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Da···a .. ···s:, '··a' .. ~h· .. ·'· A·····.· .. M.,·I:O.· .. d e,·.r·.'n:,·.

., ..J. j. . . _. ,_ '. _ _. _. . '_".

C" ..... ' . .: ..... , ··t·_···· . ·f;·· 'R:~' ':: .~ bb .•..... • .: .

... ,oncep,. on o·a.,._lnlC

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The concept of Daas TOrah [5" at one and the same nme, both precise and delimited, and. broad and elusive. It is precise and

deli .. dC' hi' ,. h dO' '7" h b'

e ,tmite, ro 1 as ustonans , ave arguec, ... 'aa5 J ora '. appears to oea

specific modern concept of lab binic authorhv that has arisen and deve loped in a clear and defln lte historical eonrext. It is broad and e lusive, first of all, 'because of' the wide range of varying mean ings that - incorrect] y" I believe...-. have been attribu ted to I t ~ but :0[:;0 because of certain inherent ambiguities i:o the concept. Most im .. pol[tant, ,the proponents of.D'atU Tora.h have argued that in fact it is

I henented greatly hom the comments and criticisms of aU the parncipants in the Orthodox FO'ru.m~ In particular, I would like to thank rhe (oUawing (01[' caUing my. am'noon ro important SOU'Ke matedals,; Rabbis Yosef Blsu." Norman Lamm, Yonasan Saks~ and ]. J,~ Sc ,8 .. eter, and ,Profe5Sors David Ber'ger and Moshe Sokol. I wou]d also like to ,tha:nk Rabbi Joshua, of Congregatwn 'Tifereth Beth David Je'![lUsalem of Manueal for his help, ..


11" b h it is ld ; 1 ,. h h f d

not a new concept at a, ur tnat It 1S tc enticat WLt '.'. t· e , .. un : Dr

rnent al notion of ra bbinic aut horitv as that norian is, to. be found i:n the: classical sources of rabbinic [udaism, One p ropon €'in t has gone 50 far as to argue tha:t if t he concept of D'atU 'ToTah is nor "mentioned

. h T-] d ",. . 'L~ • I h · b · f h

per je In t · e .1 a rnuc, rt 18 oecause ie rorms tt ;e ennre .. a.S15 '0. the

Talmud's authorirv, because it Is "implicit in every hne of every piece of every 'masechta of the Talmud~Ql. One miGht think that this

lSee: ,A vi Shafra n ~ "The Enigma of Moses Meadelssohn, n The J ~fsh ODs.enJu 19: 9 (Decem ber 1986): 17. Ironically, Shafran's own article, despite its valiant ad vocac y of the concept of Daas T arah, was i,tself sharply criticised in the issue i:m,medj,a,tel y following of The } rurilh Ob.JmJer 19: 10 (January 1987): 13, in a, statement by Ra,bbi Yaa.kO'v' Perlow, the Novo .. minsk~1" Rebbe, written "in response (0 an invitadon 'by 'members of the. ,MotRJt-! G',eaol£i ha- Tm-aJl,~~ for I:tcating Mendelssohn "too kindlyrtS and £o.I' not eondemning him from "a perspectl ve that- rests on the truths. of T orah [as] keenly sensed by t he sages [of his f'Mende1ssohn1sJ and later days .. ~' ThU5 Rabbi. Shafran, the advocate of DM.~ TOrah~ is. weigbed. in. the balance and found. wanting by the 'N'ov'o;minsket Rebbe speaking in the name of 'the Moet(.es [Gedo,l€l M·,;Torak, by. I in other words, an, autho{:i,tative expression of Daas Torran iitSelt1: In this eormection, ]'[ might also be wor tb noting e ha,:( Rabbi Per ]ow~s assu'mption the: negarive arti:tude toward 'Mlf:Ddelsr. sohn taken by the: Harem Safer :i.s represencaeive of the general view of Gedo~d YiS-rael: toward Mendelssol; n is, in truth, despite t he air of au"

thotiry with which it is set ( Gomple:tely lacldng, in any foundation 'I

and a distortlon of undeniable hiseorkal fac,t's. See Steven Lowenstein,

U"'T'i.... R d 'Il.. • E'M d 1 h 50 B'L'I- T' l' " H'VJCA ~J" 19' 82)

,01, ne _',ea ersrup Or I ,en..: e ~s.O': In S .;[p'li: irans anon, -:-. ' ", , t- " . :':':

179~ 21 J; M eir Hildeshelmer t "Moses Mendelssohn in Nlneteent'hp I

Century Rabbini,c, Literature," PAAJR 55, (1.988).: 79-133'; and the ap- [I

pendix co the responsum of the Maharam Schick in Likkutri TQlmoot: I

Hatam 5.Jfer. ed. E. Seem (London: G. J. George and Co. Ltd., 1965), no. I'.

8.2175, trans. Shna:yer Z. Leiman in ~R .. Moses Sc.hick.: The. Hatam Sefer's i

Attitude Tow.aid Mendelssohn's. ,Biur;~ T nMLrion 2,4':,3 (SpIi:ng :~,989)~ 83 -86,. 1 should add ehar the-re is a reliable oral tradition to the effect that the "well-known" anon vmous gaon who according to the M,aha,ram Schick studied. the Bi'ur, in particular the Bi'ur to Leviticus, and who was i, ,~t"rongly critIcized by the Hatam Sofer f'Or SO doing,. was Done adler' tnanf


Daas Torah,

'1: .x

l II I :.I

I I'

is a classic example of converting a. weakness into a strength.' but 'it serves, to show the strong nature of the claim 'being made ..

In. this chapter, I have set 'myself three interrelated tasks, FIrst, I 'will seek. to determine the exact nature of the view of rabbinic authority 'being, propounded in, the concept of Daas Torah and examine the hisrorical context or contexts in 'which this concept developed I as 'wen as the fU,nc.ti.ons it has served in, those contexts .. Second, I will try to locate the roots of this concept in tradlttonal 'notions of rabbinic authority and s:ee to 'what extent the concept of Doas Toran. resembles these traditional notions and to what extent it differs from, them" Finally, I will look at the fortunes of Daas Torah on the contemporary scene and engage in a few, necessarily rentative, speculations as to its prospects for the future, An epilogue

. ," f b 1· . b 1!' '. • h" .' '1 '.

conslstln,g 0'.: a, trou .. · l.'ng · •• ·'ut, 1 trust, mstrucnve mstonca narrative

will se rve as a, conclusion,

THE·:': I;D:E:Q·········L,·,OO······.··· ··Y',····' ·O·:···'F· D.··.·A,··,·A····-S···'·· ·TO········RA···········H,·

.. . . '.' '.' ' ... ",' . .... ',.... ,""_:.. . _' '__:_' "_ . .. . .. I: _ .. _ .• _ .. _ ,_ !II]


Several years ago I 'wrote an article in, which I made a, few' brief

critic ···1 ,' 1_. abo eh =r " ., ' ··f" D·'· .. ''T' 'h 3 A"· . " h h ,.

C nnca remarks about the concept 0 .. >aas t ora-. ;. -,5 rmg t nave

that h ala khic gianc, pillar of 'r abbinic Judaism ~ and the Hat am Sofer's own father-in-law, R .. ,Akiva Egerl (On 'R" Akiva Eger's attitude toward the ,B'l'~UTt see Lowenstein, l88~89;. and Hildesheimer, 9(,,) Or, perhaps Roo ,Akiva, Eger, R" Moses Schick, R" Samson Raphael Hirsch, R~ Azrlel Hildesheimer, R" Mordecai Baneth, R~ Yosef Zecha:riah Stern, and. the rest, all of whom" aldl.oug'h s,t times sharpl Y' critical of Mendelsso'h n l saw some value-indeed, at times, 'much value-dn the person and. his wrkings, also ought to stand condemned by the authoritative pronouncement of Daas Torah for t he "sin ti of tt'eating Mendelssohn "too kindly" ?!'

,2'Certainly the doctrines, of God's existence, the election of Israel and the revelation of the T orah are '"i'mpUcit in everv line of every piece of every fl1a.n?chta ofthe Talmud," and. vet, if: 'memory 'ha,s nor faJ!ced me, r:hey are, every now and then, "mentioned per Sf in the Talmud.'

,3~a,b bi Isaac Hu tner's 'Daa:r Torah 'Perspective' on the Holocau st: A Critical Anal ysl s, ~ Tradition. 18':,3 (Fall 1.980):: 235=48.,

'been expected, a number of people, three to be exact, 'wrote to take .... ith n i'A h· ., ~ nishr r "h ' b _ .... , .. ' .d thes

ISSue 'WIt· me. .' 8" iowever, 'mig, ,t not . .ave . een expectec "I' r aese

three correspondents" interestinglv enough, defined the concept of DCULS Torah in three cliffe'rent wavs, One correspondent identified. Daas Torah with halakhic ,pes ak ", another with the talmi'd~rebbe

1 ~ h·' hil h hi d "'1 h k'"d '.

re atronsrup, wru e u e trur =-ccmmg ctosest to tne 'm;ar-l enn-

fled it with the voluntary acceptance by the heterogeneous traditional community of the consensus of the Moettes G,f'dolei haoO TOTah, the Council of Torah Sages of Agudas Yisra,el" on questions that involve the Jewish community as a whole, S These widely' varying definitions may point to certain ambiguities that are inherent in the concept of Daas Torah. Without denying these ambiguities" I 'would argue that the. concept of Daas Torah, should not be identified with any of the three suggested deflnirions-cespeciallv not with, either of the first two; on the other hand, it does bear certain resemblances to all of them, especially with the third. ~~.

W~hile the term Daas Torah does appear in earlier rabbinic literature '.' it onl y begins to be used as a designation for a, specific

f bb h I

rIl ~ • £fI ill II! Ii

notion 0 rae umc aut ~ orttv somenme m the" late nineteenth or

early twendeth centurv/' Gershon Bacon, who has devoted several

4'5 ·'Le h Ed'" '", T _.I" 2"1 2 (8 19'8'3) 180-8' 7' C

·:ee': ,tt,ers to ,[,': e ,: . ttors, ~ua~tl0n:, : .' ,ummer ,.' .: ' ; .'-: , lor

two critical responses 'to my article by' Rabbi Leonard Ishee (180) and Rabbi Aaron Reichel (181-82) and my 'reply (183-,87). A, third critical response by Rabbi Meir Belsky was sent to TTadit~ion as a private commu .. nication,

sTh,e views of Rabbis Isbee, ,Belsky, and, Reichel, 'respectively.

~See 'my article cited above in n, 3, 248 n, 5,. Rabbi Hillel Goldberg has recently argued that Rav Yisrael Salanrer in a. letter written in l883 (R.., Yisrael Salanter, Iggenn u--Mikhtavim", ed. S. Wilman [Brooklyn, 1. 970J, 70) already used the' term Daas Torah in its modern sense ~ See Hillel Goldberg, "Israel Salanter and Orhat: Zaddikim~ Reseruceuring M:usar Llterature," Tradi,tj'on 23=4, (Summer 1988),: 38 n, 18., However) a careful examination of the relevant passage in the letter referred to by Goldberg indicates that there is much less to the use of the term there than 'meets the eve .. In the

DUI Torah



letter .. , Rav Salanrer.Jn the' course of discussing his position on a particular com m trn al matter. wri res ~

'M' ~ 'l h hi " " '1"" [i dl ~

- 'Y so n-i n ... , a w wrote 'me ", " " 'c': a .. c ,,:, LS VIew '[ nc mes : In a " 1 recno n

di a: f ine] 'L,""'-..... ". f necessi [' .J - - h

merenr trom mmej eecause It IS a, matter 0 necessrry jesaro nO['£l

m.i.pnei fta..he'khr'e~ah], but that: he will nulllfv his view because of my view which is Daas 'Torah,. This [formulaeion o:f his] 5 uggeses that, in truch, he is not n uUifying his view, and he is a. person of judgement, Perhaps, 'chen, his honor will be so kind as to travel to Vilna to meet

· h R" bbi d di h . 'I' l .' h · ~,

witn ,'a'.' .,'1 .' " '. au ,l$CU.SS tn e matter ca. m Y Wit, ." m vson -m-ia w;

and the counsel of 'the Lord will 'be esta blished,

Wh at emerges 'from a close 'reading of 'chis passage' is the' followi ng. (1) It was not Rav Salanter who used. the phrase Daas Torah here, Rav Salanter was just quoti ng his son-i n-la w's formu lation; (2) Rav Sal an ter's son .. i n-la w u sed the phrase' in order to play uponthe talmudic antithesis bee wee'n ,dtrat' notah and daat cma,h (HU-1l.l.fl 9Ob);, (J) in stating that he' was nullffyi'llg his view in favor of his father-in-law's DQ.a5 Torah view j' Rav Salanter's son-in ... law was simply engaging in an act of personal deference to the stature and. authority of his father-in-law and was nat 'really abandoning his own view; (4) Ra V' S alanter was. very well a wa re of the 'fa,cr. that his son-in-law's statement 'was just: an act: of personal deference and that his son-in-law was still maintaining his OW'IU view; (.5) precisely because of the above, Rav Salanter felt that his son-in-law's contrary view should not be sim ply dismissed OT' ignored, and for 'Chl't reaso n he s u ggesced. rha .. e the, matter he discussed furrher with him ..

In light of Our analysis, it is difficult to agree with Goldberg's contention that Daas TOrah in its modern sense is being invoked in this letter ,. The' disciples of Rav S ala nter did. develop a notion of DtltU TMah in its modern sense, 'but that is another' story. See n. 81., below,

Even 'more' recently 'I' Mendel Plekars, in his exception all y import an t and thoro ugh work I' ,Has id ut Polin:. Meg-amoc Raa~)'Oniyoc bein She['ei ha.mMilha,mo[' u~'i .. Gereror 1940-,19'45 Uef'Usale'm: Massad BIalik, 1990)" 81 ~96, h as found extensive evidence, for the use of the 'term Daas TOrah in its modern sense in the' writings of hasidic rebbes beginning in the. late. nineteenth century ~ On the other hand, we cannot agree with Piek.a'fzJ's


studies to this subj,ect,l 'has argued that we must view the emergence and formation of t'he concept of Datu Torah within the context of the rise of Agudas Y israel as a political parry devoted to defending and espousing the interests of Orthodox Jewry in, the challenging and often 'hostile modern environment in which traditional Jewry found itself, 'both -the modern environment in general and 'more specifically, the modern Jewish environmenr.

The process 'whereby the traditional Jewish community, in respouse to the challenges of modernization, became a self .. consciouslv Orthodox comrnunirv has 'been, the subject of much recent study ~s One facet of this process was the Orthodox commun-

itv '. d· u " ~ '. -·f· t '., .... der '" h +.,,-, ... ., ...... ,_ •. - .... d'; .. iod .

1-V5,a option 0 cer ,BIn mooern tecnmques, strategies ana m '. es

of operation and, organizatton, '[he better to combat modernity and, defend traditional judaism. One of these 'modern methods of

· ,. h 1"· 1-

orgamzatton was t. e 'PO mcai party,


The beginning of the twentieth cenrurv saw the rise of a secular

Jewish leadership and secular ideological jewish 'move'me.nts- most '., .' .. ":,- .... " '.' ..... - her 'h-·c. B'" id ""d" Zi .. ,."._ '-h- ", ..... ~- .. ·dprommenr among tern tt e ouno ana , iontsrn-ctnat organize

themselves as political parties and fought for their interests and for positions of communal power under 'party banners, This political challenge posed 'b'y secular Jewry to traditional Jewry gave 'rise to the 'need for traditional Jewry to respond in like fashion .. , It 'was in this


claim (389 rr, 23) that the term in. its, modern sense is already to be found in. [he wri rtngs of the Maharal of Prague. FOt, the significance of Piekarz's work for this discu ssio n, see below, n ~ 84 i

'See Gershon Bacon, Agudath l'srael i'n PoJa'nd1 1916=1939: An Orthodox Jewish Response to' r:he Challenge a/Modem,it) (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia, Unive.rsitYt 1979)m In particular chap. 2 (4,8-76)-; and his essay "Daat Torah ve-Hevlei Mashiah." Tarbiz ,,,~:3 {29'83):: 497'-50Sm A revised version of Bacon 's thesis, Agz«lat Yisrae,l in Poland" 1916-1939: TIu!: Politics 0/ Tradi-., tion, has 'been an nou need for publication.

S See the m,any works of Jacob Karz, Eli Schweld Moshe Samet, Michael Silber, Emmanuel Etkes Robert Liberles, David Ellenson, and. Mordecai Steuer t for more on this subject.

Daas Torah




context that Agudas Yisrael grew and developed and, particularly in Poland during the interwar years" took on. the form of a political party" Yer, this mode of political organization. did not come easily to traditional jewry. Obviously it 'was (and rernainsj] paradoxical and . disturbing for traditional jewry to adopt modern political guises, even if sue h guises are necessary in order to defend traditional interests, And can. traditional Jewry simply see itself as a party like

all- parties 11 It ..... ~ in respons e to th- is po llticizarion of tr .... dl·tl·· nal

. ". . Q ~ t· " W Ctii!" , _ ".' . . s _ ..... . .... ,L' ,. ·.a .', ,. ,a. . 0, a..

J .... , -' .. ··d h d'l . . .. - :'. .. ·d··- '. B" ····1- ., . 9 lu . h .

ewry an. t.·e ··lemm,as it pose .. -so . aeon calms -f.·at t'e

concept of Daas T urah arose.

The Agudah in its own self ... perception, was 'not one party among

,. .. d d.I 1-1 1"" 1 · 'h I

many parties; me ee. '~ It was not rea .. y a po mea party, In t, • e norma

sense, at all ~ :For ,at its head stood the great rabbis of the era" as embodied in 'the institution of M:oet-t€$ GedoLei Jut.. Torah" The COU~~ cil of Torah Sages. The views of these Torah giants on all issues, wh erhe 'e ij a 1 n .. -- - - ~ - d l' z . us and" h al khlc issues

.: ,. [,O'n'mOf' n.-.·rrowy concelve- .. relgto···:::,',· .. ' ··.··a· l·~'·' .....

or on. "broader" communal and political issues, 'were authoritative and binding fo·[ the Agudah and its followere. Their views 'we're

bi d .. I b heseei 1 f h ,. . "

In . mg precrserv , .: eca use r .. ese giants, as a res u t 0:. t. .'. err immers 100n.

.. T 'h ,0 11 h ~ h h + k

In .. orat I were, In au tt ell' pronouncements, t. e aut entre spa. .es ...

men for, the quintessential embodiment of, the jewish tradition .. Their views, in. a word, 'were Daas Torah, the authentic and authoritative Torah viewpoint all the issues in, question. Thus, the Agudah itself, under the leadership of these Gedolim, was not just another political party, but the authoritative spokesman; for and, represen ....

. f- diti 1 ,'. d · d h d ,.. 1] · h ..

tanve 0,. tracnnonar tu atsm an - t e tracmonar tewis community.

Moreover, the Agud,a'b could counterpose its authentic 'rabbinic leadership to what it saw as the inauthentic, indeed subversive, secular leadership of rhe ot herr jewish parties,

Perhaps the clearest and. most forceful presentation of the ide ... ology of Daas Torah is to 'be found in the' following statement, attributed to the Hafetz 'Hayyim ..


.. ~ I,




~ r· I ...


~ E.

, ,.








~ut see below', n, . .s4~

.LaWTence Kaplan

The person whose view' [daato] is the view' of Torah [Dam Torah.) can solve all w'orldly problems, 'both specific and general, However, there is. one ccndition attached. The .Daas

T··: .. '. h '. bem " h ..... ' , ;',.', " . .' " .', "," biai 'H" ',' .. , .... ' "if

ora,c must be pure", wit "out any interest or nas, . owever, l

there is a person. who possesses Daas Torah but, it is interrnin .. ' gled even slightly with other views from the marketplace or from the newspapers." then, this Da4S TOrah is turbid, interrningled with dregs. Such a person cannot penetrate into the 'heart of the matter '. 1.0

Thus" paradoxically, or maybe not so paradoxically, it is t'he rabbis who are completely immersed in, the world of Torah and seenunglv removed from the outside world who, in truth, possess a unique penetrating insight inro the challenges and needs 0'( the situation; and it is onl y they who, consequently" can, draw upon "the spirit of tradition" in, order '[0 formulate the policies needed to meet these challenges and needs,

Another very forceful expression of this ideology" deriving from the interwar period", is to be found in an address=-not cited by Bacon=of Rav Joseph B<I Soloveitchik, in a eulogy delivered in 1940' upon, the passing of Rav H,ayyim, Ozer Grodrinski. 1 [ In 'his eulogy l' Rav Soloveitchik -- although 'he does not use the term Daas Tor,cUtspeaks of the need to unite in one person" as in. the high priest of old, the t.zi'tt" the symbol ofhalakhic scholarship and pejak, and the ho~hen, the svmbol of policy decisions on critical communal issues .. In one striking passage Rav Soloveitchik srares:

The very same'l' whose mind was suffused with the holiness of the Torah of R~ Akiva and R., Eliezer, of Abbaye and

, -

lOHa/t:'t'Z Ha'YYim al fla"Torah" ed. Rabbi S. Greineman (Bnei B'rak." n.d.),


ll"A Eulogy flJ'f R. :Hayyim Ozer Grodainski," Ha .. Pardes l4~7 (Septern ber 1940): 5- 9; reprin ted in Di« F.fei Ha.gut ,V~;o Haarakhah Oerusalem::

World Zionist Orga nization: Dept. ofT orah Educ arion and in the Diaspora, 1981), 187'-94'"

DB 'T b

as .oran


Raba, of the Rambam rand Rabad, of the ,Beth Yosef and the Rema, could also discern 'with the 'holy spirit [roeh be~ruah ,harkodesh] the solution, to all current political. questions, to all worldly matters, to aU ongoing current dem,ands.,12

It is no coinc Idence that this eulogy W'QS delivered at the second annual conference of the Agudas Yisrael of the 'United States, at a time, moreover, when Rav Soloveirchtk was a vice 'president of the Agudah. 'Nor is it a coincidence that in the eulogy, Rav Soloveirchik contrasted this type of all-embracing leadership, as embodied, for example, by Rav Hayyim Ozer, with the secular leadership of nontradlrional rnovements wishing to reserve cornmunal leadership for themselves and reduce the rabbis to religious functionaries who rule onlv on purely ritual or technical, halakhic matters.,13 We 'have here, then, an, elegant expression of the Agudah ideology of Daas Torah.,

Bacon's analysis, which we have largely followed up to 'this. point,14 is correct as far as it goes" but it does not go far' enough. Indeed, Bacon perhaps places too much emphasis on the 'rise of Agudas Y:iS'rael as a political 'party", fin,ding in this the primary context for understanding the development of ,Daas Torah and slighting other factors that nurtured this development.

It needs '['0 'be noted that Daas Torah came into its own,- at least in nonhasidic circles= onlv after the Second World War, and not during the interwar period. As evidence fer this contention, we may cite the following two observations, First, there are 'not really many clearly arriculated and publicly presented expressions of the ideology of Daas Torahl, again in nonhasidic circles, from the


12.D"'! 0 H .. -" H I-L -I.. 19'"2"

r, UITfl ' agut' 4)£ .. , - aan:lK.IUU1'J' ,~

Dlbid" 19') 94 F' , h obi hi ° 1 b 'F_ d to t b~ 1

I - , , '-1" ': ~,. ~ or t, "e :pOSS1~ e , rstoncat ,: ackgrou n': to '[11S ,eu.ogy"

see Aharon RakeffetrRothkatT" ~Hanhagat Arn 'Yisrael be ... Mis.hnato she! ha-Rav Y osef Soloveitchik," in.l,i',tu'ri.m" ed ~ Moshe Is bon (lerusalerm World Zionist Organize'don: 'Dept'. of Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora, 1986)~ 298-313 ..

14'B"u,t" see belo "'W: n ail:

. .~)~ • -,' .r .• 11 . * ~.,


interwar period, The statement of the Hatetz Havyim, cired earlier, which is the clearest and most forceful of all such statements, is not to, be found in any of his published works .. Rat'her, it was an oral comment noted by his disciple Rav Shmuel Greineman {the brotherin-law of the Hasen Ish) and incorporated in rhe l.a[te'es book. The, ,Hajett ,HaY-Jim on the 'Torah, published in 1943, after the Hafetz Havvim's death .. As for the sraremenr of Rav Soloveitchik cited ear lier , it cannot 'be considered a full-blown expression of the ideology of Daas Torah;; For Rav Soloveirchik was referring specifically to the- communal a-u.,thority ,of someone like Rav Ha yyim, Ozer, who derived much of that authority 'from his position as communal Rav of Vilna and not simply from his personal charisma and learning, as great as they might have been. IOr~ '[0, put it another way, it was Rav Ha yyim Ozer's personal. charisma and learning, filtered through, and med'ia[:ed by his posidon.of communal Rav, that was the source of his aurhonrv .. l5- Second, as 'Bacon himself shows,

J 5'A, more muted conception of ,Dans To.rah mav be' found in R,QV Aaron Lewin, Har.,D,erash tJf,~ha-l)j~un, vol.. 2, Pa.rSMt Y irro (BHgor,ay" 1.931), 198, cited in Piekarz, Ha.s:idut. Polin" 80 n. 22., (Piekarz mistakenly refers to Par sAar Bo.) A c lear and succi net expression of the doctri ne, if lacki ng the force of the sratemenr of ehe Hafett Ha)'Y'im" is set forc:h "in. an essay by Alexander Zusva Friedman" perhaps the' leading ideologist of Agudas Ylsrael in Poland, See' i4A,gudat Yisrael," in .Da1kmu, Jubilee Volume (Ti'sh,rei. 1935)~ 57; cited in Piekarr, Hastd'ur Polin, 88 n, 21~ A. particularlv c ri tic al reference to and use of the' no rion of Daos Torah, u naccompan ied ~ however, by a deft ninon or exposition of the concept, can be found in rhe famous letter Rav Havvim OIz:e'I" Grodainski wrote' to R~ Meir Hildesheimer in. 19).4 opposing the la rter's a ttempt to tra ns plan t the 'H ildeshei mer Rabbinical Seminary from Berlin to the land, of Israel, See' A,hiezer:

Collected L etters ~ vol ~ 2 (B nei Br.a k, 1. 9 70),~, 443-,44 { = Kooer~ l"erat. Haton Ish 2: 1.11--73] ~ (For further discu ssion of this letter, see n 3 3, below .) It 'is worth, noting that all the sta temenrs we ha ve cited come' from the 19.J.0s when the' storm clouds were gathering.

One' 6s;ure fr,o'm the interwar period who is often cited in con nection with che concept of ,D,QDj Torah is Ra,v Elhanan Wasserman .. Ie is '[rue that

Dus, Torah


the Mo-e'tze5 Gedolei hacm'Torah.~ the quinressemial embodiment of the ideology of DailS Torah, was never really an active and funcriorung organization during the interwar period" but rather was "a largely

h ~ t,·, . .,. J~ 16 Th' db" b £0' h

rr eorenca rnstitutron. ' . IS secon 0 oservanon may re urtr er

corroborated by the recently published aurobiographv of Dr. Isaac

B D" k" (M' ' . 'W'" ) '. h" h B' d lb h M"

feuer ~ , 'ar,' i ~ "eln .' 'e.g, In w · 'lC ,.' reuer " eSC'll ~ es te': .oetzes


Rav Elhanan, in his more :puhlic:iting and popular writings" was perhaps the' 'most ,3 rticu late spokesma n of the Agudah ideology of that period .. He presents time' and again with force and clarity the basic positions of the Agudahr for example, its cri tiq ue of both secular Jewish naticna lisrn as well as the religious natio nalism o'f Miz:rah.i, and "i ts perception of the manifold defections from, traditional J udaisrn and of the growing persecu dons of the Jewish. people as evidence of the' "birth. pangs of the Messiah. .. " 'It is also true that he refers to these views as being "Daas Torah gathered from So/rim and Sejarim, '" "as ideas . ~ ~ raken from the Torah," (Kooett Maamarim, 153) and uses the term Daa:s Torah rather freely in his essavs (K'ooett ,MMnu:trim" 98, :1 04~ 128, 140" 1 5 5)~ 'It is all the more striking, then, that there is, no ideology 0'£ Dans Torah to be found 'in any of Rav Elhanan's essays . Particularly noteworthy is the absence in. anv of the essays of a role accorded to the &e,doUm in fotmulating Daas ·Tortlh. 'It is also of inreresr chat R.av Elhanan uses the' terms ,Daa5. T OTakI ,~ M-,Torah, Atzas ha .. Torah, and ,Daatah shel ha .. Torah interchangeablv .

The term Dam Torah was also used freely in manv of the placards of the hatedi communi ty of Jerusalem, in the 19 ZOs and 19JOs condetnmng Zionism and all "deviations" from the tradition (e'".g., speaking Hebrew). See Tomr Rebbe A mf'am, , vol. 1 (jeruaalem, 1977)' pr. 2, docs .. 3, 4, 24, 48, and 60 .. 'Note' that in doc. 60, the Agudas Yisrael 'itself is accused of acting in violation. of D.at1S T O1a'h~ C'f.., as well J doc, 52 for the conception of ,D,aa;s TOTah~ though the term itself is not used ..... set forth by Hevrat ha.- HaJ)'im (named att'er Rav Yosef 'H,a'yyim Sonnenfeld), the society which was the forerunner of the' Nerurei KaT,a~ Indeed, even the more "moderate" elements of the Jerusalem Orthodox community would also, at times, brandish the term Daas Torah in their placards. See Menahem Friedman, Hewah iJe""Dar (Jerus.ale'm: Yad Yirzhak Ben-Zvl, 1978), 329~

16 B\acon, Agudath ls,.ael in. Palatuf', 106-15, 462 ~



" .. ..




,. ,"




· .' .. ,







· .


Ged,ol.ei ha .. Torah as a council "which never enjoyed any real exis te nee, n t 7

It was only after the Second W'lorld War that there emerged, even in nonhasidic circles, a much more explicit, developed ~ and. ongoing' presentation of the ideology of Daas Tartth, as set forth in s tatemenrs by Rav Eli yahu Dessler, the Halon Ish and his disciples ~ :Rav Yaakov Kanevskv, and, mav he 'be distinguished for a long life, Rav Eliezer Schach, and many others. 'Moreover, it' was only after the war that the Meetzes Gedole'i ha .. ,Torah became a functioning, active, and influential organization. Finally, and perhaps most trnporranr, :it was only after the war that rabbinic leaders, speaking in the name of and invoking the authority of Dans Torah, took the initiative on such crucial communal issues as s,nerur leum,i, 'member ... ship in "mixed" synagogue otganizations, for example, the Svnagogue Council of America, and, more recenrlv, the return of the shetahfm., T'h:is leads one to bel ieve t hat a 'L,:,ey factor, if 'not the 'key factor, in the rise of the ideology' of DMS Torah was, as Rabbi Shubert Spero' has suggested, 1S the breakdown ofrradltional Jewish communal structures, the concomitant weakening of the power of communal rabbis and lay religious leaders, and the emergence of


:1.7 Isaac Breuer, Darki ~ trans ~ from the German rna n user ipr by "M.

Schwarcs Q'erusalem:. Mossad Yitzhak Br.eue.r~ 1988)~ 170~ The continua." tion of this passage is particularly striking, for tts exceptionally biting tone. It is impossible to imagine any Agud.ah ideologist 'Coday wdtl n:g about the Moerzes Gedolei ha- T Man. in a. manner even remotely approaching the sha rpness of Breuer' s crit lc al remarks,

It is wor th. not i ng t hat the recent Agudah "house'ihlstorv, The Stmggl.e and the Sp,l end or; A P'r,ctorial CNe-rview oj' Ag,udalh lSTael of Am.eri,ca (N'ew Yor't; Agud.ath, Israel of Americat. 19B.2), 2l=2.5t not surprisingly, portrays the Moerl€S iGedolei ha .. Torah, as the vital and active nerve center of the' Agudah from the very beginning of the movement, How wonderful to be able to bask in the' glow' of current pieties, unconstrained by such. a mundane consideration as concern EoI' historical truth]

:18Shubert Spero, "Daas Torah" in Diw'ei Ha~Rav (Cleveland, OH:: 'Young Israel of Cleveland, 1976), 1S--l9.

Daas Torah,


· .

the ras Mi' yeshiooh ~ with their Torah schol arship and, personal charisma, to center stage, This process has, otcourse, been going on since the nineteenth century,]9 but it reached its climax only with the Second, World. War and the destruction of the great traditional Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Thus, the climax of this process, of this change of leadership, coincides wit:h and would seem to be partially, if 'not largely, responsible for the emergence of a full-blown concept of Daas Torah,.,

A striking symbol of this change of leadership, particularly relevant tOI the issue of Daas Torah~ is the passing of the mantle of leadership ofrhe traditional Orthodox Jewish community from Rav Hayyim Oaer before the war to the Hazan l'sh after the war. As we have already 'noted, Rav Hayyim Ozer was, of course; a great' tal ... mudic scholar, but first and, foremost he was the communal rav of the great city of Vilna .. His standing thus reflected the traditional role of communal rav as leader of the Jewish cornmunitv. The Haton l'sh.~ 'who was Rav Havvim Ozer's confidante in Vilna, left Vilna and, by implication, the Jewish world, of Eastern Europe in the mid 19308 for the land of Israel, Upon his arrival there, the Hazan Ish did 'not settle in Jerusalem but in the new community of:Bnei Brak. .. Thus, the Haz&n Ish. functioned as a halakhic authority outside of already es .. tablished traditional. jewish communal structures. Moreover, the Hazan Ish never (with the exception of a very brief stint as a com ... '·· munal rav during the First W;orld 'War necessitated 'by the emergencv situation) held, an, official. position, either as ray or even as rosh yeshi,t)ah. His halakhic authority and his Daas Torah derived purely from his greatness as a Torah scholar and his personal charisma,

. ,


r I

19See, for example, Emmanuel Ed(cs, "Bein Lamdanut le .. Rabbanur be-Yahadut Lita shel ha-Me' ah ha .. 'Y'IOO ... T et," T tiYJ100 53 (1988): 385~403'~ Mordecai. Breuer, "Tradition and Change in European Yesluvot.Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries," paper delivered at .B, conference on "Tradition and Crisis Revisited: Jewish Society and Thought' on the Threshold of Moderni tv," Center for Jewish Studies of Harvard Uni.ver ...

51"'ty Octcber 1988-:.'·' Q' nd Piekars H' ,'A:ifi:..l'ut Do"I'1"n 17'--23'·

, " '_-'Ot: . '. ,. " , . , ,~,,, ~, ~ i>U, &1 LII< " !Ii ._ ,' ..





· "


We are suggesting, then, that rhe ideology of Daas 'Tof.ah, 'in large parr, is intended to provide a basis for a new type of rabbinic authority, a type of authority that can serve as a substitute for the rraditional mechanisms whereby both the lay and rabbinic leadership, of functiorung jewish communities dealt with, new challenges, w hether through rakkannt (be they tak,kanot' ha~kahal or rabbinically instituted rakkano,c), gezerot~ [he ban, and the like ..

I hi i.." - · r h' H " h

n tt ts respect; 1.t rs again mstructtve to lOCUS on t: e : aton ,S :1

hi ," · h" ~ 'h hl d R' H' ..

t ts time eontrastmg t tm not wtrn - IS pre: ecessor ,'.av -C' avvtm

Ozer, but 'with a great luminarv of an earlier generation to 'whom he has often been compared, and with much, justice, the Gaon of Vilna, 'Both the Haton Ish and the Gaon of Vtlna 'were private + divid 1- N' ~ h d 'h hi h E' h' d · d

In - IVl: UQ, s. '_ .elt' er serve" ' as rav or ros, yes"lva .,i , '.ac ','" ," errvec

'his immense authority from 'his unparalleled Torah learning and

har: '8" h' f-' til G f- Vil h

unique cl arisrna. but In t e tune 0' '_.: e "aon o· ',1 ria, the

traditional communal structures 'were still in place. Therefore,

h h t, 11 f- H · d~ 'h G 'k- " .'

wnen t '_e cha enge 0 -iasicnsm arose, t::, e : aon, working in

tandem with the lay leaders, lent his immense prestige to the communal ban issued against the hasi,di'm by those lay leaders represenring [he community of Vtlna, 20 By contrast, when the

H l'h L - h' ~ fhe' "h' . ed hi

u...-::u'n ,S' spoke out on ene Issue 0:' S.:_,'rut Leuml~ re express -''[S

opposition purely on his own authority, presenting his view' as Daas

T h ,2,1. H: was t h itv

ora' ~ ,e' ': ' ""e communI,'".

This eeliance on the' i.deology of Daas Tor.ah as a basis for promulgating an, is.sur, an issur that in previous generations would

1\1See S. Du bnow, ToJdot M- Hasidu.t, (Tel ,Aviv,; Dvir. 1967) I 1.1.4-, 17 ~ One ban was signed by the Gaon himself, by the Rav of Vilna, Rav Samuel, and by the da,:v}.~nimt another ban 'was signed by Rav Samuel, the da),.anim, and the parnas5im. An examination of [he various bans and proclamations against the hasidim win easilv reveal the preeminent role played in. the entire episode by the lay leaders of ' the various comrauniries,

IlHaton lsht K:Otifit Iggero,[, vo]. I, lerters 111-113 (122~26); cf the public announcement of the Daas Torah of the Haron Ish on sheT'ut l,eumi in Shimon :Fin'kelman. The Ch4ton Ish (New Y'ork: Mesorah Pub1t.cadom Ltd., 198,9}, 2'1~

'Daas Torah


'have 'been, set fonh as a communal ban, may 'be seen in, the famous iSSU1 against Orthodox participation [0 [he Synagogue Council of America. Once again it is 'not cotncidenral that the issur was issued

b 1 he. hi ah 1 h "'''j Th

~ . II _ ' ,&_._J, . -~

Y' e .even ra.s,I yes v' ~ nary a communa , rav among t, em. e

't h k d ' he i R'" EI" S-' tl

one communa ray W: 0 'was as, ;.:e:: [0 sign t : e 15sut,', .. ", tezer ,"1 vert

refused. While agreeing ln princlple 'with, the i,SS-UT, he felt that issuing the issur at that time and in that form was partiallv modvated by anti-Yeshiva University considerations and would only

b d"ffi lt si , 23 T"'~h' d!a .' ibili h'

exacer ate a, ,- t mcu t situarton. - re '((:terence In sensi inties nere

'is qui te tellin,g.21

Three statements 'from the postwar era. should give us a, good picture of th,e contemporary ideology of Daas TOrah..

The first staremene comes from the pen of the Hatan 'sh,. In a, famous letter to a leader of Po'alei Aguda,t Yisrael on, the issue of

L,_ l "'h H 1 h ,t h 'h id ~ f D T h .. eu,mI" t :' e ,aton ,j sets torn t ,e t.. eologv 0 .. '_ aas r ora ' In. a

, .. f R'" 8' l~ ~ hik' 1 f" R H ..

passage rerruntscent 0 av oo ovettc ,"'I,~'S eu ogv ror rcav " a.YY'l'm

Ozer, but ph rased in much sharper terms ~ .

The viewpoint (hat divides the Tora,h in two: questions of i'ssur ve-,he[er on the one hand and guidance in everyday life 0[1,

,ZZRav Aharon Kotlie:rt perhaps the major signatory of the i5SUT, referred to ic: in a private fetter as an "issur of the Ramim," See ,Mishnal Rat' Aha.f-on~1 vol. Z (Jerusalem,; 'Makhon Yerushalavlm, 1985), 165~

23See Aha'fon Rakeffet,wRothkoff~ The' Silver Era (New Y ork: Yeshiva University, 1981), 292 .. In a recent interview, Rabbi Emanuel Rackman recalls RaV' Silver te Hi ng h E.'m to pa'Y no atre ndon to the t.uur'i See Jewish ReNiew (Septem,ber ..... October 1990), 12,,,

24[n this connection, a reliable informant related to me that he was present ar a meet i.'ng of the Agudas ha~Rab&anim where Rav Silver publicly rebuked RaV' Aharon Kotler for what 'he considered unwarranted interference in an internal coramun al matter ii It should be mentioned p aren .. , thet~,cally that the change in the char acter of 'the Agudas ha,-"Rabban,im in the 19508 from an. organizatlon dominated by communal rabbis to one dominated by l'tlshei ye.shi,tJah is both a pa-rt and a symbol of the entire story being to td here i,


the other: and that holds that for :issur ,ve .. heter one should subjugate oneself to the sages of one's timet while leaving other 'matters to one's own free choice=this is the viewpoint held by the heretics of old, in Germany who drove' their 'brethren to

. ~l- . h h 'h · 'F' d ~. · h

as~uml.a.te Wit r,e ott er nanons. ;; "' .' '_ or one to .... I,stinguis

beeween instruction regarding issu,r ee-herer and matters of legislation constitutes denigration of tal.mide:i' hakham:im and, places one in the category of those who have no 'portion in the

O ld to come ,l5

'W r . ' ..••... ' ... , .. ,." .".,

The se-c 0 nd statement may 1Je found, in :Ra,v Elivahu Dessler's famou s and oft .. cited response to a. correspo endear who raised the

, ,

argument that 'many jews might have been spared the ravage's of the

Holocaust had the rabbinic authorities in Eastern Europe encouraged, '[he masses of the Jews to emigrate rc the land, of Israel, Rav Dessler wri tes:

'Whoever 'was present at their 'meetings [the Hafetz' Hayyim, Rav Hayvim Brisker, and Rav Havylm Ozer] F ~ ~ could have no doubt that he could see the Shekhi'nah resting on the' work

f rh h d dh he hol h

' 111'· "!I; !!!, !!! ' !

o r err nan s anc t "at tne .O,y spinr 'was present In tr elf

assemblies, ~ .. .. Our rabbis have told us to listen to the words of the Sages, even if they tell us th at right is left. and not to sav, heaven forbid,~ rher they certainly erred, because 'little I can see their error with my own eves, Rather,. my seeing is null and void, compared with the clarity of ineellecr and rhe divine

ld h '. Thl .' h T' h" [D·' T .... 1.']

a.l. • t ey receive., ~ .... . .1 SIS '['e, ora. .t view '_ aas ! MWl

concerning faith in '[he: Sages [Emu.Mt Hakhamim] .. The ab-

- -

i5H I h H" (B '" 5' k 1(\000\ 41- 4'" A E ll h l'

, _ ,azoo, . $ J,,:-:[[(lneru,t I,nei, '. ra,',.7WI, '_: = .~~ " n : ng is _ translation

can be found In Fi,nkelman t Chazon Ish" l4,9~ It is 'worth noting that the' Hazon Ish does not use the phrase Daas 'TOrah in this I,etter .. The only place in his wrl rings, to my knowledge, where he does use the phrase is Kooet, l'ggerat, vol... I t letter 108 {I21)!, ,R.ahhi Sh alorn Carrnv informs 'me that his search for the pbra .. SIe; Daas Torah, in the 'writings of the Haton, Ish has been

" "I ] fu 'l ' L'! ~ "

simi a,r.,y unsuccess _', " seeming to connrm m,y impression.



Daas Torah


sence of self-negation toward. our rabbis is the root of all sin and the 'beginning of all destruction, while all merits are as

h ed ith h f' '11 falrh 'h S 16

naug t comparee wit tne root' 0(1 a. =tait in me oages. .'

The third scaternent=perhaps the clearest exposition of Daas Torah-comes from '[he pen of one of the most articulate spokesmen for traditional Orthodoxy in the United States, Rabbi Bernard Weinberger~ Rabbi W'einberger sets down the premise that





Gedo,lei' Yis rae l possess a, special endowment or capacity to 'penetrate objective reality, recognize the fact'S as t:hey re·ally

- d 1 t, • t hal k hi .. l T'h' d

are ana app V tile perrment a'·a·' me prmcip es. . ms en .. OW~

ment is a form of nulh ha.~ kodesht as it were' ~ bordering, if only remotely I on the periphery of prophecy,

F"rom this premise Rabbi Weinberger draws the following conclusion:

Gedo,lei Yis rae l inherently ought to 'be the final and sole arbiters of all aspects of Jewish communal 'policy and ques .. · tions of hash~fah and ., ~, " even knowledgeable rabbis who may differ with the gedolim on a. particular issue must submit tOI the superior wisdom of the ,g'edol:im and demonstrate E'munat .Hakhamim" l7

These statements appear clear enough 1,2.8 Yer, there is still an ambiguity in 'the concept of Daas Torah; and resolving this ambi ...



z6J!Hvahu Dessler~ Mikh.tsv Me'-E'l:iJahu 1:75-77; cf., as well, his discussion on p, 59"

21Bema.rd Wei.nberger, "The Role of the Gedolim," Jewish Observer 1:2 (October 1963):: l t,

U1M ill D "T' h be found i 'h . .. f

' •. , a.ny otner statements on :cUiS.,I ora ,can' :, [oun. i.n t . e wrmngs o'

Rav Kanevsky" Rav Shach, and the various Englisht Hebrew, and Yiddish journals of A,gu.das Yisraet in 'this connection, see the lucid and thoughtful, if somewhat journalistic, expostrion and defense of Dklru· Torah. by the excepdonallv able and articulate leader of the Agudah, Rabbi Moshe

" , .,




. "", or at least bringing: it to light, 'may help to clarify the notion of Daas 'Tora.h as well as tn suggest other functions it' serves,

One 'may ask to wha'c extent Daas Torah ls analogous to, or. is, a special type of halakhic pesak," Rav Soloveitchik's presentation and that of others suggest that' while Daas Torah is dependent on great halakhic expertise" an actual decision involving Daas Torah on a communal question is 'more of an intuitive matter, nurtured to be sure by the halakh:L1c intellect, but differing fundamentally from halak.hic ,p,csak. This is corroborated by a starement of the Hazen Ish, who, when challenged to cite the paragraph in the Shulhan

A'II"'i" kh that pr 0 h 'I" bi t'\1!" sh" em'" 'le'urn; renli _.J "It" to L - '£ou n d ".... th e I,""'" ." i"",: _ ,I..b I, , ...... ~ ," ',!I;,,":"'~ '.eo: 'l:S"·,,o.e I~', " In,:,

fifth section of the Sh'ulhttn ,Atuk,h~ the one which is not 'written and, is the province of only true la,~m,i,dei h.akham,im,. ,,19

On the other ha nd, the Hazon l.s,hJ on another Dec as lon, in setting, forth how he arrived at a OatiS Torah decision, stated:

"W"hen I. am asked for a decision about such matters I. do not simply shake 'them from, 'my sleeve .. Rather ~ I study all the' 'relevant source'S:

G,ema1a, Rashi, Tosafos, Rishonim and Aharonimt and clarify the rnarter. Only after studying the entire ~ugya, when the matter is

Sherer, uGedolei Yi srael ve-Poli tikah .. " in B i.-Sh,re i ,Eina,im (Brooklyn; Mesorah ~ 1988), 244-49. (This article origlnall V' appeared in 'l iddish in the. Agudah. journal, Dos 'Yiddishe Vorr.) A verv striking collection of statemen ts bv leadi ng A merican rashe'[ ,~shivah espousing the ideology of Does TOf,dt In a rather extreme form rnav be found in the Jewish ,Observer (February 1981), 4-3-4'5," See', in particular, Rabbi Elva Svei's article in that issue "T oralu A Source for Guidance in Eve'f.,- Phase of Jew'ish Activity,' 7-9," It is especially 'worth noting how ma.n~ of these statements blur Dam Torah with ka-vod ha- Torah and keuod. hakhamim," Thus" refusing to accept th.e ,Dam T ora h prcnouncement of e, particular g.~(}l is equated with bttza,yon. ha .. ,Torah, and bizt.I1)'OfI, rolmidei hakha'mi'm! An even more recent collection of essays where' the term ,Daas T arah is used very free I V' 'L S 'Ve"Zarah ha .. She'mesk:. Y'i5~.h ve -M is hnaw.h shel Degel h.a~ Torah, (Bne'i Brak, 1990). Of course, Degel ha ... Torah claims to be' the "true" inheritor of the "0' r"lo;na'lif:!' A' g' udah of the Ag" udah that 15" before '"I'" became- "corrupted !"t-

': 'COl" ' .' " ..' . _ .. '. . , ' , ,.. )", '" ' " '.' """,lL ' ~.., . . ;,' ',: .. '11., , •

29F" '1-1 'T' ·t, - C' ··L -' 1':t 25"

, InK ema,n'l "fi,t:' ... na:ton .~n, - ~.,

:Daas Torah


'. ,

clear, do [ give an answer .. tdO This description. clearly identifies the

d . '" ki .f· • D- . 'T' 'h d ., ~ .. h ecision-m a . lfig process lor' arrrvmg at' a -' aaJ 1 ora " •... ecrsion wit .

rhar of halakhic ,pes'ali>

A similar ambiguity is found in the famous issur forbidding Orthodox participation in the Synagogue Council of A'merjca~ On

h h d ...., h S" C' ll declared

t. e one' . ana, parncipation In t ae :·_,y"nagogue < .ounci was neciareo

to be forbidden according to ,Din T orahl suggesting rhar the issu.r should be viewed as a classic halakhic pesakl based, on halakhic sources. On, the other hand, no formal responsum was ever issued and rhe ['ssur has often been described and defended as an expres-

. fD" T h.31

sion 0 .:. aaJ ora'4 '

1IO'See E4 Shulsinger, Al Mishkenot Ha~Ro'li·m. (Bnei Brak, 1988)., 69~70 .. A somewhat garbled 'Version of this accounr can be found in Finkelman, 'The C'M.tOn Ish, 199-200~

31:Ra.bbi Moshe Tendler, who "is both the son-in-law of Rav Moshe Feinstein and a noted rabbinic scholar in his own right, insists that Rav Moshe alwavs saw the han on Orthodox participation in the Synagogue Council of America as being a matter of strict p€sak haJaJdtah. On the ether hand, as I have argued in this chapter, the 'whole 'way the ban was issued, the fact that no formal responsurn was ever forthcoming, and the manner in which the ban has generally been presented by its defenders all point to a. different conclusion .. In this connection, 1 should also mention that Rabbi Tendler has stated that Rav Moshe in private 'would allow himself to make critlcal remarks about the concept of Daas Torah .. !!tWhy are people' talking about Datu Torah-RI.v Moshe 'was wont to 'when they don't even know a or a T az!" See, however, Rav Moshe's forceful exposition a nd defense of the notion of Daas Torah in "FoUo'wtng the Guidance of the Torah Personality," Jewish ,Observer 12:9 (December 19'(7): 20- 23, a transc rl ption of an or al address of Ra:vMoshe at a. convention of the Agudas Yisrael. Assuming the' transcription of the Jewish Obsereer to be accurate, we are confronted 'with an apparent discrepancy. Perhaps-and I venture this suggestion ·with. great diffide'nce and hesitation-e 'we have here an example of the inconsistencies we sometimes encounter between the public afflrmations of a. public figure and. his more private doubts and reservations,

For Rav Aharon Kotler's view of the issur regarding the Synagogue


In. truth, the issues in connection with which Daas 'Torah has most often been invoked-cparticipation in the Synagogue Council of America; 'relations 'with the non .. Orthodox; shemr leu,mi;' atti .. · tudes to the State of Israel and Zio'nis.m; the s'hetahim and meridah be-u,mott and so on-are all of a mixed nature. T echnical halakhic considerations merge with broad considerations of ,hashkafah and policy analysis, Moreov'e'r'l to ,:3, large' exten t ~ alrhough 'not entirely ~ the considerations of hash.kalak and policy anal V sis determine 'which halakhic considerations are invoked and how they are analvzed and applied, .FinaUYi these queerions of ha.shkafah and 'policy anal vsis are highly charged insofar as they center around the cluster of challenge's. that the modern world has presented to tr aditional Judaism t and particula rl y insofar as the tr aditional world is sharply divided on how besr to meet these challenges and thereby to secure the future of tradirioaal judaism,

The above' leads me to suggest two further fu.nctlons {o'r the

.. d 'l f· D T h I' - - ich d - - ~ '[ -s 3,2,

l __ "eo,ogy 0' _'_aas J ora __ .' m a very ricn anc snrmnatmg paper,

Rabbi jonathan Sacks writes:

The transformations of Jewish mcdernity-s-ernancipation and its, social and intellectual Implies tions - have been ~ ~ ~ pro .. , fou'nd. But there were deep disagreemenrs as to what would constitute continuing the covenant in such a. wa.y as to main rain ,8. S,(T,ict ide-n.ei ty ,wi en "he Jewi's'h past ~ ~ .' . W'a,$ the' emancipation a lessening, continuation. or deepening ofgatur? Was Jewish segregation from general culture in rhe Middle Ages an aberration or an ideal? Wha,t was the role of secular action in 'bringing about the independent sovereignty of

Council, see t he letter referred to 'i n n~ 2Z~ Rav Aharon's language in this letter seems more ideological than strictly halakh ic 'I ,although one perh aps shouldn't make too 'much, of this." given the personal and somewhat

"·6 1 f· n~

~ .' [ .... , .... ... : ' .. ' . '. ." -"' ", ," ," "' ' . ,," .

l n .Q rma context 0 us st aternent ~

",. 'R·'b-b-"] h S· k!l! " ... " .- _

"See '.·a .... ·1 lonarhan Sae ·,5'S essay, "Crearivitv and Innovation in

Halak hah,~'" in 'chis volume.

:Daas To,tah


Israel1 To 'what extent is Israel still galu,t? In an age where Jews identify as Jews but not through haLikhah~ should such [ews bet as far as. possible, included or excluded by the halakhic system? Approaches to these and similar quesrions, more than any other factor ~ have been decisive in the hala'khic process fOf' the past two centuries,

Let us develop Rabbi Sacks's line of thought further, lt is certainly no coincidence that it is precisely "approaches to these and similar questions" 'that have been decisive in all issues where D'aQS Torah has been invoked. ~.l For, as Rabbi Sacks correcrlv states.

-; 'See~ for' example, the range of issues covered in the anehologv, 'Yalku:.

Daas Tor:ah me, .. Et Ged'olei ha,~DOT' ha-Aha,roo, printed as the second part of the "Nezah" edition of Rav Elhanan Wassermants. Ikveta de,,,",MeshHu.r {Bnei Beak, 1989)'0 In this connection .. it is particularly worth noting R., Hayyim Osee's invoking of ' the notion of Daas Toran, In famous lerrer 'co R. Meir

Hil..l~ h . ~ h 1:11 'I h Hild h '

1 oes renner opposing ,[ e atter s attempt 'co reiocate 'c ic nc es ieirner

Rabbinical Seminary. See n. 15, above, R~ Havvirn Ozer and R., Hil~ desheimer in their clash concerning the propriety of this relocatio n 'were 'I of course, disagreeing about an issue in 'which questions of 1uuhJu~fah and policy played the critical role, the k.ey question being how traditional ]uda[sm in the area of higher Jewish education could bes't respond to the challenges posed to it by the modern world, In Ugh t of OUt analysis, it comes as no surprise" then, that :R. Hayyim Ozer invoked the notion of Daal Tor.ah in his letter to lend 'weight to his strongly held view as to what that response should bel a view that, of course, reflected his generally rejectionist approach to modernity, and to squelch R,. Hildesheimer's attempt [at implementing a very diHerent response, a response that, of course, reflected R,. Hildesheimer's more positive and accommodationist approach to the modern 'world .. Since the issue in this letter 'involved the relocation of the Hildeshei:m,e'f Seminary from :Berlin [ache land of ,l'srael1 and these two areas were not in R~ Hayyim, Ozer's Eastern European rabbi nic bailiwick .. :R. Hayyi'm Oser could not, in espousing his view t rely upon his posicion as communal rav of Vilna or as the head of various Eastern European rabbinical organisarions, but only upon his, own personal autharit)r as. one 'whose opinion constituted Daas Torah.. Por a


and as we have similarly noted, the' tradirional jewish communltv has become deeply' divided. on these 'issues .. While' large segments o'f

the Or:· chod .. · o 'V' c-o- mm u'n·tt·v· have adopted V' arious reiectionist !l'p

_ . " . .-, ," .,'. _: ",-_ A "._ "",' I· ~ .. :I~ a _,,'. ''''', ·I!UU~1 '"!WI" ~.~. Q .. :~

preaches to modernirv, viewing modernitv in most or all of Its manifeseanons as empty at' best, and, at worst, corrupt and dangerous and a threat to rradittonal religious values, other segments of rhe Orrhodox cornmunirv, while 110t 'Unaware of rhe dangers the modern world poses to tradition, have adopted, again with varia ... rions, a more positive and a.ffi.rmative areteude to the modern world and its values ... And. it is 'precisely on t:his 'point thar one critical diffeteinc,e between the concept of Daas Towah and that of halakhic .pesak enables the notion, of DatIS Torah to serve as an important weapon in. ['he hands of the annmodern rejecdcnisc Orthodox camp in their ongoing struggle wit'h the more modern ,a.fft'rmarive camp.

The methodology of halakhic pesak-·even halakhic pesak in vol ving q uesdons of htuhkajah. _. with its ci ration and anal ysis of sources J use of srgumenra tion, and all the rest, acknow ledges the possibility and, more important, the legitirnacv of differene viewpoints, based. upon. differing modes of argumenradon, analysis, and inrerpretadon ~ Halakhic pesak allows for ~ nay" encou rages, halakhic debaee and halakhic pluralism, An expression ofDaas Torah, however presents itself, sans argumentatlon and analvsis, as the authentic Torah viewpoint on the issue 'in question, thus implic ... itlv,-an.d.~ ae times, explicirly-ebranding all other positions as inauthentic and illegitimate'! Thus J [he rejectionisr camp invokes DatIS Torah with respect to its approach" to ehe wide range of issues and challenges posed. by rhe modern world and the' breakdown, of

thorough account of the abortive attempi[' to relocate the Hildesheimer Seminary, see Chrisrhard Hoffman and Daniel Schwartz, "Earl y but Opposed - S·- '.; 'up' ported but L at;tli;·~ Tw F'i;; '0 erl t· n S·: em in aries Wh-- -'. ric h·· A···-·· tt~'p"",j!1Iod

.' , .. U-~ . . , '.', " '.' .. ·t .... '. - '", ." .. ~ i ~ ~I •. V ~ _. " ··1Ir I ,,' . ~ I) -~ .: ~' . . '.:.. ...:1,' '-,IILII: I ..... .,_. ,

to M,ove Abroad~·r; Leo Baeck Institute: Year,book 36 (1991): 267-304!, (The: section. on t'h,e Hildesh.eim.e.r Se:m.inary was mitten by Daniel Sch.w,artz and is to 'be found on, 267·-83., 296-30CL)


I) !




tradidon, issues over which it and the :modern camp sharply disagree, precisely in order to present its approach, both to itself and others, as the sole legitimare T aran approach and, to de'legitimar.e thereby the more accepting approach of the modern Orthodox

Ji camp,

B'ut: more. Daas Torah does not only serve the function of 'underwriting rhe sale and, exclusive legitimacy of the rejectionisr approach to modernity; it is an essential consti tu ri ve element of that approach. And at this point' we come to another, 'perhaps even deeper, d.ifferren,ce between Daas Torah and halakhic pe.sak~ For the difference between the two 'is not just a matter of halakhic=and particularly hashkaficl =pluralism versus halakhic= and hash ... kafic - uniforrairv ~ The d.iffere'nce also touches upon profound epis-temological and, axiological matters. For whereas halakhic pesak allows for, indeed encourages, reasoned debate and dis,a:gl'cement-, wiehin, of course, the framework of rhe halakhic syst,em-"Daas T ora;h~ as indicated bY' the comments of Rav Dessler and Rabbi Wein'b,ers,er, requires the suppression of one s own critical faculties and submission to rhe superior. 'if at rimes incomprehensible, wisdom of the gadol. And one must submit to rhe view's of the gadol not simply because the halakhic system, in rerrns of its complex 'rules for resolving disputes, ascribes greater autho ,ity to 'his decisions, Rather, the' views of the gadol are true and authentic, while my differin,g views ar,e false and, inauthentic. What is required of me, then, is, again, intellectual submission and faith in the gadol,an.d 'his

SUP[~'~o-:r w- '['00-: 0- ·'m-

_.·~I ~ .. '1. '.' " !F

This being the case, it follows that the' ideologv of,Daas Torah is a central, perhaps the central, element in the ethic of suhmission that characterizes the rejectionisc approach, For at the heart: of ehe rejecdonist approach is the view that unquestioning submission to authority, the aurhoricv of halakhah, of rhe gadal, of G'od, is rhe


• •




14For a, similar explanation, see M" Herbert Danzger. Retuming to

'TrMition,: The Contemporary R:el)ival of Orthodox. }udtdsm (New Haven: Yale 'University Press, 1989), 1.67.,


.La,wrence Ka.pills

highest religious. value and one that is absolutely opposed to the modern values of intellectual autonomy and self .. expression, It: is, therefore, only to be expected that two ofthe greatest representati ves and thinkers of the rejectionist community" the H:a~on Ish and Rav Dessler J 'who were, as we have seen, forceful proponents of the ideology of .D(JCLS TiJraht were also profound exponents of the ethic of submission. It 'would take us. beyond the confines of this discus .. sian to examine this ethic of submission in any depth and how' it finds expression in= indeed, is the cornerstone of-the 'writings of Rav Dessler and the Hazan Ish .. 35 Here two statements made 'by the Hazon Ish m ust suffice.

First, in a. letter replying to a correspondent who was apparently critical of certain aggadic sta tements of the Seges .. the Ha~on Ish begins 'by arguing that it is "our obligation to keep fa.r (rom speculation fm,ehkarJ."l' goes on to say tP,§'.t 'he just WlS hes to be a "simple jew" who is concerned. with the "w'hat," not the ~'WhVH of Judaism, and climaxes his. letter with the remarkable statement: '''''We recoil upon hearing the casting of doubt on any statement of H:a~al, whether ,halak.hah or aggadah, and view [such critical romarks] as constituting blasphemy, heaven forbid,.u36

lr . jj1- I - "- . ',. -- ~. f - '.. " - ,tt

"I n a paper, 'The Haze n _ sh: Haredi Critic 0 , T raditional Orthodoxy ~

'co be' publis hed. in a volume 'of essays, The Use5 of Trtuiilion; ) ewuh Contin.uity Since The Emancipati'on, eel. Jack W'e'tth.ei'mer, 1 discuss, at same le ngth the issue of the ethic of submission as found in the wri rings of 'the Hazon Ish,.

l~Kavet< luerat ~ vol, 1 ~ letter l.5 (43 J '. Cf K'ooett 19gerot, vat 3 (Bnei Brak, 1.990), letter 14 (43), where the Halon Ish's insistence that all agg:adat in the Talmud are authoritative results in a rather forced interpretaricn on his part: of a srarement of the Rashba, Co ntrasc this view 'of the Halon Ish

. 'h he vi ,-J-h f R D"--- id T '. 'H £fm: .. hi I- d

Wlt. te VieWS on ,agg,wW 0, ·,a,v -av' . .zevt r 0' :-. an in 'IS, nrro uc ..

don to his cornmentarv on Va .. Yik ra· and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch in his. two Hebrew letters to Rav HUe W,echslet\ published by Mordecai Breuer in ,Ha-,Maa,an (TelJfit 5736) and trans. into English. b, Joseph Munk in L'-E.,~:ah ,27 (Pesah 5'749):: 30-35~ The attempt 'On the' part of Rav Yosef

. .

Avraham Wolf, the well ... known head of the Beth Jacob movement in Eretz

D,aas 'Torah


Second" at the beginning of Chapter 4 of ,Emunah U .. Bitahon" the H;aton lsh states that "at the 'foot [of man's manifold evil traits] there is only " " " one evil trait, This evil trait is allowing one's natural life to flow along its natural course .. ~37 The Hazan Ish goes on to argue, in that chapter, that the only way to rectify this evil. trait is through, absolute submission to the precise" extensive, a:nd exceptionally difficult requirements of ltalak,hah (dikduk, ha, .. d-in).38

Of course, I hasten to add" any Orthodox approach, 'be it traditionalist or modern, must make room for authority and submission within its worldview. However" the modern Orthodox approach, precisely because it: is both modern and Orthodox, also seeks=within, of course, the aurhoritarive framework of halak,hahto make room for such modern values as intellectual autonomy ~ creativity, critical independence, and seif-expression .. 'The writings of Rav Soloveitchik, in particular his classic essay '"U,;o'Bikashtem Mi .. Sham," constitute, in my view" the most extensive and, profoundest attempt in OU,l age to establish a delicate and exquisite balance between these two poles,~39 Here, in, an attempt: to draw as

Yisraoel and confidante of the Haran Ish,!! to reconcile the view of the H,aton Ish 'with that of Rav Hoffman=Rav Wolf was unaware of the' two at that nme as yet unpublished letters of' Rav Hirsch-on his essay, "Shiluv Emunat Torah she, .. be-al Peh be-Horaah," in ,Ha~Tekufah u,..Baayotehah (Bnei Brak, 1981.), 125-26, is exceptionally strained and singularly uncon .. vincing, as indeed is Rav Waif's entire valiant but quixotic and ultimately misguided attempt to reconcile the hared'i ideology of the H;"zon Ish with the Torah im Derekh, Eret~ ideology of Rav Hirsch, Rav Hoffman) and Ray Yehiel Y'aa:kav Weinberg .. There really are limits as to how far one can go in attempting to square the circlel

31H . l-h E' - .. - h' U' B~··'·· .t, ~ ...tAl

. aton S t,muna .·'..,"tarwn,......,~

381 discuss this matter in full in my forthcoming article, "The Hazan Ish .. "

39See Aviezer Ravitskv, "Kinvan ha ... Daat be ... Haguto: Bein ha ... Rambam

le- NeoKantianis'm!," in ,Seier Mr Yovel li--Kebod ha~Rav Yosef Solooeitchik ShHt~", ed .. R. Shaul Ylsraeii 'et al. (jerusalem: Massad ha-Rav Kook, 1.98-'0,

sharp a contrast as possible, I would merely like to set down, beside eh e sta te .m ent o"'f'- rh e H, 'a·'- zen lfh" in Ch iapter 4"" 0' 'f' Em',' u-·¥'io.i1'h'" U_",'oif!B'_f"'ri!L,~,,",,"-

'" •. - •.•. ,. '[',' (. ':.' (. . i - .. _~U .~'_ _ "_" i ..... 'I. _I . 'J •. _ ••• r~ ,-LuJ"'I:tJJ-'

cited above, a statement of a contemporary modern Orthodox thinker

~MV approach] ~ '. ~ is a, kind of rheisttc humanism '!' " " grounded in t'he doc-trine of lmagio D,ei; ~ ~ ~ [S-ince] human beings 'were created in the image' of God ~ ~ ~ it follows that since God, is all good, all human characrertsrtcs must be

nri '1]1 -, 'd 'well 40

essenr :,1" y gooc as we -~

The difference between the "theistic humanism" represented in this statement and r'be "theistic antihumanism," if we may term, it such, of the .Hazan ,Ish could not be clearerl

It is precl sely' because the modern Qrthod ox re jeer the ethic of submission that '['hey are highly suspicious of the entire ideology of

D- .i1'",.,~ Tora",.h~ Ind , e ed - one a stute 0' bse rver h .t!ii~ g"'o"'n--- e Iii:: 0' far as to' arg ue

, .. l~li _ '". [ .•... :_ :., . __ , '_" '", "~1L"1~" ,',13 .IL.'W·\.r.. oa. : ,; ~ .. ' Q, .,~ ,", g.",,_" :

that it is precisely their opposing views on the issue of Daas Torah that serve as the k.ey difference between the rejecrionist camp and the modernist camp,

'We suggest .. ~ '.' th at the critical distinguishing the' modernist ~ or rhodox] from the traditionalist orthodox is t'he'

._J '. !" L_ h- ~ h·' h h· . d

nature an" scope 0: tue aut', ,O'fl,ly t.o uri icn escr {,5 commlll'e,.~

Traditionalists allow their leaders aut'hority in political and

12,5- 51 [' = "R,abbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on Human Knowledge: :se. tween Maimonides and :N'eoKa.ntia,nism~l~ Modem Judaism, 6:2 (Ma_.Y' 1.986):

1'-7 8-'8-']' L v I U.R bb' J' h B S I . hik' P"h·'l h f'

5 _- ': I, a wre nee. A-ap, all" ',' a, 1 osep . i o, : _ 0' oveirc . ht:S, I ~ . :L csop yo'

HaJ akhah 1" The Jewish, law A nntud 7 (.1987): 1.39,-97,_ I win discuss th is iss ue as well in two fo,[the'oming articles on Rabbi So loveitchlk :' "From Fn~edO'm to N'ecessity and Back Again: Man's Religious, Odyssey in the Thought of Rabbi Joseph Scloveitchik, n and "Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik as a. Modern Halakhtc Th inker.'

4JMoshe Sokol, "Personal Autonomy and Religious Authority 1 jt in this vol ume, p. 2.04,


personal matters, and the leadership attempts to exercise authority beyond the specifics of halakhah. .. ., Modernists; in contrast, seek, maxirnum scope for personal decision making and their leadership limits its authority only 'to halakhah, 41

W,e would state matters somewhat differently .. While the disagreement over Daas TO'rah 'between the modern Orthodox and the traditionalist Orthodox is certainly important; it is" as we have sought 'to show, symptomatic of a deeper division between them, namely, the different relative weights they assign to submission, authority, and self-overcoming, on the one hand, and autonomy, independence, and self-expression on the other. In a, word, the debate over Daas Torli;h is ultimarelv a, debate over the ethic of submission, over 'what is the proper posture of the halakhlc Jew standing in the presence of God, 42

In sum, this analysis of the differences between halakhic pesak: and Daas Torah and between the rejectionist traditionalist Orthodox and the affi'rmative 'modern Orthodox has" I. believe, brought to light two additional functions of the ideology of Daas Torah,. First; the ideology of Daas 'Tora.h enables the traditionalist Orthodox to present their rejecrionisr approach 'to modernity as being the sole legitimate approach, thereby delegitimating the more affirmative approach of the modern Orthodox .. Second, and even more important, the ideology of Daas Torah is a key element of that


41'D" R.'··· 'T ,_ .J". " ] 64

e- • 'a nzger, . erum,ln.g to. ,nlaltwn ~ ,:: .. , ~

42.After I had completed this essay" I came across Arveh Fishman's important monograph" Be'ln Dat lle.-ldeologj,ah; Ya,hadut ve~Modemitattiah be .. Kibbut?; ha,-,Dari (Ierusalerm Yad Yitzhak Ben-Z vi, 1990) .. In chap, 8 of his book! "Between Autonomous Religious Authority and Heteronomous Religious Authorir( (164-88)., Fishm an discusses the issue of Daas Torah, in, the con text of the 'manifold tensions that have arisen between the religious kibbutz movement and the established rabbinate and, as the chapter title indicates, approaches this issue from a perspective similar to my own.

l' ~ See below, nn 70 and 84"

'8·'·" [~ ....

reiectlonisr approach t being perhaps rhe Quintessential expression of the traditionalist ethic of submission" i' 1


,A proponent of the ideology of ,Dad~ TOrah might offer the fol .. · lowing reply to the preceding analysis. ~Even were your analysis

h" cch (' I d . Id ·11 be i 1 d

correct-'w 1,C, ~ ,0. course~ ,. ,en,Y-lt 'wou, ,", sn .. c:'.' u:reevant an,. ,!

worse, misleading, For D,QlU' ~orah is not rea 11, a new concept of rabbinic authority at all, but just a reformulation, in modern terms, of a classical type of rabbinic authority. And if certain 'modern needs snd challenges ha ve led us to stress this concept, this does not mean 'that the concept itselfis a. modern one, And if Daas Torah is. as you, say t the quintessential expression- of' the erhlc of submission, per haps this simply demonstrates rhar this erh it: itself is well

ded i h 'I . I' ( J dai 11

gro un ' " In 't···· e c a,SSlCa.. source~ or U,. ,Bu;m .. '_

\Vha,t~ then, are the roots in the classical sources of the concept of DatlS Torah?

The two key classical concepts in which Daas Torah is supposedly grou nded are provided 'by Rav Dessler ln his already cited letter. Ra,v Dessler stated:

Ou [' rabbis have told us to listen to the words of the Sages even if they tell us that is left, and not to say, heaven forbid, that: they certainly erred because little '1 can see [heir error with 'my own eves, ~' ~ .' This is the 'Torah view (Daas Torah] concerning faith in, the Sages IEm'urtat Hakhamim]~

Rav Dessler refers to two concepts as forming, the 'basis for the ideologv of Daas Torah;' (I) 10 t'asurt according to the inrerpreration

f' h S' 'f' .. d b R h-' hi '

o rne otrre as cite -, ~,y "as. .i in .',150 commentary on Deuteronomy

11': 11; and (2) Em,unat Hakham.i'm". 'Let us look at each in turn.


The T orah in Deuteronomy in speaking of the authority of the Great Court (Bet Din ha~G'adol) states: "You shall not deviate Uo t:a.sur] from, the verdict that they announce to you. either to the left or to the right" (Deuteronomv 17: 1 I) ..

The meaning and. implication of the phrase "to the left or to the righr' ("am. in u~'Sernol) are the subject of two differing and perhaps conflicting explanations dealing with the question as to whether one is obliged or forbidden to submit to a ruling of the Great Court if one believes or D5 convinced they erred,

The Si/re in commenting on the verse states: "Even if it appears to you [marin be .. eynekha]44 that they are telling you that right is left and left is right, listen to them,"

This view of the SifT!; however, seems to 'be directly contra ... · dieted by an interpretation of the verse Qlffered. in 'Yenuhal,mi' H:orayor" "One might think that if they tell you. that rlght is left and left is right, you, must listen to them .. Therefore; the verse tells us to go to the left 0[' to the righr, unril they tell you that right is right and Ieft i lefr."

.e 1.S ,e: ...

This position taken by the Yen..tJ.halm.i would, in turn, seem, to be corroborated by the law' set down in the 'G'entara in Bat1l.i· Ho-ra,ot 2bt. codified 'by the Rambam (H'i',lkho1t Sh.eggagot 13:5) and cited 'by the Ramban (Sefer ha .. ·MitV)'Ot, critical notes on Rambam's Shoresh

I), that if a. sage or a. student capable of issuing a ruling (ralm.ill. sh.e,.hi'gi·a le~h.oraah) is convinced that the Great Court erred. in a particular ruling he is forbidden to foHo'w that ruling on the basis of its being a 'positive commandment to obey the charges of the Sages {mit{Vlah ,liShmo~a divr-ei hakhamim),.

This apparent or real contradiction 'between the Sifre on the one hand and the 'Yerushalmi HOTa.YOt and the various other sup ... 'porting sources on the other is needless to say a well .. known and

h di ed bi 45 0'" f h- h

m,ue l.SCUSS . subject. -~ '" ne cant 0, course; tat t e

iiTlle' text of the Gra is "ntrin be~einekha~; the' Pe.sikr:.a Zuta.rr.a. reads domeh be~ei'ru!kha ..

4.SPor recent discussions of the problem, see Ra'V' Menahem Kasher t


,La,'WT'enct!' KaplaR

sources are simply co ntradktorv. 46 If one assumes, however 1 rh at

Torah Sh£le,i'maft; vol, 17 (New York; Ameri,can Bihlical Encyclopedia Society ~ 1956), 29 3-94 ~ Menahem Elon., Ha, .. ,Mtshpar ~1~~1 vol, I (Jeru .. , '58 I ern, : Magnes, 19(3), 22,5 - 2 7~; Mich ael Z~ 'N ehorai, Be in Yed'iah le- Emunah (jerusalem. Division, of Education; Division fOT Totah Culture; 1982); Yirzhak A. 'Twe'TskY:i "Sanhedrin, Mevari:m 0 Mehavim Halakhah," in Beit Yose] Shaut vol, .3 (New York: Rabbt Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary t 1989), 2,69-7,6; Yaakov Ariel ~ "Lo T asur mi-Kol asher Yorukha," 'Tehu,'mi~n 11 (1990).: 24-30; and, Jose' Faur, .lyyuni'm, be~'Mls'h:I1£,h Torah l.;f: .. ha .. Rambam Qerusale'm: Mos$ad, ba .. Rav Kook, 1978), 21-23., For two 'import ant earlier' discussions by a ha lakhic giant who combined 'both traditional and mode'rn. rabbinic scholars hip 1 see Ra v David T zevi 'Hoff· man, The· 'Great Court, trans, from the' German, bv Paul Forcheimer (New York: Feldheim, 1977')j 110- 17'; and M,ein'mea Je~Ho,jil'j vol. 3~ no, 82 (Frankfort: 'Hermon, 1926),. :t 2 i-2it Both Fauf and Rav Hof&n,an, in both of his essavs, provide the reader with very ric h guidance to the primary sources .. Two thoughtful and learned essays by .Avi, Sagie (Schweirser) that touch on ehis issue, though ],t is not' their main concern, are Alyyun. be-Shenei Modeltrn she! 'Musag ha-Emer ha-Hilkhatit u-Mashma'uram," in Hlgayyon.;. ed, M". Koppel and Er Merz'bach ijerusalem~ Bar·Ilan:i 1989),:~ 69-90; and "Baavat ha-Hakhraah ha-Hilkhatit ve-ha-Emet ha-Hilkhatit," Dine Israe'l 15 (1989-90)':, 1-38 .. A more homiletic 'treatment of the' problem, with, however, an. interesting range of primary sources. may be' found in. Y. Nahshoni "Afilu Omrim Lekha ,81 Yamin she .. Hu Semel," in. Hagu,r be--,Par.shiyor 00.. T Mak, vol, 2 (Bnei BtaLe" :(984)" 77 3-77 ~

i'°See Ra.v 'Hoffman." M,elamed le,~'H;o'i!~ and Elon; Ha .. Mishpat ha .. lvrij 226 n. 19 r Ra'v Hoffm,g n argues t hat the root of the' debate is exegetical in nature, Professor Elan, that it is 'more ideological in character .. Obviously, these two approaches need not be mutuallv exclusive" :in other words" one' may claim, fnr example, that the dispure at its deepest level is ideological, but th at on. a more formal level it expresses itse.lf in the, Yar.yi.Qg ways in which the verse is interpreted ~ It is 'striking tha .. t: while Ra'V Hoffmam in his ear 1 let studv, The' G:r:mt Co urt 1 'Cries to harmonize the S iire and the Yernshal'mi', in his later study in M,ewmea If\~',H'tli[ he. argues 'Chat all attempts at harmonization are strained and that the sources are in. d isagreement ~



the sources are not contradictory, then there' are a number of different ways of reconciling them, Perhaps rhev are talking about different persons, different measures of conviction, differe'nt types of rulings, or different stages in issuing a. 'particular ruling. For example; the Sijre may be speaking about someone who is not a scholar or a student capable of issuing a rulingt where the Yeru-shalm'L Horayor (and. obviously '[he BaiJlli) is speaking only of a scholar or a student capable of issuing: a ru.lin,g;4·1 or, the Sifr:e may be' speaking about' someone who that the court has erred= note the use of the' phrase ·'mann be;r.·eynek.ha7t (it appears to you)where the 'Yerushalmi is speaking of one who is absolutely certain the court has erred.;48 or J again, the Silu :may 'be speaking of an error in judgment ('ta'·ut be .. ,shi.kul ha: .. daa,d~ and the Yerusha1mi of an error involving the oversight of an explicit authoritative precedent (ta.;U[ bi~devaT mishnahY1Q. -to put this another wav, the StlTe may be referring to an error in dinim m'U,:flatim where the Yerushalm:i may be concerned with an error in a gul torah;50 finallv, it may be that the Yerushal.mi is speaking of the time period Immediately following upon the ruling, when the sage who is convinced. the court erred. must disregard. its ruling, where the Sifre is referring to a. situation in

"1!7'C"~-Nh- · D_' V.--d"l.l· E h Ii£!:

oee . - e - oral, Ot:En .~ e· _-14Jl. -e:"-- -mu.'na, .J •.

"18See '[he sources cited in Hoffman .. The Grear Coun~ and also Ha ... Ketav lJe~ha ... Kabba.,um'l andT orah 'T emirnah on Deu teronomv [7: 11 ~

49T-L ~ ., h h- T-- - k KS h d ~ M- ...,. 27Ai d

- .Ii .n.1S IS t -'e way t. at wers - y :..-an. -- e - T1.n -_ .. e'varim.,-: :", unc er ..

stands the Rarnban;s resolution (Sefer ha .. Miit\lO·t .. Shoresh 1) of the' contradiction, But see n ... 5 I .. For recent discussions of the difference between. ta'w be .. ·sh.i.kul ha .. daar and [a 'Ul' bi-1kvar ·,hnah, based on an 8 nal vsis of the medieval sources, see Joel Roth, The' Halilkhic Process (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1986}; 90-103; and Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, "Eilu ve~Eilu Divrei Elohim ,H:ay)'rrn: Halakhi.c Pluralism and Theories of Controversy /' in this volume. In general i there' is a significa n.t and suggestive' overlap between the' subjects treated in Rabbi Rosensweig's important paper and the' issues 'created in this section of this chapter,

'o-rhis is the wav Faur, lJ.yunim be .. ,Mishneh Torah; 22-23, understands

h- R 'b oj. 1-·· - '1' f th bl

t e .'_ .. am am s impuctr reso unon 0.':[ e pro em ..

which the sage brings his arguments to the court after the ru~i'ng is

d d h c. di .' h ~ h

issue t anc tn e court, atrer ,'. tscusstng t ne arguments, rejects t " em

d . . . . ~ 1 ~. ~] N' ' 'h '. .

an ' mamtams Its orrgmai POSLtlO'n~ "c!'OT are t iese varymg pass 1'"

~lThis would seem to be the way the Ramban (Seier ha-·,MittOOt~ crtrical notes on the Ra,'mbam~s .shol",esh l) resolves the contradiction. It should be' '[toted that the Ramban does not specificallv discuss the Yemshalmi Horayor bu r rather focuses on rhe Genutra at the beginning of &vli H'orayot, N'evertheless-, one rna y safely assu me - as do most later. scholars 'who discuss, the' Ram,bau- that the Ramban would claim that the YeT'UShalnai ls referring to rhe same sttuarton as rhe Batrli See, for example, the excellent analysis of the H'asdei Davidj vol, 2 (Livorno, 1 790)t 102~2; Rav Hoffm an, 'The Great Courr'~ 11.3-1.4 t Maharitz Ha Y'yot; ~Maam,ar to T asur t!lj in Toror N,evi'im~ 98; and Yaakcv Ariel, "La 'T asur," 20=21,.

'T w'ers,ky (see note 49) claims ehar the Ram'ban\, distinction is equiva .. lent to a, dlsti nction between ["a ~ut b€-sh(kut' ha.-~dalu and Ul ~U[' bi~deva7' 'mishna.n,. As T wersky argues: "Before the sage carne to [he Sa nhedrln, he bel ieved that the Great C au rt erred bi'-Mt41Y miishnah ~ i, e~, were they to

h hi - I I-d h' .1,_, ,. .. d . h ht

ear ,']5, arguments tnev wou __ ', reverse rhetr W=ClS:Lon an concur WIt i ms

view, The refore, he is obliged to act in accordance with his view against the Sanhedrin. However ~ once he came before them and 'they rejected his a rgume nts, etc.' there ls no pfi5sibility' that the ru ling of the Sanhedrin was an error b(-af'QQ.r 'mis hna,h~ but [there is only the possibilitv] of an error ,be'"' shi kul ha,·daal~ (1'.' 274:},. It would follow, however, &o'm T wersky's argument that tf the sage ~ to begin with, before' he carnie to the Sanhedrin, fe It rh at it had committed an error he·shikul h,a,, in permimng that which is forbidden; he would be permitted to act in accordance with its ruling and 'would not be: obliged to present his arguments, before the Sanhedrin ~ Bu t there are no grou nds for assu mi ng that rhts is, the Ra;mba,Il~5' view. Rather; the Ramban seems to s.uggest' that' If the :sage believes the Sanhedrin erred in permitting that whIch is, forbidden I whether the error be one of ,.:Uvar misJuuz,h 01[" of SR'Lkul ha'~t, he is not perm irted to act in accorda nee with its ruling B nd must present hts arguments before it. Only after he presents his, arguments and the court rejects rhem m,ay he t he n act in accordance with its ruling and subm it to its aurhori ty ~ even if he still believes. that it erred be- . .dl,ikul ha·daal,. (See Has.d~i Dav'id on this last matrer.) The point of the Ramban seems, to be


bilines excl usi ve of one another ~ In, fact .. they 'may hie' cumulative, in other words, a person is forbidden '[0 obey the ruling [of a Great' Court which he believes is erroneous onlv if (1) he' is a, sage or a :stu,d,e'nt who is capable [of issuing a ruling, (2) he is [oo'n,vinced, the ruling is erroneous, (3) he is convinced, that it is an error b'i-de..,ar' mishnak [Of be-guf Eiorr.Q;~ and -(4) 'he' has not as ye'!' presented 'his, arguments concerning the erroneous nature of the ruling to the

O t C·) ~ 52 , real... OUfiL 4!'

Let us ~ however ~ for- the purposes of this discussion, put the Yernshalm:i and .Bav,li: ,Hora:yo,t· to '[he side and focus on the Si/re, see k in:g [[0 trace its fortu nes .

. As we saw; the Injunction in the Sifre.' is not stated in absolute terms Irs use of the phrase "even if it appears ro 'you~" leaves open the pOisslb1ility" noted, shrove, that one 'who does not merely belie/yeo 'biut is convinced that the court's ruling is erroneous is not obliged= indeed, is 'not permitted-flo follow' that ruling, However, Rashi, in his Commentarv on Deuteronomy 17:]] ~ rephrases the Si/re ill, a more categorical manner, "Eve'n tf-chey teU Y'IOU 'that ri,g,ht is left and 'Ie, ,hi'·, ·lis' rieht "53

[_ .~J.I ,,1II.,b .!Il a qualifl.[ed scholar must submlt to the ruling' of-the' Great Court, even if he believes that fUlling to 'be in error 1 only if that ' has been issued alter oomidera.ri.on oJ aU the r-ete:1uan,t ,evidence, preredencs'I ,aM ,argu,menrs m Onlv such a ruling can be authoritative, 'Obviously, under such circumstances, the.' error, if it be such, can only be an erro-r be- shiklUl M,-daar.,. This view of the' Ramban is followed by the Seier ha-H'tnukh, negative' commandment, no, .s!OB (:C'havel ed. .. , 631-32). See, as well, ·HaYY'lot·, "Maamar Lo Tasur," 99..,.102 ..

§,Z'But see the previous note, where we have argued that according to the 'Ra:mban·t even if a. 5ag:e believed the ruling of the- Great 'Court' permitting that which Is forbidden. to' be an error be~shikul 00_" he would s'cil] not be .a.Uo'w\ed. to act on 't's 'ruling and wou~d be' obliged to present his arguments against its ruling: before the Court for its consideration ..

5'),Alr-e.ady the Rarnba n in his. com ment on Deuteronomy 17: 1.1 d i:fieJ[,-entlared between le5lwn Rasn~ and leshon Sifre.., C-f.,,[ however, Slt·it· ha~Shi"rim, .Rabbah 1.: 18 (Dunsky edt; ! '9)1 £af the reading ~~afiiu .sihe~rulekha,. ~


,Ldwrenc'e Kaplan

This substitution of,l(rhey' rell youn (omar le'kJta) for "ir appears to you.» (fIlarin be· ... e'ene-kJta.) wou Id seem to indicate r hat' even if one is convinced the court' s r uling is erroneous, one is still obliged to heed it,

Why?' W'hy would one have to heed the ruling of the Great Court even if one is convinced the ruling is mistaken, 'The Ramban, in his Commentary on the Torah on this verse, picks up' on Rashi's reformulation of the Si!re and offers, two varying, perhaps conflict ... ing, explanations.

The Import is that even :ifyou think that theY' are wrong, and the matter is as obvious to you. as your ability to dist inguish between right and leftt• follow [heir commandments, And do not sa V ~ "How can I eat helev or how C3J1 I kill this innocent person!" but sav, "Thus was 1 commanded bv the Lord who

· ~ .... ~ - h d - 'h I h Id J: Ii 'H·'·

enjomeo t, e commanornents, rnar . snouic perrorm a . ~'lS

commandments in accordance' with all that they who stand before 'Him in the place that He shall choose shall teach me to do, And it is on the basis of their understanding of its meaning that 'He gave' 'me the Torah, even if they aremistaken," .' .. ,~ And the 'need for this commandrnenr is very great, For the'

T h was zi .'. C' d i '. k h

ora". was given to us' m written rorm, aru ir IS .nown r at

not all views will be in agreement regarding newly arising matters, Thus, disputes will multiply and the [one] Torah will be become manv Tarot. Scripture, therefore, set down the law that 'we are to obey the Great Court that stands 'before God in the place: He shall choose in all that rhev tell us concerning the ,. .. frhe T h F .. ~~ d ith

Ull:erp:reta.tlOfi 0: t, te - .orat ,i ~ ~ ~ ,'-:0'[" 1.t 1,5 in accor- a'nee Wlt.···

h - d d~ h "H h 'h T: b lf .

t eir un . ersran • rng t. .. at :-·e gave t. "em t. ae .. -0'["8: . ) even 1:. in

vour eves [their ruling] seems to exchange right for left.

The R,am.ban in this explanation- in essence" the same expla ...

. , h rt. . hi C" - i r.; 'M·'· 54· ki ~

nation ne otters in ~ .15 oe J'eT n,a.. .'I.c',tvar ~ 15 rna Ing two po mrs ~

- - '

'j", Seier Ita, .. M it'ltfOf" critical notes on the Ramb a-m 's Shorre:sh 1.., The

Daas Torah ],5

First ~ 'the Divine La. wgiver has determined that the Sages' lnrerpre-

.. f 'L 'L b h 'L S d 'L c h'

ranon 0, rne .aw oecomes r e Law, oecono, tne reason 'lor Co 'IS

determination is to ensure uniformirv of halakhic practice, so that "the [one] Torah" should not "become many TOTO£,~~ 'There is) however, a certain ambiguity here regarding the question of error" At one po int the R:il'm ban seems to grant the posaibilitv of error, bu r deems it irrelevant.,55 'The overall thrust of his statement, however ~ is to make the very issues of truth and falsehood, error and infallibility inapplicable, For the meaning of the scriptural text is indeterminate and only achieves determinate meaning via the interpretation of t he Sages, 56

Ramban uses almost exactly the same language in Seier ha .. ,Mif(VOf' as he does in his Cornmentarv. There are slight differences in wording between th,€; two passages, 'most pro babl y of no significance, But see the next note ~

- ~~i,And it Is on the basis of their understanding of its meaning that He gave me the Torah, even. if t.hey G're m,israken.,." The Ram b an in SeIer ha, .. Mif.~VO" words this slightly' differently, ,perM,p5 weakening the Idea, of error.

~his seems to 'be the import of the conclusion of the Ram ba t1~S stateme nt, It is in the light of this contention of the Ram ball that we understand his citation of the famous story 'in Rosh ha, ... Shanah 25a, about the debate 'between Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi joshua, just as the' Great:

Court's determination of a particular day as the new month doesn't simply affirm an already' existing reality- but con,sti'tut£s that day- as the new' 'month, so) in an analogous manner, the Great Court's understanding of the 'meaning of a verse is simIlarly constitutive, For a, different understanding of why the Ramban cites 'chis story; see Twersky, "Sanhedrin Mevarim," 274,. C-f.;, as well, R'i' Yitzhak Hutner, Pahad, 'Yit',hak.; Pesah (New' 'York: Gu.r Aryeh, 1970)~ 64-65 (31:2).

P . 'l 'h bizuitv i h R" b di d h h ll d

, recise y tne arnbiguuv '[ n tr e xam . an iscusse ',1 n t ae text . as a ow'e·

Avi Sagie to state tha .. t according to the Ramban, "there can be a conflict between the divine truth, and the human truth of the Sages, hut God revealed His wHl that [i n such cases 1 the h uman truth prevail)" while ~ at the same time, it has permitted Aaron Kirschenbaum 'Co argue "that according to the Ramban there is no 0 bjecti ve 'right', The 'right' is what the Sages declare to be 'right'," See Sagie, ~lyyun be-Shenei Modelim," 79



,Lawte.nce Kupl«1i

The R:: amb a' n howev er co ntinu es:

.' , ..., -, .," " ,"'" , ,',,' .

And certainly [you must follow their rulings] for you. ought to think that they a,re' telling you. regarding the 'right: that it is

"h C G d' a. ~ " h ... f-' H ,a , S' ,"

r.Lgi c; lor,' '0- 's spmt is upon 't e mmtsters 0';.' ' . .15 ,':a.nctu.a,ry ,

(Ezekiel 45:4) and "He does 'not abandon His pious ones i[hasida,v]!; they are preserved forever" (Psalms 37;28) from error

md tumbling 51

an" SIL" <. :...

d 88' "14 d K" t.., b ~D--'" h Y h 'L~ M' ht h 'I ""

a:n , -' :no j' '; an::ITSCu,en 'aum, . ,lne:L ,.e· .. '" OS :er oe-. IS: pat ,-' e·" 1 vrl,

Daar. 13 (Summer 1. 984):: 50. (Again, the chapter bv Rabbi Michael Rosens.weis, in this volume sheds much light on this issue.)

lc should. be noted. chat chis comment of the Ramban was extraordi ..

il . t1 · 1, d C eel h b · f 1 1i'll b di

nan V In uen nat an :, rorme r .' e ,aslS 0 ' a most a,t.t su nsequent ' iscusstons

of the Sifre and Rashi~ See, for example, Seler ha~H'inuk,hl negaeive comrnandment, no, ,508 (Cha vel ed, ~ 671); D,aaiMt' ho. .. Ra..n, no. 11 (Feldman 'edition, 198); Mizrachi, Hrudf:i' Da1)'id; Maharitr Hayyoc; Rav Hoffman, The Greer Court', (For the. h~sc three sources cited, see above, n. 51.)

'"i1] e: is WOTt h emphasizing th at e he Ram ban does not' cite th is reason in. his Sefu ha .. Mit~l:at. Ie has not been noted" to my kn.owledge, 'that the Ramban is ba.sically' structuring his comment 011 Deueeronomv 17: 11 as an explanation and an expa nsion of Rashi's co mment. In. [he first parr of his comment the Ramban explains the reason for obeying the Great Court "even if citine R" ashi the' y tell you th o"!Ir right is left a d' 1'g"ft is ti.ah'" D H' e"

'" ....! - ,~;~., 0.." " ~ . - I' '.' I 1 _'.. _ . al. [.: ,. IL ~ .l-t, - n, ' .l~ " '~ ': ~' .: \n I ;' ,

then proceeds in this second pare: of his comment [0 explain Rashi's enigmatic srateme n t "and certain lv if they tell you 'that tlgh t is 'right and

I, ft " 1 f '" P h'" 'M'" . k - h l' ,. Accordi rh R'" .. bar h ·

err IS ie t, ,. es ~ta~ ,'w.~ '~11'1.a3 ,rna _an~'~ ',·,CC,Or. to n e n amcan t,:.1S

second statement of Rashl does noe refer to a sec-ond. situation, but Co. a second reason fo-r submitting to the authority of the Great Court even when a ne think s t ha t it h as erred in its ruling; in ot her words, in the Ramban's

a, R hi' U l.._l 'L k 'L - t' '.1. _HI k-I' 'L - !, ..

view 1I . as, 1. s statemen t ve- 1'-0" 5f1~~ cen sne-omer eK~ mea ns ve- til. .5 ne- ~en

oS he~,~e5 h. le.kha !ahshO(;! 5 he~o.m,rim fekha,a ~ le is no t su rprising, then, that the Ramban in the Seier ha~Mi[zvott where he is explaining the Sijre and not

R hi 'I, h . f di a a L

as, 1., teaves OU:I: t re suggesnon 0: ',' ivme protection rrom error put

forward in his commentarv. (That chis notion of divine protection from error is. 'to be' found only i:n the Ramban's cornmentarv and not in his Seier JUl·Mittvot has been pointed our by Gerald Blidsrein ... See Blidsrein,

Daas Torah


According to this explanation, the concept of error in interpreration is meaningful, but the Sages are divinely prevented from erring, Here, then, we have a view approaching, though 'by 'no means identical with, that of Daas "ToTiah~

A, view similar to this second explanation of the Ramban is offe-red, 'by judah Halevi in the ,Kutari. (.3:41),.

The B:ihlica.t injunction "you, sh.all not add to the word which 1 command vou, nor shall you, take away from it" (Deuce ... tonornv ,4':2) means [he following: You, shan not add [0 [he word which the priests and [udges in, [he place God shall choose hav e azreed to 58 Fo r the ecei ve i d fro - the di vi ne

. 'vV'" u,"'. ~., " .',.'. .. .• ' , ,.' . ".' y 'r,_,'!!..:. , a, ': ;." .. m .. I.' , .•.. ",. ,.:.,

"Masorer ve-Samkhut Mosdit le..,Raa.yon Torah she-be ... al Peh be, .. Mlshnat ha- Rambam, ~ ,Door 16 [Win.ter 1.988): :z 1 n, 3 7 e- 'We ca nnot, however j agree with Professor Blidstein's explanation ofthis shift,,)

Despite the fact that~, if our argumene is right ,_, the Ramban in putting fonvard. the notion of divine protection "from error is not so muc h speaking

'. hi · R hi' hi . lik h e f' h ",

tn r: 1S own name as In : as. '1' s) tr IS V 'Lew ~ use t , e nrst part 0; 18 comrnent,

has been very tnfluencial, See) for example, SE/fef ,Hakham,i'm; and see 'the sou roes cited in Pi.ekaf~, ,Has idut, Polin) 83 ~8 7 "

~sn,'is view of Halevi 'that B'at Tos if applies to e he individu a] and not the Great Court rna y be found as well in the Guide' 3:41 (Pines ed ~ '- 563)) and." in particular, ,Hiddwhei h.a .. R_ashba on, Rosh hn~.shanah 16at s v, lamah loke'in~ This statemenr of the Rashba has been much discussed by the aM:rDn im (see Pnei Yehoshua) Kn-en Oraht etc ~) and in general is idea dfi.ed wit h h im, However, in ligh t of the earlier sraternents in the ,Ku'~a'ri and the Guide we may say that the innovation of the Rashba is to take a well ... known Spanish view that up until his time was only to be found in "sggadic, i') philosoph ical contexts, and to puc it forward as a sr:ri.cdy

t, I 'l-h- "" clai ('Th h R' h'b . d " 1," ,. h

na azruc uatm ~ : ·at t: e < as • a 1:3 .. r awrng U pan an ear,n,e.l' view • as

alreadv been noted by Professor Blidstein. See' "Maimonides 0-11, 'Oral Law," ~ The Jew ish Law ,A.nnual 1. [ 1.978]: 1.14 n. 15; and {.(M,ilSoret veSamkhur Mosdir," 1 J. n. 9., Blldstein, however ~ has the Rash ba dr awing upon the Ku~aTi' and overlooks his immediare source in the Guide . ..) For the standard medieval explanacion of Bal T05if,_ see Rambam, "Introduction fI to the Misnneh Torah~ ,HUkhot, Mamrim, .2:9; ,Hassagot of the Rabad, ad .. loc.:


A d si h · b ~ · · ., ibl

presence.Ana since t ieir number 1.5 very great It' IS ImpOSSl- .e

that they should agree to something which contradicts the Torah. 'Nor can th.ey err since their wisdom is very great,

It should be immediately noted that both the Ramban and Ha evi limit this halakhle infallibilitv specifically to the Great Court functioning in rhe temple 'precincts in the presence of God. And, in general, the special grant ,of authorlrv contained in Deuteronomy 17: 11 is, according to the view of many authorities, limited to the

G C '5·9'

reat i ourt.:

At the same time attempts were' made through the centuries 'to extend t'he authority attaching to the Great Court to other Institutions or individuals, attempts which, :i.f put into practice, were more often than not bitterly opposed .. The Gaon and contemporary 0'£ the Rarnham, R, Sa.muel b, A:~ .. i, head, of the Yeshiva of Baghdad, for example, put forth the' radical and far-reaching claim that the y.eshivah in Baghdad was the Sanhedrin reconstituted, and the head. of the yeshi'vah its Moses. R~ Samuel b4 Ali's statement is particularly important insofar as he attributes ultimate political and communal authority to the yeshivah" arguing that just' as the king W'3S subordinate to t:he Sanhedrin, 50 the rosh golah ought to be' subordinate to the ,eshivah and its Oa,on~60 This entire philosophy,


and the disc ussion of the Or Sam.eah~, ad loc. (For a penetrating discussio n

of the Rambam's view, see the two articles by Blidsteln referred. to immedia telv above .. )1

101),)5- e;.e Lor e;. a I Rca r. ~ c::tt of tL... 'R' "bn ~h' no 271 d not - l'

-~'!II rot exa mpe1' ' ...... 1J:"'~ .. ·,~~~ '... ':.n,t:' . 1.·u..:.,':I' t ". r i ; a'n. . , ....... e n

particular the very' limited scope accorded to to t:asur in Maharlre Havvot, "Maamar lo Tasur jo" 102.,

60See the excerpts from the "pastoral" letter sent by' R,., Sam uel B r Ali. to the jewish comrnunities in SY'ria published by S,. Assafin Tarbit 1:2 (1930): 64-66,. For other Geonic view's on the halakhic authority of the Babvlo .. nian Yeshivot and. the Geomm, see the sources cited in 'P'aurJ, ,1)'JUnlm be-.M is hneh ~ofah,~ .3 3--3 6; Shalom Spi·egel l' C4te-- Pa rsha t h a-Pulmus shel Pirkoi hen Baboi~ in the W'olfson Jubilee Volume Oerusalem:. American Academy for Je'\vlsh Resea.rcht 1.965)1 243-74·; and, 'most recently" M(};-

Daas Torah


as is wen known, was criticized, root' and branch, by the' Rambam. As the Rambam. states in the M'ishneh Torah~ the injunction of 10

- '. 1" ,. d 'h G 'C ,61 E - h G - m - h

ras,ur IS nmted to t - e Great ' __ ourt, nven t '"e, :emara" masrnuc :' as

~ - - -

nahern Ben .. Sasson". "Shivrei Iggrot me-ha .. Genizah: Le-Toldor Hiddush

ha-Kesharlm shel Yeshlvot Bavel im ha-Maarav," Tar.bit 56 (1987): 180-88; and idem, (4H.a- Mivneh, ha-Megamor ve- ha - Tokhen she! Hi'b bur N atan ha,~BB'VH." in T a'rbu[' ve~Hemah be .. Toldot Yis'rael bi .. Ytmei haBeyna)ryim; ed, R. Bonfil et al ~ (jerusalem: Merkas Shazar, 1989) t, 15 9-62 ~

61_Hilk,hoc' ,Mamrim 1:2 and the list of commandments at the head of rhe section, Note, however, that in the Seler ha-M:itttIDt the Rambam stares that the positive commandment ·'al pi na-'T orah asher 'y.01lCkha n refers to the obligation to adhere to the commands of the Great Court (positive commandment, no. 174) but that the negative oommandment, ~lo ta.sur~ ~ refers to the prohibition agains t d:[fferi ng from the baalei ha .. kabbalah~ the "authorized bearers of the tradition" (negative commandment, no .. 32) .. It is clear, however, from the "Introduction" to the ,M:tshneh Torah that, for the Rambam, Ravina, and Rav Ashi and their generation were the last of the boola ha~,kabbcilah,. In any event, then, even according to the formulation in Seier Ita .. ,M:ittvot, the prohibirion of lo ramr Is limited to dissenting from 'the rulings. of the talmudic sages, N ore ~ too, that already in the list of the commandments 1.[1 the "Introduction" to the Mishneh Torah~ the Rambam reformulates Eo tasU.T to refer to rebelling against the authority of the [Gr-eat] Court, (The term fta""gadol is found in only some manuscrlpta.] In general, one can see an evolution of the Rambam's conception of the nature of Tora,h sht~bf-al peh in the direction of an ever 'more prominent and ever more central role being accorded to the Great COU[t~ Thus, in the Rambam's "Inrroduction" to his C-ommen.tary on t-.he' Mishnah there is no mention at all of the Great Court! In Seier ha .. MittvQl, as we saw, the Rambam speaks of the Great Court in positive commandment, no .. 174;, but of the baalel ha ... kabbalah in negative cornmandruenr, no. 312~ It is only in the "Introduction" to the Mi.shneh Torah and in Hilk:hot Mom'rim that the Great Court becomes" for the Ra_-mba_-m~ the linchpin of the entire halakhlc system. Finally, in the Guid'e;, both the prohibition against writing down the Oral Law (Guide 1;71) and that against adding to or detracting from the law (Guide 3:41) are interpreted as prohibitions designed to maintain and uphold the authority of the Great Court as the



it was edited when the Great Court was rio longer functioning, is

h ...' 1 b ~ d b 1'1 fI l 6:1 'P"

aut oritanve o'ny .• it was accepte ... :y a. 0_ ~srae, ~ ·~ost .. ,

talmudic- sages possess 'no inherent authoritv at all~6.3 The' Rambam gives ¥,et a fUrth,er twist of the knife by referring 'to all posttalmudic sages as 'Geoni'm.,64 Such a definition=and [his was certainly its inrention _. srripped ehe traditional Geo1li'm; the he ads of the Babv- 10 nian ,e5hivo:t, of an:y special status" 6,5, Moreover, the Rambam ~\s

di '1 d f f h hor' f l.. d" 1 G' . ..

ra rca ,:e, anon a' te aut, ontv 0' me trsmnonai ". '-,eon'tm, was

central, indeed so le 1 h alak h ic decision-maki ng body, 'both judici al and l~gi.sblti ve, and to 'TU le on t such acti vi ['~,. on the part of individ u a15~ (Note th e sim ilari ty of langu age between I.: 71 and 3: 4' I.~) I discuss this m arter in full in a forthcoming a .. rticle, "The Evolution of Maimonides' Conception of the Oral Law ." See; in this con nection, rh e 'two articles by' BHds'tei n cited above ~ n. 58 ..

h',ZSee Introduction to the M'fsh.neh 'Tor:an (Lieb erm an ed ~, 11 ~ 12) ~ For a discussion of rh is fa.-mOllS statem ent of' the Ramb am, see, F aur '- lji'JUni'm TOTah~ 4-2-46; Rabbi Professor Samuel Bialcblocki, "Eim leMa5:on~t ha-Perush ve-ha-Halakhah," in Rim la~,M'asore;t (Bar-llan, 1971)~ 95-96; R,a'V joseph B" Soloveitchik, "K.evtar ha .. Mo'adim a,i, pi ha-Re'ivah

'l 'h. H hbo '" t'"\.... 'f_f M' h t 00' '1980') 1 n "'0 : .J ._ ~'S'h S .

ve .. at pi,' a-rtes :- eon,' 'Vir na, :k-;:oc '. ,,: C :::: 7-'" ~ ;iaem'i . ','nei . _ ugei

'M tI' S1..·~ 1 Z· LL.~ ALb M' - 1 1 (1' I,M' kh

,:. asoret!; . i.nn'L-uri'm ,e .. eKneT', ,Qa<·an" VO .. , verU5a,~em: ,~a,', on

"y'" .. ~ b . I, ~ '1 9,Q 3") ")3 it; 36

:- eru~. n al,a,Y-I,m, ,,>0. ' j, ,L,. "t -, '.

('l 'Introd uction to the M ishneh Tor.ah (Lie'ber.m:an ed. ~ 1. 0-11),

'b4Ibid ~ , 1.2 ~ ,u;AH the S ages who arose after the cornpilation of the T :illmud and studied it .' , ~ are called Geonim~ And all these Geonim who arose in the land of Israel and in the land ofShina.T and in SeJarM and in T,ta,.jat, ,. , ~ n For the R~lm b am's attitude to th.e hala,'khic aut hori.ty of" the Geonim, see Faur, ,1}jIUn;i'm, be-Mish.neh Torah, 41~4·Z1 45,--46; Me:ir Havarzelet, Ha, .. ,Rambam \.'f'""~G'e.onlm (New York: Sura, 1.967); and Robert Brod Y t '~M aimonides' Attitude. towards the H alak hie In nov ations of the Geonim, n in The Tho~~g'hr of Moses M,a,imonide5!: ,Philosophical and ,Legal Stttdies) ed, 1. Robinson et at. (lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1990),


~sl am reminded, 'mu tat U' m'utantHsj of :Henry Higgins's assertion, in Sh aw's ~vgmalion, that there is no difference' between treating flower gir.~s like du chesses and duchesses Uke flower gir Is "

'Daas To:rah


complemented and reinforced by his attributing extensive' powers to the iosh golah~ 66

Another, more' theoretical, attempt to extend the authority ascribed to the Great Court to conternporarv rabbinic scholars is to be found in, the Sefer lll.t-,Hinuk.n .. Both in the positive command ... , ment "to heed. all Grear Courts which will arise" (no. 492), and the negative one "not to disobey the charge of the Great Court" (no, S08), the author of the Seier htt,,,,,H:inukh insists that the obligation of obedience contained in these commandments is also owed to "the


outstanding sage among us in our era" (no, 492) or to "the earlier

sages and the outstanding rabbinic scholars a-nd judges of our day" (no. 508).67

The extension of the authority of the Great Court to contem ... porarv instltutions and Individuals, It should 'be immediately noted, does not" of course, necessarily mean, that such institutions or individuals are divinelv protected from error; since, as we have

66See Hilkhot Sa,nhedrin 4: 13-l4t Commentary on the. Mishnah; Bekhorot.

,4:4; and 199emt ha,pRamba'm, ed, Y .. Shailar, vol. 1 Oerusalem: Maahvor, 1988), 309~ For the Rambam's view on the Rosh Golah~ see Blidstein, Ekronot Med:iniyyim be r. Mishnat ha,.,Rambam (Jerusa~em,: Ba.r.~Ii,an~ 1983)t 46-48, 140-434'

61Note that while Rabbi, Samuel b, Ali extends the authoriry of the Great Court to the 'iw·ritut"on of the yesh-ittah, the Sela Ita .. Hinuk h exte nds it to i ndi vidual rabbi nic scholars. For a suggesti ve, if somew h at strained" attempt to narrow the differences between the Seier ha-Hinukh and the R,a,mbam, see Yehudah ha-Levi Amihai, '''Daas Torah be-Invanim she, .. , einarn Hi.lkhatiyim Muvhakirn," Tehumin. 11 (1.990): 14~15,. The Ran states rh at the authority of the post ... Ore at Court sages In the matter of exp lana .. dons of the haws of' t he Torah deli ves from ,uaharf'i Tabbfm le ... hattot', jIJ while their authority in the matter of decrees or ordinances belongs to the penumbra of lo tasur (bew,derekh asmakkta) .. See De1ashat Ha~,Ran, ed .. Leon Feldman .. no, 1.2 (Jerusalem: M,a'khon Shalern, 1913), 21.3. Of course, on the basic issue as to w herher the decrees or ordinances of the S ages ore covered by lo ,twur akogether, the Ran sides with the Rarnbam against the Ramban,


seen, it is a matter 0'£ grave debate if even rh e Great Court itself enjoys such prcrection. On rh .. e one hand, R .. , Samuel b, Ali almost explicitlv asserts that the rulings of the Yeshimh are free from err or, ~R On, the other hand, the Sefef' ha.., H:inukh follows t he- view' expressed by the Ramban in ehe Sefey ha .. ,Mir:~t and in his first explanation in his Commenta'ry on the Torah in holding rhar rhe reason one mav not deviate from the words of the sages, even if they

h . h ~ 1 f d 1 ft· ., h'· b f divi

, : ", '.' '" ' .. ',' -,', ' . - ' ; : - - , .' '.-, - " .-::-- -.', , ' ," , .-' - ' "" -.: " ' , " '1 Vl" -

say that fIg. t IS e tan" e., IS ltl,g, ,,[, IS not because 0 any -,'. _ ne

grant of infallibility but in order IO ensure halakhic uniformity. Indeed, the Seier ha .. H:inukh goes tv-en further than the Ramban in openly admitting the' possibility of error.

The Sages h ave 5 tared: '" l'ou. shall not devi ate; . ,~ ~ either to the right or the lefr', Even if they tell you that right is lett and left' is righ t ~ It Th is is to saY' r ha r eVf n.jf the" err about a particular matter it is, better to su:ffer this p articul ar error and lee evervone alwa vs be' subj ecr to their 'wise understanding, rh an to let everv person act in accordance with his own understanding, For rhis will lead to rhe destruction, of religion, divisions

h I d 'h 'l d 1- f h - 69

among t e peop e, ann tt e compiere c ec . Ine 0'· tr te nation, "

6t1T L . '1 2 ,., 4 "'K'"L l . lL ,j . ~ Y- , J - J,. """"'_. t,

- .( arott ,·:,,:tv ',..,[ ~a,"'te'R nunmerot ,d€Jt'Ot. :;is"'ae',~ 'U .. mit·~Jfyem man

she" be'" yadam, rne".errLuna,t·am ~ .~ Iu! .. ln yit u V€ .. w yatll me- ha~m ito[·,. ~

6l.l Seier h.a.~'H'J·nukh, negatl ve commandment, no. SOB" In this connection, the Seier M~Hinukh cite's the famous, story of the oven of Akhnai (Saha. Metzia 59b), understanding it to mean that even though "the truth was w· R. Eli.eZier,'" the' majority sc:iU prevails ~hether they declare the truth Of even if they err." For a similar approach, see De.rasho!' ha .. Ran, no, 1, second version (84=-8'6), no .. 1 {llZ}~ and no, 11 (1'98=99),. Note that the Ran. also cites the Story of the oven of Ak,hnai and understands h: the same way as. does the Seier ha .. H·inukh". There is a problem, however, with the view of the Ran ~ On the one hand t the Ran states that ,G'od in revealing to Moses dikdu,kei so/rfm revealed to hun "all of the dispu res and dffferent opinions [that would a rise] between eh e Jewish Sages ~ (85, 112). ,On the other hand t the Ran state's th at in a disagree'ment between the Sages t the maj Q'rity view prevails, "whether 'it conform to the truth or. to its. opposite W

nus Torah


To return, then, to the ideology of Daa.s Torah, we may say

h his Id 1 k its Basi h " " f· h S"'fr

t at trus 1· eo ogy tas es as Its.aSIS rne posmon ot t .. e .: rrre as

formulated by Rashi (ignoring the Ye:rushalm,i Horayut and the various other sources which. posit an. obligation. of dissent' under certain. circumstances), understands the Sifre in the' light of the second explanation of the' Ramban in h:LS Commentary on the Torah,70 and then extends this 'protection from error to the our-

(SSt 112~ 198-99) .. But, if both views were revealed to Moses., how can the Ran say that one of ehem is not true]l Perhaps what the Ran wishes to say IS. that the' divine revelation of bath views only means that both view's. are valid and legitimate interpretations of the Torah, Nevertheless, only one of ehe two 'conflicting views can be in accord with the pure, "objective" truth of the Torah .. Since, however, even the' view which is not "true" was. also revealed and is, therefore, legitimate, if It receives the assent of the majority, it, despite its not being "true," becomes the' authoritative view, for "God, may He be blessed, has given [he Sages. of the generation the power of [making such]! determinations (haJ<.h.raohJ in d:ls..putes. between the Sages" (85t Ll Z, 1.89)" For the' 'history of the interpretation of the s.tory of the oven of Akhnai, see 1. Englard, "Tanur shel, Akhnai: Perushehah she] Aggadaht" Shenalon ha-1vi'lshpat ha-Ivri 1. (:197'4); 41-56 I= "Majority Decision and Individual Truth: The Interpretation of the Oven of Akhnai Aggada'h," Tradition 1.1; 1 ..... 2 (Spring .. Summer 1975): :l37~ 72,]~ Surprisingly, Professo-r .Englard does not even touch on what would seem [.0 be the exceptionally relevant Issue of the apparent contradiction between the Si fre and the Yerushalmi H'orayot on yam in u.·semot Indeed t a close cornpat ... ison of the history of in terpretation of .both ,crux,es~ the story of the oven of Akbnai and the appare ntly co ntradictorv rulings of the Sifre and Yenuhalmi H·Of'a.yor·~ and a deterrnination as, to what extent the issues they raise overlap or diverge is an import ant desideratum and would, I believe, prove' enlightening, In this connection, many of Rabbi Mi~hael Rosen .. · sweig's reflectlons in chap .. J of this volume are high Iy pertinent"

?'crt must be stated that there is a contemporary version of Daas Torah. that does concede the possibility of authoritative scholars being in error ~ Thus" Rav Aryeh Tzevi Prornrner t a noted hasidic and rabbtruc scholar ~ in a sermon delivered. in 1930t set forth the following conception of Daas Torah (cited in Piekarr, Hasidz.u Polin, 95-96}.:


'J · ... ,iI.noftdn- fi D V iii hla,n L.rU.'~.r ~. ,~~ f'\.1IAil!f"'., ~I'~

. - - do. .. . . ( d· l"" ).. . 'f' - - ., - . . -, '. , .' - - - 11

stanomg sagesgC" 0, 1m,. 0 _ contemporary times,

And this is a 'N nda men tal prmciple of Torah 5he'~-be~,al peh ~ 'to negate our views [in submission] to the views of the sages of the generation, even in a case where we feel that the truth is with us. And even if they tell you that right is le:ft~ do 'not turn aside, [lo truUT,] from their words. ~ . " For this power, that the' world and the' entire T alan will be in. accordance with the' views [Dtten] of the's ages of the generation,

Of 1~ _, h ~ . -j ~ • h t, .: .. L b 'h

,even !' tnt' truc'·· IS )101t Ul acroruance wU . ,tne,Lr 'worw) comes to us .y t .. ' e

'merit and the' power of Em'unat ~'a,kha,mim:t since we' negace our view's

h 0" "f'" 0 'I']' A d' h

W len It 1S proper, even r It 18 against our mte ecr. " ~ .. ,.n we' nave

inherited this power of .Emu,ncu Hakham:{m from Akeoot Yitzhak; -for aU.'T father, 'Y'itz:h,ak was the first who negated his view's and his Intellect In the' presence of the' sage of the generation [i .. e .. [;. Abra .. ham] ~ and he transrnitted this 'Power to all futu re generations,

Thus" Rav Frommer, on '[he one hand, a.nd the Ramban and the Se/e:r ha .. H inu,kh; on the other, gr'ant the views of ccntemporarv 5 age's - for the Rarnban, the views of the Great Cou rt - authoritative standing even in cases of error 0 How'ever; their rationales Ior granting, such standing differ 'radically. For the Ramban and the. Seier ha-Hin-ukh; the rationale is the need for halak: hie uniformity-" whereas for Rav Frommer, it is, the. need to demonstrate' intellectual and 'religious submission, to perform an akedah of 'the intellect, to declare f~rredo qu:;ia lIh~ mum est 0 U W'e can have no dea rer example of the concept or ,DMS Torit,h as an expression of 'the ethic of subroissionl In gene-rat we' should sharply distinguish the spirit of self ... abnegation toward the' views of earlier outstanding scholars found in the views of Rsv Fro mrner and ot her like-minded sc holars (see Plek are, H,asidu.[ Palin;. 9 3,~96) 'trom '[he spirit of extreme deference Bud respect toward '[he' views of earlier outstanding scholars combined however with staunc hand unyielding critical independence; as found in all the halakhic writinp of the Ram'ban, and as given such eloquent expression in his prefaces to the' Commentary on. the Tora~ 'the Se.ler hd-Mitrooc:t and .Milhal1l01 A~DOMi" But see' below', n ~ 83.

11 Note how' the' Agudah ideology of ,Daas T or.ah) hOW€VeT ~ lint extends t he' authority of the; Ore·at Court to conternporarv outstanding rabbinic scholars and then. seeks to institutionalize the personal charisma of these

Daas, Torah


Even. this, however, does not amount to the full .. blown ideology of Daas Torah .. For Daas Torah not only extends the disputed divine protection from. error granted to the Great Court to the ge.dOlim of a particular generation, it further argues that this protection. not onlY' covers halakhic pesak 'but also communal policy, indeed, communal policy in parr'ticula'r.72·lf anything exponents of rhe ideology' of Daas. Torch, when it concerns traditional halakhic pesak, do espouse a form. of halakhic pluralism. and acknowledge the legitimacy and perhaps even the desirability of debate and. dissent. It is only on the broad communal hashkafic issues that the notion of Daas Torah, with aU of its aura and weight, is invoked .. As we have alread.y noted, this should. 'be seen. as an attempt to delegitimate dissent on. these issues and to create an appearance of con .... sensus where in fact there is no consensus ..

That the ideologv of Daas Torah, then) has a basis in. and constitutes an extension of certain. traditional sources regarding Io tasur ~ ~ . yami'R u~·sem.ol is clear: that it very carefully ignores other

scholars in the' organizational form of the Moetzes GedcJlei M" Torah~ Of course this ideology, in practice, sometimes works in reverse, in other words; a scholar, ipso facto, becomes a "gadal" by being appointed 'to the Moetzes G'edolei ha-'Torah" For, were he not a 'true gadol~ how could he be a member of that august body?

72ln this respect, the view of Rabbi Samuel b, Ali provides the clearest medieval precedent for the notion of Dam 'Toracn inasmuch as it ascribes general political power and communal supremacy as wen as halakhic au thoric'Y to the Babv loni an yeshivot ~ Nevertheless; in traditional circles; it is the views of the Hamban and the Seiecr M ... Hinukh that are generally cited in support of DWlS TOTah .. See~ fO'r example, the many' essays in Ve .. Zd-rah M .. Shemesh (above) n, 2.8)., 'These' essays; unfortUnately, do not address the many problems involved in using the' Ramban and the' Seie.r hn.~Htnukh as precedents for the' concept of Dam Torah, But, 'Chen, most of these essays originated as addresses delivered at the' various founding, con ventions and concla vet; of Degel ha· TOra.h~ One, in all fai'rness, ought not ~ then, to expect too much of essays which, 'to begin with, were primarily intended to serve' as theologicopol itical pep talks ~


d '. b'l '. · fCo h .' li

sou rces an IS a pro", emanc extension 0,' even, r '; e sources It re tes

upon is equally clear ~

Let us turn, to ehe second rrad itional source cited in support of Daas TOfaht namely, ,Emunat Hakhamim., Here it is possible to be

b · r. t3

'Tler:er ..

h E H' k'L,..... I· bbini

The term. , :munal ' ,'a_,t«.m,im appears on, v once In ra .lntc

literature, in, Per"£k, K'inyan T o7:an of A;VD,t, It 'would seem to be more of an, aggadic concept than a halakhtc concept and its meaning is very obscure. To base, then, the ideology of Daas Torah on Em,unat' Ha,khatrdm, amounts to 'what Schopenhauer=fairlv or u'nfairlysaid about the ontological argument: Ie amounts to smuggling an

id ~ . 1 d' he dina t di ~,

'l iea into a parncu ar concept an", r · en proceecmg to .,. tscover It

h '

t ,-, erem.

First, it is not even clear if ,E munat Hakha,mi'm means "faith in the Sages," Alr,ead.y the M.idr'3,sh Shmuel, in, one of his explana .. , tions, sugge srs that Em,una,t Hakha'm:im means the t4faith of the Sages," that is, a faith based on tradition passed down through the

bk M A 1 1 has b

gerterations golng ,_3,C, to ,oses~ ,,' ", simi ar explanation aas oeen

offered independentlv by Rabbi Norman Lamm 'who notes that 'the term used. is Emu'nat Hakha'mim, noe EmKnah be'.,.Hakhamim,~ For 'R-' abbi Lamm E'm'- "n'''''[ H'a', k'l.,nmim means "a , ise man's f'i!"S;~lt"h ,t that ,;~

~.'.' ei :: : Ii ._ -ci:]", :,", ~ .. ", 'Wl', u,_ ," '·::.-··~',n,",·· .. t' , .' .. ·.p:·o : W .~'. :1' .. ",~,:'~ ~ 1''-1 "~l", iii. .I :.Ib I.~

"a sophisticated faith as opposed to a, primitive ~ naive, simplistic fairh. ~ An even Ill-ore innovative explanation along similar lines 'has been set forth by Professor Eliezer Goldman t who sugge sts trans .. , lacing Emunat HaJ< as the 'Ufaithfulness of the Sages" or '(trus'tw'o'rt'h'[ness of the S ages, n 7'4,

"i3Fof m,y discussion. of ,Em,uMt' Hakhamim, I am greatlv indebted to written comme n ts on the original draft of this chapter which Rabbi Norman Lamm kindly made available to me. All 'my references to Rabbi Lamm are to those' commen ts. On the subject in gener al, see' Sim,h.a Friedman, "Emu nat Hakhamim be-M is hor ha .. Hevrati u-be .. Baa yot Tzibbu.r-,Atga.r Raavoni 0 Hanhagah Operativit," In. Seier ha .. ,Z'ikkaron le .. ,MoTde,mi 'VeizeT' fKevut;t8t Ya"llne'h~ 1981), 136-59 ..

741 remember coming across this explanation in one of Professor ,Goldma:n~s essays but have not been a,ble to locate the exact source,

Daas Torah


Even if we accept the traditional explanation that Emunat

H kha . ec . h i h S- iIiJ' h '.. f- h

' " a, ~'.'~'mE'm mea,ns tairn In t ,: 'e ' "ages,' t" e preC'~se Import 0' , t' "e term

is still obscure" Many commentators take it, to 'be referring to the acceptance of the fundamenral authoritv of the Sages of the Mishnah and,ra in the 'rea 1m ofT DT!ah she-be"al peh t 'l'SO that one she ild ". ' "l·k' S'· dd' ',',. t!7"; A: '. ,. 1 ',' """ th "'.-" ch " 5,: ou " not act ,,1 :e 8,:31 .. '" ucee" , 'n exp .. ana.tlon, t, ;;J,t ;),pproa.C,'fS

the notion of Daas T ora.h is that suggested by the Meiri, "Emurult Hakhamim~ rhar is to say that one should believe the Sages of the

7'See~ for example t Ma,hzor 'VitTi' and Maharal, Deri!Kh Hay:#nL (For fu rther discussion of the Maha ral's view, see' Piekarz t .H:as tdur Pol tn, 84 ~) Rabbi Lamm elaborates: U'What Emunat H:akham,im. 'means, therefore, is rha t T orah is "acquired' if there is an implicit faith that the lll.£Uorah of the' Hakham,im,-the tradition as handed down by the Tannaim and Amo ... ' raim~'is legitimate' and uncorrupted ,. ~ ~ and, therefore, of an obligatory char acter u pan all of Israel. t!

It should be noted 'chat many commentators, R,. Yirzhak Abohab, for example, understand Em'unat Hakhamim, to include, the' authoritv of the Sages in 'matters of agg:adah. See the' references in Friedman, "Emunat Hakharnim," 4~7i But, of course, the authority of the sages in the realm of aggadah is a subject of serious debate among RLshonim and ,AhaTDnim,. For the views and a representative sa rnp le of R.ishonim who deny tbe authority of the sages in this realm see Fried'm,an, ~E'munat Hakhamim," 1.5~25; and Marc Saperstein, Decoding the Rabbis (Cambridge, NfA: Harvard Universi;'Cy Press, :(980)1 chap. 1 .. To their lists we must now t in H,gh.t of recent scholarship, unequivocally add the Ramban, See Bernard Septimus, "Open Rebuke and Concealed Love. Nahmanides and the Andalusian Tradition," in Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban)= ExplOTtlti'onJ in his ReU~, giow ,and Litera,ry 'V6tuwity~ ed. Isadore' Twersky (C,a'm.bridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 1.983), 11~22,; and 'Marvin Pox, "Nahmanides on 'the Status of A-giadot: Perspectives on the Disputation at Barcelona, 12,63," Journal of Jewish Swd,lf5. 40.:'1 (1989): 95-109~ For Aharoni'mt see above, n. 36~ To Rav Hirsch and Rav Hoffman, mentioned in. that note, we' also ought 'to add the Maharita Hayyo't .. See' his Mat/o ha-,TalmUli, chaps" 17-JZ~ In any event, the question of the authoritv of the sages in matters of agg:adah. is not q uite the same' as. the, question of Daas Torah, t'h.ough the' two issues are obviouslv related,



Torah in whatever they say, even in matters which one's. intellect does not grasp," Of course, this refers to a person who does 'not grasp or understand what the sages are saying, someone' who is in the process of acquiring' Torah, It does not refer to an obligation on the part of a knowledgeable rabbi to suppress 'his. own considered, view" of a matter .in obedience to the supposed, Daas Torah of Geaolim., This 'may be how Rabbi "Bernard Weinberger understands Emunat Ha,khamimj but 'his interpreration should, by 'no means be confused with that of "the Meiri, Interestingly enough, when "the greatest rabbinic scholar of the Meiri's day, the Rashba, issued a ban against rhe studv of philosophy bv anyone under the age of 25, the Meiri did, not submit himself to, the '~Daas Torah" of the Rashbe, 'but opposed. the ban openly and forrhrighrlv +. 76 'FoT' that matter, the Rashba himself did 'not appeal '10 any notion of ,Daas TorQ,h, but issued, the ban in the name of and as the rabbinic head of the Jewish communirv of Barc.elon.a" and the ban was signed bv both the rabbinic and lav leaders of the' community. n

As has been suggested 'by G'ershon 'Bacon,"16 Norman Larnm, and above all, 'Men,d,el Piekarz,79 'the concept of,Em'U'nat Hakhamim becomes central in hasidic ideology where" shifted away from the traditional rav, it becomes transmuted into belief in the tzaddik" The tta4dik,~s word governs all rhe affairs of the community and all the personal affairs of the members of the communirv, and, belief in

--- - .

'ibSee the letter of the Meiri to R" ,Abba 'Mari of Lunel in Simon B"

Joseph's "Hoshen Mishpat" published by 'David Kaufmann in Jub.ebchrilt' ~m Neun:,<:::lg.~[rn G'ebuTtst'ag' des Dr. L. ,Zun:, (Ber~in:p. 1884)~ 150-72., (Signif• t: 'h 'M . ., I b e d i B Z D' Y' l icanr excerpts rrom t te Meiri's etter mav ne touru , in " ". :InuT",israe

ba-G'olah" vol, 2, bk., 4 [jerusalem: Dvir, 1969], .2.59-61.,)

Ti c -- 'R' ," 'M ' • /' ",L - 'R·",," h" :L ~ , ,I 1 ' ", '5: 15 5-'1' 7'.. ,£ "... "' '," t :t ed

~ .. t:$l ...... rua 0 "Il..e .. asna, VQ, " lI! nos.. ,- "" . :Ii i,or an a,,a ,e:,

cridcal edition of t hese three response, See' chaps, 99-101 of Se:fer M';inhat· Kenaot' by R. Abba Mari of 'L unel, in Tes'huv'Ot ha-Rashba~, pt., 1, vol, 2 ~ 00. Hay-yim Z .. Dimltrovskv (jerusalem: Mossad ha .. Rav Kook, 1990), 722-J.8t

18S' , ...... ~."t,..' , , '. "' , , , '" " " "" "-

',ee; Bacon, ,Ati,~th Israel :I:n POw.nd, 59-6(}; Daat Torah ve-Havlei

M h- , '. h- H IC;:O" 2' 3"

as la :11 .). -. ~

7"-lp" k - H 'd ,,'0. Z" 8: 1 B'l

,,"Ie. ,a'fl,:!! ,,4S1:U[ ,rO,ln I c -""".J ..

Daas T'orah


the tzaddi'k. is ,3. religious value per se, In the twentieth century the roles of the Lithuanian rav and, even more SOt the Lithuanian 'rush yeshivah, perhaps as a result of the breakdown of the tradirional Jew:ish cornmunirv, begin to resemble those of the hasidic rebbes, and belief in 'the ttaddU<., suitably 'modified and, now projected onto both rav and, again, even more SO~, rosh .. yeshivah, appears in the garb of Dam TOrah~ 80 However, the mirnagdic proponents of Daas Torah

h 1 d ~ '" di ~"··h h idi f' h

ave concea e . Its immec late origins In t .' e . aSL ic concept ot t e

_J..J·"k d' d 'h di 1 li k d' ., h h .. f

ttuU,(,ll,:. ano Ins-tea, ave c irecttv mxec it witn t •. , e notion 0"

E· .. · .. '.' Hak'l, __ ". " .. 81 0", . .. '- · .. -' - d :." b .' . id . h h ·

munat .. ' . . na,ml.m~ . . nee aga1.nt It nee ,not . e sal·. tat t IS

S&rhe connection between the breakdown of traditional communal structures and c: he rise of a quasi-hasidic 'notion of ,Emunal Ha.k.hamim in mitnagdic circles comes to light, interestingly enough t in the 'following statement of 'Rabbi Yosef Avraham Wolf in "Le-Kavvevm N'efesh Ahat mi- Yisrael, ~ in Ha ... Tek'Ufah 1-VBaayot'ehaht to. "In a generation in which the structure of the holy communities with their 'rabbis at their head is no longer eo be found. r i "we' have no support except Emunat Hakha.mim~ And in matters of healing as 'wen, we teach that a'ny 'matter of healing, be ic: healing of the soul or of the body j should be decided by the righteous sages that God has planted in our generation. And 'many sick. people: have been saved solely as a result of the: counsel of the sages, They advise who is the proper doctor, what is the proper hospital . '" ~ and, above all, their blessings and prayers have saved. manv ~ fJ'

BlA h ibl C h . f D'" T h L 'h

-,,,. not er possi :~"e source •. or t. enouon or .iaas ora may ne t, e

Musa.T movement. See above t n .. 6~ for Rav Yisrael Salan rer's view on Daas Torah .. Of particular interest is a statement attributed to Rav Naran Tze'vi Finkel" the Alter of Slobodka, that a view of a RidlOn prefaced. by nireh Ii (it appears to 'me) carries more weight than a 'View of his grounded in an earlier source, FO'r 'while' the latter rests or fans on thac: one specific prooftext, the nireh Ii is supported by the entire vase: T orah knowledge and Torah personalitv of that .Rishon* Recently, Tamar Ross, in an important essay, "Tenuat ha-Muaar ve-ha ... Baavah ha-Hermeneutit be-Talmud Torah t.;; Tarbiz 59 (1989-90): 191-214 t has linked the use of the notion of Daas Torah in the writings of several major Mwar figures, 'most promi ... nenrlv ·R .. Joseph Bloch, to their attempted. solutions to the problem of how' to overcome the distortions of personal bias in the study of Torah


Lawrence Ka,plan,

"strong" reading (or; better, creative rnlsre ading) of Emunat H akhamim (its in perfectly with the ethic of submission of the rejecrionist Orthodox, And, also once again. we see that the attempt to ground [he ideology of Daas Torah in traditional sources is, perhaps, a 'bit more problematic than Rav Dessler and other propo .. nents of that Ideology would have us believe~82

We therefore feel j u stified in concluding this section, with the clear-cur and definitive 'pronouncement of the noted rabbinic scholar, Professor Ephraim Urbach. u,Daal"Tolfah ideology has never been, based upon authoritative halakhic sources, and, as far as I know, recourse has never been made to it in. halakbic de'bate~,783

while avoiding the opposite hazards posed by academic' decachment, In Ross's analvsis, ic turns. out 'chat the notion of Daas Torah, is a key element in these Mwar figures developing a hermeneutical approach to Torah 'chat Is both traditionalist and, at the same time, creative and relative, See n. 8'1" below' ..

Sl Another statement that has been cited in. support of the ideology of Daas Torah "is the comment of the Ramban. in his ,H'id(Jushi'm on Saba, Ba,tra l2s, 5~V,. M~<>~o~n she,~hara4). Compare Derruhot M,·Ran, no. 'l2 (214). However, as Rabbi Shubert Spero has shown, the Ramban's statement cannot 'be. made to bear this weight, See Shubert Spero, ~Daas T orah, ~ 18-19. In general, one rnav say that the major thrusr of 'traditional rabbinic scholarship and doctrine, from the Dera.shot ha~Ran through the justifiably famous preface to the Kerzor ,Ha-Hoshe:n. down ('0 Rav Moshe Feinstein's impressive preface to Igg'e'Tor :M:05heh~ is that scholars study and decide matters of law, not with any superhuman powers, but with their very fallible human Intellecrs (sekhel en.o$h'i)~ [For a somewhat different emphasis, see Responsa of the Hac'a'm .soler" vol, 1 (Ora,h H:ayyfm)~ no .. 208,.,] Of course, precisely this grave' and. daunting, responsibtlitv resnng upon the shoulders of the scholar-posek, the charge of interpeeting and applying the revealed word of God with one's own limited human abilttles-> demands of him" as Rav Moshe emphasizes, the utmost In. both piety and . '('( l ri

'[ nte ectu a , rigor.

8luTh,e History of Polish Jew's after 'World War I as Reflected in the T raditional Litera ture,' In The Jews 'in Pala:nd Bet'tveen Two, World: WaTs~


What of Daas Torah today? ,And what of its future prospects? 1. would argue that the ideology of Daas Torah today may, at least in part, be a victim of it's own success and, more important .. a victim of the success of traditional Orthodoxy.

What has been observed in, recent years is the emergence of multiple and conflicting claims 'made by various competing groups and factions and their leaders within rraditlonal Orthodoxy to be the possessors of true Daas Torah .. Such a development, however, 'renders the notion that a Daas TtJ'rah viewpoint' on, a particular issue is the sole legitimate 'To-rah viewpoint on, that issue both tenuous and implausible.

ed. Yisrael Gutman et al, (Hanover, NH:: University Press of New England, 1989), 229~

One apparently strictly halakhic subject where the norton o'f Daru Tora,h was invoked was. the question of the permissibility of machine ma,lzot,. Both Rav Henoch Levin and Rav Tzevi Frcrnmer defended the prohibition 'imposed on machine 'matzot by Rav Shlorno Kluger, the Scchacrewer Rebbe and others on. the basis of Daa.s Torah., See Piekarz, Hmid'ut Polin.~ 94-96. It is exceptionally significa ne, how'ever'j that both Rabbis Levin and Frommer invoke the concept of Daas Torah not in their halakhic tfshu'vot, 'but rather in derruhot they delivered on Shabbat ha.Gadol, in other words, in an aggadic context. Indeed, there '1S a striking contrast between the posture of extreme self abnegation assumed by Rav F rornmer in his discussion of Daos Torah in his; ikrw:hGn (see above, n. 70) and the spirit of respect balanced with critical independence manifested in his ceshu,vot,. Thus, as Professor Urbach has noted (241,-42), Rav Frommer l n Resporua E1'ett M:'" Tzevi, no i 10),,, t ekes issue ~ of cou rse in. a h 19 h 1 y re-spectful manner - with the view of his own 'teacher, the Scchaczewer Rebbe, on the important issue of the 'inheritance of the post of ra bbi. W'e can have no better example of the radical difference between the spirit of servility underlvi ng the whole notion of Daas. T Drah and the spi ri t of critical indendence and debate animating the' realm of halakhic pesak!

/1 ~,





There would. seem to 'be at least two reasons for the prollferarson of clashing Daas Tor:ah viewpoints and pronouncements .

.Fi·TS.t". The last few years have seen, particularly in, Israel, mounting dissension. among rhe various, groups making up the traditionalist Orthodox Charedi.} comrnunitv, Of course, one can offer all types of specific and local 'reasons, for the emergence of this, ofte'D 'vicious feuding and internecine conflict, 'Wit'hour discounting

· 1 ., 'I 1 d h-" 'I hi fl' ..

pa rncu ar triggers, woui .. argue t ar, In iarge measure, t 'IS nasion

and fragmentation should 'be seen as a result of rradirlonallst Orthodoxy's, success and its new-found sense of triumphalism .. Of course, there have always. been divisions and tensions among the

.' ~ ~ diti I" ~ 'hod' H

va'TlOUS ca:mps c.omprlslng tra. __ mona 1St 0Tt ... , .... oxy~ .. ~' owever,

when rradirionalisr Orthodoxv fe]t 'beset 'by the onslaught of modernitv, when it was on, the defensive and fighting what often seemed to b,e a. rearguard holding action, .. all camps felt the need to band together J at least to a, certain [ext en t i Today, the tr adit· onal ist Orthodex=and with, good reason=feelthat the crisis is over; not only that the dire threat posed by modernity to their community has passed 'but that they have emerged victorious from their encounter, their 'battle' with. the modern world. This being the case, the external pressure' has dissipated and the natural inremal divisions reappear, 'W'hat fol~ow's from this. is that .. given the popularity of Daas T or:ah~ eac h warring traditionalist" group, not surprisingly 1 invokes DQilS Torah on behalf of its own position and against the posi tiona of its ri val s~

Second., Generally, as I have argued, the Daas Tar.ah viewpoint on,

i. h'" h" h k' .' '. .'

. '. I" [", • .1' I • ,-'" . - ,':, 11.'. , ," ., - '. 'J I -,' 1"'," .' ':

any given Issue was t nat viewpoint W ucr too _. a more rejecnontst

stance toward modernity and its values, Until recently, it was a fa.i:r'~y simple matter to identifv this viewpoint, Wh,'et'her the issue at hand turned on cooperarion with the n.on, ... Orthodox, secular stud .. , les, or Zlontsm, to 'name 'but a few examples, the more rejectionist ano, consequentlv, the supposedly more "{rum" viewpoint was 'e'BSY to determine, However, now Daas Torah is being invoked on 'both sides of a. new' iss ue, the question. of the return of the rerrltories, where such a determination becomes immeasurably more diffi,cult~


For, pray tell, which is the more "modern." and less u/rumi' position and W' hich the less "mod e rri" a n .. ·d. more: 'f..I.-'·~'m-- M PO··S·'-l·'t· 1'"0' n on the

'1'" .', .l! ... ,' ',I ·,\-0·' '1'1·."· ""', ,'1"" lfl~ '. . . ...., ..

question of the territories: the "dovish" DQ4S Torah viewpoint of Rav Shach and his followers or the "hawkish" Datl:'S Torah'v'iewpoin,t expressed 'by various hasidic leaders? For, in. truth, each side can and does-with some jusnflcanon=clalm that its position is the' more "traditional, n the more [rum, the legs - heaven forfend!-, modern one, and, hence, that its position should be seen as an expression of'"trueM Daas Torah. For the firm adherent of any one of these groups there is, of course, no problem, But what is the bewildered. onlooker to make of it all?

Thus, as a result of the proliferarion of conflicting Daas Torah viewpoints; of conflicting Deot Tora.h, if we may coin a phrase, the concept of Daas Toyah as the expression of th.e sole legitimate, authentic T orah viewpoint would seem to be in trouble~ Neverthe .. less, it would be premature to predict an, early demise for Daas Torah; Of, indeed" any demise at all. For Daas Torah; as we have seen, is, before anything else', the quintessential expression of the traditionalist Orthodox ethic of submission, And this ethic continues to thrive and ·flourish. in all circles of tradtrionalist Orthodoxy" Thus" the continued strength and vigor of this ethic make it likely thar ged'oli'm will continue to issue Daas. Torah pronouncemerits and that demands to submit to the superior wisdom and insight of these g:edoUm, and rherebv demonstrate true Emunat Hakham,im, will continue to be made, and, more Important, wiU continue to be heeded, The career of Daas Torah; therefore, despite all its problems, is 'by no means over ~

I have nor, in this discussion, set forth what I consider to 'be the correct view (or views) ofrabbinic authoritv, particularly as it bears on issues of communal policy .. It 18 clear from what I have said that I consider the concept of Daa.s To-r:ah to 'be highly problematic. I 'would like to make it equally clear that I believe that rabbinic authorities ought to plav an important role in matters of communal policy" But I am not ready to provide answers to such questions as the exact nature of their authorltv or the proper relationshlp


be" tw .: · een rabbinic s' it'>; d 'Ia .. y·' le ad, .. e' rship. Mv~ own tenrarive im pression

". G._ .. _,· ". "- '~"" I. JO. to,' .-', • r..r""!Il, ," ._I'W. , ", ,,"l!:l._,~ ", I ... ,._.

, , ,

is rhat a thorough historical and halakhic studv will 'reveal thae

there were differenc, oft endmes contlictin,g, notions of rabbinic aurhorirv in, fore e in d.ifferen,[ communiries and eras, and that ehe picture that will emerge will be a very rich and, complex one" Certainly this beyond, the scope of thi~ chapter to even begin, ro

sketch such a picture.

lf, then ~ rh is discussion ends on a nore of incompletenes s l can

1 behalf hat ir i 1- ~ b ... 'h

on, y say, on my oenarr, t' art it IS a ways easter [0 ee a crmc t an to

offer positive alternatives, Of course, ir is. ofeeneirnes very importanr

. ~A

" . be ' . h - .~ ";"'~ y""f

to r: e just sue' ,3 cnnc.

64Just as 1 had completed this chapter and. was about to send it to the editor c·f ehls volu me, I carne across Mendel Pi,ekarzts rece nd y pu blish:ed

~,;; -

and. very import a nt war k, Ha.ddut Polin (see n. :6 ~ above). In. it t Piekarz

clearl y shows r hat the co ncepr of Daas Torah originated in. hasidic circles in, the ~ ate nineteenth century in response to the decline of tr adirlon and th e rise at secul arism 'in Jewish life;, In, 1 igh t of this studV'~ I now suspect that I followed. Bacon too ,doset Y' in situating the development of the concept of Daas Torah, 'within the coneexr of the his,"ory of Agudas Yisrael and Its rise as a political party, Considered together Plekarz's discussion. of hasidic t heologv, Ba,con's, treattnen t of agudist ideology ~ ROS5~S analysis of musarist hermeneutics (see n, B I!: above], and the haredi placards in Torat ,R.ebbe

A 11 h e: ll · . D" 'T l' ~ ad

'm,TQ,m seem to ten [ : e m , owing story, . ... t7€tS : oraJt, 1.11 us me 'ern. se rise,

originared in hasidic circles in. rh.e late nineteenth century. It soon. spread to micnagdlc circles, raking root first in. the extremist nared:l' community of Jerusalem (see n, 1.5)" Graduallv it entered the more mainstream separatist Orr hodox circles of Agudas Yisrael ~ beginn i,n,g in. the 1.0 rerw ar period, bur only corning fully into irs ow n and achieving, ,c;omp lete dominance in the postwar era. (The MlIlSaT' movement appears to have, played a secondary and support j,ng role in. this entire process.) Perhaps, then ~ the success of ,Dan.s Torah within the mimagdic ~5h;ivah,~ world should be seen as one exam ple among man.y' of th.e ~H,asidic:ization:" o( t hat world,

While Piekarz's study" then, requires modification of my historical overview I! fundamen (ally i:r: 0 nl V reinforces m V' ceneralcontendon t hat the concept: of Daas TOrah Is first and foremost an expression. of [he ethic of

Daas Torah


submission. See especially in this. regard his chap, ]~ ".Emunat .Hakhamim and Absolute Obedience to Daas Tora;h~;' in which it becomes clear that Daas Torah is viewed t in hasidic sources, as a reenactment of '[he Akedah·t whereby the individual sacrifices his intellect on. the altar of blind obedi- . ence to the words of the sages (see also chap, 2) .. The one weak spot in Piekarz is his discussion of the classical roots of the concept of Dae: Torah~ Unfortunately, quoting only very selectively from [he Ramban's Cammen.itary on [he Torah and. thus ignoring, among other Important discussions, the Rarnhan's significant comments in Sefa ha--MitZ{1ot~ Piekarz mislead", ingly gives us to understand that Daas TOrah is well grounded in tradi .. , tional sou tees.

One final general point. While Plekars, Bacon; and. Ross focus on different ideological processes and movements in their accounts of the development of the notion of ,Daas 'YO'raht their accounts are more complementary than contradictory, inasmuch as they share one cridcal element in common, For in all three accounts the notion of Daas Totah arises as a response to the varying challenges that the modern world poses to the aurhorirv of the rabbinic tradition, In. Piekarz's account, rhe concept of Daas Torah is put fonward as part of the hasidic "attempt to affi.rm, the essential heteronomy of the halakhic tradition in light of the dangets that the modern emphasis on autonomy poses to the binding authorltv of rabbinic law. In Bacon's account, the concept of Dam Torah emerges as part of the attempt to 'bolster the political and communal authority of the spo kesmen of the rabbinic tradition in. light of the ideological and political challenges posed. to t hose spokesmen 'by secular Jewish movements and. parnes. Finally~ in Ross' account, Dam Torah serves as a key element in developing an approach to the. study of Torah that would. guarantee the validity of traditional rabbinic interpretation of the law In light of the skeprical challenge posed by the hermeneutic revolution. Precisely these manifold challenges to the authority of the rabbinic tradition, then, led many of the defenders and exponents of that tradition to make extreme and far .. reaching theoretical claims on its behalf and, even more impor .. [ant" on their own behalf as the aut horized representatives of that tradition. In. sociological terms: "Status anxiety, ... ~ increases the assettiveness of sta [us claims" (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences t vol, 15 [1968]~ 25J.)~ See my essay, "Rabbi Isaac Hutner's 'Daas Torah' p.erspective on the Holocaust," 248 n, 5~


LawTen,ce ,KapZ4n

On January 17, 19,44, the Belzer Reb be, Rav Aaron Rokeah, together' with, his brother Rav Mordecai=after having escaped in May 1943, from the ghetto of Bochnia in Western 'Galicia to H,u'n,gary,-lett Budapest for the land of Israel, using immigration certificates reserved for veteran Zionists .. One day earlier, Rav Mordecai, "with the approval and, as the agent of his brother," delivered a major farewell sermon "in the great hall of the Kahal:

Yereen of Budapest, W in the presence of "a large audience lof thou .. sands ofjews together with great rabbtnic scholars and, the leaders and prominent men of the city and, country .. '" This sermon was printed a,s a special brochure, ha·, on February 7, 19'44, and, was reprinted about a month later, "since the first printing 'has sold, out in a few davs and from, all camps and quarters requests are forthcoming for h,a..Der'ekhF" At about the same time as the second printing, an abridged version of the sermon was published under the ti rle M'alvn.iah Yeshuah (The FlO\veTi~g of R,edempdon), for as the publisher stated, "Its content befits its name'S] for this entire farewell address is filled, with promises for [he future and encouragement for [he present .. '. 'I And, we, believers the children of believers, are certain that the promises of the ttaddik, the gadol ha.-dor (the Belzer Rebbe], will be fulfilled, for us; and, certainly i[ has been revealed, [0 him, from heaven that the end of our troubles is nigh."

In the sermon, Rav Mordecai deals with the concern raised, b,v "many people of weak 'hope and, faith" that the Nazideetruction of Polish and, Galician Jewry as well as the Jewry' of other lands

85,All the primary sources cited in the: epilogue are taken from, the last chapter of Piekarz, Hasillut PaUn" 373-434,. W'e have', however, retold this harrowing story in OUr own way and 'ror our own purposes, For an important recent study that partially overlaps with Piekara, see Menahem Friedman, "The Haredim and the 'Holocaust," Jem.salem Quarrerl)t 53 (Winter 1990}: 86-m, 15. Friedman's article, among other things, cle'arly delineates the various stages in the historical development and emergence of the current "official" D,aas Torah view regarding the Holocau st.

Daas Toeah


disproved. the anti .. Zionist policies of the hasidic and nonhasidic separatist Orthodox leaders and. proved. [he Zionists to be correct.

"F h did h 0- J~l' ~ Y ,1 d ~,J,.J·k· ha ..J'_, __

' _ .'or a. our ea ers., t e ',: ·eu.u,fl·isr:ae an, t<:oo.o..l" .. fJ , .. ,aor-.,

adopted another approach, and had they anticipated, the evil times that have befallen the world and. taken care for the future and, survival of the nation as did others, and had they occupied them .. selves with its salvation, then certainly many would have been spared extinction and the sword of the destroyer."

Rav Mordecai admits that on the surface this argument would. seem [0 be 'borne out by the historical events'! Howeverv he claims, it is precisely this apparent substantiation of the Zionist argument that is, in truth, a divine trial sent b'y God to test the faith of the believer, For, 'historically" there 'have been two types of Jewish leadership: the true leadership of the G'edoiei. Y~ael and tz;addikei ha~,dor and the faIse leadership of the "priests of Baal," ics present incarnation being the secular (a-nd religious"] Zionist leaders .. To criticize, then, in any way, the wisdom or policies of the true leaders and. to imply that the false leaders, on a particular issue, may 'have been more farseeing, is to- side wi th the pries ts of Baal and to desecrate the sancta of Israel. Rav Mord.ecai, therefore, condemns those heretics and, even those who are "sirnply led astray," aU of whom "criticize the t.<:addik,ei ha--dor in a rime of trouble." Rather, "we have naught to do but rely on our Father in 'heaven and. to strengthen our belief in Him, may 'He be blessed, and our belief in the £<:addik im. ?)

In this part of the sermon, then, R.av Mordecai, as Rav 'Dessler 'would do at a later date, used. the doctrine of Daas Torah,-in his case a hasidic version of the doctrine-vto defend the Ge'Clolim and :ttaddikim against the accusation that, as a result of rheir antiZi.onist policies, they had. not done enough to encourage Jewish emigration from Eu.tope [0 the land of Israel,

Of particular interest, however, is the next part of Rav Moede .. cai's sermon, the part containing "the promises of the t:zaddik" to which the publisher of Matzmi·ah. Yesh'U4h referred. 'Here, in a passage of twenty ... two lines, a passage which because of its irnpor ..


renee app eared in the second printing in boldface" Rav Mordecai responds to the accusation that he and his 'brother' were abancloning their' flock in a time of trouble. Already' in October 1943, Rav Yissacher Teichtel, writing in Budapest, described in his work Eym ha .. ,B a, Serneihah "the fear.' and dread th,at hangs over us when all the Adm.orim of our country are attempting to flee to the land of Israel for fear of the danger of the oppressor; and they do 'not take into account the fact that 'by so acting they are causing the spirits of the Jews to sink, when they hear the multitude murmur-

'. "Tc 'h 'R' '. bb flo '. . d h' "II b' . h 1" "'-

mg: .ne .e .. es are r eemg an: w rat wiu oe witr usr

Thl · h R M" dacai d d

.15 1S ow' . av ",Of' acai responc e. :

I wish to inform and enlighten you concerning the murmurings ofmany who are afraid and seized with trembling and ~ .' ~ worried about the future. They .are saving that perhaps, 'heaven forbid~ some danger is hanging over' the '~and and that 'my brother, t'he ttaddi'k of the generation, Shl it" a sees the future and for that reason is traveling to the land of Israel, for it is there that God ordained the blessing, "An,d I will give peace in the land" [Leviticus 26:,6}~ He, therefore, is going to a, place of rest and tranquilirv and has left us, 'heaven forbid, to' sorrow .. Wh,(tt will 'be our end] W'h,() will protect usl W'ho will save us? Who will 'pray for us and Intercede on, oU,I' be'h,alfl Therefore, it is 'my obligation to let you know, 'my dear colleagues" sages of Hungary, the truth" that whoever is close to and a, member of the circle of my 'brother" '" " Sblir'a knows for certain that he is not going in flig'ht or running away in 'haste I as if he wished, to flee from here r Ra:rh,er his entire lo'ng:in.g and desire are to ascend to' the holy 1 and, which is sanctified with ten levels of holiness, And I know that for a long timehe has been yea.rning greatly for the land of Israel, His 'heart's desire and the yearning of his holy soul are to ascend to the city of God, there to arouse [God's] mercy and grace on the entire communirv that they should know rio more sorrow, and the remaining camp will be spared ~ and soon there will be fulfilled, '"I will cut off the horns of the

:Daas Torah


wicked" but the horns of the righteous win 'be exalted" [Psalms 75:.111. And this is alluded to in. the verse, "A'nd 'he saw the resting 'place that it was good and the land that it was delightful" [Genesis '49:15]~ It would seem, that the intention [of the verse} is" ~An,d he saw the resting place" [menuhaht,] 'the t,tadilik sees that rest and tranquility will descend upo'n, 'the inhabitants of this land [i.e., Hungary], "that it was good" [ki too, J that the rzad.dik sees t hat good" and all good" and only good and gra,ce [ki too, tJ'tz .. kol tovt v,e~akh. tov V,f!"",he.sed] will befall our jewish brethren the inhabitants of this land [i.e., Hun-

J *'. 'd' th ,'I,d' n' 'h " ' h" 'h' , add""'k' desi , ""

gary t, anc t e ran ,':, tr e reason W 'y rr e tz~,. '_, 'l :' '" esires to

ascend to and settle in, the land is '~for it is delightful,.~ for it is there that the supernal delight dwells",

On March 19, 1944t, just over two months after the farewell sermon in which the ttaddik had foreseen that "good, and all good, and only good ., .' .' will befall our' jewish brethren, the inhabitants of this land," and one month after the abridged version of the sermon, Mat<;miah Yeshuah" was 'printed", one month after the 'publisher of the abridged version stared, "We" believers the children of believers, are certain that the 'promises of the t~addik and gadol ha~,dor will be fulfilled for us," the Germans occupied Hungary .. On May 14t, less than fou,r months after the farewell sermon, themass deportations of Hungarian Jews 'to the extermination camps began, Toward the end of May, Rebbetzin Havva Halberstarn, '[he widow of Rav Avraham Halberstarn, the Ad'MO'f of Stropkov, was deported from Kashau to Auschwitz" There she and her son, were murdered on May 2S~ Shortly before her death a, SonderKcmmando, who himself later' perished", recorded her last words,

I see the end of H ungarian Jewry~, The government had permitted large sections of the jewish community to flee. The 'people asked the advice of the Admoflm and they always reassured them. The Belzer Rebbe said that Hungary would only endure anxiety, And now the bitter 'hour 'has come, when the Jews can. rio longer save themselves .. , Indeed, heaven

Rabbinic Authority and Personal Autonomy

edited by Moshe Sokol

The Orthodox Forum Series,

A Project of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminarv An Affiliate of Yeshiva University


. .... .".' iu\.::. ". .....,' :....~

No,rthvale, ,New}e'rsey

L, .... ~.J'-n' UJ-IUtI_t.