Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Orthodoxy Test #1: Daas Torah

Daas Torah is

a) an essential component of Orthodox Judaism
b) important, but not necessarily binding
c) based on a real concept of listening to rabbinc leadership but extended too far
d) something rabbis made up to maintain communal control
e) What's Daas Torah?
f) Leave this question out of my results

I answered (b). I'm all for (e), because I don't know how "daas torah" ought to be defined (or if it even can be), but I don't think that's what he intended (e) to mean. I suspect (a) is also true, but I choose (b) over (a) because after comparing (a) and (b), I conclude that (a) advocates the unconditional acceptance, all the time, of whatever "daas torah" is, any other attitude being illegitimate and very possibly heretical; a view I'm not willing to commit to.

All of this is very vague, though, because the test doesn't define "daas torah," and there's no accepted definition. This is the test question I struggled most with (aside from the couple I didn't answer). I remember that during my KBY years I discussed certain orthodox fringe viewpoints with friends, and came to the happy (and naïvely simple) conclusion that they were illegitimate, assur or heresy because they didn't coincide with "daas torah," a concept that had just been introduced to me. As I thought about more and more issues, I began to discover that I badly needed a more precise definition of just what "daas torah" is, and gradually I came to the messy realization that such a definition is quite elusive, and may furthermore vary from era to era, from place to place and from person to person. So I'm afraid that I really don't feel up to the task of even trying to write anything coherent in response to this question, although I'd certainly appreciate any help any of you can offer in clarifying the issue for me.

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