Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reb Moshe and "the Ruv"

Rav Moshe Feinstein OBM had a regular study session with a particular student of his, a descendant from a true Lithuanian family - a real litvack in every sense of the word.

Sometimes, when going through an especially difficult passage in the gemara or some other area of learning, Reb Moshe would instruct this student to "go ask Reb Yoilish". The student would get up from his seat, cross the Williamsburg bridge from the Lower East Side into the heart of the Hasidic community of Satmar in Brooklyn, and pose their difficulty to Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Ruv OBM. After receiving his answer, the student would return to Reb Moshe and share it with him. Reb Moshe would nod his agreement to the answer, and they would continue.

Once, the student asked for an explanation after returning from the long trip to Williamsburg. Obviously, Reb Moshe knew the answer to their own problem - if so, why did he insists on sending this student over to "the Ruv" with their difficulties?

Looking into his eyes, Reb Moshe responded "Because it is important for you to see that Reb Yoilish iz nisht 'nor' a kano'i - er is oichet a lamdan!" Reb Yoel isn't "just" a zealot - he is also a scholar par excellence! (heard from my father, who heard it from this student).

An important lesson here, especially in light of some recent very irresponsible blog posts out there concerning the Satmar Ruv. Reb Yoel was not some volatile, reactionary individual who acted on impulse. He knew how to "learn up" a sugya far better than any of us can possibly hope to, and any opinion that he had was the result of his own airtight method of learning the relevant sources and considerations of the current state of affairs, That doesn't necessarily mean that he was right, per se, for the general public, nor that we must go according to his rulings - there are other formidable authorities with their own divergent outcomes based on their own learning of the same sugyot that we can rely upon.

This is not meant as an apologetic for him - like Rav Kook OBM, he needs no defense, no apologetics. He saw a need in the world for a certain way of action that needed to be done, and he did it, without pulling any punches. Sometimes it hurts our ears and gives us much heartbreak to read his words, but you can be assured that he felt it was 100% sound and necessary (the unfortunate aftermath and state of affairs that are being laid at his feet today are another matter, beyond the scope of this essay) in a halachic and hashkafic manner. To think otherwise is baseless - just look at any of his responsa and you will find scores of textual proofs and logic that corroborate his point of view (according to his reasoning).

But I take issue with those whose hubris allow them to write pointless diatribes against a man who cannot even respond to their accusations; their assertions are emotional and passionate, yet either intellectually lazy (in one blogger's case) or so venomous that they immediately plunge into the logical fallacy of ad hominem - the very thing they vilify him for!

I try to avoid politics and expressing my opinions about such matters; at this blog, we try to spread the light, which is why I chose to include the anecdote at the beginning of this post. It is obvious that Reb Moshe and Reb Yoel had numerous, sometimes sharp disagreements. Yet Reb Moshe knew that nothing came out of Reb Yoel's mouth or mind that had not been carefully weighed according to his understanding of halacha. He may be wrong about something, but it came from a place of understanding, not a baseless conception that he conjured out of nowhere.

But those posts that I referenced earlier have necessitated this response, if only for my own conscience in knowing that I have done what is needed to defend Torah itself.

We should merit to witness the arrival of Moshiach, so that all these walls we construct should come down, and we will be able to see the truth that all tzaddikim exude, each in their own way...

1 comment:

Neil Harris said...

In the end, the Emes always come out, as you said.
Of course, even when Moshiach comes there will be people blogging why Moshich isn't really "Moshiach".