Monday, May 31, 2004

Shavuos Torah

Shir Hamaalos to the tune of "I Am A Mountain"....

Also, took a look at the Spring 2003 edition of the RJJ Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society. Rabbi Alfred Cohen's article on "Daat Torah" in that volume is interesting. In the article, he quotes the Meshech Chochma, who says that the true "sin" of Moshe Rabbenu at Mai Meriva was that he erred in not realizing how his policy would be misinterpreted by the Jewish people.
"Even a great and true Torah leader, whose vision of Judaism is clear and whose wisdom is profound, has to decide not only what is the right thing to do, but also - how the people will perceive it."
In a footnote, he refers to the takanos imposed on wedding expenditures by the Agudah and notes:
As an example, if people were to get the impression that certain individuals are exempt from following recently-issued guidelines for limiting ostentation and excessive spending at weddings, there would be little incentive for others to adhere to them.
Under the circumstances, lack of respect for Daat Torah abounds.
Rabbi Cohen is too kind here. I fail to see how people could not get that impression, given that the text of the takanos explicitly allows for exceptions to these rules.

He also notes in a later footnote:
During the past year, a proclamation was issued by Torah leaders, calling upon all members of the community to accept restrictions and guidelines for expenditures when making weddings. The proclamation aroused a great deal of discussion, as well as debate whether this area was indeed the one most in need of correction -- some suggested that it would have been far more important and worthwhile to place a limit on the costs of Yeshiva education, which places a tremendous burden on thousands upon thousands of families. Be that as it may, the true test of that proclamation's efficacy as Daat Torah will be evident in about five years, when its impact will or will not be noticeable. It is the view of this writer that the factor determining whether this move to influence public behavior succeeds is really dependent upon the behavior of the signators themselves: the first time a wealthy or important individual flouts the guidelines, but the Torah personalities who signed attend his child's wedding anyway -- that will be the end of the projects efficacy.
By this standard, the takanos are already a failure – as it was obvious that they would be. I should note that there are many people who have been abiding by the takanos despite the fact that, even within the “Aguda” community, they aren’t universally followed.

I have additional thoughts on the essay in general, but don’t have the time to get into it now.