Opinion: Giving Our Rabbonim the Power and the Wherewithal


chareidimBy 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.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. ” And this won’t be found here on Matzav.com”

    As if some other sites would put up something that YOU don’t approve of?

    Yes, we have gedolim but people don’t listen to them which is the problem. Another problem is I am mechuyav to listen to MY ROV not yours and what happens in any machlokes is you have everyone walking around saying who is “your rov to tell you/me/we what to do….

    In essense they would be right if my rov was telling someone else what to do. So my point is rabanim can’t agree with each other on what to do in many cases and it’s not that chas v’sholom they are wrong! Rabanim can have different dais yet both be right! So what do we do as a tzibur?

    This is the mishmash that goes on daily and this is why people just give up.

    Many people also feel and it is definitely true that even rabanim have negiyos so how on earth can they pasken on certain issues if they are directly effected by the outcome of the decision?

    A godol once said that a person MUST have a comeptent rov and rosh yeshiva and when going to ask a shailoh they MUST listen to the answer if they do they will have siyate dishmaya that everything will work out forwhatever they are going for. But someone who does not go or does go and then does not listen because they disgaree is worse than not going at all and they are a rasha when going to ask but then doing their own thing.

    Now one thing that bothers many people is the fact that you keep on writing pure loshon hora on this site without mentioning names.

    Just because you write comments and allude to things where people know or guess what your talking about does not make this site any better than the ones you keep on trashing and by writing “That unfortunately – or fortuantely – won’t be in the “Breaking News” section.

    You can’t decide what YOU think is loshon hora and disregard halochos for making your point in ana article. Why all the “digging and trash writing” before you get to the point in every good article that you try to put out?

    Dale Carnegie writes in his books that people that always have to tear another down in order to prop themselves up are not confident people and have agendas.

    Kol Tuv.

  2. It sounds from the begining of the article at least (with the Rabbonim withdrawing at the first sign of dissention), that Rabbonim aren’t taking enough of a hard stance on issues either. Sometimes Rabbonim have to come out and grab a bull by the horns.

  3. “Like in the days of old when the rabbonim were able to enforce halacha and hashkafa”, well when were those days of old? When Zionism and Bundism grow in Eastern Europe, during the times when the the Haskalah movement grow, when the Hassidic movement emerged or Sabbtai Zvis times? All were fenomena that grow despite the rabbonims condemnations?

  4. It is a great article accept that you are misstating one point. In days of old there were many machlokos. From Mosha Rabbanu and onward. That is why Hashem showed Moisha Rabbainu the Rebbas of each generation. Also from the Litvisha to the chassidisha it didn’t matter. I could bring an entire list in each generation. Perhaps you might wish to do the research. Non the less thank you for your great articles and informative pieces.

    One point when we listen to our elders we enpower ourselves most of the time. We search for knowlledge and inspiration Halacha and Hashkafa. There is one main challange in todays generation everyone wants to make things as comfortable as possible. This is where the sensitivty and bickering begins. Not everything needs to be MUTAR and not everything needs to be Assur. Again you said it well and keep inspiring as well as educating us. Have a happy healthy new year Shanna Tova KOLTUV Hatzlacha Rabba B”Siyata Dishmaya.

  5. I forgot to add one thing you are right we should allow them to guide us. We shouldn’t be guiding them. We could ask learn and debate that is where it is at. The comments that hurt me most when I hear people say there aren’t any Rabbonim today. Thre are many Rabbanim the chassidim want the rabbanim to listen to them not the othre way around.

  6. A seminary in eretz yisroel refused a very good girl that wanted to to this particular seminary on recomendations. The seminary said they had no room and the parents begged and many rabanim called and they all got no where and the same excuse was told that there was no room left.

    One of the godol hadar from eretz yisroel called persoanlly to speak to the head of the seminary and the person said sorry and we have no room!

    The godol advised everyone in his kehillah and called other rabanim and roshei yeshivos that their daughters should not be sent to such a place because they have no kovod hatorah for daas torah.

    When the head of this seminary heard what was going on and that everyone is talking about the story the head of the seminary caled this rosh yeshiva and said we can take her we have room! The rosh yeshiva said it is too late and the head of the seminary even flew into America to speak to gedolim here about the issue(all of a sudden the seminary had room because he was getting bad publicity?) and they all refused to get involved!

    Some people have the chutzpah to say the rosh yeshivas are wrong because no room means no room no matter how rich or poor a girl is.

    If a godol hador calls someone and you refuse a request not just from any rosh yeshiva but a godol hadar then you have alot of chutzpah. I would never send my kids to this seminary.

    The point is nobody cares what gedolim say and most people do not listen to them because they think they know better. This is the problem in America and it’s no wonder why we suffer as a rabim.

    We learn two

  7. Rabanim get paid from the kehilos these days so how do you tell a person that pays your salary something they will not want to hear?

    Most gedolim in the previuos generations never got paid one dime. The rabanim had their own shuls, yeshivos and if you didn’t like what was told they would tell you in a nice way to get out.

    Lakewood under the leadership of Rav Aron Kotler ZtL was the same thing. Reb Aaron had the power and what helped was the community was smaller.

    One of the rosh yeshivos of Torah vodas from 30 years ago had a policy of getting a regualr salary from the yeshiva and only once in 50 plus years did the rosh yeshiva take a gift from a bochur and it was on Purim when the gift was accepted.

    The rosh yeshiva was once asked by a talmud why he refuses to take a gift when he is loved so much and it’s only a gift for hakoros hatov and the rosh yeshiva responmded that the minute he takes gifts from talmidim then he is bought and will have negiyos and it is easier to correct someone when not feeling bad in the back of the mind that he recieved a gift!

    Is it this way anymore?