DarkBlueHat

My thoughts on the Slifkin ban.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Rav Chaim Brisk and the Rambam

There is a marvelous story told about Rav Chaim Brisk and the Rambam in Olam Habah. Like all such stories it almost certainly fictional - and 100% true.

There are different versions of it, but this is how I heard it.

180 days after entering Olam Habah, Rav Chaim gave a shiur to all the Rabbonim in Olam Habah. Marai Mekomos were handed out in advance so everyone could prepare and get their questions ready for the new Chiddushim the were bound to hear. As expected, Rav Chaim Brisk focused his shiur on solving a difficult problem in the Rambam. His answer though was so sublime, so penetrating yet simple, so revolutionary, elegant, and far-reaching that all the Gedolim in Olam Habah were speechless. Even those who knew Rav Chaim well were shocked and awed beyond belief. There was nothing to ask, no comments to add, nothing to say in response to such a brilliant solution. So the Rabbonim did the only thing they could do, which was to burst out clapping and to wait on line to congratulate Rav Chaim.

When everyone else had left, a Sephardic Rav went over to Rav Chaim and introduced himself as the Rambam. Before Rav Chaim could reply, the Rambam went on to praise the brilliance of the solution. He then added with a touch of sadness, “I wish I had thought of it. Actually though, I had a more pragmatic – almost baal habatish reason for paskening that way” which he proceeded to tell Rav Chaim. As he was speaking, Rav Chaim's face went from awe to disbelief to shock to anger. When the Rambam was done, Rav Chaim waved the back of his hand at him and said in disgust,“What does a Sephardi know from a Rambam!”

Now the person who made up this story clearly meant to criticize Rav Chaim, which is why he had him say something racist. In point of fact though, Rav Chaim in the story is 100% right. Why the Rambam said what he did is irrelevant. Rav Chaim's goal is to explain the internal logic of his position. He is coming up with the severa the Rambam would have come up with - if he were a great Lamdam. The fact remains that Gedolei Yisroel have accepted the Rambam and so their must be a valid reason for what he said.

The reason why I bring up this story is that it has great relevance to the Slifkin Ban. Even if you believe the ridiculous hearsay of how and why various Rabbonim came to sign the ban, they fact remains they stand by it. Even if they didn't know what they were signing at the time (again, I find that too absurd to believe), by now they certainly know what it was they signed, and they clearly agree with it and expect people to follow it. If they thought it was a mistake, they would publicly say so and remove their names from the list. To say otherwise is to accuse them of Rishus! Now there are some Rabbonim who allow social goals and public policy to color their psak a bit. However, for a Rav to allow his signature to stand on a declaration he considers to be false and not in conformity with Halachah is the most serious Aveirah. It would quite literally be megaleh panim baTorah shelo ke-halacha , about which the third perek in Pirkei Avos says “even if you have Torah and Maasim Tovim, you have no chelek in Olam Habah”. To say the Gedolim are afraid to publicly change their minds because of politics and “the kanoaim” is to further accuse them of cowardice. The contention is far too absurd to be taken seriously. In fact, it would be an issur Motzei Shem Rah to accept such a story.

KeBolo Kach Polto – If they disagreed with the statement bearing their signatures, they would take a public action of the same caliber as the original declaration. They wouldn't privately tell a single unknown Talmid of theirs to spread the word onto the Internet, for they wouldn't possible expect anyone to listen to such hearsay.

The fact remains that the Gedolim meant what they said – this is burnable kefirah - or else they would have publicly clarified things. Until you see hard evidence to the contrary, treat the ban as if each and every Gadol meant what he signed. Even if one Gadol clarified or modified his position, it in no way means they all did.

Now some of you may despair, “then how could we possibly fight this thing!”Ironically, treating the ban as legitimate is the best way to counteract it!. When both common sense and your own political self-interest say you should treat something as real, it makes sense to start doing so.

15 Comments:

At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Even if they didn't know what they were signing at the time (again, I find that too absurd to believe), by now they certainly know what it was they signed, and they clearly agree with it and expect people to follow it. If they thought it was a mistake, they would publicly say so and remove their names from the list. To say otherwise is to accuse them of Rishus!"

No, it's too accuse them of having created a situation they don't know how to get out of because disowning the ban means that people will then not take it seriously. They don't want the views popularized, they just don't think it's kefira.

SEcond, they are more cowardly than you think, and third, YOU are not their constitutency. Their constituency is eretz yisroel, and they are not worried about the halachic issues you raise, they are only concerned with how their own community understands the ban and how to deal with the kanoim and the others who correctly understand that the issue is simply to ban the ideas but not lable them kefira.

R Elyashiv has made it quite clear that he doesn't think the work is kefira, he has just said the ideas are ossur.

If you don't want to face facts because that will require you to realize that this is all politics and social policy and weaken your view of gedolim, then you are being an idiot (that is a charitable way to put it)

 
At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It would quite literally be megaleh panim baTorah shelo ke-halacha , about which the third perek in Pirkei Avos says “even if you have Torah and Maasim Tovim, you have no chelek in Olam Habah”."

Not quite literally. *Literally*, megale ponim batorah shelo kehalacha is understood as being over divrei torah b'farhesya like yehoyokim ben yoshiyahu, this is how the gemra understands it and how the rishonim understand the mishne in avos. The expression is extended as you understand it but that's not the literal meaning. Literally megale panim is like azus ponim.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger DarkBlueHat said...

Anonymous2 - By "literally" I meant a simple translation of the words.

Anonymous1 - Rav Dovid Feinstein's constituency is Eretz Yisroel? I really must be out of it. I always thought he was the major Yeshivish Posek in America. I guess I should follow the news of who makes Aliyah.

Anonymous - Why not start your own blog so I can comment on it? It will make things much easier. Each of us knows the other is wrong, and neither of us wants to name the Rabbonim we spoke to who confirmed our points of view. I think dueling blogs would be more effective than battling it out in the comments section. Each of us knows how the other will respond, and so it makes this a bit of a waste of time. A change in battlefields would do us some good.

 
At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

preface: I do believe in halacha tremendously but have been somewhat shaken by this.

on the topic of infering a logic based on what's been accepted, can't one draw an analogy to all the sci-fi geeks that try to reverse engineer a logic in a system where not much thought was given to make it fully consistent?

for example, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stardate#Stardate_systems

yes, I don't believe they are the same, but once you make the argument you make one seems to be able to easily draw a parallel.

 
At 10:11 PM, Blogger DarkBlueHat said...

I realize the comparison, but there are some key differences. I'm working on a post dealing with that very issue, since Emunas Chachomim is one of the reasons people give for accepting the Torah. I hope to explain the strenghts and weaknesses of such an argument. In the meantime though, the link you gave strengthens the case:

In fact, stardates given in the original series are hopelessly inconsistent and no satisfactory theory is possible that is consistent with the series.

And the problem wasn't even attacked by Nobel Prize caliber intellects.

 
At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To say the Gedolim are afraid to publicly change their minds because of politics and “the kanoaim” is to further accuse them of cowardice. The contention is far too absurd to be taken seriously."

Unfortunately the period of Gedolim died along with R' Shach. The people around today may be tremendous talmidei chachamim, but in terms of common sense and a simple mentchlichkite are far, far from being Gedolim.

I think the contentions of politics, an over-zealous R' Moshe Shapiro and peer pressure MUST be taken seriously.

 
At 3:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous2 - By "literally" I meant a simple translation of the words."

Right, it is not the correct translation of the words, *even* though R Feldman translates that way. It's a correct translation of the use of the phrase as a melitza, but the mishne in avos is correctly translated as "brazenly violating torah"

 
At 3:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Each of us knows the other is wrong, and neither of us wants to name the Rabbonim we spoke to who confirmed our points of view. "

It really has nothing to do with the rabbonim either of us spoke to. It has to do with the facts on the ground, and your denial of reality.

 
At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think dueling blogs would be more effective than battling it out in the comments section. Each of us knows how the other will respond, and so it makes this a bit of a waste of time."

You are one of the only people on the planet who doesn't think a heavy dose of politics is involved, and who doesn't think many signed who don't think the work is actually kefira. It's you who needs a blog to disseminate your view. Most people agree with me. Why would I open a blog just to argue with your denial of reality?

 
At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm working on a post dealing with that very issue, since Emunas Chachomim is one of the reasons people give for accepting the Torah."

1) You overcomplicate relatively simple issues.

2) Emunas chachomim should be a *derivative* of accepting torah. It makes no sense to have emunas chachomim and therefore believe torah, and such an outlook is seriously wrongheaded, as it puts chachomim in a higher spot than torah. This view should in no way be reinforced; it borders on the heretical (it's far more damaging than Slifkin's views).
Fortunately, there are very few such people even in the charedi world.

 
At 3:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Even if they didn't know what they were signing at the time (again, I find that too absurd to believe), by now they certainly know what it was they signed, and they clearly agree with it and expect people to follow it. If they thought it was a mistake, they would publicly say so and remove their names from the list. To say otherwise is to accuse them of Rishus!"

The Reinman affair is quite instructive. They made Reinman fall on his sword rather than have the people involved confess error, the theory being that the idea that the gedolim are infallible needs to be preserved at all costs. This leads to the conclusion that even if they thought the ban was worded incorrectly or they shouldnt have signed, or shouldnt have signed as written, or indeed never saw the text of the ban, they would not fess up at this point to preserve the "honor" of the gedolim (in their minds). I am not agreeing with this attitude - I think it's criminal - but anyone who hasn't been sleeping for the last few decades knows that this is the modus operandi, the gedolim can't confess error, only others can.
Unless of course you deny that politics is what determined the Reinman affair.

 
At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY!
»

 
At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been looking for sites like this for a long time. Thank you! »

 
At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing …

 
At 4:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[... ] is other nice source on this topic[...]
http://autoinsurance.cheap-quotes.info/

 

Post a Comment

<< Home