Sunday, December 27, 2009
The Papa and the Baba
I have borne witness recently, friends, to what seems to be a recurring theme among those who are relatively new to observant Judaism attempting to marry those who come from more observant families: the guy and the girl are perfectly fine with each other, notwithstanding the difference in their backgrounds, but when it comes time for the Baal Teshuva to be accepted into the religious family, one of the parents is adamantly opposed to such objectionable seed sullying the purity of their clan. The saga usually ends with the family seeking the councel of a Rosh Yeshiva or Mekubal, and discovering that their concerns were well-founded, since the authority figure is usually also in opposition to such unions.
To me the whole thing smacks of a pre-Fiddler on the Roof era; for even in that film, in all three marriages neither the father nor the community had much say in the face of love. To most (unorthodox) Jews today this phenomenon seems quite arcane, yet it's still "מעשים בכל יום" in our religious community "עד עצם היום הזה".
Yet what if a great man, say a descendant of the Abuhassera lineage, ..or your Rosh Yeshiva, ...or the Rebbe of Lubavitch בכבודו ובעצמו, after having been approached by you with the question of whether or not to cave in to parental pressure to turn down a prospective match with whom you've already developed an emotional relationship, tells you to listen to your elders and back down. Would you heed and does it make sense to heed?
It seems to boil down to how much supernatural Divine Inspiration and knowledge, or lack thereof, we aspire to this person, and whether their insights into our lives are true. Yet those who would wish to ascribe such inspiration to these men would use as proof the precept in Avot which states "עשה לך רב והסתלק מן הספק". But this proof insn't entirely convincing, since that Mishna may just be discussing "מילי דשמיא" (heavenly matters), but not necessarily the idea that one must heed a spiritual authority for "מילי דארעא" (earthly matters).
In regard to the latter, which is the topic of discussion here, the concept of "Da'at Torah" must be referred to. You see, many today feel that it's obvious that you must heed the guidance of your Rav in all matters, but upon a critical analysis it can be determined that many are of the opinion that Daat Torah is a relatively recent phenomenon, created by the modern Haredi group as a reaction to modernity.
While that may be true for Ashkenazim though, it is well known that Moroccan Jews always approach their Mystics, the "Mekubal" or "Baba" for advice in temporal matters, and that advice was always heeded. Unfortunately though, I think it is to our shame that we not only brought this institution to Israel, but it became quite popular among religious and irreligious Sefaradim alike, evolved into "big business" and provided opportunity for charlatans. Not to suggest that most Mekubalim in Israel are charlatans, but it is not unheard of. So not only have we, as Moroccan Jews in Israel, not stamped out these false notions, we promulgated them like never before.
Anyway, I grew up on American imagery and conceptualization, where if a man and a woman are in love, they don't let anything get in the way (...like in Fiddler on the Roof). Therefore to blindly trust Rabbinic authorities in these matters, is, in my opinion, not only somewhat foolish, but has no basis in Torah.
I wish to speak about this further in the future, in relation to how it affects the halachic process.