Shulchan Aruch – Three Ring Binder Edition

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by Dovid Landesman

Browsing in one of the larger bookstores in Brooklyn, I overheard the following conversation between a stylishly dressed woman and the proprietor.

“I would like to buy my husband some seforim for his birthday.”“What specifically are you looking for?” the salesman asked.

“Something in brown, to match the others!”

We are at the threshold of hearing a similar dialogue which will take place when people become honest and open about “the kind of seforim that they are looking for.” I conjecture that serious market research into the contemporary Orthodox world – in both its MO and UO components – would uncover the existence of a sizeable potential clientele eagerly awaiting the availability of a Shulchan Aruch published in a three ring binder so that they might easily subtract or add to its contents. This innovative edition would go a long way toward justifying the manner in which our faith is currently observed.
Why do these communities seek to change Shulchan Aruch?

The sociology of the MO world is fairly uncomplex and will therefore not be a part of this discussion. What absorbs me now is the UO world, particularly a subgroup within this world who are truly frightening, for they have infiltrated the ranks of leadership and impose their agendas and hashkafot on the entire community. They seem to control the rabbinic leadership of the community by limiting access to the poskim and authorities, by managing the homes of the rabbis, speaking in the names of gedolim, signing them to public declarations and even forging their signatures. At times, and this is almost impossible to believe, they will go so far as to impose censorship on those whom they purport to follow. Let me offer an example.

The Ponovezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak has sponsored a yarchei kallah during the period between Tishah B’Av and Rosh Chodesh Elul for close to six decades. In the years when Rav Shach zt”l headed the institution, it was considered the flagship of the yeshiva world, especially in terms of setting hashkafah. Rav Shach gave an opening shiur at the beginning of every yarchei kallah during his tenure as rosh yeshiva – a shiur that was often a policy statement as well as a Torah lecture. One year, his opening remarks included a blast against yeshiva students whose level of diligence in their studies left much to be desired. In his criticism, he said that they had no right to take advantage of the agreement to defer army service and should be conscripted immediately into the IDF! Within minutes, word came down to confiscate every recording device in the hall where Rav Shach was speaking, so that his words would not become public knowledge. To the dismay of those who sought to “control the damage,” it was discovered that a correspondent from Israel Army Radio was attending the lecture and had broadcast a live feed. Despite the efforts of the “handlers”, Rav Shach’s words had already been heard throughout the country.

It is far beyond the scope of this article to try to explain why rabbis permit these handlers to assume the authority that they do. Those skeptics who believe that I am exaggerating the powers of the “gatekeepers” are invited to discuss the issue with their local rabbi.
It is, however, not beyond our scope to try to understand the motivations of those who are not satisfied with the acceptance of personal stringencies but who attempt to impose them on the entire community. It goes way beyond a desire for power.

The Netziv, in his commentary to Shir ha-Shirim, offers a fascinating insight which I think will be helpful. He raises an interesting question. In parashas Vaeschanan, the Torah delineates a dual prohibition; bal tosif – adding laws to the Torah – and bal tigra – subtracting laws from the Torah. One can readily understand the natural drive to omit obligations and make life that much easier which is the basis for the Torah’s prohibition of bal tigra. But why would we suspect that man would seek to create more complex obligations – bal tosif? Why would the Torah need to legislate against a psychological phenomenon that would seem to be exceedingly rare; i.e., those who are not content with the Torah’s expectations but add their own in the name of the Torah. Remember, self-imposed stringencies – chumros – are not necessarily considered bal tosif!

Netziv answers that man can become so enamored of engaging in the service of God that he becomes swept away and convinces himself that his God service is so important that it supersedes his obligation to perform other, more mundane mitzvot. In adding to a mitzvah that is theocentric, man stands a good chance of violating laws that are homeocentric. In other words, bal tosif in a bein adam lamakom can easily cause ba’al tigra in a bein adam lechaveiro. Netziv adds that it was for this reason that the tzitzit were not completely fashioned from techeles which served to remind man of the heavens and thereby make him God cognizant. By adding white threads, indeed by making those threads predominant, man is reminded that Judaism is also concerned about man’s relationship to his fellow man and to the world itself. [I’ve always thought that if television ever comes to Bnei Brak, I could make a fortune producing a show called “Extreme Chumrah”]

Perhaps the most obvious of the UO deviates are the famed Burkha ladies of Ramat Beit Shemesh. In the name of tznist, they have adapted a lifestyle that is the embodiment of what the Netziv meant when he said that over obsession with one mitzvah inevitably leads to under performance in other areas. Do we need any further proof than the repeated reports of abuse and neglect emanating from this community?

Or take the stone throwers and garbage burners of Jerusalem. You can dismiss them as a fringe element, but I fear that they are a growing gang of young men who have discovered that force is an effective means of acquiring one’s ends. Can any of us be sure that the violence that they employ against the police will not translate itself into violence within their families and communities? Is it possible that the apparent increase in reports of abuse within the UO community are the result of the increased levels of violence that this community uses to accomplish their goals? Is there not a co-relation between the Va’adei ha-Tznist and the tactics that they use and the ever increasing numbers of kids who are off the derech inside these communities?
The Chazon Ish was once asked to point out the section of Shulchan Aruch that listed forced conscription of girls into the IDF as constituting a yahoreg v’al ya’avor – a mitzvah that one is required to give up one’s life rather than violate. In response, he pointed to his heart. I accept this but would only add that one must be of the status of the Chazon Ish to make this kind of pronouncement. Additionally, it is important to remember that when I am prepared to be moser nefesh myself, I have created a Kiddush Hashem. However, when I demand that someone else be moser nefesh, I am a rotzeach!

Increased radicalization is a dangerous strategy, for it can lead to an equivalent reaction on the side of those who perceive themselves as victims. Of this I am confident that the rabbinical leadership is well aware without my two cents of advice. I am less confident, however, that the internal consequences of radicalization are being considered and therefore raise the flag in the hope that it will be noticed. This should not be construed as an attack on gedolai yisrael – such a categorization is simply an easy means of deflecting criticism from the community. Rather, and especially now in the period of bein hametzorim, it is essential that we be careful to remind everyone involved to be exceedingly careful of our every step.

[Rabbi Landesman is a veteran mechanech and mechaber sefarim in Israel]

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35 Responses

  1. The Contarian says:

    Bob

    My point exactly. For a Brooklyn Bais Yaakov educsted woemn, it is not the most impotant thing to ba able to tell her husband’s seforim apart. I do not know what that initial story had to do with the them of the article.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    The Contarian (a contrarian?) wrote above,

    “I have asked a cross-section of leviim including many who have spent years in yeshivah the following question. How do we read the Torah when there is no Levi in shul? The vast majority haven’t a clue.”

    When they come to Shul, there is always a Levi there. They evidently forgot or didn’t read the rules that apply. Is this the most important thing to know?

  3. The Contarian says:

    As for the opeing story,

    An average Beis Yaakov educated women, well dressed or otherwise, cannot be expeted to tell the difference between an Eimek Halacha and the Shoeil Umeishiv. They are not taught torah shebaal peh. Their post seminary learning is limited to AS and Tanach. Their husbands do not study Tanach. To them the rest of the Torah is a black box – I mean a brown box.

    I have asked a cross-section of leviim including many who have spent years in yeshivah the following question. How do we read the Torah when there is no Levi in shul? The vast majority haven’t a clue,

  4. Michoel says:

    a few thoughts,
    Rabbi Adlerstein mentioned that not every question needs to be asked. this is a critical point. We need to think.

    If one wants to know what gedolim hold and they can’t ask them, the next best thing is to learn their seforim inside and to listen to their shiurim where possible. Not to read newspaper announcements.

    Also, I am wondering if the perceived difficulty in reaching gedolim might not actually be a projected lack of desire to know what they really hold. If it were really important, people would find a way. Sometimes we might be afraid to learn that a particular gadol holds exactly the way he said in a shiur or wrote in a sefer. I once asked Rav Reuvan Feinstein about his father’s famous t’shuvah regarding college, which I wanted to attend. I had heard all sorts of t’rutzim as to why that t’shuvah didn’t represent Reb Moshe’s true opinion. But Reb Reuven told me that his father held exactly what he wrote. So the popular ways of explaining it away where actually a different type of spin.

    Of course, a true gadol will likely give a different answer to each asker. But at least his seforim can give a major starting point for knowing his overall hashkafa on a subject.

  5. Yosef Chaim says:

    As a mareh makom I suggest reading Rav Nebenzahl, shlita’s discussion on chumras in his Sichos L’Yom HaKippurim titled “S’lach Nah al ha Kal V’Chomer” (the entire sefer was translated under the title “Titharu”-Feldheim). He says that when one is machmir so much in one area, he will inevitably lose out in another area.

  6. joel rich says:

    [YA – This may be the point where much of the discussion gets stuck – and I think it is not accurate:
    =================
    Agree with the stuck, but imho the fallacy of composition rules our your response for the masses and the extrapolation issue fior me rules out the local Rabbi as I stated avove.
    Shnireh bnechemat Yerushalayim bmheira byameinu

    [YA – You could be right, but it is also true, I believe, that too many people give up on getting an accurate picture. You are not limited to your own rav. If he doesn’t have the ability, you may be able to find someone who does.]

  7. Menachem Lipkin says:

    And on it goes…

    From Ynet:

    Neturei Karta member apparently suffering from Munchausen syndrome arrested after security cameras catch her disconnecting malnourished son from feeding tube; toddler’s condition improving; Jerusalem welfare office set ablaze in protest of arrest.

  8. shloi says:

    R.Beckerman wrote:
    …. who “added” insane Chumros and were followed by simple folk.

    But how will we know if some of todays chumros,like blotting a womans face in a picture are not “insane chumros followed by simple folk”

    Re. RSZA: He was obviously writing about personal chumros a person takes upon himself to grow in ruchnius, but not about chumros to be enforced as norms on a tzibur who has not expressed his desire to do so.

  9. Aharon Hoffman says:

    Excellent points all! I would add that Orthodox rabbis (and their rebbitzins) I have met from Lakewood, NJ, in the writings of chareidi educators like R. M. Feinstein, and R.Avigdor Miller, zt’l and from just observing Chassidic enclaves in Williamsberg, NY, Muncie, NY and other locales in the USA, that the level of chumrot are moderate and have limits. I won’t even mention other educators like R. Nathan Cardozo, R. Jonathan Sacks and others would abhor the extreme chumrot and poor midos mentioned in the article. Even when Lakewood, NJ banned internet use, they made reasonable exceptions for parnassah provided certain precautions were taken, and then relied on the judgement of ordinary yidden to conduct themselves in a balanced way. I guess this is why we daven for the return our our Judges as in the days of old in the Shemona Esrai.

  10. joel rich says:

    By way of a solution to the issues raised in this piece, I think it is incumbent on every person to find the biggest Talmid Chacham and Bar Daas they know and to turn to him for guidance in one’s personal life. One must lead his life according to the Shulchan Aruch, in all of its sections, which includes when to be Mocheh and how to be Mocheh. Everything else is merely a distraction.

    Comment by Doron Beckerman
    =======================================
    Herein lies the rub, extrapolate your approach and the people who you go to got to someone else who goes to the top, but the top has “the askanim” who filter the message etc.

    [YA – This may be the point where much of the discussion gets stuck – and I think it is not accurate:
    1) It is much easier to get to gedolim regarding matters of personal hadrachah without interference from the gatekeepers than regarding public policy ones. (At least usually. I will never forget the time I presented a personal question to Rav Moshe zt”l – in a slow, deliberate manner – and had two gatekeepers take me aside afterwards to convince me that Rav Moshe meant the polar opposite of what he had said.)
    2) Not every question has to go to the top gedolim. (For that matter, not every question has to be asked, period. HKBH gave us brains and a Torah.) There are fine talmidei chachamim in many communities who can competently answer many thorny questions.
    3) My own experience, over decades of time, is that you can often do an end-run around the gatekeepers. With a bit of prying and investigation, you can often find out whether a signature on a letter was meant as a real expression of principle, or a desire to lend chizuk to a smaller group of people. You need to find chaverim and rabbeim who are clever enough to be able to sort things out – and to be skeptical about what you hear or read in the name of gedolim without getting “inside” confirmation.]

  11. Moishe Potemkin says:

    I do not think there is a correlation between Vaad Hatznius and going off the Derech. To dismiss it as such, as if this phenomenon is limited to those where the head of household is violent in enforcing Tznius, which includes a relatively very small number families in Israel, is a great understatement of the issue, and can lead to a שלום עליך נפשי attitude among those who do not act in this way.

    There could be such a correlation without the phenomenon being limited to such cases. There are probably many causes, this could be one of them.

    I would strongly recommend the newly published Sefer about R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, with all stories sourced, called Chiko Mamtakim. RSZA was no zealot, and yet he said, when asked by a group of Avrechim who asked what to start with in terms of their strong desire to grow close to Hashem:

    I’m not sure I understood this point – did Rav Shlomo Zalman mean that Avreichim looking to grow in Ruchniyus should first focus on their wives rather than themselves?

  12. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The phenomenon of “handlers” is not unique to the hareidi world. The problems of recent US presidents, particularly Reagan (Iran-Contra) and Nixon (Watergate) shows the problems of the “imperial presidency”. The rabbis who are not so old and frail as to be unable to get out and do reality checks are able to function normally without gatekeepers. IMHO certain gedolim have to know when to hand off to a son, son-in-law or talmid muvhak when they reach that stage. They can give a shiur and make certain appearances, but the active leadership roles have to be for more active people. Sometimes they just don’t realize it. My father-in-law thought he could climb up to fix the roof of a carport and had a nasty accident with multiple fractures.

    I beg to differ with Rav Dovid that this problem is not found in the MO or Israeli RZ world. As we know, the destruction of Gush Katif involved the misleading of Rav Avraham Kehana Shapira ZT”L. But RAKS learned in Hevron in Yerushalayim and maybe should be could be considered hareidi. But the people weren’t hareidi and Merkaz HaRav is not a hareidi yeshiva (hardal, yes).

  13. Bob Miller says:

    Step 1 is to ascertain (not just guess at!!) why each of the Gedolim in question depends on intermediaries whom we see as interfering with communications.

    If it’s because the intermediaries provide essential services, including financial support and insulation from unwarranted distractions, better means need to be devised to provide the same services. If there is any intimidation by intermediaries, communities making up a Gadol’s constituency need to offer him (and each other) the necessary moral and physical support, including, if necessary, security details.

    Regarding the author’s reference to MO, he may believe that the broad MO community, at least in Israel, is less factionalized than the broad Chareidi community. This would not be a criticism of MO.

  14. Doron Beckerman says:

    Lest anyone get the wrong impression, in my statement about opposition to Hiddurim of Tznius I do NOT mean Rabbi Landesman, who is one of the finest people I know.

  15. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    R. Jacob J. Schachter addressed this issue in a wonderful article about the closing of the Volozhin Yeshiva in the second edition of the Torah U-Maddah Journal. Applied to R. Landesmann’s article R. Schachter’s point would go as follows: Gedolim are those whom we recognize to be giants in Torah, and as such we seek out their guidance and instruction, as they can percieve and articulate a Torah perspective on issues that arise in our lives. But when the Gedolim do things that seem to run against the grain of the normative communal lifestyle (i.e. R. Hutner listening to opera, or R. Chaim Volozhiner reading a daily newspaper, or R. Dessler reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin), the handlers supress that information. Similarly when Gedolim say unexpected things (i.e. R. Schach’s admonition that those not learning should enlist in the IDF) that information too must be supressed. Mima Nafshech asks R. Schachter. If gedolim did and said those things, then obviously those things are appropriate, else why did they do/say them? If we reject those actions and utterances of the gedolim and even supress them, why do we then venerate these rabbis, or who precisely are we venerating; the actual gedolim, or their public personae which are generated by their handlers? Perhaps we venerate the handlers and could care less about the gedolim?

  16. Doron Beckerman says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Rabbi Landesman in his condemnation of violence and outrageous radicalization. Yet, I do not think there is anything all that new here.

    1) That the burka ladies of Ramat Beit Shemesh have taken things to excess is clear. But they have not all been accused of abuse and neglect, and I am sure that this angle would be one investigated by the police. What happened here, the way I see it, is that one charismatic מרשעת acting in a way of over-פרישות attracted the attention of other women who thought this remarkable and someone to emulate. This is far from the first time something like this has happened. The name Shabbetai Tzvi comes to mind, along with other false Messiahs who “added” insane Chumros and were followed by simple folk (Abu Issi in Persia – the Rambam relates to him in Iggeret Teiman), Yudghan (see Emunos V’deos by Rav Saadya Gaon, Maamar 8), and many, many others.)

    2) Violence by the “before Matan Torah Jews” (I guess that would count as primitive):

    See Pe’er Hador volume 4 page 260 and on. During the time of the Chazon Ish there was a “religious underground” of self-proclaimed “Kanaim” who would follow cars openly driving in Yerushalayim, later identified their license plates and BURNT them. Yes, there were far less public car drivers on Shabbos as a result. At the time the Tzeirei Agudah, guided by the Chazon Ish, put out an announcement titled לא זו הדרך that blasted these people and their methods. It said:

    העושים דין לעצמם לא נטלו עצה מפי חכמי התורה ואין רוח חכמים נוחה מהם. לא במעשי אלימות תושלט התורה הקדושה ומצוותיה, כי דרכיה גרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום. הטירור זמורת זר הוא בכרם היהדות הנאמנה… נתגייס להגנת קדשנו באמצעי שכנוע, חינוך ועמידה גלויה ואמיצה בשער, תעלולי טירור מכתימים את מלחמתנו

    Rav Shach said: האלימות במאבק נגד החילוניות הוא אמצעי טרף.

    The Chazon Ish added on a different occasion:

    כל מי שמאמין שאפשר בכח אלימות לנצח במלחמת הרוח, סימן כי גם הוא נתפס להשקפה של כוחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה. סימן שאין הוא מאמין שבכוחה של האמת לנצח את השקר, או שהוא מסופק אם האמת שלנו היא, והשקר נחלתם של פורקי עול התורה

    The element of youth who do not listen to what their own leaders say is nothing new. Why do you fear that they are a growing gang? Do you hear admiration of them among students in Chevron, Ponevezh, Klausenberg, Belz, Vizhnitz, etc.? It is a fringe that sadly garners alot of attention from the media, and reflects horribly (unfairly) on us, but if the media were truthful about this they would note that the overwhelming, vast majority of Charedim in Yerushalayim are not violent.

    For example, separate buses. The Miriam Shear debacle was bad news. But since then, there have been thousands of separate buses running their routes, official and unofficial, and many “violations” of the seating arrangements. I don’t ride the buses that often, and have seen such “violations” at least fifty percent of the time (maybe this is not representative, I don’t know. But I know what I saw). I have never seen anything close to violence. I have only seen, if anything, a respectful request or notification that there is room in the back. That’s it. You can be sure that had such a thing occurred again it would have hit the news and/or the blogs. But good behavior, which is the norm, doesn’t make the news.

    An increase in reports of abuse in subsets of the UO community are more likely a function of an increase in reports of abuse, as opposed to abuse. There are problems that have festered in some of these cloistered communities which are finally seeing the light of day. Which is a good thing.

    I do not think there is a correlation between Vaad Hatznius and going off the Derech. To dismiss it as such, as if this phenomenon is limited to those where the head of household is violent in enforcing Tznius, which includes a relatively very small number families in Israel, is a great understatement of the issue, and can lead to a שלום עליך נפשי attitude among those who do not act in this way. This phenomenon knows no bounds and is not limited to any particular set or subset within the Orthodox community. I know some very kind people whose children went off the Derech, and I think that casting a shadow of doubt on whether they may belong to a group of hoodlums is unfair.

    In truth, I sometimes get the sense that some of the opposition to Tznius issues is not limited to the despicable manner some zealots try to enforce it, but to the concept of Hiddurim in Tznius at all. I would strongly recommend the newly published Sefer about R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, with all stories sourced, called Chiko Mamtakim. RSZA was no zealot, and yet he said, when asked by a group of Avrechim who asked what to start with in terms of their strong desire to grow close to Hashem:

    כל החומרות וההידורים לא ישוו להידור אחד קטן בצניעות. בעניני קדושה וצניעות, יש לכל הידור קטן משמעות לאין שיעור, והיא מרוממת, מקדשת ומקרבת את האדם לבוראו, כמאמרם ז”ל, כל מקום שאתה מוצא גדר ערוה אתה מוצא קדושה. מי שנפשו צמאה לרוחניות, עיקר ותחילה הן הצניעות והקדושה

    Of course, guidance about the particulars is vital, but the attitude is one worth inculcating into one’s mindset.

    3) “Gatekeepers”, as Rabbi Adlerstein already pointed out in a different post or comment, are nothing new either. Dovid Hamelech (I think he was a Gadol) was faked out by Tziva, (in fact he made the wrong decision based on this fake-out even after receiving all the facts), and it hasn’t stopped since.

    4) I suspect this comment won’t be popular with some who like to paint Charedi society with a broad brush of ineptitude, backwardness and intolerance. But many of those who do so now would do the same at the time of the Chazon Ish as well, so, again, this isn’t new.

    There are VERY big problems in the Orthodox community, in all of its sets and subsets. By way of a solution to the issues raised in this piece, I think it is incumbent on every person to find the biggest Talmid Chacham and Bar Daas they know and to turn to him for guidance in one’s personal life. One must lead his life according to the Shulchan Aruch, in all of its sections, which includes when to be Mocheh and how to be Mocheh. Everything else is merely a distraction.

  17. dr. bill says:

    Is it not true that over the past 100 years, the decisions of the Shulchan Aruch were sometimes reversed by revered poskim whose Torah knowledge Yirat Shamayim were beyond question?

    Comment by Mr. Cohen — July 12, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

    In specific areas (zemanim and shiurim, for example) – certainly, but by and large certainly not. R. Lichtenstein on a number of occasions quoted the Rav in the name of his father ztl that we pasken based on gemara and rishonim however “min controleert mit dem shulchan aruch.”

  18. dr. bill says:

    14.Dr. Bill,

    R. Landesman has an amazing article here. I don’t believe that line was a
    “swipe” at MO. MO has is it’s own, very different, issues. I appreciate that as a Chareidi Rabbi, writing on Chareidi blog, he is trying to focus on Chareidi issues…

    Comment by Menachem Lipkin — July 12, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

    Indeed, but i did not say that line was the swipe. that line is simply naive; the swipe i noted explicitly was refering to the SA as 3 ring binder. That is both irrelevant and incorrect.

  19. ClooJew says:

    In Sefer Shemos, The Daas Zekeinim MiBaalei Tosefos (Ex. 32:2) writes that when Moshe Rabbeinu did not return from the mountain as expected, Aharon considered appointing a new leader (Calev or Nachshon ben Aminadav) to tide them over. But he rejected the idea because he realized that when Moshe did return, they would fight and it “would lead to bloodshed”!

    Now I ask you: Would not Calev or Nachson have gladly handed back over the reigns of leadership to Moshe? Therefore, I believe Tosefos is telling us, that it was the underlings who would have killed each other. The ones who were part of the new administration would be loathe to step down.

    So instead came the sin of the Golden Calf.

    It seems, lulei demistafina, that this issue has plagued our people for quite some time.

  20. L. Oberstein says:

    If there is one word to define the divide between Modern Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox, it would be “passion”. Passion, like fire, like the internet, can have good or bad consequences. Many modern orthodox are concerned that their children are ceasing to be observant, both in the USA and the dati leumi in Israel. It is a major crisis. I am told by a rebbe in one of the “American” post high school “yeshivos” in Israel that very few of his talmidim can actually learn a blatt gemara after 12years of modern orthodox education, that the only hope their teachers have is keeping them involved until they go off to Israel and maybe there they will get some desire to learn. Drugs, alcohol, premarital sex are much more prevelant than I ever realized in the nominally orthodox world. Let’s be honest about it. Our children, mine also, are exposed to tests of the yetzer horah that their older siblings were not exposed to a decade ago. So, without passion, how can anyone remain frum?
    As for the body of this post, I agree with Reb Dovid and praise him for speaking the truth. My experience is that those who occupy positions in the “olam hatorah” may agree with him but keep their mouths shut to protect their postions. It’s a dangerous world out there.

  21. Mr. Cohen says:

    I respect Rabbi Yosef Caro and his Shulchan Aruch greatly.

    However, the Shulchan Aruch was written in 1525 in Eretz Yisrael and first published in 1535 in Venice.

    In a few months, the Shulchan Aruch will be 485 years old.

    Is it not true that over the past 100 years, the decisions of the Shulchan Aruch were sometimes reversed by revered poskim whose Torah knowledge Yirat Shamayim were beyond question?

  22. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Dr. Bill,

    R. Landesman has an amazing article here. I don’t believe that line was a
    “swipe” at MO. MO has is it’s own, very different, issues. I appreciate that as a Chareidi Rabbi, writing on Chareidi blog, he is trying to focus on Chareidi issues.

    A hearty Yasher Koach to R. Landesman

  23. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Dr. Bill, the swipe wasn’t gratuitous. It was a way to tell the Charedi readers: “I’m Charedi like you, I’m not a Modern Orthodox trying to get you to become MO too”. It’s a well known rhetorical technique, used for example by Amos (ch. 1 & 2) – first you get people to pay attention to you by criticizing somebody else, and then you criticize them.

    Bob Miller, do you have an idea for a cure? I suspect Dovid Landesman doesn’t either.

  24. joel rich says:

    “The sociology of the MO world is fairly uncomplex and will therefore not be a part of this discussion.”

    Yilamdeinu rabbeinu what you mean by this statement, or was it just to say this is not the topic you wish to talk abou

    It is far beyond the scope of this article to try to explain why rabbis permit these handlers to assume the authority that they do.

    Yet this is the key issue to a daas torah community. How can a community that pledges allegiance to daas torah function when daas torah is filtered through others so that the community (unless they choose to ignore it) knows that they are not getting daas torah but daas askonim? How can the bearers of daas torah be all knowing but not know this is happening, and if they know it is happening why do they allow it?

    KT

  25. Daniel says:

    I love cross-currents. This is why G-d allowed creation of the internet. Who else would speak of such touchy, yet vital issues?

    tizku l’mitzvos!

  26. dr. bill says:

    1.“The sociology of the MO world is fairly uncomplex and will therefore not be a part of this discussion.”

    Indeed the MO community faces many challenges. However, your perfunctory swipe at the MO community (a three ring SA binder) is not just gratuitous, but undermines attention to the seriousness of the problem you are addressing. In any case, the sociology of any community is neither uniform nor uncomplex.

    The MO community naturally “changes” rulings to apply to changed circumstance. Changing the rulings and changing the law, is not the same thing. The former is traditional; the latter is not. The disagreement is often about the relevance of changed circumstance.

  27. cvmay says:

    Reb Dudi, did you think for a moment that the women was jesting? (when asking for a brown edition to match the others).
    BTW if we could get matching sets of Mikraot Gedolot, Mishnah Brura, Nach and Iggress Moshe – should we specifically not ? (just jesting of course)

  28. Michael says:

    The reason why they ran around trying to prevent Rav Shach’s comments from “getting out” is because they would be used as an excuse to conscript yeshiva students. What Rav Shach meant was that they should stop wasting time and deserve an exemption!

    I once heard a Gadol say in a lecture that Torah Judaism has more in common with Islam than with Reform Judaism. Really, it’s obvious, but you can imagine the amount of “damage control” the people who organized the lecture had to do, because of people happy to say that he said the Orthodox don’t feel anything in common with Reform *Jews*. Of course that’s not what he meant at all.

  29. Harry Maryles says:

    Great post! I could not agree more!

  30. Shira Halperin says:

    Thank you for writing this.
    But please do address the issue of the “handlers” and do explain why someone like you doesn’t go to the gedolim and tell them what is being done in their names?

  31. Bob Miller says:

    This is one of several pieces I’ve seen on this topic. It’s dismal enough if the situation is as described, but to have no direction to correct it is intolerable. I invite the author to propose a practical cure.

  32. JR says:

    Rabbi Landesman,
    The answer to your question lie in basic human psychology. By ALLOWING and indeed ENCOURAGING people to accept PERSONAL chumrot, one opens the path for extremism, intolerance and the kind of behavior you are describing. To someone who is only taught that his derech is the proper one and that HASHEM really desires this particular behavior, it becomes impossible to prevent these people from trying to impose this behavior on others. Think about it, if this is what G-D wants from me, how can he not want it from someone else?
    Think about it. The Burka sect simply took the Tznius chumrot to their logical conclusion. WHy do you find their behavior obsessive, but not that of people wearing black coats, felt/fur hats in Jerusalem in 105 F weather? Because you’ve come to accept one chumra as normative but not the other.
    In truth, so much of what we do and obsess about are chumrot ADDED on over the centuries that can never be legitimately removed, and are the reason for our hopeless fragmentation. I often think it sad that Bal Tosif is not interpreted as literaly as Bal Tigra.

  33. lacosta says:

    1. when the rabbi says MO is not complex, i hope he did not mean to say that MO= ish hayashar be’einav yaaseh, everyone does what he wants
    with no regard to authority

    2. though the haredi community doesnt like comparisons to Taliban , can one see a tendency to unbridled violence, a great desire to blow up the secular Buddhas, a fear that their hegemony could lead to the Halachic equivalent of a Sharia-stan with all the negatives that implies? or , maybe, al pi din, like it-or-not , that’s what a halachic state was meant to look like anyway……

  34. Ezzie says:

    Excellent piece. Yiasher Kochacha.

  35. Chardal says:

    If a gadol can not communicate with his community without being manipulated, censored, and bypassed by ketanei-ketanim, is he still worthy of being called a gadol?

    Also, how do we know that the gedolim in question do not agree with what is said in their name. Perhaps they sincerely believe these things. I know that it is a frightening thought for those chareidim with American sensibilities that the Israeli gedolim that everyone now looks to in Eretz Yisrael do actually agree with the statements that are publicized in their name – but outside of them denying the statements attributed to them publicly, their silence constitutes a “shtika keHod’a”. And if you say that they are not aware of what is said in their names – can someone really be considered a leader when they are that disconnected from those the supposedly lead?