface between laypeople and leaders? How can we be sure that different vaadim, askanim, etc. are properly representing the laypeople?

    In a different issue and venue, Rabbi Adlerstein recently drew a kal vachomer(a fortiori) to the direction of the “course of the ship of the Torah state” from the Ramban’s comments on edim zomemim, that pointed to a Divine assurance protecting the integrity of beis din’s decisions. One might add that it’s part of Divine Providence, even if we don’t understand it, why today’s generation does not have the equivalent of the Rambam’s guidance to rational approaches to machashavah and to the relationship with secular ideas, even though it can be argued that we need his approach as much as, if not more, than did Spanish Jewry in its day.

    I am inspired by Rabbi Adlertein’s confidence and bitachon, although I admit to sometimes vacillating between hopeful and less- than- hopeful-feelings when contemplating the ” similar problems that occur from time to time, and doubtless will continue to occur till Moshiach ushers in perfection itself.” Perhaps Divine Providence will include providing for a more idividualized and customized Torah guidance and communal niche for all those affected by, or concerned with these types of imperfections. These issues are not on the radar screen of the RIETS community which is not directly effected by them, but there is also silence in the charedi world. If our community organizations, the natural address for these issues, are already aware of these concerns(which I think that they probably are), perhaps there should be communication with the public about these important topics.

  14. michoel halberstam says:

    I address my comments to Bruce Horowitz whose views I have frequebtly found interesting. I question whether anyone, even the Rambam enjoyed the kind of support for his rationality that we all admire in him today. There is ample evidence that many , whom we would call extremists often did not see things his way. In his Hakdama to the Sefer Hamoreh, he makes the famous comment that he isn’t necessarily speaking toi thiose people at all.

    Despite all this however, the Rambam is remembered long after his most irresponsible opponents are forgotten. I think that Rabbi Adlerstein is correct when he says that there is a bult in integrity to Halacha that even the overly zealous, who lack confidence in the Torah’s ability to take care of itself cannot compromise, as hard as they try.

    One should be careful not to relate this issue to the question of Daas Torah, which is a totally synthetic idea and will clearly blow with the wind forever. I doubt that its impact will be anywhere near as great as Mr. Horowitz fears, although in the immediate present it is by far the nost troubling problem, time will certainly heal that wound. In the interim, the best solution is to further one’s own learning as much as possible.

    On another note, isn’t it fascinating how certain of Rabbi Adlerstein’s posts always take us so far away from where we started. I think it’s great.

  15. Mordechai says:

    Re Sammy Finkelman’s comment above –

    The lengthy and quite interesting article by Rabbi Dr. Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan appeared in the April 2004 JO.

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