A Post-Script on the Bans

If you have a minute (I know many of you don’t actually link to the articles I link to, which is a shame.  They very often provide context for my remarks), take a quick read of this post, giving the blow-by-blow history of the “Lipa Ban” (discussed at length on this blog, here).

I just want to quickly get to one of the salient points mentioned there, as it ties into part of the conversation that went on here in the comments between me and “Art”.

The fake anti-ban flyer. As this demonstrated, the preponderance of bans and “kol korehs” has made it easy for a fake flyer to be found believable. In the past, I’ve written about the unfortunate change from teshuvah to pashkevil with regard to the halachik process (no time to find links). This is an unfortunate but predictable outcome that further erodes the credibility of published bans and proclamations.

Exactly right.  At this point there are two “pashkevils” out there with the identical “signatures” of the same Rabbis that say conflicting things.  How can anyone know anymore if there is ever a legitimacy to any kol koreh that comes out ever again?  It has been clearly shown (as BloginDm points out) there are a multititude of flaws in the original poster, that the Rabbis should be embarassed about having their names on (even if it is genuine).  What this shows you is that either (a) the Rabbis aren’t reading what they are putting their names to, which is shameful or (b) these pashkevils are easily faked.  Either way, what authority could they possibly have anymore?

As Rob said earlier:

Normal frum people (whether MO, Yeshivish or Chasidish) will now view any of these “Kol Korehs” w/ a skeptical eye. By signing something so ridiculous (ed: or easily faked) the “gedolim” have lessened their standing in the eye of any reasonable person. People who follow this crap lock step deserve to be controled b/c they have no minds of their own.

As Art said:

Some right wing extremist wacko (the same type who pushed the made up Indian hair agenda and got women in Israel to burn their wigs in the streets) got Hamodia to print this “made up” kol koreh on a full page.
I say “made up” because there’s no way all the rabbanim approved this kol koreh and missed the grammatical errors.
Once the kol koreh was printed, the rabbanim were in a catch 22.
If they say they didn’t sign it, this not only brings in to question every future kol koreh that may be issued, but also indicates that they are not in control of even their own words.

Here’s the problem: according to Hamodia, the original one was genuine, and that means that the Rabbis did infact approve of and sign their name to terribly worded and poorly constructed sign.  And the fact that we were so quick to believe it was a fake exacerbates the problem.  Then, of course, there’s the problem of having to maintain appearances to preserve the “sanctity of daas torah,” which is ridiculous.

Here’s my final point (for now) on this: I think the idea of submitting yourself to a human being’s word, without the opportunity to question or formulate critical thought is abjectly ridiculous, and, imho, a very non-Jewish idea.  We don’t have a Pope, and we don’t have a doctrine of Infallibility.  We never have.  Our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbenu, wasn’t infallible, and when he ruled, we listened because he, presumably, had asked God.

But yet, latter-day chareidim and yeshivish bochurim have granted infallibility to the “Gedolim,” making daas torah the end all and be all.  And not just about religious law, but about every facet of their lives.

If something like this gets the ball rolling on eroding the power and very concept of daas torah, then it can only be a good thing.  Because, as I mentioned, I think it’s daas torah that’s widening the gap.  Getting rid of it may have the ultimate consequence of bringing more Jews together.

 

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26 responses to “A Post-Script on the Bans

  1. I agree with everything you wrote here. I would add that Daas Torah is just one of the things widening the gap between the two ends.

    I also believe that, in the very long run, neither of the 2 extremes can survive. Being too right or too left – both are bad for judaism. One end of the spectrum will make it intolerable to be jewish for 85% of jews, the other end will no longer BE observant in a few more generations.

    What both sides fail to recognize, as they keep reacting to each other and pulling more and more away from the middle, is that the middle is exactly where Judaism CAN survive and even thrive. A place where you can be both frum and an individual.

    Alas, for the blindness of ideals.

  2. “I think the idea of submitting yourself to a human being’s word, without the opportunity to question or formulate critical thought is abjectly ridiculous, and, imho, a very non-Jewish idea.”

    Spot on.

    And BTW, I don’t think Art’s theory is correct – it was not a fake. If anything, people went to the “gedolim” with misinformation – not that this would excuse the lack of diligence before ruining someones livelihood.

    Elster, I think you’re missing the point here. These posts/comments should not to be taken as an attack on the Yeshiva World generally, or for the sake of arguing that MO is a better alternative. Any frum person who exercises a moticum of Jewish thought should realize how outrageous such a ban is and should condemn it precisely b/c it diminishes the authority of people who should wield authority in the halachik context. Any gadol who ought to be universally accepted as a halachik authority, the way R’ Moshe Feinstein or R’ Henkin were, should not sign something that deligitimizes their authority in the eyes of many frum people (including many in the Yeshiva and Chasidish world). People like Noyam and I are upset by such bans not b/c it affects us personally (we either wouldn’t go to this kind of concert or will go to the next one), but b/c it negatively effects the traditional halachic process that we cherish/follow. Frankly, it turns people off from the important aspects of Jewish law and living.

  3. Great post – couldn’t have said it better.
    It’s interesting that you mentioned Moshe Rabbeinu. I was thinking about Parshas Yisro. I mean, here’s the ultimate Gadol Ha-Dor of all time, one who knew the mind of G-d more than any other human being. Yet he is rebuked by Yisro, a recent convert who was an idol-worshipper most of his life, and had only recently joined the Israelites in the desert. But, guess what? Moshe ADMITTED HE WAS WRONG, and changed a major policy based on Yisro’s recommendations. Of course, Moshe was known for his humility, unlike the culprits in the current Kol Koreh fiasco.

  4. I was thinking about Moshe this morning, too, but came up with a different example.

    Moshe teaches a rule: “sons inherit their fathers.”

    Instead of being afraid to question anything (I’m assuming there was no pashkevil of this rule), the daughters of Tzlaphchad come and say “our father had no sons, do we get screwed?”

    Moshe thinks, asks God, and says, “no, you don’t. While we’re at it, let’s set some rules for some other non-traditional inheritance situation.”

    But wait, now the Tribe of Menashe comes to Moshe “uh, if the daughters of Tzlaphchad marry out of the tribe, we lose our tribal lands. That’s not cool.”

    So Moshe thinks again. “You’re right,” he says. “Tzlaphchad’s daughter, and any daughter that inherits her father, has to marry within the tribe.”

    What this story teaches us (among many other things) is that the Moshe’s humility in not thinking himself perfect, and not responding to the Daughters of Tzlaphchad “sorry, that’s Daas Torah, how dare you question it?” led to the evolution and perfection of a rule of law. That’s exactly how it should be.

  5. Rob – I wans’t missing the point at all. I understand exactly what Noyam was referring to. You will note that I mentioned I agreed with his thoughts on this specific issue.

    I was making a much broader point – which is that it’s BOTH sides that are splintering, not that MOdoxy is simply reacting to what the right is doing. It’s not an attack on the defenders of MO at all.

  6. I finally caught up on this thread. Overall, I agree with the specific point – this “ban” borders on ridiculousness. If this Kol Koreh went up in boro park 3 weeks from now – I guarantee that everyone’s first thought would be that this was posted as Purim shtick.

    On the general point – I generally agree. There are obvious problems with Daas Torah, bans, etc… However, I think Noyam’s (and Rob’s) position that one shouldn’t blindly follow Gedolim is an extreme and should be tempered.

    The issue I have is that for myself, and for most people (I suspect), one must have a “posek” – someone who can lay out practical halacha by which we must live our lives. The posek serves to provide guidance on halachic issues that one personally does not have the time, knowledge, experience or intellectual ability to decide for oneself. Taking the current issue as an example – If I don’t know whether concerts are halachically permissible and I don’t have the time to research the issue myself, why should I not rely on the opinion of these Rebbeim. I might not choose the rebbeim who signed this ban myself, but I would have a hard time telling someone who does that he is wrong for doing so.

    I agree there should be the ability to question and have a dialogue; however, the position that seems to be advocated here is that the ruling should not be followed until that dialogue has occurred. I think this is antithetical to the idea and necessity of a posek. Once you choose which one or ones to follow, you should act under the assumption that their word is correct, until it is proven wrong. (The standard should be “correct until proven wrong” not “wrong until proven correct”.) [Note: This purposely ignores the additional issue in this particular case – confirming that these rebbeim actually did say or agree to this.]

    This leads to a more interesting question which I have struggled with over time – How does one choose a Rabbi to follow? Assuming a posek or Rabbi is there to bridge my own intellectual shortcomings, how do I choose one? If the system presupposes that I am not intellectually equipped to make my own halachic decisions and I need additional guidance, how could it presume that I am equipped to make a decision of which person to follow?

    I have my own thoughts on the best way to choose a posek, but I will save that for another. I would be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on this issue. Choosing a Rabbi to follow, for most people, will have more impact on how they practice their religion than almost any other factor (except maybe who one’s parents are). I have always had difficulty coming to terms with a method for making that decision that does not contain logical or intellectual flaws.

    To reiterate the main point, however, I think that there are many cases were I would not fault or be critical of a person or blindly following a Rabbi’s direction. There are many instances when following a Rabbi (particular on an issue where one is uninformed.) Noyam – maybe you are a better man than me, but I personally do not have the time or ability to properly learn the halacha on every issue that touches my life. I don’t even have the time to properly question the people whose opinion I follow. I do blindly follow their opinions in those instantances, because I simply cannot believe that I am better off following my own uninformed “belief” until such time when I can properly research the issue. Odds are the Rabbi (who has researched the issue) is more likely to be correct than I am. (As a final aside – This is only for issues where I feel I haven’t done my own work to have formulated my own opinion.)

  7. GRB –

    Here’s the disconnect, I think, between what you’re saying and what I am (I don’t want to speak for Rob).

    I completely and totally agree with the idea of aseh l’cha rav and that’s not an issue at question here.

    You mention that there should be blind adherence before the dialogue, but that makes no sense in the context of having a Rav to ask questions: the very asking of the questions is the dialogue that would take place. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    But that’s not what’s going on. When 33 Rabbis get together to post a pronouncement or a ban on the streets of Boro Park or B’nei Brak, they are forcing down their opinions without the opportunity for the populace to consult.

    To put this in economic terms that I know you’ll understand, what you’re advocating sounds like Demand/Pull piskei halachah and what I think is a very bad thing is Supply/Push piskei halachah. I agree 100% that Demand/Pull is good, and should always be a part of an Orthodox Jew’s life. It’s the Supply/Push variant of Kol Korehs and pashkevils and bans, from Rabbis that may be recognized as great, but may not be a person’s personal posek, that I think is bad.

  8. In response to your question: Assuming a posek or Rabbi is there to bridge my own intellectual shortcomings, I’m not sure that the assumption is valid.

    Having a Rav is about more than just intellectual prowess. It’s about spiritual leadership and having a place to turn, somewhere to go to ask questions.

    Choosing one should be more about hashqafa and comfort than intellectual submission.

  9. GRB,

    I agree w/ Noyam’s push/pull distinction and would also add the distinction b/w the halachic vs. hashkafik. For many, Asei L’cha rav applies to halachic questions but does not go as far as Daas Torah which extends to everyday mundane non-halachik questions.

    I would have no problem if a Rav was asked by a talmid whether he should personally go to the concert and the Rav replied “no it’s not shayach for you – you would be better off learning or doing chesed instead of spending the entire evening at the concert.” But that is very different than saying it is assur for anyone to go to such a concert. This is a hashkafik question that is best answered on the individual level and not forced down the throats of our entire community as “assur.”

  10. Noyam – I think the push-pull analogy is excellent. I disagree with your point however. The push may be even more important than the pull. A Rabbi, as a communal leader, has an obligation to push. If the Rabbi feels that the community is doing something wrong [Rob – for clarity – against halacha, not hashkafa], he is obligated to publicly speak out against that practice. The response should not be one of “who asked you? I will only listen to your response when I ask you a question.” This is the “Sh’eino yodea lishoel.” Even learned people may be too ignorant to realize they have to ask a question as to whether something is allowed. They simply incorrectly presume that it is right. The Rabbi should go to the individual and declare that it is wrong. If it is generally accepted in the community, he should publicly “ban” the activity. Not to say that I agree with the concert ruling or the actual way it was handled, but there is a proper way to handle it. Rabbi’s should not stand idly by and watch people commit aveiros without saying something. Push/Pull is irrelevant. It comes down to a question of honesty. I would want a Rav I respect that I choose to be my Posek to both answer my halachic questions honestly and actively pursue me if he honestly believes I am doing something wrong. I think what really gets to you is that the push is often being used to force upon people behaviors that are not halachic, but hashkafic. This push is dishonest because it clouds it in halacha. It makes it difficult to distinguish when a true halachic opinion is being expressed. Its like when my great-great…great-granddad told his wife not to touch this tree, but really you could touch it, you just can’t eat the fruit from that tree. I agree that once we go beyond halacha into other forms of general guidance and advice, it should be pull.

    Noyam again – I agree with your second point. A Rav serves multiple roles. I was using a generals for Halachic authority figures, but to be clear, this post only refers to the role of Posek – Halachic guide and decision maker. I agree that there are many additional factors that go into Asei l’cha Rav – halachic, hashkafic, interpersonal, communal, etc… However, this specifically is meant to address the choice and acceptance of a person or person in the role of posek.

    Rob – I absolutely agree on halachic/hashkafic distinction. I absolutely hate when Rabbi’s cloud hashkafic decisions in halacha. For example, if a Kosher store is open on Shabbos (let’s call it “Boss Bagels”), it cannot get a hasgacha. As far as I know, there is no halachic basis for claiming the food is “not kosher.” However, assuming there is a true halachic basis for not going to “concerts,” I have no problem with the Rabbi’s publicizing that position. I personally do not know about the halachic issue here. As such, if the Rabbi I follow signed this, I would tend to follow it until such time as I could ask him to explain or otherwise do sufficient halachic research to come to my own conclusion.

  11. So how do you reconcile this: This is only for issues where I feel I haven’t done my own work to have formulated my own opinion

    with this: If the Rabbi feels that the community is doing something wrong … he is obligated to publicly speak out against that practice.

    What if that which the Rabbi speaks out against, ie: pushes, is something that you’ve already determined is OK based on your own judgment? What then? You’ve decided this issue for yourself; you are going to eat at “Boss Bagels” for example. You’ve decided that you don’t need a Rabbi’s guidance on this; so you don’t go ask if there’s a hashgacha. But then the Rabbi announces that people can’t eat at “Boss Bagels.” What do you do? (“Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do?”) Do you adhere to the Rabbi’s decision which you think may have more to do with politics and hashqafa than with kashrus, or do you think “maybe I mis-judged this, and missed something” (like many of the possible problems with eating food that was cooked on Shabbos, bishul akum, etc.) and the Rabbi knows these things?

  12. I have no issue with push when it comes to halachik issues (Noyam may disagree w/ me here). If a rav sees someone or a community doing something halachikly wrong, by all mean he should suggest correction. But there is no halacha that says you can’t go to a Jewish music concert save some prohibition against all live music since the churban (Hattip: Best of the Benzi A’H). This ban is clearly a hashkafik (if not a political) issue. I don’t know of anywhere in the shulchan aruch that says concerts are assur.

  13. There’s one other thing I wanted to mention about poskim and rabbis and kol korehs.

    I think there is a major difference between having a rav who you can trust to answer questions honestly and be your spiritual guide, and be your halachik decisor (ie: aseh l’cha rav) and submitting to the whim and fancy of the “gedolim” whom you’ve never met.

    How many people can claim to have a personal relationship of “Rav” with R’ Elyashiv? Yet, when he makes a pronouncement, the entire world reacts. This gets back to something I said earlier: we don’t have a Pope. There isn’t one single person in the entire world qualified to be the all-encompasing, say it and everyone will listen, posek to the world. That’s why I think these kol korehs are wrong. If my rabbi, with whom I’ve developed a relationship and cultivated a trust, and who is my posek, makes an announcement, sure I’ll listen. But is that true of everyone in Boro Park and the “gedolim” in Israel? I really don’t think so.

    Not even the most respected poskim of earlier generation were universally accepted. There are plenty of t’shuvas of Rav Moshe Feinstein that people don’t hold by. There are plenty of psaks of R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that people don’t follow. Like has been mentioned on this thread: even Moshe Rabbeinu was questioned. That’s what bugs me about this. There is this ivory tower, ego-driven quality to this that rubs me the wrong way. This isn’t one Rabbi talking to his community. This is people thinking they can rule for the whole world.

  14. Noyam, another excellent point.

  15. Exhausted Dispatches from Warsaw

    I was very impressed with the General’s comments and I have to say I agree with him, specifically with the idea, as I’ve expressed before on this blog, of aseh lecha rav. Looking at our own more moderate community, I believe that when our rabbis know exponentially more Torah and halacha than we do, our default assumption should be that they’re right and we’re wrong. I’m not referring to the ban, which, as shouldn’t surprise you, I don’t think too highly of. But I do believe in the concept that there ARE times when we should follow our rabbi blindly, as the General articulated very well. Once you believe in that general concept, what we’re really arguing about is the degree.

    However, the situation in the ultra-orthodox community is much more complicated than that. It’s a society that’s built on a very different, very complex culture, and unfortunately it appears like the cultural leaning of the community is overtaking and engulfing the halachic underpinnings.

    In this light, I think that the comments by GRB, Noyam, and Rob are all compatible. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle of what you all wrote, but takes the most important elements from all of your arguments.

    I had two thoughts. The first one was articulated perfectly by the General: I think what really gets to you is that the push is often being used to force upon people behaviors that are not halachic, but hashkafic. This push is dishonest because it clouds it in halacha. It makes it difficult to distinguish when a true halachic opinion is being expressed.

    The second point is related to the first. The ban on the concert was rooted in hashkafa. And it is the culture of the right-moving ultra-orthodox world that we find objectionable. Noyam and Rob, you both make very strong, sound arguments about how the deleterious effects of the ultra-orthodox culture, as evidenced by this ban, outweigh the benefits. I agree with you.

  16. “How many people can claim to have a personal relationship of “Rav” with R’ Elyashiv? Yet, when he makes a pronouncement, the entire world reacts. This gets back to something I said earlier: we don’t have a Pope. There isn’t one single person in the entire world qualified to be the all-encompasing, say it and everyone will listen, posek to the world. ”

    Um, yeah there is. it’s called Gadol Hador. and while you can argue there may not be one today, you cannot argure that the concept doesn’t exist.

    Either way, there is obviously a fine line existing between Halacha and Hashkafa. Rob points out that going to concerts is ONLY a hashkafah issue in the very sentence that he says there is grounds for sayng all post-churban live music is assur. So which is it, halacha or hashkafah? And who decides?

    The problem is that it’s very easy to make these issues much less clear cut then they are being made here. it’s the shades of grey that are the problem, not teh black and white.

  17. Elster, you’re argument is purely semantic. Has there ever been a universally recognized and followed “Gadol Hador”? What does defining the concept add to the question of the existence of the concept?

  18. And when I say “universally,” I mean it. One person qualified and recognized to paskan halachah for every Jew in the world, including Ashkenazi and Sefardi, Eastern European and Syrian, Yerushalmi and Chutznik? In all of history, has there ever been?

    And if you look at the history of Jewish leadership, you see that in fact the concept does not exist. The Sanhedrin was a group of 70. The Tanna’im and Amora’im are contantly arguing, and there’s no recognition that one person has the say over every Jew in the world.

    So despite your interjection and snarky tone, I think you’re still wrong.

  19. “Rob points out that going to concerts is ONLY a hashkafah issue in the very sentence that he says there is grounds for sayng all post-churban live music is assur. So which is it, halacha or hashkafah? And who decides? ”

    The live music/zecher l’churban halacha had nothing to do with this ban. All the rabonim that signed the ban have live music at their simchas beis hashoevas and at weddings etc. This ban was purely hashkafik. I think the proponents of the ban would agree with that.

  20. Noyam – No, in the recent past (last few hundred years) there has not been one leader recognized by every group – as you said, Jews don’t have a pope. But do you disagree that R’ Elchanan Wasserman was not a LEADER of a majority of european jews? Does it matter if not everyone follows him if me is recognized by a great majority as Gadol Hador?

    Not sure which part of my argument the pure semantics go to so i’ll reserve the right to comment on that.

    As for snarkiness, it was unintended though not a new concept for this site 🙂

    Rob – No doubt you are correct. The ban on concerts is…stuoid, asinine, silly – pick whatever word you like.
    I don’t disagree.

  21. The part of your argument that was semantic was not to rebut my points but just to say “yes, that would be called Gadol Hador.” That doesn’t mean there is such a thing, just that there’s a word for it. That’s semantic, i.e. “Of or relating to meaning, especially meaning in language.”

    But do you disagree that R’ Elchanan Wasserman was not a LEADER of a majority of european jews?

    Whether I agree or not is irrelevant. You yourself in your question show that. You’ve limited R’ Wasserman’s scope to a “majority of European Jews.” Even if you do call him Gadol Hador, so what? He’s still not in a position to pasken for the entire world of Jews. Just granting him the title doesn’t mean anything, and certainly doesn’t answer my point.

    Does it matter if not everyone follows him if me is recognized by a great majority as Gadol Hador?

    First of all, I wonder what “great majority” means, becuase you’ve limited it to European Jews, and I wonder if that’s a majority of Jews in the world. So, yes, it does matter, in fact. R’ Wasserman, as great as he was, suffers from the same deficiency as everyone else throughout history of not being the recognized Posek for the world, despite your assertion of his title of “Gadol Hador.”

  22. OK – I respect your position.

    And while I fully agree that the current rabbonim who make up the world of Daas Torah are silly – I caution anyone to be too quick to discuss the role of the rabbi in jewish life.

    Still, pointless to continue to debate this.

  23. I caution anyone to be too quick to discuss* the role of the rabbi in jewish life.

    I hope you mean “discount” because we should be allowed to discuss it.

  24. Hmmm – who is being “snarky” now???

    Yes, I meant discount. You might learn I often press enter without double checking my work…..

  25. Pingback: Finished « The Noy G Show

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