Monday, August 20, 2007

Defining Gedolei HaDor

I had an interesting conversation with a Charedi friend of mine recently. He told me that after having experienced the actions of the rabbinic leaders in our generation in recent years, he has concluded that we do not have any real Gedolim today. What we have is somethong quite different.

Yes… we have great Tzadikim: those whose lives are wholly Torah and Mitzvos… those who are the living embodiment of the Torah they learn.

And, yes… we have great Talmidei Chachamim: those who are extremely knowledgeable in Torah and who by far possess Torah knowledge that surpasses the vast majority of Klal Yisroel.

And, yes… we have great Poskim: those who are qualified to Paskin the most difficult of Shailos because of their superior knowledge of Torah and Halacha.

And they all have the matching Yiras Shamyim to go along with it.

But are any of them really Gedolim? A Gadol is one can lead Klal Yisorel. And advise wisely. Are our current Tzadidkim, Poskim and Talmidei Chachamim true leaders?

I have said in the past that today’s Gedolim are on a different stratosphere than those of yesteryear... that the cut-off was the holocaust. Those who were trained in Europe are light years ahead of those who were trained post holocaust.There are no Rav Moshes anymore. Or Rav Yaakovs, Rav Yoshe Bers or Rav Ahrons (Kotler and Soloveichik). Just to name a few who were truly Gedolei HaDor. There were of course many more.

Today there are a few Zekainim alive of whom I have said are still in a category of the Gedolim of yesteryear. The most prominent of them are Rav Elyashiv and Rav Steinman. But in light of my friend’s observations and my own... I wonder if they can be truly called Gedolim in the sense of real leadership?

Poskim? Yes. Tzadikim? Yes. Talmidei Chachim Par Excelence? Yes. Gedolim? I’m not so sure anymore. I just don’t see the wisdom of all those bans. And to say that I’m just too ignorant to see it makes a mockery of the previous generations of Gedloim where it could clearly be seen.

I think there is a great deal of wisdom in my friend’s words.