Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daas Torah (is) for Dummies

I'm trying to assemble an authoritative list of all the important questions that were answered incorrectly by great men of Israel. Here is what I have so far:

Sarah Schenirer:
The original Bes Yaakov girl
1. The Rambam. Nowadays its fashionable to believe that all of the big questions have been answered by the Rambam and that to oppose him is to commit heresy. But those of us who have read The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraisedknow better. Each of the Rambam's precious ikkarim was opposed by one or more boldfaced Jewish name. Other boldfaced Jewish names burnt his books. Where was the daas torah? And more importantly who were the heretics? 

2. Mussar. Rabbi Israel  Salanter is someone else who was  opposed and condemed by the leading Torah lights of his generation. In the end, he won. But who had the daas torah? Him or his enemies?

3. Bes Yaakov And lets not forget Sarah Schenirerwho had the audacious idea that girls needed an education. Ultimately, she won the support of the Chofetz Chaim and others, but at first some great names thought she was wrong.

4. Chasidut: The world's leading opponent of Hasidut was none other than the Gaon Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer. Are you prepared to say he had no daas torah?

5. The Holocaust Daas Torah of the 30s taught that Europe was safer than America. What a blessing the cult of daas torah hadn't yet taken root and so many of our ancestors ignored the leaders and left.

This can't be the end of the list. I'm interested to hear what you might wish to add to it.


Any discussion of daas torah requires we quote R. Aaron Lichtenstein in Leaves of Faith: The World of Jewish Learning taking apart R. Elazar Menachem Man Shach:
Moreover, I freely acknowledge that one's faith in the concept [of Da'as Torah] is periodically put to a severe test. As but one instance, the doyen of current rashei yeshiva, R. Schach, proves the value of Torah as the self-sufficient repository of all knowledge by asking, rhetorically: "Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?" In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only of the rudiments of astronomy* but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal's authority:.
Do not ask of me to show that everything they have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathermatics were imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were men of knowledge in these fields or because they had heard these dicta from the men of knowledge who lived in those times
*The Moon has approximately 1/4 Earth's diameter, 1/50 Earth's volume, and 1/80 Earth's mass, while the Sun is 109 times greater in width; 1,300,00 times greater in volume; and 330,000 times greater in mass. Yet, this is Rav Shach's idea of a slam dunk proof that daas torah is real?
Search for more information about Daas Torah at4torah.com

No comments: