Isaac Kaplan

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

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Gedolim Top 25?

In a comment thread, Lakewood Yid was asked why American charedim follow the Israeli gedolim, when they have their own gedolim to follow, and without the cultural divide issues. He responded by saying: "And besides, tell me who in US compares to R' Elyashiv and R' Kanievsky."

And in his most recent post, Bari VeShema rips the rabbis in the Halachic Donor Society, claiming that they're not qualified to pasken , saying that "But the overwhelming majority of these Rabbanim feel that they have a right to an opinion, when they are eminently unqualified to render one. They may have learned the Sugyos and responsa involved, but - if you haven't learned through all of Shas with Rishonim, Shulchan Aruch and Nosei Keilim, you're not a 'player'. Sorry to disappoint you."

When chareidim pull out arguments like these, it reminds me of a couple of third-graders fighting about "my daddy is better than your daddy." Do we know who's better and who's not among today's gedolim and rabbonim? Is there any way to measure anyone's ability and bekius? Besides, how does Bari VShema know how much those rabbis know? Did he test them?

Perhaps we should develop a system similar to the one found in NCAA football. Instead of ranking USC, U of Miami, Nebraska, etc. we can rank the gedolim. For all of the MO's and yeshivish out there who are unsure who's number one, we can develop a ranking system that will rank the gedolim in order of greatness, so we know who to follow.

And maybe we should have different divisions for the different gedolim, the same way that the NCAA has some schools in Division I, some in Division II, and some in III. So if a gadol knows shas and poskim, maybe he's in the top division. But if he only knows sugyos, then I guess he's in Division II. And what if he knows kaballah? What if his midos are exemplary? Now you see how silly this is getting.

And besides, even if a gadol is #1, does that mean we have to follow him? Is he the posek for all of klal yisroel, whether they're litvish, chassidish, sephardic, whatever? Nobody doubts, or should doubt, the greatness of R' Chaim Kanievski SHLITA or YBL"C Rav Shach, ZTL. But if I followed their piskei halacha, I'd have to drop out of college and throw out my shaver. Should we respect their gadlus? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean we have to follow them.

So to me, to even contemplate the question of "who's a greater gadol?" is silly.

Two exceptions, though. One, I'm only limiting my point to the question of two contemporaries in the same generation. We live with the maxim of "niskatnu hadoros," so I would say it's safe to assume that, for example, R' Chaim Soloveichik was greater than anyone around today.

Also, there's something to be said for deference when it comes to psak. Any posek deciding a shailah today ought to factor in the opinion of other gedolim. But how far should that go? That's to be discussed in my next post.


Blogger Josh Weinberg said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Josh Weinberg said...

So how do you know that you're allowed to use a shaver?

2:23 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

My rebbi said so, as did numerous poskim.I don't know if they're top 25, but they're good enough for me.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Josh Weinberg said...

Well how do you pick your rebbe? Shouldn't you go by the top 25?

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You pick your rebbe based on whether you connect with him.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Josh Weinberg said...

That doesn't seem like the best criteria for deciding halacha.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

OK, so what's the alternative? How can we figure out who the #1 gadol is? What about the fact that he doesn't you and I at all, and can't factor our personal factors.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

Hey - you should warn me when you're going to rip me! :)

The short answer to your question is: I have heard Rav Hershel Schachter, who knows what alot of these guys scored on their Semicha exams, say that many of the Rabbanim are unqualified.

The longer answer is, that to Pasken a Shaala like that, you need a track record of a good few well-reasoned displays of Psak that DO display massive Bekius and Psak acumen. The burden of proof is on the RABBI to show why I should even consider following them. You have to establish credentials, or you have zero weight in terms of Klal Yisrael following your Psak. Which is certainly the message of the ad- follow these Rabbis.

My simple question is - on a question of this magnitude - why should I?

9:42 PM  
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3:30 AM  

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