Sunday, 5 August 2007

Kol Gedolei Yisrael

Originally posted 8/5/07, 12:13 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
Someone just sent me the latest edict that has emerged from the Charedi Gedolim banning concerts. Again, I saw those words "kol Gedolei Yisrael." Kol - all. Is this true? Is this a ban from every Gadol? The real challenge of all these edicts is not the essence, its these words.

I would not say that I was not surprised by this latest edict but the essence of the edict should not be shocking. Whether we agree with this view of Torah or not, this edict does reflect a certain view that lives within the spectrum of Torah.

While I may personally disagree with this view, Eilu v'eilu demands of me to give it the respect that it is due even as proponents of this view would not respect my view. Eilu v'eilu does not mean that we have to agree; it even demands that I argue, within the beis medrash, for my view against this other Torah view with which I may disagree. I am called upon to respect the view as a position within Torah and to treat it as such even as I leave the beis medrash and find people practicing this view. But, while I am called upon to respect this other view, I do not have to respect the lack of respect for my view. Albeit that Eilu v'eilu is a most complicated subject (further on this subject, please see my articles on the Slifkin Affair, accessible through the Nishma Website's Index to Commentaries).

There is a tremendous loss on many accounts when divergence in Torah opinions are not recognized. One such loss occurred in this instance, for this edict could have initiated much Torah discussion and debate. One of the great losses in edicts of kol Gedolei Yisrael is that the reasons behind the pronouncements do not come forth. Everything becomes an issue of Daas Torah and authority. Ideas -- Torah ideas -- are lost. There is a concept of Torah authority. Certainly, there is a concept of kavod haTorah, respecting Torah scholars -- yet such edicts create havoc in that for, without the ability to argue within the world of Torah ideas, the entire issue becomes the respect of the Gedolim thus initiating disrespect especially in that the voice of other Gedolim are discounted. It is Talmud Torah that is keneged kulam, Torah study that is equal to all else. Teaching Torah should always be at the root of any message.

My sadness and, yes, anger boils, often, not over the actual edict -- for often I can see the argument, even as I may disagree, within Torah. It is its effect on Torah study, Torah thought, that truly saddens me. We are losing our wisdom. In stating "all" we limit Torah's breadth and depth. Yes I understand why people may fear breadth and depth but the cost of losing this is too great. The Sridei Eish wrote that it is true that with depth and breadth there is the danger that one may turn away from a Torah true path and embrace heretical ideas. That is the challenge as we leave simplicity. This, though, is the challenge of thought -- yet with the command of limud haTorah, we are called upon to think (see Derech Hashem). To enter the world of depth and breadth is a cost that we must undertake -- for the sake of Torah. The only path is the path of emet haTorah. the truth of Torah.

I am tired of seeing edicts expressed in simplistic terms to, thereby, ensure their unmitigated observance by a section of the masses who will follow such edicts. I am also, though, tired of hearing simplistic attacks on these edicts which do not get to the meat of the issue and, in many ways, further a destruction in kavod haTorah. The call must be l'hagdil Torah u'lhadira, to express the greatness and glory of Torah. When a Torah scholar speaks, we must give it its due -- which may call for our Torah arguments in disagreement, even powerful disagreement. For the sake of Torah, though, we cannot tolerate statements that all Gedolim said something unless they actually all did. That should be our point of battle -- for the sake of Torah.


JAdler said...

"Great post!

However, it is one thing to respect the view as a position within Torah, yet another to say that one must respect this view as one that should be promoted and not criticized.

Can you not say that this is a legitimate yet unwise position to adopt? And if you can take such a position, are we not simply talking semantics in respect of our view of Eilu v'eilu?

At the end of the day, these gedolim are not, even if they express legitimate views within the ambit of Torah."

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

Eilu v'Eilu does not mean the absencee of argument, even forceful argument. There are numerous sources that point to the forcefullness of many Torah arguments -- and argument of whether a view should be promoted or that it is unwise is clearly within the parameters of the ring. The very point is that we should be hearing the arguments and having forceful debate over issues rather than constantly reverting back to the issue of Torah authority and the personality status of a Gadol. If the issue is Torah, let's study Torah.

DrMike said...

Daas Torah means never having to say you're sorry.

What I've seen on some blogs is that chareidim embarassed by this latest "announcement" are explaining that these kinds of things happen all the time, that the signatures of the Gedolim are actually just stamps that they apply automatically to these posters and if anyone thinks Shweky is going to give up his concert revenue they're crazy.

The inmates are running the asylum. Call it what is it.

Anonymous said...

We hear the arguments, all the time. Does that mean we need to respect them once we have dissected them? I think not.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

That is the challenge of Eilu v'Eilu. Of course, at some point, an argument is outside the pale and thus the tolerance demanded by this principle is not invoked. But to declare any position that you find difficult to be outside the pale ignores the very principle. Many charedim when they hear a position they don't like simply dismiss it arguing that it doesn't deserve the application of Eilu v'Eilu because it is outside the pale. Those who challenge the Charedim must be careful not to do the same thing

Anonymous said...

You misunderstood my point dear Rabbi. I suggested that we need not respect their opinion notwithstanding the fact that their opinion may be inside the pale.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I would venture to say that we would have to have two different meanings for the word "respect". Eilu v'eilu does demand a certain type of respect for any opinion within the pale even those we find difficult. But still there is room for strong disagreement and even a certain level of disrespect (in a certain way) that is also even demanded. Eilu v'Eilu does not mean that there are on strong negative emotions towards the opposing position. There may be and there even should be. It though still demands a certain level of respect as it is still within the pale. You may wonder, though, why God would allow such a thing.

Let's take the example of families having separate seating -- even men and women in different rooms -- at their Friday night meals. I find this practice most problematic and will challenge it in the strongest language if I were debating this within the beis medrash. I really have problems with it and look very negative upon it. But there is also the cognitive dissonance of Eilu v'eilu that demands of me to have some level of acceptance -- and I find myself torn. I don't respect the opinion, find it really problematic yet I also take the call to respect it, on some level, seriously. For more on this you may want to look at my Slifkin Revisited articles which are accessible through, especially part 1.

I know what you are feeling and as one part of the dialectic that we are suppose to feel it is important. Eilu v'Eilu does not wipe it out but it demands of us another emotion at the same time. That is difficult but if Eilu v'eilu is applied in a simplistic way as a broad statement of tolerance and acceptance we lose the fact that we are also to take stands and respond in certain ways negatively to positions, which may be within the pale, with which we strongly disagree.

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

Stay tuned for some upcoming posts on Rabbi Slifkin's speech in TEaneck. While I cauhgt only about 15 minutes of his talk I was able to question him - with several follow ups - on elu v'elu.

With Rabbi Slifkin elu v'elu can be transmuted into "lo zoo af zoo" but if you cannot fathom triple or quadruple entendres than just leave that one alone!