Denigrating Gedolim

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    “That is to say many people don’t even know who these giants were ….”

    The students of RYBS don’t even know who he was. Every one of them has a different understanding of what he said and meant. Whenever I hear someone quote “the Rav”, I kind of tune out and think, “this is what the speaker wants to say”


    MDG: That was his own fault. He, during his lifetime, let everyone think he meant something what. Hence, two students can cite him as supporting completely polar opposite positions.


    > two students can cite him as supporting completely polar opposite positions.

    Maybe because he was not afaird of addressing controversial topics and also taught students to be thinkers? (yes, there is a risk in that, but also a reward)


    Mdf, rabbi yoshe ber vacillated between shitos, ranging from yeshiva thought, to modernity. He never gave tochacha to his community either, which was a major reason for him not being accepted by the gedolei hador (as heard from rav belsky, regarding the tochacha part). Those two things together make me think that he didn’t consider himself a rov or manhig capable of dispensing torah wisdom, though intellectually he was more than capable. He kept changing his mind about things because he wasn’t comitted to a mesorah fully, and was trying to figure things out on his own.

    This is my impression of rabbi yoshe ber based on the talmidim of his that I’ve known and read of.

    I aget the feeling that he spoke one way with people like rav michel shurin, rav abba bronspigel, rav moshe meiselman, and rav aharon kahn…and another way with norman lamm and his sort. There were two parts to him that did not exist harmoniously; on the one hand, he was a scion of the brisker dynasty, and on the other, he was a PHd who knew like 10 languages and could write academically in all of them. I think a modern talmid brought out the academic, non traditional side of him, and a yeshiva man spoke to his deeply rooted Torah background. I think this frustration can be found in the title of his book “lonely man of faith”. He was a deep believer in Hashem and Torah, and I’m sure he cared about the mitzvos as well. But he also had a yatzer hora, and it succeeded in getting him into secular philosophies. He also had a wife who influenced him greatly as well. Rav simcha sheps was a rosh yeshiva in Torah Vodaas. He was also a talmid of the brisker rov, and probably the first in America to bring that mahalach to American bochurim (besides rav Moshe Soloveitchik, rabbi yoshe ber and his brother rabbi aharon). Once, a bochur said in shiur that “JB says the same sevara!”. Rav sheps kept a cup of orange juice on his desk at all times, should his blood sugar get too low, as he was diabetic. He suddenly threw the orange juice at the bochur, screaming “vi redst du oif a talmid chacham!?!”. After shiur one bochur who had a lot of guts asked the rosh yeshiva why he defended rabbi yoshe ber so much, as he’s not “fun unzerer”. Rav sheps answered him that rabbi yoshe ber was indeed a greater lamdan than rav aharon kotler, but we don’t follow him because he has been influenced greatly by his wife. Being big in learning means that we need to not disrespect him. It doesn’t mean we should refrain from calling out some of his false opinions. I never refer to him by insulting names such as JB, but i do not believe for a minute that he was from the gedolei hador to whom i must be machnia and mekabel kenisinasam misinai.


    Gadol, to be fair to Scalia, idea of originalism is of strict interpretation of written law based on narrow role of Supremes in American Republic. Population is free to make new laws, make Constitutional amendments disregarding Scalia’s opinion. He is simply against unelected judges making those non-democratic decisions. Things are harder to change in the Torah, as voting has only limited role (it does have some veto power: gezerot midrabanan were given a year to see of people accept them, and rescinded if not, like shemen goyim)

    Still, people like R Akiva were ready to be activist judges, claiming (in theory) that he will find defense against any capital punishment.


    I also don’t think that the influence of rabbi yoshe ber, or rabbi kook is on the rise. I think that the frummer elements of the MO and dati leumi world might be emphasizing them as opposed to the more modern rabbis, because they are shifting to the right, while left wing MO is shifting much more to the left, to the level of conservativism in the 50s.

    In the yeshivos, you will never hear rabbi yoshe ber quoted, while 30 years ago you did – people in the yeshiva world were interested in what he had to say…now, he has faded into the limelight. Rabbi kook as well.

    Another reason for this departure (and a way of seeing the falsity kf their opinions) is that both of them had visions of the future that have failed to materialize at all. Rabbi yoshe ber saw the future of the torah world in YU, and he said that if we remain yeshivish, we will die out. Rabbi kook said that the leaders of the state of Israel would all do teshuva and make a state that’s run by halacha. Neither of those things happened; in fact, the precise opposite occured. YU’s model for community and educatio, instead of becoming the dominant stream, has been reduced to being the kiruv cases for the mainstream orthodox. Their involvement in the secular culture has eroded them into being almost indistinguishable from their non jewish counterparts in thought and appearance, and often in deed as well. Rabbi yoshe ber would have recoiled in horror at the thought of LGBT rights, polyamory discussed by high school debate team groups, or even the movies consumed and imbibed by the MO masses.


    “his rabbinic colleagues and students referred to him as”

    All of them that I have heard simply refer to him as “The Rav”, reflecting his high stature.


    “he would stop going to operas”

    My rav o”h was adamant that The Rav held that going to opera was mutar. Rav Hutner z’tz’l used to go to the opera in Berlin with The Rav z’tz’l. My wife and I still subscribe to the Metropolitan Opera. I see a lot of guys in yarmulkes there.


    Reb Eliezer, in what context did the Mattersdorfer bring up Reb Yoshe Ber? What reason did he have to discuss him?


    “Every one of them has a different understanding of what he said and meant.”

    That is because he paskened differently to different people in different circumstances, and at times changed his mind on things. Any decent rav will do that; kal v’chomer the Gedol HaDor.

    And he *was* the Gedol HaDor for the United States for two generations. His students ended up leading most of the orthodox synagogues in America. He isn’t studied in charedi yeshivot today because he hardly published anything during his lifetime and few charedi yeshiva teachers are linked directly to his mesorah.


    “are flawed torah scholars”

    Is it surprising that a thread entitled “Denigrating Gadolim” contains many comments denigrating gadolim by anonymous commenters who don’t have the standing to make such critiques?


    AAQ, do you really think that rebbe akiva was against the death penalty and therefore sought a loophole to break the kavanas hatorah?

    He had a shitah in halacha that makes it virtually impossible to carry out misas beis din. It’s not activism; that’s what MO hacks claim because they wouldn’t know rishonim on shas if they bit them in the face.

    Reb Eliezer

    I don’t remember the context as it was a long time ago. I went to the Yeshiva Chasan Sofer from
    5723 – 5728 lemisporom 63 – 68. He might have repeated some Torah bashem amro, from him.


    > rebbe akiva was against the death penalty

    I understand that he, and R Tarfon, want to minimize it. True, Gemora brings technical examples where these 2 will inquire one way, and Rabonim differently, but it seems to me that Mishna clearly talks about disagreement about social policies. Their statement is between (1) one that executes once in 70 years is excessive and (2) R Shimon’s retort that their liberalism will lead to more murders. I think you can reconcile technical and social approaches saying that RR Akiva & Tarfon would go to great length to find such arguments and others will simply not.

    I don’t think it is a controversial idea that Rabbis were guided by social motives. I am not sure why you are triggered here. Maybe you see me as an advocate for some liberal anti-death-penalty thing? I am not, and I don’t think I learned Makkos (or anything else) with someone who is, or at least obsessed about it. Is it an “MO” thing in your circles?


    charlie > Is it surprising that a thread entitled “Denigrating Gadolim” contains many comments denigrating gadolim

    this is a dilemma raised by Chafetz Chaim – not to praise people who are not universally accepted as tzadikim because you are inevitably causing someone to say – let me tell you, he is not such a great tzadik! I wish we could discuss achievements and opinions of Talmidei Chachamim in order to bring us to their level rather than other way around.


    Charlie > he paskened differently to different people in different circumstances

    Indeed, but I witnessed that students from “MO” schools often do not know that. I may have told this story before, this was in response to a Rav saying that he gives different advise to the same question – can I attend class on comparative religions. “Kids” were shocked.

    But maybe also, R Soloveichik addressed a much wider range of people, so his advise may be of a larger range. Rambam also speaks seemingly in a different voice (and language).


    Charlie; do you really think that the non charedi orthodox world would have been much different in America if not for rabbi yoshe ber? He was hired in a Yeshiva, taught torah for many years and had students who built orthodox shuls, mostly with mixed dancing and darshening up the New York times and rambling about ethics and whatnot… His greatness in learning was largely, sadly ignored by the aforementioned liberal rabbi people. His students who became pulpit rabbis could have just as easily gone to RJJ or to rav Moshe, who gave smicha to thousands. If anyone was *the* gadol hador whose direct influence in psak was and is felt by all generations of almost all sectors of klal yisroel, it’s rav moshe feinstein. Rabbi yoshe ber’s students who were lamdonim, like rav michel shurkin, were usually part of the Yeshiva world which valued such things.

    The yeshivos don’t ignore him just because he didn’t write much; his talmidim are very busy publishing the chidushei hagrid series. The reason why is because they understand his flaws and wish only to teach torah from true torah oriented gedolim.

    ” few charedi yeshiva teachers are linked directly to his mesorah”. He left his mesorah of beis brisk in exchange for Torah with kiekergaard. His mesorah was rav chaim and the beis halevi, both of whom are staples in the yeshivah world. In brisk, his father rav moshe is quoted extensively, even though he had some views that deviated from his mesorah. It’s all relative, no pun intended. Rabbi yoshe ber had absolutely no mesorah for going to university, aside from his mother’s side about whom rav chaim said “ich hob farliren a zun” when the women paskened a kashrus shailah in the kitchen on the day of his father’s wedding.


    The facts are the those “synagogues” were band aids against assimilation that never did anything to treat the problems facing American jewry. The yeshivos, with pure unadulterated torah are what gave lasting kiyum to klal yisroel. Any family that doesn’t take learning seriously ends up assimilated sooner or later


    CharlieHall said “All of them that I have heard simply refer to him as “The Rav”, reflecting his high stature.”

    Outside of the YUii world (almost) no one calls him that


    When one student claims RJBS supported wome egalitarian minyanim whereas another student claims he was deadset against them, y’know there’s a problem.

    Avi K

    Ujm, that happens all the time. There even instances in the Gemara where two Amoraim argue over what their rebbe said and each one swears that he is right. A gadol says complex things. Each talmid comes away with a subjective interpretation.


    A few notes about R’ Soloveitchik, based on things I’ve read and heard from others:

    First, his impact on Judaism in the US was tremendous. It was noted by AviraDeArah that many could have gone to learn by R’ Moshe or others. Yes, that’s true for some. And as was noted, many of his students built shuls whose members had functions with mixed dancing. But remember that the times back then were very different than they are now. Many of these people were not frum at all, or barely hanging on. They would not have sent their children to R’ Moshe, because he was too “extreme” for them. The Rav gave them a place where they felt comfortable, and he brought Torah Judaism to them, one step at a time. He definitely didn’t hold that mixed dancing was acceptable, but if someone was going to do it anyway, he believed that it was better to have them do it in a place which started with basics – keep Shabbos, eat kosher, follow the laws of taharas hamishpacha. Maybe the parents didn’t stop the dancing, but many of the children did. He shifted the observance level positively.

    Regarding his Torah: as I’ve posted before, I learned in Darchei Torah. I personally know someone who asked the Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Altusky, about learning the seforim of The Rav. R’ Altusky told him, “Absolutely, they’re fantastic! I have them all at home, and you should definitely learn them!” The bochur asked why the yeshiva didn’t have them on the shelves in the Beis Medrash, and R’ Altusky replied that while his shiurim on Gemara were excellent, they still disagree on hashkafic differences. Some of the younger bochurim might not differentiate, and would think all his seforim should be learned. So they kept his seforim on Gemara in the library instead of in the beis medrash.

    As for different students claiming different views on things (like egalitarian minyanim), R’ Schachter once said in an interview that things like this were a common occurrence. The Rav knew were the different communities were holding. In one place, a minyan where a woman carried the Torah around on her side of the mechitzah might be warranted, to get them to come to shul. In another area, he could have been adamantly opposed to it. It all depended on who was asking.

    Lastly, about YU/RIETS in general: I once had a conversation with a well-known and respected Rav about it once. I also once spoke with R’ Bender about it.
    First, the Rav I spoke with: he told me that he knows all the stories said about R’ Miller zt”l and R’ Gifter zt”l, and how they left RIETS because they felt it wasn’t frum enough. He knows the criticism that was said about it back in the early/mid 1900s. “And you know what? They were right! At the time, it had problems! But it changed. Do you want to know why? Because they started sending the boys to Eretz Yisrael to learn for a year or two after high school. And that made a world of difference. As soon as that started, RIETS and YU had a HUGE improvement! And the issues they had all those years ago are gone now!”
    Rabbi Bender told me that he felt YU/RIETS gets a bad rap in the yeshivish world, and it’s not warranted. He told me, “Sure, we don’t send our guys there, because it’s a different hashkafah. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad place! It’s excellent for most of the people who go there, and they have tremendous Talmidei Chachomim there!” He also pointed out that there were a few Darchei guys who he had encouraged to go to YU, because he felt it was the proper place for them.

    mesivta bachur

    The actual close talmidim like R’ Willig shlita and the Rav’s grandsons hy”d and shlita are the ones actually upholding the Rav’s mehalech and Torah; anyone who claims that the Rav would have supported women’s minyanim is not a true talmid of the Rav and simply twisting the Torah and the Rav’s Torah.


    DaMoshe: What your basically describing is that RJBS was the head kiruv rabbi for America.

    Regarding your points about YU in general, in fact they’ve gotten much worse over the last 25 years, with their student body as well as some faculty, including some of the rabbinic faculty in RIETS, literally offering open support for practitioners of toeiva.

    Reb Eliezer

    When it comes to mixed dancing, I heard if you must, dance with your wife.


    yeshiva bachur, i do not think it is your place to anilize the gidolim😉 its above and beyond us


    If both sides want to argue with facts, you can go look at yutorah site and listen to numerous divrei torah there and form your opinion. Do we have a similar collection of other makomos Torah? In older times, there were lots of tape collections at the local kollel – R Avigdor Miller, R Berl Wein, more. I now see some occasional recordings but not systematic learning. Can someone recommend a place?


    AAQ: TorahAnytime


    ujm, thanks. It did change from the last time I looked it up years ago! Now, the challenge is to find the relevant ones in this ocean 🙂


    Regardless of what one thinks about their Hashkofos, Rav Kook and Rav Yoshe Ber were both Gedolei Olam.
    Rav Kook was an outstanding Talmid Chochom who was an expert in all areas of Torah. He authored many works in Halacha including, “Shabbat Haaretz” a work on the Halachos of Shemittah. He also published Shailos Uteshuvos Seforim which adressed questions about almost all area of Halacha. it is quoted that The Chazon ish would recomend Talmidim to learn it. He was also an expert in Machshava and Kabballah as evident from many of his other Seforim.
    it is true that he was a zionist, which many view as negative, but is important to note that there are a variety of views on the Zionism and the state of Israel from various Gedolim, and many Great Gedolim viewed The State of Israel as a positive thing. Granted, Rav Kook was a much stronger and more radical Zionist than the other Gedolim, but nevertheless many of the Gedolim did view The State of Israel positively. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, and Rav Ovadya Yosef (in a Teshuvah about saying Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut) all used the term “Aschalta Digualah” about the state of Israel. Rav Dessler was not willing to go that far, but he nevertheless writes that the state of israel is a gift from Hashem (Michtav Meiliyahy). Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky is quoted similarly (Emes Liyaakov, in a footnote on Parshas Bo). Rav Herzog and Rav Zevin, two Giants of the last century, recited Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut. The Ponivitzer Rav, refrained from saying Tachanun on Yom Haatzmaut. (There were certainly many Gedolim who felt otherwise, though).
    The Gedolim, with a few exceptions, viewed him as a Gadol in a full sense. Here are just a few examples:
    Rav Isser Zaman, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Rav Aryeh Levine, were very close to him and talked very highly about him. Rav Elayashiv at a young age, developed a Kesher with Rav Kook, and Rav Kook was in fact his Shadchan and Mesader Kiddushin. He seems to have been Machshiv him later on life as well, and he even supported the firing of and editor who took out references to Rav Kook’s Seforim. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach was Machshiv Rav Kook very much, and even got a Haskamah from him on his Sefer Meorei Haish. Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky is quoted as calling Rav Kook “A Gaon and a Tzadik” (The making of a Gadol p. 1087.) Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, in a letter to Rav Kook, praised Rav Kook very highly. Rav Ovadya Yosef quotes Rav Kook several times in his Teshuvos. Even Rav Avigdor Miller who very strongly disagreed with Rav Kook’s ideology, when asked for his opinion on Rav Kook, makes sure not to directly criticize Rav Kook. At one point in the answer, he even says “I want to be very careful with the kavod of Rav Kook.” Most of The Gedolim didn’t agree with much of his Hashkafah, but that in no way undermined the respect they had for him.

    Rav Yoshe Ber, as well was undoubtfully a Gadol. Most of the other Gedolim had objections to some of his Hashkafos, but that should not undermine our respect for him.
    The fact that he had an openness to secular studies should not be viewed as being due to his falling prey to the Yetzer Harah. The question of how much openness to secular studies is an issue which has been debated for many centuries, with Chashuv people on both sides. (There are obviously some things which shouldn’t be studied. The question is just where to draw the line). Already in the times of the Rishonim, this was a major difference between The Ashkenazi and Sefardi Rishonim. While the Ashkenazi Rishonim generally viewed secular studies, especially philosophy, with disdain, some of the Sfardi Rishonim such as The Rambam and Meiri were very knowledgeable in many secular subjects. in later centuries as well, there were different perpectives. Great Leaders, such as The Chasam Sofer and the Beis Halevi were more limiting in their views of secular studies, while The Rama and The Gra seem to have been more open to forms of it. Later on, it became one of the major differences between the Lithiunian Rabonim and Rav Shimshon Rifoel Hirsch, Rav Hildenscheimer and the other Rabonim in Germany. The Fact that Rav Yoshe Ber was more open to secular studies, therefore, does not have to be viewed as an inherently negative thing. He was following the lead of great people before him (although it was admittedly different that the Brisker Mesorah). It is important to note, also, that when he went to university, it was a much safer place than it is now, and other great people went such as the Lubavicher Rebbe and The Sereidi Aish.
    In regards to his wife not covering her hair, it is important to note that in that time period there was unfortunately a big laxity in women covering hair, and many lithiuanian women, including wives of other prominent Rabonim, did not cover their hair. Rav Shach is even quoted as allowing a someone to marry a Lithiuanian girl who didn’t cover her hair, because it was viewed by the women as not a big deal, and did not reflect an overall laxity in Halacha on their part (although certainly it is Assur).
    It is true that Talmidim quote conflicting things from him, but this does not make him any less of a Gadol. Much of it has to do with the fact that his Hashkafah changed greatly in certain areas over time. for example, in his early years he gave a Hesped for Rav Chaim Ozer which discussed how Daas Torah is necessary even in totally non-Halachic scenarios, a position which seems to be at odds with his later Hashkafah. Also, he switched from Agudah to Mizrachi. A switch of opinion is totally acceptable and can be found in other Gedolim also. Rav Hutner, for example, went from being a Talmid of Rav Kook, to adopting an almost Satmar-like position on The State of Israel (although he was still Machshiv Rav Kook). Some of it may also have to do with the fact that different Talmidim interpeted his stamements in different views. This is not a Chisaron in Rav Yoshe Ber, it is found with many other Gedolim also. Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rav Hutner for example, were all very influenced by The Alter of Slavodka, but they all had unique perspectives. The Gemarah also is full of conflicting reports from Amoraim (as someone pointed out before). Antignos Ish Socho had two Tamidim who left Yiddishkeit because they misunderstood what he meant in Pirkei Avos (See Avos 1,3, with Meforshim).
    Although many of the other Gedolim disagreed with some of his Hashkafah, almost none of them disrespected him and many of them were clearly Machshiv him. Rav Moshe Feinstien called him every Yom Tov. Rav Hutner referred to him as a Gadol. Rav Shmuel Rosofsky was in Boston in the end of his life and would often talk in learning with Rav Soloveichik. The ponivicher Rav is quoted as calling him The greatest Rosh Yeshivah in ASmerica. These are but a few examples.

    They were both huge Gedolim and should be viewed as such.

    Shlomo 2

    Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
    Person B: “But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge.”
    Person A: “But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

    (The above illustrates the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.
    Commentators to this thread would be wise to contemplate it.)


    “Gedolei hador cannot be influenced by the tides of outside, alien philosophy.”

    1) That’s a load of garbage. Many great Torah scholars and leaders throughout history were influenced by and sided with secular philosophers on many issues.
    2) You imply that any philosophy coming from “outside” of Jewish origin is automatically wrong, which is garbage.
    3) By making such a ridiculous statement, you automatically disparage all great Torah scholars who are also well versed in philosophical areas.
    4) You aren’t a gadol hador, and therefore it isn’t up to you to decide what is a prerequisite of achieving that title.


    “You aren’t a gadol hador, and therefore it isn’t up to you to decide what is a prerequisite of achieving that title”

    Agreed. Throughout our history, gadolim with long-term relevance have not been insular and have managed to maintain and reinforce the relevance of daas torah for their times w/o the need for sudden reversals or inexplicable deviations from their predecessors. Most importantly, our gadolim have always seemed to be adept at discerning which of their predecessors are the ones to look to for guidance.

    Reb Eliezer

    If we envision our predecessors like malachim, angels then we can look at us as humans but if we see them as human then we should see ourselves like donkeys and not like the one of Pinchas ben Yair as we don’t comprehend their greatness.


    Y1836, you joined to look up a 6 month old thread? please get a hobby


    Reb E: Perhaps thats why a good friend (who is a real melamed) listens respectfully to my spin on some issue and then leans back, and mutters something that sounds a lot like “vayiftach hashem es pi ….”


    My current schedule doesn’t afford me the ability to write long, detailed, researched replies anymore, but I’ll just say that we have first hand accounta of the chofetz chaim literally making fun of rabbi kook’s name when he made his twisted statements about soccer playing mechalelei shabbos being “holy”. He called the pritzus painting artist Rembrandt a “tzadik”. He eschewed eating meat in clear, open violation of the gemara in Nazir which calls a lerson who abstains from devorim mutarin as a sinner, from “asher chatah al hanefesh”.

    Rabbi yoshe ber believed compromise was necessary to save Judaism, and that the yeshiva world would crumble into obscurity if we didn’t create a “new talmid chacham”, who can darshen up the new york times. He believed in lowering our standards lf greatness to save us, much like conservatism, minus the outright denial of the Torah. But that is in its own right a denial or ki lo sishakach mipi zar’o, that torah – pure torah – will never be forgotten. He based his idea of odom harishon on kiekeergard. He had no problem attending operas and did nothing to chastise his waywars community.

    Your quotes about the state being aschalta degeula come from menachem kasher, who forged signatures, some from rabonim who had already been niftar. Rav ovadia believed those quotes in his teshuva regarding saying halel on 5 iyar. His decision was largely based on that fallacy. Yeshivishe sefardim who are very into rav ovadia do not say hallel on 5 iyar, or omit tachanun; that’s what’s done by sefardim in chazon ovadia mosdos, as well as places like ateret torah in Brooklyn.

    Rabbi yoshe ber’s own observance, as rabbi kook’s, was not wavering. They kept halacha (minus the operas, kol ishah is assur), but diverged from the mesorah in dangerous ways that their talmidim only expanded on and completely left normative judaism.

    The issue isn’t secular knowledge. That’s a strawman argument. The rishonim who were knowledgeable (most, I’d argue all were) were not influenced by non jewish philosophy any more than they were influenced by Christianity or Islam, though many knew those systems in order to refute them.

    Haskalah was a different era with different problems. Rabbi kook and rabbi yoshe ber in their own ways allowed alien, admittedly non torah ideas into their judaism, to differing degrees at different points in their life. Zionism/nationalism, the idea that somethinf besides Torah makes one a Jew, was called outright by rav elchonon in ikvesa demishicha as heresy. Cut and dry apikorsus, not a “machlokes”. If Rav Yaakov knew what we knew about rabbi kook, i highly doubt he would have referred to him as such, but to many he was respected. He was a shem dovor, but was known to some as off. When rav miller said that, was he completely aware of the above? Or was he only aware of zionism and simply believing in a state? Rabbi yoshe ber himself, however, remarked in a published interview that he was not at all impressed with rabbi kook’s “scholastics” as he called it.

    Shlomo goren was, at one point, respected to a degree, and so was eliezer melamed until recently. Times change, people change, or reveal who they truly are.


    Emunas chachamim doesn’t mean, for instance, that we praise shabsai tzvi or refuse to get involved in a “machlokes” since some rabbonim praised him early on. Everyone adapted to the reality of who he was revealed to be. The Torah world saw the truth about rabbi yoshe ber, rabbi kook, and others who you mentioned but I won’t do so because it’s unnecessary….but suffice it to say, that there are rabbonim in your post whose psakim and views are not entertained by the core yeshiva world because their views came to light. I’m not saying that rabbi kook and rabbi yoshe ber were anywhere near as divergent as shabsai tzvi; i am comparing the development of the Torah world’s approach to general divergence as it comes to light.


    It should also be noted that rav shlomo zalman, quite amazingly, wrote meorei ha’aish when he was a teenager.

    Reb Eliezer

    The Chasam Sofer says that by the Akedah the test of Yitzchak Avinu was greater than Avraham Avinu.
    Avraham Avinu heard it directly from Hashem but Yitzchak Avinu from his father Avraham Avinu, so he had emunas chachamim.

    Reb Eliezer

    The gemora Pesachim 42, tells a story about a Rav Masneh who darshened, get מים שלנו to bake matzah. Everyone came to him for water, thinking that he meant our water rather than water resting overnight. What is the point of the story? It teaches us the great emunas chachamim at that time where no one said, what makes your water better than ours but trusted him fully.


    “We have first hand accounta of the chofetz chaim literally making fun of rabbi kook’s name when he made his twisted statements about soccer playing mechalelei shabbos being “holy””.
    That story is quoted in “The empty wagon”. Nevertheless, it is refuted by many people including Gil Student on Torah Musings. It seems very unlikely; being that there are many stories which show how much The Chafatz Chaim was Machshiv Rav Kook. There is, for example, the famous story of how in 1923, by the first Agudah Meeting, one of the speakers made fun of Rav Kook. The Chafatz Chaim got very upset, and screamed “How dare he make fun of The Rabbi of Yerushaliyim”. The Chafatz Chaim’s son-in-law, in fact, wrote a long letter in 1928, defending Rav Kook, and writing about his greatness. He writes in the letter, that The Chafatz Chaim, his father-in-law feels highly about Rav Kook, but didn’t want to publicly protest so as not to give the extremists publicity. He ends off by writing about how terrible it is to make fun of Tamidei Chachamim, and that people who make fun of Rav Kook should be banned. It would be extremely suprising for The Chafatz Chaim to mock so strongly someone who he was Machshiv so much.

    “He eschewed eating meat in clear, open violation of the gemara in Nazir which calls a lerson who abstains from devorim mutarin as a sinner, from “asher chatah al hanefesh””.
    I’m pretty sure that Rav Kook has a piece in which he discusses why it’s not good to be a vegetarian.
    “He based his idea of odom harishon on kiekeergard”.
    “Chochma Bagoyim Taamin”. He felt that outside knowledge can help us with our understanding of Torah if we’re able to take out the good . That was his Shitah. Just like the Rambam and Ramah were willing to quote Aristotle.

    “He had no problem attending operas”
    The story about Rav Yoshe Ber going to the opera, if true, was when he was in Berlin. He never recommended going to operas later in life. In fact “The Rav Thinking out Loud” quotes Rav Yoshe Ber as saying that we can’t rely on any of the common Heterim for Kol Isah.
    “And did nothing to chastise his waywars community.”
    He was very critical of certain things in Modern Orthodoxy and he let it be known. He would also publicly criticize certain decisions of Mizrachi.

    “Your quotes about the state being aschalta degeula come from menachem kasher, who forged signatures, some from rabonim who had already been niftar. Rav ovadia believed those quotes in his teshuva regarding saying halel on 5 iyar.”
    The quotes from Rav T.P. Frank and Rav I.Z. Meltzer are not from Rav Menachem Kasher. Rav T.P. Frank is quoted as telling people that The State of Israel is a Yeshua Gedolah for Bnei Yisroel, and Aschalta Digeulah. Rav Herzog in his Hesped for Rav Isser Zalman said that Rav Isser Zalman told him that The State of Israel is Aschal;ta Digela.” Rav Reuven Katz, a close Talmid of Rav Isser Zalman quoted Rav I.Z. as being extremely happy about The Founding of The State of Israel even with all it’s deficiencies. (look in Chakirah magazine volume 23). It is true that Rav Ovadya seems to be basing his Teshuvah off of Rav Menachem Kasher, but I think it is very likely that he would have viewed Israel positively even without it. He was Machshiv Rav Herzog very much, and even got a Haskamah from him, and Rav Herzog was a Zionist. He was also close to Rav T.P. Frank. Many other Gedolim viewed the state positively, though, even if not calling it Aschalta digeulah. The Tzitz Eliezer, for example, writes in the Hakdamah to his Sefer, Hilchos Medinah, about Hashem’s Chesed in allowing us to be free in our land.

    “Rabbi yoshe ber’s own observance, as rabbi kook’s, was not wavering. They kept halacha (minus the operas, kol ishah is assur), but diverged from the mesorah in dangerous ways that their talmidim only expanded on and completely left normative judaism.”
    Just because Rav Yoshe Ber had different Hashkafos does not mean he diverged Mesorah in dangrous ways. The main ways in which his Hashkafos differeded were in his openness to secular studies and Zionism things in which had been debated in Yiddishkeit for years. He followed much of The Brisker Mesorah. His learning and Minhagim were based of Rav Chaim. Their Tamidim, for the most part, were Chashuv people who did not leave mainstream Orthodoxy. Rav Schachter, Rav Willig, Rav Miesleman, Rav Shurkin, and many other students of his are very Chashuv people. There are some people or Rabbis connected to Modern Otherdoxy who are unfortunately doing things against Halacha, but they weren’t Talmidim of his and don’t really understand his Hashkafah. There may have been Rabbis who took his Hashkafos in the wrong way, but unfortunately that is the case with many Rabbonim, and even with a Tanna as brought in the post. The same can be said about Rav Kook.

    “The issue isn’t secular knowledge. That’s a strawman argument. The rishonim who were knowledgeable (most, I’d argue all were) were not influenced by non jewish philosophy any more than they were influenced by Christianity or Islam, though many knew those systems in order to refute them.”
    Many of the Gedolim did use non-Jewish sources to help understand and clarify Jewish concepts. Obviously, they didn’t follow the Non-Jewish sources blindly, but they thought about the concepts, and they used whatever they felt could help explain Torah, and rejected what was foreign to Yiddishkeit. i think the same is true about Rav Yoshe Be. I don’t think he introduced alien concepts to Torah. He took out from secular subjects which he felt were useful for explaining Torah.
    “If Rav Yaakov knew what we knew about rabbi kook, i highly doubt he would have referred to him as such, but to many he was respected. He was a shem dovor, but was known to some as off”.
    I assume Rav Yaakov knew about the controversy surrounding Rav Kook. It wasn’t a secret. i don’t know exactly how much. Rav Yaakov was far from the only Gadol was was Machshiv Rav Kook, though, as brought in the post. Many Chareide Gedolim like Rav Shlomo Zalman, Rav Elyashiv, Rav Ovadya, Rav Isser Zalman, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Rav Hutner were (Rav Hutner later on rejected much of his Hashkafah but was still Machshiv him) . Rav Nissin Alpert, a close Talmid of Rav Moshe gave a Hesped on his 50th Yahrseit. Many of the Gedolim (such as Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, and Rav Isser Zalman) knew him very well and knew his Hashkafah. They didn’t agree fully with his Hashkafah, but they were Machshiv him tremendously. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that we know better now, and we can make fun of a person who was held in such high regard by most of the Gedolei Yisroel. People assume that the Chazon Ish wasn’t Machshiv Rav Kook, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He argued very strongly with his Hashkafah, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t Machshiv him as an Adam Gadol. it seems like he told people not to read Rav Kook’s Hashkafah Seforim, but it is also quoted that he told people to learn Rav Kook’s Sheilos Uteshuvah Seforim to get a feel for Psak. Also, it should be noted that in the end of his life, he had a close relationship with Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Kook’s son.
    “When rav miller said that, was he completely aware of the above? Or was he only aware of zionism and simply believing in a state?”
    Here is the exact quote.
    Q: “Can the Rav share with us his opinion regarding Rav Kook?

    Rav Kook was certainly a frum Jew – only here we come to the mixing of the boundaries.

    The boundaries were overstepped. Rav Kook made a very big mistake because he prepared the way for the worse ones to come. Now, it took some time before the worst ones appeared on the scene, but the worst ones couldn’t have come if the good one hadn’t prepared the way.

    In those days there was no opportunity for the Va’ad Le’umi – that’s the National Council – to gain any control over religious affairs, because they were irreligious Jews. But money they had. So they were able to organize a religious council. But they needed some authority that would sanction – that would give them an entrance into Jewish religious affairs. Rabbi Kook, and I’m going to tell you now, maybe it was never published before but I heard it firsthand from the last Telzer Rav z”l – that’s the older brother of Rav Elya Meir z”l, and this happened in Lithuania. He told the following to us. He said that Rav Kook was a poetic soul, a man who became interested and excited over ideals. But he wasn’t always practical. He didn’t understand things in a practical way and therefore he undertook a new plan of action whereby he hoped that through his idealism, he would lead the pious Jews into the camp of the irreligious and they would occupy all the places. But the end was that the irreligious took his prestige and used it to occupy all the places in the Orthodox camp and that’s why today we have an entirely different picture. Eretz Yisroel up till a certain time was all Orthodox and the irreligious were all outsiders. They were pounding on the gates with bags full of money but they couldn’t get in. Rav Kook, in his innocence, in his temimus, he opened up the door for them. At first it wasn’t a flood – because who came after him? Rav Herzog was also an erlicher yid and a talmid chochom. And even Rav Unterman was an old- time Rav. But little by little – it’s like the old Rav Zonnenfeld said – the first Chief Rabbi will be a Kohen. That was Rav Kook. The second, a Levi, Rav Herzog. And the third, a Yisroel. The fourth – I don’t know what he’s going to be. And so I want to be very careful with the kavod of Rav Kook because there’s no question – and even Rav Herzog was an erlicher yid. But there’s no question also that these people made an error because all the gedolei yisroel disapproved – the vast majority – of this step. And what they did was to open the doors.”


    Re, chofetz chaim and rabbi kook – exterior sources and Kushyos do not dispel historically verifiable accounta. It’s not “the empty wagon”, but rather the father in law of that book ‘s author, rav yerucham gorelick, who was a big talmid of both rhe chofetz chaim and brisker rov, who was also a rosh yeshiva in YU. Not only him, but other talmidim were there at that time and attest to it. The story is common knowledge in South fallsburg, a yeshiva started by rav yerucham ‘s son, rav abba gorelick.
    Gil student doesn’t like the story, so he finds ancillary problems with it. “Fun a kasha shtbart min nisht”. The answer to his concerns is clear – the praise of the reshoim was after the agudah conference. The chofetz chaim’s son in law doesn’t speak directly to his father in law’s beliefs, and like I said, gedolim (such as rav hutner which you correctly referenced) changed a lot on both rabbi kook’s ideas and personage. The way you describe rabbi kook as a poetic, blissfully unaware ideological philosopher only serves to further rule him out of the category of gedolei yisroel. Rav elchonon, another great talmid of the chofetz chaim, js quotes in kovetz maamarim as calling rabbi kook a rasha and zionism as avodah zara. That’s no longer a machlokes, that’s an excision of one person and his actions and beliefs from the klal.

    Chochma bagoyim doesn’t mean Torah bagotim. Chochma is logic, math, science, and old philosophy. It helps, key word, helps, understand things in Torah, but it doesn’t determine them. The rambam didn’t learn Aristotle until he was a massive gadol with Torah-defined hashkofos, and that’s what he cautions others to do as well in mishneh torah. The kaftor veferach writes that greek philosophy has its origins in torah, and that we’re just taking back what was originally ours. Haskalah was not like that.

    Rav Hirsch never used secular studies to define torah; he wrote repeatedly that the chochmos are handmaids to Torah, they serve it, are subordinate to it. Rabbi yoshe ber, while not at the heretical point of torah umadah, where torah is as important as secular studies, still gave it independent importance to a degree.

    The fact that rav miller calls rabbi kook a frum jew is telling. Would you call rav Moshe feinstein a “frum jew”? Also, where was that q and a stated?

    My main point is that unlike hashkofos themselves, which are gleaned mainly from the words of gedolei yisroel midor dor, attitudes about people are much harder to determine, because people change, are nuanced, and not every gadol knows every detail aboit every controversial figure… believe me, they have more important things to use their mental energies on than if rabbi kook was legitimate or not.

    Rather than approach it in terms of “how good/bad was rabbi kook” and quote gedolei yisroel who said kach vekach, a better alternative would be to quote what gedolim say (insert italics) about the issues themselves. What do gedolim say about nationalism(not the state being a salvation, which many gedolim said it was) as an idea, that there is a concept of a jew absent of torah (rabbi kook’s main idea, which he took from European nationalism), look at praising reshoim as an idea and ask – is it ok to praise reshoim? Is it ok to say that Rembrandt was a tzadik? Is it ok to absolve all mechalelei shabbos because they do supposedly holy work building a land they consider no more valuable than Uganda?

    Is it ok to say that we need to make compromises to save torah?

    Also, re operas…in my yeshiva it is known that rav shraga feivel mendelowitz almost hired rabbi yoshe ber as rosh yeshiva, but conditioned it on 3 tanaim; one of which was to cease attending operas.


    Also, if rabbi yoshe ber’s main students were the people you mentioned, we’d have much less issues with YU et al (rabbi shechter’s troubling mixture of nationalism to justify the deaths of jews for a secular state in the land for peace teshuva is jarring, and in doing so forces me to not regard him as a legitimate authority, but that doesn’t apply to all the others)

    Most of his talmidim were not nearly as frum as them.


    There’s a world of difference between rabbonim who were happy to have a place to go after the Holocaust, and those who were nationalistic, who believed in a state as an ideal, in contrast to the mesorah of how jews ought to behave in galus. Rabbi kook in oros wrote that the souls of the ochlei nevelos and mechalelei shabbos and kofrim bashem were “yoser mesukanos”, on a higher level than frum jews.

    This is the pri chatas of not believing that only Torah matters, only Torah makes us Jews, only mitzvos connect one to G-d. All the kabalah in the world cannot go against that basic fact.

    Religious Zionists as a result routinely give weight to other things besides torah. They believe it valuable to serve in thea army, that any and all soldiers are martyers and holy, despite living with women in the same barracks.

    They turn to tanach instead of chazal to justify their positions, believing themselves to be heirs to the davidic dynasty. A false moshiach if there ever was one.

    Reb Eliezer

    The Satmar Rav ztz’l says that if someone kisses a Sefer Torah and does not believe in Hashem, makes the Sefer Torah an a’z, so Israel would become an a’z.


    One of the impact of “chochma” is ability to use logic and study facts. It does not have to be “goyishe” – you can skip Newtonian physics and go directly to Einstein.

    Deleted for lack of kavod haTorah

    As to Ch Ch, I already quoted a sefer that I bought in the zionist city of Benei Braq: there is an apartment in Petach Tikwa that was bought for Ch Ch and he refused at the end to come to EY, saying that if he visits Eida first, Mossad people will not read Mishna Berurah and vice versa, and he would like all of them to read it.


    AAQ, how is the chofetz chaim not wanting to be known as a kanoi and desiring all jews – even unobservant or heretical ones – to learn toras Hashem make him sympathetic to rabbi kook or zionism?

    Reb Eliezer

    It says עת לעשות לה’ הפרו תורתך and some say ‘הפרו תורתך עת לעשות לה. There are two views when people are lax with mitzvos, one, to try to accommodate and two, to stay steadfast and not budge an inch. When the Torah is being disrupted, than there is an opportunity to make time for G-d and not allow any violations.

    Reb Eliezer

    I heard from my rebbi, Rav Shmuel ztz’l, the Matersdorfer Rav interpreting the above pasuk, when we make time for G-d by procrastinating and saying, I still have time to do a mitzva for Hashem, the end will be that it won’t get done.

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