Monday, December 27, 2010

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

There are many that have said that the recent bans promulgated by the Gedolim (i.e. Rabbi Slifkin, the Lipa concert, The Making of a Gadol and now Vos Iz Neias among others) have caused the stature of the Gedolim to become far less relevant and important today.  To some extent, that is true -- the mishandling of some of these bans has exposed the flaws in the process of some of their recent halachic rulings and has damaged the reputation of the Gedolim among the general populace. 

Nonetheless, as evidenced by what happened with some of the cases mentioned above, the Gedolim still can be said to have enormous power.  They can bring pressure to bear on people and events which can lead to loss of money, public embarrassment and communal shunning.  The ability to bring such pressure to bear is an enormous power -- one that must be wielded with extreme care.  I would think that if one has the ability to wreck a person's life, that ability should only be wielded with extreme care and great trepidation.  The power to do such is a great power -- and, as Uncle Ben reminded Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility.

Do the Gedolim have a responsibility to us?  I believe they do.  Any leader has a responsibility to the people that he or she leads.  If a Gadol (or anyone else for that matter) is going to assume the power to greatly affect the lives of others, then he must be responsible to make sure that that power is used wisely and appropriately.  There must be safeguards, checks and balances to make sure that the power is being used properly -- and those wielding the power must be responsible to make sure that those safeguards, checks and balances are in place.

Sadly, today, there are no such checks and balances.  We have recently seen how the current edifice of halachic decision making is flawed and that the leaders (perhaps unintentionally, but still disasterously) have shirked their responsibilities.   Those responsibilities include the following:

The responsibility to adequately investigate the facts and circumstances before making a ruling.


If a Gadol is going to issue a ruling that will impact a person (and all the more so if the impact is going to cause a severe loss of money or prestige), he has a responsibility to independently investigate the circumstances surrounding the case.  This includes contacting the people affected and giving them a chance to adequately respond.

We saw this responsibility cast aside numerous times.  The Gedolim who signed on the ban against Lipa's concert were told that there was going to be mixed dancing (among other misinformation) at the event.  At no point did any of the Gedolim who signed on the ban even so much as pick up a phone and call Lipa or one of the event organizers to determine if this was true (it wasn't -- there wasn't even going to be mixed seating).  The same thing occurred with Rabbi Slifkin -- he was phoned (not by any of the Gedolim who signed on the ban against his books) and told that he had hours to retract his books and was not given any real chance to respond.  In addition, the ban against his books was signed, in many cases, by those who did not even read the book.

Another aspect of this responsibility is the responsibility to not simply rely on the signature of another Gadol when deciding whether or not to sign on to a halachic decision of considerable importance, scope and effect.  If Gadol X signs on a document, I should have the right to assume that Gadol X has actually looked into the matter and came to the decision himself.  If, however, Gadol X is signing on the document only because Gadol Y signed, then what is really the value of the signature?  To say that he trusts Gadol Y?  We already knew that he probably did.  In the end, you get documents where twenty or thirty Gedolim sign, but only one or two probably actually gave any real, serious thought to the decision at hand.  If so, is it really twenty or thirty Gedolim issuing a decision?  No it's not -- it's merely one or two making the decision.  In the end, however, I believe that if a Gadol is going to sign on a document, they have an absolute responsibility to investigate the matter for themselves.  If I'm to be told to obey a document because Gadol X signed, I have the right to be assured that Gadol X actually did his due diligence to investigate the case -- and not rely on the word of a third party -- even that of a fellow Gadol.

A Gadol has, in my humble opinion, an absolute responsibility to do his utmost to ascertain the facts of a situation before issuing a ruling on it.  It's not reasonable to expect a Gadol to get every fact correct every time -- they are only human and sometimes mistakes will be made -- but they must do their absolute best to make sure they have the facts of the situation before issuing a ruling. If the Gedolim are going to fail in their responsibility to investigate the facts (including all sides), then how can we have a responsibility to listen to their words?

The responsibility to avoid even the appearance of manipulation by those with agendas.

If a Gadol's ruling is to have any meaning, it must be clear that it is a fair ruling.  If people perceive that the ruling was manipulated or engineered by those who have a particular axe to grind or agenda to push, many people will simply ignore the ruling.

I find it extremely ironic that a Dayan (judge) in a Bais Din must take great pains to figuratively bend over backwards to avoid even the appearance of manipulation or favoritism in a court case involving a lousy five dollars, but when it comes to public policy that affect wide swaths of the community on a far grander scale, no such impartiality is enforced.  It will all too well known that many of the now-infamous halachic decisions that have been handed down lately (including, according to several reports, the recent ban on Vos Iz Neias) were engineered by parties with a particular political, monetary or ideological grudges against others.  It is, in my humble opinion, the absolute responsibility of a Gadol to make sure that his decisions are not only arrived at in a fair manner without undue influence, but that they also don't even have the appearance of manipulation by insiders or outsiders.  If a simple five-dollar case in Bais Din requires this, I would think that it's a no-brainer that major halachic and public policy decisions requires the same -- and in this, the Gedolim have failed.

The responsibility to clearly elucidate their rulings including defining the parameters of those rulings, the process of how the question came before them and the process of how they arrived at their decisions.


A Gadol who issues a ruling has a responsibility to make the ruling as transparent as possible.  That includes not only clearly defining the parameters of his ruling (i.e. in what circumstances does it apply and under what circumstances does it not apply), but also on what facts and assumptions the ruling relies, how he came to make the ruling in the first place (this is a part of maintaining the appearance of independence from manipulation) and upon which sources he relies to make his rulings.  The saying "sunshine is the best disinfectant" is wholly applicable here -- a Gadol who is not being manipulated by others and is making his best effort to issue a correct ruling has no reason to fear being completely transparent about the factors that go into his decision.  Allowing people to see how the decision was arrived at will increase people's confidence that the ruling is impartial and correctly arrived at.

The responsibility to ensure that their rulings can be verified by the general public.

Rav Elyashiv has been famously quoted as saying that there are so many rulings being issued in his name that are not, in fact, from him that unless you hear from him directly (or see it in a responsible Torah journal or legitimate sefer) that you can assume it's false.

While I can applaud Rav Elyashiv for his honesty in this matter, I believe that he (and other Gedolim) have absolutely abdicated a fundamental responsibility that accompanies power -- the responsibility to ensure that forgeries are not issued in their name.

This is something that is extremely important.  The government takes great pains to try to shut down counterfeiters -- not necessarily because their efforts might devalue the currency (although that can be a factor) but also because counterfeiters, by definition, usurp power that the government alone has -- the power to print currency.  Likewise, one of the most carefully guarded objects of rulers of old was their signet rings and seals -- not because they liked to wear rings or have pretty designs made in wax -- but because such objects actually conveyed power to those who wielded them.  If you saw an edict sealed with seal of the king, such an edict was extremely likely to be obeyed, whether the king actually endorsed the edict or not.   It's not for no reason that the writer of Megillas Esther focuses on the fact that the king gave his ring to Haman -- the one who wielded the ring truly wielded the power.  A ruler or leader who does not actively take steps to find, stop and punish those who wrongly usurp their power is no true leader, since it is difficult (if not impossible) to determine which of their edicts are proper and legal.

While the Gedolim may not have signet rings and seals, they have, in my humble opinion, utterly failed at the responsibility to protect the validity of their rulings.  By allowing word of their rulings to spread by word of mouth and broadsheet, they allow far too many opportunities for other people to either put their own spin on their rulings or, worse, make up rulings for them out of whole cloth. 

I find it utterly incomprehensible that in today's day and age, we still disseminate rabbinical rulings by word of mouth and by posters plastered on walls.  Oddly enough, I think that the World Wide Web is an ideal medium for the Gedolim to issue their rulings.  If a Gadol had his own website under his firm control, he could post his rulings there -- and people would be able to be reasonably confident that the ruling was, in fact, issued by the Gadol who owns the site.  In addition since "space" and "paper" are not true issues on the Web, the Gadol can expand on his ruling as much as necessary to cover some of the other points I made in this post. Even if the Gadol in question did not want to get involved with the Web, there is always the option of having an automated telephone system where people can call and hear a recording of the Gadol saying something to the effect of "yes, I issued this ruling, these are the parameters, this is how I came to the decision, etc.  The Gadol, of course, would have to be vigilant in ensuring that only content he approves of goes up on the site or the telephone system (the site/telephone system, in effect, becomes his signet-ring) - but as I mentioned earlier, an essential part of having the power to issue rulings is the responsibility to protect the integrity of those rulings.  Failure to do so results in an open invitation to having the very validity of the rulings he issues questioned, disregarded and, ultimately, ignored.

The responsibility to be able to make independent decisions regardless of the personal consequences and free from communal pressure.

This responsibility is perhaps the most important responsibility that a Gadol has and yet, at the same time, the one that may be the hardest for him to make because of the potential personal cost involved.

In the United States, justices to the Supreme Court are appointed and, failing any misconduct on their part, maintain their positions for life.  There is an important reason for this lifetime appointment -- the need to maintain an independent judiciary.  It is vitally important that, if a decision is to be a correct one (meaning free of political pressures and based strictly upon the law and his or her interpretation of it) then it is important that they not be subject to recall based on those decisions.  You may argue with how successful the implementation of this has been (both conservatives and liberals can probably quote numerous cases where they feel that judges ruled based on their political biases rather than the law*), but the principle is sound.  When a correct decision needs to be made, it has to be free from political pressure.

This also needs to apply to the Gedolim as well.  If a Gadol is going to issue a ruling, it is his responsibility (as I mentioned above) to ensure that the ruling is fair and not manipulated or engineered.  However, it also has to be free from personal considerations as well, including those of power and prestige.

Unfortunately, it is all too apparent that in many cases, Gedolim sometimes make decisions because it's the popular decision to make and one that will appease the masses.  Jonathan Rosenblum, in an article about a year ago, made the point very clearly.  In discussing why there would be no public statement regarding a possible change in communal policy, he says the following:

There is another reason that there will be no such public statements. Any such statement would be met with vicious attacks by the “kenaim,” who would say about the gadol in question precisely what KollelGuy asks me: Who are you? The Chazon Ish did not say what you are saying; Rav Shach did not say it.” Perhaps KollelGuy remembers the attacks on one of the Sages he mentions for his tacit support of Nahal Chareidi. (Even Rav Shach used to say that he was afraid of the stone-throwers.) One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim.

In other words, there are cases where the Gedolim are afraid to make a correct ruling (or public policy decision) because it would mean the possible loss of their positions as Gedolim.   Even if you put aside the fact that this causes their rulings to smack of corruption (even if there is, in fact, no corruption in any particular ruling), this undermines the whole point of having Gedolim determine public policy to begin with.  Of what value is there to have a Gadol make a determination if there is a possibility that the determination is rooted in his fear of being labeled a "fake Gadol?"  Aren't we relying on them to give us true rulings?  If their rulings can be influenced by "the street," then how can anyone trust their rulings?

I'll admit that it's not easy to ask any person (Gadol or not) to put their positions on the line when they are faced with making an unpopular ruling.  But part of being a true and responsible leader is to take responsibility for your leadership decisions.  If the cost of a true ruling is the loss of personal power and prestige (i.e. by being labeled a "fake Gadol") then perhaps that's the price you must pay.  If a person is going to accept the awesome responsibility to wield the power to ruin lives, then he must also be willing to take the responsibility to stand up and assure the people that his decision is correct, even if it comes with personal consequences.  Failure to do so simply means that the inmates are running the asylum.

If one is going to posit that the Gedolim have the power to make important communal and halachic decisions and that we, the general populace, have a responsibility to follow their decisions, then they have a responsibility to make sure that their rulings are factual, informed, fair, honest, clear, verifiable and free from manipulations, agendas and communal pressure.

The Wolf



*  But then again, if both sides feel this way, perhaps it's right after all...

57 comments:

The Hedyot said...

Very well put. You delineated the key issues very well. I would also add one more basic issue: A true leader has a responsibility to speak out and condemn genuine moral travesties within his community. There should be no higher priority for a leader than to be the most principled and moral person possible.

Typically, we only hear gedolim speak up regarding sheitels, kashrus, tznius, kefira, and other such typically frum topics of discussion. But when it comes to more serious lapses of ethical conduct, such as financial crimes, sexual abuse, violence, and other truly awful moral indiscretions they hardly speak up. At best, they will give a vague mussar talk about the issue, but you'll never hear a person condemned and called out by name for embezzlement, like you would if they wrote a book saying the world is more than 6,000 years old. You'll never hear a rabbinic leader say to stay away from a certain yeshiva because their administration was busted for fraud like they would say to stay away from a certain restaurant because the hashgacha might not be as strict.

When leaders can find it worth rallying their troops and applying political pressure to assist a brutal murderer not even directly connected to their community (Grossman), yet when it comes to victims of sexual abuse within their own yeshivas they choose not to stand up and do what is in the best interests of those children because it might adversely affect them financially (the Markey Bill), it definitively demonstrates a lack of moral clarity.

The clearly skewed nature of their moral compass is another fundamental reason so many people today feel these is no reason to look to these people as "leaders".

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out one more thing. As a result of the lack of due diligance and the promulgation of these bans, the results are most terrifying. There is Chillul Hashem, there is causing financial loss, there is Lashon Hara, there is Motzei Shem Ra, there is intellectual dishonesty. In order to "protect the Torah", there is a major violation of Torah laws. This isn't a "Eit La'asot Hefeir Toratecha". That is only in an "emergency", when one does a Kiddush Hashem but can only do it by doing something against the Torah. In doing these acts against the Torah, one is not sanctifiying G-d's name but is destroying people, their lives and livelihood.

Samuel Roth said...

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"

Their ONLY "power" comes from the respect the people offer them. This in unchanged. The same people kvetching that the gedolim have lost authority, have been making the same comments for the last 50+ years. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

"that ability should only be wielded with extreme care and great trepidation."

It is.

"We have recently seen how the current edifice of halachic decision making is flawed and that the leaders (perhaps unintentionally, but still disasterously) have shirked their responsibilities."

Baloney. All the things you and others complain about have always been the case, and will not change one iota despite the left-wing blogosphere and amen corner.

"were told that there was going to be mixed dancing"

Incorrect again.

"by those who did not even read the book."

And if Slifkin wrote his books in French, the rabbonim are precluded from saying its bad since they don't speak French? No, they have the right and obligation to investigate it using French specialists. Same idea was done with Slifkin.

"The responsibility to avoid even the appearance of manipulation by those with agendas."

There is none, other than in the left-wing haters preverted minds. They invent these allegations. So who cares? If not this lie, they'd have other lies against the gedolim no matter what they did.

"While I can applaud Rav Elyashiv for his honesty in this matter"

Wow! An anon-blogger applauds the godol hador!

"the responsibility to ensure that forgeries are not issued in their name."

No its not. And that would entail a full time team of 20 employees to do in any event. Are you paying? The gedolim live modestly themselves with no salary or team of employees.

"the Gedolim... have in my humble opinion..."

You're opinion on this matter is out of your league and without value.

"The responsibility to be able to make independent decisions regardless of the personal consequences and free from communal pressure."

This is EXACTLY what they do.

Anonymous said...

when rav shach would sign on a letter that he didn't investigate fully he would write that he didn't but he trusts the opinion of the steipler or whoever. at least that should be continued if anyone does not have the wherewithal to investigate himself. i once brought a letter around to a number of "gedolim" for signatures and some didn't even care about its contents. they just wanted to know who else signed. disgraceful.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Wolf,

I think that you either do not understand the source of the problem, and/or refuse to believe in how bad things really are...

First of all, most "rabbis" ("gedolim"/"posekim" e.t.c) are NOT Levites. So they have NO RIGHT whatsoever to even speak on most of these issues anyway.

Secondly, "Rabbinic Judaism" has nothing to do with religion of the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Today, Rabbical Law and Mosaic Law are two different things, that have nothing in common. "Rabbinic Judaism" today is pretty much just a form of Christianity. It is essentially a completely separate religion now.

So I do not really understand what you are bragging about?

J. said...

Samuel Roth - read this http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/03/gedolim-and-leadership.html and take back what you said.

Anonymous said...

J, the guy living in Ramat Beit Shemesh who wrote what you link to adds nothing more worthwhile than the rubbish written by the anonymous author of this blog.

J. said...

Anonymous - do you support torturing children, or just rabbis who defend those who do? Do you think the letter R. Slifkin posted was a forgery? I presume you think the court who sentenced Chen were just evil Tziyoinim trying to incarcerate another holy Yid for keeping mitzvos. Idiot. What that post shows is that the current system of rabbinic authority in the Charedi world leads to disastrous results. I'm not quite sure what wasn't clear there. Unless, as I surmise, you are in favour of torturing children.

Anonymous said...

J., Have you stopped beating your wife? There is nothing untoward regarding the authorship of said letter.

Noam said...

Ahhh.. these commants are exactly the reason the talmiday chachamim of the generation have banned the web.
Thank you Volvie for enlightening us yet again.

Zapper said...

First of all, most "rabbis" ("gedolim"/"posekim" e.t.c) are NOT Levites. So they have NO RIGHT whatsoever to even speak on most of these issues anyway.

Secondly, "Rabbinic Judaism" has nothing to do with religion of the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Today, Rabbinical Law and Mosaic Law are two different things, that have nothing in common. "Rabbinic Judaism" today is pretty much just a form of Christianity. It is essentially a completely separate religion now.

Funniest thing I ever read!
Since when do u have to be a Levite? Every Orthodox Rav and Rosh Yeshiva has the status of Toras Moshe. It is not Xtianity it is how God wants it! Heretic!

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

Wolf,

You have outdone yourself. Great! I have had many of the same thoughts and written about them http://wp.me/pFbfD-1n. But you have really put it and much more in and done it well. Yasher Koach.

Meanwhile, Matzav (a competitor of Vosizneias) continues to pour out dribble attacking Rabbi Harry Maryles, Larry Gordon and Zev Brenner for daring to say half of what you said. I have been collecting comments censored by by Matzav as a way of illustrating the problem at http://wp.me/pFbfD-rH. In spite of the posturing about loshon horah and motzi shem rah, Matzav allows all sorts of vile comments.

Anonymous said...

If you're enough of a sheep to follow the rulings of a gadol, you might as well convert to Catholicism and follow the infallible rulings of a pope.

david a. said...

Wolf,

An excellent post, but IMHO not strong enough.

I contend that among the many things wrong with “charedi” Judaism today is that they have abrogated “piskei halakha” to roshei Yeshivot. In previous generations, leaders and poskim often were communal leaders and were appointed to head communities, not Yeshivot.

Aside from being a great Talmud khochim, a true leader (and godol hador) must be knowledgeable of how the world functions, sociologically and scientifically and most of all must understand and feel the needs of the overall jewish communities, not just his own daled amot. And i doubt that many of these so called gedolim fall into this category. Some have shown appalling ignorance in these matters.
By and large RY today are people who likely live in ivory towers and do not really appreciate what goes on. The result is these embarrassing incidents time and time again.

Dude said...

"the more things change, the more they remain the same" you are dead right on this one.

I recently came across a "Get dispute" in middle-age Germany: things have not changed since then.

A common point: Rabbis are not worried by the negative consequences their judgements might have...

Kahane Chai said...

"If you're enough of a sheep to follow the rulings of a gadol, you might as well convert to Catholicism and follow the infallible rulings of a pope."

Then whose rulings do you rely on? Your own? That's not only assur, it's chutzpah and pretentious. And if you rely on your shul rabbi, whom do you think he relies on? The Gedolim, that's who.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

In case you did not know, spiritual (religious) matters is sole responsibility of the Levites, and the Levites only.

When it comes to civil matters, most Jews today have to rely upon secular courts, and thus - secular Judges.

This is all according to the Law of Moses (Chumash).

You do remember who originally appointed all of the shoftim?!

Besides, Levites (even Kohens) are still alive and well today. So I do not understand on what basis "gedolims" are allowed to make halachic rullings?!?

BrooklynWolf said...

Aleksander,

While you raise some interesting points, it must be noted that your position is not held by the vast majority of Judaism (of all branches).

My post is clearly dealing with Orthodox Judaism as it exists today, where rabbis (and yes, non-Levite rabbis) have been entrusted to make communal decisions for close to two millenia now.

Whether or not that power should revert back to Levi'im and Kohanim is a much more fundamental discussion on a radical reordering of Jewish society and is well beyond the scope of this post.

The Wolf

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Wolf,

With all due respect, it has been known for a long time that you cannot fix the system within the system.

Besides, if you are trying to look at what is going on from the perspective of Orthodox Judaism, you indeed have no right question the rullings of the rabbis.

So, if you really hope to do something about what is going on, I think you should seriously consider what I'm saying.

Also, there is nothing "fundamental" about reverting back to Levites. This is how it was intended to be in the first place. And your argument that rabbis had been entrusted with all matters of the Law for the last 2000 years speaks only in favor of such "reversion".

With all due respect...

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

P.S. Just found this article http://www.jewpi.com/rabbi-chaim-amsalem-all-the-people-can-not-consist-of-the-levites/

Anonymous said...

Who cares for Amsalem? No one heard of him before Shas made him an MK, and he will soon be forgotten.

Zapper said...

Alexander, get with the program. Moshe appointed the shoftim because he was Moshe, not because he was a Levite.
Might as well deal with what is and not with what you want it to be. If you want to know who the Gedolim are, just go to Wikipedia and look up Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. If your rabbi isn't sitting on the dais, he's not a Gadol. It's clear as glass. And those on it speak for ALL of klal Yisrael, not just Ashkenazim or Haredim.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Moshe appointed the shoftim because he was Moshe, not because he was a Levite.
No. He has appointed shoftim precisely because he was a Levite.
He, as a Levite, had the authority to do so. If you recall, it was not God who had commanded him to appoint the shoftim.

You are clearly not familiar with the text of Chumash, so I do not see the point continuing arguing with you.

And those on it speak for ALL of klal Yisrael, not just Ashkenazim or Haredim.


And no. They do not speak for all "klal Yisrael". Maybe they speak for you, but I refuse to sit silently and hear them say all kinds of ungodly and heretical things.

Thanks, but no thanks !!!

Zapper said...

There is not a single shred of evidence to support any of your statements. God said "Shoftim v'shotrim teheyu" to Moshe. Nothing there at all about Levites. In fact, nothing is mentioned about Moshe being a Levite in the entire Torah. We only know it because his father was "ish mebeis Levi". Dont even try to argue with me on Chumash text my friend, you will lose every time. I was a baal korei for 30 years, I know the entire text by heart.
And there is also not a single shred of evidence that any Gadol EVER said anything heretical or "ungodly". Even intimating that they did is pure apikorsis and kefira.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

God said "Shoftim v'shotrim teheyu" to Moshe.
Not God. Moses! Please do not take verses out of context. This verse (Deut 16:18) is a part of a long speach of Moses that begins @ Deut 11:32-12:1.

Was Moses's decision to appoint shoftim approved by God? Yes, sure! But the decision to do so was Moses's on the advice of his father in law. So please check your facts.

Nothing there at all about Levites.
Deut 21:5 would be a good place to start.

In fact, nothing is mentioned about Moshe being a Levite in the entire Torah.
This is a joke? Right?

We only know it because his father was "ish mebeis Levi".
And so was his mother, as well as his brother (Aaron) and sister(Miriam).
Its all in Numb 26:58-59 and some other verses.

I was a baal korei for 30 years, I know the entire text by heart.
Yes, I can see that very well ;) lol

Yiddle said...

Moshe made no decisions independent of God, except when he hit the rock. His speech was only repeating what God had already told him.

I double checked, just to satisfy you, and 21:5 talks about KOHANIM, and the laws of if you find a dead body, not Levites (no they are not the same) or anything regarding them or about anything regarding appointing judges or making psak din.

I didn't mention about Miriam or Aaron because that was obvious. Again, nowhere does it say Moshe was a Levite in text.

Now just follow what the Gedolim say to the letter, because their words are as holy as the Torah itself, to ALL Jews, even reform. I have spoken, now run along.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

I double checked, just to satisfy you, and 21:5 talks about KOHANIM, and the laws of if you find a dead body, not Levites (no they are not the same)
Kohanim (descendants of Aaron) are Levites. It is the Levites who may not be necessarily Kohanim.

Besides, it seems that you are missing my point.

Judges judge! They do not interpret the Law!

Levites, on the other hand, are allowed to interpret and judge. This is their inheritance. Instead of land they've got power.

Again, nowhere does it say Moshe was a Levite in text.
Yes he was, and I gave you the verses that clearly state his ancestry.

He was not Kohen, but he was most definitely the Levite.

I have spoken, now run along.
Aye Aye, Captain! ;)

Zapper said...

Levites sing in the Bais HaMikdash and wash the Kohain's hands and feet. That's it.

Judges decide AND interpret law. Same as American judges do. Their Torah is the US Constitution, and they decide how to apply the laws on the books. Jewish judges do the same.

ItcheSrulik said...

Shoftim v'shotrim titen is in Devarim which everyone agrees was written by Moshe m'pi atzmo. Everyone, that is, except the borderline heretical daas torah brigade.

Let the flamewar continue.

Zapper said...

Written by Moshe? Are you insane? NOBODY in the yeshiva world, haredi or otherwise, says such a thing. The entire Torah, from B to D, AND the Mishna/Talmud was given to Moshe, on Sinai. Any other version is kefira.
And it all shtims perfectly, NOT like the other kofrim who say that Devarim is contradictory to the rest of the Torah. There are not 2 versions of events and there are NO contradictions in Torah. They may APPEAR that way to us puny humans, thats all.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Judges decide AND interpret law. Same as American judges do. Their Torah is the US Constitution, and they decide how to apply the laws on the books. Jewish judges do the same.

And the sooner Jewish judges will stop doing it, the better it is going to be for all the Jews.

I liked your analogy, but it is not correct in this case. US system of government is different from the one described in the Chumash.

But if you want to draw more or less accurate analogy, then you can say that US Constitution+all laws is Torah, Supreme Court Justices - Levites, and Judges - Judges.

Zapper said...

Wrong again.

The original judges were the zkenim, chosen from EACH tribe. Not just Levites. The future judges were modeled directly after those judges, again from each tribe. The Sanhedrin was NOT all Levites, and the Sanhedrin were the judges.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

The original judges were the zkenim, chosen from EACH tribe. Not just Levites. The future judges were modeled directly after those judges, again from each tribe. The Sanhedrin was NOT all Levites, and the Sanhedrin were the judges.

I agree with that. Perhaps you have misunderstood me.

I said that Judges did not have the power to interpret the Law - it was a job of a Levites.

Judges only interpreted the law within the specific case boundaries, but they could not make any general interpretation of the Law.

In US the only court that can interpret the constitution is, generaly speaking, the Supreme Court.

And Supreme Court Justices have different powers than that of any other judges in the system.

Your local small claims court judge does not have the power to interpret the US contitution, you know.

Zapper said...

I dont know what u mean by general interpretations. All the Amoraim and Tanaim interpreted the laws, not on a specific case basis, and they were not Levites.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

I dont know what u mean by general interpretations.

As example from Deut 21:1-9 (dead body case)...

Elders would measure the distance from the corpse to the city.

Judges would assure that all measuring (halachic) procedures are followed correctly.

But an ultimate judgement of which city is closer to the corpse would be made by the Levites. In this case, as you have noticed, it would be Priestly Levites (Kohanim).

All the Amoraim and Tanaim interpreted the laws, not on a specific case basis, and they were not Levites.
Yes, I know. And this is basically the problem. The fact that it was so for a long time does not mean that The Law of Moses had changed (or should be changed).

Zapper said...

So you're saying that it was wrong for the Tanaim and Amoraim to do what they did? The very people who were just a couple of generations away from Moshe himself got it wrong? Please tell me you're not saying that.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Well, considering that they were completely exiled from the Land of Israel, I'd say that they were quite wrong in their doings.

And fyi, even Tanaim were probably at least 20-50 generations from the generation of Exodus - not "couple".

Anonymous said...

Aleksandr -

Start your own little religion. It has nothing to do with Judaism.

Zapper said...

So basically you don't believe in the Oral Torah as we have it written today. Ok, just want to make sure I know where you stand. That ends my part in this. Have a nice day.

Your math is wrong though. A generation is approximately 40 years. We are barely in the 50th generation now. 50 generations is 2000 years.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

So basically you don't believe in the Oral Torah as we have it written today.

I do believe in Oral Torah, but I absoltely reject it being in the written form. Prior to writing of the Mishna in ~200CE, it was in the Oral form (just in case you going to make another smart remark).

Your math is wrong though. A generation is approximately 40 years. We are barely in the 50th generation now. 50 generations is 2000 years.

Exodus would have occured, by very rough approximation, in ~1400BC. Today is 2010CE. This gives us 3410 years.

An average span of a generation is considered 30 years, although today in US it is about 22-23 years.

This places us 113-155 generations from the time of Exodus.

Age of Tanaim, or the time when Oral Torah was started to be written down, was between 70-200CE.

Age of Amoraim, when Oral Torah was completed to be written down, was between 200-500CE.

This means that we are 113-155 generations from Exodus, 47-85 generations from the Tanaim, and 40-75 generations from Amoraim.

So my math is more or less correct.

Zapper said...

You previously said the age of exile, not Exodus. I was referring to the exile from the end of the Temple #2.
So you reject what R'Yehuda HaNasi wrote down?You must think pretty highly of yourself to reject what the rest of the Jewish world has accepted. Tell me, you got your smicha where?

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

So you reject what R'Yehuda HaNasi wrote down?
I can only tell you that I reject his opinion about the boards (kerashim) of the framework of the Tabernacle.

You must think pretty highly of yourself to reject what the rest of the Jewish world has accepted.
I highly doubt that 10-15% of the world Jewry, Orthodox Jews, can be considered "the rest of the Jewish world".

Tell me, you got your smicha where?
Unless there exists an official Sanhedrin I do not know about, I do not think that your question is appropriate.

Zapper said...

The Mishna is not opinion, sir. It is law, directly from God. It is undebateable.
It is not 10-15%. Nearly the entire Jewish world accepts it, frum or not. They may not observe it, but they don't say it's not from God. And if they do, then they don't count among Jewry.
The Sanhedrin has nothing to do with it. The only difference between the smicha of a Rav Shteinman and that of what Moshe gave to Joshua is the laying of the hands part. Other than that, its the same and carries the same weight in our eyes. It's makes no difference if you buy it or not, cuz its not for sale.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

The Mishna is not opinion, sir. It is law, directly from God. It is undebateable.

Then why don't you tell me what was the thickness of the kerashim and how it was calculated.

The only difference between the smicha of a Rav Shteinman and that of what Moshe gave to Joshua is the laying of the hands part.

As far as I know, there is no universal agreement on what it should be, who may perform it, and how it should be performed. Each denomination has its rules and regulations at the moment.

Zapper said...

I have no idea, I'm not into learning those things. When Mashiach comes he'll give us the blueprints. I'm satisfied with that.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Ok.

But unless you can answer this, an many other questions like that, please save your preposterous claims about divine nature of the "Written Oral Torah".

If you choose to belive that it is divine - it is your business, of'course.

But it does not mean it is so by any account.

david a. said...

Zapper….what does Ex. 6:17-20 say about Moses’ genealogy

>>>> Written by Moshe? Are you insane? NOBODY in the yeshiva world, haredi or otherwise, says such a thing. The entire Torah, from B to D, AND the Mishna/Talmud was given to Moshe, on Sinai. Any other version is kefira.

Well then I guess Abaye in Megilla 31b was a kofer. He believed that the “tokheche” in Deut. was written by Moishe. Also, the Maharal in his Tifferet Yisroel wrote that the 2nd “asseret hadibrot” were written by Moishe. He says this to explain why the text differs from the first dibrot. And there are many other such opinions about Moishe authoring parts of Devariam (with Hashem’s approval, of course).

Zapper said...

Alexsandr, I assume you do not consider yourself to be a frum Jew then, because there are zero Orthodox opinions to back up your disbelief.

You know very well that I don't mean who held the pen & wrote. You're being argumentative. God dictated it, Moshe wrote, but it's all God's words, not His "approval" of Moshe's own thoughts. God looked into the Torah and created the world. That means all 5 books, not just the first 4.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Alexsandr, I assume you do not consider yourself to be a frum Jew then, because there are zero Orthodox opinions to back up your disbelief.

And I told you that this is not a question of faith, it is a question of reason.

I do believe that Chumash is divine. I absolutely believe in the necessity and importance of Oral Tradition.

The only thing I'm against is writing down the Oral Tradition and making it into continuation of the Written Law (Chumash).

There is a very very good reason why Oral Tradition was intended to be ORAL. It is extremely important to have it tranmitted VERBALY and NOT in writing.

If you do not understand this subtle but very critical nuance, then there is nothing more I can tell you....

Zapper said...

If you understood WHY it was written down you wouldn't be so adamant about it. Is it better that people should have C"V forgotten it altogether. Thank God R"Y had the foresight to write it down. Do you think you would be qualified to not only learn it all by heart, but to then give it over to your children as was done prior to it being written down? We don't even come close to the toenails of those Sages, so if they deemed it necessary, it was necessary. One of the biggest problems with rationalists and reasonists is that they think they have as much brain power and are on an even keel with even the Rabbanim of 20 years ago, to say nothing about those of 2,000 years ago. They mastered the entire Torah by the age of what, 5? 10? A 10 year old today can't even pee straight.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Like I said, if you can tell me why it was SO important to write down and perpetuate for 2000 years several INCORRECT opinions about the dimensions of the kerashim of the framework of the Tabernacle, I would be very grateful to you... ;)

Zapper said...

What on earth is so important about the thickness of some boards for crying out loud? Are you going to extrapolate from errors in measurement to the validity of Torah? What are you, a building contractor or something? Perhaps you found some mistakes in the construction of Noah's ark too, so therefore it couldnt have happened. Or maybe carbon dating doesnt match up to the years that Torah says, or maybe it's not possible that the entire nation of Israel stood like sardines in the Temple courtyard, yet had plenty of room to prostrate themselves. This is pointless.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Please answer my question.

zapper said...

I dont believe whatever you are referring to is incorrect. If it's in the Mishna or Gemara, it is inherently truth. There are no errors in Torah, and the written version is exactly the same as the Oral version, bank on it. Your Stanley measuring tape is mistaken appraently.

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

I dont believe whatever you are referring to is incorrect.
Then I'm sure it will be very easy for you to explain what were the correct dimensions of the kerashim and how these dimensions were calculated.

Zapper said...

Im not interested in measurements of anything, especially not if you have them already. I wouldnt even know where to find them, nor do i care.emanglub

Aleksandr Sigalov said...

Alrighty then.