Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Faith Be Damned? Part I: Gadol Bashing

The Kolko situation has been on my mind over the past few days, and it's been troubling me like more than any other fiasco that we've dealt with in recent vintage. The fiasco called the wedding takanos ticked me off to no end. For the disclaimers included in the kol korei ("extraordinary circumstances"), I still think that there was some sheker involved there. Their destruction of Reinman, R' Nosson Kaminetzky, and Slifkin was also very disturbing. I didn't think I would ever have as many doubts in my emunas chachamim. But the defeaning silence of the gedolim surrounding the Kolko situation trumps them all.

Here we are, worrying about whether there are microscopic bugs in our water, wondering whether hagbah is a 360 to the right, holding parlor meetings for a million schools for Russians, and fighting incessantly over the Flatbush eruv, when cases of abuse are happening under our eyes. What's being done to combat the abuse? Anything? Are we just supposed to pretend that it never happened and never will again?

As a result, for the next few days, I'm going to be a one-trick pony and give my thoughts on gedolim, emunas chachamim, and daas torah.

- In a general discussion about gedolim, Harry Maryles discussed gadol-bashing.

I think this phenomenon comes from the blind faith that many chareidim have in gedolim. They talk about them as if they're infallible; if they weren't Jewish, you'd probably think they're talking about Jesus or Mohammed. It's possible that this attitude comes from the chassidim, with their extreme reverence of Rebbes.

I don't know what the source is for an attitude of infallibility. The Torah and Gemara talk about mistakes that were made by many great people. And the Rambam, the one revered by every chareidi yeshiva guy, gets heavily critcized by the Vilna Gaon in his commentary on Yoreh Deah.

When people expect perfection from gedolim and then see things they really can't understand, they start bashing the gedolim. They figure that they can't be gedolim, because gedolim are perfect. So instead, they're just a bunch of clowns. If they can't bat 1.000, then I guess they're no better than we are.

To me, the attitude that makes the most sense is that the gedolim are certainly much greater than we are. They know much more Torah, and have spent a lifetime refining their characters. Despite all that, however, they are fallible and will make mistakes. They're human, and can fold to the pressure of the richies.

With expectations like these, the occasional mistakes by gedolim are more palatable. They're to be expected, to some extent.

And such an attitude allows us to ask questions. Not just "what," but "why?" And perhaps to be aggressive in asking why, especially regarding hashkafa questions. And with the expectations of possible mistakes, perhaps we can have respectful discussions, rather than gadol-bashing.


Anonymous Zundel Smith said...

Spending a lifetime being immersed in Shas and Poskim makes you an expert in Shas and Poskim but nothing else. In fact, being so sheltered from the outside world renders the person less able to react to it appropriately.

3:25 PM  
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