Sometimes a poster or commentator says something in such a clear and succinct manner that at once you know he's managed to capture the very essence of what he's talking about in one sentence.
Lakewood Yid did just that on Friday. His statement:
The backbone of charedism. Believing in the "metzius" defined by the Gedolim.
If that's the backbone of charedism, then I'm want no part of charedism.
Let me make it clear that I respect Gedolim when it comes to their knowledge of Torah and Halacha. I certainly can accept the fact that they know more about such subjects than I do.
But that's not what LY is talking about. It seems to me that he ascribes reality-altering powers to Gedolim - to the extent that if they say it, it's so, regardless of any independent outside validity or verification.
Just to give one example that I've used on this blog before: the validity of the heliocentric model of the solar system. I've had it out with Jewish fundamentalists (not LY) over whether the sun is the center of the solar system and that the earth (and other planets) revolve around it or whether the Earth is the center of the solar system. One of the proofs that they brought was from the Rambam (Hil. Yesodei HaTorah 3), which describes a geocentric model, with the Earth in the middle, being orbited by (in order from closest to furthest) the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the stars.
As proof that this model is incorrect, I showed him the picture at right. This is a picture taken from Mars on Jan 12, 2005, which shows Mercury (that little black dot) passing in front of the sun. Now, in a strict Platonic system (as described above), such a picture should be impossible, as Mars and Mercury are on opposite sides of the sun from each other. There is no way Mercury could ever come between Mars and the Sun. (For a heliocentric example, think of Jupiter coming between the Earth and the Sun.) This is fairly clear proof that the model of the solar system described by the Rambam is flat out wrong.
Nonetheless, my disputant didn't buy it. His basic approach to the matter was that proof doesn't matter - if the Gedolim said it, it must be so.
While I haven't argued with LY about this particular item (I'm curious what he holds as a model for the solar system), he nonetheless seems to take this approach whereby the Gedolim determine reality. This, of course, is simply ludicrous. The Gedolim determine the current state of Judaism (within reason). They determine the current state of halacha. But they do not determine reality.
There are people who will quote to you the famous Midrash on the pasuk of לֹא תָסוּר, מִן-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-יַגִּידוּ לְךָ--יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל (you should not turn from the words they [the Rabbis] tell you right or left - Duet 17:11) that you should listen to the words of the Rabbis even if they tell you that right is left and left is right. However, there is also a Yerushalmi (Horiyos 1:1) that says just the opposite:
יכול אם יאמרו לך על ימין שהיא שמאל ועל שמאל שהיא ימין תשמע להם ת"ל ללכת ימין ושמאל שיאמרו לך על ימין שהוא ימין ועל שמאל שהוא שמאל. (I might think that if they [the Rabbis] tell you that right is left and that left is right that you should listen to them, the verse, "to go right or left) comes to tell you that [you should listen to them only] when they tell you right that is [really] right and left that is [really] left.
The point is that there is a source that advocates listening to the Gedolim only when what they say is grounded in reality. If they were to tell you something that is completely counter-factual, you don't have to believe them. If they tell you that the Mercury and Mars orbit the Earth, you don't have to listen to them. Of course, one must still respect them for their knowledge of Torah and halacha. If they are known to be paragons of middos tovos, that, too, must be glorified and learned from. But blind alliegence on matters that are not Torah-related? No.
The Gedolim do a lot. But they don't define reality.