Saturday, March 1, 2008

Error Message: Your Connection May be Down

We live in a world with myriad possibilities for communication, and each day brings an announcement of yet another new product to help us communicate. The length of time that a message takes to get from Point A to Point B is sometimes reduced to a nanosecond. News literally flies through time and space. Because of our ability to access information readily, there is no real excuse for anyone who remains misinformed. Research is not any longer so time intensive, involving days, weeks and months to gather information, but it does take some labor. And yet, miscommunication still abounds.

We have seen this lately in some of the actions that have been taken in Klal, particularly by those we call gedolim. Actions have been taken, some for Klal, some against particular members of Klal, that are incomprehensible to those on whose behalf the actions were supposedly taken. Incomprehensible because basic and necessary information is missing.

This in an age of easy communication. It is not, as some have tried to tell us, that we would not understand the reasons for the actions. We B"H also live in an age of learning literacy, both Jewish learning and secular knowledge. It is that the reasons have never been explained, certainly not with clarity. It is that no reasons have been given at all. It is that in some cases there seem to be no reasons for the action or conflicting reasons for the action. And yes, in some cases the reasons defy logic. Misinformation abounds. The more "strange" or worrisome the action taken, the less the gedolim wish to explain that action.

We are left with a disturbing conclusion to draw: those who take action on behalf of Klal have no desire to actually talk to that Klal. What is perhaps more worrisome is that they come across as not being a member of that selfsame Klal. There is a great disconnect between the members of Klal and those who are gedolim b'yisroel. Where is the b'yisroel in these actions? In academia we would call it the ivory tower syndrome. There is "us" and there is "them" and never the twain shall meet. Just what is it that scares these gedolim so much about the idea of communicating with the members of Klal rather than communicating at them?

There seem to be no more conversations in Klal, only edicts. A loss to all involved.


Anonymous said...

Probably the reason why so many people today ignore the gedolim. I usually think that when someone refuses to give me the reason for something that there is no reason. And if there is no reason why should I do what they are saying? Just because they told me to?

And just a question here too. Who gets to decide who is or isn't a gadol? I looked at the names on the concert ban and didn't recognize all of them. Are we talking here about big fish in the big pond, or big fish in a little pond or little fish in a little pond?

Anonymous said...

Some valid points there and cause for concern.

I will say though, in way of explanation, that some, if not all, of these 'gedolim' are very busy and overburdened. They are shlepped here and there to simchas and other events, called on the telephone, bothered in person. Being that they are only human, they cannot be on top of every little detail of everything.


Also, some food for thought in recent related posts at

Anonymous said...

d, it's not a "little detail" when a rav puts his name on a document signifying that he agrees with what is in the document and then doesn't know what the document says, or what all the details are or who the other rabbonim are who are also signing and why they are signing. An unimportant detail is whether he goes to a particular simcha or not. A public announcement should require a lot of thinking and investigating and also an announcement of why he is holding the way he is.

Gadolim are being held hostage by those around them? They can't say no? The late Tauber Rov, rosh yeshiva of Nitra, was not mesader kedushin for any of the yeshiva's talmidim--didn't matter whose dad gave what amount of money--because he knew that he couldn't be that for every talmid. It was a policy he set and he stuck to it.

Anonymous said...

Allan - the fact is that these people are very busy, they don't have time to do a major investigation of everything with due diligence personally, so perforce they must rely on others. When they are told that other greatly respected figures endorse it, they tend to go along. Esp. if the Eretz Yisroel gedolim are invoked, in line with a recent problematic trend of routinely deferring to them over local talent.

Also they were told that it must be done quickly as the concert was approaching, there was no time to tarry. As they say, when someone pressures you to sign something hastily, that should send up red flags.

Of course, let us all concede that hindsight is 20/20. It's alot easier being a Monday morning quarterback than a Sunday afternoon one.

I am not denying the debacle, just giving some context.

Hey, it's not always easy to be a 'godol' . ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think that profk's point is not that they seem to be too busy to take the time to explain things or get things right but that they don't seem to want to do that. It's not important to them what we regular people think about what they are doing and saying. If you think of yourself as a leader then you have obligations to your followers if you want to keep them as followers. I think disconnect was a good word to choose. When leaders get disconnected from their followers then they are no longer leaders and there won't be any followers.

It may not be easy being a gadol but they are making things harder than they have to be.

Anonymous said...

No one yell at me because I really am asking for the answer to this. Who decides who gets to be called a gadol? Is there some real process written down anywhere? If not, it can't be learning alone because there are plenty of really unbelievably learned people who are not known to be a gadol. Do you have to be a rosh yeshiva? Do you have to head a big chasidish sect? What criteria are there?

We live out of NYC and I have to be honest and say that we have nothing to do with the Chaim Berlin yeshiva and hadn't really heard the rosh yeshiva's name before the whole wig scandal and yet he was called in the articles a gadol. Can't think of anyone across the states who hadn't heard of R. Moshe Feinstein. Or R. Yaakov Kaminetsky. Or R. Soloveichik. Where are all these new gadolim coming from and on whose sayso?