Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Different Rabbis for Different Folks

Ponder the following:

Suppose the Skverer Rebbe (whom I know nothing about) rules that X is permitted. Suppose that R. Elyashiv and, for good measure, the entire Agudas Yisrael, believes that X is forbidden. Suppose Mr. A believes that R. Elyashiv is the greatest posek alive today, and that the Skverer Rebbe, though a talmid chacham, just doesn't measure up to him. Would Mr. A think it wrong of Skverer chasidim to engage in X, as per their rebbe's ruling? Generally speaking, I think not.

Now replace Skverer chasidim with disciples of R. Hershel Schachter (of YU), and replace X with the belief that Chazal made mistakes in science, or any number of other issues on which R. Schachter (among others) disagrees with R. Elyashiv. Shouldn't the attitude of Mr. A be the same? Shouldn't Mr. A consider it acceptable for R. Schachter's talmidim to follow his views? -- Unless Mr. A thinks that R. Schachter is not a talmid chacham.


David Berg said...

I think that there is a range of acceptable opinions from R Eliyashiv (rest of charedi gedolim), he views Skever Rebbe as Ok as long as it is with in range. But imagine Skeverer Rebbe said it is ok to believe in Jesus Christ, I think in this point charedi gedolim will say one cannot follow that pask.
If R Schachter actually belives that world is more than 6000 years old and chazal made mistake, then IMHO most charedi gedolim might consider him as apikores.
But he might personally believe that world is 6000 but one is allowed to believe otherwise, than Charedi Leadership will say he is ok.
Remember that R Schachter did not express his personal views.

DES said...

One of my unstated assumptions in writing this post was that I don't expect to hear any Charedi leaders calling R. Schachter an apikores, and I highly doubt that any of them who are at all familiar with him would privately consider him one either.

DES said...

R. Schachter has on many occasions expressed his personal view that Chazal made scientific errors.

DES said...

My point is that as long as a certain rabbi is considered a legitimate talmid chacham, people who do not follow his views should recognize the right of his talmidim to follow them nonetheless. And I think that most people who disagree with R. Schachter but know anything about him consider him to be a legitimate talmid chacham.

Anarchist Chossid said...

I think there is a difference between Halacha and Hashkafa here. I can believe someone to be an accepted posek but disregard his personal views of whatever aspects of metzius, either Torah-related or not. (Including Kabbalah, for instance.)

Everybody can make a mistake in his personal opinion about the state of affairs of the world. But when a rav makes a psak, he is assisted by siyata dishmaya. In fact, someone can make a mistake about metzius and make a halachic rulling — and if he is a proper rav, then his ruling might be binding (or at least considered proper Halacha by those who don't hold by this rav's psak), but we may still consider his view on metzius to be erroneous. Because the bottom line is that Hashem wanted Yidden to do X, but Hashem doesn't necessarily care that the Rav's knowledge of metzius is pristine. (In fact, ANY knowledge of metzius may be considered erroneous to a certain degree or at least not absolutely true.)

We have precedents of this principle in our tradition. Rabbonim relied on certain documents which they believed to be proper records of responsa. It turned out that the documents were faked (or something to that extent). They asked a number of rabbonim what to do, and those answered that if the psak was widely accepted as proper, it stands, even though we now know that the rational basis for it was erroneous.

(Which, btw, might be a good way to handle the whole Chazal-knowing-science controversy. But then someone might say that Chazal had ruach ha'koidesh. Anyway, I personally don't have a strong opinion on Chazal-and-science issue either way.)

So, to answer your point, I may believe that R. Schachter is wrong on the Chazal. (I don't know enough about him to judge whether he is considered a proper posek.) That is not the same as believing that the Skverer Rebbe is wrong in his psak. But I don't see a problem with saying that when Skverer Rebbe said something about science, economics, politics, or psychology, he made a mistake. Plenty of rabbonim in the 20th century made mistakes on science (e.g., regarding electricity), but their Halacha may be binding.