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Who are the Gedolei Yisroel?


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#21 torah613

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 06:40 PM

Another link from old website regarding parameters of listening to a gadol:

http://classic.frumteens.com/topic.php?topic_id=450&forum_id=38&topic_title=gedolim&forum_title=Notes+from+Moderator!&M=0

#22 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 02:29 PM

Requirements for a Torah Authority:

וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל הָעָם (א) אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל (ב) יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים (ג) אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת (ד) שׂנְאֵי בָצַע

At this point, we've built requirements for a Torah authority based on proper Torah knowledge and free from obstacles to true Torah greatness. The Posuk here is giving us additional requirements, telling us that not only does he have to possess Torah expertise, in order to be qualified as a Torah authority, he also has to have certain personality traits as well as the social freedom necessary to exercise his true opinion.

The Seforno points out that of all the requirements suggested by Yisro, Moshe at the end could not find someone with all the requirements so he had to settle with people who possessed the most important requirement:

(16) ספר שמות פרק יח
(כה) וַיִּבְחַר משֶׁה אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל מִכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם רָאשִׁים עַל הָעָם שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים שָׂרֵי מֵאוֹת שָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים וְשָׂרֵי עֲשָׂרֹ

Rashi says Anshei Chayil are independently wealthy people, who do not need to flatter or satisfy anyone. Meaning, he must be independent. If he can be pressured, or if he needs to tow a party line, or if he cannot speak his mind, then his Torah opinion is tainted. This too is a form of bribery. A Godol must be free and not subject to political correctness nor pressured to favor any particular person or position.

Requirement #1 - He must be independent of pressures and free to exercise his judgement without repercussions.

#23 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 12:49 PM

וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל הָעָם (א) אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל (ב) יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים (ג) אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת (ד) שׂנְאֵי בָצַע

The Netziv writes in the introduction to HaEmek Shailah that the reason the earlier generations are such greater authorities in Torah than we are is because of the SIyata DiShmaya that they received due to their tremendous holiness and piety. To demonstrate this he brings two Chazals, a Yerusalmi Brachos that says the Chasidim haRishonim were able to understand in a very short time what took later generations much more work and time to understand because they received Divine assistance due to their righteousness, and a Gemora in Shabbos (134b) that it was clear to Rava that the reason the earlier generations were more likely to determine the truth is because of their holiness and righteousness.

In other words, Hashem helps Tzadikim find the truth, and that Siyata Dishmaya which is the result their righteousness is what makes their opinion more authoritative.

We want Gedolim whose opinions are authoritative, who are able to discern the truth. A brilliant mind is an advantage, but the thing that separates the masters of the earlier generations in their high level of authority from those of lesser authority is not that they were born with tremendous IQs but rather they merited supernatural Siyata Dishmaya due to their righteousness.

And so we want our Gedolim to have that Siyata Dishmaya to find the truth as well, to the extent possible in our generations. Therefore, exceptional Yiras Shamayim speaks well of the correctness of one's Torah opinion.

Another reason for the requirement of Yiras Shamayim is that in order to be objective, one must free oneself from vested interests, agendas, and biases. The Mesilas Yeshorim writes that the Yetzer Horah is the greatest bribery. Someone who has disabused himself of the pull of the Yetzer - or can ignore it - is free of the Shochad of Taavah. And his opinions are therefore more pure and objective.

Requirement #2 - he must be an exceptional Yirei Shamayim



#24 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:01 PM

וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל הָעָם (א) אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל (ב) יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים (ג) אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת (ד) שׂנְאֵי בָצַע

But it is not enough to be a Yirei Hashem. A person also needs to be a Ish Emes - intellectually honest, and a seeker of the truth. Says the Bechor Shor:


רבי יוסף בכור שור על שמות פרק יח פסוק כא
אנשי אמת - שאינם אוהבים חפאות וחניפות, ואינם סומכים רק על אמיתת הדברים.

This is the similar to Anshei Chayil, but whereas Anshei Chayil refers to people who, due to their financial and political independence, do not need to flatter anyone, Anshei Emes are people who characteristically are not interested in flattering anyone, and do not consider possible social or political repercussions of their actions. Rather, when determining a Torah opinion, they only consider the truth and nothing but the truth.

Requirement #3 - He must be an intellectually honest seeker of truth, who has no interest in changing his opinion due to what others may say or do.

#25 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:11 PM

וְאַתָּה תֶחֱזֶה מִכָּל הָעָם (א) אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל (ב) יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים (ג) אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת (ד) שׂנְאֵי בָצַע

רבי יוסף בכור שור על שמות פרק יח פסוק כא
שונאי בצע - שאינם אוהבים שוחד

This is someone whose personality is such that he finds bribery distasteful. ,Bribery, of course, does not only mean cash. Honor, a position of prominence, or any other "favor for a favor" is bribery, if the favor the other person is asking is for you to have a certain opinion.

Requirement #4 - The person must disdain tailoring his opinion because of politics or favors

#26 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:13 PM

Summary:

In short, what you are looking for in a Godol is someone who:

#1 - Excels in his knowledge of Torah - that means, among other things, Shas and Poskim, and he must be a Gaon in Svara.
#2 - Excels in Yiras Shamayim
#3 - Follows a direct Mesorah.
#4 - Opinions not tainted by outside (secular) influences.
#5 - Opinions not tainted by agendas, pressures, political correctness, or biases
#6 - Intellectually honest, truth-seeker


These criteria are designed to vet a candidate to determine whether he meets the general criteria for being a Torah authority. These criteria should be obvious but unfortunately, they are not. Marketing and confusion about what a Torah authority is often cause people led people to accept as authorities people who are not, and vice-versa. People have told me that based on these criteria, they've sifted out many potential candidates, and they have obtained a great clarity regarding who they should accept as a Torah authority.

#27 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 03:30 PM

"What is Svara? Explains Rashi (Avodah Zorah 19a) : סברא - ללמוד חריפות וחידוד הלב לאחר שלמד ושגורה בפיו גירסת התלמוד
Greatness in Torah requires the ability to be עוקר הרים. If someone does not stand out in his ability to be able to answer contradictions in Tosfosin and to answer the questions of Rabi Akiva Eger, and to explain the seeming unexplainable, then forget him as a Godol. Even if he can repeat Shas and all the Poskim in the world by heart, if he does not stand out in the skill called "Svara," he does not qualify. He may have a lot of information, but he invariably cannot understand it."

I'm having a hard time understanding what objectively good svara is. For example (and I know I may be over generalizing things), wasn't the Satmar Rebbe ztl known to have disliked the litvishe mehalech in learning, and to have referred to their svaras as "boich svaras?" However, there are different [legitimate] mehalchim in learning, right? Also, I know these were just examples, but how is the average person to know whether or not a gadol candidate (for lack of a better term) is giving a good answer to Rebbi Akiva Eiger?

You're talking about Derech Halimud, and yes, there are different ideas of what is a better Svara than the next, and therefore you are also correct that there can and are legitimate disagreements regarding who can learn better than who.

However, none of that relates to what I said, because all the different Darchei Halimud agree that there is a great difference between someone who just knows a text versus someone who is an Oker Harim. Which Derech Halimud you should take on is a different question, but regardless of which one you take, there is a requirement that a Godol be able to be a Lamdan.

So in other words, if someone tells you so-and-so is a Godol, you can ask "OK, tell me a good vort from him." . Regardless of the Derech Halimud, he should be able to answer difficult contradictions in Tosfosin; explain sources for Rambams that are not apparent; be Mechadesh great Chidushim; be Boneh Vesoser. It's just that different Darkei HaLimud will do it differently. But regardless of the style, it is doable.

#28 flybird

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:59 PM

I hope this doesnt sound rude, but why do we need to know who the gedolim are? Why cant everyone just listen to their own rabbi as long as he is trustworthy?

#29 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 03:08 PM

It's not rude at all. In fact, answering that question is the first thing I did in the Shiur and in this post. Below is a copy of that section. But before that:

How would your Rav know who the Gedolim are? This is how.

And how would you know which Rav is trustworthy? if he doesn't follow the right people that would mean you shouldn't follow him.

Here's a copy of the beginning of this thread:

We Need to Know:

As the Gemora (Shabbos 119a) says: אמר רבי יצחק לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שהושוו קטן וגדול שנאמר והיה כעם ככהן וכתיב בתריה הבוק תבוק הארץ. Imagine if you would not know who the real doctors are. Not knowing who the real Gedolim are has caused great destruction throughout our history: Korach / Egel / Meraglim / Yeravam / Naviei Sheker – Neviei Babaal / Avsholom / Shabse Zvi
See also:
רמב"ם יד החזקה - הלכות תלמוד תורה פרק ה
(ד) וכל תלמיד שלא הגיע להוראה ומורה הרי זה רשע שוטה וגס הרוח ועליו נאמר כי רבים חללים הפילה וגו' וכן חכם שהגיע להוראה ואינו מורה הרי זה מונע תורה ונותן מכשולות לפני העורים ועליו נאמר ועצומים כל הרוגיה אלו התלמידים הקטנים שלא הרבו תורה כראוי והם מבקשים להתגדל בפני עמי הארץ ובין אנשי עירם וקופצין ויושבין בראש לדין ולהורות בישראל הם המרבים המחלוקת והם המחריבים את העולם והמכבין נרה של תורה והמחבלים כרם ה' צבאות עליהם אמר שלמה בחכמתו אחזו לנו שועלים שועלים קטנים מחבלים כרמים:
The problem still exists in our times. Our Seforim are full of statement to the effect that people - even good Jews - often do not know who the real gedolim are. See Toldos Yaakov Yosef (Shoftim), Agra D'Kalah (Bo 149b), Yaaros Dvash (vol. 2 Drasha for 7 Av), Michas Elazar (Divrei Torah), Divrei Yoel Bamidbar 69, and more. There is a special darkness destined to afflict the generations before Moshiach comes that they will not recognize their Gedolim. (Of course, this does not mean that every individual must be subject to the curse - like the Rambam says regarding the Egyptians persecuting the Jews).

#30 JewishAttorney

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 10:14 AM

Rabbi Shapiro,

Thank you for the excellent explanation.

You know what would be nice, if you have time of course, is to take an example of a Godol and fit him and some of his on point decisions/background into the 6 categories. For instance, how about analyzing Rav Moshe ZTL within the framework? It'll be an awesome and fun way to practically illustrate the six categories. Thanks!


~JA

#31 taon

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 10:43 PM

These were picked, mostly at random, from the artscroll biography Reb Moshe

Torah- Rav Aharon Kotler said that every meaningful concept and opinion on Bava Kama is in Dibros Moshe on that masechta

Yiras Shamayim- Rav MOshe was once interrogated by the communists in Russia and made to stand at attention. He would carry this feeling of servitude to his davening, and be completely still (except for movements such as bowing) during Shemoneh Esrei

3 Mesora- I'm not sure who his rebbeim were. but he learnt in Rav Isser Zalman's yeshiva and was close to him.

4 No secular influence- He testifies to his Torah being untainted by secular influence is Igros Moshe Even Haezer

5 Uninfluenced by agendas or bias- Famous story (happened more than once) where he gave a letter of recommendation to someone who was opposed to him an insulted him. If that doesnt quite fit, a story where he wouldn't give smicha to someone who wasn't fully qualified, though that boy's father just loaned them a much needed large sum of money and because of this demanded it back

6 Intellectually honest- This may not seem as applicable, but to me it is: Rav Moshe was heading to an Agudas Yisroel convention, but someone was saying shemoneh esrei in his path. He didn't look for heterim but stood there and waited for him to finish instead of walking in front of him.

#32 JewishAttorney

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 04:43 PM

These were picked, mostly at random, from the artscroll biography Reb Moshe

Torah- Rav Aharon Kotler said that every meaningful concept and opinion on Bava Kama is in Dibros Moshe on that masechta

Yiras Shamayim- Rav MOshe was once interrogated by the communists in Russia and made to stand at attention. He would carry this feeling of servitude to his davening, and be completely still (except for movements such as bowing) during Shemoneh Esrei

3 Mesora- I'm not sure who his rebbeim were. but he learnt in Rav Isser Zalman's yeshiva and was close to him.

4 No secular influence- He testifies to his Torah being untainted by secular influence is Igros Moshe Even Haezer

5 Uninfluenced by agendas or bias- Famous story (happened more than once) where he gave a letter of recommendation to someone who was opposed to him an insulted him. If that doesnt quite fit, a story where he wouldn't give smicha to someone who wasn't fully qualified, though that boy's father just loaned them a much needed large sum of money and because of this demanded it back

6 Intellectually honest- This may not seem as applicable, but to me it is: Rav Moshe was heading to an Agudas Yisroel convention, but someone was saying shemoneh esrei in his path. He didn't look for heterim but stood there and waited for him to finish instead of walking in front of him.


Thanks Taon. WOW another case of #6 was something I heard directly from my Rabbi (same concept probably different location and time) where, when he was a Bochur, he got a chance to help him walk (Rav Moshe was holding onto his arm) and they stopped. So when my Rabbi asked why they suddenly stopped, Rav Moshe replied

"Don't you see a wall?"
"Which wall?"
"Look carefully and you'll see it straight ahead"

Lo and behold there was a person davening shemoneh esrei.

#33 Menorah

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 11:29 AM

Do any modern orthodox rabbis fall into the category of gedolim?

#34 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 06:58 AM

"What is Svara? Explains Rashi (Avodah Zorah 19a) : סברא - ללמוד חריפות וחידוד הלב לאחר שלמד ושגורה בפיו גירסת התלמוד
Greatness in Torah requires the ability to be עוקר הרים. If someone does not stand out in his ability to be able to answer contradictions in Tosfosin and to answer the questions of Rabi Akiva Eger, and to explain the seeming unexplainable, then forget him as a Godol. Even if he can repeat Shas and all the Poskim in the world by heart, if he does not stand out in the skill called "Svara," he does not qualify. He may have a lot of information, but he invariably cannot understand it."

I'm having a hard time understanding what objectively good svara is. For example (and I know I may be over generalizing things), wasn't the Satmar Rebbe ztl known to have disliked the litvishe mehalech in learning, and to have referred to their svaras as "boich svaras?" However, there are different [legitimate] mehalchim in learning, right? Also, I know these were just examples, but how is the average person to know whether or not a gadol candidate (for lack of a better term) is giving a good answer to Rebbi Akiva Eiger?

"Svara,"in the context we are using it here, means the ability to answer a difficult contradiction in Tosfos, as opposed to someone who just possesses information. This narrows considerably the scope of people qualified to be Torah authorities.

In Rav Chaim Volozhen's context, which is also true here, he was saying that if a person says a bad Svara, meaning one that is an error in logic, such a person is a much lesser Lamdan than someone else who does not know as many Gemoras, but would never say an illogical Svara. In fact, this quality of "Svara Yeshara," he says, is so important that כל הגדול מחבירו בסברא ישרה גדול ממנו.

Derech HaLimud is a different issue. There could be illogical Svaros in any Derech HaLimud, and vice versa. As far as the Satmar Rebbe ZTL writing about the Litvishe Derech HaLimud being full of סברות כרסיות, yes, he held that this was an inferiority of the Litvishe Derech HaLimud. However, he did not consider it a מעכב regarding a person being a גדול בתורה. He held very much that Rav Moshe Feinstein ZTL, for example was a real גדול בתורה.

The Satmar Rebbe ZTL once asked a Bochur was learned in Litvishe Yeshivos which Derech HaLimud he likes better - the Hungarian Derech HaLimud or the Litvishe one? The Bochur answered, "The Polish Derech HaLimud."

The Satmar Rebbe then told him that the Polish Derech and the Hungarian Derech coincide, and it is the Litvishe Derech that it the outlier. He then told the Bochur that "whichever Derech you like best you should take," because all the Derochim "are Min HaShamayim."

While there may be advantages to one Derech over another, that does not mean there is no room to become a Godol Batorah in any valid Derech.

#35 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 07:38 AM

Do any modern orthodox rabbis fall into the category of gedolim?

Well I gave you the criteria so you can recognize a Godol on your own. Go through the qualifications again (especially #2 and #3) and then tell me what you think.

#36 Menorah

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 10:00 PM

Well I gave you the criteria so you can recognize a Godol on your own. Go through the qualifications again (especially #2 and #3) and then tell me what you think.


I think not. The only reason I even asked, is because often when discussing an issue with some people they will argue against bona fide gedolim by saying another godol says the opposite. And, inevitably, that "godol" is a modern orthodox rabbi. And they claim we must give equal reverence, or "eilu v'eilu", to that MO rabbis opinion. And the MO crowd virtually universally revere these rabbis (I assume you don't want names mentioned), and even some non-MO frum yidden accept the idea they are gedolim. And if I point out that rabbi isn't a godol, I need to brace myself for their upcoming tirade of how I am being mevaze a talmid chochom. They attempt to legitimize so much that seems wrong by kashering it in this manner.

#37 FS613

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:10 AM

L'Chvod Rabbi Shapiro, Shlita:

Would Rav Elyashiv, Shlita,

Rav Kanievsky, Shlita,

Rav Shteinman, Shlita,

Rav Sternbuch, Shlita,

and Rav Yitzchok Tuviah Weiss, Shlita,

all qualify as Gedolim, based on the criteria cited above?

Thank you.

#38 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 07:56 AM

Well, yes, they are, though it does not mean they are all equals. As I explained above, the concept of a "Godol" is not a Boolean threshold, but a relative description.

#39 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:15 AM


I think not. The only reason I even asked, is because often when discussing an issue with some people they will argue against bona fide gedolim by saying another godol says the opposite. And, inevitably, that "godol" is a modern orthodox rabbi. And they claim we must give equal reverence, or "eilu v'eilu", to that MO rabbis opinion. And the MO crowd virtually universally revere these rabbis (I assume you don't want names mentioned), and even some non-MO frum yidden accept the idea they are gedolim. And if I point out that rabbi isn't a godol, I need to brace myself for their upcoming tirade of how I am being mevaze a talmid chochom. They attempt to legitimize so much that seems wrong by kashering it in this manner.

You should not allow others to shove their ideas of what a Godol B'Yisroel is down your throat. And do not be intimidated by what you refer to as their "tirades". If it is not counterproductive to do so, you may explain to them that their candidate does not meet your objective standards of what a Torah authority is, and so intellectual honesty requires you to disagree.

Although both are problematic, It is worse to think someone is a Torah authority if he is not, than to think someone is not a Torah authority if he is. Because in the second case, not only can you be misled,but also making people into Gedolim who are not is a cause of Machlokes and Sinah between Jews and does untlold damage to Klall Yisroel. As the Rambam says:

רמב"ם יד החזקה הלכות תלמוד תורה פרק ה

ד) וכל תלמיד שלא הגיע להוראה ומורה הרי זה רשע שוטה וגס הרוח ועליו נאמר כי רבים חללים הפילה וגו' וכן חכם שהגיע להוראה ואינו מורה הרי זה מונע תורה ונותן מכשולות לפני העורים ועליו נאמר ועצומים כל הרוגיה אלו התלמידים הקטנים שלא הרבו תורה כראוי והם מבקשים להתגדל בפני עמי הארץ ובין אנשי עירם וקופצין ויושבין בראש לדין ולהורות בישראל הם המרבים המחלוקת והם המחריבים את העולם והמכבין נרה של תורה והמחבלים כרם ה' צבאות עליהם אמר שלמה בחכמתו אחזו לנו שועלים שועלים קטנים מחבלים כרמים:




It is of utmost importance. therefore, that we accept as Gedolei Yisroel only those who really are.

#40 FS613

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 06:01 PM

Rabbi: in one of the mp3 Audio files on the Bais Medrash of Bayswater web site,

you mention that Tamidei Chachomim complete their purpose in this world, early in life;

but Hashem keeps them in this world to guide Klal Yisroel.

(Please correct me if I did not quote the above, correctly.)

Even if a Talmid Chochom only learns and does not give guidance to Klal Yisroel,

doesn't his constant learning Torah have a purpose in generating energy to keep the world going?

Thank you.