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PERSONALITIES-----the torah temima

j Posted - 26 June 2002 4:38

I was very surprised recently when I read the book "my uncle the netziv" a translated abridged version of a book written in Hebrew by the torah temimah about his experiences in volozin. for some reason it seemed that he kept on giving a lot of kovid to the maskilim and although saying how they were maskilim and apikorsim, he still respected them, or by judging bochrim in volozin by saying that they were people who everyone could be proud of, even the maskilim.

Maybe I’m just misinterpreting what he meant? I mean, wasn’t he a godal (obviously not a Rav, he himself said that he became a businessman)? so why was he giving so much distinction to apikorsim?

MODERATOR Posted - 26 June 2002 4:51

The Torah Temimah was a scholar, but not an Odom Godol. He was unexceptional in personal righteousness, and his opinions were not considered as coming from a Daas Torah, though he was well respected for his knowledge.

His derech halimud and Hashkofo were influenced by untraditional sources and he sometimes said things (some printed in the Torah Temimah) that may not be said.

He was respected as a highly knowledgeable person, but not beyond that level.

IWantAllTheAnswers Posted - 27 June 2002 19:51

Moderator: What did you mean that the Torah Temimah was "unexceptional in personal righteousness"? How could we ever know something like that?

Also, you said that his opinions are not considered Daas Torah. Who said that? Who said that the Torah Temimah wasn't always reliable? Is there a famous source for this? a comment about this in a sefer or a letter or a speech from a Gadol or something?

While we're on the topic, maybe you could help me with something that has always confused me. I'm not trying to be a wise guy or anything, but who decides whether someone is Daas Torah or not? And who picked them? I'm sure there's a good explanation for this, but right now it just seems very circular to me. You see where I'm coming from?

MODERATOR Posted - 27 June 2002 20:21

Gedolei Hador are recognized for their outstanding attributes. Most people don’t have them - that’s why you don’t consider your next door neighbor a Godol HaDor. The Torah Temimah was just never recognized as an Odom Godol, and his sefer, though very useful, was never considered an authority. This is just plain history - and not all that far back. There was no controversy over this either. It’s basically known by everyone.

As far as Daas Torah goes, we discussed this elsewhere.

First, Daas Torah does NOT mean that someone cannot make a mistake. Please see the "Daas Torah" topic.

The determination of how much a given individual's opinions are in this category is but one element of the question, How do we know how big someone is?

There are no options here. You have to decide. Not only that, but regardless of whatever answer you get to this question, you WILL BE deciding.

If I told you to accept the "accepted" Gedolim, the Q remains accepted by whom?

If I tell you that the Chazon Ish says that when in doubt you should follow the majority of Bnei Torah (he does say this), the Q still remains, who is considered a Ben Torah?

There are differing opinions on this as well.

If I told you to blindly follow the Gedolim you will still ask How do I decide who to blindly follow?

In the bottom line, you are going to have to decide who the Torah leaders are based on the same criteria you determine any Q in the world: Honesty and expertise. If you are not a maven on recognizing a Tzadik and Talmid Chacham, you’re at a very big disadvantage.

There was an old line going around in the name of Rav Shach, about 25 or 30 years ago. He said, "In America the Gedolim are made by Moshe Scherer and Trainer Studios" (the first photographer to make "Gedolim pictures").

I don’t know if Rav Shach really said this (though pretty much the whole world says he did) but the point is true regardless - we tend to accept Torah leaders based on who is written up most in the paper or who certain lay leaders say to follow.

Obviously both criteria are wrong. (And even if they were right, how would you know which papers to listen to, or which lay people to obey?)

Daas Torah is not an absolute thing, where it’s all or nothing. To the extent that a person's thoughts are free form outside influences and vested interests, and impacted by Torah thinking as the result of his greatness in Torah learning and personal piety, to that extent you may consider his opinions valuable.

To recognize this, you have to be a maven yourself. Lo Am Haaretz Chosid.

Why is this so? Can’t an ignoramus ask all his questions to someone who knows? The answer is, he has no idea who to ask!

When Rav Meir Shapiro ZTL created Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, he set it up for 1,000 students. He was asked, "It says in the Gemora that out of 1,000 students, only ONE becomes a Rav. So what's the point of the other 999 being there?"

Rav Meir answered, "True, only one will earn well enough to become a Rav, but the other 999 will at least learn well enough to recognize who that one is!"

If we can’t be a maven on that one, at the very least, we must try to be a maven on the 999 who can recognize the one!

The more you are a maven on Torah, the more you will be able to determine where Daas Torah is.

IWantAllTheAnswers Posted - 28 June 2002 16:12

I like your answer. In a nutshell, the only way to know what's right and what's wrong is. . . to sit and learn! Only through knowing Torah can we recognize its masters.

But I don't understand what you meant by "his learning and hashkofos were influenced by untraditional sources." What exactly were you referring to?

And what about the testimony the Torah Temimah gives to historical events? Are they just as untrustworthy as his Hashkofos and derech halimud?

What I am referring to is the way he tells the story of how the Volozhin yeshiva was forced to shut down.

He makes it sound like the Netziv would have tolerated a couple of hours of secular learning a day. Is this not what happened?

Also, someone showed me that ArtScroll altered the original Hebrew in three places to make it sound frummer. In the original Hebrew, the Torah Temimah says that the Netziv's wife learned "Mishnayos"!

Didn't you say on another forum that that was ossur? Did this really happen? Also, it says the Netziv kept secular books in his library next to his seforim and read newspapers on Shabbos.

Are these lies? Is that why ArtScroll erased them? And if they had to be erased, how was the rest of the book trustworthy?

Please help me, I am majorly confused and have not been able to get a decent answer on this from my rabbeim.

MODERATOR Posted - 28 June 2002 16:39

I'm talking about Haskalah.

The Maskilim were very involved in "correcting" our texts and changing Girsaos that they weren’t big enough Lamdonim to understand, which happened a lot.

The Torah Temimah does this at times too - prefers to change Girsaos where more acceptable solutions are available.

His most famous "bizzareity" (there should be such a word) is not in the changing of a Girsah but rather his statement that the Makas Choshch in Mitzrayim was not darkness of all, but rather cataracts. Whatever.

The Torah Temimah is a very useful sefer, but because he was not a Torah authority, we take what he says with a grain of salt, or, as in the case of the cataracts, we don’t take it seriously at all.

As far as his historical recollections, they, too, are not considered authoritative.

It’s not necessarily an issue of lying, but rather reliability and accuracy, and his seeing things through his own personal perspective. Take, for instance, the story about the Netziv's wife learning Mishnayos.

Does this mean that she learned it herself (which may be permitted as per the Prisha), or in a group (prohibited)?

Or maybe the Netziv gave her Mishnayos that were purely l'halachah to learn, which would be the same as learning Halachah in Shulchan Aruch which is permitted?

Or did she learn random Mishnayos, which is prohibited?

Perhaps this "Mishnayos" was Pirkei Avos?

Or maybe a thousand other things.

And there are those who will tell you that it is also possible that it never happened at all, despite what it says.

As an example, I once saw written that Rav isser Zalman Meltzer's wife helped him write the Even H'Azel, which means she had Talmudic knowledge. Lots of it.

I spoke to the author if the article and he said that he heard this from two people who knew her personally.

I asked Rebitzen Rishel Kotler about this - she was the closet relative of Rav Isser Zalman that I could access at the time - and she said of course she knows about it. Rav Isser Zalman's wife edited the "dikduk" in Even HaAzel, not the content at all. "How would she know anything about Rambam?" she told me).

These things happen all the time.

What the Torah Temimah says should be taken with a grain of salt.

If we know something to be wrong, or we know something to be untrue, we do not rely the unconfirmable recollections of one man to change that.

IWantAllTheAnswers Posted - 28 August 2002 1:24

But aren't there times when something happened historically but it's covered up by people doing chinuch?

Like the whole very long bio of Rav Hutner in the Sefer Zikaron for him totally leaves out that he spent time with Rav Kook.

Now I totally understand that maybe Rav Hutner at first held from Rav Kook and then changed his mind and decided he was krum, but why can't it tell us that?

In fact I think that would help convince people that Rav Kook was off the derech, if we could show them that one of the gedolim who was against him had known him and learned by him and knew his krum learning.

(Another question) I heard that Rav Hutner's daughter, Rebetzin David, wrote that bio. A lot of people told me she learns gemara and teaches it to certain of her best talmidos. Is that true?! I searched this site for info on this and read somewhere that she got a PhD in something where she had to learn lots of gemara. How could she do that?

MODERATOR Posted - 28 August 2002 1:37

The reason that they did not put Rav Hutner's connection with Rav Kook in his bio was, I assume, because it was a bizayon for him - why publicize his mistakes? They do not contribute to his greatness.

Everybody makes mistakes, but that does not mean we have a reason to publicize them.

The bio of a Godol is not written as a historical record. Rather, it is to learn lessons from his life and be inspired. Just writing down all the errors he made does not help that.

Your point that writing it would show that even one of Rav Kook's big students held he was krum is well taken.

If the point of the biography were to teach people about Rav Kook, it would have been a good thing to write. But because it was to teach people the greatness of Rav Hutner, it has no place there.

His daughter did not learn Gemorah, nor does she, nor does she teach it to her students. That’s mythology.

And her PhD was on the Maharitz Chiyus, which you do not need to learn Gemora to produce.

_student_ Posted - 19 January 2003 15:46

There was an article in a recent issue of the journal Tradition in which it was demonstrated that all of the Torah Temimah's sources for women learning Gemara were incorrect.

R' Menachem Kasher, in his addenda to Torah Shelemah on Parshas Vayikra, heavily digs into the Torah Temimah and points out many, many mistakes that the TT made.

There is a book Meshivas Nefesh by R' Moshe Feldman that corrects many of the TT's mistakes, as well as adding mareh mekomos and an index. The book contains a letter from the TT encouraging the author.

BaronPhilip Posted - 20 January 2003 5:49

A couple of small points:
It is well-known that the text of then Torah Temimah is loaded with mistakes, misquotations, mistaken citations, etc. And in particular, as _Student_ wrote, almost every example he gives of a learned Jewish woman is also a mistake.

But what does that have to do with his reliability or trustworthiness as an eyewitness in reporting historical events, things that happened right before his very eyes? Did he forget them or get them confused too before he had a chance to write them down?
Doesn't it show the greatness of Rav Hutner that he was able to break free from the influence of his brilliant, pious, and charismatic former rebbe, Rav Kook, and was able to see that the man was krum?
I have read Rebbetzin Bruria Hutner David's PhD thesis and it is simply LOADED with extended references to and discussions of passages from gemara and the rishonim.

What she wrote wasn't simply a biography of the Maharatz Chayos. Her study was mainly an analysis of his opinions on various darchei ha-limud in learning Chazal and how and why he disagreed with his contemporaries (both other rabbonim AND maskilim) on this or that critical inyan regarding how to properly understand Chazal and their midreshei halacha.

(Interestingly, when she quotes from a Tosefta, she uses the version of it and the commentaries on it from Professor Saul Liberman, that great Litvishe gaon with messed up hashkofos who taught in JTS.)

Whatever else can be said of Rebbetzin David, there can be no doubt that she has an extensive background in learning gemara, as well as many other areas of Torah she-be'al Peh. (Moreover, it's quite clear from her work, that she studied through the works of several kofrim and maskilim, especially the writings of Nachman Krochmal, a man considered to be one of the ideological founders of Conservative Judaism. Krochmal was close with the Maharatz Chayos, and the two debated many issues.)
One last thing: Could somebody tell me why people keep referring to R. Tzvi Hirsch Chajes as the "Maharatz Chiyus"?? His last name was spelled "chayos" in Hebrew (like the type of malachim) and pronounced that way, which is the same way "Chajes" is pronounced in German.

BaronPhilip Posted - 20 January 2003 17:12

I think the funniest example is with the rishon Rabbeinu Crescas (Kreskas). I remember hearing some yeshiva guys refer to him as "Rabbeinu Krashkesh". That sounds really funny. Just curious: Is that one common in the velt, or would most guys in, say, a place like Lakewood call him something closer to "Kreskas"?

MODERATOR Posted - 20 January 2003 17:19

They'd probably just call him Rebi Chisdai. He's also referred to as Rch"k in some places.

He's not as well known as other Rishonim, and whoever called him Krashkesh probably never heard anyone say his name. But whoever does, says it properly. It's usually not mispronounced.

Yeshaya Sandler Posted - 15 June 2006 13:12

I am shocked by your derogatory statements about the Torah Temimah. Some people think that there is a mitzva to bash everyone - everyone who they dislike or misunderstand. According to Rav Chaim Kanievsky (and the Stiepler's Hagaos) the Torah Temimah was a "yarei vichareid" and a Talmid Chacham. During WW2 any Nazi who tried to get to him to kill him, immediately died. So great was his holiness.
Yes, he did interact with maskilim - but is that, in itself, a chisaron?

MODERATOR Posted - 07 July 2006 17:18

Regardless of the research Rebitzen David did in order to get her PhD done, research that - who knows? - she may well have had "help" from her father and others in doing - Rebitzen David has NO background in learning Gemora, never mind extensive (the bulk of the Gemoros quoted comes from the Kisvei Maharitz Chiyas itself, by the bye, not from her bekiyus b'shas). This is not history. She is alive and well B"H. She is pretty well known. Ask her. Ask her husband. They live in Matersdorf. His Yeshiva is in har Nof. If she did ever learn Gemora, she hides it very well.

And more importantly, if she did, it was completely on her own. She certainly never, ever, took any Gemora courses in a classroom, which is what the prohibition covers.

In fact, I remember (I think it was the 77/78 school year) when Rabbi Soloveitchik taught the first Gemora class to girls at YU, that Rav Hutner then came out strongly critical of the idea altogether, declaring it not only wrong but a danger as well.

Re the Maharitz Chiyus - we are in the habit of taking liberties when it comes to these things. They don’t matter much anyway. The Abarbanel is really Abravanel; Avudrahm is Abu Dirham.

(And Chayes/Chajes has been translated many different ways. It is also the Americanized name "Chait".) See Sdei Chemed, the last piece in the whole sefer, where he brings a machlokes between the Maharshal and the Ramah is we have a reason to bother to care about dikduk in a non-halachic context altogether. But with names, its just a habitual non-issue.

Mosesman Posted - 04 September 2006 12:26

I asked Rav ********** about the Torah Temimah. He told me as follows:
The Torah Temimah was a tzaddik and 1000% a Daas Torah. He grew up in the house of his uncle- he was certainly not a maskil!

How did he write so many of the things that he did then?

To this question Rav ****** answered that the Torah Temimah was a writer. Writers want to make things colorful and use exciting words. The Torah Temimah knew how to write and get peoples attention. This, Rav ****** said, was the Torah Temimah's chisaron.

Rav ******* gave examples. One example was where the Torah Temimah gave a pshat in a gemara by telling a story that occurred to him when he came to America. The pshat sounded all wrong- but it was very amusing and the story was interesting. That was because The Torah Temima was as excellent writer, Rav ****** said, and a writer wants to appeal to his audience and be colorful and amusing.

Rav ****** concluded that "the Torah Temima was not a maskil,or anything of the sort. Rather he was a writer. That should answer any questions you have on the Torah Temimah."

MODERATOR Posted - 04 September 2006 12:39

First, I never said the Torah temimah was a Maskil. I said he was influenced by the maskilim. That’s like the difference between saying someone is a Goy versus someone is influenced by the Goyim.

Second, even if your Rav (whose name I deleted because I don’t know whether the quotes are accurate) would be correct, that the chisaron of the Torah Temimah was that he had this writer's thing where he would willingly distort things because he had a writers taavah for sensationalizing things, would still mean that you have to take what he says with a grain of salt, and cannot rely on what he says - it doesn’t matter WHY he said things that don’t work - it matters that he did.

You are discussing the motive for what he did, which is not the issue, but you are agreeing that he did say things that are unreliable. If so, then you cant rely on him.

However, there is more to the issue than his desire to sensationalize.

His changing of girsaos (which was a hallmark of haskala) in inappropriate places and other things cannot be explained by his "being a writer".

Nobody ever said he was a bad person c"v or an am haaretz c"v - he was a Talmid chacham, a very scholarly man, and he had vast knowledge.

But being an Odom Godol and Daas Torah takes much more than that.

To say that "well, the reason he distorted things was that he was a sensationalist due to his writing talents", even if it were true, is not a response to the claim that he was not on the level of a Godol Hador.


Moyshe said...

"there was an old lie going around in the name of Rav Schach... etc"

This is probably supposed to say "LINE", not "lie".

amolam said...

fixed - thanks