Friday, June 16, 2006

Fisking a Lakewood Kollel Wife (not as obscene as it may sound)

My new favorite blogger, the Lakewood Kollel Wife, has something up from one of her anono associate posters, which purports to explain daas torah.

For those not in the know, "daas torah" is the idea that every decision you make should be vetted first by a Rabbi, who, by virtue of his profound Torah knowledge, has the God-given power to provide difinitive answers to every kind of a question.

Sure, this is a recipe for abuse and disaster, but many Orthodox Jews insist this is the right approach.

Let's see what the Kollel Wife says:

We all grew up in the great democratic United States of America,

My father-in-law didn't, and he reads blogs. Not yours, but still...

where every person who roams this great land feels he has the inherent right to bump out his professed knowledge about everything and anything.

First Amemndment. Inaliable right to say anything we want, anytime we want.

Maybe we could all just take a deep breath and calm down for a minute. Although we are all liberated Americans, we are also Jewish; hence out title of American Jews . . .A basic tenet of Judaism is the concept of Daas Torah . . .

It is? Some might argue that Judaism has no "basic tenets" that so long as you follow the prax you can think and believe as you please. And even those who disagree, say that there aren't more than 13 or so Ikkarim, and guess what: Daas Torah is not among them.

Judaism is NOT a democracy.

True enough, but the Sanhedrin did vote, and "incline after the majority" is a Jewish principle.

Anyway, here's an important point: Truth, by definition, is available to human beings only in partial ways - our knowledge is imperfect. When people bring their own thoughts and their own experiences to the group -where they offer and accept critism, and honor the positions of others- our ideas are refined, and this process makes them better. When Judaism teaches that there are 70 faces to the Torah it is recognizing that human knowledge is subjective, and that truth can only be reached cooperativly. So though I agree that Judaism is not a democracy, I insist that democracy has a certain holiness because when it is used correctly and in good faith, the community draws nearer to the truth.

G-d gave and gives us life, and commands us how we should behave throughout our lives.

Fine, but God hasn't spoken to a man in like 3000 years. When we make decisions about how to live, we aren't relying on God but on human interpretation, and every act of interpretation is, by definition, subjective. Democracy can act as a check on that subjectivity, because it allows others to examine and respond to our interpretation, a process that refines and improves ideas when it is used in good faith.

If you have a problem with that, you could leave this world only to arrive at His next world. What I’m saying is that it isn’t up to any small mind to burp out their foolish opinions . . . A G-d fearing Jew does not value or follow the layman’s opinion.

I know many "God-Fearing Jews" who rely on laymen when it comes to medical and business questions. True, those laymen are also Rabbis, but what some of them know about medicine or business could fit on the head of a pin.

Only one opinion counts and that it revealed through Daas Torah.

Odd then, that frequently one daas torah disagrees with another. You'd think that if daas torah was an infalliable way to discover truth, all dass torah would always agree.

Next time before you contemplate spewing forth YOUR opinion think twice what Hashem Yisborach wants.

I've thought twice- three times even - and I'm quite certain that He wants me to use the brain He gave me to make decisions, as part of the larger community.

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