Saturday, January 21, 2006

Are There Really Any Gedolim Today?

I find myself once again writing about the issue of Gedolei Yisroel. Last week I asked a question about whether they inspire us. My answer was that in my view, in this generation, they do not. I was a bit surprised that there were few who disagreed with that proposition.

I had an opportunity to read a posting from Rav Aaron Berger that originated on Rabbi Bechhofer’s blog with respect to another issue wherein he has basically assessed the situation exactly as I do. He has some very good insights as to what it is, what it was, and what it should be. The people who are considered Gedolim today are simply not Gedolim. Perhaps, sadly, they are the best we have but they certainly do not measure up to the last generation who truly were Gedolim. To use his example, an act of simple Mentchlichkeit is often recorded as an act of Tzidkis. I beleive that in the main, today’s Gedolim are highly politicized and are primarily the product of organizational selection, at least in America.

In America, Agudah has made themselves the self appointed anointers of who is a Gadol and who is not. It is therefore no longer the case that Gedolim arise due to the consensus of other Gedolei Yisroel who evaluate Gadlus irrespective of ones Hashkafos. Today all that is necessary is to become a member of the Agudah Moetzes. Many Roshei Yeshiva aspire to be on the Moetzes so they will follow that party line in the hopes that they will someday be chosen to sit on the Moetzes. Once there, they have made it. They are now an official Gadol. Others with more Torah knowledge or greater leadership abilities but who may have a different political view such as being Religious Zionist or Centrist are not only not considered Gedolim but are often sneered at.

In Israel the situation seems to be even worse. There, if one dares to disagree with the opinion of a Gadol they can be seriously ostracized. That can ruin a career. So many Roshei Yeshiva and potential candidates for Gadlus will automatically side with the reining Gadol just to make sure they are on the right side of the issue. That Gadlus depends on rubber stamping another Gadol’s view is a really strange way of looking at Gadlus. To me that is Katnus.

So I applaud Rabbi Aaron Berger’s thoughtful post. He truly does see the Emes. The problem is that the vast majority of Charedim don’t. They will probably look at what Aaron says and at best think he is off his rocker. How dare he say this about the Gedolei HaDor. Isn’t he worried about his Olam HaBah?

Personally, I think we need a lot more people like Aaron who understand that indeed the emperor is not wearing any clothes. How long are we going to cater to this mentality of fear? When are we going to wake up and see that this mentality is taking us down the road to disaster? The leadership now in place is teaching its flock to live in caves... to not do anything but learn, learn, learn... to avoid any contact with the outside world. They ignore Mitzvos Bein Adam L’Chavero (at best paying only lip service to it). They harshly criticize all other Hashkafos that are not in lockstep with theirs and if anyone dare criticize theirs, even constructively, they are called enemies of God!

Why do I care what “They” think? Because I believe that Charedim are the real future of Klal Yisroel. It is their students who will faithfully carry on the Mesorah. They are the ones who are in the main teaching our children. It is their version of Judaism that will define our future observance. I shudder to think what this world will be like a hundred years from now if this trend continues.

It is imperative in my view for the HaMon Am to wake up and smell the coffee. It is time to stop being afraid of our own shadows. It is time for every Yeshiva student and Avreich to look objectively at his situation and think through his own future as well as the future if Klal Yisroel. We need some true leadership and we aren’t going to get any if the current trend continues. We have no true Gedolim. We do not have a generation of leaders. We have a generation of followers

It is more than time for Klal Yisroel, particularly the Bnei Torah whose hold the future of Torah Judaism in their hands to start thinking outside the box.