Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

An Important Message

I'm not in the habit of putting up posts that simply link to other blogs, especially ones that get 100 times the traffic that I do.  However like others, I do think that this post over at Rav Harry Maryles' blog does need to get all the attention it can.
In any well organized group there are leaders and there are followers.  The danger for an esconced leadership in any community is the development of a sense of entitlement - they lead because they are better, smarter, more capable than their followers.  We see this widely throughout the democratic world when a dominant party has won several elections in a row.  The politicians cease to become servants of the people but rather come to see the people as their servants.
For many, this is what "Daas Torah" has become in the Chareidi, and to a lesser extent the rest of the frum, world.  While it is obvious that those rabbonim who lead the Chareidim are highly intelligent and pious, it seems nowadays that Chareidi followers are expected to relate to their leaders much the way small children relate to their parents.  Every move must seek their approval, every initiative must come from them and chas v'shalom you should ever question them or their decisions.  While only God Himself is truly perfect, we are so far below these "gedolim" that relative to us they too are infallible.  Every doubt is met not with reasoned debate but with the shrill "And who are you to question them!?"
As the guest post at Emes Ve-Emunah notes, the emperical evidence for this model has long ago shattered and it is a smaller and smaller group of people who continue to insist it is viable in its current form.  Wisdom and common sense are part of halachic analysis and not limited to a small, cloistered group of men who may or may not believe the rest of their community are too incompetent to participate in decision making.  There is also the matter of the recent track record which has shown, as Rav Ginsburg notes in the post, that Daas Baalei Batim has prover superior to Dass Torah on repeated occasions.
Comments on the post are welcome.

4 comments:

David said...

It was a good article. As I commented there, however, it's rather an indictment of the current state of Orthodoxy that such an article had to be written at all. Do we really want to be a personality cult, or a religion?

For the record, are you still keen on the notion of exalting our rabbis more than we currently do?

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

David, be fair. I have never exalted any rabbonim like that.

Yes, I do believe in the concept of rabbinical authority when it comes to Jewish issues, the same way that I believe in medical authority when it comes to medical issues. Doctors are simply the most educated in the field, hence it makes sense to seek out medical guidance in certain situations. But you can question your doctor, seek out a second opinion, or do your own research and ask him to comment on it. A Rav should occupy a similar role without being deified.

David said...

Well, I'd have to say that that sounds fair. So, to clarify, you would not support the notion of consulting your rabbi before (say) getting surgery or arranging for home repairs? You would also not object to getting a second opinion from another rabbi? Careful there...

Garnel Ironheart said...

To clarify - and I think these are all important points:
1) It depends on the surgery. Basic cosmetic surgery, for example, is forbidden by halacha. Necessary surgery is not. If the doctor says I need a coronary artery bypass (I likes my chips, eh?) then I don't need a Rav to tell me and I think any good Rav would say "Why are you asking me?" Same thing with home repairs. On the other hand, the Rav of my shul might know a good contractor...
2) Second opinions are trickier for two reasons. One is that when one goes to a Rav, one goes for his opinion as to what to do and it is understood that one will do what one is advised, otherwise why go? The second is that each person should have a specific haskafah and maintain consistent practice in their life. This is as opposed to "heter hunting" where I shop around for rabbonim who will always say "yes" to me when I want a leniency. But again, I can relate that back to medicine. A person should have a consistent family doctor, someone who knows him and his circumstances and can give him the best and most relevant medical advice. One shouldn't be in the habit of saying "Well I go here for my BP pills but he doesn't like giving antibiotics for colds so I have this walk-in clinic for that..." It doesn't lead to proper, holostic care. Same thing with a Rav.