By S. Friedman, Matzav.com
Warning: This is not another article about, “There aren’t gedolim nowadays.” You’ll have to look elsewhere for that. To the contrary, there most certainly are, as Chazal tell us that Shmuel and Yiftach are equally important to their respective generations. Chazal say this black and white; it’s not open for discussion. Matter settled. Case closed.
I recently had the displeasure to see up close a typical machlokes brake out over the running of a school. That unfortunately – or fortuantely – won’t be in the “Breaking News” section of a site like Matzav.com. What I am bringing to attention was the lack of fortitude from the leadership of the school. I’m talking about local leaders who knew the situation, and whose mispallellim were trying very hard to set things right. Some resigned from the board at the first sight of dissention. Some took the “They’re not going to listen to me anyway” stance. Others just didn’t want to get involved in machlokes at all.
Firstly, when there are conflicts, as the old adage goes, the aggressor sets the rules. If those in leadership positions feel that some people won’t heed their advice, then may I humbly suggest that rather than advise, those in leadership positions should give directives, and loud ones at that. I can understand wanting to stay away from machlokes, but once a machlokes exists, why let it spiral out of control and do even more damage in the hands of people without the knowledge and yiras shomayim of our leaders?
Rav Akiva Eiger and Rav Yaakov Loberman were once walking together and passed some youths sitting on a bench, who insolently did not rise in respect for the venerated gedolim. Rav Yaakov sighed, “Oy, chutzpah yazgeh b’ikvisa d’mishicha,” (woe, chutzpah will be rampant during the generation of Moshiach), referencing Chazal’s foretelling of rabid disrespect in the days leading up to Moshiach. R’ Akiva Eiger replied, “No, in the dor of ikvisa d’mishicha, the youths will walk past us sitting on a bench and upon seeing us not rise in respect willsigh, ‘Oy, chutzpah yazgeh b’ikvisa d’mishicha.”
Yes, many people, especially antagonists, will ask a rov for advice, and then hang up the phone and do what they want anyway, sometimes even changing what the rov “said” in the process. There can be a lot of chutzpah. But don’t we need those those in leadership positions to defend emes, no matter how hard, especially when it entails important matters such as shidduchim, chinuch, parnassah, etc.?
I think our communities at large are well aware that the days of a “pulpit rabbi” are long over, and that today’s leaders are tremendous talmidei chachomim who lead us on a communal level. It is typical of people with refined character to not be standoffish, but a rov is given the authority and power, should he choose to exercise it, to help his kehillah.
But it is up to us to allow them to do that.
So don’t misunderstand. This isn’t about our communal leaders. It is about us. If we gave them the proper power, they could do it, just like in the days of old when the rabbonim were able to enforce halacha and hashkafa.
We have them. We have tremendous gedolei Torah in our midst. I don’t have to name names. They are here, yes, even in the United States. (For some reason, there is this ridiculous notion that unless a p’sak or directive comes from Eretz Yisroel, it doesn’t carry as much weight. The fallacy of that assumption is clear, and a more comprehensive analysis of that mistaken idea is beyond the scope of this essay.)
Leaving the arbitration for others just means more irrational moves will be made by those jockeying for positions. When such situations arise, we have to be sure that those in leadership positions have the ability to drop the gauntlet, draw a line in the sand and say, “This matter ends here.” Obviously, the klal’s responsibility is to listen and accept the rabbonim‘s stance with devotion, even if it’s not coming from a gadol in Bnei Brak or Yerushalayim.
In matters of mussar as well, it is increasingly rare to hear rabbonim condemn actions by their kehillah. Why? Largely because in many kehillos we simply don’t allow them to. Some kehillos will simply move on to a different rov, rachmana litzlan. Positive reinforcement that rabbonim give us in order to improve are nice, but sometimes the generic broad stroke messages derived from the parsha aren’t pointed enough to bring on substantial change.
We hopefully are in the dor of ikvisa demishicha, but we can try not to be so chutzpahdik to our choshuve rabbonim and allow them to guide us, even if we don’t like what they are saying. In matters both of the klal as well as those of personal growth, we must allow rabbonim to take a more aggressive approach and we should enable and encourage them to do so and graciously accept their guidance.