Monday, June 12, 2006

Daas Torah

There has been quite a discussion on Areivim about a poster’s question with respect to his son’s education. The question involved the issue of asking a Shailas Chacham. I don’t remember the exact details but I will try and reconstruct the scenario. This poster’s son had been learning in a Charedi Yeshiva. But he had expressed strong interest in studies outside of what is traditionally studied in those kinds of Yeshivas. The boy’s parents decided that it would best serve his interests if he were to transfer to Machon Lev, which if I understand correctly is a Frum institution that has a scientific and technical track of study as well as a Beis HaMedrash program. The boy was doing quite well there. But his former Mashgiach has been trying to persuade him to leave Machon Lev and return to full time learning at his former Yeshiva. Unsuccessful… he asked permission from the parents to ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky a Shaila about whether to stay in Machon Lev or leave and go back to his old Yeshiva.

This is one of the major problems I have with the mentality of the right. Everything is a Shaila!

Well guess what? Not everything is a Shaila. You can decide for yourself what is best for your children. You don't need to go to a Gadol for every decision in life. It is high time the Right Wing world realizes that one does not need to seek "Daas Torah" to decide where to educate a child.

It's not that it is Assur to ask a shaila. It is just that the right has abdicated all decision making processes to "the Gadol".

In my day these kinds of Shailas just were not asked except in special circumstances. Asking a Charedi Gadol whether a Ben Torah should forego secular learning and continue learning in the Beis HaMedrash is the same as a Catholic asking his priest if he can divorce his wife.

The real problem is a presumption currently extant on the right that a Mashgiach or simliar authority figure has any right to even suggest asking such a Shaila about a child to someone who has already made a decision about it.

This is the same mentality that accepts the defacto infallibility of Gedolim. The mindset is that even though technically they are fallible, they are treated as though they are infallible. This is commonly referred to as “Daas Torah”. And that is what separates a Centrist from a Charedi. To a Charedi, asking a “Gadol” a question about whether to go to this or that Yeshiva is tantamount to asking for a Psak. Once the answer is given it is followed without question. Daas Torah has spoken.

To a Centrist such questions are asked in the sense that one asks for advice. And you consider the advice and the person who gave it accordingly. But it is treated as advice, not as Psak. When I asked my Rebbe a Shaila in Halacha, I listened to him. But when I asked him for advice I would take is advice... to be considered among my own thoughts, and the thought of others I had consulted.

This does not mean to say that the advice of a Gadol isn’t valuable. Of course it is. You do not become a leader in Israel unless you have displayed some wisdom in your life. Their advice should be given substantial weight. But it should in no way be considered the final word. One should consider all factors and advice including one’s own wisdom.

But should anyone feel the need to consult with a Gadol it would be wise to know their general positions on matters they wish to consult about before seeking advice from.

Here are three cases that I am aware of that show a wide divergence of Charedi opinion:

Based on the anecdotal evidence by a poster on Areivim, I am fairly convinced that Rav Kanievsky is of a mind to advise his students to stay in learning with little regard to other considerations.

On the other hand I know of a case where Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel advised one student to leave his Yeshiva, go back to America to finish college, and come back when he was done. The student did this and is now one of Mir's biggest stars.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach advised a student to leave Eretz Yisreol where he was Shteiging at the time get his masters and come back. This student is a major Talmud Chacham today and has authored many Seforim in both Hebrew and English.

But the bottom line is that it is advice …not Psak.