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 ( 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.


Menashe said...

Is ruach hakodesh also a recent phenomenon? The concept of a nasi byisroel having a more lucid spiritual view of the world is not a new one to all but a certain modern group.

Of course this is all given that this spiritual sense is the reason for the rejection and not the nonsense you cite. For that you need a true tzaddik.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Ha. I'm happy you commented with the opposite viewpoint, because, against my own wishes, I decided to write this in with a very one-sided viewpoint, since I realized that, in a discussion, it's helpful to take one side, and not to be overly honest, which only causes indecision and confusion. Which is how people argue in yeshivas, only seeing their own viewpointת since מתוך כך האמת יוצאת.

The truth is, the sugya of ruach hakodesh is long and complicated, and we certainly can't reach any conclusions about it on one foot. I mean, Rabbi David Abuhassera (who's essentially the topic of this post) is great guy and all, but I don't believe that after every question he's asked he walks into a room, asks G-d, and comes out with the answer. But then again, there is certainly, as you stated, some concept of ruach hakodesh AND daat torah in our most basic literature (and not just in some "chassidesheh sfoorim").

Let me begin like this: EVEN the Nevi'im had differences in opinion, POLITICAL opinion even, and it seems like it wasn't THAT easy to decide which ones were really schmoozing with G-d.

מיום שפסקה הנבואה, there are records of the ruach hakodesh of the Tanaim and Amoraim, the only question is how authoritative their statements were in regards to temporal subjects. What I think is a great Talmudic statement to be looking it is the one in Gittin pertaining to the Churban, it says (56a) "אמר רבי יוחנן ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס החריבה את ביתנו ושרפה את היכלנו והגליתנו מארצנו"
(, if you want to see it in the Vilna edition.)
Also, in regards to a slightly later Bar Kochva era, the Rambam comments that the Jews should have concentrated on how to win wars and not on statements issued from the sages of the time. I can't find it online, but from what I heard it quoted from somewhere in the שו"ת הרמב"ם.

So....there may be narratives in the Talmudic which would enforce your opinion, so I admit it 's still מונח בצריך עיון. One thing I can say though, is that it's not necessarily true that every firstborn of the Schneerson dynasty or the Abuhassera dynasty or the Halbersam or Teitelbaum is by nature endowed with some metaphysical abilities...

Menashe said...

Who said anything about a firstborn? I am talking about tzadikim gomurim (as the Rebbe and Baba Sali obviously are.) And more importantly, nesiim byisroel. Even on an individual level with poskim who are not quite tzadikim, Hashem guides their psak with ruach hakodesh because it affects others. How much more so when we are dealing with gantz klal yisroel.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

"Who said anything about a firstborn?"- The very idea of having a spiritual "dynasty" is antithetical. As the Rambam says, the "keter" of Torah is a democracy. The idea that the son of a tzadik being any more of a tzadik than the son of a rasha' is preposterous.

"And more importantly, nesiim byisroel"- Well, Moshe Katzav was the last "president in Israel", and he wasn't the biggest tzadik! : P. But seriously, I don't know what "nasi" means to you guys. All I know is the Yehuda and Gamiliel sort of nesi'im...

"with poskim who are not quite tzadikim, Hashem guides their psak with ruach hakodesh"- Well, without getting into the metaphysical reality, I do of course admit that we have a system of choosing our religious leaders, and that we must follow them in matters of halacha, though I don't believe we must heed their political advice, or their star-gazed premonitions about our "futures" when we ourselves are fully aware of the halacha. In other words if my Rebbe says "don't walk on Montgomery St. between 7 and 8 tonight, I think there is no reason for me to heed that, as long as there's no intrinsic issur to walk on that street.

Menashe said...

But seriously, I don't know what "nasi" means to you guys.

That's the problem. We're speaking on completely different wavelengths. Perhaps as a start I can tell you what the roshei taivos of that word means. Neshama Shel Yaakov Avinu. Similarly, Rebbe = Rosh Bnei Yisroel.

As far as the democracy goes; I don't recall seeing that Rambam. If it's in his MT or pirush al mishnayos then lav davka we pasken by it. And if it's in Moreh Nevuchim then that's an even stronger raya that we don't act according to it. There's a reason we're cautioned not to learn that sefer.

Obviously even in the Rebbe's own family there are people who could not be classifed as tzadikim. Being born into a family is no assurance of anything. The nesius can even change families altogether. Look for example from Shaul to Dovid hamelech or the Maggid to the Alter Rebbe. Not only that; chasidim choose their Rebbe and are free to change Rebbeim at any time.

But all that being said, it remains reasonable to say that when a search for successor begins, someone that is connected to the family as a son or son-in-law would be the first candidate to look at since they were likely the most influenced by the predecessor.