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”Only values that arise from within the halakhic system play a role in producing pesak.”  I agree completely.  Traditional poskim are careful to frame a pesak that way and that is what legitimately constrains the range of possible pesakim. However, as is self-evident, more than one halakhic path forward may exist. The question is what points a posek one way versus another? That is a meta-halakhic question and probably a psychological or sociological one as well. Asserting that only Torah influences are legitimate in forming a posek’s orientation is the what is argued. I have not seen any arguments that would support the position restricting legitimate influences only to those that are Torah based.  In any case, many/most poskim may not necessarily be sufficiently self-aware.  Something as simple as one’s empathy for a situation is IMHO the result of various influences; for example, awareness or evaluation of a situation’s consequences, clearly not in the main derivable from Torah sources is clearly a legitimate basis for differing poskim‘s differing orientations.

However, what we are now witnessing is far worse. Those with a disdain for anything but learning Torah as practiced by say Rav Shach ztl, end up incapable of being a leader and posek. They may be living an ideal existence, but not one that prepares them to opine on the issues of the day. The Sanhedrin did not learn 70 languages from learning Torah. The Metonic relation which hazal adopted is nowhere in the Torah, (thank God, it is faulty) nor is the average lunation (almost but not quite exact and more critical) nor the relationship between stars and darkness. Shmuel did not become a baki be’shivielai de’rakiah by studying Torah. Rabbis without such knowledge did not attempt to create calendars.

There were many great poskim, RMF ztl and especially RSZA ztl for example, who worked diligently to acquire secular knowledge to pasken; today there are defenders for those who do not. That I find problematic.

Stolen from a source I no longer remember.

In the year 2020, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in America and said:

“Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me.”

“Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans.”

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:

“You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard – but no Ark.

 “Noah!” He roared, “I’m about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?”

“Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have changed.”

  1. “I needed a Building Permit.”
  2. “I’ve been arguing with the Boat Inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.”
  3. “My homeowners association claim that I’ve violated the construction code.
  4. Neighborhood by-laws by building the Ark in my back yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the local Planning Committee for a decision.”
  5. “Then the City Council and the Electricity Company demanded a sh.. load of money for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear none of it.”
  6. “Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the Greater Spotted Barn Owl.”
  7. “I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!”
  8. “When I started gathering the animals, PETA took me to court. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodations were too restrictive and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.”
  9. “Then the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on Your proposed flood.”
  10. “I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I’m supposed to hire for my building crew.”
  11. “The Immigration Dept. Is checking the visa status of most of the people who want to work.”
  12. “The labor unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only union workers with ark-building experience.”
  13. “To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.”
  14. “So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this ark.”

“Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky.”

Noah looked up in wonder and asked, “You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?”

“No,” said the Lord. ” The Government beat me to it.

  1. Do not compare the NY area and Israel. NYC has a similar population to Israel with 70 times the number of deaths. There is much afoot.

2) The NY area MO community suffered greatly. Just in my own immediate circles, my FIL, 2 MO doctors, one who I grew up with, a major RIETS donor, a young man from shul, etc. all succumbed. Others recovered.

3) Haredim do not listen as often to secular news and because of some of their news sources’ abominable behavior, they were insufficiently warned of the danger.

4) Sadly, however, there will be minimal retrospection in many parts of the Haredi world; what went wrong cuts to the heart of hareidi worldviews. Spin-doctors will help to guarantee a minimum level of learning.

5) A benefit that accrues to the MO community is that normal traditional Jews will no longer feel inauthentic given the extremism most hareidi innovators claim as our authentic halakhic heritage; it is not. One grandson’s heard shiurim from RHS on a continuous basis. He was able to learn be’havrutah almost normally. Another heard shiurim from Eretz Yisroel. For all eight grandchildren, their educations may have suffered, but not dramatically.

I have risk factors galore; the worse being the medications I take that suppress my immune system that BH controls my neurological disease. I have ventured out with extreme care (fully only three times in the last 12 weeks, with layers of protection.) OTOH, I have never had so productive a period of reading/learning in decades.

Lesson learned, yes, and no. I have jokingly said that I may be able to return to shul only after the coming of Moshiach, but only if he tests negative.

  1. We need a new expression: the road to hell is paved with quotes from the Rav ztl.

2) The OU is dragged right and left; the Agudah seems to have only half of that issue but in spades!! 🙂

One thing is noticeably clear: even the meaning of what is viewed as one of the ikkarim changes over time.  Differing opinions about God’s corporeality, the character of the Messiah, the nature of authoritative texts, etc. are apparent in reading authoritative texts in our mesorah. Even when we seem to pasken on hashkafic issues, the psak is often refined and changes, often dramatically, over time.  This is significantly different from how psak in halakhic matters operates traditionally.

Both our conception of God or understanding of the notion of mesorah are two relatively clear areas, at least to me. This is an area of significant difference between various traditional Jewish streams.

Though I have a few philosophical disagreements wrt hashgacha, I am overwhelmed by the Sanzer Rebbe’s sensitivity and sagacious advice. Both his priorities wrt Pesach and focus on where to look for improvements given Covid – 19 reflect what has been traditionally recognized as Torah infused wisdom.

I have a warm place in my heart for Sanz. As a teenager right after WWI, my late father davened in a shul led by the Divrei Chaim’s grandson, a son of one of his older children. In the ghetto, some 20+ years later, he received a haunting bracha from the youngest son of the Divrei Chaim, the Tzhiliener Rebbe, born when the Rebbe was in his late 70’s. He was killed by the Nazis YMS, a few days later. He said to my father: ba mir iz shoen tunkel; uber dir vellen de reshayim nisht hoben kain shelittah. (Translated: For me, it is already dark; over you, the Nazis will not rule.) Miraculously, my parents and my incredibly young sister survived the war.

The Rebbe displays the sensitivity that goes back to Rav Chaim of Sanz. The late Jacob Katz (primarily in The Shabbos Goy) writes about the disagreements between the Divrei Chaim and the positions of the Chatam Sofer, who lived almost 2 generations earlier. In my judgment, the Divrei Chaim exhibited a remarkable and profound awareness of the (new) world in which he lived and its halakhic implications.